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Campaign Journal #1

New house, new campaign!  After a long hiatus, I’ve finally talked my lovely and adoring wife into returning to the game table.  This time, I’m going to be on the ball and record the game as it unfolds.  We were lucky enough to recruit Phil in from the get-go this time.  Since two is a little grim of a number, I’ve thrown a PC of my own into the mix, a storytelling tool that’s proven just too useful not to keep doing.  This also, of course, affords me the opportunity to do my campaign journal from an in-character perspective.

Without further ado, let me present the first game entry from my new campaign (entitled ‘What is it good for?”)

I suppose it truly began in Rotquay. Our adventures prior to that had been the run-of-the-mill sort: rousting town bullies, killing wild dogs, and the other nonsense that concerns mercenaries in the earliest parts of their careers.

Rotquay will be familiar to anyone who engages in freelance mercenary work in the southern part of the Empire. Built upon an ever decaying foundation of past construction, Rotquay squats in the center of the most out-of-reach areas of the Numbraran Empire which still have the resources to support large populations. This means the surrounding areas, from the Aegis mountains to the Couali swamps, is rife with tribes of lizardfolk, gnolls, kobolds, and goblins, as well as a vast panoply of forgotten temples, ruins, and fortresses, each home to a succession of owners, usually isolating themselves for some nefarious purpose until such time as a group of sufficiently motivated young murderers comes along with malice in their eyes and an Imperial charter in their pockets to butcher the squatters and make off with their material wealth.
The Baleflame Company was a fine outfit for a murderous young hobgoblin, and the particular couali (or swamp elves, to my cousins from the shogunate) [A] that I had been matched with were as accepting of my heritage as I could ask, and of a like temperament to myself when it came to parting our enemies from both the their lives and their property.
My first impression upon meeting them both had been how pristine they looked. The universally pale skin of the swamp elves, like unto porcelain, brings to mind an image of frailty. Of course, the sight of Killian in the depths of the bloodwrath, wading through a pile of hewn limbs with the grace of a ballet dancer and the eyes of an enraged pit fiend, tends to dispel any notion of fragility.
I had been at the tables (a habit that misfortune had not yet broken me of; that particular night had seen a small fortune come my way at a game of Pirate’s Port [B]) when Voron brokered our future with his mentor (and our sponsor), the fairy wizard Thinhickory. [C]  Thinhickory, a founding member of the Blue Banshees, had retired from active adventuring to sponsor several groups of his own. Falinah was also at that meeting, although had I known what the future held I might have kicked the door in and taken her head that very night. Zandi, the Raloraelian paladin, was also there, representing his own group, and had I known the way our own paths would cross throughout the years I might have taken off his head as well.
We all had in our heads the same goal, of course: to reach the far west, where the forces of Julium Colsus Numbra were descending upon their next targets: the island nations of Zhun and Shotan.
The three kingdoms of the Numbraran Empire had been united by that point: Upper Numbrar conceded defeat after Emperor Numbra’s brutal execution of the reigning ducal line in 795. Lower Numbrar surrendered in 797 after the Empire concluded a diplomatic negotiation to bring Cadram into its borders. Jheira resisted the longest, but in 802 the forces of the Empire stormed the Great Ziggurat of Loz, slew the high priests, and tore the edifice apart down to the last brick. Although there was a brief period of turmoil, with the Taelar Shogunate and the Ustber dwarven clans both making organized rebellions in the north, along with the Derrichol rebels and the self-styled Cyclopean King in the east, and the so-called Shadow Court in occupied Sindle, these uprisings were relatively minor, and eventually put down, mostly due to the reinstatement of the mercenary charters. [D]
The concept had been defunct since the death of Sterron Numbra, but Julium had revitalized the idea as a way to inspire people to do a good deal of his work for him. In essence, a group of three or more people signed a contract with the Empire, which gave them exemption from a number of laws (primarily in regards to grave-robbing, trespassing, and other legal impediments to breaking in to old tombs and temples in order to kill the unliving inhabitants) in exchange for a stiff tax on their earnings (in some places and with some groups as high as sixty percent). The chartered sellswords (known as free parties) were organized into companies beneath a number of sponsors, each a trusted servant of the Empire (at first hand-picked by Julium and his inner circle, later commonly selected from retired mercenaries) and in turn answering to their own sponsors, all answering eventually to the Mercenary General. This organization allowed for a much greater sharing of information, meaning lesser work could be farmed out to the newest recruits, while the more dangerous bounties or assignments could be picked up by the veteran companies. (Of course, competition was still fierce, and we wound up in as much danger sometimes from our fellow sellswords as we did from the monsters we fought.)
The best work, at the time, was in the vast land of Zhun. As ancient as the Empire, Zhun was large enough to have its own factions, who hated one another with the same level of animosity they bore for the Empire. I had my own animosities, of course: coming from the prairies of Old Numbrar, I had grown up with a venomous hatred for the Taelar Shogunate. When it became apparent that the Empire had crushed my patriarchal kin beneath their boot, (wisely allying with the free hobgoblins of the plains to do so) I chose to accompany this vast army across the ocean to bring the same humility to the shogunate of the Chiangliba mountains.
Passage was another issue entirely. Thinhickory had negotiated to the best of his abilities, but with the supply of free parties outstripping the demand, it was difficult to find one which would not gouge us in the extreme. Fortunately, the fairy had a number of contacts from his adventuring days, some within the Red Cloaks (in addition to the chartered companies, Emperor Numbra had also revived this order of spies and secret police), who offered us a way to realize our goal at a much more rate.
Voron’s eyes (he still had both at the time) practically glittered as he told us the news. If we did a simple favor for the Red Cloaks, [E] they would arrange passage for us to Zhun. A deal which seemed too good to be true (although the Red Cloaks dealt fairly with us this time, there would be other times when they would not, and of course in every occasion we found ourselves merely playing a small part in a much grander scheme), but simultaneously seemed like our only option.
It was with a grateful heart that we set out upon the road. Emperor Numbra’s campaign to police the roads in the Empire had begun to pay off. A six day journey saw us almost completely unmolested (save for a single lone ogre that we dispatched handily, and a group of half-starved gnolls that had staked out a side road in order to enforce an illegal toll). We arrived, in short order, to the Fungfallow temple, once dedicated to his Mycological Majesty, the deity Festil, now fallen into disrepair. Our task was simple: drive the current occupants out. The repercussions of carrying out that job, not only in light of where it would take us but the scope of the event we would later realize we had been involved in from the beginning, would follow the three of us down through the years, and shape the course of the entire world.

–Excerpt from “To Shine a Light in Dark Places: My Travels in Zhun” by Hijotan Dartama

 

A: Swamp elves, or Couali, use the statistics for Wood Elves from the Faerun Campaign Setting.  They dwell primarily in the swamps of Sindle, although they can also be found in the colder bogs and moors in Upper Numbrar and the Jadelands.  They are primitive (by elf standards) and isolationist as a general rule, although a high percentage of them travel extensively during their youth before settling down.

B: To anyone interested, Pirate’s Port is analogous to the real-world game Ship, Captain, Crew.

C: If anyone is interested, Thinhickory is a Petal (from the MM3).

D: The current year is 806 TR, fifteen years after the Homebrewed campaign.

E: If anyone missed it, the Red Cloaks were an organization that was headed by Iema, Natalia’s bard companion.

And we have progress!

And we have progress!.

Sample XP Receipt

Here’s an example of the XP receipts I hand out to my players.

Here’s a breakdown:

A – Game number.  It’s presented like a periodical, with each ‘season’ running in ten episode arcs.

B – Character name.  This is a character that doesn’t actually exist in my game.  Fritz is level 5.

C – Combat XP.  I just lump it all together.  They know what they fought.  It’s the other areas where they

may not know what they earned XP for.

D – Bucking the script XP.  I tend to script out my games, with backups and contingencies to keep my PCs

‘on-plot.’  That being said, I am not going to plot-hammer them.  If they legitimately find a way

around my script, then more power to them, and I will reward them appropriately.

E – Contact XP.  The PCs earn a small amount of XP for making positive contact with NPCs.

F – Non combat challenges.  They also earn XP for overcoming challenges without resorting to violence.

G – Plot completion.  When the PCs wrap up a story, they earn a bonus for completing it.  This gives

them an impetus to wrap up the current storyline before taking downtime.

H – Teamwork bonus.  Can be awarded more than once per game.  Always equal to the average party

level times five.

I – Roleplaying bonus.  Usually awarded more than once per game.  Always equal to the average party

level times three.  I calculated Fritz’s XP incorrectly here.  It should be 15.

J – Alignment XP.  Equal to the party level times the number of adherent alignment ticks.  (See below.)

K – Total, including overall place in the group, since two players rarely have the same total.

L – Alignment drift.  I use a system of alignment ticks along a numeric graph to track alignment.  While

players are not privy to their exact score, they are told each week which direction their net

drift for that week inclined.  If they drift five or more ticks in one direction, the alignment will

be underlined, and if they have drifted far enough to be into a different alignment, then it will

be circled.  They have to end three games in the zone of the new alignment to actually change

alignments.

M – Powers checks.  They don’t get to know what they were for (they should be able to figure it out) but

they do get to know how many, how severe, and whether or not they failed them.  It hasn’t ever

come out, but I do reserve the right to conceal a failed powers check if I have a reason to do so.

This part of the receipt is Ravenloft specific.

 

It’s been a while since my last update.  Since this was the only request that I’ve had, I present the Spotlight on the Numbraran Empire: Part 1.  Parts 2-4 will detail each of the three subsections of the Empire individually, since blanket statements don’t cover the entire Empire very well.

To the Imperial Court:

I’ve been instructed to put together an overview of our nation’s history, to be preserved in the event of some form of catastrophe.  While I’m immensely glad to see the Court taking such an interest in my field of work (and my personal work, in particular) I must apologize for the rushed nature of the thing.  Rest assured, this is not a comprehensive history.  The volumes that I have been scribing since my retirement will be made available once they are finished.  Here, I hope, is enough to tide over the Imperial appetite for knowledge.

 

The Numbraran Empire

The Numbraran continent is easily the largest landmass in Valt.  It is more than ten times the size of the next nearest contender (Fassett) and far more densely populated.  It is littered with the remains of dozens of kingdoms and nations that have come and gone over the centuries.

The Numbraran Empire began sometime during the Second Dark.  As an approximation, this is inaccurate at best.  The first recorded mention of Numbrar as an established government is in the Divine Scrolls in the Imperial Palace in Shotan, a record of an explorer from that nation meeting with officials at the Numbraran court.  This contact took place in 582 SC, placing it over a thousand years ago, but the Numbraran Empire had already been established for some time by that point, certainly long enough to have completed the lengthy events that created the nation.

Several kingdoms both large and small dominated Valt during the time before the rise of the Empire, but of all the fallen ones, it is believed that Thanast was the origin of what would become the great nation of Numbrar.  Thanast was a nation ruled by a council of undead (the Thanastian Diet) who held tyrannical rule over the enslaved living populace.  Several of the more esoteric forms of undead (such as vasathunts, bonedrinkers, and devourers) are believed to be remnants of the elite unliving soldiers created originally by the skilled Thanastian necromancers.

Relatively little is known about Thanast, due to the nature of the Thanastian downfall.  Folk tales of the Empire claim that Colsus Numbra, remembered as the first Emperor, rose to prominence as a slave in the gladiator pits.  Eventually, he would bring the slaves together in a rebellion which would see the destruction of the city he dwelt in.  Escaping with an army of gladiators, Colsus would go on to rally the people against their undead oppressors.  The stories of Colsus’s victories against the undead are as numerous as there are exaggerated: there is simply no possible way that Colsus Numbra was able to do everything which he is credited with.

Indeed, it is only conjecture which puts Thanast as the birthplace of the Empire, since no written record provides any concrete evidence to this effect.  Several diaries of the Mad Alchemist of Diegon (a lich of some small power, known to have held a minor position in the Thanastian Diet) have recently come to light which list a host of problems that faced the Thanastians over the two centuries that the diaries detail, including a slave rebellion led by a “slave who dares call himself emperor.”  Tragically, the Mad Alchemist never uses dates, and historians are positive that the entries in his diaries are not in chronological order, making it impossible to verify when this uprising occurred, nor if it is the one which resulted in the eventual formation of the Empire.

Current conventional thought is that Thanast was plagued by a number of difficulties, including multiple foreign wars, severe competition amongst the ruling body (which had become stagnant with the relatively low turnover that any group of undead is likely to see) and multiple revolts within the nation itself.  The probable truth (as held up by the most objective of scholars) is that Colsus Numbra was a brilliant military commander who managed to unite the multiple civilian uprisings under a single banner, either before or after the demise of Thanast.

Colsus Numbra is credited with the formation of the Empire, but his daughter is credited with being the first actual Emperor (or Empress).  Empress Tanora I is credited, historically, with seeking wisdom from the goddess Ralorael, who would become her personal deity as well as the patron deity of the new nation.  Ralorael’s ascension to chief deity of the Valt pantheon must therefore follow the formation of the Numbraran Empire closely, and the Stewards of the Kingmaker claim her command of the Fathomless Castle to have begun in 563 SC.  Even among the most skeptical of historians, this date has to be accepted as marking the Empire as having existed for some time.

It is, of course, important to mention that other historians have voiced alternative viewpoints with just as much evidence as the commonly accepted theories.  (All of it circumstantial, whether mainstream or fringe.)  The most widely accepted belief is that the Numbrarans originated in a country below the Storm Belt, no longer accessible.  A few writings exist that might (depending on interpretation) support such a view.  Some say that Colsus Numbra did not in fact win his rebellion, but fled to Numbra from the actual land of his birth, Cadram, which was also ruled by a monarchy headed by the undead at the time.

As you continue to listen, theories get ever more implausible.  For every country in the known world, there is at least one (otherwise respectable) sage willing to claim that Numbra was actually from their nation.  The most bizarre theories claim that the nation of the dead that Numbra overthrew was actually Chenestes (a fact made patently impossible by the fall of Chenestes predating the rise of the Numbraran Empire by hundreds if not thousands of years) or that the original Numbraran slaves came not from Valt, but from sailors beyond the stars.  Such ideas as these last two are, mercifully, as rare as they are laughable.

 

Expansion

The dawn of the Third Light saw several infant nations spreading across the globe, inevitably brushing against each other.  Numbrar quickly became the dominant member of these new powers.  Over the mountains to the north, they encountered a series of small feudal countries, little more than city-states, along the northern coast.  These city-states were quickly absorbed into the burgeoning Empire.  The eastern forest nation of Derrikol mounted the first real resistance, but fell within a handful of years.

By 462 SC, Numbrar controlled the northern part of the continent, and turned their attention south.  Between the eastern nations of Jheira and Cadram lay a host of imposing geographical difficulties, including the Palisade Mountains, the Cadram desert, and the dizzying array of swamps and marshes which made up the southern part of the continent.  These forbidding climes were home to a seemingly unending supply of barbarian tribes, demihuman societies, and monster communities.  With no central authority, each of these groups, most prone to isolationism and violence, had to be pacified and brought into the Empire individually.  By this point, border skirmishes with other nations were not uncommon, and due to a combination of these factors, the expansion of the Empire began to slow.  By 288 SC, it no longer mattered, since the Numbraran Empire had reached its zenith, controlling the entire Numbraran continent.

For years the Empire had enjoyed a strained relationship with the Jade Islands, the birthplace of the experienced sailors who had harried the Empire for centuries.  The throne would no longer tolerate such insolence, and turned their full fury on the island confederation.

 

Decline

This would prove to be a mistake for the Empire.  Although they would eventually conquer the Jade Islands, it would prove to be too costly.  With the amount of resources back home spare, the Empire began to undergo a series of rebellions.  First Jheira and then Cadram went into open revolt.  The power of the Numbraran Empire went into a state of decline.  At the lowest point, even the northern coastal states split from the Empire, which could no longer muster the resources to bring them back to heel.  The final crushing blow came when an armada of Jadelanders, led by the Greenkeel, sailed up the Alean River in 135 SC to sack the capitol itself.  While Numbrar burned, the Emperor Savian I took his own life.  His body was burned by the invaders, his remains split apart and taken as a series of grim trophies, making Savian I is the only Emperor since Tanora to not be interred in the sacred barrows beneath the palace.

With no clear line of succession, it fell to the Senate and the Councilors of Numbrar to elect the new Emperor.  Fearing the influence of a dynamic force, they chose a man known for his taciturn nature.  This trend, one of calm and resignation, would come to be the defining characteristic of the crown for the next five centuries.  The Empire had fallen far from its glory days, and while the Emperors who came and went would range from the evil (Helean II, Colsus XIII) to the good (Alari II, Helean VI) and everything in between, it was clear that it was now the Senate who truly controlled the nation.

The government had become so out of touch with its people, it has been joked by some historians that if it weren’t for the rain from the Godstorms, most may never have realized the capitol wasn’t talking to them anymore!  By the time the storms swept across the world, the nation was vast merely in size.  Many villages had never seen a representative of their government, and even today there are many small settlements that only know Numbrar as a far-off place they have to send food and money to every so often.

 

Return of the King

In 397 TR, the Empress Alari VII married a landless knight named Sterron.  Although it was she who was the crowned Empress, it was Sterron who captured the heart of the people.  With the ear of his wife and the fear of the majority of the Senate, he managed to unite the nation as never before.  He had grown tired of the depredations of the villains who lurked in the darkness, the Tutuen-Nietwe especially.  In what would come to be known as the Dawn Crusade, Sterron rooted out every form of oppression he could find, be it monstrous or merely social, to be exposed to the sunlight.  If it withered and died once exposed, so be it, and if the sunlight would not suffice, the Sterron was more than happy to finish the job with his sword.

When fringe elements of the Senate, hoping to maintain their power, had Alari assassinated, the rest of the Senate finally committed, unifying behind Sterron as never before.  The Senate had always had the right to declare the new Emperor, but had only ever used the power to fill the throne when no clear (or physically able) successor was evident.  For the first time in the nation’s history, the Councilors crowned someone outside the line of immediate succession, giving the crown not to Alari’s eldest son, but instead to her husband, Sterron.  When the crown was given to him and he was asked what his Imperial name was to be, he famously laughed and replied, “Sterron, obviously.”

The Dawn Crusade swept the continent.  By the time it was done, many of the lesser nations which had left the Empire to fend for themselves came back of their own volition, pledging fealty to the Dowager King.  With his promises of international peace, even the neighboring kingdoms of Cadram and Jheira came to an uneasy peace with the new face of the Empire.

By this time the last of the Tutuen-Nietwe had rallied around the greatest of their number.  With what allies they could, the forces of the darkness made ready for their last stand.  An army of the unified Empire marched on them, led by the Paladin King, even assisted by the forces of Jheira and Cadram.  In a battle which would come to be the most widely represented fight in artworks across the continent, Sterron Numbra met the hell-dragon Kunikaninochiston.  The actual details of the fight have been obscured or hideously embellished over the years, but the salient point remains: the dragon lay defeated, but also stretched out across the battlefield lay the corpse of Sterron Numbra, whose third title would be the Last Emperor.

 

Civil War

With Sterron dead, the question of succession became a tricky one.  The Councilors of Numbrar had the ultimate authority over who would become the Emperor, but the issue was quite unclear.  Alari VII had always wanted the crown to go to the second of her two sons, Alcot.  But the last Emperor who had died, Sterron, had made it known he wanted Alcot’s older brother Gadrin to succeed him.  To complicate matters even further, Sterron had a third son, Sinden, (by his second wife) who claimed that he was the only true-born heir (since he had been the only son born after their father’s ascension to crowned Emperor).

The three Councilors and the Senate could not reach a consensus.  Each brother enjoyed equal support, and each claimed to be the true Emperor.  This war would last, off and on, for the next three hundred and seventy years.  The endless rounds of war, armistices, peaces, and alliances with neighboring countries would come to be known as the Three Crowns Wars, and while it ground the nations of Numbrar into the dust, it gave ample arm room for the rest of the nations of the world to grow and flourish.

 

Unification

By 791 TR, the Numbraran Empire was considered by many (save for those who lived within it) to be no more.  To the north, the region which had been claimed and controlled by Gadrin, was Northern Numbrar, or New Numbrar.  Between the two mountain ranges that nearly divide the continent like a butterflied piece of meat (the Coureth and Palisade mountains) lay Central, or Old Numbrar.  It was home to the capitol city of Ancient Numbrar, and was considered by those outside of the country to be the “real” seat of the Empire.  To the south lay the nation of Sindle, once known as Southern Numbrar.  A lowland of swamps and forbidding landscape, it was the home of Sinden, and halfway through the Three Crown Wars stopped openly declaring itself to be part of the Empire, and instead operated as an independent kingdom.

This all ended in the early 790’s, when Julium Numbra seized control of the Capitol.  His military crusade to unite the world has resulted, by 805 TR, in the conquest of Sindle, as well as a political Confederation with Cadram.  He has taken three of the five nations of the continent, and is in an open state of war with Northern Numbrar and Jheira, who will not accept Numbraran rule no matter who wears the crown.

Despite centuries of turmoil, Numbrar remains.  It is said by some that during his rebellion, Colsus Numbra rescued an extraplanar creature of deific power, that promised him that he would become the leader of a nation of men, and that nation would endure in one form or another until the stars froze over.  This story, a fun and uplifting children’s tale, is being told more and more often of late, as it appears that the Empire will indeed survive into the next age.

–Antorin Donati, Imperial Archivist, Sterron 21st, 805 TR

Tactics and Preparedness

The best tool I have found as a DM is what my baseball coach used to call a ‘soft hands’ approach, which meant moving your hand back as you caught the ball, yielding to its approach to make the catch smoother and less painful.  Likewise, as a DM, I find it best to give the plot some leeway for the players.  If I give they select an option that I didn’t expect, I’m not going to plot-hammer them back into place, I am going to let them run with it.

Recently, my players were exploring the Underdark, and after making a friend in a drow NPC, they were offered a chance to return to the surface by his father, the archmage of the city of Fenzybyl.  I had assumed that my players rampant distrust and hatred of drow would compel them to examine this deal in greater detail, to find out why this powerful (and evil) man wanted them gone so bad.

Instead, they agreed (even with the price tag of a Geas enforced favor to be named at a later date) without hesitation.  Hmmm…now, many DM’s would have had something go wrong to prevent this from occuring, or reveal part of the plot to keep them from running away from it.  But not me.

No, I let them return the surface (via the Astral Plane), and Pinic the Archmage succeeded at his ploy.  What exactly he was planning is anyone’s guess.  I can think of a number of reasons for getting rid of the players in this fashion.  Their could have been removed because they would have gotten involved in something nefarious that he was planning.  Also, a couple of travellers who were there and are suddenly gone make for convenient scapegoats.  Hell, you could blame them for almost anything bad that happened, say, right around the time they vanished.  But I digress…

When this happens, I don’t recommend vengeance on the players.  But there is a debt to a certain piper, and he is relentless in his demand for his payment.  And when the players have to pay this karmic debt, make it sting.  You put a lot of work into your plot, and if they don’t look at it close enough, then they should be reminded to look a little closer.

Did I lose a massive amount of plot work from the planned Underdark excursions?  Yes.  But, this is the time to take a step back and look at things objectively.  Most of my plots will still be useable, and if I can’t get them into this game, I’ll have the notebook till doomsday, and I can always use them later.

And while the price the PC’s pay will be steep, I’m going to make sure that I examine it objectively, and make DAMN sure that I don’t give them more than they (and the story) deserves.  And if I take a perverse joy in putting the (justifiable) screws to them?  Well, I’m only human.

Crumbs

Sorry everyone.  Due to weddings, funerals, birthdays, illnesses, and hospitilizations, my game has been spotty for several weeks now.  Even as we speak I labor under some terrible illness.  Also breathing down my neck is the threat of NaNoWriMo, which I agreed to compete in.  (But not to say.  It sounds too anime.)

Since I haven’t updated this in quite a while, I offer the following tidbit of background information for the campaign whores out there.  (You know who you are)  Nursery rhymes of Valt!

Nursery Rhymes of Valt

The ancient lich with a face of bone,
he plays his ribs like a xylophone,
he’ll steal away another if one of his breaks.
What scary music that dead man makes.

Thickery knickery knack
I have a kobold in a sack.
Give it a swing, give it a thwack
now we’ve a pudding in our sack.

Isn’t it hot
in an ogre’s pot?
Stewing with carrots
or whatever he’s got.
He loves to eat children,
and they say he’s a villain.
But he’s just hungry a lot.

Each of the above three rhymes are silly little ditties that are all about monsters that children may have to fear.  They are usually used to take some of the fear away, by making the monster the object of ridicule.  Occasionally the first one is sung by bards to warn each other of the possibility of an actual lich in the vicinity.

A man from the Islands loves to drink gin
and a man from the Empire is a paladin.
An man from Cadram has a towel on his head
and a man from Jheira would be better off dead.
A man from Shotan eats seaweed and rice.
A man from the sea has a beard filled with lice.
A Fassetian man is dark and tall,
and a man with no eyes is no man at all.

Note that in the one above, children from the Jade Islands replace the second line with ‘A Numbraran man does one in’.  This is a racist little song that reminds children to be wary for those possessed by Silduggis.

Tiny Tansee, what a nancy.
Can’t even fight an orc.
He got wounded in the war,
when he bit down on a fork.

Sellie the belly was seldom seen,
without his friends all decked in green.
But when the fashions changed to white,
Sellie ran away in fright.

Glister the blister, but we call him Gus.
He’s a nasty black canker all filled with pus.
Take you care, when the other shoe drops,
or Glister the Blister just might go pop.

All three of these are little rhymes which were originally intended to taunt a public figure of the time.  (General Tancer of Numbrar, a noted coward; Selice Hewarsh, a wizard known for consorting with orcs, and Glistus Maxin, a Numbraran officer of Fassetian origin, known for his temper, respectively.)  These little songs are common throughout the world, although some catch on and become popular children’s ditties long after everyone has forgotten who they were about.

One little goblin makes me laugh,
ten little goblins can cause a scrap.
A hundred goblins make me cry.
A thousand goblins means time to die.

A single giant is more than enough
A pair of ogres are very tough.
Three green hags will cause me trouble.
If you have four ettins, you’ll soon see double.
You must run away if the ghouls number five,
if you fight six shadows you won’t be alive.
Against seven trolls you’ll always lose.
Eight hobgoblins must be given their dues.
If you have nine orcs, then you won’t be the winner.
If you have ten rabbits, then you have dinner.

The last two nursery rhymes are counting rhymes.  The first teaches the children the higher base values in a base ten counting system, while the second rhyme is a more traditional one to ten version.  Note that rabbits are lumped in with monsters like orcs and trolls in the second rhyme.  As an animal associated with the Silduggan deities, rabbits are thought to be an ill omen.

Well, that’s all I have for today.  Hopefully once I am through writing at the end of the month I can get back to this blog and provide some more serious updates.

Deities of Valt pt 11

For the eleventh part of the series, Phil has requested that I do the Harvest King.  Since the Harvest festival is analagous to Halloween, it seemed like a fitting time to do it.  Yes, that’s why I waited three weeks to post this.  It had nothing to do with laziness, and was all for appropriate timing.  As a quick aside, there is eight holiday deities in Valt, one for each month which does not contain a solstice or an equinox.  The holiday deities are less powerful than most.  Their clerics spend the rest of the year masquerading as clerics of other deities.  This is described more fully herein.

As always, if you have a suggestion for a deity (“Hey Jim, who is the god of <blank> in your world?”) or I have mentioned a deity that you want to know more about (“That one ally/enemy/related god sounded cool!  What are they about?”) then by all means let me know!  Suggestions make me more likely to work.  (And, yes, Numaar.  I am still working on the Spotlight on Numbrar.  No relation.)

Harvest King

The Harvester, the Harvest God, the Huntsman, Jack of Lanterns
CN Demipower of the Infernoply

Pantheon: General
Portfolio: Harvest festivals, vendettas
Domain: The Teeth of Vengeance (the Infernoply)
Allies: Wasserl, Hommirell, Kogorak
Enemies: Malarise, Lakalle
Symbol: A scary looking mask
Worshipper Alignment: CG, CN, CE
Favored Weapon: The Impending Evil (Greataxe)
Cleric Domains: Chaos, Luck, Retribution, War

Summary: The Harvester is a fearsome deity.  As a seasonal deity, he is only widely given worship during the various harvest festivals which occur across Valt.  Although the specifics will vary from region to region, the end result is the same: The Harvester is the scourge of the darkness.  The monsters that prey in the darkness fear the single night a year that he is allowed to walk the material plane again.
                Although he is worshipped by members of many races, he is most commonly worshipped by hobgoblins.  His hobgoblish followers worship him not merely during the time of harvest, but year round.
                The Harvest King is a loner deity.  His tower fortress, which rests in the demon-filled Infernopoly, is his home for the majority of the year.  On one night per year, he rides forth, clad in demonic looking armor, greataxe in hand, and hunts his chosen targets.  From sundown to sunrise on that night, he seeks out a short list of intelligent undead and destroys them.
                No one has ever seen beneath his mask.  It is postulated that those who dwell with him in his tower may have done so, but no one who enters the fortress is ever allowed out again.  Despite this, many hobgoblins, half-orcs, and other more martially inclined folks worship the Harvester for the chance to dwell within his fortress, doing eternal combat against the demons which assail it.

History/Relationships: The Harvester is the newest deity on Valt.  Although festivals during harvest time have been common throughout history in Valt, there was no deity associated with the season.  Towards the end of the Third Dark, reports began to emerge of bizarre hobgoblin raids.  During the harvest season, hobgoblins would be seen in demonic looking armor, conducting lightning raids against the undead.  The first followers of the Harvester, these hobgoblins would spread word of his worship to the rest of the world.
                Although the Harvester himself is a loner, who never seeks the support of other deities, his followers do tend to align themselves with the clergies of other gods on occasion.  They respect Wasserl’s loner nature, seeing the two gods as kindred spirits.  Followers of the two deities will often work together during the Harvest festivals. (Usually to hunt an undead encroaching on the cleric of Wasserl’s territory.)  They have a similar feeling towards the clergy of Hommirell, and since the god of rangers is no friend to undead, they often find mutual ground to work on.
                Kogorak’s clerics have neither special love nor antipathy for the Huntsman, but always relish the opportunity to destroy creatures which have evaded their own demise for extraneous lengths of time.  The Stormlord’s clerics will happily assist any followers of the Harvester on their yearly raids, if only for the chance to advance their own dogma.
                Malarise and Lakalle compel their clerics to spread word about the Huntsman, so that their undead followers can properly defend themselves or relocate should they be the target of a Harvest festival attack.  If the two were capable of assaulting the fortress of the Harvester, they certainly would.  Its location deep within the realm of the fiends makes it nigh unassailable, however.

Manifestations: The Harvest King manifests once a year.  At sundown on Harvest night, whichever follower of the Harvester was deemed most worthy based on the supplications of the previous Soul Night festivities is chosen as that year’s vessel.  The Harvester possesses his chosen, manifesting until sunrise.  The Harvest King leads any followers to battle against any undead that the followers have targeted.  If they have time yet remaining, they roam the surrounding area, slaying any undead they can find.
                When the possession occurs, the vessel is transformed to resemble the Harvest King.  Although the details of his armor will be based on the costume and personality of his vessel, he is always adorned in full hobgoblish armor.  (Similar to samurai armor.)  He wears a mask that conceals his upper face.  Forged from infernal iron, the black metal mask resembles a snarling demon, its teeth extending down far enough to cover the Huntsman’s chin.  He never removes this mask.  In battle he wields a great axe, its blade singed and sooty, with a black tassel of hair hanging from the pommel.  He is capable of calling his mount, an advanced 20 HD nightmare from anywhere on the material plane.
                When he departs the following morning, any damage suffered by the vessel is cured, as well as any negative status effects such as nausea, ability damage, negative levels, or spell effects.  If the vessel was alone, imprisoned, or removed from the material plane, they are instantly transported to the nearest temple of a friendly deity.  Any such vessel will be forever marked by their god’s presence.  When outside in the moonlight, their eyes will glow with a hellish green radiance, and tiny tendrils of heatless green flame will trickle upwards from their eyes.

THE CHURCH

Priests: Zugan no kano (Hobgoblish for “Death hunter”)

Alignment: CG, CN (Although worshippers can be chaotic evil, clerics cannot)

Classes: Cleric, sorcerer

Dogma: Don your mask, and sharpen your sword.  Bring to the tyrant his final reward.  So all to arms now, with brave brothers ride.  Make dead men feel fear on this Harvest Night.

Day-to-Day activities: During the rest of the year, the death hunters, like all clerics of seasonal deities, pretend to be clerics of another deity.  For the Huntsman, popular choices include Kogorak, Hommirell, Wasserl, and Eksus, although plenty of them choose other deities.  They live and dwell as members of that clergy, following the doctrine and dictates of the clerics they are impersonating.
                Only during Harvest time do they don their true mantles, organizing and encouraging Harvest festivals.  Once Harvest night is finished, they return to their ‘regular’ lives.  While some of their “fellow” clerics (those of the faith they belong to the rest of the year) may hold their yearly activities against them, the vast majority do not.

Worship Locations: None.

Affiliated Orders: The Hell’s Teeth Witches are an order of spellcasters (arcane or divine) that worship the Harvester.  They take any spellcaster who meets their standards.  While they are typically loners, they occasionally work with small groups who specialize in destroying undead.

Apostasy: None.

Vestments: During Harvest time, the Zugan no kano wear heavy armor, usually shaped to resemble a horrific monster.  They patrol the streets of their communities during the weeks leading up to the Harvest festival, lest some undead they are targeting make a preemptive strike against them.  While on these patrols, they carry lanterns made from pumpkins or other gourds, carved with the most hideous visages they are capable of depicting.
                The holy symbol of the Huntsman is the mask that they wear.  High priests favor masks with lenses that are enchanted with Permanent Torch to flicker with yellow, red, or purple fire (never green).  Although the Harvester wields a great axe, his hobgoblish clerics wield the single edged bastard swords their race is famous for (katana).  They treat the hobgoblish bastard sword as his favored weapon for all intents and purposes, including feats, class features, and spells.

Holy Days/Ceremonies:  Although the specifics of the festivities vary, harvest time (late fall) is always a time of celebrations of plenty and remembrance.  People of all cultures give thanks to their deities for the bounties that they have, while at the same time in some fashion commemorating their past.
                Harvest Night (the sixteenth of Huskyr) is considered the one night of the year when the dead souls who have been consigned to the lower realms can return to the world.  These souls will be gathered up and returned to hell come morning, but during the night they have the chance to trick someone else into taking their place, find some kind of magic to return them to life, or engage in all kinds of other nefarious activities designed to torment the living or escape their fate.
                The Huntsman brought a devious (and cheap) trick with him, which is how he has caught on so quickly: the lanterns that his clerics use, when placed at doors or windows, provide remarkably effective at scaring away returned souls.  The clerics of the Jack of Lanterns happily provide these to any who make a small donation to the church (usually about twice as much as the cost of a pumpkin and a candle).  Although pumpkins are the preferred choice in Numbrar, other alternatives, such as squashes, melons, or coconuts are equally acceptable materials.
                On Soul Night (Huskyr the fifteenth), all the followers of the Harvester gather together for a ceremony, closed to outsiders.  These ceremonies can take the form of a somber ritual or a raucous celebration.  Those in attendance are there to choose the undead target that their group will go after.  The secondary function of the ceremony is to help the Harvester choose his vessel.  Some groups choose to hold competitions of intelligence or strength in order to prove themselves worthy.  Some recite tales of their chosen foe’s villainy, in order to make their cause the most just.  Some choose impossible battles, hoping that their god will realize if he does not choose one of them, then they will surely die.
                On Harvest Day, the clerics of the Jack of Lanterns preside over their local Harvest festivals.  Towards the end of the day, they slip away, gathering together with any militant friends that have gathered to join their cause.  At nightfall, when the sun sinks below the horizon, the hunt begins.  The vessel is chosen.  Those who do not receive the presence of their god fight twice as hard, hoping to curry his favor for the next year.  For the duration of the night, all sentient undead listen with a wary ear for the sound of an approaching war band.
                Many wonder why the Harvest King has never chosen to attack the Scaled Emperor, largely considered the worst undead tyrant in existence.  Certainly there is no lack of those trying to kill the Emperor of Fassett.  In fact, at least one group tries every year.  Thus far, they have all been slain to the last one.

Oath: The Oath of the Certainty.  Unlike most clergies, nearly all clerics of the Harvest King take this oath.  The cleric vows to never retreat from a battle against an undead.  Reasonability is allowed.  Falling back to a more advantageous position is still perfectly fine, but outright fleeing the field of battle is not permitted.  The cleric gains a +2 divine bonus to AC against undead opponents, and a +2 bonus to all saves while in the direct pursuit of an undead foe on Harvest Night.

As a side note, this is the only deity in my game (and in my campaign history as a DM) that used to be a PC.  Special thanks to Phil.  This deity was made in conjunction with him, and I appreciate his work in helping me to flesh out my own little D&D world.