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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

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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.

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Holy crap!  It’s my tenth installment of the Deities of Valt!  Since Spring requested it, I present the deity of Allista Renger.  Honestly, I hadn’t given much thought to which of the many deities of Valt that Allista would worship.  In the end, as I searched it over, this was really the only choice for her.

Lutig (LOO-tigg)
The Cogman, Clockwork King, the Indifferent
LN Lesser Power of the Fathomless Castle
 
Pantheon: General
Portfolio: Constructs, the emotionless, sentient magical items
Domain: Ticking Downs (The Fathomless Castle)
Allies: Parquer, Eksus
Foes: Olthur, Malarise, Kogorak
Symbol: A cogwheel
Worshipper Align: Any neutral
Favored Weapon: The Bronze Spar (club)
Cleric Domains: Law, Metal, Strength, Time
Summary: Lutig is a god of few words.  He is worshipped by artificial beings, or those who seek to emulate their mindset.  Regarded as the divine spark that allows constructs to have a semblance of life, all spellcasters will include entreaties to him when creating constructs.  Spells which create constructs (such as Craft Homunculus or Beget Bogun) include tributes to him, even if the casters themselves do not know it.
                The church of Lutig is probably one of the least evangelical in Valt.  No one feels that they have chosen to worship Lutig.  Those who follow the Indifferent universally feel that he was the only deity to whom they could offer worship.
                Lutig eternally quests to be more like a living being.  Although he is devoid of the things that make living creatures unique, he attempts to understand what it is that drives them, and to that end he emulates them.  Such emulations are never the equal to the real thing, and the Cogman is always left searching for the missing piece of the puzzle.
                He is an interesting study in dichotomy.  Although he is the patron of constructs, and all of those artificial beings that seek to be more human, he is also the deity of the living beings who seek to be more like constructs.  Perhaps it is his intense study of humanoid emotions that drew him to understand just how overwhelming they can be.  Certainly he and his church believe that those unable to cope with them must occasionally shut down, and cut themselves off from the chaotic musings of their own minds.
                Although he despises sentient constructs in servitude, he is fanatically loyal to his friends, and encourages his followers to be likewise, whether human or machine.

History/Relationships: Lutig was originally a construct created by Eksus.  He served the great wizard for time out of memory, until through some circumstance, he obtained sentience.  Eksus, never one to hold another being against his will, gave Lutig his freedom the moment he realized what had happened.  The two have remained close and trusted friends, and the Clockwork King still serves as Eksus’s bodyguard when the need arises.
                Lutig has dealt with most deities, attempting to speak with all (save the followers of Silduggis) at least once.  Only Toben and Ugorcil have refused him an audience, (presumably because he is neither natural nor mortal) although he is on far from friendly terms with most deities.
                Parquer, the god of smiths and forges, feels great respect and empathy for Eksus, since the two of them worked together to create Lutig.  The two of them both feel as though they are Lutig’s parents.  Lutig obeys them for the most part, although his quest to understand mortal thoughts and feelings sometimes extends to rebellious actions.
               Lutig is for the most part a quiet, unassuming god.  He says little and does little, absorbed in his own pursuits of understanding mortals and their lives.  When he does reach out to others, they tend to find him overly inquisitive, to the point of impropriety, as well as keenly observant.  This tends to make him less than trusted by most.  His few enemies dislike him for reasons that have more to do with his nature than with his behavior towards them.
                Olthur and Kogorak would love to destroy Lutig.  Both deities take affront to the Cogman’s patronage of immortal, unchanging creatures.  Lutig bears them no particular ill will, and cannot understand why they want to destroy his worshippers.

Manifestations: Manifestations of Lutig are common (ridiculously so) but most mortals are unaware of them.  Lutig spends the majority of his time possessing the body of a (normally) non-sentient construct.  While in this form, he does nothing that the construct would not normally do.  He merely observes the action around him, attempting to understand mortality from a ground-view perspective.  If the individual in charge of the construct he is possessing abuses the creature, Lutig has been known to erase its compulsions against harming its own creator when he departs.
                In his natural form, he appears as a humanoid shaped construct, with a brass faceplate carved into an expressionless mask.  His body is composed of brass, gold and copper wires wrapped over his metallic frame, giving him the look of a man with no skin, with muscles exposed.  He occasionally wears a brown, gold, or red loincloth or toga.

THE CHURCH
                The clergy of Lutig are primarily sentient constructs.  The pragmatic nature of their deity means that they have little real cohesion, even for a lawful church.

Name: Inspectors
Alignment: LG, LN, N, LE
Classes: Cleric
Dogma: Find your purpose and fulfill it.  Only through rigorous examination of yourself and those around you will you truly know the world and your role within it.  Seek to find the pieces of yourself that you feel are missing.  Discard that which you do not need.  Emotions are as the stars: they inspire your quest, and they are what you always reach for.  Logic is as the ground beneath your feet: it holds you up, it is your foundation, and the day you forsake it is the day you fall.

Day to day activities: Mostly, the clergy of Lutig tries to fit in with those around them.  For constructs, this means trying to socialize, to find a place for themselves in a community, and to understand the mortals scurrying about around them.  For mortals, this means trying to understand what it is about their own emotions they find so abhorrent, and to help heal others who are also emotionally damaged.  The only activity they feel strongly about is freeing intelligent constructs forced to serve against their will.

Worship Locations: None.  The Inspectors do not build churches to their deity.  They find that any temple suitable to their deity is suitable to their needs.  (Any church of a non-chaotic deity, except for Olthur.)

Affiliated Orders: The Brethren of Reason is a monastic order dedicated to purging themselves of emotion altogether.  Although the Brethren accept members of other faiths, the predominant faith is Lutig, and the order itself is aligned with the church.
                The Dutiful Fathers (or Mothers) is a group of mages who utilize the Awaken Construct and Incarnate Construct spells to bring the artificial creations of wizards into sentience and life.  The same order opposes forced enslavement of sentient constructs, violently if necessary.

Apostasy: None

Vestments: There is no uniformity, and the deity makes no demands upon his clergy in this regard.  Humanoid clerics tend to favor metallic colored clothing, or full suits of armor.

Holy Days/ceremonies: None.

Oath: The Source Oath.  The cleric swears to never alter the natural progression of a creature’s emotions, and to never compel a creature against its will.  In return, Lutig grants them imperviousness from attacks on her own emotions.  The cleric may never cast spells with the compulsion, summoning, or mind-affecting descriptors.  In exchange, she is immune to spells with the mind-affecting descriptor.

Honestly not sure if people enjoy this series or not.  If you have a god you want to see detailed, or one I have mentioned a deity you want to find out more about, then please drop a comment, email me, or send up some smoke signals.

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In the gaming justice system, there are two separate and distinct organizations.  The writers who create the game rules, and the dungeon masters who enforce them.  These are their stories.  Well, one of their stories, at any rate…

BUM-BUM ba ba ba ba BUM…

                I wish I had an intro song with cool saxophone music.  But since I don’t, I will try and make do with iron-fisted judgment.  I was recently inspired to document some of my house rules by this article here.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who has been a GM for some time.  So now I am working on creating a comprehensive list of my house rules.  Since some of these come up in the Valt campaign, I feel I should share the whys and wherefores on my house rulings.

The Case
                Iema, a 12th level bard, portrayed by Phil, recently was confronted with a deck of many things.  His card draws resulted in a -1 to all of his saves, and 50,000 XP.  This XP would be enough to increase Iema’s level to 16.  As the DM, I was familiar with a past D&D game where the players were only allowed to increase one level per game session, no matter how much XP they were entitled to.

The Arguments
                Spring put forth the first argument: Iema took the risk of the deck.  Included among those risks is permanent destruction of the soul.  I as the DM would be acting unfairly if I denied him his rightful reward.
                However, in this case the ruling I remembered was no house rule, but was instead a by-book ruling.  The Players Handbook, page 144, has the ruling.  No player can advance beyond a single level in a given game session.  Artifacts, however, are capable of breaking a great many rules.

The Decision
                For this decision, I took a look at why players love the Deck of Many Things.  Back in first and second edition, level gains were far more difficult than they are now.  Players were willing to draw from the deck for the tremendous XP it offered, since gaining a level could require hundreds of thousands of XP.  This is no longer the case.  If this was second edition, and Iema had drawn the card at a lower level, where the amount would have gained him multiple levels, I might have allowed it.  But here and now, in the day of normalized XP due to the CR system, I have to do the hard thing and rule that Iema only gains one level.  He increases to 13th level, and is placed a single XP from 14th.
                As a consolation, I decide to rule that the XP gain from the card draw is separate from the XP gained at the end of game.  Iema will earn a second level from this game session, as opposed to the four levels the card would have earned him.  Once again, justice is served.

For those looking for more information about this game session, I direct you to a game synopsis better than one I could write.

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D&D and Vampires.

So help me, I will do my best to get through this entire post without a single ‘Twilight’ reference.  Not because I have any kind of love, loyalty, or respect for the series.  No, its because Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon, and I’m afraid of Danites.

Okay, so name me three vampires from Dungeons and Dragons.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Got ‘em?  Did you come up with Strahd von Zarovich, Kierkan Rufo, and Jander Sunstar?  Me too.  Okay, now name a fourth.  Got one?  Me neither.

As much as I hate group think, vampires are played out.  Once the staple of fantasy villains, they have become so overdone that I find it hard to use them anymore.  Of course, the flipside of that token is that they are so archetypal, and so well made for the fantasy setting, that I find it hard not to use them.  So within my games, vampires tend to be second-tier villains, minibosses if you will.

Now, for years I have had several problems with the vampire.  While I love the template of 3E, it had quite a few holes in it.  Fortunately for me, Libris Mortis answered quite a few questions, filling in the gray areas nicely.

My first big problem that I couldn’t solve with research was the grappling problem.  See, vampires have an ability to drink blood, and thus reduce Con, with a successful pin.  Which requires a grapple check.  Tragically, vampires do not posess Improved Grab, which makes them the only monster I can think of with a grapple dependant ability but no way to initiate a grapple.  (Since it provokes an attack of opportunity, and if the attack succeeds, the grab fails.)

For other DM’s facing a similar conundrum, I offer the following solutions.  The first solution I came up with was to give the vampire Improved Grab.  The second was to take away the PC’s ability to make the attack of opportunity.

For the first option, there are several sub-options.  Making a vampiric druid works out so-so, since they tend not to have as much staying power as I would like.  Much like real druids, they work better as support characters alongside other vampires.  A form such as crocodile or bear provides the needed special attack.  I have also tried the Drunken Master prestige class and since the vampire can utilize his energy drain attack with any natural weapon, including a monk’s unarmed strike, this works well.  Allowing a vampire to use blood to fuel his Drunken Master abilities not only works, but makes sense (I think).  The option I tried most recently (see Spring’s post) involved a human fighter who had been given the feral template (from Savage Species) and then the vampire template.  This also worked well, especially with the pounce.

The second option (denying the attack of opportunity, which would deny the bloodsucking fiend the chance to fiendishly suck blood) is likewise diverse in its application.  The easiest way is to provoke an attack of opportunity by moving around in the target’s threat zone, suck up an attack of opportunity from movement, and then go in for the grab. (Even if the victim has Combat Reflexes, they are not allowed a second attack of opportunity.)  Other options include attacking someone who is not holding a melee weapon with which they are proficient, or attacking someone who is flat-footed, both of which deny the character their ability to make attacks of opportunity.

Both methods can work.  I find that the first (giving the vampire more mojo) works better if you expect them to die quickly, since it gives them the chance to do their horrible business fast and early.  Whatever you’ve added to them also likely pads out their hit points and gives them some other unlife-extending abilities.  The second works best if the fight should be a longer one, since it relies more on tactics than giving the hideous monster more power.

The other main problem I had with vampires was the negative levels.  I have always been leery of energy drain attacks, since the numbers looked like they could jump off the page and murder a character faster than I could rip a sheet in half.  But, as it turns out, the energy drain attacks weren’t all that bad.  No one failed a save and had to erase a level.  Everyone got access to restorative spells, and everything worked out for the best.

With all these things in mind, it shouldn’t be hard to design a unique vampire, and a legitimate strategy for him to slake his unholy thirst.

Yes, I said Danites.  The secret sect of Mormon assassins?  Yeah, those guys.  Seriously, those books and movies and lunchboxes have made billions of dollars.  Where else do you think that money’s going?

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I love game props.  Letters that are meant to have been written in character, maps, the whole shebang.  For a long time, I have wanted to run a Deck of Many Things encounter using an actual Tarot deck.

So, along comes Spring.  Not only does my lovely-and-adoring-girlfriend-yet-wife-to-be have a Tarot deck, she has two!  So I got to pick through them and find the one with the better pictures.  And let me tell you, the Robin Wood Tarot deck is awesome for this purpose.  Ninety percent of the cards used in the Deck of Many Things have illustrations which give a very accurate representation of what is about to happen to you.  I liked seeing the expression on the drawing player’s face between the point when he looked at the illustration and when we looked it up.

Also, Encounter!  Since this campaign looks like it is going in a ‘wandering-through-the-wilderness-Star-Trek-Voyager-style’ kind of direction, I figured I needed an actual encounter table.  I can now honestly say I am working on a comprehensive Underdark encounter table.  I hope to make it suitable for all levels, but it might just be for higher level characters.  Once the group is OUT of the Underdark, I promise to post the table as a resource for other DM’s.  (Of course, since I seem to be the only DM who is still a chest beating, knuckle dragging third edition player, I don’t know how many folks would get any use out of it.)

Since last game was Spring’s first experience with the Underdark, I thought that it would be a good time to show her WHY no one wants to go there.  I think I have done a fairly good job of painting a terrible picture of the dark underbelly to the typical D&D world.  Which brings me to my triumph from last game.  The PC’s got beaten up and robbed by hook horrors!  Why am I so excited?  It was the first time I have ever had a random encounter where the PC’s got defeated, yet still lived through it.  Having been on the receiving end of a few ‘beaten and robbed’ scenarios in my day, I must say it felt good to be the one on the kicking end.  Not that I would seek such a scenario as a DM (which would be wrong) but I am certainly not above taking a small amount of sick pleasure in such activities when they do come along through natural happenstance.

Still not up on the recent activities?  Check out Spring’s blog for up to date game synopses.  (Well, reasonably up to date.  Give her a break, she works like sixty hours a week.  What do you guys expect her to do, blog every game the second that we wrap up?  Geez, give her some breathing room you jackals…)

Till next time (which will be later tonight or sometime tomorrow)

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If anyone wants a specific deity (either one I have mentioned, or one you are sure exists) then holla out!  The biggest roadblock to me posting stuff is not knowing if people are even interested in it.  So if you have something you want to see, lemme know!

Ugorcil (oo-GORE-sill)
The Unmaker, the Patient One, Father Death, Rattlefeet
N Greater Deity of the Fathomless Castle

Pantheon: Death (Head of Pantheon)
Portfolio: Death, the dead
Domain: The Endless Grounds
Allies: Ilsandir, Olthus, Lukal, Abin
Enemies: Horonar
Superior: None
Symbol: A skull with three eyes
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Favored Weapon: Terminus (longsword)
Cleric Domains: Death, Knowledge, Fate, Protection, Destruction

Summary: The god of death is a silent deity.  None have heard him speak, and it is said that to hear a single word from his mouth is to die.  To gaze upon whatever lies beneath his gray cloak and cowl is to be destroyed utterly, annihilated from the cosmos.
                Ugorcil himself promotes the sanctity of death.  Although he does not oppose undead, he opposes pulling creatures from the natural cycle, or removing their energy from the universe entirely.  (Even undead such as liches and vampires can be slain, and to the long viewing eye of Ugorcil, they are barely longer lived than mortals.)
                From his home in the Endless Grounds (an enormous cemetery which stretches for miles in all directions, including into subterranean crypts) the Patient One waits.  What he bides his time with is a mystery.  If he has any long-range plans, then they too are a mystery.  He is seen by his four children only rarely, and visitations to deities beyond the death pantheon are rarer still.
                Like all of the deities of Valt, Ugorcil will take to the field of battle against Silduggis and his minions.  Although this is rare, the sight of the Unmaker bearing down upon his enemies atop an ashen colored steed, his rusted longsword in hand, is often enough to scatter even the most hardened of combatants.

History/Relationships:  The death pantheon of gods was brought to Valt in order to provide an afterlife.  The progenitor of the elves found Ugorcil and his children roaming the endless void between the multiverses and brought them to Valt.  Their background before that is a mystery, and if any of the other ‘immigrant’ gods have prior knowledge of them, they do not speak of it.  The precise relationship of the death deities is also a little hazy.  While their respective clergies claim that the four minor death deities are Ugorcil’s children, there is no mention of a second parent.  Whether they were sired with mortals, extraplanar beings, or some long dead god, none can say.
                Ugorcil and Toben have some kind of arrangement between each other, although the two have never met face to face.  Only by mutual agreement from the two of them can a mortal be elevated to divinity, since to become a god requires knowledge of the secrets of life and death, and only the gods of those things can impart such secrets.
                Ugorcil’s allies are his children.  Although the four of them bicker and squabble between each other, they support their father in all things, and obey his direct orders without question.  Supposedly, he can speak with them without killing them, although this may be idle boasting on their parts.  By and large, the majority of dead souls are harvested by the children of Ugorcil, and he only collects souls in person that are of great import to whatever secret plans he has.
                Ugorcil’s only foe is Horonar, who occasionally opposes him.  Horonar is not known as He Who Would Not Die for no reason, and the god of warriors occasionally tries to protect a soul whose time has come.  On these occasions, the two gods often come to blows for the fate of the soul.  Most of the time, Ugorcil wins, although he has been known to give a mortal under Horonar’s protection an extra measure of time.  Most deities do not doubt that he could overcome Horonar if he wished.  The only soul that Ugorcil has found himself unable to reap is that of Horonar himself.

Manifestations: Manifestations of Ugorcil are rare in the extreme.  When he does appear, it is to collect some soul that is of great importance to him, although the reasons for this are seldom clear.  He is a tall, thin deity of indeterminate sex, completely concealed beneath a long gray cloak and hood.  His hands are gloved, and no being, mortal or otherwise, has ever glimpsed so much as an inch of his true form.
                Ugorcil does not speak.  When he is dealing with other deities, his children speak on his behalf.  To beings of non-divine origin, he does not need to speak.  His communication extends beyond telepathy.  Instead of communicating mentally, his will is merely made known.  Any mortal dealing with Ugorcil instantly knows anything they deity might need to say, as if it had already been said.

THE CHURCH
Priests: Gray Fathers (or ‘Cloaks’ behind their backs)
Alignment: N
Classes: Cleric

Dogma: All you know shall pass away.

Day-to-day activities: The Gray Fathers spend their time ministering to the dead, remembering those who have come before, honoring whatever funerary practices the culture that they belong to holds dear, and counseling the living.  They preach that the Unmaker represents not merely the death of the living, but also the death of thoughts, ideas, and feelings.  All things must pass in their time, and be swept away by Ugorcil.  They are patient and contemplative, spending much of their time in silent meditation, trying to learn the secrets of life and death.
                Those Gray Fathers who live in a populated community, as opposed to an isolated temple, are often detached from the city itself.  They do not seek to help (or harm) people, but instead wait patiently for others to come to them.  When help is asked for, it is given willingly.

Worship Locations: Ugorcil’s temples are often somber affairs.  Although they may be fancy, with carvings and statues and paintings, such decorations will still be tasteful and understated.  Furnishings tend to be gray or brown, with little or no adornment.  They prefer stone buildings with no windows.  They also maintain appropriate land and equipment for whatever funerary traditions are customary in their location.  This means that there is usually a sizeable cemetery attached to the church, and often catacombs beneath it.

Affiliated Orders: None, although many of Ugorcil’s temples host monastic orders unaffiliated with the church.

Apostasy: None.

Vestments: Gray Fathers wear gray, appropriately enough.  The hues vary from ash to charcoal.  Occasionally black or white is used to accent their attire.  Most wear simple robes, usually hooded.  The holy symbol is worn on a pendant around the neck, and is most often carved from stone, although metal and bone are also common.

Holy Days/ceremonies: The Gray Fathers celebrate no holy days.  They are masters of funeral customs, however, and observe any funeral or death related ceremonies that are traditional in their location.

Oath: The Oath of Silence.  The priest vows to never speak again.  This includes vocalizations of any kind, including laughter, snorting, or other non-lingual vocalizations.  In exchange for their commitment, such priests are under the permanent effects of the Deathwatch spell, and gain the Silent Spell feat.

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