Alright, so here's the thing. I greatly enjoy writing this blog, it has resulted in me writing over 30 000 words about the Frozen Over setting. Frankly I'm impressed with myself. I have, however, found it to be quite taxing to write three posts a week. In addition, I have other thoughts and ideas about D&D that I'd like to share. Notions of other campaign settings, adventures I've run, papercraft constructions I've made for my games, or just editorial thoughts on D&D. This is really two problems, the first being that writing 3 times a week is often tiring, and the second being that focusing just on one narrow topic can also be tiring. So I have made a decision, this blog will be changing.
As of today, this blog is now being opened up to other Role-Playing related topics that I wish to write about, and it's name will be changing. Along with this change is a change in address. I don't want to just change the name and address though and make it difficult for people to find me, so this blog will remain in place, and I've set up a second one with the new name and address. The other shift is that there will only be one regularly scheduled post each week, will be appear on Friday. On the other hand, I will be putting up other posts whenever I see fit, so some weeks might only have one post, while others might have many more. I hope these changes don't put readers off and that they'll continue to visit and hopefully enjoy my posts.
The new form of this blog is called Corriver's Lantern and can be found at http://corriver.blogspot.com.
Thank you for bearing with me, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog in it's new form.
~Sincerely, Colin B. Schaeffer
19 December, 2010
The long, cold winter’s opening is marked by Sorrows, which occurs at the juncture of the months of Little Yule and Great Yule.
What is Sorrows about?
The purpose of Sorrows is to commemorate the dead, to remember friends and family lost to the sands of time and honour them. Along with the mortal dead, the festival also serves to honour Voland; when Bishal cut him down, for all intents and purposes he was dead, and so Sorrows remembers the sadness of having lost him. Finally, the festival also marks the beginning of the Namelessness, when children are stripped of their name and treated as dead. Namelessness is part of remembering Voland’s death; children are made to be ceremonially dead for six months, the same amount of time as Voland was.
Though the colder weather usually arrives before Sorrows, it is officially viewed as the first day of winter. The Libram tells that after Voland died, the world was plunged into the first winter as Bishal let loose the ice of Nifel, the frozen hell that Bishal hails from. This part of the story is meant to explain the cycle of the seasons; prior to the Freeze this was used as evidence by the sceptical that the Libram was largely fictional, a view which has waned in support in the Bay in the present.
What are normal Sorrows activities?
The festivities of Sorrows occur in the first half of the day, culminating in a modest feast at midday. Prior to the feast, many people sing various traditional songs about Voland, death and rebirth, and the remembrance of those loved ones that are gone to Muspel to reside with Voland and bask in the heat of his eternal flames. Sometimes games are played in the morning, especially by the children who are about to become Nameless. These activities and the midday meal that follows are often conducted with just the family.
After the feast, people begin to make their way to the kirkhall for the holiday service. Traditionally, the service begins with a reading from the Libram, the first chapters up to the death of Voland and the coming of the winter. Following the reading, the service takes the form of a funeral for Voland complete with a coffin surmounted by a large red candle; various songs are sung, laments for the dead and messages of love and remembrance. When sunset approaches, it is time for those children who have reached the age of twelve in the past year to become Nameless.
The children are dressed in white robes and each given a candle. One by one, they approach the head of the kirkhall and are given a blessing by the Keeper. The child lights his or her own candle from the flame of the red candle on Voland’s coffin, then one of their parents or another family member such as a sibling or an aunt or uncle proceeds to remove the child’s hair with a saege knife. The child speaks his or her name aloud for all to hear, and hands the Keeper the candle. The Keeper declares the child dead, and places the candle with Voland’s. Once all the children have become nameless, one final lament is sung, and the people return home for bed. The candles of the nameless are watched over by the Keeper, keeping the flames alive and exchanging spent candles for new ones all through the winter.
What is eaten during Sorrows?
As mentioned, the feast on Sorrows is modest, but still larger than a normal meal. The contents of the meal are very simple, the only special feature being cinnamon loaf baked and distributed by the Keepers. The Order maintains a number of trees from which cinnamon is harvested specifically for this purpose. The rest of the meal traditionally consists of porridge, cheese, and apples, though some people also include small portions of reindeer meat. Cider and rosehip tea are the usual drinks for all ages.
Possible Adventure Hooks
Namelessness can prove to be quite an ordeal, being without contact from your family and friends for so long, and the prospect of it can frighten many preparing to undergo it. Your adventurers could be enlisted to find and return children who have run away, hoping to avoid Namelessness. This mission would come with a time limit as the ceremony cannot be performed on any other day, and a child who has not undergone his or her Namelessness will never be considered an adult.
Because of the war, malicious people on both sides might attempt to disrupt the Sorrows traditions in order to damage the enemy’s morale. This may come in the form of a minor disruption, such as the cinnamon being stolen before it can be used in the baking of the holiday loaves, or it could be a more significant matter, such as stealing or destroying the candles used in the Sorrows service.
Lastly, the ceremony itself could be interrupted. Perhaps midway through the service, Voland’s empty coffin opens itself, and someone claiming to be Voland emerges. This could be a genuine visitation from an aspect of the god himself, or it could be a malicious spirit or being with some sinister plan that involves gaining the trust of the people.
Gone on Holiday: Returning January 3, 2011 for a full week (five days) of posts. Resuming the normal schedule the following week.
17 December, 2010
15 December, 2010
The village of Dample was a normal fishing village, like many others in the Bay. Its population of roughly 150 set to work each morning, going out on trawlers to try and fill their larders and their purses. The uruks of Dample got along well enough with the nearby alfar villages, but as the situation in the Belltower Council became more heated, relations began to decay. Finally, war broke out, and the fate of Dample took a left turn.
Like everyone else, the citizens of Dample wanted to hope that things could be resolved easily and peacefully, but as skirmishes began to run back and forth over the borders that possibility seemed to evaporate. To the west of Dample, the Uruk militia began to set up a fortified camp on the Old Road where it crossed the border. Eddershot was in a solid position to protect the narrow land entrance into the Uruk nation and the Alfar attacks on it all ended in failure.
The war abated for a time while both sides hurried to bring in the harvest before the frost arrived, but in the first months of winter the alfar decided to take a different strategy. Frontal assaults had not worked, Eddershot was simply too strong, but the southern coast of the uruk nation was poorly defended. And so the alfar used the first of the new ships the hodekin had built, and staged an invasion into uruk territory, establishing a beachhead at Dample.
It was still early in the winter, so there were still some hours of daylight, but the alfar chose to begin before dawn had broken. They opened up with ship-mounted ballistae, the massive darts set aflame and lighting the way for the landing. A few of the townsfolk were alert enough to take up arms, but most were busy trying to extinguish the flames that were devouring their homes. The alfar ships came in close, and the landing parties began to sweep through the town, slaughtering as they went. The people of Dample fought hard, but they were far outnumbered.
Only one-third of the people of Dample escaped to safety that morning, fleeing up the Stony Road to Wigby or the Lane to Hagen. By the time the alfar and hodekin forces reached Wigby, a defence had been mounted, led by the elben Graf, Joral de Roen. The defenders pushed the invaders back, driving them back to their ships at Dample. The village was retaken, and the invasion rebuffed, but Dample had been reduced to smouldering ruins, haunted by the ghasts of the slain.
What is there? Who is there?
Very little remains of the village, those survivors who did not immediately join the militia have taken up residence elsewhere. Dample’s Reeve was in Rackholl when the attack occurred, leaving his Deputy in charge. She led the village’s defence, but was unfortunately one of the first to die. The ghasts of the slain townsfolk linger around the ruins even today, two years later. Normally a ghast would have long since crossed over in that time, but something keeps these ghasts anchored to the world in their ruined village.
The only building that is still standing in any stable manner is the kirkhall. The sturdier construction of the kirkhall, coupled with its distance from the shoreline, contributed to its survival. Those who observe the ghasts have noticed that they seem to congregate in the kirkhall every Volands, as if attending services. Other strange behaviour exhibited by the ghasts includes the fact that they usually will not interact with the living; normally a ghast is every bit his or her own self, but dead; the ghasts of Dample, in contrast, rarely even acknowledge the presence of the living. Sometimes they will speak as if still living their lives, often talking to people who are not there, even carrying on entire conversations with them. Today, the living generally avoid Dample, though regular patrols keep watch on the southern shoreline, in case of a repeat attack.
Dample sits near the pointed tip of the northern shore of the Narsund. A small wood used to grow just east of the village around the kirkhall, but much of that perished in the fires during the attack. The Stony Road passes through this dead wood as it comes into the village from the north. The other road, the Lane, passes south of this wood on its way east to Hagen. Most of the village sits between the kirkhall and the docks in the west. Most of the burnt-out buildings are missing roofs, and many have lost walls as well. The docks are still mostly intact, though the fishing vessels were all either scuttled or taken by the alfar in their retreat.
The ghasts of Dample provide potential adventure. The questions of why they still cling to the world and why they seem to act as if they are still alive and yet don’t see or react to living beings are mysteries that your adventurers may wish to solve. It’s possible that there is some sort of magical artifact affecting the deceased in odd ways, or perhaps the trauma has scarred the ghasts and they won’t cross over until the alfar have been defeated and punished.
Another idea, if you wish to begin your campaign earlier in the war, is to have you adventurers participate in the battle and subsequent evacuation. Perhaps they can tip the balance of the battle, or help more to escape. If you wish, you can have the ghasts create a vivid hallucinatory re-enactment of the battle, so the party can experience the battle without shifting your campaign back in the timeline.
Friday: The Sorrows Festival
13 December, 2010
Structure of the Government
The Uruk nation is the only one of the five to place itself entirely in the hands of democracy. Every government leader from the village Reeves, to the nation’s Governor is elected. The Governor serves as the head of state and government, as well as the nation’s representative on the Belltower council. Also elected is the Deputy Governor who serves as lieutenant to the Governor and is his or her replacement should any ill occur. The Governor presides over the Grand Hall, a legislative house made up of the nation’s Reeves. The Reeves are elected as the leaders of individual villages, as well as town councillors in the larger settlements. Like the Governor, Reeves have a Deputy who serves as their second, and will often take their place during Grand Hall meetings, either in the village, or sitting and casting votes in the Grand Hall.
Each village has three elected Councillors who advise the Reeve on village matters and can overrule a Reeve’s decision by a unanimous vote if the situation demands. Larger settlements are instead led by a Mayor, who serves in the same capacity as the Reeve of a village. Each town is divided into three districts that function just like a village, with a Reeve and three Councillors, while the Reeves in turn serve as councillors to the Mayor and can likewise overrule his or her decisions through a unanimous vote (perhaps complicated by the fact that any of their votes can be overruled by their Councillors). Like the other leadership positions the Mayor has a Deputy, but the Mayor has no legislative duties outside of their town like the Reeves do.
Elections are held every five years for all elected positions. In all, there are twenty-four Reeves (including the Reeve of the destroyed village of Dample), four mayors, and one governor, with deputies for each of those positions. If the people express unhappiness with any person in power, a referendum can be called in the relevant constituency and the person unseated by a simple two-thirds majority; this process of impeachment, however, is rarely invoked. There are no term limits on any position.
The geography of the Uruk nation is largely defined by landforms that mark its borders. The most significant is the Cliff that forms a horseshoe around much of the nation to the north, west, and south. Depending on the location, the Cliff ranges in height from 100 to nearly 200 feet tall, being tallest in the north. The three rivers in the nation all enter Uruk territory by means of waterfalls plummeting down the cliff-face; the Cliffside River flows directly alongside the Cliff for much of its length between Fracture Falls and the Narsund; the Lipping Rivers enters at Amel Falls and then flows into Scoll Bay; and the Torrent River crashes into Rottel Bay at the gap between the Uruk and Elben Nations. Rottel Bay continues south from Tallfalls, separating the uruks from their elben allies. Finally, in the south, North Circling and the Narsund separate the Uruk nation from Perry Island and the Alfar Nation.
Scoll Bay, which cuts the nation in two, is bounded on the north side by a smaller cliff that rises about 60 feet above the water; the cliff-face is broken by a small inlet at Farthing. The nation falls into two geographical areas north and south of Scoll Bay. The southern region is primarily grassland and prairie, with only the occasional stand of blackwoods or pines. The coast in the south is simple and unfettered by stones or prominences. The north half of the country is different entirely, sedges cling to small patches of the inhospitable rocky terrain and small grove of trees are somewhat more common than in the south. Some grassland can be found nearer the coast before the jagged rocks return in full force at the water’s edge. The north sits on a plateau that rises some 60 or 70 feet higher than the southern grasslands.
Just as the land is divided into north and south, so is the Uruk nation’s industry. The south is more concerned with food production; farms dot the countryside from Rackholl past Wigby to Hagen. There is also a great deal of herding in this area, primarily reindeer but some horse breeding as well. There is a fair amount of fishing operated out of Rackholl, and Dample was a fishing village before its destruction. Drossen is effectively a part of the larger community of Ambergate, and a great deal of trade moves through the area. One of the elben-uruk alliance’s two military encampments, Eddershot, sits on the Alfar border and is their western command post.
The north, on the other hand, is largely concerned with resources rather than food. Lipton is home to a quarry that supplies a great deal of the Bay’s stone. Mining abounds as well as mines in Broots, Sunders, and Oster supply nearly all of the iron in the Bay. The mine in Carsett is a source of gold, as well as a small amount of silver and electrum, a natural alloy of gold and silver. Folsham is the industrial heart of the north, housing the metalworks and manufacturing capabilities of the nation, as well as a militia training barracks, while Colvey has shipyards where engineers have been developing heavy cannons for their naval vessels. The only places concerned with food in the north are Galvesdon and Farthing, both practicing farming and fishing, though Galvesdon focuses on the former and Farthing the latter.
Possible Adventure Hooks
The Cliff, being a significant geographical barrier, might seem to protect the Uruk nation from the varkers that live above, but that is not the whole story. Because it seems to protect them, the uruks might be led to ignore any potential threat from above. A clever varker Ardri might organize the construction of winches or elevators to invade down the Cliff, or previously unknown caves might provide hidden but easy routes down into civilized territory.
Continuing with caves, the mines of the north could lead to stories. Mysterious creatures might come up from below to attack the workers, or even venture further, laying waste to a nearby village. Alternatively, a newly discovered vein of unknown ore might be found and your adventurers hired to transport a sample to Folsham or to the Academy Grounds in Garstang for analysis.
Finally, adventure could occur relating to the nation’s politics. Grand Hall votes might be beset with intrigue and backroom deals; adventurers could be hired as security for a Deputy Reeve who is refusing to bow to pressure and now fears for his life. Elections could also be a source of excitement, and infiltrators from the alfar-hodekin alliance might use the uruk’s tolerance of diversity against them.
10 December, 2010
What is an Uruk?
In other settings, one might define uruks as orcs, but that simplistic comparison does not tell the full story. For the most part an uruk does share the usual orcish appearance; uruks are quite sizable beings, most being between 6 and 7 feet tall. Both males and females are extremely well muscled and as a result their average strength easily surpasses the other races of the Bay.
Their skin is greyish-green, trending more heavily toward the green end of that spectrum, and they have sharp fangs that give them a feral look. The features that set them apart from orcs are their pointed ears and startling violet eyes. Uruks have very little body hair, and they never grow facial hair; the hair on their head is jet black, but a large proportion of the population routinely shave their heads, so an unknowing outsider might assume they are naturally bald. Lastly, many uruks have upturned pig-like noses, further setting them apart.
What are Uruks like?
The collective viewpoint of the uruk race is one of equality. Because of their appearance, it has been common through history for uruks to be feared and reviled, even declared outright evil and slaughtered without a second thought. These events have left a mark on the race’s consciousness, and they are now devoted to forwarding the cause of fairness and equality, to save others from undue suffering as they have been subject to. If a situation seems unfair or unbalanced, the uruks will be there to advocate a change.
This single-mindedness, however, can sometimes result in short-sightedness. Once a cause has been taken up, an uruk will not rest until the wrong they perceived has been righted, which ultimately means that they can be just as stubborn as the alfar, refusing to budge even an inch. Conflicts are routinely escalated because an uruk stepped in to help the situation, but in the end only made it worse. The prime example of this escalation is the Academy’s bid for membership in the Belltower Council, and the fallout of that effort which is the ongoing war.
On the other hand, the uruk’s devotion to equality also arguably makes their society the best to live in. The law is strictly enforced and everyone is allowed to contribute in whatever way they wish. Their leadership is all elected and the law allows the people to remove a leader from office if enough disagree with his or her administration’s direction. Taxes are high, but the government’s primary job is to ensure the well-being of the people, so everyone is guaranteed a minimum standard of living.
Gender is effectively considered irrelevant among uruks; it has no bearing on your position or rights in society. Likewise, sexuality is a topic that is largely ignored, you simply have relationships with whomever you wish, and no-one thinks twice about it. Labels such as homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual simply do not exist, there is no reason to categorize people in such as way. While in other nations one might be discriminated or disliked because of their race, that is not so among uruks; even the svugar half-bloods, reviled for their disturbing appearance, are afforded the same place in society as everyone else. If you hold a position of authority, it is because you have earned the trust and respect of others, not because you come from a rich or well-respected family, and not because the alternative was a member of a different race. As a testament to this, one of the Commanders in the combined Uruk-Elben militia is a svugar by the name of Marthon am Vale.
For the uruk’s, faith in Voland and the Order is seen as a unifying force. The Order is the force that ultimately brought them into the fold of greater society and as a result they hold perhaps a greater reverence for it than any other race. Even at the beginning of the Freeze, when the other races had allowed many of the old customs such as namelessness fall to the wayside, the uruks continued to hold them in highest regard. Uruks nearly all carry saeges modeled directly on Bishal’s blade as described in the Libram and they hold most strictly to the rules of namelessness; children have the strictures drilled into them in the year leading up to their namelessness.
As with the other races, the uruks have their own take on the story of Voland and Bishal. To uruks, Voland represents the force of order and civilization, he organized the world in an orderly manner as he created it; civilization and the thinking beings were the pinnacle of that effort. Bishal was little more than a wild and jealous beast, and indeed he is more often referred to as the Beast among uruks than by his name. The Beast is the wild, uncontrolled animal side of the world, while Voland is equality, order, and civilization. Another aspect of this is that the Beast represents terror, while Voland stands for honour and courage in the face of horror.
Monday: The Uruk Nation
08 December, 2010
In the culture of Butter Bay, even more so since the Freeze began, death is held in great reverence. The Libram’s account of the death of Voland at the hands of Bishal and his subsequent resurrection has ingrained itself into the collective consciousness of society, and instilled a deep respect.
The most obvious sign of this reverence is in the rite of passage known as Namelessness. Namelessness is a coming of age ritual that all inhabitants of the Bay go through; it is absolutely mandatory. If, somehow, one was to not do it, they would forever be considered a child. When you go through your Namelessness you are re-enacting the death and resurrection of Voland, claiming your place in the world as one of his children. The process begins at the festival of Sorrows. All children who have turned twelve in the year since the previous Sorrows are deemed ready to go through their Namelessness. A parent or other family member, or occasionally a Keeper, will use their own saege knife to cut off the child’s hair in a ritual performed in front of the whole community.
After the ritual is completed, the children, now called nameless, are considered to be dead. The role of the community in the Namelessness is simply to not interact with the nameless in any way. The nameless must fend for themselves, preparing their own food, dressing themselves, repairing clothing, and anything else that might arise. Though the nameless are not officially supposed to speak at all, they sometimes speak with and interact with one another; the rest of the community does not enforce the no-speaking rule because they are not allowed to acknowledge the nameless. It is also common for the nameless to help one another with food, clothing, and protection; this is also accepted because the community is not allowed to acknowledged them, but some view the practice as a positive as it helps instil the nameless with a sense of community.
When Nighsend, the new year’s festival, arrives, another ritual is performed; the nameless are each presented with a saege of their own, to carry and guard the rest of their lives. Once this ritual is completed, the nameless become adults, and are considered alive again. When the nameless regain their life, they are allowed an opportunity to alter their given name if they so wish. As adults now, they are expected to contribute to society just like everyone else by farming, or fishing, or mining, or even joining the militia.
When people die in the Frozen Over setting, things work somewhat differently than normal. Upon dying, the person immediately returns as a ghast, a sort of undead spectre of themselves. Ghasts are able to continue to exist in the world for a time if they so choose, but it takes a focused effort to hold onto the land of the living. Over time, the person’s ghast slowly slips away and crosses over to the afterlife. A ghast can choose to let go and cross over of their own accord at any time.
What this means in game terms, specifically in 4th Edition D&D, is fairly simple. After dying, either by way of three failed death-saving throws or by dropping below their negative bloodied value, the character immediately regains 1 hit point and consequently regains consciousness. However, they are no longer a living creature, rather they are undead. A ghast character functions as normal with two exceptions: first, the character gains the following racial feature:
Slipping Away: While you are bloodied, you can move through blocking terrain, obstacles, and enemies as if they were difficult terrain; you must still end your movement in an unoccupied square. In addition, you gain insubstantial while you are below 0 hit points.
Second, you have a pool of ten “ghast points”. Each time you fall unconscious, fail a death-saving throw, or take an extended rest you lose one ghast point. You can also expend a ghast point to gain a +2 bonus to one attack roll. However, when you no longer have any ghast points, you immediately cross over. There is no way to regain lost ghast points.
When you return as a ghast, your dead body remains on the ground, meaning there are effectively two of you, one corpse, and one ghast. The corpse is naked, and all your clothing and equipment is on your ghast body.
Death is taken seriously in the society 0f the Bay. It is to be respected and revered, and not to be counteracted. Returning the dead to life is actually illegal in all but the Uruk nation, and even there it is not looked kindly upon. Part of the reason for this attitude is that resurrection generally doesn’t work, at least not in the way you would expect. The ritual to return life to the dead is relatively simple, but it doesn’t return the body to its original condition. At first glance it will appear to have worked perfectly, but as the days go by it will become apparent that though the persons mind and spirit have been returned to the body, the body is still slowly rotting away as if it were dead.
Eventually the flesh will fall away completely and the still-conscious and fully active person will be nothing but a skeletal being known as an esquel. The length of this process varies depending on the temperature, and therefore the time of year; in the summer it will take only a month, while in the winter it can take up to six months. Ressurected individuals who are obviously decomposing or have become esquels are not accepted in society and the citizens of the Bay are liable to hunt them down and destroy them if they are discovered. An esquel takes a -10 penalty to Diplomacy, and Streetwise checks, but gains a +10 bonus to Intimidate checks; while still rotting the penalty and bonus are only 5.
There is a way to resurrect a deceased individual without them becoming an esquel; it involves creating a substance called the Blood of Voland. If the Blood of Voland is used in the ritual to raise the dead, they are returned to their original state, fully alive with no lasting effects. An esquel can also consume the Blood of Voland and their flesh will slowly regrow, with similar timespans as the process of rotting took. The catch, however, is that the recipe for creating the Blood of Voland is long lost, and the ingredients are exotic and difficult to find. If your adventurers are determined to return a lost companion, the quest to do so should be a large undertaking all on its own and will lead them into distant and uncivilized lands far from Butter Bay.
Various types of undead creatures exist; ghasts and esquels have already been discussed above. The other major types of undead are liches, and thralls. Liches are effectively esquels who have enacted additional rituals to preserve themselves, binding their spirit to a phylactery. If their body is destroyed, but the phylactery is still intact they will slowly regenerate. No-one knows how long it takes to regenerate, but estimates are usually quite lengthy, in the range of decades or even a century. Thralls, unlike the other types of undead, are no longer people, but are instead mindless beasts; their bodies were simply reanimated rather than resurrected. Like esquels, they begin covered in flesh, but eventually are little more than animated skeletons; fleshy thralls are sometimes called zombies. A thrall is usually bound to the will of whoever created it, but if they die or their body is destroyed the thrall simply crumbles. It is possible to create thralls that will survive past their master’s destruction, but they are more difficult to keep control of, and nearly impossible to control in large numbers.
Friday: The Uruk Race