Sunday, October 7, 2007

Campaign Installment #1 Preview: Kingdom of Fairwatch

Here's what I've done with a piece of the Southern Reaches. A nasty, ugly piece of the Southern Reaches, rife with danger and adventure and ready for some Player Characters heroism... well, one would hope...

That big-bad guy the temple worships? Him? Yeah, that's him. Me, I don't like my evil sugar-coated.


Kingdom of Fairwatch
The wealthiest and most powerful Tulamite kingdom, such as it is; while Tulamites rule and form the political elite, they are in the minority, as most peoples of the towns are Ghinorian, Mgona, O’ercalan halflings, or even Ironfoot dwarves, while the Plain of Wands is the domain of clans of Mgona nomads. Until recently Amazons were forbidden entry, but under the Tulamite regime they have been made welcome in service to the Kingdom and Temple.

Fairwatch is a young and precarious kingdom. It was founded less than a century ago by Ghinorian exiles who fled after what they considered the “failure” of the Ghinorian Rebellion; though they won some of their demands, they did not gain their full freedom, certainly had not overthrown the Enneadim elves, and wished not to remain in the empire.

Originally the exiles thought to make for Tula, and were crossing the Plain of Wands when they were attacked by a clan of Mgona warriors. They holed up in an ancient ruined city, and there discovered an oasis at the center of the remains of a crumbled citadel. They successfully defended their position (they were quite experienced warriors, after all), and decided to remain at the oasis for some time to recover. During this period they explored the old ruined city and discovered that it was built atop a gold mine! All thoughts of fleeing to Tula forgotten, several of the exiles returned to Quicksake Vale and brought back hundreds more former rebels, and together they built a new settlement atop the old, naming it “Fairwatch,” for the original discoverers called the ruined citadel a “fair place to watch for those savage bastards.”

Over the decades the settlement grew as the gold was used carefully, slowly to build up the defenses and wealth of the settlement. The citadel was rebuilt and the walls of the old bailey restored to their ancient heights; the remaining stone of any value used to build the new temples, markets, warehouses, and houses of the growing town. Having rejected the Enneadim gods save for Seker and Nephtlys, the exiles turned to other deities, and several temples flourished in the city center. One of them, the Temple of the Dawn Star, was founded by a Tulamite exile; most of the adherents were Tulamite mercenaries, workers, or like the priest, exiles who settled in Fairwatch to work for the Ghinorians. In time this temple gained great power (later revealed through blackmail and dark sorcery), until eventually the son of the founder, the father of current Evil High Priest, had enough power to overthrow the ruling Ghinorian oligarchy and place his own grandson on the throne.

His followers cast out the priests of the other temples, defiled them, and converted them into brothels, warehouses, or sties. His Mgona mercenaries, every one a cultist and an exile from their native clans, now walk the street, keeping order with tridents, whips, and filed teeth (for they are all cannibals). Once his power was secure in Fairwatch, he turned his elite Tulamite fighters and mobs of Mgona mercenaries on the only civilized competition of note on the Plain of Wands — Presbain, a larger market town built around the best oasis of the wastes. It fell in less than a week, as it had few defenses and the town’s leadership had been weakened in internecine warfare for several years (the result of careful planning on the part of the Evil High Priest). He arrived with his son, the father of the new King of Fairwatch and his second-in-command at the temple, to celebrate the victory personally with the sacrifice of 66 virgins. Upon the completion of the ceremony he had the gall to keel over dead without any warning. His son had not the power to raise him from the dead, wish though he’d might, as the old bastard had kept most of the plans and secrets to himself (including the location of the stolen hoard of the prior rulers of Fairwatch), and his son was not yet in any position to take over…

In the two years since the coup, the fragile kingdom has held together through sheer force of will and the judicious use or threat of use of cannibal warriors of Lucifer. The relationship between the ruling son and his evil high-priest father has been strained greatly. Taxes and tariffs on caravans remain low, and the caravans remain unspoiled, as even the cultists are not foolish enough to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. But between jealousies of father and son, brother and brother, anger of the oppressed against the new regime, righteous hatred of the Mgona tribes against their blasphemous cousins, the chaotic situation in Presbain, and the growing rebellion against their co-religionists in Waterplace, the Kingdom of Fairwatch and the Temple of the Dawn Star are in for some interesting times…

Fairwatch: This small town is built around a fruitful oasis and gold mine, the only major gold mine in the Southern Reaches. People walk furtively through the streets by day, and walk not at night though their lives might depend upon it, for the Angels of Hell (as the Mgona mercenaries call themselves) are allowed to keep and eat any they find breaking curfew. The Angels are easy to identify, with their red-enameled scale hauberks with black vulture wings affixed to the back, horned helmets, heavy tridents and whips, and filed teeth. The Great Temple of the Dawn Star stands at the center of the town; the old Temple of Nephtlys was converted to a warehouse, the Temple of Seker is now a brothel, and shrines to other gods now house pigs or slaves. King Brasttongue rules from the Great Citadel, a vast pile of ancient stones on the north side of town. His younger brother, Slivertongue, is the High Priest of the temple in Fairwatch, and one of the main thorns in his side; they argue publicly over the rule of the town, kingdom, and the position of Evil High Priest (for it is said that son has surpassed father in magical might). Apparently not fully trusting the Angels of Hell (who answer to his brother and father), the king has hired a squad of renegade Amazons as his personal, royal guard, as have no few of his supporters.

Presbain: Until the rise of Fairwatch a century ago, Presbain was the only settlement of any consequence on the Plain of Wands. It was the requisite stop for the caravans between Bridshin and any points north; today it only captures traffic going directly to the Tulamite kingdoms, as traders heading toward Tula usually stay in Fairwatch and push on toward O’ercland. Loss of that trade, more than half their regular trade, put the great tent city on the skids, and it eventually fell to squabbling rogues and thieves who called themselves a “Senate.” It was easy pickings for Fairwatch, as rather than tend to the (already poor) defenses the “leaders” of the town merely lined their own pockets. Conquest by Fairwatch hasn’t changed the town much; most of the temples are allowed to continue their own faiths unhindered though heavily taxed, and as much is stolen as is traded throughout the tents of the native merchants and rogues. There are few major permanent structures in town, the largest and grandest of course being the Temple of the Dawn Star at the center of town, right up against the oasis; the gold-plated statue of Lucifer is said to be the largest in the Tulamite kingdoms. The temple is built of blood-red marble, cut from a new quarry dug by slaves, most of whom are the family members of the former rulers and more recent dissenters (the rebels themselves being sacrificed on the altar in the Great Temple). Rumor has it that Evil High Priest Cartreen has set up a poison fail-safe in the temple so that if there is ever rebellion, he need merely pull a lever to poison the oasis for a hundred years.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Campaign Installment #1 Preview: Bards of the Southern Reaches

This is a preview from Campaign Installment #1: Player's Guide to the Southern Reaches. This is from the chapter detailing how various classes operate within the different cultures and societies of the Southern Reaches. The information provided in this section is known to all natives of that region, and is available in general to adventurers, who are ever seeking information and news from over the next hill...

Bard (Charisma)
Minstrels and entertainers are much in demand in Alt Ghinor, as nobles and gentlemen jockey for recognition for hosting the best fetes. There is a famous School of Song in Sacred Rock; Enneadim elves, Amazon and Ghinorian humans, and Tehutim are all welcome, the only qualifying factors being talent and skill. Tehutim harpists are among the most renown and sought after of its graduates, for it is said that their creator, Thoth, invented music, and Tehutim mastery of the harp gives this belief some credence. Amazons who have the skill usually concentrate on developing the power and range of their voice. Many Amazon warrior/bards and bard/knights are found in the Pharaoh’s throngs and in mercenary condottas as standard-bearers, singing and chanting to exhort their troops on to victory, while others find noble patrons to serve as house entertainers (these often multi-class as courtesans).

The Filidheann, a highly-revered class of bard/druids among the Tulamites, are known to have great and terrible powers through their command of magical words and songs. A filidh is also said to have great oracular powers. While bards and druids are said to rule the clans through their power over the noble families, the druidic circles are ruled in turn by the filidheann. O’ercalan lyricists, being bards or often bard/sages trained in ancient Orichalan traditions, are said to be the heart of their society as the priests of Dionysos are the soul, and often train and play with the bards of their Tulamite neighbors. Lyricists who make the dangerous journey to the Quicksake Vale are often rewarded with their weight in gold by wealthy and noble patrons. Mgona and Glourndish chanters, as their bards are known, are vital to the warrior culture of the nomads and the swampers, for the chanters are the historians of the clans and without an epic history to be told by the chanters years hence, a great warrior’s spirit might weaken in the afterworld. Many chanters are multi-classed bard/shamans.

Even the Ironfoot dwarves and Demonbrood orcs value the bardic tradition, though it is entirely oriented toward a martial culture. Ironfoot armies are invariably accompanied by dwarven bards playing huge kettle drums; after battles, these same bards play the zither while singing of ancient victories of their Burning God and his chosen people. Demonbrood orcs prefer the accompaniment of wind instruments during battle. Hordes of Demonbrood orcs are inspired by orc and half-orc bards playing pipes made from the bones of their enemies and horns (often of massive size) made from the horns of demons and other beasts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Game On!

After a two+ month hiatus, it looks like our Tuesday Night Game (formerly the Monday Night Game, and before that the Tuesday Night Game) is back on!

We'll be starting up with Matt's Rifts campaign again, with the campaign picking up a month after we left off in-game. I'm going to have to dig up my character sheet and notes on that one, as so much has passed since we last played my memory (already quite faulty) is uncertain on the last session's events.

And we're not sure yet who all is going to be able to play, what with work and medical issues and school... but for now, game on!

No telling yet what is up with the Warlands Known Realms Castles & Crusades campaign. It's all the same people, pretty much, but it's best to start out slow... and as deep as I've been into the Wilderlands lately working on Adventure Games Journal and Campaign Installment #1, it might be difficult to shift gears quickly...

I can't wait to roll some dice again!