Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wastes of the West Pt 2: Major Religions of the Wastes

What is a good place to begin an exploration of a new world?  I would argue a good place is with the fundamental beliefs of its people.  Yes, I know it is terribly Platonic of me, to begin with high concepts, but bear with me.  A few of these religions are not totally original but I have delivered my own twist on any real world or fictional religion that appears here.

Daevanism:

Daevanists believe in one God, who they call Daeva or Eli Daeva.  Daeva might be translated "god," "celestial," or "angel."  Capitalized Daeva usually refers to Eli Daeva which is best translated "Supreme God," "First Celestial," or "Lord Angel."

Daevanists are monotheists that believe in the existence of other divine beings but that none of them are to be worshiped but Eli Daeva.  Those celestials that are subservient to God are called daeva or angels.  Those that defy God and demand worship from mortals are called baala or devils.

Daevanist belief stresses the insurmountable distance between God and Man.  They believe that Man is incapable of grasping even a fraction of the mind of God.  God must come to them through the daeva, who reveal the divine will through their chosen prophets and priests.

There is only one place where one might truly stand in the presence of God.  This place is the Temple, that cyclopean megastructure deep in the desert.  There, in the Holy of Holies, may one who is ritually clean stand in the very presence of God.  It is here that each new acolyte comes to be inducted into the Priesthood.  They beg the Almighty to try their very souls to determine their worthiness.  Those that can face the terrible truth of their cosmic insignificance without immediately going permanently insane are attended by a daeva that gives them their holy powers.

Daevanist priests will prefer spells that have to do with divination and knowledge as they are continually trying to come to understanding the will of God without ever becoming certain of any understanding, but it heavily depends on the kind of daeva that attends them.

The Cult of Set:

The cabal of necromancer-priests that worship the Overlord of the Outer Dark is the Cult of Set.  Set, may His Unending Darkness consume the world, gives his servants power for the continual sacrifice of mortal souls.  These cabalists are mostly concerned with their own ambition and terror of their dark master.  No ritual is too foul, no magic is too forbidden, no atrocity is too horrendous for a truly ambitious cultist.  They plot in secret to take control of whole empires and will not be satisfied until there is no light they cannot extinguish.

These cultists ultimately believe in the absolute domination of the weak by the strong.  They believe that there is no real truth and that even their Overlord is just the largest fish in our part of the cosmic sea.  They believe that there is no meaning in life but that which the strong create.  Their rituals make a mockery of innocence with utter defilement.  The greatest ambition which all the cultists share is to eventually become a god and replace Set.

Cultists of Set work primarily with necromancy and mind control magic, in their effort to dominate all life.

The Ayla Sae Sisterhood:

This mysterious sisterhood of sorceresses is bound together by a common religious code that dictates, "Man must evolve to survive!"  They try to place themselves in places of power to be able to drive along man's development.  They commonly place themselves at the head of various pagan cults and find demonic remnant of the old worlds and use them as livings gods for people to worship.

They are pragmatic and devious in pursuing his beliefs and can be found whispering into the ears of powerful figures everywhere if not just replacing them. They are distrusting of male leadership and often consider men to be primitive is not just utterly inferior.

Mind control magic and healing magic are the kind of magics that the Prophetesses of the Sisterhood.

Kekism:

The Cult of Kek is the brotherhood of Jester Preachers that openly mock overly restrictive or chaotic institutions in service of their smirking Frog God, Kek.  The Preachers believe that Kek is a god of darkness that will bring the light.  They bring about chaos so that a brighter tomorrow can come.  The brothers often look insane and stand on street corners to tell jokes at the expense of any number of institutions and paint graffiti on walls and in alleys. They don't much like the Daevanists, or the Cult of Set, and they really don't like the Ayla Sae Sisterhood.

They use magic that makes them more like their slimy green master and that helps them mock the decaying institutions of this world.  They claim that they all hail from Kekistan, no matter where they actually came from.  They await the coming of the God Emperor that will destroy the Ayla Sae and bring about an Age of Greatness.  Praise Kek!  Kek wills it!


Many other small cults exist around the Wastes but these are some of the major religious bodies that belong specifically to the Wastes.  Other religions come from other worlds and PCs may bring characters with religions from their home Planes and even try to proselytize.  If they gain a significant following they might even begin to be mocked by the Jester Preachers of Kek or start being opposed by the Daevanists or attempted to be seduced by the Ayla Sae.

What other faiths in other settings might fit in the Wastes?  How do you think your favorite cleric characters would behave in such a situation?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Wastes of the West Pt 1: An Introduction

Let's be honest, the Graylands is not an original setting.  It was born out of a need for a quick generic setting that made use of the bits of setting already built into the core DCC rulebook.  One of the most interesting parts of the setting for me, the take on alignments, came out of a need to make sense of what were odd alignment rules in DCC.  Graylands is great and a lot of the concepts that were born out of necessity are pretty awesome and I intend to carry them over to other works, but it just isn't an original setting.

I'm going to continue making content for the Graylands because I still have a game going there but I also want to start work on another setting that I thought of a while ago that I would like to bring to life here.

Enter the Wastes of the West.



"What are you here for?"  Asked the musician between sips of his ale.  

I looked up from by sludgy drink and shrugged.  "Adventure."

He looked out at me with obsidian eyes beneath his wide leather hat, "There are better places to die than this and often dying is a privilege reserved for the lucky.  Looking for adventure here is like diving into a raging sea for a gulp of water.  I see what you're thinking.  You think it won't be that bad.  You think you've been through some adventures before so this shouldn't be too hard."

He absently strummed a few notes on his guitar. "Out here, the only constant is the endless dunes.  Out here you get to burn all day beneath the tyrant suns and freeze all night beneath the changing moons.  You'll never really know solid ground and even the sky will change on you.  You will never be safe and likely you will never be able to go home.  Out here, the desert sneaks into you.  The alien moons change you.  You'll find before too long that you aren't even human anymore and that home is like a rapidly fading dream."

I looked at the bard and set my drink down.  "Should I leave?"

"Leave?  You ought to run.  You ought to leave here back for hearth and home as fast as your legs can carry you.  Run before the moons starts watching you from your dreams.  Run before the song of the desert winds become all that you crave.  Run before the sparkling expanse of the starlit dunes stains your eyes forever.  Run before the Wastes grab hold of your soul and you hate even the notion of getting free."

The Wastes of the West is an endless desert that links to many worlds.  The sky changes each day, showing suns and planets and moons of alien worlds.  Adventurers from any world may find themselves there and that makes the Wastes so diverse and so dangerous.  Civilizations have risen and fallen in the Wastes for such an extended period that the "natives" say, "There is no sand in the desert, only the dust of fallen empires."

The point of the Wastes is to take the adventurers away from the familiar and confront them with the weird.  This creates a space to confound your grizzled players with the bizarre.  It also offers an opportunity to blend science-fiction in fantasy in creative ways with the Wastes being a convergence of worlds.  I intend to make the Wastes a mixture of Conan the Barbarian, Dune, and Lovecraft with magical super-tech reminiscent of Wheel of Time.

What do you all think?  What system would you suggest I use for this setting?  I have run something similar to this with 5th ed but I want something really OSR that will be deadly with interesting but balanced magic-users and fun to play warriors.  I also prefer something rules-lite but that is negotiable.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Knights of the Divine Lady

It is said in the elder days when the gods ruled from Ma'at that Klazath ruled while the Seer Father dreamed.  Klazath was in charge of the glorious armies that drove back the formless shadows of Chaos as Choranus' dreams shaped the world, but Klazath's zealotry made life in Ma'at oppressive for its people.  Gorhan, his brother, pleaded with Klazath to let up in his driving of the men, but Klazath would do no such thing until every last ounce of foul Chaos was destroyed.  Gorhan was saddened.  He despaired at the soldiers' lives, fighting forever without purpose or rest.  He looked into the crystal pond that surrounded the sleeping Choranus and saw his own reflection.  Before his eyes, his image was transformed into the very picture of infinite beauty.  She was a woman like none he had seen but as he reached in to touch her, his hand pulled out a marvelous golden helm.  From then on Gorhan knew what must be done.



Somewhere out there, his Lady watched him.  Somewhere among the chaotic maelstrom was her fathomless beauty.  He gathered the dreamers, the poets, and the artists.  He named them his Knights of the Divine Lady.  So Gorhan and his knights-errant charged into the darkness, seeking his Lady above all else, cutting a great swath through the minions of evil.  Their quests were not so efficient as Klazath's crusade, but their magnificent bravery gave hope to all the people.  They learned to sing songs again, telling stories of their remarkable triumphs.  The crusaders of Klazath were strengthened by the hope the knights-errant created and so the grand Quest was begun.

The Knights of the Divine Lady are an order that persists to this day.  They quest for holy artifacts, slay mighty creatures, and seek beauty above all else.

Here is some inspiration:


At some point, the Knights of the Divine Lady came to especially hate the Fae.  It is said that a particularly beautiful Fae Lady convinced him that she was his Lady, and after he discovered her treachery, he declared eternal war on the Fae.

Any Lawful non-Wizard or Elf character may join the Knights but clerics may only cast the spell.

The Quest:

A knight-errant may at any time, declare that they are embarking on a Holy Quest.  The knight must declare what would constitute the Quest's completion.  The Quest must involve retrieving a holy artifact, destroying a specific monster, taking a specific place, or rescuing a person of good character in distress.  While on the Quest, a knight errant gains many powers that are detailed below.  A knight-errant may not regain these powers until he has completed his Quest.  Any knight that abandons a Quest loses access to all powers and spells from this Order until they are given absolution by another member of the Order.

What Matter Wounds?:

A knight in pursuit of a holy Quest gains a pool of d6s equal to double his level.  A knight-errant may use any number of these as an action to heal himself.  A knight that is affected by a spell that would put them below 1 HP may spend one of these dice to immediately nullify the damage.

Woe to the Wicked:

A knight-errant on a holy Quest gains a bonus to their attack roll and damage equal to their level against Chaotic characters.

Vengeance of the Helmed One:

A knight-errant gains +1d6 to all attacks, damage rolls, and saves when battling against Fae and cannot be affected by Fae Mind Control Spells.

Spell Casting:

A knight of this Order gains a Spell Casting bonus equal to their level.  Clerics cast these spells with their usual bonus. All casters take Disapproval as a cleric would.

Summon Steed:

Level 1     Range: N/A   Casting Time: 1   Action  Save: N/A

General: The caster reflects on his eternal quest and repeats whatever creed was used to swear them into the Order, causing a magic steed to arrive from realms unknown that will obey the caster.  A knight on a Quest gains a +2 to this check.

Manifestation: Roll 1d4: (1) The horse emerges through a shining portal, (2) The horse forms out of mist, (3) The horse gallops down from the sky, (4) The caster simply finds themselves atop the horse.

1-11: Failure
12-13: The steed is a superior example of his kind but is otherwise just a mundane horse.  The horse remains until dismissed.
14-17: The steed can never be exhausted and the rider gains +2 AC and immunity to Magic Missile whist on the steed.  The horse remains for a day.
18-23: The steed, in addition to all previous benefits, may run up impossible inclines without difficulty and leap great distances.  The horse remains for 1 day.
24-27:  The steed, in addition to all previous benefits, may walk on water and pass from plane into another.
28+  The steed, in addition to all previous benefits, may fly and the rider gains +4 AC and immunity to all offensive magic.  The horse remains for a day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Order of the Holy Flame

This post was inspired by a blog post by False Machine.  Link here: http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2017/02/orders-of-chivalry-in-eclipsed-kingdom.html

Image result for Crusader

One problem I have found with Dungeon Crawl Classics is that every class but Elves, Wizards, and Clerics are helpless against magic.  Thieves, Warriors, and Dwarves have ultimately no way to deal with some of the most powerful spells that can be leveled against them.  Magic Missile, in particular, offers no way for dealing with it.  There are no saving throws.  The only way is to get an equally skilled magic user to do battle with the caster.  This is good, in many ways, because this gives Wizards, Elves, and Clerics a specific role to play.  It can also be bad if the wizard is ever busy or absent.  It also creates a power disparity in the fabric of the game world.  Wizards seem evidently more powerful than other classes and that kind of helplessness is both bad for the spirit of the group and makes some things difficult mechanically.

For instance, as it currently stands, my party's wizard is so powerful that he would be able to conquer a  city with all the most well-skilled warriors on the planet if they didn't have any kind of magic. That could be an exaggeration but it still isn't far off from the truth.  The amount of hit points warriors can get seem a little absurd as well.  What would end up fixing both of these problems is if there was a reason for warriors to be supernaturally hardy and let them defend themselves against magic.

There are no paladins in base DCC and, though I have looked at quite a bit of content from the community, I have never seen a fully fleshed out paladin class.  I'd like to take this as an opportunity.  Just like magic-users can get patrons, warriors and dwarves should be able to join knightly orders that give them supernatural abilities.

Order of the Holy Flame

Crusaders, inquisitors, and defenders of Law, the templars of the Order of the Holy Flame are bout as "Deus Vult" as it gets.  The Chaotic heathen must be purged and the Holy City must be retaken!  It is the goal of the Order to annihilate heresy, defend the civilized world, and cut a bloody swath through the pagan dogs to the ancient city of Ma'at, the First City, where it is said that the gods ruled alongside humans as they shaped the world from the Seas of Chaos.

The templars of this order wear the scarlet arrow of Law on a field of white.  They may bear the symbol of Klazath, a flame on an anvil, as a holy symbol or engraved on their armor or weapons, but the templars wear the single arrow as a symbol of their authority to defend all of the lands of Law.

They are called the Holy Flame because that is what the followers of Klazath are called to be: purifying flames to devour corruption.  To all that live in darkness, they are the ones that bring the light.

Any Lawful cleric, dwarf, or warrior may join this Order if they are inducted by a priest of the Order, often found in one of the Crusader Kingdoms.  Clerics do not receive the full benefits of the Order because of their already superior ability to channel divine energy so clerics may only learn the Order's spell.  Here are some examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U9lVjZg-Kg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdhF4O54YjU

Bring the Flame:

In pursuit of a noble purpose, a templar of the Order of the Holy Flame may let their inner flame shine, gaining a shield of 1d6 HP per level that gives you +1 AC while it is up.  In this state, you gain a +1 to attack and +1d6 damage against Chaotic creatures and are immune to Magic Missile and Mind Control effects.  You may regain use of this ability by returning to a bastion of the Order and receiving a blessing from a priest.

Sense Darkness:

The templar always knows when Chaotic magic is being worked in his vicinity, giving him a + Spell Casting bonus to all Saving throws against Chaotic magic.  They may use their Spell Bonus to attempt to Counter Spell any ongoing effects.

Spell Casting:

Warriors and dwarves gain a Spell Casting Bonus equal to their level and their Personality bonus if it is positive.  Clerics cast these spells as normal.  All casters take Disapproval as if they were Clerics of their same level.

Rally the Light:

Level: 1  Range: All characters within 60ft of the Caster  Casting Time: 1 Action  Save: N/A

General: The Caster lifts their weapon or holy symbol above their head, calling out a battle cry.  If the Caster is bearing a holy standard or relic, the check gets a +2.

Manifestation: Roll 1d4: (1) targets glow; (2) targets are outlined in golden fire; (3) targets' battle cries are made twice as loud; (4) the heavenly host begin playing a battle song

1-11: Failure.
12-13: Caster and all Lawful Allies within range gain +1 to their attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws for 1 round.
14-17: Caster and all Lawful Allies within range gain + 1 to all their attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws for 1 turn.
18-19: Caster and all Lawful Allies within range gain +2 to all their attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws for 1 turn.
20-23: Caster and all Lawful Allies within range gain +3 to all their attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws for 1 turn and are immune to Magic Missile and Mind Control Effects.
24-27: Caster and all Lawful Allies within 100ft gain +3 to all their attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws for 1d4+CL turns and are immune to Magic Missile and Mind Control Effects.  They also gain 1d6+CL HP.
28+: Caster and all Lawful Allies that are engaged in the same enterprise as you (a quest, army campaign, or other venture) gain +4 to all their attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws for a day and are immune to Magic Missile and Mind Control Effects.  They also gain 1d6+CL HP.  The caster is unable to cast this spell again for a day and if the caster falls out of favor with their god this effect can be revoked.

Friday, January 20, 2017

News from the Graylands 3


The merry season of Cripple Feast is upon us in jolly old Phaidecia!  Already Merry John, the beggar that hangs around the Ten of Wands Inn, has reunited his old vassals to form the Merry Men!  Merry John is looking for a second term as the Cripple King and his followers have already donned their usual, multipointed, rust red, hats and are looking for trouble!  So pick up a local beggar, start a militia, and don paper mache hats in a festive color to represent your new liege!

As a part of the holiday season, though the Church strictly forbids the practice of pagan Cripple Feast in favor of Moreclocksday, the celebration of the Church's perpetual quest to put clocks everywhere, it does hold a spectacularly festive event that all members of the clergy and believers of the 3rd Cog Rank and above can participate in.  The Song of the Fallen Leviathan is an event in which the most beautiful hymns of the Church are sung and a ritual is performed that summons a real angel!  So don your magenta robes and CooCoo hats and come on down to the Ticking Cathedral!

A whisper flies upon a chilly northern wind through the ancient boughs of the Grymwald.  The word from some woodsmen is that Skrain's fortress, long abandoned, is now occupied once more!  Some claim the Ancient Bane of the Saints has returned.  Others think it is just bandits and hysterical reporting has greatly diminished the trust of the people in the media.  Farmer Jared seems to think that Faerie creatures from Hell have dragged Skrain's soul, kicking and screaming from the pit to serve their weird purposes.  What a nutjob.

In other news, an odd patch of greenery has appeared on the Forbidden Isle.  Observers say that the newly appeared grove seems to surrounded in a perpetual twilight and that many animals, including some not native to this area or dimension, have begun to frolic about it.  As you know, dear readers, frolicking is strictly forbidden by the Wands under penalty of complete and instantaneous body hair removal so I do hope these animals watch themselves.

The Church has officially offered up a reward of 100 gold for anyone willing to destroy that center of pagan worship known as the Cave of Secrets near the Chaotic city of Punjar.  It is rumored that they have made this decision because a number of the cities elite have been secretly visiting the cave, encouraging heresy amongst the upper echelons of our society!  Go to a church for more information.

The Legions of the Raven have begun their siege of the Crusader fortress-city of Thrandhelm.  It is said that a new sorcerer has risen up to lead the hoards of Chaos against the Crusader Kings of Law.  His Majesty Bran Thrand IX, the Giant of the Graylands, raised a flabby arm to reporters to report, mouth full of small crustaceans, that there was nothing to worry about.  "Afterall they are just barbarians!"  He said spewing tiny carapaced legs and spicy red sauce.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thoughts on Bards, Clerics, and Christianity

A new player is joining the party and speculated on perhaps playing a bard of some kind because he had seen from the blog that this party was pretty combat savvy already and thought it would be cool to be a purely social character with some support elements.

That got me thinking about the Bard classes I have seen from other games like 4e,5e, and Pathfinder but I always had some trouble with these classes.  For one, performing in combat is stupid.  In the midst of that clash of steel on steel with adrenaline pumping through your veins and blood pounding in your ears, would you even notice someone playing music to give you encourage you?  Would you notice the story telling or dance of some half-elf while arcane explosions and dragon fire rages all around you?  The logistical problem becomes evident.



However, I like playing the role of the traveling performer and the magical rogue.  The bard fits into the world of medieval fantasy.  In real history, these were people that played a crucial role in the social machinations of medieval Europe.  They preserved Western culture with their oral tradition.  They comforted weary travelers around campfires or peasants in Inns.  The songs and stories of a people are central to their collective identity.  In this way, bards played a similar role as priests.  Priests were a core part of the Medieval world.  They preached the foundational ideals of the Western world that are essential to our fantasy: Incredible people, braving the chaos of their time, redeeming themselves and their world by bringing light to the darkness.  It is no wonder that clerics were made into magical figures when they are such an important aspect of western fantasy.

Why can't the same be true for bards?

They are a part of that heroic tradition in the West.  They take the stories of incredible people and make them known to all.  They play into the archetypical heroes journey, which is the same redemption narrative that the clerics represent.  Let's just throw out the notion of Bards doing non-magical performance during combat.  Let's make their music explicitly magical when they are in combat while preserving their normal social role outside of combat.

It is really the reverse problem that designers have with Clerics.  Clerics lose their out of combat importance too often.  Their blessings are not to be spoken over congregations but as buffs in the heat of battle.  They don't speak sermons or attempt evangelism.  Part of the problem is the removal of Christianity from an archetype that can never truly be free of its Christian roots.  Pagan clerics were just wizards.  They spoke spells and curses and had dark gods (patrons) that had to be appeased with rituals.

I recall a recent problem I had with describing a small church in a game.  Most of the Lawful religions in games are just pseudo-Catholic and this church was no different.  In the back of the church, I had to stop myself from saying that there were implements for Communion because there is no reason for Communion to exist in a world without Christianity and something felt lost.  The image of the small chapel was incomplete because I had omitted something foundational to the fantasy world.

I was omitting Christianity.

I am a Christian myself, so I am admittedly biased but I really think that Western Medieval Fantasy is, for better or worse, inexplicably linked to the Christian worldview.  This post has gone in a different direction than originally planned so I will have to change the title but I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  How could you implement Bards into the Dungeon Crawl Classics ruleset?  How ought Bards to be implemented in games period?  Is D&D intrinsically linked to Christianity?  Leave me a comment.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Religion in the Graylands


It may seem as though since we have already seen that there is a multitude of deities on the side of Law and Chaos, that there must be a multitude of religions.  This would be a misconception.  There are really just two main religions in the Graylands.  Law and Chaos are religions.  They have different pantheons which have different sects built around the individual gods but when the time come for war, the sides are Chaos and Law.  There have been many Crusades on both sides and whenever the Lawful world is under attack, the adherents of Law come to defend it.  The hoards of Chaos have a more complex relationship to one another, but, in general, when one sect is under attack, others will come to defend.  More often than not, Chaos is the aggressor, however, because it is far easier to rally Chaos worshippers when you offer them the chance to smash and burn things.  Old texts like the Eternal Tome offer this often forgotten dichotomy between Law and Chaos: "Beneath the rule of Chaos, the strong consume the weak.  Bathed in the light of the Eternal Law, it is the strong who protect the weak."

The Grand Ticking Church of Timekeeping Decachrontatus who turns the Grinding Gears of Reality

This is a Lawful cult whose power base is in our own Phaidecia.  Its beliefs about Law are best described as "For all things, a place and function."  The priests of Decachronatus believe that each person is a cog in a cosmic machine and perfect order will be achieved when each person submits themselves to their preordained purpose.  This does result in a rigid class structure.  Social mobility is not just distasteful but can be considered sinful, though there is some theological bickering on this point.  The church is also laid out in a strict hierarchy and it is only by incredible ability, effort, and divine mandate that any cleric ascends through the ranks.

Most of the cities of the Lawful sects find themselves in the heartland of the Civilized Lands but the Church set up in the land that would become Phaidecia because there the first Wands found the staves made from the bone of the Storm Leviathan.  There Decachronatus appeared to them and established his church on the site where he slew and buried the beast.  Phaidecia then built itself around that holy site.

The Red Temple

In Redrum, the Red Temple stands as a defiant thorn of Chaos in the side of the Wands.  There the Hidden Lord and Cadixtat, the Chaos Titan, are worshipped with human sacrifice and orgies.  The Red Temple Cult is a weird group of oddly stuck together sects.  Like most things in Chaos, organization is next to nonexistent.  There are occasionally quite odd fusions as a result.  The two sects both believed that the land taken by Phaidecia was sacred for different reasons.  Cadixtat's mother was the Storm Leviathan.  The Hidden Lord's reasons are his own.  The two sects decided that they both hated the Phaidecian, so they decided to build a great big middle finger together in the form of the abominable Red Temple.  The Red Temple Cult believes exactly the opposite of the Grand Ticking Church out of spite.  Whereas the Church believes in a rigid social order, anyone can get anything they want in Redrum through the act of murder.  You want this guy's bar?  Kill him.  You want to step up the clerical hierarchy?  Kill the next highest priest.  The Red Temple priests are not really very organized but there are some remaining clerics that still hold to the original plan of the Red Temple Cult to destroy Phaidecia.