Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What's in a Name? Redux Part 1

Way back when I started this blog I wrote a post about names. Now I get to revisit that topic thanks to the next in Ray Winninger's Dungeoncraft series of articles. Ray has great advice for naming things (PCs, NPCs & places) in a campaign. I thought I'd take a minute to go back through and put a name to things that I've been talking about to flesh out the setting a little more and examine the choices I made. I've organized these by post in chronological order.

So you want to be a GM? Part 1
This is the first of the Dungeoncraft posts detailing my setting creation. Although I came up the the name of the setting before I started this series, it is worth mentioning the origin of the name Icosa. There is nothing mystical here, and most folks may have already figured it out, but Icosa is a root part of the word icosahedron, also known as the twenty-sided die (d20). Since this world is divided into 20 triangular regions, it seems like a good fit.

In the beginning there was only Chaos
In this post I mention Law and Chaos as primal forces constantly doing battle. This struggle impacts the nature of Icosa. I don't need any fancy names here as Law and Chaos have a long history in the fantasy RPG genre.

There's no place like Home
Here I mention a few names and give reference to a few more that will or should be named. This first the the PCs home base of operations which is named in a later post as Dragonsgate.

Next is the name of the human-controlled lands surrounding Dragonsgate. At first I only mention this as a league of city-states and don't really name it. This form of government is inspired by the Ancient Greeks and the League of Corinth. I'd like to give this government its own name, although stealing the name Corinth has its pluses. Since the humans of the setting have thrown off the chains of their oppressors I think they will refer to themselves as Fremen (free men). Both the Fremen League and League of Fremen has a nice ring to it. It can always be referred to as The League for short.

I make mention of three major poleis (city-states) that form the core of The League, but I do not name them. Time to  hit the books and see what I can come up with. One of these is martially focused much like Sparta. Why not call it Martialis and say it is named after the founder. Lo and behold, there was a Roman by that name so it sounds like a winner. The ruling members of this poleis and others under its direct control are know as Marshals.

The second major poleis has a more ecclesiastical focus. I'm sticking with the Greek influence since all these poleis would have formed around the same time. I find a Greek work that is a form of cleric: Kleriki. The ruling members of this poleis are know as Ministers and are added by their appointed Clerks.

The last major poleis is a center of trade and scholarly learning. Here I'm going to depart a little from the names I've taken so far. I found the word that works well for the original name of this city-state: Scholasticus. However, I want this city to have more of an Italian feel, so the new name is Scola. The ruling members of this poleis are known as Magistrates.

The race that had formally enslaved the Fremen are known as the Archons. Again, this comes from Greek and means the 'rulers' or 'lords'. You can tell how much the Archons think of themselves.

Arche is the name given to this region of Icosa. Since it is the first such region I'm developing and since I'm already borrowing a lot from the Greeks I call it Arche which means 'the first'.

More names continued in next post.


Follow Your Bliss,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Let us pray, Part 3

William Blake's "Ancient of Days"
It's time to wrap up this series of posts detailing the major faith of the realm of Arche on the world of Icosa. I'll tackle the last two steps outlined by Ray Winninger in his Dungeoncraft article.

4. Create (at least) Two Myths

Myths help ground the characters in a world that seems more real. They also gives players ways to immerse themselves in the imaginary game world and better embrace their game personas. I gave some thought to the Trinity and came up with the following mythical explanations of worldly phenomenon. Keeping the First Rule of Dungeoncraft in mind, I won't develop too many myths for now. I have created one major myth and two minor ones.

It is believed that once two great orbs of light graced the skies as the father sent his eyes circling the world to see all that transpired. The light was cold and distant and the people of the land cried out for warmth and a respite from the endless day so they might rest from their ceaseless toiling.

The son took to heart the plight of the mortals and put out one of the father's eyes by stealing the flame within and gifting it to men so that they may warm their hearth. As a result, night was born. The darkness caused mortals to grow weary and and afraid as they huddled around their fires. Darkness also allowed Chaos to enter the minds of mortals.

To help light the darkness, the mother carried her shimmering shield across the night sky. Alas, the shadow of Chaos chased her through the darkness, threatening to cause her to lose her way and be consumed. Her son, shamed at the sorrow his deed had caused, pinned the glowing souls of fallen warriors to the dome of night, but even this was not nearly enough to hold back Chaos.

The father, fearing for his wife, took the twinkling points of light placed by his son and arranged them in a ward to banish Chaos. His power diminished by the blinding of one eye, the ward could not completely thwart Chaos, but it was able to hold it at bay. The sun now warms the land during the day and the shadow of Chaos still chases the moon and swallows it once a cycle, but the stars in the heavens help guide the moon out from under the shadow to continue the race another night.

As punishment for the crime against his father, the son is tasked with eternally stoking the fires warming the earth to ensure that they never go out. Earthquakes and volcanos are signs of the son's anger while performing his penance.

Souls of the just are gathered by the father's angels and placed in the heavens to keep Chaos at bay, while the unjust are gathered by the son to work the world furnace for all eternity.

Storms are believed to happen when the father and son are arguing, the rainbow after the storm is a sign from the mother that peace has been made between the two. When disputes are settled, peace is signified by the opposing sides clasping hands and a colorful ribbon wrapped around the joined hands.

Madness is believed to be a curse from the mother upon those who try to avoid the fate she has allotted them. As a result, many temples of the mother house the mad (for the proper donation, of course) in efforts to place them once again on their fated path.

5. Imagine Other Faiths

The final detail suggested by Ray is to consider other faiths of the land. In his article this is targeted at non-human races and the deities they worship. After giving it due consideration, I have decided (for now) to shy away from the traditional fantasy races included in the Lamentation of the Flame Princess core rules. I'm not, strictly speaking, using Tolkien as part of the inspiration for this setting. So what about the classes of elf, dwarf and halfling? Instead I give you the arcadians, homunculi and beast men, all of whom are offshoots of the human race.

Aracadians are the result of the unions between the chaos-worshiping Archons and humans. They worship no gods, but venerate their ancestors that first escaped the clutches of their sorcerous masters. They are represented by the elf class.

The homunculi were created when the Archons infused humans with spirits of the earth. As such, there were well suited to build the great Archon fortresses carved into towering mountain walls. They are represented by the dwarf class.

The beast men are the stunted and tortured remains of the humans twisted by magic to serve as feral hounds to their masters. Outside Archon lands they roam wild in warring pack-like clans, surviving off the land. They are represented by the halfling class.

Then there are the oft-mentioned Archons. While not a player class (at least for now) it is worth mentioning that they pay homage to the various chaotic beings. These beings have even found worship by small cults of humans seeking earthly power.

So I'm off to create a few GM secrets for these facts that I've laid out (Second Rule of Dungeoncraft) and look forward to tackling the next of Ray's Dungeoncraft articles.

Follow Your Bliss,

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Let us pray, Part 2

Clerics of the Trinity
Let's pick up where I left off on detailing the major faith in the Arche realm of my setting, Icosa. I'm stepping through Ray Winninger's recommended approach to detailing the gods and myths of a typical fanatasy RPG campaign based on his series of Dungeoncraft articles. This will help give background to the cleric class from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotPF).

3. Describe the Faith and Worshippers

Ray spends a good deal of time talking about ways to take the deities created in the previous steps and creating unique AD&D 2nd edition priests. He does an excellent job describing how to best balance the abilities granted by these deities. This was a pretty big deal in the day. Prior to 2nd Ed. there was only one choice: the cleric. Using LotFP, a close relation of the Old School Renaissance, the cleric in Arche will be closer to that of Basic D&D - one size fits all deities. That's ok by me.

Let me digress for a second here to elaborate on why this approach doesn't bother me, especially because of LotFP. When I started playing D&D all the fighters had the same abilities. What set them apart was their choice of weapons and armor. Also, there was generally no restrictions to background so a player could make their fighter as unique as they wanted even though he had the same chances to hit and saving throws. One fighter really did fit all (or at least most) players.

The same is true of clerics. Most clerics were carbon copies of each other except for their holy symbol. They had a very limited selection of armor and weapons. But what did set them apart was their choice in spells. Even though all clerics used the same spell list, there was nothing preventing a player from selecting only spells that helped further the character's connection to their deity. And really that sort of flexibility is great.

LotFP takes it one step further - no weapon restrictions. There is nothing preventing a cleric from using a sword, which has always been the realm of them fighter types. Now, clerics can chose a suitable weapon to represent their deity. This freedom in an OSR game (as you should hopefully see) gives me enough room to make are essential the same, but have their own flavor. Ok, back from the digression...

So, even though I don't need to come up with a portfolio for each of the gods, this step will certainly help 'flesh' them out. These portfolios will certainly have an impact on many levels of the cleric as well as give some depth to the world.

The Father is the primary god of this trio. He is the law-giver and the light-bringer that nourishes the world.  His role is that of leader and judge, ruling from his heavenly throne with golden spear in hand. He is the blind god, yet all-seeing and all-knowing. His light reveals the truth and little can stay hidden from him for long. He is patient and brooding as ponders the great mysteries of the cosmos.

The son is heir to the heavenly kingdom. He is the war-maker and death-bringer. He is the oath-maker and vengeance-seeker. He is the war-leader and right hand to his father, meting out justice at his father's decree. His flaming sword strikes as quick as lightning and never fails to find its mark. The heavens sparkle with the souls of the honored fallen in battle.

The mother sits at the left hand of the father. She is the clever crafter and thing-maker. She is explorer and seeker. Her silver bow fells enemies from afar and is said to weave the fate of the living and guide them on their course. Fortune and prosperity follow her, but she may just as easily curse the wicked with madness.

With that taken care of, Ray next discusses selecting the correct Alignment for each deity and their followers. Here again, LotFP comes to my rescue. All clerics must be Lawful (which begs the question, why is there a reversed version of certain spells? That is a topic for another day).

The last thing Ray discussed for this step is to establish some ceremonies and restrictions for the faith. Because I'd like to get some variety between the clerical orders devoted to each member of the trio, I want to get at least a few defined before play.

Common duties and services performed by those worshiping this Lawful Trinity include:
  • Clerics of the father act as advisers to the ruling class, are seen as philosophers, and oversee the courts and ceremonies marriage and baptism with services taking place at the beginning of the year, each month and at dawn.
  • Clerics of the son work with the militia and oversee the ceremonies of the dead taking place at dusk as well as ceremonies taking place at the end of each month as well as the end of the year.
  • Clerics of the mother oversee the guilds as well as travel between cities and rites of passage ceremonies taking place on nights of the full moon.
  • Oaths are made while holding the blade of a sword.
  • Evil is warded by making the sign of the Trinity - touching forehead, then right shoulder, then left shoulder or, in a less pronounced manner, by drawing a triangle over the heart.
Originally I had planned for specific restrictions to be associated with each of the three aspects of the Trinity. However, while thinking of it from a player's point of view I decided to create a list of restrictions. All clerics of the faith must tithe a portion (10%) of all money earned to the church. They must also take one of the three vows:
  • Honesty- to always speak the truth (father)
  • Chastity - to never marry or have romantic relations (mother)
  • Service - to always offer their services to the marshal/magistrate of a town or city (son)
I've included which aspect of the Trinity each of these vows is normally associated, however, players can choose to ignore that if they wish as followers of the faith as a whole rather than just one aspect.

That's it for now, I hope to wrap up the Trinity in the next post.


Follow Your Bliss,