The Chosen of Cernunnos

July 31, 2009

As I mentioned previously, the Chosen of Cernunnos tend to choose themselves first. They venture into the dense jungle and thick forest of Talamh Ainmhi (I’m dropping the special “i” – it’s too damn annoying to go back and copy it everytime) seeking a challenge and come out changed or not at all. Usually this leaves them ready to take a calm but powerful stance towards the nature that surrounds them (Druids, Shaman, Wardens), other times it can draw the anger, the rage, that was deep inside them and pull it to forefront allowing them to become the berzerker (Barbarians).

All of these Chosen know they have been gifted with the insight and focus of Cernunnos. They are to protect the wild, but also to submit it’s power and let the flow of nature guide them. They are never to be weak, however, as weakness in the Land of Beasts leads to death. This insight affects each of the Chosen in a unique way:

  • Barbarians are relentlessly assault by the things that anger them most, triggering their rage. That rage is then granted focus by Cernunnos and directed at those things that endanger the wilds.
  • Druids learn the advantages of beasts as they gain their shapeshifting abilities, but are also taught that their natural form is powerful as well. Once Cernunnos grants them their magic.
  • Shaman are granted their totem animals (and thus, spirit companions) in a vision. The animal grants the use of the spirit of their species to the help the Shaman survive his ordeal.
  • Wardens must learn to take parts of the wilds into themselves and reflect them outward in order to survive. They learn to take on many forms and aspects, just like the All-Father does but on a mortal scale.

House Rules, Part 1

July 30, 2009

So, I thought I’d take a minute and go over some of the house rules I’m considering for this game.

During character creation, I want the characters to be a little more heroic than usual, so I’ll probably let them use a system like that espoused by Scott Martin over at Gnome Stew. It’s really quite the interesting system:

  1. Roll stats as normal (in this case, we’ll be rolling instead of 4E’s chosen method, point buy).
  2. Give everyone half the difference between their stat totals and the highest to spend 1:1 on stats as they choose.
  3. ???
  4. Profit!

Effectively, this brings everyone closer to the highest rolling player, with those who rolled the lowest actually getting the most flexibility in how to stat their characters.

I’ll definitely be pulling in the B(eliefs) and I(nstincts) from Burning Wheel‘s BITs (the “T” standing for Traits). I want the players to feel like and know that their characters have a say in what happens in the campaign. This is one of the best ways I know of to do this because it gets the player’s inside their character’s heads right at the start. That, and it lets me know up front what the characters (and thus the players) are interested in playing.

Following the example of Burning Wheel and others (for instance, Spirit of the Century), I plan on using either a system like the “Rule-Breaker” Cards over on Gnome Stew, or the FYIA tokens mentioned over at Deeper in the Game. These will allow the characters more control over what happens than just what the dice allow. I’m thinking I’ll go with FYIA tokens, though I’ll have to figure out their allowed uses. I figure I’ll give them under criteria similar to games I mentioned above: whenever Instincts cause trouble, and whenever Beliefs are progressed by the player that espouses them.

Any thoughts as to what I may want to change above? Or what I may want to add?

The All-Father’s aspect of nature, the hunt, and the cycle of life (yes, I know, largely the same profile as Balinor), Cernunnos, Lord of Beasts, teaches respect for all in his domain. He teaches the route of harmony to his followers, showing that they should take only what they need and use as much as possible of what they do take. In process, he shows that not all are created equal: only the fittest survive his harsh jungle and dense forest in Talamh Ainmhí. Those not up to the challenge of surviving such environments are not worthy of his favor. This makes those concerned for their family’s safety often leave his lands, while those seeking a test of power, cunning, and determination flock to his side. This means that most of the Chosen of Cernunnos chose themselves before this Aspect could choose them himself.

His tenets are as follows:

  • Use what you take.
  • Living is not enough, one must prove that they are able and willing to survive.
  • Luck favors the prepared. Survival abhors the unprepared. Be prepared.

Cernunnos is Unaligned.

Edit: His domains are: Change and Wilderness.

On Geography in General

July 28, 2009

So, we have 4 parcels of land on our continent. In the interest of theme, I think the landscape of each will be tied to the aspect. All of the lands need to be viable in one way or another as well.

In the Land of Light, Cwéna Scire, I envision gently rolling hills throughout a radiant grassland. Sure, there are forests – I imagine there’s a reasonable amount of woodland, no extreme overgrowth. I think this will tie into a very pastoral culture for the area – peaceful but not naive.

The Land of Battles, Talamh Codagh, I see as being a rather sparse country punctuated by mountains. I’m thinking the near deserts of the world – sure there’s rainfall, but it’s just enough to keep the land alive. Civilization has gathered near the rivers and tributaries that flow through the land. The blood of Macha (the rivers) keeping the people alive, but hungry. That would definitely tie them closer to a war-like nature: they need the resources of their neighbors to do anything more than survive, but their own resources are harder to get at.

The Land of Beasts, Talamh Ainmhí, nature rules. It’s a dense jungle in the more tropical regions, blending to ancient forests to the north. Given the worship of Cernunnos in this area, I can see the locals having built villages that blend in extremely well.

The Land of Magic, Kraj Magia, is very similar to the Land of Light for the time being. Instead of radiant glow to the lay of the land, however, there’s a dark (but glimmering) glow of magic. The land is fairly dry, except in areas where the Chosen and Priests of Weles have used their powers to conjure water for the purposes of producing crops and maintaining potable water supplies.

I imagine this land being situated in on a continent that stretches from it’s planet’s tropical zone in the south to the northern portion of the temperate zone in the north. This would, to my mind, have Kraj Magia covering the northern most areas, spreading to the east. Cwéna Scire touches it and moves toward the western portion down south, while Talamh Codagh is south of the Kraj Magia and west of Cwéna Scire. Both of those largely border Talamh Ainmhí to the south. They all join and border each other in one small stretch land that is the site of the city of Onmiddan. But all of this, excepting the general location of Onmiddan, is subject to change at this point.

So, after that last post, I bet some of my readers (hah! like I have readers) are brimming with ideas. Here are some that I have:

  • The ruling council has decided that new groups will be formed from the Chosen (I think this is what I’ll call most PCs or PC-equivalents) of each of the four Aspects. The PCs are one of, if not the first, of these groups. This can be combined with almost any of the others I think.
  • The priesthood of one of the Aspects (or just one, upper-echelon priest) is attempting to create a schism between the Aspects, claiming that the All-Father is a lie. It’s up to the PCs to stop him or prove him right.
  • The PCs are a group of chosen from a single Aspect preparing for the latest Aspect tournament. They also have to deal with defending and advancing their Aspect’s domain.
  • The PCs’ Chosen are the chosen (through the tournaments perhaps) defenders of Onmiddan, defending it from the assault of the wilds and navigating the politic waters of the ruling council.
  • Across the sea, another religion grows. Is this religion based on an Aspect of the All-Father? If it is, the PCs need to bring them into the fold. (This would be a great way to bring in new power sources that Wizards introduces).

I think that taking #3 and folding in some of #4 afterwards would be a pretty good idea – that’s why I’ll use it as the basis of my campaign. You could even add in politicking at the tournament level – maybe the High Priest of the PCs’ Aspect doesn’t like their team, and they have to fight to get in. The one major issue with the Aspect Tournaments is the construction of opponents. It feels a bit to me like you’re cheating the players if you don’t give their opponents full character sheets, but you run the extreme risk of pummeling the PCs too hardly if you do.

Oh well, we have the beginnings of a campaign!

Naming a Kingdom

July 24, 2009

Let’s give our kingdom a name. This is actually a rather difficult process, mostly because the possibilties are endless and it can be difficult to get it right.

For this we want something easy to remember. We don’t want a situation where the players can’t remember the name. However, for flavor purposes, I’m going to throw in some “hard” names. I don’t expect the players to actually use them regularly, though if they did that would be amazing.

First, let’s name our Aspects. I’ll give the names first and then go into the layers behind it.

  • Alaea, Lady of Light
  • Macha, Mistress of Battle
  • Cernunnos, Lord of Beasts
  • Weles, Master of Magic

For the purely Divine, we have the Aspect Alaea. Nothing particularly historical behind this name – it’s a kind of Hawaiian Sea Salt, but mostly it’s a name that someone I care for dearly uses frequently. Macha, Aspect of War, is named after a goddess from ancient Ireland. Cernunnos, Aspect of the Primal, shares a similar background with Macha, having been a Celtic God. Weles, Aspect of Magic, takes his name from the Polish form of the name Veles, who was a god of magic (and also music, which is appropriate given that bards are Arcane Leaders). If, after reading this paragraph, Fionavar is on your mind, I wouldn’t blame you. I just got through re-reading it. If it isn’t, I think you have your work cut out for you.

From there we get the names of the lands. Forgive any mangling of languages. They are, respectively:

  • Cwéna Scire
  • Talamh Codagh
  • Talamh Ainmhí
  • Kraj Magia

The first is in Old English, the next two in a form of Gaelic, and the last in Polish. They all are basically a combination of “Land” and some variation on the Aspect’s domain.

For our central capital, and the entire kingdom, I’ve settled on using All-Father and Dagda interchangeably. That leads to me naming the land Dagdaeard and the capitol Onmiddan. Though it doesn’t translate as such, I think the capitol will also go by the name “The God’s Heart” or “The God’s Core”.

Again, we have even more detail now. I think some readers may even have enough to build a full adventure path from!

Let’s start from our basic setup. Four guilds/organizations (they might even be religions) with different methods that originate from 4 different regions.

These are all united in a central city, and ruled over by a some form of governing body.

I’m going to take the idea that these are all religions and run with it: each power source represents a single aspect of the god who’s worshipped in the kingdom.

1000 years ago, maybe more, the people of this continent worshipped 4 separate gods, each one prevailing over a given area. Then a single being who was: man, woman, soldier, priest, wizard, and protector of nature emerged. He spread the word (and was believed, in large part due to the miracle of his personal existence) that each of these deities was but an aspect of the all-father, and that they should join together. Prior to that there had been varying periods of bloodshed and hard peace between what would become the states of a much greater nation.

Now they were to be govern by a ruling council: one councilor for each aspect of the god (generally, high priest of that aspect). A fifth would be elevated from one of the aspect’s priesthoods, to be high priest(ess) of the god himself.

Voilà! We have the beginnings of a past and a government!

Edit: This published about 5 hours early. It’s intended to be tomorrow’s (July 23) post. Enjoy the earliness, but you won’t get an extra post out of it.