Thursday, February 28, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Vali

Vali (Macha)

The Raven of Battle; The Savage Huntress; The Tracker in the Wilds; Celestial Mistress of War and the Moon

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral.
Domains: Hunter, Inspiration, Moon, Repose, War, Wild.
Prestige Domains: Beastmaster.
Summon Monster: Vali's clerics can summon anarchic creatures using summon monster spells. Vali's clerics may also use the summon nature's ally lists when summoning creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: Three black ravens on a white field trimmed in red.
Favored Weapon: "The raven's spike" (leaf spear or belly spear).
Related Prestige Classes: Moondancer of Vali, Ranger.

Over his head is shrieking
A lean hag, gently hopping
Over the points of the weapons and the shields;
She is the raven-haired Vali.

     - from the Tain Liath Vali.

Vali is the fierce and violent mistress of war, battle, destruction, and death. She represents the naked violence of warfare, the vicious predatory instinct, and raw animal savagery, and is the embodiment of the raw, destructive power of unrestrained warfare, as well as the moon and shape changers. Vali is said to be the sister of Syfa and half-sister to Füllar, although some of the myths hold that her kinship with Eiur may be tenuous at best. She is said to be as beautiful as she is dangerous, although the stories have little else to say about her appearance other than to say she is a slender pale woman with black hair and blue traced body paint who can be beautiful or terrible depending upon her mood. Myths tell of her fearsome presence, the fury and panic of battle surrounding her as a mantle of fear, driving the faint of heart to flee her presence.

As the mistress of battle, Vali is also closely associated with death, and it is her and her entourage of daughters who serve as her battle-maidens that select those warriors who have proved themselves in arms sufficiently enough to be added to the armies of Heaven. Many warriors pray to her that they be worthy of being so chosen should they die in battle. When she fights, she and her daughters carry vicious barbed spears in battle, Vali names hers Tocyn Coch, and the favored weapons of her devotees are the leaf spear and the belly spear. Although Vali has no consort, she has nine daughters who follow her onto the battlefield. Each daughter is associated with a particular aspect of Vali. They are: Agrona, mistress of slaughter; Ancasta, mistress of fear; Caireen, mistress of strife; Cauth Bodva, mistress of fury; Cabh Deag, mistress of bloodshed; Ernmas, mistress of killing; Fea, mistress of hate; Nemain, mistress of venom; and Uathach, mistress of anger.

Vali gives little heed to the past or the future, and is of little use as counselor or advisor. When she appears in legend she typically takes the role of an active participant giving aid on behalf of a hero or cause. The faithful pray to Vali for success in the hunt and in war. Those who devote themselves to her adorn themselves with silver jewelry, usually in the shape of the moon or weapons of battle. Vali is said to take powerful mortal warriors as lovers from time to time, and when she communicates with her devoted followers, she often speaks by taking the form of one of these heroes who has died in battle, although she sometimes appears as a raven. Divine casters devoted to Vali refuse to use her gifts to heal wounds not inflicted in battle, considering only injuries inflicted in combat to be worthy of her blessings. In addition, wounds healed by her power always leave a visible scar: A display of the bravery and honor of the bearer. Stories tell of a magical golden boar owned by Vali that can be hunted and eaten every night, but is healed anew before the next moonrise. Because of this, Vali is associated with the boar, and her worshipers frequently honor her by conducting ritual boar hunts.

Vali is also the mistress of the moon, complementing Brid’s mastery over the stars and Yng's suzerainty over the sun. She is closely associated with the powers of shape changing, as many of the most famous and noteworthy warriors in myth and legend have been powerful shape shifters. Vali is said to be tireless and fast enough to run down any four-legged creature, and can take the form of any beast or bird. Her priests teach that she and her daughters fly as a flock of ten shrieking ravens or carrion crows, calling up a host of slain warriors over any field where a battle is fought. For this reason, a raven is seen as an omen of impending combat and death. She is closely associated with the powers of shape changing, as many of the most famous and noteworthy warriors in myth and legend have been powerful shape shifters. While she favors shape changers devoted to her, lycanthropy obtained and exercised without her blessing is regarded as a blasphemy against Vali’s power. It is her power that reveals lycanthropes in their true form under the full moon, either to reveal their blasphemy against her, or to demonstrate their devotion to her power. Vali is, understandably, quite popular among khülen communities, and among the khülen she is widely regarded as the creator and patron of the race.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Tiwas

Tiwas (Toutatis)

The Binder of Oaths; The Golden Arm of Justice; Celestial Lord of Law and Judges

Alignment: Lawful Neutral.
Domains: Inquisition, Judgment, Justice, Law, Nobility, Sword.
Summon Monster: Tiwas' clerics can summon axiomatic and celestial creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A balanced golden scale.
Favored Weapon: "Righteous justice" (longsword).
Related Prestige Classes: Paladin.

Tiwas is the lord of law and judgment, and every properly conducted trial takes place under his protection. In the War in Heaven, Tiwas combined with Forseti to turn back Belial and his demon host. Tiwas lost his right hand when the Lords of Heaven sought to imprison the demon hound Garm. The demonic beast refused to allow itself to be imprisoned unless one of the Lords of Heaven agreed to place it in the beast’s mouth as a hostage. Tiwas took up the task, and did not shirk even when Garm ripped off Tiwas' arm. As they had done for Heim, Wünd and Hoenir worked together and crafted Tiwas a new arm, but this limb was not made from silver, but is instead gold. In legend, Tiwas lives in a great fortress named Himinbjorg from which he presides over the court of the Heavens. He is said to wear a silver arm ring that is supposed to be enchanted such that any oath sworn upon it may never be broken, even by one of the Celestial or Demonic Lords. His temples hold similar rings upon which oaths are sworn, mounted as the central altar of shrines devoted to him, although they are not usually enchanted.

Tiwas emphasizes strategy and tactics in combat, and many of his followers have earned renown as skilled and brilliant war leaders. As is to be expected of one devoted to the law, he expects his followers to be valorous, organized and orderly in wartime, and demands that they remain true to all promises and oaths they have given. He is a popular celestial among the Warknights of the Council, supporting both their steadfast courage and inspirational leadership of troops in battle. Judges look to Tiwas for guidance when making their decisions, and no court in the Freeholds is conducted without calling upon his blessing. Tiwas is the third of the brother gods descended from Eiur. Although his church is more prominent than that of Forseti or Heim, his priesthood is also subordinate to Eiur’s.

Clerics of Tiwas frequently favor the longsword as a weapon of war. Clerics and paladins of Tiwas may treat the skills Knowledge: Law and Sense Motive as cleric class skills but may never tell a lie or hedge the truth. Paladins who follow Tiwas are usually members of the religious order known as the Order of the Scales.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Thunor

Thunor (Taranis)

The Thunderer; The Fury of the Storm; Celestial Lord of Thunder, Storms, and Strength

Alignment: Chaotic Good.
Domains: Feast, Lightning, Recklessness, Storm, Strength, Thunder.
Summon Monster: Thunor's clerics can summon anarchic and auran creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: An eagle bearing a lightning bolt in its talons.
Favored Weapon: "Wind splitter" (greataxe).
Related Prestige Classes: Mighty Contender of Thunor

Thunor is said to live in a land atop a great thunderhead named Thruthheim where he maintains a mighty hall named Bilskinir. Thunor represents the wild rage of a seething thunderstorm, and his followers are expected to emulate this characteristic. In all stories in which he appears, he is depicted as incredibly strong, totally fearless, straightforward, bluff, hearty, and violent. His eyes are a deep blue, like the sky, and when he is angered, they flash lightning. Though he is the thunderous frenzy of the storm, he can be calmed by his spouse Syfa, and in stormy weather many in the Three Worlds pray to her to intercede and stay his wild rage.

Thunor has little care for the past or the future, and is of little aid as a counselor or adviser, but is a hardy albeit inconsistent ally in time of trouble. He normally appears as a huge, muscular warrior with wild red hair, a bristling red beard, ruddy flesh and an enchanted greataxe that can split the wind with a thunderclap, a weapon many of his devoted followers carry in his honor. In the War in Heaven, Thunor was at the forefront of battle, confronting Halpas and Baal, his wild rage driving them both back into Hell.

Thunor is associated with the eagle, and he wears a helm decorated with two wings made from eagle feathers. Among men, Thunor is often referred to as the Wind Lord or the Storm Lord, and his wrath is said to be the mighty thunderstorm that can rock the earth and break even the highest mountains. To many uncivilized warriors he is the ideal, possessing strength, courage and resoluteness in abundance, delighting in wrestling and contests of strength. Many barbarians hold Thunor as their patron and clerics devoted to Thunor may treat the barbarian class as an additional favored class.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Syfa

Syfa (Andate)

The Lady of Swiftness; The Autumn Queen; Celestial Mistress of Nature, Forests, and Beasts

Alignment: Neutral Good.
Domains: Animal, Celerity, Nature, Plant, Weather, Wood.
Summon Monster: Syfa's clerics can summon celestial and wood element creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A stag skull.
Favored Weapon: "Autumn's sting" (javelin or throwing spear).
Related Prestige Classes: Fleet Runner of Syfa, Ranger

Syfa is the fleet footed mistress of the hunt and guardian of the wild places of the world. The legends hold that she is sister to the four brothers Forseti, Heim, Rúadan, and Tiwas, and half-sister to Füllar. She is also possibly the half-sister of Vali but the exact nature of their kinship is unclear in the myths. She appears to mortals as an athletic woman with blond hair, although myths variously describe her as human, fey, or half-fey. She is always depicted wearing green and brown clothes, and carrying a sheaf of javelins to cast at those who would despoil the beautiful places of the wild. Syfa is said to be faster afoot than any beast or creature that runs on feet, and the myths hold that her endurance is such that she can run down any quarry. Syfa is a wild untamable spirit who delights in sport and running, but is regarded as a faithful consort to Thunor, unlike her promiscuous half-sister Vali.

Syfa is said to live on a diet of deer milk and wild berries and refuses to consume any meat. Syfa the mistress of plants and growing things, and has a great love for the forests and trees of the world as well as the beasts of the wild. In the War in Heaven, Syfa is said to have mastered the demon hound Garm, but could not slay the animal because it was protected by a death gesa that said it could not be destroyed without causing the end of the world. Instead, she confined the hound until Wünd could forge a cage strong enough to imprison the beast, and even then the Lords of Heaven had to place an entire mountain on top of Garm's prison to keep it from escaping.

Syfa is regarded as the mistress of all wild places, and is a popular celestial among shifters and rangers. Syfa is closely associated with the stag, and hunters must take care not to arouse her wrath by inflicting cruelty upon their prey and must sacrifice a portion of their kills to her in order to appease her. Syfa also has dominion over the weather, but is seen as the benevolent mistress of life-giving spring rains and warm summer breezes, making her a counterpoint to the storms and fury of her spouse Thunor. Farmers often look to her blessing for their crops, hoping for gentle summer rains to water their fields and provide for a bountiful autumn harvest. Clerics and druids devoted to Syfa may treat the scout class as an additional favored class and may become members of the fleet runner of Syfa prestige class. Druids devoted to Syfa may use the javelin without penalty.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Hler

Hler (Llyr)

Lord of the Waves; The Unrelenting Lord; Celestial Lord of the Seas and Waters

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral.
Domains: Chaos, Fish, Ocean, (Seafolk), Water, Windstorm.
Summon Monster: Hler's clerics can summon anarchic and aquan creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A necklace made from barracuda, shark, or whale teeth.
Favored Weapon: "Sea fang" (halfspear or shortspear).

The supreme ruler of the great oceans, Hler is said to make his home in an undersea fortress lit with luminous gold that legend holds may be traveled to by hidden passages under the isle of Hlesey where the spirits of the drowned are brought after death by his water-maidens. When he appears to men, he is said to take the form of a terrible mounting wave striding over the waters with a dark foam crested helm and clad in shimmering mail that fades from bright silver into deep shadows of green.

In the War for Heaven, Hler fought the giant ice demon Iku-Tyrma, whose perversions are a great affront to Hler’s power and dominion, and cast him down into Hell. Now both are said to hold a great enmity towards the other. Hler also holds a bitter hatred for the fire demon Surtan. Although he is wild and chaotic as the sea itself, Hler is said to hold a great affection for men and other mortals, and in many legends he dares the boundaries between the heavenly realms and the mundane worlds to assist heroes and kings against horrible enemies. He is a jovial lord, laughing even in the face of the mighty battles of the War in Heaven, but is also a powerful and implacable foe to his enemies.

Hler’s followers are forbidden from having any friendly contact with the servants of Surtan or Iku-Tyrma, the Demon Lords of the fire and frost giants. Priests who venerate Hler may treat Swim as a cleric class skill for free and many are skilled sailors.

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Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Heim

Heim (Nuada)

The Defending Lord; Guardian of the Gates; Celestial Lord of the Silver Hands and Eyes; The Stalwart Counselor; Celestial Lord of Guardians

Alignment: Lawful Good.
Domains: Fortitude, Heraldry, Protection, Purification, Renewal, Valor.
Summon Monster: Heim's clerics can summon axiomatic and celestial creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A green shield with two silver eyes.
Favored Weapon: "The defender of the weak" (spiked shield).
Related Prestige Classes: Paladin.

Heim appears as a massive man, or sometimes a massive dwarf, with silver hands and eyes carrying a green shield. Legend holds that before the War in Heaven, Heim was given the post of sentry to watch for the invasion of the Infernal host. While at his post, he was ensnared by Ishi’s enchantments and fell asleep, allowing the dark forces to sweep forward and overrun the Gods and their followers. Before charging forward, Darmas stopped where Heim slept and severed both his hands. Not content with this mutilation, Ninkurra stopped and gouged out his eyes.

Despite his wounds, Heim was shamed by the failure of his watch and in atonement he swore an oath of eternal vigil bound by Tiwas’ great Oath Ring. Wünd and Hoenir forged him new hands and eyes of silver, so now Heim never needs to sleep or rest while he guards the ramparts of Heaven. With his all-seeing silver eyes and the hard lessons of adversity, Heim has gleaned great wisdom, and his counsel is regarded as among the most valuable in the Heavens. It has been foretold that he will kill Ninkurra and be killed by her in the final battle in the next War in Heaven. He carries the Güllhorn, the warning horn of heaven, to signal the start next invasion. Heim is one of Eiur’s sons, and like his brothers, his priesthood is subordinate to Eiur’s faith.

Heim's church is one of the subordinate faiths to Eiur, and many of her temples are guarded by vigilant paladin's devoted to him. Heim's priesthood has no single classed clerics among its ranks, all of his chosen are paladins or cleric/paladins. His paladins are typically members of a religious order named the Order of the Shield. Heim’s priesthood also has no female members and an unrelenting hostility to goblin kind, perhaps a sign of his hostility to the female Demon Lord Ninkurra and the Demon Lord Darmas. The Church of Heim counts many dwarves and gnomes among its members, perhaps because of Heim's emphasis on defense and enmity towards goblins.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Füllar

Füllar (Llugus)

The Oracle of the Heavens; Celestial Lord of Fate, Gnomes, Prophecy, and the Wheel

Alignment: Neutral.
Domains: Destiny, Dream, Fate, (Gnome), Oracle, Prophecy.
Summon Monster: Füllar's clerics can summon anarchic, axiomatic, celestial, and fiendish creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A wheel
Favored Weapon: "A cast of the hand" (sling).

Legends say that Füllar is Woda’s son, but his birth was the result of Kivutar’s trickery. The demoness beguiled Woda with powerful illusions and enchantments and he fathered Füllar with her. After his birth, the brother knights Forseti, Heim and Tiwas and his half-sisters Syfa and Vali stole him from his mother to bring him to Heaven. As a child of the union between Woda and Kivutar, Füllar is half-brother to Forseti, Heim, Syfa, and Tiwas. He is also the half-brother of Vali as well, even though the details of her parentage are somewhat murky in the myths. Not fully celestial, but not demonic either, Füllar’s position is unique in the universe.

Füllar is usually depicted as a bald young man covered in golden runes with one shining star and one smoking ember for eyes. He is regarded as the Celestial Lord responsible for the placement of the stars in the sky, and his hand is said to be the agent that guides their motions. He is held in high regard by gnomes, who see his fellow markings as a prediction of their own race's creation. The fact that gnomes did not exist when Füllar was born is seen as being of no consequence - he is, after all, the lord of prophecy, so his devotees say that his own existence being a portent of the coming existence of gnomes is fitting. Some of Füllar's most fervent gnomish followers state that just as their patron is unique in the universe, and is the wheel about whom the world revolves, so are the gnomes. These zealots point to the gnomish prevalence in Enselm as further confirmation of this belief, and have established many sites of worship in the city.

Füllar is, in a sense, responsible for the War in Heaven, or at least his existence is. After his half-brothers and half-sisters stole him from Kivutar, she harangued the other Demon Lords into kidnapping Rúadan in retaliation, setting off the cycle of offense and retaliation that culminated with the great battle between the Divine and the Infernal.At the critical juncture of the conflict, Füllar definitively sided with the Celestial Lords, using his prophetic powers to reveal the means by which the various Lords of Hell could be defeated, cast down, and imprisoned. Most of the knowledge about the future second conflict between the forces of Heaven and the forces of Hell is derived from Füllar's prophetic visions, although the picture is maddeningly incomplete. Whether this is because Füllar is unable to see those parts of the future or because he is simply not willing to reveal what he knows is a mystery, as Füllar is something of an enigmatic figure in all of the myths that he is featured in. Some have speculated that Füllar hasn't revealed everything he knows because for unknown reasons he will side with the Infernal Lords in the future conflict, but no one knows if this is true or not.

Like his father, Füllar is closely associated with magic and learning, which is reflected in the predilections of his most prominent followers, who are often scholars, seers, or wizards. While Woda’s focus is on the mysteries and secrets of ancient lore and the past, Füllar is forward looking focusing his attention to the future and things to come, as he is the only being who can truly comprehend the full measure of the future. He is the patron of prophecy and divination, and it is believed that portents, visions and signs are granted through his power. Many temples devoted to him are famous as oracular sites that house individuals said to have been granted the power to see the future by this Celestial Lord. Those devoted to Füllar claim that he provides predictions in the movement of the stars that can be read and interpreted by those who study and understand the meaning of such celestial motion.

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Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Forseti

Forseti (Neit)

The Questing Lord; The Fist of Heaven; Celestial Lord of Justice and Victory

Alignment: Lawful Good.
Domains: Courage, Crusader, Exorcism, Good, Leadership, Victory
Summon Monster: Forseti's clerics can summon axiomatic and celestial creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: An upraised fist wearing a silver gauntlet on a blue field.
Favored Weapon: "The fist of victory" (spiked gauntlet).
Related Prestige Classes: Paladin.

Forseti is the son of Woda and Eiur, and one of the four brother gods affiliated with the Church of Eiur. When he and his three brothers and their two sisters set out to recover the infant Füllar from the clutches of Kivutar, it was Forseti who led the expedition. During the War in Heaven, Forseti personally battled several of the powerful demon lords from among the infernal forces, and cast many of them down into the pits of Hell. Because of this, Belial, Gangyn, Kalma, and Sirchade hold a special animosity towards Forseti.

While Heim is the divine guardian, and Tiwas is the divine judge and oath keeper, Forseti is the agent of divine justice and retribution. Legends in which he features almost always portray the celestial on a quest to hunt down and either slay his quarry, or bring a terrible foe back for judgment. When Forseti is not tracking down and destroying fiends, he is said to live in a great hall named Glintir that glows with a holy light and is supposedly filled with the ranks of his devoted followers whose souls he has assembled to battle at his side in the next war against demon kind.

Paladins who follow Forseti are usually members of a religious order known as the Order of the Gauntlet, a crusading order that is devoted to hunting down and destroying or exorcising fiends, demons, and evil villains. His priesthood is militant, comprised of hunters who track down demons and those who seek to evade justice. His church is one of the subordinate faiths to Eiur along with his two surviving brothers. His followers are primarily men, and his priesthood is composed primarily of clerics and multiclassed paladin/clerics, although his paladins sometimes become rangers as well so as to better be able to track down their chosen quarry.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Eiur

Eiur (Danu)

The Mother in Mourning; The Light in Darkness; Celestial Mistress of Family, Light, Motherhood, and Fertility

Alignment: Neutral Good.
Domains: Community, DoorwaysFamily, Fertility, Healing, Light.
Summon Monster: Eiur's clerics can summon celestial and wood element creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A shock of wheat.
Favored Weapon: Sickle.
Related Prestige Classes: Paladin, Radiant Pelerine.

In legend, Eiur is mother to Forseti, Heim, Syfa, Rúadan, and Tiwas. Eiur is regarded as the greatest of all healers, and after the War for Heaven, Eiur treated many of the great wounds that were inflicted upon the host of the gods. The tales of the Celestial Lords hold that without her care, many of heaven’s warriors were so badly wounded in the conflict that they would have been unable to resist the renewed efforts of those they had cast out. She also is regarded as the mistress of mourners, as she is said to have originated the keening mourning wail when she mourned for her fourth son Rúadan after he was killed in the War for Heaven. In legend, she gives comfort to those who have lost loved ones, despite her own perpetual sorrow. Eiur is closely associated with harvesting mistletoe, which is considered to be her holy plant.

Eiur is one of the most popular celestials among the Lords of Heaven, and her churches are common throughout the lands. She is the patron of mothers, family, and fertility, and also presides over the harvest. Eiur is sometimes described as the Lady of Light, as she brings hope when hope is lost, and aid to those who are unable to care for themselves. Her temples are always built in conjunction with those of her three sons, the brother gods Forseti, Heim, and Tiwas. Only women may become clerics of Eiur. Some of her most devoted priestesses are the Pelerine Order, who take vows against causing any harm, instead dedicating their lives to healing the sick and wounded and providing safety and comfort for the weak.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Caire

Caire (Nari)

The Bard of Heaven; The Opener of Ways; Celestial Lord of Poetry, Song, and Travel

Alignment: Chaotic Good.
Domains: Charm, Liberation, Portal, Sound, Survival, Travel
Summon Monster: Caire's clerics can summon anarchic and celestial creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A golden harp.
Favored Weapon: "The traveler's friend" (scrub knife).

Legends say that Caire was born mute, a condition that not even the powers of the Lords of Heaven could remedy. Stories say that he traveled the world searching for a cure for his muteness, finding and following all of the secret trails and passages that exist in the universe. In his journeys, Caire studied until he was the most skilled musician ever, capable of playing any instrument with unsurpassed skill, but his favorite was always the harp. During the War in Heaven, Caire traveled by secret ways known only to him and rescued Aíne from her confinement, disguising himself and then charming many of her guards into an enchanted sleep with his music.

After the War in Heaven, Caire was given a mourning poem written by Euir spelling out her most desperate longing for her dead son Rúadan, which Caire set to music. When the time came to perform the piece, Caire was so overcome with its beauty that he broke into song and was cured of his muteness. After he gained the power of speech, Woda inscribed magical runes on his tongue and made him the Bard of Heaven.

Caire is a champion of the underdog and the voice of the voiceless, favoring the use of guile, wit and skill to overcome obstacles. Caire is associated with the gecko, an animal that uses trickery to confound its enemies. Caire is held in high regard by halflings, who regard him, along with Aíne, as a patron of their race. Bards, travelers, and rogues frequently worship Caire, drawn to his love of confounding his enemies and rejection of the strictures of authority.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Campaign Design - The Lords of Heaven: Brid

Brid (Freya)

The Lady of Stars; Dancer in the Twilight; Celestial Mistress of Love, Beauty, and Dance

Alignment: Chaotic Good.
Domains: Beauty, Dance, Fey, HeavenJoy, Love.
Summon Monster: Brid's clerics can summon anarchic and celestial creatures using summon monster spells.
Symbol: A nighthawk crowned with stars.
Favored Weapon: "Stars in twilight" (shuriken).

Brid is Yng's consort, the twilight star that follows the glorious light of the sun. She is always depicted as a tall, beautiful woman with silver hair and stars on her brow that glow with an unearthly light. Brid is always accompanied by a dancing troupe of fey - most commonly nymphs, dryads, and sylphs, but any kind of fey can be found among her ensemble.

Brid is the patron of passionate love, romance, and lovers. As such, she is impetuous, often rash, and sometimes shortsighted, causing the steady Yng no end of headache as he is called upon to extricate her from whatever predicament she has most recently gotten herself into. Stories in which Brid rushes headlong into assisting some young lovers and finds herself in need of her husband's assistance to fix the impending disaster she has caused are common in the folktales of the Three Worlds. She is also the patron of dance, and in legend she and her troupe of fey handmaidens are often seen by heroes from afar as she twirls and leaps in the rising of eventide to joyously welcome the stars. Such travelers must be wary or find themselves drawn into the celebration and find themselves caught by Brid's beauty and charm cavorting away the years of their life in her band of performers. In some tales, she has been known to give advice to those she comes across in this manner if she thinks their cause worthy (and for Brid, endeavors involving romantic love are those that she is most likely to find worthy), but one consistent theme is that even though such counsel is always well-intended, the recipients of such advice often find it to be of somewhat dubious usefulness.

In the War in Heaven, Brid fought little, but did confront the demon mistress Kivutar, whose perversion of the act of love had precipitated the conflict. Filled with righteous indignation, Brid rained stars and faerie magic upon the Demon Mistress of Lust, setting the vile being aflame with holy fire and driving her from the field of battle back into the infernal realms.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Campaign Design - Religion in the Three Worlds: The Lords of Heaven

The divinities venerated by the inhabitants of the Three Worlds are roughly divided into two camps: the Lords of Heaven, also called the Celestial Lords, (listed here), and the Lords of Hell also called the Demon Lords. The Lords of Heaven are available as divine patrons for the players in the campaign to choose (while the Lords of Hell, for the most part, are not). Clerics, favored souls, and paladins must choose a specific divine patron, while other characters are not required to. Although most druids honor the y'Grym, a substantial number honor one of the Lords of Heaven, specifically Eiur, Syfa, or Vali. In the campaign, most people don't regard as particular Celestial Lord as especially more important than the others, calling upon their favor when they need some sort of benefice that is within that particular Celestial's sphere of interest.

Each Celestial Lord is listed with two names, one in Aralaic and one in Sorglish, as they are known by different names among speakers of those two languages. The detailed descriptions of each individual Celestial, which can be reached by clicking on their names, includes game information for clerics and paladins devoted to their service. The nineteen Celestial Lords and Mistresses and their respective spheres of influence are:

Aíne (Rhiannon), The Herald of Heaven; Celestial Mistress of Diplomacy, Commerce, and Halflings
Brid (Freya), The Lady of Stars; Dancer in the Twilight; Celestial Mistress of Love, Beauty, and Dance
Caire (Nari), The Bard of Heaven; The Opener of Ways; Celestial Lord of Poetry, Song, and Travel
Eiur (Danu), The Mother in Mourning; The Light in Darkness; Celestial Mistress of Family, Light, Motherhood, and Fertility
Forseti (Neit), The Questing Lord; The Fist of Heaven; Celestial Lord of Justice and Victory
Füllar (Llugus), The Oracle of the Heavens; Celestial Lord of Fate, Gnomes, Prophecy, and the Wheel
Heim (Nuada), The Defending Lord; Guardian of the Gates; Celestial Lord of the Silver Hands and Eyes; The Stalwart Counselor; Celestial Lord of Guardians
Hler (Llyr), Lord of the Waves; The Unrelenting Lord; Celestial Lord of the Seas and Waters
Hlín (Damara), Keeper of the Sacred Flame; The Defender of Refuges; Celestial Mistress of Hope, Home, and the Hearth
Hoenir (Viswa-Nîn), The Machine Who Makes; The Iron Lord; Celestial Lord of Constructs, Engineers, and Ironborn
Lódur (Fionn), The Many-Faced Lord; The Spy of Heaven; Celestial Lord of Changelings, Shapechangers, Luck, and Gamblers
Rúadan (Donn), The Dead Lord; The Scourge of the Risen Dead; The Watcher of Graves; Celestial Lord of the Peaceful Dead
Syfa (Andate), The Lady of Swiftness; The Autumn Queen; Celestial Mistress of Nature, Forests, and Beasts
Thunor (Taranis), The Thunderer; The Fury of the Storm; Celestial Lord of Thunder, Storms, and Strength
Tiwas (Toutatis), The Binder of Oaths; The Golden Arm of Justice; Celestial Lord of Law and Judges
Vali (Macha), The Raven of Battle; The Savage Huntress; The Tracker in the Wilds; Celestial Mistress of War and the Moon
Woda (Oman), The All-Father; The Blind Lord; The Runecaster; Celestial Lord of Magic and Knowledge
Wünd (Wreylund), Lord of the Forge; The Dwarf Lord; The Divine Crafter; Celestial Lord of Smiths, Craftsmen, and Dwarves
Yng (Freyr), The Lord of the Golden Disc; The Lord of Many Colors; The Summer Lord The Great Master of Winds; Celestial Lord of Sunshine, the Sky, Archery, and Creatures in Flight

While no Celestial is generally regarded "more important" than another, some are more popular than others. The most popular is Eiur, because of her emphasis on healing, motherhood, family, and growing things, making her well-loved among most people who desire a happy, healthy life. Her faith is affiliated with those of her three living sons Forseti, Heim, and Tiwas, and most of her temples also house shrines to their worship. Their emphasis on protection, justice, and the law makes them popular Celestials as well, and the temples of the mother and her three sons are common throughout the Three Worlds. Woda, despite being Eiur's spouse and ostensibly being the ruler of the Lords of Heaven, is far less popular, because his particular sphere of influence - history, learning, and arcane knowledge - is of far less concern to most people. On the other hand, Woda is quite popular among wizards and sages, and centers of learning are often dedicated as holy places devoted to him. Aíne is also quite popular, because of her dominion over trade and commerce, and most market squares include a small shrine consecrated to her. Thunor is more popular among warriors than the mercurial and unpredictable Vali, but most people look to Thunor's spouse Syfa to calm his rages. Celestials devoted to a particular demi-human race are understandably popular among the members of those races. And so on.

The central event of the mythology of the Three Worlds is the War in Heaven. Originally sparked by the birth of Füllar resulting from Kivutar's deception and resulting seduction of Woda, the conflict climaxed when the Lords of Hell led the Infernal Host in an effort to storm the very Gates of Heaven and depose the Celestial Lords, with the ultimate goal of installing themselves in their place. The War in Heaven was long and brutal, with the back and forth conflict establishing many of the bitter enmities between the various Celestial and Demon Lords. Eventually, Füllar sided with the Lords of Heaven and his insight allowed the Lords of Heaven to prevail over their foes. All of the Demon Lords were cast out of Heaven and imprisoned in Hell.

The War in Heaven was arduous and expensive even with Füllar's aid, costing Tiwas his right arm, Heim his hands and eyes, and their brother Rúadan his life. After the War was concluded, Füllar prophesied that there would be a second great war between the forces of Heaven and Hell at the ending of the world, along with many predictions of what would happen in that final battle.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Campaign Design - Religion in Dungeons & Dragons

Religion in Dungeons & Dragons has always been something of a conundrum for me. While on the one hand, the system has elements that are built in that assume a polytheistic arrangement, the base elements of the system are heavily weighted in favor of monotheism.

Way back in the mists of time when role-playing games were first being developed, the games were more or less just an adjunct to wargames. Some versions of early role-playing games were nothing more than a side element of a larger wargame - the main wargame would involve a medieval army laying siege to a fortress, and the "role-playing" element took the form of the participants taking the roles of heroes from the besieging army infiltrating into the fortress via the castle sewers. This resulted in the idea that players would play a single character, and also more or less originated dungeon crawling.

But the important facet of the game was that even though each player was responsible for a unit consisting of a single individual, these were not really characters. They were military units in a wargame. and they all had roles to fill. Fighters were for fighting things. Wizards were for blasting things. And clerics were for healing. Thieves were added later, as were all of the other character classes. There was no real thought given to where clerics derived their powers. They were a wargame unit with a certain array of abilities. They were not as good at fighting as a fighter. They were not good at blasting like a wizard. And they could heal. That was pretty much the sum total of thought put into the game design element. And that works perfectly fine for a wargame.

Eventually, the game that would become Dungeons & Dragons reduced the focus of the wargame element and made the role-playing more important. And note that I said "reduced", not "left behind". Because if one goes and looks at the old first edition Dungeons & Dragons books, the tendrils of its wargame association weave throughout the rules. Distances are expressed in inches. Time passes in the game in segments, rounds, and turns. The game directs players to put together a "marching order", and have one player be the conduit of information to the DM. Characters are assumed to aspire to build a fortress and draw together an army of followers that they could put into the field. And so on and so forth. And the basic character classes reflect this. Which meant that clerics still held to their role as healing batteries for the other players.

In these early years of Dungeons & Dragons, that was pretty much all the thought that was given to religion. Clerics came in two flavors: good and evil. Good clerics refused to shed blood (using bludgeoning weapons) based upon the fact that Bishop Odo (the brother of William the Conqueror) used a club as a weapon. Good clerics could heal others and had a collection of magic that mostly bolstered their allies plus a grab bag of spells drawn from various effects found in places like the Bible, medieval tradition, and a couple other places. Evil clerics had magic that was mostly just the magic of good clerics reversed. For some reason, evil clerics also retained the prohibition on using non-bludgeoning weapons as well. In effect, the game assumed something more or less akin to a pseudo-Catholic medieval church transported to whatever fantasy land the adventures were set in, and didn't really clarify things much further.

And when one looks at old published adventures and game materials from that era, it is clear that this fairly simple paradigm of religion in D&D reigned supreme. When the paladin class was introduced into the mix, it fit alongside the medieval pseudo-Catholic cleric in the role of a crusading zealot out to smite unbelievers and evil-doers. The fact that evil clerics were the exact opposite in many ways from good clerics also explains the constant drumbeat of players wanting to know when the rules for an "anti-paladin" would be put forward. After all, if you have what amounts to a cleric and anti-cleric class, then you should have a paladin and anti-paladin. For the relatively wargamish style of dungeon delving adventures that dominated the early years of role-playing in Dungeons & Dragons this system worked perfectly well. When the druid class was introduced, it was placed in the "neutral" position, but to do so, a whole set of new mechanics had to be created, because simply making a "neutral" cleric would have been difficult under the then presiding cleric paradigm. When you have a "pro" and an "anti" as your established design, a middle ground is hard to make work.

In 1980, six years after the first print version of the game was released commercially, TSR published the Deities & Demigods game book. The book itself was kind of mediocre, presenting the deities in its pages more or less as supermonsters with not much detail concerning the religious practices that should be tied to them. (Plus, it had some legal problems as the book included material from the Cthulhu, Melnibone, and Newhon settings without getting appropriate permissions from the owners of those intellectual properties). But that seems more or less predictable. Clerics were basically undifferentiated mechanically no matter what deity they chose to follow. There was really no reason to give the faiths of the various deities more detail because clerics were essentially all drawn from the same two flavors: good and evil.

But the introduction of such a plethora of deities and the development of players more interested in more in-depth (or sometimes "more realistic") role-playing resulted in an internal struggle in the dynamics of the game. Confronted with a fairly rigid alignment system, a fairly two-dimensional cleric class, and a system that more or less tacitly assumed the kind of monotheism that prevailed in Western Europe during the middle-ages, game writers, dungeon masters, and players struggled to make games work with a collection of polytheistic pantheons. And those results were often somewhat hilarious. I have an old adventure that was published in Dragon magazine during the 1980s in which the adventure writer has to explain that clerics devoted to the Celtic god of death Arawn can use daggers for ritual sacrifices, and then goes on to explain that this doesn't change the fact that they can only use bludgeoning weapons in combat. And this sort of silly explanation is the direct result of the pseudo-Catholic roots of the cleric class which made it ill-suited to provide a framework for a variety of polytheistic divinities. In another development, the same module also saw the introduction of the "huntsman" class, which was basically just a repackaging of the ranger class with the sole alteration being that huntsmen were required to be evil.

And the pseudo-Catholic design of the cleric class (and incidentally, the paladin class) fits quite poorly with a polytheistic system. While polytheistic religions in our history did have concepts like heresy, the idea of an infidel is somewhat foreign to them. In a polytheist's mind, all of the gods are real, even the ones that are "evil", and mere mortals don't strive against the gods. For an ancient Greek, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hermes, and Ares were all quite real, and all had their sphere of concern. A sailor might look to Hera to ensure his wife had a good delivery of her pregnancy, and to Hermes to make sure the physician tending to his ailing brother was skilled, and to Poseidon to ensure he had a safe sea voyage. But he would not look down upon a smith because he had a shrine to Hephaestus in his smithy, or be annoyed that his neighbor offered prayers to Demeter in the hopes that her garden would be bountiful. All of the gods had their sphere of influence, and he might need to call upon one of them for aid at some point. Even foreign gods were still gods, and still worthy of honor. A Greek sailing to Egypt didn't think that its inhabitants were somehow in the wrong for venerating Horus, Anubis, and Isis. In fact, he might translate their gods into terms he was familiar with, or bring an idol of one of the Egyptian gods home so that his countrymen could be sure to offer prayers to this divine being. The Romans made it a practice to try to identify all foreign gods with their own pantheon, equating the various divinities of other peoples with their own Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and so on. In short, the cleric/anti-cleric design of the classic Dungeons & Dragons setting was poorly suited to reflect a polytheistic world.

But polytheism became the standard model for Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, resulting in a collection of mostly ad hoc rules additions to make clerics more individually attuned to their particular deities. This seems to have first been widely implemented in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, but it was then ensconced in the second edition Dungeons & Dragons game via the somewhat modest mechanic of clerical "spheres", which served to customize a cleric's spell selection to a certain extent. The third edition Dungeons & Dragons game uses a system of having clerics select "domains" which give them bonus spells to choose from plus some sort of unique ability. But the system is still, at its roots, built on monotheistic assumptions, and a whole host of spells, class abilities, and other game effects are tightly tied to the alignment system that flows from those assumptions.

Without eliminating or massively rewriting numerous character classes and discarding the alignment system (and consequently discarding the large chunks of the game that are built upon the alignment system) it is difficult to create a religious system in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting that is not monotheistic in character (or, more accurately, dualistic). But to make the system work as it is structured now, one must provide a collection of divinities to attach clerical domains to or have the somewhat game-breaking set up that allows a cleric to choose almost any pair of domains that they want. Plus, losing polytheism, unless well handled, would rob the game of a fair amount of fun.

So what is a campaign designer to do? When confronted with a game that is filled with mechanics that point to monotheism sometimes and polytheism in other places, the solution that I have usually come to is to create a religious system that is a hybrid of monotheism and polytheism. I have taken a couple different tacks with this sort of arrangement. In one, I established that there was a single, distant deity but that the inhabitants of the campaign interacted with that deity by means of a collection of intermediaries such as archangels and saints. Each cleric would attach themselves to a particular intermediary. All of them were opposed by a cadre of rebellious fallen angels, who evil cults revered. I'm not going to use that exact system for the Realm campaign, because I want to use divine powers that are influenced by the Celtic and Norse mythologies, but I'll probably implement something that follows similar lines of reasoning.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Campaign Design - Introducing "The Three Worlds"

So, I'm taking a severe left hand turn here. I have gotten myself roped in to trying to create and run two 3e D&D campaigns at the same time. One will be for a mixed group of adults and young players, the other will be an all adult campaign. The saving grace is that both campaigns will involve gaming neophytes, so I can essentially run the same campaign setting with two groups of players, simply placing them parallel to one another.

The first campaign will involve two older players, both veterans of role-playing, but who have not played in quite a while, and four kids ranging in age from eight to fifteen, none of whom have ever played a role-playing game before. The second campaign currently has two players more or less committed, one enthusiastic neophyte, and one experienced player. I'll have to scare up a few more players to make it work, but I think that won't be a problem.

So I'm setting aside all of the truly weird stuff and customized house rules for a bit. This campaign is going to be mostly by the book. No customized races. No funky house rules. Just, for the most part, the core 3e D&D mechanics from the three main rule books, leavened, as time goes on, by material from other sources. And because none of the people I will be running these games for have played any of the classic D&D modules of TSR's heyday in the early 1980s, I can dig those out and convert them to 3e D&D to introduce them to a whole new generation of gamers.

So I need a setting. Using old TSR adventures would suggest that I could use the Greyhawk setting, but even though I like the adventures that were loosely set there, I don't like the setting itself. And I have always used a home brewed setting for campaigns that I run, and I don't see any reason not to keep doing that. But that means I need a basic setting that I can throw together over the course of a couple of weeks. So, welcome to what I am calling "Three Worlds" as a working title. The campaign needs to have room for all the core races. It also has to have a place for all the core classes. And it needs to have space for adventures, conspiracies, and conflicts.

The basic framework is a collection of small kingdoms allied together in a loose confederation. The confederation is relatively recent, and not particularly effective. These nations are menaced by a modest number of evil lands and organizations, providing the opposition that will provide grist for the adventuring mill. Because the area is small, with less than imposing kingdoms and a transnational governing body that is ineffective, adventurers who can solve local problems will be in demand. Because I like Celtic mythology, I'm going to use a sort of pseudo-Celtic feel for the setting, and mix it with some Norse mythology and sensibility with a little bit of Finnish myth thrown in. I'm not going to even try to pretend that I am going to remain faithful to any of these mythologies - the root source of a lot of the material may be readily apparent, but I'm not going to make any real effort to try to be accurate. The gods of the setting are Celtic and Norse inspired, but they aren't Celtic or Norse gods. And the same holds true of everything else about the setting.

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