Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The History of Cadfor: An Account of the Years from the Fall of House Llud to the Present

The History of Cadfor: An Account of the Years from the Fall of House Llud to the Present
by Wulfsige sé Stærtractere
(Published 540 IR)

Most of the misfortunes of Cadfor over the last century can be traced to the whelming of Llydaw in 451 IR and the subsequent failure in 455 IR of the Great Houses to agree upon a new Emperor for the Naceadan-Rhadynnic Dual Empire. Once the Great Houses fell into war amongst themselves, the Freeholds were left to fend for themselves without the protective shield provided by the Sky Empire. During this time of chaos, all of the Freeholds suffered to some extent, from the persistent raids launched tribes of giants against Ersav and Melin, to the depredations of the Dark Prince endured by Ceniþ in the 530s, to the extended occupation of Nuþralia by Kivutar’s Polþian armies that was only ended a few scant years ago. Save for Loring, which still labors under the rule of the White Hand, few of the Freeholds suffered as much as Cadfor did under the heel of the Crimson Duke.

Though his origins are shrouded in such obscurity that his true name is unknown to history, the overlord known only as the Crimson Duke arrived in Cadfor in 469 IR with an army of giants, orcs, and ratmen raised from tribes in Elizon, the Hills of Brann-Galedd, and Crespor Mountains. Utterly devoted to Ishi, and wielding mighty arcane powers, the Crimson Duke treated the Ruby Sorcerer as his personal patron, and naturally he sought to emulate his demonic master. Emulating Ishi himself, the Crimson Duke enticed a myriad of evil creatures to his side by forging an alliance of the elemental deities Halpas, Iku-Tyrma, Khil, and Surtan as his following, even including the worshipper of Bål and Lug among the ranks of his armies. In an odd twist for a coalition that was so laden with giants and giant-friendly allies, Abonde’s priestesses were strangely absent from the Crimson Duke’s followers.

Some sages have speculated that Abonde’s absence was the result of jealousy expressed by the Crimson Duke’s consort Nakhtmoy, a dark and shadowy spider-demoness who served as his mistress of assassins. Some assert that the Crimson Duke simply did not recruit any of Abonde’s disciples into his armies out of deference for his fearsome consort, while others have expressed the belief that Nakhtmoy must have arranged for all of Abonde’s followers in the invading army to be murdered, while still others maintain that Abonde’s priestesses simply refused to rally to the Crimson Duke’s banner. No matter the reason, all agree that Nakhtmoy would brook no rivals to her mistress Gangyn, and not only was Abonde’s influence absent from the Crimson Duke’s armies, also apparently banned from his retinue were the followers of Kivutar, Ninkurra, Seþra, and even Tunar.

After a mere three years of war, the Crimson Duke had exhausted the armies of the wily and resourceful King Emyr Bane Tan of Cadfor, but only at the cost of extending his own forces dangerously close to the breaking point. That all changed in 472 IR when King Emyr was assassinated in his sleep, most likely by Nakhtmoy. Soon thereafter, a wave of assassinations resulted in the deaths of every one of King Emyr’s family, ending House Bane Tan. The Crimson Duke’s army soon crushed the remaining feeble forces of resistance in Cadfor and nearly forty years of brutal, iron-fisted rule began.

Befitting a devoted follower of the Soulblighter, the Crimson Duke was not content to merely conquer Cadfor. With one hand the Red Tyrant crushed the people of Cadfor, and with the other he waged war upon his neighbors. Almost as soon as he established his control over the kingdom, the Crimson Duke led his armies to war against Melin and Gwenarþ and when those campaigns went awry, he pushed into Elizon and tried to seize control of Loring in an effort to expand his dominions northwards. In Cadfor itself, the countryside was stripped bare and its industry and populace put to work fueling the Crimson Duke’s war machine. The youth of the nation were drafted into the Duke’s armies, or forced into labor battalions to craft and construct the materials of warfare to supply them. Many daughters were forced into a life as camp followers, servicing the needs of the Duke’s favored soldiers.

Those denizens of Cadfor who refused the Duke’s demands were killed. Some slaughtered outright by the partols of orcs and giants who roamed the land, others were simply found dead in their beds with their throats cut, killed by Nakhtmoy’s omnipresent network of spies and assassins. Fear ruled the land, as no one could be sure that their neighbor wasn’t secretly an agent working for the Crimson Duke who would turn you in for shirking your work or failing to pay your taxes or expressing disloyalty or even dissatisfaction. Though he was not the sole reason for the creation of the Freeholder’s Council, in 492 IR, the Crimson Duke’s depredations were certainly a significant motivating factor in convincing many of the Freehold kings to join.

After years of war and destruction, the first glimmers of hope for Cadfor shone through in 508 IR, although almost no one knew it at the time. The small village of Laragh in the foothills of the Crespor Mountains was the site of a minor dispute over tax collection that set a rebellion into motion. When four black orcs sought to collect what they claimed were unpaid taxes owed by the village blacksmith Osian, the exchange turned violent, and they killed him. According to legend, Osian’s apprentice Girion killed all four of the Duke’s tax collectors with his blacksmith’s hammer, and then fled into the wilderness as an outlaw.

For two years Girion lived in the mountains, coming down from the high passes to raid the Crimson Duke’s camps and strongholds. For two years Girion was able to confound and evade the Red Tyrant’s forces, and the tales of his exploits caused others to rally to his cause. In 510 IR, however, Nakhtmoy’s spies discovered that Girion had been secretly meeting with a farmer’s daughter named Siân, and soon the order was given to kill her family and capture her as bait. Even though Girion knew it was a trap, he could not leave his beloved in the hands of the crimson Duke, and he mounted a rescue of such epic daring that it is now recounted in song. Realizing that his presence in Cadfor was endangering those he cared for, Giron fled the country with Siân at his side, vowing to return one day.

In 520 IR, Girion made good upon his vow. In the intervening years, Girion and Siân had made names for themselves as sellswords and privateers and returned to their homeland as seasoned, battle-hardened veterans skilled in both physical and mystical combat. In their travels they had acquired several allies whose names have become famous: Wulfric, Elena, Heinrich, and Colwyn, all of whom joined the pair in their return to Cadfor. Leading this small band of allies and supported by a devoted retinue of followers, Girion launched a war to liberate his nation from the heel of the Crimson Duke.

Over the succeeding years, Giron’s rebellion grew from this tiny kernel to a full-fledged popular movement. Inspired by this former blacksmith’s apprentice and farmer’s daughter, the common-folk rallied to their cause. Girion forged alliances with the dwarves of the Haearn Hills, obtained support and troops from Melin and Gwenarth, and even recruited the aid of tribes of khulen from Elizon who had grown weary of the Crimson Duke’s attempts to bring them under his power.

The war was long and hard, and Girion’s forces suffered many setbacks and scored many victories, but they ever pushed the Crimson Duke’s forces back, liberating towns and villages one by one. These triumphs were not without cost- Girion suffered a personal loss in 529 IR when his eldest son Liam was killed at the Battle of Féarach Hill. In 531 IR, Girion seized Celliwig, wresting control of the city from the Crimson Duke after an eleven month siege, forcing his foe entirely out of the eastern and central parts of Cadfor.

Finally, in 533 IR, Girion scraped together every soldier he could muster and led his troops against the Crimson Duke’s amassed forces at the Battle of Bythwrdd Meadows. For this titanic battle, both Melin and Gwenarþ sent their own armies to aid Girion, and even Girion’s remaining son Padraig took to the field at his father’s side. The battle went badly for the allied army, and just when it seemed that the Crimson Duke’s companies of giants would overwhelm them, Ådon, Dallen, Mannan and the rest of the Conclave of Eight came to once and for all deal with the threat posed by the Crimson Duke and Nakhtmoy and turned the tide of battle and the Duke’s forces were scattered. Despite the victory, this was a day of sadness as Siân, Girion’s faithful spouse of more than two decades, was slain in the battle. Though his body was never found, the Crimson Duke was never seen after this day, and he presumably died on the field with his troops.

After his victory at the Battle of Bythwrdd Meadows, Girion laid siege to the Crimson Duke’s stronghold of Cær Colur, now the refuge of the vile Nakhtmoy. Within a year, the dread fortress fell and though they could not locate the demoness to banish her, the Conclave of Eight was able to trap her inside the network of tunnels that honeycombed the earth beneath its ruined walls. Seals of mystical power were placed on the place, imprisoning the elusive spider-demon within the complex.

Having driven the Crimson Duke and his armies from Cadfor, Girion was declared king of that nation in 534 IR. In that same year, King OEngus Lairdsonne of Melin and King Brann of Gwenarth sponsored Girion’s membership in the Freeholder’s Council, and he was admitted to that body in that same year. Girion chose a black crossed hammer and sickle on a silver field with a red border as the symbol of his house, and chose Lámh Casúr as his House name, becoming King Girion Lámh Casúr.

King Girion is closely allied with King Œngus Lairdsonne of the neighboring kingdom of Melin, and Girion's only living son Padraig was betrothed to Œngus' daughter Iarfhlaith in 535 IR , a union that would have united the two kingdoms in a mutually beneficial alliance. Unfortunately, in a sad turn of events Padraig vanished while campaigning against a goblinoid incursion in the Lloftmelin Mountains in 538 IR, and he is presumed dead. Girion’s only remaining heir is his thirteen year old daughter Andrella.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

A Brief History of Sakaþa, the Great King of the Lizardfolk

Excerpts from Brief History of Sakaþa, the Great King of the Lizardfolk
by Demetrios ap Varin
(Published 536 IR)

The Great King Sakaþa is an enigma, shrouded in myth and legend. Venerated by the lizardfolk of the Great Southern Swamp as their true and eternal leader and feared as a demonic figure of terror by all of the civilized peoples of Nuþralia, it is almost impossible to disinguish between fact and fiction concerning this creature. Among the lizardfolk, the legend of Sakaþa has taken on such epic proportions that virtually any deed one can conceive of has been attributed to him. Among the non-lizardfolk that live in Eor, the folk tales and stories told about him paint Sakaþa alternatively as a figure of ineffable terror who name should only be spoken in hushed whispers and a comical buffoon whose ineptitude is a suitable subject for mockery.

No one knows for certain where or when the dread creature known as Sakaþa was born, but it is reasonable to assume that it took place in the early part of the 4th century IR, presumably somewhere in the depths of the Great Southern Swamp. With the strength and stamina of the lizardfolk, but intelligence that rivaled even the most brilliant of men, Sakaþa quickly rose to a position of power and leadership among the tribes of the marshes, gaining such renown that his name appears in texts as early as 348 IR. Sakaþa proved to be a skilled arcanist, and he used his magical prowess to great effect, defeating his enemies with both the physical prowess of his troops and the arcane power of his wizardly abilities. In short order, Sakaþa ruled over a vast nation of scaled folk. Despite his success in taming his fellows, Sakaþa was clearly unsatisfied, and all accounts provide the same reasons why: He had a larger than normal share of the greed, rapacity, and evil found among both the lizardfolk and men.

Sakaþa's ambitions likely would have gone unfulfilled had the lizardman not formed an alliance with a powerful sect of Belial’s church called the Cult of the Black Flame. The power wielded by the Cult's priests and the dark mysteries of Belial's power they commanded gave Sakaþa's armies a strength and vigor that was nigh-unstoppable. Within just a few years, Sakaþa came to be the supreme ruler of the lizardfolk and other denizens of the Great Southern Swamp, extending his hegemony over all who dwelled there and becoming a constant thorn in the side of his neighbors as raiding parties were frequently sent forth to plunder all those on his borders.

Following his conquest of the denizens of the swamp, Sakaþa decided that plundering his neighbors was not sufficient, and launched an invasion of Eor in 351 IR, and completing his conquest of the region by 356 IR, defeating King Comyn of Nuþralia’s army and killing the king in the process at the Battle of Ongal Hill. Once he seized control of Eor, Sakaþa enslaved the population and carried away vast riches to the Great Southern Swamp. In addition to his loyal lizardfolk and vast army of slaves, Sakaþa’s overflowing treasury enabled him to employ many powerful mercenaries in his service, further cementing his position as unquestioned ruler of both the Great Southern Swamp and Western Nuþralia.

After Sakaþa’s invasion of Eor, Nuþralia was in disarray, with the newly crowned King Cadwalandr unable to respond right away due to incursions by Ahaliat tribesmen and yet another invasion by seafaring raiders from Kysthjem and Langjord that not only overran much of the eastern half of the realm but also kept most of the Imperial fleet occupied for years. Fortunately for the young king, Sakaþa was strangely quiescent during this period, giving both the Nuþralian royal house and the Imperial Throne the time they needed to marshal their forces for a campaign to liberate the lands the Grat King of the Lizardfolk had seized.

In 364 IR, Cadwalandr’s pleas for Imperial aid were finally answered, and High King Ghilchrist IV assembled a host that included knights from the Order of the Gauntlet, and forces contributed by House Gilfaethwy and House Llefelys. In an unexpected turn, King Cadwalandr was able to turn Håkon, one of the chieftains of the invading northmen, by promising him lands for Håkon's followers to settle upon, and thus was able to swell his own forces for the campaign. Over the next three years, the King Cadwalandr aided by the Imperial forces was able to reconquer most of what Sakaþa had seized a decade before.

Sakaþa was not a particularly wise or judicious ruler. It was this weakness that caused him to ride into battle at the head of his lizardfolk in the Battle of Vendare, where he was mortally wounded. Legend holds that it was Håkon himself who dealt the fatal blow upon the Lizard King, a story many consider dubious, but which Håkon's descendants consider to be iron clad fact. What is known is that Håkon was made Æorldorman of Vendare for the services he rendered to King Caldwalandr during the war. As for Sakaþa, his shattered army was scattered, but stories tell that a few loyal servants carried his dead and broken body from the field of battle and off into the Great Southern Swamp to a locale unknown to his enemies.

Since that day, Sakaþa’s name became a talisman of power among the lizardfolk of the Great Southern Swamp. Powerful tribal leaders often style themselves as the “New Sakaþa’, but none has ever been able to match his combination of power and cunning, and none was ever able to equal his glorious career. In time, it became de rigeur for the lizardfolk of the Great Southern Swamp to claim they were acting in Great King Sakaþa’s name, and invoking his name in their battle cries and curses. Fact turned to legend, and legend turned to myth, and over the years it became impossible to distinguish between the reality of Sakaþa’s life and the array of stories concerning heroic feats and exploits that were attributed to him in tall tales. Stories about Sakaþa’s acts have become a staple of tavern tales and songs even among the men living in the regions bordering the Great Southern Swamp, although he was almost always depicted as a villain in them.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

General Rules: Feats - Leadership

Leadership is a somewhat unique feat that allows a character to recruit a cohort and followers. This page details how I handle this feat.

Leadership [General] (from the Player's Handbook)
You are the sort of person others want to follow, and you have done some work attempting to recruit cohorts and followers.
  Prerequisite: Character level 6th+
  Benefit: You can attract loyal companions and devoted followers, subordinates who assist you. The level of your cohort and the number and level of your followers is determined by your leadership score. Note that there are different modifiers for your Leadership score with respect to cohorts and followers, so your Leadership score might be different for your cohort than it is for your followers.

Your cohorts and followers are generally loyal and reliable retainers. Unlike ordinary NPCs, who have their own agendas and objectives, cohorts and followers look to the character for direction and guidance. As a general rule, they will not betray you or deceive you unless they are severely mistreated, although in such cases they will usually simply abandon your service.

Cohorts and followers will expect that the character will provide for their basic needs including room, board, and any workspace, tools, or other specialized equipment needed to undertake the tasks you assign to them (this is, after all, one of the major reasons they have sought you out to serve as your retainers). So, for example, if you recruit a follower who is a blacksmith and ask him to craft materials for you, he will expect you to provide a forge with appropriate blacksmithing tools and raw materials needed to undertake the work. Failure to appropriately provide for your cohort and followers will be likely to negatively affect your Leadership Score.

Cohort: A character with Leadership may have a single cohort. In general, a player may design their desired cohort, subject to my approval. Cohorts should be built using the elite array of ability scores (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8), subject to applicable racial modifiers. The cohort may be any playable race and any allowable class. The cohort may be a multi-classed character if the player desires, and may take advantage of any of the options available to player characters. When the cohort enters the character's service, they will be equipped with equipment with a total value appropriate to an NPC of the cohort's level (see Table 4-23: NPC Gear Value on page 127 of the Dungeon Master's Guide). Any additional equipment must be provided by the player.

Under certain circumstances, I may allow a cohort to be a nonstandard race, or even an intelligent monstrous creature, such as a sphinx or a dragon. In those cases, apply the appropriate Level Adjustment to the cohorts class levels, or, if the cohort is a type of creature that does not have a listed Level Adjustment, the cohort's initial "level" will be their Challenge Rating. All such nonstandard cohorts must be approved by me in advance.

Your cohort is a loyal companion who will accompany your character on adventures. In general, you can control your cohort, although they will not undertake obviously suicidal or self-destructive actions. I reserve the right to assume control of the cohort if that becomes necessary.

Your cohort does not gain "experience". As your Leadership score goes up as you rise in level, your cohort will gain levels to match that allowed by your new Leadership score, although this is subject to the usual limitation that your cohort can never be higher level than two levels lower than your current character level.

Followers: A character with Leadership is able to attract followers if his Leadership Score is at least 10. Followers, like your cohort, may be designed by the player, subject to my approval. Followers should be built using the standard array of ability scores (11, 11, 11, 10, 10, 10) or the nonelite array of ability scores (13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8) at your option. You may, if you wish switch back and forth between these two arrays for different followers. Followers can be any standard playable race, and may be adepts, adherents, commoners, experts, or warriors. When a follower enters the character's service, they will be equipped with equipment with a total value equal to the starting gear for a character of their class. Any additional equipment must be provided by the player.

Under certain circumstances, a follower may be of a nonstandard race if there is an appropriate character-driven reason for such followers to be attracted to the player character. All such followers will be typical members of their race and must be approved by me in advance.

Your followers are loyal aides, but generally will not be willing to accompany the character on adventures. Followers will be willing to work as craftsmen, work as personal aides, handle business tasks, act as couriers, travel with caravans and take care of your animals and wagons, and even defend your stronghold or, if necessary, go to war alongside you, but they will not delve into dungeons, enter a dragon's lair, or help you sack an evil temple. In general, a character may direct the actions of their followers, but they will not be willing to undertake unnecessarily dangerous, suicidal, or self-destructive actions. As with cohorts, I reserve the right to assume control of followers if necessary.

As with cohorts, your followers don't gain "experience". As your Leadership Score increases, you attract new followers and are eligible to retain higher level followers. When you become eligible for higher level followers, you may either advance a current follower to a higher level or recruit a new follower of the appropriate level.

Leadership Modifiers: A character's base leadership score is their character level + their Charisma modifier. Several factors can affect a character's Leadership score, causing it to vary from this base score. Your reputation from the point of view of the cohort or follower you are trying to attract raises of lowers your Leadership score.

Leader's ReputationModifier
Great renown+2
Fairness and generosity+1
Special power+1

Other modifiers may apply when the character tries to attract a cohort.

The Leader . . .Modifier
Has a familiar, special mount, or animal companion-2
Recruits a cohort of a different alignment-1
Caused the death of a cohort-2 1
1 Cumulative per cohort killed

Followers have different priorities from cohorts. When the character tries to attract a new follower, use any of the following modifiers that apply.

The Leader . . .Modifier
Has a stronghold, base of operations, guildhouse, or the like+2
Moves around a lot-1
Caused the death of other followers-1

Cohorts and Followers: Once a character's Leadership score is determined, the level of their cohort and the number of followers they can attract is determined according to the following table. If a character's Leadership score changes, their cohort and number of followers may be affected. As a character's Leadership score rises, their cohort will advance in level and more followers will come into their service. If a character's Leadership score falls, their cohort's advancement will stagnate, and followers may abandon the character.

LeadershipCohortNumber of Followers by Level
1 or lower-------
24 or higher17th135137422
Leadership Score: A character's base Leadership score equals his level plus any Charisma modifier. In order to take into account negative Charisma modifiers, this table allows for very low Leadership scores, but the character must still be 6th level or higher in order to gain the Leadership feat. Outside factors can affect a character's Leadership score, as detailed above.
Cohort Level: The character can attract a cohort of up to this level. Regardless of a character's Leadership score, he can only recruit a cohort who is two or more levels lower than himself. A 6th-level character with a +3 Charisma bonus, for example, can still only recruit a cohort of 4th level or lower. The cohort should be equipped with gear appropriate for its level.
Number of Followers by Level: The character can lead up to the indicated number of characters of each level.For example, a character with a Leadership score of 14 can lead up to fifteen 1st-level followers and one 2nd-level follower.

Replacing Cohorts and Followers: If you lose a cohort or followers, you can generally replace thrm, according to your current Leadership Score. I takes 1d4 months to recruit replacements. If you are to blame for the deaths of the cohort or followers, it takes extra time to replace them, up to a full year. Losing a cohort or followers can give you a reputation for failure, which would affect your Leadership score.

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