Archive for the ‘People’ Category

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Sisters of the Swan for D&D 5E

12 October, 2020

The Abbey on the Lake of White Lilies was famous for the honor and learning of its sisters and the beautiful swans that populated the lake. They were not warriors but healers, scholars and gardeners. When the Dragons launched their attack on the gods, all the sisters could do was pray.

Fly with meWhen the Empress visited the Abbey after the sundering, a fragment of a heaven had lodged in the lake and the lilies had changed to gold and the sisters and the swans had been melted together. The transformation was rough for some, wings for arms or exceeding long necks, others had been killed outright, their new bodies unsuitable for the world. The Empress used her magic to heal and reform them, making the form of woman and swan, separate but joined allowing them to switch between the two.

The Abbey on the Lake of Gold Lilies remains under Imperial jurisdiction and remains a center of learning. It exports fine lace, goose down and illuminated manuscripts.

Physical Description: The Sisters of the Swan are willowy and graceful with long necks and usually pale skin, pale hair is common as well but their eyes are dark. Every generation there has been a black or gold Sister hatched but they have been occurring more frequently. Their faces tend to be narrow with large eyes. They have long delicate fingers and long toes on their feet, with webbing between their toes.

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New Beastkind for D&D 5E – Ypisarian Serpentfolk

4 October, 2020

The Serpentfolk are the children of the goddess Ypisara, though she is now only acknowledged as the great mother of their race. A minor race, they weathered the war of against the gods and the Sundering better than most<Distant ancestor? due to the act of submission and self-sacrifice by Ypisara in exchange for the protection of the Empress, she gave her life willingly to the Dragon Queen; in exchange her children have been protected and since then, they have thrived, in a restrained fashion, under the eye of the Empress who acts as their patron and guardian.

Serpentfolk are a dedicated and loyal people, devoted to their communities and, in a vague sense, the Empire as a whole. While each of the serpentfolk is their own person they often think of themselves as part of a chain of community and tend to weight the good of the group over the good of the individual. Serpentfolk are humanoid, tending toward slender builds, and covered in a network of fine scales usually in shades of green but other colors show up on occasion. Their eyes are dark and their heads are decorated by low crests. Most have slender tails. Serpentolk have claws but they are not usually large or strong enough to be effectively used as weapons. Read the rest of this entry ?
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Words and Whimsy (A to Z)

27 April, 2020

Whimsy and WordsIt is known that words (and names especially) contain power, wizards are perhaps the most well known users of words of power but others have been known to tap into such magics as well.  The Empress is rumored to be a powerful worker of word magic but then, that is said about the Empress and just about every sort of magic.

Wizards comb ancient libraries for particular lost or hidden magical words but they are rarely found, it is one of the ways the Library-Towers of Borusa make money, providing their libraries for perusal.  The Imperial libraries are also sought after but more difficult to acquire access too.  Caches of lost lore when found are often subject to bidding war or even outright theft!  So ventures might be hired to find such information, protect it or even steal it.

Whimsy, as in the sense of the purely fantastical and perhaps bizarre, must be introduced carefully into a game, as sometimes the mood needs to be lightened or . . . changed.  But too much whimsy can irrevocably change the tone of a campaign, so, like any spice, use in small amounts to enhance not overwhelm the existing tone and themes of your game.  Whimsy is also one of the hardest things to put back one you have let it out, so, be careful!

Notes: An adventure seed and some games mastering advice.  W is always a challenge.

Image By Sir John Tenniel – “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865), found on Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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Venust and Voyages (A to Z)

25 April, 2020

Venust NatureVenust nature, beautiful nature, is prized by many dragons, especially by the Empress and she encourages, but does not demand, that her subjects maintain such.  She does, however, visit sites of natural beauty throughout her realm on a routine but unannounced schedule, encouraging their preservation.  The Empress’ appreciation of such places has lead to continued production of painting from these sites.  Leading to expeditions to odd places with venturers and scouts guiding and escorting teams of painter and other artists to distant and inaccessible site of amazing natural beauty.

Those with lesser resources must do with copies of famous works which have filtered down through noble houses and down into the middle class.  Some cities even have shops that sell prints of famous paintings, many of which are made from images copied from painting in the Imperial museums.

In the areas that are calm, travel for pleasure and to visit historical places are becoming more common, some Visse have even begun organizing package tours and travel agencies.  For those more adventurous types, some are willing to travel to more dangerous places requiring hiring guards and guides.

Notes:  V is another tricky one but Venust is just such a wonderfully obscure word that I could not resist.  Mostly potential adventure ideas or odd people to meet.

Image Krajina s vodopádom. Slovak National Gallery. Public Domain Mark.

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Unliving and Unbound (A to Z)

24 April, 2020

Plague spiritThings that were living and now are not but are still animate, in the Sea of Stars, are referred to as the Unliving.  There are a surprising number of them in some places, as Necrourgists (such as those in the High Kingdom of Laccini) are found of using their death magic to provide these once-living shells with an animating spark of energy torn from dark places, if not properly controlled, these sparks come with touch of malevolent cunning, not true intelligence, but dangerous if not watched and controlled.

Other effects can cause the dead to walk (and hunger): odd magic from the sundering, the residue of dead gods, alchemical runoff and more.  A few few of the unliving predate the Sundering and a few of those have ways of creating more of their kind.  But they are careful how they use such, knowing that if they are too obvious the dragons will swoop in and destroy them all.

The Unbound are those spirits no longer ties to their body, thus unbound from them, yes unable to make the transition through the shadowed lands to judgement beyond.  Many are tormented, seeking revenge or to complete a task left undone, while a few are simply lost.  Setting them to rest may be simple or easy depending on the nature of the spirits, making work for exorcists and ghost hunters.

The Church of the Sun, like their patron, has a visceral hatred of the Unliving and a harsh pity for the Unbound, seeking to destroy or banish them whenever encountered.

Notes:  Renaming things to suit your world / setting in important, it makes it more yours see (also Hollows and Hellions).  Also, I find the term “undead” wearing at this point, overused.  Of course, the challenge is getting your players to adopt the new terms.

Image An allegory of malaria. Reproduction of an engraving after M. Sand. Maurice Sand. Wellcome Collection license CC BY.

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Tea and Trade (A to Z)

23 April, 2020

Tea is a high value and (comparatively) light weight commodity and in demand all across the Sea of Stars, tea is widely and often drunk, many dragons are connoisseurs following the Empress’ example.  It is a sign of hospitality almost everywhere to be offered a cup of tea, though various places use various things for tea, not everyone can afford the black tea from the few places it is grown.  Other use various mixes of herbs or other materials, some of the shadow elves even using type of powdered mushrooms.

As fast as the wind will carry us!The first crop of tea from each season is raced to the Imperial Capital on sky ship, each vying for the honor of being the first tea delivered.  By tradition, the Empress buys all of the cargo of the first ship to arrive and reward the crew.  While it has been pointed out that ferrying the tea to one of the gate cities would be faster but the tradition continues.

The trade in tea is only part of the vast trading network that extends throughout the Sea of Stars, encouraged by the Empress and Imperial policy.  The Empress provides a universal currency for those that wish to use it, the Imperial Navy is routinely deployed to combat pirates and the Imperial tax policy reward those states that open themselves to trade.  The Empress realized that true wealth comes from innovation, industry and trade, therefore she encourages all three.  After all, the wealthier her subject are, the more wealth flows into Imperial coffers.

What is less know is that the Empress has indirectly invested in many trading ventures, large and small, to open up new trade routes and locales.  There is untold wealth to be discovered in the Sea of Stars, the Empress is certain of it.

Notes: Wealth can be acquired by taking but it does not create wealth, trade and industry creates wealth.  The Empress understands this.  You could join the tea clipper race!  Also, opening new trade routes is a great adventure!

Image Willis Tea Line Clipper, by Frederick Tudgay. Oil on Canvas, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain.

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Queens and Quislings (A to Z)

20 April, 2020

An ambush?  Of royalty?When the dragons took over, they quickly enforced their will and design of the various polities now under their rule.  There was more than one king who thought his family’s dragon slaying sword and armored retainers could dispose of such an affront . . . almost all of them were mistaken.  Suddenly, many kingdoms found themselves ruled by Queens (or Queen Regents or several other variations), the dragons had no problem dealing with a woman ruler, their highest ruler was a female after all.

Some of the Queen made deals with their dragon rules and changed their line of decent into a matriarchical succession or matrilinealial inheritance (or both) often having odd repercussions throughout their society.  But, as long as the dragon ended up with a stable royal house that followed their dictates, they usually did not care about such disruptions to the previous order of things.

Now, those that bowed to the dragons when other fought them . . . the survivors remember who betrayed them and sold them out to the new draconic hierarchy.  Revenge killings, assassinations and blood feuds were common for the first three or four generations after the Sundering but they they mostly died out.  The heat of passion cooled.  But some noble houses still have long standing, and often deep, rivalry and opposition to each other that date to this division.

There are also no lack of secret societies that were founded to purge draconic loyalists and take back their lands from the dragons.  Most of these have descended into social clubs and other forms of organization but a very few, in their secret inner circle, keep the dream of a dragon free land alive.

Notes:  Q is always tricky but then I remember Quisling.

Image Queen Facua’s triumph; King Famis on his way to Laurentum; Hercules and queen Facua in Laurentum. National Library of the Netherlands. Public Domain Mark.

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Oceans and Oreads (A to Z)

18 April, 2020

The oceans of the islands of the Sea of Stars reacted differently to Sundering:

To sail upon the seasSome (such as where the Gate City of Caracosa is) just poured away, leaving nothing behind nothing but salt encrusted wasteland.

On others, the ocean just pours away, endlessly, impossibly, the level of the island’s ocean never dropping.  It is a magnificent sight, for this brave enough to witness it.

Lastly, on a few, the edge of the ocean just stops at the edge of the island, the waters held back by some invisible force.  Occasionally a fish or other sea creature will wriggle through . . . and plunge to its death.  Some fishermen will use platforms lowered down the edge of the ocean to harvest fish and other things from the depths.

The spirits of the oceans, such as the Neriads, are equally shattered and scattered by this and have never fully recovered from the Sundering and the loss of their patron gods.

Their relative spirits of the mountains, the Oreads, have fared much better as they were more aligned to particular places.  Even if a mountain range was divined among multiples islands, very few of the actual mountains were lost.  Though they too lost their divine patrons, most have avoided the eyes of the dragons and have found ways to work with the peoples of their lands, accepting token worship and actual sacrifices in exchange for aiding the communities.  A few have gone so far as to establish hidden and illegal cults around themselves or lead secret societies dedicated to try to restore the gods.

Notes: Two very separate ideas but I was able to find some connective tissue between them.

Photo (sv) Övning i rodd i en av m/s GOLDEN OCEANs livbåtar på Haifas redd 1952 (sv) Sjöhistoriska museet. Public Domain Mark.

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Names and Nemesis (A to Z)

17 April, 2020

Names have power and true names have the most power over a being, power to shape and control the very nature of that being.  It is said the the Empress collected the true names of all the gods before she went to war with them.  So, naturally, dragons have become very protective of their true names but none more so then the Empress herself, even before she embarked on her planning to overthrow the gods, she was hiding evidence of who she was and would be.  Indeed once the dust had settled after the Sundering, she invoked a great ritual that erased any knowledge of her true name from anywhere in the Sea of Stars; Aa lesser version of that ritual hunted and obscured all references to the true names of her closest agents, the Seven Stars, who run the Imperial Government.  In is thought that the only one who knows them now is the Empress.

Just RetributionThis has not stopped people from hunting for those true names, after all, they are among the most valuable pieces of information in the Sea of Stars.  Lines of scholars have pursued esoteric lines of research across generations, to no avail, or if they have had any success . . . they have not revealed it.  Which would be sensible all things considered.

The Empress is careful about the security of her name, herself, the Imperial House, her treasures, all of it for she understands the concept of Nemesis, the due justice that falls to those that succumb to hubris.  The Empress considers herself the nemesis of the gods and has no intention of being the next turn of the wheel.  She watches for plots and conspiracies, gathers information, develops new techniques for defense and obsessively watches for the return of divine powers to the world.  Of course, she understands that someday she will fall, it is that knowledge that drives her to make it as difficult as she can for any who try to drag her down.  As she says, “I spent a millennium planning to overthrow the gods, if you intend to overthrow me, you should plan on putting in at least half that much effort before you make your move.”

Notes: The Empress is full of tricks and plans, she did not claw her way to the top of the world just to be pushed out by the first challenger that came along.

Photo (da) Nemesis. Nicolai Abildgaard. Statens Museum for Kunstnull. license CC0http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

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Masques and Mazes (A to Z)

16 April, 2020

Dragon love wealth, partly for what it is (see Gems again) but also for the power it symbolizes.  They love ostentatious displays of wealth which can be done in a variety of ways.

Dressed for successMassive and expensive parties, especially Masques, are a favourite of dragons.  The Masque is an interesting sort of party, part costume ball, part staged musical entertainment and part gift giving ceremony.   People are expected to come in costume, often the more outlandish the better as long as they are on theme.  The Masque involves organized singing and dancing, and sometimes acting and debate, usually by professional players (in the theatrical, rather than gaming sense), around a elaborate stage designed to present a deferential allegory ultimately flattering to the host of the event.  The rest of the masquers, usually in support roles, are guests and courtiers.  Sometime the rulers, or their family, will become actively involved in the performance, usually in the dance side of things.  After the performance, gifts ties to the theme are presented, in an equally staged way to the host and patron of the event.  Naturally, there is an attempt for each dragon’s Masque to upstage the one before, sometimes, for very special events, they last for multiple days.  The longest Masque held, and for obvious reasons no one else has tried to equal or exceed, was a thirteen day extravaganza themed around some of the major astrological signs to celebrate the Empress’ birthday on the thousandth anniversary of the Draconic Conquest.

Another way for dragons to show off their wealth is maze building, this became a craze in the fourth century after the Draconic Conquest for reasons unknown.  It has waxed and waned in popularity but has never quite died out.  The dragons enjoy the mazes because they can just fly over them and they love to watch the lesser being try to make their way through the twisting passageways.

Notes: Somehow I got out of sequence and did K twice!  So working on catching up.  Again just some cultural bits to spark ideas and adventures.

Photo allegorical female figure striking a pose in masque costume, with a stork or crane. Woodcut by T. Stimmer, 1580. from the Wellcome Collection, license Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

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