Friday, February 8, 2013

History, Part 1 Ancient History


I’m finally ready to move on to the final “real” section of the World Builder’s Guidebook—History.  There’s a bit after this, but it’s more about general advice and picking which optional or house rules to use and the like.  After this section, I’ll be more or less done.

As I went through each step of the world creation process, I also developed bits and pieces of the history of the world.  For example, the rise and fall of the Elven Empire, the destruction of the Dwarves, the coming of the barbarian humans, and the like.  But this is the point where we start giving things dates and figuring out what else has happened.

The WBG divides history up into three sections—Ancient, Middle, and Recent.  Ancient are the events that took place millennia ago, so far in the past that no one can truly verify what did or did not actually happen.  Only the greatest and most significant of events are still remembered even by the learned sages of the modern day.  In our world, this would be the events like the Fall of Rome, or Egypt, or Atlantis.  Middle history is more reliable, dating as far back as reliable records exist.  These are generally hundreds of years ago.  Finally, Recent are things that occurred in the past 20-40 years, things the players were actually around for.  At each stage, the history becomes closer and more relatable—Ancient deals with planet spanning empires and massive wars, Middle is the formation of the Kingdom, while Recent is the rebellion that is currently happening.

There is of course a nice series of dice rolls and random tables to determine how many events occurred in each era, and how far apart they were.  As such, I’m going to use my already determined history as a “plus.”  I’ll use the randomizers in the book, but I’ll add my already determined historical bits in as extras where they seem appropriate.  Anyway, here’s what I rolled up, in fan favorite chart form!


Ancient Historical Events


Middle Historical Events
Date
Event

Date
Event
0
War, Racial

6190
Intrigue/Scandal
500
Cataclysm, Man-Made

6240
Decadence
1100
Expansion/Exploration

6330
Revolution
1600
Supremacy/Golden Age

6420
Discovery,  Technological
2200
Supremacy/Golden Age

6510
Exploration/Colonization
2700
Discovery, Technological

6590
Rebellion
3500
Empire Rises

6660
Discovery, Magical
4300
Legendary Character

6760
War, conquest
5200
Cataclysm, Man-Made

6820
Religion, Temple Supremacy
6100
War, Epic

6910
Religion, Cult Activity


Recent Historical Events
Date
Event
6912
Raids/Brigandage
6915
War, Foreign
6918
War, Internal
6920
War, Foreign
6922
Weak Ruler

There’s quite a bit there to chew on, to say the least.  Obviously a full history of all these events would take up a decent sized book at the very least, so I’m just going to go over the very basics of what I’m thinking right now.

Part 1: Ancient History

Year 0—The Gods War.  Since the dawn of time, Man was trapped under the dominion of the Old Ones—vast, ancient and terrible beings the ruled the world for eons.   But the gods heard the cries of Man, and came to their aid.  A vast and horrible war unfolded, spanning centuries.  Certain men were unwilling to trust the Gods, and instead turned to the Old Ones, who granted their servants foul magics to aid them in the war.  After a terrifying and heroic battle, the Old Ones were defeated, but the world itself was shattered in the battles (Cataclysm, Man-Made).

Hundreds of years pass, as Man spread around the world, always battling with the horribly minions of the Old Ones that still stalked the land.  Over time, the Elves slowly expanded from their ancestral homeland, and set about exploring the world (Expansion/Exploration). They fought many battles against many foes, but eventually they brought all the lands under their rule.  The result was a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, as all the races were united under one rule.  Eventually, the Elves explored beyond the edge of the world, building great ships that flew through the ether, and expanded their realm to the very stars.  With the secrets they learned from these voyages, they were able to build vast and glistening cities, and to create the powerful Elven Blades and other relics (this is how I’m justifying the random +1 swords laying around the world).   

But the Elves were not the only power in the world, and while their ships flew in the sky, the Dwarves were building their own vast Empire beneath the surface (or perhaps they had always been there, and only in 3500 did they become known).  The two empires feuded and sparred for centuries, neither able to gain an advantage. 

Until the coming of Atlantes.

Atlantes was an Elf of minor noble stock, fascinated with the history of The Gods War.  He dedicated his life to the gods and to knowledge, and became one of the holiest Men to ever walk the world.  He spoke with the gods frequently, and travelled with them to their palaces in the skies.  Over time, he and Cybele fell in love, the first time she had taken a lover besides Adoni. But so great a friend was Atlantes to the gods that even the High Lord blessed their union.  Cybele showed him the ancient sites, the forgotten ruins of the Old Ones.  But as he learned more of the gods, his jealously grew.  Soon, he desired the power of the gods for himself, and tricked his lover to taking him to the Old Ones prison.  There, they whispered their secrets to him, and taught him their ancient power.  When Cybele saw what he had done, she tried to stop him, but he turned on her, and struck her down.  He stormed the Gates of Heaven, seeking to battle the gods.  But the gods were too powerful, and Moloch defeated the upstart and cast him back to the world.

Atlantes had become too powerful, though, and he survived the fall.  He hid deep in the ancient places, and studied ever more.  He took on students and disciples, who spread his teaching throughout the Elven Empire.  More and more elves took up the study of Atlantes magic, and turned their powers against their Dwarven enemies.  As they became more powerful, they became more arrogant, and callous with their magics.  Eventually, they unleashed power they could not understand, and devastated the world—their foes had been defeated, but the very world was broken.  The Dwarves were shattered and scarred, and the Elves, though exhausted from the war, arrogantly proclaimed themselves masters.  The gods, terrified and ashamed, turned from the world. 

But as time went on, the lesser gods clamored ever more loudly for the destruction of the world, but Adonai and the Three Goddesses would not countenance the destruction of those who had helped them defeat the Old Ones.  Eventually, Baal came up with a solution—the gods would neither help nor harm the Elves, but if the Elves were to unleash their own destruction, the gods would not intervene. 

Disguising himself as an Elven navigator, Baal claimed to be the sole survivor of a crashed ship that was exploring the furthest reaches of the stars.  He planted clues and tricks, and the Elves followed his trail, ignoring the warnings of Sol and Silvan.  They found a realm populated by ferocious beasts, vast and powerful, like the Old Ones.  They had found the Dragons.

These great beasts destroyed most of the Elven explorers, but allowed one ship to escape.  They followed this ship across the void, until they came upon the world.  A vast and epic war broke out between the Elves and the Dragons, while the gods watched from the heavens. Using their stolen magics, the Elves were able to finally defeat their foes, as they had so many before.  But their empire was exhausted, the eldest and most powerful of them were dead, and their fortresses and fleets had been ruined.  The gods, realizing that not even the Dragons could bring the Elves back to them, turned their attention to humans.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mythology, Part 3

I think I’m pretty much done with the gods.  Sure, there are a bunch more deities I could detail, and it would certainly be fun.  But I honestly don’t want to get bogged down into too many details at this point, and I’d like to leave the rest of the Pantheon relatively undefined so I can approach them as needed in the game.  I might even work with a player if they want to play a cleric to come up with their particular cult.

But, there’s still two more things to do—Cosmology and Myths.  Cosmology is the physical layout of the solar system, while Mythology is the tales of the gods.  I’m not entirely sure how important Mythology is, at least as a bedrock of world creation.  Generally I like to work in the myths of the gods based on the adventures I’m working on, and I love having them be mutually contradictory.  I have a general idea for a gods war and creation, but I doubt that’s ever going to come up.  In fact, I’m going to skip this part—not because mythology and sagas aren’t important, but because I feel the players will only care if the tales are directly related to the events in the game.  Since I have “meddlesome” gods, I’ll try to work them into each adventure as much as possible.


Not that each adventure a different god with show up, but use that they were and are meddlesome to explain magic items, creation of temples, particularly grisly deaths, etc.  The myths and tales of the gods are worked into the very landscape, and each location has their own particular take on things.  Also, I’ve often felt that the cult of the god is more important than the general stories and tales about them.


But, I still need to work out the actual physics of the system.  There is, of course, a chart in the World Builder’s Guidebook but I can only follow it so far.  I am, after all, dealing with a flat world here.  So, “real physics” are right out, and instead decide to go with an Aethereal Sea/Spelljammer like space.  Only, instead of the typical Spelljammer setup of crystal spheres, there are instead hundreds (perhaps an infinite number) of these planetary planes, spreading out in all directions.  The gods themselves reside on nearby planes (most of which are much smaller than the worlds).  If one were able to fly, it is possible for one to go to the domain of the gods, or to visit entirely different worlds.
Of course, one would still need a vessel of some sort, or extremely powerful magics.  The void, while transversable, is not kind to mortals.


I am rather interested in how many planets and moons were dealing with, though.  I imagine that the world is a fragment of a once massive plane, which contained all of creation.  During the gods war, this plane was shattered, and drifted off into the void.  The moons and planets are smaller fragments of that original world, and the nearest bodies in the Aethereal Sea.


Rolling on some tables in the WBG, I get 7 planets and 1 moon.  Next, I roll to see what kind of planet or moon they are--Fire, Earth, Water, Air, or Other.  Each of these determines what the general theme of the planet would be--an Air planet would be a Gas Giant, for example, while a Fire one would be covered in Lava.  For the planets, II get Air, Earth, Fire, Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.  For the Moon, I get “Other.”


I’m not sure what this means for the moon.  All it tells me is that the Moon is NOT anything resembling a real sphere--its a giant tree, or the body of a dead god, or an ancient weapon system (“that’s no moon....”).  I do have a Goddess of the Moon (Celene), so the moon could actually be her, physically.  But, that seems rather boring.  For now, I’ll say the Moon is the remains of an ancient space station which has been turned into a prison for the Old Ones, and guarded over by the gods.  Various mad cultists and power hungry mages seek to reach the moon somehow, to either release these foul beings or tap into their ineffable power.  


So, yes, it is entirely possible for Conan to fight Cthulhu on the Death Star.


And with that, we wrap up Mythology.  Next up--HISTORY!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mythology, Part 2


I’ve been doing a bit of work on the gods.  First and foremost, these deities need names.  One of my weaknesses as a GM is coming with cool and interesting names.  I also rather despise typical fantasy names, with all the weird apostrophes that end up looking like unpronounceable gibberish.  So, I steal.
Between Google and Wikipedia, I’m able to find the names of various gods from Greek, Semitic, Etruscan, and Canaanite sources.  Some sync up pretty well (I choose Adoni for my Fertility/Death God.  It’s derived from Adonis who was a dying plant god, and also means “Lord” in Canaanite), others I just grabbed because they sounded cool—I mean, come on, “Moloch” is just a bad ass name. 

Type
#
Portfolios
Name
Gender
Great-Power
3
Fertility, Mischief, Death
Adoni
Male
Great-Power
1
Competition
Calane
Female
Great-Power
1
Moon
Celene
Female
Great-Power
2
Magic, Agriculture
Cybele
Female
Intermediate
3
War, Fire, Mischief
Moloch
Male
Intermediate
2
Marriage, Prosperity
Vesta
Female
Intermediate
1
Animals
Valic
Male
Intermediate
3
Earth, Prophecy, Arts
Teleus
Female
Intermediate
1
Time
Aion
Male/ Female
Intermediate
3
Agriculture, Weather, Oceans
Dagon
Male
Lesser
1
Strength
Cratus
Male
Lesser
1
Fate
Atropos
Female
Lesser
2
Seasons, Nature
Varro
Male
Lesser
1
Prosperity
Aita
Female
Lesser
2
Death, Sky
Baal
Male
Lesser
2
Sun, Peace
Sol Invictus
Male
Lesser
1
Messengers
Lotan
Male
Lesser
1
Children
Aminth
Female
Lesser
2
Animals, Mischief
Silvan
Male
Lesser
1
Love
Astarte
Female
Demi-God
1
Rulership
Dardin
Male

Thanks to my well-developed case of apophenia, I start seeing some interesting patterns and themes among the gods, but I certainly don’t want to start detailing all of them.  Instead, I want to focus on the “Big Four” of my setting, the “Great Powers.”

Per the chart above, my found gods are Adoni—Fertility, Mischief & Death, Calane—Competition, Celene—Moon, and Cybele—Magic & Agriculture.  When I was coming up with names and genders, my first thought was to make them into two married pairs. But, then idea of a female triad was far more interesting. 
Adoni obviously fits the template of the Dying & Rising god.  The three others are a bit more interesting, but here’s what I’m thinking.  In fact, the most interesting is Calane, a Major God of Competition, which is something I’ve never seen before. 

So, what is competition, and why is it so important in this world? Well, obviously, competition implies struggle which results in winners & losers.  War, conquest, raiding, and the competition between nations and races are obviously under her purview.  But, competition is something more—there are boundaries in a competition, and rules one must follow.  This tells me she’s not the goddess of unbridled all-against-all conflict, but instead the goddess of boundaries and formalized competition. 

As I discussed before, this is a very class and caste based society—you are born a pig farmer, you die a pig farmer.  The only way out of your caste, and acceptance into a new one, is by competition, by earning your place in the new one through a test.  In fact, all of life’s major milestones might be a competition.  One becomes an apprentice and then a journeyman by passing a series of tests.  Major festivities are marked by games and contests—wrestling, boxing, running, etc.  Gambling is a common past time, as people bet on all sorts of thing, not just the winner and loser.  Even things like marriage have a competitive element—the groom and his groomsmen are expected to seize and kidnap the bride to get her to the temple, while she, her bridesmaids and their family seek to avoid them—they fight them off, the bride and her maids all wear the same outfits, etc.  It’s fun, and no one is supposed to get hurt and eventually the groom is supposed to win (the brides brothers and cousins will yell and scream and “fight” the groom for a few minutes before being “driven off”), but it’s how the groom proves himself worthy of her.  In fact, for a lot of young couples the “contest” lasts for weeks before the wedding, as each side tries to find what the other is up to and how to overcome it, while the old folks in the village laugh and place their bets as to who is going to do what, then they all meet at the temple and get falling down drunk.

This also tells me that dueling and trials by combat are a major part of the world.  Sure, trials (as we see them on tv) exist, and are themselves a form of competition, but one of oration.  Those found guilty can be sent on quests or crusades to “redeem” themselves, rather than facing execution.  Even artistic events are competitions—you don’t just see a play, but a week of plays and at the end one of them wins.  Or, maybe there are multiple awards for playwriting, acting, directing, sound effects, etc.  There might even be competitions where people perform the same play, or the same song, or the same poem, and there are judges who rate the best. 

So, if Calane is the goddess of Competition, but also Boundaries and Rules, this helps me figure out the three goddesses.  Cybele is the raw creative force, a mother of nature and creatures, whose offspring and creations overflow the world.  Her association with magic shows how dangerous and unpredictable her creations can be, and hers is a power many mages seek to tap into without performing the proper rituals.  Calane constrains her sister, sets limits on how far things can go, and establishes the rules with which the creations will interact.  Celene exists outside both her sisters, and is the goddess of the void, the black cold space that exists outside the world.  She is death, the one that brings an end to Cybele’s creations.  But she is not entirely cruel, for as she waxes and wanes, she shows the harmony that can come about with stillness, for she is also a protective goddess and one who gives the world a glimpse of immortality.

These three sisters are mirrored by, or actually are, the Fates, of whom Atropos is the most well-known.  
The Fates set out each creature’s life, determines its length, and the end it.  Even the gods are bound by their rule.  Well, all the gods, except Adoni.

Adoni is the one deity that exists outside the structure created by Cybele, Calane, and Celene.  In the Great War against the Old Ones (yes, I’m making room for Cthulhu in my world, naturally), Adoni was slain by his enemies and exiled to hell.  He was not a warrior who killed his way through the dark places, but clever and wise, who out thought and out tricked his enemies, and stole the key to hell from Hastur and threw open the gates, releasing the dead and turning them into his army for the final battle.*As the one who has conquered death, he is beyond the power of any other god, and rules now as the king of heaven.  He is also the most likely to disguise himself as a mortal, to walk around the world, testing mankind, and making time with particularly comely lasses.

*the ancient poems are a little unclear as the whether his happened at the dawn of time, or will happen at the end of days.  It’s rather irrelevant to most people.

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