The World After: Mother of Elves

If elves are the children of disorder and even their creative side is born of chaos one wonders about their history. One unique aspect of elves in Tolkien (and many of his imitators) is that they alone can breed with humans. This suggests some common heritage in the later works (The Similrillon covers the bases for Tolkien).

In The World After elves are the children of creative chaos, specifically the children of Lilith and Adam while humans are the children of Eve and Adam. Their disappearance from this world came with the casting out of Lilith in favor of Eve and their return stems from her ability to return when the order of the world was broken by The Harrowing.

Because they are children of disorder and chaos they have no connection to the power of order and thus are restricted from clerical magic. However, their direct decent from creative chaos give them inherent magical abilities. At the same time that connection skews their magic towards the creative side and thus presents them more limited destructive abilities than human mages while giving them slightly more creative options.

Artistic Inspiration: Nemo/The Cave

In searching for an inspiration to post about today I was amazed I haven’t posted this music video yet.

In the player handout first campaign in the World After I said:

A random selection of inspirations for the game: The novels Black Easter and The Day After Judgement> by James Blish (a few years ago available as The Devil’s Day in a single volume). The Nightwish album Once and the Within Temptation album Mother Earth. Memories of many Tunnels and Trolls sessions in the early 80s. Three on-going urban fantasy book series one of which is Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty novels and the others would be telling. Ken Hite’s GURPS Cabal and many columns from Supressed Transmission. The movies Heavy Metal and The Warriors of the Apocalypse (oh, and a tiny touch of Night of the Comet…well, not really but if you’re renting bad movies to get ready for the game it’s a classic). The various Horseclans books. The full range of D&D (not AD&D, which 3rd and 4th edition continue without the A), Judges Guild, Arduin Grimoire, and modern simulacrum games designed to fit the 80s vibe. Dragonfoot.org, The World of Thool (and it’s predecessor Wilderlands of OD&D), Grognardia, Lair of the Flame Princes, Monsters & Manuals, Philotomy’s OD&D Musings, The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope, and RPG.net.

While some of those have fallen by the side others have remained constant. The Blish books have clearly remained as does one of the urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. Ken Hite’s work is seminal in making my interests gel and are included. Most of the others have not.

However, this video is very specifically what I was referring to about Nightwish. This isn’t the official video but includes scenes from the movie The Cave. I’ve never seen the movie but the video influenced my initial ideas for a mega-dungeon. I later abandoned them but they have come back full bore for Santuario Nero. The idea of a hidden complex with monsters sealed over by an abandoned monastery fits the World After very well.

Monday Pointers: October 18, 2010 Edition

D4:It Was Only Due to My Years of Drinking I Defeated My Foe
A while back I got thinking on the one problem with 1GP = 1XP in my mind: it means by level 3 or 4 money is meaningless to adventurers. This track neither medieval history or Conan in most of his stories so needs work. The traditional answer is training but I’m not big on that alone. There is also the ever popular carousing rules. Hill Cantons introduces something I might play with: variable ratios depending on usage. While his chart isn’t all I’d do it gives me some ideas.

D6:Plus, It’s Technically Regency
Meanwhile, the Greyhawk Grognard has been watching a lot of Hammer Horror and concludes the 1830s are an untapped period for RPGs, specifically in Eastern Europe. Combined with my recent decision to move The World After to Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying this really struck me. LotFPWFR has a more 18th-early 19th century feel than D&D. I think moving the culture of my setting from bog standard pseudo-medieval with lots of renaissance ideas added to a Regency era feel has a lot of potential.

D8:Tales from the Dusty Vault
I just found this blog of OSR reviews. Very worth reading.

D10:Stupid DM Tricks
Zak gives us an aftermath report on an adventure based on every random idea we could post.

Inspirational Art: The Harrowing of Hell

About five weeks late the next round of inspirational items for the World After and the one that drew a content warning.

As I have pointed out in the past, the changes between The World Before and The World After are inspired by the novels Black Easter and The Day After Judgment by James Blish (available in a omnibus called The Devil’s Day). The books use a good deal of medieval imagery and seem to draw heavily on both Dante and Milton (especially the second).

The final chapter of the second book is called “The Harrowing of Heaven” as a parallel to The Harrowing of Hell. The Apostles’ Creed mentions Christ’s decent into Hell for the three days prior to the resurrection. Depending on the source (religious or literary) this may have released souls dead before Christ, but the interesting part to me is from Dante. In The Inferno Virgil tells Dante of the Harrowing and shows him damage to the structures of Hell, specifically the destruction of the bridges that connect that span the ditches where the sinful are punished in the Eighth Circle of Hell.

It is from these two sources I drew my inspiration for The Harrowing or more properly The Harrowing of Creation. One of the simplest but to me very interesting thing is the destruction of bridges: literal in Dante and metaphorically in Blish. One has a harder time traversing Hell or contacting the creator. Now, 23 times 25 years after the Harrowing the world is still assorted city states, vast and very hard to traverse wastes separate people from each other, much that was known was lost, and fewer and fewer people can touch the divine. The Harrowing of Creation seems to have destroyed travel and communication. This includes the communication of knowledge…no one knows where the elves came from and even the Hierarchy, which predates The Harrowing knows few details of it.

The question is how to translate this to my game. The first thing, and easiest, is lack of roads and other structures of travel. The more complex some travel structure, the more creative effort required to built it, the less likely it is to exist and the more vulnerable it is to entropy. Reading and writing have fallen to medieval European levels in most places. Spells of travel and communication are rarer and perhaps of higher level.

Finally, the way around this transport problem is The Demon Ways that connect the parts of the megadungeon. People just need to remember demons aren’t among The Fallen.

Art notes: the two illustrations of The Harrowing of Hell are by Pieter Huys and Jacob Isaacsz. van Swanenburg.

A Far Warning

One product of using The Devil’s Day as the key point in the past of my setting is it assumes the truth of real world Christianity and then, depending on your POV either turns revelation (upper and lowercase ‘r’) on its head or supposes it to be much more complicated than any school of Christian thought I’m familiar with understands. I’ll admit I intentionally changed from the initial direction (and even name) for The Hierarchy because I was troubled by the theological implications for myself (as in, my soul) of the direction it was going (hewing very close to the close of the novel).

I’m pointing this out as my artistic inspiration feature is going in some new directions. One, it’s going beyond visual art into a more general set of inspirations. More to the point, starting today it’s going to take as its inspiration a key idea of Western Christian thought (I’m not sure of its status in the east) and art drawing on it. It is mentioned (in reverse) in the novel and I think it is a huge source of inspiration for what dungeons in the World After/City States of the Apocalypse are like. I also think it might provide imagery for the more unnatural areas of the world.

So, I guess this is my version of the “adult content” warning. I take my faith fairly seriously (one does not move from a major branch of Christianity to another on a whim) and understand why this might not be appropriate fodder for a game. I believe I walk inside the line, but I understand you might believe otherwise.

The Wolrd After: The Hierarchy

The Hierarchy is the sponsor of most clerics. It is the oldest institution of man, being the only one to pre-date The Harrowing of the World. Interestingly, even the most senior members of it know little more than the rest of the world of true nature of The Harrowing.

Dedicated to order and the preservation of that order The Hierarchy embraces only two principles, justice and wraith. The maintenance of civilization is their first and only real goal. As such many members of the The Hierarchy may be cruel or even evil in maintaining order. While the Hierarchy has never endorsed torture, tyranny, or similar practices they have accepted them both from their agents and others as long as civilization is preserved by them. This dedication to order often brings them into conflict with elves, who see themselves as agents of chaos to positive ends.

The Hierarchy takes no official position on the cause or result of The Harrowing but they have been known to be opening to fighting along side Devils against the Demons intent on consuming the world. In fact, the only absolute penalty of death endorsed by the Hierarchy is consorting with Demons.

Finally, just because The Hierarchy is a large, structured organization that does not believe it is uniform in its believes or even teachings. While all Hierarchs have absolute rule over clerics in their district (generally a single city) the office of Principal Hierarch has gone empty since the days of The Harrowing. The Principal Hierarch of the time was killed in The Harrowing and although a successor was proclaimed a few days later in Quavveniec he disappeared within a handful of days himself. The reason no successor has been named to this day is a cause of much speculation among the laity and minor clerics.

Many Members of the Hierarchy (Roll a d20 three times)
1 Endorse physical punishment for crime (flogging, stocks, etc)
2 Study a formal school of painting, music, or sculpture
3 Use a handled baton as both their primary weapon and staff of office.
4 Are trained in dispersing mobs
5 Can practice law in many City States
6 Play rugby
7 Believe that spreading team sports encourages order
8 Have training in some form of traditional medicine (herbalism, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, etc)
9 Are celibate
10 Will walk everywhere unless the speed is riding is absolutely necessary
11 Eat dates or lamb whenever they can
12 Have spent time as a shepherd
13 Use bronze greaves and bracers
14 Are exceptional mathematicians
15 Invent it
16 Invent it
17 Invent it
18 Invent it
19 Invent it
20 Invent it

Some Members of the Hierarchy (Roll a d16)
1 Have the means (such as a true name) to summon a minor Devil.
2 Have an irrational fear and hatred of elves.
3 Believe elves are the unholy spawn of Demons and women.
4 Have served as part of the internal guard of a City State in the past
5 Are trained in raising mobs
6 Play cricket
7 Discourage games of chance or individual achievement
8 Wear only black and white
9 Tend to blame witches (those who traffic with Demons) for bad events
10 Wear bronze helmets
11 Believe general poverty helps prevent chaos from spreading.
12 Invent it
13 Invent it
14 Invent it
15 Invent it
16 Invent it

Common Traveling Gear for The Hierarchy (Roll a d16 1d3 times prior to spending starting gold)
1 A combination staff of office/weapon (similar to a modern police nightstick)
2 A copy of “The General Commentary on the Black Law”
3 A token of office from the guard force of a City State
4 A set of prayer beads
5 A book of common prayers
6 Incense and a censer
7 Paper, pens, and ink
8 Personal seal and wax
9 A bronze holy symbol (generally a sun cross or a simplified Celtic Cross)
10 Reading glasses
11 Brushes and pigments
12 Blessed incense and a thurible
13 A shepherd’s crook
14 Invent it
15 Invent it
16 Invent it

Creative Commons License
This work by Herbert Nowell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Random Thoughts…

Last night while helping grout ceramic tile for a friend I came up with some ideas for the a Barony Generation system for Wanderer Book 3. Apparently that mock-up got lots of people back in the day.

I also have figured out a solution to my pathways problem, at least in terms of why the dimension warping nature of Santuario Nero isn’t routinely used over more mundane travel.

Scott’s DVDs look very cool, but I wonder about the legality. Still, following his link there is a lot I’d like to get…beyond the Warren horror one of the Gold Key disks has plenty, although not all, of Magnus, Robot Fighter who was my favorite thing to read at the barber shop as a kid. I bought them when I saw them, which was rarely.

While I’m recruiting for the new City State of the Apocalypse campaign I’m still trying to decide on a rules set, most specifically house rules. I really want to try something very minimal to allow organic growth a la Dwimmermount the urge to play around is hard. One thing I’ve given some thought is semi-3.x saving throws. Instead of building my own chart or importing others to the one type saving throw of S&W I thought of dividing up saving throws by attribute (I already know I’ll be adopting a B/X style bonus for my game). While level will still be the main factor in saving throws this should also create a stronger class flavor: in general fighters will save in tests of strength while magic-users will in test of intellect.

The other thing I’d really like to get into the game are constitution and charisma prime attribute classes. I have no idea on the former and the later easily defaults to bard so it can’t be that. I think the best bet is to go through my source material and find outstandingly hardy and inspiring characters to build the classes from.

As I’ve been filling in the Random List I’ve thought of posting updates. However, that seems a bit much. Is there any interest in a separate page for Appendix N: City States of the Apocalypse?

The World After: A Bit More On Elves

This post is an addition to CSotA: Elves.

The thing most people in the World After (how people in the City States tend to refer to their entire world) ask about elves is where the elves came from.

No one wants to know this more than the elves themselves. All elves appear in the world as adults with no clear memory of life before. The location and time of their appearance seem to be random, at least to date no scholar, elf or human (not even the famed Parkin of the Still Pastures), has found a pattern to their appearance. No elf in the World After has born or fathered a child, despite two clear and obvious genders.

In general elves know three things about elves when they appear in the world. They know they come from the forgotten island of Rutas. They know they can, in fact, have children both among themselves and with humans or at least could in the past. Finally, they know they are the children of creative chaos. The last causes no end of problems with The Hierarchy.

Note on the Cleric posts: For those who saw the autoposted entries on cleric they will appear this week. I didn’t realize how rusty my creativity is, but trying to write Devil’s in the Details charts is tough. They pack an amazing amount of world design into a small space and aren’t easily grooved creativity. The only thing harder for me is dungeon set pieces.

The World After: Races and Classes

Nothing completely definitive…more leaving myself a note, but I figured making the notes public is part of blogging (except for those super secret notes in my notebooks for PCs to discover).

Anyway, planned initial races and classes (no race/class split): fighters, clerics, magic-users, elves (using the old D&D pick every day fighter/m-u class), dwarves, and some kind of “other skills” class. I’m torn on how to do the last. I’m waiting to see how the specialist works. I remember someone (maybe Rob at Bat in the Attic) had a similar class. Or I may run with a talents and SR class of my own design.

The World After: If strict time records are not kept

you cannot have a meaningful campaign.

Yes, I reversed the clauses because the conditional makes a better post title.

While The Harrowing post may obscure this, this campaign is set in a version of our world (made slightly less explicit both for meta-game and personal religious reasons). As such the calendar is made easier on me in that I’ll use the basic Gregorian one.

In order to add a bit of atmosphere and account for the campaign’s starting location, however, I won’t be using the normal English names for the days of the week or months of the year. Instead, I’ll be using Italian ones.

The start date will be Lunedì, Aprile 16. I know the AD year is 23*25 years past The Harrowing, but the campaign year I’ll figure out when I need to.