Saturday, 26 January 2019

Cast of the Crystal Seas: Analicia

Analicia is an elf, but quite dissimilar to those of legend, for she is a member of the Varanesi clan. The Varanesi elves are renowned artisans, merchants and patrons of the arts. They are wealthy and powerful, with a reputation for snobbery and haughtiness. They are also known to employ subterfuge and even violence to protect their interests.

Analicia showed early promise as a carpenter, and given the long lifespans of elves, had plenty of time to refine her craft. In fact, in the century or so that has passed since she was born, she has become obsessed with crafting wood. Under the tutelage of Don Amatus, a senior artisan of the the Varanesi, she has achieved a mastery that is famed throughout the city and beyond. However, she also has other talents.

Another senior Varanesi, Donna Serafina, saw that Analicia would make an excellent… operative. She thought Analicia would be useful in the more clandestine activities of the clan, as she was graceful, agile and intelligent. Analicia was trained to be a spy and a thief, and until she reached adulthood (and could assume the title Donna herself) was obliged to follow this life path.

On reaching her first century, Analicia - now Donna Alicia - was excited to be setting up her own workshop and becoming fully independent… but the senior clan members had other plans. They ordered Analicia to continue her work with Donna Serafina. Analicia was disinterested, and showed them disrespect by disobeying their orders. Nonetheless, her decision was tolerated, and she was free to set up a business of her own, although she was stripped of the honorific Donna and went back to plain old Analicia.

For the first few years, things went very well for her: her craftsmanship was in high demand by many wealthy families in the city of Freeport, and she found many patrons willing to sponsor her artistic pursuits. Tragically,her success was short lived following a devastating arson attack that saw the culmination of her life’s work - her workshop and all its contents - utterly destroyed. Filled with guilt and shame, as well as anger, she returned to the clan leaders for help in rebuilding her business and locating the perpetrators of the crime.

Now, Analicia finds herself in an uncomfortable bind: the clan elders have reluctantly agreed to assist her, but her earlier rejection of them still hurts, and so to save face she must agree to work for Donna Serafina once again… and her first assignment is very odd indeed. Analicia has returned to the life of a rogue, in the employ of the elven Varanesi, and is now sailing on a ship to  a strange southern city, with a dwarven cleric called Horace...

Cast of the Crystal Seas: Horace

Dwarves live a long time, and although they age at a similar rate to humans, they are not considered to be adults until their fiftieth year. Even by these standards Horace - not his real name - was a slow developer. He was naive and a little clumsy, but unusually outgoing, a trait associated amongst the stoic dwarves with vacuousness (“Empty vessels make the most noise” is a common dwarven proverb). The dwarf now known as Horace also loved hearing a good story and this, combined with his inherent superstition, made him a  good fit for the role of temple hand. Assisting the dwarven priests, he eventually came to learn a fair bit about medicine and the treatment of minor ailments. But he constantly wondered what else might be going on in the wider world.

Growing up Horace’s most exciting memories were of the hardy human traders who would make the trek to the dwarven lands during milder weather, exchanging human goods for dwarven craft items. The humans always seemed happy and cheerful next to his own compatriots, especially, he noticed, when they were leaving. Horace thought that humans must therefore come from a most wonderful place, and longed to one day visit.

When Horace reached his 48th year, he was presented with that chance: before being accepted as a mature, adult dwarf, all dwarves are expected to spend two years exploring life outside their settlement. Most only venture to the next fortress, a few take part in “the circuit” and attempt to visit every fortress in the dwarven realms… but Horace knew what he wanted to do: travel to the city of Freeport.

After one year, Horace returned to the dwarven realms utterly disgusted: he had witnessed dwarven artifacts selling for thousands of gold pieces, subsidising the lavish lifestyles of wealthy merchants. But his disgust was with his own countryfolk for being so naive, not with the human merchants, whom instead he decided to emulate. For the remaining year prior to obtaining adulthood, the dwarf now known as Horace travelled the dwarven realms, disguised as an elderly priest, exchanging worthless knick-knacks he said had magickal healing properties for valuable dwarven craft items, which he then sold in Freeport. Thus he was able to maintain a lavish lifestyle in the city at the expense of his own people’s credulity.

But in spite of himself, Horace had fallen for a young dwarf-maid named Tatiana, and knowing that he would be unable to seduce in his guise as an elderly priest, attempted to woo her as himself. However, he embellished a few facts here and there about his age and social standing, and with his powers of persuasion won the family around and were engaged to be married. He decided to travel back home to secure his family’s favour, besides which his two year sojourn almost up. But trouble soon caught up with him.

Tales of Horace the fraudulent priest had soon become widespread, once it became apparent his “remedies” were useless as well as worthless. The Dwarven Church stated that they had never even ordained a Priest called Horace, but tales were already circulating of a much younger dwarf by a similar name living it up in the human city of Freeport. Our hero might have got away with it, too, were it not for one intrepid human trader who had ventured far into dwarven territories in search of his “friend”. He attempted to bluff his way out of it, but in the end his ruse was uncovered: the dwarf we now know as Horace was outed as a fraud, a charlatan.

The case was unprecedented, and whilst the dwarven elders debated what to do, Horace was incarcerated in a cell high above the community, open to the elements. Here he grew bitter and resentful. Two years passed before he was summoned from his oubliette to appear before the council, and when the sentence was passed that he was to be stripped of his name and banished from the lands, he cheered out loud, such was his resentment of his own people.

Dwarven guards were summoned to escort him to the border, but along the way he was granted one chance to say goodbye to his family. AShamed, in spite of his indignance, he decided not to face them, instead requesting that he be permitted just to pass by the home of his once betrothed, Tatiana, from whom he had not heard anything since his arrest. Peeking in through the windows of her family home, Horace espied the young maid looking old beyond her years, playing with a baby dwarf: his baby dwarf. He cried to be allowed inside,but the guards dragged him away.

Only then did the true horror of his crimes hit him: not only had he destroyed his own life, but he had brought shame on his once wife, and was now so dishonoured that he was incapable of redeeming her or his child… he wept real tears when the guards cut off his beard, and commanded that he never again set foot in dwarven lands.

So Horace followed the path that had been set for him before, and seeking to redeem himself, became a cleric. The Holy Order of the Knights of the Diamond Sigil took him in, on the condition that henceforth he live only for others, and if requested for aid, he provide. When the Old College and the clan of the Varanesi were looking for assistance, they turned to The Order,and the Order sent them Horace.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

A WHOLE NEW WORLD... back in the sandbox

And we're back...

...and this time we have a new sandbox to play in, and some people with whom to play! The Fells was never fully realised, instead I've started afresh with this very close approximation of the Nile Delta, the Indigo River region.

The world was developed originally as a backdrop for an ongoing project of mine (a kind of sorcerer's apprentice meets Persephone and Pluto RPG maker MV project called "Changeling Bride") and was a little "thin", so with the help of Bat in the Attic's great sandbox creation guide, I managed to throw something together in about a week.

The setting has been adapted specifically for D&D 5th edition, but was originally intended as a low-magic, low monster frequency environment, although that has been adjusted slightly. Since this is now a live campaign, I shall not disclose any more. However, if you are keen, here's a graphic of the quabalistic cosmology I'm attempting to cobble together to cover the structure of the entire multiverse within which it is situated!