Prophet and Loss: Session One

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Delivery From Evil

Part One
20 October 2010

Starring: Adrian (Hector III), INdran (Ariel), Marc (Eradina Darkwood), Neil (Durral)


Zephday, 17 Gentle Days 205 LE

The Immartis Penitentiary was not built as a prison. An old Hadradan fortress, wider than it is tall, time has taken toll on the cylindrical stone structure. Refitted as a prison in the time of Wayfarer Gorneesh, very few of the rooms are habitable and fewer are suitable for use as cells. It’s a cold, drafty and generally depressing sort of place – not least because of its cruel juxtaposition to the tropical beauty of Daukoth and the Sasheenie beyond.

The warden of Immartis is an ageing Larethi elf called Gallimedes. A fixture of Daukoth through the last eleven Wayfarers, Gallimedes is a model bureaucratic who has used the long-life span of the elves as a means to master the shuffling and filing of paper in a way that a mere human could never hope to match. He takes his responsibility for the seventeen in-mates of Immartis very seriously, and sees assiduously to all their needs except, of course, their liberty.

At dawn on this day, as the full moon of Zephyre quits the sky in favour of the Hadradan sun, the elf collects four of his prisoners for a special meeting. They have each been in Immartis for the best part of three months. Hector III is a heavily mustachioed wizard of small skill; loquacious and happy to be out of his cell, he is delighted to partake in what he considers to be engaging banter with his female companions. The pint-sized Eradina Darkwood does her best to ignore him. The half-elven beauty has had no trouble in concealing her knightly calling: such higher ideals seem entirely at odds with her  violent and generally psychotic demeanour. She joins the elven druidess Ariel in berrating and mocking Gallimedes: neither having any respect for their gaoler. In turn, Gallimedes ignores the pair – he has little affection for Ariel after her pet crocodile ran amok in the village and almost ate his daughter.

The fourth prisoner is another half-elf, called Durral. Rather than being put-out by his incarceration he seems politely curious at this turn of events, and wonders openly where they are being taken, and who they are going to meet. Gallimedes replies that the Wayfarer asked to see each of the four by name, although the warden does not know why. “The whims of the Wayfarer are not for me to understand,” the elf says with masterful finality. Durral nods as if this all the explanation he requires.

The group is led into a fortified circular room in the centre of the prison. Eradina stares at the white stone walls. There is no easy escape from here. The windows are small, high and barred. The far door is closed and locked. In the middle of the room is a large table with four chairs on one side and one on the other. Before Gallimedes can bid the party to sit Durral has already vaulted over the back of one of the chairs and made himself comfortable, putting his feet up on the table and appearing for all the world as if he’d prefer to be nowhere else. Gallimedes looks a little put out.

“Please be seated,” he says tersely, “Wayfarer Thotik will be with you shortly.”

As if on cue, the door in the far side of the chamber opens Wayfarer Thotik enters. He is a half-orc of middle years, who has managed to retain the vigour and energy of his youth. Handsome is a not a word that is often used to describe half-orcs, but it applies here. He is dressed every inch the privateer (or pirate, thinks Eradina), bedecked in all manner of glittering jewelery, his elegant red doublet is open revealing an expensive silk shirt beneath, and the elaborate hat of his head has a colourful keopys feather in it. Removing the hat, he suavely tosses it onto an iron peg in the far wall before dropping into the seat opposite the party. Rearranging the ostentatious hilt of the sabre he wears at his waist he puts his foppish boots on the table and smiles broadly at the party.

Eradina meets this smile with a scowl. She’s seen his sort before. So has Durral, which is probably why he is smiling back equally broadly. Hector and Ariel seem to be reserving their judgement. At the point when the silence becomes slightly uncomfortable, Thotik nods as if he as decided something. He then dismisses Gallimedes from the room, ignoring the elf’s protestations regarding his master’s safety with a bunch of no-good low-lives. Once they are alone, he speaks.

“I have a proposition for you,” says the Wayfarer in a warm and charming voice. “A little job that I’d like you to do on my behalf. If you agree then you will be freed from gaol: the slate will be wiped clean and you’ll be able go about your lives without looking over your shoulder.”

“And if we refuse?” asks Ariel.

“Back to the cells, to serve out the rest of your stay here. Quite dull. And quite long in some of your cases.”

Durral agrees immediately. This makes Thotik chuckle. Eradina is less keen, and asks the obvious question: why ask them? If he doesn’t want to do this job himself, then obviously the job must be dangerous and he needs someone expendable to do the deed. She wants to know more before agreeing to anything.

Thotik raises his hands in mock supplication. “I need to you deliver something for me. A box. It needs to be taken here in the Village to the far south of Daukoth. On the islet of Ellansensa there is the shell of an old Hadradan watchtower, the interior has been cleared. In the centre of the tower there is a plinth, in the plinth is a groove that will fit the box perfectly. Leave the box there and come back. During your journey do not open the box, and under no circumstances get the box wet.”

“Why? What’s in the box”?

“This is more of an ‘ask no questions’ sort of job. I won’t tell you any more that I have. You either agree or you don’t. It’s up to you.”

“So it is dangerous.”

“Any journey south of the Wall is dangerous. I doubt you’ll face challenges you can’t rise to, as long as you stay together and remember how to run.” Thotik pauses to regard the party. “I came to Immartis because I need a certain degree of deniability in this quest, I choose the four of you because of all the prisoners you least deserve to be here. If you are concerned that this job somehow imperils innocents then I can assure you that quite the opposite is true.”

Hector speaks: “What’s to stop us just making a run for it as soon as we’re out of town?”

Thotik smiles as he shrugs, “Nothing, I suppose. But consider your position. If you agree then abandon the quest you’re still stuck on my island. It’s fifty miles from here to Crimstott, and you don’t have a boat. If you consider the difficulty of evading recapture, stealing a boat and navigating the Dantallus channels for several days… well, it would be less hassle and less dangerous to simply do as you are asked. Don’t you think?”

This argument, and a desire to be free moves the rest of the party to agree. Thotik stands immediately. “Excellent!” he exclaims, clapping his hands to summon Gallimedes. When the elf reappears the Wayfarer says: “These four are now my trusted employees. Have them fed, bathed and give them a change of clothes. Then send them over the mansion.” Nodding good day to the party, the half-orc turns and leaves.

Gallimedes is aghast that the prisoners are being released early. Ignoring their jibes he sets about fulfilling his masters wishes. After a hot bath, a good meal and a change of clothes the group’s belongings (such as a they are) are returned to them. Among the belongings is Ratty, Hector’s dastardly familiar. Hector is horrified by at the state of the rat, who has at least doubled in weight in the last three months. “My grand-daughter, Olivia, has been looking after him,” Gallimedes explains by way of explanation as the rat wheezes to its feet and staggers over to his master. Hector uses his mental bond to reassure himself that Ratty has not been mistreated, only to discover the rat is extremely put out to be reunited with his Hector. The wizard gets images of warm nights sleeping in a comfortable doll’s house, being fed honey and having high tea at a little kitchen table with other dolls. It is a life of ease that Ratty had got used to, and he is somewhat bitter about leaving it.

As the party leave the caverous Immartis and blink out into the bright Sasheenie sun, they are met by a singular individual who introduces herself as Ankheru. She stands about six feet in height, but her body is extremely slight and rust red in colour. She has no body hair at all, and her eyes are ivory-white with a barely discernible pupil. Her hands and feet are bare, the digits elongated and webbed. At her side, Ankheru carries two viciously curved blades, and she gives the air of someone who knows how to use them with frightening efficiency.

Ankheru explains that she serves Thotik, and has been charged with taking the party to see him. They begin the short walk from the penitentiary, and are soon in the Village. It is mid-morning by now and the bustle of the day has begun. The jungle here has been long cleared, and party walk among the tall wooden houses (many on stilts) that surround the large stone cairn to Domordis that rises from the centre. The Wayfarer’s mansion dominates the town, a whitewashed wooden home on three floors made more charming by its uneven windows and steep roof.

At questions from the party, Ankheru explains a little more about Thotik. She says that despite his foibles he cares deeply about the people under his charge. She owes him a debt that she can never properly repay. Before he came to Daukoth he was a great captain and privateer who made his fortune from the sea (from piracy, thinks Eradina). That changed seven seasons ago when Thotik came to this island. He won Daukoth in a game of cards from the last Wayfarer, Criplin; then banished the one-eyed dwarf and took over in his place. The most trusted members of the crew from his lost ship, The Dragoon, became members of the Council of Captains and help to run the island.

The more perceptive members of the group notice that throughout this speech Ankheru keeps her eyes firmly fixed on the mansion ahead. She shies away from looking at the sea, and Hector determines that the water scares her. He asks her where she comes from. Ankheru replies that she does not know the name of her but knows that more of her people live in the north of Lareth, brought here long ago by Hadradan marauders. She is a child of the sand and a daughter of the desert.

While this talk continues, Durral notices that they are being followed. He thinks it is a kobold, but he has never seen one bright red before. He mentions this to his companions, but they can’t see their pursuer. “You are describing Chubanya,” says Ankheru wearily, “he is an agent of Delmarcus, we should avoid him.” Such a statement requires greater explanation, and while Ankheru explains that Delmarcus is a the only member of the Council of Captains to serve Warfarer Criplin, and how he is always working against Thotik’s interests, Durral slips away to have a word with their pursuer.

Chubanya is surprised when Durral appears as if from nowhere with cheerful “hello” and a handshake. The kobold, moves like a cat, but is obviously possessed of more sense than most of his kind. Durral politely asks why he is following them. At first Chubanya denies that he was doing anything of the kind, but when it becomes clear how bad a liar he is, he comes clean. “Captain Delmarcus is concerned that the Wayfarer may be up to something,” he says, “something that might harm Daukoth.” He smiles a toothsomely.

“Why does he think this?”

Chubanya shrugs and tries to smile (fairly hard for a lizard). “Your guess is as good as mine. You and I we are alike, no? Following the orders, never seeing the whole picture. I mean you no harm, of this I assure.”

Durral manages to catch up with the others at the steps of the Wayfarer’s Mansion. Ankheru ushers them inside. They wait for a moment outside a plush study as Thotik finishes his conversation with an ancient no-legged and one-armed dwarf who sits defiantly in an ostentatious bath-chair in the centre of the room. A comely human nurse stands behind him.

“… I will say no more on the matter,” says the dwarf in a voice that is filled with deliberate portent – Thotik rolls his eyes in a manner suggests he doesn’t believe this to be true – “Except this!” the dwarf continues, “We are all the creatures of the sea, Orianna more than most. We all hear the call. You hear it too. Mark my words!” he then fondly pats the hand of his nurse, “Come on Aleisha, elevenses.”

Aleisha wheels the aged dwarf from the room, Ankheru instinctively steps back to avoid his wandering hands.

“Ah, there you are!” exclaims Thotik, sitting at his desk. Durral immediately notices the open bag of gold on the table, as if it was put there deliberately to tempt him. “Don’t mind old Chindik, the shark took his mind when it took his legs.”

“And his hand?”

“Lost in a game of chance with a sea witch… or at least that’s the way he tells it.”

Ankheru makes a quick report of Chubanya, but Thotik seems unconcerned. He is keen to get the matter started, and gestures to a large metal box in the corner of the room. The box is about four feet long, two feet deep and three feet high. It looks as though it weighs a ton. There are no carts available from Daukoth, and Thotik’s instructions expressly forbid taking it anyway by boat. There might be some wading involved in getting to Ellensansa, but they must keep the box out of the water. However, he does give the party a small box that contains a collection of healing potions, and promises to give them each 50 coin (by which he means gold pieces) on their return.

Eradina is anxious to get on the way immediately, and is amused to see Hector and Durral struggling with the box. Ushering them aside she picks it up and puts it on her shoulder with ease. However, they do need to find something water-proof to cover it in. Bidding farewell to the Wayfarer and Ankhueru they head back into town. As soon as they are out of earshot they all immediately agree that they should open the box and see what is inside it, however, they should wait until they are a goodly distance from the Village before they do so.

After a brief shopping trip to buy a tarpaulin to wrap the box in, the party leaves the Village and heads down towards the coast. Ariel is increasingly concerned that her crocodile companion, Rippersnapper, has not returned. She hopes that he hasn’t gone native like Ratty. The oily Hector doesn’t like this notion, and is slightly ashamed of his porky familiar, deliberately stopping the rat from raiding a keopys nest that they pass. His snark-laden comments, particularly directed toward Eradina, cause a certain degree of tension that Durral suspects is likely to explode violently.

Forunately, the beauty of their surroundings help to mollify the mood. The party pass down a the rough track that leads to the lagoon, where dug-out canoes are perched on the sand and the sounds of a hobbit’s snoring can be heard emanating from a reed hut. In the distance a troupe of monkeys are risking salt-water predators to make the short swim to a rocky island to raid it for bird eggs. The sky is blue, the sun hot and the sand golden… but these tranquil surrounds belie a dangers.

As the group puts some distance between themselves and the village, and heads south down the sandy beach, they come across the remains of a sea turtle in the surf. The shell is at least ten feet in diameter and has been cleanly bitten in two by some vast marine predator. On a far-off spit of land they see a crab the size of a shire horse searching for food amongst the dunes. They give it a wide berth.

By dusk they have reached The Wall: a confusion of rocks and caves that effectively mark the end of the civilised and relatively safe north of Daukoth, and the generally less agreeable south of the island. Beyond the wall the island narrows and fragments into a series of tiny islets and spits; the tropical jungle of the north turns into dangerous mangrove swamps where any path takes the party all too close to whatever bit that turtle in half. Not a place to traverse at night.

As they break for camp, verbal hostilities between Hector and Eradina recommence. Having had enough of the poisonous paladin’s rhetoric Hector decides to cast a charm spell upon her, believing it would be an amusing jape for his memoirs. The sight of Durral waving his hands and mouthing NO, or Ariel diving for cover does not dissuade him. The spell is cast and promptly fails. One second later Eradina flies into a homicidal rage. She quickly stabs Hector with her enormous sword and looks to be moving in for the kill when fate intervenes.

A sticky strand of something appears from nowhere and jerks Ariel off into the darkness. Another strand just misses Durral, then a third grabs Eradina. Hector knows what they are dealing with. There must be cave fishers at the top of the wall in the darkness – he tells Durral they are cross between crabs and spiders and feed by shooting out their barbed tongues. He suspects it is too late to save Eradina and starts to pack his bags.

However, nothing is ever quite that simple. Battle is soon joined, but the party find themselves particularly hard-pressed against two of the beasties. Both Durral and Ariel nearly meet their end in the ensuing conflict, but thanks to Eradina’s sword and Hector’s animated quarterstaff they just manage to win the day.

Her anger spent in the conflict, Eradina is happy to ignore Hector instead of kill him. The wounded party press through the narrow canyons of the Wall before finding a save place to camp on its southerly side. There they use some of the potions Thotik gave them, and settle in for the night making a resolution that tomorrow they will open the box. Hector determines that, once this adventure is over, he will never get within a hundred miles of Eradina again.

Caladay, 18 Gentle Days 205 LE

The party awake early the following morning to a worrying site. The box, that sat in the middle of the camp all evening, has been moved and the tarpaulin has been removed from it. It had not been opened, nor had it been stolen but some creature came into the middle of the camp and rifled through it without waking any of them. Looking around for tracks, Durral sees foot-prints in the sand that could only belong to a kobold. He suspects Chubanya, but why would the creature have followed them all the way out here?

NEXT TIME
The box is opened!


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Pathfinder House Rule Summary

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It’s taken be a little long to put everything together, but please see below for a PDF compilation of all the Pathfinder house rules that we’ve been discussign over the last few months. This is the version I aim to print out and bring to the gaming table. It’s the first time that all the house rules have been together in one place, and it’s quite exciting to see it finished.

Current version: 1.2

Version History:

  • 1.1 (24/01/2013): original upload
  • 1.2 (06/03/2013): lists of domain spells updated to include material from Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic.

To reiterate: the purpose of this exercise was remove as many house rules from the game as we could. The document is still 98 pages long but the bulk of that is specific material for the Iourn setting like gods and spell lists. There’s actually very few house rules in there, and I’m quite proud of that.

So please have a look through and tell me what you think. There have been a few small changes from the posts I’ve added to the blog. The changes to the way divine spellcasters gain new spells meant that druids, rangers and paladins needed a mention as well as clerics. The changes to the cleric domains also affected druids with domains. There are some more druid archetypes. I’ve decided to stick with the rules-as-written when it comes to teleportation spells, and the house-rules around summoning spells have been cut to a bare minimum.

The document also refers to something called the “Conversion Catalogue” which will be my next project. I intend to start converting old third edition material into Pathfinder. That won’t kick off until later in the year, after the Spell Filter is updated to my satisfaction.


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Gazetteer of Lareth

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There are said to be thousands of islands in the Lareth archipelago: too many for a human to visit in one lifetime. Each has its own unique stories, history and customs. Here are but a handful of particular significance to the campaign, along with some other interesting sights of Lareth that are worth drawing you attention to.

Cinderfels

Many of the islands in Lareth owe their existence to volcanic activity. The same force that makes the islands so lush and fertile, is also the force that is preparing to wipe them off the map at a moment’s notice. Many ascribe tectonic activity and the eruption of volcanoes to be the work on Domordis and his clergy. The Sixfold Faith think otherwise. They can imagine no greater example of Calafax’s power than the might and majesty of a volcano.

The Cinderfels is not one volcano, but a series of eighteen volcanoes that trace a north-south line over fifty miles of open ocean. All are active to one degree or another, and are happily oozing lava out of various orifices into the Sasheenie. Various cults of Redcloaks have built temples on the islands, relying on their own immunity to fire to protect them from the environment. This tactic meets with only mixed success.

Few beings who are not Redcloaks can stand to be on any of the Cinderfels for very long. The heat is extremely intense. However, the Cinderfels is the centre of Calafax worship in Lareth, and a good place to go to seek audience with the oddly approachable clergy. In a world of water, the uses for fire seem few, but it is only the foolish that ignore the power of Calafax.

The nominal leader of the Red Cloak is a dwarf called Magarrus Magenti, who refers to Calafax as “the fire behind the forge”. An ex-priest of Moradin, Magenti sees no contradiction between the religious teachings of the ancient dwarves and the Sixfold Faith. Calafax evidently sees no contradiction either, as he has blessed the dwarf with surprising powers even by the standards of the Redcloaks. Magenti is said to have tamed a flock of phoenixes that dwell in the volcano.

Crimmstot

The most populous of the southerly islands, Crimmstot is large by the standards of Lareth. At almost fifty miles across, it is the home to more than 100,000 people and large enough to support three main ports: Vidala, Sunset Ridge and Timbala. Each of these ports has its own governor, and the three of them purport to work together for the good of Crimmstot.

In practice, the Scriverners Three (to use the common parlance) tend to pull in different directions, leading to strife and trouble in Crimmstot. Each port competes with one another to attract trade and coin: sometimes this means by offering lower taxes, more services and making themselves more attractive; but more often it means nobbling the competition by blockading other ports, spreading rumours or introducing dangerous diseases.

The inhabitants of the three ports are highly militant and proud of their own town. They welcome foreigners but they don’t like people from elsewhere on Crimmstot. There have been a number of alarming battles and skirmishes over the years, but as no port has sufficient manpower or resources to have a standing army of any great size, these have all come to nothing.

The reason why people put up with the strife on Crimmstot is because it is the last safe harbour for ships embarking on the final journey to the Fabled South. Crimmstot has become an endless source of legends and stories (most of them untrue) about what lies in the seas to the south of Lareth. Stories of the Hadradan Hell are still popular, while others speak of a massive ethereal continent called V’Qarin’s Land, that only appears to travellers at particular times of the year.

Crimmstot has become one of the most urbanised of the Larethi islands. The three ports have encroached far inland with little reason or planning. It is an urban sprawl of rickety housing and farmland. Much of the tropical rain forest has been felled to provide wood and grazing land for cattle and goats. All that is really left is the Barrier Forest – thin strips of jungle designed to mark the boundary between where one port’s dominion ends and another begins.

Dantallus Channels

The Sasheenie is a shallow sea – sometimes very shallow. There are places (even far from land) where the ocean is not deep enough to permit the passage of a heavily laden vessel. Therefore, many safe routes have been mapped out between the islands – deep water channels where ships can navigate safely.

These channels were mapped out by the Hadradan, Dantallus, many centuries ago and the name stuck. These Dantallus Channels provide an easy road between all of the larger (and many of the minor islands). Of course, their presence is a double-edged sword as there are plenty of pirates who also know of the presence of these channels, and who can therefore lie in wait for those heavily laden trade vessels.

Of course, not all the potential Dantallus Channels have been mapped, and there are plenty of islands beyond the reach of the channels. Those who go off the beaten track, away from the charted channels are in danger of running aground.

Daukoth

Daukoth is a autonomous community of about two thousand souls to the far south of the Lareth archipelago. It is unusually isolated from its fellow islands, the nearest being Crimmstot roughly fifty miles to the east. The bountiful waters around Daukoth allow the community to survive without the need for trade, although many flat-bottomed vessels and dug-outs still ply the trade lanes around the island. Given the colony’s isolation, the government of Daukoth is unusually autocratic; led by Wayfarer Thotik and the council of captains. Thotik is a middle-aged half-orc renowned for his military acumen and romantic conquests.

Daukoth is about fifteen miles in length and two in width. A massive coral reef makes up an impressively beautiful natural lagoon, although it isn’t deep enough for ocean going ships to get very close to the shore. To the north of the island are a collection of moderately sized hills called the Garden Peaks. Most of the island is covered in tropical forest of either palm trees or mangroves, except for an area of about eight square miles on the leeward side of the Garden Peaks that has been flattened and given over to agriculture. The staple food grown here is rice and other pulses. This makes up the main part of the diet of the islanders, along with fruit and fish.

Fresh water comes from the Rose Bowl. A small fresh water lake that has formed at the top of the garden peaks. Dozens of small streams take the overflow from the Rose Bowl down to the sea.

Of the two thousand inhabitants of the island, half live in the Old Village. This is located on the lower slopes of the Garden Peaks, very close to the agricultural area. It is surrounded by a wooden stockade that is designed to keep out any natural predators from the sea, but wouldn’t stop a determined military attack. Homes in the Old Village (and all around Daukoth) are made of wood, and raised off the ground about two feet to stop the lower part of the buildings rotting, and to provide some protection from flooding.

There are three stone structures in Daukoth, made from elderly black stone that was dug out of the old Seltram Quarry generations ago. The quarry itself has long since ceased its work and is now filled with water overflowing from the Rose Bowl. Unlike the natural lake, drinking water isn’t take from the Quarry, but it is used for washing and swimming. Youngsters like to climb the quarry walls and dive into the fresh water.

The three stone structures are the shrine to Domordis that dominates the middle of the village (a cairn of stones about eighteen feet high), the barns where the harvests are stored, and the Immartis Penitentiary. The penitentiary is a rather grand name for a prison that can hold no more than fifty people (and only twenty-two cells are currently filled). It was once the barracks of an Hadradan garrison stationed on Daukoth, and has been maintained over the centuries to the extent that little of the original stone still remains. The prison is a squat tower of cylindrical design about forty feet high, and fifty feet wide.

Also found in the village is the Wayfarer’s Mansion – a very impressive three story structure, that dwarfs most of the other buildings. The mansion is home to the Wayfarer, but also the place where the council of captains meet. Beyond the Old Village settlements are found all around the island. The largest cluster is in a clearing near the beach, where dug-outs and other flat-bottomed trading vessels make rest.

The economy of Daukoth bears a little explanation. Barter is an important part of the economy on Daukoth, with many islanders preferring to do something in return for goods and services. However, this isn’t always possible and the Council presses a number of ceramic trade tokens colloquially referred to as chips. These chips are imprinted with the seal of the Wayfarer, are about half an inch in diameter and have a hole bored through the middle. Many islanders thread the tokens together and wear them like a necklace.

The tokens are traded for goods and services on Daukoth, but they have no monetary value off the island. Trade outside the island – whether it is the buying of imported goods, or the sale of the island’s wares – is controlled by the Council. Individual islanders might be licensed to leave the island and conduct trade, but all the proceedings of such trade goes back to the council. This is because all trade conducted with outsiders is conducted in Coin.

The habit of metal coinage is still engrained in much of Lareth since Hadradan times, although there are very few foundries in the archipelago for the minting of such items. Indeed metal items of any sort (that aren’t weapons) are fairly scarce. The foundries that do exist are located on the larger islands to the far north, but the coinage still circulates widely.

One Daukoth chip is worth about the equivalent of one silver piece in trade. Traders who sail to other islands and sell goods, or sell goods to visitors, take payment in Coin. This coin is then taken to the Council who exchange it for a like amount of trade tokens. There is a temptation to keep a little Coin back of course, but Coin isn’t accepted in any of the local shops. Even visitors need change their currency before they can use it.

The bulk of Daukoth’s habitable space is located in the north of the island. The further you go south, the narrower the island becomes until the plant life is left behind in favour of long sand spits. A collection of tiny islands (collectively referred to as the Daughters of Daukoth) stretch out about fifteen miles beyond the island’s southern coast. However, they are so close and the seas are so shallow that is fairly easy to wade or swim out to any of them. Taking a canoe is even easier of course.

However, the waters around Daukoth are not to entered lightly. There is an abundance of life in and about the reefs, which attracts an abundance of predators. Fishermen in boats and canoes are usually fairly safe but sharks, mosasaurs and huge predatory whales are fairly common in the area. Other sea monsters, giant crabs and amphibious horrors are commons sites in and around the island.

In contrast, the largest predator on the island is a nasty little bird called the Keopys, which is a flightless runner about 2 feet high. The largest mammal (other than humans) are a single troop of gibbon-like primates who inhabit the southern forest, and (of course) the rat. Snakes are also a danger – and they are almost all capable of swimming wide stretches of open ocean. Salt-water crocodiles of all sizes, bask on the beaches, but they aren’t much of a threat out of the water.

Gunakadeit

A lush tropical island about twenty miles across, and noted for its abundance of fresh water lakes and hot springs – many of which are said to have miraculous healing powers. Gunakadeit (pronounced Goona-ka-DAH-tay in Gobbley) is the home to as civilised a society of goblins as one could hope to meet. Unlike the illiterate tribal goblins that pollute many of the larger islands in the north, the goblins of Gunakadeit have a great respect for knowledge, intelligent discourse and, for coin.

The goblins abide in a large stone ziggurat of rumoured elven construction. They are ruled by God Emperor Xutun Niblixus Mashicata. The term “God Emperor” is mainly for the tourists – as is the insistence that his subjects wear feathers and brandish spears. The goblins have carved quite a niche for themselves in appearing as a primitive tribe, who guard their “holy healing waters”, but are willing to lead the sick, infirm and the gullible to the right springs for the right price.

This is not to say that Mashicata and his followers are con-artists. Many of the springs do indeed have strange powers about them – not all of which are conducive to the health of the bather. To their credit, only the goblins seem to be able to differentiate between the good springs and the potentially deadly ones.

The island is shared by a permanent community of Domordis priests – almost all of them elven – who consider that Gunakadeit is of special significance to their god. It is rumoured that the soul of the god resides here, deep below the ground, and that the priests commune with it on a regular basis. Whether true or not, Gunakadeit has become something of a pilgrimage hot spot for members of the faithful.

Although on cordial terms with the priests, Mashicata is watching them closely – if they’re trying to pull a fast one and muscle in on his good thing… well, the goblins will simply have to take steps.

Mandatum Veritatis

A small rocky island with little in the way of vegetation or indigenous animal life. In centuries past Mandatum Veritatis was the seat of Hadradan power in Lareth. The quarter mile span of the island was covered in a massive citadel dedicated to the Hadradan god, Helian. Here the prefects administered the islands for the Emperor. It was the seat of religious and secular power and sported its own great harbour, as well as barracks for thousands of troops.

After the end of the Hadradan occupation, much of Mandatum Veritatis was destroyed by understandably irate islanders. Over the years it has been a haven for pirates, sea witches and even the headquarters of the Cult of Dagon. That all changed about five hundred seasons ago.

Although the Hadradan Empire is now firmly inward-looking and Timinite, the Vandanian church is far from extinct. With less receptive ears to their message of hate and expansion at home, the Vandanians have found themselves cast to the limits of Hadradan influence. And so it was that a Vandanian mission under the command of Melisada Dalnazid came to Lareth, hoping to retake the Mandatum Veritatis in the name of her god.

Ironically, Melisada’s mission was welcomed by the inhabitants of the surrounding islands who desperately wanted someone to drive out the Dagon cultists. And, to their credit, the Vandanians have no love of supernatural evil and those who are stupid enough to worship it. In fact, they saw it as their solemn duty to protect the humans in the surrounding lands from these depredations.

And so the Vandanians found their way back into Mandatum Veritatis. They were a small group, but they have used the intervening years to secure their power base. Missionaries were sent out from Mandatum Veritatis to preach the teachings of Vanda to all the humans they could find, and so the old Hadradan teachings and begun to spread around Lareth. Today there are few islands of any size that do not have a chapel or shrine to Helian, and Vandanian priests who can trace their allegiance all the way back to Mandatum Veritatis.

Mangahouanga

Foolish are the souls who set foot on Mangahouanga. This dense tropical paradise sports no settlements and no indigenous peoples. The reason? They’ve been eaten. Despite its relatively small size Mangahouanga has more predators per square inch than anywhere else on Iourn – with the possible exception of the Thundercrowns in central Tibrai.

Huge lizardine monstrosities, giant apes, dragons, insects the size of houses and misshapen aberrations are commonplace. Even the plant life is deadly. The only semblance of thinking creatures are the undead remains of those stupid enough to set foot on the island in the first place.

Quite why Mangahouanga  has developed such a deadly collection of flora and fauna is a matter of mystery and debate. Some think that all these monsters were deliberately placed on the island to protect something, and that there is an incredible treasure lurking deep in the steaming jungles for the brave soul who is powerful enough to reach it. Of course, that is just the sort of nonsense that encourages people to visit Mangahouanga in the first place.

Moon Peak

The Moon Peak is an extinct volcano that rises out of the ocean in the far north-east corner of Lareth. There isn’t a great deal to the island except the volcano, that rises in traditional conical form for about two thousand feet above the surface of the Sasheenie. The sides of the mountain are covered in vegetation, but too steep to provide home and shelter for large creatures. Most of those live on the plateau.

The plateau is about a quarter of a mile across, and filled with the sort of abundance that is common on Lareth. A large amount of the forest has been cleared by the members of the Sixfold Faith, who consider the mountain to be a holy place – perhaps the holiest in all of Lareth.

At the centre of the plateau is a ring of standing stones that acts as a place of meeting and debate between the disparate members that make up the Sixfold Faith (and in particular the Cloaked Cabal). The area is maintained by a ageing Browncloak called Murkun Hardwick – a dour gnome who doesn’t like visitors.

Hardwick is the only permanent resident, although there are number of huts and chalets for visiting priests who wish to pray, or commune with the moons. Of course, getting to the plateau is not easy. There are no harbours at the foot of the Moon Peak, and nothing as useful as a set of stairs to get to the plateau. If getting to the island is difficult, then the ascent is even harder. That is simply the “way of things” according to Hardwick. After all, if it was easy to get to Moon Peak then Hardwick would be beset with visitors and wet-behind-the-ears acolytes. And who wants that?

Taratega

Lock up your valuables, keep your sword close and leave your wife at home! Welcome to Taratega, most dangerous and yet most visited of all the Larethi isles! Taratega is a lawless haven of cut-throats, buccaneers and pirates. There is nothing that cannot be bought or sold in Taratega, for there are no officials, no laws and no lawmen to get in the way of trade and parley.

Captains looking to hire a crew who would do anything for coin, adventurers looking to sign on for danger, and simply those looking for wealth beyond reckoning… they all start their journey in Taratega. If they’re not careful, they also finish their journey there as well.

Taratega is a flat rock with very little to recommend it. There is fresh water, and there’s a sort of scrubby plant-life, but there’s very little in the way of flora or fauna to excite the interest. The advantage of Taratega is that it sports an abundant number of deep-water harbours, and sits at the centre of scores of Dantallus Channels that can take sailors anywhere they want to go in Lareth. It is an invaluable hub of trade and other more pernicious activities.

Taratega has no government, no police force and no tax collectors. The bubbling anarchy is kept in check by enlightened self-interest. Like-minded individuals band together to protect what is theirs, and to deny advantage to their competitors. Everyone from dockmasters, to warehouse owners, to the proprietors of Taratega’s many inns, taverns and hostelries keep sufficient muscle to defend their patch. Strength (or the appearance of strength) and many well-placed allies and contacts is what makes Taratega tick.

Taratega would not survive without trade and the sea. Everything that the island needs to keep going is imported. This is no great problem, of course, because ships are always coming to the island to either unload their wares or collect new cargo. All roads do indeed lead to this wretched hive of scum and villainy – and that’s just how the locals like it.

The Zaratan Nation

Of all the races that call Lareth home, the dwarves are the ones who fit in the least. With no subterranean realms to call their own, the dwarves find themselves physically and spiritually cut off from their society and the gods. Over the centuries, many have tried to return to the Black Hills in Hadrada, or to the Cradlelands, but there are still many that stay. And of these indigenous dwarves, many belong to the Zaratan Nation or the Aesir as the prefer to call themselves.

The Zaratan are perhaps the largest beings on all of Iourn. They are immense sea turtles, miles across that roam the deep Ramillic Ocean far from Lareth. These beings can live for thousands of years, and spend much of that time in a state of torpor and hibernation that can last centuries. What is little known outside Lareth, is that the shallow Sasheenie is where these deep-water creatures come to breed and lay their eggs. Therefore these monstrosities, many larger than the islands in the archipelago, are more common here than they are anywhere else on the planet.

Quite how the relationship between the Zaratan and the Aesir began is unclear. It was certainly something of a leap from the cavernous Black Hills to that of ocean-going caravaneers, but many dwarves found the tropical life so antithetical to their nature that any change might have been considered a good thing.

The dwarves of the Zaratan Nation live on (and sometimes within) the massive sea turtles. They build massive stone citadels on the backs of these turtles – some as large and as grand as Mandatum Veritatis itself. Thousands of dwarves live and prosper in these citadels, that sometimes cut into the shells of the turtles, allowing the dwarves to venture into the dark warmth of the shell’s interior.

The dwarves survive by fishing, and collecting rain water through complicated guttering, and trading their wares with the more static islanders in return for goods –  particularly iron and stone. Iron and stone are the most prized goods for the dwarves, because it is with them that they are able to improve and expand their citadels, and create many of the signature items that dwarven smiths and artisans are rightly famous for. Of course, iron and stone are fairly uncommon in tropical Lareth, the dwarves often have to set out onto the open ocean to trade with Hadrada, the Cradlelands or even easterly Urova.

The arrival of a Zaratan at any island in Lareth is met with great excitement as it means access to high quality dwarven goods. The dwarves make things that can be found nowhere else in the chain. Weapons and metal-goods are particularly in demand, although dwarven (or Aesir) pottery is also in high demand.

Why do the great zaratan put up with the dwarves? Why do they allow themselves to be steered around the oceans? And why don’t they just submerge and drown all the little hairy bleeders on their backs? The dwarves seem to possess some control over the zaratan. In addition to the normal dwarven pantheon that still gains lip service from the dwarves, a sect of dwarves known as the Testudinians. These are the priests of the god, Aegir, and are said to have psionic powers that give them the ability to master the mind of the zaratan and ‘encourage’ it to do their will.

NEXT TIME:
The Campaign Begins!


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The Religions of Lareth

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As one might expect from a nation built up of ten thousand different cultures, Lareth has no shortage of religions. As you would also expect for a nation so dependent upon the sea, most of these religions are in some way connected with the ocean. Here are some of the most important religions found in the archipelago:

The Auld Faith

The Auld Faith, or the Old Religion, are variant names for the ancient practice of druidism that was once a world-wide phenomena and is now largely only followed on the continent of Urova. There are very few druids in Lareth, and those there are usually pay lip service to Domordis as opposed to following the teachings of Eldagaire. The one great exception to this are the Oceanic Order.

The Oceanic Order are an off-shoot of the druids with slightly altered powers and abilities. They are equally at home in or on the waves as they are on land, and their remit is to protect the oceans and the creatures within it from the depredations of civilised kind.

Long ago the Seawalkers were tasked with restoring life to the seas in the northern world  after the end of the war with Karatath. In order to do this they created hundreds of Towers of Repopulation – submerged artefacts that opened doorways to other parts of Iourn, and even other worlds. This responsibility has been carried with them over the centuries, and they have taken on a highly regimented and structured culture.

Seawalkers are flamboyant dressers favouring long robes of blue and orange. Like the Norandon circles, they answer to an inner circle made up of nine druids, three archdruids and one great druid. The current great druid is a triton named Aramendus.

Domordis

Considered by the Hadradans to be simply an “elven god”, Domordis is much more than that. It (for Domordis has no gender) is the soul of Lareth. It is a powerful spirit of nature that exists where-ever there is solid land in the chain. Domordis is a being of Earth, not of water. He is personified by living creatures, by the plant life of the islands and by the awesome power of nature.

The priesthood of Domordis has a paternal regard for the peoples of Lareth, having worked so hard to defend them under the Hadradan yoke, and helped to rebuild the nation in the chaos that followed the Hadradans’ departure. They are mediators, mentors and guides. They give their powers of healing and magical protection freely to those who cannot afford it, and at a fair price to those who can. They are, at their heart, a great philanthropic organisation that sees a symbiosis between Lareth and the people who live there. By defending one, they defend the whole.

This opinion puts the priesthood into opposition with the Seawalkers, who tend to see thinking life as more of a cancer than something to be celebrated. Clashes between the priesthoods is not uncommon, and there is little love lost between them – the Domordi see the druids as dangerous, and the druids see the Domordi as misguided mollycoddlers.

The priesthood of Domordis is extremely racially diverse, with anyone who shows the talent and the calling being excepted into its traditions. Many are elves, but there are also a large number of human priests – often driven by the desire to somehow make recompense for the behaviour of their Hadradan ancestors long ago.

There are few permanent churches to Domordis. Often a cairn of stones is all that is required as a focal point for the religion. After all, Domordis is everywhere throughout the islands: every island is his church.

Sixfold Faith

The six moons that appear in the sky over Iourn are actually the earthly representations of powerful divine entities. The Moon Gods each represent one of the six fundamental elements that make up all matter: Calafax (Fire), Mortis (Death), Sharrash (Water), Terranor (Earth), Vítaeous (Life) and Zephyre (Air). All objects, entities and creatures are made up of different portions of these six elements, and so the priests of the Sixfold Faith experience a profound understanding of reality denied to others who do not commune openly with the moons. Or at least, that’s what they say.

Unlike in Urova, there are no formal churches that promote and support the worship of the moon gods in the Isles of Lareth. There is no set of instructions or guidelines for each individual priest to follow. As such, members of the Sixfold Faith are a rather unpredictable lot. One Redcloak might be an extremely helpful soul who gives his last penny to help the orphans, while another might be the sort of malicious git who burns down orphanages for the hell of it.

While this gives moon priests in Lareth a degree of freedom that doesn’t exist in Urova, it also removes their support structure. They have no one to go to for help; no one in authority to turn to if they stumble across something that is too much for them to handle. As such, the priests tend to band together with other like-minded priests for their own mutual protection and support (and of a way to learn new spells). There are literally thousands of different elemental cults across Lareth, all of them expressing a slightly different interpretation of the gods’ will.

While all members of the Sixfold Faith worship all six moon gods – they understand that all six are necessary for existence to continue – each tends to favour one god more than the others. This will have something to do with the personal outlook of the priest, but it will often be out of necessity. After all, a cleric living in the shadow of an active volcano might find the worship of Calafax to be by far the most attractive option.

It should come as no surprise that the worship of Sharrash is by far the most prevalent of all the moon gods – in fact Sharrash worship may be the most widespread of any religion in Lareth. Clerics of Sharrash are sought out by captains who want them to smooth their journeys, and island communities are always on the look out for a cleric that can create pure water, and tame the odd tsunami.

Priests of Zephyre with their power over the wind are also in demand by sailing ships. A captain with a priest of Zephyre onboard always has the wind behind him, which can only be a good thing. Priests of Calafax are less represented, but as much of Lareth is heavily volcanic they still have their role to play. Plus, blowing things up always has its attraction for certain types of individual. There are surprisingly many servants of the Flaming God to be found.

Conversely, the open worship of Terranor is a very rare thing. Not only is there very little land in Lareth in the first place, Terranor’s niche is largely occupied by Domordis who has a larger and more established clergy. Clerics of Terranor and Domordis are not necessarily opposed. Some Terranites see Domordis as an aspect of Terranor – and some Domordi see Terranor as an aspect of their god.

Equally, priests of Vítaeous and Mortis are also fairly rare. Much of the work these priests do in Urova (officiating births and wedding, caring for the dead) have found their way into the purview of Domordis. Cults of Mortis who tamper with the dead and research into things man was not meant to know are certainly out there in Lareth somewhere, but they are not the sort of people who advertise their presence.

One would imagine that with no firm hierarchy governing the practices of these priests, that the Sixfold Faith would be utter chaos. And on the whole, one would be correct. They are not a coherent force in the world as the Domordi or the Vandanians are. The only thing governing their activities is the infamous Cloaked Cabal.

The Cloaked Cabal is as close to a ruling body as the Sixfold Faith gets. They are an ad hoc collection of powerful priests who meet periodically at Moon Peak (see the next post!). The cabal generally has a laissez faire approach to the rest of the clergy. You have to go something pretty bad to get the attention of the Cloaked Cabal.

The Cabal is mainly concerned with activity that “brings the Sixfold Faith into disrepute”. Any cleric or cult that oversteps the line can expect the full force of the Cloaked Cabal and their inquisitors to seek them out. Of course, members of the Cabal change from time to time, so no-one really knows where ‘the line’ is drawn until they cross it.

As is suggested by their names, the members of the Sixfold Faith tend to dress in cloaks that exemplify their god, and these cloaks give the individual priests a handy collective noun: Redcloaks (Calafax), Greycloaks (Mortis), Bluecloaks (Sharrash), Browncloaks (Terranor), Greencloaks (Vítaeous) and Whitecloaks (Zephyre). 

Vandanism

Once the state religion of the Hadradan Empire, Vandanism has rather gone out of vogue over in Hadras. Its driving tenants of expansion and subjugation did not sit well with an empire humiliated by stirring up a hornet’s nest of foes they could not defeat. However, Vandanism has not died. The emperor might follow the introspective Timinite doctrines, but the teachings of Vanda are still very much followed at the extremes of the Hadradan Empire. And that still includes the Isles of Lareth.

Vanda was an Hadradan prophet who lived around the time of the first great war against Karatath. He dismissed altruism as a rod for the Hadradan’s own back and rewrote the Laws of Elyas that had been the founding doctrine of Hadrada into something more palatable. Vanda’s thirteen laws are still the core of Vandanian doctrine today, and all clerics are required to learn them by heart.

  1. Every Man has the right to be free in body, free in mind and free in deed.
  2. Fight to protect the weakest of God’s people.
  3. Never lie to one of God’s Chosen People. Such duplicity is forbidden.
  4. Do not lay with the husband or wife of another unless you are also married to them. Marriage is blessed in the eyes of God.
  5. Be hard-working and industrious for the good of Hadrada.
  6. The beasts of the world are a gift from God, but they are less than us. Use them wisely.
  7. Resist the demon of jealousy, for in that is strife and mistrust.
  8. Do not steal from your brother. It is not theft to take from those who deny God.
  9. Always be polite and courteous in your dealings with others, but do nothing that would make you appear weak in the eyes of the heathen. We must all strive to do justice to God’s great plan.
  10. Be generous with your time, your wealth and your love. All of God’s Chosen are equal in His eye.
  11. Be humble in your accomplishments. You strive for the grace God, not yourself.
  12. Be brave. Stand up for our beliefs and challenge those who would deny the true god. Spread the Word of God with no thought for personal safety.
  13. Follow these laws as laid down by God with honour and without deception. God is all-knowing, and expects great things from His people.

Vandanian Hadradanism is a monotheistic religion that believes all reality can be traced back to one god named Helian (although he is most often simply referred to as “God”). Helian has willing entered a cage of fire, represented by the Sun, where he suffers for the sins of his people until such a time they have proven themselves worthy. In the meantime, the Helian communicates to his people through prophets and his clerics, but often through dragons who are considered his special emissaries.

To the Vandanians, proving themselves worthy in the eyes of Helian means spreading their religion as far and wide as possible. It means converting those humans who can be converted and putting to the sword those who can’t. It means destroying non-human races, until only the Faithful remain on the surface of Iourn.

However, these guiding principles have had to be somewhat tempered by the reality of life in Lareth. The Vandanians returned to Lareth about three hundred years ago, where they took over the vast fortress of Mandatum Veritatis that was once the centre of Hadradan power in the islands. From here they sent out clerics around Lareth with the intention of converting the population.

They have made slow progress. The truth is that even after all this time, there is still a great deal of resentment and antagonism toward the Hadradan religion. Although the Vandanians found a fair number of humans who agreed with their doctrines and were willing to join their church, they have not gained the numbers necessary to really crack down on Lareth. Therefore, they have had to adopt more subtle methods.

Most Vandanian clerics are missionaries. They travel to Larethi islands, build a church and start to subtly convert the human population. They don’t spread vitriol and poison, but they gently undermine relationships between humans and nonhumans until the humans seem to have no choice but to join the protection of the church. Of course, not all Vandanians are evil men. Many believe whole-heartedly in what they are doing. They believe that non-humans are already damned, and are simply doing their best to make sure that Mankind is not dragged down with them.

Indeed, the Vandanians have no truck with crime, murder or slavery. They hate demonic creatures and will do their utmost to oppose the undead and other depredations that would attack humankind. Vandanian clerics are often useful allies in the battle against evil. Many spend their entire lives as freelance troubleshooters and monster-hunters.

A rather worrying development (as far as the ruling council of Mandatum Veritatis) is concerned is that some Vandanian priests are in danger of ‘going native’. They are so eager to fit in and serve the human populations, that they forget the guiding dogma that should be at the centre of their lives. To this end a Third Inquisition has been set up, and Vandanian inquisitors are often sent to visit out-of-the-way priests to make sure they are following their religion to the letter.

Vandanian Hadradanism is a religion obsessed with ritual, pomp and appearance. They get through more incense in a week that most other religions get through in a decade. They covet wealth and respect the powerful. A Vandanian cleric would think nothing of spending a fortune having his temple inlaid with gold while there were children starving on his doorsteps. His first duty is to glory his god, after all.

The Daughters of Sharrash

Despite the name, The Daughters of Sharrash have nothing to do with the Sixfold Faith. In fact, they have nothing to do with the Moon Gods at all – although many of the clerics of this religion would want you to think otherwise. The Daughters are an evil triune of destructive water goddesses that are worshipped by capricious and terrible individuals, and placated by cautious sailors everywhere. The three gods of the triune are:

Umberlee: The Bitch Queen. Umberlee is a malicious, mean, and evil deity who breaks agreements on a whim and takes great pleasure in watching others die by drowning or in the jaws of sea predators. Vain and desirous of flattery, she is excessively greedy for power and revels in exercising it. Umberlant temples are mainly vehicles for sailors and merchants to make offerings of candles, flowers, candies, or coins to appease the Bitch Queen’s wrath. Her clerics support themselves with these offerings and sometimes hire themselves out aboard ships as guardians, since sailors think Umberlee won’t take one of her own. Clerics spread respect for the goddess by preaching of the doom she has wrought on those that ignore her. The two main rituals of the faith are First Tide and the Stormcall. The first involves a parade through town with a caged animal, which is then tied to a rock and hurled into the sea. If it reaches shore alive, it is treated as a sacred animal for the rest of its days. Stormcall is a mass prayer to summon or turn aside a storm. Its participants pray around pools upon which float candles on driftwood planks, and throw sacrifices into the pools.

Yeathani: The god of the evil depths, mistress of the gasping last breath and lady of the deep darkness below. It is rumoured that Yeathani was once a water elemental who brooded on darker and more insidious matters until she was warped inside and out with the taint of Barathrum. She is the patron of all things foul and malevolent about the sea. Her temples are always submerged and unlighted, filled with things found only in the deepest blackwater trenches. Her symbol is the hand of a drowned man, its fingers bent in a particular arcane gesture than can vary from church to church. Yeathani’s clerics tend to be quiet, brooding individuals with quick tempers. They wear dark greens and blacks, and are often adept at hiding their presence.

Zeboim: The sea witch, the Darkling Sea, the Monarch of Strife. Goddess of storms and the sea, Zeboim is moody and wayward; she flies into rages that whip the seas into a frenzy and send ships to the bottom of the ocean. She is flighty, however, and may be appeased by sailors who make the right offering. Zeboim represents the sea’s uncaring and tempestuous nature, though she also has fleeting moments of tranquillity. Clerics of Zeboim have the dual nature of their goddess. They are not above resorting to extortion, frightening sailors and ship owners into paying tithes in exchange for good weather. When on land, priests of Zeboim take a ritual swim early in the morning, in any weather condition, to pray for their spells. While on board a ship, a priest of Zeboim is a welcome addition to the crew, leading the sailors in prayer and making offerings to the Sea Queen. On board ship, priests pray for spells at sunset. The Sea Queen’s Share is an extraordinary ceremony that is performed every year on the 33rd day of Stormtide when Sharrash is full. In this ceremony, the cleric sacrifices most of the wealth he has acquired to the Sea Queen. If she is pleased with the sacrifice most of the objects will float back. If not, they are never seen again.

Although temples to Umberlee, Yeathani and Zeboim exist separately the cults are most often found working together. The cults are led by a coven of three priests (one of each of the deities) who direct the actions of the clergy. Although the three gods usually have mutually compatible goals, strife and mistrust are not uncommon within the Daughters. Indeed, clerics of Zeboim actively encourage it.

Despite appearances, the Daughters of Sharrash are not considered an “evil” religion and are, indeed, more readily welcomed in some places than Vandanians. They do not feel the need to hide themselves away, and often their shrine and their clerics can be found operating openly in otherwise civilised and respectable places.

Sashelas

The only member of the Seldarine (the elven pantheon) that is still worshipped on Lareth. Sashelas is the patron of the nenedhel (the sea elves) and in some accounts is also their creator god. Somewhat separate from the rest of the Seldarine, Sashelas decided to stand by his creations despite the schism that created the Greymere.

Sashelas’s actions in standing by his people is in direct contrast to his usual portrayal in literature and song. He is described by bards as a fickle and flighty deity, and many tales involve his amorous exploits with such creatures as mermaids, nenedhel, human females, and even the odd demigoddess. How his consort, Trishina, puts up with him has not been revealed.

Sashelas charges his clergy as follows: Swim the great currents and the shallow seas. Exult in the dynamic beauty and life of the bounteous Undersea. Revel in the joy of creation and increase its myriad aspects. Seek not to hold that which is everchanging, but instead love the change itself. Seek out fellow swimmers who honour the ways of the Lord of the Undersea, and ally with them against those who see only the darkness of the deeps. Follow the way of the dolphin. Promote knowledge and use of the sea by reasonable folk, and fight those that would taint or deplete its beauty and bounty.

The church of Deep Sashelas is a broadly based church organised along regional lines. The clergy is highly organised, largely due to their role as mediators and befrienders of nonaquatic races. Sashelas’s clerics, known as delphions, interact regularly with dolphins who inhabit the region surrounding their home communities, and senior members of the clergy are almost always accompanied by dolphin companions. Although almost all members of the faith are sea elves, other aquatic races sometimes join their ranks. The only prerequisite to join is the ability to breathe underwater. Even some Seawalkers have been known to eschew the teachings of Eldagaire and start again as Delphions.

Delphions do their best to maintain ties and contact with land-dwelling elves, and there is a close union between the Delphions and the clergy of Domordis. Many elves see Sashelas and his clerics as their one remaining link to Arvandor. Sometimes this gives them comfort, other times it makes them terribly angry. Sometimes in trying to foster stronger ties, the Delphions actually make matters worse and stir up terrible enmity in their land-dwelling cousins.

Sashelan clerics consider themselves the mortal enemies of the sahuagin race, and seek to defend the land from the incursions of the sea devils. Delphions also conduct shark hunts, and attack sahuagin communities. These efforts have gained them the undying hatred of the sea devils and their terrifying god, Sekolah.

Clerics honour Sashelas through the creation of works of art and other wonders, and prayers are given to the Lord of the Undersea upon initiating and after completing such projects. Daily observances by Sashelas’s clergy thank Sashelas for his benevolence and the beauty of the undersea world, but the most important rituals are timed to coincide with especially high and low tides, known as the High Flow and the Deep Ebb, respectively. During such ceremonies, the Delphions make offerings of precious natural objects and items of great artistry. Meanwhile, acolytes swim in complex patterns accompanied by dolphins, and sing deep, reverberating songs of praise to the Lord of the Undersea and his creations. While both ceremonies are similar in form, the Hig h Flow is a joyous celebration emphasizing beauty, creativity, and artistry, while the Deep Ebb is a grim, martial ceremony emphasizing the remembrance of those who are lost and vigilance against the enemies of the Undersea.

Aegir

Although the dwarves of Zalak’kûn continue to venerate the Moradinsammen with an equal to fervour to the dwarves of Gunstadtan or Angdor, their unique circumstances have led them to appeal for the help of other gods. Chief among these is awe-inspiring Aegir – known to some as the “lost dwarf”. He is the patron of the Aesir – the greatest dwarven nation in Lareth. He is a god of the seas and of the mind, and he helps the dwarves to control the great zaratan of which they depend.

Aegir is said to be an enormous undersea giant, who dwells in a great castle on the sea bed with his wife Ran and his nine daughters. There he responds to the prayers of the faithful and sea-goers in general. It is said that he throws great feasts for any of the faithful who are able to find his home. In fact the feasts are so enjoyable that no cleric who has ever found Aegir’s great castle has ever wanted to return.

Aegir is the personification of strength. He is often inclined to send an aspect of his power into the mortal world. This takes the form of a dwarf of prodigious size (about sixty feet high) that rises out of the water brandishing an enormous club. Not the most subtle of deities, many scholars have wondered how Aegir’s reputation for strength, destruction and heavy-drinking squares with his other portfolios of persuasion and the mind. Theologians believe that clerics of Aegir who follow his more cerebral aspects are actually granted their powers and abilities by Ran. Beyond such speculation, Ran remains an entirely enigmatic force.

Other Deities

In addition to those religions listed above, there are countless other faiths, cults and sects that are worshipped throughout the Isles of Lareth. Many races continue to pay service to their own gods: Eadro of the merfolk and the locathah, Blipdoolpoolp of the kuo-toa, Sekolah of the Sahuagin. The demon lord of depths, Dagon, is still a strong force in some areas and more exotic gods such as Osprem, Procan, Xerbo and Valkur have their followings.

NEXT TIME:
The Gazeteer of Lareth!


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A Brief History of Lareth

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Deep in the Ramillic Ocean, roughly one thousand miles to the south of the great continent of Hadrada, lies a vast tropical archipelago. These are the Isles of Lareth, and they cover more than half a million square miles of open ocean. Hundreds of tiny islands make up Lareth, some are heavily populated, while others are too small or too remote to support permanent settlements.
 
Scholars speculate that in ages past Lareth may have been one continuous land, and that much of it has either been pulverised or flooded in long forgotten cataclysms. Certainly, there is evidence to suggest that the Isles of Lareth are the mountains and the high ground of a sunken continent. The Sasheenie Sea between and around the islands is extremely shallow (seldom exceeding more than fifty feet in depth). This makes the islands an oasis of life in the middle of a vast and pitiless ocean.

The First Great War

Thousands of years ago, Lareth was the elven kingdom of Valhellana. It was  ancestral home of an extensive community of fair folk who had become divorced from their brethren in Urova 5000 miles to the north-west. During the first great war against Karatath, all the seas in the Northern World were boiled away, leaving Lareth bereft and barren. The resident elves used all their powers to try and save their home, hoping their magic would be sufficient to stave off the violent droughts and unpredictable storms unleashed by Karatath’s incidental cruelty. Their power was found wanting.

Lareth and all its inhabitants would have perished during this dark and terrible time were it not for the intervention of a great spirit of the earth called Domordis. This vastly powerful source of primal energy enhanced the powers of the elves and gave them the ability to defend Lareth over the two-hundred seasons in which there were no seas, and the Sasheenie was a desert.

After the final defeat of Karatath the seas returned to the Northern World, and the elves of Cyryth Allavorean prepared to abandon the broken would of Iourn for the paradise of the Greymere. The elves of Lareth chose not to go with them. They had suffered far more at the hands of Karatath than their Urovan kin, and they wanted to use their powers for the betterment of the islands, and restore what had been lost.

The elves of Lareth realised that in making this decision, they were cutting off all ties not only with other elves, but also with the fabled realm of Arvandor – the place all elves journey to when they weary of this life. Without a link to Arvandor, the elves of Lareth were faced with finite lives. Although the elven body can endure indefinitely, the mind cannot. And all elves reach a point when they must step over from this world and take their reward in the next. Without Arvandor the Larethi were left with two equally horrible choices: to submit to death, or to exist forever as a meaningless shell – a mockery of what they once were.

Fortunately for the elves, their plight was noticed by the great Domordis. He took pity on the elves and offered their souls protection in his realm. As the elves had worked so closely with Domordis for so long, worshipped him as a god in many cases, this seemed a poetic as well as pragmatic course of action.

And thus, when elves have properly tired of the world of Iourn they can “Visit the Mountain”. They can journey into the deep places of Lareth and there they can commune with the earth spirit himself. These elves never return to the waking world, but their spirit and their essence is present across all Lareth. They are in every tree, every blade of grass and every grain of sand. And for the elves of Lareth, that is enough.

The newly invigorated Larethi elves used their powers, and those of Domordis, to restore the islands to their former glory. As the seawalker druids of the Oceanic Order were restoring life to the seas, so Domordis and his elves restored life to the land. And a century after the defeat of Karatath, it was as though no calamity had befallen Lareth at all. They were once again a paradise, and the elves were a nation at peace.

The Rise of the Hadradans

However, the isles did not remain at peace. Directly to the north of Lareth is the vast continent of Hadrada. There the human Hadradan Empire dwelt. They were a rising power on Iourn. After heavy defeats early in the war against Karatath, they had absented themselves entirely from the conflict, closing their borders and watching while the world burned around them.

A monotheistic culture, the Hadradans dispensed with their altruistic Elyastic ideals, and fully embraced the darker and more dangerous teachings of the prophet Vanda. Vandanism taught that the Hadradans were a pre-eminent race, chosen by God, and that it was their destiny to rule over lesser cultures and inferior (non-human) races. To begin with, the Hadradans went to war with their own continent. They pushed back the primitive Vikallians into the far north, and they all but eradicated the great dwarven nation of Zalak’kûn, although they were kept from the Cradlelands by a force of even greater potency than themselves.

Refugees from Hadradan excesses fled the continent, and many came to Lareth. Large communities of displaced dwarves set themselves up in the completely incongruous surroundings of tropical Lareth. Many of the dwarven priests of Moradin had brought with them rocks from their old home in the Black Hills, and many used them to recreate their own delves on a much smaller scale. They were a shamed and broken people, born as dwarves but forced to live as hobbits.

Eventually, the Hadradans began to flex their new military might beyond their borders. They came to the Isles of Lareth in 618 PL, and they brought with them a military war machine the likes of which the islands had never seen. This coupled with their divine fervour, and utter hatred of anything that wasn’t human gae the Hadradans a dangerous edge. The elves had no response to this fury, and the islands fell under Hadradan occupation in short order, and the inhabitants were enslaved.

The Hadradans did not content themselves with Lareth. Their navies were sent across the northern world, from Urova in the west to the Andos in the east. However, the xenophobic Hadradans couldn’t bear the thought of sharing these newly conquered lands with non-humans, so they began transporting all manner of different races to Lareth and leaving them there. The Isles became a penal colony.

And so it was for hundreds of seasons. Generations lived and died under the Hadradan yoke. The priesthood of Domordis went underground (literally in some cases) and the elves bided their time until such a point that they could liberate their land. Their chance came two hundred and twenty years ago.

In 20 PL the Hadradans advanced too far, stirring up enemies they could not defeat. These Mannenites invaded the Hadradan empire, and struck it a blow from which it was never able to recover. In order to protect their homeland the Hadradans pulled back their troops from many of their foreign holdings including the Isles of Lareth. Without a body of Hadradan troops enforcing law and order, revolution quickly followed. By the time the six moons appeared in the sky, Lareth was all but free of the Hadradans

The Coming of the Moons

The end of the Hadradan occupation was heralded by the appearance of six moons in the night sky. These were the gods Calafax, Sharrash, Vítaeous, Mortis, Terranor and Zephyre. Elemental beings who personified change and encouraged revolution in all who saw them. In Urova, the Moon Gods would speak to a prophet named Uros who would pen the fabled Korvast Scrolls and lead to the creation of dozens of new religions to worship the moon gods.

The Isles of Lareth were lacking a Godspeaker, and had therefore had no direct line to the wishes or intentions of these entities. Worship of the new moons was still inevitable, and many mystics were able to tap into the power of the gods and create many powerful effects. Worship of the moons was sporadic, and there was no formal church for any of the gods. Eventually, the worship of the moon gods was to come together into a loose confederation of clergies called the Sixfold Faith, bthat was many hundreds of seasons after the Hadradans left the islands. In the beginning, all the appearance of the moons did was to add to volatility of newly free Lareth.

For in the aftermath of Hadradan occupation came anarchy. Countless pirates, tin pot tyrants and would-be dictators attempted to seize islands for themselves and carve out their own empire. The priesthood of Domordis worked tirelessly to curb these extremists and return the isles to the peaceful state they enjoyed before the Hadradan occupation. They were not entirely successful; and it was time rather than the intervention of any one mollifying force that restored tranquillity to the islands.

Lareth Today

It is now more than eight hundred seasons since the Hadradans abandoned Lareth. So long that there are few elves who remember those times. Today, Lareth is a collection of autonomous island-states: some stand alone, others enjoy the security of pacts and treaties. These states are divided by political and geographic necessity, but they are not divided in terms of race. After so many centuries the elf, hobbit, orc and dwarf communities were completely integrated. Even the many humans marooned on Lareth after the Hadradan garrison left, were absorbed into the wider society.

To an outsider, the Isles of Lareth seem like paradise. With miles of sandy beaches, palm trees, magnificent sunsets and a relaxed attitude to life little seems to worry the indigenous population. Of course, nothing is ever quite that simple. Many of the isolated islands have become havens for pirates who pillage the trade routes between Lareth, Hadrada and the Cradlelands. There is division within the druidic order between those who worship Domordis, and those that cling to the ancient teachings of Eldagaire. And then there is the sea: the source of all life for the islands, but also ripe with the promise of its destruction.

NEXT TIME:
The Religions of Lareth


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Summoning Guidelines

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I’m shortly going to post a complete summary of the New Deal house rules to the site. It’ll be in the form of a handy PDF that we can print out and bring to sessions. As the number of house rules are now surprisingly few, it shouldn’t be too bulky a document. But before we get to that stage, we need to have a closer look at the guidelines for choosing new monsters that can appear on the summoning lists of the Summon Monster and Summon Nature’s Ally spells.

Following the recent post on Summoning spells it has been decided to use personalised summoning lists for individual casters. These rules have been taken directly from Unearthed Arcana (2004) and tweaked a little to make them Pathfinder-compatible. At the moment the rules look like this:

Summoning Lists

Each spellcaster has a unique list of monsters she can summon with any single Summon Monster or Summon Nature’s Ally spell. When a spellcaster first gains access to a summon spell, she chooses either one monster from the list published in the Core Rules (2009) or a comparable creature from another approved source. This chosen monster is the only monster she can summon with that spell.

Each time the character gains a new spellcasting level she may add one monster to one summoning list to which she has access. In addition the caster can research or discover new monster summoning formulae in the same way that a wizard adds additional spells to his spell book. All spellcasters can use the “Spells copied from another’s spellbook or scroll” or “Independent research” methods described in the section on Adding Spells to a Wizard’s Spellbook. In these cases the spell-level of the summonable creature is equal to the level of the Summon Monster or Summon Nature’s Ally spell that would be required to summon it.

If a spellcaster chooses a monster that is not on an existing summoning list, then that creature must be of a comparable power-level to the creatures that are. Simply choosing a creature of the same CR value is not a sufficient guide. Players should compare the CR, hit dice and special abilities of creatures. New summonable creatures should not grant any greater utility than creatures that already exist. If the monster seems to match the power and abilities of the monsters at the same spell level, it’s probably okay to add that monster to your list.

The Specifics

It’s the third paragraph that I have problems with. It’s all a bit woolly don’t you think? Do we need to be more prescriptive than this? Should we single out specific special abilities as the Polymorph family of spells do? As an example of what I mean, look at the Beast Shape spells. Beast Shape I doesn’t let the caster gain the ability to grab, pounce or trip when he polymorphs even if he turns into a creature that would normally have those abilities. He can’t have those abilities unless he casts Beast Shape II.

In regard to summoning, do we look at the existing lists and say that no summoned creature can have abilities that aren’t already in those lists? Creatures on the Summon Monster I list have disease, poison, Swim and Fly speeds of 80 ft, innate luminescence, and a land speed of 40 ft. Can we say that nothing summoned by a Summon Monster I spell can have abilities beyond those listed, even if creatures of that type usually have those abilities? Or is that too tricky.

The problem is that summoning is a less exact science that even the polymorph spells.

Take the unicorn for example. This is a CR 3 creature with 4 hit dice. Under those terms it could feasibly be on the Summon Monster III list. But that’s before you look at it’s abilities. The monster is immune to charm, compulsion and poison; it has a number of spell-like abilities including healing and teleportation; it has a horn, multiattack and the powerful charge ability; and it continually radiates protection from evil, its horn acts as a magic weapon and it has wild empathy like a druid. That’s far beyond any other comparable creature. In terms of abilities the unicorn should probably be on the Summon Monster V (or even the Summon Monster VI) list.

The point I’m trying to make is this: the third paragraph as printed above urges us to take each monster on a case-by-case basis and weigh up it’s compatibility with a summoning spell of a particular level. The Pathfinder system prefers a more prescriptive approach, with what you can and cannot do specifically defined in the rules. Do we need to follow the spirit of Pathfinder here and openly define what a summoning spell of a particular level can and cannot do, or are we happy in taking a more laid back approach?

I think duplicating the prescriptive approach from the polymorph spells is a waste of effort with summoning. Monsters are simply too varied to cover every eventuality, and we would be faced with too much effort for too little gain. It would be quicker to go through every monster in all the Bestiaries and define which spell could be used to summon them: something that I’m not proposing to do either.

But what are your thoughts on this. Are the rules above enough? Do they need more definition?


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