The Edda of Armod: Part 1

stretchy prophetArmod is an important figure in Felmoorish history. While there are several Eddas in existence, (ancient books,  prophetic or revelatory in nature, usually containing a cryptic mishmash of verse and arcane prose) Armod’s is by far the most intelligible, and therefore the most widely reproduced and studied.

I quoted from Armod in the player’s overview. Since I have the full document, I thought I’d post some of the longer passages from it, as it contains a lot of interesting details and nuances that don’t fit in the overview.  

As I lay in the wilderness, as one struck with a mortal wound lies, these further revelations also passed before my senses:

I saw the world as it was. And the world was called “Ull” because it had been spoken from the mouth of the Creator. It’s form was as one unbroken firmament, for men had not yet known want. As far as Rel is from Ker, and as far as Tel is from Ary, there was nothing that was not Good in the shadow of the Spire. This is why men of the ancient tongue say, to this day:

Ulta ulmura
Nournay heilor teobanay
Eri uelo ner peime
Vorgedo

In that time, Men made their dwellings in the western foothills of the Spire, and the spirits lived among them also. But the spirit who withholds his name, powerful in the reckoning of Men and spirits alike, placed himself between the Spire and a man named Omad, and gave secret counsel to him against the creator’s design.

Omad, the first man, is another important figure. This is only his first appearance; he makes his way into many stories and legends.

Now, Omad was a leader among men, a man of influence in the dwellings of the Creator’s children. According to the secret counsel he had received, Omad made for himself an earthen mound near his home, and on it, he sacrificed his with his own blood, and that was the first bloodshed. He did this because the spirit which had deceived him had told him he would become more powerful even than the spirits of the celestial stars, possessing the secret of their knowledge and wisdom. In addition to this, Omad also led all men to follow his example, and commit the sin he had committed by prostituting themselves to the nameless spirit. In this way, he turned the hearts of Men away from the Spire of the creator, and caused them to forsake their first destiny, for the spirit who withholds his name had deceived him.  

Then the creator’s anger burned against Omad. So great was his wrath and his roar that the very earth itself could not bear it. The foundations of the world were uprooted and torn apart and fire and liquid flame erupted from the ground. Then the stars were torn from the thrones they had set up for themselves and were shaken loose from all 7 realms of heaven and destroyed upon the splitting and frayed edges of the world.

Lithtanic scholars still ponder Armod’s reference to falling “stars.” Many believe that this is a direct reference to the Ramaki, or more likely the celestials: powerful beings believed to have migrated to Felmoor from other planes during or shortly after the fracture. Still others consider this a reference to beings that are completely unknown in the contemporary era, probably destroyed or buried entirely – lost in time. 

“A curse on Omad!” proclaimed the Creator over the destruction. “And a curse upon the land that bore him! Henceforth, Ull is broken, as a sign of the doom that has fallen on man!” And so Ull has ever been broken, and a great sea has filled the desolation carved by the his anger when the foundation of the world was torn.

This last passage is the source of the false belief that the plane of Ull could be reached by sailing in a straight line due East. To many, Armod seemed to imply that the separation which divided Felmoor from Ull was only a physical one. For centuries, this theory was widely held among ruling families of the Lithtanic Kingdom, and even by  members of the Stellarine Council. History records at least 5 large expeditions that launched with orders to discover a passage to Ull. 

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Heromachine

I love having a character portrait, but I can’t draw. Heromachine was probably invented for people like me. Its a custom character creator. It has a little bit of a learning curve, but it gives good quick results.

This is Luxo Avrice Welsley. He’s a cheating merchant/rogue. He likes treasure. Who doesn’t, you say? True, but Luxo REALLY loves treasure. Like, a LOT. More than you do, probably.

heromachine screenshot

This is Lizzy the barbarian halfling. She’s into booze, gambling, and RAGE.

Lizzy took a little longer to make. A gnome or a half-ling would have more child-like proportions, I thought; bigger head relative to body, etc. so I spent some time nudging the proportions. She used to look squashed. Now she only looks slightly squashed. I call that a success.

lizzybarb

It’s fun and quick and free. Give it a try next time you need a new PC or NPC portrait.

Map progress

The map is coming along. I’m still learning as I go. Unexpectedly, having a map has helped with writing. There’s something about seeing everything in geographic relation to each other that makes thinking up story ideas easier. The map gives the setting a layer of tangibility, which seems to give my brain some traction, if that makes any sense.

The Broken Edge Isles
Initially, I did not like the colors that campaign cartographer makes me use. I still don’t, but I’m finding ways to make things better. Check out the trees in this shot, they’re almost neon green, It’s too bright. The ocean too, isn’t quite right. It has too much green in it, I think.

Once I have all the major locations, some roads and rivers, I’ll start posting location lore and histories with their map picture.

maragnor beaches
I learned how to fudge in some decent-looking beaches using land contours, which feels like a major accomplishment.

Player Character Race: Gresh

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Like this guy, but without the tail and the wings.

I grew up in Japan, and I speak a fair bit of the language, so I wracked my brain and did some research while I was naming these guys, trying to think of something I could use or adapt from Japanese legends. The problem is that nothing sounds right.

The obvious thing to name them is Ryujin, which literally means “dragon-people” But the “ryu” sound is pretty tough for English-speakers to say. There’s this flippy thing that happens with your tongue, which takes practice. “Tatsujin” would be equally appropriate, but again, the “tsu” sound is tough.

There are plenty of things I could name them that are NOT hard to say, but just don’t sound right. Although we don’t often think about it, languages are often limited to a small number of familiar syllables. Most people and places in Felmoor have names that should be pretty memorable for westerners, because the syllables and rhythms combine in familiar ways. I think you start to have problems if you carelessly disrupt that familiarity.

bearshark_approves_by_asylumattendee-d48gjxp
Kumawani was exactly 33% more awesome than this.

But then again, maybe I’M the problem. See, the temptation in English is to inject an accent somewhere in the word. Kumawani, for example. (Kuma, means bear, or strong. Wani can mean shark, or alligator. Oddly enough, there is a legend about an ocean dragon named Kumawani, so I guess he was a bear-shark-dragon, which is a whole lot of awesome.) An English speaker sees the word on the paper, and reads it as “KOOmuhWAni.” There’s a natural tendency to read it as syllable pairs, either as iambs or trochees. Japanese doesn’t do accents in the same way that English does, it’s much flatter. When I see “kumawani” my brain goes into Japanese mode. I hear 4 unaccented consonant-vowel pairs: “Ku ma wa ni.” The dissonance would bug me, but it wouldn’t necessarily bug anyone else.

I ended up with “Gresh.” It’s short, it’s English-speaker friendly, it’s a little bit growly, and a little bit hissy. Problem solved!

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Designing new PC races

 

I gave myself some guidelines for new PC races.

  • 1 big perk that grows over time and also 1 big static flaw
  • 1 or more roleplaying trait (should not be significantly + or – gameplay-wise.)
  • 1 free proficiency OR a + modifier bonus in restricted situations
  • Max ability scores adjusted up or down no more than 4 for zero net change
  • Optionally, ability score bonuses and penalties for zero net change.

I thought it was silly that in Vanilla D&D all the races have the same maximum stats. Ability scores range from 0-20. A value of 10 represents “the normal human average.” To put things into perspective, the 5E player’s handbook says “A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20.” Take the STR score, for example. A value of 20 is 2 points higher than most humans could ever reach, representing, maybe, an olympic weight lifting gold-medalist. Now imagine, if you will,  a 3ft-tall gnome going up against Mario Martinez in the clean and jerk. You think that gnome is going to be lifting 15 or more times it’s own body-weight? It’s a little bit silly. And yet… it is a fantasy game. I hate to use the word realism in this context, for obvious reasons, but I just think that we can do better.

There’s another reason to fiddle with Max ability scores. It creates races that offer a degree of specialization. Lots of classes have dump stats; ability scores that are simply not very consequential to their play-style. In Felmoor, I want to give players (who, like me,  might be just a tiny bit OCD about their character sheets) the opportunity to be less well-rounded in return for having a statistical profile that is tighter,  more focused on specific aspects of play. Players should be able to make interesting and consequential choices  with all their character’s abilities, and specialization is a way to turn what would normally be an unimportant stat into an opportunity. Let’s say you want to be a sneaky ranger who likes to engage bad guys from a distance, or not at all. Be a Quyg! You’ll sacrifice some room for growth in strength and constitution, but you’ll  eventually be sneakier and cleverer than anyone else, guaranteed. Do you want to be a bard but think that wisdom is overrated? Be a Ramaki! You’ll have a lower cap on wisdom, but you’re sure to be the life of the party.

Player Character Race: Humans

finn_the_human_by_krystal_the_hedgehog
“Hoomun”

Humans should be really basic and open-ended, and I think that’s what I’ve ended up with.  It makes sense to offer at least one choice that represents a very well-rounded,  middle-of-the-road type of character.

I gave some thought to letting them just be a blank slate, but in the end I couldn’t let Felmoorish humans go without something that sets them apart from other fantasy humans: something unique and appropriate to the specific world they live in. So, they do have a lore-appropriate perk and a lore-appropriate flaw. Humans are planestrange, like the Ramaki, and most of what makes them unique stems from that.

Humans have a perk that lets them ignore material components for spellcasting, like the Mountain Quyg; just another way players can work around those rules if they choose to.

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Player Character Race: Ramaki

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Tieflings are the closest analogue for the Ramaki in vanilla D&D. They’re both charisma-based races with miscellaneous magical advantages.

The Ramaki are the second planestrange race, along with the humans; that’s just a way of saying that they don’t belong in Felmoor, they fell from the sky during the upheaval of the fracture. While humans are nominally associated with Ull, the Ramaki come from – unsurprisingly – Rama, the celestial plane.

From a mechanical standpoint, the Ramaki are pretty flexible, but slightly prejudiced towards spellcasting/ranged roles. They have the potential to develop into really great bards or sorcerers thanks to their high charisma cap, but there’s nothing in their design that pushes them in that direction from the start They don’t come with any ability score bonuses or penalties at all.

yvaine-shines-stardust-13114059-604-251
Yvain, from “Stardust” was pretty much a Ramaki.

 

Continue reading “Player Character Race: Ramaki”