Friday, March 24, 2017

The Pillars of Durn: The Dwarven Religion

We have talked about the gods of the Naryan Pantheon and we have talked about the Imperian religion of the Nameless God, but we haven't really talked about another subject much: racial religions. In Dungeons and Dragons, and in Narya, most races believe in ancestral god, a precursor of their race, who has guided them throughout history. In the case of the elves, Iaur and his family serve that role. And, in the case of the dwarves, their ancestral deities are Urd the Forge Father and his son Durn.

In the dwarven creation story, after the clay peoples were washed away by the Mother's tears and the primordials were overthrown by the titans, her sons awoke to fulfill their own destinies. They believe that her sons had assisted in the creation of Narya and the difficulties of creation caused them to fall into a deep slumber that lasted for eons. The dwarves believe her sons were Iaur, who would create the elves, Gnoldo, who would create the gnomes, and so on. Some more recent iterations of the dwarven tellings of this myth include other gods like the Nameless Gods. The dwarves believe that most important among her sons was Urd the Forge Father.

Urd was responsible for building many of the geological wonders of the world from the mountains to the canyons of the world. It is said that Urd planted the dwarves in the roots of these mountains until they were ready to awaken and be born unto the world. The first dwarves were giants forged directly from the rock that lived during the Primordial Age. It is said that they cut pathways through the earth that would become the foundations for the Underdark.

With each new generation of dwarf, their bodies softened and grew smaller. By the time they broke through the surface of the world and entered the twilight of the Titanic Age, the dwarves far more resembled dwarves as we imagine them today.


It said that Urd planted the dwarves in the roots of Narya's mountains until they were ready to awaken. The period of dwarven history covering the mythic times of the Titanic Ages and the Wyrd Wars were considered the Golden Age of Dwarfkind by many; the dwarves held unmatched wealth and power, building incredible wonders of architecture and engineering, and dwarves conquered the greatest mountains of Narya. They overcame many great enemies such as cults of Lolgar the Hungry and invasions from Axeron the Pain Lord. It wad during this time that the golden city of Bryngalla was built and it was a wonder to behold.

But, as with all things, this age would come to pass.

The wealth of the Sublanaryan dwarves, combined with assistance from their gnomish and elven allies, attracted invaders from Mimia. These invaders were giants who came on great barges from the north. They sacked the city of Bryngalla, demolishing all resistance in their path and left dwarven history in ruins. The surviving dwarves, along with their elven and gnomish allies, were enslaved by the giants and held in bondage for generations. Dwarves were forced to work themselves to death in the mines, forges, and building projects of their cruel giant overlords. The giants even twisted the dwarves and created the race known as the duergar. The spirit of the dwarven people was broken and it would take a great leader to reforge their peoples.

The dwarven people have two great heroes that they recognize for their liberation: the Blacksmith's Daughter has already been discussed here but today we're talking about Durn.

Durn was an orphaned dwarf raised by the smithing slaves, forced to make armor and weapons for the dwarves, and it was there that his story would have began and ended. He had always been filled with a great hatred for the giant masters but, like other dwarves, had been beaten into submission. Obedience or death. Those were the options under giant enslavement.

But something happened one night as his ears rang from a long day of the striking of hammer on anvil. It was as if he could hear a voice whispering to him, singing a song old and new, and telling him something important that he must do. It was the voice of Urd. The religion of his people had been beaten out of the dwarves, their holy writing smashed into rubble, and he had never heard the name Urd but he knew that this voice was that of the holy father of all dwarves. The voice told him to leave his cot and to help an elven girl.

When Durn left his cot, he soon discovered an elven girl, the daughter of a blacksmith, had been caught trying to escape and that the giant who had caught her was discussing how best to punish her-- whether to cut off a leg or to throw her to the flaming hounds. For the first time in Durn's life, the fire in his belly that had been boiling since the first beating he had ever experience erupted from within him and in his righteous fury he found the courage and strength to overcome any fear put in him.

With a single swing, Durn struck down the giant with his blacksmith's hammer and told the elven girl to flee as more giants arrived. As the blacksmith's daughter escaped, he killed several of the giants before they overwhelmed him and subdued him. But, rather than take his life for killing his giant masters, they instead put him in the fighting pits. It was there that the giants would forge their own downfall.

They didn't expect the dwarf to last long but he quickly became a champion of the arena. No matter what they threw at the dwarf, miraculously, he somehow managed to survive and come out on top the victor. And with each victory, his resolve grew. He wasn't fighting to survive. He was fighting for the dwarven people. He knew his destiny.

He was no ordinary dwarf. Durn was both the son and vessel of Urd. His purpose was to liberate the dwarven people and forge for them a new future.

And so, when rumors came that the blacksmith's daughter was returning with an army of bjergfolk, Durn led a rebellion from within the golden city. The giants were unable to contend with invading force from without and a disruptive force from within. The combined forces of Durn and the blacksmith's daughter, Tytanya herself, were victorious in overthrowing the giants and casting them out of Bryngalla and the other dwarven cities.

Durn could have become the king of Bryngalla. He had no claim but the loyalty and admiration of his followers made him a candidate. And yet, he declined the offer and instead went on a journey to help rebuild not just one but all of the dwarven cities. His wisdom was invaluable and he became a respected figure among the kings and queens of dwarfkind.

But his greatest achievement was to reform the dwarven faith.

Durn proved himself the scion of Urd, performing miracles and taking a position as the head of a new dwarven religion forged from the pieces of dwarf history, and as part of establishing a new philosophy for dwarves to follow, he laid out what he called The Four Arches or, as they're more commonly called, The Pillars of Durn.

 Most good-aligned religions are focused on teaching basic morals and preparing for the afterlife: that is to say that they are focused on people performing good deeds in exchange for rewards in the afterlife. It is important to understand that while dwarves believe in the afterlife, they're not terribly concerned with it. A dwarf's chief concerns are on the material plane.

In Durn's words, "a good dwarf should not be concerned about whether or not he will supp in the Hall of Urd, but should instead be concerned as to whether his children and his children's childrn will speak his name before the supp in their own halls." It doesn't matter what happens to a dwarf after they leave the world. Instead, it matters what world they leave behind. The greatest reward for a dwarf isn't found in the afterlife, it is found in the knowledge that he has left behind a legacy.

Furthermore, dwarves consider basic morality to be self-evident and not even worthy of discussion in their holy texts. Dwarves assume that all peoples should be able to teach their children that theft and murder are bad.

And so, with that in mind, the dwarf religion focus on how best a dwarf can forge their legacy. In Durn's experience, all dwarves must find a balance between four conflicting pairs of ideals in order to preserve the past, prosper in the present and prepare for the future. The conflicting pairs reflect dwarf values and perspective.

I & II. Family VS. Community

The first pillars of Durn are family and community.

A dwarf's family should be considered the most important thing in the world and yet, a dwarf is also beholden to the community as it represents a union between a number of families and not just a single dwarf's own kin. A dwarf must strive to provide and protect his family while also serving and participating in his community. Durn warns dwarves to put their family first but to always consider the community both the family's foundation and their family to part of the community's foundation. It is important to find a balance between these two forces.

For example, it is wise to assist your family in making a living by giving them valuable positions in your business but this should not be at the expense of the community. Blind nepotism leads to corruption and incompetence. It is important to ensure that you do not put a son prone to greed in charge of the city bank or a lazy son in the position of a city guard. These sorts of failures weaken the community and a weakened community cannot protect or provide a good environment for future generations of your family.

III & IV. Tradition VS. Progress
The next pillars are tradition and progress.

Tradition is important to dwarf society: it is important to learn from the past and respect the ways of your predecessors. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to fall to the same follies of their ancestors and, prematurely, become history. Traditions have been passed down for the benefits of all. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. Still, with that in mind, it is also important to examine your traditions carefully and to question their purpose.

It is important to give new ideas a chance as they may provide new and/or improved solutions to problems facing your community. Furthermore, progress opens up new avenues for prosperity and can provide a foundation for the future. Nothing is more foolish than obstructing the future for the sake of traditions that hold no value.

For instance, superstitions have been a nuisance to our peoples. While your ancestors may have had a reason to forbid some activity or behavior, it is possible that the reason is no longer valid. Your people could starve because you refuse to eat some meat or vegetable because your ancestors forbid its consumption. In the past, that food may have been forbidden due to it being tainted by some disease but that disease may have long died out.

Do not allow the past to weight down on the future like a ball and chain but do not allow the past to be forgotten. Value the experience of your elders and ancestors.

V & VI. Prosperity VS. Work
This is perhaps the hardest struggle of dwarfkind.

All dwarves should seek prosperity. The material world exists so that we can experience it. A dwarf should seek to create wealth and prosperity for himself and his descendants. The pleasures of the material world and financial security are the rewards that all dwarves should seek to reap. Every dwarf is entitled to the sweat of his own pits. And that is the key:

Every dwarf deserves to profit from their own labor. They should not fall to greed and excess. There is no shame in wealth but there is terrible shame in becoming wealthy at the expense of your fellow dwarves.

Furthermore, wealth for the sake of wealth is a terrible crime. Instead of building material wealth, instead seek to invest that wealth into building materials to build your legacy. Those who find wealth should seek to reinvest the wealth into their community. A healthy community will create wealth for generations.

Remember King Ragar Widebelt and the flooding of the Widebelt Goldmine. King Ragar and his kin could have escape the flooding mine but instead tried to fill their boats with gold. Their boats sank and they were killed by their own avarice.

Greed is the greatest evil of dwarfkind. Know it and oppose it.

VII & VIII. Honor VS. Common Sense

The last pillars concern passion and logic.

Good dwarves are honorable. They keep their oaths, they obey their lords, and they do not show cowardice or cruelty. These are all good values and yet, more often than not, the nobility of a good dwarf has been their downfall. It important to maintain your reputation and standing among dwarfkind but do not foolishly throw your life or, worse yet, the valued lives of others to the wayside for the sake of your honor.

 It is often wisest to abandon your pride for the sake of survival. Sometimes, you must be willing to throw down your life for a cause but not all battles are worth fighting. Do not throw away your life for nothing. Live to fight another day.

Too many warriors, including Durn himself, let their anger and pride get the better of them. Furthemore, the tragedy of dwarfkind is vanity and pride. Too often do dwarves dig where they should not, build what they should not, and challenge those they should not for the sake of their own stubborn pride. Do not be the reason behind the next fall of dwarven society.

Despite these lessons, dwarves still struggle with these conflicts. Arguably, it was dwarf pride that led to the second and final downfall of Bryngalla when the beastmen's horde sacked their cities and inarguably it was dwarf greed that led to them betraying the elves in the Saesun civil wars and, ultimately, led to the elves allowing the dragons to cast them out of the home that the elves had so generously provided them.

As dwarfkind struggles to rebuild, will they learn from their mistakes?


URD THE FORGE FATHER AND
DURN, SON OF URD

Title(s)  
The Father and the Son of Dwarfkind, The True Kings, The Hammer and Anvil, The Mine Master, The Underkings

Pantheon(s)
 Dwarf

Power Level
Greater Deity

Alignment
Lawful Good

Symbol
A hammer and anvil

Realm
Urd Hall

Portfolio
The forge, engineering, mining, family, community

Domains
Forge, Protection, War, Life

Worshipers

Dwarves, smiths, miners, engineers, warriors

Favored Weapon
Hammers

LOLGAR THE HUNGRY FLAME

Title(s)  
The Ceaseless Burning, The Secret Flame, The Sphere of Chaos

Pantheon(s)
 Dwarf

Power Level
Lesser Deity

Alignment
Chaotic Evil

Symbol
A spherical face spewing flame

Realm
Abyss

Portfolio
Volcanoes, fire, sacrifice, destruction,

Domains
Light

Worshipers

Evil dwarves and azer, fire newts,

Favored Weapon
Pick



AXERON THE PAIN LORD

Title(s)  
Master of the Chain, The Gear Master, The Grand Torturer and Executioner, The Firebrand,

Pantheon(s)
Dwarf and Naryan

Power Level
Greater Deity

Alignment
Lawful Evil

Symbol
Flaming gears and chains

Realm
Nine Hells

Portfolio
Torture, execution, machines, war, domination

Domains
War, Light, Death

Worshipers

Evil dwarves and azir, demons, tyrants, executioners, torturers,

Favored Weapon
Trident


I hope you guys enjoyed this week's article and if you have any feedback or questions, hit me up!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Crusaders of the Nameless God: The Holy Imperium of Croma & The Hold


It was the second Dark Age of Sublanarya; beastmen swept from the east across Thule in a wave of violence that claimed millions of lives, each innocent life taken in the name of  the resurrected Kalibos, and each sacrifice feeding the endless horde and summoning demon lords to Kalibos's coalition. It was a desperate time as dwarves retreated into the deepest depths of the earth to escape the apocalyptic holocaust being carried about the beastmen, the peoples of Zafaria and Saesun were overwhelmed with Thule refugees with beastmen nipping at their heels as they fled, and the defenses of the Hamutian Empire began to waiver under constant assault from the sea. Indeed, the last thing standing between total civilization collapse may have been the Hamutian Empire but, ironically, the only thing holding the Empire together was this war for survival. The people prayed to the gods for salvation and, according to their saviors, a god did answer the call.

A host of ships was spotted arriving from east by Hamutian sailors with unfamiliar markings upon the sails. Their sails were adorned with the sign of a six pointed star with an eye in the center overlapping crosses. The designs of vessels were foreign and yet far too sophisticated for beastmen. The Hamutians prepared for invasion as they received envoys from the ships but were surprised to instead receive not conquerors but new allies.

The envoys were holy men of a foreign religion, the Church of the Nameless God, and a foreign land, but had come to the aid the people of Sublanarya. Their leaders were an splinter sect of holy knights, the Order of the Next Dawn, that had broken away from the Xalhoteccan Empire to fulfill a prophecy, a divine mission, to come to the shores of Thule and to push back against the endless hordes. Their armada had traveled far and they had suffered great losses at sea, only having the divine promise of the prophecy to guide them to Sublanarya, but with strong conviction had managed to reach their destination. They offered any Hamutian, Zafarian or dwarf with the will left to fight to take the fight to liberate Thule. This coalition called itself the Unbroken and the name would hold true.

The Unbroken legion came ashore in central Thule and took the raiding parties of the beast men horde by surprise as rather than finding pockets of resistance, they were met by entire platoons of eager and righteous warriors. This disruption caused the horde to shift focus away from Hamut and to turn against the new wave of enemies. And yet, the horde was force on the defensive by the aggressive legion. The Xalhoteccan knights were unparalleled in their tactics and guided by, protected by, and enhanced by the blessing of their divine saints. Their cavalries devastated the beastmen's infantry, their pikemen and divine casters made short work of the horde's giants and the paladins of their orderes were able to go toe-to-toe with demons. Their victories were great as they pushed from west to east where they met with the forces of Kalibos's personal legion and the Bastard Prince himself.

The Unbroken found themselves strained against the devastating and horrible might of Kalibos; his personal guard was made up of powerful demon lords, mad witches and shamans, and a host of other horrors straight out of the Wyrd Wars. They were driven back into the ruins of an old dwarven settlement and things grew grim. As battle broke and the forces retreated during a freezing rain, a Xalhoteccan knight's steward came to the tent of the battle commanders. The boy's name was Croma and he was an orphan born at sea, blind at birth, but obedient, humble and true-hearted. Despite his affliction, the boy carried out his duties to the best of his abilities. As doomsday seemed inevitable, he gave a rousing speech and with conviction claimed he had a vision that he too must ride into battle. The commanders were at first skeptical but the boy's faith was incorrigible and renewed their own conviction. After all, if they failed, they would all be slain. It was better to give the boy a chance and to all ride out with their heads held high.

Croma was given a breastplate that was not his fit and he was given an old sword and rusted shield that were too heavy for him, but he was given a good horse. The commanders did not know about Croma's lineage. They did not know that he was descended from a line of Geledan kings or that his ancestor had met Kalibos in battle before. They did not know that the gods had sent them a weapon. As they watched Croma ride into battle, all they saw was a fragile but courageous boy. Somehow he rode his horse in a straight line for Kalibos. It was as if the horse knew the destiny of the boy who rode it. In fact, as Croma held tight to the horse's reins, he felt an updraft as a pair of wings sprouted from the horses shoulders. Astride a white pegasus, Croma was taken straight for Kalibos who knocked the boy off the horse. The pegasus moved to fight off all foes who approached Croma and, in fact as if by design, a circle of knights managed to break their way in and gave Croma a chance in his fight against Kalibos.

The Bastard Prince had slain many good knights that day but, as he swung his claws at the boy, shifting and twisting his form, and striking with monstrous speed his blows, the blind boy side-stepped and dodged each of them. Kalibos grew furious and turned to unholy magic to aid him in defeating the runt but the boy's faith shielded him. In fact, as the other struck the boy with unholy magic, Croma found an inner strength of his own and began piercing the beast with spear after spear of divine light. But his strength began to falter, the beast unwavering in its assault, and he fell to his knees exhausted. With a wicked laugh, the beast struck his breastplate, exposing his chest and then, with the wicked blow's force, even exposing the boy's heart. The beast prepared to unleash his final blow when a miracle occurred. The rust from the shield was knocked away by the beast's previous blows, revealing a shining mirrored surface beneath, and it caught a ray of sunlight that broke through the clouds above. The reflected light blinded Kalibos and, hearing the beast recoil and shriek in pain, with his dying breath, Croma stood up, pointing his blade towards the heavens, and piercing Kalibos under his chin and through his skull. Kalibos fell dead and his forces panicked, breaking apart, and were quickly routed by the Unbroken.

With Croma's last moment, he died knowing that he had defeated a great evil, that he had saved his brothers in arms, and, with his final request, he asked the Unbroken to settle in this place and make it their home. And they did. On that spot, they built camp into a fort into a village into frontier town into a city into the capitol of the Holy Imperium and named them all after their newest saint, Croma.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Faith of Sublanarya: The Epic of Bellero, Patron God of Heroes

The epic story of Bellero begins in a land and time far away from Sublanarya, a mythical place of heroes and monsters, and with King Acrisius of the city state of Korind in the lost sea of Geleda ["hel-eh-dah"]. King Acrisius was a powerful and proud warrior king but he had a problem. Despite having several wives and many daughters, he had no sons. Without a male heir, he felt as if the Geledan gods had turned against him. And so, as Geledan kings did since ancient times, he sought out one of the Geladan oracles for the truth behind his misfortune. The oracles were virgin priestesses, chosen by the gods to be vassal for their holy words, and provided kings and heroes with glimpses into the past, present and future with their divination.

After facing many demons and troubles to reach the cave of the oracle, the king had been impatient in his quest. He left his offering by the wayside, attacked the guardian priests of the temple when told he needed to wait his turn, and even threatened the oracle herself. This impatience angered the gods but the oracle agreed to tell him his fate:

The next child born to King Acrisius would be a male heir, by the queen of the bleeding isle, but his daughter Danae would also give birth to a hero who is destined to kill Acrisius's heir and become the king.

Hoping to avoid this tragedy, Acrisius sent his daughter to live in the Tower of Rowa, a prison for one, well-guarded by a group of all female mercenaries, on the island of Rowa which is surrounded by sharp rocks and waters filled with horrible sea monsters. No mortal could conceivably reach the island or escape. Only the light of the sun could touch the top of the tower. And it would and did.

Perhaps as divine retribution for Acrisius insulting his oracle's temple, as it was Aurelion that grants them their visions, or maybe it was just his displeasure for the Tower of Rowa as a symbol of mortal man's arrogance, but Aurelion's attentions turned to the tower. When he saw the beauty of Danae he visited her, in a beam of radiant light, and took her as his consort.

It didn't take long for the princess to become heavy with the divine child and, noticing their failure, the female warriors took her back to Korind to face her father. Seeing his daughter pregnant, Acrisius realized he had to kill her but, knowing the child was the son of a god and not wanting their further ire, he decided to leave her fate to the sea.



Acrisius took his daughter, locking her in a wooden chest, and pushes it out into the sea where he expected Danae and his unborn grandchild to drown. Yet, he had not the foresight that Delphina would hear the prayers of Danae to save her and Delphina's unborn nephew, and the box was carried to safety by a pod of dolphins to Seriphos, the island of the fisher king, Polydios. The fisher king saw the dolphins as a sign from the sea goddess and quickly, with the help of his young son Dyrus, worked to pull the wooden box from the sea. Polydios took Danae in, hiding her from her father and the world, and when she gave birth to a son, dying in childbirth, he adopted and raised the boy who was named, with his mother's dying breath, Bellero.

Meanwhile, on the island of Kaptora, their king, Minos, had his own trouble. He sought out help to have his own male heir from the oracle. In fact, he had been the one seeking assistance from the oracle when Acrisius interrupted. The oracle told him to seek a small island near Kaptora and find a large white bull. If he sacrificed it to the gods, they would reward him with a male heir. He sought out the bull but, when he found it, he was so impressed that he refused to kill it. As punishment, the gods cursed his wife to fall in love with bull. His wife Skora forced Yollo, a prisoner of Minos, to build her an apparatus to mate with the bull. The resulting child grew quickly into a blood thirsty monster. Minos sought help again from the oracle and she instructed him to contain the beast but dare not kill it.


And so, Minos had Yollo build him a maze to contain the monstrous "Minotaur" before having Yollo locked away in the recently vacated Tower of Rowa. He then sent his wife, who had gone mad, to live on the cursed red island of Moro. To contain the beast and keep it alive, Minos was forced to demand a tax from the islands surrounding Kaptora:

Each week he demanded virgins to be sent to Kaptora from other islands of Geleda and forced to enter the maze. If they survived the maze, they were chosen by the gods, and would be rewarded. He did not tell them of the beast in the maze but it was known that none left the maze alive.


Polydyos reluctantly agreed to sacrifice his son, refusing to let some other father or mother of his people make such a sacrifice without doing so himself, and he sent Dyrus to "visit" Kaptora without telling him what would become of him once he arrived. When King Minos told the fisher prince he would have to enter the maze, Bellero stepped forward and pleaded to go in his place. He loved Dyrus as a brother and believed he could solve the maze. Dyrus would have objected but Bellero said Dyrus, as the prince of the fisher people, was too important to lose his life.

Minos's daughter,  Adrian, was touched by the young man's bravery and gave him warning of the beast and, with a stroke of brilliance, gave him a basket filled with balls of yarn. She recommend that he leave a trail of yarn as he trekked and that maybe he could solve the maze rather than becoming lost in it and becoming food for the Minotaur. And so, young Bellero was lowered via a trapdoor into the maze and to face his first tests.

Inside the maze, Bellero left a trail behind himself as he walked and pray he find the end of the maze before he met the beast inside. He first heard the heavy falls of the Minotaur's steps during the day, some wall or two away, sniffing and grunting, as it searched for him. He swore to kill the Minotaur and be free. He was glad not to find it that day as he found a nice corner to hide and sleep. But he couldn't. As he tried to sleep, he heard wailing and cries. To his dismay, he discovered the Minotaur was crying out for its mother, crying "Skora!" in its loneliness and hunger. With that, Bellero realized he had no choice but to face the beast and free it from the proverbial hell in which King Minos had trapped it to suffer and survive off of the innocent.

Bellero knew the beast was tracking him and so he set about making his own trap. He made sure to leave trails in the dirt and make noises as he walked. And so, when the beast followed his trail, it would walk right into his trap. He created a mess of yarn across the floor, that tripped and tangled the beast, before setting it upon it and, with a single blow, put out of its misery.

With the poor beast slain, Bellero was able to find his way out of the maze and confront King Minos with his crimes. King Minos denied the boy's claims and demanded that he be seized and slain for his crime against the gods. Dyrus came to the boy's defense and pushed the mad king into the trapdoor of the maze where he fell to his death.


With Minos dead, Adriana took the throne and married Dyrus. Bellero was hailed a hero and asked to visit the temple of Aurelion in Korind to seek forgiveness for killing the divine monster. After all, Minos himself had been warned of the consequences of harming the divine bull incarnate. Bellero agreed and made his way to Korind.

When he arrived at the temple of Aurelion, he discovered the prince of Korind, Kalibos, sacking the temple and planning to harm the priestess Andromeda.




The mad prince took pleasure in cruelty: he murdered his enemies, humiliated his rivals and took all that he pleased without challenge. He claimed that his gods were mightier than those of the people. When Bellero arrived, he stopped the prince from defiling the temple's priestess Andromeda and challenged him. He demanded to be given an impossible challenge and that, if Bellero succeeded, his gods were mightiest and the cruel prince would cease his mayhem. The prince agreed to the game but if Bellero failed he would sacrifice Andromeda to one of his gods. He had been sacrificing virgins to it and would sacrifice Andromeda next if Bellero failed. Bellero agreed and he was given his task:

To kill one of Kalibos' gods: the Cetus Hydra.

The Cetus Hydra was an eldritch horror; a mass of writhing tentacles and screaming maws driven by hunger and madness. It is said that the tentacles of the hydra are covered in the heads of the sacrificed that scream, forever in unision, in the same breath as their last. It was a nightmare that sunk ships and dragged men to their dooms. And Kalibos had been summoning it, feeding it, and perhaps even drawing power from it.

And no mortal man could hope to wound it. For each of its writhing arms that were cut off was quickly replaced by two more. Many heroes had tested themselves against the ancient eldritch god but they too were said to become another screaming face on the pillar of eternal torment known as the Cetus Hydra.

Kalibos knew this. And so did Andromeda.

 She had a vision, a nightmare, that haunted her dreams for years. She was strapped to a rock and sacrificed to the Cetus Hydra. But, in a flash of light, she was saved and the beast crumbled into the sea. The only thing she knew that could turn another into stone was the Medusa. The Medusa was a cursed goddess who could slay any mortal or god with a mere glance, turning them to stone if they gazed upon her head of coiling serpents, and none knew of her location or how a mortal could survive an encounter with such a horror.

None knew, except the Graeae.

Andromeda told Bellero to seek out the Grey Mountain and to find their cave. She forewarned him that they were dangerous witches, as well as seers, and that they often demanded a heavy price for their knowledge. Their knowledge, as it was told, came from their possession of the Mimian Eye. All three sisters were blind but whichever sister held the eye could see the past, present and even the future.

When Bellero reached the cave and the floor was littered with human bones. Realizing the price for their knowledge, he made his way to the three sisters. The three were bickering among themselves when he sneaked into their midst, snatching the eye, and threatened to crush it in his palm unless they gave him the knowledge he sought and allowed him to leave in peace. They agreed but he could tell they would try to kill him the moment he turned over the eye.

He asked what tool a mortal would need to retrieve the head of Medusa and use it in his battle against the Cetus Hydra. They cackled and told him to seek the Pool of Twilight on Atlas Mountain. The nymphs of the Pool guarded many treasures and granted a single boon to any Geledan hero on a noble quest.

As soon as they imparted the knowledge, he fulfilled his side of the agreement. He returned the eye by throwing it into the deep end of the cave. The three witches ran after the eye and he escaped. Some say they still seek out the eye and a great reward awaits any who would find it for them.

He then made his way to the Pool of Twilight, overcoming many trials along the way, until he arrived at the Pool of Twilight. He expected to be greeted with suspicion as he had heard the nymphs killed anyone foolish enough to try and approach the pool without a pure heart. They were warriors who wielded great magic and wielded vicious spears. And yet, when he arrived, they were unarmed and welcomed him graciously for a meal. As the twilight hour came to an end, he asked for a boon to help him on his quest. And they laughed at his request.

"None are more worthy of gifts from the gods than this son of Aurelion"

He received a gift from each of his father's parents and sisters save Delphina who had saved him as an infant:

From Aurelion's twin sister Fiona of the Moon he received the hunter's sandals that would make his footfalls silent and a golden bow in the make of his father's that could fell a titan, Terra of the Earth and his grandmother Kleeona of the Heart wove him a cloak of protection that would shield him from mortal weapons, from Pyra of the Flame he was gifted an admantine vorpal blade that could behead the Medusa, and from his grandfather Grimnir the All-Father he was gifted a helm of wisdom that would protect his mind from evil thoughts.

Sophia herself appeared before the hero and granted him a silver shield of mirrors that would give him the edge over the Medusa.

The nymphs gave to him a bag that could carry the Medusa's head.

Bellero then began his long journey to the island of the Medusa with the tools to defeat the Medusa, take her head, and slay the Cetus Hydra. But Kalibos would not wait for his return and prepared to summon the eldritch god and sacrifice Andromeda. The treachery was seen by Aurelion and, finally, he decided to give his son a gift as well.



As Bellero walked along a road he saw an old beggar on the side of the road. The beggar asked for some food and, despite the journey ahead and his haste, Bellero gave the beggar half of his dinner. The beggar thanked him for his kindness and gave him a bag of bird seed. The beggar then told Bellero to throw the birdseed into the air off of a nearby cliff.

Bellero thought the beggar's request strange but he agreed to it. Bellero went to the cliff and, as he threw the bird seed into the air, the Pegasus appeared and caught the seeds in mid-air. The Pegasus was a divine beast, a flying stallion, that only the pure of heart could tame. The steed landed before the hero, lowering its head, and allowed him to climb upon its back.


As Bellero flew towards the den of the Medusa, he could feel the warmth of the sun's rays and, for the first time in his life, he knew the affection of his father who had disguised himself as a beggar to test Bellero's goodness.

His heroism would be put to the test in the den of the Medusa.

The cursed Medusa lived in a temple that more of a mortuary or stone garden, filled with corpses of arrow-slain heroes and the grimacing frozen visages of the petrified few who met the serpent woman's deadly gaze, and was guarded by beasts. With his gifts, Bellero had no difficulty entering the temple, leaving the Pegasus outside, as he crept through the winding halls and catacombs and, much like his trial against the Minotaur, he detected loneliness, sadness, and murderous intent. As he crept, he was distracted by the sound of shifting scales and rattling bones, as the Medusa moved with terrifying speed for the size and strength of the beast.

And yet, Bellero was cunning and remembered that Sophia had gifted him the shield with the intent of guarding his gaze from the beast. He used it to catch glimpses of the beasts around corners before he finally came up with a plan to distract the Medusa and overcome her speed.

As Medusa came around a corner, she stopped in her slithering tracks. Her eyes met a strange sight-- in the arms of one of her victims was the mirrored shield. Upon seeing her own reflection, she slithered close and dropped her bow, transfixed by her own horrific image. As she stared at the sight, Bellero crept behind her with Pyra's blade in hand and the Medusa caught sight of him in the shield. She could have slain him with ease but she was finished.

The Medusa was tragic creature. She had once been a mortal princess whose beauty and adoration made a deity jealous. In retribution for the idolatry of her people towards the princess, the deity cursed her so that she would be repulsive, with hair of snakes, and any that she looked upon would be killed in a single breath. Over the centuries, the Medusa had become the monster to survive. But, after seeing herself again, her own face, she was reminded of her humanity.

She begged the hero to kill her. And he tried to refuse. It seemed dishonorable. She then threatened to kill him if he did not, moving to quickly turn her head in his direction, and forcing his blade. As he scooped her head, he thought he caught a glimpse of the Medusa's face, and his heart was moved by her beauty. The tragedy of the Medusa was not lost on Bellero.

But he had little time to contemplate his actions. Instead, he climbed atop his Pegasus and flew back to Korind.

When he flew over the city of Korind, he discovered it had fallen to chaos as the members of Kalibos's cult to Cetus Hydra fought against the guards of the city and the people rioted against the Prince's evil. As he arrived in the bar, he saw the sea roil around a rock and upon it he saw that Kalibos had chained Andromeda.

Before the Cetus Hydra could lay a poisonous tentacle upon her, Bellero made battle with the eldritch god. He slashed away at its limbs, stunning it with golden arrows, and fighting his way towards on of its massive eyes. When he found it, he lifted the Medusa's head from the sack and the god's gaze met with oblivion.

It quickly turned to stone and, just as in Andromeda's vision, crumbled like sand into the sea.

After freeing her from the rocks, Bellero took Andromeda back to shore. There he was met by Kalibos who, once again, moved to harm the priestess. This time, Bellero was quick to act, and with a swing of his blade took the bastard prince's hand. With a horrible cry, Kalibos fell back off the cliffs of Korind and into the sea. The people of Korind rejoiced and celebrated as Bellero freed them from terror and tyranny.

The king of Korind, lay dying in his bed chambers, and upon hearing the death of his son and the arrival of Bellero, he called the hero to his chambers. He confessed to his crimes, thanking Bellero for stopping the evil Kalibos, and, with his dying words, named his grandson, Bellero, as his heir.


With that, Bellero became the king of Korind, marrying Andromeda, as justice and peace were restored to the city state. But happy ends are rare in Geledan myth.

Kalibos was not dead. He washed ashore on an island where he was nursed to health by a hag who found him on the shore. As he lay in her hut, having been transformed into a form befitting his hideous nature, she told him the truth: she had known his father Acrisius and that Kalibos was her own son.

The hag explained that she had once been Skora, the Queen of Kaptora, but her husband had exiled her to live among the criminals of the island. Luckily, she was a powerful witch and managed to survive and conquer the island. There she, like all on the island, exposed their "true natures" and she was transformed into a hideous hag.

She then explained that not long after the would-be execution of his daughter and grandson, King Acrisius had sought out the bleeding isle and, with some help, found it. After becoming victim to the madmen and monsters of the island, he believed he would die. Instead, he was brought before their queen at her palace. She was a beautiful temptress and, knowing his fortune, he told her that if she would bare his child that the boy would become king of Korind. The queen agreed to lay with him but, when he awoke from his drunken horror to discover his bedmate has transformed into a hideous hag and the palace transformed into a filthy hut, he fled from her side and escaped back to Korind.

But, some months later, he would go back to the island and return to Korind to raise Kalibos as his heir.

The news, combined with his defeat, drove Kalibos into further madness and the hag twisted his madness and hatred into a focused malice powerful enough to challenge the champion of the gods, Bellero. She promised that she could give him the power to conquer the Bleeding Isle's madmen and turn them into an army. Then, with his army of raiders and the other teaching the witch could provide, the bastard prince would be able to defeat Bellero.

And he tried. Kalibos's raiders attacked villages and cities all across the Geledan sea but he knew that would not be enough to draw out the hero. He took the form of shadow as a disguise and kidnapped Andromeda, dragging her to the den of a beast that Kalibos had taken under his dominion, the legendary Chimera of Lycia. Bellero flew to the cave where Kalibos's army lie in wait for him but, before he could land, the Chimera set upon him.

Bellero faced off against the Chimera and it was the most intense battle of his life: the beast had the head and forelegs of lion, also with the head and back legs of a goat and a third head of a fire-breathing dragon, with bat-like wings, and finally a venomous serpent for a tail. He did battle with the beast for a day and a night, both becoming weary and traded blows, when his helm of knowledge gave him an insight. The Chimera was a female who had recently given birth. Realizing the meaning of this revelation, he searched the battlefield below, even as the Chimera chased him.

Bellero saw that Kalibos men were guarding a cage and so, with the deft precision of his bow, he knocked the cage open and let the prisoner free. It was the Chimera's child, which flew to its mother's side and to safety. The Chimera turned on the army, immolating them with its flaming breath, before fleeing with its child in tow.

As Bellero landed on the ground to go into the cave and rescue Andromeda, he was set upon by Kalibos. This time, Kalibos was far mightier, able to shape shift into monstrous forms and was overwhelming Bellero. Finally, Bellero pulled out his trump card: the head of the Medusa, turning Kalibos to stone, before severing his head from his body. Kalibos was defeated, for now, and Bellero was victorious.

The hero ran to his queen's side, freeing her, and, as they embraced, Bellero collapsed. In the battle with the Chimera, he had been mortally wounded by the venom of the serpentine tail, and had only managed to stave off death long enough to complete his final quest. Andromeda wept for her king as she held his body. The Pegasus approached the two of them, bowing its head, and the queen knew what she must do. She lay Bellero's body across the back of the Pegasus. The loyal steed knew where to go.

Bellero was carried to heavens and received by his family. And there he was given new life but not as a mortal. Bellero had earned the mantle of godhood, inheriting the birthright of his father's divinity, and became the ideal that all heroes would forever aspire to be: courageous, honorable and kind-hearted.

Andromeda would remain the queen of Korind and would soon give birth to Bellero's only child. Bellero's bloodline was strong, watched over by the hero god, and would rise, time and time again, to stand against great evil in Geleda and across the world of Narya.

 BELLERO

Title(s)  
The Paragon, The Saint of Heroes, The Monster Slayer, The Pure-of-Heart, The True Heir


Pantheon(s)
Naryan

Power Level
Greater Deity

Alignment
Lawful Good

Symbol
A pegasus

Realm
Mount Olympus

Portfolio
Heroism, athletics, survival, courage, cunning

Domains
War, Protection

Worshipers

Athletes, heroes, guards, volunteers, warriors

Favored Weapon
Swords and Shields

Holy Day(s)
All Heroes Feast

Monday, February 27, 2017

Character Crunch: Hulderfolk, Guivre, and the One-in-a-Million Kobold (Bonus: Dragonborn Errata)

I like giving you guys player options, and the last Character Crunch on Beastfolk went over well, so I wanna talk about two of my more... unique races today and finally give you guys the goods on their stats and abilities.

In many ways, hulderfolk fulfill the half-orc role in Sublanarya: they are large, powerful and tough humanoids with a mixed heritage and monstrous appearance. But, unlike half-orcs inheriting the savagery associated with orcs, hulderfolk inherit not only impressive physical power and durability but a more easy-going nature from their bjergfolk parentage. While hulderfolk most likely experience a similar reaction of fear to their appearance from most humanoids that a half-orc would illicit-- from their impressive stature, large faun-like ears, horns, rocky and earth-colored skin, and ropey tails-- they are not a race that relies on intimidation or violence as a trademark. In fact, hulderfolk rely on determination, patience and a friendly demeanor to win over the skeptical and fearful.

If that doesn't work, of course, they are at least tough enough to survive most peasant attacks. So that's something.

Tiefling are maligned because they are the results of a monstrous union between fiends and mortals, but Guivre (Dragon Elves) are the embodiment with a deal with another sort of devil altogether. Indeed, in Sublanarya, nothing is more maligned by common folk than the chromatic dragons that rule the hellish wasteland of Smolder. They are to blame for every famine, pestilence and disaster that befalls the people of Thule. And yet, serving as symbols and ambassadors of the pact between the iaurdin and the dragons of smolder, the guivre are too easy to villainize but usually too powerful and well-connected to dare confront. It is easy to understand why:

They are raised by and among evil dragons, to serve them and rule in their stead, and therefore are known for their brilliance, cunning and cruelty. Despite loyalty being driven into them, Guivre are naturally ambitious and greedy in their own right, and often strike out on their own affairs. It is the ambition of guivres, and their loathing of their creators, that drives them to seek out their own fortunes and, in some cases, prove themselves worthy as heroes rather than villains.

Another part of making a guivre character is determining your unique draconic characteristics: vestigial wings, scales, claws, etc. These serve no mechanical function but serve to create an intimidating first impression for your guivre. They can, inexplicably, hover.

Kobolds are one of the most pathetic races in Sublanarya. They are not just slaves-- they are slaves that are proud to be given just enough authority to bully other slaves. And yet, every now and then, maybe once a century and in one-in-a-million births-- most of which don't make it to adulthood--something amazing happens:

A kobold, perhaps blessed by the draconic gods, is born with a spark that sets it apart from the pack. While this spark sets them apart from other kobolds, emboldening and shaping them into something special, they are not paragons of koboldkind. At least not by kobold standards.

These kobolds, usually taller and hardier than their kin and born with draconic scales and coloring, are more compassionate, more courageous and more bold. These kobolds are emboldened by an inner-spirit that not even by the mountains of excrement that most kobolds endure in their lives can dampen. These kobolds want to be heroes. And this... is a problem.

These kobolds, the one-in-a-million kobold, have a bold nature that is the antithesis of their species culture and values. Kobolds value cunning, they value opportunism, and they value survival. Being heroic? That's not something that the vulnerable and scraping species of reptilian minions ever respect. Kobolds are killed by heroes. Kobolds kill heroes. They don't become heroes. They are cowards, by nature.

Inevitably, the one-in-a-million kobold leaves home, either miraculously surviving some disaster, leaving behind their more craven kin after becoming disgusted by a kobold-eat-kobold society, or being banished for not falling into line. These kobolds most often become allies with dragonborn guards of Smolder, who are surprised and impressed by the curious one-in-a-million kobold, and often take them on and treat them like miniature dragonborn which, with their uniquely draconic scales, they resemble. If only the dragons and guivre realized the threat this presents.

If a one-in-a-million kobold can come along and challenge its nature, challenge the status quo of dragonkind, why can't a dragonborn or guivre come along and do the same? How safe is the pyramid of power?

HULDERFOLK
Ability Score Increase Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.
Age Hulderfolk mature at the same range as humans, reaching adulthood by their teenage years, but stay in their prime well up to 100 years before succumbing to old age.
Alignment. Hulderfolk’s alignment differ dramatically based on whether they are raised in the neutral druidic societies of the bjergfolk or among humans. They are known for having an upbeat, easy-going and friendly personality that makes them lean towards good.
Size Hulderfolk are between 6 and 8 feet tall and weigh between 200 and 360 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Speed Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Stoneskin: The rocky dermis of hulderfolk provides natural armor. Hulderfolk have a +1 racial bonus to AC.
Earth-Eater: Hulderfolk inherit the rock crushing teeth & jaws of their bjergfolk ancestors and guts that can digest almost anything, per the DM’s discretion, and Hulderfolk can sustain themselves on soil, rocks, dirt, and only the most miniscule amount of water.
Mammoth Stature: You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.
Earth Hum: You can cast the Speak with Stone spell as a 6th level spell once with this trait and regain the ability to do so when you finish a short or long rest.
Speak with Stone
6th-level Transmutation
Casting time:
1 minute
Range:
Self
Components:
V,S
Duration:
Up to 10 minutes
 Concentration:     Yes
   
You imbue an area of stone within 60 feet of you with limited sentience and animation, giving them the ability to communicate with you and follow your simple commands. You can question the stone about events in the spell's area, gaining information about creatures that have passed, weather, what lies on the other side of the stone (if possible) and other circumstances.

Stone might be able to perform other tasks on your behalf, at the DM's discretion. The spell enables the stone to move very slowly for the duration of the spell.


Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Giant..


(Note: Speak with Stone is a 6th level spell available to druids as well in Narya)

GUIVRE
Ability Score Increase Your Intelligence score increases by 2, and your Charisma score increases by 1.
Age Guivre reach mental maturity at a very young age but only reach physical maturity at around 50 years of age. Their lifespans have not been tested by natural time but, perhaps as part of magical experiments, guivre know that they age similarly to iaurdin (high elves) and have a maximum lifespan of about 400 years.
Alignment. Guivre are raised by chromatic dragons to be chromatic dragons incarnate. This means that they tend towards evil alignments and, due to their role as ambassadors and officials within the Smoulder "pyramid of power" they most often are lawful or neutral. It is possible, of course, for a guivre to rebel against the pyramid but ambition is always the driving force of these humanoids.
Size Guivre vary in height and weight as much as humans do. Your size is Medium.
Speed Your base walking speed is 30 feet. No one is sure why, but Guivre have the ability to hover from a young age. It takes half a movement to begin hovering up to 5 feet off the ground. Your hover speed is 30 feet. If a Guivre is knocked prone they can use a reaction hover but only have up to half their movement speed on their next turn. If a Guivre is falling, they can use a reaction to reduce their falling damage to 0. If a Guivre is more than 10 feet above the ground, they will begin to fall until they are only hovering 5 feet above the ground. While hovering, ignore difficult terrain at the dungeon master's discretion.
Draconic Imprint: You have a draconic imprint. Choose one type of dragon (Black, Blue, Green, Red, White). You have resistance to the elemental damage associated with that dragon and you gain a cantrip. If you choose black, you have resistance to acid and you know the acid splash cantrip spell. If you choose blue, you have resistance to lightning damage and you known the shocking grasp cantrip spell. If you choose green, you have resistance to poison and you know the poison spray cantrip spell. If you choose red, you have resistance to fire and you know the firebolt cantrip spell. If you choose white, you have resistance to cold and you know the chilling ray cantrip spell.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common, Elven and Draconic.

ONE-IN-A-MILLION KOBOLD
Ability Score Increase Your Dexterity score increases by 2 and your Charisma score increases by 1.
Age Kobolds reach maturity by age 6 and can live up to 120 years but very rarely do so.
Alignment. Unlike the usually their usually evil and cowardly kobold brethren, one-in-a-million kobolds are born with a spark of dignity, compassion and boldness that drives them towards good alignments. They often fall into lawful alignments if they value the loyalty of their clans but others seek freedom through chaotic means or become neutral as they see the unfair treatment of kobolds and others by the rest of the world.
Size One-In-A-Million kobolds are still diminuitive but are taller and hardier than the average kobold. They are 3 feet tall and weight between 35 and 50 pounds. Your size is small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. Your reptillian eyes give you darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.
Pack Tactics. You have advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of your allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.

Small but Fearless. You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.
Natural Armor. You have touch, scaly skin. When you aren't wearing armor, your AC is 13 + your dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield's benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.
Draconic Blessing: You have a draconic blessing. Choose one type of dragon (Black, Blue, Green, Red, White). You have resistance to the elemental damage associated with that dragon. If you choose black, you have resistance to acid. If you choose blue, you have resistance to lightning damage. If you choose green, you have resistance to poison. If you choose red, you have resistance to fire. If you choose white, you have resistance to cold.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic.
 

Setting Errata
I've always felt like they are the most shortchanged race in the Player's Handbook, so I decided that Dragonborn should gain the following features. Dragon Trooper represents their reputation and proficiency as enforcers. Natural Armor reflects the fact that they are covered in tough scales that, imho, are as tough as Lizardfolk. With these changes, they can compete with other races when previously their main and only appeal was their dragons' breath:
Dragon Trooper. You have proficiency with the Intimidation skill.
Natural Armor. You have touch, scaly skin. When you aren't wearing armor, your AC is 13 + your dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armor to determine your AC if the armor you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield's benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armor.