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Z = Das Ende!

30 Apr

Well, here we are at the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

I certainly enjoyed it. Sometimes it felt like a wicker cage, sometimes it felt liberating, but it was definitely worth it!

To end the Challenge, I want to post something that is a beginning, not an end:
I made a new video that is a very basic introduction to Fantasy Roleplaying Games as Mythopoesis. It is not meant to be complete or detailed, but is a very simple overview of the subject material. I may revise it later, but here it is as it currently stands.

Here is to the end of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and on to new things in the Blogosphere and in the OSR…

Fantasy Roleplaying Games: A Mythopoetic Experience
(This is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter. It is meant to be introductory only and does not contain details as to many pertinent details of certain aspects due to media constraints.

No favoritism of games or game systems is implied by any of the art work appearing in this video… it is a Fair Use video for educational purposes only)


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Yggdrasil

29 Apr

In the Germanic spiritual tradtion, Yggdrasil is the cosmic World Tree or “Tree of Life”. It is a gigantic tree that rises out of the Well of Wyrd (“Destiny”) and gives the universe its basic infrastructure which binds together all of the Nine worlds of the universe. These Nine Worlds rest within its roots or branches and due to this the World Tree often serves as a conduit for travel between the worlds. Yggdrasil is often spoken of as an ash, though it was thought to have needles like a yew and also bore fruit. More likely than not the tree cannot be compared to any mortal species of tree, but may, indeed be a combination of them all.

The name Yggdrasil literally means the ‘Steed of Yggr’ i.e. the horse of Odin, since Yggr ( “Terrible One”) is one of Odin’s many names. This name refers to the nine nights Odin is said to have spent hanging from the World Tree as a self-sacrifice in order to find the Runes, as described in the Havamal (although the tree is not explicitly identified as Yggdrasil):

“I hung on that windy tree for nine nights wounded by my own spear.
I hung to that tree, and no one knows where it is rooted.
None gave me food. None gave me drink. Into the abyss I stared
until I spied the runes. I seized them up, and howling, I fell.”

Three roots supported the trunk, with one passing through Asgard, one through Jotunheim and one through Helheim. Beneath the Asgard root lay the sacred Well of Urd (“Fate”), and there dwelt the three Nornir, over whom even the gods had no power, and who, every day, watered the tree from the primeval fountain so that its boughs remained green. Beneath the Jotunheim root lay Mímisbrunnr, the spring or well of Mimir (“Memory”); and beneath the Helheim root the well Hvergelmir (“the Roaring Cauldron”).


Ásgard, Álfheim and Vanaheim rested on the branches of Yggdrasil. The trunk was the world-axis piercing through the center of Midgard, around which Jotunheim was situated, and below which lay Nidavellir or Svartálfheim. The three roots stretched down to Helheim, Niflheim and Muspelheim, although only the first world hosted a spring for Yggdrasil.

On the top of the World tree perched a giant eagle, (with a hawk upon its forehead named Vedrfolnir (“wind breather”), who blew the winds over the worlds with his mighty wings. The Niflheim root of Yggdrasil are gnawed at by the dragon Nihogg (“Vicious Blow”). The messenger of the World Tree (and thus between the worlds) is the squirrel Ratatosk who scurried up and down the tree between Nidhogg and the eagle, forwarding insults between them. There were also four stags feeding on the bark of Yggdrasil: Duneyrr, Durathror, Dvalin, and Dainn.

Yggdrasil is also central in the myth of Ragnarok, the end of the world. The only two humans to survive Ragnarok (there are some survivors among the gods), Lif and Lifthrasir, are able to escape by sheltering in the branches of Yggdrasil, where they feed on the dew and are protected by the tree

“The bellowing fire will not scorch them;
it will not even touch them,
and their food will be the morning dew.
Through the branches they will see a new sun burn
as the world ends and starts again.”

Weißenstein

27 Apr

The County of Weißenstein
a state of the Holy Roman Empire (1540–1604) and earlier of the Livonian Confederation.

Weißenstein contained Paide Castle, which was built by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, an autonomous Templar Order aligned with the Prussian Teutonic Knights. The town of Paide grew quickly nearby. The region has changed hands many times and political intrigue has been part of that sometimes secretive history. Paide now lies in modern day Estonia. The current population of the city of Paide is around 10,000.

Once in Weißenstein, Paide Castle has been the site of great military use in the past

The castle was built in 1265 or 1266 by Master Konrad von Mandernand as a fortress of the Livonian Order. It was here that the 4 Estonian Kings who led the St. George’s day uprising in 1343 where killed while negotiating with the Livonian Order.

I have an ancestor, Johann Osthoff von Mengede, who was also a Master of the Livonian Brotherhood from 1450-69, only seven years after the St. George’s Day uprising, so this is quite fascinating to me.

The Livonian Confederation was a loosely organized alliance between the Roman Catholic Church, crusading German knights, German merchants, vassals, cities and existing indigenous peoples in the area which is now Latvia and Estonia. In the late 12th century a German monk, Father Meinhard, came to the area with both spiritual and economic ambitions. His goal was to bring Christianity, in the form of Roman Catholicism, to the tribal peoples. Also, the value of the strategic location of the Baltic area between the Roman Catholic world and the Byzantine world, and the possibility for economic exploitation of this region was not lost on the powers of the Roman Catholic Church. Following Father Meinhard, the Confederation existed for almost three and a half centuries. In 1561, as a result of the invasion of Ivan IV and internal political instability, the Confederation came to an end and its lands were divided amongst the surrounding countries. This is when the Principality known as Weißenstein was formed. The Baltic Germans did however, establish themselves as the ruling, elite class which held ramifications for this region even into the twentieth century.

My campaign contains much regarding Templars and a Universal Church, so these real life historical events and persons are useful for me. Weißenstein will figure heavily in it, as it will fit nicely into the Holy Empire of the Universal Church that figures prominently in my game.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Vigilante NPC: St. Francis

26 Apr

Vigilante NPC

Crime lords fear the name of this saint of the people. The common folk are grateful for his help. The authorities are consternated that this upholder of good undermines their reputation, yet they cannot deny his effectiveness on the streets. The person in question is the robed vigilante they call “Saint Francis”.

St. Francis is a crime-fighting vigilante that is found only in one major, highly populated city in the campaign. I have used this NPC vigilante in a couple of RPGs.

Originally, he figured in a Cyberpunk campaign set it San Francisco, California in the year 2056. Later, I recycled the NPC for another urban campaign that took place in a very large medieval city in the typical fantasy genre Roleplaying game.

The GM can play it so that, while hard-hitting, the vigilante causes only non-lethal damage to his opponents or alternately as a gritty decimator who leaves few, if any criminals left alive. St. Francis comes out of nowhere, moves decisively and then fades away again, never speaking a word.

He wears the habit of the Friars Minor and attacks using weaponry suitable for the campaign. In a medieval one, a staff and hand-to-hand combat is sufficient. In a modern or futuristic setting, depending upon the violence level of St. Francis that the GM chooses, the weaponry could be the same as before or could include things that cause great havoc -usually involving cool explosions and the fiery vengeance of righteous fury!

The root cause of the motivations of St. Francis are unclear, but when he strikes, he thwarts anyone from petty criminals to highly organized street gangs and criminal organizations. Always, the motivation seems to be to protect the average citizen that falls prey to the activities of these individuals and groups. St. Francis only engages in his vigilantism at night.

St. Francis can be either an actual Franciscan monk or a loner that plays the persona for unknown reasons (defrocked monk, a devout lay religious , etc.) Typical choices of a lair of the vigilante are determined by how he is used in the campaign, but they could include: a ruined monastery, underneath a church or serving actively as a monastic cleric during the day.

St. Francis may be considered anathema by his religious organization because of his actions, but he is genuine in his desire to protect the innocent and bring criminals to justice. If there is corruption in the Church, those involved in it will want to expose and suppress him.

I have had great fun having this NPC pop up when least expected in my campaigns. He can be a great hook for drawing in PCs that have their own motivations to fight criminals.

-Jeff
“Retro”

An anathema has fallen
On this poor humanity
The dark world is falling asleep
The moon has hidden the sun

And the sky is becoming cloudy
Like arms which are opening
Spreading darkness
All over our damned world…

Unexpected Treasures

25 Apr

Dartronus Prime, a simple spacescape I created (click for larger view)

I was digging through what few old papers I have and stumbled across a Traveller Starship design I had created. This ship was one that I designed towards the end of a Traveller campaign that started in ’82 and ran for a couple of years.

My Scout character, Karl Volker, made his fortune running whatever goods he could, legal or not, across the Spinward Marches. He is the one that I have mentioned in previous posts. The guy started off as a legit, law-abiding Imperial citizen, but slowly came to dislike the sometimes oppressive policies it had, especially concerning taxation of cargo and credit fees for ports, etc. He disliked how it cut into his profit, when he was taking a lot of risks to deliver goods for the local governments on dangerous and vital missions.

Eventually he became somewhat of a tax-protester/ Anarchist and was one of the leaders in a failed rebellion of several outer worlds against the Imperium. Along the way, he had also made himself an enemy of the Zhodani Consulate, which put a death mark on him and sent infrequent Assassin agents to attempt to take care of Karl once and for all. Because he was a wanted man by far too many powerful enemies, he left Known Space and went deeper into uncharted regions. After several misadventure, one of which resulted in him being imprisoned by an advanced alien race for two years of mind probes and observation, ex-Scout Volker decided he wasn’t safe anywhere. Karl went blindly even deeper into Unknown Space.

The campaign was winding down as it was, so I decided to leave his fate a mystery (but I suspected that if I had played him any longer, he would have met some strange and spectacular death).

Osprey Non-Standard Merchant Vessel (click for larger image)

so… on to the ship design that I found and scanned. It was the first special design ship that Karl Volker commissioned, but it wasn’t the last. It is called the Osprey and I labeled it a “Non-Standard Merchant“, which could just as easily have meant “Potential Pirate vessel”, because it was reasonably armed for its size. The armaments and defenses of the 1000 ton Wedge-shape vessel consist of:

1 – 50 ton Bay Particle weapon (the Big Gun!)
3 – Turret Triple Sand Casters
2- Triple Beam Turret Lasers
1- Single Turret Energy gun (Plasma)
4- Triple Turret Missile Launchers

For a merchant vessel of this size, it was armed well! No way did I want the tables turned on me if things got dicey in space. Karl had already been boarded early in his career when all he had was his junk heap of an old Scout vessel and he didn’t intend for it to happen again.

  • The ship has a Jump Drive factor 4 and high local space maneuverability of 6.
  • The Osprey is capable of a crew compliment of 20 personnel.
  • It is fitted with ram-scoops to skim gas giants or water worlds for fuel and has a cargo capacity of 220 tons.
  • There is zero waste space in this vessel.

At Tech Level C, the bill for this beauty came to a whopping 532.85 MCr (million credits)

Quite the investment, for sure and not a bad design, if I do say so, done according to exacting Traveller construction rules.

here is the Ship Design Worksheet that went with the plans, if you are interested.  I had to adjust the brightness and contrast of the image some to make it more legible, because the original is done in pencil.

(click for full-sized image)

-Jeff
“Retro”

Talismondé, the Capital of Arduin

23 Apr

Talismondé, the Capital of Arduin

The capitol city of Arduin is the largest of the cities in the nation, with a seasonal population of 600,000. The city has a long and distinguished history and its foundations extend well beyond the formation of the Accords of Arduin (The treaty between nations that formally ended the Nexus Wars and defined not only the new country of Arduin but also formalized how the Arduin Nexus would be governed).

The city is a hub, just like Arduin is a nexus. All things, great and small eventually find there way to the city; Talismondéans say all things come to Talismondé, whether they want to or not. Perhaps the saying is true, and perhaps not, but Talismondé is indeed a city among cities, where diversity and difference is the rule not the exception. Songs in dozens of languages can be heard in taverns, the smell of foods from different cuisines mix in a heady fog of exotic spices, and beings of all colors, sizes, garbs, and types meet and mingle on the street. The Hermetic Order of Wizardry maintains a large lodge in the city and keeps watch on what happens within the walls of Talismondé.

area around Talismonde' - click for larger image

The magical city of Talismondé is worthy of a campaign in itself. Everything and anything happens here. Just like the Arduin Nexus draws in beings from all over the Multiverse to it, Talismondé draws to itself adventurers and beings of all sorts and kinds. Its streets are full of history. Untold mysteries happen each day.  The air is filled with the voices of myriad races, and the skies full of flying beings, both magical and natural, that bedeck the air like mystical stars or gems.

Only the strict laws against illegal magic and the ever-vigilant city guard prevent things from (usually!) getting out of hand. While justice is swift in Talismondé, the ruling King and Queen of the nation of Arduin, whose castle is at the heart of the city, are beneficent and enlightened. As the guardians of the realm  and of the Nexus, they must be wise.

If one is looking for adventure, ancient vaults beneath the city hold unrevealed treasures to this day. Political intrigue abounds and cloak-and-dagger plots to control the Nexus by secret societies are always a threat. This bustling place is a hub for delvers, princes and alien creatures. Cosmopolitan, exotic and sometimes dangerous, Talismondé is where history is made – or often repeats itself!

-Jeff
“Retro”

The Arduin Grimoire Trilogy (and more) at Emperor’s Choice

Weird Spacecraft #2

22 Apr

The previous post on Weird Spacecraft was focused mostly on older Science Fiction ideals. Cylindrical rockets are not the only type of craft to exist in Science Fiction. In some settings, a spacecraft would never see atmosphere, so having it aerodynamic is not a necessity. As I mentioned earlier, the culture of the star faring race will affect the design and function of a spacecraft in a game.

The Warhammer 40K Universe is one where culture definitely affects the shape and design of ships. I bought Games Workshop’s Battlefleet Gothic when it came out. It is now a defunct game, but for tabletop space warfare, it was one of the best. The Fantasy Flight Rogue Trader RPG, set in the Warhammer 40K milieu, may bring interest in incorporating that back into the table. Even if it doesn’t the ship designs become very important in that game.

I love the Eldar ships. They are elegant, work on principles that are different than other race’s spacecraft and introduce a rudimentary cloaking. Here is one of the smaller attack ships, more akin to a fighter than anything.

The Orks are not so elegant in design, but their ships are sturdy, if less advanced, but make use of their hulks even for ramming – a very Orcish tactic indeed!

This Ork fleet looks terrifyingly functional. The prows of the ships hint at the damage a several kilometers long Hulk could do when it tears into your vessel!
The cries of “Abandon ship!” might not be far away if you get too close to one of these without proper agility and firepower to protect you.

The Imperial ships of the Humans are many times like Gothic cathedrals in space, reflecting the cult of Emperor worship and the Crusader-like mentality of those that serve him. For the god-emperor, these mighty vessels protect the colonies of man among the stars, attempting to reclaim and reunite all humans under his mighty rule.

The box cover from the Battlefleet Gothic game tells it all. Here the Imperial fleet is coming out of warp, ready to do battle, because as the motto of the game goes, “There is no peace among the stars”.

The other races of have their own designs, some of which are truly alien.

I haven’t had a chance to play Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader for some time, but I hope to put my rulebooks back to use soon. The images of ships in the publications by Fantasy Flight make me want to ply the space lanes for a few credits, while “avoiding any Imperial entanglements” – wait, that’s another universe, but hey, they all tend to meld in my sector of the Multiverse!

Click image above for more info about Rogue Trader

-Jeff
“Retro”