In the first age, the region now called Balazar was part of what everyone called the Elder Wilds. The indigenous people call their traditions the Elder Wilds Tradition, and it dominates the area. The people live by hunting and gathering. The primary female practice is Hearth-Mother. The primary male practice is Foundchild the Hunter, although some woman become hunters and join this practice instead of Hearth-Mother. Your hero is probably a spiritist of the tradition, and so gains the benefit of the Elder Wilds Tradition keyword, below. Most adults are practitioners of the Hearth-Mother Practice (if women) or Foundchild Practice.
Since the arrival of Balazar, there have been additions to the magic of the region, namely the inclusion of the theistic cult of Yelmalio and the hero cult of Balazar. Due to Balazar’s marriage to Rigtaina the hunting nymph, following these specific cults does not impose any penalties to a follower of this tradition.
Elder Wilds Tradition Keyword
Abilities: Elder Wilds Tradition Knowledge, Worship Foundchild and Hearth-Mother.
Virtues: Conservative, Tough.
Relationships: to Spirits; to Shaman.
Tradition Spirits (spiritists members usually start with 5 charms):
[Life] Survival spirits—Spirits of those who survived the Long Night (Endure Elements 7 to 15, Find Shelter 6 to 5W, Resist Enemy Magic 9 to 2W, Sense Elder Races 2W, Sense Spirits 19, Withstand Damage 9 to 16.)
Core Practices: The Foundchild and Hearth-Mother Practices the most common core practices for men and women, respectively. The tradition’s shamanic practice is Horned Man. Many other helper practices also exist, such as Brother Dog and Rigtaina the Hunting Nymph.
Great Secret: None
Charms and Fetishes: Balazarings usually produce fetishes out of wood, woven grass, and hide. Some may incorporate chips of stone or other strange materials from places of power.
Other Side: Between lives, Votanki rest in the land of the wondrous dead called the Green Place with Hearth-Mother and Foundchild. The bodies of Hearth-Mother’s worshippers are buried in unmarked sites, whilst those of Foundchild’s followers are left on high platforms to be consumed by animals. Without proper rites the dead become hostile ghosts.
During the Great Darkness, a band of survivors prayed for help from any who would listen. That night, a grandmother left her home in the Sky World and came to the people, giving them her gifts of hope and magic to keep them alive when the world died. Her name is Hearth-Mother, and is an ancient and venerated figure in Balazar myth and religion. The tribes strengthened under her guidance and leadership.
Once, she found a young mewling foundling alone in the wastes and raised him to be a great warrior with her three famous meals. This was Foundchild, also called simply the Hunter. They had one child here, named Votank, who populated this region with the tribespeople.
Hearth-Mother’s practice is restricted to the women of the tribes. She is the source of the crafts of cooking and sewing, and taught them the lore of plants, and the treatment of wounds and diseases.
In general each clan has a single leading elder, called Grandmother. Magic knowledge is passed on in group ceremonies each autumn which are part of the women’s’ secret rites. Elder women form a band of teachers and officials for women and are always treated with care and respect. However, when an elder feels herself to be too much of a burden to her family, she will often go off into the grasslands to die. It should be noted that the Grandmother also sits on the clan council.
The women usually gather about 60% of the daily food, except in Fire season when it is about 45%, and Dark season when it is about 15%. They also care for orphans and whelps
Entry Requirements: Must be a woman who has come of age in the tradition.
Abilities: Cook Meal, Follower of Hearth-Mother, Hearth-Mother Practice Knowledge, Open Spirit World, Sew, Spirit Face, Treat Disease, Treat Wounds, Weave Grass.
Virtues: Caring, Prudent.
[Harmony] Healing spirits—Healing spirits who show how to help people (Bless Mother 12 to 1W, Find Healing Plant 8 to 6W, Heal Child 14 to 1W, Heal Mother 9 to 4W, Heal Warrior 19, Restore Courage 17.)
[Hearth] Hearth spirits—Fire spirits who show how to help people (Cause Spark 13 to 2W, Protect Hearth 12 to 18, Sense Invader 1W, Shielding Haze 7 to 8W, Sleeping Spark 14 to 4W, Summon Fire Spirit ritual 20.)
[Life] Nourishment spirits—Life spirits who show how to help people (Enhance Food 12 to 4W, Feed the Hearth 16W, One Last Bte 18 to 5W, Preserve Food 19, Save the Children 16W.)
Spirit Ally: A few practitioners awaken a spirit ally in the family’s hearth.
Secret: Three Famous Meals ritual (Otherworld magic. This ritual uses three meals to heal any physical wound. On a complete victory it will even call a Votanki spirit back from recent death to inhabit its body again.)
Practice Secret Requirements: Cooking 1W2, Follower of Hearth-Mother 1W2, Spirit Face 1W2.
Charms and Fetishes: Fetishes are woven grass pouches, filled with ritual objects or items of personal significance.
Other Side: Hearth-Mother lives with Foundchild and their son Votank in Grandmother’s Hearth in the Green Place. From there, practitioners can go to the Sky World or out into the Long Night.
Other Connections: Generally received favorably by Earth worshippers.
Foundchild was first discovered by Hearth-Mother during the Great Darkness, at a site in the Dog Hills. Though an infant when found, he rapidly grew to manhood. Upon reaching adulthood, he taught them the use of death as a tool to bring life. He also taught the songs to send slain beasts' spirits back to their ancestors.
His practice has developed into a fraternal society in which the strong are respected, and the weak protected. His followers believe they will go to his Happy Hunting Ground in the Green Place after death. They will stay there for a time before again entering the cycle of rebirth. Foundchild's practitioners follow the burial customs of their tribe, or else place their dead on raised platforms.
The greatest hunter of the clan is traditionally the head of the society. All others defer to him and show respect. He cannot command obedience, but he can request it. Each year, during the three weeks just prior to Sacred Time, there is a Great Hunt and all followers of Foundchild participate, attempting to bring in the most magnificent creature while hunting alone and unarmored. The winner is designated the First Hunter, those who bring in significant prey animals alive are designated Great Hunters, and the rest are accepted as Hunters. Hunters who bring in prey animals during the Great Hunt three years running are elevated to Great Hunter status.
Entry Requirements: Must be a member of the Elder Wilds Tradition who has brought in a suitable prey animal during a Great Hunt.
Abilities: Follower of Foundchild, Foundchild Practice Knowledge, Open Spirit World, Peaceful Cut ceremony, Spear Fighting, Spirit Face, Throw Javelin.
Virtues: Aloof, Brave, Proud.
[Beast] Beast spirits—Beast spirits of prey animals (Command [Prey Animal] 6 to 4W, Mimic Animal Sounds 7 to 19, Put Animal to Sleep 18.)
[Hunting] Hunting spirits—Ancestor spirits of skilled hunters (Find Trail 12 to 4W, Javelin Help 12 to 19, Move Stealthily 19, Multiply Javelin 18, Sleep Safely 10 to 5W, Sure Javelin Strike 12 to 18, Winged Javelin 12 to 9W.)
[Life] Survival spirits—Hard-bitten spirits of the wilderness (Call Spirit to Ward Camp 6 to 4W, Endure Pain 12 to 3W, Hurt Enemy 6 to 17, Hurt Otherworld Enemy 12 to 9W, Hurt Prey Animal 18 to 8W2.)
Spirit Ally: A Great Hunter may gain as a spirit ally the spirit of an ancient hunter, who inhabits a favored javelin or spear.
Secret: Take Prey's Seeming (This is Foundchild's ultimate tool for hunting. This secret allows hunters to adopt the appearance and mannerisms of a specific prey animal so completely that it will fool even the animals in question).
Practice Secret Requirements: Follower of Foundchild 1W2, Open Spirit World 1W2, Peaceful Cut ceremony 1W2.
Charms and Fetishes: Fetishes are typically either small medicine pouches of woven grass that are sewn shut and filled with prey animal parts, or are wooden masks depicting characters and creatures from Foundchild’s many myths.
Other Side: Foundchild lives with Hearth-Mother and their son Votank in Grandmother’s Hearth in the Green Place, but spends most of his time out in his Happy Hunting Grounds, seeking prey animals to feed the people. From Grandmother’s Hearth, practitioners can visit the Sky World, or the Darkness Age.
The loyal dog is an old friend of the hunters. It is said that Brother Dog approached Foundchild during the Darkness and said he’d prefer to be a friend than food. The two became brothers and have served each other ever since.
One time, King Bear, tired of the people killing the animals in his hunting grounds, took the clan's children and hid them in his Cave. He hoped that with no more people, there would be more to eat. Foundchild and Brother Dog tracked him to his lair. While Foundchild distracted King Bear, Brother Dog sniffed out where the children were hidden and took them to freedom. Then he came back, and helped Foundchild defeat King Bear and made him promise to leave the people alone.
The practice is open to men or women. The ceremonies are usually performed during the Fire season, which is sometimes called Dog-month, and is attended by young people and young animals both. During the ceremony the spirit of Brother Dog appears and after practitioners sing a magical song everyone can speak one language for a while, whether it is dog-speech or people-speech. This song can be led by any council elder or holy person and so there are actually many Brother Dogs which appear on this holy day. Even within a clan there are often more than one Brother Dog.
At the yearly ceremony the practitioners bring some meat to feed the Brother Dog spirit visiting them. After the ceremony is over the participants eat the remainder of the sacrifice.
Entry Requirements: Must promise to treat your own dogs as brothers (i.e., feed and heal them), to never willfully harm a domestic dog, and to attend the ceremonies once every two years.
Abilities: Breed Dog, Brother Dog Practice Knowledge, Follower of Brother Dog, Hunting, Keep Up with Pack, Open Spirit World, Smell Prey, Spirit Face, Train Dog.
Virtues: Honest, Playful.
[Man] Brother spirits—People spirits who are like dogs (Keep Each Other Warm 4 to 4W, Lick Wounds 8 to 18, Speak with Dog 12 to 8W, Speak with Human 10 to 5W.)
[Beast] Dog spirits—Dog spirits who are like people (Dog-Napping 12 to 2W, Find Sustenance 12 to 1W, Hunting 15 to 5W, Sniff Out Intruder 18 to 12W2.)
Spirit Ally: Practitioners may receive a spirit ally in the body of a hunting or guarding dog.
Secret: Unerring Stalker (Automatically succeed at a single final action during any contest in which the character has tracked a target and has used the powers of Brother Dog, even if he normally would not be allowed a final action.)
Practice Secret Requirements: Follower of Brother Dog 1W2, Open Spirit World 1W2, Smell Prey 1W2.
Charms and Fetishes: Brother Dog fetishes are made from the skins of prey animals, wrapped around bones.
Other Side: Brother Dog hunts with his friend Foundchild in the Happy Hunting Grounds in the Green Place, but always has a warm spot reserved by Grandmother’s Hearth. From there, practitioners can go out into the Long Night.
Disadvantages: Brother Dog followers smell like dogs so animals respond to them the same way they would respond to dogs.
The First Person
Basically the same as the Daka Fal practice (HeroQuest page 145) with slightly different charms from the Ancestors.
The Sow Mother
In the Before Time, many spirits threatened others in their search for power. One of those was the Bad Wolf, who brought Death to the Sow Mother’s kin. When he killed one of her children, she found him standing over one of her children, red in tooth and claw, she felt rage fill her. She chased him, and his fear gave him speed so that he outran her. But still she raged and still she gave chase. To try to hide from her, Bad Wolf ate the Sun, plunging everything into the Great Darkness, but still she would not relent.
Finally, Bad Wolf begged a Dragon to hide him. The Dragon agreed. “Run into my mouth, she will not be able to chase you there,” he said. Bad Wolf ran into the Dragon’s mouth and was eaten. When Mralota came, she asked Dragon where Bad Wolf had gone. “He is hiding in my mouth. You should pursue him,” he said. She agreed, and went into the Dragon’s mouth and was eaten.
And there she remained, lost to the people, until Balazar stole her back from the Dragon. He brought her to the Citadels, and since then the spirit has allowed the people of the Citadels to raise those animals safely.
Entry Requirements: Be a Citadel pig herder.
Abilities: Follower of Mralota, Mralota Practice Knowledge, Open Spirit World, Spirit Face, Swineherding.
Virtues: Stubborn, Tough.
[Beast] Boar spirits—Beast spirits of power (Boar's Strength 12 to 18, Charge Like Pig 1W, Grow Tusks 12 to 4W, Ignore Pain 19, Intimidating Display 17W, Thick Skin 17, Throw Off Exhaustion 15 to 6W, Virility 12 to 4W.)
[Beast] Sow spirits—Beast spirits of kinship (Enhance Sense of Smell 11 to 3W, Pig Friend 15 to 6W, Resist Persuasion 16, Scent Predators 15, Talk With Pigs 12 to 2W.)
Spirit Ally: A practitioner can get a porcine spirit awakened in one of their pigs.
Secret: Carry On (Gain an additional final action in any contest in which the character is striving against difficult odds and has used the powers of Mralota, even if he would not normally be permitted a final action.)
Practice Secret Requirements: Follower of Mralota 1W2, Open Spirit World 1W2, Tough 1W2.
Charms and Fetishes: Mralota shamans make fetishes from bone and wood, and medicine bundles from pig hide.
Other Side: Mralota dwells in Balazar's Citadel in the Green Place in the Spirit World. Here, the spirits of wild pigs and human Mraloti are as one and can take on either form as it suits them, and rapacious carnivores and wicked outsiders only threaten them at the very fringes of the realm.
Disadvantages: Practitioners of Mralota are looked down on by other Citadel people as uncouth and lower status.
Horned Man (Shamanic Practice)
Father of Shamans
I was puzzled by what the shamanic practice for Balazar would be, until it occurred to me, following the old RuneQuest "feel," that it would be the Horned Man (HeroQuest page 146). That guy gets around.
The Brightness of Yelm, God of Light and War
For Yelmalio, I used the cult as given in Sartar Rising 2: Orlanth is Dead! page 32. It's too simple a version (IMO) of the cult for Sun County in Prax or the Sun Dome in Dragon pass, but it's perfect for the three citadels of Balazar.
The cult of Balazar is a hero cult. A foreigner, Balazar came to the region in the Second Age and made the kingdom his own. He built the citadels and left his children to care for them when he marched off with the True Golden Horde to plunder Dragon Pass. Like most participants in the Dragonkill War of 1100, Balazar was killed, but not until he had performed noteworthy deeds.
Balazar stole the sacred image Mralota the Sow Mother from dragons, and since then the spirit has allowed the citadels to raise those animals safely.
Balazar married Rigtaina, the hunting nymph daughter of the Wild Mother, and founded the dynasties which rule the three citadels, and so the nobles there and many common people, trace their lineage to Balazar instead of to Votank. Since Balazar worshipped Yelmalio, his followers do also. The cult of Yelmalio is strong at the citadels (though stronger at the two uncontrolled by the Lunars). Balazar is a hero cult of Yelmalio.
Abilities: Horsemanship, Mythology of Balazar, Spear Fighting.
Virtues: Ambitious, Proud.
[Mastery] feats: Aura of Righteousness, Lead Clan, Lead Tribe.
Other Side: Balazar’s Citadel is between Sky Place and the Green Place, warding them both against invaders. From the Citadel, worshippers may exit to the Long Night or follow other doorways into the Sky Realm in the God World.
Other Connections: Balazar is a part of the Elder Wilds Tradition as well as (distantly) the Celestial Pantheon.
Disadvantages: The Balazar cult is only worshipped in the three citadels of Balazar.
The Wild Mother
The Wild Mother is the Great Spirit of the untamed wilderness. She is unknowable and untamable. As a result, she is not directly worshipped but is propitiated and receives worship in almost all the important rites in the tradition. She does not respond to shaman attempts to contact her directly as she must remain untamed; it is unclear what powers such worship would provide.
The daughter of the Wild Mother and Genert, she is also the mother of Balazar’s children. She is the One Who Can be Caught and also the One Who Escapes. Balazar’s sacred marriage to Rigtaina provided him rulership of the lands, but when he died Rigtaina left once more; a child of her mother, she was never truly a part of the clans or citadels.
She is the source of all the wild prey animals and nourishing plants the Balazaring clans depend upon for survival. She receives some worship at Foundchild ceremonies, and at the beginning of every Great Hunt the shamans call on her to bless the hunters.
Entry Requirements: Membership in a tradition that knows the ways of contacting Rigtaina. Any Balazaring who follows Rigtaina must, a year after joining the practice, sever all ties with clan and family and live in the wilderness alone. The one exception is female followers who have children—they must sever all ties once their children have come of age.
Abilities: Escape Restraints, Follower of Rigtaina, Open Spirit World, Rigtaina Practice Knowledge, Spirit Face.
Virtues: Independent, Restless.
[Hunting] Predator spirits—Beast spirits of predator animals (Sense Prey 18 to 8W, Sharp [Hand Weapon] 15 to 12W, True [Ranged Weapon] 18 to 8W2)
[Wilderness] Prey spirits—Beast spirits of prey animals (Dodge Grasp 12 to 16W, Escape Trap 12 to 20, Fleetfoot 18 to 8W2, Undetectable While Motionless 16 to 6W)
Secret: Never Tamed (Automatically succeed at a single final action in any contest in which the character has used her Prey spirits, even if a final action would not normally be allowed.)
Practice Secret Requirements: Escape Restraints 1W2, Follower of Rigtaina 1W2, Open Spirit World 1W2.
Other Side: Rigtaina spends most of her time in the wilderness surrounding the Green Place, but occasionally briefly visits Balazar’s Citadel on important occasions.
During the Long Night, Foundchild and Hearth-Mother taught the people many small tricks to help them survive. These have passed beyond the Elder Wilds Tradition into the realm of common lore, and many people who have found themselves in Balazar have picked up a few. Not many people specialize in this religion, for its precepts are very simple.
[Magic] Talents: Cure [Minor Disease], Fight Predator, Find Prey, Find Water, Hide Trail, Keep Fire Lit, Kill Bear, Kill Mosquitos, Kill Wolf, Listen Hard, Protect My Dog, Running, Smell Danger, Stop Bleeding.
Edited by AlHazred