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  1. One of the most potent storytelling techniques in anybody's arsenal is immersion. Without it, your players cannot really appreciate the setting you have laid out for your characters. Immersion is, in short, a state of mind in which the players are so invested in the unfolding game that they can forget they are in a game at all, and actually live out the adventure in character. Immersion is the reason why some game settings just take off, and others fall flat on their face. The Power of Immersion The most important point about immersion is that it starts with the game author - whoever is designing the scenario for the players. This might not becessarily be the Games Master who will be running the game, but often enough it is. If the writer of the game creates a compelling enough setting, or campaign, or even just a single scenario, for the game, they will feel the power of immersion while writing it. It can be so powerful that writers who immerse themselves in the setting can become lost in it - whether they are writing fiction, designing a setting, or creating a game within that setting. The secret to immersion is to present that feeling of being drawn in and lost in the setting, in such a way as to draw in the Games Master (if they are not the game setting's creator) and also to draw in the readers or players. Creating Immersion Engaging Characters In a work of fiction, a character must be presented as sympathetic, somehow, possessing qualities of heroism or benevolence which mark that character as a protagonist to the reader. In a Mythras game, the character can be created with appropriate powers and abilities - but more importantly, they must come across as being the sort of exceptional person to whom the community turns; a member of the only group of characters who can solve the problems presented to them by the Games Master. Similarly, a character is more likely to be an enjoyable figure to work with if their abilities and personas jibe with the rest of the group. A combat-orientated character might not get along with a team predominantly composed of investigators or social climbers in a game of political intrigue. Engaging Setting Likewise, the setting must be something that is not only appealing to the players, but a place worthy of being defended. Immersion in the setting, in a game, is pretty much the same as it is for a written work - the players must feel as if they are living there, letting the place surround them and bring them to life. The players must want to live in the setting, whether it is the setting of Perceforest, or Lyonesse, or Worlds United, or Fioracitta. Sensory Immersion This is probably the aspect of gaming immersion that most strongly involves hypnotic elements. It is not enough to tell; you must show. Examples:- 'You've been marching through this forest for so long. You come across a tree which looks so familiar, and you feel a chill of apprehension as you begin to suspect you may have been walking in circles.' 'You can't identify the stench coming through the now-opened door of the laboratory. Perhaps you don't want to.' 'Candlelight, and incense, and a low, indistinct choir singing somewhere nearby. The sandstone of the walls feels pitted, smoothed down - countless hands must have rubbed off on this darkened spot on the wall, smoothing down the stone. This is the place all the pilgrims wanted to come to; the smooth spot on the wall, supposedly the place where their Saint laid their hand and performed some miracle. But it just feels like smooth, cold, eroded stone to you.' Sustaining Immersion Once you've created a sense of immersion, you must sustain it throughout the adventure, possibly the campaign. Engaging Plots What makes a plot engaging? For the players, it could be the promise of treasure, or a desperate need to stop some bad guys. Which means you have to make the antagonists compelling, too. This does not mean that you have to add new tricks to old undead, making zombies leap about and climb walls for instance. It means having an antagonist whose scheme poses a credible threat, if not to the characters, then to their way of life. The protagonist is doing something bad, and only the player characters can stop them. The plot becomes engaging if the characters want to stop the antagonist, possinly without needing to be prompted by the Games Master. Plausibility There is no greater power of verisimilitude in a story than plausibility. Is the antagonist believable? Are their goals achievable? The fact that they are not remotely desirable is irrelevant; if the antagonist can destroy the characters' whole town and only home, and they demonstrably want to do so, the Games Master can ramp up the threat by having to characters work out how and why. Stakes The most important hook to keep the player characters in the game is stakes. The characters must have a stake, and they must want to do whatever it takes to protect that stake. Examples of stakes include family and loved ones living in the characters' town; the characters' town or neighbourhood; a neighbourhood which will pay for the characters' protection from some marauding force; a rich financial reward from the patron who needs the characters to see a task through which they cannot do. Or something less tangible, such as the characters' reputation, or a rescue or escort mission, or the completion of a diplomatic, trade, or courier mission. Sometimes, the stake can be something owed to oneself, and a need to know that a character can still perform a task they once could do routinely - for example, Athletics after having been injured during a fumbled Athletics check. The Payoff of Immersion The whole aim of immersion is to draw in the players with the promise of a memorable experience that is as much lived and enjoyed as a real life experience. The Games Master must be able to immerse the players into the game, and the only way to do this is to immerse yourself into the game; to run the game out in your own mind, both from the viewpoint of protagonists and the antagonists. The best sort of immersion is so deep that players can find themselves dreaming about the characters and the setting. Of course, as the Games Master you could find yourself dreaming out the adventures yourself, living in the setting, running the scenarios in your dreams. But that's all part and parcel of giving the players a memorable game, one which will stick in their memories, possibly for years to come.
    3 points
  2. The Adventurers are the core of all games. As games have developed, adventure modules have been less about pre-packaged mazes full of hazards and more about dramas and conflicts, with the Adventurers at the heart of driving the changes. As adventures have developed from their implausible "mazes full of traps and horrors" to more nuanced scenarios and dramas, so too have Adventurers. Modern Adventuring parties now more closely resemble bands of roaming mercenaries, military units or hunting parties - even posses, rounded up by the local law to track down and apprehend fugitives. Adventuring parties show structure and purpose, and there is a definite lifestyle pattern to Adventuring. Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing Every party begins life during Session Zero, where the Games Master allows the players to introduce their characters. This generally just consists of the player introducing themselves, their character, and something about who their player is (what species they are, where they come from, what they are most famous for). In certain older games, it's all "name, species, class" and everybody would know what the character can do; but, this being Mythras, things are not nearly so clear-cut. The player may use their background, or their career, or their culture, to explain why they are Adventurers, or add a detail out of whole cloth. It might be a good idea for Games Masters to note down any player additions to their GM character notes. Games Masters, it's a really good idea to get a copy of the player characters' sheets, so you can tell at a glance what each is good at and where they are weakest. Players, work with your GM on this. It makes things so much easier when both you and the GM are aware of your character's 90% Track skill and grasp of the Pathway Folk Magic cantrip, for instance, especially if the other players forget these details about them. An example - in the adventure "A Race Through Dark Places" which I ran during GenCon 2021, each pregenerated character had one thing in common - some sort of connection to the spirit realm. Only one of the characters was an actual animist; the others had some sort of exceptional ability or experience which connected them to the spirit, and which allowed them to interact with spirits in some way. This was, of course, important to the scenario, which required characters who were capable of defending themselves against spectral assaults. Another adventure might have the characters united by a common theme - they are all theatre entertainers who lost their job, or they are all competitive fighters who are out training, or they are a patrol of guards securing the condato of a city (the country beyond the city walls which grows the crops the city needs to keep its population fed). The real point of Session Zero, beyond introducing the characters to the other players, is to allow the players to let the character bond with one another. They will be working as a team, soon enough. First Time Out There are many ways to start an adventure going. The Adventurers could be drawn into an ongoing story, unfolding before their eyes; or they could be brought together by a friendly Connection ("I'm puttin' together a team"). The party leader could well seek to form a team of people, based on their already-existing renown (The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, Hawk The Slayer, Krull, Battle Beyond The Stars, The ABC Warriors) and lead that team in person, rather than send them out on a mission. However the team forms, they must spend their first few days together. This is the time where the players get to form the team's dynamic. Which characters are early birds; which ones are night owls; and how effective the party leader's Oratory skills are. It is okay for the players to have trouble integrating the team at this point. Every team of veterans began as raw recruits, and there is no such thing as Adventurer Boot Camp in most fantasy milieux (unless a member of the party comes up with the idea as a long-term ambition, but that's for a later blog). Every new team has to start learning to fit in, to work well within the group, and to complement everybody else, filling in the weaknesses in other characters' skills while hoping other team members will support their weaknesses, and so on. An example is a party whose first adventure takes them deep into the wilderness, for example looking for the driver of a trading wagon who disappeared during the night. Characters need to have access to a variety of wilderness skills to make sense of the adventure - but while every character may have access to Athletics, Boating, Locale, Ride, and Swim, not everyone has access to Navigation, Seamanship, Survival, and Track. It is reasonable, however, to have at least two characters show a mix of at least two relevant skills (Navigation and Survival or Boating, Seamanship and Swim, Locale and Survival) in order to ensure that the party has access to all of the relevant skills between them. This allows each character a chance to shine - the Survival expert to build shelters, the Track expert using Navigation to determine where the prey is going, and so on. The players should work out for themselves how to allocate the best tasks to the best players - such as getting the Folk Magician with knowledge of Ignite to help start the fire built by the Survival expert, and getting all the party members to help one another out with pitching tents, foraging, finding clean water, preparing the food, establishing a camp perimeter, and so on. The concept of standard kit should be brought up before play ever begins. Every character must have access to a minimum amount of kit to help them to survive. This will be covered in the next blog post. Games Masters: What To Do Give the characters tasks suited to their needs. Let the party leader know what needs to be done, and allow the leader to negotiate with the players as to what tasks they ought to do. This is the best time to iron out any conflicts and complaints about leadership style, and allows the leader to get a feel as to how the team can work together. Remember, this is the first time for these Adventurers. They will have been torn from their cosy lives by the call to adventure, and they are bound to make mistakes. Games Masters: What Not To Do Their mistakes should not, however, cost the players their lives, or even injure them. Humiliate them, sure. The Survival expert might put together a perfect campfire, but the wood might be green and non-inflammable without the team magician's Ignite spell; the Navigation expert might get turned around and be unable to find his way back to the camp until somebody finally gets the campfire lit, and so on. Never put the starting party in jeopardy of any great or permanent injury. And never have them face a combat encounter on their first ever trek out - not unless the combat was the point, such as teaming up to fight brigands camping out in the woods, or kobolds driven down from the mountains to raid a village, and so on. And even so, never soften them up with a lethal combat encounter, first thing. Even an adventure involving tracking down and punishing miscreants should end with the battle, not have the battle take place in the middle somewhere. No, it is a stupid idea to have them face a random giant, passing dragon, or lich on their first night under the stars. You know they couldn't cope. They know they couldn't cope. Handing the party a TPK (Total Party Kill) in their first session is a guarantee that you'll never have a second session with those players. First Night Rewards The first day and night of adventuring should end with the characters being rewarded for their efforts. Either their skills (or spells or other abilities) can bring them some physical reward (such as an Ophidian's superior sense of smell detecting truffles, or a Bestia hunter discovering a perfect site to set up camp), or they can learn something (such as discovering tracks leading away from the site where the wagon was found abandoned, indicating that the wagon was indeed attacked and, judging by the bootprints mixed among the bare footprints in the soft dirt, the driver abducted). Always give each player a chance to feel that they made a difference to the whole team, before their first period of rest. Assigning Watch Details Part of the fledgling party's duties may include watches. Who gets to sleep for four hours first; who has to stand watch for predators of all descriptions in the small hours; and who gets to be woken in the middle of a lovely dream, with hours to go before sunup. There is no need to play out each watch as its own scene, unless the Games Master has something planned for the party on their first night out. Not an ambush; something unexpected. Examples:- - The old ruins were once a thriving town, until it was abandoned by everybody but the ghosts. The night the Adventurers camp out in the ruins is the anniversary of the town's desertion, and this is always a night for the ghosts to come out and play. - The legend of a Parliament of Wolves in the area happens to be true. All the wolves gather nearby this night. Not all of them come on four legs. - The miscreants were from a non-human species (e.g. Bestia or Lili'tri). Most of the time, humans stay away from the communities of these non-human beings, but these raiders are outcasts from their communities, and the characters' activities have attracted the attention of a patrol of members of this species, who are basically doing the same thing they are. - An object falls from the sky, waking everybody up with a tremendous explosion nearby. The characters desert their camp to investigate. The First Real Conflict The Games Master should not drag out this first adventure. Its point is to bring the party together and unite them, allow the players to give the team an identity. Scenarios run in conventions are always one-shots, self-contained and designed to last no more than, say, four hours, wrapping up with an ending for each character; but even if you are planning a long campaign, this first adventure should not last more than one or two sessions, of four hours each. The first session establishes the party; the second pits them against their first ever antagonists, and the characters should have acquired enough information about the antagonists in the first session, or first half of the session, to know who they are up against in the second half, or second session. When pitting the characters against the antagonists, injuries on the players may hurt, but always stop short of Serious or Major Wounds or outright death. Characters may expect wounds, but nothing grievous. They should always come home, grinning and telling onlookers "You should see the other guy." Wrapping Up The First Scenario The Games Master must always challenge the characters with each scenario or story in their campaign, assuming you are running a campaign instead of a one-shot. The challenge of the first session of actual play must always be to get the player characters to play nice with each other and to have each other's backs when the inevitable conflict occurs. There will always be other challenges; but the first challenge should always be to turn a bunch of disparate heroes into a team, for the first time.
    2 points
  3. [Cover image is from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/Atelier_von_Rahmenmachern_und_deren_Werkzeuge_im_18._Jahrhundert.jpg] One of the more overlooked issues about Mythras adventuring is what equipment the Adventurers are carrying while out on a campaign. The basic tool lists on pages 60, 61 of Mythras and page 88 of Fioracitta are good guidelines as to what one could expect to take on an adventure, but there is still a need to plan in advance for the adventure. The equipment an Adventurer would be expected to carry depends on the environment, and on the nature of the adventure. This article's purpose is to get the Games Master and Players to think about the logistics of adventuring, and to provide a sense of immersion as the Players enter into the Adventurers' spirit, as they trek through the countryside on their adventures. Standard Armour and Weapons Just to make things easier for each Adventurer, have the players choose their primary melee weapon (e.g. staff, sword, rapier, axe, hammer), secondary melee weapon (e.g. club, dagger, hand axe), and one ranged weapon if their Combat Style includes it (e.g. dagger, bow, crossbow). No more than those three weapons. Those are included in their kit. It is also a good idea to have every Adventurer wear the same type of armour, such as a 2AP Quilted / Padded armour. Each piece is made separately, and put on once they reach the destination. Each such suit provides the same AP protection to all Hit Locations, costs about the same, and has a standard ENC load. Pack Each Adventurer needs the following, for adventures which require travel. Backpack Bedroll Flint and Tinder / firemaking kit Knife (cutting tool, not a weapon) Lantern, basic Lock picks Mirror (hand glass) Mug/Beaker/Dish/Plate (wood or ceramic – double price for metal) Oil flask Razor, folding Rope (hemp), 10m Waterskin or Canteen (holds 2 litres of liquid) Rations - Feeding The Party Every adventuring party is going to have to carry food, particularly if they are travelling cross-country and in environments where foraging is expected to be poor. It is generally accepted that 1 kg of trail rations (biscuits, dried vegetables, cured meat) will sustain someone for two days. With the Preserve Folk Magic cantrip, that food can be kept practically indefinitely if some form of attempt at preservation is made (and yes, carefully wrapping them up in greaseproof paper counts). Here is where Survival and Locale skills become essential, naturally - but Craft (Cooking) is also overlooked.All of the above basically amounts to the bare minimum kit needed of an adventuring party in the wilderness. The rations should last for one to two weeks before running out; supplemented by forage, they could last for a month's travel. That presumes that the Adventurers will be hiking on foot to their destination. There is a listing for feed for one's mounts listed on the table on page 60, but assume that beasts of burden are going to need to eat a lot more than one kilogram of hay per day - again, they would need to find something to graze. Toolkits Adventurers may require specialised toolkits to perform their work, not counting weapons. Many of the items in the table on pages 60 and 61 of Mythras presume that each Adventurer may wish to bring along their favourite trade tools, if those tools are relevant to the situation. An actor's elaborate theatrical kit, with wardrobe, might weigh several hundred ENC and be impossible to move around - but a small stack of basic cosmetics, enough for one attempt at Disguise, might only weigh 2 ENC at most. The basic list on pages 60 and 61 is only a rough guide. Articles such as a chess or backgammon set (1 ENC, 10 - 1000 SP), burglary kit (grappling hook, crowbar, lockpicks - 1 ENC total) and so on should never encumber the characters. Every character should have some small, lightweight travel version of their primary work tools. Never more than about 10 ENC. Preferably no more than 5 ENC. A burglary specialist's toolkit is very different to a journalist's writing kit. Urban Adventuring Urban adventuring may require Adventurers to dispense with much of the equipment they take for granted out in the wild. Nobody needs to carry forage around in the city; and nobody needs to carry around a bedroll (or their weapons, in general). It would be awkward indeed for Adventurers to attend an upper class soiree in the cultured section of the city, dressed in full armour and carrying a full armoury of weapons and adventuring kit. While in the city, less is decidedly more. How can the characters get away with carrying along full kit? Work Of course the Adventurers can carry their heavy tools around, if they have to carry their own work tools to and from the job. Training The Adventurers could sign up as trainers, and go off on wilderness drill training to teach members of the public the basics of Locale, Survival, and Track. Rescue Force Adventurers could convince people of their advanced understanding of the locality (Locale skill), enough for them to form an amateur rescue group whose job is to patrol regularly, looking for people who get lost in the wilds. Deputised The local law can give the Adventurers a badge of office, then order them to go on patrol around the perimeter of their city and its condato, looking for brigands, providing protection detail to passing caravans, and so on. Signing Up The Adventurers could even join the militia, or at least sign up for their regular public drills. Some towns and cities require all able adults to attend at least some sort of mandatory training to defend the city in the event of an invasion. Their adventures could happen to them while they are on their way home from a training session - or while en route to training. Inspiration The above should provide some measure of inspiration to players. The journey to a destination can be made as memorable as the adventure itself, providing scenes which allow for dialogues between Adventurers, minor problems for the party to solve together, and all the experiences (and Experience Rolls) of surviving in the rough. And back home, the players should never feel that their characters are underequipped if all that they have on them is the clothes on their back, and maybe a single dagger or concealed weapon hidden somewhere on their person.
    1 point
  4. [Featured image taken from Monster Wiki - https://monster.fandom.com/wiki/Dragon?file=DragonRed.jpg] This post is a hard one to write, and not for the reasons you might think. Dragon slaying, noble questing knights, castles ... they are all such staples of fantasy, it's hard to get away from such tropes. From Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern, through to more modern incarnations in popular media such as Kilgarrah (voiced by the late, great John Hurt) in the TV series Merlin, the dragons in the movies The Last Dragon and Reign of Fire, Skyrim, the Eragon series, and the "How To Train Your Dragon" animated movie franchise, dragons are as iconic to the fantasy genre as robots and rayguns are to science fiction. Big, Scaly, Breathing Fire You're all familiar with the trope. Dragons are house-sized, sometimes palace-sized, reptiles which fly with the aid of huge, leathery wings, They have long, flexible necks and tails, and breathe fire (or ice, or electricity, or acid, or cold, depending on the colour of the scales). They live to prey upon villages, carrying off sheep and cattle, and the occasional peasant girl. They can be lured by tying a princess to a rock, then striking at it in the one vulnerable spot on their bodies, which is typically where they are ticklish *cough* some spot just under a forelimb, in its armpit. Oh, and let's not forget the pile of gold it's supposed to be sitting on. There's one problem with this image of dragons. Symbolism and Parable Dragons aren't actually supposed to be literal big flying fire-breathing reptiles, you know. They just symbolise an even more horrible beast. Feudalism. A dragon is actually some kingdom next door. It takes a tithe from each village (it's called taxes), it sits on a hoard of gold (again, taxes), it is destructive (armies), and it has a penchant for princesses and virgins (droit de seigneur - look that up. It is not nice). Of course dragons are just symbols for that nasty feudal kingdom next door. Painting the king next door as being a greedy, gold-hungry reptile is about as low as propaganda can get. But what does that mean for dragonslaying quests? Well, if the adventurers are off to slay a dragon, that makes them mercenaries hired by the local government. It makes their quest an invasion. Their mission - to slay the king next door (assassination, regime change) and retrieve its hoard (plunder the nation's already-stolen wealth and extricate it from its country of origin) in the form of the spoils of war. This is sounding more and more like a mediaeval Crusade to the Holy Land, isn't it? Invoking The Draconic How can a GM invoke a dragon as a threat force in a fantasy, without going down the tired old Tolkien / Arthurian road, following the well-worn tropes trodden by so many identikit heroes of literature and tabletop? In other words, what does the dragon represent in the story, if it is not a literal fire-breathing flying kaiju lizard? Blatant Symbolism The dragon's treasure might not be gold - after all, that is mere matter, the coffers of the plundered nation next door. The real treasure, the dragon's strength, could be political power. The adventurer who conquers a dragon, or rather conquers a nation, can take on the might of that dragon, assuming the mantle of rulership. They can talk about war with the kingdom they came from, and spend their nights sleeping with one eye open for the next adventurer to come along with an eye for slaying the dragon ... Magical Symbolism What can a dragon symbolise, other than political power? The power of magic, tamed by a human will. The quest to master the dragon can symbolise nothing less than the character's quest to Awaken to a legacy of magic and power, invoking its essence into the soul and transforming the protagonist into a sorcerer on the level of a Merlin or a Dr Strange. Power of The Elements The dragon can be a symbol for raw elemental power - the untamed power to raise earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, ice storms, tsunamis, lightning and thunder, or volcanic eruptions. The antagonist could be summoning a dragon to evoke such a threat and devastate an entire region. First Contact The entity being faced by the adventurers is so alien to their perceptions that they literally see what amounts to a dragon, because their minds cannot process the cosmic horror of what is actually there. Dynastic Legacy The dragon could well be a genetic legacy - a bloodline of nobles, Old Blood, coming from the Old Days - perhaps from some chthonic former kingdom now claimed by Earth and Time and Fire, but still surviving, in the genes of this one clan. Snake People / Lizard People The dragon could indeed be a bloodline - in this case, a species of ophidians. The dragon may be metaphorical, but the serpent people in your story might definitely be real, very ancient, and very alien. Running A Dragon-Themed Adventure But what if you, as Games Master, really want to run an adventure where your player characters are out to literally slay a fiery flying magic lizard the size of their village? What can you do to prevent your characters from just grinding over a bunch of tactics and combat tricks like some ho hum run of the mill combat scenario? What can you do to make the adventure the scariest, most exciting, most immersive story ever for your players? Make It Mean Something Make the story a confrontation, rather than a straight combat against a big boss level beast. Your characters' goal is to stop the dragon, not try to kill it. You can't kill something with the power of the living Earth running through it. Skin In The Game Have something at stake. The dragon has something - or, rather, someone - dear to the player characters. A loved one, a Connection, a ruler to whom they owe undying loyalty, a mentor, a loved family member (or even a hated one - family is family), or someone loved to the nation such as a High Priestess. Whatever, or whoever, it is, the dragon has them as a hostage - and it is up to some of the characters to confront the beast long enough for the rest of the party to bust that loved one out of the dungeon. Yes, there's the dungeon. Follow The Leader The characters aren't there to kill a literal dragon, but rather to disband its human cult of mind-enslaved pets. Your dragon could be a human, with all the charisma of a Thulsa Doom, but - in a devious twist - actually ruling with wisdom and benevolence, preaching peace and offering diplomacy to bring war to an end. She could be uniting the squabbling nations, and the characters are part of a coalition team of mercenaries sent to assassinate this guru because it's cutting into their business of selling weapons to the warring chiefs. Regime Change Here's where the symbolism comes into its own. The adventurers are mercenaries sent to the nation next door to raid its coffers, kill its king, and bring back the wealth of a plundered nation to satisfy their king's draconic (draconian?) dreams of conquest. The only visible dragons are the banners of the human enemy soldiers. My Boss, The Dragon The final twist is to have the characters actually work for the dragon. She's too big and old to go flying about, and the characters are her guardians and protectors, perhaps even diplomats, making trade agreements with nations to keep her fed in her dotage in exchange for the dragon's incredible wisdom and knowledge (dropping hints about such innovations as the mouldboard plough, springs, the compass, and timepieces governed by mechanical escapements, but somehow avoiding the invention of gunpowder for some reason ...) Dreams of Dragons From literal flying kaiju reptiles, to the banners of kingdoms and cults, to ancient noble or even royal bloodlines, to the thundering nuclear power source of magic itself, there are so many ways to bring dragons into your fantasy campaign. Just don't fall into the one dreadful pit that ruins it for everybody - making them a cliche, running dragons as just plain old boss level monsters without putting a little thought behind them to understanding what dragons really mean, in terms of their symbolism and the sheer power that they epitomise and represent. A power that the players could potentially acquire for themselves, whether through conquest ... or legacy. In short - don't let your dragons get stale.
    1 point
  5. Song of the Forests In the beginning was the One. Boundless and, yet, constrained, it contained the limitless All. All that was, and All that was Not. Being and non-being. This paradox, the Paradox of Self, fragmented the One, and it became Two: Grower and Taker. The Grower contained within it all potential. This potential took the form of the Seed. This was the beginning of the First Plantings, the Age of the Grower. From within the One, the fluid parts separated, and thus came the soothing waters, Eron. The waters were changing and fluid, containing within her nature almost all potential. Eron encircled the Seed of the Grower to provide nourishment. Next, the heavy parts of the One accreted together, forming the solid earth, Gata. The earth was dependable and stolid, locking her potential within in security for the future. Gata supported the Seed of the Grower to provide sanctuary. Next, the light parts of the One arose together, rising to form the warming sun, Halamalao. The sun was generous and wise, and gave of his energy to all who would see. Halamalao provided the Seed of the Grower with life. The Seed of the Grower sprouted, and this was the Great Tree, Falamal. Nourished by Eron, he sank his roots deep in Gata and received the lifegiving rays of Halamalao to grow mighty at the center of the Universe. Falamal is the father of all, the bearer of the life force, the unifier of spirit. Falamal produced, in turn, seeds of his own. The first seed fell upon loving Gata, and produced Aldrya. She is the mother of all plants grown upon the land, and is also the all-encompassing mind which includes all born upon Gata, both those growing and those taken. The Brown Elves, the Green Elves and the Yellow Elves are all part of Aldrya. The second seed fell upon nurturing Eron, and produced Murthdrya. Murthdrya is the mother of all plants grown in the sea, and is also their communal consciousness. The Blue Elves are a part of Murthdrya. The third seed was borne aloft to benevolent Halamalao, and produced Halamdrya. Halamdrya is the mother of all plants grown upon the Sun, as well as their collective soul. The White Elves are still a part of Halamdrya, though they are now gone from the world. All grew until Glorantha, the Universe, was covered with Life. As a tree’s roots will crack stone, so, too, did the overabundance of Life push at the boundaries of the Universe. A crack formed and something came in. The elves were the first to recognize this intrusion. They called this Oblivion. While Grower and Taker are parts of the One, both necessary parts of Life, Oblivion is from outside. Things taken by Oblivion disappear from the Universe and are never seen again. The arrival of Oblivion broke some of the elves who found it. They were severed from connection to the One, the All, and became lost. Some elves, still, are born without this connection. We call them Rootless elves. They are to be pitied, for they do not experience the boundless of Joy of Belonging. With the arrival of Oblivion, Taker stirred into consciousness. It had hibernated throughout the Age of Growing, for before anything Grew, there was nothing to Take. The Taker contained within it all endings. These endings also took the form of a Seed. This was the beginning of the Second Plantings, the Age of the Taker. Halamalao rejected the Seed of the Taker. He turned his face from it, creating Darkness. The Darkness provided the Seed of the Taker with cold. Gata rejected the Seed of the Taker. She buried it in the cold, dead parts of herself, called Akem, or Stone. The Stone provided the Seed of the Taker with distance. Eron rejected the Seed of the Taker. It took away its healing waters, leaving only the burning waters of spite, called Harakakara. Harakakara provided the Seed of the Taker with pain. The Seed of the Taker sprouted, and this was the Zazakzor, the Hater. Zazakzor moved across the Universe, taking all he could see. He took Halamalao, the generous sun, leaving everything in Darkness. He took gentle Gata, who could not protect herself, leaving only cold, unfeeling Stone. He turned on nurturing Eron, taking the life-giving parts and leaving only Harakakara. All good things became bad. Water turned to fire, earth turned to stone and light turned to darkness. In the Darkness, Taker spread his own seeds, and these became a race of Takers, called the trolls. First among them was Kygor, and she and her children ate everything they could find. Akem, the Stone, tried to make new life, but without the nurturing part of Gata these were sterile and lifeless creatures, called dwarves. First among them was Mostal, and he and his kin did not understand the powers of Growth and tried only to work with what was dead and cold. Harakakara burned everything it touched, but even it tried to make new life to replace the old. Promalt was the first of these, a race of flame men who strode the cold, dead world, conquering the ruins to spread the power of flame. The burning men must have succeeded in spreading their destruction, for there are none of them left. In its unchecked excesses, Taker was as bad as Grower. Its relentless Taking allowed even more Oblivion to seep into the Universe. The entire world was dying, but not the good death of the Taker, rather the bad death of Oblivion. If Oblivion killed a thing would never be reborn again. Many heroes arose in the Age of the Taker: High King Elf, Elder Sister, Chalaneron, Vronkal, and many others who are now lost to the world. But all eventually fell. All the product of the Age of Growing was dead, and with nothing left the children of the Taker began to Take themselves. Deep within the ruins of the Universe, two Seeds that no one had known existed until then began to sprout. These were the Seeds of Grower and Taker reborn. This was the beginning of the Third Plantings, the Age of Cycles, the Age of Time. The reborn Grower and Taker sprouted together. This time Grower and Taker would work in harmony. Taker was reborn as Bebester. She was changed now, containing some Growth. She accepted this, taking that which was unrecoverable so that new Growth could occur. Bebester destroyed all that was left of the old world. Grower was reborn as Sanarana. She was changed now, containing some Taking. She accepted this, knowing that some Taking would bring better life. Once Bebester had cleared the remnants, she recreated the Universe. Grower and Taker worked in balance. In the cycle of the seasons, the Universe remains in harmony. For five centuries, it was so. In one place, the elves were very friendly with the other races. They thought that they were working with the forces of Growing and Taking. When Oblivion threatened, they joined with the others to fight the Unity Battle. Their trust seemed to work, for they joined with others in the Unity Council. Despite the fact that it was guided by a grandchild of Kygor, the Unity Council grew and grew. Some elves thought that they could initiate a Fourth Planting. The Council formed plans to form a balance between the All and Oblivion, in the same way that the Third Plantings brought a balance between Growing and Taking. This was the Grafting Experiment. The effort failed. Most elves at the time thought that it was misguided, and most elves today still think so. Since then, the Aldryami have continued replanting and defending the forests. Entry Requirements: Aldryami such as pixies and runners join as soon as they can speak. Almost all elves do, too, but some are born without Elfsense; these elves cannot form the bond necessary to join. Dryads are members from birth. Beastmen, dragonewts, ducks, and humans must petition a Gardener to let them join the Tradition. Other races are never allowed to join. Core Practices: The Children of the Forest Practice is the core practice of the tradition. Other important practices include Elder Sister, High King Elf, and Seyotel. Bebester, Eron, Gata, and Halamalao are among the many helper practices known. Many practices are regional; others are secret, known only to a few. Abilities: Aldrya Tradition Knowledge, Elfsense, Worship Aldrya. Virtues: Cautious, Patient. Tradition Spirits (members usually start with 5 charms): [Plant] Plant spirits—Bear Fruit 6 to 5W, Change Paths 14, Deflect Weapon 7 to 15, Ever Green 9 to 16, Flexible 18, Remain Unseen 12 to 5W, Shade from Sun 10 to 20, Tall 15. Great Secret: Part of the One. Charms and Fetishes: Aldrya charms and fetishes are grown rather than made. While they may not be rooted in the ground, they remain alive and in bloom so long as they touch a spirit of Aldrya. Manifestations: Humans often think of Aldrya as the goddess of the forest. Her worshippers know this is not true, and that Aldrya is the forest herself; without her worship, the trees themselves would sicken and die. Amongst elves, Aldrya is represented by a tree bearing many different kinds of leaves and fruits. Humans instead depict her as a dryad of some local tree. Holy Days: Aldrya has three High Holy Days over the course of the year. The first falls on Water Day of Fertility Week in Water Season, which is a joyous time celebrating the awakening of the forests. The second High Holy Day is on Clay Day of Fertility Week in Earth Season. An ecstatic celebration just before the Green Elves and dryads must sleep for winter, by the end of the day only Green and Yellow Elves remain awake. The last Holy Day occurs on Wild Day of Truth Week in Storm Season; only the Yellow and Green Elves are awake to perform these rituals. They march around the forest, performing the dances and songs to begin the awakening of the forest while fending off attacks by their enemies, especially trolls. Other Side: In the Spirit World, Aldrya is present in every forest and tree. Her primary domain there is Aldrya's Forest, located on and around the First Mountain. In Aldrya’s Forest are both Shanasse, her lover, and Aldrya’s own tree. Other Connections: Earth cults, such as Ernalda, and earth-related spirit practices, such as Eiritha, are usually friendly to Aldrya spiritists. They also have friends among Yelmalio worshippers, and are usually on neutral to friendly terms with sea gods. Disadvantages: A few rare elves are unable to initiate into the Aldrya Tradition. These rootless elves do not have the Elfsense which allows communion with nature and so are outcasts, even when they have not left their communities. Rootless elves sometimes join allied practices or cults, fulfilling some role that other Elves find taboo. Others leave the forests, becoming wanderers and vagabonds. Notes: Instead of providing the Spirit Face ability, the Aldrya Tradition provides the Elfsense ability, which as well as allowing you to hear, see and communicate with spirits, also allows you to sense the health and emotions of plants, including Elves. Non-Aldryami heroes cannot improve Elfsense as a standalone ability. Core Practices The Children of the Forest The Children of the Forest is the core practice of the Aldrya Tradition; most members belong to it before joining any other spirit society. The Children of the Forest deals with the spirits of trees and other residents of the forests. This practice is not very demanding of adherents. They must try to live in harmony with the forests and the cycles of life and death. The Plant Brother spirits provide small benefits, and in return spiritists must sing the Food Song over every plant they harvest, which guarantees the spirit will find its way back to the bosom of Aldrya. The various Animal Brother spirits generally provide their charms to those who promise not to take the lives of their type of animal. Entry Requirements: Aldryami who are part of the tradition may join automatically. All stationary plants, sentient and non-sentient, are also automatically a part of this practice. Non-Aldryami must have an Aldrya Tradition Knowledge of 17 or higher. Abilities: Children of the Forest Practice Knowledge, Find Water, Food Song ceremony, Know Direction, Open Spirit World, Plant Lore. Virtues: Joyful. Practice Spirits: [Beast] Animal Brother spirits—Ancestor spirits of small forest creatures (Bite Hard 15, Command [Woodland Animal] 11 to 3W, Hide in Undergrowth 16 to 4W, Scamper Through Undergrowth 12 to 2W). [Plant] Plant Brother spirits—Progenitor spirits of the various forest plants (Appear Nonthreatening 12 to 2W, Send Alarm Through Forest 12 to 18, Remain Motionless 16 to 6W, Speak with [Plant] 11 to 3W) Spirit Ally: None usually. Occasionally, a particular plant or animal spirit that befriends a runner or pixie will become a spirit ally after many years of friendship. Secret: None. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are living plants, which remain alive and in bloom so long as they touch a spirit of Aldrya. Other Side: The Children of the Forest are the most basic part of Aldrya and in the Spirit World inhabit many of the Forests there, including the Forest of Four Winds and the Wild Wolf Forest. Elder Sister Elder Sister spiritists bind themselves more tightly to the spirit of Aldrya. This has an immense effect on the individuals by linking them directly to their goddess’ subconscious urges, and their daily lives are in unity with nature. This spiritual contact also forces the deciduous tree dryads into the same seasonal cycle as Aldrya. They will sleep all winter, wake in the spring for a full summer life, and fall asleep again in the autumn so their souls can rest in the Underworld. Non-dryads of this practice have several options open to them. They may occasionally inherit a tree from a dryad who died in some way or another, thereby preserving the tree’s life. More often, though, they form a group of wandering spiritual guides which move through the woods as the Spirit of Aldrya moves them. They go where they feel needed, and are called Wandering Dryads. Entry Requirements: Elder Sister membership requires a special connection to plants inherent in dryads. This empathy is also often found in female elves, occasionally in male elves, beastmen, and dragonewts, but rarely in any human. Non-dryads must also have an Aldrya Tradition Knowledge of 11W or higher. Abilities: Elder Sister Practice Knowledge, Find Healing Materials, Follower of Elder Sister, Food Song ceremony, Plant Lore, Read Aldryami, Write Aldryami. Virtues: Nurturing, Protective. Practice Spirits: [Plant] Healing Tree spirits—Tree spirits that despise the White Lady (Drive Out [Disease] 18 to 1W2). [Plant] Warrior of Wood spirits—Tree spirits that defend the forests (Fight [Specific Enemy] 20 to 2W2, Tanglethicket 12 to 8W). Spirit Ally: Dryad Elder Sisters always have their bound tree as their spirit ally. If a dryad dies, it is possible for an Elder Sister practitioner to attempt to bind her life force with the tree; those who succeed immediately receive that tree as a spirit ally. Secret: Aldrya’s Sleep (A follower who dies of injuries can attempt to heal herself and return to life, if her tree remains intact. In the wilderness, normal animals will not disturb an Elder Sister corpse, for they know it is not food. If she succeeds, over a few days to many weeks [depending on the body’s condition] the corpse heals completely, at which time the follower awakens. Until her body recovers, her spirit sleeps in Aldrya’s Forest in the Otherworld. Some followers know to begin certain heroquests with Aldrya’s Sleep, dying and then continuing the quest on the Otherworld before returning to their bodies. They must be cautious, for anything that happens to the quester may affect her body’s ability to heal and thus cause true death.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Elder Sister 1W2, Plant Lore 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Fetishes are fashioned from natural plant materials, freely given to the dryad. Many remain alive so long as they remain in the dryad’s possession. Other Side: The Elder Sisters tend the trees in Aldrya’s Forest. High King Elf The liberation of Falamal is sometimes called the “Secret Quest” of the Lightbringers, or the Greater Bonus by some. However, even his return to life would have had far less meaning without the long struggle of the Protectors on earth to save the sleeping form of their wards. The Protectors were led by High King Elf, the leader of his race from among the undying Green Elves. He led a beleaguered band of elves through the whole of the Age of Taking, ever struggling to protect the empty bodies of the forest from their foes. In this he was aided by the spirits Eron and Halamalao, another wounded survivor, but he hated the great spirit Harakakara who devoured the once-magnificent forests of Prax and slew almost all there. High King Elf was among those beings present in Dragon Pass for the I Fought We Won Battle where chaos was turned back upon itself. Entry Requirements: Must have an Aldrya Tradition Knowledge of 1W or higher. Abilities: Archery, Camouflage Self in Trees, Food Song ceremony, High King Elf Practice Knowledge, Read Aldryami, Shortsword Fighting, Spear Fighting, Write Aldryami. Virtues: Dutiful. Practice Spirits: [Death] Arrow spirits—Special spirit seeds which grow into living arrows (Growth In Flight 15, Heartseeker Arrow 20, Many Arrows From One 18 to 12W). [Defense] Bark spirits—Special spirit seeds which grow into a barklike covering that can be worn (Absorb Charm 15 to 8W, Absorb Feat 12 to 2W, Absorb Spell 15, Deflect Missile 12 to 3W, Deflect Weapon 16 to 4W) Spirit Ally: Followers of High King Elf can receive a Bow Seed. Planted on the High Holy Day, it takes a year to grow into an Elf Bow, a living weapon. A spirit ally for its bonded elf, it functions only as a normal bow for any other member of the Aldrya tradition. If a non-Aldryami takes it, it withers and appears lifeless and dead; however, if the husk is replanted in an Elf forest in any season except Dark Season and tended for a season, it springs to life once more refreshed and new. The taboo of this ally is Use No Other Bow. Secret: Arrow Trance (The practitioner enters a state in which he merges with his bow, and receives an automatic augment of ¼ the secret’s rating to any ability used during the combat. While in this state, the only things that exist for him are the bow and his targets. This ability can also be used to augment spirit combat, if it is initiated while he is in the Arrow Trace.) Practice Secret Requirements: Archery 1W2, Elfsense 1W2, Follower of High King Elf 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: High King Elf chaarms and fetishes are usually copper axes and shields, or bows and quivers. Other Side: High King Elf can be found patrolling Aldrya’s Forest on the First Mountain. Followers can join his band in defense of the Grower until it is time to be reborn. Seyotel (Shamanic Practice) Seyotel is the Song that binds the Aldryami together. She is the source of Elfsense, and the universal subconscious that all followers of the Aldrya tradition share. She arose during the Age of Growing, but did not truly awaken until the arrival of Oblivion caused all of the plants of the Universe to cry out as one in fear and horror; this was the awakening shout that brought Seyotel to consciousness. The potential shaman is taken to a celebration in a secret magical grove. They must then sing a complex song that harmonizes flawlessly with the Aldrya’s Song, which is the song of the forest’s life. The shaman must sing complex arpeggios, interval leaps and scales to weave together the different living songs, while leading the chorus to its conclusion. Typically, the shaman is assaulted in this task by the forces of Oblivion: the White Lady introduces discordant sections, while the Zazakzor’s wild passions threaten to take control of the song and turn it into a death chant. If the shaman is successful in dealing with these issues, they will find a counterpoint song, equal but complementary to their own, buried in the harmonies of the forest. When they follow it to its source, they will find a magnificent tree that is their counterpart in Aldrya’s Forest, the part of themselves that was with Aldrya all along. They will enter the tree, and emerge in the Mortal World. Forever after, their fetch will be there, with them, changing the song of their life into a duet. These shamans are important to the Aldrya Tradition, as they form the backbone of a forest’s song and are frequently found on the Council of Gardeners. A key component of this is their Song of the Spirit, which lets them weave their magic to affect large groups of willing participants. Entry Requirements: Must be a member of the Aldrya Tradition and have the capacity to become a shaman. Abilities: Follower of Seyotel, Food Song ceremony, Open Spirit World, Seyotel Practice Knowledge, Sing, Spirit Face. Virtues: Mysterious, Spontaneous Singing. Special Spirits: Seyotel shamans are the only ones who can contact the many specialized spirits of the Forest; for examples see HeroQuest, specifically “Great Trees” on page 149 and “Tree Spirits” on page 150. While a member of those helper practices, they often have exotic spirits serving them. Secret: Song of Life (When visible, the shaman’s fetch appears as an enormous magical tree, encased in glowing bark and surrounded by exotic plants, that emits a song that conveys the emotion the shaman is feeling.) Shamanic Abilities: Shamanic Escape, Song of the Spirit, Spirit World Travel. Charms and Fetishes: As with the rest of the tradition’s practices, Seyotel fetishes are made of living plants, surviving despite being kept in dark places away from the earth. Other Side: Seyotel is everywhere where the song of Aldrya exists. From the depths of the Spirit World to the far reaches of Glorantha, wherever the Song of Aldrya can be found, there Seyotel exists. Helper Practices Bebester Bebester is the Taker reborn, but as a part of Life. She clears away the debris of previous life so that new life can grow in its place; this keeps the cycle of renewal functioning. As death-in-the-service-of-life, she terrifies most Aldryami, but she is needed to keep the Universe going and avoid the destruction of the All by Oblivion. As such, some few Aldryami feel themselves drawn to her practices. Such followers as she has usually live apart from their fellows; they are a part of the community, but more of a necessary evil than a welcome part. Nevertheless, when the forests are threatened, they can be found on the forefront, Taking those who would Take from Aldrya. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Followers must take an oath to leave no injustice unavenged. Abilities: Axe and Shield Fighting, Bebester Practice Knowledge, Follower of Bebester, Throw Axe, Track. Virtues: Ruthless. Practice Spirits: [Babeester] Blood Vengeance spirits—Bloody spirits, each of which remembers some hurt done to the Grower (Follow Taker Anywhere 2W2, Sense Taker Nearby 12 to 2W, Sleepless Vengeance 15 to 2W). [Death] Taking spirits—Cold spirits of death in the service of life (Death Song 18, Enchant Copper ritual 12 to 18, Unbreakable Shield 18 to 8W, Wild Axe Swing 15 to 20). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed herself solely to Bebester can gain a spirit ally from her. Secret: Death In the Service of Life (Gives an automatic augment of 1/4 the secret’s ability rating to any ability used to protect the forest or a follower of any Aldrya Tradition spirit.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Bebester 1W2, Ruthless 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are usually in the follower’s axe or shield. Other Side: Bebester’s Glade is at the edge of Aldrya’s Forest, near the Screaming Valley at the top of the Knife Ridge. Other Connections: Bebester is thought by many to be an aspect of the Earth goddess Babeester Gor. Eron Eron was the first of the ancient Protectors of the Elves, said to be the Spirit of Falamal, a spirit of the soothing waters. As befits a water spirit, it was sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes both or neither. Eron took Falamal’s second seed and produced the Murthoi, the many species of Sea Elf. During the Age of Taking, Eron suffered a Thousand Wounds, all taken in defense of someone else. As Eron’s wounds grew, their blood and tears fell freely to the seas and turned them salty. Finally, they suffered their thousandth wound from the Taker in defense of Falamal, and flowed into the Underworld. When the Third Plantings happened, Eron did not return to the Mortal World, but can still be found on the Spirit World. Eron's spirits are those of the cool water, providing succour and healing to those who need it. They also teach the art of finding healing plants and remedies to the other practices. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Followers must take an oath to harm no living thing. Abilities: Brew Healing Potion, Eron Practice Knowledge, Find Healing Materials, Follower of Eron, Treat Disease, Treat Poison. Virtues: Self-Sacrificing. Practice Spirits: [Arroin] Harmony Song spirits—Helper spirits who bind things together (Don’t Hurt Them 2W to 2W2, Feel Another’s Pain 14 to 4W, Feel My Pain 18). [Water] Healing Water spirits—Water spirits made from the tears of Eron (Drive Out [Disease] 2W to 5W2, Heal Wounds 20 to 10W, Wash Away Pain 8 to 2W). [Rain] Soothing Rain spirits—Rain spirits that sing a relaxing song (Quench Burn 16, Sleep Away the Pain 18 to 8W, Soothe Aches15 to 2W). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed themselves solely to Eron can gain a spirit ally from them. Secret: The Thousand Wounds (Automatically succeed at a single final action during any contest in which the hero is attempting to protect someone else, even if they normally would not be allowed a final action. The attack must be directed at a being on whom they have successfully used any charm or fetish.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Eron 1W2, Self-Sacrificing 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are typically placed into tattoos on the spiritist’s body. Other Side: Eron wanders the Spirit World, going wherever there is pain and suffering, in order to alleviate it. Sometimes they stop in Aldrya’s Forest, where the residents provide them with any support they can, before Eron moves on. Other Connections: Eron is thought by some to be the same as Arroin, a god connected to Chalana Arroy in the Orlanthi Pantheon. Gata Gata was the second of the ancient Protectors of the Elves, said to be the Body of Falamal. She formed from Eron, as resin forms from sap, to provide stability to the world. When Falamal rose to the heavens, his seeds fell upon Gata's body, producing the Green Elves and their goddess Aldrya. Later, the Green Elves were divided into the Green, the Brown and the Yellow Elves. But all revere their ancestor Gata. Gata's Spirits are those of the soft Earth, providing food and strength for all who want it. During the Age of the Taker, she showed those who sought her help how to hide, and when the Taker came she hid herself. It was not enough, and she was finally Taken, rendering the world cold and barren. She joyfully returns to the world every Spring but hides again the Underworld every Fall, to maintain the balance of Grower and Taker. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Abilities: Dodge Blow, Gata Practice Knowledge, Follower of Gata, Hide in Cover, Survive Hardship, Tend Plants. Virtues: Cautious. Practice Spirits: [Earth] Earth Power spirits—Earth spirits bear the greatest of burdens (Endless Endurance 14 to 4W, Strength of Earth 18 to 8W2). [Plant] Plant Blessing spirits—Earth spirits who nurture life (Protect Plants from Birds 18 to 8W, Protect Plants from Cold 12 to 18, Protect Plants from Disease 15 to 5W, Protect Plants from Heat 16 to 6W, Protect Plants from Insects 12 to 2W, Protect Plants from Storms 12 to 8W). [Earth Harmony] Healing Loam spirits—Healing spirits that reside in the earth (Find Medicinal Spring 18 to 2W, Healing Mud 15 to 5W). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed herself solely to Gata can gain a spirit ally from her. Secret: Bless Forest ritual (Allows the follower to ignore distance and area effect penalties when blessing a forest with her Plant Blessing spirits. It can also be used to augment any charms or fetishes used on trees.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Follower of Gata 1W2, Tend Plants 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are typically placed into tattoos on the spiritists body. Other Side: Gata was torn asunder, and so she may be found in many places in the Spirit World. Other Connections: Gata is considered part of the Earth Pantheon. Halamalao Halamalao was the third of the ancient Protectors of the Elves, said to be the Mind of Falamal. He formed from Gata, rising as light sparkles off amber, to provide hope to the world. When Falamal rose to the heavens, his seeds ascended into Halamalao's heart, producing the White Elves and their goddess Haladrya. The White Elves and their goddess were lost in the Great Darkness, as was Halamalao himself. The other Elves worshipped him still throughout the Darkness, and were rewarded at the Dawn when he returned. They hold out hope for the White Elves to return eventually as well. Halamalao's spirits are those of warm Light, providing protection and joy to all who ask for it. He must journey between the World and the Underworld every day, to maintain the balance of Grower and Taker. Entry Requirements: Membership in the Aldrya Tradition. Abilities: Archery, Endure Pain, Halamalao Practice Knowledge, Follower of Halamalao, See Far, Spear and Shield Fighting. Virtues: Brave. Practice Spirits: [Light] Light Child spirits—Light spirits of bravery and courage (Blind Foe 18 to 6W, Distracting Glitter 16 to 6W, Unwavering Light 2W2). [Death] Sun Spear spirits—Light spirits that took some of the power of Taking (Burning Arrow 18 to 8W, Light Beam 14 to 4W, Sunrise Glow 12 to 2W). [Light] Sun Follower spirits—Light spirits that always look to their father (Protect Plant from Cold 13 to 3W, Ripen Plant 12 to 18). Spirit Ally: Only a practitioner who gave up membership in other practices and committed himself solely to Halamalao can gain a spirit ally from him. Secret: Survive Defeat (When critically wounded during a combat in which he has used his Light Child or Sun Spear spirits, the follower can use this secret to change his condition from Dying to merely Injured. The secret must overcome the standard resistance for healing injuries or the rating of the magical ability that rendered the warrior Dying, whichever is higher. If successful, the follower appears to be dead to all forms of physical or magical inquiry, but awakens from false death when immediate enemies are gone.) Practice Secret Requirements: Elfsense 1W2, Endure Pain 1W2, Follower of Halamalao 1W2. Charms and Fetishes: Charms and fetishes are usually in the follower’s bow, spear, or shield. Other Side: Halamalao spends part of each day in the Spirit World, in a great procession across the Sky, then spends the next part of the day in the Underworld. Other Connections: Halamalao is thought by many to be an aspect of Yelmalio.
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  6. Tripartite Worship of a Chaos Entity The Thanatar cult is an oddity in modern Glorantha. An attempt to revere a Chaos entity lost in the Gods War, it is a syncretism of different magical groups. Some blame its resurgence on the sort of magical meddling that backfired on the God Learners; others say the Lunars, Shamans, or Sorcerers are to blame. As the Thanatari are extraordinarily secretive and their works are routinely burned when found, the truth may never be known. What is clear, however, is that the combination of groups provided complementary abilities and services that have created a greater threat than the individual parts were before. Scholars of the Horned Society are reputed to have helped Than practitioners perfect their gruesome head-creation rituals. Than assassins have been found to be using Tien feats in their attacks, and so on. Truly, three separate nightmares have combined to form a looming disaster. The threat is great enough that even normally-hostile groups, such as Sartarites and Lunars, sometimes team up when a temple is discovered to eradicate all traces of Thanatari. Entry Requirements: Prospective members must convince an existing member of their worthiness and sincerity. Many require bribes of lore or money before they will admit new members. Since the whole organization is persecuted and hunted, even finding someone to admit them is a challenge for non-chaotics. Abilities: Chaos Lore, Worship Thanatar. Virtues: Secretive. Core Elements: The organization consists of three subgroups: the Horned Society (which reveres Atyar as the Devourer of Knowledge), the Than Practice (which worships Than as the Headless Spirit), and the cult of Tien the Severed God. Magic: Members receive their magic from their subgroup. Despite being members of either a wizardry school, a spiritual practice, or a theistic cult, Thanatari can read grimoires from the Horned Society as if they were students, gain charms from the Than Practice as if they were spiritists, or learn affinities from Thanatar as if they were initiates without penalty. Such is the nature of Chaos. Great Secret: None. Other Side: Thanatar’s worshippers go to the Place of Waiting, which has connections to the God World, the Spirit World, and Essence Planes. The Place of Waiting is reputed to be that part of the Underworld where Tien was beheaded. Chaos brings marvels and terrors alike. Disadvantages: Worshippers may never use fire or light abilities, even if those powers are stolen. Their propensity for attacking members of other groups and stealing their secrets has left the group hated and feared by all others. The Thanatar religion is rife with internal politics. Adherents constantly labor under the threat of assassination for posing a threat to a rival, suffering censure for being allied to someone who poses a political threat to an elite, being sent on a suicide mission to aid the cause of other Thanatari, being manipulated into becoming a scapegoat for a rival, and so on. Many of the Secrets of the religion benefit from ritual support but little support can be gathered. Why aid someone who will later become a roadblock on your own path to power? Loyalty is rare among the Thanatari. The Horned Society School of the Horned Skull The Horned Society is a scourge that has operated in secret for centuries. Established by a rogue priest of Lhankor Mhy named Treack Markhor, this sorcery school is dedicated to the theft of magical secrets. The sage discovered a horned skull worshipped as a spirit of death on an unnamed island. Intrigued by the power he sensed within he took the skull with him, keeping it secret from his brother sages. Through decades of study he unlocked its secrets, naming the skull Atyar, Devourer of Knowledge. He drew a number of like-minded individuals into his service, and they formed a secret society. The group began stealing magic from other groups, first targeting small, outsider cults and other secret societies. Eventually their hunger for knowledge grew too powerful and more prominent religions and churches were plundered. The authorities moved to purge the group. The senior members of the Horned Society met one more time in its secret underground sanctum and secured the skull of Atyar in a vault protected by the most powerful magics they had—their own powers and those stolen from others. Then the Society broke up and went out into the world. The Horned Society operates in cells, usually composed of two to four adepts, supported by about two to three times as many apprentices. Individual members hoard their stolen knowledge, loathe to trade even the simplest magic except for a greater power. Members steal from each other as well as others. The Portal of Power created by adepts of the Horned Society is the Entropic Equation. Abilities: Create Portal of Power, Focused Will, Read [Language], Rule of Treack Markhor, Symbolic Sight, Write [Language]. Relationships: Member of [Horned Society Cell]. Virtues: Hate Truth Gods, Paranoid. Grimoires: [Truth] Feast of Forgotten Lore (Confuse Foe, Decode Grimoire, Devour Book, Frighten Mortal, Ingest Scroll, Recognize Secrets, Sense Learning, Transfer Thoughts [D+20 to steal mundane secrets]) [Chaos] Gospel of Atyar (Absorb Feat, Dismay Victim, Dissect Spell, Inspire Zealotry, Prophetic Voice of Atyar [D+20], Summon Essence of Teaching, Unravel Charm) School Secret Requirements: Chaos Lore 1W2, Use Feast of Forgotten Lore 1W2, Use Gospel of Atyar 1W2. Secret: Consume Mind ritual (Chaos magic. The adept attempts to consume the mind of a helpless individual, in a ritual held over the course of Truth week in any season. It does not work on devotees or disciples of Lhankor Mhy. The ritual is dangerous and risky, and most Atyari only conduct it in their most secret of sanctums. Use of the ritual results in you receiving a chaos feature.) Talismans: Atyari typically make talismans in the shape of small horned skull pendants formed of tarnished silver. Other Benefits: Apprentices may roll for a random Thanatar gift; upon promotion to adept status, you may roll for another gift and may take another every High Holy Day. Other Side: Treack Markhor established a node on the Founder Plane. Known as the Athenaeum of Dark Truths, it is constructed out of parts stolen from other nodes. The Athenaeum has secret, hidden connections to other Founder nodes (unbeknownst to those Founders!), and also connects to the Place of Waiting. Disadvantages: Atyari must still adhere to taboos of spirit relationships they have stolen, or else the spirit will become hostile as normal. Than The Headless Spirit Even diminished, Than had power. When contacted by shamans searching the periphery of well-known myths for new power, he had a new outlet in the world. And as the son of the Devil, Than drew followers—rapacious Orlanthi headhunters who stalked the dark places in the Dawn Age, stealing the heads and powers of rivals and enemies. The Thanics formed a secret group of religious assassins, ritually strangling sacrifices with their garrotes to keep their patron strong and bring closer the day when Than would be made whole again. Reviled and hunted, Thanics remained a persecuted minority on the fringes of the Empire. They learned to operate in secrecy; many found security only in communities of chaotic-tainted folk. Their sign of the coiled garrote became feared, evoking dread from the people of the frontiers. Many times, authorities hunted down the shamans and their circles of followers, but they proved persistent and fanatical. Eventually, the strongholds of Than worship were eliminated. But still, Than waits in the wild places of the Spirit World for mortals to contact him again. Abilities: Endure Wounds, Garrotte Attack, Than Practice Knowledge, Sense Way when Blind, Spirit Face. Relationships: Follower of [Than Practitioner]. Virtues: Hate Anti-Chaos Gods, Zealous. Practice Spirits: [Chaos] Chaos spirits—Spirits of Tien’s horde (Destroy Daimon 15 to 10W, Extinguish Essence 20, 10 to 5W, Sever Spirit 18 to 12W, ). [Darkness] Gloom spirits—Spirits of the darkness (Animate Skeleton ritual 20, Create Zombie ritual 10 to 5W, Extinguish Flame 18 to 8W, Smother Sound 16 to 6W, Summon Dehori 17, Wall of Shadows 8 to 7W). [Death] Guardian spirits—Spirits of dead worshippers (Usually any two abilities like Crushing Grip, Wiresharp Garrote, Disrupt Foe, or Repair Tool: 14 to 1W). [Spirit] Sacrifice spirits—Spirits of beheaded victims (Abilities specific to the victim, usually at 13 to 1W2. These are always hostile and the practitioner does not have to be related to them to bind them to his service.) Practice Secret Requirements: Chaos Lore 1W2, Spirit Face 1W2, Than Practice Knowledge 1W2. Secret: Create Major Head ritual (Chaos magic. The practitioner attempts to bind the spirit, soul, or essence of a helpless individual into their own severed head as a form of gruesome fetish, in a ritual held over the course of Death week in any season.) Spirit Ally: Members of the Than Practice may receive a Guardian spirit as spirit ally in exchange for a random geas. Charms and Fetishes: Than charms and fetishes are usually made of the bones of victims chased with tarnished silver. Sacrifice spirits are bound into charms and fetishes made from the victim’s own severed, animated heads; these lesser magic items are called “minor heads” by Thanics and are held in lesser esteem than the full heads created by the Secret, but all ritually severed heads are sacred objects to followers. Other Connections: Spiritists may roll for a random Thanatar gift; upon promotion to practitioner status, you may roll for another gift and may take another every High Holy Day. Other Side: Followers of Than go to the Blasted Void, a gloomy mire in the Spirit World that remains where the Spike exploded. Hidden paths lead to the Place of Waiting. Or, using enslaved spirits as guides, followers may journey beyond the edge of the Blasted Void to other parts of the Spirit World, such as the Vale of Four Winds or the Wild Wolf Forest. Tien The Severed God It is clear the Chaos god Tien, son of the Devil, was severed in the God Time. Nevertheless, since Time began, a group was able to recreate the entity to an extent. The combined god is typically called Thanatar, although that name is also used for the entire organization consisting of the three factions: the Horned Society, the Than Practice, and the theistic Cult. To avoid confusion, we will use “Tien” for the theistic cult, and “Thanatar” for the entire religion. Mystery surrounds the origin of the cult. Some say the broo Hero Greegrog retrieved the Skull of Atyar and reconnected it to the Majestic Spirit of Than, recreating the god Tien and being made immortal for his pains. Others say that the Horned Skull still resides in a vault under a ruined city, and that the Broken Council recreated the god as an experiment preliminary to the creation of Osentalka. Due to the organization’s characteristic secrecy, the truth may remain forever unknown. Abilities: Devotee of Tien or Initiate of Tien, Mythology of Thanatar, Shortsword and Shield Fighting, Soul Vision. Relationships: Member of [Tien Temple]. Virtues: Fatalistic, Manipulative. Affinities and Feats: [Death] Severing (Command Ghost, Sever Soul, Summon Daimon of Reprisal ritual, Survive Beheading [D+20], True Garrote) [Truth] Knowledge (Find Hidden Knowledge, Sense Weakness, Summon Teaching Daimon ritual) [Darkness] Shadows (Command Darkness Daimon, Darklight, Replenishing Sleep, Summon Darkness Daimon ritual) Secret: Summon Specific Guardian ritual (Otherworld magic. The Tien worshipper must travel to the Otherworld to bring back a Thanatari they are trying to resurrect. The quest is difficult, but the Thanatari need not be resurrected into their original body; the only requirement is that seven days cannot have elapsed since death. If the Tien worshipper fails, the Thanatari immediately goes to the Place of Waiting, even if the full seven days have not yet elapsed.) Other Connections: Initiates may roll for a random Thanatar gift; upon promotion to devotee status, you may roll for another gift and may take another every High Holy Day. Other Side: Tien worshippers who die are escorted to the Place of Waiting by a cult entity called the Gatherer of Souls. From the Place of Waiting theists may journey to the Darkness Age, or they may follow hidden ways to the Blasted Void or the Athenaeum of Dark Truths. A Note on Thanatari Magic Thanatar is a religion for those who wish to possess lore or mastery of skills or magic, but do not wish to do the work to gain such themselves; rather, they steal this power from others. They are greedy and miserly and do not give up magical power that they have stolen. Thanatari magic possesses features of all other magical methods. The magic itself is inherently chaotic, and dabbling in Thanatar’s powers is a certain way to acquire a taint or even turn into a chaos horror. Nevertheless, their studies and activities give the Thanatari many advantages. Anyone who can convince a current member to sponsor them and can sway the examiners can join the religion. They can treat the Horned Society as just another sorcery school, the Than Practice as just another practice, or the Tien cult as just another cult. For these members, the elements function as normal magical groups, and are subject to concentration as normal. It is worth keeping in mind that the Thanatari religion is an enemy to most other religions, and any follower discovering a cell of Thanatari in their neighborhood is likely to turn them in to the authorities. This fact contributes to the Thanatari virtue of extreme secrecy. It is also possible for a follower to concentrate their Thanatari magic. Such followers join the ranks of favored lower-level members in the organization, a group called “The Doomed.” In this case, they may pay the concentrated hero point costs for any Thanatari magic, but must pay double costs for any other kind of magic they wish to learn. A follower who has concentrated their Thanatari magic can learn abilities from other branches of the religion. An apprentice of the Horned Society can receive charms for Than spirits or learn affinities from Tien; a spiritist of the Than practice can learn spells from the Horned Society or affinities from Tien; and, an initiate of Tien can learn spells from the Horned Society or receive charms for Than spirits, all paying the concentrated cost for these magics. Adepts of the Horned Society can use Than fetishes, using their Worship Thanatar ability [D+10] in place of Than Practice Knowledge when releasing the spirits, or learn feats from Tien. Practitioners of Than can learn Use [Grimoire] abilities and learn spells from those grimoires, or learn feats from Tien. Devotees of Tien can learn Use [Grimoire] abilities, or use Than fetishes, using their Worship Thanatar ability [D+10] in place of Than Practice Knowledge when releasing the spirits. The one magic that cannot so easily be stolen is the Cult and Practice Secrets of gods and spirits. Thanatar elite must heroquest mightily for even a fraction of these powers, and the discipline to succeed with such an exertion is foreign to most Thanatari━━this is why they joined a knowledge-stealing religion in the first place! Thanatari Gifts and Geases As followers of a Chaos entity, Thanatari of any faction receive random gifts. These are slightly adapted and updated from Nikk Effingham's list. Thanatar's Gifts d20 Gift Required Geases 1-2 +5 to all Atyar or Scholar keyword abilities 3 3-4 +5 to all Than or Thief keyword abilities 2 5-7 +5 to Shortsword and Shield Fighting 1 8-9 +10 to Shortsword and Shield Fighting 3 10-12 +5 to Garrotte Attack 1 13 Begin a Resist Fire/Sky Magic ability at 13 or raise it by +5 2 14-15 +5 to one Knowledge, Lore, or Mythology ability 1 16 Sprout ram's horns, which act as average weapons (HeroQuest page 78) 1 17 Skin/fur turns pitch black, and gives an automatic augment of +10 to hiding 2 18 Skin/fur toughens, and acts as light armor (HeroQuest page 78) 1 19 Receive a guardian as a spirit ally 3 20 Select one gift, and receive random geases. n/a Thanatar's Geases d20 Geas 1 Eat the flesh of sentient creatures at each meal. 2 Always eat the flesh of each victim. 3 Never use minted coins. 4 Never use an edged weapon. 5 Never speak to non-Thanatari. 6 Never ride an animal. 7 Wear no head protection. 8 Never go into sunlight or risk permanent blindness; roll your best defense versus the intensity of the light (usually from 14W2 to 14W3). 9 Never go into non-cult light or risk permanent blindness; roll your best defense versus the intensity of the light (usually from 14 to 14W3). 10 Never use fire in any form, including Darklight. 11 Gain a useful chaos feature at a rating of either 13 or your Worship Thanatar ability minus 20, whichever is higher. 12 Gain a detrimental chaos feature at a rating of either 18 or your Worship Thanatar minus 20, whichever is lower. 13 Always challenge Lhankor Mhy, Urox, or Storm Bull worshippers. 14 Never eat non-sentient plants. 15 Never wear metal other than tarnished silver. 16 Never eat the flesh of any cloven-hoofed creature. 17 Never lie to a fellow Thanatari. 18 Never harm an undead creation. 19 Never attack with a weapon. 20 Roll 1d20. On a roll of 1-10, roll two times and take both geases. On a roll of 11-15, roll three times and take all three geases. On a 16-20, you are favoured by Thanatar this time and receive no geas.
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