Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beastmen of Northwind: A Quick Onceover.

Perhaps from deliberate arcane experimentation or accidentally derived from unnatural breeding of Chaos Magic induced slave-stock, Beastmen are not uncommon to the Northwind Region. While no less intelligent than Men, Dwarves or Elves, the collective of beings called Beastmen are less prolific in the world and more prone to tribal backgrounds and humbler beginnings. Due to their oftentimes unusual appearances, these beings can be subject to unfounded prejudices, being shunned as spawns of chaos or agents of evil – though evil is not any less unknown among them than its known among Men.

The Ape-men of Zolanti, however, are a prime example of a decadently wicked people. Theirs is a culture based upon sorcery and slavery, with the Ape-men resting comfortably at the top of their social strata. Men, Dwarves, and particularly Elves, whom are regarded as a delicacy, are actively hunted for slave stock and sometimes even pieced out for sorcerous rituals. They are known to worship dark and forgotten gods in obscene rituals handed down from the Serpentfolk of Y'th.

Yet despite all of these terrible traits, not unlike the Spiders of Apollyon, Zolanti merchants are tolerated within the City-State of Northwind, for the wares of their slave mines in the south, salts and spices, gems and diamonds, and the strong equally and rare Zolanti Steel, are desired in abundance.

The many tribes of Boar-men of The Howling Hills are a aggressive and territorial, yet downtrodden people under the yoke of Orculli dominance. They have been hunted and oppressed into acceptance of second class citizens of the Orculli way of life, leaving only standing stones and forgotten beast totems along the hills and moors they once roamed.

In a loose and scattered grouping of feudal states, often at war with one another for territorial rights, exist the Lion-men. They where once more numerous in the Northwind region, but the War of Kzin decimated their numbers when the ambitious Pridelord eyed the City-State of Northwind as a jewel in his crown. According to the Treaty of Kzin, no war-party of Lion-men may tread upon the lands the City-State claims, though there are allowances for peaceful coexistence of tribal settlements (and even a loophole which permits “Men-friendly” Adventuring Companies.)

The largest and most diverse of Beastmen are the Centaurs. These hexapods, having four legs and two arms, run the span from carnivores to herbivore, as they are not limited to Man/Equine lineage. Common to the Swarthlad Plains, The Committee of Swarthladshire even supports two delegates as representatives to The Council of Northwind. The City of Bulwark maintains an unusual division of Centauri Archers that has been wildly successful against Orculli aggression. Centaur traditions are often regarded as old fashioned, being particularly shamanistic while their religious beliefs are largely Druidic.

The Nanjaran Bug-men, or Macronoids, are a southern race seldom seen in the northern realms. It has been disputed among sages as to whether they are a proper Beast-race or not, as their behavior is decidedly hive oriented, with little individualism among them. They are mentioned here for the sake of argument and completeness.

The Serpentfolk of Y'th are a collective of reptilian races far older than Men, Dwarves, or Elves, and by last reckoning, are in decline. They are ruled by the Limbless Ones, a vile cabal of Nagas dedicated to the abolishment of all warm blooded life. Sketchy reports from the abandoned Dwarvish outpost of Stonehell tell of Serpentmen activity but details are unclear, conflicting, and questionable as to their accuracy.

The Yeti is an uncommon creature, but also one of the most readily accepted of Beastmen in Northwind. Their peaceful and noble demeanor belies their great physical power and strength. Their quiet, almost priestly, way of life is inoffensive to all but the most irritable tempers. Originating from small tribal villages among the Majestic Mountains, Yeti most often find themselves in the company of Men out of sheer curiosity, as Mankind is a bit of an enigma to them and the gentle giants seem to enjoy a good puzzle. The Bardic College of Northwind enjoys the privilege of having on hand a Yeti skald of considerable vocal skill, her hauntingly beautiful voice is only rivaled by the keen sense of measure and timing she displays upon her drum.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Caps of Red, Blood and Dread ...

Redcaps; a common scourge of the Wilderlands preying on travelers, adventurers and caravans alike. These diminutive terrors are best known for their blood-lust fueled rages and vicious tenacity.

While often referred to as goblins, this is not an entirely accurate classification, as they are in fact related closer to Dwœgari, specifically Gnomish blood, than to Ælvari Fae-folk. The Bardic College of Northwind has on record a tale that further defines the Redcap as a Fae-cursed clan of Gnomes that were among the first of fell creatures to welcome the Black Mother of the Night to these lands and that she rewarded their faith with a lust of blood and battle.

Redcaps are extremely fond of their silvered halberds as a means of maximizing their damage potential in combat and as a means of making up for their small stature. As a whole, the race is gifted with almost supernatural quickness, which is oftentimes supplemented by magical iron boots of speed – most oftentimes a gift from fae-hating witches among their numbers who take perverse glee at the thought of stamped upon faeries.

A Redcap's blood-lust should never be underestimated, for the creatures will become twice as hostile and thrice as cunning with even the smallest drop spilled. Fresh blood invigorates a Redcap with speed and ferocity. The mere application of blood to a Redcap's skin is sufficient enough to enliven it such and the ritualistic practice of dipping their woolen caps in blood and gore finds its origin here from which their namesake is also derived.

While wildly prolific in the Northwind region, Redcaps have no nation to speak of and collect themselves in various tribes. Cooperation among these tribes is limited, largely in part from the Redcap's hateful disposition towards outsiders. This hate sometimes even manifests itself within a tribe, and inter-tribal murder is somewhat common and even cannibalism isn't unheard of among them.

Both The Merchant's Guild and The Council of Northwind have petitioned the Overlord to action over the growing Redcap threat to inter-county and international trade. As such, a regional bounty of 2 Silver Wyverns have been placed upon each head collected from a Redcap, regulated and collectable through the office of The Adventuring Guild of Northwind.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ælvari, Dwoegari, Dwarves, and Elves …

Upon first glance, it might seem as if the terms Ælvari and Dwœgari were simply archaic names for what we today refer to as Elves and Dwarves, but this is a simplification of a greater meaning. While it's true, both terms date back to before the terror of the Dragon Lords, similarly so do the words Men and Orculli.

Ælvari are specifically a race of winged elves considered royalty among the Seelie Court and deemed Messengers of the Divine by The Church of Northwind. They are also a sort of pro-generator race of what has become all things Fey in the Northwind region. They hail from what is called The Twilight Kingdoms, but nowhere in Wyrewood – home of the Seelie Court – can such a place be found. All Ælvari share a few common traits in that they are all relatively timeless and positively whimsical – often at the expense of non-Ælvari. Elves, Pixies, Brownies, Leprechauns, Satyrs, Dryads, and nearly all races of the Seelie Court are considered Ælvari. The Unseelie Court, to include Redcaps, Trolls, Hags, and Dark Faeries, while Fey; are not considered Ælvari.

Dwœgari are simply the descendants of the Dwœgar clan of the Dragon Lord Age. These are to include The many quarreling Dwarvish houses of Thunderhold, all manner of Gnomes (except Redcaps,) various tribes of Derro, and a few clans of Halflings – specifically Stouts, Underhills, and Redbeards. Dwœgari are typically less unified than Ælvari, or at least what seems to pass for unity in the Seelie Court. The Church of Northwind regards the Dwœgari as wayward Servants of the Divinity and often embraces them as brethren.

Of the two, one thing they share in common is a bitter dislike for one another, Dwœgari and Ælvari, and a fondness for mankind. It has not been a generation of men since the Church of Northwind, through the since canonized St. Josephine of Northwind brought the hated rivals to the table of diplomacy, thus ending their bloody centuries long disputes (though, the talks were nearly disrupted by the clever trickster, Gax-of-the-Gray-Eyed-Grin, A renowned Gnomish Tombraider. Gax was allegedly tricked himself by the more clever Josephine, who influenced him to create the Adventuring Guild of Northwind, where both factions would ultimately work together.)

Today, generally speaking, Ælvari and Dwœgari still maintain their distance from one another; such long hatreds need even longer cooling periods, but through mankind, their passions are slowly being quelled.

Adventurering Companies and Thieves Guilds of Northwind

The Order of the Dragon – Sponsored by the Church of Northwind to crusade in the Northern Lands, to explore and conquer in the name of the Church. Currently this band of Crusaders and Templars are manning an expedition to the Iron Hills to investigate claims of hellish influences spewing from the mouth of an abandoned Dwœgari outpost called Stonehell. The Order bear a standard of a black Maltese Cross encircled by a Red Dragon.

The Vanguard – Sponsored by the Church of Northwind to Crusade the Southern Lands, to explore and conquer in the name of the Church. Currently, they have been dispatched to Corpsewatch to assist and coordinate the evacuation and retreat to Luckstone. Bears a standard a red cross with a crowned skull at its center.

The Hammers of Thor – An unregistered band of Northmen Berzerkers that are particularly brutal. They are largely suspected for the sacking of Shewolf bound caravans from the Dwarvish clans earlier this year. Their standard is a red hammer overlaying three black lightning bolts inside an inverted triangle.

The Fool-hearts – A party of misfits and neer'do'wells who have been making a name for themselves in the Adventuring Guild of Northwind keeping Beastmen and Orculli forces at bay in Wyrewood Forest. Their standard is a red broken heart beneath a jester's belled cap.

The Tombrobbers – An entire squad of HIGHLY trained thieves wanted by authorities of Northwind, both law enforcing and criminal. They are notorious for having no allegiances with anyone for any reason (They don't play well with others AT ALL and will operate ANYWHERE despite turf boundaries.) Their emblem is a simple black rat.

The Pride of Azlyn – A Lionman Adventuring Party of some renown, primarily as Orculli Fighters in the region of Wyrwood Forest. Though cold and arrogant in their standings with men, The Adventuring Guild of Northwind fully recognizes their charter to operate under the Treaty of Kzin. Theirs is a white and blue trimmed standard depicting a red manticore.

The Golden Sashes – The second largest Thieving Guild operating in The City State of Northwind (The Brotherhood of the Rope being the largest) known for its golden colored sashes worn buy full members.

Archimago's Wands – A Group of Wandering War Wizards … Secretive and Very Dangerous. They are only identifiable by the mark of Archimago, a cross of confusion.

The Cult of the Blue Oyster – popular in the Modron region, but spreading quickly under a variety of names, this is an offshoot of the Wands of Archimago. The Cult is more focused on elevating the Archmage to the status of Demigod …

The Claws of Glazya – A Militant Coven dedicated to the Black Mother Of The Night. Has run afoul of the Fool-Hearts and The Order of the Dragon in the northern Wyrewood. Theirs is a grizzly standard, often displayed as a dismembered hand in a claw-like grasping position.

The War-locks – An Adventuring Thieves Guild directly opposing the machinations of the Archmage Archimago and his many fingered hand of organizations. They are a magic heavy band of thieves that operate in the lands south of The City-State of Northwind and north of Corpsewatch.

The Badmoons – An Adventuring Thieves Guild based in The City State of Northwind and number one rival to The Golden Sashes. Officially, they are a registered Adventuring Company, however a great deal of their funding comes directly from plundering The City-State. This is difficult for authorities to prove, however, as the Badmoons tend to dress as Golden Sashes whenever they commit crimes in the City-State, and of those captured, tend to either escape (or die trying … even unto the gallows they remain silent about their true affiliations.) 
The Badmoons come into conflict with The Highwaymen and The Nix Angels outside of the City-State over territory and coin, but fortunately for them, the two are more focused on one another to really bring their full vengeance against The Badmoons. The Badmoons' 'colors,' when operating beyond the City-State's gates, are a red crescent moon tilted horns up.

The Highwaymen - A Thieves/Assassins Guild operating all through the southlands, notorious for caravan raiding, often taking prisoners for the Iron Ring Slaver's Guild. Their standard is a rearing stallion overlaying crossed swords on a black field.

The Nix Angels - A Thieves/Assassins Guild that originally made a name for itself raiding caravans, particularly those driven by The Church of Northwind, a practice they still continue with some regularity. Their colors depict a demonic horned skull in profile bearing batwings at the temples.

The Transmaniacon MC – A Wizarding Thieves/Assassins Guild notable for their Flying Besoms, often referred to as 'Sweeps.' They are believed to be on sociable terms with the Wands of Archimago, and it is suspected that most members have dual membership. Their Magi Club 'colors' consist of a black skull with a cross of confusion on its forehead overlaying a crossed broom and magic wand.

Dice Porn

The Children of Orcus

Of the many humanoid races of the Northwind region The Orculli certainly stand out as the most unified of any, including the Demi-humans. While Dwoegari clans bear grudges amongst one another and Aelvari families are whimsically diverse, Orculli are unified and driven as a race in the steadfast belief they are the earthbound children of their only deity, Orcus, the Beastly Lord of the Dead. It seems that all Orculli know this from a very early age and instinctively are drawn to the sacrificial altar of The Horned One. Theirs is a warrior culture drawn to the service of joining their god through the 'glorious death,' in that he who is the greatest bringer of death dies gloriously. They do not retreat. They do not surrender.

Orculli resemble a peculiar mix of Elf, Ogre and Satyr, which certainly gives them the appearance of The Death God's children. They are often adorned in ritualistic tattoos and war paint, forgoing heavy armor. The scimitar is their weapon of choice, but they have been reported as being proficient in many forms of armed combat, particularly javelins and spears.

There appears to be no social distinction between males and females, both are equally fanatic and uncompromising in any given task. Either sex is as likely to be a warrior as is likely to belong to their priesthood.

Perhaps it might come as no surprise that Orculli only practice two schools of arcana which they blend together in an unholy union: the arts of Alchemy and Necromancy. Necromancy is only practiced upon other races, however as the very thought of an undead Orculli is considered profane among them. Furthermore, they have devised rituals that even simple adepts may perform that embalm the dead with magical toxins that can animate unique and terrifying abominations that hunger for the living flesh of non Orculli.

There has been noted a southward migration trend in all Orculli raiding parties and they are becoming more and more numerous in the Corpsewatch region, only adding to the chaos of that thrice cursed region.

Tethys Keep

Nestled into the southernmost wall of the Majestic Mountains is a small Northmen community with a turbulent past known today as Tethys Keep. Consisting of a mere 30 or so families, the village is best acknowledged as a rest for caravans journeying from Smite to Shewolf, although river trade from Omen is almost as common.

The Happy Troll Tavern receives most caravans and offers up fair hospitality to weary travelers, providing they're not of elfblood. Elves have a bad reputation in Tethys Keep, a stigma that dates back to the time when Lord Tethys was a Templar of the Church of Northwind. He was tasked to convert the Northmen heathens to the faith through St. Donor, but the stoic villagers clung to their Temple of the All-Father. When Lord Tethys refused to convert the people, the Church sent an Inquisitor and his cadre of Crusaders to do by force what Tethys would not. Lord Tethys appealed to the Elves of the Silver Forest to ally themselves with him against the Inquisition, to which they did not respond. Historical sages speculate that emissary to the Elves may have been intercepted by the Inquisition, moving faster through the Wilderlands than expected; but others dismiss this as the tongue waggings of Elvish apologists. In either event, Lord Tethys and what forces he could muster held off the Crusaders for several weeks. It was at sword point a grievously wounded Tethys held the Inquisitor and bade him and his Church to leave these lands alone to their rugged and simple way of life. Tethys is said to have collapsed and died in his garden as the Holy troops turned tail, never to return. 

While some of this tale is suspect to heroic embellishment, at least one of the locals insists every word of it is true; a dottering one eyed old man known simply as Old Sven, who claims his grandsire was an eyewitness to the events. It should also be stated that Old Sven is considered 'addled as a Troll in summer.'

The actual Keep was used as a gathering place for local government and a shrine to the fallen Lord for many years, but since those days, has fallen into disrepair with rumors of the spirits of the fallen Crusaders seeking vengeance upon the living faithful of the All-Father.

Today, the town is primarily run by a council consisting of Shieldmaidens of the Temple of the All-Father and the local constabulary.