Saturday, 29 August 2015

20 Questions about The Last Day Dawned

Prolific bloggisimo Jeff Rients offered 20 Questions to help define your campaign world. Here are the answers for The Last Day Dawned; mainly to form something of a road-map for defining the setting on this blog in the future!

Currently the players are rescuing children from a band of cultist-Gnolls; this has involved infiltrating a prison from Demons and coming across their first Willing Vessels and the first suggestion just how long the shadows are getting..

  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
    Most Clerics in the Empire of Audunfeyr worship any number of the Thousand Gods of Audunfeyr; the vast, cosmopolitan pantheon of the most pragmatic religion which has long substituted doctrinal purity in favour of quickly assimilating new cultures. Whilst your Cleric probably knows and can perform the rituals and practices of any number of the Gods, he is most likely a Cultist of one in particular. Feel free to make one up and pick your domains!

    The Empire's Patron Godling, The Chained Angel, is a god of law and human superiority. She grants the War, Law and Goetic domains. Clerics of the Chained Angel must advance the Audenfeyr where they can, and oppose the spirits of wild places.

    The Elves of the Steppe - and their subject peoples- worship the Sky God Therudaz and the Earth God Heartathen: all spirits of natural things: rivers, forests, mountains must be honoured....or ruled over. The strong rule the weak; thus is the order of things. Followers can take their pick of domains, more or less, but Tempest, War and Knowledge best fit Therudaz and Nature, Life and Death best fit Heartathen.

    If you wanna worship Pelor or Zeus or the Buddha or Lucifer we can probably accommodate that somewhere.
2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

A town or city or village for most things. For luxuries you'll need to go to Gamota or another large trading city. Among the Steppe Elves, nothing can be bought - only taken in blood or given as a gift.

This is what LDD aristos look like. 
3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

Most smiths of any real skill will be attached to a court or castle; you'll need the ear of a boyar or baron for anything specialist.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
Look upon my works, ye mighty....
Half the Khagans of the Steppe Elves will claim this title - their calf-skin spellbooks flutter like banners in the wind as they ride hard in a maelstrom of magic: spitting thunder and bellowing curses. The current Grand Khagan, Theddirc, is unrecognised, but with his guile and sorcery he has contained his father's folly for half a century and strives to press the other Khagans into service. 

The Rakshasa Teshei has a chance - he rules  the city of Loquista with an aristocracy of his half-fiend children and was once hailed as the greatest living magi. Now, he languors in his harem.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
Half the Khagans of the Steppe Elves would claim this title too. As would any bravo in his cups. In truth, the undefeated  warriors are almost all monstrosities or fiends: He-Wh0-Feast-On-Children's-Eyes and Kill-The-Gods-And-Topple-Their-Thrones are demons who lead great warbands across the steppes, glutting themselves on souls and flesh alike. 

Who is the richest person in the land?
The Emperor of Audenfeyr, Eiderren III, commands enormous wealth. 

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
The Oracle will see you now.
Good luck with that. A few exceptional priests can channel some kind of divine magic, for a favour. Most are busy as adventurers or on retainer to nobility.
 If you dare parley with the spirits of the wilds, they or their minions may salve your wounds and make you hale.
  1. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
Death cannot be cured. Pray only that the rituals are correct that you may leave this world, and not become...

Undead. Undeath is cured in numerous ways: sometimes with fire, sometimes with an axe....

Strange curses might be removed by oracles or hags. Seers and other blessed or cursed individuals abound in the wilderness, and might perform the correct rituals.....for a price.

8. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
Wizards do not co-operate. There are two ways to gain spells:
1) Months of arduous research with no guarantee or success.
2) 'acquire' the spell-book of another practitioner.
3) Be apprenticed to a generous master who trusts you implicitly.

Wizards fight and backbite and scheme and struggle against one another. A few powerful states, like the Audenfeyr, try to create Wizard's Guilds - these are incredibly difficult to police and will require your character be an agent of Crown.
  1. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
In large cities, specialists abound. In the wilderness, a few monasteries exists which hold esoteric knowledge. 
  1. Where can I hire mercenaries?
Anywhere on the frontier, mercenaries ply their trade. Most mercenaries are oddballs and outcasts and roustabouts.  
  1. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
Everybody carries their weapon on the frontier, and no petty lord has the power to prevent spellcraft in his domain. 
  1. Which way to the nearest tavern?
  1. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
Slay the leader of a Demon Warband on the Steppe and people will sing songs of you. Destroy a Wild Spirit and the Emperor might grant you lands and title. 
Elves in LDD are not nice. 
  1. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
Gamota lies in the grip of civil strife ; the election is contested by half the great families of that city. The city is now a place of blood and barricades.
The Steppe has been at war since the beginning of time, but anyone can find gold and glory there in a warband. You might come back....different, though 
  1. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes
Loquista's arena is always in need of fresh blood. 
  1. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Cults abound for both Devils and Demon-Princes, shuffling their pieces on the board for the final confrontation. The Order of the Rat plots revolution: sometimes in the shadows; sometimes in the open in village-communes.
  1. What is there to eat around here?
How much money have you got?
  1. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
  1. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Every forest  or river has its spirit, if that qualifies as a monster. There are dragons in Utangard across the sea; giants too. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

1d10 Weird Forest Guardians

In The Last Day Dawned, all forests are rich with spirits: from tiny leaf-sprites with wooden skin who watch passers-by, impassively, to mighty spiritual creatures who embody the collective essence of the forests around them, to possessed vessels who tirelessly guard the forest. They can be spoken to, bargained with, exorcised and battled; but only the destruction of their charges will put them down forever. In regions ruled by Humans, they are tamed or destroyed where possible. In regions ruled by Elves or Fey, they are integrated as vassals, tributaries or overlords. They are essentially the Holy Fools of the Druidic faith; and can be battled to advance in that hierarchy. All are weak to cold iron and whatever folklore weirdness pisses off fairies in your personal world.

  1.  An enormous mass of chattering, colourful insects. They form and reform into patterns that display their intends. Will accept sacrifices and consume them utterly, preferring symbols of cultivation and domesticity: farm-animals, what-crops, kings. Takes half damage from direct attacks.
  2. An ancient tree, decked with hangman's ropes, with rotting corpses hanging from each. Communicates using the droning voices of the dead. Will claim that willingly hanging oneself from the branches will confer access to primordial wisdom (DM's discretion whether this is true). Stationery but can Awaken nearby foliage and fauna.
  3. An enormous, primordial incarnation of the predatory: a horned-wolf of enormous size that can move silently at will. Desires rarer beasts to consume; respects only might in battle, and will actively hunt members of the Druidic faith to prove the extent of its dominion. 
  4. A possessed statue of an prehistoric fertility goddess whose cult has long vanished into obscurity: enormously fat with huge, exposed pudenda. Despite being of stone, the statue can birth living creatures, and is said to grant fertility to the infertile. Any union consummated in the spirit's presence will result in a viable pregnancy - presumably of some hideous, unnatural progeny. Such abominations guard her grove. 
  5. Two halves: a beautiful Dryad, a Fey Knight: both have skin displaying identical scarification. They are searching for each other in the vastness of the forest, but will purposefully never encounter one another. Will try to draw PCs into ceaseless game of cat and mouse. PCs will then encounter other searchers who have been aiding the couple for days or weeks. If challenge about their behaviour they will attempt murder.
  6. Old Drindle, an impossibly calm, childlike giant. Easy to confuse or mislead. Desires diversion, and secretly yearns for the products of the industry: iron, books, mechanical toys. Casts spells as a Druid. 
  7. A Druid of great age who became a Willing Vessel of the spirit years before. He diligently discharges his duties in ensuring the cycle of forest life turns, but has become distressed as the erosion of his humanity. When the spirit wills him to kill innocents and reduce them to fertiliser, his heart quails. Secretly yearns for the release of death. 
  8. A troll-witch with three docile, obedient troll husbands: she cuts out their entrails and reads the omens therein, relying on their healing to keep them alive. She misuses her gift of prophecy liberally to pursue petty vengeance against local covens of witches, hags and the like who refuse to acknowledge her dominion. 
  9. A child, raised by wolves just reaching adulthood . A Feral Druid of considerable power. Thinks of themselves as a wolf but is experiencing an awkward sexual awakening for which there is no explanation from the wise beings of their forest kingdom; believes symptoms of puberty caused by demons or a curse. Very interested in one of your PCs.
  10. A prey-animal of rare and wondrous beauty: an Elk with skin made from moonlight. Elusive and skittish. Desires protection from uppity vassal-beasts or the Wild Hunt or suchlike. Has tricksy defensive magic: Mirror Image, Blur and similar. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Why the Dead Walk in The Last Day Dawned

The Last Day Dawned is an apocalyptic setting. Not a post-apocalyptic setting where grubby losers dress in BDSM gear, but an apocalypse that is on-going, worsening. The alarm on the Doomsday Clock is ringing, and nobody has a clue about how to fix it.

Good luck pal.

In the world of the Last Day Dawned, undead just happen. You don’t need a Necromancer, or negative energy – sinners will rise to feed on the living unless this is prevented. The Last Day Dawned is a setting of ritual and cosmic rightness where the Great Wheel is broken, sure as the sun rises, the dead will too.

The greedy will claw their way out of shallow graves as Ghoulmen, wrestling with hungers forbidden. The depressed will resume their misery, and suck the vitae from those around them, a lethargic yearning that eats you, marrow-out. Those who died enraged will rip and rend and writhe and tear their way back into this world to punish the weak. For the denizens of The Last Day Dawned, undeath is a practicality of life.

Clerics, priests and druids might know the rituals that will pack your soul off right when the funeral happens. To the Steppe Elves of the East, a body must be left to the crows: they will consume it and carry it to the Sky God. If they died with honour, the crows will return them to the ever-blowing wind.

For Priests of the Thousand Temples, the rituals are intricate, byzantine, dazzling. The Wine God demands his chosen by dried, aged, drawn-out, pickled, then thrown into the fire of a great celebration, lost in laughter and smoke. The Toil God demands an elaborate sarcophagus of beloved-craft….to then be smashed to splinters and hurled into the earth, that Toil begin anew. The Wanderlust God would see them lashed to the front of ships as rotting figureheads, so that their dead eyes, salt-dry, can take in the world one last time. Licensed Priests may know a hundred rituals, Archpriests a hundred more. In any town without a priest, Clerics will be beseeched – bury my son! Lay to rest my aunt! Do you know the rituals of the Guard-God-Who-Never-Sleeps? Sometimes, a goodly Cleric can spare an hour, and set a soul down the river to the Thousand-Thousand heavens. Other times, there is no time, no knowledge, and he must pass on, ignoring the eyes boring into his back. The knowledge that the Dead always outnumber the Living.

Of course, charlatans are active in the funeral industry. Sure, they know the rituals. Wave the hands. Sing the songs. Pocket the gold. Laugh the last. And if a few Ghoulmen are loosed in the city? If a rage-ghast tears ships sails in the harbour? Not our problem. You paid up front.

The worshippers of the Iron Tyrant turn, as ever, to knife-sharp expediency. Burn the corpse, cast adrift any soul, scatter the animus, seal whatever remains in the catacombs and never think of them again. Ritual is weak and degenerate. Heaven is a lie. Supplicate, and be freed.

For characters in The Last Day Dawned, ritual obligations will be ever-present. If you slit a bandit’s throat miles from home, there is always a chance he’ll rise, a vengeful spirit, and haunt this wood. Do you know a ritual that might work? Religion checks can be employed, but I also would like to let players simply invent something: “I think the God of Hale Hearts would take him to the Thousand Heavens!” If players declare a psychopomp, and a convincing reason why their character might know an appropriate ritual for that God, they can attempt to send their soul on. Make an appropriate check. Give advantage for a good story. Failing that, they can cremate the corpse, cleanse the area with magic, and drive the soul out: casting it adrift between planes. An act of destruction you should telegraph as a cruel act of permanent destruction – that might prevent a monster being loosed. 
Battlefields, dungeons or other places of violence will commonly be haunted, and ghost-wracked regions are a geographical truth of the game-world. Crossing them should test the characters like any other dangerous region. In ages past, there were few such regions. Now, as a long history of violence, misery and woe is carved into the bones of the world, they are a pestilence.