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Thread: [AU] Vale of Shadows [Full]
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 05:44 PM #1
[AU] Vale of Shadows [Full]
Vale of Shadows OOC
Here's our cast:
Rangerjohn: Rowlth, Litorian Ice Cat Totem Warrior
Nameless: Quickling Faen Wind Witch
Garyh: Ar-Pharos, Giant Warmain
Inez Hull: Kyraelis, Faen Akashik
Arma: Haradoth, Mojh (Future Mage Blade)
GPEKO: Rupert, Human Runethane/Unfettered
Mirthcard: Xen, Verrik Champion of Death
The Rogue's Gallery is here
The IC thread is here
Last edited by dead_radish; Tuesday, 30th September, 2003 at 06:14 AM.
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Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 06:20 PM #2
Scout (Lvl 6)
I'd like to go for Litorian Wolf totem warriror.
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 09:23 PM #3
Okay some more info:
The tone of the campaign will be fairly dark. Nasty, brutish and short is a fair description of life in the Vale for a lot of people. I'd prefer the characters to have more of an outsider type of feel - basically wanderers, travellers, etc. These characters, by force of circumstances or choice, are outsiders. For whatever reason, they are permanently on the move, travelling from one place to another, hopefully keeping ahead of whatever pursues them, or seeking out new places to satisfy their curiousities.
In keeping with that, it is entirely possible that PC's may die - in this game, they aren't the stars of the world - they are people trying to make it by, and make a difference. But the world is dangerous, and people die. I won't be out to kill you off, but it is a possibility. As such, having a backup character is not at all a bad idea.
I don't want to see horribly evil characters, but characters with selfish motives, low scruples or the like are just fine. I don't want someone that is going to disrupt the party, pick everyone's pockets, etc, though. But AU has no alignment. Make realistic characters with shades of grey. If you're a totem warrior that thinks the weak should be allowed to die off to strengthen the rest, go for it. If property rules have always rubbed you wrong, have fun. If you want to be a champion for the downtrodden and repressed, enjoy!
Last edited by dead_radish; Saturday, 13th September, 2003 at 09:58 PM.
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 09:29 PM #4
Okay. Here we go:
The campaign takes place on a large and densely settled continent. The eastern lands—the Lands of the Diamond Throne—correspond closely to the setting described in AU. An advanced empire, ruled by giants, shepherds lesser races such as humans and faen. In the far west, steep fjords lead to the archipelagoes controlled by a mighty nation of the dramojh, the ancestral enemies of the giants. Far in the west, legend has it that the dragons themselves brood upon stratagems for recovering the lands stolen from them of old. In the deserts to the southeast, an ancient and aloof dynasty of Verrik kings rules in splendid isolation. In the spine of these lands, nestled in the lofty peaks which have long separated the dramojh and the giants, a broad and populous valley remains the only land where humans rule independently. Fierce and distrustful of outsiders, but fragmented politically, the free humans have long acted as a buffer between the great powers. Their prosperity has been guaranteed by the fact all of the major trading routes between these three nations lead through the Vale of Shadows.
The “history” presented by the AU is very close to the text given to the children of those humans enslaved in the east—as one might expect, it attributes much more agency and general benevolence to the giants than is historically verifiable. In the Vale of Shadows, the history is remembered somewhat differently. Before the giants came, three hundred years ago, all the lands were held in thrall by the dramojh, though the Vale was even then an unruly province. The giants drove the dragon-men from the east and pushed through the passes in the Vale. They had nearly driven the dramojh from their strongholds when they suffered a terrible reverse. The dragons themselves descended upon the invading host and the giants were slaughtered upon the ice at Mistmeer. By this time, the human lands were in open rebellion and the warring races agreed to pull back to their eastern and western borders and respect the neutrality of the center—the Convenant of Mistmeer Reach is still unbroken today. In fact, it was only at this time that the giants began the great ceremony of Shu-Rin and dedicated themselves to peaceful pursuits, while creating the Sibeccai to keep their human wards in line. Both great races washed their hands of the rebellious humans of the vale, deciding to help cultivate (in the image of the greater race, of course) the enslaved humans in the lands of the East and West.
The Vale of Shadows may best be described as great “V’ slashed in the mountains dividing the continent. This ‘V’ is 2720 miles wide at its widest East-West point and 3520 miles long at its longest North-South point.
The most populous and developed land in the vale is in the far south, where a series of rich river valleys pour into the Echoing Sea, so named because in the summer the booming of its breaking ice can be heard throughout the vale. Clustered around this sea are a number of the richest cities in the land. North of the sea is a broad belt of alpine woodland, which rises towards a ring of rugged hills and badlands. North of this ring, the land becomes higher, drier, and much less suitable for farming. Significant settlements here generally tend to develop on the rivers, where irrigation makes some farming possible—a few notable rivers cut through this terrain. On these high broken plains, forests of scraggly trees give way to a cold, dry wasteland. A colossal, treacherous series of mountains and badlands divides the Vale from the north—in this range are several of the highest peaks in the known world, most of which have never been scaled. Further north is a belt of tundra, and beyond that, glaciers and the Cold Waste. Here human settlements give way to the territory of the Litorians.
The more advanced races consider the human beings’ religiosity one of their more quaintly primitive characteristics. Indeed, religion is one of the dominant forces in the Vale, though it would be saying too much to call it “organized.” Outsiders (especially Giants and Verrik) frequently chuckle at the absurd abundance of the gods of the vale, saying that a draught of the water of the Ice Sea causes one to descend into mystical madness. The Dramohj simply see these gods as the feeble filler that now has replaced their proper worship within the psyches of men.
The Beast Gods—The vast majority of the inhabitants of the Vale remain very close to the animistic religion of primitive human society. They worship nature in all her manifestations, but particularly through her totems—the living beings who represent some facet of her power. Perhaps nine tenths of the people follow the beast gods though they tend to be among the most humble. The most devoted worshippers of these gods frequently take on the appearance of their totems—for worshippers of these totems these beast-men are holy.
Totems: Bear (Black Bear, Ice Bear; Grisly Bear); Boar; Elk; Griffon; Hawk; Horse (Steppe Horse; Estavan); Lion (Mountain Lion, Lynx; Ice Cat); Otter; Raccoon; Snake; Wolf (Black Wolf, Winter Wolf, Great Steppe Wolf); Wolverine.
The Storm Gods—The ruling classes in the Vale worship manifestations of elemental might. This pantheon, though strong, is limited mainly to the feudal families who rule the vale and to those who depend upon them for their livelihood. Above all else, these gods prize the martial virtues. They are warring and petty group who shift their favor from one house to the next with great rapidity.
There are six primary, active male elements, according to the humans of the Vale—iron, mind, sea, wind, ice, and wood. Each of these corresponds to a male storm god. There are five subordinate, passive female elements, according to the same mythos—fire, song, blade, thunder, and word. Each of these corresponds to a female storm god. (Names and portfolio to follow). Most worshippers of the Storm Cult worship a single male divinity and all five female divinities. There is some theological dispute about why this is so. The avatars claim that this justifies the polygamous practices of the ruling classes, while most witches claim the disproportion is due to the comparative importance of the female divinities.
The Faen Gods—No human scholar has ever succeeded in delineating the outlines of the Faen pantheon in all its multiplicity, but these gods exist and they are worshipped. So long as a god has even a single worshipper he exists; likewise, a god may cease to exist when his last worshipper forgets of his existence. Faen gods are a numerous and short-lived lot.
The Cult of Am-Re—In the great city of Rab’meer, near the pass leading to the Verrik Empire, a new cult has recently arisen, claiming to worship a single god, more powerful than all the rest. The cult has named Ghera-Din, Desgrave of Rab’meer and first convert to Am-Re as rightful High Suzerain of all the Vale. Ghera-Din has stated his intention to conquer the Vale and purge all other gods from the land, and the devotees of Am-Re are displaying unusual aggression. The other political rulers are not especially pleased by this development, but they’re not especially worried either.
The Dragon Lords—For three hundred years the Mojh have been trying to proselytize in the Vale. The occasionally succeed in converting someone to the unpopular worship of the dragons in the west. They show every intention of continuing for another three hundred years.
Never having been unified, the Valley of Shadows is a confusing patchwork of competing political interests laid out along feudal lines. No fewer that fifty-one more or less independent political entities exist—any given entity’s lands are not necessarily contiguous. These fifty-one mini-states are more or less in a constant state of war with one another—alliances form and fall apart with great dispatch. Periodically one state manages to conquer another and eliminate its rulers. That sort of event, however, is rare, and there are always new bandit lords seeking ennoblement. This highly chaotic political order has remained static for several hundred years since before the invasion of the giants. No one state has ever become powerful enough to challenge it.
There are three ranks of nobility. Twenty-two desgrave have ascended to what we might call a duchal holding—every desgrave rules an independent state and exacts fealty from a number of lesser noblemen. The second rank consists of seventy-six margraves. Twenty-eight margraves possess independent states; the rest owe oaths of fealty either to a desgrave or to another margrave. The lowest rank of nobility is made up of 312 kasgraves. Among this pool of minor nobility and knights, a few maintain independent states, but most maintain estates beholden either to a margrave or a desgrave. The ruler of a state claims the title suzerain.
The ruling houses of the Vale of Shadows are profoundly patriarchal. Women may not inherit titles, own property, or rule. Female children are frequently given as gifts to the harems of other rulers. Each nobleman maintains a harem of women for pleasure and for purposes of creating a suitable heir. Marriage is rare. Polygamy is also common among the poor, though limits on resources resort in these broods being smaller and, occasionally, communal in nature.
The business of the nobility is the political and economic management of the lands—particularly warfare. Each desgrave maintains a warguild near his seat of power, and is primarily concerned with maintaining his income through the taxation of caravanserai and more directly productive methods. Each spring sees a new spate of mobilization and warfare as each warlord tries to broaden the scope of his power.
The highest honor for a warlord is to die upon the field of battle. For those who die particularly gloriously, a strange boon is bestowed—a visitation of the Swarm. When such warriors die, many winged, demonic-like women (known as “witches’ brood”) swoop down upon the battlefield and bear his soul to the heavens. When the snows melt the following year, the hero is reborn as an avatar—a living, breathing representative of the Storm Gods. These avatars wander the world, generally wreaking havoc and pursuing ends unfathomable to mortals—those of other faiths believe that their transformation has rendered them insane. Nine of the current houses holding desgrave rank count an avatar among their blood; though it is true that avatars almost never actually help their houses after their metamorphosis, they are considered to do great honor to their house. They are welcomed with fear when they stop in to carouse and slake their god-like appetites in the harems of their grandsons.
The humans of the Vale of Shadows are blessed both by location and by great natural wealth. The mountains of the south are rich in iron, copper, tin, and coal, and the lands of the south are quite fertile. The sea yields great resources of fish, and the forests of the center are renowned throughout the world for their woods. The greatest natural resource of the Vale, however, are the gemstone and precious metals mines which bristle throughout the northern mountains.
Despite all these riches, however, the economy of the Vale is driven largely by the caravan routes which traverse the country from East to West. Three routes are particularly notable. The first (the most southern) emerges from the valleys to the south, hugs the south sea of the Echoing Sea and turns towards the southeast mountains. This route connects the southern population centers of the dramojh with the Verrik Empire. In the center, a route crosses the vale, connecting the center of the dramojh lands with the southern extremities of the giants’ realm. The northern trade route, which leaves the dramojh lands, and threads through the Vale to reach the greatest cities of the giants, also has the advantage of passing near the humans’ richest mines.
With occasional exceptions, the southern route remains open all year. The passes of the middle route are closed in winter. Great stretches of the northern route may only be traversed in summer. This makes the city of Malina a focal point for caravans braving the tundra in the Vale’s short summer.
The caravan routes are, in general very well maintained, with caravanserai (large fort-like inns) a day’s travel apart. Though each noble has an interest in maintaining the section of the route passing through his territory, what he does after the caravan has passed through his territory is his own business. Because of the dangers of political instability, banditry, and the harshness of the lands through which they pass, caravans are often extremely well armed. The caravanserai are sometimes quite dangerous places.
Last edited by dead_radish; Sunday, 14th September, 2003 at 01:51 AM.
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 09:35 PM #5
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I'm interested also, though not sure exactly what I'll play. Perhaps a Quickling Faen Wind Witch, but I'll mull it over and come back. =]
Last edited by nameless; Saturday, 13th September, 2003 at 10:05 PM.
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 09:38 PM #6
The lands of the Vale are dominated by human beings who live independently of both the dramojh and the giants. As the dominant intelligent social species in the area, most of the political and economic power belongs to humans. The faen (quickling, loresong, and spryte) form a significant minority population, however; though they cannot be said to rule any given political entity in the land, they possess several important enclaves and play important and accepted roles in several cities. Humans and faen live more or less harmoniously throughout the lands.
Giants, Verrik, the Dramojh and Sibeccai are foreign to the cold valleys of the Vale (players cannot, by the way, choose to play a dramojh); nonetheless, they are not particularly uncommon, especially along the routes of the caravanserai or in the cities in which commerce takes place. Most characters of these races will have journeyed from the lands ruled by their species to the human lands for purposes of trade, to protect traders, or perhaps just seeking adventure. Giants and Sibeccai are most frequently encountered on the northernmost trade route, Verrik travel the southernmost route, and the Dramojh travel all the routes. Most free humans regard these races with varying degrees of suspicion and/or dislike—in cosmopolitan areas, they are tolerated, but away from the trade routes this mistrust can ripen to open hostility. It should be remembered that in both the empires of the giants and the dramojh, human beings are enslaved, or, at the least, colonized. The fiercely independent humans of the Vale never forget.
The Litorians live in nomadic tribes that roam the frozen wastes north of the valley of Shadows. Descending from the glaciers and tundra of their homeland, their clans often pass the deep winter sheltered in the valleys on the edge of human territory. There, they trade with humans and faen during a month-long festival. It is rare, but not entirely unheard of, for a Litorian struck by wanderlust to pass further south and enter into the cities of men. His welcome is not always warm. While worshippers of the Beast Gods regard the Litorians as a chosen race, other humans regard them as savages, and can shun them, or even behave violently towards them. Rumors abound that Litorians savor human flesh as a delicacy and devour them in unspeakable ceremonies.
Small colonies of Mojh exist in the mountains bordering the valley of Shadows to the east. If anything, the mojh have become rather more prone to proselytism since their cousins and their vast empire are there to back them up. Otherwise, they are basically unchanged from the description in AU.
Some classes are fundamentally unaltered from their description in AU.
Akashic—Akashic play an important role in the Vale. Generally, they belong to a well-developed, unified, and typically monastic guild which sees to their interests—free-lance Akashics do exist, but the guild is easy-going and the advantages of being guilded are fairly evident. Many Guild-temples are built on ancient Verrik and Dramohj cities, long lost. Access to these sites constitutes one of the most evident advantages of being guilded.
The High Monastery of the Akashic is located in the city of Dallow. The order maintains six other missions / fortresses scattered about the vale.
Mage Blade—As they appear in the AU text. Only one formal academy of Mage Blades exist in the Vale. It is affiliated with the Academy of Evocation in Oranstein Suzerainty. Some individually trained mage blades exist as well.
Magister—As they appear in the AU text. Each of the eight schools of magic (abjuration, conjuration, divination, enchantment, evocation, illusion, necromancy, and transmutation) possesses an academy. PC’s belonging to the magister class should choose which school they have attended.
Oathsworn—As they appear in the AU text.
Runethane—As they appear in the AU text.
Unfettered—As they appear in the AU text. Particularly common along the trade routes.
Warmain— As they appear in the AU text. Most Warmains will be directly affiliated with an aristocrat—many aristocrats are themselves warmains. Each ruler of the Desgrave rank maintains his own warguild as an essential support of his power. There are thus 22 separate warguilds in the Vale.
Other classes have been altered somewhat:
Champion—Champions in the Vale tend less to champion abstract causes, and more either to champion specific ruling houses, specific gods (normally not of the Beast Cult variety, though a champion / totem warrior multi-class character might be possible), or one of the avatars.
Champion of the Nobility (then can attune at 10th): 1st Compelling Command once per day per character level, 5th Infused with Authority +2 circumstance on Cha skills 10th +4 to all spells with mind affecting descriptor 15th and 20th same as Person if specific noble or place (tied to temple or city-state) if god or house
Greenbond—If the Beast Gods had a formal church, greenbonds would be their priests. Though there is no established rank among greenbonds, elders are much respected. Among the common people, green bonds are revered, and the traveling greenbond never need want for cheer. In return, they are expected to use their powers for the communities which they enter. Greenbonds also share brotherhood with other greenbonds and totem warriors—they will do whatever is possible to help one another. On day-to-day occasions, this brotherhood is demonstrated through the ancient practice of host / guest courtesy. Though formal gatherings are uncommon, greenbonds know that many of their brethren visit the valleys where the Litorians winter in the cold months. These camps often host many greenbonds and other Beast God worshippers.
Totem Warrior—If Greenbonds are the priests of the Beast Cult, totem warriors are their holy warriors. The totem system has been expanded to include the animals they are most likely to find holy (see notes on the Beast God cult, above). Most totem warriors will likely come from the tribes of nomadic people who make their home in the north. Players wanting to have totem warrior character should inquire with their DM regarding the class abilities of any of the previous totems that interest them.
Witch—Witches occupy a somewhat unusual niche in the social structure of the Vale. On the one hand, because they are the elite manifestations of the elemental gods worshipped by the nobility, it might be tempting to see them as the Storm Gods’ priesthood. This would not be incorrect. Yet, on the other hand, because witches worship the elemental forces themselves, they tend to have a more abstract notion of worship than that promulgated by the avatars of the storm gods. As a result, they often have unfriendly relationships with the nobility. They are respected, even admired, but a witch’s arrival at a noble’s court is often a bit like a prophet walking in the door ready to denounce the ruler. Admiration goes with strong sense of fear and even annoyance.
Peaks are held to be holy to the followers of the Storm Gods. All battlefields visited by the Swarm are also accounted rich in eldritch energy—the battle loses its magic energy when the avatar dies. There are thus nine current visitation sites.
Last edited by dead_radish; Sunday, 14th September, 2003 at 01:54 AM.
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 10:11 PM #7
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
I'm interested in a Verrik Mind Witch. However, I'm already in Rybaer's active game, and Macbeth has included me in his developing game, so please pass me up if someone else is looking for their first (or even second) AU game.
Nameless, where in OC are you? I was in Costa Mesa until I moved up here to Sac last year.
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 11:10 PM #8
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I'm waffling between Laguna Niguel (S of Laguna Beach) and Irvine at the moment. I just transferred to UCI and driving 30-40 minutes in traffic daily isn't my idea of a good time.
Saturday, 13th September, 2003, 11:16 PM #9
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Cool! I graduated from UCI in 2000 with Econ and Poli Sci BA's. I'm up here getting a masters in public policy at Sac State. Grew up in Fountain Valley.
Sunday, 14th September, 2003, 01:55 AM #10
And I've added far more information than you'd ever care to read to the prior posts.