D&D 5E Playing around with my Dogs in the Vineyard-inspired D&D Setting: Plague Dogs

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Are The Hounds of St. Hestian a single class or is it a Background?

I once did a game where all the PCs were members of the Order of Inquisitors but not necessarily Clerics/Paladins themselves. It allowed for a Rogue (raised in the Temple orphanage), a Bard investigator and fighters who were non-ordained Temple guards. They worked for the Order of Inquisitors (Paladins) sent out to recover cursed/demonic artifacts when they were identified.
I'd say they're closer to a patron than anything. Hounds of St. Hestian could be true-believing paladins, or criminal rogues who chose to be recruited rather than locked up, or curious scholars who wish to study the Plague.
 

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BookTenTiger

He / Him
People of Taielis, Part 4: Giants
Giant screenshot.png

Long before humans built citadels and cities upon the Five Isles, these islands were home to the giants. The giants, called Roquedain (meaning “Speakers of Stone”) in the giant language, built beautiful cities of stone, perfected the crafts of smithing and song, and often crossed the Inland Sea to raid coastal villages. However, ruins are all that remain of these cities; legends are all that is left of the giant heroes and their songs. Five hundred years ago, an empire of undead known as the Lich Crown conquered and enslaved the giants. It wasn’t until a group of giant rebels known as the Vault led allied armies of humans and enlanders against the Lich Crown that the giants were freed.

The giants of long-ago stood nearly twenty-feet tall. The surviving giants are much reduced, usually between six-feet and ten-feet tall. Giants have broad shoulders, big hands, and large heads with strong brows. Their skin tends towards colors of earth and stone, and their hair ranges anywhere from fiery red to obsidian black to alabaster white. Giants have a magical affinity with stone; they are natural stonesmiths and ceramicists, and can even speak with stones.

Giant Attributes
  • Age: Giants reach adulthood around age 16, but live long lives after. They become elderly around age 120, and usually live until 150.
  • Height: Giants stand anywhere between six feet and ten feet.
  • Languages: Giants read, write, and speak Talis and Giant (also called Dain).
  • Names: Giant names trend towards long vowels and hard syllables: Dorandel, Marvuk, Noque, Abette, or a human named if raised in a human community. Since the arrival of humans, many giant families have taken on surnames connected to an ancestral heartstone, such as Gold, Topaz, or Travertine.

Giant Traits
  • Large: Your size is Large, and your walking speed is 35 feet. You gain advantage on Athletics checks made to grapple or shove, and your carrying capacity is doubled. Your may ignore the Strength requirements of armor. All armor costs 1.5 as much as normal. You suffer disadvantage when making attacks with light weapons. Unlike other large creatures, you do not take up more space than a medium-size creature, and follow the same rules for squeezing and movement as medium-size creatures.
  • Long Arms: Giants have long, powerful arms. Your reach with unarmed attacks, melee weapons, and touch-range spells or powers is extended by five feet. Your range with thrown weapons is increased by ten feet.
  • Song of Stones: Giants have a spiritual connection with earth and stone. You gain proficiency in the Giant language, an ancient language that sounds like singing. At the end of a long rest, you may touch a stone or earthen ground and ask a single yes or no question about events that occurred within 100 feet and within the last century. The stone will always answer truthfully.

Giant Aspects
Giants have a spiritual connection with stone, earth, and soil. Choose one of the following aspects for your giant. This represents their spiritual bond with stone, not necessarily their culture or genealogy.

Giants are said to have a “heart that sings stone.” Each giant is born with an affinity towards a certain kind of stone, metal, or gem, known as their heartstone. When a giant becomes an adult at age 16, they often go on their Heartstone Journey, leaving their families and traveling to a place on the Five Isles where they feel at home.

Choose one of the following aspects for your giant.

Stoneheart
Your heart seeks the solitude of the mountains. Stoneheart giants spend much of their lives in isolation or small, rural communities high in the mountain slopes.
  • Mountain Life: You gain proficiency in Athletics or Survival.
  • Stonestep: Though others clatter over pebbles and rocks, you know how to step carefully in mountainous terrain. You gain advantage on Stealth checks made when walking on stone.
  • Mighty Leap: You summon the strength of the mountains into your powerful legs. Your jump distance is doubled.

Ironheart
Your heart seeks the busy life of a city. Ironheart giants usually live in large towns or walled cities, earning a living through their inventive crafts.
  • City Skills: You gain proficiency in Insight or Religion.
  • Skilled Craftworker: You gain proficiency in one set of artisan’s tools. During a long rest, you may craft an object (or a set of ammunition) worth no more than 5 gold pieces. This object should be constructable using this set of tools, or any other tools your are proficient in.
  • Word on the Street: You pick up on new languages very easily. At 1st level, and whenever your proficiency bonus increases (levels 5, 9, 13, 17), you gain proficiency in a new language of your choice.

Hillheart
Your heart seeks a communal life with other giants. Hillheart giants usually live in communities made up primarily of giants, learning and performing ancient giant rituals.
  • Roquedain Skills: You gain proficiency in either Handle Animal or Performance.
  • Helping Hand: Hillheart giants go to extraordinary lengths to help their allies. As part of an attack, ability check, spell, or other action, you may also use the Help Action. Once you use Helping Hand, you may not use it again until you have completed at Long Rest.
  • Roquedain Ritual: The rituals of the giants grant control over the forces of nature. You may gain one of the following cantrips: Dancing Lights, Druidcraft, Gust, Magic Stone, Mold Earth, or Produce Flame. Choose Wisdom or Charisma as the spellcasting ability for this spell.

Dustbound
Your heart seeks the secrets of the Lich Crown. Dustbound giants reject giant culture and try to recapture the knowledge and power of their undead oppressors.
  • Occult Knowledge: You gain proficiency in Arcana or Intimidate.
  • Secrets in the Shadows: You gain darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
  • Command Spirit: You gain proficiency in the Dust language. You gain the spell Unseen Servant, which you may cast without verbal, somatic, or material components. Rather than an invisible force, the spell manifests as a ghost, skeleton, zombie, or other common undead. This undead servant has hit points equal to your level and a Strength score of 8 + your Proficiency Bonus. When used in this way, the spell is considered a Necromancy spell. Once you summon this special undead spirit, you may not do so again until you have completed a Long Rest.
 

Larnievc

Hero
Hey all! About a million years ago I ran just one or two little sessions using Dogs in the Vineyard, and the experience really stuck with me. If you haven't heard of the game, in it you roam around pre-state Utah, helping folks and fighting the influence of demons. You have a position of authority within the church, so your word is law. Its a really fun, sometimes intense game and setting.

While listening to the book Rabid (about the history of rabies), I became inspired to create a setting similar to Dogs in the Vineyard, but about knights who go about investigating maladies to find the demonic influence. The term "Plague Dog" came to mind, and I built out a setting from there. Eventually I got a chance to run a single adventure in the setting... and then the pandemic hit, and playing games set in a plague-beset land suddenly wasn't as much fun.

Well now I'm returning to the setting and playing around with it. I'm going to use this thread to share my ideas for setting maps, custom origins (what I'm calling "species" or "races" in my game), and other house rules and such. I'd love some input, or even ideas for the setting! I'll post more soon, but for right now I'll just post a campaign map:

View attachment 315238
(Made on Inkarnate)

This is Taielis (tie-YELL-iss), a holy land and seat of the Mortal Church of Taiel (tie-YELL). It is a realm beset by fiends, fey, undead, and aberrations, who are attempting to corrupt its mortal inhabitants. The Five Isles are rain-bound and fog-choked, with steep mountain slopes and harsh, rocky shores. Most people live in walled citadel city-states, scattered lights in the ever-encroaching darkness of chaos and corruption.

I'll post more soon!

EDIT: Here's a table of contents as I start to write more:

Plague Dogs Campaign Setting
  1. Campaign Themes and Storylines
  2. People of Taielis, Part 1
  3. People of Taielis, Part 2: Origin Traits and Humans
  4. People of Taielis, Part 3: Ylkin
I saw the film Plague Dogs as a kid. Now I’m filling up again…..
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
People of Taielis, Part 5: Enlanders

Enlander

Enlander screenshot (1).png

Enlanders are a mysterious people, native to tunnels and caverns deep beneath the land’s surface. They are slight humanoids, standing between three and five feet tall. They are distinguished by their small, pointed ears and unique eyes, which are entirely black except for their luminous, colorful irises.

Enlanders are immortal. They are born infrequently, and never die of old age. Many enlanders stop aging around their adulthood at 50 years. However, enlanders can only remember events within the last 100 years of their lives. Anything that occurred over a century ago is said to be “down in the deep.” It is not uncommon, though, for skills or memories from past lives to surface in dreams or situations of dire needs.

Enlanders ar naturally magical and possess psionic powers. Their long lives and inherent psionics allow them to adapt to their environments, as they subconsciously pick up on new skills or traits from other inhabitants. Unfortunately, their mental prowess has proven a tempting target for aberrations. More than one enlander city has fallen to an invasion of aberrations.

Recently, a civil war fueled by aberration-worshiping cults destroyed many of the tunnels that connected enlander cities to the surface world. For the enlanders of Taielis, this has resulted in total isolation. Though some enlanders still live in the caves of the Undermines, many have chosen to migrate to the surface. They now live in the walled citadel cities or quiet farm villages, and their relationship with the mortal folk is often like that of an elder relative: mirthful and teasing one moment, impatient and prideful the next, but always a little aloof and enigmatic.

Enlander Attributes
  • Age: Enlanders age slowly. They reach adulthood around age 50. Over time they may appear older, but the aging process often reverses for a time, with wrinkles vanishing and white hairs regaining their original (or new) color. Enlanders never die of old age.
  • Height: Enlanders are slight compared to humans, standing between three and five feet.
  • Languages: Enlanders can read, write, and speak Talis and Enlander (also called Ixon).
  • Names: Enlanders tend to have a single name that they add syllables to (or subtract syllables from) over time: Nyxanthium, Qoyo, Vrililyssa, Boroborobos. In mortal company they usually shorten their names to a single syllable, or take on a descriptive surname: Ben Little, Shy Underway, Tay Fareyes, Ava Halfwitch

Enlander Traits
  • Size: Choose one of the following sizes for your character:
    • Medium: Your size is Medium.
    • Small: Your size is Small. Your walking speed is 25 feet. You suffer disadvantage when making attacks with a heavy weapon. You may pass through the space of any creature larger than you. Furthermore, you may take the hide action when obscured by a creature that is larger than you.
  • Ancient Memories: Enlanders have incredible memories, with almost perfect recall. Choose one of the following skills to gain proficiency in: Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion.
  • Regeneration: Enlanders naturally regenerate their wounds. This process quickens when an Enlander has taken on a mortal injury. When you succeed at three Death Saving Throws, you may spend Hit Dice to heal, as if during a Short Rest.
  • Magical Nature: All Enlanders are born with the ability to access magic. You may choose a cantrip from the Sorcerer spell list. Choose Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma as your spellcasting ability.

Enlander Aspects
Though they are immortal, Enlanders change over time. Their magical nature allows them to adapt to new environments. Enlanders’ psionic abilities also allow them to pick up skills or talents from those living nearby. Furthermore, over their long lives, Enlanders develop skills that they can call upon centuries later, even if their memory of learning those skills has gone to the deep.

Choose two aspects for your Enlander. Your character may change one aspect each time they level up, representing their ability to adapt to new environments, or to recall skills learned in past lives.

  • Arcane Training: At some point in your long life, you became trained in magic. You gain a cantrip, which you may select from any class’s spell list, and cast using the same spellcasting ability you chose for Magical Nature.
  • Climb Speed: Through adaptation, you have gained the ability to climb difficult surfaces. You gain a climb speed equal to your walking speed. You do not need to make Athletics checks to climb vertical surfaces with adequate handholds, such as a cliff face or tree trunk.
  • Darkvision: You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
  • Elemental Resistance: You gain resistance to one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder.
  • Fleet Footed: Your walking speed increases by 5 feet. You may take the Dash action as a bonus action.
  • Keen Sight and Hearing: You gain advantage on Investigation and Perception checks made when using your sense of sight or hearing.
  • Martial Training: You are trained in martial combat. You gain proficiency in one of the following options: three martial weapons; two martial weapons and a set of armor; or one martial weapon, shields, and a set of armor.
  • Memories from the Deep: You gain proficiency in two skills, or one skill and either a set of tools or a musical instrument.
  • Mental Force: You may use the mage hand cantrip at will, without verbal or somatic components.
  • Psionic Shield: You are protected by a psychic shield. When not wearing armor, your armor class is 15.
  • Psychic Disruption: As a reaction to taking damage, failing a Saving Throw, or being seen, you may turn invisible. You remain invisible for a number of minutes equal to your Proficiency Bonus, or until you attack or cast a spell. You may use Psychic Disruption once per Long Rest.
  • Swim Speed: You gain a swim speed equal to your walking speed.
  • Unspoken Language: You may speak telepathically to any creature you can see within 30 feet of you.
  • Words of Power: Your psychic ability allows you to influence those you speak with. You gain advantage on Deception, Intimidate, and Persuasion checks against those who understand your language.
 
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BookTenTiger

He / Him
Here's a sample adventuring party, as I imagine it.

Shaum of Hornet's Bend
Shaum screenshot.png

Human
(Born in the Wild)
Paladin (Oath of Vengeance)
Background: Folk Hero

Origin Traits:

  • Languages: Talis, Divine
  • +1 Charisma, +1 Wisdom, +1 Strength
  • Diverse Origins: Proficiency in Lute
  • Blessing of Taiel (a natural 1 becomes a natural 20, once per long rest)
  • Knowledge of the Land (Proficiency in Nature)
  • Steel at Hand (Magic Stone cantrip)
  • See by Starlight (no disadvantage for Perception in lightly-obscured areas, no penalty for attacking half-cover)
Shaum grew up in the small village of Hornet's Bend south of Citadel St. Yze in Bearslund. He is the young son of a trapper, and thought he would follow his father into hunting. However, his life changed when Sir Dovetree, an elder knight of the Hounds of St. Hestian, came to Hornet's Bend and found a demon in the well. Shaum helped the knight trap the demon. Sir Dovetree managed to banish the demon, but was mortally wounded in the ensuing battle. He sent young Shaum in his place back to Faithwater to continue his work as a Plague Dog. Shaum is only 16, but has already been put in command of a ragtag band of knights. They're not the heroes he always imagined he'd be working with, but in honor of Sir Dovetree he will do his best.

Vultania
Vultania screenshot.png

Giant (Hillheart)
Fighter (Battlemaster)
Background: Gladiator

Origin Traits:

  • +2 Strength, +1 Wisdom
  • Languages: Talis, Giant, Dust
  • Large
    • Walking Speed 35 ft
    • Advantage on Athletics Checks for pushing or shoving
    • Carrying capacity doubled
    • Ignore Strength requirements for armor
    • Armor costs x1.5 gp
    • Disadvantage on attacks with light weapons
  • Long Arms (melee attack range +5 ft, thrown weapon range +10 ft)
  • Song of Stones (speak with stone once per long rest)
  • Roquedain Skills (Proficiency in Handle Animal)
  • Helping Hands (use Help as part of another action once per long rest)
  • Roquedain Ritual (Dancing Lights cantrip)
Vultania is a gregarious giant trained in traditional giant ritual combat. Giant ritual combat combines grappling, fighting with weapons, singing, dancing, and storytelling. Vultania became well known throughout O'erlund, and even started competing in a combat arena in the human city of Voxhall. There, she was approached by a high-ranking priest of the Mortal Church of Taiel, who was recruited giants to serve in the Hounds of St. Hestian. Vultania is well-informed on the tragic history of her people under the oppressive shadow of demons, and so she happily signed up to serve as a Plague Dog.

Oak
Oak screenshot (1).png

Ylkin
Wizard (Abjurer)
Background: Acolyte

Origin Traits:

  • +2 Intelligence, +1 Dexterity
  • Language Proficiencies: Talis, Sylvan, Divine
  • Animal Ancestry: Deer (can communicate with deer)
  • Beastly Fortitude (can eat raw plants without consuming rations, advantage on saving throws vs poison, resistance to poison)
  • Extraordinary Senses (Proficiency in Perception, do not suffer disadvantage on Perception when blinded or deafened, can make Perception checks when sleeping)
  • Stalker (Proficiency in Stealth, can disengage or hide as a bonus action)
Oak was born to a family of deer in the forests of Woodisle. As he grew into an ylkin, standing vertically and developing hands and a voice, he became isolated from his deer family and the nearby human farming communities. For a number of years he lived absolutely alone. A kindly group of herbalists discovered Oak and, recognizing him for a Ylkin, took him on their seasonal voyage to sell their remedies in Faithwater. There, he was inducted into an arcane academy, and quickly showed great skill in defensive magics. Despite his natural cowardice, Oak volunteered into the Hounds of St. Hestian, in order to do his best to defend the institution that gave him a home when all others rejected him.

Lyandrosavia / Lya Nighthawk
Lya Nighthawk screenshot.png

Enlander
Rogue (Thief)
Background: Criminal

Origin Traits:

  • +1 Dexterity, +1 Intelligence, +1 Wisdom
  • Language Proficiencies: Talis, Enlander, Aoa
  • Size Small
    • 25 ft walking speed
    • Disadvantage on attacks with heavy weapons
    • May pass through the space of medium or larger creatures
    • Take hide action behind medium or larger creatures
  • Ancient Memories (Proficiency in History)
  • Regenerations (can spend hit dice after three successful death saving throws)
  • Magical Nature (Minor Illusion cantrip)
  • Climb Speed (climb 25 ft)
  • Mental Force (Mage Hand cantrip at will, no verbal or somatic components)
Lyandrosavia, known to mortals as Lya Nighthawk, was an infamous thief in the citadel town of Faithwater. For the last 80 years she has carved out a territory and reputation as a ruthless, cruel, and fiercely intelligent criminal. Unfortunately, nothing good lasts forever, and Lya was set up by her most trusted cohort and wound up in the Citadel Stockades. Rather than serving her next century of life behind bars, Lya agreed to join the Plague Dogs and use her skills in skullduggery to fight demonic corruption. She wouldn't mind making a little money on the side, of course!
 
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Clint_L

Hero
Campaign Themes and Storylines

In Dogs in the Vineyard, faith is a fact. The characters are agents of their church, and they go about fighting demons which are evil and corrupting. It's black and white, not shades of gray.
Can it be shades of grey in terms of the human elements? For example, a church leader who is abusing her position to build her own power base, the Church trying to weed out nonconformists through violence and torture, etc.? Or is this a world in which if you are with the Church you are automatically Good?
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Can it be shades of grey in terms of the human elements? For example, a church leader who is abusing her position to build her own power base, the Church trying to weed out nonconformists through violence and torture, etc.? Or is this a world in which if you are with the Church you are automatically Good?
Oh there are absolutely shades of gray everywhere! In fact I think this campaign setting works best without alignment at all.

I'd say the black and white approach I'm going for is a strict difference between the god being worshipped (Taiel) and the demons being fought. It's my instinct, as a story teller, to poke holes in dichotomies like that, to make Taiel just one of many gods or make the demons former gods or something.

But in this setting I want it to be a campaign truth that the power and belief in Taiel can, in fact, harm and banish the demons. I don't want the players to doubt in the campaign truth that Taiel is a god that provides power for those who worship them, and that demons are a force in opposition to Taiel.

Now within that the characters and NPCs should have room for doubt and temptation and grand renewals of faith. To me, that will make for a good story!
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Taielis, Map and Description

Taielis (2).jpg


Welcome to the Hand of Taiel

Even as you step from your ship to the sturdy oak dock, you can feel it- there is something different here. The air is charged, even the rain smells strange. This is the land of a god. Taiel’s Hand, where the one true god’s palm bled onto the world and sprouted all people and their cities. They say every stone here is holy, every breath an exhalation of prayer, and every citadel a brick in the wall that keeps civilization safe from the great corrupting force of demons.

Fog shrouds the mountains once carved into stonework by giants. Beasts keen from the thick forests where fey still tempt travelers. You catch a glimpse of a dockworker with skin like alabaster and eyes of gold, teeth sharp as needles. Corruption. Yes, even here in the most holy of lands, even on the Five Isles which were raised from the sea in the form of Taiel’s hand, corruption threatens the works of mortals. They say the very cities here are built on foundations laid by the undead thrall of the Lich Crown. And fiends ever seek the weaknesses in the faith of the faithful; wealth, power, love and more are promised in dreams. Resist! Or you may find yourself at the blade-end of justice by those sworn to fight the plague of corruption. Plague Dogs- the Hounds of Saint Hestian. Knights trained in the arts of inquiry, investigation, and demon-slaying.

Will you join these knights in their battle against the plague? Or will you subvert their watchful vigilance and make deals with the devils? In Taielis, the Five Isles, Hand of Taiel, every choice rebalances the powers of faith and corruption.

The Plague

Taiel is the singular god worshiped in Taielis and much of the known world. They are a god representing humans and the works of mortals: cities, roads, agriculture, smithing, healing magics, birth, death, and collected knowledge.

Taiel’s great enemy is Xeno, and his thrall of fiends, fey, aberrations, and undead. Xeno’s constant attempts to corrupt mortals and destroy the works of humankind is known as the Plague.

The Plague takes many forms. Demonic corruption can manifest in corruption of the body: boils and rashes, fevers and wracking coughs, blood poisoning and infection. As the illnesses spread, so too grows the power of the demon. The Plague is also represented by political corruption, for those who worship the thrall of Xeno seek the weaken the influence of Taiel. And finally, the Plague is identified through moral corruption, as demons work to attempt to sway mortals to transgress the laws of Taiel.

There exists an order to knights who are sworn to fight this Plague: the Hounds of St. Hestian, also known as the Plague Dogs. The Hounds of St. Hestian travel the Five Isles, seeking sites of corruption. Their task is to discover whosoever made compact with a demonic influence, banish or slay the demon, and mete out justice for those who have sinned. Some Plague Dogs are executioners; others, wise adjudicators. No matter their methods, the Hounds are known, respected, and feared throughout Taielis.

The Five Isles

It is said that in battle with Xeno and his children, the one god Taiel cut their hand and bled into the ocean. From the depths of the sea rose five isles, shaped like the fingers of the great god. Taiel’s blood also spawned all of humankind, but it would be many thousands of years before their progeny came to the islands of Taielis.

The first inhabitants of the Five Isles were the giants. Half mortal and half stone, the giants carved great quarries into the mountainsides and crafted labyrinthine cities that echoed with their singing and politics. Fearsome giant warbands set out on wooden ships to raid the coasts of lands both near and far.

Then came the Lich Crown. A colloquium of powerful undead enslaved the giants through battle and sorcery, and for centuries ruled over the Hand of Taiel. Under the shadow of the Lich Crown, the giants were forced to worship Xeno, and used the stones of their cities to build new temples and monuments to his demonic spawn.

The rule of the Lich Crown ended when a rebel clan of giants called the Vault made contact with the mysterious Enlanders far underground, and the powerful Mortal Church of Taiel across the Sea of Saints. In the War of the Hand, the Lich Crown was defeated, and the spawn of Xeno were banished back to their native realms.

Since then, the Mortal Church of Taiel has laid claim to the Five Isles. They have built citadels and city-states across the islands. The war continues against the fiends, fey, undead, and aberrations that still lurk in the shadows of the forests and the hearts of humans.

Three hundred years have passed since the War of the Hand. Overseas, the Mortal Church of Taiel is only one of many powerful influences in the Essern Empire and Vastlands. And even on Taielis, the Church’s power is slipping. It seems that more and more mortals fall to the influences of Xeno’s children. Cults and heretical temples rise in struggling farmlands and overcrowded cities. The forests are no longer safe to travel, lest one risk the curse of the fey. And strange, maddening voices echo from deep caves and wind-carved stones.

Still, the Mortal Church of Taiel fights on. Taielis has become the most important front in its battle against Xeno. Should the citadels of the Five Isles fall, so too may the souls of all mortals. Will Taielis once again rise against demonic corruption and become a crown jewel in the holy empire of the Mortal Church? Or will chaos and darkness wash over the isles like the wild storms that ravage its coasts? Only time, and vigilance, will tell.

Woodisle

At one time, a thick, borderless forest stretched all across Woodisle. The ancient trees were used to build the ships of the giants, and burned as fuel in the abyssal engines of the Lich Crown. Now, only a few small old growth groves remain. Where once stood monolithic trees, now stands the stone cities of the Mortal Church of Taiel.

Woodisle is the most populous island of Taielis. It is home to Faithwater, the capital of the Mortal Church of Taiel. The food grown in the bountiful farms of the Golden Valley, and the wood harvested from Shipmast Brake are sent to the other isles by fleet trade ships.

This trade, along with the cosmopolitan markets and prestigious academies of Faithwater, have brought much prosperity to Woodisle, attracting large populations of humans. But people of other origins are not uncommon in Woodisle. In the northernmost reaches of the island, enlanders have settled in a sprawling agricultural community known as Enfolk. A coterie of giant knights guard the city of Hillhaven. And it is said that many ylkin can find work and peaceful lives harvesting lumber in Shipmask Brake.

Sites of Corruption
  • Vigilantes calling themselves Gutter Knights hunt criminals and refugees in Faithwater. They claim to worship an ancient saint, but their fervor hints at a heretical interpretation of the Five Laws.
  • Rumors spread that the Lord of Staghorn is so enamored by his hunting hounds that he refuses his obligations as a governor. Some even say he takes on the form of a great hound to stalk the forests at night. Is he simply obsessive, or have demons corrupted his sense of duty?
  • A blight devastates the crops of the Golden Valley. Wherever farmers dig up the rotten crops, they find ancient treasures buried beneath the soil. Now farmers are burning their fields and churning the land, seeking hidden gold. What demonic force could be tempting these farmers into greed and madness?

Fendain

Fendain is a small isle of high, stony mountains and thick, marshy woods. Most humans live in the two cities of Voxhall and Shell Harbor, both known for their arts. Voxhall is home to many taverns and guild halls where the crafts of storytelling and song are greatly rewarded. Shell Harbor started as a small town, but grew into a sprawling city as word of its skilled sculptors, tailors, and other artisans spread.

Outside of these cities, there are few settlements larger than villages. The folk here tend to be superstitious and wary of outsiders, isolated by dangerous swamps and the tide pirates that patrol the northern coasts. Villages are often led by a mystic, and sometimes even an Enlander sought for their wisdom and powers.

The swamps of Fendain are heavily magical. Travelers are easily turned around and preyed upon by beasts, fey, or stranger beings. Standing stones tower over the marshes, odd relics remaining from the rule of the Lich Crown. They seem to hum, and some say they can teach ancient secrets to those who know how to listen.

Sites of Corruption
  • A singer of great influence and fame in Voxhall is accused of demonic corruption. Their songs are filled with horror, murder, and other gothic details. Fanatics have started enacting terrible, graphic crimes in order to inspire their hero. Is the singer corrupted, or are they a victim of their own fortune?
  • An elder of the Mortal Church has been building a new temple with blocks cut from the Whispering Stones. Every night the construction site is attacked by nightmarish creatures. Is this a sign of a righteous mission, or evidence that the elder has gone mad?
  • Tide Pirate attacks are usually scattered, seemingly random. But a newly organized fleet flies under a strange flag. What demon do they fight for? And will the artisans of Shell Harbor be able to withstand an attack?

O’erlund

O’erlund is the center of Taielis. Its high mountain range is nearly unsurpassable, but provides stones by which many citadels of the Mortal Church of Taiel are built. The southern end of O’erlund is more heavily populated. The walled city of Southstone Abbey serves as a port to many traveling the Palm Sea. Many ships also land at Luckstone, where porters take materials through a mountain pass to the east coast of the isle. Here, two settlements have grown over the centuries into a single city called Axe and Anvil. It is the center of the Five Isles’ shipbuilding industry, and home to many smithies and merchants’ guilds.

O’erlund narrows to the north, where brave travelers may explore the ruins of the last of the giants’ strongholds: the Vault of the Giants. The mountains north of the Vault are treacherous, due to the deep quarries dug by giants of the past. Here, too, are the Undermines, a dizzying network of caves and tunnels inhabited by Enlanders.

At the northmost end of O’erlund stands Norwatch, an isolated but strongly-fortified citadel. Norwatch guards against threats of the World Ocean: tide pirates, sea dragons, and demons that manifest as howling storms.

Sites of Corruption
  • A pneumonic plague has beset Axe and Anvil, wiping out many powerful merchant families. Some suspect the less powerful merchant guilds of making compact with a demon in order to eliminate the competition. Is this true? And can the people of Axe and Anvil be saved from drowning in their own lungs?
  • Treasure hunters seek a legendary amulet hidden in the Vault of the Giants. Are rumors true that the amulet grants god-like healing powers to those who possess it? Or is the amulet a demonic trap?
  • Norwatch is under siege by a force of enlanders and humans. This hidden army attacks any travelers arriving at or leaving the gates of the fortified citadel. As a fever spreads inside the citadel walls, the question must be asked: where is the greater threat, inside or outside the gate?

Bearslund

Bearslund is the least populated island of Taielis, most of it still untamed wilderness. The thick forests and steep slopes of the island resist farming, and its population of fey prevent the Mortal Church of Taiel from setting the foundations for towns or citadels.

The singular city on Bearslund is Citadel St. Yze, perched on the cliffs of the island’s east coast. Mining towns surrounding the city produce stunning gems pulled from deep within the mountains.

The western slopes of those mountains are claimed by the fey. A vast forest stretches to the sea. Rising above the forest is a tree so large it can be seen by ocean-bound ships. It is called the Tree of Sun and Stars, and in fact it glows from within its boughs as if it holds tight those celestial objects. The Tree serves as a portal to the Feywild, and grants passage to the hags, satyrs, and sprites that haunt the Five Isles.

Sites of Corruption
  • A gem has been discovered so beautiful it is said to blind those who look at it too long. It is being displayed in a highly-guarded room in Citadel St. Yze. Soon the legend is proven true: those who have seen the gem lose their site, and start spreading blindness to all they tell of it. Is the gem a demon in disguise, or is some other trickery at play?
  • A group of ylkin wish to start their own church in the forests of Bearslund. Can they be protected long enough to build a foundation and raise the walls?
  • A sickness spreads among the fey near the Tree of Sun and Stars. Representatives of royalty from the Faerie Court ask the Mortal Church of Taiel to help stop the spread. Is this an opportunity to make an alliance, or a chance to strike at the fey while they are weak?

Easthorn

Easthorn is a long, narrow island. Its northern and southern tips are populated, but the center of the isle is lifeless. The Lich Crown’s throne still stands, a ruin beneath the ever-smoking mountain Hellmouth. In every direction from the ruins, plants refuse to grow, animals stalk silent, and the air smells of foul things. They say treasures of the Lich Crown remain in the shattered castle; few are brave, or foolish, enough to trespass. Undead still wander this barren landscape, and some even make their way across the mountains or seas into civilized lands.

Standing south of the Grave of the Lich Crown is the citadel town of Whitevein. The city is known for its stunning architecture, the buildings crafted from white marble stones veined with gold, silver, and other precious metals. A retinue of warriors called the Laughing Cavaliers guard Whitevein from the undead of the Grave, and in turn Whitevein protects the many farms and villages south of it.

The northern end of Eastorn is less populous. Morning Port serves as a popular entry to ships from the Essern Empire. Though it does not have a citadel, it is a city with much wealth and influence. Eelhead, to the far north, is a large fishing town that would not be remarkable if not for the population of knights who have retired there. Travelers often seek out the taverns of Eelhead, where unimaginable stories of bravery and bloodshed are shared each night.

Sites of Corruption
  • A Laughing Cavalier rides out into the Grave of the Lich Crown, pursuing an undead enemy. He rides back with an ancient tome in his hands. He claims to have learned the truth about Taiel, that the god is just one of many, and that worshiping the other gods can grant fortunes and powers. Is this false teaching, or a revelation?
  • A church to a foreign god called Blind Io has grown in power in Morning Port. Now new churches to Blind Io are being built across the Five Isles. Everywhere a church is built, a terrible fever spreads. Is Blind Io a demon, or are fiends trying to foment a war between these two religions?
  • A retired Plague Dog in Eelhead is telling stories of an angel who visits him in his sleep. She is beautiful, and has been delivering a message: the knight is no ordinary mortal, but an incarnation of Taiel. Soon others in town are receiving the same message in their dreams. Who is this beautiful angel, delivering a message of madness and vanity?
 
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BookTenTiger

He / Him
World Building, Part 1: Origins of Taiel and Xeno

Origins of Taiel


At one time there was no Heaven or Hell, and all the demons and angels lived upon the earth. They were ruled by Taiel, who sat upon a throne of gold, and Xeno, who sat upon a throne of carved ivory. This was a time before time, when all the world was being manifested. Xeno’s children, the demons, were great dreamers, and brought to life animals and plants and storms and monsters. Meanwhile the angels, reflections of Taiel, created songs and sunlight and the invisible architecture that allows the mechanisms of the world to work. All was good and busy, until Xeno decided to grant godhood to his favorite children.

Taielis, in their infinite wisdom, knew such an empowerment would cause chaos as Xeno’s children each vied for control of the world. Yet when they confronted Xeno, his children attacked. Taielis and their angels fell to war. In the maelstrom, walls were shattered into mountains, blades furrowed canyons into the earth, and the churning of the oceans still to this day causes the swelling and ebbing of the tides.

Just as the war looked its grimmest, and Xeno’s reign imminent, the great miracle of generation occurred. Taiel’s hand was struck, and their blood fell into the sea. The blood spread to every corner of the world in the ocean currents, and every place the waves broke upon the shore, they left behind cities and armies of humans. Taiel called to their newborn mortals, and together they turned the tide of battle. Xeno’s armies were soon defeated.

Taiel banished Xeno and his children to the great prison of Hell. Exhausted from war, Taiel and their angels retreated to Heaven. All the land and seas were turned over to the mortal peoples.

Since then, Taiel has been the one and true god.

Xeno and His Children

Xeno, also called the Other or the Outsider, is a god of chaos, ruin, and corruption. He is the father of all demons, including fiends, fey, aberrations, and undead.

Some mortals still worship Xeno or his children, under the belief that they possess godhood. These false idols are:

Emberron, Warlord of Fire, champion of all fiends
Baelis, the Dreaming Child, wisest of all aberrations
Maslea Sparrowgreen, Queen of Briars, sun sovereign of the fey
Aelsam Greensparrow, King of Briars, moon sovereign of the fey
Nachthund, the Hound of Harvest, justice of the undead

Xeno seeks to weaken Taiel’s power, and regain dominance upon the earth. Should he regain enough power, he would be able to escape from his imprisonment in Hell and return to the mortal realm. His agents in this desire are his children. The breaking of Taiel’s laws weakens the barrier between the mortal realm and Hell, allowing demons to pass through. When they do so, they tempt mortals into worship. One day, they hope the power of this worship will shatter Xeno’s chains and free their long-suffering father.
 

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