Showing posts from December, 2017

Mortal Races: Changelings

There are humans who share the spiritual essence of angels, demons, fairies, elementals, and dragons. In all of these cases, they have inherited abilities from their progenitors. But there is one group who have abilities from an unknown race. The rare Changelings are born with the ability to change their face to look like anyone they have ever met. From where do they get this ability? They themselves do not know. Scholars theorise that there must be a hidden race of shape-changers living among humanity. They must be beings of great spiritual power, like unto the Host, but they have left barely a ripple of their presence. Who are these secretive progenitors? Why are they hiding, and what do they want?

Art: 'Anatomical Study.' Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1500.

Mortal Races: Tortles

Tortles are a very rare race of intelligent humanoid turtles who have only arrived recently in Tirenia from foreign lands. They are good-natured and inquisitive travelers. Tortles like to make friends, and they help any people in need that they meet, whether that means helping out on a farm or fighting monsters. Tortles tend to ally with humanist groups against the dragons. Tortles reportedly live to a grand old age, although no one has met one of their elders: they revere the elderly and listen to their advice, but believe that everyone needs to make their own decisions. Tortles are also very artistic, and they are interested in learning about the different art forms they encounter.
The truth about tortles is slightly more strange than anyone knows. Tortles are not from Tellaia: they have traveled the streams between worlds to enter this one, and when they are done, they will leave again. They believe that no one needs to know about the worlds beyond this one, so that they can devel…

Mortal Races: Kobolds

Many races are the result of souls mingling. Only one race tried to do it to itself, with terrible consequences. Kobolds were originally goblin-folk. They noticed how many races were created by angels, demons and fairies. And so one group of goblins attempted to do this to themselves. They would infuse themselves with the power of dragons! Then they would be the most powerful of all. The goblins cast a mighty spell, infusing themselves with a draconic essence. However, they did not expect the consequences. The goblins shrunk even further. The sun hurt their eyes, and they had to hide themselves. The spell had worked imperfectly, and their entire race would forever be damned by the consequences.
Kobolds now live underground in isolated areas. They are great cowards, and scavenge for food and supplies - nearby communities may find themselves missing the odd chicken or a tarpaulin that can be made into loincloths. Their low population numbers mean that they are commonly inbred. They are…

Mortal Races: Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears

In the remote parts of the world, people are still afraid of the orc hordes. Driven by bestial desires, they swept across the land, killing indiscriminately. Orc-kind have great variety, and scholars have given names to some of the more common varieties: 'goblins' are the smallest and most intelligent type, which can sometimes be found in civilised areas; 'bugbears' are larger but more stealthy; 'hobgoblins' have an instinctive grasp of tactics, while 'orcs' are the most common (and violent) type. These terms can be misleading, since they are all the same race, and have an immense variety of physical forms. 
During the Hostwar, orcs and their kind were created by demons to be their foot soldiers. Orc-kind were driven back to the hinterlands by the Auromian Empire, but were a constant pressure on its borders, and their incursions contributed to the fall of the Empire. They have been pushed back once more, and are now more remembered in folklore and thre…

Mortal Races: Shifters

Not all humans went to the cities. The Wild Men, also known as wood-wose or shifters, are humans who live in the wilderness, closer to animals. They are popular subjects of art, where they are depicted covered in hair, or with bestial characteristics. There are also stories about people who are stricken with madness, who live in the wilderness and become indistinguishable from animals. Shifters are exoticised and romanticised as being more natural and having an instinctive wisdom. There is a fashion among rich nobles to find shifters and bring them to live on their estates as a form of living ornament. 
For all that shifters are seen as being wild, they are no less intelligent than civilised humans, if less educated. In times of need, a wood-wose who knows human languages may approach a local rural community. They will not venture away from their homes, or into a city, unless the need is very great indeed.

Art: Detail from 'Histoire d'Alexandre.' Jean Wauquelin, c. 1450.

Mortal Races: Revenants

When a person dies, their soul travels to Purgatorio, to be purified and eventually reborn; or else to Paradiso or the Inferno, if they were particularly virtuous or sinful. Sometimes, however, a soul lingers for a time. Ghosts are created when someone dies with extreme emotion and some unfinished business. Rarer still are the times when the soul of the dead returns to its own body, to finish its dying wish itself. These revenants have effectively reincarnated in their own dead body as a result of their great willpower and overpowering emotions. If their will is disrupted, or their emotions settle, then their soul continues on its journey, which usually happens when they have resolved their final task. It becomes harder and harder for a soul to sustain itself in its body over time, which can also lead to the revenant moving on.

Art: Detail from 'Death and the Miser.' Jan Provoost, c. 1520

Mortal Races: Aarakocra and Kenku

Stories of bird-people are usually dismissed as no more than travelers' tales, but they are true. During the Hostwar, the angels took the souls of the dead and created avian bodies for them, so they could serve as scouts and aerial troops. As a result of their origin, their souls are unable to move on. They cannot die except by violence, and their souls are then bound to Tellaia, unable to reincarnate. What's more, they are unable to have any children. Most bird-people have withdrawn from a world that instinctively fears them, and they dwell in the most isolated places. They live lives of austere purity, praying to the Supreme One to intervene and undo their creation. Occasionally, one of their ever-dwindling population will leave home in disguise, trying to discover the secret of how their race can die once and for all.

While the bird-people originally accepted their curse voluntarily, one tribe cursed Paradiso and turned to other masters for their aid. These corvid-headed bi…

Mortal Races: Warforged

The Created are the newest race in Tellaia, the least populous, and by far the most controversial. Artistic creation is an inherently magical act, drawing on the same wellspring of power that began the world and all life within it. Some sculptors have managed to use this power to create new life through art. These living statues appear not to have the same physical needs as humans, but they are intelligent and self-willed. Do they have souls, or are they just simulacra? Their creation also requires some magical essence from angels, demons and fairies - but the Storia teaches that these were all the same thing originally, and that demons and fairies are fallen or debased angels, so why are they needed?

Art: 'Studies for the Libyan Sibyl.' Michelangelo, c. 1511.

Mortal Races: Genasi

Elemental spirits are a part of the natural world, and the most common ones are aligned to air, earth, fire and water. Any natural landmark may have an accompanying spirit - river elementals being the most common - which often interact with humans living nearby. These unions can result in children being born of mixed origin. These elemental-blooded humans rarely have any distinguishing physical features, but have a natural affinity for their element. Water-blooded humans often become sailors, for example. They also often find themselves tied to the physical feature that the elemental inhabits. In times of hardship, the element will respond to them, as if they were a magician. This power is seen in folklore as being natural and deriving from the elemental spirit, not the human, and so these people are seen as very lucky. The Church often accuses them of being pagans and witches, and many elemental-blooded people have been killed by the Inquisition.

Art: 'The Four Elementals,' f…

Mortal Races: Tabaxi

Tirenians have always loved their pets. Among women, academics, and the clergy, cats are one of the most popular pets. La Salvatrice herself, according to folk stories not found in the Storia, had several pet cats, and always treated them with deference. They are also a popular subject in art, appearing to signify cleverness and mysticism.

Catfolk are a race of humanoid cats living in Sahelio. Their origins are unknown, although they are probably the result of the Host's subcreation before the Hostwar, and related to Shifters. They are highly individualistic, and form strong bonds of friendship rather than traditional family units. Catfolk are curious, and their curiosity has led them to explore the world. They are very rare, but are occasionally found as travelers, sailors, or mercenaries. 
Catfolk are most commonly found in Vanzenia, where many female kittens are enslaved and taken to become pets.It has become popular to give a catfolk kitten to aristocratic girls as handmaiden…

Mortal Races: Goliaths

After the creation of Tellaia, the Host tried their hand at creating life as well. One of these attempts were giants - who were humans enlarged, in some cases to truly monstrous proportions. After the Hostwar, giants flourished, and their ancient architecture can still be seen across Tirenia. However, they were eventually overthrown by the gold dragons. There are still giants who dwell in the remove places of the world. There are also humans who have giantish blood, who are distinguished by their greater-than-normal stature. They are more commonly found in remote areas, but are still plentiful enough in the larger cities such as Fiumenze or Vanzenia. Goliaths have no unique culture of their own - they are humans, and identify with their home rather than their race. 

Art: 'Judith and Holofernes.' Anonymous, c. 1500.

Mortal Races: Tritons

During the Hostwar, the First City became so sinful that the Almighty One smote it from the face of the earth. In a single night, the land sank down beneath the ocean, and the First City and almost everyone in it was slain. The Storia says that tritones descent from those who did not die. There were still some who were virtuous within the city, and when the water claimed it, their faith saw them transformed into fish-people.
Tritones dwell around the coast-line in underground communities. They worship the elemental forces of water, and frequently consort with undines. They are rarely seen on land: while they can breathe air as well as water, they find it uncomfortable to be out of the ocean, and only send embassies when they find it necessary. The most commonly seen tritones are exiles. There are also stories of tritones rescuing sailors who are lost at sea, but also of tritones luring ships to wreck. Oddly, tritones are also the subject of a number of bawdy sailors' songs and st…

Mortal Races: Half-Orcs

During the Hostwar, orcs were created as the foot-soldiers of the demons. They took humans and warped their souls, making them stronger, more aggressive and more violent. Ever since then, there have been those who are biologically or spiritually connected to orc-kind. Half-orcs have a portion of the orcs' strength and rage, and find themselves easily led to violence. Some embrace this: there are many half-orc condottieri, guards, knights and thugs. Others resist the violence in their soul: there have been great half-orc members of the clergy. Disturbingly, some humans are born half-orcs whose family have never had any contacts with orcs: it seems that the changes that were once wrought by the demons can now occur spontaneously. One of the reasons why the demons rebelled was for free will, but they have damned half-orcs to be forever marked by their deeds. 

Art: Detail from 'Brera Madonna.' Piero della Francesca, 1472.

Mortal Races: Dragonborn

Dragons have the ability to take human form, and have dwelt among humans in disguise for a long time. It is no surprise then that there are children born in every generation who are part dragon and part human. These dragon-born have may unusual-coloured hair, golden eyes, serpentine features, scales, or even in some cases wings and a tail. At their most extreme, they may even look like a humanoid dragon, but the majority can pass for human.
Most dragonborn are aware of their heritage and given privileged positions in their home cities. In the Auromian Empire, gold dragonborn were used as administrators, and they still appear in noble families today. Dragonborn are more commonly found in the aristocracy, and they often have their draconic family as patrons. Many dragonborn are sorcerers, using the power of their bloodline. Dragonborn among the lower classes are often 'adopted' into the nobility, forcing them to tie themselves to a draconic patron or else quietly exterminated.

Mortal Races: Aasimar and Tieflings

It is harder for angels and demons to influence Tellaia than it is for fairies. Therefore, there are fewer people who bear the mark of Paradiso or Inferno upon their soul. There are many reasons why someone might be born angel-touched or demon-touched, or become so in their lifetime. Being born in an area which has been visited by them; being descended from someone who has interacted with them; drawing the attention of a guardian angel or demon at birth; or personally making a deal with them. All angel-touched and demon-touched have some physical signs of their heritage, which typically do not prevent them from blending in around other humans - a smell, a slightly different body temperature, unusual eye or hair colour, or similar. There are legends of some who have greater physical mutations, such as wings or horns or tails or feathers. Angel-touched humans tend to be well-received by society; meanwhile, demon-touched are feared or reviled, and many conceal their heritage. There is a…

Mortal Races: Halflings

No one knows where halflings come from. Are they related to gnomes, or dwarves? Are they diminutive humans or elves? If the halflings know, they are not saying. They traveled into Tirenia some five hundred years after the time of La Salvatrice. Halflings travel together, looking for seasonal work. There are many stereotypes about them as criminals, and about the strange magic powers that they possess, and they face prejudice wherever they go.

Halflings are also popular as court jesters, where they are seen as being grotesque and mocked. They are depicted in art, and there are many jokes about their sexual prowess. Those who cannot find 'authentic' halflings have been known to use humans with dwarfism, or to artificially stunt the growth of children to create their own court halflings,

Art: 'Laughing Jester.' Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, c. 1500.

Mortal Races: Gnomes

Gnomes were originally a type of lesser fairy. They were spirits of knowledge and curiosity. When the Hostwar ended and the world was divided, gnomes did not want to leave the mortal realm. They used their knowledge to make a bargain with creation, renouncing their own immortality to be able to remain.

Gnomes are now found throughout the world. Due to their low population numbers, there is no such thing as 'gnomish culture': they tend to assimilate culturally into their communities, with the vast majority living among humans in Tirenia's great cities. Gnomes come together to have children, but they tend not to remain in their relationships: each parent will leave with one or more children, who they will raise individually. Gnomes have a long lifespan, but they are still driven to cram as much as they can into their lives. Gnomes retain their great intelligence and curiosity. All gnomes have one or more areas of interest, which they are near-obsessive about learning more ab…

Mortal Races: Half-Elves

The beauty of an elf can be otherworldly and frightening; the beauty of a half-elf is universally admired. A half-elf is a human who is born with a smaller amount of the elvish soul, which tempers their appearance. As a result, they are idolised (and fetished) across Tirenia as the ideal of beauty. Half-elves are commonly used as models for art, and half-elven cortigiana are very popular. For half-elves who do not want to be judged purely based on their appearance, this can be awkward, and some half-elves find it difficult to fit properly into human society and elvish society.

Art: 'Portrait of a Woman.' Sandro Botticelli, c. 1485.

Mortal Races: Elves

After the Hostwar, many tribes of humans began to worship the fairies as if they were gods. The fairies, for their part, were highly curious about their new followers, and many romantic liaisons ensued. The result was the race of elves: humans with the mark of Fairy upon their souls. Elves appear highly attractive, if somewhat alien, with delicate, androgynous features.

Elves are the most common spiritually-touched mortal race in the cities of Tirenia, and many elves have adopted human culture. Traditionally, elves live in isolated communities, where they can be close to nature. Their culture varies massively based on the nature of the fairies that they interact with most commonly. They tend to be capricious, hedonistic and free-spirited. Their long lifespan means that they often look at the big picture, and like to take time to appreciate art, beauty and music.

Art: 'Flora.' Bartolomeo Veneto, c. 1515.

Mortal Races: Dwarves

The dwarves are the most common non-human race in Tellaia. Their past is shrouded in history, as they do not like to share their secrets with humans. According to the dwarves, they are the oldest mortal race, predating humans - though this contradicts what is said in the Storia, which states that humanity was the first ensouled mortal race. Some racists use this to say that dwarves have no souls. The official position of the (non-dwarven) learned is that dwarves were altered from humans by the Host during the earliest days of the world.
What is certain is that dwarves have the oldest religion tradition worshiping the Creative One. Certainly, they were responsible for teaching La Salvatrice, although she further developed her knowledge through communion with angels. They were also responsible for betraying her to her death. They still keep their own religion today. Dwarves tend to form their own communities, led by their priests, and dwarf neighbourhoods are common throughout the citi…

Paolo's Hideout, Minecraft Style

In the latest round of Minecrafting, we have the derelict church that serves as one of Paolo's hideouts, where the survivors of House Benicio found refuge on the first night of Carnevale.
Exterior of the church
Exterior of the church (rear)
Stain-glass window of La Salvatrice (inspired by a picture of Chiara)
Interior of the church
Entrance to the catacombs
The catacombs where Gustavo di Benicio's body was laid to rest.
Makeshift bunks in the church
Art: Minecraft. 2009, Mojang AB.

Mortal Races: Humans

Humans are the most unique beings on Tellaia. According to the Storia, they have both a physical, mortal body, in the manner of beasts, and also an immortal soul, in the manner of angels. When a human dies, their soul travels to Purgatorio, to be cleansed of its past life, before being reborn again in a new body. Souls that have been purified instead ascend to Paradiso, while souls that have been corrupted by sin fall to the Inferno.

Humans can be found everywhere across Tellaia, in a wide range of different forms. Because of their spiritual nature, they are susceptible to influence from other spiritual beings, which results in a further variety of different races of humans, such as aasimar, dragonborn or elves. Some of these races dwell commonly among other humans, while others are rarer or more reclusive and create their own communities and cultures. It is also possible for children of these races to be born to ordinary human parents, which indicates that their bloodline was touched…

The Company of the Wolf

This is a summary of the first Dragon Princes campaign that I ran. It has very little to do with the current game: I'm including it here for the sake of interest and completion.
The Company of the Wolf was a condottiere (mercenary) company, operating mostly out of Fiumenze. They focussed on undertaking special missions for their employers, and had a reputation for being able to pull off the seemingly impossible through skill, quick-thinking and guile. Their silver-haired commander, Capitano Muzio di Brabazoni, personally recruited each member of the Company, and their bonds of loyalty to one another were unshakable. Less well-known was the fact that the Company of the Wolf were also humanists, working to overthrow the dragon princes who rule Tirenia.
Zaffiro the Magnificent, the blue dragon lord of Fiumenze, hired the Company to retrieve a series of embarrassing letters written by a young blue dragon relative of his to a certain member of the Church. The letters were held by Rubin…

Carnevale - Session Three: Into The Dragon's Den

The children of House Benicio were woken to find sunlight streaming into the ruined church building. Paolo wanted to see them. An opportunity had shown up, and there was no time to waste. At the first night of Carnevale, they had seen Carnelio the red dragon with a group of hypnotised attractive young people. It was the dragon's habit to take these people back to one of his townhouses, where they would end up as his dinner. But Paolo had just discovered that Carnelio had been summoned to an urgent meeting at the Palazzo immediately upon returning home in the early hours of the morning. It was likely that the five young people were still alive. Paolo wanted Adrianna, Chiara, Deltorro, Greta, Matilde, Stefano and Via to go and rescue them before Carnelio could return and eat them. The siblings knew that the risks were great, but they all agreed that the risk was worth it.

A giant-blooded gondoliera, Valeria, propelled the group down the canal while they laid their plans to enter th…

Spiritual Beings: Elementals

T.he nature of elementals is somewhat mysterious to the people of Tellaia, since they are not described in the Storia. Popular belief often confuses them with fairies. However, scholars say that the world is full of leylines of magical energy, and that where these leylines meet, natural spirits are created by the magic. These might be spirits of a particular geographic feature, such as nymphs, dryads, naiads, or oreads, or they might be personifications of the raw elements that make up creation: undines for water, salamanders for fire, sylphs for air, and pygmies for earth. The majority of elementals appear to be female: the reason for this is unknown. Wizards can also create elementals by means of their magic, although their creations are generally only a simulacrum of a real elemental, being soulless and less intelligent, and typically created more purely from a single element. Elementals tend to be shy, although they will aid or hinder mortals in their area, particularly if there i…

Spiritual Beings: Demons

The final group of spiritual beings are demons. These are the members of the Host that rebelled against the Creative One, and now dwell in Inferno. According to the Storia, demons hate humanity for being both mortal and immortal at once. They seek to tempt mortals into sinful thoughts and deeds because a soul weighed down with sin will not be able to be reborrn, and will instead be claimed by the demons, to be tortured for all eternity.

When a demon wants to enter the world, it may do so through possession. It finds a mortal whose soul is sufficiently burdened with sin and then exchanges its own soul with the mortal's. In the course of this process, the physical form of the human is often corrupted and distorted, until it appears monstrous.

The leader of the demons is Malifer. He was responsible for bringing sin into the world, and corrupting the First City so thoroughly that the Divine One was forced to sink it beneath the ocean to cleanse it. He is also the original creator of d…

Spiritual Beings: Fairies

Fairies, or 'la fata', are those angels that stayed neutral during the Hostwar. When the world was divided, they were forced to live in Purgatory, alongside the souls of the dead who were not sufficiently holy or unholy to go to heaven or hell. Fairies are defined by their intense interest in the mortal world: they are the most active of all the immortals, and can cross over the most easily. Often, their crossing over relies upon a set of conditions, such as the phase of the moon, and binding oneself with prohibitions.
Fairies are the most diverse of the immortals. The greater fairies all have their own particular interests and areas of influence, and may be attended by many lesser fairies who mimic their queens' particular interest: for example, the Queen of Winter of the northern mountains is attended by many lesser fairies who fashion their identities around icicles, snow, winter animals, or the like; and she and her court are also served by enslaved souls. Some are ki…

Spiritual Beings: Angels

Angels are the first and, according to the Church, most powerful of the four types of spiritual beings. They are those immortal spirits that supported the Divine One in the Hostwar, and they now dwell in Paradise with the souls of those who have transcended the earth. (In some folk belief, the virtuous dead become angels, but this is contrary to the teachings of the Storia.) Angels are divided into greater and lesser, as are the other members of the Host, but unlike fairies and demons, there is more homogeneity among all angels.
Angels are the least likely of all of the Host to interfere in worldly affairs. They come if bidden, and will watch over individuals that they deem worthy of attention. They may also involve themselves if they see that another power is in the ascendant. They like to mask their interference by making it look like coincidence and good fortune as much as possible. However, largely they are content to remain in Heaven, trusting in the righteousness of the Holy On…

The History of Tellaia: The Present Day

Since the rise of the Dragon Princes, the different city-states have been engaged in an endless struggle with each other to be the best. Some of the cities have hired condottiere (mercenaries) to expand their territory militarily. The red dragons of Vanzenia have been creating an extensive empire of colonies, using it to further control their trade monopolies. The bronze dragons of Staglia have declared themselves the rightful heirs of the Auromian Empire, and are marching against all their neighbours. Meanwhile, the Church, led in secret by the green dragons, is trying to establish its own right to rule all of Tirenia, bringing it politically into conflict with the courtiers of the bronze dragons. Meanwhile, in the south, the great matriarch of the black dragons has fallen: her offspring are engaged in a vicious civil war to take control of the great crime syndicate.
A generation ago, a terrible plague swept across the world. It begun in Vanzenia, and killed nearly a third of the po…

The History of Tellaia: Rise of the Dragon Princes

After the death of his sire, the red dragon Morignus realised that there was no way to defeat humanity head-on. With the miracles wielded by the church, even the power of dragons could be cast down. Morignus gathered the leaders of the other dragon clans and proposed a new conquest, not by force of arms but by guile. Over hundreds of years, the dragons took humanoid form and infiltrated the city-states. They could afford to be patient, with their vast life-spans.

Morignus and the red dragons slowly took control of Vanzenia, the richest city in the world. Using the weapons of commerce and economics, they began to cripple enemies who would stand in their way. Meanwhile, the blue dragons went to Fiumenze, where they established themselves among the nobility. Slowly, they eliminated their rivals and became the dominant banking family in Tirenia. The green dragons, with their natural gifts at deception, slowly corrupted the church. They turned the interests of the Ordinarchs slowly from th…

The History of Tellaia: The Rise of the Church

The interregnum between the fall of Auromia and the rise of the dragon princes was a time of consolidation. Following the death of Yeesha, humanity was saved from its many enemies and was free to follow its own path again. The Prophet’s followers organised the church, which spread her teachings and trained new priests to use the magic of their convictions. The revelations of Yeesha were collected in the holy book, the Storia. The church was led by the Ordinarchs, who would elect a leader, the High Ordinarch. Over time, these disciples died and became saints, and different church orders sprang up dedicated to them. It was easy to convert people to the new faith as well, because of the divine miracles that the clergy could perform. They were also influential in continuing to battle dragons and their humanoid servants wherever they should appear.
No new central authority emerged to replace the gold dragons. The Prophet had always refused secular authority, and so her Church supported th…

The Piazza Drago in Minecraft

Here's the Piazza Drago, where the players found themselves in the second session. This is it in Minecraft, during the day, and without any of the normal swarms of people (or pigeons!) you'd find there. 

Art: Minecraft. 2009, Mojang AB.