Showing posts from 2018

Daily Life: Shopping

With the cities of Tirenia growing rich from foreign trade, there are more and more shops growing up everywhere. Street vendors sell delicious food, while permanent shops display wares from around the world, and on festival days, vendors would assemble at the local market to offer the greatest range of products. Vanzenia is so rich, it claims to have a market every day! With such a range of products and merchants, a would-be buyer must be wary of being cheated - merchants are mean hagglers, but they might also use rigged scales, or lie about their goods. This is why the cities do their best to regulate the merchants to keep commerce as fair as possible. This is why most shops are open to the street, and why for expensive sales you might hire a public notary to witness it, so both sides could make sure the sale was fulfilled properly.

Permanent shops are now common throughout even the smallest villages in Tirenia, but there is a much greater range of products on sale in a big city like…

Daily Life: Language and Literacy

There are dozens of different languages spoken in Tirenia. Different regions have developed their own tongue, which are descended from the Auromian language of the gold dragon empire. In practical terms, this means that while everyone in Tirenia can generally understand each other, there is also a lot of room for confusion and irritation. In game terms, there is no 'common' language, as featured in other games. Instead of knowing different languages, a character can learndialects. Characters who don't share a dialect can still make themselves understood, but have Disadvantage on Charisma-based skill checks. On the other hand, when one is far from home, it can be extremely reassuring to hear a familiar language when you are far away from home. At the Dungeon Master's discretion, characters far away from home can have Advantage on Charisma-based skill checks when talking to someone who shares the same language as them.

In this time before the invention of printing, liter…

Daily Life: Crime and Punishment

Crime is a major problem in Tirenia. The great cities of the north have established effective methods of dealing with lawbreakers. Most of them have special civic guards whose job it is to maintain public order, such as the Guardie d'Argento of Medilano or the Pacificatore of Fiumenze. These are, effectively, private soldiers whose job it is to protect their masters' interests by keeping the peace. Smaller towns may have an official, known as a potestas, who is responsible for providing their own men to help combat violent crime; in some areas, the potestas also serves as mayor. However, many crimes committed against individual citizens may be ignored. White-collar crime, however, is rife throughout Tirenia's cities. With these sorts of crimes, they may be taken to a public official such as a magistrate or the potestas for arbitration; more often, those wronged will take matters into their own hands. In southern Tirenia, where organised crime is more widespread, the Benevo…

The world of Tellaia

Medieval mapmakers had peculiar ideas about the world. Ever since the ancient Greeks, they knew that the world was round. However, to them the point of a map was to visually depict God's creation. Mappa Mundi were a type of medieval and renaissance map that divided the world into three continents (Asia, Europe and Africa) to reflect the threefold nature of God. They drew the east at the top of the map, where they presumed that the Garden of Eden was, even if no-one was quite sure exactly whereabouts. This visually showed how man had fallen by leaving the Garden, and also associated it with the dawn. Jerusalem, where Christ died on the cross, was shown at the centre of the map, at the point where the three continents met. They knew about the equator, but assumed that it was an impassible ring of fire that would burn up anyone near it. And they believed in the Antipodes, a continent to counter-balance the northern hemisphere - although there was much debate about whether anyone woul…

Book Review: The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold

I recently finished reading this lesser-known work by Lois McMaster Bujold, better known for her multiple award winning series, the Vorkosigan Saga. She wanted to try her hand at a fantasy novel, set in an alternate-reality Renaissance Italy. Apparently, it wasn't a very big success. I find this strange because I absolutely adored it!

Fiametta Beneforte, daughter and unofficial apprentice to a powerful artificer-wizard, and Thur Ochs, a Swiss miner whose main talent is how immensely reasonable he is, meet when Montefoglia is taken over by Uberto Ferrante, a neighbouring lord with a penchant for black magic. They have to save Montefoglia, but more importantly save the soul of Fiametta's father Prospero from an evil ritual.
McMaster Bujold has a lovely writing style. Chapters are alternately from Fiametta or Thur's point of view, and really help to illustrate two highly likeable characters. Either of them would be a wonderful PC for a Dragon Princes game. In addition, the bo…

Carnevale - Interlude: Farewell to Paolo

After the party, the group returned to Paolo's new hideout, a former carpenter's home on the edge of the Distretto Bruciato that was still largely intact. There they discussed Gianetta's offer. They could not see any way of avoiding working with her, although no one trusted her at all. Matilde arrived before long and updated everyone on what she had found out with Niccolo about the Aboleth: a strange, mythical aquatic terror that might be what Carnelio was keeping in his basement.

When Paolo returned later that night, his reaction was not at all what the others were expecting. He had been helping out at the Grande Convento, which had been attacked by Morignus' marcenaries. Chiara told him about Gianetta, and Paolo's tune immediately changed. He withdrew his offer of shelter and said that he would have no further part in the coalition against the dragon, but would lie low until it was all over. Everyone felt extremely betrayed - none more than Adrianna, who decided …

Carnevale - Session Six: Secret Carnevale

After the battle at the Isola della Mortanera, the di Benicio siblings waited for Silvia Franco's agents to discover the location of their treacherous servant Marco for them. In the meantime, they had been invited to a seret Carnevale party by Signora Francesca di Prava in thanks for their rescue of her from the red dragon Carnelio. All public Carnevale celebrations had been cancelled due to the curfews, but the people of Vanzenia continued to celebrate in secret.

Late at night, the siblings took a gondola to the di Prava mansion. They wore heavy black cloaks and hats to keep out the chill and to hide their party clothes, and the gondolier paddled slowly and carried a hooded lantern to avoid being seen. They disembarked at the di Prava house. Its windows were covered up with dark curtains, and no noise slipped out to the canals. The group was met inside by servants who took their cloaks and ushered them into the heart of the house.
There, a truly raucous party was taking place. Pa…

Important Characters of Santa Severina

Barone Gregorio di Barena appeared on Barena twenty years ago, during the Orc War. A mighy warrior, he helped turn the tides and save Santa Severina, before settling in as its lord. The Barone has always been reticent about his past, but this much is generally assumed. He was a minor noble from Sicania, probably a younger son in a large family who was not going to inherit anything. He made his own way in the world as a soldier of fortune. He became captain of his own company, and must have served in Crescentia, where he met his wife. He came to Barena with his company and helped defeat the orcs at the Battle of Santa Severina. Afterwards, he appointed himself lord, and built himself a castle on a hill overlooking the town. He hasn't been a particularly good lord, however, and there's lots of grumbling in the town. It hasn't progressed past that stage yet.

Baronessa Faziah di Barena is Gregorio's exotic Crescentian wife. The people of Santa Severina don't like her, b…

Movie Review: The Agony and the Ecstasy

I just finished watching The Agony and the Ecstasy, and wanted to talk about it! This is an old movie from 1965 about Michelangelo and the painting of the Sistine Chapel, based on the book by Irving Stone. Michelangelo is forced into undertaking a mammoth commision that he doesn't want from Pope Julius II  He ends up creating one of the most sublime works of art ever made.

The highlight of this movie is its amazing visuals. Every scene is sumptuous with colour and detail. From the assembled cardinals, to armies at war, and the tavern that Michelangelo visits, every scene is full of life and detail. This is, of course, to say nothing of the art that is the true star of the movie. There is also a wonderful look at what life was like at the time. The costuming and scenery are incredible, and the movie also shows a lot of how art was made - in particular, the stonecutters' quarry and the methods for painting frescos. The central relatonship triangle is also very compelling, since …

Santa Severina and the Isole Sopravvento

The main Dragon Princes campaign, Carnevale, has hit an unfortunate snag: coordinating the spare time of eight people is not always easy, and at the moment, there is no time that everyone can attend a session! That's going to end soon, I hope, but in the meantime I'm starting a more casual second game. This is based on the classic D&D adventures 'The Secret of Bone Hill' and 'The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh' and their sequels, but converted to Tirenia!

Off the south-western coast of Tirenia, just north of the island of Sicania, are a small chain of volcanic islands, some of which are still active. They are the Isole Sopravvento, the Windward Isles. A long time ago, they were said to be inhabited by giants, but humans settled them before the beginning of the Auromian Empire. The Isole Sopravvento have not gone through the same upheavals as the rest of the world. They were spared the chaos of the empire's fall, and were converted to the Church by the loc…

Character Creations: Ideals and Flaws

Characters in Tirenia have ideals and flaws, just like in other worlds. Living up to their ideals, or giving in to their flaws, can be a source of Inspiration for them.

In a Dragon Princes game, instead of using the standard lists of options, consider using the religious virtues or sins instead. This helps to tie your character more firmly into the setting.

The seven virtues are:

Charity (Caritas): The Church states that helping those in need is virtuous. Giving of oneself - whether time, money, or anything else - to aid others is its own reward, and should not be done with the thought of reward or recognition. This can also mean donating to the Church, which is capable of helping people on a larger scale.

Chastity (Castitas): The moderation of sexual impulses. Tirenians generally do not believe in celibacy. They are also quite accepting of extramarital relationships, which are quite common for the upper classes. For them, chastity is about faithfulness to one's spouse or lover, and…

Campaign Conversions: Princes of the Apocalypse

Princes of the Apocalypse is set in the Dessarin Valley, an isolated frontier area. To convert it to Dragon Princes, consider putting it in the northern White Mountains. There are several valleys and passes in the mountains, occupied primarily by humans and gnomes. The white dragon overlords are indifferent at best, meaning that they cannot be relied upon to save the world from Elemental Evil.

Elemental philosophy is widely taught in philosophical academies throughout Tirenia. To most, the elements are the raw building blocks of creation. The four elemental cults consist of madmen and the deluded, who want to harness this raw energy for their own ends. Consider playing up the temporary alliances and enmities between the different cults. They are also not attempting to 'summon' an elemental god (as no such entities exist in Tirenia) but to create one. Their efforts will throw the elements out of harmony. If the Eternal Flame cult becomes ascendant, for example, there will be a …

Campaign Conversions: Tyranny of Dragons

Strangely, Wizards of the Coast's campaign featuring dragons seems one of the hardest to adapt to a world featuring dragons. This is because in Tyranny of Dragons is about dragons trying to take over the world. In Dragon Princes, they already have! However, there are ways to make this campaign work.

The first change that we need to make is to the Cult of the Dragon. In Tirenia, the Cult of the First Dragon is made up of disaffected young dragons. They feel that dragons have lost their rightful power by ruling humans rather than destroying them. Most of them also feel that they, personally, should have more power, and that this is a way to get that power. They make offerings to the First Dragon, the mythical creation of Malifer during the Hostwar, which later rebelled against him as Malifer rebelled against the Creative One. These dragons are also served by many humans - hirelings and agents, those who have been manipulated, lied to or promised great things when the First Dragon co…

Campaign Conversions: Lost Mine of Phandelver

The first adventure for Fifth Edition, and still one of the best, Lost Mine of Phandelver is a perfect match for Tirenia with only a few mild tweaks!

Consider changing the setting of the adventure to Sfantalini, a small town in southern Tirenia. Like Phandalin, it is rebuilding itself after a disaster. In this case, rather than having been destroyed by an invasion of orcs, it was decimated by the Great Death. Now, a generation later, the town is starting to rebuild itself. However, banditry is rife, and the notorious group, 'Le Marchi Rossi,' now has a lot of influence in the town. The fabled Lost Mine nearby was a forge during the Hostwar. You may want to play up which faction ends up with control of the mine at the end of the adventure.

Dungeons and Dragons has a tradition of monstrous humanoids. In this adventure, there are tribes of these monsters at the Cragmaw Hideout and Cragmaw Castle. It is unusual for these monsters to reach so far into the heart of Tirenia - you may…

Recommended Reading: Nonfiction

The Renaissance is an extremely popular time period, and there is a lot of very readable and informative popular history books that are readily available, ready to give more details about any topic in which you are interested. There are books about the artists, the politicians, the warriors, the famous men and women; there are more specialised works about different aspects of society. (An article about shopping, inspired by one of these books, is coming down the pipeline!) In addition, modern travel writing can be very good for talking about the feel of a place, what the most important locations are, and giving an overview of the history and personalities. I am not going to touch on those topics because there's far too much out there! Instead, these are my favourite overviews of the entire Renaissance.

The Renaissance in Europe by Margaret L. King

This book is intended to be an introductory textbook for university students or just those who are interested in the topic. It is divid…

Recommended Reading: Period Sources

There is a huge amount of literature from the Renaissance that survives to the modern day, and it is all worth reading to get into the head of people living at the time, and to add the small details that can really make a game pop. Here are four works that I particularly recommend for Dragon Princes.
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
This book is a collection of a hundred short stories told by a group of young nobles while they hide away from the Black Death. The description of the plague is horrific and excellent for Dungeon Masters who want to include it in their games. But the hundred short stories, in a wide variety of genres, are great for understanding Renaissance social life and attitudes, and seeing a huge range of possible NPCs for a game.

The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso) by Dante Alighieri
This poem is the story of a mystical trip that the author takes from the depths of Hell to the heights of Heaven. It was (and is) immensely influential for the popular…

Dragons of Tirenia: The Golden Horde and the Last Gold Dragon

Not all of the gold dragons are dead.

At the fall of the Auromian Empire, the last surviving gold dragons fled Tirenia for distant lands. Tirenia is often myopic in its focus, and so their survival went unnoticed. Over time, the Golden Emperor unified Tataria. Tataria is wrongly dismissed as a backwards, barbaric land by the Tirenians, and so this went unnoticed. The Golden Emperor then brought his Tatarian horsemen to bear against far-distant Cataia. There was a brief hiccup in the trade of silks, but when the silk trade resumed, the Tirenians paid it no notice. Eventually a Vanzenian trader, Niccolo Defusah, travelled to the court of the Golden Emperor, where he was given many rich gifts and told the Emperor all about his home. Defusah has since returned home, but few have noticed the threat implicit in the story of his travels - of course a foreign court would mimic Tirenian dragon iconography!

The Golden Horde is mustering. The Emperor's bodyguards, a legion of half-dragons th…

Dragons of Tirenia: The Brass Dragons

The brass dragons are the only dragon bloodline that have not claimed land. They deplored how the evil dragons had dominated Tirenia, and swore to oppose them. However, they see the actions of the other good dragons as hypocritical and self-serving - freeing humans from oppression by taking control yourself will just trade one master for another. The brass dragons have gone into deep cover, hiding themselves among the cities. They work to promote the humanist agenda. Some foment rebellion, working to destroy the hold that the dragon princes have upon the land. Others have a more day-to-day approach, simply trying to make the world a better place. When their work is done - or when their cover is broken - they depart, only to start again in a new place. The brass dragons are not unified in the same way that the others are, although they try to have a passing knowledge of where their kindred are at any given time, and try to help each other out if needs be. But these dragons are socialit…