Showing posts from 2019

Elements of a Dragon Princes adventure

Every good Dragon Princes adventure should feature most of these following elements.

1. A mysterious world

Tirenia is a world where everyone has a hidden motivation, and nothing is as simple as it seems. There should always be some sort of mystery for the players to uncover, or a twist that changes how they view what has been happening.

2. An imperfect world

Characters in Tirenia often have lofty goals, but reality means that they will be forced to compromise. Whether choosing the lesser of two evils, or deciding what they will sacrifice, players should be struggling to get the best possible results.

3. A changing world

The world is on the cusp of the Tirenian Wars, and nothing will stay the same ever again. Every adventure should upend the status quo, and have lasting changes. Whether it's political upheaval, new discoveries, new inventions, or something else, characters should be able to see how the events that they have been involved in will have effects on future games in Tire…

The Marble Quarries of Camarma

In north-western Tirena, about half way between Fiumenze and Staglia, the White Mountains run near to the coastline. This area is Valluna, the Valley of the Moon. It has been inhabited for a very long time by an animistic people who worshipped the ebb and flow of natural energies with the waxing and waning of the moon. The Auromian Empire built the city of Camarma, as well as many fortifications to pacify Valluna and the surrounding areas. However, much of historic Camarma was destroyed by orcs during the fall of the Empire. The town was rebuilt further inland, using marble scavenged from the old ruins. Since then, its location means it has been contested between the bronze dragons of Staglia, the blue dragons of Fiumenze and the silver dragons of Medilano. It is currently under the control of the Malafulmina family, a lesser branch of blue dragons, who have built a new palace here.

This area is the only place in northern Tirenia where marble can be mined. There are hundreds of differ…

The Ruins of Auromia - Session Two: The Song of the Harpy Queen

Valentino returned to Accluso, Dova, Ilaria and Noke later that afternoon, with a sack containing the few Auromian artifacts that he had available. He showed them to an interested Dova: there was an ancient scroll that looked about ready to fall apart at a moment's notice; a small decorated jar and a curved wooden stick that the scholar recognised as an oil jar and strigil; a good luck amulet in the shape of a flying phallus; a repaired Auromian centurion's helmet with an impressive golden horsehair plume; a small collection of antique coins. After some haggling, Accluso and Dova bought burial insurance, Dova bought the scroll without being able to ascertain its contents, and Noke bought the phallic amulet and the strigil.

As they left the Cigno, the group were accosted by a number of rough-looking men. Accluso and Noke were ready for violence, but the leader of the ruffians held out his open hands to show that he came in peace. He was from Vittoria, the bandit chieftain who c…

Important Landmarks of Auromia

Auromia has been an important city for thousands of years. During its time as the heart of the Auromian Empire and the Salvationist Church, it has been enriched. There are many famous monuments, arches, pillars, churches, temples, and other beautiful buildings. Most of these are now in ruins. Here are some of the most famous buildings of this historic city:

The Golden House - This immense complex was the Imperial Palace, as well as the administrative and religious centre of the entire Auromian Empire. After the death of the last Gold Emperor, the palace was looted, before being ceremonially destroyed by the Church. Its ruins were left intact as a sign of the transfer of power.

The Seven Palaces - The oldest members of the Imperial Family each had a symbolic religious role, based upon the old pagan deities. Each one had their own compound upon a different hill in the city, from which they commanded their orders of knights. Upon the fall of the Empire, most of these palaces remained as th…

The Ruins of Auromia - Session One: The Mysterious Patron

The great teeming city of Kymaiopoli sat upon the western shore of southern Tirenia, in the shadow of Muntagna Flegree. It was there, one hot day in midsummer, that a small group of people gathered in the upstairs room of a taverna that need not be named for a curious purpose. The first of those gathered was a nameless merchant-man, whose Sahelian heritage was clear from his dusky skin and gentle accent. He had set out the posters around town looking for those who possessed an unusual skill-set and were willing to undergo considerable risk on his behalf for great remuneration. He had paid for the room, and for the refreshments: seasonal fruit, cheeses, and the local flatbread baked with olive oil, with sweet golden wine to drink.

The others present had come to answer his advertisement, and were stranger still. There was a dirty-looking young man with only one arm, with a name in an unrecognizable foreign language. "Nico?" asked another, stumbling over the unfamiliar name. &q…

Moodboards for The Ruins of Auromia

The latest Dragon Princes game has just started, and it's 'The Ruins of Auromia!' The players are mercenaries who are going to explore the ancient and nearly abandoned city of Auromia, and get caught up in supernatural shenanigans when they investigate the mystical forest that's sprung up there.  I'm hoping to write up the first session report soon, but in the meantime, one of my players has created two moodboards for the game: one for their character, and one for the game itself.

Moodboard for Noke, the urban druid
Moodboard for The Ruins of Auromia

Cities of Tirenia: Kymaiopoli

Population: 300,000. Kymaiopoli is the largest city in Tirenia.

Dragon: Southern Tirenia is unofficially ruled by the Benevoli, a crime syndicate led by the black dragons. The black dragon Nero controls the Benevoli in Kymaiopoli.

Politics: The ruler of Kymaiopoli is the Prince of Trinacria. While the Prince claims dominion over all of southern Tirenia and the island of Trinacria, in practice his influence does not extend far beyond the borders of his city. For this reason, he is often informally styled the Prince of Kymaiopoli. Prince Ferrante di Kymaopoli lives in incredible luxury, isolated from the actual running of the city.

Economics: Southern Tirenia's farmlands are less productive than those of northern Tirenia, and so Kymaiopoli is the sole focus of south's agriculture. It is also a major port city, with significant trade with Sahelia.

Religion: Kymaiopoli has always been a centre of Tirenian religion. The city still has some ancient shrines to the classical gods, but it …

The History of Tirenia

There have been many different calendars in Tellaia, but the most influential have always been Tirenian. The Auromian Empire had two different ways of counting years: they would refer to 'Anno Auri' (Golden Years), to refer to years since the ascension of the first Gold Dragon Emperor, but more commonly they would refer to events by the reigning emperor of the time: 'in the fifth-second year of the reign of Emperor Aurelius Draco Sahelianus', for example. After the fall of the Auromian Empire, the Church started counting from the death and resurrection of La Salvatrice, and so the calendar 'Anno Salvatricis' and 'Ante Anno Salvatricis' (A.S. and A.A.S.) became widespread.

This timeline is a work in progress!

1229 A.A.S.  The Auromian Empire begins when gold dragons liberate the city of Pallantia from the fairy 'gods' who rule it. They become its new rulers, and the city is renamed 'Auromia' in honour of Aurelian Draco, who becomes the fir…

Cities of Tirenia: Auromia

Population: 30,000. During its height, Auromia had a population of well over a million, but is now all but deserted.

Geography: Auromia is situated on the Albula River. Its site is notable for the ten hills that the city is built upon: each hill used to be its own suburb. and was the site of a different gold dragon's palace.

History: Auromia was founded a long time ago, under the name of Pallantia. It was taken over by the gold dragons, who renamed it Auromia in their honour. The Auromian Empire expanded to govern most of the world. With the fall of the Auromian Empire, the city became the centre for the new Salvationist church. When the High Ordinarch moved to Aterni, the city's population dropped drastically.

Dragon: Auromia was the seat of power of the gold dragons. Its land is now controlled by the green dragons, but there are no green dragons living in Auromia.

Politics: Traditionally, a Senatore from one of the noble families whose estates surround Auromia would govern the c…

Cities of Tirenia: Vanzenia

Population: 200,000. Vanzenia suffered massive casualties during the recent Carnevale Revolution, as well as the loss of an entire city district, which was first incinerated by dragonfire, and then destroyed when the previous dragon lord Morignus fell on it.

Dragon: Vanzenia is ruled by the red dragons. Morignus, the oldest and most powerful dragon in the world, was the instigator of the stealthy conquest of Tirenia. Recently, however, Morignus has perished and his daughter Gianetta has taken over power. She is an opportunistic schemer who was the leader of her father's secret police, but managed to take advantage of a populist uprising to become the new ruler.

Politics: Following the Carnevale Revolution, Vanzenia is now officially a republic. Gianetta the red dragon is the Principessa, and leader of the Signoria, the ruling council. Previously, Morignus had ruled as an absolute tyrant, and auctioned off government posts, effectively making the city a plutocracy. The transition is …

Cities of Tirenia: Fiumenze

Population: 90,000.

Dragon: Fiumenze is the home of the blue dragons, led by Zaffiro 'il Magnifico.' He runs the d'Azzuro Bank, which loans money throughout the world. His 'hoard' is his collection of ledgers and journals: by lending and investing his incredible fortune, he has become phenomenally rich.

Government: Officially, Fiumenze is a republic led by the Signoria, nine guildsmen who are randomly selected every two months. In practice, everyone knows that Zaffiro controls whose names are available for selection. Zaffiro also uses a half-dozen highly capable agents such as Antonia Ficino to stay on top of current events.

Economics: Fiumenze is the wealthiest city in the world, and its signature coin, the pezzo d'oro, is trusted everywhere for its high gold content. Fiumenze's workers have formed into multiple guilds, which wield immense economic and political power. The most powerful guilds are the Arte di Calimala and the Arte della Lana, who control the …

Character Creation: Family Bonds

In Tirenia, one's first loyalty is to their family. Many rural Tirenians live with their extended family, and in the cities families often meet for celebrations and festival, for the church, or just for a daily meal. While the typical Dungeons and Dragons adventurer is often isolated from their family, in Tirenia everyone knows that no one argues like family, but that family will always have their back. (Part of the success of the Benevoli crime syndicate is how it treats the organisation and its members as a family.)

A Tirenian character can choose to have their bond be to their family, rather than a specific person or place. How does this work in practice? Once per adventure, a character with a family bond can call upon a member of their extended family for help. This family member will exist at the same social level as the player character, and may be able to help provide help. The PC and the DM should name the relative, define the relationship, and give a one-word personality …

Recommended Reading: Lent

Lent is the story of Girolamo Savonarola. This real-life charismatic preacher and prophet briefly took power in Florence before being excommunicated and burned at the stake. Jo Walton's book Lent is a character study of Savonarola, in a world where the demons that he was said to exorcise really exist, and Hell is demonstrably real. In the first half of the book, his life plays out more or less as it did in real life, until his fiery death. Then things get really interesting, as Savonarola is given the chance to relive his life over and over again.

Walton's strength in this book is her characterization, of Savonarola and the people around him. Through them, she shows how the Renaissance mind worked. Savonarola is an wonderful character for a Dragon Princes game, either in his historical form or the more fantastical version that is revealed over the course of the novel. It's also extremely readable, and I look forward to trying her other novels (which I understand have a lot…

Recommended Reading: Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are set in a fantastic flat world that flies through space supported on four elephants that stand on the back of a giant space turtle. They are parodies of fantasy literature and the real world, and are recommended reading for anyone with any interest in fantasy as a genre.

For a Dragon Princes campaign, Pratchett's books set in Ankh-Morpork are particularly relevant. They are without equal at showing how a fantasy metropolis might function, warts and all. The city (a mix of renaissance Prague, Victorian London and modern-day New York) has a filthy vitality and character all of its own. Pratchett's characters are exceptional and worth adapting for any roleplaying world. Furthermore, a major theme in many of Pratchett's later books is how the world reacts to technological and cultural developments like the printing press, a modern police force, multiculturalism, and more. This should also be a theme in any Dragon Princes game.

The m…

Introduction to Tirenia - Ten Key Facts

The Eberron campaign setting begins with ten key facts that define the world, and make it easy for new players to understand what is important about the world. To help my new players, I've decided to create my own list of ten key facts.
Inspired by the Italian Renaissance. The game is set in a continent called Tirenia. It’s a land of rich merchants, genius artists, ruthless mercenaries, and omnipresent religion. A D&D world. Everything that exists in Dungeons and Dragons exists in Tirenia somewhere - although it may be re-flavoured to fit the world. Any D&D campaign can be modified to fit in Tirenia.Magic is rare. Most people will spend most of their lives without seeing magic or monsters. The one God is distant and unknowable. Everyone believes that magic is real, but superstition is more common than knowledge.Rich city-states. People in Tirenia in large cities. Each city-state is fabulously rich. These cities are constantly fighting – through politics, economics, culture …

The Polycosm

In the days before the Auromian Empire, philosophers theorised about the existance of other worlds - a polycosm. According to this idea, if space is infinite, then anything that could happen, must be happening somewhere. For every choice that a person could make, somewhere there would exist another version of that person who had made the opposite choice. The theory of a 'polycosm' was an esoteric thought experiment, before it was eventually quashed by church doctrine. If there were infinite worlds, would there be infinite heavens and hells? Infinite gods? The idea was denounced as heretical, and forgotten.
What no one knew was that the philosophers were correct.
Tellaia is only one of infinite worlds, each a step removed from one another. The closer that worlds are to one another, the more likely they are to assemble each other. No one in Tirenia is aware that these worlds exist: it would take extremely powerful magic to move between them. What effect this has on the metaphysi…

Fiumenze Nights - Session Two: The Last Masterpiece

Gatto and Barzilai discussed their next move over an anchovy salad and a flask of white wine at a local taverna. Barzilai scraped his anchovies on to Gatto’s plate. They now believed that during the last month before his murder, Michele di Lodovico had been engaged with a new art project, which was being unveiled tonight. That could not be a coincidence. And they both had a feeling that there was something happening at the cathedral that Fra Gottifredo and Fabrizio were keeping secret.
In the stifling midafternoon heat, the two sbirri headed to Michele’s workshop. It was a large two-storey house in the nicer part of town, with the workshop downstairs and the living quarters upstairs. The door was answered by an extremely handsome man with red-rimmed eyes: Tommaso di Cecchino, Michele’s model, business manager and partner. He had just heard the news of his lover’s death. Gatto and Barzilai asked him about the last month of Michele’s life, and Tommaso told them everything he knew. A mont…

Fiumenze Nights - Session One: Death of an Artist

Gatto and Barzilai had just finished breakfast when the body fell out of the sky. 
It was early in the morning in the Plaza del Duomo, but already the square was full of bustling people heading to their works, surrounded the calls of street vendors hawking their wares. The slanted morning sunlight promised that this would be another in a succession of sweltering hot days, and the stink of the river was already noticeable. Come sweltering midday, it would be almost unbearable. Gatto, a young catfolk, newly arrived in Fiumenze, and this was his first day as commander of the sbirri, the city’s poorly-funded, poorly-resourced and poorly-paid civic watch. Not that he had known this when he had enlisted. He had been partnered with Barzilai, who was now showing his new commander the ropes. Barzilai was a cynical, worn-down veteran who had served under a number of commanders, each one incompetent, corrupt or (more likely) both. He had been passed over for promotion to commander himself for the…

Daily Life: Tirenian Fashion

Even a poor Tirenian is affluent enough to be able to afford multiple different outfits, and to have their 'church best'. However, those of great wealth would wear elaborate clothes made of expensive materials as a visual sign of their success. At the most extreme, some cities have had to enact laws restricting fashion to restrict opulent displays of wealth.

Male fashion is designed to enlarge the upper body and emphasize the lower body. Men wear belted tunics or overcoats over fitted waistcoats. Detachable, often slashed sleeves are common. The hemline is above the knee, although some men wear it up to the thigh; as a result, the codpiece is a recent development. On their legs, men wear close-fitting tights or hose. Some men will wear bright colours to stand out; others prefer darker tones to give an impression of seriousness. Servants and courtiers of the dragons will often wear coloured hose to match their dragon, as a symbol of loyalty. There is also an increased interest …

Faiths of Tirenia: Folk Religion

In the cities of Tirenia, Salvationism is the most common religion, but in the countryside, folk religions are still widespread. For thousands of years, the commoners have had rituals to propitiate the elemental spirits that dwell in the land around them. They have perceived the effect of the three moons upon the invisible aether, and the ley lines of energy that flow across the land. They have come up with charms to protect themselves against fairies and demons, and encourage the fertility of the land. All rural communities have a church, and many have a patron saint as well, but this may just be the local dryad, naiad or other genius loci by a different name.

Art: Detail from 'Primavera.' Sandro Botticelli, c. 1482./

Faiths of Tirenia: The Classical Gods and the Imperial Cult

As early man encountered elementals and fairies in the world around them, they often thought them to be gods. Before long, Tirenia had a wide range of different regional deities. These gods would often be associated with each other - two regional war gods would be considered different names or aspects of a single, greater god. This syncretism was completed when Auromia conquered the rest of the subcontinent; their gods were then accepted as the 'standard' pantheon.

The leader of the classical gods was Sole Pater, Father Sun. His wives were the Three Sisters, who represented time and fate. Their children were the other goddesses: Fortuna, the goddess of luck; Bellona, the goddess of war; Tellaia, the goddess of the wilderness; Genia, the goddess of the hearth; Musa, the goddess of the arts; Urbina, the goddess of law; and Morta, the goddess of death.

The Gold Dragons of Auromia encouraged the worship of these gods, but used it as a state religion to maintain their rule over the…

Faiths of Tirenia: The Dwarven Mores

The dwarves of Tirenia are the only community that refuses to follow salvationism. They have their own ways, which are older than those of the humans. In fact, according to the Storia, the beliefs of the Auromian Church are based on the dwarven mores. Unlike humans, dwarves see no difference between the religious and the secular. Their faith is with them always, tied up fundamentally with what it means to be a dwarf.

Dwarves believe in following the way of their ancestors. They do not believe in a god, or in reincarnation, but they do believe that their illustrious forefathers are with them always, watching over them. In fact, the dwarven ancestors are very similar to the human saints. Dwarves wish to live virtuous lives so that they may join the ancestors and watch over future generations. They also believe in virtuous actions and sinful actions. For dwarves, right actions are those which are for the good of the community; sin is promoting the self at the expense of the community. Th…

Faiths of Tirenia: Salvationism

Salvationism is the belief in the teachings of La Salvatrice, as expressed in the holy book, the Storia. It is the most common religion in Tirenia, with almost everyone paying at least lip service to it.

Salvationism teaches that there is one God, who is nameless. Il Divino created the impermanent material world and the immortal spiritual world. Every human's soul is immortal, and will be reborn after the death of the body. Certain behaviours, the seven virtues, can refine and purify the soul; on the other hand, the seven sins will corrupt it. Over multiple lifetimes, the virtuous soul will eventually be reborn as an angel in heaven. Those with pure souls are often able to manifest miraculous powers, such as healing magic. On the other hand, a soul that is burdened with too much sin will go to the Inferno, to be tortured by demons for eternity.

Devotees of the Auromian Church go to church on Sunday for a mass prayer session and sermon, which everyone attends. The faithful may go m…