Showing posts from 2019

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.

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 city, with true authority in the hand of the High Ordinarch. Now that the High Ordinarch lives in Aterni, civic authority has broken down. Gangs of bandits rule the streets on the outskirts of the city, while the nobility fight amongst themselves, little better than brigands whom they often sponsor. In the city's heart, the wilderness is retaking the city with unnatural rapidity, as the ancient gods - fairies of immense power - move back into their ancient places of power.

Economics: Auromia's economy has collapsed. Commerce there is barely more advanced than a village market town.

Religion: Auromi…

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…

Dragons of Tirenia: An Overview

During the War of the Host, angels and demons both experimented with creating life to swing the balance of the war in their favour. Ultimately, however, the war was in a stalemate. Since both the angels and the demons were immortal spirits, any setback was only temporary, and neither side could achieve victory.

And then dragons were created.

The demons were the first to create the five broods of dragons. In response, the angels soon created their own broods. Dragons immediately changed the course of the war. They were able to fight the angels and demons on an even footing. More terrifying by far, though, the devastating breath of the dragons was able to destroy souls - permanently. An angel or a demon that was incinerated by a dragon was annihilated, and a human that was killed would never be reborn, never go to heaven or hell. Furthermore, the dragons grew more and more powerful with time, until they were as strong or stronger than even the most powerful lords of heaven or hell.


Book Review: The Phoenix of Florence by Philip Kazan

I often feel like there's three genres of historical books. If it's for men, it's a war story; if it's for women, it's a romance. If it's for everyone, it's a murder mystery. The Phoenix of Florence starts off as a murder mystery. Onorio Celavini investigates the brutal murder of a serial seducer and his latest mistress in Renaissance Florence, but soon the investigation starts to feel personal. About a third of the way through, there is a massive revelation about the character - so massive I wonder if it should have been revealed on the back of the book, because it's what the entire rest of the book is about. The middle third gives us Onorio's backstory, and the final third wraps it all together. It's also at this point that the genre changes: ultimately, this is an action novel with a fairly straightforward revenge plot.

I can't help but feel that this book is inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire. Its main character seems highly inspired by …

Carnevale - Session Twelve: The End

The seven siblings had returned to Vanzenia at dawn on the last day of Carnevale. This was the day that Silvia Franco's plot was destined to come to fruition. Already they could sense the increased magic flowing about them due to the lunar convergence - the magic that Silvia would doubtlessly try to use. They were now sure that Silvia must have possessed dozens of people to be able to remain in Vanzenia, and that she next intended to possess the Saint and use her powers for evil.

The di Benicios knew that if they were going to stop Silvia and rescue the young saint from her clutches, they would need help. Antonio Rossi, Saint Maria's bodyguard, would be useful, but they did not know where he was, and doubtlessly where he was, Silvia would also be hiding. They did not want to reveal to her that they were alive yet. Adrianna's foster-father Paolo, who they now knew was secretly a brass dragon, could be a powerful ally as well. But he had gone to ground out of fear that his s…

Carnevale - Session Eleven: The Silver Road

After the battle with the Red Plumes, the de Benicios returned home and had a much-deserved sleep. When they awoke, it was past noon on the next day already, and Luigi told them that an unknown visitor had come to see them while they slept, and promised to return later. He left only his crest: the sign of Gianetta's secret police. The siblings realised that this must mean that their mission to attack Carnelio's manor and steal the aboleth was about to happen.

Before the stranger returned, the de Benicios decided to recruit new allies. They went to visit Aksil, the cat-man mercenary. Aksil was still recovering from injuries sustained the previous day. He told them about how the attack on the mercenary compound had gone wrong, as the Red Cloaks had rallied and counterattacked much more quickly than had been expected. Once he realised that the mission had failed, Aksil gave the order to retreat, and was wounded during the withdrawal. Now he had been replaced as revolutionary gene…