Monday, February 28, 2011

Character: King Alvador

King Alvador is the King of the Dwarves in the time of the High King's Sword. Guthlaf has several not so good run ins with the King, which cost his father some gold and gems, but nothing to hurt Guthlaf's clan. Alvador is the 21st king of the dwarves since the War of the Gods and he is a dwarven man set in his ways. He doesn't believe the outside world beyond his islands are any concern of his except if it affects trade and his treasury. He is a traditionalist through and through.

Alvador is a dwarf, two hundred seventy five years, two hundred and twenty years and just shy of four feet. He is a broad, muscular man, though his stomach is going a bit south. His face is square with a recessed chin and bulbous nose. His complexion is pale, his eyes coal gray. His hair is black, with liberal streaks of gray. Both beard and hair are long, decorated with beads, braids and other trinkets.

Alvador wears a tunic with runic trim, pants with braid on the side, a short cape with the house symbol, (a mountain of stone with crossed axes on a field of silver with gold trim), upon it. His boots flop over his knees and he always carries an axe.

Alvador speaks fluent trade, dwarven and a smidgen of elf. He speaks well, for a dwarf, but is straight forward and to the point. His a typical dwarf, surly, but steadfast and jovial with his friends.

Alvador doesn't care for the outside world but he hates slavers. If your party is chasing slavers, he will give aid. He slow to accept ideas, but maybe the group can change his mind on something. If they group brings significant news he will hear them, but may take time to decide on what to do if it involves the outside world. It is very unlikely the party will see him, but maybe an underling, but maybe this will help the GM decide what the king might decide to do.
Tomorrow: the Mermaid Brothel

Friday, February 25, 2011

History: Expanded Time Line Part III

2153 PA (Post Avatar): The dwarves open up the gates and ports to the Dwarven Islands with no fan fair and no explanation as to why they closed them the year before. No dwarf lets the reason be known. If asked, they get very defensive.

The settlers to the east in Ariella run into villages of Akicitia. At first the Akicitia are friendly, but when the settlers try to take their land they try and run them off. Battles ensue between Akicitia, settlers, and the Empire's troops.

The Black Wizards take complete control of Last Stand, the closest major town on the east side of Taina to the Tsalagi Mountains and Tridon. There is some resistance and some parts of town still are under siege.

The bards of Tridon begin to sing a ballad of love meant to show the love between of the Gate dragons and their loss. No one is sure where the ballad came from or who wrote it, but the tune is sad, tear jerking and lovely.

Ogres are seen in the Tsalagi Mountains and north near Goldshire. Calls go out for help to fight them off. Mercenaries and adventurers are being paid well for ogre ears.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Place: Temple of Sircarius

(Sorry about the day delay...Cub Scout banquets take a lot of time for some reason :))
The temple of Sircarius is a beautiful affair made of marble of the bluest hues. The temple steps are taken care of by a boy or girl of indeterminate age who also acts as a person who gives directions to those who wish to enter the temple or are simply in need to know where to go in the city. (This young boy or girl is trying to earn their entrance to the priesthood and must find some juicy rumor or secret to be admitted.) Four, stout marble columns guard the entrance to the temple, as do two, heavy wooden doors.

Inside there is a smartly dressed man (or woman) at a desk who will direct or turn away someone who comes to ask for help or to give supplication to the God of Thieves. This is usually an older member of the clergy who can no longer perform the physical activities (thieving) of the God of Thieves. This person is very particular on who they let in to see the Master Priest of Sircarius. Bribes might work, but if the person doesn't like who is trying to enter, trying to bribe will not work only make the person very angry.

The inside of the temple is simple. There is a worship area, small library, and a meeting room downstairs. And upstairs are the sleeping quarters of the order. Everything is sparse, simply made and decorated, flaunting no wealth one would expect in the temple to the God of Thieves. There is gold sconces, frescoes, tile work, but no more extravagant then most temples.

The real place of beauty and wealth is the secret basement. The place is a rich area of tapestries, treasures, and wealth. This is the store house of the order. Any plunder, while it waits to be pawned stays here. The members of the order always give their plunder to the church, but they are always well taken care of, which also includes escape from prison if they are caught.

One use of the temple is to find information. Sircarius is also the god of lies and secrets and maybe the players in your campaign need information which may not be easily found. Also, maybe there is a thief in your party and they wish to pay honor to their patron god and the church wishes the player character to do something for them.
Tomorrow: More history

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

character: Jeffery Vandez

Jeffery is one of Peter's original friends who left Stormvale with him. He was the middle child of seven and twin to Sarah Vandez. Jeffery figured he would always be a farmer. He loved playing with Peter and Olaf so when they went east, so did he. He returned a changed man who married his sweetheart after he was made Lord of Vandez.

Jeffery was human and seventy one when he died. He was six foot tall, two hundred pounds and of average size and structure. His face was slightly round, with a strong jaw and slight cheekbones. He was very tan because he loved the outdoors and hard work. His eyes were brown, round and always bright. His brown hair was always cut shaped like a bowl and his hair bounced when he walked. It grayed when he was older but he never went bald.

Jeffery liked to wear black breeches, slightly over sized brown tunics, and hand tooled leather belts. His boots were always unlaced and in desperate need of repair (even when he was a Leader).

Jeffery was open and honest when he spoke because he was so used to being bullied by his sisters. He shrugged a lot when he talked. He was friendly, open, always willing to lend a hand. When he was Leader he was known to build barns for farmers nearby the manor. He was always quick to anger if a woman was in danger.

A good way to use him in your campaign if you are playing right after Peter becomes High King is to perhaps have him helping someone build a barn. This way he can judge the parties worth then perhaps send for them to help him out with something. If they don't leave a good impression he may even have the arrested.
Tomorrow: Temple to Sircarius in Bloodhelm

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Item: Signet Rings

Signet rings are common to the Houses, noble Houses, and merchant houses. Even commoners might own a signet ring.

Most times a signet ring bears the coat of arms of the House or the symbol of the merchant company. Some people have signets of their own made, especially adventurers who have come into their own but are not from an established House or merchant family.

Signets are made from bronze to platinum, depending on the wealth of the person. Usually only House Leaders bare platinum rings which have been handed down from generation to generation. They are usually simple bands with a flat seal of the House which sits on the top of the fingers, but the rich are not above decorating them highly.

The signet rings are used to sign contracts, bills of sales, letters of credit or even commendations. Ladies like to use them to seal letters to family or friends. Wax is melted, then dripped upon the paper. The signet ring is then pushed into the pile of wax and when the wax dries the picture (or seal) will be in the wax.

These can cost anywhere from a single silver eagle to many platinum dragons depending on how elaborate they are. They can be commissioned at any jeweler in most major cities. Usually a deposit is required for work to begin and takes several weeks to be made, depending on how busy the jeweler is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Expanded Time Line Part II

2152 PA (Post Avatar)

After a harsh winter, a deep spring sickness sets in, killing up to one out of every 10 people. Some places are hit harder then others, the more isolated areas more removed from the epidemic. Several House heirs are lost and in Vandez a civil war erupts between the second and third brothers to see who will be the next heir of Vandez.

Rumors of dragons surface in the east, near Last Stand. No one can verify such sightings, but several Black Wizards' compounds are burned to the ground at that time.

The Emperor of Ariella sends expansion trains to the west, hoping to expand the Empire farther into the "barbarian" lands. Many poor people sign on for the promised ten acres, pair of mules, milk cow and 10 gold ducats.

The dwarves shut themselves away for most of the year, trading with no one, sending the price of gems upward as well as the price of dwarven goods.
Tomorrow: Some item of Martapa

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Place: Ghost Ship Inn and Tavern

This run down inn near the Temple of Sircarius is a meeting place for the secrets meetings of Bloodhelm. The regular clientele are sailors and down on their luck mercenaries but the Priests of Sircarius also meet here to speak with the Thief Guild hierarchy as needed.

This building is two stories, small cramped rooms upstairs, tavern downstairs. The food is brought in from another inn, for the Ghost can never keep a cook and the rum, ale and make do wine are the cheapest kind. Nothing here is clean, not even the servers. The place is dark, dank and not very open. The servers are older, run down women and the bouncers are extra burly, for bar brawls happen often, (usually to cover up some secret meeting).

The most impressive part of this inn is that it is literally an old ship, with the rigging somewhat intact. The cargo hold is the tavern, the second floor of the ship was where the crew would have slept on the ship. Time can be rented for using the roof of the ship (which would be the actually deck) to use for business which just can't be overheard. No one is exactly sure how the ship ended up in the the city, but there is a rumor of a dragon being involved somehow.

The owner of the Ghost is a middle aged man named Fredrick who has no goal but to skim from his own business. He bought it on a whim when he stopped adventuring because of a bummed leg. Because the temple uses the place as a meeting location they pay him to keep it open and keep his mouth shut.

For roleplaying purposes you can plant rumors here. If you have thieves or Priests of Sircarius here would be a good place to get orders. Or maybe the party followed a rumor to this location and are simply following it up.

For those who like maps I hope to have a map of Bloodhelm up and running soon, but my computer is on the fritz so I'll have to get to that at a later date.
Tomorrow: A bit of History

Monday, February 14, 2011

Character: Jamilia

Well, this woman is an important factor to my stories. How else would Kenna come to being if Jamilia hadn't escaped her greedy uncle and made her way to Tridon? Jamilia was sold into slavery when she was merely fourteen by her uncle when her father died. She was the youngest of twenty three children by four different women. She was brought to Tridon where her captor was killed by elven freedom fighters. They brought her to Midway after they taught her to speak trade language and she knew her rights in the north. They found her work at a tavern where she helped runaway slaves. When she met Flynn Whiteswan on one of his runs she knew she was in love. The birth of Kenna only strengthened the feeling. The loss of both Flynn and then Kenna leaving has been hard, but she continues on.

Jamilia is Ariellan human, thirty eight years of age, around five foot tall and one hundred and ten pounds. She was trim, but age is setting in and she's put on a little weight in the normal places for someone her age. Her face is round with round,b right eyes, long lashes and lush lips. Her skin is dark black and her eyes are dark brown with flecks of gold. Her crinkly black hair that falls slightly below her shoulders and she wears it loose.

She wears the standard fair for Tridon in grays and light blues. With her increasing age she has taken to covering her head. She speak halting trade language and she speaks very little when she does. She is intelligent but her halting speech makes her hard to understand when she is excited.

Jamilia is friendly and attentive. She hates slavers and men who only want women for their bodies.

For your campaign you could have her at the Inn of the Five Roads in Midway as a serving woman. She takes no gruff, knows how to use a knife well, but has all sorts of information that could be useful for traveling party.
Tomorrow: Some place in Bloodhelm

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Item: Sewers of Bloodhelm

The sewers of most large cities are a combination of engineering and magic. The large fire hardened clay tubs which lay beneath the city can be accessed like most modern sewers. The entrances are near major cross streets and where they leave the city. Waste pipes are attached to gutters in all parts of town and to some houses directly. Running parallel with these underground pipes are pipes that haul water from a nearby spring into the city. (The Bloodhelm manor is on its own spring.)

The magic part is the disposal of the waste. These pipes do not smell and remain intact even if cracked because of strong protection magic. Work crews, hired by House Bloodhelm, fix the physical parts, while mages will refresh the magic one a month. At the ends of these pipes are magical cleaners which filter out filth and relocates it about five miles away in an abandoned mining pit.

The water is similarly cleaned, but also filters out poisons as well.

Though not the first House to put them in, the benefits of such systems are clear. Ridding of filth cuts down on disease and because the sewers are patrolled they cannot be used for major invasions. That said the thief's guild uses these grand pipes as highways. Perhaps your PCs can as well, if they are in trouble are in need of escape. Maybe they have to find someone or something missing in its depths. Use them as you will.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

History: Expanded time line

For those roleplaying people, I know how you like to know what is happening each year of your campaign. It was nice when they use to do that for Forgotten Realms in D&D, so I thought I might give it a go! (I'm starting 100 years before the High King's Sword, and may work my way backward at a different date.)

2151 PA (post avatar): The last council of the Knights was held in Stormvale. Disputes of all things ranging from land grabs to abuse by some House Leaders was discussed. Everything fell apart so the council never again sat at the table of Peter in Stormvale.

Also this year pirates attacked Weatherworn and nearly assaulted the docks of Weatherworn because the defending mages were some how stunned or incapacitated during the attack.

The winter this year is harsh, killing many in the northern Houses and near the mountains. Refuges flood the Houses and pleas for aid go unheard in many parts of the country, though the High King tries his best to send aid.

Ogres and skiegs attack the summer manors of the Houses three days from Bloodhelm. Most of the Houses had abandoned them long before, but those who had been using them leaves them to the elements.

The price of food is high and merchants carrying food during the summer are regularly raided because of all the deaths up north during the winter.
Tomorrow: Magic Item

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Place: Upscale Housing in Bloodhelm

Though I'm doing this for Bloodhelm, you can use these housing notes for any major city. Whether for flavor text or background for the characters of your party, these are good things to know.

Upscale housing will house not house nobles, but usually houses merchants and other rather rich, but not noble people. These houses are usually two stories, with bedrooms upstairs (usually 4 bedrooms) and a living and cooking/dinning area down below as well as a study.

The study is large enough for a desk, shelves on several walls and chairs for guests who wish to speak business. They are elaborately decorated, though not with much gold or fancy tapestries. The living area is large enough to put three large quilts down comfortably on the floor, with fine chairs and a small table to hold snacks or tea. The dinning room is right next to the kitchen and can house up to 10 people at the table comfortably. The kitchens are usually very nice, with several bread ovens, several cooking fire places and sometimes with pumped in water.

The bedrooms upstairs usually have one large bed or two small beds per room, with chests for clothes and shelves for books and other nick-knacks. A wardrobe is also a normal feature of upscale bedrooms, alone with a fine porcelain wash basin and wall length mirrors. The master suite might even have a soaking tub of their own.

These houses are made of fine wood or fine brick. A bath house is usually adjacent to the house, as is the out house which can be pumped out to the magical sewers in the city. Most have a small stables with three or so horses and maybe a carriage. Most will employ two or so serving staff, but not much more, and the servants will not stay at the house unless they sleep before the fire in the kitchen.
Tomorrow: A bit of History

Monday, February 7, 2011

Character: Hugh Brightwater

Though more a historical character, if you choose to roleplay in the time right after Peter becomes High King, Hugh might become important to your campaign.

Hugh was a gawky boy and no one ever thought he would make a thing of his life. He shirked work whenever possible and found fun in making fun of others. But he was always loyal to Peter. So when his friends left Stormvale, so did he. Always loving to dream of the sea, he was happy when he was able to make a House near the sea though he'd never seen it before then.

Hugh was human and was 62 years old when he died. He was six foot tall, a scrawny 170 lbs and lanky like no Knight would ever be. His face was oval and narrow, almost bony. Even when he was old he had freckles which stood out on his pale skin. His eyes were small and dark blue. He always kept his brown hair cropped short otherwise they become an unruly mess of curls.

Hugh always wears dun colored pants and tunic which were always rumpled. Even when he was a leader, his clothes were rumpled. He speaks fast, with deep gasping breaths between words. He tries to appear as every one's friend, but just wanted to get others to work for him. When he became a Leader he did work hard, but there was always that need to be a slacker on occasion.

Hugh is also a gambling, a good one at that, which got him into a lot of trouble when he was young. For your campaign you might be able to get him into a good gambling game where he loses on purpose because he likes the PC's or he wins to get the characters to do something he wants them to do.
Tomorrow: Upscale housing in Bloodhelm

Friday, February 4, 2011

Item: Spellbooks

This mundane item is an important part of everyday life for mages who must study their magic daily. Inside such books are research notes, formulas, even the words of power and or hand motions which bring the spell to life.

Mages have to study each day, but unlike some roleplaying systems, they simply need to browse through their spells to refresh their knowledge and don't have to pick a particular spell they will memorize. As long as a mage has learned about a spell they can cast it, as long as they study about an hour a day over their research notes. If they haven't studied for a while or cast a particular spell in a while there is a roll against intelligence to ensure they can cast it properly. (They must roll under their Intelligence score with a d20.)

The books vary in size and shape. Traveling mages tend to have small, weather proof books while those that stick close to a library or mage guild will have large, ornate books filled with quality ink and pages. Usually these books hold around seventy pages of vellum or parchment, but they can be custom made. Some mages also put locks upon their books or small charms that only they can break.

Mages can share their spellbooks, but mages tend to keep their research to themselves unless they have an apprentice.
Monday: Some fun character!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

History: The Fall of House Varanath

Varanath was a powerful House after the War of the Gods, especially with two of the Chosen within her walls. The Gods themselves continued to use House Varanath as a safe haven and as a repository for magical artifacts and Knowledge. A lot of the lost culture of Tayke, a very magical culture, was brought to the library of Varanath.

Because of this, the Black Wizards coveted the knowledge and power. Many in Varanath became Mage-Knights, or Mage Lords, to better protect the library. But even they could not protect against betrayal. The husband of an older aunt wanted more power and helped the renegade Black Wizard (Mathanos) conquer Varanath and kill all of the Varanath line, or so they thought. This happened about 65 years before the High King's Sword novels.

But the library was protected by a curse which only the blood of Varanath would open the path. So Mathanos lingered hoping to find a solution even as none of the other Houses moved to recover Varanath for Tridon. Eventually, around 18 years later, Sebastion Blackthorn, Noshi Bluecrystal, and the Snowbird twins retook Varanath, Noshi having the blood of Varanath flowing through her veins.

So for your game play, if you want to play in the time before Mathanos takes Varanath, your players could be Mage-Knights, though I wouldn't allow them to be in direct line for the throne of Varanath, unless they have a very good reason. I would do these characters as multi-classed characters, mage/fighter or if your campaign rules allow for a mage/cavalier or knight like character, allow that. No bonuses, other then they can cast in heavier armor (with what ever minuses this causes in your rule set) and same negatives any multi-classed character might have.
Tomorrow: Magic Item

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Place: Poorer Housing of Bloodhelm

Though I deal with the richer areas and even the merchant areas of Bloodhelm in my stories, as a GM you are going to send your players through some of the not so nice places in my city (or any city in Martapa). One of those places is the poorer housing. Maybe your character came from a poorer area, maybe they have to deal with people in such areas. Maybe you just need flavor text to fill our your description. Here is a quick overview of these places.

The housing for the poor are crowded together and more fire prone then other sections of the city. (The city fathers tried to spread them out, a bit, but couldn't stop the crowding). They are made from wood of not so good quality, though some have river rock, since it is so available here. They are usually one story, no bigger then about ten by fifteen feet in area. They might have a make do loft used for the kids to sleep in, but not a full second story. Usually the adults' bed is to one side, a fireplace/stove to the other. There might be a small, wooden table, but usually people just keep chairs to sit in while they eat food from a bowl or with their hands.

The roof is usually made from clay tile (something else easily found), but sometimes thatch is used. Locks are unheard of, but rarely are houses without people inside. Most of the women who are here work, either as seamstresses, cooks, laundry women, or other such things they can do while having a wee one in tow. Men here work, but their jobs are far in few between or low paying.

Family size ranges, but on average, these people have three children and may have grandparents in the same house, as well.
Tomorrow: a bit history