Worlds of the Ginnungagap

Sköll –

The star at the center of the system. Having knocked out system-wide communication on more than one occasion due to large solar flares, the word became a synonym for ‘treachery’, due to being both a life-giver and life-stealer.

Midgard –

Now home to all races, this world was once the sole domain of men, excepting the avatars of the gods themselves. One of the largest worlds of the Aesir dominion, the World Tree Yggdrasill is rooted here.

Various Jarls contest the landmass and sail the seas, and a handful manage to be elected as High Kings of some domains.

Encircling the world, far from the reaches of Yggdrasill, lies Jormugandr. A bio-station crafted from genestock of various native sea megafauna, the station was once home to a thriving society.

Orbiting Midgard is the moon Hati.

Asgard  and Vanaheim –

When the Aesir first arrived in the star system, they found the great gas giant Ymir, and its many moons.

One of the moons, that would come to be known as Vanaheim, supported life. The Vanir were an advanced race, but had never expanded further than other local moons. Whilst at first there was war, as the two powers fought over resources, eventually a peace held the two together, and allowed them both to expand to the rest of the system.

Niddavalir –

The many small riocky worlds of the dvergar span a belt across the middle of the system. The dvergar are masters of small space vehicles, mining colonies and precious minerals. Their home Niddavalir is a small planet now covered in sprawling industry, even extending out into the Ginnungagap.

Aelfheim and Svartaelfheim –

One world of the system is tidally locked to the central star, one side in permanent light and the other in darkness. It was on this world that the Aelfr first lived.

From a great crater city on the side of light, the Aelfr carved out an empire stretching halfway across the world. Their great city surrounded a root of Yggdrasill, and the great Bifrost could carry them out into the rest of the system.

The Svartaelfr dwelt in the cold and the dark on the opposite side of the world. Their capital was the Night City, where their Queen sat on a sparkling silver throne. The city and throne still stand, though now they are the crime capital of the system, and the most feared criminal sits upon the silver frame.

Hel and Niflheim –

The cold worlds of Hel and Niflheim are far from the center of the system, their surfaces barely receiving any light from the central star. They orbit each other as a binary.

The so-called land of the dead, Hel is a dumping ground for scrapped tech, including old cybernetic implants, biogenic experiments and failed weapons of war. A desolate and frozen wasteland, only the hardiest of scavenger tribes make their home here.

Niflheim is a virtual prison of the most dangerous criminals and monstrous genehacked aberrations. A constant vigil is held on the world by the Aesir.

Jotunheim –

The ice giants of Jotunheim were expelled from their inner system colonies by the Aesir and Vanir after their conquest of the system. They were forced to flee out to the asteroids of the system’s comet cloud. Sometimes they will ride one of the comets as it flies into the inner system, seeking to attack their ancient enemies.

Muspelheim –

The hottest world of the system, barely outside the corona of the Sköll, Muspelheim is the home of fire giants and demons, genehacked for survival in the extreme temperatures and radiation.

Issues of mortality aside, legend claims the ancient giant king Surtr still sits upon Muspelheim plotting revenge, reuniting with his ice giant brethren and attacking the gods themselves.

A is for: Arcanists

After years of quiet and careful study, Arcanists are able to manipulate magikal energy.

Focusing upon the study of rituals and ancient, half-understood techniques, each Arcanist is eventually able to tap into the raw power of one of the two purest elements known – Light and Dark. Only the most legendary Arcanists has ever been able to manipulate both elements.

The element of Light encompasses light itself, as well as some control of heat and sound.

The element of Dark is the antithesis, giving control of shadows and the cold as well as the deadening of sound.

With enough practice, an Arcanist can conjure the elements to such a degree that even a carefully imagined ritual has some magikal power. By this method, Arcanists are able to use their magik at a moments notice should the need arise, though most prefer the slow and careful ritual.

Should an element be invoked incorrectly, all manner of disasters can occur. Often an Arcanist will make use of various ritual implements, and over time these may become imbued with an elemental nature.

Implements can include staves, wands, candles, ritual circles and inscriptions, as well as various charms, jewels and other ornaments.

Sometimes Arcanists will have some Witchblood in them, and this can be a great source of power to them. Many Arcanists are wary of this ability and will not train a Witchblooded apprentice. The last known wielder of both Witchblood and an understanding of both elements destroyed the many Kingdoms of Istan in a great ritual that Ascended him to godhood as the Storm.

International Tabletop Day!

I’ve yet to actually sit down and play games on an International Tabletop Day.

Usually I get pretty close, and play the day after, or at least the same week. My regular D&D game is tomorrow, and we’re going to play for the first time in about three weeks, even though we’re down a player who is gallivanting in the US at the moment. (we’ll be nice and not slay the dragon without him…. probably….)

But, since I didn’t get to play, I did sit down and do a bit of writing and thinking.

I’ve been trying to decide some things about my Old Crown setting. I’m working through at the moment and re-writing some bits and pieces. There’s a whole big bunch of history for the setting up in my head, but at the moment I’m trying to focus more on one specific place – Queenstown.

My problem now is that I’ve been at it so long, I’m second guessing names of places!

My setting has an odd relationship with names.

Knowing a god’s true name gains you a portion of their power, so mostly they go by a title like the Black Lady or the Beggar.

The towns and places are currently an odd jumble. I’ve got places like Queenstown and Kingsmead, both the orginal parts of the setting, and they’re technically titles for places. The City in Cliffs and the City of Festivals, both in foreign countries to the most detailed part of the setting, is also a title. Even the Old Crown, the name for the main country, is a title.

But I’m still really unhappy with it for some reason.

I’ve been toying with the idea that it’s because of the language I’m using. The setting history involves a similar looking back to golden ages that our world had for a long time. We venerated the ancient Greeks and the Romans so much so that Greek and Latin are major roots of a lot of language. But I’ve also gotten into some etymology more recently, and interested in Indoeuropean and Proto-Indoeuropean (as you do), and I’ve also been thinking about my world’s analogues.

The history of the Old Crown world is tangled. After a very rough start, an empire rose up that conquered much of the world (although not the Old Crown area itself). I was basing them upon the Babylonians in my head, because why not make them different from the Greeks and Romans? They were founded by Lizardfolk, but I haven’t settled on a name for them yet, and going down any line that makes them sound dragon-y (which I have been doing) is annoying me.

They conquered a sub-continent of warring kingdoms called Istan (and here’s where the names start going a little awry). The several warring kingdoms of Istan were a bit like a loose confederacy of city-states who occasionally went to war with each other. Ancient empire subdued this, but when it fell, this got worse, and eventually the entire continent burned.There was a magical ritual, I won’t get into details, but it was nasty.

In my head again, I was thinking they were middle eastern, so had been looking at Arabic and Somalian as interesting languages to favour.

So refugees from Istan pirate it up but eventually land in the Old Crown, and found a city and treaty/marry up a bunch of the locals, and drive another bunch of locals out with their new allies. But now we have a weird mish-mash of languages, with the Somalian mixing with something vaguely Celtic-rooted (thinking maybe Welsh or Breton or something). And after five hundred-odd years, the languages would assimilate at least a little bit, so there’d be this weird language thing going on and I can get away with going a bit crazy.

But the problem now is, why is the city of Queenstown a place? Why not Suldaanabad? Why is Kingsmead called Kingsmead when it’s named for a Sultan and a honey drink that could be mil or mel or medd or anything?

So here’s my problem: How do I fix languages straight in my head? I want the city to feel different and this exotic port city with different style to the traditional eurocentric fantasy land, and to do that it would be great to get places (at least the big important places) named right. Yes, you might be heading down to the Redmarkets on your way to the Riverwitch’s Bridge, but why can’t you do this in a city named after a missing, presumed dead Suldaana and not a Queen?

So that’s where my head’s been for much of the day. And that’s why I’ve been playing games with Google Translate, and even changed the name of the country a couple of times just to try and get a more interesting sounding name, and flicking back and forth between Somali and Basque and Catalan and Welsh and Irish and Esperanto and Galician and Maltese and even Yoruba.

If I manage to actually get my head straight, then there might be a change of name afoot.

Three month gap

So it’s been almost three months since my last blog post. I’m really terrible at keeping these things going sometimes.
I am resolving to kick this back into gear though.

So, what’s going on?

Playing through the Lost Mines of Phandelvar adventure for D&D 5E with my usual group. And I’m PLAYING, not DMing, which is great.
Morn Silverhand, War Cleric of Lludd is great fun so far. We’ve just hit level 4. I think I’d like to play the Rise of Tiamat campaign too, maybe as a Rogue Assassin or Bard of the College of Valour. I liked the look of those two.

I’ve started using Scrivener to write out my setting. I’m surprised I wasn’t using it before. It basically functions in exactly the same way as I write, but all neatly together in one place, rather than me constantly switching windows, which gets tedious!

As such, I’ve started a real re-write, cutting out unnecessary stuff, hauling it in to be more tight. If I really want to expand or waffle, I can do that later. For now, short, concise, to-the-point is my aim.
I’ve almost finished redoing the history section, the gods is a work-in-progress and I have the magic section starting to write away in my head. I’m hoping to get a chunk of it down and squared away by the end of the Easter weekend, given I have four days off from work and the house to myself for two of those.

Once this post is up and online, I’m going to try and start work on a D&D 5E post, focussing on a few ideas for a Norse-inspired setting. Most of it is already done and in the rules for 5E, but I sat down one day a few weeks ago and played around with class renames, race re-skins and stuff like that.

I started trying to convert the Old Crown to 5E too, but I think I’ll wait until I’ve done a bit more work on it and played a bit more of D&D before I tackle that one!

I’ve also got a post-apocalyptic idea going, semi-inspired by listening to the Godsfall 5E podcast on my commute to work, and partly from an old setting I did way back in 3E. I never got very far with it for my players, but I had some ideas that I would probably carry over.

What else? Umm…
I started a new game of Mass Effect on my Xbox. I finished it once, years ago, but then ended up losing that hard drive and restarting again a few years later. I’ve never gotten around to finishing it again. And this time I want to because I want to re-familiarise myself with the game and setting before I start Mass Effect 2, which I finally bought a copy of.
I know, I’m ridiculously behind the times.
It’s made me read up on the game conversions people have done though. There’s a FATE version knocking around that people seem to enjoy, and I found a D6 version too, but I’ve not had a chance to look at the rules for that yet.
I’ve always really liked the setting and wanted to try an RPG session or two in it. Hopefully I’ll get around to it at some point.

And I’ll leave you there and crack on with some other stuff. More soon!

Magic in the Old Crown: A quick overview of how it fits together

Here are a quick few thoughts on how magic is now working in the setting. I’m not throwing rules in with this yet, as I’m still working some of them out. This is more for flavour.

First, a word on elements of magic/nature.

The forces of elemental magic at work in the Old Crown, and indeed in the rest of the world revolve around two pure elements, Light and Dark.
All other elements are subordinate, seen as a mix of the two, with sentience and the element of Mind at the exact balance of between Light and Dark. Other balances produce the elements of Air, Earth, Water and Fire, since scholarly study shows many similarities between the elements at some fundamental level.

What this means for the Old Crown is most important for the magic users themselves.

The various Oathed orders all follow the different Ascended, and each Ascended is associated with Light, Dark, or Balance. These labels don’t necessarily infer goodness or badness; the Burned Man is and Ascendant of Light, the Storm of Balance, and the Black Lady of Dark.

An arcanist of the Old Crown will be schooled in various practical lessons, but will naturally gravitate toward some element that comes easiest to understanding, or manipulating. Many go on to learn other elements after their formal schooling, and the Archmagus of Raethmoor Academy is known to be a master of several.
Some arcanists find they are more strongly drawn to the elements of Light and Dark themselves, and some very few claim proficiency with Mind.

Witches and seawitches have an innate bond with the magical world. They feel an affiliation with the natural world from a young age, sometimes speaking to imaginary creatures only they can see (spirits), or else able to perform small feats of magic without any arcane training.
Many form a close companionship with an animal. Usually, this animal is blessed by an abundance of the element of Mind, much smarter than the rest of its species.
Some bond some part of their spirit to that of a nature spirit, carrying it with them wherever they go. Sometimes this is an elemental spirit instead, such as a fire or water elemental. Some fewer witches claim to have a bond to a Barrowight.

Next, souls and spirits.

All life has a soul, or a spirit. Some have no physical body, such as nature spirits, or the ghosts of the long dead, the Barrowights. Some elemental spirits do have a physical body, and these are called Daimon by most. They might be creatures with little in the way of a mind, residents of some distant existence in the heart of Dark itself.
Some stories persist of Daimon being born to witches bonded to elemental spirits, but most witches scoff at the idea.
The most dangerous Daimon are those with a strong connection to Light and Dark themselves.

Also, when any person creates an object, they put a part of their spirit into the task. If this is a meal, it rarely uses much of the spirit, but a more laboured process such as the creation of a piece of artwork, or a weapon, or an item with some magical purpose, will yield something else. Such Soulforged items gain something from their creation. Whilst not all spirited labour creates a true Soulforged item, when created they have a more awakened sentience themselves.
Tales abound of swords singing in the hands of their wielders, but more common is the kettle that boils when left in the sunshine or fine clothes that remain dry in the fiercest rain.

When an Ascended has a hand in making some item, it will generally absorb a part of their more powerful spirit, becoming Godforged in the process. The most famous Godforged items, like the Black Lady’s Crown of Thorn and Feather or the Masque’s Cloak of Falling Shadows have stories told about them across the known world, and are known to always be in the company of the god that forged them.
It is said that Soulforged items created by an Ascended before they become gods grow suddenly in power and become Godforged on their creator’s Ascension.

The process of giving a part of the soul for the creation of a Soulforged item is generally accepted to be the same process that bonds witches to spirits, though they receive something in return. Some believe the same process is used by the Fiend and his followers in the Undeath Curse, though only they would know if it is so.
It is also generally agreed that whilst the labour of love necessary to create such items can drain a person, leave them feeling particularly empty or vulnerable because of the effort of their spirit, over time they recover, and a person’s spirit cannot be destroyed in this way.

There’s probably more to magic that I’m forgetting, but the various bits on ritual and stuff aren’t that set in my mind yet, so I can work on those a bit first. Feel free to comment and give me some feedback!

Writing 101, Day Two: Setting description

The rain tumbled down from the dark grey clouds, lightning flashing and thunder rolling. It poured from the eaves of the buildings in Queenstown, and poured from the thatched rooves as it did the beards and cowls of the people forced to walk the streets.
On days like today, when the sun barely lightened the day at all, the city felt as grey as the skies above, from the waves down in Portside, up to the carved stone of Temples, and up again to the smoke pouring from the great houses in the Estates, perched up on the cliffs.

For two days, the rain had fallen in great sheets, the low clouds mimicking the waves of the seas below. The city was sodden, and Bedry was sodden, his every movement enough to wring a little water out of his ragged grey clothes, slowly trickling down his legs and pooling beneath where he stood, and only to be replaced by more water from far above. His hood was crudely sewn together from a torn sail, soaked in tar, and it was barely any shield to the torrent of water.
Slowly making his way along his normal route through the markets, Bedry had given his all to coax the few coins now in his hand from those of any passers-by, as few and far between as they had been in this storm. He could already taste the mug of watered sweet ale and spiced bread the few slivers of metal would bring him.

Water gushed down the handful of steps to the front door, and pooled heavy in the old, long-blocked drain at their base, sloshing into the bar as he opened the door and stepped through, mixing with the dirt, reeds and straw covering the floor.
The room was hazy, thick with wood smoke from the cooking fire and pipe smoke from the patrons. Regular visitors rarely used the real name for the tavern, calling it the “Smoking House”. Tonight, the air inside was particularly thick; the pouring rain outside had washed loose old birdnests and the mummified bodies of vermin to plug the various small holes in the roof that gave the place its name.

Bedry shifted uneasily. The House was busier than he liked, and he could spot more than a few people who would pick a fight with a beggar to satisfy their own urges. He hugged the edges of the room, where water fell down the inside walls almost as much as it no doubt did outside. In a corner far from the hearth stood Albi and Stethen, beggars like Bedry, as wet and grey as himself. The landlord, Bannis, saw him come in, and sent a girl over with a mug and a small, damp loaf.
Bannis was an abrupt man, with a hard brow and a scalp barely hidden by thinning hair. Bedry had known him a long time, since before his luck had fallen, and the landlord had always done his best to give him a small meal and a roof in a storm.

Bedry handed all his coin over to the serving girl, thanked her, and slumped down to the floor near Albi and Stethen, and thanked whichever Ascended was listening for the respite from the rain.

Today’s Writing 101 assignment came from here. Any views on how I did, please leave them in the comments!

Writing 101, Day One: 20 minutes of freewriting

His eye jolted open at the sound of a distant screaming. His arms and legs were cold, his clothes and hair stuck to him with water. Saltwater and gritty sand covered his lips.
He didn’t know where he was.

Razir had fallen asleep in his room at the inn, exhausted, fresh into port. He didn’t believe it to be a dream, and couldn’t remember a storm that had washed him overboard.
The air filling his lungs was cold, and he could hear the waves lapping at a beach. The sky directly above was grey, clouds filtering the light of the sun in such a way he couldn’t tell if it was dawn or dusk or anywhere in between.

Lifting his head slowly, he found himself on a beach of grey and black sand, and above sheer cliffs, perhaps once white but clearly scorched and cratered as far as he could see, before a pervasively thick mist covered them from view. From the sands and the shallow waters rose wrecks of many small boats, all made of dark wood, or else burned black themselves.

Another scream, and this time the roar of a great crowd, high above, at the top of the cliffs, and then a sound like none he had ever heard, as if a storm erupted from the throat of some great hulking monster. Strange light flashed high above, and then he found himself running for the cover of the cliffs themselves as great clods of earth and stone began to rain down onto the beach and the waters.

Stumbling over something hidden in the sand, Razir barely stopped himself falling head first into the last of the plummeting materiel, and then, eyes widening, he realised this last was the charred and still smoking form of an armoured man.

Razir fell to the ground, sprawling twice as he tried to hastily crawl backwards away from the thing in front of him. His hand fell on the peg of flotsam he had stumbled over, the handle of some oar or tiller.
A low pained moan arose from the throat of the dying man before him, and all too bright eyes looked towards Razir.
“Run, lost soul,” he barely choked out the words. “His forces have almost made the beach. You don’t have long to escape yourself.”

Eyes filled with terror, Razir once again looked about himself. He understood where he was all too clearly. Razir had awoken in the Deadrealms, at the shores of the Sea of Souls itself. And the wild armies of the Fiend, the Lord of Undeath, had almost broken through the lines of warriors loyal to the Black Lady.
And then the sky lit up again.

I think that went pretty well. It’s something that’s been evolving in my head for a couple of months now, but I needed to throw it down eventually. And I managed to get it all done in twenty minutes. Well, barring that last sentence, when my alarm started to go off.
I’ll try write some more on Razir and the Deadrealms soon.

Check out Writing 101 for more on the daily tasks (not sure if I’ll manage them daily!), specifically this one for day one.