The Eternal Dragonborn

A while back I wrote a funerary verse for the death of a dragonborn NPC in my home game. Recent urging from a friend encouraged me to post it here.

In my world, dragonborn souls, their animus, reincarnate in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Since all dragonborn are united in this fate – no one goes to a heaven or hell – they have a very strong sense of community. It became important to me to show how the dragonborn felt about death as merely a temporary state for the soul to transition through.

They also worship all three dragon gods equally – Tiamat representing a natural force of wrath and strength with which to defend themselves and their homes, Bahamut is good and justice to keep them on the right path, and Io is (neutral) fairness and knowledge to give them the means to improve themselves and know what is true in the world.

The Keeper refers to the Keeper of Names, the dragonborn that keeps the names of the dead and tracks which dragonborn souls have been reincarnated.

This soul sets free to rise above the fray,
The Keeper takes your name and lays your path.
Remember no sorrow, tempt not to stray,
Be strong for us, fierce as Tiamat’s wrath.

And this soul, set free to wander, abides
Cold and wise as a star in the night skies.
Return to us adrift on ageless tides
As true as the light in Bahamut’s eyes.

Now this soul is free from sorrow and pain
To promise our fate in rebirth and death,
From shadows renewed with life and breath,
Eternal as Io, we rise again.

Guest Post: Arashidrgn Explores D&D Religions, Part 1

Today’s post is a guest post from friend, reader, and writer Arashidrgn. He explores religion and deities in D&D in two parts. 

So I decided to write out some stuff on religion in the D&D universe. In a world where there are multiple gods and everyone KNOWS there are multiple gods, how is there more than one religion? To tackle that, I had to break down different approaches to religion and deities in a world where multiple deities are accepted general knowledge. At times, thinking about how individuals would experience their particular religion helped flesh out my ideas.

Surprise, surprise, there is potentially a lot of material to expand upon. And of course I have constant access to Wikipedia. Do you know what this has done? I typed in Theism and it opened up a world of concepts that goes so deep the Underdark is a shallow pit in comparison. What kind of can of worms have I opened here?! I just started typing and every time I finished one sentence it spurred two more ideas. I am fighting some sort of bizarre conceptual hydra here!

Part I – One, Two, or All of the Above?

Mono-deific:

credit: Dungeons and Drawings

Moradin the Soul Forger

This is the belief that individuals should worship only a certain deity. Typically those that practice this ideology believe the proper deity for each person is the one associated with their race (Dwarves worship Moradin, dragonborn worship Bahamut). There are some exceptions to this. Gods whose realm is an idea and not a particular race may have followers from any race such as Avandra’s tricksters or Melora’s druids and rangers. People who follow these ideological gods must have a very strong affinity for them. Each person is born with a proper deity to worship and they should follow the teachings of that deity throughout their life. The ultimate ideal is to live their life as their deity intended for them.
Mono-deific allows for very little experimentation and research into other deities’ practices. A mono-deific worshiper of Moradin might never step foot into the temple of another god. Typically, individuals are expected to follow in the same footsteps as their parents. Cases in which a person feels a strong connection to another god are treated with the utmost care and consideration by their church. Often a worshiper of an ideological god will go on a pilgrimage another temple to gain understanding.
Individuals who stray from their racial god, including those that are considering following an ideological god, may find themselves shunned or persecuted by other mono-deific worshiper. In their eyes it is a greater sin to “change sides” than it is to be a worshiper of an opposing god (Bahamut vs Tiamat).
             Good or neutral aligned worshipers of different gods do not have trouble working together so long as their varying gods are not at odds with each other. Mono-deific individuals in a group can often get into debates over whose god is better, or whose tenants are more appropriate in a given situation. In instances where mono-deific worshipers of various gods must work together to a common goal it is seen as the gods themselves driving them on to achieve the goal which is mutually beneficial to all.

Poly-deific:
This is the belief that an individual may follow any of the gods which they choose. It is up to each individual as to which gods they follow and how much weight each god has over their actions. Poly-deific worshipers typically select from three to four gods in the pantheon to closely study and follow and almost always one of these gods will include their racial deity. For example, Pelor, Avandra, and Erathis are a typical triumvirate for human traders or wandering craftsmen. There are many such commonly held groups of deities.
Because poly-deific worshipers choose deities with common goals and interests it is uncommon to see conflicts arise in which two or more of their chosen deities are at odds with each other; however, when such events to occur it is the choice of the individual to decide who they will follow. There are many parables in which these sorts of choices are made and they are common themes in sermons and part of religious texts.
A poly-deific worshiper believes that they may pray and worship at any temple that is devoted to one of their gods regardless of how strongly they follow that god. So a worshiper of the previous example triumvirate may most strongly identify with Pelor, but go to a temple of Erathis to worship. It is thought that when they pray they are praying to all of the gods with whom they worship. Some poly-deific worshipers will attempt to visit a temple for each god they worship or may cycle from one temple to another. A poly-deific worshiper follows all of the holidays of each god that they worship.

Radiant-deific: 

credit: Dungeons and Drawings

Pelor the Sun God

Radiant worshipers follow all the gods of good alignment. They most strongly believe in the triumph of good over evil and revere the good aligned gods in their struggle to hold back the darkness. Temples to radiant worship will often have statues and murals of the gods working together to fight of evil. A radiant-deific temple accepts worshipers of any good aligned god and will allow anyone (mono or poly deific) to worship there.
Radiant-deific members see all the good aligned gods as the creators and maintainers of the mortal realm and other realms. It is their belief that the world is held together by the bonds of the good aligned deities and their endeavors to combat the evil gods. They see power struggles and arguments among the good aligned gods and their worshipers as sacrilege that threatens to tear apart the unity of the gods and one day will result in the destruction of the mortal realm.
Radiant-deific patrons may have tendencies toward mono or poly deific teachings in that they may identify with one god or a group of gods over the others; however, the primary idea behind Radiant-deific ideology is that all of the good aligned gods are equal on the same side.

Chaotic-deific:
Chaotic-deific follows many of the same rules as Radiant-deific; however, they believe in the bringing together of the evil gods to overcome good. Chaotic-deific is less popular and less structured than Radiant-deific. The tenants of the evil gods are focused on empowering of them alone. It is less likely to see them banding together than the good aligned deities.

The concept of Chaotic-deific is primarily a mortal creation; however, Clerics and Paladins that are Chaotic-deific still receive their powers from a combination of all the evil deities. Evil aligned gods see their goals as a general out lashing at the good aligned gods and as such they will give a portion of their power to them.

Omni-deific:

credit: Dungeons and Drawings

The Raven Queen

Omni-deific worshipers are fewer and far between and a temple of this kind is rare. Omni-deism revolves around the idea that all of the deities, both good and evil, are a necessary part of the world and without them the mortal realm would become stagnant. The concept of omni-deism is one that few people adopt. Typically someone of a neutral alignment will come to realize that the good and evil deities are two parts of the same coin, and it is the power struggles between them that keep the world moving and changing.
Some Omni-deific followers are detached from the struggles between religious sects. Being able to see the whole picture they choose to remove themselves from the world in fear of tampering with the delicate working balance.
Others see the conflicts between deities as an unnecessary thing. If the gods are all part of the world then there is no reason for them to fight the way they do. Omni-deific individuals that choose this path travel a great deal to put out the fires of war as best they can.
Omni-deific people typically do not care to freely divulge their religious ideas to others. Because of their unique perspective they are commonly persecuted or mistaken for followers of an opposing god. There are no Omni-deific paladins or clerics and no temples. An Omni-deific follower may keep a collection of religious texts and holy symbols as a set to all the gods.

Next: Part II – Philosophy Pie

by: Arashidrgn

images credit: dungeonsanddrawings.blogspot.com

Save vs. Player vs. Player

    “I’ll let the thri-kreen know we’re back so we don’t startle them,” the dragonborn female explained as she slipped past the wardens. The tunnels were cool and dark and Kiveya, the daughter of a dragonborn merchant, was eager to finish this trek and return home. The Wardens thus far had tolerated her presence, but the hostility was palpable from certain individuals. It was because of her father. They didn’t trust him – for reasons she didn’t know – they wouldn’t discuss it with her. It didn’t matter though, she got the goods she came for and she’d be out of their hair as soon as they got back to the city. Striding ahead, Kiveya began clicking and trilling in the thri-kreen language, calling out her customary greeting into the silent tunnels ahead.

    “That’s a good idea. Billy, why don’t you join her? You speak ‘kreen too don’t you?” piped up someone in the back of the group – it sounded like Melwyn. Kiveya snorted derisively and looked back over her shoulder, “You guys, he doesn’t actually speak ‘kreen! He lied about that.” Rolling her eyes, she turned her attention forward again, frowning at the significant lack of response to the groups’ presence. The hive tunnels were eerily silent.

    She heard his booted feet behind her, but she never expected what happened next. She started to turn, opening her mouth to speak – to remark that something was wrong up ahead – when cold steel bit into her scales and explosive pain blossomed somewhere in her lower back. The scream that ripped from her throat was shockingly loud – overwhelming the cries of confusion and surprise from the rest of the Wardens. Billy slashed across her unprotected back again and Kiveya staggered away from him. She stumbled. Knees and palms barked sharply against the rough stone floor, she barely realised she had fallen. The noise of scuffling feet and shouting voices came from behind her, strangely muffle and distorted. Kiveya collapsed, spasming weakly in a slowly growing pool of dark blood.

    “BILLY! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” Morwen’s shout echoed down corridors.

-=-=-=-

What followed was chaos. Billy was turned into a rat and then yelled at by his superior officer. Kiveya (my character) was healed but not happy. She was eventually put in a headlock by the goliath fighter to keep her from ripping out and wearing Billy’s entrails as jewelry. There was a lot of angry name-calling and accusations of betrayal by various parties. Feelings were hurt and even one member of the group quit in utter disgust of the unfolding events.

… and we all had a TON of fun!

You see, while the exact circumstances weren’t planned, Billy’s player and I had come to an agreement that our characters were at odds and if the roleplaying opportunity presented itself, then one of our characters would spontaneously take advantage of it to escalate the hostilities between our characters. After “joking” all evening about a secret signal for the entire group to turn against my character, Billy finally struck first and was rewarded with a critical hit on his surprise attack – the result was magnificent. The conversation at the table went something like this:

Myself: Oh, I know Billy doesn’t speak thri-kreen!
Billy: Oh that is it! I attack her! [rolls] Natural 20!
Everyone: [laughing, they all clearly think Billy’s Player is joking]
Myself: Holy crap, seriously?
Billy: Oh yeah, Billy’s serious, he’s sneak attacking.
Everyone: [laughing dies] Wait… what?
Myself: You are serious… [enormous grin] Okay, what’s your damage?
Billy: [math] and extra damage from my encounter power [more math]
Myself: Awesome, I’m bloodied!

We rolled initiative after that, the DM treated the first attack as a surprise round for Billy. Billy won initiative so he got to attack again, used an action point, and reduced me to negative hitpoints. After healing me, the rest of the fight consisted of the party trying to keep us from attacking each other by various means. Enjoying ourselves immensely, Billy’s player and I shouted insults and accusations across the table, roleplaying our characters to the hilt. Having concealed my class from the group the entire time, it’s finally revealed my character was a (reflavored) vampire, thus heaping more suspicion on my character as I needed to steal healing surges from the others to keep Kiveya alive and fighting.

Eventually the leader of the party negotiated a cease-fire and Kiveya compromised down from tearing Billy’s heart out personally to settling on him being arrested and taken back to her home city be charged with attempted murder. She is, after all, the daughter of a wealthy and influential noble who loves his daughter more than anything (seriously, I took “Well Loved” as my background!) so Kiveya is confident she’ll have no problem having Billy strung up for his crimes.

Player vs. Player rarely works as well as it did that night. The reason this session turned into an epic win was because the key people involved were already in the know. We had a mutual understanding and an agreement on how far we could take things – he actually had permission to kill my character if things went that far. I agreed not to kill his character if it came down to it. The DM was aware of our plans and approved. The rest was luck and good roleplay.

Usually when I see PvP at a D&D table it fails enormously because someone wanted to surprise someone else: the player thought the other player would pick up on the hints, or they thought just surprising them would be more fun. A DM orchestrating PvP without telling the group ended up with a table full of awkward hostility, not sure why everyone was taking things so personally! It’s hard to resist the urge to have everything be a surprise – it always seems like such a good idea! Unfortunately, I’ve never seen it work well that way.

PvP is often upheld as the Unholy Grail of Never Attempt This Or You Will Regret It. I disagree by merit of last Monday’s D&D game. PvP can be done and it can be great. It should not be over-used, and it should be pre-planned to some extent by all individuals – not spontaneous. You don’t necessarily need to tell every person in the group – but you do need to inform the targeted individuals in advance. Approach the actual roleplay carefully, gauge reactions. If half the group is surprised, they’ll look to their teammates for their reactions. While Billy and I were relaxed, smiling, and sitting back in our chairs calmly watching instead of being tense, frowning, and sitting forward then everyone at the table knew things were okay. From there, everyone can realise its all part of the plan and have a good time.

So has anyone else been in a PvP situation? How did it turn out?

Chiva and the Traveling Travesty Troupe

As I mentioned previously I said I’d post the occasional scribble about the current homebrew campaign I’m playing my kenku bard in, particularly her background. I don’t usually write huge backgrounds for my characters – some games just don’t need one (Encounters, Lair Assault, WWGD) but for my friend’s homebrew I wanted to give him some hooks or NPCs to use if he ever desired to. My friend DMs a great event and character driven campaign, so I didn’t want to disappoint him with a flat or uninteresting background. At the same time, before the campaign began (when I wrote this) I didn’t know what the current state of things would be in his homebrew world. I had to word some parts of my background vaguely to avoid causing unintentional discrepancies.  It was fun, challenging, and inspiring to write this out. Chiva as a character really formed in my mind when I finished it.

The Traveling Travesty Troupe is one of the larger and more popular entertainment groups in Vornos. An organization consisting of 15-25  wagons depending on the season, the TTT prides itself on its variety and quality of entertainments. Started fifteen years ago by Lord Lucas Travesty, the human noble had moderate wealth but his parents had left the noble name of Travesty in poor standing with the other nobles due to their abrasive attitudes. Their deaths left the entirety of their estates in Lucas’ hands. Lucas was an adventurous young man who cared nothing about politics and he sold all but one large country estate and took half the money from the sales and started his own traveling circus.

Lord Lucas no longer travels with the troupe, instead remains at the Travesty estate keeping it cared for and well stocked for the troupe’s return during the off-season where he also manages the money earned by the troupe and reviews the year’s performance with his illegitimate daughter, Reveca Travesty, who now leads the troupe on the road.

Chiva honestly enjoyed her life in the troupe, the troupe members initially treated her like one of the other clever animals, but as it became obvious Chiva was very intelligent, she was given more respect and privileges. The family sense typical to any group of nomadic performers made her feel at home and Chiva never resented her role in the troupe.  Her cage was a mockery, for customer displays only; she normally stayed in one of the wagons with the other performers.

Chiva was actually part of the more theatrical section of the troupe that put on dramatizations. She had small roles in many performances, but usually her mimicry was more useful. Some nights she never even went on stage, but stayed behind the curtains making sound effects for the other performers. Because she was intelligent and usual looking, she also often went into the towns as part of the front groups sent to spread word and raise interest in the troupe’s arrival. This let Chiva see more of the towns they went to and she slightly familiar with more than a dozen major cities across Vornos, although not deeply so as she has rarely spent more than a week in any location except Travesty Manor.

Chiva has never known her egg was stolen and sold, the only time she ever asked about her own kind she was told they were only animals and that Chiva was different because she was smart and could talk and therefore she belonged among people and not animals. She was also told she belonged “to” the troupe, but her understanding of that was that the troupe was her flock; she belonged to them the same way a child belonged to his ma and pa. Chiva is slightly naive in this and still believes the troupe is sort of her “family” that she can happily return to at any time. Individuals that don’t know her history may hear her talk about her family and assume she’s referring to other kenku.

On her last season abroad, the troupe was not doing well due to the state of things in Vornos. As the overall attitude in the troupe was turning sour, and travel was occasionally dangerous, the decision was made to keep the troupe safe by taking them away from conflict – so the rest of the season was canceled the troupe headed back to Travesty Manor. To keep the troupe busy, Lucas and Reveca decided the troupe could go through all their equipment and wagons to repair and improve them, practice and improve their acts as well as improvise and rehearse new acts. A few individuals would be sent out to stock up supplies, others would go to purchase new animals for pulling the wagons, and a few others would travel to further and more exotic locations to acquire a new unique creature or two for displaying in the menagerie.

Chiva actually left the troupe before they got back to Travesty Manor. With the announcement of an early end to the season, many people were leaving the troupe to go visit family or do their own thing – most agreeing to return to the Manor in a few month’s time. Some left forever, which was not unusual, the troupe was never a fixed number of people, but rather a core of long-timers with others joining and leaving in a semi-constant flow.

Chiva’s personal intent was not to sneak away, she observed and well-wished many others going out to take a break from the troupe’s lifestyle and decided that she too wanted to take a break and be on her own for a while. In the chaos of those leaving and the turnaround to the home base, Chiva slipped away practically unnoticed. She advised a few friends she was going (which they may have misunderstood in hindsight), and left early one morning as the troupe’s wagons were pulling away from the field they had camped in, striking out for the small town a short distance away.

I also included a short synopsis of some NPCs for my DM to utilize, if he ever wanted to:

 Lord Lucas Travesty
Chiva has only met this human male once, he seemed nice and energetic but she really knows almost nothing about him. In his late thirties, he manages the troupe from the enormous Travesty Manor estate. The estate is a several dozen acres of land, most of it forested but a large section of  it is devoted to barns, fenced pastures, and level clearings for the troupe’s animals and wagons. The manor house is an impressive building with dozens of rooms and an enormous banquet hall.

Lady Reveca Travesty
Chiva has only spoken to Reveca a few times, and makes an effort to stay out of the Lady’s notice. Chiva is intimidated by Reveca and the no-nonsense way she runs the troupe and keeps the chaotic lifestyle of the nomadic troupe from getting out of hand. She has never been on the bad side of Reveca, but she has witnessed people that have gotten her ire and it wasn’t pretty.

Tersa
An elderly halfling that Chiva had the closest relationship to, Tersa took Chiva into her wagon when Chiva was old enough to start helping out around the camp. Tersa taught Chiva the ins and outs of the troupe’s lifestyle. She was also the one to realize the talent of Chiva’s mimicry and with her matronly influence got the kenku moved from creature performances (where Chiva was faring poorly) to the theatrical acts.

Ruhn
The half-elven male seems young and has a surprisingly cheeky attitude, but he’s actually one of the older members of the troupe and the beast keeper. His knowledge and talents keep all the animals well cared for and mostly content. Ruhn incubated Chiva’s egg and cared for the kenku hatchling during the early days of her life.

Scribbles, Birds, & Dwarven Wizards

“Hours of work and energy, gone! It would take me days to craft those scrolls again…”

Beltia poked through the disused arcanist’s shop, grumbling under her breath. It was easy for the others – she complained to the cobwebs. A sword is a sword is a shiny sharp chunk of metal, one was as likely as good as the next. Likewise for the armor they so needfully relied on, for all the hardships of war the men had not taken long at all to re-equip themselves with gear either gladly given or else scrounged up from armories and store rooms.

The dwarven wizard poked through the desk and nooks of what had obviously been the proprietor’s private stores. She had already raided the shop’s main inventory, what was left it it, and found nothing worth her time. If the shopkeeper had kept any quality items, they had long since been requisitioned by the Resistance. Beltia had only found one potion in a sturdy glass vial that had fallen behind a book, overlooked by whomever had ransacked the shelves, and a handful of useful components.

“O-ho, what’s this!?” Beltia’s fingers traced a line of elaborate inlaid wood along the left side of a chest of drawers. Concentrating on the deowomer she quickly determined its purpose. It took her only a moment to invoked the spell’s trigger. Light flared from her fingertips and skimmed along the seams of the chest, sparkling off the whorls and loops of the decorative woodwork. The flat side seemed to sink in on itself slightly, the lines of inlaid wood uncoiled and aligned themselves in a more geometric fashion until the chest of drawers impossibly presented a whole new side of drawers existing in the same narrow frame. Bemused, Beltia slid open the drawers one by one and exhumed their contents.

I’ve been organizing my files as I prepare for my new campaign. I came across this tidbit when reviewing old notes from a campaign I played in that was DM’ed by a friend. It was a great campaign with an epic plot.

It’s a habit of mine to write short scenes like this one – a sort of snapshot of my character’s life. This little scribble was never actually roleplayed in the game. Our characters had been given free rein to scavange or request supplies from our allies supplies after one session. As the only arcanist in the group, I was amused at the thought that my companions would all easily acquire new stabby things and armor from the rebels’ supplies. I imagined my character having to scrounge around like a looter to find anything decent for herself to use. Thus, this short scenario was written in my game notes while the DM was busy roleplaying things with the other players.

Recently he’s started a new game, set in the same campaign, a few years into the future. I’m playing a new character: Chiva, a kenku bard. We’re three sessions into the campaign and we’re investigating corrupt leaders and assassinations. I’ve written a few things for that game – starting with Chiva’s background – and I’ll try to post them here to share as they come up.