A look at Kulthea’s “other” continents: Folenn and Falias.

I’ve been meaning to follow up on a comment Terry had made in my interview with him a few years back:

BH: Are there any other continents besides Emer and Jaiman that you’ve written notes/materials that you’d like to tackle?

TKA: A couple (Folenn and Falias) are kind of taken-care of. I would like to go southwest to Thuul…

So I thought I would start blogging about some of the other continents that haven’t been developed well, or at all, excluding the basic summary material in the Master Atlas. We can all agree that Jaiman and Emer are pretty well fleshed out with years of play material. While it would be nice to have Emer IV and Wurilis and Urulan to round out Jaiman, the existing material stands on it’s own.

First, Folenn. I’m assuming that Terry saw Folenn as partitioned off as the “Bladelands” even though there hasn’t been any further development of that material AND I’m not sure the Bladelands even fit into SW. I have to admit some ignorance on the topic of “Metal Express” or really anything about the Bladelands. Per the Master Atlas the word “Bladelands” is only mentioned 1 time and Folenn is described thusly:

17•FOLENN
An isolated, shadowy land on the edge of the
earth, Folenn has had little contact with the rest
of the hemisphere. It is shielded by the encircling
Gale of Hues (a name for the Essænce Flow surrounding
the continent), and is near the Great Barrier
dividing East from West
.

So it seems as though Folenn has been set aside for the Bladelands and that is that. Terry basically washed his hands of it and saw it as a done deal.

I was a bit more curious about his comment including Falia. Did I miss a source book that provided a lot of material on Falia? One of the non-canon modules perhaps? Falia is the home of the Vashaan Domain (a nation of angry elves, but I don’t see Falia as especially developed. Certainly no more so than the rest of the continents. Why would Terry mention Falias specifically as being “kind of taken-care of”? Does that imply that he has some additional work, notes or the start of a book that might be in his papers? That is intriguing.

What do you think? I’ll be looking at some of the other continents in upcoming blog posts and offering my own thoughts on future development.

So Many Names in Shadow World!

One of the oft heard complains about Shadow World are all the different names of groups, organizations and nations. It can be a bit overwhelming and even confusing at time!

While I was working on a recent blog, I encountered a bit of that “naming dissonance”: The Empire of a Thousand Dawns, The Empire of the Black Sun, The Black Dawn and finally The Silver Dawn! Yikes.

I’ve already written about the Empire of a Thousand Dawns, but I’ll summarize all four below:

  1. Empire of a Thousand Dawns. An ancient, militant, kingdom of Elvish races in Palia founded at the start of the 2nd Era.
  2. Empire of the Black Sun: A nation of city-states ruled by a powerful lord circa 5000-5500 Third Era. Ochu people.
  3. The Black Dawn. A religious “doomsday” cult originating in southern Silaar and moving into Haestra, Emer and Thuul.
  4. The Silver Dawn. An organization of the Unlife similar to the Priests Arnak or Steel Rain located in Agyra & Mulira. Quite a nasty bunch to be honest!

Luckily I can refer to this blog whenever I get confused. What groups or names do you get mixed up?

Shadow World “Droloi”: Race or Monster?

Welcome to the 4th Rolemaster Blog entry of “Race or Monster” where I raise the question of certain races in Shadow World and their suitability for being PCs. You can find the other posts here: Hirazi, Krylite and Neng.

To be honest, I generally forget about Droloi even though they are listed in the various charts and lists found in the back of the Master Atlas with all the other “Mortal Races”. The Master Atlas only has 6 mentions in the index, with no entries in the timeline or text. Here is the entry from the MA4ed.

DROLOI
4´6˝-5´8˝ tall, no professional limitations; night vision
allows perfect sight in equivalent to a normal clear night,
100′ even in pitch dark. Skin is natural AT3, and tough
nails on hands allow attacks as Medium Claw. Resistant
to natural cold above freezing. Lifespan: 100 years.

While not evil by nature, most would say that
the Droloi are the result of some dark breeding experiment
between Demons and Humans. It is true
that they are alien in appearance, but not as strange
as the Krylites or Saurkaur. With their pale, leathery
skin, large clawed hands and feet
, and—most
of all—their four large protruding eyes, they are
certainly not pleasant for most to look upon.

One obstacle to many of the SW races is the lack of artwork. I think that’s a major flaw with SW books in general given Terry’s background as art director for many ICE products. But we do know he was also frustrated at times and limited by budget considerations. So without a good rendering of a Droloi, I think it’s hard for GMs and players to adopt a new race concept.

Races & Cultures embraces the Droloi more with some additional verbiage:

Build: Droloi are human in shape, but have long, clawed
hands and disproportionately large feet. They weigh
100 pounds on average.
Coloring: Droloi have pale, leathery skin and dark eyes.
They have no body or head hair.
Endurance: Normal.
Height: Droloi range in height from 4’6″-5’8″.
Life Span: Droloi have an average life expectancy of 100
years.

Strengths and Weaknesses: Their night vision
allows Droloi to function exceptionally well in
caves and underground environments, and they
do not have any corresponding weaknesses
when operating in daylight.

Droloi work best as Fighters, as their strongest
attributes (indeed, their only strong attributes),
Strength and Constitution, correspond with those
most important to that profession. They do not
make the best Thieves, as they are relatively weak in
Agility and Quickness. Also, their penalties to
Presence and Appearance ensure that they are not
as effective in social situations as most races.

CHARACTER CONCEPTS
Droloi are not terribly popular, even among other
Subterranean races (and Subterranean races in general are
not terribly popular with surface dwellers). In the volatile
political ecology of the Ash Lairs, therefore, Droloi must
devote themselves to the protection of their race, no matter
what their profession. It is rare that a Droloi would
consent to leave home, but it is possible that he would do
so on an errand to help his community, or if offered a
suitable reward to serve as a guide.

So what to make of all this? It’s a start of a racial concept but feels incomplete. It’s implied that they are found in the Ash Lairs, but there is nary a mention of them in any Shadow World book barring the mentions above in the MA. They could be a better foil for the Krylites and more alien then the Lugroki, Murlogo or Troglodytes. But would they make an interesting Player Character? Maybe a Droloi would be an interesting PC for my long gestating “Monster Squad” adventure!

I think the Droloi are another failed opportunity in Shadow World. Rather than focus on Orcs, Trolls, Goblins and Giants I think the setting needs to focus on unique creatures and monsters that add to the concept and not just rely on trusted and true D&D style photos.

So what are you thoughts? Are Droloi really “monsters” or could they be a PC?

{Amended 8/18}. A reader alerted me to the fact that Droloi might have been adopted from one of the non-canon SW modules OR was ported over from Races & Cultures as part of the merge of RMSS and SW. Anyone have insight on this? Either way it doesn’t seem to be a Terry creation at all.

Named Things in Shadow World: Known Demons.

Is this Susymog or Aztaur?

As part of my cataloging all things Shadow World in our Master Atlas and indexing for the “Nomikos Library” project, I thought I would start a new blog topic: “Naming Things in Shadow World”. Today I thought I would start with named Demons that are mentioned in various SW books and are considered newsworthy in the timeline or elsewhere. Like the Dragonlords, powerful Demons play a major part in the SW history and are still major forces to be reckoned with!

Mur Fostisyr

While the book that started it all, The Iron Wind, is really a proto-SW product, most of the content continued into Terry’s later canonical material. Unfortunately, unlike Cloudlords, The Iron Wind never received an update due to authorship and IP issues around Peter Fenlon’s authorship. Nonetheless, I believe that The Iron Wind sets the tone for a darker, more menacing tone for Shadow World. In this product we learn about two powerful Demons: Susymog and Aztaur.

Susymog. An Ordainer Demon, he is lord of Var Ukaak and master of Priests of Arnak. He is also 50th lvl and secretly the Syrkakang. Elor was right to avoid this confrontation!

Aztaur. Master of Taurkytaal (K. “Dark Ice-stone”). Aztaur is known as the “Lord Demon of Cold” and “Beyond the Pale” (which had slightly different meaning than later SW book). At 30th level he is quite powerful.

Other Named Demons

Khortus. It’s unclear what type of Demon he is, but he was drawn into Kulthea by a sorcerer but was able to escape his spell bonds and “decides to remain in the Shadow World“. {see by notes on Summoning}. Anyway, Khortus is really up to no good, and now leads the Vulth Horde.

Muarga. An Earth-Demon who is the King of Murlogi battling the Lankani and embroiled in various high-level plot points in Shadow World.

Mæzebrasân. A female Demon that entered Kultha via a portal, she is now disguised as the Mayor of a small village in Sarnak…

Kharuugh. More of a historical figure, Kharuugh the Ordainer battled King Hanreth (wearing the Wyvern Crown) during the Wars of Dominion, his whereabouts remain unknown…

Quard and Urno. Demon servants of the Dyar Mage Shanarak. They are entrusted with guarding the Ark of the Worlds! (they must be powerful)

Orlhach. An Ordainer Demon that resides in a volcano in Kailoq, he is worshipped by the inhabitants as a fire god.

Gorlhach. At first I thought this was a mispelling of Orlhach, but no. (maybe a brother?). This named Demon lives under the Mountains of Gold and controls an army of Lugroki. He may also be known as the “Ordainer of Argaath”, but it’s a bit unclear.

Wargur. The Demon lieutenant of Schrek. Was banished to Rael after being defeated by Sigrius.

Raathmaauriig. An Ice Demon, he is the half-demon son of Aztaur. Has his claws in all sorts of things up in Saralis.

Vargus. A Demon Lord that resides in the Hall of the Cloudlords.

Gha’ath’uk (also known as Gha’ath’uz). A Demon of the Void, a Guguth, from Folenn. He has a Compass surgically mounted to his skull!!

Mauk, Geth and Wrang. While they sound like “sidekicks” they are all powerful Sixth Pale Demons that reside in Aalk Athimurl.

Morloch. I saved the best for last. Perhaps the mightiest, he is named Lord Ordainer and was once known as Shuraax the Fire Claw and bodyguard of Kadaena. Morloch is featured quite a bit in the story of Shadow World and I use him extensively in Priest-King of Shade. There is even a cult in his name!

{UPDATED 8/17}

Wurliis. Not sure how I missed this, thanks Alan! One of the 12 Adherents, Wurliis is a Demon of the Fifth Pale.

Wurliis is a master of arcane mechanisms. His favorite weapon is a terrifying device which fires four heavy crossbow bolts in a volley. Wurliis is somewhat smaller than most of his Demonic type

Turasoq. Another Adherent and a Procreator Demon.

If you like to use Demons as big baddies, some of these may work well. Have you used any of these in your game? Did I miss any?

Gunpowder in Shadow World

It’s no secret that Shadow Worlds history encompasses a vast range of civilizations with “technological levels” ranging from Stone Age tribes to advanced post-physical societies. Terry often stressed that magic and high technology could often be indistinguishable and most of his SW books contain high tech items. In between those two extremes are a spectrum of technological advancements that are found scattered throughout Kulthea: the lightning guns used by the Krylites, the airships and barges designed by the Elves of Namar-tol and even bicycles that are appearing around Eidolon.

But one tech period is rarely found on Shadow World: civilizations and tech based on chemical reactions and the use of fossil fuels. More specifically, gunpowder and the advent of explosives and guns.

The fusion of guns and magic have become a popular theme in fiction, but Shadow World has some built in roadblocks that seem to prevent widespread use. In the Master Atlas we find this:

Gunpowder: The secret of this potentially devastating
tool is far from being unlocked, by even
the most advanced cultures on the Shadow World.
The power of magic has stagnated any desire for a
chemical explosive, and the mysteriously fluctuating
effects of the Essænce can have a transmuting
effect on chemical reactions
.

I expanded on this a bit more in my own SW campaign:

The “Viir” seems to fundamentally change both ionic and covalent bonding for molecular and macromolecular structures.  In practice this energy field is distorting chemical interactions and material structures most acutely—

In short, the Essaence is disruptive to chemical reactions and/or Magic itself precludes the need for such technology. Why invent a grenade when many people can cast a Fireball or Firebolt?

Personally I like the mix of tech and possible settings that can be found in SW, and introducing guns and related tech can add a new element to gameplay. So how can explosives be introduced to Kulthea:

  1. Outsiders. Kulthea has been explored by off-planet visitors. Some have arrived in spacefaring vehicles while others via “portals”. If they have explosives or munitions they might be reliable–for some period of time. Either you could argue that their chemical properties are stable due to their production off-world, or that it takes time for the Essaence fields to corrupt their potential.
  2. Demons. The Fifth Pale is a nightmarish place of industrial technology gone mad. Smokestacks and gigantic refinery-like superstructures fill this world, which is constantly enveloped in a luminous steam. The rhythmic wheezing of bellows mixes with the clatter of gears and the roar of engines. Foul pools of chemicals, theiroil-slicked surfaces aflame, illuminate open-scaffold elevators, steel mesh platforms, and large, baroque machines of incomprehensible function. It’s seem common sensical that Demons from this realm could have guns, explosives and munitions.
  3. Tinkerers & Alchemy. Expanded alchemy rules and perhaps a tech based profession (not using spells) can provide an avenue for guns, explosives and other violent delights. Of course, Kulthea based chemistry should not be reliable, but really, isn’t that half the fun?

4. Those damn Elves! Of course the Elves in Namar-tol are experimenting with chemical based combustion, explosives and projectiles. Here we have it, the beginning of it all:

5•45: Emer: The Lankan Empire sends a small
fleet across the Circular Sea from their port of
Kûru-kal, with the goal of seizing the northwestern
Loari isle of Surt Naduum. The first warboat
barely reaches shore before airborne Loari
battleships appear and drop exploding canisters—“
bombs”—on Lankan ships. This marks
the first known use of chemical explosives since
the Interregnum.
The Lankan ships are destroyed
and the few Lankani who reach shore
are captured. Námar-Tol sends a warning to the
Lankani that any further aggression will be met
by overwhelming force.

I’d be interested in your take on guns, gunpowder and explosives in your own SW game!

Shadow World: Dawn of the Xiosians.

I had a few messages regarding my most recent post on Earthwardens & Dragonlords, so I thought I would revisit another of my SW topics: the Xiosians. I’m reposting this from a Feb 2018 entry with some changes.

One of the more dense and information rich sections of the Shadow World Master Atlas is the timeline. By the 3rd Edition of the Master Atlas, the timeline has reached 25 pages and would be much longer if it incorporated all the local and regional timeline material found in other SW books. In any event, the timeline is a rich resource for a GM, not only offering unlimited adventure hooks but providing endless opportunities to explore Kulthea in different times. Sprinkled throughout the time though are many unanswered questions, cool hints and vague references that Terry has yet to explain or explore in detail. One of my favorite:  the Xiosians.

Xio (I. Shield) Cadre

def. A monastic warrior cult formed in the First Era by the Ka’Ta’Viir ruling families to use as loyal household guards and special forces.  The Xio combat techniques became the foundation for most other martial forms that followed.

(P. Xiosians  a.k.a. Xo, Xso, Xsosians)

The Xiosians were first mentioned in the original Master Atlas: Warrior-Priests that were servants of the Masters of Emer and rode flying magical chariots. In Emer I we got a few more pieces of the puzzle with several mentions:

Warrior-mages on huge steeds begin purging the wilds in central Emer, driving out the ubiquitous Gark and Lugrôki hordes. These knights are harbingers of the coming of the Masters.

They rule through an order of warrior-mages (the Xiosians)

It is believed that the Changramai are disenchanted Xiosians who left
the service of the Titans
(In fact, some are

I thought this sounded like another group of mysterious warriors that fly on magical steeds and purge the wilderness: The Cloudlords of Tanara.

I wanted to tie together a number of loose ends: the origins of the Changramai martial culture, ancient militant orders with ties to the Althans/Ka’ta’viir, mysterious warrior cults and the genetic origins of special warriors like the Cal-chah and Guarlu. I had an idea that tied them all back to the 1st Era.

The Althans and the Ka’ta’viir are primarily an advanced intergalactic imperial society. But there is also a strong oligarchy element of immensely wealthy merchant families. It’s not a leap to assume that both leaders and powerful “Houses” would have their own security force to provide defense, corporate espionage and personal protection. This is not an original idea. The Romans had their “Praetorian Guards“, the Emperor had his Royal Guard, and in Dune every Major House had it’s own army, formally independent from the Emperor‘s own military forces. (the Dune setting fit’s well with the Althan/Spacemaster/Kulthea dynamic).

History:

Few organizations in the Shadow World’s early history have had a greater impact on the development of Kulthean martial culture.  The Xio Cadre were the personal bodyguards of the Ka’Ta’Viir during the First Era.  Originally Althans, the Xiosans pursued aggressive eugenics programs and genetic and physical modifications to create the most adept warriors in the Althan Empire.  Too few in number to be an effective military force, the Xiosans became an extension of ruling Ka’Ta’Viir political power.  While serving primarily as bodyguards, Xiosan Cadres later became a symbol of personal wealth, extravagance and power among the ruling families.

Initially one central organization, the Xio Cadre grew into several dozen Cadre “Temples” each under the patronage of a particular Ka’Ta’Viir family.  Over time the temples reinforced patron loyalties and developed distinctive styles of dress and appearance.  While Xio warriors were adept in modern combat systems, the Ka’Ta’Viir would have their Xiosan guards attend public ceremonies in distinctive cultural garb: shining armor, swords and flying mounts that played upon Althan classical mythology and heroic memes. Xiosans warriors performed in elaborate athletic and martial performances during Ka’Ta’Viir social events and were used to mediate family or business disputes in proxy combats.  A few individual Xios became celebrities in their own right, either through martial or athletic prowess.

The Legacy of the Xiosans:

Scattered remnants of the Xio Cadre survived the First Era: either with their Ka’Ta’Viir patrons in cryogenic hibernation, or were off planet during the worst of the conflicts.  During the Interregnum, refugee Xiosans merged with indigenous cultures or established new settlements, slowly diluting their singular genetic traits. Still, interbreeding passed along many beneficial aspects of the Xio physical traits: the Zedrahin, Zor, Udahir and Shay all possess some of the size, physical characteristics and strength of the Xio warriors.  It is believed that pure Xiosans still survive in the Eastern hemisphere with their Ka’Ta’Viir Lords, but out of a dozen Cadre Temples in the West only a handful of facilities and warriors survived:

  1. Vale of the Merisia.  The abandoned Sunlords Temple in Tanara still held armor, weapons and the offspring of their Steardan mounts when it was discovered and occupied by a Rhakaan expeditionary force during the Second Era.  Using the equipment they found, the Zorians assumed the role of the mythical “Cloudlords”, emulating their Xiosan predecessors.
  2. Changramai Monastery. The Changramai monastic order was a rebirth of the Xio discipline.  The monastery was built upon the bones of a ruined Cadre temple.  The Halls are intact, but the knowledge to access the security door has been lost.  (The key is interred with Master Changramai). 
  3. Votania. Sun Cadre.  The Masters of Emer built their palaces alongside an abandoned Xiosan Cadre Temple.   The Masters repopulated the temple with their own servants. Adopting the flying chariots and weapons of the Sun Cadre.
  4. Western Thuul.  The Temple was reoccupied in early second era by a splinter group of Xiosans.  They attempted to build a new settlement on Barzu-chaa (South Eastern Thuul) but the City-State was destroyed after conflict with surrounding cultures.  The surviving Xiosans fled: some moved permanently to the Cadre Temple located in the Sullen Mountains while others fled east to the Gufu Rainforest where they are believed to be an offspring of a lost giant race.  While still large of stature, most of the surviving Xiosans are a product of mixed heritage and have lost many of their defining physical attributes.
  5. Mur Fostisur.  The Mountain Enclave of the Udahir was originally a Xio Temple. Now the Udahir and their flying mounts occupy the vast hold.

Scholars whisper of a darker chapter in the Xiosan history. It is rumored that some Xiosans were ultimately bent to the will of the Unlife and became its most feared warriors: Heralds of Night.  More chilling stories are spoken among the Loremasters: that Kadeana performed experiments on her own Imperial Cadre.  Six and sixty Xio warriors she used for her most terrifying creation: Shards.

{Note: Terry actually establishes that Kadaena created the Shards via “Elor’s Text. MA 4th Ed. p.192. It’s logical to me that she would use her “super soldier” Imperial guards in that horrifying experiment!}

The Ka’Ta’Viir were not naïve to the physical threat of the Xiosans.  Their proximity to the inner sanctums of the Ka’Ta’Viir and the Lords’ own paranoia made them cautious. Part of the genetic modifications included behavioral conditioning: Xiosans cannot attack a Ka’Ta”Viir and indeed had to submit to their will.  Additionally the Xiosans were made more susceptible to the Essence (which only the Ka’Ta’Viir controlled at that time) and they themselves were not able to tap the powers of Essence.

Xio Cadre Summary

CADRE:  Imperial (Xio-And)

PATRON:  House Kaedeana

LOCATION:  ???? 

FOCUS:  Modern Minimalist/Technology.

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, muscular, black hair, dark eyes.

MOUNTS:  Lesser Black Dragons

ARMOR:  Dark red poly-steel armor and seamless visor less black helms.

WEAPONS:  Laser Pistols, Energy Swords

NOTES: Less ostentatious than the Cadres of the lesser ruling caste, the Imperial Cadre were the personal guard of the Empress Kadeana.  Their training center was a closely guarded secret and the Cadre rarely participated in ceremonial displays.  Despite Kaedenas defeat by Doenku and the Soulsword, the Imperial Cadre had already made a pact with their mistress.  In a lengthy process, the Imperial Cadre volunteers became immortal servants in a new incarnation: that of the Shards.  The Cadre Commander, Shar-Bu is now lord of the I-Lat.

CADRE:  SunLords (Xio-Kygar)

PATRON:  House Tessananta

LOCATION:  Vale of Merisia, Tanara Jaiman

FOCUS:  Althan Classic Mythology

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, muscular, blond, blue-eyed.

MOUNTS:  Steardan.

ARMOR:  Golden Plate & Greaves

WEAPONS:  Hand Axes, Sunswords

NOTES: This abandoned facility still held armor, weapons and wild Steardan when it was discovered and occupied by a Rhakaan expeditionary force during the Second Era.  Using the equipment they found, the Zorians assumed the role of the mystical “Cloudlords”, emulating their Xiosan predecessors

CADRE:  Lightning (Xio-Pizik)

PATRON:  House Terra

LOCATION:  Changramai Monastarey, Choak Mnts, Emer

FOCUS:  Martial Arts, Athleticism, Adrenal Focus

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Varied.

MOUNTS:  Anti Grav Bracers

ARMOR:  Black cloaks, Black Masks w/yellow bolts.

WEAPONS:  Changa,

NOTES: The Lightning Cadre were perhaps the most dedicated to the physical arts.  Athletic ability, acrobatics and unarmed combat were the focus.  The cadre put on elaborate displays of martial prowess combined with amazing ariel feats using their anti-grav arm and leg bracers.  They could seemingly “fly” through the air.

CADRE:  Claw (Xio-Raax)

PATRON:  House Centarus (still exists as a powerful trade and banking conglomerate…)

LOCATION:  Mur Fostisyr

FOCUS:  Berserker Troops.

PHYSICAL TYPE: Large, dark-haired, and heavily muscled. Claw Cadre was feared for their combat prowess and mercurial nature.

MOUNTS:  Fire and Ice Dragons.

ARMOR:  Spiked Plate and Force Armor.

WEAPONS:  Over-sized battleswords. In modern combat they wielded heavy laser cannons and disentagrators.

NOTES: The Temple was discovered and settled by the Udahir but had been looted long before. 

CADRE:  Steel (Xio-Tok)

PATRON:  House Letrati

LOCATION:  Votania, Emer

FOCUS:  Deception, misdirection, subterfuge

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Tall, dark hair, grey eyes, light skin

MOUNTS:  Anti-Grav Chariots

ARMOR:  Grey Armor, Chamelion Cloaks

WEAPONS:  Wide leaf bladed short swords

NOTES: The Masters of Emer built their palaces alongside a Xiosan Cadre Temple. It’s not known whether any original Xio pledged service to the Masters or the Temple was repopulated by others.

CADRE:  Onyx (Xio-Uxya)

PATRON:  House Thorenian

LOCATION:  Sullen Mountains, SW Argyla

FOCUS:  Tribal, Physical Form, Animalistic

PHYSICAL TYPE:  Dark skin, silver eyes, silver/white hair

MOUNTS:  Kith

ARMOR:  Silver metallic armor, Jewelry

WEAPONS:  Black Laen Longsword & Shortsword

NOTES: The Temple was reoccupied in early second era by a splinter group of Xiosans.  They attempted to build a new settlement on Barzu-chaa (South Eastern Thuul) but the City-State was destroyed.  While still large of stature, most of the surviving Xiosans are a product of mixed heritage and have lost most of their defining physical attributes.

PC’s as Xiosans

Obviously, playing a pure Xio warrior or even a partially full blooded Xio could be unbalancing. But I incorporated 2 significant drawbacks for Xio: behavioral inhibitors against Ka’ta’viir and the inability to use Essence and an increased susceptibility to Essence effects. Of course, a player with only a small amount of Xio ancestry would have less inhibitors but conversely would have less genetic benefits as well.

CONCLUSIONS:

I like tying “current” Shadow World elements to the ancient past. Terry used the word “Legacy” a lot and much of the Shadow World story is tied to the Althans and Ka’ta’viir from the 1st Era. The Xiosians’ legacy can be found in the martial skills of the Changramai and the physical stature of many of the races found on Kulthea.

Earthwardens & Dragonlords

Two of my favorite elements of Shadow World are the Earthwardens and the Dragonlords. Both groups represent incredibly mysterious but powerful influences in Shadow Worlds history. Until the Xa’ar supplement, which delved into the origins of the Earthwardens in more depth, we only knew that both groups sprung up in the early Interregnum without further explanation.

However, it was the Dragonlords that really fired up my imagination but while they are ubiquitous in Shadow Worlds history, there has never been an “origin story”. It wasn’t until the Xa’ar supplement that a solution clicked in my head and tied up quite a few loose ends. I would cite the following excerpts from various SW books:

One such group actually became trapped in the event horizon of a singularity and suffered a time dilation of many thousands of years before they were able to escape.

These K’ta’viiri built enchanted places of guardianship to help protect these weaker races, and came to them as teachers and counselors. They would become the Earthwardens, and they inhabited the Shadow World for a period sometime between 70 and 50 thousand years ago, though almost certainly not for that entire period. Apparently after a time they felt they had done all they could, and departed again for space. However many of their structures survive, some of an enchanted stone, and some—like the Coral Roads—are living legacies.

Note: This establishes that the Earthwardens are actually Ka’ta’viir that returned to Kulthea during the middle of the Interregnum period.

c. 1500: Founding of the Four Orders (Elder, Oak, Nya, Thorn), Elven animistic groups dedicated to protecting the natural order and combating demonic and other evil forces (demons remain relatively common,trapped in this plane after the Wars of Dominion; and within a few centuries the order will face the threat of the Unlife). The original founders are four remaining Earthwardens who elect to stay behind. They do not divulge their true nature to their Elven followers; nor do they fully reveal the powers of the Isle of Lost Magic. They teach the ways of nature and related professions. Each possesses a staff of the named order, and they (and their Elven successors) are called the Guardians
of those staves.

Notes: This establishes that not ALL of the Earthwardens left as mentioned in the first section above. Not only did they establish the Four Orders, there is a Druidic/Animistic legacy created.

re: Taranians. Over time they added settlements on other continents
and connected to them via a high-speed underground rail system, which they referred to as the Subshuttle. Exactly why they went to the expense and trouble of constructing a tunnel system under the ground and beneath the oceans is unclear, but it is believed that either the skies were unsafe because of a proliferation of hostile creatures and/or beings,

Note: Something was happening on the surface that motivated the Taranians (and Worim) to build underground. Were Dragons ruling the sky and the lands of Kulthea?

There were only a few hundred of them, along with
mates and offspring, but they decided to remain on
Kulthea and do their best to restore their world to its
former beauty. They would keep a low profile, remain
aloof from politics and power, but they would aid the
fragile peoples in need where they could. They built
protected roadways, and constructed magical guardians
who could be summoned to fight against the terrible
demons that now walked the earth. They kept apart
from the Jinteni and Wôrim and the Elves for the most
part, and faded into legend as those civilizations rose.
Like all the K’ta’viiri, the Earthwardens were powerful
masters of Arcane Essænce, but in particular they were
able to tap the Channeling power from the earth like
few others
. Thus they had great ability to manipulate
nature as only the most talented Animists can today.

Also, when they returned to Kulthea, they abandoned
most technology in favor of Magic—though both were
somewhat unreliable in the fi rst fi fty millennia or so
after the fall of the empire.

Notes: The Earthwardens went from Arcane magic to “Channeling from the Earth”. This should not be confused with Channeling from Orhan as it appears the Althans and Ka’ta’viir were unaware or perplexed by the Lords. “Channeling from the Earth” should be seen as a tapping of primal power from the planet: Flows, Foci etc.

Earthwardens, who spent most of their energy on rebuilding the planet’s
ecosystem. They received unexpected help in that from the Fey Folk of Orhan: Naiads, Dryads, Oceanids and others. They came to respect these spirits and work in cooperation with them, though even they never fully understood the nature of these ephemeral creatures, created by the hidden Lords of Orhan.

Notes: Again, we see a collaboration between the Earthwardens and “Fey” powers. Very Animistic/Druidic.

Around 40,000 years before the beginning of the
Second Era, most of the Earthwardens decided that
their work was done, and wanted to resume their travels.
Their ship had remained in orbit during this rebuilding,
and they hoped to embark on a great journey to another
galaxy. A handful—and their descendants—remained
on the Shadow World to continue their efforts. A few
survive on Kulthea to this day
, but most have retreated
to a simple, reclusive way of life.
Some like to refer to
themselves as ‘The Elders.’
One is the Storm Wizard;
he was always the most talented at creating magical
golems.

Notes. Quite revelatory! Here we see conclusively that “some” Earthwardens stay behind.

[ Andraax gives one of the Dragon Rings, the
Daath Leerssoi (K. “Maker of the Shadow Drakes”) to
Tev Yu’um, a Lotana Mentalist who is also a clanlord
in the T’sai steppelands of NE Mulira. This ring
allows Tev to assume the form of a blue Air Drake.

It becomes apparent to Tev over the centuries that
the ring has other powers than allowing its wearer to
assume dragon-form: he gains knowledge of the Great
Drakes—including their language—and is granted a
lifespan akin to those creatures.]

Note: The Daath Leerssoi are basically the opposite of the Dragon Helms. They allow mortals to assume the shape of Great Dragons (while the Helms allow the Dragons to assume mortal form). But this is not just a physical change but imparting of knowledge and language.

[Yu’um knows that people are growing suspicious of
his secretive ways and mysteriously long ‘lives,’ and he
fears that he is losing the ability to control himself in
Dragon-form
.

Note. Using the Dragon ring risks him being subsumed by “Dragon-form”; becoming more creature. We should assume that this risk exists for the other rings as well. Are some Dragons in SW actually mortals lost to their rings power?

A Blue Dragon is spotted several times …. [It is in fact Yaalc Muul awakened, but his mind is unstable: most of the time he does not remember that he is actually human.]

And:

In dragon form now he is more animal than man, and he rarely reverts to his human state any more except to go back into slumber.

Note: Again, there is this idea that the transformation into Dragon kind subsumes a “humans” personality and memories.

Tev Yu’um was given one of the Daath
Leerssoi (K. “Maker of the Shadow Drakes”) by Andraax.
It is a ring that allows a human to assume the form of a
dragon, with virtually all the powers and abilities of that
dragon.
He was given the Kodul ring, which transformed
him to a Blue Air Drake: a fl ying dragon, but with a
breath weapon comparable to those of the Great Drakes

Note: Here is is even more clear that the rings are akin to the Dragonhelms and the powers of a Great Drake.

Ssoiayig Saer (K. ‘Caves of the Drakes’ Birthplace’), the ancient
secret breeding caves overlooking the Silver Scales Lake.

Note: A clue to the origin of Drakes? Does this ancient place preclude the idea that Dragons were another experiment of the Lords of Essence?

[The Dragon Helms are completed, and the Six gather. What
they do not know is that Krelij, using the knowledge gleaned
from Oran Jatar, has also made six rings
. These rings, which he
names the Daath Leerssoi (K. “Makers of the Shadow Drakes”),
allow a human wearer to assume the powers of a dragon.

Note: The Rings are created at the same time as the Helms by Krelij.

So what should we make of all this?

  1. Dragons, Great Drakes and Dragonlords were “birthed” sometime during the Interregnum and probably not a remnant of the 1st Era or a product of Orhan.
  2. The Earthwardens slowly assumed new “earth and elemental powers” and worked with the Fey creatures and Elves to rebuild Kulthea.
  3. Some of the Earthwardens stayed behind on Kulthea while the rest left about the same time as the emergence of the Dragonlords.
  4. Around the time of the Dragonlords appearance, the skies of Kulthea became dangerous and non-terrestrial races (Taranians and Worim) were forced to build/hide underground?
  5. The Dragonlords are avatars of Kulthean earth powers: elemental creatures that can “ride the flows” and control great powers.
  6. There are magical helms and rings that have similar but opposite powers: one to turn Dragons into men and the other to turn men into Dragons.
  7. RM Companion I references the “Ritual of Ascension” that allows a Mage to transcend into a Drake/Dragon.

Terry never circled the square, but is it reasonable to argue that the 6 Dragonlords were Earthwardens that underwent the “Ritual of Ascension” to become permanent guardians of Kulthea? After the Ritual the “nature” of being Dragonkind overwhelms their past memories and Althan/Ka’ta’viir background and they become more “wild” and elemental; even being construed to be “evil”. Certainly, some of the Dragonlords more than others, but as Terry notes: their motivations and behaviors are unfathomable to mortals.

That’s my theory and solution. Have any SW users come up with something else?

Shadow World Timeline Dive: The “Empire of a Thousand Dawns”.

As I continue my review of the extensive Shadow World Timeline, I’ve noted a number of prominent references that haven’t been developed in further SW books. I’ve created a list of these and will delve into them in further blogs, but today I wanted to deal with the “Empire of a Thousand Dawns”. There isn’t much to go on in the Master Atlas(s) , 11-12 mentions and 1 slight mention in Emer III, but it’s clear the the EoaTD has been around since the dawn of history and it exists in the timelines present day. 10,000 years is a very old civilization; even for Elves!

This is what the Master Atlas’s have:

Second Era c.300–471: Palia: Consolidation of much of Ran Tairi
by the Loar Elven Lord Jayled Kodorian. He names
his domain the Empire of a Thousand Dawns.
(Master Atlas 4th Ed.)

Second Era c. 1000-2000 Palia: The Elven King Jayled Kodorian of Ran Tairi more-or less peacefully brings most of the city-states and rural communities
of Iylar and Erlin Elves of the archipelago under his reign.
He dubs his empire the Kingdom of a Thousand Dawns. (MA 3rd Ed.)

Second Era C.3000 – 4000 Emer: A group of Loar Elves, political refugees
from the Empire of a Thousand Dawns, sail
west from Palia. They are swept through the Shallow
Ocean and past Iyxia. Upon entering the Circular
Sea, they reach a cluster of lush islands, inhabited
only by a few scattered clans of Erlini. The
Loari settle here, naming it Námar-Tol (Iy. “verdant-
towers”). (Master Atlas 4th Ed.)

Second Era c. 4100: Palia: Many city-states in Dhuria (Iy: ‘East’) ally under
the Loari Duke Beyris Dalan and declare independence from
the Empire of a Thousand Dawns. After a number of skirmishes
and several negotiation sessions, Emperor Kodorian agrees to
allow Dhuria some autonomy in return for keeping it part of
the Empire. (MA 3rd Edition)

Third Era Winter 6049. Palia: Princess Maris Kodorian of the Empire of
a Thousand Dawns unwittingly befriends a Sister
of the Steel Rain. (Master Atlas 4th Ed.)

Third Era Fall 6049: Palia: The Vulth Horde consolidates its hold on
Vulth-torgu and—using ships seized from their
victims there—begin raiding along the northeast
shores of Dhuria in the Empire of a Thousand
Dawns. Loari nobles call for aid from the
Imperial fleet.

So where exactly can we find The Empire?

Dhuria: [Tropical/Rainy–Humid] Erlini, Thesians,
Eritari (Mixed economies/Monarchy/TL:5-6).
Dhuria is heavily forested with scattered feudal
city-states mostly along the coast and major rivers.
It is part of the Empire of a Thousand Dawns.

Ran Tairi: [Tropical–Temperate/Rainy–Seasonal]
Erlini, Loari, Iylari (Mixed economies/Monarchy/
TL:5-6).
The heart of the Empire of a Thousand Dawns,
this island is a mix of forests and rolling hills
with many fertile fields. While there are few
true cities, there are many small towns huddled
around fortified castles. King Rænedor rules
from the ancient city of Ketharia.

Dalov Ram: [Tropical–Temperate/Humid–Seasonal] Loari, Erlini
(Mixed economies/Feudal Monarchy/TL: 5-6)
Part of the Empire of a Thousand Dawns, Dalov Ram is similar
in many ways, with many dense forests broken by Loari fortified
manors and villages.

Dalov Cor: [Tropical/Rainy–Humid] Erlini, Jineri,
Eritari, Sulini (Mixed economies/Clan/TL: 3).
Also part of the Empire of a Thousand Dawns,
Dalov Cor is almost entirely forested and inhabited
by the more rustic Elves and their half-
Elven brethren.

Ketharia: Capital of the Empire of a Thousand
Dawns, it is an ancient fortified city and trade port.
The Elven-king resides in a massive palace built
into the mountainside overlooking the city.

A Loremaster from the Empire of a Thousand Dawns:

JAYSTEN TYRALLION
Age: 150 (immortal; appears 20) Eyes: Dark Blue.
Hair: Pale blond/curly. Build: Slender. Height:
6’6″. Race/Sex: Linær/M. Skin: Fair. Demeanor:
Gentle, quiet. Dress: Simple black and grey traveling
clothes. True Attitude: Sensitive, intelligent.
Home: Dalov Ram, Empire of a Thousand Dawns.

The only mention in books other than Master Atlas’s in Emer III on page 6:

To the east across the Crystal Sea is the land of Dalov
Cor. While a part of the Elven Empire of a Thousand
Dawns
, this region is heavily wooded and only sparsely
inhabited by Erlin Elves who have little interest in seafaring.

So what do we make of all this?

First, the Empire was founded in 200SE or basically the beginning of “known history” immediately after the Interregnum.

Fugitives from the Empire founded Namor-tol!

It’s a collection of islands and lands in Palia that are around tech level 5-6, led by a “Elven-King” (also referred to as an Emperor).

The society seems mostly rural with fortresses, fortified cities and villages with few “true cities”. Basically standard FRP stuff.

The current King is Rænedor, his daughter is Princess Maris Kodorian which implies that Raendor is a descendant of the Empire’s founder, Jayled Kodorian.

The country is currently under attack by the “Vulth Horde” and there appears to be an “Imperial Fleet” that has been called upon to help.

In my mind, there is a lot of mixed messaging going on. Despite it’s immense age and longevity, the Empire sounds rural and standard tech level (medieval to early renaissance), but there is an implication of a more Imperial nature to the country. In my own campaign, The Empire of a Thousand Dawns’ history is intertwined with Ulya Shek the Black Dragon. It’s unlikely that Palia will ever be fleshed out, but I wonder if more could be done with this Empire. Has anyone introduced The Empire of a Thousand Dawns in their campaigns?

Ancient Sites in Shadow World. How old is “OLD”?

Now that I’m back from Malta I’ve had time to ponder the issues of time, civilizations and “ruins” from a RPG perspective. It feels like most of our RPG experience is based on some quasi-medieval concepts: dank tombs, cobwebs, giant spiders and the mandatory undead all dating back to a medieval period; perhaps 500-1000 years past.. But what if those ruins and labyrinths were thousands, or tens of thousands years old? What about 100,000 years old?

In a previous blog post, I suggested modifying the immense Shadow World timeline by shortening the Interregnum period from approximately a 100,000 year span down to perhaps 10,000 or 20,000 years. Why? Shadow World features a number of ancient Althan, Worim, Jentini and Taranian structures and artifacts that need to be 50,000 to over 100,000 years old. Kulthea is not an inert planet and features tectonic activity and cataclysmic events (like comets) that wreak havoc on the surface. It beggars belief that any structure could survive 100,000 years or more, and yet we have just that with these ancient civilizations. We can certainly hand wave this away, or lean on “magical” explanations for the longevity and functionality of these structures. I’ll throw my ideas out that might account for that a bit later, but I wanted to toss a few real life examples to put things in perspective:

2500BC The Great Pyramids of Giza. The only surviving of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” the Pyramids are perhaps the best example of an ancient structure that still retains most of it’s form factor (excluding the polished casing stones). But these are only 4500 years old–they would be “recent” history in Shadow World and only centuries into the Third Era!

3600BC Hagar Qim. This is Hagar Qim in Malta. The first picture gives the impression that while still impressive, the rock walls are somewhat primitive in fit and quality. However, if you look at the second sketch, just hundreds years ago, the walls were in much better shape and appear to be tightly fitted dressed stone. Sketches of the site from even further back make the temple even more impressive and enigmatic given it’s purported age! One take away is the impact of weathering on those limestone blocks–the temples were buried for thousands of years and once uncovered, much of the stone deteriorated rapidly–in just a few hundred years! Without considerable conservation efforts most of these temples will be a pile of unimpressive stone in just decades or a few centuries.

7500BC. About 1/2 way through the Second Era. Çatalhöyük, Turkey. This ancient village is estimated to have a population of 5,000 to 7,000 people; all the buildings seem to be residential with no apparent “public” buildings. Overall, the construction seems fairly crude and simple and most of the site is destroyed or eroded with foundations and little left after 9,000 years.

7500 BC. (Second Era) Nabta Playa. Located in Egypt this site is believed to be of astronomical site similar to Stonehenge or the Goseck Circle in Germany. While incredibly old, it is clearly eroded and generally not “impressive” in the way that one might expect of a 2nd Era Shadow World complex.

9000BC or the early part of the 2nd Era of Shadow World. Gobekli Tepe. Pushing up against the Younger Dryas boundary at 12,000 years old, Gobekli Tepe predates humanity’s oldest known civilizations! And as impressive and enigmatic the site it, compared to Shadow World it’s almost new!

Certainly, most gamers might care little for this level of archeological realism, but this is just one aspect of Shadow Worlds timeline that might be considered problematic. Why might ancient Shadow Structures fare better than earthly counterparts?

  1. Advanced materials. Certainly the Althans were a technological society and developed material sciences to at least tech level 10+. It can be assumed that these construction materials and techniques would last far beyond what we could comprehend.
  2. Magical Materials. Laen, Eog and other enchanted metals and alloys are immune to rust, degradation or aging.
  3. Restoration. Long lived races like the Elves will have retained advanced building skills and continual rebuilt or restored ancient structures.
  4. Magic. That solves everything!
  5. Burying. Gobekli Tepe, the Malta temples and many other surviving ancient structures have lasted because they have been preserved underground. So it’s conceivable that subterranean structures (like the Taranian subshuttle system) would have considerable longevity without the deleterious effects of surface erosion and exposure.

So even pushing into speculative or fringe science, sites like Tiahuanaco, Bolivia which are argued to be 17,000 years old, are still relatively recent compared to Althan and Ka’ta’viir structures.

In my own campaign and found in Priest-King, the only surviving Althan city on Kulthea is Auraax-Centra. Over 100,000 years old and lying is shallow waters, it is has survived due to construction materials and repair “nanobots”. But it’s still mostly rubble and debris! But Terry’s SW also features a number of operational Ka’ta’viir structures and installations with working tech. It’s all great material for the setting, but does the timeline need to be that long? Can we snip a few thousand years here and there to make it more accessible?

What are your thoughts and does it matter? Unless your players have some in depth knowledge of SW’s history, “Ancient Pre-history” can just be “very old” in practical game terms.

Shadow World Earthwardens and Megalithic Temples.

I’ve been writing frequently about the Earthwardens in Shadow World. Not only do I find them a viable link between the techno-magic of the Ka’ta’viir and the “arcane magic” of Shadow World, they also represent a mysterious shadowy past also present in our history.

So Monday I’m heading to Malta to explore the ancient megalithic temples found there. Much is mysterious there, and history continued with the Knights of Malta and even more recently with the German invasion during WWII (I’m a history buff!)

I’m excited and I know this will spur my imagination and creative in the coming months! If you are intrigued by the Earthwardens as well, please read my blog posts and add your own thoughts and insight.