A New Setting – Part 2: The Far-Realms

In my last post, I discussed the need for rich, unique settings that are labors of love in order to create an appeal to players learning about (and hopefully investing in) RMU. While I’m not sure how unique my setting is, creativity begets creativity, so enter my world…

🔸Introduction – The Far-Realms is a “middle-fantasy” world; the setting is roughly medieval-level technology, with most scientific advancement at a relative halt due to the global political landscape and the subtle presence magic. Magic is not completely unknown to most of the population, but is still treated with reverence and awe by the vast majority… it and its users are considered rare, and often distrusted. The reason for this distrust is due to relatively recent events in the timeline. Here’s a quote from my notes:

The effects of the War of the Magi still lie upon the land. Where once lush and vibrant forests stretched as far as the eye could see, now there are barren and blasted remains of mighty trees. Dotted intermittently across the landscape are wastelands where nothing grows, and that which does is sick or, in some cases, cursed. Dust storms periodically ravage the countryside as weather patterns work to reestablish themselves. Some of the grandest and most ancient cities from the Old Empire lay deserted and crumbling, victims of the devastating war and the passage of time. Those who travel to these places seldom return, and those who do speak of dark spirits and worse haunting the once populated avenues and passageways beneath the streets.

And yet it is a time of relative peace and healing. In the five centuries since the War, new centers of civilization have begun to spring up across the land and small areas of commerce have become bustling cities. In the wilderness, signs of life have started to reemerge in those places that were once laid waste, and not all of the untamed places of the world suffered during the conflicts of the past. In some cases, the land has become more beautiful, and more savage, without the presence of humanoids and their banal struggles. In short, it is a wondrous and dangerous world for heroes to emerge… or perish.

Some classic fantasy elements, with a bit of a post-apocalyptic flair and savage garden meshed together. So let’s get into the basic mythology…

🔸Mythology – I’ll try to make this brief. In the beginning, the Great Dragon created the universe, but it was simply pure imagination until he constructed the final element to give his imagination form: Time. When he bellowed and started time, the echo of his roar gave rise to the Demon, which creates the Balance necessary for reality to exist. The Dragon represents Balance, while the Demon represents Corruption. Note that Balance is not necessarily always in favor of good, while evil is not always aligned with Corruption.

The Dragon then curled around himself and began the Dreaming, so that his creation could have a home in the infinite void. His body became the earth and all magic, no matter how it is used, draws from the Dreaming and the infinite possibilities therein. From his Dream, forms of life began to spring up, and from the species of bestial, animalistic drakes, he empowered the race of dragons with intelligence and magic to serve as his agents, enforcers, and teachers of the Balance.

The dragons are arranged into seven different Dragon-flights, each representing a core element (fire, water/cold, earth, air/light, spirit, mind, and time). One of these flights, namely the Dragon-flight of Time, was corrupted by the Demon and its offspring twisted into demons as we know them now. While in ancient days all the dragons of time were destroyed, dragons periodically fall from the other flights and join the ranks of Corruption, aiding the demons in their pursuit of destroying creation.

As you can see, there’s a ton of DNA from literature and games here, but I’m trying to create a setting with some unique flavor to it. My dragons might seem similar in scope to Tolkien’s maiar, and the image and even the terminology of “flights of dragons” is inspired by the cartoon of the same name. The idea of Corruption being a pervasive element is something I want to explore in my world. I always liked the idea of evil turning on itself when a villain realizes he is being used for goals not his own, and the struggle to retain identity amidst the pursuit of power.

A dragon as a bastion of Balance facing the forces of Corruption

🔸Races – I was pleasantly surprised that Rolemaster is creating (or at least rebalancing for gameplay) so many races for its upcoming product. That being said, I’m bored of so many classic fantasy races and tried to whittle my custom races down to a handful that have some distinctiveness to them:

  • Hume – Humans. I don’t have any distinctions regarding “high” men or anything like that. I want them to be a baseline that other races are compared against with a lot of DP for customization. They are the most prolific race in the Far-Realms, having spread to most regions of the world. I do have a few custom cultures with some genetic variations (infravision, recurved musculature, etc), but nothing unbalancing in terms of stats.
  • Sidhe – At first glance they might be mistaken for some traditional fae race, but these magically adept people have a number of differences. They have no eyes, but have a form of ESP that allows them to sense different aspects of their surroundings based on their sub-species. They have two branches – the Woads, who are a feral, sylvan folk, and the Elurae, who have forsaken the wilds for pursuit of arcane lore. A key to their culture is preservation of the Balance and tend toward lawful alignments of every variation. If you ever read the Thomas Covenant series, they are inspired by the Waynhim.
  • Trols – Not much originality here, but think a combination of the World of Warcraft orcs crossed with Trolls from Dark Age of Camelot. A large, savage, yet noble race made from stone. They have a scattered nomadic culture because of a racial rage that builds over time as they spend time with one another. As such, they tend to function almost like ronin or mercenaries, serving lords and seeking combat to earn honor amongst their kin.
  • Saurians – In the Far-Realms, lizardmen are one of the oldest species, and have two additional sub-races as a result of selective breeding in their past. The main race (the Sauros) bred the mighty Varan (hulking, larger, and heavily scaled) as shock troops for their wars, and the diminutive Gilan (squat, frog-like and hardy) as a servant class. After millennia of service, the Varan developed a peculiar warrior code of honor and freed the Gilan. All three races have a complicated history and relationship to one another.
  • The Redeemed – When the first Dragon-lord of the Dragon-flight of Time betrayed her Flight to the service of the Corruption, their eggs were warped and turned into the first demons. Millennia later, a group of demons was spared and eventually cured, becoming the Redeemed. This race is uniformly good, as any deviation from the Balance inevitably results in their fall back into Corruption. They inadvertently are somewhat similar to the Draenei from WoW. Their culture is based around a crusader esprit de corps, and make excellent spell and semi spell-users.

🔸General Notes – For the most part, this world plays like a traditional fantasy setting, but am trying to build a sense of fatalism and savagery into the atmosphere. The world is harsh, and it may be too late to stop the world’s slide into ruin (eerily close to our own… hmm…). In this way it harkens to White Wolf’s original World of Darkness setting, with occasional flashes of epic fantasy where heroes actually make a difference.

The current timeline is set 500 years after the Old Empire fell and 50 years after the last of the survivor states fell defeating the Armies of the Demon-Kings. It seems as though Corruption was defeated, albeit at great cost. I am using the War of Magi as a mechanic to level the playing field; only a handful powerful individuals exist in the world as a result of the devastation, to the point that perhaps only one or two 50th-level people in each profession exist in the entire world.

Any thoughts? Trying to decide what exactly should be detailed in Part 3

Shadow World Earthwardens and Arcane Magic. pt2

Ancient Guardian by Yohann Schepacz HD Wallpaper | Background Image |  2155x1080

This blog series started in my post on the relationship between Shadow World and the Rolemaster Companion I. That got me thinking a bit more about a topic that was percolating in my head for a number of years: what would the
Essaence powers of the Ka’ta’viir and Earthwardens look like exactly. In the first part of this blog series, I did a quick review of existing Arcane spells lists found in the first 4 Companions.

What would these proto-spell lists developed by the Ka’ta’viir and ultimately the Earthwardens look like? I think it’s illustrative to see what Terry says about the Earthwardens and what they did. We know that:

-They were a group of Ka’ta’viir that left Kulthea, were trapped in a time dilation and only returned after Kulthea was laid waste.

–They created Essaence artifacts like Flute Keys, Twig Bridges and Shell Shields and magical crystals, but they also constructed the Coral Roads, Sea Tunnels and left megalithic structures and Guardians throughout the hemisphere.

The powers in that second section above are very much in line with the central ideas of Arcane Magic, but we also know that the Earthwardens had the knowledge and technology of the Althan/Ka’ta’viir civilization as well. In my SW campaign, the Earthwardens are one “splinter group” of the Ka’ta’viir that returned to Kulthea. These groups were not monolithic, but were general philosophies within the group as follows:

Erudites. These members were more focused on developing their knowledge of Essaence and science and it’s believed they initiated the early separation of the realms of Essence and Mentalism.

Elementalists. The Ka’ta’viir delved into the fundamental and raw powers of the Elements and manipulation of the physical world. Much of their legacy is found in the Magician Base lists.

My goal was to define and finish 10 Arcane lists f or use by the Earthwardens. The goal was to encompass most of the powers hinted at by Terry and be illustrative of early magic before the split into the three basic realms.

My rough ideas with loose spell list titles:

  1. “Creations”. This list would encompass the various magical creations attributed to the Earthwardens: shaping crystals, sentinels, golems, flutes and similar artifacts.
  2. “Essaence Mastery”. Spells related to Foci, Flows, travelling, recharging PP’s.
  3. “Dimension Mastery”. Making of gates, interdimensional travel and similar powers.
  4. Shapechanging. Basically a polymorph list leading up the higher level “Mage-drake” spell and the Ritual of Ascension.
  5. “Time Mastery”. I wrote a time spell list for BASiL, but it really feels like it needs to be a Arcane list. Given the Earthwardens history with time dilation, it’s logical that they would master time via Arcane magic. Plus chronagenic statis tech is a SW element.
  6. “Mana-fires”. I will skew this more towards plasma, but it’s feels like a good foundation for later Elemental Essence spells.
  7. “Earthworks”. The Earthwardens had the power to build megalithic structures, major earthworks and similar edifices. More than Earth Law, this should be epic in scope. These spells would encompass stone, metal etc.
  8. “Sound Mastery”. This needs more thought, but there is something here that feels very ancient and fundamental. Ideas include levitation, disintegration etc.
  9. “Life Mastery”. The Lords of Essence created and manipulated many living beings. This might be too similar to Shapechanging…
  10. “Words of Power”. I’ve always felt that instantaneous words of Power needed to be Arcane (and require Iruaric or Kugor)
  11. “Warding”. Many of the Earthwardens works included protective powers. This would be protective magic: prototype of wards, runes, symbols etc.
  12. “Physics”. BASiL also has a physics mastery list I might revise and include given the Lords of Essence’s technology level.

In part 3 I’ll have the finished draft lists. But for now, can you think of any “proto-magic” that should be included and fits with the Earthwardens and Lords of Essence in Shadow World?

A New Setting – Part 1: Intro

“And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not…but there was happiness.”

In response to Brian’s call to arms for new content on the blog, I figured I could hit two birds with one stone. As has been discussed here, on the I.C.E. Forums, and on Discord, one of the issues RMU has to somehow overcome in order to attract new players is the question of setting. It seems, at least at present, that RMU is moving in the direction of a relatively generic fantasy setting — the standard fantasy races, a smattering of the elements that have become Rolemaster staples, and a smorgasbord of creatures in Creature Law that GMs can mix and match to create a setting. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily… RM’s strength has always been its modular nature. But looking over some older content from other games, D&D in particular, I’m more convinced that setting is its biggest weakness.

I was thumbing through the D&D 2e Monstrous Manual the other day, and the first page is a reference of their various game settings at the time: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Dragonlance… each with a distinct flavor and lending to the overall mythology of the WotC multiverse. In recent years, this has only grown and now is a key element of their game appeal. The addition of Diablo II, Magic the Gathering, and other worlds to their repertoire has only given D&D more fuel and appeal.

This isn’t new to RM which has some rich settings in its vaults already: Shadow World is easily the most developed, although the sheer amount of lore can be daunting. The RMSS Shades of Darkness setting is fascinating, and deviates from the standard fantasy tropes without deviating from fantasy roleplaying. And of course there is MERP…

What I’d like to see are some truly developed world settings with some unique flavor to them that I.C.E. embraces as their “core worlds”. A quick Wikipedia search shows over a dozen world settings in D&D that have the backing of the main developers, and living lore that continually gets development. Every GM (and there seems to be a lot of us old veterans floating around out there) have takes on worlds in which we’ve created our adventures… some of them are cookie-cutter fantasy settings, some of them are built into the aforementioned RM settings, and some are our brainchildren with their own unique flavor, rules, and lore. This may be presumptuous in the extreme, but would the powers that be of RMU be open to creating sections of their forum or website dedicated to living worlds that they could call their own? Would GMs be willing to work on them, largely as a creative endeavor, as a project for expanding the accessibility and appeal to RMU? Thoughts? Or am I simply repeating what’s already been suggested?

Stay tuned for additional writings. In Part 2, I’ll introduce my own setting under development: The Far-Realms, a universe created by Dragons, warped by Demons, and a place of primeval magic and natural wonders attempting to recover from the constant blighting assaults by the forces of Corruption. Think of it as Lord of the Rings meets the apocalyptic fantasy elements of the Gunslinger world (minus the technology).

Where are the writers?

It seems almost ironic that a blog covering RPG’s has difficulty in finding new contributors. Right? Roleplaying games are a purely creative endeavor, a collaboration story-telling among it’s player and referee participants. By nature an improv process.

We have been lucky here at the Rolemasterblog in having a number of great contributors over the last 8 years (is that right Peter?). We want more bloggers! D&D and other systems have dozens and dozens of blogs–Rolemaster has a couple at best. Competitive disadvantages compel the few survivors to circle the wagons and join talents. Rolemaster was a powerhouse in the industry–even if that might not happen again, it still deserves a strong forum for ideas and advocacy. I see great ideas, thoughts and even discussion topics over at the Rolemaster Forums–many of those ideas can be expanded upon in a blog.

I have reached out to few people about writing for the Rolemasterblog. These are creative, talented and experienced GM’s–masters of the RPG craft after decades of gaming. Why won’t they write a blog post or two? Everyone has a difference answer: no time, don’t want to be criticized, aren’t confident writers, don’t want their players to read the blog for insight etc.

I would only point out that outside perspective is important. Potential new players, curious about “old school games” will google “Rolemaster”, “Shadow World”, “MERP” among others. If they see new, fresh content, they will click on it. They will believe that Rolemaster is still relevant. Let’s show them why.

If you have an idea, want to discuss your thoughts in a more public forum, or share the creative parts of your campaign or game, write for us! Contact Peter, he can set you up with access and the Rolemasterblog will grow as a blog and Rolemaster may be helped in the process. Isn’t that what we all want?

Newish I.C.E. Coverage on the Web.

RPG Review’s latest edition focuses on ICE. Check it out HERE.


And I’m sure Colin posted this on the forums, but he did an interview with Wolfshield Games HERE.

The Rolemasterblog.com is currently ranked #45 of RPG Blogs. (I think we got into the 30’s a few years back.) You can see that HERE.


Shadow World Earthwardens and Arcane Magic. pt1

Stonehenge - Where Did the Stones Come From? Who Built Stonehenge

In my previous post, I touched upon the connection between the RMCI Arcane Spell Lists and viability for their use in Shadow World. I also posted about Druid concepts and the legacy of the Earthwardens and felt the existing Arcane lists were quite suitable to adopt as Earthwarden base lists–“proto magic” for early Shadow World magic.

Conceptually, the RMCI Arcane lists are fantastic and really fit well with Shadow World, but like most spell lists I see quite a few flaws and a need to adjust them to fit better into Shadow World. So I am re-writing them for use in my own campaign. There are a few Earthwardens around besides the Dragonlords and the Storm Wizard).

Ideally, all Shadow World Arcane lists should be more raw and fundamental than the refined lists found in Spell Law’s Essence, Channeling or Mentalism realms, but more structured than ritual magic. They should have over-arching scope with broad themes that reflect the origins of Essaence manipulation by the Ka’ta’viir.

A quick review and general thoughts on the Arcane lists found in Companions I-IV. Many of these lists feel like a rehash of other Profession Base lists and just a work around for casters via the Arcane realm.

Companion I

Bladerunes. A great list, and one could argue would be the progenitor of the Alchemy lists and more permanent object enchantments. But as an Arcane list, it feels too “small” or narrowly focused to me. Would early Ka’ta’viir develop lists to imbue modest magical powers into swords and armor when they were creating more organic and powerful artifacts and they were a tech level 11+ society? I re-wrote this list, and expanded it into an additional “Protection Runes” list, and made them both Essence realm. Even after making my own improvements on the list, for my campaign, I didn’t think Bladerunes met the requirement for “Arcane” in Shadow World.

Earthblood Ways. This list has a number of spells that work well with the SW foci and Essaence Flow but needs to be fine tuned a bit. I removed the various “Guardian” spells (Earthbeast, Earth Guardians) and developed that into another list, and incorporated Essaence Flow lists found in the Navigator lists that Terry created.

Entity Master. Another solid spell list, but I think it needs to collate the “Guardian” spells from Earthbloods, as well as Demonic Gates to reflect the Lords of Essence’s experiments and forays into the Pales.

Ethereal Mastery. This is another example of a spell list that mixes a number of concepts and mechanics that don’t really fit upon in depth analysis. Some of these spells should be ported over to “Entity Master”, while others could be made into a whole other list.

Mana Fires. This is interesting, but not much different than traditional Magician elemental lists. This needs to be punched up and maybe use Plasma criticals.

Spell Coordination. This makes no sense as an Arcane list.

Shapechanging Ways. A more powerful version of Animist/Druid lists. This can be improved.

Companion II.

Spell Triggers. This is a lot like Spell Coordination above and Spell Laws “Spell Enhancement” and “Spell Reigns” lists. They are all “spells for spells” that enhance, extend, store or create contingencies for other spells. I think this is more indicative of a short-coming in Spell Law; these are addressing a problem with more problematic spells. I don’t see this as an Arcane list at all.

Metal Lore & Stone Lore. These feel more like standard Essence lists: Stone Lore is basically a slight variant of Earth Law. I think the Arcane lists should include something very Elemental, but these don’t feel epic enough to me.

Wood Shaping. This has great potential for Earthwardens, but like Stone Lore above, it’s basically an Animist/Druid list. However, lvl 25th “Living Wood” is a great spell and is definitely more of the feel and scope that I’m thinking of.

Companion III.

Plasma Mastery. This list merged and adapted with “Mana Fires” feels like a good Arcane list.

Nether Mastery. This feels better as a list for the Unlife with some modifications?

Companion IV.

Acid Law. Again, this one feels like another Magician or Essence list rather than Arcane.

Sonic Law. At first glance, this is another Essence list, but there is a tie with ancient Druid tradition, megaliths and mythology and even physics. I think there is a foundation for a cool Arcane/Earthwarden list.

So putting this all together, the “Arcane Realm” and lists presented in the first few Companions create a great framework to adapt to Shadow World. Terry did introduce Arcane magic in the Master Atlas and it’s clear through the timeline that the Althan’s and Ka’ta’viir progressed and developed their ability to tap and manipulate the Essaence.

So what might those spells and powers look like? I’ll offer my own solutions in part 2!

Shadow World Perspective. Demons are the “name of the game”.

One of the most prevalent elements of Shadow World is the connection between Kulthea and the “Pales” and other dimensions. The Ka’ti’viir discovered these realms later in the First Era, brought “Demons” and other denizens to Kulthea for study and experimentation and the devastation wrought at the end of the First Era, created rifts and portals that increased the incursions of Demons into the Shadow World.

The Master Atlas mentions “Demons” 153 times (Lugroki are only mentioned 43 times) and they appear to be the default adversary in Shadow World and at the middle of most of the major conflicts, including the Wars of Dominion.

The continual presence of Demons throughout Kulthea is one of the reasons I modified the various Demonology lists in BASiL. In my lists, Demons must be actively sent back (banishments) or sent back through an open gate. They don’t simply disappear at the spell duration. So while many Demons arrive to Kulthea through Gates, Rifts and other Essaence phenomena, some others are Demons brought through various summoning spells.

If you think about it, the story of Kulthea is one of other dimensions. The Shadow World is a crossroads for a variety of dimensional beings; a Skinwalker Ranch” of the universe! The true antagonists of Shadow World are Demons, Dark Gods, Agothu and the Unlife–it’s not really the story of Orcs, Goblins and Trolls; and really not even Dragons.

If you utilize the Pales in your campaign, you should check out the Book of Pales, that I posted on the RMForums. It’s really just the beginning of a book; I have outlined NPCs, major figures, more creatures, more Demons and some adventure ideas in the hopes that it could be published some day. But it’s a start and hopefully contains some useful ideas for introducing the Pales to your players.

Rolemaster Rules: Stat Gains

SPL GainStation 1 Single-Channel Mic & Instrument SPLGAINSTAT1

Generally I’m staying away from rule hack discussions, but some posts over at the RMForums and an email from another GM pushed me to write up a quick post on the subject of stat gains.

We are constantly tinkering with stats, stats as skills, and even debated the need or utility of Temporary and Potential stats. In the end I decided to keep Temp/Pot since it ties in with several spell mechanics in BASiL and “stat draining” effects. But I have been doing stat gain differently for quite a number of years. The stat gain roll chart is just another unneeded chart, and adds randomness into a rule that might not need one–you don’t randomly roll for skill rank development do you?

We use DP’s for stat gains. 1 DP + +1 to a Temp stat score, and like our skill rank cost progression it is +1 per point. So adding 1pt to strength is 1DP, but 2pts to Strength is 1+2, 3 pts is 1+2+3 etc. Certainly a player could opt to raise a stat quickly at the cost of most of their DP’s, but this method adds to the cost/benefit system we have built into our rules, and smooths out Stat gains over many, many levels.

That’s just our solution.

Shadow World: Laen.

For ardent Shadow World users, the magical glass Laen is akin to Mithril in Middle Earth; a rare, precious and valuable commodity. Unlike Mithril, Laen doesn’t really seem to be forged into armor (although Laen plates or scales may be possible and cool looking?), but it can be formed into weapons. Many of the powerful beings found in the Shadow World books wield Laen weapons in a variety of colors–sort of a Star Wars lightsaber aesthetic.

The Master Atlas describes Laen:

Laen (1000-10,000 sp): An extremely hard volcanic glass
which can be forged into very keen-edged, almost
indestructible, weapons. Laen can also be tinted, and (vary
rarely) is naturally colored
. It should be considered
enchanted. Laen is also very unusual in that it becomes more
pliable as its temperature is lowered. Because of this, unique,
magical cold forges must be used to work laen into tools and

But perhaps the source code for Laen can be found in I.C.E.’s first product, The Iron Wind.

Over one ofthe Guildhalls in Uda Tyygk is set a woven band of colored
glass: Laen (‘lane) it is called by the Udahir. Smoother than ordinary
glass, and yet stronger than steel, its transformation into weapons and
jewelry represents the pinnacle of achievement in the smallest, yet not
the least, of the Udahir guilds. Most of the Laenworkers never touch the
substance, but create objects of normal glass or gems, for Laen cannot be
made and by custom only the greatest of them may use it.

Laen well merits its special rarity, formed as it was solely by the powers
that shaped the earth . Laen itself is neither rock nor metal, but magic, the
trapped energy of the unmaking of the world within a mineral. Impurities
in the host rock give varied colors and properties, as a rainbow depends
upon dust for its beauty.
Conjure an image of frozen light and you behold
Laen, the greatest natural treasure of the worl

Nature guards her hoard well. Laen can only be hewn from the surrounding basalt with the utmost patience before it will assume the shape
for which it is prized. Pride is taken not only in the finished product, but in
the effort and materials whereby it was created. White Laen, which is actually clear, predominates, for it is both the most available and the
strongest variety, being pure.
Other prevalent varieties among the Udahir
are red, green and blue (which resist fire, magic and cold respectively),
and a much rarer silver Laen, which is neutral and extremely receptive to

There are a few discrepancies from the original material (written by Pete Fenlon) and Terry’s later work. Should we consider Laen to come in colors or is it mostly tinted during it’s crafting. Furthermore, does Laen have intrinsic resistive powers related to it’s coloring?

Bonuses. Per the Mater Atlas, Laen should be considered “magical” with a bonus of +25, but Laen weapons found throughout the SW books have bonuses even higher. It is never mentioned that Laen can be forged into differing qualities, and generate higher bonuses; must we assume that magical bonuses can be layered atop the natural +25?

Fabricating and Forging. Like many of the enchanted metals and alloys that Terry introduces, Laen requires a special “Cold Forge” to be worked properly. It’s not clear how that would work, but in my own campaign, I modified the methodology using an “Essaence Forge”. I think it gets to the same result: a specially channeled flow of Essaence acts as “Cold Flame” to work Laen and other enchanted materials. Using the Alchemist lists, “Work Laen” is a 20th level spell, which certainly limits it’s production. The Udahir have Laenworkers, but as stated in the Iron Wind, only the “greatest of them may use it”.

Ubiquity. There are several cultures that utilize Laen: The Forest People of the Emerald Forest, The Kuluku (inherited from the Jinteni) and the Udahir in the Mur Fostisyr, and as mentioned, Laen weapons are found on most of the notable NPC’s in the books. So how common is Laen? Work Laen is a 20th level Alchemist spell in SL; but Laen if often mentioned as a resource in various SW books. Someone is mining it and using it!

Laen is a great example of a setting specific element that differentiates SW from other standard fantasy settings. How is Laen used in your campaign? Do PC’s have Laen weapons? What are your thoughts?

Shadow World: Spirits, Demi-gods and other godly beings.

To continue along with the most recent blog posts, I wanted to dive into other spiritual/godly beings introduced into later editions of the Shadow World Master Atlas. Much of this material seems abstract to me, as it was rarely interjected into source book and/or adventure material.

Greater Spirits of Orhan.

Excerpts from the Master Atlas and Powers:

These are powerful servants and aides of the Lords of Orhan; in essence they are demigods. Spirits are more numerous and more likely to be encountered (or at least seen) by an adventurer than the Lords themselves….

Their nature is similar to that of the Lords, but they lack the omniscient power
and are rarely worshiped as gods themselves

The Spirits of Orhan are believed to trace their origins from one of three sources: they are lesser beings who entered this space-time with the Lords and have always served them, children of a Lord and Nymph mating, or they are offspring of a Lord mating with a human or Elven female. The last, while not unheard of on Kulthea, are rarely powerful enough to reside on Orhan with the Lords. More than sheer Essænce control, the Spirit must be enough like a Lord to endure the stretch of time as a nearly omnipotent being and maintain his ‘humanity’ as it were. A few children have fallen from grace to violent insanity over the millennia and had to be destroyed by the Lords at great emotional
and physical cost. These occurrences are a special tragedy for the Lords of Orhan.

Terry then goes on to describe 7 of these demi-gods (4 Demi-gods of Charon as well), but states that: “There are in fact dozens of these beings“. For me, this raises two frustrations I have had with SW over the years. First, that seemingly setting critical elements are introduced much later in the book series (see my blog post on Jewel Slime); second that despite the importance of these new elements they aren’t really incorporated into later material. I couldn’t find 1 reference to the Orhan demi-gods in the Master Atlas timeline, Emer I, Emer II & Emer III. They are not present in any of the “history” of Kulthea. These are beings that are 60th to 80th level!


The next section in the SW Atlas covers “Nymphs”: fairy folk that are tied to elemental or geographic features: Trees, Grottos, Oceans, Caves and Hills, etc. Very much like “Thematic Demons”, they are defined thusly:

The Essænce given form and personality, the
Nymphs are of a similar nature to the Lords of
Orhan, but are tied to the earth rather than Orhan.

While I haven’t used Nymphs much or perhaps at all in my campaign, they touch upon an underlying metaphysics that are constantly hinted at, but never really formalized in rules: the Essaence is fundamentally transformative and can imbue consciousness, powers and personality into the physical world. Perhaps that is why many have gravitated towards the Essaence/Anti-Essaence paradigm. The Unlife/Anti-Essaence represents some malevolent will that usurps thought and personality; so too should the Essaence have intent and will as well?

Local Gods.

Per the Atlas:

In many cases an apparent “local” god is actually a different incarnation of a Lord of Orhan or Dark God. There are also, however, many superhuman beings who can legitimately be considered gods. Most, while in most respects non-corporeal, are linked to a specific location and their power diminishes tremendously with distance from that place.

Local Gods introduce a second principal to the setting; one of “Ascension”. How does one powerful being make the transition from formidable to Godly? What is this process? Laia, a Demi-god was:

Daughter of Cay, Laia is one of the few children of the Lords of Orhan who has been elevated to “godhood.”

It appears that the Lords of Orhan can bestow Godhood upon a chosen few? As we discussed in the previous blog, can a powerful being ascend if they have gathered enough power and worshippers? How do these Gods attain the ability to “Channel” to their followers? How does a being become a local God? Through permeation of the Essaence over time? Do sentient beings make a local god? Do they first define a concept that “Becomes” via their collective will?

I blogged on this subject 5 years ago, but it never really drew comments or further discussion.

The Shadow World setting is basically a Greek-Roman polytheistic pantheon that has a number of other spiritual layers bolted on: Hero/Demi-gods, Alien Agothu, god-like Lords of Essence, locally potent natural Spirit creatures and Local Gods. Perhaps this is part of the criticism that Shadow World is a “kitchen sink”?

In my efforts putting together the Shadow World Channeling Supplement, I wanted to review other system settings and see what material might be helpful. I was curious about the Empire of the Petal Throne gods (also interdimensional beings rather than traditional “gods”), and reviewed the Religion supplements for Runequest (Cults of Prax) and Harn Religions. While much of me wants to respects the totality of Terry’s creation, another part wants to pare some of the material down. I’m not sure how I feel about Dryads, Neiads, and other Fairy Folk in my SW setting, and I don’t where to fit in Demi-gods to an already crowded religious table-top.

Do Demi-gods, Nymphs and Local Gods fit into your Shadow World campaign? Should the path to Godhood become a part of the Rolemaster game system or the SW setting? Do we have enough Godly beings? Too many? Not enough?