In my last post in this series I drafted a set of twelve icons, based on twenty campaign elements or themes. This is to fit a Celtic-inspired setting, so we’ve got raids (between clans and otherwise), fey, giants, curses, spirits, invasion from a couple directions (sea reavers/’vikings’, and more civilized neighbors), plus a few other bits common to Celtic myth and history.
Applying the elements and themes to the points of a dodecahedron (d12) and grouping by face gave me the groupings below. I’ve done some initial interpretation and named the icons, now it’s time to look at who and what they are, and how they interrelate.
|1||Nature’s Heart||Giant||Death/Spirit||Prophecy||Nature||Forest||Contends with the Giant King (conflict over prophecy?).|
|2||Giant King||Giant||Curse||Prophecy||Mountain||King||Rules over the giants… cursed by prophecy?|
|3||The Great Stag||Giant||Church||Animal||Mountain||Forest||Champion of nature|
|4||The Queen Underhill||Prophecy||Art/Music||Fey||King||Nature||Ruler of the fey (‘seelie court’?)|
|5||The Haunted Queen||Death/Spirit||Raid||Church||Storm||Forest||Spirit of the land, rising up against the invaders.|
|6||The Wild Wind||Death/Spirit||Ocean||Art/Music||Storm||Nature||‘Force of nature’ of some sort; probably spirit and inspiration rather than death|
|7||The Lost Seeker||Civilization||Curse||Animal||Mountain||Quest||Civilized but outcast, seeking redemption?|
|8||The Broken King||Craft/Artifice||Curse||Fey||King||Quest||Deposed king of the fey (‘unseelie court’?)|
|9||The Lion Crusader||Civilization||Raid||Church||Animal||Glory||Seeks to bring civilization to the barbaric savages|
|10||Star King Undersea||Craft/Artifice||Ocean||Art/Music||Fey||Sun/Moon||Ruler of the fey court under the sea|
|11||The Sea Reaver||Raid||Ocean||Glory||Storm||Sun/Moon||Vikings?|
|12||The Radiant Queen||Craft/Artifice||Civilization||Glory||Quest||Sun/Moon||Seeks to bring light to all corners of the world|
Here are some brief descriptions of the icons. After some conversation on G+ and while writing the descriptions below, some of the interpretations (and hence the names) have changed somewhat.
The Giant’s Daughter is bound by prophecy of death to her father the Mountain King. She escaped from his imprisonment to the forest, where she has met and come to terms with the Nature’s Heart. They work together to try to constrain and limit the damage done by the Mountain King, but know that this may be a fruitless effort if the troubles she foresees from outside cannot be resolved.
Design Notes: Inspired by Ethlinn/Ethnea, Balor’s daughter (imprisoned by her father because of prophecy that his grandson would kill him).
The Mountain King is a nightmarish figure, looming over men and with the power to destroy the realm. The mountain on which is lives is barren, stripped by the power of his deadly gaze. Only the Fomorians, a peculiar peoples, have been able to withstand this power… and while they have gained stature and strength from it, have become mentally and physically twisted by it.
It is unknown if the Mountain King still fights his doom, the geas upon him forcing him to his destructive actions, or if he has succumbed and now works toward devastating the realm.
Design Notes: Modeled after Balor, the giant from Irish myth.
Nature’s Heart embodies the gestalt of life in the realm. By night he takes the form of an immense bipedal spirit, able to see the land for miles around. Despite his size in this form, few are able to directly perceive or interact with him. By day it takes the form of a majestic stag — still large, but approachable on a human scale.
He is allied with all the natural animals, dealing primarily with their paragons, and there are many shrines dedicated to him, thanking him for his protection and guidance.
Design Notes: This has no small influence from Mononoke Hime. Each species has a paragon (mated pair, most often) that leads them.
The Queen Underhill was expected to wed the king of the other fey realm, but the timely curse that made him the Unthroned King interrupted this. The wedding of the lands, and her fate, might be only delayed, but until she is wed her realm remains hers to rule. It continues to be a merry place full of music and grace, but lately seems to become repetitious and stagnant, with the merriment and joy feeling more and more forced.
Design Notes: This should be played as a merry but somehow stale place. The normal course of events has been stalled and all is in abeyance. Nevertheless, this could be considered the ‘seelie court’.
The Storm Crone is responsible for binding the unsettled spirits of the realm. She lives near the War-Torn Cantons, where her service is most needed. She has many agents and proxies throughout the realm who can deal with many cases, but ever since the coming of the Sea Reaver and the Shining Champion, whose followers slay in battle without offering due honors, she has been busy roaming the land and binding the unsettled dead.
Setting Notes: Those who die an untimely and dishonorable death — murdered, or slain in battle and not properly honored — might not pass cleanly and their shades remain. Those with the knowledge — the Storm Crone, her followers, and some others — can bind these spirits to rest… or at least, dormancy.
Design Notes: ‘Binding the dead’ taken from the Riddle-Master trilogy by Patricia McKillip.
The First Bard is leader of the the bards of the realm, the historians and heralds. She has a wild streak to her nature and takes risks — risks many thing unnecessary — to achieve her goals. Among them, she has learned from the Storm Crone how to manipulate spirit bindings, and uses this to gain knowledge from the dead that might otherwise have been lost.
This has understandably changed her. Her music no longer fits the norms, exploring themes and conveying emotions beyond those of most other bards. Between this change in her performances and the uncomfortable truths she exposes, she is alternately feared and courted for her involvement in affairs.
Design Notes: The First Bard might be somewhat mad because of how she gains knowledge. Or perhaps she is frightfully sane, it can be hard to tell the difference.
The Hound was once an officer of the Radiant Lady’s army, liaison between her forces and those of the Shining Champion. She was sent to make contact with the Huntsmen of Annuvin, a renegade band of woodsmen outcast from the cantons for their ruthless violence. She now shares their curse and is more vicious and bloodthirsty than even they… and has more military discipline. The Huntsmen are now less prone to random violence, but more effectively violent when they act.
The Hound is now something of a loose cannon, as far as her former allies are concerned. She is too useful to casually dismiss, too powerful to try to remove, and not reliable enough to be trusted.
Design Notes: ‘Huntsmen of Annuvin’ will be changed somewhat and will be renamed, they’re basically lifted wholesale from the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.
The Unthroned King was to wed the Queen Underhill, but was struck down by a curse that crippled him and rendered him impotent. No longer a suitable consort, the wedding was postponed until the curse is lifted and he can demonstrate his capability.
As the land and the king are one, his realm is a wasteland. Crops grow poorly, if at all, the water is stagnant, and the people sickly and dispirited. Despite this, many have flocked to his land, mostly because they are outcast and unwelcome elsewhere.
He is an accomplished smith and craftsman, and offers a fortune in arms and armor — or other goods — to the one who can lift his curse.
Design Notes: The Unthroned King is based somewhat on the legend of the Fisher King. To use a common trope regarding the fey, his could be considered the ‘unseelie court’.
The Exemplar is the epitome of the church knights: brave, courteous, fierce in battle and yet merciful to his opponents who bend their knees to him. It is his fervent wish to bring the proper gods to the realm, so the unfortunates there can learn righteousness in place of the foolish superstition they believe now. In this he is allied with the Radiant Lady, providing the military support for their shared endeavors.
Despite leading what is functionally an invasion, the Exemplar remains courteous to those he meets in battle. It seems strange to those of the realms, this politeness when trying to steal their land, but it has gained a surprising amount of support in some areas. The Exemplar and the Radiant Lady promise good things and place only reasonable onus on their potential new subjects, if they join peacefully.
The Windmistress is the sky. She is the storm that sweeps the land, the stars that shine at night, and the wind that whistles through the trees. Her crafters make cunning devices that allow others to take to the skies. Her folk are the sylphs and the flying creatures.
Bound to the sky rather than the land, as most fey are, she normally cares little for the affairs of man. In fact, she is notorious for her caprice and levity at all things, flitting from place to place without care. However, from her vantage point far above the ground she sees the foreigners — Lord Seacrest and his ships of moonlit seamen, the armies of the Exemplar and the envoys and agents of the Radiant Lady — and knows that the kingdoms and cantons of the realm are under greater threat than they have known before. Will her warnings even be heard?
Lord Seacrest rules a large island off the coast of the mainland realm. His ships are seen in all ports of the realm, trading unusual goods from distant lands. Most often they trade for mundane goods and coin, other times they seek information or service.
Sometimes, late on moonless nights, figures glistening of moonlight creep out of the sea and surround isolated settlements… and in the morning those settlements are empty.
Design Notes: Inspired, at least a little, by the shapechangers from Riddle-Master.
The Radiant Lady rules a country over the sea, and wishes to spread the benefits of civilization to the benighted, uncultured people of the realm. She has joined with the Shining Champion of the Holy Church to send emissaries… many heavily armed emissaries… to the realm to treat with the soon to be fortunate recipients of beneficence.
Design Notes: Sound sufficiently nice-bad? She really does want what is best for the realm, which means inclusion in her glorious nation where they can enjoy her royal grace and guidance and provide taxes and resources for the benefit of all. … yeah, needs a bit more polish.
All in all I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got here. Some are a little rough yet and could use some polish, all will need some more detail before I use them in practice, but I’ve got a good enough feel for most of them I can move forward.
It interests me that quite a few are actually not much like my first interpretation. The Mountain King, Nature’s Heart, Queen Underhill, Hound, Unthroned King, Exemplar, and Radiant Lady are still close to my original vision, even if almost all the names changed. (I moved the Nature’s Heart name to where I had Great Stag, but the general idea didn’t change much.) The Giant’s Daughter, Storm Crone, First Bard, Windmistress, and Lord Seacrest are quite a bit farther from my original expectation.
|1||Giant’s Daughter||Giant||Death/Spirit||Prophecy||Nature||Forest||Daughter of the Mountain King (Ethlinn/Ethnea)|
|2||Mountain King||Giant||Curse||Prophecy||Mountain||King||Rules over the giants… cursed by prophecy?|
|3||Nature’s Heart||Giant||Church||Animal||Mountain||Forest||Great Forest Spirit from Mononoke Hime.|
|4||Queen Underhill||Prophecy||Art/Music||Fey||King||Nature||Ruler of the fey (‘seelie court’?).|
|5||Storm Crone||Death/Spirit||Raid||Church||Ocean||Forest||Spirit of the land, rising up against the invaders.|
|6||First Bard||Death/Spirit||Storm||Art/Music||Ocean||Nature||‘Force of nature’ of some sort; probably spirit and inspiration rather than death|
|7||Hound||Civilization||Curse||Animal||Mountain||Quest||Civilized but cursed to furious violence; now leads the Hunters of Annuvin|
|8||Unthroned King||Craft/Artifice||Curse||Fey||King||Quest||Ineligible (cursed) king of the fey, crippled and exiled.|
|9||Exemplar||Civilization||Raid||Church||Animal||Glory||Seeks to bring righteousness to the barbaric savages.|
|10||Windmistress||Craft/Artifice||Storm||Art/Music||Fey||Sun/Moon||Ruler, such as may be, of the sylphs and sky fey.|
|11||Lord Seacrest||Raid||Storm||Glory||Ocean||Sun/Moon||Inspired by Riddle-Master shapechangers.|
|12||Radiant Lady||Craft/Artifice||Civilization||Glory||Quest||Sun/Moon||Seeks to bring light to all corners of the world|