Sunday, December 25, 2011

In The Deep Midwinter

So, today has me thinking about holidays and calendars and such. Obviously. And, since I'm already thinking about Greyhawk and Oerth, it's natural that my thoughts turn to the festivals of that world. Midwinter, on Oerth, is celebrated with a festival called Needfest. Looking at this festival (and the others) brings into focus one of the areas where the boxed set directly contradicts the folio. In the folio, the year was 360 days long, with each of the four festivals taking up 6 days. This was changed in the boxed set in response to the article on weather in the World of Greyhawk, where the article's author noted that a year of 364 days, with full seven-day festivals, made the two moons of Oerth move more simply. I think that I will adopt this solution, making this the only place in which I am allowing the boxed set to override the folio.

So, how would the peoples of Oerth celebrate Needfest? Well, first we'll note that the phases of the moons are fixed for the winter solstice, with Luna always being New and Celene being Full. In fact, the characteristic of all four festivals during the year is that Celene, the "Handmaiden", will be Full in the middle of the festival week. This does mean that some lycanthropes will be out wandering during every festival, so the concepts from our world of the Wild Hunt will likely have some sway in how these festivals are celebrated by many of the peoples of Oerth. We can, therefore, expect to see processions of bands of masked or costumed youths in furs wandering about, providing music of some sort (percussive, mainly, such as drums and large bells, plus singing), and demanding food and drink at the houses to which they come (like forceful carolers, perhaps). Those who give freely will get a blessing, while those who are stingy will be tormented by the wandering bands in some fashion (ranging from minor vandalism and theft to outright attacks and magical curses). Bright decorations of evergreen boughs and colorful ribbons will be placed all around settlements and outlying farmsteads. Candles and bonfires will be lit through the night (occasionally leading to tragedies, but that's the accepted price for the midwinter festivities). Songs extolling the virtues of the sun will be sung, food eaten, and drinks drunk.

Those who follow Pholtus of the Blinding Light take a dim (ha!) view of these pagan superstitions, of course, and focus almost entirely on the unconquerable, ever-returning sun without reference to the unholy, demonic lycanthrope scourge who follow the whims of the inconstant moons. St. Cuthbert's followers, on the other hand, have been slowly transforming the rites into a celebration of the wisdom of Cuthbert, adopting and reimagining the pagan celebrations of the people as celebrations of the birth of the god, all while phasing out the costumed begging/thuggery. Perhaps they encourage the caroling, however, and the giving of those alms to carolers.

The Baklunish people don't seem to have the same celebrations of midwinter. Lacking information about their calendar, I can't say for certain what goes on in the far Northwest. I'll think about it, and if I ever have any players go up there, we may find out.

Elves In GURPS Greyhawk, Part I

[This template has been edited, as I realized that I want to fully cover the AD&D abilities.]

[And more edits, 13 Jan 2012]

After considering the abilities of Elves in AD&D, and comparing those abilities to GURPS equivalents, I've arrived at a template which should come close to depicting that fantasy race in similar terms. I have had to give up my dream of a "near-zero point" template for the elven race (though the relatively high point cost should compensate for the loss of "level limits" from AD&D), and I still have to work out the various elven varieties. This template should cover most of the surface elves (at least those from the Player's Handbook), however.

45 points

Attribute Modifiers: DX+1 [20]; HT-1 [-10].
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Per+1 [5].
Advantages: Extended Lifespan 4 [8]; Infravision [10]; Resistant (Sleep and Charm Effects*, +8 to resist) [5]; Silence 1 [5].
Disadvantages: Intolerance (Humanoids) [-5]; Sense of Duty (Good People**) [-15].
Racially Learned Skills: Bow (A) DX-1 [1]-10; Broadsword (A) DX-1 [1]-10.
Languages: Elvish (Native) [0]; Gnomish (Accented) [4]; Halflingish (Accented) [4]; Goblinish (Broken) [2]; Hobgoblinish (Broken) [2]; Orcish (Broken) [2]; Gnollish (Broken) [2]; Common (Accented) [4]
Features: Figure Height and Weight as if ST were 2 points lower.

*Includes the spells Sleep, Mass Sleep, Loyalty, Charm, and Enslave. Other effects can be resisted at the GM's discretion.

**Considered to be those who are defined as Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic Good in the Greyhawk material. The Player and the Referee will have to work out how to handle cases of Humanoids who can be considered as being of those alignments, but I'd consider the Sense of Duty to outweigh the Intolerance.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Verdant, Arcadia

In the Fantasy West, there is a town called Verdant. Located in Arcadia County, Verdant is not a large town. In fact, it's hardly more than a General Store, a Hotel and Livery Stable, a pair of Temples (one dedicated to Valentina, and one to Landry), and a Saloon, with a few houses.

The General Store is the centerpiece of the town, being the place that farmers, miners, and ranchers from the surrounding County come to trade for goods they need and can't produce themselves. Run by a man named Afala Corbits and his family, the store is usually just called "Afala's".

The hotel and livery stable is the business of the Laskin family. The accounts and records are kept by Kulino Laskin, the patriarch of the family, though he is starting to give some of those responsibilities to his eldest son, Jerbart, who is otherwise involved with keeping the stables running. Kulino's wife, Latats, runs the kitchen. The children do the rest of the work, along with a few people hired from the farming families of the County. Of an evening, the rowdy youths of Verdant can often be found at the stables, gambling or fighting under the sullen eye of Jerbart.

The saloon is both the center of government for the town and County, and also the center of the roughest elements. Judge Gelorman Wilkar spends his days playing cards in the bar, ruling on cases that are brought to him in between hands. Sheriff Tarbot Numtar can usually be found at the table, along with whichever of the ranchers and farmholders happen to be in town that day.

In the Temple of Valentina, Miss Nekoma, the Holy Dove of Valentina, and her acolytes hold services to the goddess of love. For a donation to the goddess, the acolytes might take a petitioner upstairs for private worship. Judge Wilkar and Sheriff Numtar are fine with the temple being around, but always put the interests of the ranchers, miners, and farmers ahead of those of Miss Nekoma and her acolytes.

Landry's Temple is next to the saloon, and is the province of Shepherd Soduk Kalama. The storm god's pews are generally full each week, with families from the nearest farms, and occasionally even ranchers and miners, coming to listen to the philosophical orations of the Shepherd. The rest of the time, Shepherd Kalama provides counsel for those who are troubled and organizes aid for those in need.

Recently, a man has come to town. No one knows where he comes from, or what he has done. All they know is his name, Palan Tobuk, and that he drinks alone in the saloon. He never takes off his pistol or his hat with others around, and has rarely been seen without his black duster.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Religion In GURPS Greyhawk

Back when the original folio edition of the World of Greyhawk was released, there was little discussion of religion in Oerth. In fact, despite several of the leaders of various areas being defined as Clerics, there is no mention of particular deities or religions at any point (Iuz excepted, but he's not called a god or even a demon in the folio's Gazetteer, as well as Zagig, similarly not termed a god or demigod at this point in time). This leaves me wide open as to defining the religions of Oerth. I want to include St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel and Pholtus of the Blinding Light, as these two are known to have been the original Lawful gods of Gygax's campaign. There are a few others implied, for which I will dip into the boxed set's descriptions for ideas, but will not feel bound to them.

First, I want to note that there's a significant difference in reality between monotheist and polytheist religions. These fundamental differences result in very different ways of approaching the world. To work with this idea, I want to limit some of the ways that each religion is portrayed in game terms. Only monotheist religions will have some of the abilities we usually think of as "clerical", such as undead turning or miraculous prayer. Polytheist religions will more closely resemble traditional gaming magic. So, the advantages True Faith, Blessed, and Divine Favor (from GURPS Powers: Divine Favor) will be the basis of the monotheist clerics' magical abilities, while the abilities of polytheist "clerics" will be simply the basic magic system. In the case of Druids, the reorganization of the basic magic system as the "Tree Magic" system from GURPS Thaumatology will be used. OK, that gets most of the game-specific material out of the way, so let's discuss the religious landscape of the Flanaess.

The monotheist religions are those of St. Cuthbert and Pholtus, certainly, but I am also inclined to present the religion of the far Northwest (Ekbir, Zeif, and so on) as monotheistic, but I'll come back to that. My general impression is that Pholtus is the religion of most of the Flanaess. Edit to add: Pholtus is mainly concentrated around the Great Kingdom, the Pale, Nyrond, Urnst, and so forth. End edit. St. Cuthbert, on the other hand, is the god followed by those in the central Flanaess, such as Greyhawk and Verbobonc, Furyondy and Veluna. I'd say that his worship extends into the area of Keoland and surrounding areas. My impression is that the religion of Pholtus is more inflexible and intolerant than St. Cuthbert's, but the two religions are also specifically active rivals for worshipers. St. Cuthbert is not as intolerant of the polytheists around, but Pholtus is actively trying to eliminate them and any other religion as heretics.

The Baklunish nations in the far Northwest, on the other hand, have been portrayed as polytheist since the boxed set. However, their implied culture is based on one of the most monotheist cultures in real-world history, the Islamic Arabs. The boxed set lists several gods as being Baklunish in origin: Istus (the Lady of Fate), Geshtai (goddess of lakes, rivers, and wells), Xan Yae (goddess of twilight, shadows, and such), and Zuoken (god of physical and mental mastery). I want to incorporate those into the world, so I will imagine that Istus is the True God of the Bakluni. The others will be Archangels fulfilling the Will of the Lady of Fate. There will be other Archangels, but I won't worry about those until I need them. The Bakluni will believe that other monotheist gods are merely different ways of envisioning the True God, Istus, but that polytheists are deluded demon-worshipers. Istus's worship extends into Ket and the areas of the Tiger and Wolf Nomads.

There are three major polytheist religions: Oeridian, Flan, and Suloise. The Oeridians are the religion that Pholtus came from, and they perceive Him as one god among many. The monotheist Pholtus-followers are particularly aggressive about their "backward, demon-worshiping" cousins. Their main gods include Zilchus, the god of power and influence, and Procan, the god of the oceans. There are several other gods, dedicated to aspects of nature in the main, but also notably Heironeous, the god of justice and chivalry, Delleb, the god of the intellect, and Hextor, the evil god of war and discord. Oeridian "clerics" are not particularly distinguishable from magic users, and learn spells as normal. Oeridian religion is scattered in the area of the Great Kingdom (though oppressed by Pholtus monotheism), the Shield Lands and the Bandit Kingdoms, and the areas of Keoland and the surrounding areas.

The Suloise barbarians of the Northeastern peninsula are listed in the boxed set as having three major gods: Kord, god of sports and brawling, Lendor, god of time and tedium, and Wee Jas, goddess of magic and death. Kord is probably their most important god. Their clerics are also very much like traditional magic users. Other areas where Suloise gods hold sway include Hepmonaland and the Amedio Jungle, Keoland and the surrounding areas (mixing with the Oeridian temples in a harmonious way), and the Scarlet Brotherhood's peninsula. In addition, they can be found pretty well represented in the central Flanaess alongside St. Cuthbert's chapels.

Flan religion is almost certainly the Druidic religion of Oerth. The boxed set lists four gods as the major ones of the Flan pantheon. They are Beory, the Oerth Mother, Nerull, god of death, Pelor, god of the sun, and Rao, god of peace and serenity. Iuz is part of this pantheon, and is the incarnate god of oppression, deceit, and pain. Their clerics will use the Tree Magic version of the basic magic system. I may rename the 18 oghams of that system with symbols from the "Glossary of Portentous Runes and Glyphs" of the Gazetteer, but that's pretty low priority. These Druids can be found throughout the Flanaess, but are especially common in Tenh and the Barrens.

So, if polytheist clerics are "merely" magic users by another name, why do they have temples and shrines? Like wizard towers, shrines and temples give a place for priests to live and receive visitors and petitioners. In addition, they give a place for common worship to occur. This has few game system effects, being mainly the way that communities bond and improve their communal order. However, using the GURPS magic system, they can also serve as the location of Ceremonial Magic casting for major spells like Bless Plants.

There are other gods listed in the boxed set as "Common", such as Boccob, Incabulos, Cyndor, Bleredd, Ehlonna, Joramy, Lirr, Myrhiss, Olidammara, Ralishaz, Tritherion, and Zagyg. I'm going to figure that these are, like Zagyg/Zagig, powerful entities similar to the major demons or the powerful modrons or else local gods (so that Ehlonna, for instance, is a goddess whose worship is found in the Gnarley Forest, the Welkwood, and the Suss Forest only). Generally speaking, in fact, these gods are found in specific areas (Iuz in his own land, Zagig mainly in Greyhawk, and so on).