A forgotten relic of gaming
Original SA post
A forgotten relic of gaming
Metal as FUCK
Birthright, FUCK YEAH! Birthright's a leftover from the era of 2nd edition AD&D which, to the best of my knowledge, has neither been revived by whoever(if anyone) owns the rights or by fans. It was surprisingly popular for a period, though, and was one of the settings to actually get a videogame of its own.
And it was actually pretty good, being part TBS, part RPG. You played as the ruler of a kingdom and every turn, besides raising armies, casting huge "Realm" spells and expanding your nets of influence, you could go adventuring in old ruins and stuff. Some were strikes against enemy fortresses, some were just plain dungeon crawls, and all of them were pretty rad, letting you level up your ruler, learn new Realm spells if he/she was a caster or acquire artifacts powerful enough to have effects on the strategic map. The engine for the dungeon crawls wasn't great, but for its time, it was certainly awesome.
It was also relatively true to the Birthright setting and its gameplay/concept.
The best PHB cover in the history of D&D, just fucking look at them!
See, back in the Good Old Days(not to grog it up too hard), players were expected to settle down around 9th level, called the "Lord" level by some, because then they were badass and famous enough to start attracting followers. Wizards and psionics got apprentices, clerics set up churches and cathedrals full of monks and priests, and warriors attracted somewhere in the neighbourhood of a couple hundred badass armed dudes. It was expected that you'd start blowing all your shitloads of gold on building a castle, raising an army and becoming not just an adventuring force, but also a political force.
Birthright, as we're going to see, is very much about rulers and kings and running kingdoms, though not all are high-level characters. Plenty of kingdoms, however, are set up to be player-rulable, either from the start of the game or as ones they might attain power over later.
So what do we have to go through, here? We've got...
Yep more dudes getting cut the fuck apart
The Atlas of Cerilia! Cerilia is the campaign world, and the Atlas is a general fluffy intro. It contains the major races, locations and the setting history.
SO. MUCH. BLOOD.
The Rulebook! This is where we have all the crunch, once we get here I'll give a quick run-down of the relevant 2nd edition rules whenever the numbers come up, just so it's not a meaningless litany of groggy number-crunching for anyone who's not familiar with the system.
Jesus Christ all the murdering going on, Birthright does not fuck around
And the awkwardly named "Ruins of Empire," this is a part fluff, part crunch book that focuses mostly on explaining the individual kingdoms and realms that already exist. This is likely where I'll give a rundown of any relevant states that don't pop up in the Atlas/Rulebook and elaborate a bit more on the ones that do.
So what do you need to know when going into Birthright? Well, you need to know that this setting is part goddamn
. Part of the background fluff is the struggle with the Shadow, an ancient elder god of darkness who's haunted humanity since the dawn of time pretty much. At one point, the Gods themselves joined the battle against the Shadow when shit got REAL, but unfortunately so much divine power in one place literally made the gods, the Shadow and a large chunk of the world go up in smoke. The survivors of the battle were juiced full of divine energy, either from Gods or from the Shadows. These godblooded characters are a cut above average, and can "steal" bloodlines and bloodline powers from each other by offing a character with a stab right through the heart. Alternately a character can willingly cede his bloodline to another and, if I recall correctly, they're also passed to children the usual way.
Meanwhile, new Gods have popped up and have signed a big old "NO SETTING FOOT ON THE MORTAL WORLD BECAUSE IT'LL BLOW UP"-contract, and while the Shadow is mostly gone, his children are... not right. The other Gods' children are a variety of alignments, but Azrai's, the Shadow's, children, are all evil, and known as Awnsleighen. We'll see plenty of those fucked up fellows(The big guy on the BR video game's cover art is the Gorgon, the King Jackass of the Awnsleighen crew and pretty much the setting's Big Bad). So the whole conflict is still going on, now a war between the empowered servants of dead deities. I kind of dig it.
But, we'll get to that once I crack open the Atlas of Cerilia! Until next time! Which I guess will pretty much be the first time.
Atlas of Cerilia
Original SA post
Atlas of Cerilia
Alright, let's kick this thing into gear and actually talk about what Birthright is about. The first thing anyone would notice, upon opening this book, is that it is goddamn gorgeous.
Every page looks like this, with these lovely backgrounds that spice things up yet don't interfere with the text or make it hard to read. Some are re-used, sure, over the couple hundred pages in the three pieces of the campaign setting(Atlas, Rules, Ruins), it's limited how much art they could afford, but you'll hardly notice that unless you're looking for it. It's a really, really nice touch.
So the Atlas itself is presented in first person by a chamberlain overlooking the affairs of the Iron Throne of Anuire. This throne has stood empty for decades now, since it's where the ruler of a united Cerilia sits, and that has not happened in a goddamn long time. Unlike a lot of other first-person narrations, it's pretty solid. It's not fucked up with some stupid accent, and the author's little asides and personal stories relating to the subjects help make them more interesting and less dry than some setting history can be(for instance, one of his ancestors was at the Battle of Mount Deismaar, and he's personally met several Awnsheighlen, a word you can expect me to fuck up pretty much every time I write it).
But onwards to the History section!
The History of Cerilia
Apologies for the shitty stapling-together of scans, but this was the best I had on hand. Mostly poor slanting of the scans in the scan I had was what made it wonky as balls, but at least it gives an idea of where things are
So Cerilia wasn't originally populated by any humans. It used to have dwarves, chilling in the mountains, and fuckloads of elves everywhere else. Those two races mostly spent their time kicking around the goblins, gnolls, orogs and other PC fodder and getting kicked back. It was pretty much a long, miserable stalemate for everyone involved and everyone wished things would change, which it eventually would, but just not in a way that everyone was going to like.
Way south of Cerilia, across a strait that used to have a land bridge across it, there was a big continent just packed to the gills with humans and little else. In the south, a Big Evil Empire being advised by the Shadow, Azrai, God of being a great big jerkface, and in the north, five tribes worshipping the remainder of the pantheon, one tribe per deity:
: Nobility and War.
: Woods and Streams.
: Commerce and Fortune.
: Moon and Magic
: The Seas
: The Sun(worshipped by the Barsarji, who are living elsewhere at this point in time)
Predictably, none of the tribes were dumb enough to follow a deity with the subtitle to his name being "The Face of Evil." But there were rumblings that the empire which WAS stupid enough for that was plotting to march up and stomp all their heads in, so the nice tribes decide to slog it up to Cerilia to get some peace. Plenty of them die on the way, and they instantly get into fights with the goblins and other fodder, but at least they aren't getting murdered by an evil empire! They also find that, apparently by coincidence, a group of humans called the Barsarji had landed on the eastern coast of Cerilia from their own continent around the same time. They're kinda Arab-ish and can be counted among the decent dudes of the setting.
But at any rate, once the humans run out of green-skinned assholes to steal land from, they find that they STILL need places to build cities and trade stuff. They look to the dwarves, who've got big axes and all their stuff locked away inside mountains, and decide that naw, they don't want none of that, so they shake hands with the dwarves and go: "Alright, we won't fuck with your shit, you won't fuck with ours." Then they look to the elves, who live in nice, sunny woods and can probably be knocked over in the span of an afternoon.
Asskickings occur on both sides, but in the end the humans take everything but the deepest forests on account of the elves not being liked by the Gods. Literally. The elves have druids and arcane magic, but straight-up Divine stuff isn't anything they can figure out, because the Gods just plain refuse to talk to them about it. Divine asskickings ensue, and the elves get to sulking real hardcore, to the point of basically declaring that all humans, from the grimmest warrior with a dozen elven heads in his backpack, to the farmer who's looking for his lost sheep just past the treeline, are legitimate targets for murdering. This does nothing to improve relations.
The War of the Shadow
Meanwhile, back in Southern Continent, the Shadow Guys have stomped all remaining resistance and, in what's kind of a theme by this point, are looking around for new asses to kick. The Shadow himself kind of wants to murder the ones that got away(the humans now living in Cerilia), so he gets to plotting. First he visits the goblins, gnolls and orogs, and basically goes: "Hey fuckers! Check this shit out! You kill some humans for me and you get DIVINE MAGIC!" and they're hooked on the plan of "Fuck the Cerilians."
Next he visits the Vos, the tribe that used to worship Vorynn. They used to be all wizards and shit, but they've ended up living in the miserable, snow-covered bullshit north of Cerilia and have gotten kind of savage, so Azrai whispers to them about how awesome it'd be to kill everyone else. They're in. Finally he goes to the elves and dwarves. The dwarves are pretty much busy beating in orog heads and tell him to fuck off, but the elves are, as I have mentioned, still
about the whole "humanity murdered us, took our lands and are now having the times of their lives." So they sign on with Evilking Spikypauldrons.
So the Barsarji(worship Basaïa), Brecht(Brenna), Anuirean(Anduiras), Rjuven(Reynir) and Masetians(Masela) get up their arms and prepare for an Epic Final Stand as basically every single group of assholes in the known world are coming for their heads. And to their credit, everyone DOES actually band together for it. Every wizard, cleric, thief, merchant, warrior and peasant chips in to preserve part of the world for people who aren't fuckfaces. Even the dwarves, kind of worried that the orogs and so forth will get powerful from following Azrai, decide to back humanity up.
Unfortunately it's not as easy as that, and the good guys get their shit kicked in, eventually making a last stand on the land bridge linking Cerilia to the Southern Continent. Everyone who is anyone is there, and the Gods each pick a champion or two that they really dig, and go: "You're my fucking proxy now, go KICK ASS." There's even some drama, as the leader of Azrai's armies is Raesene, who's half-brother to Roele and and Haelyn, the leaders of the Anuirean tribe.
Fucking BOOM it goes, armies clash, blood goes spraying, fireballs firing, assholes getting cut new ones, but the good guys are still getting their shit kicked in until 90% of the elves suddenly realize that maybe helping the Lord Asshole Jackass of the universe win isn't such a good idea, no matter how much they hate the humans, and they swap over to the side of Good, excepting a small pack of REALLY angry fuckers. They cut a bloody swathe through the badguys and the good guys decide it's time for a final push.
It even gets this pimpin' art
At the peak of a mountain(Mount Deismaar), just to make it REALLY epic, Haelyn and Roele decide to go mano-a-mano with Raesene, while above the mountain, the gods incarnate and wrassle it out with Azrai. And I've already spoiled how this one goes: Everything fucking blows up. The land bridge is sunk beneath the seas, the Gods go up in glittery sparkles and this ain't good. The chosen champions ascend to become the new divinities, various folks are imbued with divine power(without being ascended directly) and become the forebears of the bloodlines. The Vos and other badguys scatter, and the elves, dwarves and Cerilians all go home and lick their wounds.
More recent history
So as you may have noticed, there were six deities before, but one
two champions a piece.
Haelyn takes over for Anduiras, Erik the Druid takes over for Reynir, Sera replaces Brenna as the goddess of bling, some guy called Avani becomes the fucking Sun, a pair of Vos called Kriesha and Belinik get the badass titles of Ice Lady and Prince of Terror as they soak up all of Azrai's shadowy jackassery, Nesirie becomes the new goddess of the sea and Ruornil is the new dude of wizardry. Good thing we had a backup pantheon there, whew!
The bloodlines are a bit more complicated, though, because a lot of the people who pick them up become power-thirsty assholes. Some of them are just that, assholes, others want more power because it's kind of a rush, see, there's something weird about having a bloodline: If you have a legitimate claim to a land, either by blood or by conquest, you become linked to it. As the land prospers, you grow stronger, both drawing power from each other. People
power. There's also the whole "Bloodtheft" aspect where murdering someone with a bloodline will give you that power, or add it to your own, all Highlander-style.
More fucked up, though, are the Azrai-blooded, the Awnsheglien(awn-SHAY-len, according to the book, it's elfish for "blood of darkness). While the others largely just get badass radiant halos of power and stuff, the Awnsheglien don't stay human. For instance, hydras aren't just a species of monster in Cerilia, they're all the spawns of THE Hydra, a titanic Awnsheglien. And Raesene is still around, he's become the Gorgon, the new warleader of pretty much all the evil shitkickers in the world, who can murder people by glaring at them angrily. Most of them also tend to have pretty much indefinite lifespans, so they just grow uglier, bigger, angrier, more powerful and more crazy as the decades drag on.
They can get pretty fuckin' ugly, given enough time
It's kind of like a way more metal version of Exalted with less anime and more stabbing.
Another side effect of the War of the Shadow is also that either everyone had just missed it so far, or the fucking Gods blowing up accidentally knocked some holes in reality, because now everyone suddenly notices The Shadow World. The Shadow World is a sort of overlay of Cerilia that looks much the same except it's bleak, miserable and populated by the undead, the undead and
, for some reason. Halflings in this setting are kinda half in the Shadow World, half in the real world, all the time. Also if you're a clumsy asshole you can accidentally walk through one of these rents and end up in Zombie City. Not a good idea.
So the GOOD news, though, is that not everyone with a bloodline is an asshole about their quest for power. Roele gets fistbumped by his now-divine brother and decides that it's time to fix all this goddamn mess of people stabbing each other over blood and territory. He gathers up a bunch of veterans from the explosion of Deismaar, puts on his asskicking boots and slaps every dumbass lord within range up the head. He then passes out lands to his competent allies instead of to whatever power-hungry bloodline-imbued asshole had them before, preps up a REAL army and decides it's time to unite the continent.
The Rjuriks(kinda russkie) beat him back, but then apparently decide they'll be his buddies anyway after he busts out the diplomacy. I guess either they respect someone who'll fight them or he got them drunk enough that they forgot he tried to conquer them. The Brechts are mostly seafaring, so don't have much of an empire and get their asses kicked in short order. The Basarji(who have by this time culturally absorbed the Masetians) also get their faces kicked in. The campaign finally grinds to a halt when Roele tries to take on the Vos, but they have thousands upon thousands of goblin allies and slaves, and end up holding the line.
Still, not bad, most of the parts of the continent that aren't icy shitholes are now under the Anuirean throne, Roele can be proud, people are stabbing each other less, the rulers are largely fair and competent. What could go wrong?
Ruins of the Empire
Well, for instance, after five hundred years or so, the last Roele, Michael, could decide to try and copy his great ancestor's asskicking skills. Unfortunately he might also be nowhere near as competent BUT still stupid enough to think he can take on the Gorgon, who's had these last five-fucking-hundred years to get more powerful, more crazy and more angry. Surprise: Michael Roele kinda fuckin' dies.
Everyone promptly forgets that the Anuirean Empire was a pretty nice deal and decide to make a crazed grab for power. Hence why there are like four dozen states on the world map, rather than two(Anuire and FROZEN ASSHOLES). After punching each other into a stalemate and drawing some borders, that's basically where we are. Michael Roele fucked everything up, the Gorgon is probably angrier than ever, and no one has the skills or balls to step up and grab the Iron Throne and re-unite the continent.
Races of Cerilia
So who actually LIVES here, five-hundred years after the War of the Shadow and all that bullshit?
You've got humans, still largely split into tribes, though they're more like ethnicities than necessarily being tied together politically or anything.
The Anuireans are largely the bog-standard ones, they live in temperate climes and have a thing for warriors, what with the God of War being the brother of the guy who used to run their whole deal.
The Brechts are sailors who don't really like the rest of the human states and few states are ethnically or culturally Brechtish by this point. They're kinda merchanty and most of the ones in charge of them are either merchants, or mafia leaders/thieves calling themselves merchants. If the cultural value of the Anuireans is Honour & Punches, for Brechts they're Money & Pragmatism.
The Khinasi are what the combined Basarji and Masetian people call themselves now. They're also traders, and are still in touch with the Basarji homeland way to the east, as mentioned, a bit of an Arabic influence to their naming and stuff, as far as I can tell, possibly North African in general? They're very booksy, good at magic and most of their leaders are mages. Pragmatists like the Brecht, but less about wealth and more about style. Literally they believe that your wealth is defined by how well you can entertain your guests, which I guess means they're the Party Nation of Cerilia.
The Rjurik are part Viking, part Russian in influence, I'd say. Very much about one-on-one duels and druidic magic. They mostly don't have time to go at war since they live north enough that their lands are clogged with angry monsters that have more assholes than hair follicles.
The Vos are still kind of assholes, they worship the two evil Azrai-spawned Gods and they name their lands "The Brutal Lands," "The Lands of Darkness" and "The Land of Midnight Sun." They're the only humans who live farther north than the Rjurik. The only people who get to rule in Vos lands are priests, predictably priests of the Ice Lady and the Prince of Terror. They keep their promises honourably, treasure their friends and understand compassion... as individuals. As a society, their priests whip them into being cruel, warlike dickheads.
Aside from all the humans, we also have some demihumans. Thankfully no gnomes or kender, as far as I can tell, but we do have elves, dwarves and halflings.
Elves don't have much in the way of stereotypes here. Some hate humans, some are friendly to humans. Some have mage rulers, some have warrior rulers. Mostly their overriding racial ambition, though, is to return to the glory days before Humans Fucked Everything Up, most don't feel humanity needs to be burnt to cinders to accomplish this, however. At some point they also realized that since humanity kicked their asses, maybe they were on to something good, and have started trying to learn from humanity on how to run kingdoms properly, how to trade better, etc. Which is a kind of refreshingly interesting take on an elder fantasy race's response to the new upstarts.
As usual, dwarves are miners and warriors, but not just for fun. The orogs live underground, there are thousands upon tens of thousands of them, they're great at fighting and they're even bigger assholes than the Vos. The only thing keeping them mostly locked below ground? The dwarves. So the dwarves have to be damn good at fighting to avoid everyone else being up to their necks in angry monsters. Despite being kind of dour in their dealings with other races at times, they're described as being "full of irrepressible good cheer and song."
Halflings used to be half in, half out of the Shadow World, able to skip back and forth as they pleased, but these days they've left the Shadow World behind almost entirely, presumably because of the surfeit of undead fuckfaces overcrowding it. Mostly they live among humans and pick up human culture as their own, instead of having any specifically halfling behavior.
Here's some cool art to break up the WALL OF TEXT
Aside from all the PC races, though, we've also got the monstrous races. The goblins are the most prevalent, and also the most civilized. They've got their own nations and even have diplomats, courts and make treaties with other kingdoms(even though they're kind of prone to breaking those treaties if they see a profitable way to stab someone in the neck). They're also a bit prone to emulating nearby human kingdoms, so the ones living near the Vos are REAL shitheads while the ones living near Anuireans are the better examples of their race.
Gnolls are just the usual warlike, savage fuckfaces, and there's little info on the orogs except that they're supposedly planning to kick some dwarf ass and bust out into the surface world any day now.
And of course there are the Awnsheghlien. Like the other bloodlined creatures, they are natural rulers who are empowered by their territories and vice versa, and they, too, and commit bloodtheft. And if anything they have less issues with doing it. NO ONE gets to have Azrai's blood without having their mortal body twisted by just how big an asshole Azrai was.
Finally there's a section with a bunch of blurbs about locations/nations in Cerilia. Most aren't long enough to be worth recounting, but there are some interesting notes. For instance, bloodtheft can also be a curse: One brave warrior defeated an Azrai-blooded known as "The Sinister," but ended up inheriting its power, being twisted by it and becoming The Vampire. Brechtish stuff is obviously German-ish named, Vos stuff obviously has Russkie names, that sort of thing. Oh yeah, and here's also the first mention of something awesome about the Vos: Everyone else rides horses, the Vos ride GIANT LIZARDS. Hell yeah!
And on that note, I'm done with the Atlas of Cerilia. To celebrate this first step in reviewing Birthright, have this swag motherfucker:
Crunch & Dice
Original SA post
Crunch & Dice
Okay, so, let's get to what's actually different from 2nd edition AD&D besides some writing. We're still using the same basic ruleset, Thac0 and all that, the usual 6 D&D stats(Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma) and (mostly) the same classes. Unlike in basic 2nd ed where "4d6 drop lowest" was merely an optional kind of rolling stats, here it's the recommended method, and in fact the only recommended one.
The various demihumans are, mostly, the same, but humans actually have stat mods here. Every human ethnicity(Anuirean, Brecht, Khinasi, Rjurik, Vos) have a +1 stat, -1 stat modifier. The next unusual change is that the level limits have been modified.
For those not up to date: back in the older editions, demihumans were limited to a maximum level in all classes, unlike humans who had infinite advancement. This was part systemic balance, part used to explain why not every 1000-year-old elf was a level 20 character. These limits are still in place except for being changed for elves and halflings(dwarves are still limited as usual, and half-elves still have infinite advancement as bards). Elves have infinite advancement as wizards, and halflings as thieves.
Birthright really seems to have it out for elves, check the goofy-ass art they get compared to everyone else.
: Dwarves are the least changed race, with the exception that their bodies are remarkably dense(apparently they're literally twice as dense, with regards to bone and muscle, as the other races), and so they only take half damage from any crushing source of misery. Mostly unconcerned with the rest of the world, but not unpleasant towards it, they tend to be Neutral Good.
: Elves are literally described as being "creatures of fairy dust and starlight," and generally seem to be completely autistic at dealing with most of the other races. They also lose a LOT of their PHB advantages, like bonuses with longswords and bows, their infravision and so forth. Their description is basically that they're unpredictable, if not quite care-free, and that to most humans they'd seem kind of insane. Their natural alignment is apparently Chaotic because they do whatever the fuck pleases them.
: As usual, half-elves get kind of shafted, having no real bonuses or weaknesses. Though at least in this setting, they're completely trusted by elves(not quite so by humans).
: Halflings are probably the most changed race. As mentioned earlier, they used to be residents of the Shadow World, but got the fuck out of dodge when it was conquered by an evil force known as the Usurper(hence the place being up to the neck in undead these days), they tend to be citizens of human nations, don't concern themselves much with government and really only arrived in large numbers after the mess at Mount Deismaar. They're good with ALL missile weapons, from bows to slings and thrown weapons, but lose their infravision and other underground-related boosts from the Player's Handbook version. They can also Detect Evil, Undead and Magic(though only Necromancy) simply by focusing and glancing into the border regions of the Shadow World. Further than that, places of death and darkness are close to the Shadow World, graveyards, dark corners, forgotten basements, etc. and if they're near any of those, Halflings can Shadow Walk or Dimension Door their way to other places by looping through the Shadow World. They can do this in full sunlight and cheerful surroundings, too, but with a considerable chance of failure.
: We've already gone over the various nationalities, and humans are still the same ol' aside from those little stat boosts.
The classes, too, get an overhaul. With some changes(mostly to the Paladins) and the addition of an entirely new class(The Magician).
Fighters are completely standard, Paladins get varied changes to their stats depending on what deity they follow(I'll note those when we get to the gods, they're kind of interesting, some of them), Rangers are also unchanged(aside from a side rule that they get no XP if they go adventuring while dragging along shitloads of retainers and other NPC's, they're supposed to be self-reliant), Clerics are mostly changed in the fact that elves, as we now know, cannot be Clerics because the Gods still do not deign to talk to them(kind of dickish, really, after they decided to wise up and help at Deismaar) and there's no "standard cleric" like there is in the PHB, instead everyone has a limited selection of spheres of magic.
Now, Wizards and Magicians are interesting. Wizards are the classic spellcaster, but only elves, half-elves and humans with a Bloodline can be them. For everyone else, the only option is to be a Magician(and even then, only humans can be Magicians). Magicians are sort of... one-class, slightly gimped, Fighter/Mages. They get to use more weapons, close to a thief's armory, but their magical abilities are limited. They count as specialists in both Divination and Illusion at once, and can use those spells with all the bonuses a Specialist would normally have. But for all other spell schools, they can only learn up to the 2nd level of spells. They also get to use Rogue Non-Weapon-Proficiencies. They're... an interesting class, and I find their addition to be a nice touch, it's hard to say if they're more or less powerful than a standard mage, because you can do a hell of a lot with Illusion and Divination, and having Specialist bonuses for TWO schools is fucking sweet. On the other hand, they miss out on most of the big, murderous magic that comes with, say, Evocation.
Bards are mostly standard, except that like Magicians they're limited to Divination/Illusion magic and
get Enchantment school spells. Said Enchantments are magical songs learned at the Bardic colleges. They're also all sworn to neutrality, so if they ever become regents, they usually become shunned by the Bardic colleges. And anyone who's already in a noble line will be rejected by the colleges ahead of time because they foresee that conflict of interest.
Psionics are noted as being non-existent on Cerilia, but we can add them in, though it's not advised since there's already so much non-PHB material that potentially we could drown in it. Especially since a psionic PC would usually also mean there'd have to be psionic opposition.
Multiclassing and such remains unfucked-with, excepting of course that elves can't be any multiclass combinations that involves divine stuff.
Predictably there's a small cluster of new proficiencies to learn. Administration, Law and Leadership are for everyone. Priests get Diplomacy, Rogues get Intrigue and Warriors get the double serving of Strategy and Siegecraft. Mostly these are related to the strategic over-game and its various actions, boosting and buffing them, though there's really no way they could not be used for other tasks as well.
Some interesting changes here! Firstly weapon availability is ethnically determined, for instance, only Khinasi regions are likely to have scimitars, heavy plate and cavalry are mostly an Anuirean thing, that sort of thing. This is a nice touch, and helps give each region its own special feel. There are also some new pieces of gear, and some old ones are changed.
Weapons-wise, we get some new swords: Claymores(Rjurik only), Cutlasses, Rapiers and Sabres. None of them have unique rules, they're mostly for flavour. Main-Gauches, or "parrying daggers," are added as defensive weapons that can also be used to shiv a sucker in a close situation and... they finally fix crossbows. Now, to explain, crossbows have always sucked shit in 2nd edition AD&D. Worse rate of fire AND worse damage than normal bows. Firstly, Birthright upgrades their damage significantly, light crossbows keep pace with bows, and heavy ones outdamage them. Secondly, crossbows being used at medium and short range ignore large parts of armor class granted by, well, armor. To illustrate, at short range, it ignores
, and the heaviest basic armor in the game, Full Plate, improves your AC by ten. So this really gives you a good shot at fucking over heavily armoured guys.
Armour has some new additions, but no real changes, and then we get to something cool that the Vos get. Allow me to illustrate with an image.
That's what they call a "Varsk." Vos cavalry, as you can see, ride these huge, furry lizards. Isn't that just fuckin' neato? Oh and a single Varsk fights similarly to a fifth-level Fighter. Meaning they will wreck your shit in so many ways it isn't even funny. No wonder the Anuireans never conquered these guys. But alright, this is all pretty understandable. They do not completely overhaul the system, but they adjust it in some nice little ways that are very appreciated. You'll need to once-over the lists to see what changes they make, but you're not going to be constantly referencing them because they wanted to make a totally different game.
At any rate, this is the big mechanical Thing for Birthright(ignoring the domain-level game and all that), Bloodlines.
Whether you want to be Blooded or not seems to be largely a GM and player choice. The book seems to encourage that not everyone have a Bloodline, and says that it can be an interesting game if one guy has the Bloodline and rules a kingdom, and most of the others are his loyal advisors and/or friends. This is probably to avoid cluttering up the domain game too much if that gets involved. Our "bloodline strength" is randomly generated, 1d100 roll. Graciously, however, we get to pick which bloodline it is ourselves(though there is a table provided in case we can't decide), and there's one bloodline for each of the ancient gods, including of course Azrai.
Then we tumble headfirst into a thicket of rolls for how many abilities we actually have, and of what power, of course modified by what strength our bloodline has. We get to start with one, two or three, depending on our rolls(though we could also fuck them up completely and get none), and if we over time manage to increase our bloodline strength(usually by ruling the land well, though we could also be an asshole who steals others' blood), we can get to pick up more and nicer ones.
What abilities are available depends, of course, on what our bloodline actually IS. Fighty abilities are often related to Anduiras, for instance, magic to Vorynn, and being an evil asshole to Azrai. Some, like Battlewise, are only useful on the battlefield, while others like Alter Appearance are only handy off of it and a few, like Courage, have applications in both cases. We can have divine auras, be minor shapeshifters, be able to go DIVINE BERSERK(this particular ability is, by the way, incredibly powerful and will wreck anyone's shit in short order), regenerate or a bunch of other things. None of them are useless(though as noted, some may only really be handy for a general), even if a few are a bit niche(poison sense, for instance).
It's nothing that completely turns the system on its head, but again, it really helps enhance the flavour when an Azrai-blooded regent can make things decay with a touch, while an Anduirean regent is surrounded by a halo of power and nobility and a scion of Masela can travel across the world by leaping through blazes and bonfires.
Then there's also a short description of the mechanics involved in children gaining their parents' bloodlines, how to pass them on and a mention of the fact that it's possible to increase your bloodline strength by being a good ruler(the actual mechanics for this are not until the next section, which talks about Domains). The book theorizes, but obviously leaves the details open to the GM, that this is because the fear/faith of the people is close to belief, and the bloodline of the ruler is close to divinity, that they're empowered by their people much like a deity is empowered by his worshippers.
The rules for Bloodtheft point out that anyone who just bites the bucket naturally or at the hands of common events basically just wastes his bloodline, though his realm passes to any heirs he might have. If another blooded character strikes a killing blow through the heart, though(how could that NOT be a killing blow?), he eats up a small boost to his own bloodline... BUT, if he's literally hunted down the last member of a given bloodline(not, like, the last blooded of Anduiras, but more like murdering an entire family), he gets a comparatively huge boost. There's also a rare weapon material called Tighmaevril, or Bloodsilver(maybe a dozen of these weapons exist in total, and the Gorgon owns a good selection of them), which just vacuums up bloodline points like nothing else if you murder someone with them. Good luck getting your hands on one, though.
The next big change that Birthright makes is the whole strategic game, which is kind of like a complex board game, and I think it deserves a post of its own. I'm also going to need to re-read the section to make sure I don't fuck anything up and describe anything wrong.
Meanwhile, have a nice map of Cerilia! Rjurik's in the northwest, Anuire in the south and heartlands, Brechts wherever you see the ocean(but mostly near the center of the continent), Khinasi in the east-southeast, Vos in the northeast. Elves in the woods, dwarves in the mountains, goblins and similar assholes mostly in the northern reaches or any place that has a Z in its name.
Oh, and here's the intro for the Birthright PC game! I've always loved it. In part for its flagrant abuse of waily guitars.
Original SA post
Alright, so, Domains and being a regent! First let's define a domain, it's not necessarily a kingdom. It can also be a temple, a trading company, a guild network or the natural Ley Lines of Cerilia(important for casting Realm Spells). To have a Domain in the proper sense you must be Blooded(of course, you can still own a guild or be a merchant without being Blooded, you just do not get the various benefits it conveys), and in fact most nations have multiple regents. Often the official ruler of the kingdom is one, and whatever mage controls the nation's magical resources is another, or a powerful guild master.
There are no rolls to determine if you're a regent or any specific requirements beyond being Blooded, it's entirely something you work out with your GM, much like being Blooded is. It also comes with some nice advantages before everything else: You get +10 HP, like a free Fighter level, and a randomly rolled magical item OR being free from cash restrictions when picking your starting gear(you've got coffers to tap for this shit, it'd be silly if you had only your class' starting equipment). To make up for the huge advantages that being Blooded and a regent gives, those who are unblooded characters get a +10% boost to all XP gained.
In Ruins of Empire there's a huge listing of the various realms in Cerilia, handily noted as being appropriate or not for a PC regent to be in charge of, but alternately the PC's can make their own. Saying they've got a guild in Dhoesone, a temple in Tuarhviel(probably fucked up spelling that, goddamn these stupid Elven names) or even just working out with the GM that a cluster of territories are their starting kingdom.
Handily, instead of leaving the GM to handwave everything, statistics for various domains are given levels. Provinces have a "civilization" level, from 0 to 7, at 0 it's a border territory with a few log cabins and maybe a wooden palisade, at 7 it's a major metropolis with forges and industry. Every "level" that a province has opens up one slot of Law, Guild and Temple holdings that can exist there, and the more people there are in a province, the more complicated its politics become, and the more regents can own holdings there at once.
Guild holdings are economical, and usually what Thief characters run. As a handwavium rule, the amount of Guild slots taken up by a given Guild determines how much of a province's economy it affects. So if we have a level 2 Guild in a level 4 Province, that's someone who's got a stranglehold on 50% of all the cash going through it.
Law holdings speak for themselves, but they're interesting in that if another regent who doesn't like you has one in your province, it represents bandits and similar that he's funding to kick your peasants around and agitate against you.
Sources are what mages tap for their Realm spells, and there's a bit of a civilization vs magic thing, as higher-level provinces can only support very weak Sources.
Temples are for Clerics and work much like Guild holdings, except that they represent shares of belief instead of shares of economy. If you have a level 4 temple in a level 4 province, pretty much everyone attends your sermons and follows your deity's ideals.
Beyond that is Assets: Armies, Courts, Fortifications, Ley Lines(basically mana aqueducts, lets you have a pimped-out study in a level 7 province, but still funnel in all the magical power from the level 0 wilderness next door), Lieutenants, Roads, Trade Routes and your Treasury. And in addition to all of this we also need to keep track of our territories' loyalty! And we need to keep track of our Domain Power, our Regency(its growth and fall)... and we're not even into the actual rules for DOING things with this stuff yet!
For anyone who's paying attention it may be becoming obvious that the whole strategic aspect of Birthright has its own vocabulary and that if you get into a serious game of it, you may even forget that you're moving around D&D characters that can go adventuring at all. Hell, have more than one Regent character and you could be looking at several hours just to get started. There's probably a reason why the game suggests having all of the PC's working at united purposes within the same domain.
So how does all this shit actually WORK?
Glad you asked! It all centers around the concept of the "domain turn," which represents three months or a season, roughly. The game recommends that the game not turn into too much boring administration, that a domain turn should only be interjected between actual in-character adventures, and that domain turns can be left in stasis happily if the PC's decide to go out and personally kick around some kobold raiders rather than sending the army against them.
It also introduces the concept of the "Center of Action," which is simply: There are shitloads of regents across Cerilia, managing ALL of their actions, EVERY turn would take weeks. So instead, most of Cerilia is left in stasis, and all that's involved in a given turn is the PCs' realms and any local neighbours, perhaps neighbours' neighbours at most. This is remarkably sensible.
Anyway, on to the domain turn! We've got ten steps to each turn.
1: Random Events! This is AD&D after all, we need to break out those tables.
2: Determine Initiative.
3: Collect Regency Points.
4: Taxation, Collection and Trade.
5: Maintenance Costs.
6: Declare Free ACtions.
7-9: First through Third Action Rounds
10: Adjust Loyalty and Regency.
So even though ten steps sounds like a lot, it's really somewhat like the order of actions for a game of Magic: The Gathering, you start off dealing with all of the persistent effects, then you make your actual actions, clean up the table, and start over again.
: Obviously this is an optional step for the GM, but it seems like a great way to jump start things and throw in some surprises, as the list includes everything from assassination attempts and duel challenges, through festivals and the PC rulers being called upon to be judges(going with the people's demands weakens your bloodline, judging in favour of the throne pisses off the people, the only way to get out of these smoothly is to find a good compromise. Shit, it's like actually being in charge!).
: Roll a d10, add your level, highest goes first! This is simple. Though just to confuse everyone, this is the reverse of normal AD&D initiative where you want to roll LOW and fast weapons have low "bonuses" to the roll.
: Still simple, just tally up the levels of all your class-appropriate holdings and provinces, you gain that many Regency Points, up to a maximum of your bloodline strength. Regency points are what you spend to boost up your Bloodline level and to do some other things we'll get to later. Guilds are for thieves, rangers and bards. Law is for fighters, priests and thieves. Sources are for mages. Temples are for priests and paladins. Everyone scores RP's from provinces. And finally Thieves also get regency points from trade routes(the more profitable, the more points).
: This is where things get mathematical. Basically, you first have to choose how heavily to tax your provinces, heavy taxes piss people off, but you do need money to pay for stuff. The higher the province level, the more money it nets you on any level of taxation. Temples and Guilds also provide money, as do trade routes and sea ports. Law holdings don't directly generate cash, but they can be used to reduce unrest when collecting severe taxes and secondly they can be used for banditry/tolls. Say that Bob the Priest is collecting cash from his level 2 Temple, then Elsebeth the Warrior can use her Law 2 holding in the same province to nudge her way into some of the cash he's collecting. If Elsebeth is the rightful ruler her sheriff is poking his head into the big carts full of cash and appropriating some taxes, if Elsebeth is an outsider to the territory, her thugs mug a few priests as they're carrying back big bags of gold.
: Then all that cash we just scraped in gets spent on holdings and military units. Of course, the book helpfully informs us that while regency money is measured in GB's(Gold Bars), they're equal to 2000 gp's(gold pieces) each, so technically we could go raid gnoll camps as adventurers to pay for our temples. Another source of expenditure is also our court, the fancier it is, the bigger a bonus we get to various diplomatic actions because people get dazzled by just how fucking fancy everything is.
: All the minor stuff, really, like getting yourself a new crown or sending someone a letter. Priests get to rile up the people here, and thieves get to spy for free. Moving troops, initiating construction and making proclamations are also part of this phase. We can do this essentially as much as we like without eating up any of our big three Domain Turns.
: All the big and important shit. Most of this is resolved by a D20 roll-over test. We can spend our Regency Points here to lower the number we have to roll over. There's a huge variety of things to do, building palaces and lighthouses, affecting province loyalties, upgrading and challenging holdings, raising armies, etc. There's little to say about the individual actions except that they really managed to cover everything you could want to do as ruler of a fantasy nation. It should be noted that one of the actions here is working out to increase your HP score closer to the max for your class/level/con combo, meaning that Birthright subtly skips around the issue of getting fucked over by rolling a 1 or 2 and becoming the world's most brittle Fighter.
: here we slide loyalty up and down depending on whether the ruler treated his provinces well, pissed them off or did cool stuff. Beating down a "traditional enemy" in a major battle, for instance, boosts loyalty in all of the player's provinces. The more Law holdings you have in a province, the more loyalty loss you can choose to ignore and only REALLY BIG things affect you. Companies of troops also count as law holdings, so if we have enough soldiers we can beat huge taxes out of people. Pissed off provinces cost us more money, don't generate any Regency Points and, of course, they can rebel.
But of course, it wouldn't be ruling a nation if we couldn't beat OTHER nations out of their lunch money, would it now?
There are some solid, but largely uninteresting, rules for the maintenance and recruiting of units, though it's interesting to note that you don't actually need to own a province to raise an army. If you have permission from the owner of a province, a powerful temple or guild can raise companies of archers, infantry and pikemen.
I really love this book's art
But really, you guys aren't interested in the micromanaging aspects, you want to hear what actually happens when units meet up on the battlefield and really beat the tar out of each other. The first element we have is War Cards:
Every card is built up like this(the exception being the War Magic cards which helpfully tell us which spells make people run away, which spells make them run away after tearing them a new asshole and which spells stop them running away by killing them instantly), they cover everything from dwarven infantry through undead legions and packs of mercenary adventurers, and we arrange them on a battlefield:
Units move around the field, throw spells at each other and attack each other. But you may be wondering: How do we figure out if my Orog Militia beats up his Halfling Ice Cream Chefs?
Battle cards! There are nine of these, each different, so I simply draw one, then find the relevant row for which two icons and beating up on each other(crossed swords, flag or shield, one for each), then move along the column until I find the right row, then check to see who got their asses kicked. Both units involved in a brawl attack each other simultaneously, meaning that it's entirely possible that they'll both end up fleeing, damaged or destroyed at once.
There are a few details, such as when you can safely shoot at enemy units engaging your own and so forth, which aren't covered by this really simple system, but that's genuinely all there is to it. The variety of units, and how relatively easy it'd be to invent more, makes it pretty simple to have a smackdown fight with some badguys.
All in all, they really managed to make both combat and realm management relatively SIMPLE, the main issue is that once you have a shitload of domains, resolving all the maths becomes a bit of a pain, but that's as far as the bad stuff goes. Pretty much everything can be resolved with a single D20 roll if you're not roleplaying it out, and combat's just a matter of moving around units and drawing cards, then comparing values.
I mean, let's take an example combat here. Let's say my Dwarf Guards(Melee 3, Defense 5, Flag Icon) run at some Anuirean Pikemen(Melee 3, Defense 3, Swords Icon). I consult the war card above, attacker is flag, defender is swords, and attack and defense are equal... and the attacker makes a run for it! At the same time, the pikemen are trying to stab the dwarves, swords vs flag, attack is two less than defense... and they promptly run off as well. Alright, maybe the combat can get a bit odd at times, but at least it largely works.
Gods, Clerics and Spells
Original SA post
Gods, Clerics and Spells
Despite being the crunch book, the rulebook for Birthright also contains most of the fluff relating to the new pantheon. There are also
gods now, despite only eight picking up after the original pantheon exploded back at Deismaar. The explanation is simply that the six good/neutral gods shacked up in three pairs and produced divine offspring.
This setting's God of Noble & War, the archetypal dude who wants his followers to go smite evil, but be honourable about it. Predictably he's one of the deities who can have Paladins, and they diverge from the baseline in that they get some bonuses with a chosen weapon. Likewise his clerics also get some bonuses at just straight up smiting assholes with weapons, and the trade-off is that they have to be somewhat burly to be admitted to the priesthood.
As a side-note, in 2nd edition AD&D, you have Normal Clerics and Specialist Clerics. Normal Clerics get access to ALL the spell spheres/domains available, but get no other boosts and have standard Cleric limitations. Specialist Clerics may be freed of some of these limitations(for instance, some Clerics get to wield swords) and have special bonuses(like how Haelyn's clerics get more attacks, rather like a Fighter, or others get free castings/day with some spells), but as a trade-off have a limited selection of spheres. For instance, Haelyn's clerics have no access to most of the elemental spheres. All Birthright Clerics are specialist Clerics, except for dwarven ones who get to have all the awesome stuff.
Erik is our Nature Guy, his dudes are druids and function almost exactly like they otherwise do in AD&D. Also if you kill too many trees or animals they'll go string you up because they're like that.
"koo-RAY-eh-ken," as the book says we're supposed to pronounce this, KRAIKEN or something, it comes out as in my mind, is what happened when Haelyn knocked up the sea goddess Nesirie. He's all about fighting, like his old man, but unlike Haelyn's LG attitude, CRAIGEN is more about being a crazy kid with a sword who just wants some glory and fame. His priests have to be even stronger than Haelyn's, but in exchange for that and no ability to turn undead, they are LITERALLY as capable warriors as Fighters, same Thac0 and number of attacks. His Paladins are Chaotic Good forfeit all magic and turning in exchange for being able to specialize in weapons like a Fighter.
I should like to point out that this makes KOO-RAY-KEN's clerics hilariously broken, as they still get full access to the most important cleric spheres like healing. Hell, they're barely even behind in hit points, can use all weapons and armor and holy shit these guys could knock over pretty much anything on their own. Jesus Christ. What were the designers thinking?
The Goddess of Sea & Sad, crying salty tears every day because she's the only goddess whose tribe(the Masetians) got wiped out and then absorbed by the Khinasi, so she rather got the short end of the stick. Her clerics get seriously fucked in stats, too, they get a few extra weapons to use, but are prohibited from using the heavy armor that clerics often rely on to stay alive, and really don't get any fancy abilities. Even her Paladins are sort of underwhelming, as all they get are the same short selection of water-related spell-like abilities that her clerics get. Oh and I guess they're all women, but that's not really an advantage or a disadvantage unless you have a really odd GM.
The God of Wizardry & Related Bullshit. He couldn't really give much of a fuck about most of the world and all he really does is futz around and make sure that the Shadow World doesn't flood into the real world too aggressively or something. His priesthood are both shafted and broken at once, as they get Magician-style access to wizard spells alongside their cleric magic(albeit at a lower level than their cleric magic, but still this increases their arsenal considerably) and they get shafted utterly because they
can't wear armor at all
. So they have none of a true mage's long-range artillery, none of a cleric's close-range survivability.
Goddess of No Fun Allowed. She got her power from Brenna, who used to get her kicks walking the world and granting fortune to people at a whim, sometimes favouring people who gambled recklessly, sometimes not. Sera, on the other hand, just sits on her throne and nods and goes: "WORK HARD AND YOU'LL GET SOMETHING, OTHERWISE FUCK YOU." Meaning that she might as well not be around. Unlike the other deities whose avatars have badass combat abilities, mostly if you fuck with her while she's actually going around doing shit, she just gives you hideously bad luck and then walks off while you're busy tripping over your own shoelaces and critfailing your own head off with your sword.
Her priests get some minor, handy spell abilities but otherwise are pretty close to standard.
While Ruornil hides in his MOON LAIR and pretends to be saving the world, Avani and her priesthood are the SPELL POLICE. Her clerics are librarians(who for some reason are allowed to use bows, which is pretty sweet), and her paladins are magic resistant bastards who go around smiting evil mages. Keep in mind, in 2nd edition, magic resistance was serious business, as it wasn't something a powerful mage could blast through, instead it was literally just a % chance to ignore any spell you wanted to ignore. And they also get to crack into their priestly magic levels early.
They just threw this art in at this point in the book, so I'm throwing it in here in the post, I guess this might be Nesirie? She looks kinda sad
When Rournil knocked up Sera, it produced Eloéle, lady of thieves, stealth and night. Apparently she's constantly running around the world just ahead of the dawn, stopping briefly to bail out thieves and rogues just for laughs. "She loves to embarrass and trick her enemies, sometimes with lethal results." Let me just recap that for you.
The deity EL-O-ELE, likes to TRICK AND EMBARRASS people. If this book wasn't written in 1995, I'd swear that this was intentional.
Despite giving up a bunch of their armor and weapon options, her Clerics are pretty cool since they get to have the most important spell spheres and in the same way that Rournil priests are part magician, Eloéle's priests are part thief, getting pretty much full access to thief skills without having to multi or dual-class. It's a pretty sweet deal.
While Sera and Rournil produced a prankster, Erik and Avani spawned an artist. Fire and arts are her thing, and she doesn't care if you worship her or not, as long as you produce and appreciate beautiful things. However, if you get in the way of love(or deny its existence), or DESTROY beautiful things, you piss her off. And you probably don't want to piss her off, seeing as how her priesthood gets to fling around fireballs and use bows. Good thing she doesn't get paladins, they'd probably be real scary.
The first of the two inheritors of Azrai's power, Kriesha's a bitch who freezes the Vos in the winter just to kill off the weak, and despite this she's the more cool and calculating of the two dark gods. Her priesthood is entirely female and kind of an inversion of Laerme's as they get a bunch of icy powers where Laerme's priests get fiery ones. Since all she cares about is STRONG, it's probably a good guess that those two are constantly at each others' throats.
When Kriesha's done making the Vos good and strong, Belinik is the shrieking, fur-wearing hick who leads them into combat with a huge axe. His priests are a bunch of fuckheads who set the Vos at each others' throats just so Belinik can watch the bloodshed, like pro-wrestling for deities. Their abilities are basically identical to Haelyn's clerics, so this means they're tough sons of bitches in a fight.
All the others
The dwarves don't tell anyone about it, but they worship Moradin, and the book says just to consider their clerics Standard Clerics. Goblins worship some guy called Karthatok who's apparently just an alias for "Maglubiyet," whom we can go look up in some supplement if we really want the details on goblin prayers. If you go poking around in the Shadow World, the main deity there is someone called The Cold Rider, which is an alright name. And of course, there are plenty of idiots(like the gnolls and orogs) who worship Tanar'ri and Baatezu lords for power.
There's a much larger supplement that specifically details all the deities right down to the specific holidays that their worshippers have, I can suck some info out of that one if anyone cares about a specific deity(or if you guys want me to crack it all open), but one specific thing stood out to me when I read it: Human clerics have a specific spell just to see if elves are to blame. They cast it on something and it tells them if elves fucked around with it. It's not a general "CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS" spell or "WHO'S BEEN AROUND" spell, it just tells you if elves can be blamed.
So realm magic is basically powered by draining the land of energy to hurl big, scary magics at other lands. Every province has a MAGIC RATING based on how fancy and natural it is(plains and hills are boring, impassable mountains and ancient forests are the fanciest, swamps and other stuff are somewhere in between). Every level of CIVILIZATION in a province reduces the total magical potential by one, so either we can have shops and foundries, or we can have magic. Unless we're elves! Elves are so magical and in tune with nature that they can build New Elf York somewhere and still have the province at its full wizardly potential. Wizard regents also can't do shit in a province if its Source potential is strangled, meaning that we just need more immigrants and wizards can go get fucked. I guess Mexicans are the natural bane of the sorcerer.
Despite these disadvantages, though, Wizards can basically melt populations into nothing with plagues, or mind control entire nations, with no saving throws allowed or skill checks required. They can also nuke entire armies into the dirt from several provinces away. Generally, you don't want to piss off a wizard with a good Source, and you want one backing you up, since he can instantaneously build castles in the path of invading armies and make sure your provinces remain friendly.
Not sure which spell creates these cool fucking hats, though
Priests get much the same treatment, but their spells are a bit less pyrotechnic, being generally buffs and debuffs, except on a nation-wide scale. Some of the spells are also a bit amusing, like Honest Dealings which basically forces honesty on an entire region. Anyone who tries to commit a crime or tell a lie in the area literally has to Save vs Spell to pull it off. It's apparently also assumed that all traders are lying bastards as the income of all Guild Holdings affected is lowered.
I just can't get over the bullshit antics I had to deal with from that one guy.
Is there a hilarious story here? Or just a tale of consistent, grating, low-grade annoyance from one fuckface?
Original SA post
So the next chapter is about HOW TO RUN A BIRTHRIGHT campaign, and starts with a rather anemic listing of the major dangers in Cerilia: Awnsheghlien, goblins, orogs, gnolls and the Shadow World. It doesn't really list any details, but thankfully I have a supplement containing info on all of the major Awnsheghlien, which could be interesting! If nothing else, it has some ART, and my last few posts have been BLAH BLAH BLAH WORDS WORDS WORDS so have some pretty pictures!
Blood Enemies: Abominations of Cerilia
So like basically all of the Birthright books, apart from whenever crunch occurs, this one is written all in first person. In this case our narrator is one DANZIG, Scholar of Creepy Darkblooded Mutant People. It adds some flavour in that the various Awnsheghlien are subject to a lot of apocryphal tales, and regarding some our Danzig only tells us what he's been able to dig up out of ancient tomes, but in other cases, he relates direct interviews with monstrosities like the Gorgon or the Magian. But, on to our first monster!
So Apocalypse is an
, if the picture didn't give it away. They don't even stat it out, most of the spots in the stats being filled out with "UNKNOWN," and all that it does to you is that if you're anywhere near it, you start rotting away unless you get juiced up with some high-level healing magic. I'm not even really sure why this one is here at all, except that I guess they wanted some elemental-themed terror and PLAGUE CLOUD was great for the air element?
Cerilia only has one banshee, and this is her. Or possibly it has two, depending on your definition. Justina Heulough is the elven ruler of a small, sparsely-populated domain, by day she's a fair and noble ruler who is generally appreciated by her people, her children and her lieutenants. All in all it's not a particularly eventful part of the world... until the sun goes down. As soon as the sun is down and Justina is asleep, her provinces are haunted by the Banshegh. Essentially it's like a banshee except it can also slip into your dreams and murder you with nightmares.
Despite all the evidence in favour that there is something weird going on with her, both magical and anecdotal, from her trusted advisors and others, Justina absolutely refuses to believe the Banshegh is related to her. In fact, bringing it up is one of the few ways to seriously piss her off. No one's sure about the cause either, Justina DOES have Azrai's blood, so it could be an outgrowth of that, but others suggest that she's been cursed, that some creature from the Shadow World has been tied to her magically.
Depending on what the GM decides the truth is(the GM is provided with a few options), it may or may not be possible to banish the Banshegh without murdering Justina, or, worse yet, killing her may set the Banshegh free to rampage at all times of day, rather than only in the night.
This doofy-looking lizard is the Basilisk. His background is that he used to be a prince whose father demanded a lot of him, then he ended up getting so pissed that he decided to declare that he is HATE INCARNATE, and it can turn any water to poison just by glaring at it. If you meet its gaze, the water in your eyes, tear ducts and mouth turns to poison. I can only imagine that this is a fucking MISERABLE experience.
Since he's a huge jackass, and not very bright, the Basilisk has basically turned his little corner of Cerilia into AthasCon, no water, no life, no nada, because all the water's been turned to poison, which plants can't drink, and no animals are goddamn stupid enough to hang around.
Yeah, that's a huge boar, yep, it has Azrai's blood. How it came to have that is kind of a funny story, see, there was this huge asshole of a noble who wandered into some woods and went "HER DERRRR LET'S KILL US UP SOME DRYADS AND BURN SOME TREES GUYS." So the local druids and their buddies predictably take offense to this, and try to run him out of the place, butchering his buddies. The nobleman turns and runs... right into a boar den, where the mother boar slams a tusk straight through his heart, performing one of the more hilarious acts of Bloodtheft in the setting.
Unfortunately the Boar is now fourteen feet tall and does not give a FUCK about anyone, but the local druids prefer to avoid it to killing it, because it also happens to keep loggers and fuckfaced nobles out of their woods. It doesn't have a huge amount of bloodline points, but it has enough that it could actually be a minor regent if it wasn't a goddamn animal. No one's had any luck killing it yet in part because it'll apparently recover from any wounds until someone figures out what it takes to slay it afterwards, theories goes that it needs its tusks pried out and its head chopped off.
Remember how the Birthright book pages have background art? This goofy asshole lurks in the corner of every third page or so in this book.
The Chimaera is one of the few situations where the Awnsucker who turned into it actually did it somewhat intentionally. Danita Kusor was your average want-to-be-immortal wizardess and decided to become immortal via the tried-and-true path of crazy magic-science. First she tried to figure out what death was all about, then decided that if she could create life, she could create immortality. So she created an Elixir of Glowing Immortality Goop, and next she decided that no normal creature could be simply revived. Instead she needed THE BEST OF ALL RACES combined into one, which to her meant "butcher a bunch of people from various races and stitch them together."
This thing, called the Binman, she plunked into a big vat of her Miracle-Revive Elixir, but it did fuck all. While she ponders WHY this is, some dumb Awnsleighen barely smart enough to be hungry busts into her lair and she blasts it to ash... at which point its bloodline jumps free and leaps into the Binman, reviving it. It gets pissed off, soaks her in her own elixir, and she only barely manages to drive it off to reclaim her tower.
At this point she makes the INSANE LEAP OF LOGIC that all the potions in her tower have been soaked in REVIVE JUICE. So she mixes all of them, along with all of the goofiest ingredients she can find, like Dragon Blood(note: Dragons in Cerilia aren't the standard metal-chromatic-gem types, they're just one kind, who breathe burning poison on people). Then she took a bath in the resulting mess and turned into the thing in the picture up there. She can still turn back into Danita at will, but over the years she's been getting crazier and crazier, and her territory, the Chimaeron, is kind of a shitty wasteland where you don't want to hang out for too long if you have an alternative.
To recap the story of the Gorgon. While his half-brothers Haelyn(now a deity) and Roele were busy saving everyone's asses from Azarai, Raesene(later to become the Gorgon), was instead leading Azrai's armies to crush everyone who wasn't an asshole at Deismaar. The introductory interview with the Gorgon in this chapter offers the Gorgon's own story of why this was so, basically saying that it's because his dad was a jackass who never let him do anything or have any responsibility when he was clearly the best son. The actually historically accurate account after the interview, on the other hand, details that this happened because after training his brothers to kick ass, Raesene went off to become a mercenary and came back with a dozen stories of atrocities trailing him.
Statistically the Gorgon is one of those enemies that rank up somewhere near the Lady of Pain in PCs' odds of ever defeating him, further compounded by the fact that he rules one province, has several more as puppet vassals and has an army ready to fight to the death because they know that if they don't, he'll murder them himself. He's technically defeatable, though, so he could make for a sort of ULTIMATE FINAL END BOSS challenge at the distant end of a large campaign.
The entry also adds some further rumours about the Gorgon that could be exploited for adventure hooks, for instance that perhaps a lot of his power is grounded in his castle and can't be brought with him if he ever goes on the march, and that Michael Roele might not have been a total fuckup and managed to either cast some final enchantment or otherwise pull off some crazy trick that's given the Gorgon a permanent weakness.
But even so, he still has multiple varieties of instakill gaze attacks if he doesn't want to just cut you in half, -10 AC, almost 200 hit points and -8 Thac0. He's literally beyond the scale of what mortals can ever hope to become unless they end up living for over 1500 years like the Gorgon himself has.
The Hag used to be Fulda Geissen, a nobleman's daughter who was a righteous bitch. When she got tired of waiting in line for the throne, she got herself married to a neighbouring noble's son and started poisoning her way through the family tree. She only got caught when she was about to bump off the duke of the province himself, when he and one infant were all that remained. So she does the "logical" thing and kidnaps the kid, runs off with him, and demands a nation as ransom. Everyone tells her to go get fucked and heads off to kill her and recover the kid, but no one ever finds her and, a few years later, The Hag emerges from the mountains.
She's ten feet tall, has a tangle of snakes for legs, is covered in oozing sores and generally pretty terrifying. Oh and she's also a wizard who maintains a sizeable army of unfortunate, mind-controlled suckers who defend her mountain lair. Her hobbies include being evil and keeping her old homeland and the state she was married to at each others' throats by mind-controlling and assassinating the messengers they send to each other.
One of the less tragic stories is that of the Harpy, she used to be a half-elven bard who was a noble and just adventurer. Riding around, singing songs, ridding the land of evil and generally being pretty nice. Basically she was so nice because she knew she'd inherited Azrai's blood and wanted to do everything in her power not to fall to its corruption, hence she did as much good as possible.
She and her adventuring buddies face the original Harpy Queen, whose flocks of ferocious birds and even more ferocious harpies end up murdering the entire party aside from the one that would eventually become the current Harpy and one other. Panicking and deciding to get the fuck out of dodge, our protagonist whips out her harp and casts a spell of BECOME BIRD, FLY AWAY, at which point the harpy queen stabs her... with a magical sword, left behind by a MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, that combines them both into one creature.
The combination of Azrai's Blood and the mind of the original harpy queen have twisted her, though, and she's turned Evil, but retains some honour. She's Lawful Evil and lives on an island off the coast where she and her birds keep watch for pirates and assist ships in exchange for a nominal fee. She also retains an army of angry birds and harpies left over from the original harpy queen's time.
There's a hell of a lot more to go through, and surprisingly many of them are interest, so I leave you with... THE HYDRA, until next time.
Original SA post
So as may be obvious, the Birthright Hydra is not a normal Hydra, in fact it's pretty far from your average Hydra in any other setting. It's got none of the regeneration or breath weapons that you might normally bump into, and instead has some rather bizarre abilities that combine to render it Fucking Weird. Firstly, those extra heads? That's what happens when it eats a Blooded character, apparently they get sort of... absorbed, sprout a head that helps the Hydra bite people, and in some cases remain partially independently-minded. Some are apparently aware of what happened to them, too, as one refuses to do anything but weep and sob.
Secondly, whenever it eats ANYTHING(and it will eat ANYTHING) it has a 2% chance(per hit die or level of the victim) of vomiting it up later, partially... hydrafied. As in, chunks of it will be merged with chunks of earlier victims or of the hydra. Stuff like walking human heads on tarantula legs, insects with human torsos, etc. etc. etc.
The Hydra used to be a large alligator and presumably it munched on someone Blooded, hence Bloodthefting him when it bit through his heart, and one of the first things it did after this happened was to eat
goddamn alligator living in the same swamp as itself. This resulted in it puking up the creatures that are now known as the "Caracdin" or this setting's lizardmen. There were enough similar-ish, human-physiology-infused lizards that they could interbreed and produce their own race. Apparently they're reasonably intelligent and not jackasses, too, but mostly just try to stay alive in the shitty swamp the Hydra lives in.
THE KRAKEN is a huge squid, it's basically entirely similar to Krakens in other settings aside from being unique. Another supplement, "Havens of the Great Bay," details how the Sahuagin are basically a largely-dead species on Cerilia that now worship the Kraken and are herded around by it. For some reason the Kraken doesn't let them spread beyond a single bay, or unto land(where they used to have some coastal cities) and generally their lives are somewhat miserable. It can also grant their priests spells.
The Lamia has an ego almost as big as her province, and the entire intro to her chapter is largely her marvelling that the author has not heard how fucking awesome, beautiful and just she is. She insists that the world is just JEALOUS of her and murdered her family and everyone she ever liked because she was just SO PERFECT. I mean, she was making BEAUTIFUL THINGS and MAKING A PROFIT ever since she was 15! So she kind of HAD to murder and kill people to survive! They were greedy fools anyway!
So the real story is of course that she is just amazingly greedy and uses her rack to seduce men, then stab them in the neck and take their money. This ends when she stabs some dying nobleman on a battlefield and steals more than just his money, ganking also his bloodline. Despite having an animal's lower body, any men who look at her have to save vs being charmed by her rack, and she apparently has a solid legion of dudes willing to die for her tits. Her only real weakness is that she can't charm women, so I guess there are no lesbians in Cerilia.
Oh and despite being THIS BEAUTIFUL(okay it's probably her Awnshleighen blood abilities, but still), she's incredibly insecure about her appearance and will have any pretty women near her castle put to death.
The Leviathan is a huge whale/serpent/lizard creature that smashes ships and eat people at sea. It doesn't get any art because it's SO MYTHICAL. Yet apparently it still gets stats.
Maalvar the Minotaur
Maalvar is one of the alright Awnshleigh, and his interview is mostly him quickly getting tired of the interviewer's questions. Unlike all of the other Awnshleigh rulers who LOVE to go on about their own pasts, favourite colour and how awesome they are, he considers all this goofy bullshit and just wants to go back to chilling out in his sandy wasteland. He rules some barbarian tribes from within...
A huge, magical maze that existed before humanity came to Cerilia, and which only he and a few lieutenants know how to navigate. He apparently went off to rule his nomads justly by himself because he got tired of how pointless war was, good men dying for no purpose, etc. etc. so he decided he'd rather just be a defender, training the Itavé(the tribes) to defend themselves and improving their lives.
There's also some weirdness here, as the Itavé are called
, but all prior fluff specifically says there were no humans native to Cerilia until the Basarj and the tribes from the south arrived.
The Magian is an evil economist lich-but-not. He came from THE EAST, across the DRAGON SEA, where the Basarjï originally came from. When he arrived, he was a lich who had a dozen DEATH KNIGHTS with him, conquered a small nation, and Bloodthefted the regent. Doing this, however, apparently
him, and now he's basically got all of the Lich advantages, but still count as alive. His section starts with a huge explanation of why he's doing what he's doing.
Essentially he considers it ineffective and damaging that all of the nations and peoples are separate. A lot of the bad things he quotes as resulting from borders are economically based, though, so he comes across as an idealist Economist Awnshleighen.
The Magian posted:
"I plan to unite the land under one banner, with one law, one court, one allied people and one tax. ... The price of goods will drop and the overall wealth of every citizen on the land will increase, as will the quality of life."
Interestingly, despite the fact that he's really, really brutal in his warfare, once he's conquered a place, the quality of life rises and all the people living there generally approve of his rulership. They even accept that his conscription measures are an acceptable price to pay for this. It even says that he's earned not just his people's respect, but also their love. He seems remarkably nice for someone who's Lawful Evil, and is one of the three Big Villains of the setting. One of the others being The Gorgon, and the third being The Raven whom we've not yet bumped into.
Of course, being evil, he's not above dirty tricks. He invented a spell that basically allows the Azrai-blooded to pollute other bloodlines, sacrificing some of their own bloodline points to turn someone else into an Azrai-blooded creature, complete with all the mutations and evil compulsions that come with that. After testing it out, he scribed a half dozen scrolls with it and left them scattered around Cerilia so evil rulers and adventurers might get their hands on them and cause chaos.
The Manticore does not particularly look like a Manticore. He used to be a paladin, was all noble and shit and then, well, you know that spell the Magian invented? That happened to the Manticore, who used to be Qandar the Paladin, when he tried to smite the Magian for being evil. He was basically the test victim for that spell.
He's also involved in an interesting little conspiracy. Basically, after he returned from the Magian he was heartbroken over losing his paladin powers because of his corruption and Azrai-blood, so he confided in the ruler of a small nation and they let him hide out there. But one of the courtiers spied on the confession and spread the info, suggesting that the ruler had let it slip. Qandar then promptly lost his shit in a fury of grief and rage, and murdered the ruler, after which the courtier moved in.
Qandar was now in charge of the country(having killed the ruler and his heirs, the whole succession thing works very simply in Birthright in these cases), but the traitorous courtier basically administrates the whole thing for him, suggesting to Good/Neutral-aligned Blooded characters that they should totally try killing the Manticore and saving the nation. Predictably, Qandar murders them every time and the courtier is free of assholes who might start poking into why Qandar lost his shit and went a bit crazy.
THE RAVEN, the third big villain, is a bit less impressive than the Gorgon or the Magian. Essentially someone from a small, war-torn nation had his particular faction pushed into a corner and needed Great Power, so he decided to execute a very suspect ritual handed him by a shady stranger. It shifted him into the Shadow World, where he executed a faustian pact with a huge, spectral raven that promptly displaced him as the main lodger in his own head.
He likes to call himself the "Son of Azrai," and he's powerful and sinister enough that a lot of people wonder if this is something more than just an assumed title... He's nowhere near as interesting as either the Gorgon or the Magian, unfortunately, and also a good bit weaker than the other two(in a straight-up fight and territorially both). He also has REBELS within his territory, one is a ranger who's rounding up the hunters in the countryside to take pot shots at the Raven's armies, the other is a city guard who's trying to foment some rebellion in the cities.
He also pulls the standard OVERCONFIDENT BADGUY thing and lets the vengeful children of his dead enemies grow up and get trained in various powerful skills because he "hopes to face a worthy opponent in the future."
ONE MORE post should polish off this damn supplement, goodness there are a lot of statted Awnshleighen badguys...
Finishing off Blood Enemies
Original SA post
Finishing off Blood Enemies
At the battle of Mount Deismaar, when Azrai's true evil was revealed, almost every elf joined with the forces of good to defeat the Shadow. Rhuobhe Manslayer is one of those who did not. His past is actually somewhat sad, as he was one of those elves who were
to see humanity arrive in Cerilia, as they looked like a force that'd help him and the rest of the elves defeat the goblins, gnolls and orogs and make Cerilia into a truly peaceful continent. In fact, Rhuobhe even found humanity kind of fascinating and interesting.
However, when the goblins were pushed out of Cerilia's nicer parts, the humans, as we know, set their sights on the elven forests. Rhuobhe begged the humans he considered friends to NOT fuck over his homelands, but they rebuffed him and he joined the
(the book always italicizes these elven words), the elven knights who hunted humans for revenge.
Statistically he's a fighter/mage who wields a goofily huge arsenal of magical weapons and can kick five flavours of ass. He's also got his own, densely-wooded territory where he constantly plots humanity's downfall along with his elven supporters. Interestingly enough, though, one human continues to survive in the territory that Rhuobhe narcissistically named "Rhuobe." A man called Baracus who appended "Rhuobheslayer" to his own name as a sign of his hatred for the elf.
Baracus uses magic to disguise himself as an elf and pretends to be a savage, fur-wearing elf so none of the others will hang out with him and figure out who he really is. He uses his disguise to scout out Rhuobhe's realm and will probably help any adventurers looking to collect an elven head.
Interestingly enough, despite his hatred for humans, Rhuobhe has over the last millennium or so of his life become less elf-like. Most elves in Birthright are chaotic and unpredictable, Rhuobhe has ended up becoming slightly Lawful.
Another of the more tragic Awnshleighen, the Seadrake was a sailor, a trader, one of whose passengers turned out to be an Awnshleighen that began murdering the other passengers. Then the man who would became the Seadrake, in an act of heroism, stabbed the monster through the heart with his harpoon, killing it instantly and saving everyone aboard. Soon, though, he began to mutate and, in his misery, tried to drown himself... but found he could drink seawater and only began to change faster and faster as he submersed himself, soon become the Seadrake.
He still retains most of his mind but, unfortunately, has been cursed with an immense version of the greed that afflicted him as a man. He now patrols the seas off of southern Cerilia, ambushing traders and demanding a toll of gold which he takes away to his lair. However, he's not all bad, as he also destroys pirate ships with no chance of parlay.
The serpent and his realm are somewhat reminiscent of North Korea. He's invented his own pantheon and mythology and placed himself squarely at the head of it, complete with a largely-fictional background and set of powers. The worrying part, though, is that as his powers have grown, he's actually gained the ability to grant powers to his followers, making his claims seem vaguely plausible.
Predictably his fangs are pretty poisonous, and if he bites anyone, and they fail their saving throw
survive, he's impressed by them, and they either turn into a giant serpent under his control, or just remain human and become mentally dominated by him. This enchantment lasts for a month and then the Serpent either lets you go or eats you, there's no telling which and no logic behind it except, presumably, whether he's hungry or not.
He can also turn into a giant snake and is agoraphobic.
Interestingly enough, his little island hideaway is also the last place to retain any trace of Masetian structures and culture(though a lot of that's become corrupted by the Serpent's new religion), as the remainder of the Masetians merged with the Basarj to become the Khinasi.
Is it just me or is whoever's drawing these Awnshleighen really happy to give the female ones('cept for the ugly ones like the Hag) a large dosage of cleavage? Might just be me.
The Siren's another of the sad stories. She just used to be a girl with an excellent singing voice. In her teens she went travelling with a bard and his troupe, living a pleasant life, until one night when she left their camp to examine some nearby elven ruins. There she was accosted by a cloaked stranger who sang to her a song that she couldn't help but find herself repeating, and the two of them spent the night singing together. The next time she took the stage, she decided to sing the stranger's song since it had truly moved her. At first it only entranced the audience, but as she hit the final note, it became a sonic attack of immeasurable force, injuring or killing almost everyone who was listening(for a sense of what she can do, it's described that a cough from her can level a barn, and at full force she basically vaporizes people and trees).
To make matters worse, everyone assumed she did it on purpose and started sending out parties to hunt her down... and every time she tried to speak in her own defense, her voice was a weapon that killed or hurt those she only wanted to parlay with. She wasn't actually an Awnshleigh until she used her powers to defend an innocent family from gnolls and then Awnshleighen leader, whom she first stunned with her voice and then stabbed in the heart with a dagger.
Her act of goodness actually gained her a small domain, as people started to recognize that she was a good person. She's personally vaporized several invading forces and now rules the realm very loosely with the help of advisors whom she communicates with by writing notes. She's also learned how to channel her "song" peacefully, humming, for instance, she can heal people with a touch.
Her domain is largely wild and unregulated, but the people are good folk who don't need a strong hand of law to keep them in check. Also, just to make this story even sweeter, the Siren's fallen in love with a nice ranger and everyone thinks it's adorable.
The only sour note is that, as mentioned, there have been invaders, and the neighbouring realm of Halskapa would really love to murder the Siren and take her lands.
(I don't know about anyone else, but I think the Siren is awesome)
The Sphinx has a weird background. Basically a Khinasi state was trying to kill off a violent breed of large cat that was apparently mauling a bunch of people, then they sent in some sages to check if they succesful or not. The guy who eventually became The Sphinx was one of the people who found out they were not, as one of the cats beat him half to death with its claws and then ate him alive... at which point his consciousness ended up surviving somehow in the animal's mind. He also reports that the experience of having your skull crushed by a large feline's teeth is highly unpleasant.
He's basically an unsettling, half-lion sociopath that can cast spells and bite your head off. Also, remember the Horned Ones? Whenever The Sphinx bones a human or large feline, the resulting spawn is some sort of catgirl thing. They're not WILY SEDUCTRESSES, though, but more like half-retarded mutants. A few are about human intelligent but tend to be easily distracted by their "feline temperaments," which I suppose means that this particular part of the Sphinx's army can be distracted with jingly balls or pieces of string.
He's also instituted a really weird social caste system in his realm where humans/humanoids with "no special skills" are the lowest(and largest) caste, and "any random group of cats and/or lions" are slightly above them(there are some higher castes, but I wanted to point out that CATS HAVE MORE RIGHTS THAN PEOPLE in his fucked up lands). The lowest caste can be killed without repercussions and, predictably, no one really likes the Sphinx, he's just too powerful to have been murdered quite yet.
Along with Rhuobhe and the Gorgon, the Spider is probably one of the most "signature" villains of Birthright. He's basically a crazy goblin Awnshleighen that rules a huge tract of forest, word has it that he became crazy after a guy named Endier engaged him in a riddling contest for part of his domain. The final riddle was so brain-twisting that the Spider became progressively more and more goddamn insane until now he's basically completely unintelligible to anyone but his closest lieutenants and the giant spiders that obey him.
He's also one of the few times we get a goblin perspective on the world, which can be summed up as: "FUCK THOSE NOBLER-THAN-THOU ELVES, THEY DESERVED ALL THE SWORDY MURDERINGS WE HAD FOR THOSE POINTY-EARED PRICKS." He's also really proud of his new form, considering it awesome, and loves the fact that he can snip off elven heads with his claws.
There are a lot of theories about the real origins of the Spider, aside from the one I just listed there's a story that the current Spider is actually an elf who bloodthefted the goblin that first had the Spiderfell under his control. Another theory is that it's actually a curse that was placed upon a greedy human after he tried to swindle a mage out of a lot of gold.
Vampires in Cerilia don't fucking sparkle.
Once upon a time, there was an Awnshleighen known as the Sinister. A three-headed chucklefuck with a gaze attack that turned enemies to mist at which point the wind blew them away. He foolishly killed a noble adventurer's family, and said adventurer then became completely obsessed with revenge. He gathered a party and OFF HE WENT to kill himself a Sinister. Only the adventurer himself, becoming The Vampire after stabbing the Sinister through the chest, even as his arm became fog, and one of his companions survived.
As soon as he carried his companion back, the Vampire then promptly murdered his liege lord and usurped his lands, forming the Vampire's domain even as the sun above was blotted out by permanent clouds of inky darkness.
Stats-wise, he has none of the level-draining abilities of AD&D vampires, or even 3rd edition vampires, but instead if he grabs you he can drain your blood in a single round(there is a save to only take damage, but you presumably have to make that every round you're caught), if you don't break free from his inhuman grip. If sucks you dry, he also gains a permanent +1 to his hit point max for every level or hit dice he drinks(and if he drinks a blooded victim it also eats their bloodline like a kill with a Tighmaevril weapon). Aside from that he's largely just a tough, clever son of a bitch with inhuman strength and huge, bat-like wings. He also has a permanent aura of shadow meaning that sunlight doesn't instantly roast him(though if it's somehow banished, sunlight still crisps him up).
His Domain is a miserable shithole where you're tortured and killed if you're not always HAPPY AND OVERJOYED with his rule, and where you need permits for anything more complicated than breathing. Travelling, moving, fishing, are all things you need permits for, for instance, and guards will aggressively "check your papers" to make sure you're not fucking around.
There are two main rebels in his lands, one's a younger woman who's gathering an army to FIGHT THE TYRANT. The other's an elderly blacksmith who's mostly pissed that his nation's so militarized, and wishes to convert it to a society focused on knowledge and learning.
The White Witch
The White Witch lacks much in the way of interesting background that other Awnshleighen have, she's basically just a tyrannical spellcaster ruling a small nation. What's interesting, though, is that she doesn't really look like that picture. Her actual appearance is a horrible, withered crone that'd make the Hag look charming by comparison. But for public appearances she wears a magical ring that makes her all pretty-like, a side-effect of the illusion is that it makes her believe her own bullshit rhetoric about being a fair and noble ruler and makes her temporarily Lawful Good while she has it on.
She's aware of this, though, and takes it off for when she needs to lie and trick people. You'd think, however, that taking off the only thing keeping you from being a CE dictator would be kind of counter to the Lawful Goodness imposed by the ring...
Basically the wolf is a goddamn wolf. It might be nine feet from head to tail, and kinda scary to look at, but unlike most Awnshleighen it doesn't kill for fun and the intro fiction for it even narrates how it mostly just seems puzzled by the idiots wandering into its domain and steals some of their food. It's almost as clever as a person, and isn't really tied into any crazy metaplot.
Well except for this one crazy wizardess who went to study it and used magical talents to establish a telepathic connection with it. She's now gone Full Furry and is in love with the wolf and convinced that she must magically transform herself into a wolf so they can BE TOGETHER FOREVER. Thankfully for everyone she's a specialist mage who can't cast Alteration spells, but she will beg, wheedle, trade and threaten any visiting spellcasters who COULD potentially polymorph her(or give her a scroll to let her polymorph herself).
Minor Awnshleighen/Ehrshegh and Mechanics
So how does all this transformation thing work? Basically for both Azrai-blooded and others, there's a blood ability they can pick up called Bloodform. For the Azrai-blooded, having Bloodform makes them mutate whenever they acquire a new Blood ability from increasing their bloodline power, or when they use their bloodline powers. For others, it's a willing transformation that is largely beneficial and attractive in appearance(the good guys who mutate are called Ehrshegh). That's really as complicated as it is. Azrai-blooded also have a MUCH greater chance of having Bloodform than others, and are almost guaranteed to pick it up at some point if they keep increasing their bloodline strength and staying alive.
Here's a short list of the creatures that are unique minor Ehrshegh or Awnshleighen in Birthright, rather than the entire species of creatures that they are in most D&D settings:
The Faun(Satyrs), Golden Unicorn(Unicorns), Pegasus, Phoenix, Treant.
Domains, Campaigns & Miscellany
Original SA post
Never let redneck wizards get near the moonshine
Domains, Campaigns & Miscellany
We're nearing the end of the crunchy Rulebook section of the campaign box, so this is mostly going to be scattered facts. Firstly a bit of finishing off the major dangers to Birthright NPC's:
Giants in Birthright are all elementally-themed, so if you're wondering where the huge list of STORM, FIRE, etc. giants in the 2nd ed Monstrous Manual comes in handy? Birthright would be the setting.
Dragons in Birthright are all a bunch of old lizards, not themed with chromatic/gem/metal like in other D&D settings, who breathe poison and fire and generally just want to be left alone. They're not particularly malicious or benevolent as a species, but if you want to go beg one for magical knowledge, wisdom or help, you'd better be a linguist, because they're not particularly "with the times" and still consider "human languages" a fad that'll probably pass in a few hundred years.
The Birthright Campaign
This section starts with the usual sage advice for any GM's: Do what's fun and let following the rules come in as a close second to everyone having an enjoyable game. Before you start play, sit down and talk with the players and work out what would be an entertaining game for
It also suggests a few basic "game types" to get started with.
: The players try to cover each of the core classes and basically each rule a section of a domain. The Warrior takes care of the Law and Province. The Mage controls the Sources. The Priest controls the Temples. And the Rogue controls the Guilds. Supposedly the most newbie-friendly way of running a game as it gives everyone a reason to work together and gives everyone something to do during Domain Turns.
The High King
: One PC or NPC is the overlord of the area the PC's are playing in, and everyone is then a vassal controlling part of his domain(while he probably still retains enough power to smack down any rebellious lords).
It's Lonely at the Top
: One PC is a regent, while the others(perhaps still blooded), are lieutenants, advisors or confidantes. Frees up most of the players from having to fiddle with domain bullshit.
To Each His Throne
Common Heroes posted:
Who wants to be a regent, anyway? All that responsibility and paperwork gets in the way of adventuring! In this type of campaign,
is a regent. This setup runs like any other AD&D campaign except that it's set in Cerilia(of course).
: Starts out with warning us not to bite off more than we can chew, this has each player ruling their entire own domain with nothing to force them to cooperate or even be neighbours. The entry suggests that perhaps everyone should also create a "common" PC in every other PC's court, so that if King Ghoulash the 14th decides to go adventuring and smite some gnolls for gold and +1 scimitars, they can saddle up and join his party.
After that, the book proceeds to give enough fodder for a dozen alignment debates by adding
alignments to the matrix that is individual alignments. It's the same nine as we already know, but now applied to national policies. In general, Lawful nations try to grow without wanton aggression targeted at other nations, Neutral nations are a bit more willing to go on adventures of foreign aggression(though Neutral Good nations only target evil neighbours) and True Neutral nations(defined as pretty much only existing for nations that care about trade and little else) usually project their power through diplomacy. Chaotic Good nations are idealist Libertarian states where the government cares about the people, maintains a bit of law and otherwise doesn't interfere with its people or their neighbours. Chaotic Neutral nations are what happens when everyone at the top gets murdered and it takes a while for order to re-establish itself. Chaotic Evil nations are, according to the book, "bullies, unwilling to deal with the ugly issues at home," and raid their neighbours for resources, cash and slaves to patch up their own domestic policy holes.
As soon as we hit this section, the book handles the elephant in the room: What fun is there to adventuring if every PC can bring a hundred soldiers and a half dozen competent lieutenants with him to kill everything in their path? And it actually answers these questions in good ways both when it comes to roleplaying and system.
Firstly, every nation needs a ruler, so if the PC doesn't leave some of his lieutenants at home to act as proxies for his will, everything is likely to get pretty chaotic without him. There might even be a coup, or a neighbouring nation with spies in his court might see it as a great time to invade because no one's at home to coordinate the defense.
Secondly, why should a PC gain experience for stuff he
? If a bunch of gnolls were run down by his knights rather than stabbed by his sword, he doesn't get any XP for it. The exception is if he uses his soldiers cleverly(letting them be decoys, or holding them back to rush the enemy's flank after being a decoy himself, all depending on alignment...), in that case bonus experience should certainly be awarded for being a clever son of a bitch.
Thirdly, while trail rations and lodgings for five adventurers who're happy to sleep in the pine needles and drink lukewarm beer for a month is cheap, no such luck if you're dragging five dozen men through as many provinces. It costs money to keep them fed and lodged, and there will probably be some degree of ceremony expected(and of course, if you're travelling through other regents' domains, they might not feel very safe if you're bringing the bulk of your army).
Of course, at some point the PC's will be bringing SOME of their troops along to handle mooks, so the book also provides us with some handwavium rules to determine how the fight goes between henchmen and hostile cannon fodder. It's not super-detailed, but it covers the most basic stuff, how many of them die every round, what effect leaders have and how they're boosted if magic aids or hinders them.
Essentially every group does a basic amount of damage every turn determined by how easily they hit a target enemy(Thac0 vs AC comparison), modified by if they do crazy amounts of damage with their basic attacks, have many attacks per round, get boosted by magic or have a tactical advantage(terrain, ambush, that sort of thing). This means they'll casually chip away at each other, and in addition there's a quick, opposed 1d8 roll every round, whoever rolls higher does some extra damage. Damage is measured in hit dice rather than hit points, to speed things up, so you won't be keeping yourself busy with keeping track of the individual HP of 500 gnolls or 200 pikemen.
Surprisingly, considering how much previous stuff is basically: "If your GM lets you, go nuts"(bloodlines, regency), domain design actually adheres to some pretty solid point-buy rules. Basically, first the PC picks a location, and nearby NPC nations "donate" some provinces, or an entire NPC nation is just wiped clean to be replaced by the PC's new country. Then a number of discretionary points are rolled based on the PC's bloodline level, and finally these are used to buy everything related to the province.
Starting holding and province levels, what sort of terrain the province has, what sort of army and treasury you start with. Etc. etc. etc.
After quickly crunching the numbers, though, I think this method was never designed for multiple PC regents, however, as it'll give them an almost goofy amount of starting resources if they're of anything but tainted or minor blood and can pool what they have.
And that actually finishes off the crunch book. Now all that remains of the basic books is the Ruins of Empire. It's part crunch, part fluff, as it stats up all of the pre-existing nations and also details what they're like, what conflicts they're involved in and so forth.
Do people care enough about Birthright's setting-and-fluff to want me to go through that book?
Guide to Cerilia, Part 1
Original SA post
Guide to Cerilia, Part 1
Alright, so, let's get down to it and have a look at some of the Cerilian states. Some are intended to be used as PC kingdoms, others are intended to be NPC mysteries or obstacles, and many of the ones intended for PC use tend to have had books published specifically as guides for them. Obviously there are going to be more interesting things about those.
Four books cover all of the states of Cerilia itself.
Ruins of Empire covers the Southwest, the Anuirean lands, the Gorgon's Crown and generally the area that sees the most metaplot action, and has seen the most in the past. The Anuirean lands are basically Renaissance-era, but strongly feudal in nature.
The book "The Rjurik Highlands" covers the northwest, which is essentially all viking-y. The Rjurik tend towards being, well, vikings, to get an idea of their general attitude, imagine Libertarian hippies. Not too big on authority, not too big on burning down nature for industry.
"Havens of the Great Bay" covers everything that borders the big bay in the middle north of Cerilia, as well as most of the northeast. The states around the south of the Great Bay tend to be Brecht, think German traders, and all their names are generally German. In the Northeast we have the Vos, something like Russian-influenced vikings, their names are definitely Slavic but their culture tends a bit towards the wanton raiding-and-violence of a viking stereotype, maybe something taken from the Mongol raiders, they do like their little fur hats.
And finally, "Cities of the Sun" covers the remaining south and southeast of Cerilia, where the Khinasi live. While everyone else is somewhat worried about magic(on account of it only really having popped up in broad human use since the old Gods died, and many of the people with it being crazy mage tyrants, or just crazy mage monsters like the Chimaera), the Khinasi embrace it and are a rather bookish people. Their influence is blatantly Arabic.
Since "Ruins of Empire" is part of the core package of Birthright, I'll start with that one.
Ruins of Empire: Anuire
The book starts off by giving us a general idea of the southwest of Anuire. The south of Anuire is where the oldest human settlements on Cerilia are, seeing as they're where the old land bridge to the southern continent used to be. It's probably one of the most built-up and "civilized" sections of the entire continent.
North of that, the center of Anuire, is the "Heartlands," this is where the Anuirean empire used to rule from, and is still fought over to this day, 500 years after Michael Roele got his ass kicked and the whole place fell to pieces. Apparently everyone has sort of accepted that War Is Going To Happen, so they agree to murder each other on pre-agreed battlefields to avoid burning down fields and villages that they want to actually own.
The West and North border on Rjurik and Awnshegh lands respectively. In the West they have to deal with Rhuobhe Manslayer, the great elven asshole, and in the north they have to deal with goblin "nations," gnoll hordes and the big fuckstick himself, the Gorgon. The East is probably the only part of the realm that regularly sees any degree of peace.
There's also a sidenote on the Anuirean Calender. They have 12 months a year, and eight weeks in a day. But no notes on how many weeks or days are in a month. They even have a Halloween-alike around the same part of the year as the real calender, "The Eve of the Dead."
The Southern Coast
Everything that's brightened is part of this section, the darkened areas are part of other sections or other books
Roesone is one of the realms recommended for PC's to pick up and run right out of the box. It's almost aggressively flavourless, being a neutral kingdom ruled by a neutral ruler with neutral laws and neutral people. There aren't even any secretly-evil lieutenants or nobles planning to off the current ruler and turn the place into a horrible dictatorship. It's also covered in the ruins of older owners just so adventurers have something to go poking at.
Just about the only eccentricity of this place is that the ruler has the ability to see through the eyes of cats, essentially using them as spies, I suppose, and has resultingly made it a dire offense to harm a cat in her nation.
Thankfully they get a Realm Book that expands on them somewhat in case a PC wants to start out with this rather blank slate of a nation. Unlike most of the other realm books which start with your predecessor from the base books having died, this one retcons out the Ruin of Empire ruler and says that her father just died and you're next in line for the throne.
The history of Roesone is mostly that it's been raided and mismanaged pretty much ever since Deismaar, though earlier than that, too, if you consider that the humans raided it out of the hands of the elves and burned down most of the forests. It is unfortunately kind of a boring story except that just about every second generation murdered the prior one with knives or poison to accelerate their inheritance. Even their plots and hooks are about as mediocre as "oh hey, you've got a spy in another nation" or "you may have a secret vault full of gold to find!" That contains a really minor amount of wealth.
Aerenwe is somewhat more interesting, being NG enough to actually give it some MOTIVATIONS. For one thing, see that huge forest in their south? The Erebannien? Apparently that's a no-go realm for EVERYONE except for the rangers who guard it. The place is guarded by rangers, and they're ready to put arrows in anyone who goes stomping around between the leaves. Aerenwe's secretly aiding Roesone, Ilien and Medoere in staying free from Diemed.
The entire area, from the west of Diemed to the eastern borders of Roesone, used to be owned by the Diemeds, and they'd REALLY like to take the territory back. Thankfully no one is having any of it.
Their national flavour is being lightly populated.
Diemed, like the other southern nations, suffer from being written as something for PC's to take over, and hence isn't embroiled in too many plots aside from wanting to retake its old territory. It isn't even properly evil, just Lawful Neutral and a bit ambitious. It's also the most built-up of the southern nations.
Their national flavour is fields and orchards.
Ilien is a tiny little state squashed in between the others, and if Roesone and Aerenwe weren't backing it up, Diemed would have eaten it up long ago. It's ruled by someone completely unfit for the role, since he basically went to bed one night, and woke up the next day in charge and armed with class levels. Sometimes when a regent dies, the land randomly picks a resident who'd be likely to represent it well as ruler, in this case it was Rogr Aglondier, and he rules the place together with his daughter, who happens to be in charge of one of the major churches in Ilien.
Their national flavour is that they farm cattle.
Ilien also has a realmbook, which rewrites the basic book by suggesting that Rogr's inheritance was intentional, rather than a hilarious accident. Oddly enough it's addressed to the reader as Rogr, rather than a nameless recipient, so I suppose that either it's for whoever takes over after Rogr going through his papers(assuming he didn't last long enough for things to change notably) or it's only for PC's who want to play as Rogr.
The history and nature of the land is about as dull as Roesone's, except with even less assassinations, and none of the big, castle-smashing fights of Talinie's, and there aren't even any crazy wildlife like Talinie's giant boars. There's really a lot of info on trade and people and etc. that'd make for interesting reading to flavour the place up for a party travelling through Ilien, but little that's worth recounting because it doesn't involve fire or swords.
The interesting parts arrive during the plots & secrets section where we learn that though there is an Ershegh "Golden Unicorn," there's also a Silver Unicorn in the part of the Erebannien that crosses into Ilien. Apparently it beats up bad dudes and has existed since before Deismaar, so it's not just some Blooded mutant. Apparently Bad Dudes are now trying to beat IT up for its horn, quest opportunities!
For arachnophobes, Ilien is also being plagued by WATER SPIDERS that swim downriver from the Spiderfell! Good luck stomping THOSE unless your boat is shaped like a giant boot. Supposedly there's also a giant elven tower serving as a superpowerful source hidden under Ilien. The elves coordinated their defenses from it during the first human invasions, but then it just VANISHED one day. Apparently the elves didn't have the power to destroy or move such a huge, magical structure, so they just buried it instead. Presumably this quest hook involves looking around for the huge mound of dirt that no one ever thought to take a poke at before.
Medoere's regent is nocturnal on account of getting up to MOON MAGIC at night(she's a priestess of Ruornil), and hence, to accomodate the court's schedule, Medoere has the interesting flavour that its capital basically sleeps at day and works at night. The local conflict is that Guilder Kalien of Endier(whom we'll get to later, one of my favourite nations, north of Medoere, west of the Spiderfell) is basically trying to usurp the trade and law of Medoere, and the priestess in charge of Medoere wants to punch him one upside the head.
It's defined as a theocracy, since the church controls both the law and the actual government, but according to the description, the priests spend most of their time encouraging everyone to party it up. Also bad weather apparently makes everyone living there even more determined to party at every chance. Sounds like a nice place to live.
Medoere also gets a realm book! It's got one of the less interesting histories unless you like like ten pages about every damn ruler of Medoere who ever got a vision from Ruornil telling them to build a hut somewhere or beat up an army somewhere else. It does get kinda metal at a couple of points where people get visions and then stab their parents and stuff. Oh and I guess Ruornil fucking smites Diemed's armies with MOONBEAM LASERS when they try fucking with his faithful.
Also unlike Talinie they do not have a crazy RELIGION COURT where they get to whip you because you badmouthed a priest.
Most of the plots and stuff are political in nature, like the people are worried about Diemed and the Diemed guys are dicks and Endier is trying to fuck with you and the remainder is oh maybe there's a LAKE MONSTER or a SWAMP THING running around. And of course the Spider is always fucking crazy.
Mieres is interesting in that it's literally the only location on the southern continent that's described AT ALL. There's practically no trade with it, no description of the people there, and despite all being worshippers of Azrai in the past, no one from the southern continent has ever tried to conquer the Cerilians after Deismaar exploded.
Supposedly controlled by Avanil back on the mainland(just west of Diemed), they're an independent-enough colony to count as having their own ruler. Basically a scheming little scoundrel of a thief who's in it for the money and power. The description genuinely uses the word "ne'er-do-wells," which I suppose is supposed to impress on us just how horrible a hive of scum and villainy this place is.
Apparently it's even bad enough that the locals are daydreaming of the formerly-hated emperors of the south conquering them and instituting some goddamn law and order.
The ONLY nation in this section not recommended for PC's! We've already read about the Spider in the Blood Enemies book, and there's not much more to say about his realm. It's a wooded shithole full of goblins, gnolls and spiders. There's perpetual clouds and rain here, just to make it even more miserable, and the Spider is completely unpredictable in when he decides to raid, and who, so everyone has to stage a border guard of some sort(possibly excepting Endier, who have a Special Arrangement).
Outside of the nations themselves, the only interesting fluff on the southern lands is that, supposedly, large numbers of soldiers have started making camp on the seaside edge of the supposed-to-be-off-limits Erebannien, spawning all sorts of rumours of the southern empires planning to invade! Or maybe it's just the Diemeds being cockholes or something. Who knows! Make something up, you lazy GM!
The Western Coast
Some of these are actually exciting adventure seeds! The first one says that someone in Talinie may have found a
weapon. For those who can't remember what Tighmaevril is, it's this special alloy that basically sucks up bloodline points like crazy. If you kill someone with it, you'll easily harvest five or six times as many bloodline points as you would have if you just killed them with a normal weapon. Apparently Talinie is becoming Scion-Con '553 on account of everyone with a bloodline wanting some of that sweet, sweet, heart-stabbing business.
Lots of stuff about elves. Rhuobhe is on the warpath in a more aggressive way than he has been in decades, if not centuries, and supposedly people are starting to find a LOT of old elven forts and towers in the dense woods of the West. All of them handily loaded up with shitloads of traps and the like. The nice elves(read: any elf who isn't Rhuobhe) is warning the humans of the West that the towers are just full of junk, the former owners wanting humans to die trying to enter them and get nothing for it. Then when no one is looking, the elves themselves try to get past the traps, so there's probably more than old elven spoon collections inside.
Lawful Neutral and probably the biggest, most interesting nation on the Western coast. Plenty of shit going on here, they're apparently close to war with Taeghas and Avanil, and their two main religions(worship of Cuiraécen and Haelyn) have been punching each other up in a fight for the people's faith. The ruler, Archduke Boeruine, tries to keep his court wizard on a short leash, and his wizard chafes against the reins trying to expand his power.
Furthermore, his main general has an elven heritage, and his grandfather, an elf who serves Rhuobhe, is pressuring him to betray Boeruine to the elven madman. Oh, yeah, Rhuobhe, Boeruine HATES Rhuohbe, they've both almost managed to kill each other several times, both via assassins and personally on the battlefield. Plus Boeruine wants to expand east and conquer the Heartlands, because he feels it's his destiny to revive the Anuirean empire with himself as the top, and Rhuobhe is a big strategic hole in that.
Another recommended-for-PC's nation, Talinie is all LG, all the way. Despite its size, most of Talinie is loosely or not-at-all settled forest. They don't have much in the way of an army, and what keeps them existing is mostly that they have a crazy religious fanatic for a leader who doesn't fear cracking skulls on the front lines when someone tries to get across their forested borders, and that their southern neighbours are too busy with each other to consider Talinie and important target for conquest. Also while her main advisor pretends to be a priest to Haelyn just like her, he's secretly a worshipper of Eloéle, meaning he's a really, really crafty guy but also a huge fuckface.
Talinie is also one of those PC-recommended nations that has its own book! It contains a lot of somewhat-entertaining historical tidbits, like the fact that Talinie was named by an Anuirean emperor... and the name was of his favourite prostitute. It then sort of became the Australia of Anuire, the place where you got sent if they didn't really like the face of you in the Heartlands or South. The throne is known as the Oak Seat... because when Talinie was unified after the fall of the Empire, the fight in the ruler's palace was so violent that only a single oak chair survived, and ended up being used as a temporary throne.
Also the elves to the east(Tuarhievel) apparently bitch at the Talineans to stop cutting down so many trees, but they repeatedly flip them off and tell them to go back to being pointy-eared fuckfaces, Talinie needs to get its goddamn industry on. Adding to Talinie's monstrous troubles is a Storm Giant who lives by the coast and causes enough trouble that Talinie basically has no fishing industry, since he hurls lightning bolts and rocks at any goddamn young'uns who won't get off his lawn.
It also lists Talinie's legal system, which has both crimes against people and state(theft, murder, spying for a foreign power, etc.) and "spiritual crimes." For instance, harming a priest's reputation, worshipping the wrong God(anyone who isn't Haelyn) or even just worshipping Haelyn in the wrong sort of temple.
The various quest hooks are also interesting, the first one being: Find out why your predecessor died(it being assumed that the PC has recently inherited rulership of Talinie), then there's the Storm Giant mentioned previously acting up, various elven bullshit, demihuman spies, religious conflicts oh and the court wizard learning how to tap human life for realm magic. Yeah, you know how provinces can provide less power if they're deforested and really abused by industry? The court wizard in Talinie has learned to replace trees with human souls, basically locking them in one day permanently(Groundhog Day-style) and squeezing the lifeforce out of them at a rapid pace to power his magic.
Oh and it tells you the great weakness of the ruler of Boeruine, who's been kinda bullying Talinie into becoming a pseudo-vassal. What is it?
Bees & wasps
, so if you can steal his anti-sting protective items and potions, and then just casually throw a beehive into his bedroom, you can off him.
Good luck doing that subtly!
Basically a vassal state of Avanil's, Neutral Evil, really shitty place. Its main flavour is that it rains a lot. No one likes Brosengae, not even Avanil itself.
We know what Rhuobhe's deal is, elves who really hate the everloving fuck out of humans. It's a heavily forested hellhole that slices and dices humans, and Rhuobbe himself only ever does two things that involve humans: Kill them or briefly troll them before killing them. Supposedly, though, Rhuobhe also serves as a sort of training camp for elves from other nations who want to learn some ELVEN PRIDE and TAKE BACK OUR LANDS FROM THE GREEDY, HOOKNOSED HUMANS, ELF SUPREMACY, YEEEAAAH and it's kind of unsettling.
Another of Avanil's vassal states, but unlike Brosengae's out-and-out villainy and corruption, Taeghas is more just apathetic and wants to be left the hell alone. The regent controls a large enough nation to cause trouble for any of his neighbours, but he doesn't actually WANT to rule. He's stuck with it, though, and apparently doesn't figure that there's anyone worth Investing with his bloodline and powers and passing the place on to.
That's it for the South and West. Christ, that post ended up being longer than I thought. Also, I am genuinely not summarizing these entries much, the realms in the base book that don't get a realm book usually just have a single page of information. Most of them are one-dimensional villains or one-dimensional realms for the PC's to take over without disrupting too much PLOT.
Guide to Cerilia, Part 2
Original SA post
Guide to Cerilia, Part 2
Imgur is throwing up error messages for me, so for this post I'll be using another image hosting service. If the images die, let me know and I'll Imgur them instead when that site works again.
The Heartlands of Anuire! A bunch of huge goddamn states and tiny Endier. There's been so much murdering and fighting here over the years that in some places, the very soil has been poisoned to uselessness just by pure quantity of human blood spilled there. I don't know if this is physically feasible in the real world, but it's pretty fucking metal. We're also politely informed in the introductory text that this place has been mapped, explored and adventured to death already. If we want any fun here, it's going to be politics, armies and thousands of men beating each other to death on the battlefield for our entertainment. Despite this, though, most of the Heartland states are not recommended as PC kingdoms.
In the upper right of the map you can also see the Gorgon's vassal states, Markazor and Mur-Kilad, so there's plenty of chance for big armies to get clashing.
Avanil! These guys have gotten "VILLAIN" descriptions so far, basically being one of the #1 causes of bullshit in the west and having multiple puppet states, but are actually LN. Same goes for Diemed, who got the same sort of description in the south, they were also LN. Apparently "ambition to he the biggest dudes ever" isn't an evil thing even if it involves you stomping a bunch of lesser states to get there.
They're an extremely nationalistic nation, apparently even the local bandits are likely to shiv you in an alley if you slander their regent Darien Avan, and Darien has a big opinion of himself, too. As you can see, they control the province named Anuire, containing the very City of Anuire, and Darien really wants to control the city. It's been independent ever since Michael Roele died, and pretty much since Deismaar it's been the capital of the Anuirean empire. So predictably a lot of people, Darien included, feel that if they hold the City of Anuire, they hold the
Most of what drives Avanil's issues with other nearby nations is in fact the fight for the City of Anuire.
Ghoere is another badguy state, and pretty much every state that borders it has a bit mentioning how they dislike Ghoere, Ghoere's got plans for stealing their territory, things like that. They're Lawful Evil. While Avanil is busy fighting in the West, the ruler of Ghoere has plans to stab them right in the back and snatch the City of Anuire out from under their noses.
Oh and the guy in charge of all of Ghoere's sources is a goddamn demon-summoning jackass. And for the sake of making them COMPLETELY villainous there are also rumours that they're buddying up with the Gorgon to take a big steaming dump all over the Heartlands the next time the Gorgon rolls in to stomp some heads.
The Ruler of Mhoried calls himself the "Mhor," and every major NPC and lieutenant in the realm is Chaotic of some flavour or another, meaning that Mhoried is probably a slightly terrifying place to live for anyone who likes a nice, predictable day. Especially as "The Mhor" doesn't apparently believe in using law against his own people. He's got Law holdings, but from the description apparently he doesn't ever use them to, you know,
, just to keep anyone else from moving in bands of thugs. But he does enforce a law that says it's illegal to hang out with anyone who isn't elven, dwarven or human unless they basically carry a license saying they'll never be evil again.
They're genuinely nice folks for the most part, though, and the Mhor is one of the few people in the Heartlands who doesn't look at the City of Anuire and start drooling.
Tuornen is right and proper fucked. The actual regents hold on to almost nothing of worth there, besides the provinces themselves. Their neighbours control loads of the law, most of the Guilds, the two temples present are heavily at war and Endier's mage stole all of the Sources except for a few that Rhuobhe has his clammy, feminine, little elven hands on.
So of course it's recommended for PC's and has its own domain book.
There are also plots, like the fact that a guy is making toys loaded with
poison fucking darts
, and selling them to nobles so it'll kill their kids, leaving them too distraught to defend themselves against an invasion from Alamie. Jesus that's pretty dark.
Oh and the leader of their armies is a good Elf with an axe to grind against Rhuobhe Manslayer, and he's constantly trying to convince all the nobles and the regent that he should be allowed to run off and stab Rhuobhe right in the goddamn face. And this is how the domain book starts, with a ranting essay from your elven military commander reminding you that none of your other problems really matter because Rhuobhe needs a good murdering.
The story goes that Tuornen and Alanie used to be one duchy, the archduke had a bastard son(whom he never acknowledged, though he had proof of his heritage) and a legitimate one, and both ended up fighting over the same woman. So of course the bastard son ends up getting the death penalty for almost stabbing the heir to the domain... and then shows the proof of his heritage, gets pardoned, gets his deserved inheritance, and a half-brother who hates his fucking guts.
So when their dad dies, the legitimate son(Berric), decides to have his half-brother(Dalton) declared an enemy of the state. He's warned by the elven army commander, however(the same one that wants Rhuobhe dead now), and runs off to organize a rebellion against Berric. Shit goes back and forth, Berric almost wrecks Dalton's shit, but does it in such a brutal, village-torching way that the populace largely sides with Dalton. In the end, Dalton wins, but the civil war means that two halves of the nation hate the everloving fuck out of each other, so Dalton settles for just ruling the half that approves of him.
Then HISTORY occurs, including a bitchin' warrior queen that murders goblins and fights Rhuobhe(but gets killed by him), a king who refuses to tell anyone about an assassination planned for him just so he can prove how awesome he is by foiling it on his own, Alamie being cocks and attacking Tuornen while they're trying to stop Rhuobhe massacring civilians, and finally a PC ruler of Tuornen(or the canon NPC) takes over after the latest duke dies of Old and Senile.
Oh and just because Tuornen has to be kinda metal, it has killer flowers that grow on battlefields, feeding off blood. Apparently just being in the vicinity of one for an extended period can kill you, that's how goddamn toxic it is. And the text suggests that people are still stupid enough to collect them and give them to
people they love
Tournen also has
. Including insult duels. Duels of Tongue are Insult Duels where two guys grab a judge, barkeeper or random passersby to judge who can insult or argue the other guy down the most viciously. Duels of Craft, about who can make the pimpest thing. Duels to Yield, to see who yells uncle first. Duels to Blood, to see who gets stabbed first. And of course, Duels to the Death, to see who stops getting up for more. Of course, Duels to the Death are also illegal without the regent's explicit permission. Oh and of course they have Noble Houses, so people have
to duel each other. One is particularly awesome because there are currently six heirs to the house and
every last one of them
is a teenage thief who fucks around with locks and picks pockets for fun. Personally I could squeeze a dozen adventures out of that detail alone.
Tournen also gets some nice plot hooks, here are some of the ones that got my attention:
First is that Rhuobhe apparently
and brought with him a human child whose parents he killed on a raid, possibly because of mercy, possibly for something sinister.
Secondly the fact that Dalton's corpse never decayed once he passed away, it's still preserved in a crypt under Tournen's capital, and there's a dozen stories about how he's still alive and something like finding his lost heart(which he either gave to a ghost or a witch, the stories vary) will revive him to be a badass hero for Tuornen again.
A battle between beer breweries(for the humour potential in having fighters and wizards try to stop dirty tricks between the two, adventurers are only funnier when they're drunk).
A dinner invitation from Rhuobhe, which may be serious, or may be one of his evil tricks.
And of course, the bullshit with the evil toymaker makes for like half a dozen goddamn plot hooks all on its own.
As we already know, Alamie are assholes, and yet despite this, they're a recommended realm for PC's! Aside from what we know from the Tuornen bit, they've got something that resembles a mafia war on their hands with Guilder Kalien, the regent of Endier. He controls a lot of their businesses, and not all of them are legit. When the law cracks down on him, people start turning up dead. When he doesn't pay protection money to the regent of Alamie, warehouses start burning down. Oh and as usual they're plotting to invade Tuornen.
Elinie is kinda cool, right in the middle of Anuire where everyone's usually Anuirean or Brecht, or, rarely, Rjurik, you've got this kingdom ruled by a house of Khinasi paladins. Sadly they don't get a lot of detail or plot hooks, but I like them nonetheless. Especially because of the hilarious racism the other states apparently display towards them. Everyone apparently thinks that being ruled by fantasy-Arabs has infected them with
and now they're sinister and strange!
Remember how Diemed used to be some right cockhats? Endier is one of the breakaway states from one of their bigger pieces of assholery. Originally, where Endier was, the Spiderfell extended, but the duke of Diemed had a claim on that part. So when one of his nobles, Richard Endier, asked for some land, Diemed was all like: "YEAH YOU CAN HAVE THIS FORESTED SHITHOLE FULL OF GIANT SPIDERS AND GNOLLS. HAVE FUN LOL." At which point Richard slung his GIANT BALLS over his shoulder like a backpack and marched right into the fucking Spiderfell. Into the goddamn Spiderfell, to have a chat with the Spider. The Spider, one of the toughest Awnshleighen of Cerilia. The Spider, who can snip off a man's head with his claws in personal combat. The Spider, who has, depending on who you listen to, between 1500 and "just" a few hundred years of experience leading his minions.
Endier walked right into the Spider's home, used his titanic balls as a beanbag chair, and challenged the Spider to a riddling contest. Not just one of those little pussy things that last a few minutes, like what Bilbo had with Gollum, nuh-uh, Richard and the Spider riddle back and forth for several solid days, until Richard finally has a riddle the Spider can't answer, which wins him the Endier section of the Spiderfell. Presumably if he lost, the Spider would have bit off his head. Oh, yeah, and you know how the Spider is
these days? Supposedly it was because the riddle that Endier dropped into his cortex was so fucking fiendish he's been unable to stop thinking about what the answer might be ever since.
So Richard comes home, recruits some BRAVE FRONTIERSMEN, and starts cutting the shit out of the Spiderfell until he's cleared an Endier-sized section, then goes up to the ruler of Diemed and says: "YEP, KICKED ME SOME SPIDER ASS. HOW ABOUT THAT LAND?" At which point the Diemed guy just goes: "OH YEAH THANKS FOR THE LAND, FAGGOT, I'LL BE TAKING THAT." Richard wasn't happy. But he calms down and starts being a clever asshole, by shipping in a bunch of mercenaries, disguised as farmers, and promising them land in Endier if they manage to take it from Diemed.
"WHAT'S THE SIZE OF A DRAGON AND INVISIBLE IN THIS PICTURE? MY BALLS."
So he waits patiently, until Diemed, being ruled by fuckhats, gets themselves into a big fight with a bunch of their neighbours, then walks
right back into the Spiderfell
and talks the Spider into lending him a few battalions of gnolls and goblins to help him free Endier. And the Spider fucking does it, too. Endier kicks ass, takes his kingdom, and settles down to be fucking awesome.
Of course his descendants were less smart, because they hired Guilder Kalien as a lieutenant. At which point they started mysteriously dying off until only Kalien was left standing as ruler of Endier. The intro for the Endier domain book is written in first-person by one of Kalien's assistants, who basically goes: "UH, YOU KNOW, KALIEN DIED KIND OF SUSPICIOUSLY, SO
JUST IN CASE
YOU WERE THE ONE WHO ASSASSINATED HIM, HERE'S MY PERSONAL CHECKLIST ON HOW TO AVOID GETTING CAUGHT. NOT SAYING YOU WERE, BUT JUST IN CASE."
Of course, Endier is Neutral Evil and Kalien has Law and Guild holdings all across the Heartlands and South, being capable of essentially locking down or remotely puppeteering a dozen provinces if he isn't afraid of making enemies.
I have risen from the dead, to party!
But seriously, Endier has a kinda bad location. Borders with three of the most power hungry nations in the area(Avanil, Alamie, Ghoere), no size for raising a large army... their real power is the fact that they have shitloads of cash. Oh and they also happen to be friends with a badass wizard named Caine who throws fireballs at invaders for them. Caine has a character sheet in the domain book, and under "magical items" it literally just says "too fucking many to count."
Endier's a bit short on plot hooks, but it's great if PC's want to play as the plucky underdog who plots and schemes their way to supremacy. Most of the plots are about POLITICS, various people in Endier trying to score your throne(in one case a Black Widow sort of lady who wants to get knocked up with an heir that'd inherit the kingdom... and then murder the current ruler), oh and in case the Spider acts up, Richard Endier left his heirs(and now you) with a WMD to use against the Spider: The answer to the riddle that the told the Spider so long ago. Supposedly being finally told the damn answer will make the Spider either lose his shit
or return to sanity and stop being a bother.
Guide to Cerilia, Part 3
Original SA post
Guide to Cerilia, Part 3
Today we're moving on to the Northern Marches, also known as the Bad Places for Shit People. If you live here, you're basically neighbours with the setting's most prominent Big Bad. Supposedly the Raven is dangerous, and the Magian is pretty spooky, but for anyone in the core of the setting, the Raven is sort of out of the way, and the Magian is behind a whole bunch of black people so you won't meet him with any likelihood.
What you'll care about is the Gorgon. He's up there, in the Gorgon's Crown. And while it might seem nice that you've got Mur-Kilad, Markazor and Kiergard between you and him... no such luck, because those are his vassal states and will be just as happy to stomp you as he is.
A lot of the nations here in the Northern Marches are demihuman or humanoid, though. Only Dhoesone and Cariele are majority human nations. Tuarhievel is elven, Thurazor, Five-Peaks and Markazor are goblin, Mur-Kilad is dwarven, and no one who could fit in with any other nation would live in the Gorgon's Crown if they could help it.
And it just so happens I got my hands on an unpublished supplement that details how demihuman governments and personalities work in a bit more detail! The Book of Regency! It never got published while TSR was in charge, but on the 10th-year anniversary of Birthright, WotC dug it out of their archives, cleaned it up, edited it a bit, and published it as a free .PDF. Let's see what it has to say about Elves, Dwarves and Goblins, shall we?
(It also has stuff to say about the human nations, but mostly it's variants on: "They're basically feudal and more/less decentralized as well as more/less likely to stab each other in the neck for power." So that's not as interesting as these bits!)
But mooooooooom, ruling is boring!
That's right! Elves fucking hate ruling. Unlike other settings where they're mostly humans, except occasionally with a severe superiority complex, in Birthright they're pretty much all a bunch of lazy layabouts and only the rare or crazy ones(like Rhuobhe) actually feel like they have to put in a hard day's work and get shit done.
Goddamn Elves posted:
"Ruling a kingdom is a hard job to which few elves aspire. While a human peasant might fantasize about someday becoming a knight or even a lord, and a knight or lord might aspire to regency, elves generally long for more freedom and time to enjoy the wonders of the world."
I can only imagine that getting an elf to leave his mother's basement in Cerilia is a hard goddamn job. This may explain why the humans fucking steamrolled them and why the Gods don't like them much. Presumably "prayer" and "building temples" is also a "chore" that they can't be bothered with. Good luck getting them to take out the trash!
Unlike us, Grognir, all humans are horrible stereotypes that act the same. Now let's go talk in a Scottish accent and get drunk
The main thing that stands out about dwarves is that they are apparently all racists.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to lynch we go posted:
"The individual dwarf, out in the world, thinks of himself as a representative of his people and those he encounters as representatives of their peoples. So, when one dwarf has a bad experience with, for example, a Rjurik trader, he spreads the word that Rjurik traders are bad. If the dwarves of Baruk-Azhik have a negative encounter with guilders from Rohrmarch, they will hold a grudge against all the people of Rohrmarch — and perhaps all the Brechts as well."
This is an incredibly poor excuse to treat all people like stereotypes rather than individuals, but apparently dwarves get away with it anyway. Apparently, though, dwarves have realized that they're all a bunch of greedy little cockbeards and have set up a complicated system of laws to restrain themselves from fucking everything up. Remarkably introspective and honest. The book also states that this means individual dwarves, separate from the system of laws there to keep them from being fuckfaces, are "self-centered and easily bruised by insult," making it a wonder that no one's kicked them all into the Krakenauricht yet.
Halflings aren't that noteworthy, except that I'd be pretty suspicious of them.
They usually ignore human or elven law as long as it ignores them, but they respect its presence and take care not to cause disruptions in its practice. When halflings do get noticed by their neighbors, they present themselves as cooperative, energetic, and cheerful.
So basically they're all criminals who get away with it on a regular basis by being amazingly personable. And then it goes on to say that halflings regularly get political positions in human realms as guild masters or the like. Do I even need to make a comment here? I don't think so.
Most of the rest of the Book of Regency is basically a clean-up and streamlining of rules, examples for ruling(for instance, exactly what a Law 3 in a Level 4 Province where someone else has 1 level of Law, means. That sort of handy reference), and isn't quite as interesting to talk about(but pretty useful if you're actually playing Birthright.).
Regicide is progressive
No, really posted:
Thurazor’s method of selecting a leader seems more enlightened than that of many lands. If a goblin proves smart enough, fast enough, and strong enough, it doesn't matter who his parents were or whether he can win favor with a collection of nobles. True ability (and more than a little luck) wins the monarchy of Thurazor.
So yeah, goblins are basically dwarves without the laws, clans and complicated systems intended to keep their Id's and Egos in check. They stab each other in the neck with a disturbing regularity whenever there isn't a strong lord in charge who strong-arms them into behaving and digs out the few loyal, non-fuckfaced ones to help him do so.
Of course, considering that in all the human lands you're basically kind of fucked if you're not Blooded, Noble or Blooded and Noble. And with the dwarves they've got five kinds of bullshit traditions and clan laws to keep commoners from rising. It actually seems, as the book says, almost progressive in comparison. Presumably with the elves it's also reasonably progressive, as whoever's got the bit of initiative and balls necessary to actually do some hard work for five minutes is worth more than the rest of the nation combined and gets to be in charge.
The Northern Marches
So let's get back on track with the Northern Marches.
Dhoesone is kind of interesting right off the bat. They're basically the biggest Anuirean nation this far north, and a bulwark against goblins, the Gorgon and any Rjurik who decide to be dickheads. Unfortunately they're also not rich enough to maintain a large army to keep their bulwark in place. Hence, Tuarhievel and a bunch of southern nations have given them knights and elves to help them out. And on top of that they've hired goblin mercenaries, resulting in a hilariously patchwork army that must function like a buddy cop movie where the goblin infantry end up teaching the elven cavalry how to kick loose while the Anuirean knights yell at them to stop being loose cannons.
They're ruled by a half-elf, what happened when the old baron of Dhoesone banged the queen of Tuarhievel, who has two human mage cousins that both love to help her out, but hate to help each other, meaning that it's kind of a dumb sitcom in the court most days, I imagine. Oh and on top of that, the local capitalists control half the kingdom's Law and are oppressing the people in order to make a profit.
But at least they're sort-of friends with the Thurazor goblins to the south, yet despite the current prince of Tuarhievel bring the queen of Dhoesone's half-brother, and their being on good terms, his people still
randomly murder humans who are taking walks in the woods
. Man, Birthright elves are
. Oh and the ruler of Cariele tries to shit on their business all the time because Dhoesone's regent won't bang him.
It's kind of a weird place you're in when the local goblins seem to be your most trustworthy allies.
The Gorgon's Crown
Okay, we've gone over the Gorgon before,
he is a huge cockface and he wants everyone dead
. His nation is pretty much of the same personality as him and everyone is miserable or hates each other. But just to make the place even more sinister, keep in mind that there are also volcanoes and everything is made of metal or obsidian.
Tuarhievel gets a realm book all its own! But first let's see what the main book says about this charming elven nation! Hmmmm... special conditions...
Apparently so many humans have been lynched by the local elven KKK hunts that they've got a major problem with pissed-off human ghosts haunting the forests after dark, looking for revenge. That sure is fucked up! Maybe the realm book will make this a bit more nuanced...
It starts out with the prince's human girlfriend writing a long, apologetic essay trying to make friends with all of the people calling her a short-lived slut and her kid a half-breed mutant. Charming! Apparently the prince has gone missing and she's pointing out to everyone that she's got enough friends that they shouldn't try to kill her yet, including, apparently, the Gorgon's ex-wife. High marks for knowing who to make buddies with, there.
The history section points out how the elves of Tuarhievel used to enslave kobolds and goblins to "teach them how to be civilized." I'm starting to wonder if we shouldn't be cheering for the goblins here, instead of the elves. Also apparently elves were created from "the union of water, fire, earth and air," so they're like Captain Planet without Heart. Oh and the elves also fought the dwarves, for some god-awful reason. Is there anyone they haven't been cocks to?
Tuarhievel is also the first nation on Cerilia to employ a magical nuke. When their former province Sideath(now owned by the Gorgon) was being invaded, they basically poked a hole into the Shadow World, which condemned every living being in Sideath to being thrown in there or eaten by angry ghosts.
Elves also don't like miscenegation! Jesus Christ
So the latest thing that happened in Racist Elfland was that apparently an elven necromancer in Necronuked Sideath was sending hordes of the undead to harass the Gorgon. So the Gorgon politely invited the elven regent over for tea to discuss this diplomatic issue... and he was never heard from again. Hence why PC regents could take over Tuarhievel if they wanted to.
Anyway, special things about Tuarhievel include the Thorn Throne. Basically it's a magical chair, and only someone who's going to be a good regent in the future can sit on it. If it doesn't like you, you get stabbed with thorns. Usually just in painful or injuring ways, but at least three people are known to have been outright murdered because a magical chair didn't like the face of them. Considering that it has permitted any actual ELVES to rule the nation, I have to say this artifact must have backfired severely on the creators. Apparently it leaves humans "awestruck" with its beauty, but I think it's more likely that they're just dumbfounded at the idea that the elves are letting a goddamn magical chair decide their future.
There are descriptions of each of the provinces, which mostly go on about how they're underpopulated woodlands where humans either get treated as strange curiosities or killed on sight. Usually it's the latter, and the only real differences between provinces is whether they'll just tell you that they "don't like your kind 'round these parts," and scowl at you, or actually start firing arrows at you.
The elves are apparently also planning to learn just what the fuck happened to Sideath so they can suit up some "brave volunteers" with the appropriate spellbooks/scrolls to suicide-bomb Kal-Saitharak/The Battlewaite, which is the Gorgon's fortress. I guess that seals it, the elves are some unholy combination of White Power and Al Qaeda.
To top off their magical armory, they have Realm Magic that's based on singing. So I guess they can destroy their enemies with music. Make your own jokes.
It's also elaborated on the elven refusal to worship gods, apparently they consider the modern human gods unworthy of worship. Instead of religion, they've got "Taeliniri," who are like priests, but totally different, and almost no one outside of elven nations know they exist. Meaning that elves are some sort of religious hipsters. Oh, yes, and of course their religion/philosophy taught by these assholes emphasizes elven exceptionalism and superiority!
So, NPC's! Aside from the knocked-up human wife of the now-missing prince, there's also The Lich, the guy who nuked Sideath, who wanders the province moping about how miserable a thing he did, and blasting anyone who intrudes to ash. He's an asshole like that. And then there's the Gorgon's ex, Tara. Apparently she was his wife even back when Azrai was still around. Which introduces us to a more unsettling aspect of Azrai's: being the God of Magical Roofies.
Tara apparently did not want to bang Prince Raesene, possibly on account of her not wanting to date someone as unsettling as him. So Azrai granted Raesene an Aura of Date Rape that allowed him to score her anyway. She got stuck with him for something approaching 1200 years before she had a chance to run away, at which point she took up a job keeping the pregnant princess safe from Elven Supremacist Assassins. And the two of them became best friends!
The remainder of the NPC section is basically detailing the various elven racists, and another of the princess' friends, an elf who, like her, is hated for banging the wrong race.
Plots-wise, we've got the predictable ones about how the Gorgon has Evil Plans, how the former Prince might still be alive and how everyone is out to kill the princess and her unborn child. Then, we get into the more interesting ones, like the nearby goblins training graboids to dig tunnels into the elven lands for them, elven Shadow Nuke research, Tuarhievel supporting anti-Gorgon rebels in Kiergard, that sort of thing.
Ultimately, Tuarhievel has a shitload of plots, but after reading its realm book, it gets very difficult to empathize with any elves. What a bunch of assholes!
Another Asshole Country For Fuckfaces, in this case less because of tyrannical dictators and volcanoes, and more because of Capitalism. Cariele is Libertaria, no limits on business, because business owns goddamn everything. And they're trying to export that attitude, along with a tight grip on economies, to the nearby states, which isn't making them vastly popular. Once nice, the entire state has basically been strip-mined and clear-cut.
The Five Peaks
A shithole full of humanoids, bandits and a particularly ill-mannered mage known as the Eyeless One. No one goes here if they don't enjoy being shoved off a cliff and gutted by a goblin bandit. In no particular order. It's not even a proper nation, as the entire area is fought over by a variety of assholes.
Markazor & Mur-Kilad
Goblins and dwarves being ruled by the Gorgon who forces them to work together. None of them like it much, but you don't say "no" to the Gorgon and keep on living. Their realms are about as shit as the Gorgon's Crown but with shorter people.
Being goblin and also one of the most functional realms in the Northern Marches is a weird combination. But there you go. It's supported by three main factors. Firstly, Tie'Skar Graechar, in addition to having an awesome goddamn name, is a competent ruler who will kick the ass of anyone trying to upset the boat. Secondly, guilds from Cariele and Dhoesone make the best profit when things are stable, so they try to stamp down on attempts to assassinate Graecher or start wars. And thirdly, while the goblin gods preach stabbing each other in the eye for laughs, enough goblins have gotten tired of this that a notable majority have started worshipping human deities.
Hell, the locals are even more environmentally sensitive than the humans in Cariele, actually replanting the trees they cut down, that sort of thing. Graecher happily keeps everyone too busy doing actual work, whether of the ecologically sensitive kind or otherwise, to fight him, and the ones who grumble about doing stuff that doesn't involve stabbing fuck off to Five Peaks or Dhoesone to become bandits or mercenaries. Graecher couldn't give less of a fuck, good riddance to dumb assholes.
His plan, hilarious as it is, to counter any uprisings, is that he'll declare war on a neighbour, then let the troublemakers charge into the fray, and sue for peace once enough people he doesn't like have gotten themselves stabbed in the face.
I don't know about you guys, but I'd rather cheer for Graecher than the asshole elves of Tuarhievel.
Guide to Cerilia, Part Final
Original SA post
Lemon Curdistan posted:
Also Purple another incentive for you to do Black Tokyo: you haven't had an avatar change in a while now.
It needs to be finished and you're the only man who can take on that job. You know what to do.
I truly appreciate everyone's concern for my sanity. BLACK TOKYO IT IS. But thankfully I have one last Birthright post to buffer the pain with.
Guide to Cerilia, part the last
The Eastern Marches! Where we get around to some dwarves and more asshole elves.
Lead by GRIMM GRAYBEARD, Baruk-Azhik is the only Eastern Marches nation to get a sourcebook of its own. Going by the core book, they're basically Lawful Good dwarves that keep to themselves and beat the shit out of subterranean Orogs day and night to avoid them escaping to the surface world and ravaging everything. Unlike elves who are insular, racist jackasses, the dwarves actively trade with the humans and their trade missions also scout for human champions to assist them in beating down the badguys below the mountains.
Unlike the other sourcebooks, this one didn't start with anyone getting assassinated, or any plots on the lives of the current regents, or any racists, or any bullshit. In fact it's just dwarves having a party to celebrate that you're their new regent. They coronate the PC-in-charge and then have a speech about how goddamn awesome their dwarven lives are, and how no one fucks with them. In fact, Moradin himself weighs in with a bit of divine symbolism to give you a thumbs up and say he approves. Unlike the elves with their MAGIC CHAIR, the dwarves allow divinity to approve of their regent by throwing around FIRE.
We're also treated to the dwarven creation myth. Apparently Moradin was digging around in the ground when, one day, he hit a special vein of metal which he decided to carve a child from. Once he'd finished the skeleton, he needed to give his child a heart, which he made from gems: A diamond for strength, an emerald for wisdom, a sapphire for honesty and an opal for compassion. He pressed them into a fist-sized garnet with his divine powers, and the garnet itself he left uncut as a lesson in humility, and then they became the heart of the first dwarf.
Sand, soil and stone became the flesh. For eyes he picked orbs of obsidian, and finally, he repeated all of this seven more times, until he had eight children. Four daughters and four sons. Oh and then for the SPARK OF LIFE, he used fire, lightning and rain.
Hilariously, the elves loudly posture and pride themselves on being THE FIRST OF THE RACES. At which point the dwarves just shrug and go: "So what?" Probably pissing the pointy-feared pricks off something awful. I'm liking the dwarves already.
metal as FUCK
The dwarven cities and provinces are stereotypical. Dwarves live underground, don't really bother with the above world much and are good engineers. But, unlike the elves, they distinguish themselves by letting a few humans settle the valleys and hills in their provinces. They negotiate or request that the humans leave if they start making major settlements, because they don't trust humans not to gank everything within reach, but as long as it's just minor villages, hermits and the like, they're not sending out execution parties.
They've also got an issue that the Chimaera, the crazy Awnshleighen scientist, has her personal summer cabin and research lab within their southern borders. But, wisely, the dwarves have elected not to knock it down. Oh and they've got some unique wildlife in their mountains, too, like camouflaged deer, whose fur shifts to match the surroundings depending on the season. Apparently in the spring and summer they become green. The dwarves also shear wild alpacas, in case anyone likes those weird goddamn creatures.
Oh and by this point, someone might be wondering: How do dwarves survive if they live in unfarmable mountain ranges? Is it like Dwarf Fortress? Subterranean fungus groves?
Well, sort of.
Fungus and other stuff that's grown in or directly on the ground is what they prefer to eat, but they can also eat dirt and rocks, and apparently some kinds are considered delicacies. The book unironically names mud pies as one of them. Also crystals are apparently fancy desserts to them. They're also lactose-intolerant Jews, as they literally cannot process milk, and they consider eating eggs or pigs to be taboo(the latter because they remind them of Orogs).
We're also told what happened to the former leader. Not assassination, not death of old age... no, instead he had his priests bind his soul to the very mountains of the province so he could be an ethereal scourge upon the Orogs dwelling beneath it, and a guardian for his people living within it. That's pretty awesome.
Aside from how awesome dwarves are in general, though... Baruk Azhik is a bit thin on the craziness the like of Tuarhievel's or awesomeness like Endier's. Almost all the plots are basically: "A CAVE MAY HAVE A COOL THING IN IT" or "THE OROGS ARE ASSHOLES." There are two I like, though: Moradin's Child and The Missing Link.
Moradin's Child is basically the fact that the dwarves of Baruk-Azhik have found skeleton of one of Moradin's original children. They're unsure what to do with it, though. Apparently the former rulers have considered displaying it as a holy relic to inspire the people or others to smelting it down and using its matter for holy weapons.
The Missing Link consists of the dwarves having an uber-powerful Awnshegh monster trapped in a cell deep within their vaults. Killing it could infect the slayer with its bloodline, so no one's wanted to take that change. Alternately, they've considered releasing it into the Orog tunnels to fuck them up, but are worried that it might be impossible to kill or recapture, and that it might grow even stronger from all the slaughter.
We already know about the Chimaera from Blood Enemies, so there's not much else to say. Its realm is a shithole, the only people living there are miserable or assholes, and the Chimaera herself is kind of a cunt.
A generic nation of alright, freedom-loving people who're mostly friendly with the dwarves and are just concerned with not being dicked over by their neighbours. Literally the only noteworthy attributes is that they have a huge, evil swamp in their borders and raise a lot of cattle.
Evil badguys have taken over the realm and deposed the rightful heir to the throne. Are [adventuring party] bad enough dudes to help him get his stuff back?
Elves! And hence a right bag of raging pricks no matter how much the book might try to hide it. Racists like all the others, and they keep up the whole Ghaellie Sidhe lynch mob thing as well. Supposedly the mitigating thing here is that their queen really, really loves pretty things!
Fuck elves in Birthright, fuck 'em right in the eyes.
Birthright is pretty rad, but you have to do a lot of planning and be sure you're getting it right to run it. Definitely a fun spin on basic D&D, more interesting than Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms, but if you try to run a domain game with nations and all that, good luck: Because the book sure as hell isn't giving you any hints on how to pull it off right.
Next time: BLACK TOKYO, FUCKERS