Monday 30 June 2014

The Home Hearths of Astre

One of my favourite books of the early D&D 3e era was The Book of the Righteous by Aaron Loeb. The Home Hearths of Anwyn was my favourite church, I loved how integrated it was into the society. It seemed like a church with a real purpose, something useful for people to believe in and be a part of. My equivalent god, Astre, is directly influenced by Anwyn but both fortunately and unfortunately, my memory is terrible and I haven't read the book in over 10 years. It is packed in storage somewhere literally half a world away but in a way that's a good thing. It will force me to be less plagaristic and more creative. I also have to point out the fantastic coincidence that astre means hearth in old french. I swear I made the word up, but I will forgive the reader for not believing me.

Astre is not an interventionist god, she never dabbles in mortal affairs, even to protect her church and most devout followers. Prayers to her go unanswered, her priests claim no influence over her, nor that they can even send or receive communicatons with her. Yet, Astre is the most widely worshipped god on both the rock and her original world, Benoch. 

The reason for this is simple, the church of Astre, the Home Hearths, is not only the largest charitable organisation in the worlds, but also the largest individual provider of sustenance to the people that live in communities with a Hearthen presence. Although the nature of the Hearths differ wildly across the different cultures Astre is worshipped, Blonks (the region directly beyond the Benoch portal) provided the basic template for the city church, although the dwellers on the rock take it to great extremes. In the small villages of Benoch that fall under the influence of Astre, the centre of the village is usually dominated by a plain hall large enough to seat the entire village. Kitchens and ovens line the walls of the hall and all bread is baked therin. Although in the villages most homes have cooking facilities, the first meal of the day is always had at the Hearths. Villagers will bring their dough, made the night before and set out to rise, to the ovens of the Home Hearths. While it is baking they socialise and have their first meal of the day provided by the hearths. Usually a porridge with fresh bread, a little honey and some fruit. Once the bread is baked (and some of it consumed), the villagers will begin their days work. 

In Blonks, the communal nature of the halfling inhabitants (more on that next week) makes the Hearths even more dominant. The only building in the village with cooking facilities is the Home Hearths and all meals and most social activities take place within.

In the City in Darkness, the Home Hearths are still a large part in the day of it's inhabitants. The first meal of the day is always had at the Home Hearths.
Breakfast is usually made up of porridge, bread and unique to the city, jellied eels. Rich and poor alike will attend one of the many Home Hearths scattered around the city. As there is no specific rich district in the city, each Home Hearth will play host to people of all social classes. The nobility, merchants, workers, paupers and even priests of other gods attend the Hearths every morning. The poor attend out of necessity, the rich out of obligation. Neglecting the Hearths is sure social suicide for even nobles with their own cooks and kitchens. Meals are served from 5 bells in the morning, to mid-morning (9am), the earlier you attend the more pious you are. Workers will typically stay only a short time before hurrying to work, but for merchants and nobles, the mornings are spent talking business, doing deals and socialising. 

Attending a beautiful Home Hearth gives its patrons prestige and so the patronage of artists, architects and artisans is common. Sculpture, and other works of art are especially prized and popular artists are in constant demand. This beautification is not just a competition between different Hearths and families, there is a genuine belief that exulting Astre in this way will bring her closer to them and, despite all evidence to the contrary, make her look more favourably upon the members of the Hearth.

The priests of Astre do not make showy use of miracles, divinations or other such divine powers, nor do they claim to have any special connection wih Astre. They focus instead on providing nourishment for the vast majority of the population of the city. The food provided is donated and not all by the rich, most attendees of the Hearths will, a few times a month, purchase a sack of flour or oats to bring to the hearths. Only the truly destitute are excused from the shaming that comes with being miserly and uncharitable. 

Although the Hearths at first glance seem to be an equitable paradise, not all is as equal as
it seems. The rich, especially patrons of the Hearth are treated favourably; they never wait for food and are served the best whitest loaves, the youngest, most tender morsels of eel as well as fruit, something normal city dwellers cannot usually afford. That said, the daily meeting of all cultures, races, religions and classes is the major reason the city has so little racial tension. Any city of Nocte's size and cultural diversity would expect serious problems but thanks to the mixing influence of the church of Astre, the Home Hearths, these problems are minor.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Moving on from the original version

I started this post way back in January and planned to publish it before it fell through the cracks. It references my first post, The Original Vision, so you should probably go back and read each section along with its companion here. I am posting this now, because I do need to say what I plan to change from the original vision. I want to write a few posts about the power structure in the city from a very high level so revisiting what I have already written about them is obviously important.


I want to read over my original draft again. I am going to take this section by section and go over what I like and what I dislike. You can find the original overview here and then read my comments on each section below.

I like the first paragraph. 'Nuff said, now onto the real sections:


I think the opening is strong. Nine worlds however, says too much. For my new version, I am going to cut that down to two or three (not including self-contained worlds like the Day Palace). Nine worlds is just too chaotic for me, marrying the cultures of just a few worlds is going to be difficult enough, there is no need to go over-board.

Power Centers:

Whoops, I don't know what happened there. Obviously, that is terrible writing. Somewhere along the way, Count Vanus has turned into a Duke but I don't really care. In my palaces post I didn't name the duke. This is a problem of mine in general, I don't really do people well and it is a struggle to add a bit of life to my locations. The general idea here is good though, a powerless, insane ruler and scheming guilds. I have hinted at that already, with the Night Palace playing host to several Guildhalls. I will have to remember to add in some religious organisations as well.


Some good and some bad here. Although I like the general plot, some details will need to change. The discovery of the extra portals will have to go. To replace the xenophobic invaders, I have some swamp kobolds from the second world lined up. I am going to ditch the mines. There are plenty of other reasons that the pits could be built.


I would like to up the population a lot. I will have to do some research on the population density of Victorian Edinburgh and London. I love the idea of seafaring orcs ever since I read Louise Lawrence's Llandor Trilogy so I must find a way to keep them.


I will get rid of the adamantine mines, but I need to come up with some more trade goods that would be traded between the two worlds. I can see a Dungeon Dozen style list coming on!


I am fairly happy with the military section, although it slightly contradicts an earlier section. The military power of the city has to be enough to fend off potential invaders, although not necessarily the invaders themselves.


The Book of the Righteous was one of my favourite books of the early 3.0 D&D era and the home hearths of Anwyn was my favourite church. Not being religious myself, but a lover of history, religious architecture and art, I still like the idea of fantasy religions being a big part of every-day life. I think this is missing from many campaign settings, so including it here should be fun. The mad, frenzied priests and cultists of Greek mystery cults and sword and sorcery novels must also be included.

Magic in Nocte:

I now prefer a low magic, gritty approach to magic; but I still want mages in the city. I guess what I want to avoid is the magic as technology approach. Magic should be dangerous, risky and unpredictable. I have experimented with different mechanics in various roleplaying games to attempt to simulate this, mostly unsuccessful.

Underworld and Security:

Merging the Underworld and Security section with the Military section would probably be wise. They seem to be talking about the same group of organisations. I am sick of the concept of thieves' guilds, the concept seems mostly to cater to rogue/thieves who want to join an organisation. I hope I can come up with something a little more original that would motivate these characters to get involved. It also stretches my suspension of disbelief too much to have a 'city wide thieves guild'. Dinji is a hilarious name for a goblin though, so I will have to use him elsewhere.

The Pits:

Inspired by the caves and passages beneath Edinburg, the pits are one of my favourite things in the city. I can't wait to revisit this idea in a bit more detail. There is an abundance of information about Victorian slums, and I will draw heavily on these sources. I have no intention of pulling punches here and ideally, my audience should be a little disgusted by the inhumane conditions of the pits.

The Aqueduct:

I am pretty happy with the Aqueduct. Water sources are rife for intrigue and sabotage. Given the Aqueduct's importance to the city, I think a militia dedicated to protect it would be interesting, not to mention being used by one guild or another for their own political purpose.

The Palace:

I have already written a little about the palace, but oddly enough I didn't mention any parties. I wonder whether the day palace is more suited to the parties. I decided that the day palace should be largely unknown by the general populace, but that still leaves room for a series of ballrooms and party halls close to the portal. Imagine the riots when the commoners discover the vast Day Palace is practically empty.

The Guildhouse:

Should that be Guildhall? The headquarters of the guild of merchants and traders is obviously going to be an important building in the city. That said, it is not inspiring me at the moment and so I fear I will not return to this building any time soon.

Ten Thousand Tavern:

I am toying with the idea of creating a 3d model in order to map the city. A 2D map will never be able to capture the many layers and higgledy-piggledy nature of the place. A good practice run would be to map this place, I can image corridors leading through other random buildings to yet more rooms of the tavern. I will probably ditch the gladiatorial style battles. I think sublimating the violence of the city behind a veneer of civility will be more effective at highlighting its brutality. Having open battles in a pub takes something away from this approach.

Through the Portals:

Benoch is the name of one of my homebrews, have you noticed yet that I am terrible at naming things? Look out for a post on naming in the near future! I will probably ditch these worlds and start again. I mentioned swamp kobolds above, and seafaring orcs. I also need some human civilisations on each world to trade between. I also have the option of only using one prime world, with the portals sufficiently far apart to encourage trade.


Well, there it is, a little analysis of a ten year old bit of writing I did. Clearly it needs work, but that is a good thing given I have dedicated a blog to this.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

The Dwarves of Csarnok

Far beyond the plains of Blonks and it's surrounds near the source of the river Skoll lies the mountainhomes of the Csarnok dwarves. Once a mighty empire that spanned the Hegek mountains that form the spine of the known world, they are now a dying race, fractured and defeated.

No war brought the Dwarves low, no famine nor pestilence, yet brought low they were. No baby has been born in the mountainhomes for a century and their halls echo emptily. The dwarves left their mines, crafthalls and smithies and fell into a maliase. Now they barely speak to each other, most of the time they can be found sitting staring at nothing. With no new produce, the dwarves barter away their heirlooms and prized possessions in exchange for the minimal food they need to survive. The dwarves don't even particularly seem interested in that survival, a fact that various monstrous races have used to their advantage. The dwarven Csarnok populations have halved in a century, no new babies have been born in that time. Old age and one-sided conflict have hastened the dwarves demise.

The dwarves of the city of darkness talk often of this maliase as they are seemingly unaffected. In fact, almost none of the dwarves who have left the mountainhomes are similarly afflicted. Some of these dwarves attempt "rescue missions" back to the mountainholmes but almost all are failures; the rescuers either falll into the depression of their intended rescuees and never leave the mountains, or return unsuccessful. One successful expedition was mounted recently however, led by Butusov Feargehar. He and 12 other dwarves ventured to Crajeholde and brought back almost 50 fellow dwarves. In their words, they felt "a great weight lifted from my shoulders, something in those halls is pushing the dwarves down and I for one, will never go back to the accursed mountainhomes."

The successful foray by Butusov Feargehar has inspired massive enthusiasm for the "plight" of the dwarves. Charities have sprung up founded by poor and wealthy dwarves alike. Posters adourn every wall advertising rallies for the dwarves as well as new charities and charitable organisations.

As yet unnoticed by the dwarves of the city, they too are affected by this curse, their productivity is slowing and the quality of the work they do is declining. They may survive another century, or another millenia; only time will tell.