A World Without Heroes [Fiction]

A World Without Heroes

by Patrick Harron

Tamerus lead the young acolyte through the vaults of the great library. The air was stale, dust heavy upon the assembled tomes. Library_Dark_Scene_v01They seemed endless, written in many languages. Some of them were easily recognizable, others strange, foreign tongues. Others encoded in esoteric symbols, puzzling even her keen mind.
The wise old sage had brought her here for a reason, and with steady hand he held out a lantern, guiding them. They walked together in silence, past row after row of books. The sound of their footsteps was the only noise to break the silence, echoing through the depths of the vault. The light of the lantern flickered and she watched as shadows danced across the walls. The shadows enthralled her and for a moment she thought they took shape of creatures and beasts, monsters from legend, such as those within many of the old texts they walked past as they continued their way through the long dark of the vaults. Only their tracks in the dust gave any sign of their passage. This was a place seldom tread, even within the vast repository of knowledge. Just the thought of being here filled her with an excitement and curiosity she could scarcely contain.
“There exists within the depths of my library countless tomes. Words penned by ancient scribe bearing names long forgotten by most. They contain the wisdom of ages, thoughts and ideas which have over the many years evolved, taking on a life of their very own. I have read them all, each and every one. Every page committed to memory during the course of my long life.” Tamerus spoke, breaking the silence. He pulled a volume from the shelf with care, opening it with long, calloused fingers. The words were written in a fine, delicate hand. She recognized the script, the flowing calligraphy of the Althuwatha. Known in the common tongue as elves, they were said to be as eternal as the great sage himself. The tongue of her mother’s people, but one foreign to the young pupil. He held the book out before her. She reached out with trembling hands. It felt heavy, smelling of frankincense, cloves, and something otherworldly. A sweet pungent smell, that seemed familiar, yet unknown. The words though beautiful, held little meaning to her. “You have no doubt seen them,” her teacher continued. “Myriad tales of myth and legend. Stories of heroism and adventure, of hearts won and favors earned. Such tales form the foundation of our history. The backbone of every culture, shaping the very beliefs and ideals we live by today. In these stories monsters are slain, and nations saved from certain doom.” The acolyte nodded, handing the book to her elder. He placed it back onto the shelf with care. “Fate choose those destined for greatness. Through their deeds and hardships they became more than mortal. They became myth. Their actions elevating them, granting immortality in form of story and song. These sagas remain, forever etched in history. Many of them line these very shelves. The heroes, however, are gone, long since turned to bone and dust.”
Tamerus motioned them forward, leading her through a passageway into another section of the vault. He unlocked doors as they went. Making use of the large keyring that hung from his waist. They continued in silence until they came before another locked door. She noted the slightest smile on her teachers face and he procured the key to the door. There was a loud click, and the door unlocked. He pushed it open, revealing a small study or workshop. An empty workbench sat in the middle of the room. Beyond it, a small bookshelf in the corner, next to a desk, covered in papers. Candles lined the room, and she jumped as their flames sprang to life as if by their own volition.
quoteShe felt a comforting hand on her shoulder, and he motioned for her to sit at the desk. He began to rummage through the books on the shelf. “Once again a darkness spreads across the land. It waits, lurking just beneath the surface of conscious mind. Hiding in the cracks between waking thought and the fantasy of dream. It is insidious, growing greater in strength and influence with each passing day. When strong enough it will threaten to devour the world. The first signs are now upon us. Crops wither and livestock suffers. The blight grows and spreads, but mortals do not recognize the danger. Nor will they until it is too late. Threats both old and new will rise to swallow the world whole.” Tamerus set a pair of books down upon the desk before her. Opening the first she found it blank, numerous pages of empty parchment. The second was full of words and symbols she did not recognize. They were unusual, alien, yet seemed to hold some power. She felt a warm tingle in her fingers as she ran her hand across them. Tamerus said nothing, only placed a quill into her unsteady hand. “I have not asked you here to frighten you with tales of danger or prophecy. Nor to scare you from these hallowed halls of knowledge. The time for heroes must return, but will they heed the call? Will they rise up and protect the world? Or will they throw it away, plunging it forever into shadow. The choice is yours. Yes, yours young one.” She could only stare at him with wide eyes. Thoughts raced through her head as she tried to discern meaning from his words. “I tell these stories, not simply to educate, but to inspire. Heroes have not disappeared, they reside within each of us, a tiny voice, whispering to them deeds that will lead them to greatness. That voice resides within you as well, young one, you need only listen. The pen is in your hand. It is time to write your story…”

Progress Report

Updates

I’ve shared a few bits and pieces of my work over the last few weeks, but I feel I should talk a bit about what the status of the project currently is and what I’ve been spending my time on. I would expect to have most of the groundwork complete by the end of the year, and a “working version” of the setting by spring. I’ve been putting a great deal of time into various pieces, laying a foundation I can build from as the work continues to narrow in focus.

 

Progress Report

ZayreDetail

The Region of Zayre

A lot of my time the last few weeks has been spent working on the map for the main continent, Reghal. I’ve worked and reworked the map, adding more details as I go, and making minor improvements based on feedback I’ve received from various cartography pages on Facebook. I’ve found these communities very helpful and they’ve help me to improve my skills with Campaign Cartographer 3+. I don’t yet consider myself an expert, but my work has improved substantially over the last few months.

I’ve been keeping a OneNote notebook to keep track of my work. As of this writing it contains about 15,000 words. This includes notes on nearly everything from nations to races and cultures, religions, and a sizable chunk (8 pages and counting) of history and time lines. I don’t expect to use every word (nobody wants to ready 10 pages of just timelines, right? But it gives me a good starting point and backbone to build a narrative from. Not included in this word count is two pieces of original fiction I’ve written based on this material. These are short works of about 2k words each, and may be used to add fluff to the setting and break up and add depth to the “crunchier” bits of the book.

Moving Forward

In the months ahead, I expect to add more meat to the skeleton I’ve been constructing over the last few months. I will likely take a more focused approach picking one nation at a time until I have a basic framework for each. In the spring I will start a campaign in this world, using my own group to playtest the world and tweak it or add additional details as the campaign progresses. I will be starting with the Kingdom of Zayre, as it will be the most “traditional” in terms of setting. Early next week I will be posting some more fiction, and will continue to keep posting updates as work progresses. I may release a guide to Zayre as a sample this spring before the start of my next campaign.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Patrick Harron, Triple Moon Games

The Goblins of Veyrn

Knives in the Dark

Blix2Of all the creatures in fantasy gaming, goblins are one of the most common and most used creatures. Rare is the character that has not had to battle these small, evil creatures at some point in their career. They exist in most settings, and rare is the game that does not make use of them in some way.

Veyrn will naturally have goblins, they exist as one of the most prominent creatures that a character may encounter, and they will have an interesting and unique history, and background, but before I get into some of that I’d like to make a few distinctions between my goblins, and those most common to most worlds.

Goblins are NOT comic relief

Goblins in most worlds are well, stupid. They have low intelligence scores, and this is often used to provide comic relief. Combined with their generally lack of threat (though even the weakest creature can be powerful under the right circumstances.) they are often depicted and being evil to the point of ridiculousness. They are dangerous to the unprepared, but not often a serious threat to the average character, sometimes even bumbling and cowardly toward those stronger than them.

Goblins in Veyrn, will not be more physically imposing that standard 5e goblins, but they will be a great deal smarter. I would state them as having a cruel intelligence, a cunning that allows them to think outside the box, coupled with a low wisdom that keeps them from holding back, even when a situation might warrant caution. Rarely will they attack without a strategy, and often have several escape routes planned. The people of Veyrn treat them not as weak creatures who sometimes cause trouble, but a more serious threat. In Veyrn they are a force to be feared. This change is tied to their origins, which I will discuss next.

Legions of the Archfey

The goblins are not native creatures to Veyrn, though they have been there long enough to have found their own niche. They have survived and flourished by taking what they need, and brutally killing those in their way.

The Althuwatha [High Elves] tell of their origins. The small vicious creatures made up the bulk of the armies of the Archfey. They were the favored troops of these beings, employing them on many campaigns, until they, along with the elves were abandoned, and left to their fates. Without their Fae masters to rein them in the task fell to the elves, who struggled with the task. Eventually the goblins broke free of even their control, and continue to wreak havoc wherever they go. They are smart enough to avoid large settlements, but smaller towns and villages are often considered easy targets.

Lurkers in the Dark

blix

Blix from Legend (1985), Universal Pictures

Goblins prefer to hide in the shadows, and make their homes in the caves, holes, and other places untouched by the light of day. They are not hindered by the sun, but prefer a nocturnal existence, as it the concealment the night provides is advantageous to them.

 

Without Number

Aware of their physical limitations, when possible the goblins will attempt to use strategy and tactics that emphasize one of their biggest advantages. Goblins breed quickly, far faster that any other intelligent race on Veyrn, this allows them to replace their lost warriors quickly, they will creep from the cracks and crevices of the earth, assault in considerable numbers, then disappear. Villages near known goblin settlements must keep careful watch, often hiding behind walls or palisades for safety. They seldom stray beyond these wall in cover of night. Those who do are often never heard from again.

Building a World #4: Concepts in World Building

Approaches to World Building

There are two main approaches to world building. Inside out, and outside in. Both have their merits and flaws, and both allow a potential world builder to create a living, breathing world. I will go over the basics of each here briefly and then discuss my approach and how I’m building my setting, Veyrn.

Inside Out

With this approach, the storyteller or game master starts small, and works outward. Usually this means detailing a starting location, and the surrounding area. Then expanding upon this as you craft a campaign, and the players outgrow the starting area.

This approach is great because it requires less work than crafting a whole world upfront and allows the GM to spend less time on the setting and more time on telling a fantastic story. The only time problem will arise from this approach is when the players ask about the world at large. If the GM does not yet have an idea of what lies outside the area they’ve crafted it could leave them unprepared when the players ask unexpected questions (and they always will).

When using the inside out method, it’s best to at least make some note on the other areas of the world, even if they aren’t completely fleshed out. This will help avoid the aforementioned issues that may arise.

Outside In

Naturally this is the exact opposite of the method I previously described. With this method you start with the whole world then proceed to add smaller and smaller details are you continue to flesh out your setting.

This method is great because it starts you with a whole world, fleshed out and ready to go, you will have all the details ready to go should the players ask questions, or go in unexpected directions. The downfall is that it requires significantly more work for the GM and may delay the start of a campaign, particularly in the GM is under pressure from other responsibilities and cannot devote much time to a particular project.

What about Veyrn?

For the Veyrn campaign setting, I’m actually using a bit of both. This project is an expansion and revision of my home setting, and as such I had quite a bit of material to draw from. Giving me a good starting point, if not a complete world. (I’ve added a LOT to my original setting, and in many ways almost feels like a completely new world.) I used the material I already had as a basis laying down a framework, before sketching out  the rest of the setting. For the most part I used an “outside in” approach, as I created concepts and major locations first. I will soon begin going back and adding in details of the many peoples and places I have added to the world and the maps I have put many hours into the last few weeks.

What’s Next?

I’m currently working on finishing my over world maps. I’ve spent literally hours painstakingly constructing a map using CC3+ and have received a lot of positive and constructive feedback on the results, allowing me to improve it even further.

VeyrnRegionalDetailtest8

Current Map of Veyrn (Still a work in progress)

Once this is completed I will begin detailing the locations, for each nation. I will also be working on lore, mythology, and other bits of fluff to add depth and detail to it. I can’t wait to show you all what I have come up with, as I’m currently sitting on pages and pages of notes, with many of them regarding the history of Veyrn and its people.