Friday, February 10, 2017

Saint Cryndwr Firebeard of Wealdvale

"Saint Cryndwr Firebeard of Wealdvale (St. Crinder, The Red Goat, Cryndwr o’Broagh)"

"Saint Cryndwr Firebeard began his life as a humble goatherd, tending his flocks in the heathery upper reaches of the Wealdvale. His goats were known in the locality for their tough meat, cantankerous attitude, and full ginger goatees, though their milk was richer than any other and always as fresh as dew on the heather (no doubt due to the blessedness of their master, which will soon be clearly evidenced)."

Basically EXACTLY one of St. Cryndwr's goats.

"It came to pass that, late in the season of Reaping, when St. Cryndwr commonly led his goats to root through the leaves and loam for mushrooms, that his flock began to unaccountably thin, with fewer goats in his fold each morning then there were the evening before. Incensed, the wily St. Cryndwr set aside the skins of strong cider that constituted his customary nightcap and instead remained through the night to watch his flock (as many goatherds are wont to do). Sure enough, in the dark of full night, St. Cryndwr awoke to find goblins emerging from a small tunnel into the enclosure of the fold!"

"He leapt up, and, taking up a mighty stone, heaved it onto the hole’s mouth, crushing one noisome goblin and sealing the rest from entering the fold he guarded!"

"Knowing the persistence of impudent goblins has no bounds, St. Cryndwr resolved to deal with their foul brood for good. Attaching an old axehead to his goatherd’s crook and taking up a broad butchering knife, he waited for morning before removing the boulder from the goblin burrow."

"When the Blessed Sun rose, he entered, fiery red beard lighting his way as he crawled through the cramped tunnel toward the pestilential goblin warren he knew would await him."

"Dispatching any lone vermin he encountered by using his crook to drag his foe down the tight burrows and into the reach of his sharp butcher's knife, St. Cryndwr Firebeard soon reached the noxious heart of the warren, where the tunnels connected with natural caverns in which he could stand high and use his axe-headed crook with both hands to deadly effect: what goblins didn't flee from this wrathful avenger with beard of burning flame perished by mighty arcing swings of his improvised weapon. Most of his foes were too sleepy (it being daytime above) or sick (lying next to half-eaten goat shanks, whining and holding their swollen bellies) to put up much resistance."

"Lo and behold, in addition to the skeletons and carcasses of various goats, St. Cryndwr discovered that the cunning goblins, no doubt finding the meat of his goats stringy and unpalatable, had begun keeping them for their rich milk, kept in skin bags in a nearby niche. Finding the now-fermented beverage to be both bracing and satisfying, the righteous saint headed home aglow with the blessings of the Mother and Father, leading his recaptured goats in tow."

"After he proclaimed his mighty deeds in the village tavern, St. Cryndwr’s compatriots rejoiced that he had slain the marauding goblins, who had sporadically troubled the region’s flocks and infants for several years."

"Suddenly, the ram’s horn of warning sounded from the slopes - the Winter Orcs had come, and earlier in the year than usual!"

"Brave Saint Cryndwr, aflush with the Father's power and with stout ale, roared with a voice that shook the Vale’s slopes: 'by our flocks and women, the foe shall fall as the dying leaves!'"

"An avalanche of boulders and mud tumbled from the Wealdvale onto the advancing horde at this resounding shout, and St. Cryndwr's fellow Valesmen took up claymore, pruning hook, and axe and followed the bold Saint into battle. It is said that as many orcs perished from his roaring voice and potent breath as from his axe-headed goatherd’s crook; soon, the orcish horde had fled in disarray, leaving the flocks and winter stores of the Wealdvale untouched."

"Legendary was the feasting after this heroic victory: ale and cider flowed like water, and Saint Cryndwr was made chieftain of the Wealdvale, as the old chieftain had died in the battle. He led for many years, hardy and vociferous even into old age, when he perished drunk and jovial in an unusual goat-riding incident."

"He is venerated to this day as a patron saint of Valesmen and goatherds, and is often invoked for success and good fortune when collecting milk, adventuring underground, or defending one’s home. His auspices are the goat or a horn of broagh, a hard cider mulled with fermented goat’s milk (which is the traditional drink on St. Cryndwr's feast day, [TBD])."

- From the Hagiograph of The Hundred by the Venerable Viebalde

(This post is the first in my The Hundred Saints series, updating Fridays from here forward. Pop Ars Magisterii in that RSS feed to stay tuned!)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Hundred Saints

The Church of The Hundred Saints, despite the name, is ostensibly dedicated to the worship of two deities: Solus, The Ineffable Father, The Radiance On High, and Terra, The All-Mother, She Whose Flesh Is Soil and Whose Bones Are Stone. The difficulty with venerating and obeying this god and goddess is that, according to The Doctrines, The Mother exercises no authority and gives no guidance, while The Father's majestic authority and guidance are ineffable: discerning His will is as looking to the Sun - He gives sight to all, but to look directly to Him is to be blinded.

The only way to learn the will of The Father is to look to The Saints, those who have walked between the Sun and the Earth and manifested the blessings of both Father and Mother (blessings such as renown, fertility, wealth, power, and pleasure). The Church of The Hundred Saints venerate these Saints, preserving hagiographies of their blessed lives and holding them up as living examples of the Father's will.

There are far more than a hundred Saints, however. (The Venerable Viebalde, a monk of The Church, preserved the stories of a hundred Saints in his Hagiograph of The Hundred, still a central canonical text of The Church; but, many Saints have been added to the various canons since his time - including Viebalde himself!) In addition to the several hundreds of Saints venerated by most sects of The Church, each locality in Cora-Mar and beyond often venerates dozens of local or otherwise unknown Saints, likely bringing the total well past a thousand - a figure which ever grows. 

There, that's around a hundred saints.

Many Saints begin as kings or heroes, either of recent times or of the legendary past, their words and deeds warped or even fabricated with the passage of time.

Other Saints began as deities in their own right, whether of the distant ancestors of the current denizens of Cora-Mar, of conquered peoples of the past whose gods were absorbed into The Church's Panhagion, or of neighboring cultures whose religions become syncretized in the borderlands between. 

It is common for the Hierarchs of the various principalities in Cora-Mar, and especially the Inner Six, to be canonized after their deaths (or even during!), though inevitable political and doctrinal divisions lead to Hierarchs held in highest esteem by some sects to be deemed anathema as false or apostate pretenders by others. Wars have been waged over the canonization of a divisive Saint, and Saints have gained their fame through the waging of those wars.

We will see examples of Saints of all three origins in the coming weeks. I am planning on writing up a single Saint each week as one of my Wednesday or Friday posts, for several reasons:
1) It's a good way to create specifics and history of the game setting I'm currently attempting to develop.
2) Legends and references to the Saints themselves would add depth to the campaign I'm running right now, as well as future games.
3) It sounds like fun.

Stay tuned!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Metal Monster Manual Monday - Volume 5

Continuing a weekly series of posts wherein I share several album covers (mostly by death metal bands!) as brainfood for encounters in your tabletop RPG. Expect this every Monday!

DANS LA JOIE (Au Champ des Mortis)
Okay, personally, if I see a skull just lying around, I ask myself "what did it come from?" So, here's this giant skull; probably came from a giant, eh?
Then, of course, you ask how this giant('s) skull got here. Like, where is the rest of the body? Is there an entire giant('s) skeleton somewhere nearby? I'd expect so. Giants don't tend to get very far without a head.
But here it is. A lonely skull.
Is there some headless, undead giant roaming about these dank woods, searching for his head? What if he came crashing through the trees AT THIS VERY MOMENT?
The other way to approach dead stuff is in the mindset of a necromancer. What could some wicked necromage do with a massive giant('s) skull? Probably a lot. Probably a lot more if they had the giant('s) skeleton.
What if some necromancer has already gotten to the skull? What if it rose from the earth and made a massive bite attack? Or, what if the necromancer's attempts only succeeded partially, and the skull simply lays there, able to speak in a voice of grinding teeth and bone, but unable to do much else?
What would it say?
(I just wanted to note that this image has a FANTASTIC atmosphere. Great texture, object placement, and use of contrast.)

From the perspective on this image, this thing looks fairly massive. Like, a dude standing on the ground probably couldn't reach its knee.
Anyway, probably the first thing one notices is that this dude (statue?) has no face. Two obvious possibilities why: 1) it was created that way or 2) it was created with a face but now that face is gone.

So, why would 1) come about?
It is perhaps telling that the statue looks up toward a swirling void in the sky. What if this monolithic guardian was created to defend from otherworldly horrors come down from between the stars, incomprehensible in a way that would destroy eyes that look upon them or minds that dwell on them? This statue was created without eyes or mind - just limbs of cold, unyielding stone, the bones of the earth animated to defend against incursions from Beyond.
Perhaps its foes never came. Perhaps it still waits, watching the void between the stars.
What if it was one day needed elsewhere? Who would arouse it and convince it to leave its throne to find its foe in far lands? (Cue a party of intrepid adventurers..,)

Okay, but what about 2)? What if it had a face, but no longer does?
I imagine this statue as able to speak, a deep, grinding voice echoing from its open cranium.
What would it say?
Would it tell of how its face was lost - greedy dwarf vandal-thieves, striding giants, catapults, mages? (What did its tormentors want to accomplish?)
Would it mourn the loss of its face? Would it ask passing adventurers if they had found it? What would it do if its face were returned?
(WHAT IF the skull from the previous album cover was all that were left of its face, torn from its stony skin and left to rot in a swamp?)

Alright, time for the BOSS BATTLE:

So, obviously this chap is a mage of some kind. (The arcane sigil carved into his flesh and the eldritch fire from his eyes are a pretty good clue.)
Also, he doesn't look dead, despite having his entrails draped across the surrounding foliage.
Then, I notice his fingers. They look like they are becoming twigs or tree branches.
What if his entrails CONNECT HIM TO THE FOREST?
Is he a mad wizard who masochistically plugged himself into the trees to steal their power?
What can his burning eyes now see - all that occurs within the woods?
What vengeance would he unleash upon trespassing adventurers - lashing trunks and roots? Burning fire from his eyes?
What if his grisly connections to the forest were severed - would he die like a mere man?

How would YOU use any/all of these monsters, encounters, and scenes in your game, Reader?
(Let me know how it goes if you do!)

Previous volumes:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4