Tag: world building

Languages of Northumbria

CGG member Mike Garcia offers some of his copious campaign world documents for the continent of Northumbria.


ALCHEMISTS’ TONGUE, THE

This was the language created by alchemists in the ancient Aquilonian Empire, over a dozen centuries ago. The alchemical concepts are far older, dating back many millennia, but Aquilonian alchemists codified a set of unique and mystical runes to allow them to record and share their knowledge in some secrecy. No alchemist will teach the concepts or the runes to a non-alchemist.

AQUILONIAN

This was the common language of the ancient Aquilonian Empire, once located across the sea, but now in ruins. The Aquilonians used a sound-based system of letters, and this alphabet is now used for writing both Frangian and Zeelander.

FRANGIAN

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Frangia and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Frangian is a sister language to Zeelander. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Frangians use the Aquilonian alphabet.

HIGH TONGUE, THE

This is the language of the Frangian nobility, derived from the peculiar dialect of one of the Frangian ruling tribes from centuries ago. Those that understand Frangian have a 10% chance of understanding the High Tongue and vice versa. The High Tongue uses the Aquilonian alphabet.
Though the High Tongue is widely available in books and thus familiar to many scholars, few understand how to speak it fluently. Frangian nobles have carefully guarded the precise verbal nuances of their language—a practice that allows them to recognize one another and to distinguish their own from imposters.

KENIENKA

This is the language of the Kenianka, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. They call it the ‘Flint Tongue’, as the Kenienka call themselves the ‘Flint People’ or the ‘People of the Flint Place’.

NORSK

This is the common language of the Varangians, who once ruled the mighty Northern Realm in Northumbria. Though that kingdom is now in ruins, the Varangian people spread throughout Northumbria, keeping alive their native tongue. Norsk and Old Frangian both come from an ancient northern language, now forgotten. Those that can understand Frangian or Zeelander have a 05% chance to understand Norsk and vice versa. Varangians use a sound-based system of runes, derived from those of the dwarves and elves.

PICTISH

This is the common language of the Picts in Northumbria. It is entirely different from all other known languages in the region. Picts use a sound-based system of runes, possibly derived from those of the Varangians, but many scholars argue that any similarities are coincidence.

WENDAT

This is the language of the Wendat, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. Its origins are unknown.

ZEELANDER

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Zeeland and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Zeelander is a sister language to Frangian. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Zeelanders use the Aquilonian alphabet.

ELVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the fey folk. They call it the ‘ancient song’, or vanha laulu. It is entirely different from all other non-elven languages.
The elves use a sound-based system of runes, which later became the inspiration for other runic systems, such as that of the dwarves and that of the Varangians. The elves actually use two sets of runes, one for common writing (called sanat, meaning ‘words’) and another (called voimat, meaning ‘powers’) for important concepts like magic and law.  All elves know the former, and all elders know the latter as well.

DWARVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the mountain folk. Dwarves refer to their tongue as the ‘song of stone and fire’.
The dwarves use two sound-based systems of runes, both derived from those of the elves. They use the first set of runes, which they simply call ‘carvings’, for common writing. These runes undoubtedly had some influence on development of Varangian runes. The second set of runes, which they call ‘smithing marks’, they use for important concepts like magic and manufacturing secrets.  Most dwarves know the ‘carvings’, but only proven dwarven smiths know the ‘smithing marks’.

GNOMISH

This is the soft language of the reclusive forest-dwelling gnomes. Gnomes do not teach their tongue to non-gnomes so the languages remains a mystery to most.
The gnomes use a sound-based system of runes, possibly influenced by those of the elves, but aso similar in some ways to those used by Picts. Some scholars suggest that the early Picts learned their runes from gnomes.

DM’S NOTE ON NUMBER OF LANGUAGES KNOWN

A PC’s intelligence determines how many languages he or she can learn, but the PC does not begin with his potential fully achieved.

  1. Each PC should start out with a primary human language, plus any suitable racial language.
  2. Frangian nobles raised as such will also know the High Tongue (the family should be wealthy though—DM’s call).
  3. Thieves will also know Thieves’ Cant, which is not really a full language.
  4. Each magic user, illusionist, or cleric may start with one additional language that is open to him or her.
  5. Thereafter, if intelligence allows, each PC may know one additional language that is open to him or her.
  6. A PC must learn anything beyond this starting number of languages during the game, taking active steps to learn from an NPC. It will take time.

For example, a Frangian knight with a 16 intelligence (maximum of 5 additional languages) would know Frangian as his base language, plus the High Tongue. As he could start with one more, he might choose Zeelander. That means that he starts with three languages and can learn three more in the course of play.

Another example: A Zeelander ranger with a 16 intelligence (maximum of five additional languages) would know Zeelander as his base language. His back story explains that he has been on the frontier for many years, so he can chose Kenienka or Wendat or Varangian as a second tongue. he starts with two languages and would be able to learn four more.

Another example: A Frangian cleric from a noble family has a 14 intelligence (four additional languages). He starts with Frangian as his base language, and, having been raised in a noble family, he knows the High Tongue as well. As a cleric, he then chooses Zeelander. Lastly, he selects ancient Aquilonian as his bonus language, having studied it for years before arriving in Northumbria. He therefore starts with four languages and can learn one more during play.

DM’S NOTE ON LANGUAGE RESTRICTIONS

The guiding principle is that a PC’s knowledge of a language must make sense. Languages are not flippantly learned. One must spend a great deal of time and energy both learning and practicing a language.

Some basic rules for a Blackwater Campaign:

  1. No PC, save under very rare circumstances, will know the Alchemist’s Tongue. Only alchemists learn this carefully guarded code.
  2. Only Frangian nobles, raised in such a household, will know the High Tongue.
  3. Anyone wishing to know Kenienka or Wendat must have spent a good deal of time in eastern Northumbria among the native speakers. It cannot be learned through books, and it cannot be learned quickly through casual conversation.
  4. No PC can know Pictish. It is very different, but more importantly, the Picts are utterly hostile to other peoples, and they do not value intellectual pursuits so their literature is almost non-existent.
  5. Save under rare circumstances, no human PC should know the elven tongue as the elves do not readily teach it to others. If a PC knows elven runes, they will always be the ones for common writing (sanat).
  6. Dwarves are less guarded in teaching their language, though any PC that knows dwarves runes will know only the ‘carvings’ for common writing—not the smithing marks.

Lands in the Clouds—Spirit

SPIRIT

SPIRIT is a new stat in LitC. Spirit reflects a character’s growth and presence in the spirit world. SPIRIT works much like CONSTITUTION except it applies to SPIRIT damage, which adds STRESS to a character. SPIRIT attacks seek to break a character (see FLIPPED OUT under STRESS). At that point the character is susceptible to manipulation and/or compulsion. A functional spiritual entity may be content enough to drive a character away. Malevolences will often seek to possess or consume a compromised character. A character with a high SPIRIT score has a hardness versus SPIRIT damage according to their bonus.

Similarly a character adds a bonus to SPIRIT damage dealt to spiritual entities.

Losing SPIRIT

Losing SPIRIT can happen through inaction in adventures. A critical event that a character chooses to avoid, most often having moral or ethical implications, will cause a loss of 1 point of SPIRIT. Much like an alignment shift in other games, it should be made clear to the player that a loss of SPIRIT will occur if they choose inaction in an important moment.

Lands in the Clouds—Alignment

Alignment

Alignment in Lands in the Clouds is simplified with an optional rules mechanic of Soul Points and Rage Points. The other distinctions are left to the character in-game as benevolence or malevolence as defined by their actions. Every adventure has opportunities for characters to change their outlook. Aspiring towards benevolent goals in critical moments may reward characters with a type of bonus GRIT. In a setting where the spirit world is close at hand, the condition of a soul is harder to hide and is defined by action, not just outlook.

SOUL POINTS and RAGE POINTS are optional and can be excluded if the rules are cumbersome.

Soul Points

Characters that complete crucial SOUL POINT goals gain 1 soul point. SOUL POINTS can be used in place of GRIT for critical successes in most situations unless the action is knowingly evil in nature. They are also used to power GIFTS. SOUL POINTS are also first consumed in spirit based attacks before any other damage can be dealt, so they act as a type of hitpoint for encounters in the spirit world.

Rage Points

RAGE POINTS are generated any time a character suffers a critical attack or fails at a SOUL POINT opportunity. RP can be spent on critical successes as SOUL POINTS, but not GIFTS. They can also amplify damage, adding 1d6 damage per RAGE POINT to damage of successful attacks. The danger of RAGE POINTS are how they are amplified with STRESS and more vulnerable to manipulation.

Any time a character’s RAGE POINTS exceed their wisdom, they seek to unload the overwhelming emotional duress. Any time there is contention, make a Willpower saving throw based on the number of RAGE POINTS + STRESS. Success, the character keeps it bottled up. Failure results in the character in lashing out at the one with whom they are in contest. A second Willpower save that is successful means that the character can limit their anger to a verbal tirade or general insults. Thereafter their opponent reacts to them as 2 steps lower in reaction. That may result in a fight, which is ultimately what the character seeks. A critical failure on this save means the character has snapped and physically attacks their opponent. If their opponent is a friend, they may channel their anger to an inanimate object if a second will save is successful.


The Lands in the Clouds setting and the GRIT system are provided as a showcase of the work of a CGG member. The Guild takes no official position on the suitability or appropriateness of any game or supplement.

Previous Chapter: STRESS
Index

D20 Open Gaming License

Lands in the Clouds RPG—Why another D20 game?

Why another D20 based system? I had developed a game world over several incarnations over several years I called Lands in the Clouds (LitS). Frustrated as I was with D20, I had trouble convincing my gaming groups to adopt other rules sets with flexible skill systems. So GRIT rules were conceived with two main thoughts in mind. The primary goal was to have a sandbox game. The second goal was avoid having a game that was completely unfamiliar to different groups of players. With these two goals in mind, I looked at the D20 OGL. I felt the combat, stat, feat and general skill set was within the needs for this system. What I wanted and needed to change is the rigid class system and forced game balance that requires odd rules or exceptions that are only there for a type of mechanical balance. I have a long background in RPGs where there essentially is no book derived game balance, but rather GM devised balance. These games allow for a fluidity and experience more focus on storytelling.

There are a few completely new concepts introduced. Spirit is a new stat and the real strength of a character in achieving tasks but not necessary. Stress is a mechanic that can enable characters to go beyond their normal limits, but at a price. Grit is the currency by which a character advances all aspects of their character and can help in heroic tasks. Seasons are the structure by which Grit is spent. In LitS, time is as important of a resource as Grit but more precious as it is impossible to make more of it, so choosing how it is spent is important.

Also of huge importance in this system are relationships and mentoring, either natural or organizational. In this sense classes still exist. Rather than a class giving structure to character skill progression, classes (or guilds/organizations) can only be joined by having the skills necessary and/or relationships. The draw to join those organizations are the training and physical resources they provide. While characters can develop new skills and abilities without instruction or assistance, it can be quite difficult and time consuming.

Though this system was developed specifically for the Lands in the Clouds setting, I believe the GRIT mechanic can be used with any setting to provide a familiar, but unique experience that provides for character growth in ways the D20 system cannot in stock format.

 

-RC Brooks
©RC Brooks 2009-2016


OGL License

The Lands in the Clouds setting and rules will be presented as an ongoing series of articles on this site. This material is solely the property of RC Brooks. The Christian Gamers Guild does not endorse nor condemn any game system or setting. Information presented about a member’s work is for information purposes only and is not to be taken as an endorsement of that work by the Christian Gamers Guild.

Faith and Gaming: In Vain

Last month as we concluded our consideration of Magic, we raised a bigger issue: is it appropriate for characters in a fictional world to call upon any deity?

It is not a simple question. At every turn God has commanded that we have no regard for other gods; it is top of the list in the Ten Commandments, the concept behind many of the prohibitions (from sorcery to cutting the corners of your beard), and the reason why Israel and Judah were conquered by foreign nations. You shall have no other gods before Me.

But at the same time, you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

We are caught between the proverbial two horns. Read more

Faith and Gaming: Magic

It was inevitable that this subject would eventually surface in this series. After all, the supernatural elements in many role playing games are the ones most feared and criticized by those who oppose them, and eventually something would have to be said about them.

But it is just ironic coincidence that the issue has come up in October, the month in which issues of pagan magic and supernaturalism are most debated in the church, the month in which most Americans, at least, celebrate what some still think is the ancient and mystical pagan Druidic festival of the New Year, Samhain, thinly veiled under the pseudonym Halloween.

So what is it about imaginary magic which gets so many people so upset? Read more

Cartography in Photoshop: The Clone Stamp Tool

We gamers love our maps! I spend a good deal of time over at The Cartographers’ Guild, and I have been known to occasionally contribute a tutorial over there. This one has been among my more popular offerings, so I thought I’d share it here, too.


clone-stamp-tool-1Anyone who has made brushes in Photoshop has doubtless learned that you cannot make a two-toned brush. That is, if you make a tree brush and try to overlap two strokes with it, the tree beneath will show through the one on top. The reason for this is that Photoshop’s brushes are a grey-scale image where black pixels are completely opaque, white pixels are transparent, and grey pixels are translucent. This allows you to paint with the brush in any color you want, but it prevents you from using it to make nice isometric mountains and forests: Read more

Faith and Gaming: Bad Things

By J.J. at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
By J.J. at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Last month we talked about Settings, one of the foundation stones of role playing, the worlds in which we play. We could go on and talk about characters, plots, deities, philosophies—but in addressing settings, we opened an important issue that we didn’t address. What do you do about Bad Things, and is it appropriate for Christians to think of these?

At first glance, the answer would seem to be no. “[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8, UNASB) Should we be dwelling on evil that has never happened, perhaps which never would or even could happen?

Yet if we fail to allow that there could be anything bad in our game worlds, then there is no conflict in our stories. We need evil villains so that our characters can be great heroes; or in the absence of such villains, we need catastrophes, disasters, destructive beasts—there has to be something bad in our worlds, or there’s nothing to tell. Read more

Magic as Part of Creation

First, let me address the matter of the question. When talking about a designing a role-playing game and the role that magic in the role-playing game will take, we must first decide on what questions we are asking ourselves. Several questions come to my mind. First, what is magic? What is it, not only in fantasy and reality, but also in the role-playing sub-culture? What will it be in my game world or system? The second question is “Why do I want it in the game system?” Why do I need or want magic in the game I’m designing? Third, how does it work in my game system? How do I want it to work in my game? Read more

Faith and Gaming: Settings

The following article was originally published in July 2001 on the Christian Gamers Guild’s website. The entire series remains available at its original URL.

I’m going to challenge you today with a question that maybe you have never asked yourself, and yet you have probably answered—and further, that you have probably answered both yes and no in different situations.

Is it wrong for us as Christians to imagine a world that is different from the one God created for us?

I suspect that you have probably just now reacted with, “No, of course not,” maybe even so strong as “That’s ridiculous.” Yet I also wonder if that’s what you really think. But perhaps you don’t see the problem Read more