The Underboughs Hold Campaigns
Annydwyr at a Glance
Ten Characteristics of Annydwyr
What makes the world of Annydwyr different from all the rest?
1. Magic is Feared and Uncommon
It is important to understand that one of the core concepts of Annydwyr is that Magic is a rare occurrence in the extreme to the common human. Though different realms and races hold varying levels of acceptance for practitioners of magic, it is generally not accepted in civilized society. For example, a wizard caught casting a magic missile power in a Kalidorian market place would be assaulted by the guard (and most of the crowd) immediately and tried as a witch (punishable by Burning at the Stake). That same wizard might be hunted by the Imperial Temple in Agladarn, and forcibly enlisted in the Imperial Guard. In the central tower of the Elven Kingdom of Illyd’ Athyl, that wizard’s power might not cause the slightest arch of an eye brow. It depends greatly on the nature, timing, and societal acceptance of magic.
A fighter wielding a magical sword into battle might attribute its abilities to his prowess, luck or sheer divine intervention. A rogue might believe himself blessed by the gods when a cloak of resistance saves him from a sever burning while escaping a fiery building.
There are 3 styles of magic:
1. Defiling: By forcibly channeling the spirit and power of the earth through a mortal form, the essence is drawn from the living earth. Plants wither to black ash, crippling pain wracks animals and people, and the soil itself is sterilized.
2. Preserving: Careful weaving and summoning of the earth force produces the same effect as Defiling, but is generally less powerful and requires a greater dedication to learn and master. All spell casting player characters are assumed to use preserving magic.
3. Divine: Divine magic stems from the faith that mortal races place in their chosen religion. It is gained by divine communion with the temple, and in order to wield the dietical power one must first be ordained into the clergy. As such, excommunication from the church severs this bond, and the ability to channel divine power is lost. The Gods themselves only VERY rarely choose to grant divine power to mortals directly.
2. The World Itself is Alive
Even as the practice of magic is feared and ostracized in most “civilized” lands, it is somewhat ironic then that the very earth itself is alive and imbued with a semblance of magic and power. The earth is innately magical and is often considered to be an “essence” in itself. This subtle awareness of the earth manifests itself in countless minor ways that are easily over looked by the mortal races. There is “rightness” to the order of things that the earth constantly strives to achieve. It echoes strong emotions, vile actions and fell deeds, and other dramatic essences. Flowers might bloom in winter where a great heroes of the realm perished, a shadow hang over the land where a great evil was done, etc. This subtle magic shapes and affects the land itself, and this effect passes to those that linger in such places.
Perhaps as a result of this awareness, there is a small power in words and names. In times of great strife or need, and with enough zeal and virtue, a man may call on his ancestors for strength and courage, and receive the blessings which he needs to succeed in his efforts. As before, uttering vile words often times draws shadow, death and darkness near. In this fashion as well, strong Oaths, Vows and Curses can sometimes be made binding by means that might be considered “magical”.
To the common man, this power is just the simple beauty and wonder of the earth, but to those trained in the arcane ways; it is the source that fuels their primal and arcane powers.
3. The Gods Are Fickle Things
The Gods are neither omnipotent nor omniscient. Akin to the Greek Gods, these planar beings toy with the mortal world around them through vessels, avatars, and aspects. Indeed, even the exact nature of Divinity is blurred and sometimes suspect.
Divine magic can only be accessed by mortals through a spiritual bond that is tightly controlled by the temples and faiths of the land. Divine power is naturally pooled into centralized vats around which great temples are built, and it is through communion and ordainment with these institutions that mortals are able to harness divine energy. The Gods seems unable (or unwilling) to dole out the divine blessing directly; most deities leave it up to their ordained temples and clergy to manage and direct the divine power.
4. Planar Limitations
Much of the cosmology of Annydwyr differs greatly from previously released material in the Dungeons & Dragons game. Planar travel is largely unknown, and even the home of the deities can be said to lie within reach of the mortal plane.
The Feywild exists, but is distant and notoriously difficult to reach from the mortal plane. This is not to say that the influence of the Feywild is not felt upon Annydwyr, but rather it is a distinct (though mirror) plane of the mortal realm.
The Shadowfell by contrast, is all too easy to reach, and the lines between it and the mortal realm are frequently blurred. Mythology of nearly all sentient races hold tales of mighty heroes traveling into the depths of the land of the dead in order to rescue the soul of a lost loved one, and return them to the mortal realm hale and whole.
The Realms of the Gods lie within demiplanes that exist between these three planes proper. Each is a unique planar pocket that is linked directly to the mortal realm by a Planar Conduit. Known as “Godheads Sanctums”, these regions can best be described as the strongholds of the Gods. Moradins Mountain home exists as a demiplane that exists between the mortal realm, the Shadowfell and the Feywild. Within their respective Sanctums, each God is immortal and holds great power and influence over reality. Outside these strongholds, they are mortal and their power greatly reduced. Gods can wander the realms of mortals, but at great peril to themselves.
5. Racial Intolerance Abounds
Annydwyr is a human world, ruled by and for human interests. Just as with magic, each kingdom of man holds varying levels of tolerance for the “demihuman” races. Githzerai are enslaved at birth in Kalidor, but are considered an almost sacred people in Nephythus. A Goliath fighter can expect to be attacked on sight as some sort of fell giant from legend, and a Tiefling would be thought a demon or devil and burned at the stake on sight if either casually marched into the Grand Mosadaic Temple in Tyrus.
Such is the level of racial intolerance that even amongst humans, prejudice and discrimination is commonplace. A Valencian might be respected for his money in Kalidor, but otherwise viewed with general disdain for his races lack of loyalty and honor. Typically, humans hate each other as much as they dislike demihumans. A Kheltyran human will tolerate a jibe from his fellows, but might demand a duel to defend his honor for the same slight suffered on him by a Glaren. Indeed, entire wars have been started over a misconstrued comment or glance.
Of all demihuman races, the gnomes alone enjoy an almost universal tolerance. Though not necessarily friendly, they are typically tolerated in all lands, as their world traveling mercantile caravans bring precious commodities for trade that would otherwise be unavailable to most realms on their own.
6. Social Caste and Birthright is Everything
Almost universally predominant amongst the human lands and a close held ethic in most demihuman realms, a person’s position and rank within society is earned by birth first and foremost. Honor, reputation, and bloodlines are universally important morals and ethics amongst the races of Annydwyr. Variations by realm occur, but in most lands, a peasant is a peasant and will always be so, and wars have been fought over the smallest slight between Kings.
Social structure and caste is such a strongly embedded ethic in nearly all mortal realms, that a noble from Kalidor can expect the same level of deference in Agladarn as he would receive in his homeland. An Elven noble might be scorned in the court of Kalidor, but his rank and position would still be respected and might be the only thing to keep him from being ostracized outright.
It is anathema to most mortal folk to look the king of any land in the eye, let alone refuse to step aside in submission should a knight cross their path.
See Social Caste Structure for details.
7. Politics, Honour and Ignorance
Politics abound throughout the world, from the mighty intrigues of the Ruling aristocracy, to the machinations of the fledgling guilds and rising middle class, down to the lowliest serf tilling his lords’ fields. Everyone of every race has a reason for doing what they do, and the lines between good and evil are blurred as one studies the questions of ethics and morality. Much depends on your point of view, and of course, what the Lords of the Land tell the small folk about the nature of things.
Likewise, honour and reputation hold strong bonds over all the civilized races. A murdering rogue might be enraged if his reputation is smirched by being accused of a crime he did not commit, a knight might fight to the death over a slight to his courage, and a king will march to war if his family is dishonoured. If a man swears upon his honor, it is universally expected that the promise is made in blood. Such oaths are legally binding in almost every land. However, be aware that the interpretation of honour greatly depends upon ones point of view…
The majority of people are serfs, indebted to their lord for survival in return for shelter and security. Most common folk never venture beyond the edge of their community, and would never consider leaving the borders of their lord’s land. Their knowledge of the world is what their lord tells them, and in most cases, that is not very much.
Horses are viewed with great pride and protected by their masters with an almost obssessive desire. Each mount is different, and has a personality all its own, and a horses bloodline is almost as important as that of the realms nobles.
Horse theft is almost universally considered a deplorable crime, often worse than murder itself. Conversely, winning a tournament and having the reward of “the pick of the Kings stables” is amongst one of the greatest prizes. Horses have traits in the same manner as NPCs do, and even possess bloodlines and heritage as well.
The vast majority of folk cannot afford to own a horse of their own, (most employing mules or oxen as beasts of burden). Owning a horse is an expensive proposition, and as such typically is the realm of aristocrats, nobles, and wealthy freemen. Most peasantry walk where they need to go, or have their carts drawn by some other ignoble beast.
“A Horse that pulls a plow would have been better off being slain in battle than suffer such indignity.”
9. Here there be monsters!
Typical fantasy stereotypes do not always apply. The Hordes of creatures that players slaughter on their way to greatness are considered “lesser” creatures of the race in question. The “true” creatures of legend are named- THE Ogre of Greenhall, Mydric the Vile. The Twin Giants of Castle Grey, etc.
Named Monsters: Not your typical Monster Manual entry. Advanced hit points, special powers, possession of magic items, etc. Often may posess class or templates. IE. An ogre who has mastered magic and uses enchantments and illusion to seduce the local maids, producing seven half ogre sons who gaurd his castle and challenge any who approach to joust each one in succession.
Unusual abilities: Greater/true monsters may hold powers that are not common to its species. Fast healing, regeneration, invisibility, etc. No one says “The Ogre of Greenhall is invisible”, but they do say “No man can see the ogre of the Greenhall until doom is upon him.” (Implies, stealth, invisibility, teleportation, darkness or many other things that the players might learn along their careers and have to puzzle out.
A lethal weakness: Greater monsters might posess some lethal weakness that can be exploited by characters. These might be something like being prone to drunkenness, or cannot refuse a game of chance or a challenge to his honour or skill. It might even be more fantastical like something “The flower of the Kingsfoil plant is anathema to vampires.” Finding and exploiting such weaknesses can be the focus of a dozen quests, and the worlds mythology is ripe with examples. IE. Killing a dragon with a single arrow.
10. They’re Drakes, not Dragons!
Dragons are legendary. They exist, but are individuals of myth and legend. They are THE dragons, and every one of them has a name. Unlike traditional D&D, a dragons colour is not tied to its power or its environment. A white dragon might breathe fire and live in a swamp, while a Black Dragon might dwell beneath the frozen wastes of the northern ice packs and spew frost.
Drakes are a different matter. Kin to the dragons, these creatures appear much the same, but are beasts in the truest sense of the word. Wyverns, hydras, and the like are typical examples and these beasts infest the wild regions of the world.
Wyrms are the bridge between the two. Wyrms are the offspring of the Dragons, and are intelligent (for beasts), but cannot talk. Wyrms can often fly, posess breath weapons of some kind, and form the basis of the common “folklore” that surrounds dragons.