Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I wrote this as a character background for what has turned out to be a very boring 3.5 game, I'm thinking about basing an AD&D campaign on it.
The History of Luke:
Barbarian from a Strange Land.
Make no mistake; Luke is a savage. But a savage breed not born. His life became savage the moment the cord was cut and the infant handed to his grandmother. Luke's birth was engineered to forge a bond between two uneasy nations. Luke's Grandmother Lady Dia Fien sought a friendship with the great state of Zion to the north of her own nation Cali by the Sea, in a bid to secure access to the water rights to The Big Stream whose head waters originated in Zion. While The big Stream entered the Ocean of Peace in her nation and began it's journey in Zion, it also flowed through two rival neighboring states; Nu Vada a Gnomish nation on Cali By The Sea's eastern border, and Tucsland a nation of Elves to the east. These two desert nations had freely used and diverted The Big Stream’s waters for a Millennia and prospered immensely in no small part to plentiful waters flowing out of Zion's vast mountain peaks. Fien, the "Queen" of Cali By The Sea, schemed with the cunning wizard Davis the Grey (one of the few men respected and powerful enough in Cali By The Sea to be even permitted to speak to the great Lady Dia Fien) to divert The Big Streams waters directly from Zion to Cali By The Sea. While Davis the Gray's magic was powerful enough for the task, the only means by which he could get the water to Cali by the Sea was to construct a massive conduit within the nation of Zion.
Lady Dia Fien dispatched her most skilled diplomats to Zion to broker an accord with the Quorum which ruled Zion. Negotiations unfortunately proved fruitless. The Quorum, led by their King Ben felt the waters could be freely used by all four nations and did not want to tip the balance of power any more in Cali by the Sea's favor. King Ben was easy allies with Nu Vada and Tucsland and less so with Cali by the Sea. King Ben's water was from the gods and there was more each year than the four nations could use in ten. He saw no need to cut off his allies from their lives water to satisfy Lady Dia's need for greater power. He knew Lady Dia coveted Nu Vada's vast mines even though the gnomes insisted on building cities of sin on Cali and Zion's borders. What she wanted with Tucsland he had his guesses. The Elvin land had existed long before the time of man and womea on the continent, and their land was sacred to them. King Ben's gods respected this and therefore so did King Ben, and so he would not choke the Elves for Lady Dia.
Here the story of Luke must pause for a brief history of Cali by the Sea and its people, history and culture where chiefly responsible for forcing Luke to become the man he is. Cali is populated by a mixed race people. A land that in the distant past welcomed all races and cultures every make of human and demi-human once flooded into Cali’s open borders. For hundreds of years the folk of Cali intermarried. Today no race is dominant and the vast majority of humans are a darker skinned folk than the rest of the continent. More importantly unlike the rest of the kingdoms on the continent Cali has been, and is, a Matriarchy. Men serve their powerful women and most times are treated no better than the slaves of the eastern Confederate Nations. “Only good for cleaning and breading,” many women of Cali said of their slave mates. Lady Dia is the 23rd “Queen” to rule her vast seaside nation since her foremothers had organized the 58 tribes; the cannabis regions in the north, the grand city states of the coast, the fertile planes of the middle valleys, and deserts in the east and south. Lady Dia Fien’s blood does not flow from that first uniting Matriarch. Like many nations Cali by the Sea’s past is peppered with power struggles between its great families. The Fien’s have ruled Cali for seven generations. The first Lady Fien eschewed the title Queen feeling a lady is introduced before her man while a Queen follows her King, and no man would come before a Fien. The breeding men in the Fien house, and it should be noted in most of the noblewomen’s houses, were treated quite well compared to the common Cali man. Only in as much as the house kept a large stable of eunuchs as house servants. The breeding man was expected to fill his time sculpting his own body so as to be pleasing to his mate. The life of a breeding man in the noble houses could be brutally short. Male offspring born by a Fien woman was all but a death sentence for the breeding man and many may have preferred death. The man child was cared for, but only to be sent off to one of the many noble houses to serve as a breeding man. When a breeding man lucky enough to seed his mate with a number of daughters he was often passed down to a younger sister to test if his luck would hold. With the males purpose fulfilled many the older sister took a female to her bedroom for pleasure. These things you should remember when we return to the story of Luke’s birth.
Now we turn out eye to Zion, King Ben and the ruling Quorum. Do not doubt that Ben ruled Zion; the quorum advised Ben and ran the nations day to day activities, but Ben alone ruled. Ben’s son however would not be the next King to rule Zion. All the Kings of Zion where chosen by the Quorum, and generally they chose one of their own.
The men of Zion had been the first humans to explore and settle the far west of the continent. His people had crossed the Big Muddy River; sent by their gods to find new homes away from the corruption of the eastern peoples. The Zionists were a godly people; the Quorum was comprised of twelve of the most powerful priests and clerics of their gods. After they found their place on the Great Inland Sea a thousand years ago the King who led them there the first King Young sent out his people to colonize much of the west. Of course they found the Gnomes of Nu Vada, and all but fled with their lives from the Elves of Tucsland. They did however lay claim to and were fortified by great mountains to the west and in to the east from which The Big Stream flowed and small communities throughout what would become Cali by the Sea. Saint Bert was one of these towns settled by the Zionists and for hundreds of years stood alone in the vast southern desert. The Zionists at Saint Bert’s began trading with the gnomes to the north, Dwarfs to the south along newly discovered routes to Hexico, and in time were approached by the Elves of Tucsland. No historian in Zion can say for sure how control of Saint Bert’s was lost, but the Zionists can tell who settled Saint Bert. For each Zionist takes great care to record and know his lineage. The first King Young sent his nephew Robert Young south to colonize the land for the glory of the gods.
On the Quorum sat a descendent of Robert Young. O’hatch a great cleric of Zion’s gods; It is said only his mother knew not to call him by his first name. While devout to his gods and faithful to his duty O’hatch was vain and sought more power for himself, and his offspring. He also knew Saint Bert’s was once a mighty projection of Zion’s power into the southwest. He desperately wanted to restore what he saw as his rightful rule over Saint Bert’s and her lands.
Now we shall return to lady Dia’s water. Hearing her emissaries had failed to persuade King Ben to divert The Big Stream Lady Dia flew into a rage and cursed the man fool. It was David the Gray who calmed her with the story of O’hatch. He settled the Lady with a story of espionage where Davis’ agents (acting on the Ladies behalf) had persuaded O’hatch, bribed and blackmailed a majority of the Quorum to vote for O’hatch as the next King. She smiled when he told her of the assassin dispatched that very night to make O’hatch the next King of Zion, and she actually poured a man a glass of wine and handed it to him when Davis told her O’hatch had agreed that his eldest son would marry her third daughter who was to become the Duchess of Saint Beth (no settlement remained in Cali by the Sea with a male name after the 16th Matriarchs reign) when Lady Dia’s sister left this world to join their mother.
So it began to happen; King Ben of Zion was assassinated and as arranged O’hatch took the throne. O’hatch’s eldest son Steven was dispatched west and wed Barbarella, Lady Dia’s third daughter. The Quorum already under the influence of Cali agreed to let Davis the Gray and his engineers began construction of the conduit and an aqueduct to divert The Big Stream.
In the second year of their marriage, or breeding compact as Lady Dia and Barbarella saw it, Steven impregnated Barbarella. Steven’s time in the duchess of Saint Beth’s house was difficult for him. Raised a proud son of Zion the young man’s childhood consisted of traditional male activities. He was taught to ride hunt and track by his father and uncles. While at the court of King Ben he learned how to wield a sword from the Kings guards along with the other children of the Quorum. He and his peers taught themselves how to box and wrestle. Steven had been a freeman of leisure, not so in the court at Saint Beth’s where he was all but a prisoner. He was brought to Barbarella’s chamber for six days each month when the future Duchess’ doctors and priests agreed she was ready for mating. In his almost two years at the court Steven learned the culture of his new home and began to suspect his fate. His father had assured Steven that as a freeman of Zion he would be treated properly and with respect, nothing could have been further from the truth. O’hatch blinded by his own ambition and overwhelmed by his new duties as King did not hear Steven’s repeated pleas.
As we started Luke was born and handed to his grandmother for inspection. The woman was displeased instantly with the boys light skin and blond hair, when closer inspection revealed the green eyes Dia proclaimed the body a demon sent by the gods of Zion and would have no more to do with him. At the news his wife had given birth to a son Steven knew his time for action would be short. In a day, two at the most he would be sent to the southern deserts to work himself to death as a slave in Cali by the Sea’s mines. That night Steven escaped, took his new son from his wet nurse (nearly killing her in the process), and left for his fathers court. It was however, an impossible journey. Luke was born late in the year just after the harvest festival. While the days in southern Cali by the Sea were sunny and cool, to the north the land was soon to be in the grips of winter. The journey would be almost 800 miles as the crow flies, and while not much further if they followed the major trade route that started in Port Angles brushed by Saint Beth’s before cutting north to Hill City where his father’s court was. The Ladies Guard would no doubt watch the road closely. Steven and his young son would also have to pass threw the largest gnome city Lost Bets, and through a valley sacred to the Elves of Tucsland. Snow would soon fill the mountain passes. Winter storms along the great road could punish and kill a strong man an infant would surely die. Steven was no fool and would not complete the dangerous journey so late in the year. He took his young son in to the warm wilds of the southern deserts to wait out the worst of winter. Caring for an infant was a new challenge for the young father, but like most things he learned quickly. By late winter they had made it overland to Lost Bets. From there Steven arranged transport north to Zion with a merchant caravan. Once in Zion Steven’s journey should have been easy. Steven knew the lord of Georges Keep, and expected he would be quickly escorted to his father’s court. However upon presenting himself to Zackeria the Lord of the keep, Steven was informed of his fathers rage at his desertion and kidnapping. Lady Dia had been threatened war and was said to be massing troops through out her large nation. The Gnomes and the Elves had learned of the aqueduct and were also making threatening gestures against Cali and Zion. Lastly, Steven learned there was a bounty on his head. Fortunately Zackeria was loyal to Zion, but distrustful of his new King. His proximity to Cali also gave him greater insight into the foreign ways of Lady Dia’s people. While it was Zackeria’s duty to protect Zion from southern attack his loyalty was to his nation, not to a King who suspiciously gained the throne. Steven was not arrested and sent north, but equipped and sent into the vast wilderness of southern Zion where no man who wanted to remain hidden could be found. Steven pleaded with the Lord to take his infant son who would surely die while on the run in the wilderness. Zackeria agreed to hide the boy for ten years, no more. Then Steven was to reclaim him. A sacred token was given to Steven that he was to present to the young widow Sarah who would care for his boy, as proof to his claim over the boy.
And so young Luke’s life became easy for a time, the widow Sarah who raised him had lost her own young son of three a year earlier. Sarah’s husband, Lucas, an infantry man with the keeps guard was killed in a skirmish with orcs from the west canyon lands before the summer solstice not a year ago. His adopted mother named Luke after her husband then cared as well as she could for the young boy. As he grew he was put to work around their small shack and in the slums within which they lived. As the adopted son of a widow Luke began to learn how harsh the world could be.
Ten years passed in an instance for Luke; his father had a much harder existence. Raised as royalty in the court of the Quorum, Steven struggled to survive in his first winter he nearly starved, and would have in his second if he had not been stumbled upon by a hunting party of a tribe of desert nomads. For eight winters Steven lived with the Ute’s learning from them their customs and how to survive. They taught him how to hunt deer and elk with bow and spear, and how to find water in time of draght. He learned how to dance at their ceremonies, and how to hide from the civilized folk. How to forage and live off the land. They taught him how to fight their tribal enemies. And, for the first time, to kill. Despite his pale skin which burnt under the summer sun and his blond hair Steven became a Ute. When Steven announced at the end of his eighth winter he was leaving to reclaim his son he no Ute was surprised. Their shaman had predicted his departure.
Steven knew war had raged between the four nations. While he was with the Ute’s they had traversed hundreds of miles in the south of Zion. Brushed through the northern realms of Tucsland to trade and fight with other tribes. There they meet occasionally with Elvin caravans to trade. The Ute’s ranged deep into the mountains of Nu Vada during the heat of the summer months. Steven had seen the armies marching and had scavenged through several battlefields. Who was the ultimate victor Steve could not discern. He only hoped his son had been safe in Georges Keep.
Steven presented himself to Zackeria still Lord of Georges Keep ten years later. Not the young nobleman he had once been, but as half savage in the eyes of the guards. Lord Zackeria suspected, no hoped, Steven would find the savage tribes that roamed the south. And so Steven tore his son, a stranger to him, from Sarah’s arms and left knowing full well the danger they both could be in if they were found. For eight more years the two roamed the wilderness between civilizations, meeting only the occasional merchant caravan, and the Ute’s to trade, gather information, and share a festival or two. Father trained son, who learnt quickly and could soon best his father in most tasks; hunting, trapping, fishing, and almost fighting. Steven also taught Luke who he was, a proud man of Zion, born to a woman of royal blood from a strange foreign land. As Luke neared his seventeenth birthday Steven began roaming closer and closer to the Nu Vada City of Lost Bets. He knew his son would need civilized skills a young man could only learn from interaction with people. Lost Bets was an ideal location, while built and run by the Gnomes, the city was the most metropolitan city in the region. Steven had also made an effort in the year or two leading up to their approaching Lost Bets to trade what the pair harvested for hard currency. After the harvest festival that year they entered the city and took up residence.
Steven hoped to find work as a guild or caravan guard. And for a time he did. Luke accompanied his father on these trips continuing his education in the world. He began to learn about women, their wonders and their potential snares. The written language was a stumbling point for Luke, he has a quick mind, but lacked the discipline and time to spend the hours necessary to learn to read or write. That summer on a trip with a caravan of Dwarven merchants and craftsmen to Hexico Steven and most of the travelers were killed in a raid by a troll and a band of ogres. Luke and the other three survivors scrambled into the ubiquitous desert. Luke was able to keep the four alive, although not used providing for so many mouths that were incapable of providing for themselves in addition to morning for his father. For a month the four hid and wandered before they came on a Dwarven settlement. The three Dwarves knew they owed their survival to the skill of Luke and treated him as such. He was lavished with rewards, and praise from the whole community. Luke stayed in the Dwarven city for many months; he learned the language and found many friends among the warm hard working people, and he fought in their battles against the ogres, orcs, and trolls. In time it was clear that he would leave returning north to the human regions. The Dwarf Lord Carlos who cared for his people had welcomed Luke into his home presented Luke with a fine shirt of Dwarven chainmail for his courage on what Carlos knew would be a difficult journey.
Luke planned to return to Nu Vada; however the quickest route to Lost Bets was through Cali by the Sea’s southern deserts, and Saint Beth. Becoming a man of decisive action Luke chose the quick route. Eager to see for himself what his father had told him about the land of his birth Luke went to find his mother. Despite the danger Luke went alone into the strange land. His entrance into Cali by the Sea was easy, as a lone traveler he was permitted to enter unaccosted, but not unnoticed. The weather was hot for that early in the year, and as was is custom when living in the wild with his father, when it was hot Luke wore no shirt, and although he had lived in civilized company for the last two years he wore not much more than a loin cloth. He was a striking figure, standing a head taller than any man at the border. His figure sculpted from years of travel and the hard work of survival excited most if not all of the women who caught a glimpse, and those that noticed the green eyes would not soon forget the memorable figure.
On the second day of his travel north Luke tried to stop for the night in a small village on a brackish lake. His coin foreign and without a female escort in Cali, he was refused a room at either of the two inns. The stench of the lake drove him into the hills to spend another night on to the hard ground under the stars. He woke before the sun was up surrounded by armed figures. In an instance Luke was on his feet, the small sword he kept at his side struck his nearest opponent as he rose. Catching the cloaked figure below the knee, the figure collapsed screaming and Luke knew his assailants were women of Cali. Flying into a blind rage Luke attacked viciously at his strange enemies, wounding two more before he was overpower by their greater numbers. Beaten and stripped Luke was thrown into a cage on a cart which held two similarly beaten naked men. Luke lived for a week in the cart; he learned form the other captives in the small prison that these women were agents of Duchess Barbarella. They had watched Luke cross the border and followed until they could spring their trap. Luke then learned his fate; Barbarella's agents were scouts sent to look for new talent to be trust into an arena pit to fight all manner of men and beast. So began Luke's time as a gladiator fighting for the pleasure of the duchess and her people. The pits were Barbarella's idea during the Water War. Mostly battlefield prisoners killed one another at a chance to stay alive for one more day. After the war the people needed distraction from the hardships they were forced to endure. The duchess formed her talent scouts and sent them out across the land to find promising contestants. Men mostly fought in non lethal combat against each other, but fought to the death against evil creatures captured to entertain the crowds. Luke had the opportunity to continue killing the orcs, and ogres he had been fighting while he stayed with the Dwarves. For his first contest Luke was given a shield, a broad sword sent into the pit. Told to kill what ever came at him from the other gate. Nervous he entered the pit with his new, albeit shoddy, equipment to await his opponent. The gate opened and five orcs burst out armed with little spears, cruel looking short swords and tinny wooden shields. Luke quickly abandoned his shield which he had no use for and which and seemed to unbalance the agile youth. Four opponents charged, one on each side attempted to flank and two charged straight. With a deadly two handed strike Luke removed the heads of both his frontal attackers, bounded to his left and with the same stroke crushed the orc’s pathetic parry, splitting it open from the left collar bond to the right of the rib cage. The crowd howled in delight at the mighty opening attack. His momentum spun Luke around to face the orc approaching on his right. Joined by the trailing orc, the pair howled viciously, though they had to sense in their evil little minds that their time on this planet would be short. Emboldened by his decisive opening attack, Luke calmed himself, knowing he was to put on a bit of a show. He nimbly danced around his opponents, sparring easily with them for a few minutes. He gave them hope by dodging or parrying their strikes at the last moment, gave them opportunities to attack he never would have yielded to an opponent he feared. When he felt the crowd was ready Luke feigned a misstep on his discarded shield which brought his attackers on hard. He spilled the leading orc’s entrails with an up hand stroke and brought his sword down hard with both hands on the last cleaving it almost in two. The crowd went wild chanting first for the dancing barbarian, and then for the blond barbarian. It was grim work, however welcomed the chance to match himself against all manner of men and evil beast. For three years he battled in the pits of Saint Beth, his reputation and popularity growing all the while.
For the harvest festival in Luke’s 22nd year, Lady Dia held a grand festival for her court and people in the great northern city she had ruled before her mother’s death and her taking the crown of Cali by the Sea. Gladiators from the entire nation were brought by their noblewomen and the wealthy merchants who had begun buy the men as toys to Saint Francesca. The fine chainmail shirt he had been given by Lord Carlos was returned to Luke for the auspicious event. All the combatants were housed underneath the new Grand Arena which would hold the events, and Luke met his opponents. One of which a huge man, taller then Luke by three fingers was said to be from a land across the Ocean of Atlantis. Konus fought for his Duchess in Holywood which was said to house the most magnificent pit in all of Cali. Women of means travelled from all ends of the nation to watch Konus the Gladiator crush his opponents with his mighty sword, which rumor had stood as tall as Konus. In Holywood even the men fought each other to the death. Fearing nothing, young Luke sought out the infamous man the first day in the practice pits. A small group was gathered around him and Luke heard Speaking in hushed tones about escape and freedom. Konus waved Luke into the group and continued. There were well over a hundred of the best fighters in Cali gathered in the small cells where they slept. All gathered were told to spread the word, that night Konus’ allies would spring on the guards, all which wanted to follow would make their way east to freedom in the newly conquered north of Nu Vada.
It should be noted here that during the Water War almost half of Zion had been captured by the Gnomes of Nu Vada (who mostly hired mercenaries to do their dirty work). Zion’s armies had been pushed east into Lake Bonneville. During the peace negotiations the Gnomes had insisted on a new border based on a line they said stretched from the top of the world to the bottom. Zion had faired worse in the war than Luke’s father had suspected.
An hour after the gladiators had been locked in their cells it happened. Allies of Konus attacked silently killing the few guards posted and freeing the men. Luke hung close to Konus when they broke into the armory that held their weapons and armor. While Luke retrieved his mail shirt and looked for a suitable spear and sword Konus meanwhile had retrieved his huge great sword of which there were two. Konus had brought a backup in the event his was damaged in the pits. Konus motioned for Luke to take the mighty blade. The sword was huge wider than the length of Luke’s hand the blade four and a half feet long and unlike any blade Luke had wielded the tip was square not pointed. The guard was plain with barbs on each end, unlike the sword Konus wielded which was fashioned like the wings of a dragon; the hilt, a foot long and wrapped in leather, and the pummel also plain brass and steel. It was lighter than it looked and balanced like the blade was tin not sturdy steel. This had been Konus’ first great sword, crafted for killing not for show and its find craftsmanship was obvious. A wealthy patron from the nations in the east had presented Konus with his much more elaborate weapon after he had killed his 100th man in Holywood’s pit.
In all stealth the gladiators left the city and by dawn had made their way to the hills around Saint Francesca. They travelled hard throughout the day staying off trails and roads avoiding the Ladies Guard which had soon given pursuit. Now Luke found Konus following him closely, in the few hours since their escape Luke’s adeptness at maneuvering in the terrain proved valuable. Konus began speaking of not heading east but back south and about rebellion. His “Allie” turned out to be a wealthy noble woman whose family ruled the city state of Bunker Hill in the far north east of the continent. She was Konus’ lover wealthy and powerful. With her and her families backing Konus was confidant that a rebellion to free Cali by the Sea would be successful. He also had powerful allies in Holywood which would back the rebellion; support the cause to over throw the Fiens and free all the men of Cali. That night when they camped Konus spoke to the group that remained with them. He spoke of the lives they had lived, and he spoke powerfully about a cause he dreamed of since he was captured and forced to kill in the pits for entertainment. The women that ruled Cali had every right to rule, but not to enslave their men. He would be heading south to take up arms against the Fiens and fight for the equality of all free men. In the morning Luke and over 40 of the pit fighters headed south with Konus.
This began Luke’s time with Konus, while the younger man would have preferred to attack their enemies with might, the rebellion was more than killing, and they had to win the minds of their opponents. Most of their work was spreading news, organizing meetings and the like. There were occasional tussles with a few of Lady Dia’s guards, and Luke soon grew board with the work. Konus was a charismatic leader and Luke was loyal to the man, serving as a personal guard to the formidable rebel leader, and the two spent a great deal of time together. They sparred regularly, Luke learning how to wield the huge sword he had been given. It was during one of these sparring sessions that Konus learned who Luke’s father was. A week latter Luke was dispatched to Zion. His mission was to appeal to the Quorum and O’hatch for aid in Konus’ cause. Luke made his first trip to hill city in the guise of a pamphleteer; an ironic turn of roles for the mostly illiterate barbarian revolutionary. But the one thing the revolution ha been good for thus far had been producing pamphlets.
Luke arrived in Hill City, Konus’ lover had arranged for him to meet with the Quorum; however he was in no hurry to find reunite with his grandfather. He spent the better part of a week exploring the city, getting a feel for the people and the place. O’hatch was aware of Luke’s presence in the city and who he claimed to be. Luke knew he was being watched and figured it was time to present himself to the Quorum and make his case. Lady Dia had been informed of the young man’s presence in Hill City by her people and dispatched Davis the Gray to investigate. He was waiting for Luke to make his appearance. When Luke approached the temple Davis saw who he was, knew he was Dia’s grandson. Davis acted quickly used his powerful magic to cast Luke out of the world and into the Abyss.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Like the next guy I enjoy role playing. I'm down to haggle with the horse trader for the best price, I'm not cool with rolling a die to get screwed in a deal. I do enjoy roll playing when I get to crush a few skulls or what ever senseless mayhem the GM might have dreamed up. I can't stand spending three game sessions buying horses and spending an evening in a bar gathering information from the locals. That's just boring.