Thursday, May 23, 2013

[Design Journal: Heroes of Legend RPG] Tribes: Vyrden

Here is another Design Journal entry for Heroes of Legend, a fantasy RPG I’m currently developing. At this point in developing the game I’m focusing on creating the various tribes that populate the setting. In the last four posts on this topic I’ve discussed four different terith tribes – essentially different variations on humans. Today, I’m breaking away from that to tell you about the vyrden tribe.

The Vyrden

The vyrden are a tribe of sentient, humanoid plants. They are a curious, child-like people with strong ties to nature.

For the most part, the vyrden appear to be terith children. However, they do possess a few distinguishing features. First, their hair is leaf-, vine-, or moss-like. It usually starts out a shade of green, but shows signs of aging as the vyrden grow older. In the case of leaf-like hair, it takes on autumn colors and may begin to fall out. With vine-like hair it becomes brown and brittle. Moss-like hair turns a light shade of gray. Another distinguishing feature is their ears, which are long and tapered, giving them an exceptional sense of hearing. Also, their eyes are nearly completely black orbs with only a tiny bit of white showing in the corners. Their skin can range in color from a pale gray to a dark brown. Some vyrden also have bark-like skin or thorns, but these often appear only when the vyrden feels threatened.

The vyrden have a very unusual life cycle. Deep in sacred forest groves grow the rare vyrdani trees. The trunks of these trees have the appearance of two separate trunks twisted and entangling each other. In the spring these trees bear fruit resembling very large melons which hang from thick vines. After several weeks, these melons crack open revealing a new vyrden.

Vyrden are born with the physical and mental maturity of a five-year-old terith, or human. Within a few weeks, a newborn vyrden is walking, talking and playing just fine on their own. They generally live to be about a hundred years old, but for every decade they age at about the rate that a human would in one year. So, by age ten a vyrden resembles a six-year-old human, by age twenty, they resemble a seven-year-old, and so forth.

Because vyrden never reach the full physical or mental maturity of an adult of any other tribe, they are often not taken seriously by others. This is a mistake, however. While the vyrden may prefer a simple life full of playtime and laughter, they recognize it as their sacred duty to shepherd and defend the forests in which they live, and they possess the strength to do so. The vyrden can communicate with beasts, birds and plants, directing them to fight against foes of the forest.

Due to their lack of maturity, vyrden may never experience true romantic love, but they do experience infatuation, and by the age of sixty or so they begin to form a bond with a vyrden of the opposite gender they call their everfriend. While vyrden never experience age old or the infirmities that come with it, after about a hundred years or so, a vyrden begins to lose interest in everything in the world except for their everfriend and the forest in which they live. Their connection to nature grows deeper, and begins to overshadow everything else. This eventually culminates in a vyrden rite called the Last Walk.

In the Last Walk, two vyrden everfriends walk hand-in-hand through the forest until their path eventually leads them to a sacred grove where the vyrdani trees grow. Here, they lie down in the tall grass, close their eyes, and fall into a deep sleep. In a matter of days, their bodies are absorbed into the earth. A few months later, a new vyrdani tree will sprout in the spot where they went to rest, and the following year it will bear its first fruit – a new generation of vyrden.

The vyrden honor the Four Shining Deities, especially the Deity of earth and love. They also revere nature in a way that is almost religious. Although, the vyrden would compare their relationship to nature to the way that members of other tribes feel towards their parents and siblings. Vyrden live in complete harmony with the natural world. They live in simple homes resembling the burrows or nests of various animals. They gather food from their environment. They may plant small gardens, but they do not clear land to raise crops. Vyrden have the trust of animals in their home, and will not abuse that trust by killing an animal for food. For this reason, vyrden are vegetarian. Some vyrden who travel among other tribes have taken to eating the meat that others provide, but even this practice is looked down on by most vyrden.

The vyrden view family very differently than other tribes do. They view the forest as their parents, since it provides for and protects them. They view each other, along with the birds and the beasts, as siblings. The youngest vyrden in a community are cared for by the oldest ones. However, this care rarely involves more than looking out for the younger vyrden when they are hurt or ill, or when danger threatens. Young vyrden learn most of what they need to survive by simply watching other vyrden in action, and by mimicking what they do. Within a few months of being born, young vyrden are already finding their own food and building their first simple shelters.

Within their communities, the vyrden have no strict laws or order. The oldest vyrden carry the authority, but they do not often impose their will on others. On occasion, a vyrden is born with the mark of the druid – a distinct birthmark on their forehead. This mark is an outward sign that the young vyrden has been chosen by the forest for the role of a druid. Druids possess an exceptionally strong connection to the forest and act as its emissaries. They carry out special missions, often received through dreams and visions in which past generation vyrden speak for the forest. Among their people, even very young druids are given the utmost respect, though their special position sometimes makes it difficult for them to relate to their peers.

The vyrden are friendly towards members of other tribes, so long as those people do not threaten their forest homes. While most vyrden are content to remain in the forest where they were born, some are spurred by their childlike curiosity to travel beyond the woods and experience more of the wider world. These vyrden are quick to adapt to their new environments and to learn from the people they encounter.

Vyrden find the concepts of old age and death among other tribes strange and frightening. They may be surprised to find that an adolescent of another tribe is only thirteen or fourteen years old instead of eighty or ninety. While they will not age physically any faster than they would at home, they may come to adopt more mature attitudes if they stay among other tribes for a long period of time.

Many vyrden become thieves among other people, since they do not readily understand the concepts of personal property and of law. The fact that law enforcement authorities will try to catch them and hold them accountable for taking produce from a market stand without paying for it seems like an overly complex game to them, with no harm so long as they keep winning. Vyrden can just as easily adopt other professions and ways of life, but still, they tend to view each of these as a game more so than a job, and if the game becomes boring they are quick to move on to something else.

Monday, May 20, 2013

[Design Journal: Heroes of Legend RPG] Tribes: Juseido Terith

Here is another Design Journal entry for Heroes of Legend, a fantasy RPG I’m currently developing. At this point in developing the game I’m focusing on creating the various tribes that populate the setting. In a previous post I explained what the terith are, and I’ve talked specifically about the hylan, sharadda and kaldari terith tribes. Today I’ll be sharing some information on another terith tribe.

The Juseido Terith

The juseido are a tribe of reclusive scholars and monks who live in high mountains and hidden valleys. On an eternal quest for enlightenment, they are a nation of perpetual students.

The juseido are recognizable for their dark skin, ranging in shades from a light tan to ebony. Their hair can range in color from black to blue, red, or green. Those with lighter skin tones tend to have darker hair colors, while those with darker skin tones have brighter hair colors. Regardless of hair color, many juseido men and women choose to shave their heads bare. Others wear their hair in very simple, functional styles. Juseido fashion also emphasizes simplicity and functionality, avoiding fabrics or styles that are too ornate.

Juseido communities are simple affairs that focus on study, education and discovery. Even more so than among the hylans, every juseido is literate and well educated, though not always in very academic subjects. Children are encouraged to pursue whatever subjects pique their interest, and to spend many hours every day studying those subjects. Every juseido is simultaneously both student and teacher at all times. Every member of a community possesses some valuable knowledge or skill that they can teach to others. Likewise, everyone has something they can learn from another person.

Juseido communities can be physically very different depending on their location. In hidden valleys, the juseido tend to build villages of simple huts. Here they live off of the land, raising and harvesting only what they need to get by. High in the mountains, they build large monastery-like buildings carved from the solid rock of the mountain. An entire community of a few dozen families will live together in one such building. Here they often cannot raise their own food, so they mine useful metals from the mountain and trade it for food from nearby villages.

The juseido are known far and wide as a very wise and learned people. They record much of their knowledge in books and scrolls, to be preserved and passed on to future generations. While juseido writings are much sought after, these people are very loath to sell their works to others, as they feel knowledge should be given freely. However, they do not part with their writings eagerly, either. They prefer for others to learn while among them and for their writings to remain under their control. To be gifted with a juseido book or scroll is a great honor.

The juseido lack a strong, centralized government. In their local communities, they try to allow for open discussion of ideas when it comes to handling problems or concerns. Then, after everyone has had a chance to have their say, the community will vote on a course of action. In times of great peril, the community will sometimes simply differ to the leadership of whoever among them is regarded as most wise, or as having the most knowledge and skills most pertinent to the situation. When a situation arises involving two or more communities, each community will choose by public vote a number of representatives from their community to meet with representatives from the other communities and decide upon a course of action.

While the juseido are known first and foremost as scholars and sages, they are not without their warriors. Juseido warriors take up the arts of combat for the very practical reason that they know there are people and creatures who would threaten their communities. They also view their martial exploits as a form of enlightenment, honing their body along with their mind and bringing the two into greater harmony. In harmony with the juseido tendency towards an ascetic lifestyle, juseido warriors prefer to fight with very simple weapons or with none at all.

The juseido honor the Four Shining Dieties, though they have very few temples to their honor. Instead of formal worship, they prefer to honor the Shining Four by studying their teachings and seeking to uphold the virtues they espouse. The juseido also practice a form of ancestor worship, giving almost reverential honor to the writings and teachings of their forebears. Among the many practices unique to the juseido, is the use of memory crystals to preserve the knowledge and personality of a revered ancestor long after their death, and to continue to learn from them.

Perhaps the most important tradition of the juseido is the Student’s Journey. The Student’s Journey is when a juseido man or woman leaves their home, with very few possessions, and travels far and wide with no specific destination in mind, learning everything they can as they go. It is expected that every juseido makes a Student’s Journey at least once between the ages of 15 and 25, but it is not uncommon for a juseido to make this pilgrimage on multiple occasions throughout their life. The journey is often undertaken again after an important life change, such as upon the death of a mentor or a spouse.

That’s it for now. I mentioned a number of different tribes in an earlier entry. If there is one in particular you would like to read more about, leave a comment below and I’ll make it the topic of a future Design Journal.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

[Design Journal: Heroes of Legend RPG] Tribes: Kaldari Terith

Here is another Design Journal entry for Heroes of Legend, a fantasy RPG I’m currently developing. At this point in developing the game I’m focusing on creating the various tribes that populate the setting. Last week I explained what the terith are, and I’ve talked specifically about the hylan and sharadda terith tribes. Today I’ll be sharing some information on another terith tribe.

The Kaldari Terith

The kaldari are a tribe of mysterious wanderers who roam far and wide in the world of HoL. A people without a home, they are the keepers of ancient secrets and strange powers.

All kaldari are albinos. Both their skin and their hair is completely white. Their eye color is either a light pink or a pale blue. However, most people would describe the kaldari as a colorful people. They tend to dress bright, flamboyant colors. They use natural pigments to create hair dye in vibrant colors. Traditionally, a kaldari will die their hair in patches, preserving at least some of their natural white. Some even die patches of their hair different colors, creating a multicolored hairdo that is as flashy as their clothes.

Long ago, the kaldari encountered the first sentient species to inhabit the world of HoL, a people they call the Twilight Elders. The Twilight Elders explained to the kaldari how the gods came, transformed their world, and seeded it with new life – including the terith. Upon this revelation, the kaldari decided they had no legitimate claim to any part of a world that in fact belonged to the Twilight Elders. This is why they’ve become a nomadic people who never set down permanent roots anywhere.

Each kaldari family owns a kaldari wagon, an amphibious vehicle that can function as both a wagon and a boat. The families travel from town to town in this wagon, making a living as traveling merchants and entertainers. Sometimes, they also hire out their services as guides to other travelers. It is said that a kaldari can never lose their way, and that they know secret paths through the world that nobody else has discovered.

Kaldari families are a tight-knit group. They work together and share the responsibilities of caring for children and the providing for the family. Kaldari children learn everything they need to know on the road. The kaldari have very few written documents, and many of them are completely illiterate. However, they have a strong tradition of oral instruction and storytelling, and they tend to carve, paint, or embroider pictures that convey a story into the surfaces of every item they own – from their wagon to their own clothing.

Because of their longstanding friendship with the Twilight Elders, the kaldari are some of the few people in the world to have mastered the power of Shadow – a mysterious force that emanates from the realm the Twilight Elders inhabit. Young kaldari are often taught how to harness this power for the protection of their people.

The kaldari are unusual in that they do not practice any religion, per se. They do acknowledge the value of the virtues that the Four Shining Deities espouse, and they do pay their respects at temples or shrines to the Shining Four when they visit a town. But, in general, they only view the deities as worthy of gratitude for their existence – not worthy of outright worship. Instead of instilling a pious attitude in their children, they try to promote a respect for others, including the Twilight Elders. They hold their life on the road as a mystical journey of discovery and self-fulfillment.

Because of their unusual beliefs and practices, some people hold a prejudiced attitude towards the kaldari, based mostly on superstitious ideas. However, most people recognize their good nature and hospitality and are happy to see them whenever they visit their town.

That’s it for now. I mentioned a number of different tribes in an earlier entry. If there is one in particular you would like to read more about, leave a comment below and I’ll make it the topic of the next Design Journal.

Monday, April 22, 2013

[Design Journal: Heroes of Legend RPG] Tribes: Sharadda Terith

This is yet another Design Journal entry for Heroes of Legend, a fantasy RPG I’m currently developing. At this point in developing the game I’m focusing on creating the various tribes that populate the setting. In my last article I explained what the terith are, and I talked specifically about the hylan terith tribe. Today I’ll be sharing some information on another terith tribe.

The Sharadda Terith

The sharadda are a desert dwelling people whose civilization is in decline. Once the rulers of a vast empire, a series of wars and disasters have left them scattered and weakened, living in the shadowed ruins of their past glory.

Sharadda have skin in various shades of red, from a dark pink to a reddish brown. Their hair is usually jet black or various shades of brown. In some instances a hint of red, blue, or purple will appear in their hair. The hair of both sharadda men and women is thick and curly, becoming a veritable mane. Their eye color can be red, brown, violet, or amber. Sharadda have a cat-like grace and ferocity.

Only one in ten sharadda children is a male, resulting in traditions and gender roles that differ from most other terith tribes. Sharadda males practice polygamy, each taking half a dozen wives and concubines. Even so, many sharadda women never marry, or must marry men of another tribe. It is not unusual for the sharadda to forge political ties with other tribes by marrying their daughters to foreigners. Meanwhile, sharadda women are often found in societal roles more often filled by men in other tribes. For example, female soldiers, leaders, and craftsmen are very common among the sharadda. In fact, the sharadda practice a form of matriarchy, where the older women typically hold the highest political positions in a community – called sheikhas. However, only males are allowed to serve as religious leaders among the tribe, and the sheikhas will often defer to the authority of these male priests in times of great need or conflict.

The sharadda people were once great builders. They built massive cities, complete with giant stone monuments, gardens, temples, and palaces. Such accomplishments have since been reduced to ruins. Lacking the resources to rebuild, the tribe now makes its home among the rubble of their ancient strongholds. The sharadda have become scavengers, taking what little sustenance they can find in the desert and selling their services to other tribes as mercenaries and entertainers. Many sharadda also make their living as thieves and bandits.

The sharadda are a very pragmatic people. They view this as necessary for their survival in the harsh deserts where they live. Because of this, they have become known for their resourcefulness and cunning. The sharadda are natural predators, both in the physical and social arenas. This is not to say that all sharadda are merciless or cruel, but they are more inclined to seek their own advantage than that of any other individual or group.

The sharadda practice elementalism – the worship of elementals. Elementals are sentient creatures composed entirely of the elements the gods forged into creation. Some believe that these creatures were the first servants of the gods, while others believe they were a failed experiment. While the gods are remote and a bit removed from the everyday happenings of people, elementals are present and directly involved in the world. So, to the sharadda mindset it makes good sense to curry the favor of these beings.

That’s it for now. I mentioned a number of different tribes in an earlier article. If there is one in particular you would like to read more about, leave a comment below and I’ll make it the topic of the next Design Journal.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

[Design Journal: Heroes of Legend RPG] Tribes: Hylan Terith

This is my tenth Design Journal entry for Heroes of Legend, and I’ve shared quite a few ideas about the game so far. Over the next few DJ entries I’ll be sharing some specifics of the setting’s tribes, my stand in concept for what are called “species” or “races” in other settings. What makes tribes different in HoL may be some genetics, but the most important differences are often cultural. Today I’ll be talking about the hylan terith tribe.

What are Terith?

Basically, they’re humans – but not quite. I’ve talked before about the fact that, although HoL will be presented as fantasy, there is actually a lot of sci-fi rationale behind the setting. The way I picture things, the “deities” that transformed the world on which HoL is based and breathed life into it are actually very advanced humans. After terraforming the planet, they engineered various life forms to inhabit it. It makes since that most of their sentient species would be at least vaguely humanoid. The terith are the species they created that most closely resembled themselves. Also, the terith had the most diverse genome, resulting in them becoming the most widespread and varied people. If a terith were to somehow land on the modern day Earth, you likely couldn’t tell them apart from an ordinary human, except in a few rare cases.

Why So Many Terith Tribes?

First of all, it bugs me just a little bit when a setting has a lot of different species that are essentially the same creatures with only minor cosmetic or cultural differences. Those aren’t entirely different species, they are merely regional groups of the same creatures, much like humans in one part of the Earth may look and behave a little differently from humans in another part of the Earth. So, I decided that for this setting, unless a particular people is decidedly very different from humans biologically – to the point that they could not reproduce together – they will all be considered the same species. In my setting that’s terith.

The Hylan Terith

The hylans are just one terith tribe. If it isn’t obvious enough by the name, they are inspired by the hylians of the Zelda setting. The hylans are a prosperous and settled people, having built the most well established kingdom in the lands.

Hylans tend to have lighter skin tones, though many are ruddy. Their hair tends toward lighter colors as well, ranging from pink to blond to sandy brown. Their eye color usually rests somewhere in the blue-green spectrum. Most hylans are tall and athletic.

The hylan people support themselves primarily on agriculture. They also possess the finest horses in all the land. Hylan horses are both majestic and powerful, and a fully armored hylan knight atop his noble steed is an impressive sight to behold.

Hylan knights are considered some of the most well trained soldiers in the world. The hylans value peace and throughout history they have had an active role in brokering peace with and among their neighboring tribes. The hylans are not conquerors – their knights serve only as defenders and peacekeepers, and are as quick to act in behalf of the innocent among another tribe as among their own people.

The hylan people are very pious. They honor the Four Shining Deities perhaps more than any other people. There is a massive and ornate temple built to their honor in the hylan capital. Hylan templars are knights who swear oaths of fealty to the Shining Four above even their own king, and each knight – templar or not – strives to become a paragon of one of the Four Shining Virtues.

Hylans are a very literate people. Their capital contains a great library and many academies where learned sages study and pass on their knowledge to the next generation. Hylan sages study the secrets of genesis – the power of the Deities to manipulate the elements. Even in the more remote hylan villages there is always a local school house.

Hylan history is long and detailed, recorded in many books and ancient scrolls. The ruling dynasty has been unbroken for fourteen generations. The hylan people like to honor their heroes and their past monarchs. Several times a year, the streets of the capital are filled with the joyous sounds and colorful sights of celebratory festivals

That’s it for now. I mentioned a number of different tribes in my last entry. If there is one in particular you would like to read more about, leave a comment below and I’ll make it the topic of the next Design Journal.