(I regret nothing of that title and you can’t stop me)
All these knightly orders are all well and good, of course, but what do you do with them? Well, you have PCs in them, and NPCs, and spin some adventure seeds out of it.
But what if you need a bit more of a starting point? Like, say, just who’s running the show or at least where this group of unusual folks came from. It’s a good question, after all, especially if a PC is a member of an order, or for that matter any of the other guilds, factions, and various organizations tossed up here on the blog, or written up elsewhere even.
So here are a few tables for inspiration; roll on them for any given order, or pick one of the results, or just use them as a jumping-off point for your own ideas. They don’t give the nitty-gritty of internal group structures or the like, but they should make a start.
Who Do They Answer To?
01. A ruler — king, empress, etc — or a member of the immediate royal family, or equivalent 02. A great lord of some variety, whether duke or daimyo 03. The hierarch of a religious organization 04. No one but their own leader; the order acts independently 05. No one but their own leader; members may have pledged themselves to various lords and masters 06. There is no true group hierarchy, only cells or networks and apprenticeships 07. A sorcerous or mystical or otherwise non-mortal entity, from dragon to ascended soul 08. The leaders of a community or communities
Of course, a group does need funds. (well, sometimes; some may be more professions of faith or shared wellsprings of knowledge than a formal organization. that’s usually not the case with a knightly order, though, unless the order is a federation of hedge-knights in common.)
How Do They Support The Order?
01. Tithes from members (a percentage of income or labour) 02. Subsidized by royalty, nobility, or other secular patron 03. Subsidized by a religious edifice (temple or shrine) 04. Quests taken on for the order itself 05. Individual members take on quests or missions 06. A mutual aid society, informal in nature 07. Donations from those the order aids 08. There is no direct support for the order as a whole
How Are Members Expected To Contribute?
(beyond upholding the order’s ideals, which kind of goes without saying)
01. Tithing an amount of funds, or in kind, or with labour 02. Teaching new recruits or apprentices 03. Encouraging the growth of the order 04. Performing quests and endeavours that bring acclaim to the order 05. Contending with the order’s rivals and/or enemies 06. Offering aid or shelter to fellows, when called upon
Under many circumstances, several of these possibilities are just taken as a matter of course anyway; but even then, there may be an especial emphasis or value placed on a specific contribution in particular.
Also vitally important — when there’s scores of orders and dozens of factions out and about, it’s highly unlikely that all these groups will somehow never cross paths with at least a few others. So how does that shake out?
What does this order think of another?
01. Kinship, in arms or in peace 02. Casual allies, at least on a day to day basis 03. The leadership/established members are considered allies 04. The leadership/established members are considered rivals or enemies 05. The other order is anathema 06. There is old bad blood, but overtures are being made 07. There is currently competition for [hearts/faith/resources] 08. The order wishes to remain unknown to the other 09. A favour of honour is owed to the other order 10. The other order owes a favour of honour 11. Neutrality, with no particular opinion 12. Curiosity, with a side of jocular rivalry
And if the basic beliefs of the two groups are intrinsically opposed (or aligned) and a contrary result comes up, well, there’s certainly some potential adventuring and politicking in the weeds there —
Dragons! Big scaly (or feathery or what have you) beasties with maws of sharp teeth and a tendency towards breathing gouts of flame, venom, or the gods know what at you. Tangling with a dragon, violently or otherwise, can be a Big Thing. A Big Thing with, depending on the dragon, a Big Payoff.
Sometimes it even comes from the dragon itself. It might not even mean slaying the beastie!
Which is good, because some dragons may be like unto gods.
So how does this work?
Here are a few possibilities.
Gifts Granted Freely
To seal a pact, to grant a boon to a loyal friend or follower or worshiper, to give a representative the power to act in their name, to demonstrate power, to sow a little chaos here and there — there’s any number of reasons a dragon might grant a token to one of the “lesser” folk. Whether reshaping an existing object or shaping one wholesale from its own flesh and spirit, the dragon creates a gift for its chosen recipient.
Many of these tokens are weapons, but not all of them. If you don’t have a form in mind, you can always roll for it:
And also for the mark that the object bears to show its origin:
01. Carved from the dragon’s fang(s) 02. Sheathed in the dragon’s shed scales or other plumage 03. Sports one or more dragoncrysts 04. Contains dragonsblood ampoule 05. Carved from dragon’s horn or talon 06. Dyed or enameled with dragonsblood
Needless to say, all such tokens are finely made specimens. (Dragon magic can do wonderful things.) They aren’t unbreakable, however, unless granted by a dragon of divine power — which isn’t to say that even a more “mundane” token may not show some quirk such as a faint glow, slowly reshaping itself or its ornamentation over time, or slight changes of size and proportion to suit its current owner.
But what does such a token do? The possibilities are endless and boil down to the whims of the dragon in question (and the GM, of course *lol*); here are some basic ideas to get things started:
01. +2 (or more!) to attacks made with it, or while bearing it, as appropriate 02. Grants Advantage when used (or when used for a specific purpose, whether hunting sorcerers, penning the perfect sonnet, or making a first impression) 03. Absorbs incoming energies aligned with those of the dragon (fire, light, death, winter, passion …) 04. Grants (additional) protection equivalent to a specific armour type, such as chain or fullplate 05. Grants the ability to cause injuries that wound like flame, frost, venom, or other draconic energies 06. Will heal one wound, even a lethal one (or one given wound within a certain time cycle) 07. Grants an additional sense or senses (nightsight, magic sensitivity, draconic sensitivity, direction sense, tracking ability …) 08. Protects against a certain type of enchantment or affliction (flame magic, poison, paralysis, mind-tampering …), or grants Advantage against it 09. Allows the owner to take on a draconic form 10. Opens a portal to a specific location or locations 11. Will produce a certain amount of a specific substance (bread, raw metal, stormwinds, water, sunlight), or for a specific amount of time, daily 12. Allows owner to tap into the dragon’s knowledge or wisdom 13. Grants the ability to cast a specific spell or spells as if learned, once a day at maximum efficiency 14. Owner’s magic is resisted at Disadvantage by a specific type of target or targets 15. Subjects of the token (injured, touched by, marked by, they hear it, etc as appropriate) are magically “stained” by it and may be tracked by the owner 16. Grants the ability to communicate with spirits and shades of all types, or other unusual subjects, such as animals 17. Owner is always clean, groomed and generally immaculate-looking 18. Deal maximum damage with an attack involving the token (or, once a day, or once a battle; or a certain number of times a day, or after spending one’s own essence) 19. Grants unusual physical capability, such as aquatic adaptation, flight, burrowing, or resistance to a specific hostile environment 20. Increases one or two attributes by anywhere from 1 to 3
Gifts granted by a draconic token reflect the dragon bestowing the gift — a martially-inclined beast will favour weapons or armour or other such things, a reclusive scaly scholar will gift sources of knowledge or means of defense, a flamedrake a gift of fire, and so on. In many cases a token’s gift or gifts will echo the abilities of the dragon as well, be it elemental affinity, breath weapon, unique sorceries or even the dragon’s own famed feats.
Similarly, a token’s power reflects that of its creator. A young beast is not about to grant a gift loaded down with half a dozen abilities, no matter how much it wishes otherwise — and a gift from an elder dragon means the favour, and attention, of such a vast and powerful creature.
A dragon cannot be magically or physically coerced into making such a token. It must be freely given, of the dragon’s own choice. A dragon is always aware of its gifts, and may glean a vague sense of location, presence, and purpose put to with a bit of concentration.
A canny dragon knows that the lesser folk are just as covetous as any drake can be. A wise dragon keeps its gifts from falling into the hands of any random creature that may take advantage.
There’s a way around these troubles, to a certain extent. If the gifting dragon crafts its token to be bloodmarked, only those who bear its mark may make use of the token’s benefits, while all others wield a finely-made object and nothing more.
Some dragons make this an unseen, spiritual marking but most prefer to drive the point home more viscerally, as much a test of the would-be recipient’s resolve as a proper binding. Anointed with the dragon’s blood — a draft of which must also be swallowed, fresh from draconic flesh — that one is now bloodmarked and their new gift responds to the diffusion of the draconic donor’s power and will through the giftee’s body.
Whether the mark will pass on to their chosen’s descendants is a matter of draconic choice in the moment of marking. It’s generally considered courteous to let them know one way or the other (and sometimes that’s even the point).
Torn From The Fallen
But — the notes above are not quite true. There is a way to claim such treasures from a dragon against its will — or one such, at least, a single token from a single draconic source.
It’s not pleasant, and it begins with the death of the dragon in question.
Through flensing butchery, darkling alchemy, and necropotent sorceries, a dragon’s fading, fleeing power may be bound into a token made by another’s hands. All such objects are crafted from the dragon’s bones, in their entirety or nearly so, and should they bear any ornamentation at all it is of black-scorched inscriptions, bloody enamel and gory dragoncrysts.
These are not pleasant things to look upon, no matter how finely crafted they may be.
They also come with a price for tearing draconic gifts away along with the dragon’s life. All such balegifts grant at least two abilities, and are Advantage weapons against dragons, but also inflict one or more afflictions unto their owner. Some possibilities include:
01. Heal at half the usual rate 02. Constant nightmares, affecting social interactions (-2 modifier) 03. Vulnerable to a specific form of injury (an element, poison, necromantic magic, bleeding …), taking twice damage 04. Haunted by the slaughtered dragon’s restless shade 05. 1-in-6 chance of berserking in combat or under duress until subdued or there are no targets 06. Will rise as undead horror if driven to brink of death
Balegifts may also be bloodmarked, if the first owner consumes the dragon’s blood and at least a sliver of its heart or pearl. On the one hand, this will always bind the token to the owner and also their bloodline; on the other, they will never rid themselves of the acquired afflictions.
We Know Of You
Any dragon that sees a pact token — let alone a balegift — will know exactly what it is and very well may also know exactly who granted the token in the first place, simply by looking at it. This can have some immediate and terrible repercussions in the latter case!
Life And Death
Yes, it is possible for a living dragon to bestow its blessing and then later be killed and butchered to have it stolen from them.
Yes, a bestowing dragon might then become some sort of undead horror later. Such an abomination can still sense its given gifts.
Or other such interesting situations.
Just what may happen? Well, that’s hard to generalize, now isn’t it ~?
Even in the remains of the world, people have something — someone — that they are, or were, or claimed to be.
Or want to be.
And everyone has a place they came from, even if they don’t want to stay there; and bits of that get carried forward as they forge ahead with a warm glimmer of hope in their hands.
Those things don’t just leave a mark on thoughts and beliefs, name and looks and outlook.
They’re often something literally carried along.
So who are you?
Roll d20 or choose from the following:
01. Briarsmith: ancient shears, collection of thorn-knives, cache of hips and haws 02. Brigand: tattered leather jack, tally-stick spear, bolas 03. Faithful: relic symbol, prayer knots, partial liturgy 04. Messenger: carry-bag, curved knife, passage writ 05. Farmer: sickle, dry rations, bolt of cloth or hide 06. Errant: leather scale cuirass, bow and quiver, painted emblem 07. Nightmare Cultist: morion razor, hymn runes, horn trumpet 08. Hedge-Healer: needles and nettle-thread, poultices, secret hoard of honey 09. Ancestor Warden: knife and cup, pouch of salts, favoured trinkets 10. Scavenger: packs and sacks, old dagger, patchwork coat 11. Wordscrap: homemade ink, bits of tomes, rag-paper and bark and hide 12. Hired Blade: maille mantle, sword or axe, pouch of trade goods 13. Dreamridden: scrap of glassy bone, jack of strong spirits, painted dream-map 14. Minstrel: bone flute, carefully mended instrument, feather-and-glass charm 15. Hunter: collection of snares, bow and quiver, smoked meat or pelt 16. Forager: willow-withe backpack, sharpened trowel, bundles of forbs and fungi 17. Scion: house or family badge, half-plate or furred greatcoat, provisions (or
diary) 18. Witch: ritual knives and ribbons, briar paint, lucky charms 19. Craftwright: hammer and traveling anvil (or other tools of the trade), leather apron with runemark 20. Lost: tattered cloak or coat, handful of morion fragments, bloodstained relic of Empire
Some things cross one’s path and are picked up along the way, however, no matter from whence one sprang —
Roll d66 or choose, twice, on this second table.
How did you come by these things? Are they part and parcel of your life until now, something you stumbled upon, something gifted or cursed you, or odder still?
11. Leather mantle, enveloping and hooded 12. Letter or request inscribed in wax on a folding wooden tablet 13. Crow companion (attracted to shining things, carries messages) 14. Wooden knife edged with morion bladelets 15. 30′ of sturdy hempen rope 16. Stoneware, polychrome goblet 21. Rough morion mass, crystalline and thumb-sized 22. Woolen cloak, deeply hooded with two large inner pockets 23. Wooden token, oval and palm-sized, carved with insignia filled with pigment; a town-token 24. Shattered smoky, translucent metal plating — a fragment of armour from a Silent Knight 25. Billet of verdigrised copper the size of two fists 26. Four brindled hare-skins, tanned and trimmed 31. Cat companion (sees spirits, hunts dreams and vermin) 32. String of glass eye-beads, white and blue and turquoise 33. Leather pouch of dried mushrooms 34. A signet ring of tarnished silver once from a lordling’s hand 35. Horn jack with briarwood stopper; filled with cider, weak wine or blood 36. A sword, slim with re-sharpening 41. Tattered book of days with a number of pages missing around mid-autumn 42. Birch-paper map to a dream-ruin 43. Parchment disc declaring protection of the bearer by a specific lordling, with seal; unverified 44. A tiny lock of translucent silver-gold hair in a smooth steel locket 45. The twisting, blackwork key to a temple’s sanctum 46. Fist-sized wax-sealed pot of sticky resin 51. Round lens the size of a walnut, tinted faintly blue 52. Withered heart of some long-dead soul, trimmed and stitched with golden filigree 53. Dog companion (guardianship, pack animal, hunter) 54. An Imperial cavalier’s skull, or so you believe 55. A long rake of hardwood all of one branch; its curving tines further fire-hardened 56. Hollow gourd in a grass-woven carry net 61. Palm-sized, smooth jet stone engraved with strange patterns 62. A tattered battle-banner, wool and old satin, and bloodstained 63. 100′ of nettle-twine coiled in a tight ball 64. A sheep’s fleece 65. A small leather pouch of morion-dust 66. Two fistfuls of grey salt in a wooden box
Towers of purest precious ice, delicate and ethereal, a colourless beauty to steal one’s breath.
A realm of shining latticework minarets, of smoothly bulbous spires and clockwork obelisks, of ever-shifting, ever-growing, ever-branching towers upon towers that build themselves upwards — ever upwards — and onwards, forever towards the glittering white-crystal dome of the heavens above which may be, in turn, yet more growing, splitting, duplicating, fusing, elaborating towers.
As they climb ever higher these fragile structures change, the ice of their structures now glassy, now frosted, now whirled and patched with dead-white milky zones; now a touch of silver, now deepest azure or most royal teal, forms precious and rare; now sharp as razors, now smooth and bulbous.
A new sub-tower branches free; a lacy bridge reaches delicate fringes to cross — to maybe cross — the frigid span of emptiness as countless spans have crisscrossed, above and below. Sometimes a plaza slowly spreads, a dizzying plate of ice, hanging over the endless heights below.
Sometimes there are great curving balconies and balustrades, thick with intricate ornamentation; sometimes the ice grows strange pistons and levers and gears delicate as snowflakes.
Sometimes there are delicate gardens, growing from grains of ice instead of soil, trailing luxuriant vines of a million shining leaves and tiny blossoms over slender rails and down curving tower walls.
And sometimes towers fall.
Oh yes, they fall.
They shatter — losing entire sections, whole spires — under their own weight, under a flawed growth-angle, under the onslaught of would-be conquerors not satisfied with the ephemeral beauty they already possess.
They fall, losing part of themselves, until the ice begins to flow and grow once more towards the glittering silver-white perfection far above.
There are mysteries in the deeps; mysteries and secrets and lost things, and the spinning tales and of unfathomable beings to be found nowhere else but in the fathomless deep. And then, there are also those that prefer to keep themselves amongst those lost and secret things —
The darkness of water conceals all: the dead, the dreaming; the seeking, the broken, the pining; the silent and the strange; the hunter and the prey. And Yroon is very dark indeed, a watery darkness of teals and ultramarines, black as emeralds and fathomless in truth, an ocean without beginning, ending, bottom or surface.
But not featureless, no.
Beyond the ripples of great serpentine forms that glide through the depths, just out of reach, beyond what little is to be seen in the wan shimmer that light-sources offer — for all such things brought to Yroon are muted, tinted, lessened — and the ghosts of all finned things, there are yet things that may be touched. Drifting globes of tangled weedery, lacy and plump and violet-green, tawny-rust, blackened bronze, bleached pearl, the size of cities. Communities of the hidden, perhaps cities themselves, in delicate, cherished, carefully pierced and sealed orbs — of bubbles — of silk-thin nacre.
Lesser things: drifts of clinging silt, of melting iridescent jelly, of burning salts, of slicks of clay, that shape and spawn strange wonderful things on fins and ghosts and the blood of the deeps.
And now the currents whisper of something else: something that will unfurl in the deepest darkness, and …
That’s right, doing terrible things with other languages now to fit letters —
How about a few interesting folks to meet on your travels? Love and friendship not, alas, guaranteed; but it’s not impossible ~
01. Linet Woodwalker
Born and raised in Rowan’s Cross, a sprawling broch complex in the Shadow, Linet sports both the milky eye-tint common to the locals and their casual unconcern for death and what might come afterward. The latter serves her well when she’s bartering her services as a guide and portal tracker to lost and
confused newcomers to her neck of the (metaphorical and literal) woods; maybe not so much when her brashness takes her through the Shadow and into a Corerealm. Linet honours all her contracts regardless. It’s the principle of the thing — and once she reaches one hundred contracts fulfilled, the salt-and-shell curse will be lifted from her sister.
: driven : delver : practical : punctual :
Most fleshy throats cannot pronounce this scintillant mathemagician’s actual name, so “Silphil” it is. It doesn’t mind; no more than it minds the necessity of simulating fleshy words in eerie tones by vibrating scores of its rapidly rotating light-rings together. Silphil wants the calculations of the
afterworlds, and it collects them constantly and eagerly, identifying those calculations by its own inscrutable standards — proofs and poetic stanzas, perfect solids trapped in realm-stuff and intangible integers tangled in thought, it absorbs them all into its chiming form. It’s happy to crack mundane esoteric maths if approached politely, seeing it as a gentle hobby.
: melodic : flighty : acquisitive : enchanter :
03. The Water-Lion
There’s not a trace of actual felinity in this senior Ringwalker’s bearing; but any questions about his name are met with nothing but a faint smile and a shake of his head that sets his mane of silver-shot sooty hair swinging. The Water-Lion’s taught more would-be explorers than he likes to think about, these days, and far too few of those have come back to Guildhouses intact, a fact that gnaws at his innards and dulls his silver-bright eyes — and keeps his prodigious notations private and his riversteel blade in its scabbard. But the right reason, the right cause, could well lure him out; and he knows both many strange magics and the secrets of delving hearts and minds.
: experienced : timeworn : honourable : haunted :
He was the heart of a world, once. That’s what Malifleur claims, anyway, to anyone who listens — or finds themselves trapped in his grip, or entranced by the grinding rumble of his broken voice. He’s a sight to behold, certainly, with his titanic stature and his brazen skin, tangled crop of blood-rust
ringlets and eyes like blue-green suns. Pay no mind to the wounds of throat, palms, navel, brow, eternally weeping ichor; pay no mind to the ghosts of shattered aureoles that dog him like a faded mockery of peacock-eyed lost glory. Malifleur brings far greater things to be concerned over: the goldshadow echoes of his might; his drive to claim any knowledge, any power that may restore him; and the possibility that his claims may be true.
: prideful : resentful : primordial : lessened :
Inquisitive and insightful, with a canny mind behind her lilting tongue, Aatacana has been traveling throughout the realms for a very long time indeed. She can be found throughout the Manifold Palaces — having less interest in the Foundations of the planes — and currently chases down whispers and gossip
about the dreaming Mirror, willing to pay in starjewels and honey-dust and even mundane coin. Pay no mind to her great lemon-gold coils, or gleaming silver eyes, or to the simple fact that she is a massive serpent the thickness of a warrior’s thigh, festooned with hovering pouches and two “hands” of magical force.
: wanderer : secretive : dreamer : amused :
06. Master Thea
Oh she’s sharp, is Thea. You don’t wend your way to prominence as the captain of a merchantry that spans six realms without being sharp. Sharp as a blade, and just as likely to cut if crossed the wrong way — as many discover when they think they can pull the wool over the Master Of Fortunes. Thea’s tossed more than one such fool over the rail of an umbraship into the nothing between realms for that, and for less; her temper’s as sharp as her mind, these days, and none know what has her so worked up. Even when tallying up her earnings, her shimmering tail lashes like an angry cats’. Oh and never ask about that appendage, come to think — that will earn a bloodglass blade in the gut instead.
The City of Chains exists everywhere and nowhere, they say — an endlessly unfurling urban maze of black-and-jewels, ancient stone and stranger metals, built upon deeper labyrinths still while the great chains arc and coil far overhead across the glassy dome of the strangely coloured sky.
Few come to Wilusa deliberately, at least at first. Most travelers find themselves in its winding streets by fouling their transit between other worlds entirely; some have been cursed there. It’s a rare wanderer, in comparison, who’s travels lead them directly to this realm …
Many choose never to use the pale ghost-iris, native to the city, to shiver their way back onto a different path, preferring the push-and-pull of the City Of Chains:
to stake their fate on plumbing the Quicksilver Labyrinth;
joining one of Wilusa’s kaleidoscope of guilds, orders and sects;
gathering precious things from uncountable worlds in the City’s dazzling markets;
learning ancient tales from the inhabitants of a catacomb for jeweled saints;
or seeking more dangerous secrets beneath the blade angels’ blank and watchful gazes —
Those who fail quickly find the Keep of Rings and learn the City’s unpredictable pattern, or feed drops of their blood to a ghost-iris and flee back to the world of their home, lest their body and soul feed the ever-widening City and its kaleidoscope of inhabitants.
Wilusa lies outside of the worlds and yet alongside it, and there is none — or, none known — who has ever succeeded in claiming the City for their own.
Those who have tried have left little more trace than whispers and half-remembered poems.
Sand. All around is sand, golden and drifting, broken up by white-gleaming ziggurats and their sprawling cities picked out in azure and jade, by fallen tawny ruins, by precious expanses of pale green growth ringed around pools of sweet water dark as the eternal night above with its rippling sky-vault and great electrum stars. The Sage Princes gather their hosts, raise festivals, bar doors and great white walls against the sable-coated hunting cats that prowl, singing, in the night.
Sea. All is sea, wine-dark, flecked with waves and foam, filled with coiling glass-clear arms of deeply things and the swirling bronze shoals of long-finned swimmers, dotted here and there with islands and island-citadels of pale sandstone spotted with precious orchards from which the fleets of the Reaver
Commons sail their uncountable ships beneath the endless day, that golden dome spotted with turquoise moons.
Between, the thinnest wisps of cloud and mist, and the cloud serpents, and the flocks, the bridges of birds, a riotous rainbow of wings that have no care for where they began, the sand or the sea. The messengers who cross that Fulcrum with far more ease than the great speckled wicker-ships, the shimmering fishscale-ships, of the endless battles of day and night as they wing across to clash and contest against each other for glory and for memory.
with its endless skies churning gently through all the shades of blue and twilight to the deepest violet-darkness and back again;
with the namesakes of the plane, the white winds that etch elaborate scrolls and spirals and twisting knots into the masses of pearly cloud that form and drift, break and re-form anew;
with its silver storms — spun up when the white winds whirl through their dances too fervently — that race through the realm and leave rain like silk and shimmering hailstones in their wake.
All in the boundless, bottomless, endless skies.
But the realm is not without its anchors.
There are great mountains within the Wind; massive, twinned peaks, craggy, and chiseled by the storms, translucently dense honey-tinted cloud cores garlanded top and tail with their insubstantial brethren — and each such peak hosts in its depths, clinging to its crags, and carved into the valleys of its knotted spirals a blossoming of hermitages and hidden palaces, strange graven echoes of histories long ended, and slowly growing, ever-expanding crypts and grottoes of, not the dead, but those who wait.
Not even the rain saints and the luminous torrents disturb such sleepers. They shy away from the grotto mouths, prowl silently at the mausoleum portals before being carried off by wind and rain and storm, and choose their prey from amongst the denizens of amber palaces and unwary gatherers of mist.