Tuesday, September 16, 2014

House on Troll Hill

Good news! Donita K. Paul and Aaron Siddall (me) have published a book! House on Troll Hill is an excellent reading aid as well as a fun story for the young and young at heart.
Here is the official press release:



Available at http://bit.ly/HouseOnTrollHill  Amazon book sales

A reasonably priced, much-needed addition to books for beginning readers.  House on Troll Hill presents just the right content to seize a reluctant reader’s attention and motivate him to push forward.

When a young reader chooses a book, he picks up something that won’t make him look silly among his classmates. Puppies and kitties, turtles and fish, drawn with an eye for cutesy and color, give off the aura of “baby books.” It’s no fun to struggle through reading while your friends snicker. An appealing book does not advertise its low level.

House on Troll Hill looks sophisticated. As it engages the child with a fun tale and intriguing pictures, it also provides reading practice. Complex sentences challenge the reader. Quick, snappy sentences reward his persistence and offer incentive to “read on.”

The combination of story by bestselling fantasy author, Donita K.Paul, and illustrations by master of line art, Aaron Siddall, gives parents and teachers a book to put in the hands of reluctant readers.


So come on by and get a copy! THis book is a perfect gift for kids and other reluctant readers.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nine Worlds: Arcane Magic

Besides being king of the Aesir, Odin is credited as the inventor of runes, the earliest alphabet used by by the humans of the Nine Worlds. However even he gained this knowledge by stealing and cheating it from the Jotun, in whose veins the art of wizardry flows naturally.
Just as wisdom can only be obtained at the cost of sacrifice, Odin himself relates that he hung nine days and nights from the sacred tree Yggdrasil, gazing down into the chilling depths of Nifleheim, plunged in deep thought, and self-wounded with his spear, ere he won the knowledge he sought.
When he had fully mastered this knowledge, Odin cut magic runes upon his spear Gungnir, upon the teeth of his horse Sleipnir, upon the claws of the bear, and upon countless other animate and inanimate things. And because he had thus hung over the abyss for such a long space of time, he was ever after considered the patron of all who are condemned to be hanged or who perish by the noose.
Arcane magic is the most potent of magical crafts in the Nine Worlds, being concerned primarily with altering the true nature of a thing. Such terrible magic always comes at a price, as the Norns and the gods watch such practitioners closely as he or she gathers greater might. A powerful enough mage can call and dispel mighty storms, travel the underworld and lay waste to nearly any mortal foe, if he or she dares to use this power.

Bardic Craft
“At home let a man be cheerful, And toward a guest liberal; Of wise conduct he should be, Of good memory and ready speech; If much knowledge he desires, He must often talk on what is good.”
-Hávamál (High Song)

The Bards of the Nine Worlds are the holders of the ancient tales and living records of the law. Many bards work largely as law-speakers and the Althing, as well as working in their standard role as musicians and storytellers. A bard of any skill need never go hungry, or go without a roof over his or her head in the Nine Worlds. It is considered terrible bad luck for a noble to turn away a traveling bard, both for his magic, and for the gossip he might spread.
Bards are the most loved spellcasters, arcane or divine, in the Nine Worlds. Their music and wisdom lighten a grim life and long winters, and their magics are generally helpful. The power of riddles, names and music are greatly respected by all peoples. Still, magic is magic, and bards are still feared for the power of their craft, both in magic and in the rumors that they can spread. Most nobles prefer to have bards as close advisors and court magicians rather than sorcerers or wizards.
Bards are most common amongst men and half-elves, with elves as a close second. Trolde respect and admire bards, but have few amongst their number. Dwarves despise music for the most part, and though words and chanting is appreciated, they prefer wizardry over bards.
Instruments: Harps, bone flutes, horns and drums are the most common instruments in the Nine Worlds.

“On to the Brocken the witches are flocking— Merry meet—merry part—how they gallop and drive, Yellow stubble and stalk are rocking, And young green corn is merry alive, With the shapes and shadows swimming by. To the highest heights they fly, Where Sir Urian sits on high— Throughout and about, With clamour and shout, Drives the maddening rout, Over stock, over stone; Shriek, laughter, and moan, Before them are blown.”
-Goethe’s Faust

Sorcery can be found primarily amongst the illiterate villages and peoples in the Nine Worlds, and involves the gathering of personal, vital energies to power spells. Practitioners can become knowledgeable in Runes, but this is not necessary for this craft. This magic is very powerful in its own right, as it does not require magical training, books or specialized lore.
Sorcery is considered "womans magic" in the Nine Worlds with male practitioners of sorcery are seen as sexually perverse, and are despised by the majority. Such "Ergi" can be hunted and killed like an animal, having no legal rights. Few women protest this restriction, as they prefer to practice their own craft untroubled.
Sorcerers can be found amongst all of the races, with only humans attaching sexual restrictions on the class. Both sexes of elves pursue this magic in near total exclusion of the Magic User class, however as elves are seen as sexual indistinct, this is no surprise.

Magic Users (Wizardry)
“Through our whole lives we strive towards the sun; That burning forehead is the eye of Odin. His second eye, the moon, shines not so bright; It has he placed in pledge in Mimer’s fountain, That he may fetch the healing waters thence, Each morning, for the strengthening of this eye.”

Wizardry in the Nine Worlds is primarily the study of the laws of Destiny, Words and Runes. This lore, wrested from the Jotun by Odin is a mighty and deadly tool that can elevate the wise to positions of great power, or cast the foolish into dread-filled horror. There is no room for cowards or half-measures in the art.
Most wizards in the Nine Worlds keep to themselves, seeking out their magic in isolated keeps or in hidden caves, well fortified against intruders. A few gather into small groups, like Raven warrior society, to pool their lore and resources, allowing them some protection and far greater research potential.
Wizardry is seen as a masculine pursuit, with women pursuing this craft believed to be seeking to use this greater magic to usurp the rightful reign of men. Women found pursuing this magic are greatly feared and can quickly find themselves accused and condemned of evil practices. Such "spaewives" are seen as not entirely human anymore, and thus have few rights under the law.
Wizards can be found amongst all of the mortal races though humans half-elves and dwarves (diviners) form the majority. Elves prefer sorcery and the Trolde prefer divine magic. Of the schools to specialize in, divination is by far the most popular school to specialize with Enchantment and Illusion as close seconds. Necromancy is seen as evil, and likely to bring the emnity of the gods. Other specialist exist, but are rare. Flashy spells are used, but scare both sides of a fight and so are not encouraged.
Language and Literacy: The written word is extremely important to wizards, as their magic is from a written form. All written language in the Nine Worlds is derived from the ancient Jotun, and later races such as the Aesir, Dwarves and the earliest of men. See the Language and Literacy section for details.

Cromlech (Sacred Sites)
Cromlech (a Vanir word for flagstone) are ancient markers or places where the boundaries between worlds grows thin, and energies from those other worlds seep through. These sites are always made of stone, though the form and type differs depending upon the stone itself.
Effect: Depending on the nature of the Cromlech, certain schools of magic are maximized (as-per the feat) when such spells are cast on or near the megalith.
Cromlech are very rarely unattended, whether by spellcasters, humanoid worshipers, fey, outsiders, undead or elementals. The kinds of such guardians should give an indication of the sort of Cromlech it is. Powerful beings of these sorts will often build near or on top of a Cromlech, so as to gain full control over its benefits.

This campaign setting uses the Blood and Treasure RPG rules. Its a melding of Old School gaming and the newer, smoother-running games rules. Its a game that is fairly rules light, but has just enough crunch to satisfy my gaming appetite. All the cool kids are doing it.

Nine Worlds: Everyday Magic

People in the Nine Worlds make use of many small magic’s in their daily lives, leaving the greater workings to gods, clerics and wizards. This is largely evident in the daily rituals and practices observed in nearly every home, farm and household. To survive in the chaotic and often hostile environment of the Nine Worlds, people take part in a number of simple magical practices. Many of them involve no more than simple offerings of respect to local spirits (fey, outsiders of elementals), while others are more complex and even dangerous.

The Adept NPC Class
"No one alive could talk as well as he did
On points of Medicine and of surgery,
For being grounded in astronomy,
He watched his patient’s favorable star
And by his Natural Magic knew what are
The lucky hours and planetary degrees
For making charms and effigies."
-Chaucer, “Doctor of Physic.”
Adepts, skillymen, witches, cunning folk, herb folk, whatever they are called, these NPC spellcasters can be found all over the Nine Worlds practicing their trade in “small” but useful magics. Adepts work as bone-setters, midwives, leeches, veterinarians and potion makers. The large majority of spellcasting servants of the gods will in-fact be Adepts rather than Clerics or Druids, and will always have an excellent grasp of the local political and spiritual environment.
The magic practiced by the Adept is considered good and helpful magic for the most part (though evil Adepts certainly exist). Theirs is the way of folk remedies, luck and dealing with the fickle spirits of field, crop, water and weather, and not the great and terrible magic of wizards or clerics. Adepts tend to be straight talking folk with attitudes and dress similar to that of any other craftsfolk in their community.
Most adepts are Humans or Trolde. Dwarves prefer Diviners, and Elves and Half Elves are far more likely to have full Vanir Clerics. Trolde adepts are almost always male, as female Trolde spellcasters are almost always Druids.

Ceremonies and Rituals
A great many rituals fill the day to day lives of mortals in the Nine Worlds. Many, like marriages and harvests, are mostly parties and an excuse to celebrate lifes small joys. Others are far more sombre affairs, requiring magical rites to perform. Some are detailed below.
Blood Oaths: Blood oaths are when two persons seal an oath or bond with the mingling of their blood. This process is a sacred one to the gods (Aesir, Vanir and Jotun), and is never entered into lightly. This ritual requires that a spellcaster able to cast 3rd level divine spells preside over the event. Once struck, if one of the participants breaks his oath, he of she immediately falls under the effects of a bestow curse spell. The duration of this spell is permanent and cannot be dispelled unless restitution is made towards the offended party.
Burial: Ceremonies for the recently departed are enormously important in the Nine Worlds. For if a dead man or woman is left to rot, he or she is likely to become an undead spirit or walking corpse of some kind. Burial rites require a divine spellcaster capable of casting at least 2nd level spells to send the dead on to their destinations.
Curses: Jelousy and malice sometimes inspire men to use wicked magic against others. Curses of all sorts are used by people all over the Nine Worlds, though it is considered a cowardly and dishonorable practice. Though use of the spell bestow curse is the most effective, non spellcasters can use several small rituals to bring the attention of malicious spirits against an enemy. This usually involves making offerings of blood, burnt hair or other materials (taken from the person to be cursed) given to the spirit. The spirit will become negatively disposed towards the victim, and will often seek to do him or harm. This is considered an evil act, and can carry the punishment of torture unto death at the Althing.
Sacrifice: Sacrificial offering to the gods are common occurrences at feast days or before battle. Such rituals are usually symbolic and meant to flatter and cajole a spirit or god in particular so as to gain its favor and goodwill. Other sacrifices actually enhance spellcasting power based on the type and quality of the victim (GMs discretion).

"Ring around the rosey,
Pocket full of posies.
Upstairs, downstairs.
We all fall down."
-Ring a Ring o' Roses
Disease in the Nine Worlds is caused by curses, spirits, rats, spiders and worms. Spiders are known to carry disease in their bites and that worms can appear in flesh, teeth and bones at any time (spontaneous generation). Treating these ailments require the aid of those skilled in herbs, alchemy and magic. Worms must be driven or pulled out, rats killed and spiders and evil magic driven away. DM's (Gamemasters, Treasure Keepers etc) are encouraged to invent their own foul ailments to bedevil PC's.
Magical Healing: Though a great many spells exist that can combat or even cure diseases, the services of spellcasters is not cheap, particularly regarding more potent spells. Local adepts will often work under a barter system with local farmers and craftsfolk so that healing services can be purchased even by the poor.
Plague: Outbreaks of disease can encompass whole families, villages, towns of even countries, threatening the lives (and souls) off everyone that comes near. In game terms, merely resisting the initial infection of a disease is not enough. Characters dwelling or adventuring near an outbreak of a disease must make saving throws for every hour of exposure.
Undeath: Undead are commonly created from disease, particularly zombies, ghosts, spectres and wraiths. Ghouls and Ghasts often become quite bold when disease is about, as such diseased flesh is often quite tasty (seasoned as they put it), and will often create more of their kind from those not yet dead from such disease. Corporeal undead and flesh golems can carry any disease, carrying the threat of infection to anyone they touch, speak to or who comes into contact with their flesh of fluids. Skeletons have no flesh, and thus rarely carry disease (waterlogged skeletons being the exception).

"Sure-hoofed is my steed in the day of battle: The high sprigs of alder are on thy hand: Bran by the branch thou bearest Has Amathaon the good prevailed."
-Cad Goddeu (the Battle of the Trees)
Druids, Sorcerers, Wizards and NPC Adepts are regularly approached as healers and midwives. As-such, knowledge in Nine Worlds healing and herbalism is very important. Gathering and using these herbs is considered a magical, mysterious art, and those who do so are seen as at least part magician, but are much appreciated for their skill. Some herbs commonly found in a herbalists garden are as follows:
Apple Blossoms (Silver Bough, Tree of Love, Fruit of the Gods): Apple blossoms are sacred to many fey and lesser gods, and is thought to represent a passage into underworld. Used to treat diseases brought by the touch of the undead and as a potent aphrodisiac.
System: Apple Blossom medicines grant a +2 to Fort saves to resist necromantic touch attacks such as ghoul touch, ghoul/ghast paralysis and the like. Apple blossoms are indeed a potent aphrodisiac, taken by men and women.
Basil (Witches Herb, Aethiope, Dittany): Basil is commonly strewn on floors to purify a home, and is used to establish harmony. Basil grows in great abundance in warmer lands, and is used as a seasoning in many tasty foods.
System: Use of basil by a spellcaster grants a +2 enhancement bonus to Decipher Script and Scry checks. Dried Basil leaves will become scorpions if left on the floor overnight.
Catnip (Catmint, Cat's Wort, Nepeta): Catnip is used in the making of love potions, and is adored by cats and cat monsters.
System: Potions of catnip cause all cats and catlike monsters (including outsiders) and women to view the character as attractive and pleasant company. Initial encounters are always begun at friendly, and all attempts at befriending cats gain a +2 enhancement bonus.
Chamomile (Ground apple, Whig plant, Maythen, Ostar Camomile): Chamomile is used for purification and protection, and can be used in incenses for sleep and meditation.
System: Chamomile medicines grant a +2 to Will saves to resist enchantment effects. It also grants deep sleep when taken before bedtime.
Hyssop (Yssop): Hyssop is used in the cleansing sacred places, cleans corrupting flesh, dispels negative (undead) energies. This herb is also repulsive to incorporeal undead.
System: Hyssop potions cause incorporeal undead (ghosts, spectres, etc) to become Sickened (see page 50 of the Blood and Treasure Players Guide).
Lavender (Asarum, Nardus, Elf-leaf): Lavender is used to treat epilepsy and other disorders of the brain. Used to clean sickrooms and to sweeten the air of wealthy homes.
System: Characters treated with Lavender regain WIS damage at a rate of 2 point per day of rest (light activity, no combat or spellcasting). Complete bed rest restores 4 points per day.
Peppermint (Lammint, Brandy mint): Peppermint is used in healing, purification, and the freshening of foul places. Peppermint grows wild in many regions, and is used in many sorts of tasty foods as well as medicine.
System: Peppermint potions cause corporeal undead (ghouls, zombies etc) to become Sickened (see page 50 of the Blood and Treasure Players Guide).
Rosemary (Compass weed, Polar plant): Rosemary is used in the strengthening the memory and helping the brain. Rosemary is also associated with the fidelity of lovers, and is presented to wedding guests as a gift.
System: Characters treated with Rosemary regain INT damage at a rate of 2 point per day of rest (light activity, no combat or spellcasting). Complete bed rest restores 4 points per day.
Sage (Garden sage): Sage is used as a treatment for ulcers, sores, urination issues and hair regrowth. Sage is also used to increase wisdom and mental acuity.
System: Potions of sage grant a spellcaster a +2 to Concentration checks while casting a spell. Sage treatments also grant a +2 to Fort saves to resist diseases of the bladder, and infections.
Thyme (Common thyme, garden thyme): Thyme is used as an antiseptic, for mummification, healing and to bring about restful sleep. Women who wear thyme on their person are irresistible to men, enhancing the scent of female sexuality.
System: Use of thyme on a patient regains subdual damage at a rate of 2 hit point per hour per character level. Women using thyme gain a +2 enhancement bonus to Trickery checks when dealing with men.
Tobacco Leaf: Tobacco is used to treat muscle spasms, and is beloved by many spirit beings. Smoking of tobacco is widespread throughout the Nine Worlds, with an assortment of specialized blends.
System: Offerings of tobacco grants a user a +2 enhancement bonus to Diplomacy checks when dealing with Air Elementals, Water Elements and Fey. Smoking tobacco grants a +2 to saves to resist fear and paralysis effects.
Valerian (All-heal, Heliotrope, Amantilla, Setwall): Valerian is used for treating menstrual cramps, blood loss, and other physically draining diseases. Valerian is also used as an aphrodisiac.
System: Characters treated with Valerian regain CON damage at a rate of 2 point per day of rest (light activity, no combat or spellcasting). Complete bed rest restores 4 points per day.
Yarrow (Arrowroot, Achillea, Lady's Mantle, Woundwort): Yarrow is uses as an anti-depressant, for healing, and to resist fear effects.
System: If a patient is treated with Yarrow and undergoes complete bed rest (doing nothing for an entire day), the character recovers two times the character's character level in hit points.

This campaign setting uses the Blood and Treasure RPG rules. Its a melding of Old School gaming and the newer, smoother-running games rules. Its a game that is fairly rules light, but has just enough crunch to satisfy my gaming appetite. All the cool kids are doing it.

Nine Worlds Religion

Gods and Religion
The gods of Norse mythology are very different from those in most D&D games. They are extremely flawed, gritty and for lack of a better term; human. These beings would have no “divine rank” as viewed in Deities and Demigods and similar works, but would be more akin to powerful outsiders (celestials, fiends etc). Still, they are specially tied into the tides of Fate, and are all of very high level (18+), making them “god-enough” to the people of Manheim.
Even the weakest of god-kin (Aesir, Vanir and Jotun) will have the waters of creation flowing in his or her veins, making them stronger and more enduring than mortals. They are all extremely long-lived (though not immortal), aging at an extraordinarily slow rate upon reaching adulthood. God-kin are immune to all natural diseases and resistant to conventional injury. God-kin still need to eat, drink, sleep and if not for the magical apples of Idunn, would eventually age and die.
Jotun do not die from old age, but they also do not stay young. Instead they become increasingly large, slow and irratable until they fall into a deep sleep. In this state, they are more like mountains and glaciers than living beings. They can remain in this state indefinitely, awaiting the call to Ragnarok, to tear down the world at last. Woe unto those who disturb a jotun in this state.
All members of one of the pantheons below can sense whenever major events related to the pantheons portfolio takes place in the Nine Worlds. Such events must involve at least 300 beings.

Image: Scythian worshippers of Thor, whom they revere above all of the Aesir. They call him “Torsmannen” or “thunder man”. Clerics focusing so on Thor must choose the domains of Strength and War, choosing the warhammer as his or her favored weapon.

Clerics and Religion
The gods are served by a class of priest-chieftains called the godar (cleric). Worship is usually conducted outdoors, under guardian trees, near sacred wells, or within sacred arrangements of stones. In larger communities, wooden and stone temples are used, with altars and with carved representations of the gods.
Rituals of all kinds are common, but seasonal ceremonies and those relating to marriage, war and death are the most common. Animal sacrifice is a regular practice and human sacrifice in Jotun temples and those dedicated to Hel.
Clerics/Godar: Nine Worlds clerics are generalists, following entire pantheons rather than specific deities. Clerics must choose a pantheon to follow from those below:

The Aesir are a pantheon of fierce deities that dwell primarily in Asgard, a realm above Midgard where they continually prepare for their inevitable wars with the Jotun. These gods value the virtues of courage, endurance, expression and loyalty. Clerics of the Aesir are expected to hold to the values of their gods, but view the cleric/deity relationship more in terms of a series of favors between wary allies rather than slavish devotion. Even the gods must earn respect.
The Aesir dwell primarily in Asgard, a large plane above Midgard. Asgard is a land of wide planes, high mountains and perpetual sunlight. Here the Aesir continually feast and train in preperation of Ragnarok. Most of the Aesir avoid leaving Asgard, rarely travelling to Midgard for any reason. The greatest exceptions to this are Odin, Thor and Tyr.
Duties of the Priesthood: Preparation for Ragnarok is the primary concern of clerics of Aesir. Towards this end they promote martial prowess, physical health and bonds of honor. They also as arbiters of justice and advisors.
Cleric Alignments: Any non-Evil
Clerical Powers: Clerics of the entire Aesir pantheon have the standard "Lawful" cleric powers. Specialty priests can choose from the Air, Good, Knowledge, Magic, Strength, Weather or War domains.
Worshippers: Blacksmiths, Fighters, H-Elves, Humans
Portfolio: Destiny, War
Favored Weapon: Warhammer, speear, axe.

Sample Aesir:
Odin (king of the Aesir and god of magic and war).
Thor (thunder god).
Frigga (queen of the gods and goddess of wives).
Tyr (god of heroism and righteousness).

The vanir are a race of nature gods usually allied with the Aesir, though the two pantheons regularly bicker and feud. All Vanir are beautiful elven beings of deep wisdom and power, they are known as generous though fickle in temperament. These gods value art, bravery, craftsmanship, music and natural beauty over all. War comes easily to them as well, though they do not cherish it for its own sake. Even the Aesir have learned not to underestimate these gods.
Most of the Vanir dwell in Vanaheim in the far East of Midgard. This is a mountainous land covered in lush forests where a great many magical creatures live. Some Vanir dwell in Alfheim amongst the light elves.
Duties of the Priesthood: Clerics of the Vanir must do all that they can to promote prosperity, and a deep love of beauty. They are also called upon to perform marriage rites.
Cleric Alignments: Any Neutral
Clerical Powers: Clerics of the entire Vanir pantheon are always specialists, choosing from the domains of Air, Animal, Earth, Love, Madness, Plant, Trickery and Travel domains.
Worshipers: Bards, druids, elves, foresters, sorcerers.
Portfolio: Cultivation, Fertility
Favored Weapon: Longsword, longbow, dagger

Sample Vanir:
Njord (god of sea travel and merchants).
Frey (god of fertility).
Freya (goddess of fertility).
Golveig (Vanir goddess of divination, witchcraft and foe of the Aesir).
Fulla (goddess of bounty and servant of Freya).

The Jotun (plural jötnar) are a pantheon of divine giants that dwell primarily on Jotunheim, Nifleheim and Muspelheim. They are sometimes standing in opposition to the races of the tribes of the Aesir and Vanir, although they frequently mingle with or intermarry with them. These beings embody all that is terrifying in nature, storms, fire, flood, earthquakes and are known as man-eaters. Some of the Jotun are able to assume human stature and have been known to dwell amongst men, elves and even gods, though this is an exception and not the rule.
Duties of the Priesthood: Clerics of the Jotun must do all that they can to promote aggression and to amass personal power. Harsh lessons, hoarding and tests of physical might are meat and drink to the priesthood.
Cleric Alignments: Any non-Good
Clerical Powers: Clerics of the entire Jotun pantheon have the standard "Chaotic" cleric powers. Specialty priests can choose from the Death, Evil, Fire, Madness, Strength, Water, Weather or War domains.
Worshippers: Giants (all types), Barbarians, Dwarves, Monsters.
Portfolio: Nature, Power
Favored Weapon: Club (any), any large two-handed weapon.

Sample Jotun:
Aegir (god of storms and the deep),
Thrym (king of the frost giants),
Surtur (king of the fire giants),
Loki (god of fire and mischief and actually a giant)
Hel (goddess of death and collector of those who die of disease and old age)

This campaign setting uses the Blood and Treasure RPG rules. Its a melding of Old School gaming and the newer, smoother-running games rules. Its a game that is fairly rules light, but has just enough crunch to satisfy my gaming appetite. All the cool kids are doing it.

I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan