Last time I mentioned that I hadn’t really developed the Midlands section of the Polar Continent mega-setting. Last night, though, I kept mulling it over and rereading various old King Arthur Pendragon game books. What emerged was the post-Arthurian British Isles writ large (the size of North America), a less dysfunctional Holy Roman Empire (and a less inbred Emperor), the Society for Creative Anachronism, a bit of Tolcloning, and self-plagiarism from the setting for “A World of Qi”.
It’s said the Midlands don’t have a religion. This is false. They have The Saga.
The Saga is an epic poem written by diverse and unknown hands and sung by bards, druids, and sometimes Enchantresses to teach the young the history of their lands. It has five parts.
The Age of Gods
In the beginning, the Earth Mother brought forth her first children, the People of the Mountains, whom some call the Giants or the Titans. They were beings of vast elemental power, and they tore the Earth into mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, islands in the Ocean and fires amid ice.
The Earth Mother then brought forth her second children, the People of the Hills, the Blessed Ones, some of whom in our age we call the gods and the fae. Through magical arts and force of arms they forced the Titans under the Fire Mountains of the East and the Ice Mountains of the South and into the vast Ocean where they make high waves and earthquakes.
Their work done, the gods became the protectors of mankind1 while the fae retired to the wild places to while away their endless lives.
Thus ended the First Age.
The Age of the Eldren
The Eldren came not from the Earth Mother but from over the sea. Among them were the Great Eldren – the demigods who shaped the Midlands – and the lesser Eldren who were their kinsmen and followers, the Dark2 Eldren about whom little is known and the Drenn, artificers among the Eldren.
Many are the tales of the Eldren, of love and loss, loyalty and betrayal, great deeds and great follies. In the end, though, the Eldren all but ended their line in a great war between the Mad King Ellyllon and the Dragon Lord Varilothrax. The war blasted the Eldren capitol Kamelon, creating the huge Bay of Sentria, but in the hinterlands one can find their works, statues and castles and temples to unknown gods.
Thus ended the Second Age.
The Age of Heroes
For a long time after humanity lived in small, isolated settlements, warring with each other over territory. The wilderness grew much closer then, so human settlements were but small points of light among the dark, fae-haunted woods.
Then King Parsifal was born.
Heir to the Kingdom of Merilon at the head of the Bay of Sentria, he was grieved to see so many benighted souls resisting the darkness alone. Through force of personality and force of arms he forged the many, many small kingdoms into a single nation under many kings, with himself as High King.
Many, too, are the tales of Parsifal’s conquest, and the kings of the first Kingdoms, and his knights and magicians, and of the wicked necromancers and fae lords they vanquished. It was a time of heroes and villains, of fierce battles and clever stratagems, of low comedy and high adventure, of a time when the last Blessed Ones – Enchantresses, Oracles, and Sidhe – still walked among mankind and advised the Kings and their Lords.
Unlike the Eldren King, High King Parsifal died in bed, surrounded by his five wives, eleven children, and twenty-nine grandchildren. Alas, those children proved the end of Parsifal’s grand kingdom, for the three eldest sons, each from three different wives, squabbled over the kingship of Merilon and the title of High King. In the end, they each declared themselves “high king”, each supported by siblings and lords. The eldest sister Oriana the Cursed, wisest of them all, attempted to make peace and set up quarduple rule with the fourth eldest son as mediator. Alas her pleas fell on deaf ears, in part because (according to rumor) she was a mutant; all portraits of her show her wearing a heavy veil.
Thus ended the Third Age.
The Age of Kings
After the squabbling “High Kings” died the title passed to Oriana’s less ill-favored eldest grandchild, but by that time the title of High King had become mainly ceremonial. Merilon grew into the largest and most prosperous Kingdom, but over a dozen original Kingdoms acrosss the Midlands declared their sovereignty, and other kingdoms, freeholds, and city-states followed suit in the several centuries since.
Here we enter what scholars call “proper history”. Unlike Parsifal and the ages before, musty sages amidst dusty books wrote down names and dates when events happened. We need not depend on the songs of bards and the chronicles of courtiers.
The roads between kingdoms would have fallen into disrepair were it not for the Merchants’ Guild of Merilon, later called the Merchants’ Guild as it “forged ties with” (i.e. acquired) other merchants’ guilds across the land. These communication links led to loose diplomatic relationships between kingdoms and solidifying borders between kingdoms, earldoms3, and “free cities” with no hereditary lords.
Eventually this gave rise to what scholars call the Midlands Covenant. Kings recognized each other as equals, with the High King of Merilon first among equals. Earls and lord mayors may not have been as exalted but sovereigns recognized them as almost equals. Hobgoblins and Drenn received special status as sovereign nations, mostly because one or two showed up to the relevant conferences. (Fae remained enemies of mankind, because they did not.) Kingdoms and lesser polities still had border disputes, but diplomacy resolved disputes faster than arms would have.
Then the Dark Lords appeared.
The Age of Darkness
In the past few decades four “Dark Lords” claimed territory in the frozen southern reaches. They lead armies of evil men, hulking subhuman beings called titanspawn, and revenants (walking dead). Some have even glimpsed demons in their numbers. Newly christened “border lords” have halted their advance for now, but pressure mounts for the High King to assume leadership of the Midlands and raise an army to defeat the Dark Lords. The kings he would take leadership of seem less than enthused.
At this point bards insert their own stanzas complaining about other signs of dire times: Taluan missionaries, demands of the Rurikan Empire, the rising numbers of mutants and witchborn, Drenn artificers taking jobs from honest human artificers, bards not receiving sufficient reward for years of learning and practice, and so forth.
Some have declared the Fourth Age over, and a Fifth Age of Darkness upon the Midlands.
Like other lands on the Polar Continent, the Midlands grows colder the further south one goes until one reaches taiga, tundra, and the icy glacial Polar Mountains.
Most of the Midlands is wilderness, with large yet seemingly pitifully small circles of human habitation called Kingdoms and ancient roads connecting one Kingdom (or earldom, or freehold) to its next nearest. The Midlands also has its share of hills and valleys, ravines and standing rocks, lakes and rivers, barrens and sudden dense groves. Some have called the geography of the Midlands “concentrated”, as one can suddenly run into a moor that extends only a few leagues that borders on barren scrublands.
The coast of the Midlands, while not as spectacular as Vanaheim’s fjords, possesses a lot of coves, lagoons, and bays, with numerous small islands just within rowing distance. It’s a treacherous coast for sailing ships. Prior kings of the coastal regions have built stone lighthouses that still stand today, and despite the docks and wharfs of several smaller ports the safest and largest port remains Merilon in Sentria Bay. Worsening relations with the Rurikan Empire has prompted the Lemurians to build a depot on one of the larger islands. This depot is uncomfortably close to Saints Island, now an unofficial colony of the Empire, so observers expect some conflict going forward.
The holiest place in the Midlands lies off the western coast. Stone Table Island looks like nothing more than a smallish grassy island. In the center stands a circle of inlaid stones, and within that circle barren earth upon which sits a giant four-legged table made of stone. According to legend the gods, fae, and Enchantresses used to work out their differences around the Stone Table. Today, though, the island seems deserted … at least by day. If one stays after nightfall the Sidhe might visit, or haunt, or drive out mortals who trespass on its holy ground.
Society and Politics
The Midlands has been shaped by its history and by a few facts that seem strange to people from the Eastlands or Westlands:
Nearly all Midlanders can use a little magic. A few specialize in magic, and join societies to learn spells not publically available.
The previous fact is possible because the Taluists have yet to take over. So far the Imperial Rurikan Faith has taken over a small island to the east and renamed it Saints’ Island.
Someone offered Western Theocracy use of Stone Table Island, and the legate returned a few days later fuming about the island being a “godless place”.
Much of the Midlands is still wilderness, some of that occupied by the fae. (Contrast that with the Rurikan Empire which has taken over almost all its available area and the Westlands where four groups still fight over arable farmland.)
Despite the lack of a single effective government, the Midlands has a single cultural identity. Part of that flows from its history, and part stems from the inter-kingdom guilds and organizations detailed below.
Emissaries of the gods still walk the Midlands. Vanaheim has its mountains of the gods, and the Northern Kingdoms occasionally sights a Disir. Taluists claim to walk with their One God, but cynics suspect the reassuring voice in a high priest’s head is his own.
The Adventurers’ Guilds
Tme Merchants’ Guild set up the first Adventurers’ Guilds in every kingdom to which they, ah, spread. Originally most had been mercenary companies, gangs of hired muscle, and disbanded guard units contemplating bandritry. The Merchants’ Guild and pressure from their peer guilds turned the Adventurers’ Guild into a Midlands-wide federation of professionally-run organizations.
Their operation follows a pattern found across the multiverse:
- Adventurers join the Guild and gain a rank which determines the most dangerous jobs they can apply for.
- Employers post details of a job that requires people who can defend themselves against bandits, the Midlands’ notorious wildlife, and if necessary other adventurers.
- The reward for the job goes in escrow with the Merchants’ Guild.
- An adventurer or adventurer group with sufficient rank take the job and (hopefully) completes it.
- The (surviving) adventurer(s) get the money, and maybe an increase in rank.
The guild acts as a clearing-house not only for muscle and odd jobs but for teachers of various combat, magical, and adventure-related skills.
The Merchants’ Guild
Starting from a small banking clan in Merilon, what Midlanders call THE Merchants’ Guild has now spread to every Kingdom, nearly every earldom, and even a few border freeholds and outposts. It provides banking services, a stable currency, affordable loans4, real estate services, and letters of introduction between travelers and local businesses, among many other services.
One can also create a deposit account and leave your gold or silver with them. (No copper or lead please.) The accounts do not accrue interest, but they have members of the Adventurers’ Guild guarding the vaults, so your money is safe with them.
Every kingdom has its own peculiar political infighting and social unrest. A few movements, however, have spread across the Midlands:
- Republicanism: Based on some old political works imported from the Empire, a small but vocal minority wants to replace each kingdom’s kings with a system of impartial laws and a government elected by commoners. Rich commoners, apparently.
- Royalists: On the other hand, a group of influential noblemen in Merilon have sparked a movement to make all kings subservient “dukes” of the High King, much like the Imperial nobility in the Rurikan Empire.
- Anti-Artificers: Some very vocal louts want all artificing banned. They fear that magical tools will take the jobs of hard-working serfs. In their ideal world, all farming would rely on commoners using hand tools.
- Militarists: Many mutually contradictory movements agree that something must be done about the Dark Lords in the South. Most advocate gathering an army from all the Kingdoms, but no one can agree who would lead this army. A not very serious proposal would send a lone Hero against the Dark Lords and their yet unseen master (if any).
- Anti-Taluists: Even though all kingdoms echo Vanaheim’s hard stance against Taluism, a small group of fanatics believe that Taluism isn’t a religion but a conspiracy for world domination, and advocate slaying every Taluist in the Midlands. (Of which there are, so far, less than a few thousand, mostly on Saints’ Island.)
While baseline humanity dominates the Midlands, human subspecies, humanoid species, and as yet unclassified beings also play a role in the area.
Big Folk, Little Folk, and Halflings
The three human subspecies defined by size – Big Folk, Little Folk, and Halflings – tend to prefer enclaves of their own kind but interact freely with “normal-sized” folk. There have, however, been incidents:
Superstitious normal-sized peasants often mistake Little Folk children for fae changelings. Communities of Little Folk have established orphanages where they can exchange little folk children for unwanted
Compounding Big Folk’s unease with a world made a size too small, some fools confuse Big Folk with the “titanspawn” or even the Giants of the First Age. This has led to violence and, contrary to popular belief, Big Folk are no more violent, and sometimes considerably less, than other people.
Because of their especially small size, Halflings tend to stay in farms and towns of their own kind, far from “big people”. Entire towns have taken to building homes underground and hiding whenever strangers appear.
In addition to the gods and the fae, the Earth Mother left emissaries to advise mortals: the beautiful and immortal Enchantresses, the mysterious and disturbing Oracles, and the wise but mercurial Sidhe. Each has their ordained role to play:
- Enchantresses train generations of witches and priestesses of the Earth Mother. In the old days they advised kings and archmagi.
- Oracles wait inside their ancient shrines – often little more than caves with a bit of stonework – and answer petitioners’ questions. The answers may disturb a petitioner even more than the Oracle’s form, and some have spitefully suggested Oracles play games with mortals.
- The Sidhe inhabit and tend holy places like Stone Table Island, the Temple of the Earth Mother, and Kamelon Downs.
All the Blessed Ones use magic unknown to mortals. Within some fairly strict limits, they wish something to happen and it does.
The Drenn live mostly in the freezing southern half of the Midlands, and seem to hardly notice the cold. Their blue skin often leads thoughtless people to conclude they’re either beings of cold or they’re dead already. Others note their long, mobile pointed ears and whiteless black eyes and assume they’re Eldren or close relations, which they find insulting.
The Drenn have mastered a form of Artificing that no human can even comprehend, for it depends on centuries of arcane knowledge only a Drenn could have mastered. Others make magic-resistant orichalcum-plated armor; Drenn make orichalcum chainmail that turns spells back on the caster. Others make mithril weapons; Drenn make mithril swords sharp enough to cut silk and strong enough to slice though steel. Some artificers make cunning mechanisms; Drenn make automatons that write what you say and mirrors that peer into other worlds.
At one time the Drenn made all these things for their own amusement. With the Dark Lords encroaching on their homes, a growing number of Drenn have forsaken their hermit-like lives to make weapons for those humans willing to repel the Dark Hordes.
While none have sighted a full-blooded Eldren for several hundred years, the Elfkin – humans with purported Eldren blood – have become familiar if not exactly common sights in the Midlands.
Elfkin vary in height from small and wiry to tall and slender. All have a light build and an “Eldren look”: usually fair hair, sharp features, eyes in pale and sometimes metallic hues. They possess innate talents to sense the emotions and sometimes the thoughts of other people, to see brief visions of the past or future, and to communicate with each other without words.
Elfkin gravitate to careers as magicians or priests, or else freelance “loner” jobs like hunter, travelling merchant, sailor, or adventurer.
The fae have no one form, but many forms: squat obscene goblins, tall but forbidding fae knights, alluring but treacherous maidens, ghostly lights, moving trees, changeling children, dopplegangers, talking beasts, and things even more eerie. Few dare to go into the woods where fae allegedly make their homes; some peasants leave them offerings on ancient altars and scurry home before nightfall.
Tales abound of heroes sleeping until the High King calls, isolated keeps run by the same knight for thousands of years, and ancient barrows whose tenants punish thieves. Some have even sworn that a hermit or traveler has not aged for several decades.
Whatever the truth, these so-called Immortals do not want to be disturbed. Even those living something like a normal life keep mostly to themselves, and manners preclude nosy neighbors from doing the same.
The short, green, comical travellers called Hobgoblins5 wander the roads within and between Kingdoms in gaudily painted caravans. Most people know them as craftsmen, entertainers, and sellers of dubious merchandise. Some suspect them of being thieves. But with their odd-looking clothes and funny accents – despite living in the Midlands all their lives – they’re harmless. Right?
Yet many also know the stories of people who crossed the Hobgoblins. “Hobs” will leave if you ask, politely or not. But it’s said those who lay a hand on a Hobgoblin, or vandalizes their meager belongings, suffer a horrible curse. Stories differ on what that curse is, but it’s undoubtedly horrible.
And it’s true.
Lemurians originated long ago on a continent that slowly sank into the sea. They are one people but two species, the dark-skinned and somewhat short human Lemurians (or “Youngers” in their tongue) and the tall, black-scaled reptilian Lemurians (or “Elders” in their tongue). They believe that the progenitors of both species hatched from a single clutch of eggs, even though neither species lays eggs.
While their largest outpost in the Polar Continent is in Vanaheim – excluding the now closing Muran Island Depot – many have settled in Merilon or other seaport towns. Their brightly colored clothes and cheerful egotism stand out in any crowd.
Every so often a human child is born … different. Some times it’s animal-like characteristics: a prehensile tail, cat-ears, claws, horns, hooves. Sometimes the changes look more demonic, like brightly or darkly colored skin, strange eyes, fangs. Sometimes the change isn’t visible, but they can hear thoughts, conjure fire, or jump enormous distances without ever learning a syllable of magic.
Theories abound about how these children acquire their traits. Most involve congress with demons or punishment for sins, so we will not list them here.
Sadly there’s no bald patron for these children. Some hide their powers, others pass it off as magic, still others dare the Druids or king’s guards to come for them. (They don’t. They’re lucky they weren’t born in the Empire or the Theocracy.) Mostly they just endure the stares of “normal” people.
The children of mutants are invariably mutants, but their mutations mostly appear random. A few consistent bloodlines have emerged.
- Beastfolk bloodlines possess a consistent set of animal traits suggesting a specific animal: cat, dog, raccoon, bear, rabbit, etc.
- Devilkin, Demonspawn, or Cambions have “demonic” traits like cloven hooves, unnaturally coloration, slitted pupils, horns, tails with barbs or pointed tips, even vestigial wings.
- “Gifted” have a barely acceptable trait like uncanny strength and speed (the “Warrior’s Gift”) or the ability to heal wounds with a touch (the “Healer’s Gift”). These stay surprisingly stable, leading to speculation they’re not “mutations” but gifts of the Enchantresses.
- Unnaturals or “Witchbreed” (no relation to Witchborn) have few if any outward sign of their nature but one day awaken with some quasi-magical talent, often after puberty.
While any mortal may learn witchcraft under the tutelage of another witch, those born with witchcraft – witches, warlocks, “psychics”, and other users of magic – pose a special challenge to their parents, guardians, and elder witches.
A born witch’s powers first manifest at puberty when she6 inadvertently casts minor hexes in times of stress. (Puberty can be a stressful time.) Most result in minor accidents, objects breaking, and the like, but the wrong hex can be dangerous. A self-selected group of witches called “Tracers” use genealogical information and rumors to find witches before they cause serious harm or death … or incite villagers to kill them. (Even commoners comfortable with spells find a young girl who brings uncontrollable disasters unsettling.)
Senior witches first remove the witchborn from her family and village then train her to feel and control her power. When the witchborn can restrain her power despite provocation, senior witches deem her safe. Almost always the young witch then apprentices with the witch or Circle that found her.
Unlike the more or less unified Adventurers’ Guilds, magical knowledge resides in dozens if not hundreds of magical societies. Each of these societies has a particular focus:
- A god from the First Age.
- A particular profession, social class, or area of interest.
- A school or style of magic, including artificing, druidism, witchcraft, theurgy (a.k.a. mageia7), and thaumaturgy (a.k.a. wizardry). The latter two are schools of magic from Zanathar which have gained students in the east Midlands.
Religions of the Gods
While the Midlands has only one real religion, it has multiple gods, sometimes with multiple epithets, aspects, or distinguising attributes. Each god’s sect not only teaches its own obscure or secret style of magic but provides minor mundane benefits for true believers.
Despite their wildly different beliefs, each of these sects has roughly the same structure:
- a temple open to curious members of the public.
- invitations for regular visitors to join a secret circle of believers.
- a system of ranks based on demonstrated religious knowledge to decide who can learn what secrets.
- mundane but mysterious benefits that accrue to the truly faithful.
These are the typical titles in a sect. Not every sect has Acolytes or High Priests.
|≥ 75%||High Priest|
|99%-100%||Most High Priest, Patriarch/Matriarch, etc.8|
Progress beyond Lay Member depends on the aspirant’s Religion (god).
Priests of all gods remain friendly with nearly all other gods, although those whose gods have profound conflicts of interest remain wary of each other. They also remain at least polite with priests and believers of foreign gods … except the Taluists. They know what’s happened in the Eastlands and Westlands, and both they and their many powerful faithful want none of it.
Guilds, Orders, and Schools
Several other organizations in the Midlands teach magic (and other things). These include:
- Guilds of specific professions.
- Orders of knights or magicians
- Schools of academic, magical, martial, and mystical arts.
Nearly all such organizations teach spells, alchemical formulas, rituals, and even skills not commonly available.
Access to restricted spells, formulas, and disciplines depends on one’s Rank in the guild, school, or order. Typically this depends on proficiency in one or more of the organization’s signature skills, e.g. Craft or Lore (subject). Note that promotions are not automatic; the character must demonstrate their proficiency in a practical test.
Informal rank structures follow this pattern:
|≤ 25%||Associate Member, “Friend of …”|
|> 25%||Regular Member|
|> 75%||Guiding Member, Inner Circle Member, Chapter Head, Master|
|100%||Founder, Grand Master|
Formal rank structures in these organizations follow this pattern:
|Membership >||Guild||School||Magical Order9||Mystical Order|
|100%||Guild Master||Headmaster||Archmage||Grand Master|
Alchemist and Artificer Orders use Guild titles. Even if they do not have a recognized Alchemists’ or Artificers’ Guild they still follow a guild structure.
Knightly orders have the added requirement that an applicant be a knight.
|Membership >||Knightly Order|
The Sacred Order of Druids
Druids follow not one god but all of them, including and especially the Earth Mother. In the Second and Third Ages they recited the Saga and preserved other Lore necessary for civilization. They acted as mediators and peacemakers, untroubled by the petty rivalries of priests and kings.
Requirements for a Druid
Joining the Order of Druids is a grueling process, perhaps more than necessary. Prospective druids must have following:
- The respect if not admiration of their community.
- A pleasant speaking and singing voice.
- A memory for vast amounts of lore.
- Intact male genitalia.
This last requirement cannot be waived. Many women have tried. The Order of Druids forbids Druids from ever revealing their secrets to a woman, upon pain of excommunication.
Growth as a Druid
Druids must become proficient in their largely oral religious traditions, the Saga and other legends and myths, and magic. Druids must become proficient in the following:
Religion (Druid) concerns itself less with gods and more with secret lore and rites from the Earth Mother Herself.
Lore (Bardic) concentrates not on any one set of legends, myths, or histories but on the whole Saga itself. One also learns it in rhyme, with musical accompaniment.
Magic Casting is the same skill other users of magic employ.
These are the ranks in the Order of Druids11.
|Religion (Druidism)||Lore (Bardic)||Title|
|43%||Initiate of the First Circle12|
|72%||Initiate of the Twelfth Circle|
|≥ 90%||≥ 75%||Archdruid Emeritus13|
Members of the Druidic Order called Bards learn and retell folklore and myth in song, frequently with a harp or other stringed instrument. Some forsake the Order of Druids to join a splinter sect, the College of Bards.
|Religion (Druidism)||Lore (Bardic)||Membership (C of B)||Title|
Druids look down on Bards who never return for their Initiations. What they think of troubadors who call themselves “bards” without having learned Bardic lore is unprintable. And don’t get them started on female singers …
Witches who live and work near each other gather into Circles. Contrary to popular belief a Circle may consist of dozens of witches or as few as three. (Two witches are more of a line, really.)
Witches in a Circle train new witches, discuss problems and concerns among the peasants they tend, and compare (or compete) with other witches over their knowledge of the Craft. Often they gather together to celebrate witches’ holy days and joyous events. If the witches of a Circle find the distance daunting, they gather in the Spirit World or dream worlds instead.14
The Origin of Witches
Sometime during the rise of the Eldren, the Enchantresses bestowed upon a group of women special powers beyond those of mortals. These were the first witches. These women passed their Gift from mother to daughter to the present day.
On rare occasions a witch or Enchantress will discover a young woman has a latent Gift, and if the young girl is willing a witch will awaken her Gift and make her a full witch.
A Witch’s Progress
A new witch or warlock – the common term for male witches – joins a circle as soon as possible, ideally at puberty when their powers begin to manifest. Another witch helps them get their powers under control. Then a senior witch finds them apprenticeship with an older witch to learn Witchcraft and practical mundane skills.
Once they learn the basics the witch or warlock then apprentices under a few (or several) other witches until their mentors deem them fit to be called a “Wise Woman” or “Cunning Man”. At that point the senior witches assign them a cottage and a group of villages to serve.
The actual work of witches is not all banishing fae and dancing in moonlight. Younger witches especially must do what other worlds would call “social work” in the villages near their cottage.
|Religion (Witchcraft)||Membership (circle)||Witch (F)||Warlock (M)|
|75%||Wise Woman||Cunning Man15|
Forms of Address
|Maiden / Postulant||“Child”|
|Apprentice||Sister / Brother, Daughter / Son|
|Wise Woman / Cunning Man||Mistress / Master|
|High Priestess||Reverend Mother|
From Witch to Priestess
A witch who shows remarkable grace under pressure may learn the deeper mysteries of witchcraft from the Circle’s priestesses, taking the title Priestess herself. Of whom she is a priestess is one of those mysteries.
A High Priestess shows extraordinary magical and leadership abilities, as decided by a majority of Priestesses. (More strict circles will not allow a woman to become a High Priestess if she has married or has children.) A High Priestess may then found her own circle and recruit new witches to it.
A Crone is a Priestess or High Priestess who has retired from leading the Circle but still advises the junior witches and takes on occasional duties. Traditionally a witch becomes a “crone” after menopause. Scholars allege this event gives her power, but it’s more likely she has accumulated power all her long life.
Properly speaking, all Witches are female. This has annoyed male magicians no end, particularly those who covet the spells, rituals, and formulas only witches know. Druids allegedly set their “no women” rule expressly because of witches.
When the original Witches had children, some of them were male. Druids called them “warlocks” after an old term for an “oath-breaker”; in their minds men with witch powers violates the natural order.
Warlocks cannot progress higher than a “Cunning Man” in witches’ Circles. Some warlocks have tried forming Warlock Circles and even appointing themselves Priests. The fact remains, however, that Warlocks remain both less than half as common as witches and noticeably less powerful than their sisters. Even if they learned the secrets of the Priestesses, they might not be able to use them.
As this article ran long with all the various amendments and elaborations, a shallow wading into the specific OpenQuest mechanics for each of these magic systems will have to wait until next time.
The Saga only introduces mankind at the end of the First Age, and only as an aside. Various scholars have put forth multiple theories, sometimes two or three at a time. Some believe mankind migrated from the Westlands and/or the Eastlands. Others believe that mankind always lived in the Midlands during the First Age, and the struggle between the anti-human Titans and vaguely pro-human Blessed Ones happened in a realm beyond human senses … like the realm where the fae dwell today. ↩︎
Dark as in unknown, not as in a dark complexion. In point of fact, though, the Dark Eldren – a.k.a. Dark Elves and Dark Folk – appear on bas reliefs as mere silhouettes. ↩︎
“Earls” are usually the lords who rule a kingdom’s surrounding lands in the king’s stead, but increasingly independent lords who rule smaller lands have adopted the title “Earl” over that of “King”. The word originally comes from the Westlands, where it used to mean the ruler of a petty kingdom or freehold. ↩︎
The Merchants’ Guild follows an old law that bans usury. They get around this restriction either by buying assets outright and asking for repayment at a modest markup or by charging late fees for money not returned within a specific time frame. ↩︎
To distinguish them from the more malevolent fae called “goblins”. ↩︎
An evolution of the magic of Rurikania’s Magi. ↩︎
Typically the leader of the entire religion or sect. ↩︎
Some say these titles came from Zanathar. ↩︎
Some guilds put their professional title here: Tailor, Weaver, Potter, Warrior, etc. ↩︎
Yes, this is kind of a joke based on AD&D level names. In practice most of the “restricted” and “secret” spells would come to a Druid at Ovate, Bard, Druid, and Hierophant levels. The Initiates would receive a trickle of new spells just to keep them interested … a bit like some real world cults I don’t want to sue me. ↩︎
At this point the Druid instructors drill Initiates on lots of Druidic law, precedent, history, legend, and trivia. Progress on meaningful information slows to a crawl. ↩︎
The Archdruid steps down from administrative duties to concentrate on study and religious duties. ↩︎
Witches do not fly on brooms. They fly through non-corporeal worlds one night, dance with brooms the next. ↩︎
Warlocks can rise no higher in witches’ circles, and many traditional circles don’t accept men at all. ↩︎