Friday, February 27, 2015


Before I can explain about Orcs, I have to explain about Kobolds and Ogres.

Before I can explain about Kobolds and Ogres, I have to explain about the Planes.

At the dawn of what could narrowly be called History, as the Power of the Elemental Kings began to wane, formless intelligences coalesced in the voids left behind.

Some of these Spirits loved Order, and they gathered together, concentrating their power and their ideals in a vast, blindingly pure light: the Beacon. Infinitely, unreachably far from the Beacon, there is a place where all Order dissolves, a roiling blackness of gathered Entropy: the Abyss.

Around each of these, new Spirits took form, attuned to their own environments. So some favored the light. Some favored the dark. Over the rubble of the Elemental Crossroads, under the infant stars, they clashed.

Away from the ideological purity of their homes, the Spirits were forced to adapt, over time becoming Creatures. They spread across the sky, the land, the ocean, having traded some of their eternal essence to adapt to a material environment.

In this way the First Ones came into being, creatures with a footing in the world but still unmistakeably of Order or of Chaos.  From the First Ones arose the Successors, who were even more a part of the world but even less able to express their essential being apart from the material.

Great embodiments of Sloth from the Abyss became the cruel Ogres. Impulsiveness developed into the skittish Kobold. Ogres breed in pairs, male and female, but slowly and rarely. Kobolds, though, reproduce on their own, ossifying bodily to produce a clutch of eggs.

No one knows whether jealousy or fear or something undefined drove the first Ogre Magi to experiment on the Kobold, or whether captive rivals or volunteers of their own families were combined with the smaller creature. What is known, which has come down in oral tradition from the dim days of the Successors, is that Ogres combined with Kobolds to create the Orcs.

Ecology of the Orc - Biology Textbook Graphic Descriptions Incoming

Consider the Orc female Yolanda approaching physical maturity, age 10. She is not much different from her brother Paolo externally, but within her, hormones are producing major changes. As her first ovulation cycle approaches in the height of the summer, her hips widen and soften; she will find it increasingly painful to walk as the days grow longer. Menarche is a sacred time for the entire clan, and they rally around Yolanda to make her comfortable and keep her fed since she cannot do it herself. The Shaman chant over her and give her herbs to relieve her pain.

Yolanda's destiny is to be the mother of a new clan stronghold. The clan has known this was coming.  The Clan Mother now finalizes the Pioneer Consort who will journey with Yolanda once her menstrual cycle has finished. Packs and wagons are prepared, and 20 to 30 Orcs, including a Shaman, will escort Yolanda and her Consort to her new home. They will establish a new outpost of the clan. Next summer, she will reproduce.

Paolo's physical maturity manifests differently. With food he puts on muscle, becoming better at hunting and fighting. His metabolism is efficient at growth, but this comes at a cost. Orc males rapidly deteriorate as they approach 40 years of age, and 50 is never reached.

As the height of her 11th summer approaches, Yolanda's reproductive hormones are even stronger. Her hips widen and soften to an even greater degree; as she enters estrus, she is incapable of walking. She is made comfortable by her young clan in her lair. Her body emits a mixture of intense pheromones, exposure to which over many days will ready her Consort for breeding; Orcs cannot otherwise present sexually. The Shaman oversees the conception rites.

If all goes well, 12-48 whelps grow within Yolanda. One of these, the largest, will be a daughter, the rest sons. Yolanda grows to enormous size over the next 6 months, from roughly 100 pounds to 600 pounds, becoming completely immobile. Her womb overgrows her legs, but her hands and arms become wickedly powerful; her nails, strong curved talons. Her breasts swell with milk. She constantly demands food, trinkets and entertainment.

When the nights have grown cold and long, the litter is born, with the Shaman acting as midwife. Yolanda's abdomen is now massive folds of skin. Her legs have been mangled and softened during gestation. She will never stand or walk again.

Yolanda can bear a litter every year. Typically, however, after the seventh, the Clan Mother's hair will turn white. As her mother and the Shaman had told her, this means her fertility is at its end. But they also told her that there is another way.

They told her that her seventh daughter will steal her fertile essence when she enters the world. They told her that the Shaman can repair this, with her permission.  The Shaman takes the newborn Orc daughter, a Princess of the Clan like her, and prepares her specially, according to the ancient rite. Yolanda knows it to be the truth. She consumes the consecrated flesh, blood and bones of her nameless daughter, and her hair returns to its lustrous black. She will be fertile again in the summer. As long as her clan can support a Shaman and a Consort, she can do this every single year, remaining young and fertile forever.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Arts and Practices of Wizardry: The Collegia Infinitum

Traditionally, Wizards use Intelligence, because of all the character classes the Wizard needs to be able to read. What are they reading? I propose that Wizarding is a course of training which the intelligent can be taught to utilize in a systematic way: the standard list of spells.

(I use a system of Wizarding which I call Charm Sorcery: Wizards focus energy through a material talisman which is not consumed except with a fumble (the charm acts as a "fuse" which overloads when overpowered, sparing the Wizard the same result). Each spell has its own charm, the construction of which is de rigeur for lower level spells and more complex as the spell power rises. The Wizard must necessarily carry a talisman for each spell they wish to cast. Sleight-of-hand is a component of Wizardcraft: quickly producing a charm, gesturing with and chanting over it; palming and swapping various charms to cast different spells in succession.)

Octo Artis, Quadra Practica

Every Wizard-in-Training must learn the fundamental practices of Magic, the Quadra Practica:

Scribēre (Inscription) - the reading and writing of magical texts
Fizzix (Mixing) - the creation of potions, elixirs and other short-term effects
Theorie (Theory) - the research of the concepts of magical power and effects
Telesma (Talisman) - the creation of "Charms" through which to channel magical power

The Wizard continually improves these practical skills throughout their lifetime, but the most exciting work is done within one of the Octo Artis, the Eight Arts:

Divinata (Divination) - the Art of Observation
Abjurata (Abjuration) - the Art of Defense
Conjurata (Conjuration) - the Art of Calling Forth
Transmutata (Transmutation) - the Art of Change
Evocare (Evocation) - the Art of Projection
Encantare (Enchantment) - the Art of Manipulation
Ludare (Illusion) - the Art of Deception
Antitheare (Antithemancy) - the Art of Entropy

The Collegia Infinitum

"The Ancients discovered magic, but we codified it. At the Collegia Infinitum, we take your bright young mind and train it to harness the wonders of the cosmos. Apply today!"

The Collegia Infinitum is a vast university in the great city of Marienburg concerned with the tutelage of Wizards. Forging a Wizard is not easy; the training must begin before puberty takes hold or the Wizard's final potential will be stunted.

Ludum Prima: the Primary School

The Ludum Prima accepts students at or after their 11th birthday; there is a provision for advanced placement testing before entry. Each Prospectus has an academic advisor assigned to them in order to help schedule classes and choose their Artis Majora. There are eight Arts to study; however, much of the student's time is consumed with the fundamentals, the Quadra Practica.

Most students only pursue 1-2 Arts in their five years of study, as the sheer volume of knowledge a student must absorb in just the Practica is quite demanding. At the end of five years of study, the 15-year old student takes the Examinata Prima for each subject. One who graduates is called a Prestidigitator (qv, a 1st-Level Wizard). Many Prestidigitators decide at this point that they are done with school, and venture out into the larger world to make their mark with other adventurers. The cemeteries would be full of these rash young mages, if their ends were met closer to civilization.

Academie Praeparatoria: the Preparatory Academy

This secondary school only accepts the top 20% of Prestidigitators, continuing their training in the Quadra Practica and their chosen Artis. At the end of the two years of instruction, the 17-year old student (now, a 2nd-Level Wizard) earns a Diploma and would be qualified to act as an Apprentis to a more established Wizard, or they could choose to continue their education.

The Collegia

The Eight Arts each have their own School in the Collegia (Schola Divinata, etc.). Although courses in Antithemancy are taught, due to social and religious concerns it is not offered as an undergraduate Artis Majora; since one cannot earn a Degree in Antithemancy, many students ignore the branch completely.

All students must complete the General Course of study: a full year of collegiate Quadra Practica, higher-level courses each year in two selected Practica concentrations, and a progression of Ex Artis courses separate from the selected Artis Majora. This is intended to give the student a well-rounded view of all the Arts and Practices of Wizardry.

Meanwhile, study in the Wizard's Artis Majora intensifies. To graduate from an Artis Schola, a Thesis Work must be produced: commonly, a Wizard will inscribe a staff with the talisman-effects of the most advanced spells he knows, and demonstrate this feat before a Thesis Board. The successful Wizard (3rd-Level) has earned the title Diurnus, a journeyman who is qualified "to earn a day's pay."

Graduate Studies

Education can continue in the Maesterie Program. The most ambitious of these Diurnus would apply for a Fellow-Apprenticeship in their Artis Schola, giving them a work-study position attached to a Professor in their Artis as well as certain other privileges on campus. The coursework at and beyond this level is concentrated on research of advanced magicks and theoretical explorations of the Eight Arts. Completion of a Maesterie usually takes two years and requires time spent as a Professor of Knowledge, instructing undergraduate students in the Collegia.

Beyond Maestery, a student can dedicate themselves to research and advanced learning and achieve their Doctorate in two to four years, depending on their talent and the complexity of their research. Instructors with this degree are called Docents.


0th - Prospectus, age 11
1st - Prestidigitator, age 15
2nd - Apprentis, age 17
3rd - Diurnus, age 21
4th - Maester, age 23
5th - Doctor, age 25


A/Masterful "Magister" ★,
B/Exceptional "Exceptum" ☆
C/Adequate "Adequus" ✓,
D/Teachable "Dictum" X,
F/Financial "Finis" ƒ (indicating that instruction should continue as long as tuition is paid)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dinky Little Villages

I've been reading a lot of DM blogs lately; picking up some neat ideas, filing some away, and fiddling with others. One of the neatest ideas I've seen is Dice-Drop Villages, but it seems that most people are tied to ZakS' Letter/Number Street Mapping when they do this. Here's my take on the way I plan to use the idea.  Source 1, Source 2 , Source 3

Step Zero: Pre-Planning

You can skip this entirely if this is the very first village in your world. But in case it's not, let's think about the minimum village possible. It has minimal occupancy, only one path in, and not much in the way of outstanding features. Call it a Size One Village.

At the other end of the spectrum would be a Size Ten Village: nearly a Town, it might be at a crossroads, with multiple paths through the Village and a good number of local merchants and other features.  If you want to go past Size Ten, I don't think the methods here are the way to go, but feel free to let me know how your experiments go.

If you have some idea of the larger environment beyond the Village itself, this will help to choose the size of the Village.  If you don't, there are a few ways to determine this.

Method 1, "I have no idea what I'm doing":

Roll 1d6 for Village Size. If it's 4+, assume the Village is on a traveled route, that is, there are two ways out of the area. If it's 5+, assume the route is either a major highway, a navigable waterway, or both.

Method 2, "I have some idea of what I'm doing":

Roll 1d3 for Village Size. Add 1 for each additional route out of the area beyond the first. Add 2 instead if the route is a major highway or a navigable waterway. Add 1d3 if you know there's a Town or City within a day or two's ride.

Note that a "navigable waterway" is different from just having a freshwater stream; think a major river or the sea.

Step One: Pick Up and Drop

You know how large the Village is (let's say Size Six for this example). Pick up Six white dice. Hold on. Now pick up Six red dice. (They don't have to be red and white, but half should be easily distinguished from the other half) Get a piece of paper, or two, or four, and drop them bad boys.

Step Two: Improvements

See your red dice? Those are your major features, the Improvements which give the Village some character. What are they? You've already rolled, so check the Improvements Table:


        1.    Tithe Barn -> Chapel -> Church
        2.    Tavern -> Inn
        3-4  Craftsmen
        5.    Smithy -> Mill
        6.    Stables -> Council Hall -> Great Home -> Keep

Some lines have Greater Improvements possible in the case of doubles and triples:
  •  If you rolled two 1's, this indicates a Tithe Barn and a Chapel. If you rolled three 1's, this indicates two Tithe Barns and a Church. Further 1's are treated as Craftsmen.
  • If you rolled two 2's, this indicates a Tavern and an Inn. Further 2's are Craftsmen.
  • If you rolled two 5's, this indicates a Smithy and a Mill. Further 5's are Smiths.
  • If you rolled two 6's, this indicates a Stables and a Council Hall. Three 6's indicate both, plus a Great Home in the village: a Mansion or even a Keep. A fourth 6 can be a second Stable (indicating an upper class Stable and a lower class Stable), or the 4th and beyond can be re-rolled, or count them as elite Craftsmen, such as jewelers or bookbinders.

Drawing Improvements

Now it's time to trace the property outlines for the Improvements.  Draw boxes around the red dice as follows, noting the type of building within the shape:
  • Craftsmen, Smithy: square the size of the d6
  • Tithe Barn, Chapel, Stables: rectangle the size of 2d6
  • Tavern, Mill: L-shape the size of 3d6
  • Council Hall, Mansion, Inn: square the size of 4d6
  • Church, Keep: rectangle the size of 6d6
Once the shapes are traced and types noted, you can remove the red dice.

Step Three: Residents

Make sure your white dice are outside the boundaries of the Improvements you just traced. I treat each PIP on the dice as a full family dwelling; each die, then, can be thought of as a neighborhood. For each white die, draw a d6-sized square for each PIP. These are individual homes, clustered together around where the white die dropped. Each dwelling represents a family, not an individual resident. Once you've drawn a square for each pip on a die, remove it.

Step Four: Clean-Up and Finish

Remember Step Zero where you determined the routes in and out of the village and whether there is a waterway? Time to draw those among your layout. That's it. You're pretty much done.

I suppose you might want to determine what kinds of Craftsmen are in those spots, what kind of Smiths or Mills are here, etc., but that's beyond this quick and dirty method of generating your Dinky Little Village, and I won't tell if all your Smiths are Blacksmiths and all your Mills are Flour Mills.

Feel free to let me know what you think about this modification. My thoughts in developing this were aligned with the idea that a Village doesn't evolve in a vacuum, that there is an increasing likelihood of certain Improvements as the Size of a Village increases, and that a Size X Village wouldn't have X
 houses, but rather X neighborhoods.