Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bastion, Outpost of Law

[just in case anyone’s curious, this whole Goblin thing is a total mish-mash of influences, including Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels (specifically the Terra-Darkovan culture conflict), my recent trip to Spain (and the Moorish conquest and subsequent reconquista), as well as the Hobgoblin beer and Yule Time folklore…however, I kind of want to add polar bears to the mix, a la The Golden Compass, because…well, because I love polar bears, dammit! And bears seem to be a recurrent theme in my B/X games for some reason]

Griffon Crag Keep looks down from its rocky perch on the walled town of Bastion, northernmost stronghold of Law in the Barony of Fauntleroy. In better times, Fauntleroy himself was known to summer at Griffon Crag, but the lord is now advanced in years, and has been seen only once or twice in Bastion since war’s end. The baron’s immediate family has not been seen since before that, though it is rumored that his son Geoffrey may be given over to the Keep and Town as seneschal before too long.

It has been long since those “better times” were known in Bastion. The town has recovered somewhat since the Goblin War ended and the Winter Truce signed. But six years without open war seems little like “peace” when the goblins still raid outlying farms and when every young man and woman of good character and sound body is raised and trained in the martial arts.

The Church is the center of this training, at least until a youth is old enough to choose the career that best fits his or her temperament. The Hanged God Our Savior may have died nine centuries ago, but His strength in the face of adversity has shaped the will for the generations that followed, giving them an obstinate countenance that has served them well in times of hardship…even if it sometimes fails to endear them to those less devout.

The priests of the Church are tasked with making every youth with promise a shield of defense and an instrument of retribution, and between the ages of 12 and 17 they are trained in the use of arms and armor, riding and discipline. That they learn the doctrine and dogma of the Church goes without saying, but most have been exposed to the teachings of the Hanged God long before they are old enough to wield an axe or tilt with lance and shield.

True, some youth are deemed unfit for training as God’s soldiers, either through a trick of Fate or as a product of poor upbringing. These youth are released from their service and encouraged to do what they can in honor of the Hanged God. Others…especially those from the poorest of homesteads and the farthest of outlying farms…never bother to petition for service when they reach the proper age. These wretched creatures are still deemed to be members of the flock and worthy of Church protection, though they may lack somewhat in the standing of the community.

Unmarried youth without responsibilities (i.e. those required to take up their parents’ trade) are given a choice after four years of training: they may seek a tradecraft, they may take service with the Lord, or they may pledge themselves to the Church. Those that seek a trade are welcome to do so, and generally become upstanding members of the community (though these will seldom become adventurers in later life). Those who choose to become career soldiers will move to the Griffon Crag Keep where they will be drilled in the discipline of the fighting man (or woman) until released from service by their lord.

Those who pledge themselves to the Church become members of The Faithful; the Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) devoted to the active defense and promotion of the Church, and the ministration of the community. These clerics (commonly called “Brother” or “Sister” until achieving the rank of Patriarch/Matriarch after which time they receive the honorific “Father” or “Mother”) are strictly bound by the tenets of the Church, and express their commitment by taking a lifelong vow of Chastity, being effectively “married to the Church.” Service to the Church is unto death…very few clerics will leave the ranks of the Faithful once they take service, and those few that do can seldom find a way to reintegrate themselves into regular society, instead choosing to live outside of civilization as hermits or ascetics.

Some, of course, choose to leave Church service for love, breaking their vows and marrying; however, these individuals are considered apostate by many members of the clergy (and some among the laity) and often derided or snubbed for their choice…although their children are generally held blameless and may even become clerics themselves when grown!

In addition to these standard defenders – the soldiers and the Faithful – the town of Bastion is fortified by the good faeries that allied themselves with Fauntleroy in the last years of the Goblin War. This contingent is led by Bleys Auberon, elf prince in exile. Prince Bleys is tall and handsome, his hair and beard red-blonde, and his silver-traced sword is of the finest faerie craftsmanship. His followers are few…no more than a hundred stalwart elves, dwarves, and brownies…but all are valuable fighters, and have been exemplary members of the community, despite some antipathy with the Church (the faeries do not pay homage to the Hanged Savior, though they do not disparage the humans’ worship).

Even before the war, the occasional human sought out the faeries for training in the magical arts, and Bleys has allowed this practice to continue. In fact, with the faeries in such close proximity (residing in Bastion!) the access to such training is more readily available than it was before the war. However, the Church frowns on the use of faerie magic, considering its use unnatural in humankind, and the practice of magic use is grounds for expulsion from the martial training program…something which has led to heated disputes between Church officials and the barony (the latter of whom sees magic-use as a potent weapon for the arsenal, like the faeries themselves).

The elves are actually somewhat surprised by the humans mastery of magic forces; apparently, being ostracized by their own kind and being kept out of the Church causes human magic-users to focus all their energy and ambition on the magical practice. Prince Bleys can even see a time in the not-too-distant future when humans themselves have the capacity to train their own kind….

Outside the walls of Bastion are many farms and homesteads, most of which depend on the soldiery of Griffon Crag for defense. Some large tracts are held by minor nobles who have their own knights and men-at-arms for defense…but no small landholder can hope to stand against the full array of goblin forces. In addition to goblin forces, the woods and hills surrounding Bastion are not nearly as tamed as they were before the war, and fell creatures prowl the land, snatching livestock and the occasional homesteader caught out-and-about after sundown.

Not that there is much reason to wander: north of Bastion is all goblin infested wilderness to the icy coast of the North Sea, and the Bear Folk are just as dangerous (if not outright hostile) as the dark faeries. To the east are nigh impenetrable mountains; once the site of several dwarf holds, now over-run with goblins and the occasional fire drake. The west is as forested as the north, and largely unknown; legend says that there are ancient ruins of a long lost civilization, the forerunners of the first humans to settle the land, struck down in their pride and power. Only to the south will one find more civilization, not less, including Tours, ancestral seat of the barony and site of Castle Fauntleroy itself. The forces of Baron Fauntleroy are strong, but the baron relies on his outlying outposts to care for their own defense. Were the goblins forces to launch a new war against Bastion, it is doubtful that any help would arrive before the fall of the city.

[how’s that for a campaign setting? Just needs a few random tables for campaign-specific character creation, right?]


  1. Very intriguing. Keep us posted on updates, locations, and random tables (assuming they don't give too much away for your potential players).

  2. I'm guessing you're not quite ready, but I'd say let's just start now. Screw Keraptis and his stolen weapons...he can keep 'em.

  3. I'm totally digging this. One of the most flavourful bits is putting Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings all together as Faeries. It effectively signals "This is not Middle-earth" or, more really, "This is not my third-generation Middle-earth derived-setting. I get a great visual of the Elf-Prince holding court over the all the diverse fae. Kinda of Narnia-ish (in a good way).

    Hmn, that makes me think about your Bears. Narnia kind of mashed-up traditional faeries with Talking Animals and demi-folk like Centaurs and Fauns. Any thought of those or do you want to keep these more clearly Northern European.

  4. @ IG: I thought you might say something like that...
    ; )

    @ Matthew: Not really looking for Narnia...definitely looking for a more sinister feel (and the bears aren't Panzerbjorn with fire throws and such...I think they're just really, really smart bears). Definitely it's taking on a bit of an Anglophile feel, but I'm more interested in cultivating a Last Unicorn vibe than C.S. Lewis.

    Another inspiration that may not be immediately obvious: Rifts Wormwood. My ideas of the Church of the Hanged God is based on that more than probably anything else...including Roman Catholicism!
    ; )

  5. Like @TIG, I'd be up for starting this ASAP, but I shouldn't get a vote because tonight is probably my 2nd-to-last game for a while...

  6. I'm just saying it's the image in my mind - specifically from the 1970's cartoon of the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

    So, does the Hanged God grow giant worms from his flesh? :)

  7. @ Matthew: It took me a few minutes to figure out you were referencing Wormwood...duh! (you weirded me out for a sec, there!)

    : )

  8. This description makes me think of the old David the Gnome cartoon, and the Labyrinth movie. If I ever rip this off, Oberon AND the Goblin king will be played by David Bowie