Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Crow Stone

I am changing the ruleset of my Griffin Mountain G+ game over to Legend, a very impressive looking iteration of the old RuneQuest/BRP rules which I am assured by a couple of my players works very well in practice too.


This does mean that I am going to have to rejig a fair chunk of my background notes on religion to tally with the new ruleset, so here is a document laying out the basics of the three major Great Spirits worshipped in Balazar - Foundchild, Votank and Grandmother Sky. I'll do another one for Balazar himself, Brother Dog, Rigtaina and Tharkantus at some point soon, and will probably come back and re write this odoc with a few more details as I cook them up.


UPDATE: Did the update already, and threw in some stuff on Hearth Spirits and Osentalka. Here is the new version.


The rules bits are in this free Legend ebook: Spirit Magic. 


The Balazarings are stone age spirit worshippers. Their religion is very flexible, with a whole range of powerful spirits available for worship.

Amongst these are the Hearth Spirits, powerful ancestors associated with a particular location. According to Shamanic lore there were at one time 25 hearths. Ten are well known. The locations of another three are known, the citadels, but their spirits have not been contacted by shamen for centuries, and no one now knows the rites. The others are more of a mystery. Firepoint is almost definitely one, Lookhill almost certainly another, some shamen are almost sure certain earthworks in the Dangerground must relate to another one at least, others may lay in lands now controlled by Tarsh, Holay and Imther. A shaman who recovered one of these ancient sites would wield unusual spirits that no other had access to, a matter of much status amongst the Balazarings.


There is a straight 50% chance that a given Hearth Spirit may be counted amongst a Balazaring's ancestors. No living Shaman, not even Blueface, has gained the friendship of all ten known Hearths. A sample Hearth Spirit cult is given below.


Crow Stone


Legend of the Crow Stone
The Sun was killed, dragged out of the sky by jealous enemies and stabbed with the black knife called Death. The world became dark and the Trolls came and killed many, including Morak. Crow was hungry and came across Morak's body, and to the horror of his mourning children pecked out his eye. They cursed him and he turned black as the night he had flown out of, and as he fled he called out 'This isn't Morak, he is dead! His soul yearns to be free, let me have the body if you don't want to eat it yourself.'
But they didn't, and they buried Morak under a great mound. Many more died and their stinking bodies lay strewn across the plain making hunting impossible, so many other clans listened to Crow and put the bodies of their dead high up in the trees, where he could collect them.
Crow grew greedy and he went about the plains whispering tales in the ear of each chief and in the ears of the sons of chiefs and caused many fights and rebellions and many battles. Eventually Foundchild caught him and asked him why. 'You told men to hunt beasts for food only not pleasure, and the scraps they leave for me are tiny. War is different, war makes a lot of carrion, war is good for the crows. Its good for men as well, stops bickering and clears the air. If it wasn't for war each man would sit and curse at all others and all would be miserable.'


Foundchild was not impressed by this argument and slew Crow on the spot and had Votank bury him under a tall spire of rock. Those with long standing feuds come to this stone and fight under the eye of the Crow, leaving the bodies to lay under the open sky on the surrounding plain. And Crow tells them the secrets of making war, to encourage more to do so.


A long time ago there was a Crow tribe, but legend says most of the men went away to fight as mercenaries in foreign lands and their women joined other tribes, voluntarily or by capture.


Description
Crow Stone is a carved rock like a huge flint knife sticking out of the ground on a flat plain a couple of miles wide. The plain is littered with bones and flint arrow and spearheads, though every so often a shaman will come and pick them up and make a pile and cover it with turf and a rock. There are a thousand of these tumuli littering the area, witnesses to the warlike nature of man. No one lives at the stone itself, but nearby, in a cave overlooking the river, you will find a cave with a hermit shaman named Tazaring Squinteye who will tell people the lore of the Crow Stone, and there is usually a camp of one or other of the clans (75% Crocodile, 10% Great Bison, 5% Red Sable, 5% Impala, 5% two camps, roll again) within a mile of the site.


The shaman will organise ritual battles, where the chiefs and men of two feuding tribes can meet and work out their differences in blood. He then adjudicates who has won and once he has spoken the feud is supposed to be over, but the last fight here, between the Sables and the Great Bisons, was unsatisfactory, not enough men of each clan turned up to make it a true contest. Tazaring is trying to organise a rematch. Individual duels are fought here as well, always to the death, and this does not count as murder under tribal law. The relatives of the deceased will often seek more direct revenge though, and this suits the Crow spirit very well.


Follower
There is a 50% chance of the Crow Stone not responding to a given person simply because he is not counted amongst their ancestors. If he does listen the petitioner must sleep, alone and unarmed, by the Stone itself. He is woken by the spirits of those slain on that plain and has to fight his way to safety, a Heroquest of resonance 40%. First he must stand his ground and not flee at the sight of the dead (Resilience 40%), then he must grab a weapon from the many broken ones on the ground (Evade 20%), and fight at least three foes (Close Combat 20%, 40%, 50%), finally falling to a wound, and realising that death is not to be feared and giving himself to the crows (Persistence 20%). Those already allied to the Crow's enemies and rivals Morak and Redwyrm have +20% resonance, those who bring a herd beast to feed the crows get -5%, those who bring a dead sentient get -10%.


The broken weapon is tied into a medicine bundle and as long as the petitioner has this he will get +5% Resilience while fighting in a duel or battle under the shadow of the Crow Stone.


If a follower brings part of the body of a slain human, dwarf, troll, broo or elf enemy to the stone he is allowed to learn the common magic Fanaticism. The shaman here also teaches Bladesharp and Bludgeon to followers, and will teach Axe and Shield or Warclub and Shield combat for a suitable consideration and Lore (Tribal Warfare). The follower can now see Crow spirits, bloodthirsty, angry and hungry, but they are still hostile to him and if they speak to him at all it is to deride his warrior prowess and urge him to kill more enemies.


Crow Warrior (Votary)
Crow's cult skills are: Any close combat, Unarmed, Resilience, Evade and Lore (Tribal Warfare), and any warrior with 50% in any five of these and who has the Fanaticism spell can become a Crow Warrior. Crow warriors are known mankillers and may be shunned by the more peaceable tribesmen. They have the geas 'Always try and slay hyaenas', the great enemies of the Crow.


They may seek the blessing of the Crow on a personal feud (Another quest of Resonance 60%) getting +10% to hit and +1 damage bonus step against that individual target.


Those who slay a man and bring his hand to the stone can learn one point of Bladesharp or Bludgeon and gain the right to put black feathers on their weapon, those who slay a man and brings his eye to the stone gains Detect Enemies and a Crow tattoo on his cheek.


May only bind one Crow spirit, which he may bind himself or receive from a master. Crow spirits are neutral to him. Crow Warriors must kill one sentient creature per year as a sacrifice to their bound Crow spirit, and must kill one herd beast and leave it to rot on the plains for the Crows.


Crow Master (Seer)
Must have 75% in five cult skills, must know Fanaticism, Bladesharp 2 or Bludgeon 2 and Detect Enemies. There can be only five Crow Masters, the Master of the West Plain, The Master of the East Plain, The Master of the Woods, The Master of Rodi's Gap and the Master of Eyes. The master may not actually dwell in these areas, but the titles fall to whoever kills their current incumbent. When a potential master presents himself at the Crow Stone a crow files to each of the masters to warn them, and the candidate has to track one of them down and kill him. Any means fair or foul are permissible, but any Master has the gains the geas Never refuse a challenge. Masters try and see to it that any candidate gets stabbed in the back and left to rot long before they get close enough to speak.


Can command and bind the Crow spirits, the usual fetishes involve human bone, broken flint weapons, crow feathers and desiccated eyes. Crow Masters are dangerous opponents and as well as the cult skills are often talented at Craft (Traps), Perception and Stealth. Many have died without knowing a Crow Master and his band were on their trail. A master can bind up to half his CHA worth of crow spirits (he can have others through any connection to other spirits) and these spirits are now friendly to him. One of the most common spirits bound are those allowing the master to command crows, which make excellent scouts and messengers.


He may quest for the right to bind curse spirits, which he can send to haunt cowards and those who refuse summons to fight at the Stone (Resonance 90%), may create a Crow Blessed weapon (Resonance 70%) with extra armour, hit points and damage, and may acquire the Heroic Ability Battle Fury.


The most well known Crow Master is Longstride Stormcrow, Master of the West Plain and also a High Shaman of Votank. He should have been made Crow Shaman last time the position came up, so they say, but he somehow persuaded the dying incumbent to nominate someone else instead. The Master of the Forests, Tollor Blackbeard, is a Black Lion and has been blamed for a number of incidents of banditry on the territory of the King of Trilus; the Master of Eyes, Hangazar the Cruel, is allegedly in the pay of the Lunars; the Master of the East Plain, Challa the She Bear, has trolls in her warband and has a price on her head at Dykene, and the Master of Rodi's Gap, Uzar Tall-as-a-Pine, has left Balazar for parts unknown.


Crow Shaman (Shaman)
Any Master may challenge the Shaman for his position, but few do. The Shaman must stay at the Crow Stone and be neutral in any Clan feuds and most Crow Masters only became such as they were warlike, vengeful and loved a good fight. A dying Shaman may however just command one of the Masters to take up the post and threaten dire curses if he doesn't comply. There follows a series of bloody duels at the Stone as the Crow Warriors sort out who gets the vacant Master place, and the feuds deriving from them often spark a tribal war a couple of years down the line.


The main power of the Crow Shaman is to adjudicate battles and feuds. When sufficient lives have been lost through ambush and attrition out on the plains, the chiefs of the warring tribes will come to the shaman and ask him to decide how many duels or how large a formal battle will end the fight for good. They are not bound to accept his judgement, but they often do. The Crow Shaman has a standing offer to end the conflict between any Citadel Kings who care to consult him, but only Yalaring has ever entertained the idea, and he knows the Kings of Dykene and Elkoi would never accept the outcome. Some Dykeneans say it is because he is afraid he will be asked to face Skilfil Heartpiercer in single combat and he knows he will lose.


The current Crow Shaman, Tazaring Squinteye, is in his sixties and was a member of the Crocodile clan before taking up this clan-neutral post. He fought a famous feud with Rantarra of the Great Sables, a warrior devoted to the Redwyrm spirit, and is certain that the Lunars are plotting to subvert Crow Stone as they subverted Redwyrm. This has made him something of a pacifist, wanting to conserve the blood of true Balazarings against the Lunar threat. He has looked on the introduction of Shield Push with interest, having seen Trollball played up in the Dangerground and seen how such sports reduce conflict without quite as much blood spilled. Starting a Shield Push league will be weird and foreign, hard to sell to the various bloody-handed Crow Warriors round Balazar and and harder yet to persuade the Crow spirits.