Note: it’s several months that I wanted to write about this topic and it was a real pleasure to do it, to convert one of the most beautiful concept of Mystara, the Relics of the Demihumans, to D&D 5e! In this post we will only speak of very general things and of our own reasons to write these posts, but it should be interesting for all, nonetheless! Stay tuned, the topic is long and it will take a few posts to finish it.
Most of the following material is taken and modified from Rules Cyclopedia (RC), GAZ5 – The Elves of Alfheim, GAZ6 – The Dwarves of Rockhome and GAZ8 – The Five Shires. We definitely love these books and, for sure, we do not want to spoiler this excellent material. Our desire is to adapt the rules for Demihuman Relics to D&D 5e, to expand them a bit and, also, to introduce possible Relics for the gnomes as a playable race (GNOMES for D&D 5e in Mystara and following posts; taking also something from PC2 – Top Ballista, CM4 – Earthshaker and AC11 – The Book of Wondrous Inventions). Some of the mechanics seemed a bit dated and not completely satisfactory so we decided to propose some alternatives.
Let’s start with a completely new thing: after our posts, we can play Mystaran Gnomes in D&D 5e. Since they are not so different from other demihuman races (they are “cousins” of the dwarves, after all) we suppose that they have their own Relic too, tied to (or Brandan Earthshaker for Fire Gnomes). It seems completely coherent with D&D, both BECMI (looking especially to CM4 but, also PC2) and 5th Edition alike.
Just to remember the classical Relics, without going in too many details and adding the Gnome Relics. They all have several powers, we say only the bare basics.
NOTE: Thank you to julius_cleaver in The Piazza for the suggestion! I will use the definition “cultural artifacts” for items built only through the use of the Relics: they are created by mortals but cannot be obtained with any other kind of mortal magic, not even Wish spells, so it seems an appropriate definition.
- The Forge of Power: the Relic of Dwarves, the children of Kagyar, the Artisan God is, as expected, a mighty Forge. It can help to smelt and give form to any kind of material and it creates objects in half of the time respect to a common forge.
- The Tree of Life: the Elves of Alfheim receive the blessing of Ilsundal as an enormous, very beautiful and intelligent tree. [I do not write Avatars of Ilsundal due to different definitions in GAZ5 and Wrath of the Immortals]. The Elves use a parts of the Tree, leaves, wood and sap, to create cultural artifacts of their race.
- The Crucible of the Blackflame: the Hins (they do not like at all to be called halflings, they are the right size after all), receive this most strange Relic from the Hin Heroes of old (their Immortals). It is inf fact the most difficult to explain (and there are many spoilers I could tell you, but I won’t, look to Gaz8): it is a strange flame, black as night and projecting shadows of light, conserved in a Crucible of precious wood. It is freezing cold, it doesn’t burn what a normal fire burns and it can even recreate an object from the ashes of a normal fire.
- The Relics of the Gnomes: the only true and full Relic of the Gnomes, in the old books, is the Earthshaker in CM4: actually the Clock of Timelessness, at the center of it – thank you to Khedrac in The Piazza to remember me to specify it – but the Clock is what we will call, in a future post, a Core (and we will consider the Earthshaker a part of the Relic itself, for sake of consistency with other sources). In addition, there are several info in PC2, AC11, Gaz1 and other places too, that can be coherently explained if we consider that other places, notably Serraine, the Flying City and the realm of Highforge in Karameikos, both contains a Relic. Since we divided in several subraces the Gnome race, it also makes sense that the Relics are different too. We also think they should be a bit different from the Relics of the other races, in the sense that the Gnomes help in creating it, in part or as a whole, and never cease “meddling” with them (see our posts about the technology of Gnomes and general crafting and technology in Mystara).
A general consideration:
The official material about the Relics is not homogeneous, and it should not be, since dwarves, elves and hins are quite different races, with completely different focus and interests: the problem is that this material is not even balanced! Probably in the RC (coming from D&D boxed sets of rules), there was at least an idea to give similar things, but they are often totally different from Gazetteers. We think that the Relics should:
have a similar “raw power”: a Tree of Life, a Forge of Power or a Crucible of the Black Flame, should have a similar power since they are an expression of Immortal influence on the Prime Plane and regulated by Immortal rules (no race should have an undue advantage upon others);
give similar benefits to the races: some powers should be exactly the same;
reflect the nature of the races: some powers should be unique of the race (or Relic, for gnomes);
serve as plot devices or to give an help to PCs in a quest or as a “reward”;
be mostly accessible to NPCs characters.
Obviously the Clan or community should be big enough to be granted a Relic, never less than a few hundred people (unless for PCs extraordinary actions) and it becomes almost automatic around a thousand! For instance it is a known fact, by the savants of Dwarf matters at least, that the Stoutfellow Clan of Dwarves (Highforge community, GAZ1 – Karameikos) has a Forge of Power.
Also, in short, the Keepers are special individuals, chosen or appointed to care for the Relic: they have the knowledge of it, they know its origin and all the magical rituals about it. Many other things could be said of them but we will refrain from it, for now. We suggest to follow the already established path for their names: after the Treekepers for the Elves, Forgekeepers for the Dwarves and Flamekeepers for the Hins. The name of the Relic Keepers of the Gnomes change according to the particular Relic.
It is a NPC-only position and class: a PC character entering this “elite” is not free anymore to go adventuring, his first and only responsibility is the Relic. It could be a good position, though, for an almost retired strong PC, to take out from the cylinder from time to time, for very specific, Relic-centered, missions.
OK, but what is IT???
What is a Relic? The short answer is, no one knows!
The long one is: every Relic is an Artifact but a very unusual one, given as a gift to a single community and blessed/tied to one Immortal, or sometimes more than one, usually the patron/creator of the race. It is partly a direct emanation of the Immortal (avatar is a dangerous word in good old D&D), partly a magical construct, partly a creature or, at least, an intelligent construction. Only the Tree of Life is truly alive but all the four of them are “intelligent” in an alien way: they are in part alien/Immortal, in part the embodiment of the Elfness, Gnomekind and so on, so they are in part the archetype individual, in part its community. So it should not be a surprise that a Forge of Power is stern and uncompromising while a Gnome Relic has, often, a weird sense of humor. The Relic Keepers are special individuals, appointed or chosen to care for the Relic, in several ways (see later on). The goal of the Relic is the protection of the community, not of the single being, though in helping the one, sometimes the many can be helped as well. For this reason, even if very intelligent, it is not easy to communicate with, the Keepers have their own ways, no other magical (telepathy spells) or mundane way is suitable. It is possible that the Relic merely ignores its surroundings by choice. In the few occasions when it communicates, it is always through the Keepers (see the Identify Magical Items and Prophecy powers, in the next post).
In the next post we will still speak of general knowledge about the Relics, taking from Rules Cyclopedia pg. 145+ and see what is good and what needs improvement!
We hope you enjoyed it and see you soon to the exciting …
RELICS of the DEMIHUMANS – second part