After looking to the most general concepts about the Relics (see RELICS of the DEMIHUMANS – first part), especially for people that didn’t know about them, we are here today to speak more in depth of this fascinating and very original Mystaran concept! We will start from already published material (Rules Cyclopedia pg. 145 and following or in the BECMI colored boxes) and see what is good and what needs improvement, always adding Entire Party Killed flavor!
Demihuman Clan Relics and the Relic Keepers:
A Keeper is an hereditary position and he has 2d4 aids: all of them should be, more or less, able to draw upon the power of the Relic. It is implied that the Clanmaster too receive a part of the training, since he is always involved in the biggest jobs and rituals and he has access to the Relic. The Clanmaster and the Keeper are, usually, NPC positions.
From D&D 5E point of view the aid Keeper should become a Multiclass, with second class Keeper, unless he is one of the few privileged ones, trained since birth. You could create a suitable new class comparing the Treekepers in GAZ5 with the Hins Masters in GAZ8 (ok, they are not Keepers but many Hin Keepers are Masters before). Or you can create a new Pact, considering the Keeper as a Warlock undergoing the Pact of the Relic: he is NOT a Warlock but it is a cheap and quick way to create the Keeper. You could even think to a different Pact for Relic type, more similar to the Pact of the Blade for Dwarves, or of the Tome for Elves and so on. Maybe we will create the class or the Pact ourselves in the future.
It is a wise move that the Keeper only transmits the knowledge in oral form and never writes down anything (like stated in the classical books) but not so good to pass everything to a son or daughter, for many reasons:
- it is possible that the Keeper has unsuitable sons/daughters;
- the aids have no possibility to become the Keeper, unless they are his son or daughter;
- should the Keeper or prospect Keeper suddenly die, a lot of knowledge is lost and need to be found again.
We propose then that the Keeper teaches ALL of his knowledge to his successor but that all the aids, together, possess the same knowledge or can recover it. In addition, a Keeper can appoint as heir someone that is not part of his family, in certain cases.
The Keepers are very honored and respected in the Clans, almost as much as the Clanmaster himself. We find it appealing that the actual titles depend on the race and, sometimes, Relic (Pearlkeeper would be a nice title for Sea Elves followers of Calitha) and usually the aids are also called with the same title and accorded almost the same respect as the fully fledged Keepers. It is supposed that, they too, speak with wisdom in the name of the Relic (and the Immortals) and with the same interest for the goodwill of the community. Sometimes it is required to distinguish between full Keepers and aids: usually they are simply called with an adjective, like Master Forgekeeper and Assistant Forgekeepers, but there are different rules. Demihumans are, usually, less formally religious than Humans so the Keepers are not, strictly speaking, religious figures, though they receive the same reverence and respect as very powerful Clerics (Patriarchs and so on) for humans. The Relic is tied to Immortal(s) but also to its own community, so the Relic Keeper is a both a spiritual, religious and mundane leader. The Relic is the spiritual and power center of the community and, with it, the Clan can create many cultural artifacts, impossible to obtain otherwise.
Usually, different Clans have different Relics and when the Clan becomes big (DM choice; we say around 2-3000+), it could be granted additional Keepers or, even, a new Relic, if the Clan deserves it. There are several Trees of Life in Alfheim and a handful Forges of Power in Rockhome, but the number are not coherent for us: Rockhome has half the number of Forges, respect to the Trees of Life in Alfheim, with 10 time the population, so we like to think that only the most important ones are mentioned in the GAZ6. There should be a few dozens more. The Shires have around one hundred clans but we do not know how many Blackflames, though there are many hidden ones as “backups”, in case the primary Blackflames are destroyed or stolen; see GAZ8 DM booklet page 16). Gnomes are a bit of an exception there (see later). The Relics are always well protected, both Halflings and Dwarves hide them under stone castles (their clan strongholds), while the Elves may still build a stronghold around a Tree of Life or it can be at the center of a community. Gnomes, again, use different methods. A clan can be granted a Relic ONLY when and if he is able to protect it, unlikely with less the 1000 people and without a stronghold or other, adequate, defenses.
Now let’s see the Keepers, more in detail. You could find useful our discussion of Mystara races (Common Playable Races of Mystara – first part and following posts).
Dwarves are the more traditionalists: the new Master Forgekeeper is almost always a son or daughter of the old one and, even in case he has no family for whatever reason, the Master Forgekeeper is asked to formally adopt his successor. Aids are called Assistant Forgekeepers. Only a strong clan, with a powerful stronghold, deserves a Forge of Power: this is the inflexible will of the Forge of Power, emanation of the stern and uncompromising Kagyar, the Artisan God!
Unlike the other Demihumans, Elves follow many Immortals (Calitha, Eiryndul, Ilsundal, The Korrigans, Mealiden, Ordana, Rafiel, Atzanteotl and others), in different places, so it is possible that they have completely different Relics from a Tree of Life, e.g. the giant pearl for Calitha Starbrow’s followers in GAZ9. It is important to understand, though, that no “bad” or “evil” Immortal will give a Relic to his followers: it is a commitment for the Immortal too, not at all for someone, like Atzanteotl, that only wants servants, not free-willed followers. Glantrian Elves will never be able to obtain a Tree of Life: in this case, deus non vult, not so strange if you think about the hostility of Glantri to religion and the Immortals!
Elves are almost as traditionalist as dwarves but they understand the necessity to change, sometimes, and do not strictly require a successor of the family of the High Treekeeper, though it is a shame not to have a proper inheritor. Ilsundal gave the first Tree of Life to elves of Alfheim and still give them today: in far away elven realms, other forest Immortals, like Ordana for instance, could let the elves have a similar manifestation of them, in time. In GAZ9 – The Minrothad Guilds, the water elves have a proper Relic of Calitha Starbrow under the sea, a giant pearl, and the wood elves have something, let’s say … similar to a Tree of Life (no spoiler! See GAZ9).
Hins (Halflings) are usually less strict in the formal rules than Elves but they require the passing of the secrets from father Flamekeeper to son, nonetheless. They are tight-lipped about their Relic but can reveal something in case their clan is in danger, or someone strongly needs its Powers (e.g. healing). Hins know about the basics of their Relic, but few other people do: while virtually all heard a story or two about the fabled Tree of Life or the Forge of Power, few things are known about the Blackflame. Hins call such matters the Sacred Mysteries (GAZ9 DM Booklet pg. 16 and following) and very (very) few Hins know about the highest ones. The Keepers are usually chosen among the most faithful Sceriffs and Masters of the Shires. Only fully fledged Keepers are called Flamekeepers, the aids are called Witnesses.
For roleplaying sake, play Hins PCs and most NPCs as if they didn’t know a lot about the Blackflame, it should make for a nice discovery, in time … One of the main tasks of Flamekeepers, Witnesses, Clanmasters, Sheriffs, Masters of the Shires, is to avoid the spreading of this forbidden knowledge.
Differently from the other Relics, the Blackflame is not an expression of a single Immortal, but many of them are involved (the High Heroes of the hin legends and other Immortals too, but I will not tell you why, to see the real nature and significance of the Blackflame, check GAZ8).
We propose that today the Hins can have Crucibles and Blackflame even outside of the Five Shires, but they are still, and always will be, very rare: they use a process called “spreading the Shires”, ceremoniously bringing a good amount of earth, stones, seeds and plants of the Shires in the place where a big Hin community resides (or is founded). Devout Hins, usually Masters or even Witnesses, bring these natural materials, by feet and by Hin’s feet only, to the place. No magic, not even animal transportation is permitted (only boat in case the place is separated by the sea). Then, they create a small garden or such place to contemplate the sagas of the Hins Heroes of old (their Immortals). After one year the Hins can use the Denial power (check our post) as if they were in the Shires themselves, all over the territory of the Hin’s community. At this point it is possible for the community to have a proper Blackflame, usually obtained if a Flamekeeper in the Five Shires agrees: this is possible but, like said, still rare, the community has to be strong enough to protect the Blackflame against all possible defilers (e.g. Alphatian or Glantrian magicians) and build a stronghold.
Gnomes do not care that much about family ties or, at least, they don’t in certain occasions: it is true that the Keeper is almost always from the same few families, but the best aid is chosen. What is the meaning of “best” is sometimes a bit difficult to understand for outsiders … The Relic is as different as gnomish communities and sub-races are and the same is true for Keeper names: in Serraine, the Flying City, there are Gravitykeepers and, in Highforge, Motionkeepers (the meaning will be clear in following posts).
The Relic usually serve to a single, complex, function but it is always the expression of the will of Garl Glittergold (Garal Glitterlode) for Earth, Sky, Ice and a few Fire Gnomes or of Brandan Earthshaker, for the majority of Fire Gnomes. Forest Gnomes do not get a Relic since they do not follow Garl (or Brandan), but Ordana and Djaea could give a suitable replacement: it would be amusing to play a Forest Gnome from a community in the untamed Norwold forests with a small quasi-Tree of Life bound to Ordana. Or a Treant of Life!
Due to its unique origin (more on that in a future post), Gnomes usually have only one Relic per community, it only grows in size with the population and Clan numbers. In these cases there can be multiple Keepers (each one with 2d4 aids) for the same Relic, always an odd number, to avoid stalemates in critical decisions. For instance in Highforge there is only one gnomish Relic even if there are 5 “Clans”: it was King Dorfus Hilltopper idea to live in clans like the dwarves and he also decided to have one Keeper per Clan, even though there is only one Relic (it spans for kilometers thanks to its “tendrils”). More on this in a future post.
The next post will speak of the very important Powers of the Relics, starting from the Powers of the past, converted to D&D 5E and adding our own contribution!
We hope you enjoyed it and see you soon to the exciting …
RELICS of the DEMIHUMANS – third part