3rd Movement: Southern Initiative

3rd Movement: Southern Initiative

This movement introduces the primitive southern Near, where the Empire's grip never was very strong. The forces that reign here go by a different name. The theme is faith and destiny, as one eschatology is crushed and another church rises.

The land of Goren has been split in twain by the Skyfire, and by a religious schism that divides the people into two camps. Meanwhile in Vulfland a crusade is flagging as a chosen people finds that the world is a much larger and more complex place than they ever believed possible.

The south is a grim and forlorn place where human contact is not a given. The stories are small and personal, as everybody tries to fit in. If the world would be changed, it will have to happen on the side, almost unnoticed.

Goren: Cradle of Faith

Adapted from the Finnish edition of the original book and forum discussions with Josh. Onomastics from Wikipedia.

The lands of Near are akin to a tilted plane running from the Roof of the World to the Eastern Sea. The highlands west of Maldor have always been a source of metals and men for the Empire. It never was easy, for the hills are not deserted: the Gorenite clans have resisted the western lords for as long as they can remember.

Today the hill folk are a taciturn and confident bunch; the Empire has finally receded like a wave from the beach, leaving the forts and guild-towns of Goren behind. A renewed sense of purpose runs through a populace gripped by faith, inspiring them to greatness.

The people of Goren after the Darkness are split in two by a cultural revolution: the Gorenite highlands have gone through a bloody war with inhuman trolls, resulting in the Sky God religion gaining an unprecedented influence among the disordered Gorenites. Meanwhile the Jošland Gorenites in the lands beyond the sea remain united to their old ways of life and worship of the Goddess and her multiple husbands.

Blooded in Honor

The society of Goren is focused on clan holds, fortresses built on sparse hilltops before the Year of Darkness. A Gorenite CLAN consists of the people loyal to the clan chief holding the fort, often of people descended from the survivors of Darkness who sheltered in that particular fort. No land ownership is implied; land is only owned insofar as a family has an ancestral, established right to its use, a right that lapses when the family abandons the farming, grazing, fishing, mining or other occupation they have on the land. Because clan membership is often hereditary while people are transient, it is not uncommon to have members of different clans live as neighbors all mixed together in the more fertile (and troubled) areas.

As the movement of people makes all the more successful clans increasingly fragmented, the nature of the clans starts to resemble that of farming cooperatives or outright gangs: the common form of justice in Goren is to ask for your clansmen to aid you in extracting whatever refurbishment is possible when somebody has wronged you. Stories tell of the time of the JARLS who united the land against the Empire in the past and ruled with justice, but those days are long gone.

When somebody is a member of a clan, it is said that he is BLOODED to that clan. In Goren, you can only have justice if you are blooded, or have a blooded clansman speak for yourself: STRANGERS have no credibility to their demands, unless they come armed and ready to fight like the Maldorites did. In towns this makes for an increasingly large underclass of people forced to desperate poverty; the more urbanized clansmen realize the advantage they have, and are resistant to change. In towns three fourths of the population might be "strangers"; in the hill country, only one in five or ten.

In olden times newcomers were eased into the clans through the institution of THRALLHOOD, a sort of contract slavery that could end in initiation; the children of thralls would in any case be free clansmen without exception. Thrallhood could come about as an alternative to killing an enemy in combat or because an unblooded Gorenite had no other choice but to submit himself as thrall to another. Today the Sky God Faith forbids keeping thralls, however, which means that admittance to clans is all but impossible for those with no desirable skills or considerable wealth.

Divided by Waves

In the pre-Skyfire era Gorenites were accomplished sailors and explorers who colonized much of the long coastline of the southern continent. It is unknown how long ago all this happened, but the Gorenite people on both coasts of the Southern Sea share modes of speech and dress, as well as means of living.

The close connection between "Old Goren" and the colonies was severed by the Year of Shadow, and has been slow in being re-established. Some clans on both continents share mottos and insignia, but there are no chiefs wielding influence in both lands. The south continent Goren often refer to their land simply as "Goren" just like the northerners do, but the land has a separate name as well: the first colonists called it JOÅ LAND.

The environment and conditions of life are in many ways similar in Goren and Jošland: herding and farming are important to both, while Jošlanders are also accomplished fishermen. Trade is much more important for Old Goren, which produces much of the metals consumed by all of Near. Jošlanders trade as well, but they have a fierce reputation as pirates among the northern peoples. An Ammeni trader who didn't stay to experience the savage skirmishes in Maldorian border marches would consider the Gorenites almost civilized in comparison.

However, what really separates Jošland from Goren is how they experienced the Year of Shadow: while Jošland was sustained by its belief in the Goddess through the dark, and sustained its witchfolk in turn, Old Goren was decimated by trolls, underground-dwelling goblins that conquered the highlands during the darkness. The fate of Goren was changed when the cenobitic actions of the Sky God religion brought a new destiny to the people.

The religious schism is not a large issue for common Gorenites on either side of the Ocean, especially as the two have been long separated, but as contact increases, the issue grows like a boil in between them. Witches from the old country have fled to Jošland, speaking of persecution; highlands saints of the Sky God faith have been attacked when they've traveled overseas.

Under the Earth

Old Goren is not a land of humans only: when the Year of Shadow receded and clans started out of their fortresses, the TROLLS were already there: goblins adapted to darkness, living in old mines from the times of the Empire, proliferated through the Shadow, laying claim to much of the lands people had felt their own.

Goblins had always been rare in aboveground Goren, mostly stories of changelings and humaneating. The trolls were predatory and strong-willed, unwilling to relinquish their herds and heaths to humans hungry for land. Although solitary creatures, the trolls were strong; humans long secluded into their fortresses were weak.

Stories of the troll age tell of great troll chiefs and their goblin courts. While clansmen are unwilling to discuss their ancient enemy in a neutral manner, many unblooded families of today descend from collaborators that worked with goblins through the early years and accepted their Trollish rulers. Understandably goblins have a pretty bad reputation in Goren, considering the long struggle the clans underwent to reclaim their lands. Often a lone troll would keep an entire valley in terror for a generation before moving out or being slain by COISTRELS, professional troll slayers.

Today trolls are a receding phenomenon in the central parts of Goren. Skyclad trolls can still be encountered in the farther reaches, but most old trolls and the remains of their courts have withdrawn back below the earth, where they belong as far as coistrels are concerned.

Skirmishing (V)
All Gorenite men are to some degree fighters, but the best are usually fighting carls in direct service to their chief, or members of a town guild that hires out to those who need protection. In either case the carls are expected to be ready for immediate bloodshed at a moment's notice, and be quick to charge and retreat in serious combat, following their leader's cue. Carls fight with swords and axes, or spears when defending a position.
Secret of Berserking
A berserk fighter fights without care for his own safety. Gorenite carls know how to encourage this mental state. A berserk warrior feels no pain, and thus treats all of his Harm as one class less serious insofar as penalties go. Berserking characters can use only SKIRMISHING (V), BRAWLING (V) and similar Abilities, and can't spend Pools other than Vigor. Ending the state suddenly requires a RESIST (R) check. Cost: 1 VIGOR
Mining (V)
Most of Near's metals come from Old Goren, either sold by clans or taken by force when Lords of Maldor come calling. Nowadays Gorenites despise mining work for religious reasons, preferring to leave it to the unblooded. Having goblins infest the mines does not help, either. The Ability itself is useful not only for mining, but also for understanding and utilizing mine architecture in moving in mines, or even siege warfare.
Smithing (V)
Gorenite smiths are the best in the world due to the mineral wealth of the land. The Ability can be used to work all metals, making and repairing various tools. Either this or MINING (V) can be used to smelt ores into usable form.
Secret of the Forge
When the character is working on equipment at least partially SMITHED (V), he can choose to create the work (and pay the Pool costs for it) in several phases; each phase has to end with an Ability check made into an Effect; failure ruins the work so far. Additionally, the character can imbue any number of Secrets into the equipment he creates, not limited by quality. Cost: 1 extra Vigor for imbuements over quality. Requirement: ability to imbue equipment.
Troll-lore (R)
Most Gorenites have seen a goblin, or at least know someone who has. Few really know them, but some have made it their business to know and be prepared for them. This Ability is useful in figuring out a goblin's adaptations and addictions, its likely mindset and habits. It's psychic profiling for creatures Gorenites fear and hate.
Key of Vice (specify)
The character embraces a weakness of character as moral virtue, believing that it is of no consequence or even beneficial, contrary to societal expectations. Define the weakness. 1xp: The character indulges the vice. 3xp: Suffering is caused by the ways of the character. Buyoff: Renounce the vice.
Secret of Vice-Troll
A goblin who revels in his moral turpitude might in Goren become a vice-troll, a softspoken creature that is able to entice others to share his vices with CHARM (I). Those who fail to resist purchase the KEY OF VICE appropriate to the troll. Cost: 2 INSTINCT Requirement: be a goblin
Secret of Filth-Troll
A goblin who lives in the soil drainages of the closely built, unhygienic Gorenite towns might become a filth-troll, a creature that mends its scaly hide and survives almost everything. He may use his ADAPTATION (V) to heal his own Harm. Cost: 2 INSTINCT Requirement: be a goblin
Secret of Troll-slaying
Gorenite coistrels have studied goblin anatomy and may cause them grievous injuries. When the character causes Harm to a goblin, that Harm is AGGRAVATED, marked accordingly on the Harm track. Such Harm does not shake down and cannot be healed naturally. Additionally, the goblin suffers penalty dice equal to the highest aggravated level of Harm to any use of his ADAPTATION (V) Ability until healed. Cost: 2 VIGOR
Secret of the Skald
Gorenite music is heavily based on poetry; the instruments and singing tend to be simple. A character with this Secret can learn and create LAYS, long poetic Effects that can be preserved for later and duplicated by teaching the lay to another. A skald performing a lay can either take bonus dice equal to the Effect (not expending it), or swap his Ability check result with the Effect value, depending on whether he wants to rest on the virtues of the original text as he remembers it or strive to impress with his account and improvised additions. Cost: 1 INSTINCT to invoke, 1 REASON to swap.
Key of Divided Kin
The character has moved over the Southern Sea and has to deal with the similar, but not quite the same people of the new land. 1xp: Small things are different. 2xp: Society is different, such as existence of guild-towns, or keeping thralls. 5xp: Fight over a religious disagreement. Buyoff: Return home.
Key of Blood
The character believes in justice for his kin and the old values of fealty and honor. 1xp: Defend your kin. 2xp: Fight for your clan. 5xp: Choose to side with your clan instead of justice. Buyoff: Work against your clan.
Key of Thrall
The character has become a thrall to a Gorenite clan. He is obligated to work for minimal reward and cannot quit, but he has personal liberty, and his children will be free clansmen. 1xp: Serve the clan. 2xp: Get rewarded for your work. 5xp: Get abused by your master. Buyoff: Become free.
Key of Craft
The character is a great craftsman, passionate about his art. 1xp: Work on your craft. 3xp: Create something great. Buyoff: Break your tools.
Key of the Coistrel
Coistrels are professional troll-hunters, often associated with the Sky God Religion. 1xp: Goblins come up in the scene. 2xp: Encounter goblins. 5xp: Fight with goblins. Buyoff: Befriend a goblin.

Actual Play

Goren reflects my personal artistic vision a lot more than most of this book does. Specifically, the idea of Abrahamic religion and its relationship to the world at large and Nordic society in the specific, in both good and ill "“ I wanted to give it a proper treatment. It was a fortuitous coincidence that Josh's vision of witchcraft fit well into my own plans.

I've played through many, many sessions of thinly veiled critiques of religion in my time, complete with inhuman inquisitors and fanatic mobs; it's possible that you'll get that sort of thing with this material, too, and it's not the end of the world if you do. The way I've come to see it, the attitude Finnish roleplaying takes towards religion reflects rather directly on the fact that our whole society is working to secularize itself and find some reasonable balance in regard to the ideas of Lutheranism. It's just something we need to play through to arrive at something new.

My immediate play with the Gorenite material has been more understanding and less black and white. The Story Guide is very much responsible for pushing against the preconceptions other players bring to the table: if a character concept is most comfortable with evil witches and faultless chaplains, play against that; if the player presumes that the witch hunts are brutal and unnecessary, perhaps there even aren't any; whatever the characters think of the trolls, it just might happen that the specific individuals they encounter are completely contrary to those expectations, in good or bad.

Ideas

Sky God Religion brings to the table two completely different character concepts: the Highland Saints are impossibly good people with impossibly high expectations, while the deacons of the fledgling church are responsible for actual people and their lives.

Witches of Goren can be wise or wicked, and their faith condones both as long as they come in harmonious forms. Witchcraft liberates women, but only by forcing them to express themselves through the feminine, not by freeing them as people.

Urbanization of Goren is ultimately going to be the future. What does this mean to the clans? Is religion going to rule the society in their stead?

Gorenite Names

Gorenite names are Germanic, of course. First names in Goren are usually formed of two parts from separate lists. They used to carry a meaning and reflect the hopes of the parents, and often still do in Jošland. A second name is patronymic, although in towns they've started to develop into actual surnames.

Name beginning

Bryht, frit, grim, gund, her, hild, maer, ric, sig, wulf, wyn, elf, adel, blith, ceol, coen, cuth, cwic, ead, eald, earn, ecg, fri, gold, holm, heath, heah, hlud, hreth, hroth, hyg, iaru, ing, leof, liut, os, od, rath, seax, wig, theod.

Name ending

Bryht, frit, grim, gund, her, hild, maer, ric, sig, wulf, wyn, bald, beorn, beorg, brand, by, ferth, flaed, gard, gar, gifu, gyth, helm, heit, hun, lid, laf, mund, noth, raed, stan, swinth, trud, walh, weald, weard, wine.

Names for things and places can well be combined from these as well. I've been on a binge of making meaningful names like "Hildearn", "˜war eagle' with various dictionaries (and Wikipedia), but don't let that trip you.

Sky God Faith: Highland Saints

Original material inspired by discussions with Sami Koponen, with crunch in homage to Richard Garriott.

After the Shadow, the first generation of Gorenites was tied down in a long struggle against trolls to reclaim their homeland. In many ways the clans, weakened by the Shadow, failed the people then. Instrumental to victory were HIGHLAND SAINTS, warrior monks from the Tiserian monasteries at the Roof of the World.

Now the Sky God Faith has been embraced by nearly all of Goren. It has brought justice to where there used to be none; it has brought a literate culture to a land that is quickly settling down; it has brought swords of the coistrels, troll-slayers, to make Goren possible again.

The Sky God Faith is monotheistic, dogmatic, evangelical faith. It is but two generations old, and it is yet to be seen what, if anything, it has to offer to Near.

Above the Earth

The Tiserian monasteries are a chain of Spartan stone temples that reach ever higher up into the Roof of the World. They are ancient; the people of Near have always looked to be closer to the sky, and as far back as the monastic records go, people have been traveling here for a sense of holiness. The "highland saints", as they are called, were already famous holy men during the imperial times. Their martial power was feared, as it was well known that they fought the frost giants of the mountains through the harshest of winters.

The highland saints used to be reclusive before the Shadow, but afterwards things changed: as Gorenite lands below the mountains disintegrated into chaos during the troll age, monastic orders stepped up to support the clans. These assaults from the mountains are called CENOBITIC ACTIONS in the monastic language, to contrast with eremitic actions sometimes taken by individual hermits.

The creed that Cenobitic Actions brought down to the lowlands is now called the Sky God Faith, a rapidly spreading religious renewal of the tired land. Highland saints and preachers are popular among the people because they have magic that works against the trolls, and they have justice; the Sky God Faith does not distinguish between clansmen and strangers, their laws are the same for everybody. Thus members of Sky God congregations can expect to be treated with dignity, just like clansmen.

The saints themselves are now tired and their ranks are thin after fighting a century to secure the Gorenite highlands from trolls and antagonistic witch-women. The reality of bringing wisdom to an ingrate population has been a disappointment to many, and they have returned back to their mountain abodes. Preachers of the faith step in to pick up the slack and maintain the zeal of laymen eager to seek virtue. It is unlikely that another Cenobitic Action will be launched anymore.

Note the different implications of the Sky God Faith, Sky God Religion and Sky God Church. All three terms are used by Gorenites, often revealing different degrees of foresight concerning the direction the movement is taking.

The Book of Light

Ideologically the Sky God Faith is dogmatic and monotheistic: the God is invisible and one, living in the Sky. Virtue comes from listening to his word, revealed in nature. Vice is associated with lowlands, lavish waste and Trollish ways, such as mining. Virtue and Vice are recognized by their consequences, and a virtuous man should not be afraid to judge the boundary in between. Magic is a force empowered by virtue or vice, and not to be invoked lightly.

In practice the highland saints are committed to bringing virtue to the Gorenites; they believe that a good life will be rewarded by the community here and now, if only the community remains true. The saints have started churches in all the largest towns of Goren and sent preachers to teach in the countryside, hoping to convince the clansmen of the wisdom of just thought and action.

Interestingly enough, the Sky God Faith is a book religion: the highland saints have brought with them a great number of teaching texts that have been compiled with recent histories of the cenobitic actions "“ the result is called the Book of Light, and while its sources range from old imperial philosophy to Oranide poetry, it is slowly becoming established as the definition of the Sky God Faith. The stories of Lowden Mountain Man, the commander of the second cenobitic action, are an inspiration for preachers and laymen alike.

Virtues of the Sky God

The highland saints practice a virtue ethic that is best expressed in the dictum "God helps those who prove worthy of aid". NATURAL virtues are those that come to humans without effort, as long as they are humble. CIVIC virtues are things like self-sacrifice and honor, which come with experience with the world and society. The saints have a complex philosophical system that charts out different virtues and their interrelations from first principles to the highest spiritual virtue.

Virtues of the highland saints are represented as Abilities in the game. This is not because others could not be virtuous in these ways; rather, it is because only with Sky God adherents (and others who learn these Abilities) do we give the option of testing the character's virtue directly, as a matter of conflict. You might wish to consider such a conflict more of an internal than an external matter: the issue is not whether the character can do something, but whether he will. The player choice to use one of these Abilities is a sign of willingness to leave the character's intent up to the dice in this matter. The whole concept of virtue presumes that people can, to an extent, learn to act better by some measure.

Virtue Abilities are all considered Passive Abilities when that is useful, usable in all the ways the standard Passive Abilities are. I should note that the Story Guide's job regarding virtue Abilities is pretty much to say no to the player who'd want to use them to do everything. Rather, presume that a virtue can never be used for a non-passive purpose, except in a dramatic situation or through a Secret. Characters might get around this with the SECRET OF SYNERGY and other means, of course.

As practical advice, I suggest taking the virtues as a challenge for gaming technique, as that's sort of why I find them interesting myself. Consider the classical RPG PENDRAGON as an established example of what might be done here, perhaps, and keep an open mind. I haven't had trouble applying the virtues myself, but I can imagine how they might confuse a player who is not prepared for the full implications of turning personality traits into Abilities. The Story Guide will do well to remind a player creating his paladin character that he will enforce the need for concrete, material Abilities, allowing the virtues to be pinged only in the truly dramatic or clearly internal struggles.

Blessings of Virtue

BLESSINGS are magical Secrets activated by the virtues; the Tiserian cenobites know of many miracles based on the holy writings, but individuals are limited to blessings they are granted "“ afterwards the saint who qualified for a blessing once may use it freely, nobody can take it away from him unless he relinquishes it to another. Blessings are handled like Secrets, except that they are only learned through Secrets such as the SECRET OF THE AXIOM, QUEST or HAGIOGRAPHY, or perhaps as bequeathal from a saint close to death.

Blessings have different strength depending on the virtues they draw upon. This is reflected in their mechanical design. The following limitations are what I use: a Blessing with only natural virtues may not have a Pool cost above 1. A Blessing with a civic virtue may have a Pool cost of at most 2. A Blessing with the spiritual virtue would be limited to a Pool cost of 3. Humble Blessings, if there are any, would have no Pool costs at all.

As always, remember that while we discuss Blessings being "granted by God" and such, this is just how the characters themselves perceive the matter. We the players know that God does not make judgments in Near "“ indeed, God has no mechanical impact in the game mechanics whatsoever.

Valor (V)
Valor is the natural virtue of daring to stand up for your beliefs. It is mostly used to support decisive action, but it may be used directly in simple tests of courage as well. VALOR is a Passive Ability.
Compassion (I)
Compassion is the natural virtue of caring for your fellow man. It is mostly useful for supporting empathic action, but direct use might be feasible in some social situations. COMPASSION is a Passive Ability.
Honesty (R)
Honesty is the natural virtue of truthful word and action. It is mostly useful in supporting earnest action, but direct use might be possible in certain social situations. HONESTY is a Passive Ability.
Secret of Civic Virtue
The Book of Light calls higher virtues that may only be fulfilled through society CIVIC virtues. These are Abilities just like the natural virtues, except that they are always associated with two Pools. JUSTICE (I, R), for example. With this Secret the character may learn these more complex virtues.
Justice (I,R)
Justice is the civic virtue of caring for the rights of others. It is mostly useful in supporting legal procedures or similar truth-seeking, but direct use might be possible when gripped by righteous fury. JUSTICE is a Passive Ability.
Sacrifice (V,I)
Sacrifice is the civic virtue of daring to give for others. It is mostly useful in supporting daring actions for good causes, but direct use might be possible when faced with certain loss. SACRIFICE is a Passive Ability.
Secret of Spiritual Virtue
The Book of Light calls the singular highest virtue by the name of SPIRITUAL, as it may only be fulfilled in communion with God. The spiritual virtue is an Ability just like other virtues, except that it is always associated with three Pools. With this Secret the character may learn SPIRITUALITY (V,I,R). Requirement: SECRET OF CIVIC VIRTUE
Spirituality (V,I,R)
Spirituality is the virtue of believing in principle before consequence and moral good over material good. I can imagine using it to support other Abilities now and then. SPIRITUALITY is a Passive Ability.
Secret of the Axiom
A character with this Secret may gain Blessings. Either he asks for one with PRAY (V), or has an AXIOMATIC REVELATION with an appropriate virtue Ability. In the former case the player chooses the Blessing (designing it with the Story Guide if necessary), while in the latter the Story Guide chooses a Blessing that relies on the virtue in question. Either way, the Blessing costs an Advance. Cost: 7 minus the check result in Ability-appropriate Pool Requirement: Have no vices.
Blessing of Light
The character may make himself or a held token shine with unearthly light. Use an HONESTY (R) check for a revealing light or a VALOR (V) check for a blinding one. The check result may be used as penalty dice against creatures of the night. Cost: 1 Pool associated with the Ability.
Blessing of Healing
The character can heal others of their ills with a preternatural force that makes things whole. Use a COMPASSION (I) check for physical injuries and HONESTY (R) for others. This may only be done immediately after noticing the injury; hesitation closes the window. Cost: 1 Pool associated with the Ability.
Blessing of Spirit Strike
The character can see and strike his opponent's spirit in combat. This not only allows fighting with spirits, but also renders conventional armor useless against the character; does nothing against spiritless targets, though. Use a COMPASSION (I) check against misguided opponents and VALOR (V) against evil; the check result difference against the opponent's RESIST (R) becomes persistent bonus dice in conflict against this one opponent. The result can be made into an Effect to extend its duration. Cost: 1 Pool associated with the Ability.
Blessing of Lowden the Judge
The character can unearth the truth by divine insight. Use an HONESTY (R) check when merely penetrating lies or misdirection and a JUSTICE (I,R) check to garner information currently unknown to witnesses. The outcome provides the character with pertinent facts equal to the check result regarding a moral dilemma. Cost: 1 or 2 Pool associated with the Ability, depending on the usage.
Saintly Blessing
The character can distribute his own Secrets (Blessings included) as Blessings to others, with the player redesigning them to accord with the theology (appropriate use of Virtues, Pool costs, etc.). Any Secret so distributed is lost to the character himself, unless the recipient pays an Advance for it. Use SACRIFICE (V,I) when touching the recipient and SPIRITUALITY (V,I,R) if doing this at the moment of Transcendence. In the latter case the character is literally taken to the Sky, and the player may take his time to distribute the character's Blessings as he pleases to anybody in Near. Cost: 2 Pool associated with SACRIFICE (V,I) or 3 with SPIRITUALITY (V,I,R).
Secret of Monastic Life
The character's Pool spend caps for all of his Virtue Abilities are raised by one, akin to the SECRET OF CONDITIONING. This Secret may be picked multiple times.
Key of Courage
Highland saints teach that without Courage any virtue will fail when it truly matters. 1xp: Express a courageous virtue. 2xp: Suffer for virtuous reasons. 5xp: Lose something for the same. Buyoff: Act in cowardice.
Key of Love
Love is the direction of virtue for the highland saints, who teach that only humans are capable of this transcendent passion. 1xp: Express a loving virtue. 2xp: Change a life to better it. 5xp: Save another's life. Buyoff: Act in hate. Requirement: Be human.
Key of Truth
Highland saints consider Truth a basic philosophical principle, without which a reasonable world cannot function properly. 1xp: Express a truthful virtue. 2xp: Refuse to lie. 5xp: Expose a great lie. Buyoff: Act in untruth.
Book of Light (R)
The character's knowledge of the holy texts of the Sky God Faith. This Ability is useful for mastering the teachings, comparing editions, distinguishing apocryphic content and teaching the book to others. Albeit called a "book", the holy texts are actually still plural and mutating by the moment.
Secret of Hagiography
The character can learn Blessings from accounts of the BOOK OF LIGHT (R) and other holy writings. The Story Guide chooses what is available; the player has the right to refuse suggestions equal to the level of success in the Ability check. Cost: 1 Reason per activation, cumulative
Secret of Deaconate
The character is a church official in charge of a parish. He can replace the Ability requirements of any Blessing with his knowledge of the BOOK OF LIGHT (R) and PRAY (V) when leading the congregation, as assigned by the Story Guide. Cost: 1 Pool associated with the original virtue per check, cumulative over the scene.
Key of Hatred
Some Gorenites have taken to justifying their hate with Sky God. They are still sincere in their faith, and some are influential deacons. 1xp: Express your hate. 2xp: Act on your hate. 5xp: Slay a person you hate. Buyoff: Ask for forgiveness.

Witchcraft: The Oldest Faith

Adapted from forum discussions with Josh.

Long before the Skyfire, long before the Empire, mankind existed in unspoilt communion with the world-that-is. The female principle of the Goddess was revered as the origin and closure of all things. This is the oldest religion.

Witches are priestesses of the Goddess and keepers of the Triune Covenant. They gain great wisdom and power by immersing in the Aspects of the Goddess.

Witches of Goren

Goren is the Old Country, the nest of witchcraft. In Goren stands WITCHMOUNT wherein covens gather in council. However, today the Gorenites have turned from their witch women to embrace the new Sky God Faith. It is even said that witches have been burned at stake, for the highlands saints consider some aspects of the Goddess suspect and all of them false worship.

In Jošland, however, witchcraft remains as strong as ever: witch women advice and aid the people in their relations with each other and the two worlds. Witches live among the people and gather in covens for private worship. The bravest still travel to Witchmount like they did before the Year of Shadow; others look closer for meetings.

Gorenite witchcraft is usually only taught in a concerned manner to WITCHBLOODED individuals, which almost always means children of witches. Witches can marry, but that often means reducing their commitment to coven activities, so many have children out of wedlock. An exception to the avoidance of marriage is the practice of TRIUNE MARRIAGE, a custom unique to Goren: clan chiefs and other important men of the community may, should they choose to do so, seek another wife from among witch women. This is usually encouraged by Gorenite covens, and most witches indeed consider only chieftains worthy enough mates for themselves. There also exists a belief in strengthening the blood by marriages among the accomplished.

Triune married witches do not settle down like normally married women in Goren do; they meet their husband as suits both parties, while the secular wife takes care of the chief's household. The witch is expected to advice her husband, but any children he begets are her own to do with as she would. The children of the witchwife cannot inherit the chief and in theory there should be no animosity between the two wives, even while some sagas teach the opposite.

Male children of witch women usually go into secular crafts, following their fathers; children from triune marriages are often adopted as bastards to the chief's household. WARLOCKS, male witches, are despised, and while the witch blood may run true in male children, teaching the art to the boy is never encouraged.

Her Husbands

Men do not practice witchcraft, as intimated above. Warlocks are feared and suspected of evil intent, for why else would a man want to wield the power of the Goddess himself, and why else would he want to resolve his affairs indirectly, without honor?

Instead, men of Goren ask the womenfolk for advice in spiritual matters. And when they truly fear for themselves in front of the supernatural, they call on HER HUSBANDS, male deities of legend. These entities are not actively worshiped, however and grant no magic today.

The Triune Goddess

As all witches know, the Goddess has three aspects: Maiden, Mother and Crone. All women embody the Aspects throughout their natural lives, moving through them in order.

The first aspect is MAIDEN who is sinless and flawless, unblemished by the touch of morality. She inflames the passions of men "“ who seek purity "“ and she keeps the Harmonic Covenant with the natural world. She is rather than does, resists all and bends to none.

The second aspect is MOTHER who is weathered and strong, rooted to the real world. She rules and makes decisions, runs a household, cooks and cures, crafts and raises children to her will. She meets with the other women and finds the Covenant of Accord in their midst.

The third aspect is CRONE who is tough and wise, knowful of what is. She answers questions of things generally forgotten, guides the young and fights the fights others see not. She is a solitary figure, mindful of being and imposing the Covenant of Seeming upon the traditional beings.

The knowledge of the Aspect Abilities is an everyday thing for women, there need not be any witchery in being a good daughter, mother or grandmother. Neither does a woman need direct life experience to know these Abilities; most will have some little understanding of each of them long before (and after) it is their time to live in the prescribed role.

Tricks

Witchery starts with simple things, wisdom that is only barely magical. We call these TRICKS. Each Trick set is a little Secret about how the world is made.

As can be seen from the examples, Tricks really manifest as several little effects which can reflect different Aspects of the Goddess. These can be IMPROVISED: if the character encounters a situation where knowing the tricks to breath can be applied, the player can create a new trick for her bag. The limitations are really just that the trick has to draw on one of the Aspects the character knows, and it can't be strong and central enough to be considered a Secret on its own; tricks are less important and powerful than feasible Secrets by definition. (Note that "smaller than Secret" is ultimately campaignspecific, just as judging individual Secrets for strength is.)

An improvised trick can be written down by the player if he wants, just like the example tricks are, but he doesn't have to. The difference is that if he does, the Story Guide has less grounds for complaint next time the same trick might be used. This is not to say that tricks are any more immutable than anything else in the crunch landscape; tricks can be turned into Arcana (explained later) and vice versa as the group's sensibilities dictate.

Everybody can learn the tricks, and it doesn't take that long to do so. They're not useful without understanding of the Aspects, that's all.

Creating and using Tricks in play

When creating new Tricks for play, choose the theme of the Tricks and pick one or two facets it has. There's little need to try to define more than you immediately need.

A good idea for "weakening" a Trick in comparison to an equivalent Secret is to take into account the necessity of the Ability check, and perhaps give the Trick one point more of a Pool cost than you'd give it if it were a separate Secret. As a rule of thumb, utilizing a slightly exotic SECRET OF SPECIALTY via a trick is quite fine for my game; it's a borderline-weak Secret for my typical crunch landscape anyway, adding an Ability check takes it into trick territory for sure.

On the other hand, if a player gets a good idea for a Trick application, but it's too powerful, the Story Guide may choose to offer it as an Arcana later on, or even on the spot for witchblooded characters.

Traditional Gorenite witchcraft draws on anatomical themes for its Tricks, but perhaps other ways are possible as well. As Gorenite witches explain it, the world is the body of the Goddess, which makes it possible for the witch to manipulate like with like, the world with their own body.

Embodying the Aspects

Women who want to be witches worship the Goddess. They live according to their chosen Aspect and gain Her blessings. Sometimes they do this instinctually and without knowledge of witchcraft, although this is rare.

Usually a witch will only embody one of the Aspects, the one that accords with her current role in life. Some witches manage two Aspects simultaneously, especially when their lives are in flux. A witch is considered to be embodying an Aspect as long as she has the Key of the Aspect in question.

A serious witch will sometimes find that she needs to draw on the magic of an Aspect she does not embody. An old woman needs the powers of seduction, or a young one has to strike down her foes. Such a witch may RAISE THE ASPECT she needs by other means; some sample rituals are provided as Secrets.

Arcana

Actual witchcraft comes in the form of ARCANA, Secrets that the Goddess provides to her adherents. Each Arcana comes with a limiting BAN and an associated Aspect; the witch can only use the arcane power if she embodies the Aspect and upholds the ban, although she can teach the Secret to others regardless of either. Arcana looks like this:

Arcana of Maiden: Flight
The character can fly freely with the winds, coming down wherever the Goddess wills. Alternatively, she can take a token of earth and air with her to control the flight and go where she would; the flight lasts until she touches the ground. Tying her hair will prevent the witch from flying in this manner until the next nightfall; if her hair is cut, it needs to regrow before she can fly again. Cost: 2 INSTINCT for flight, 1 more for control. Requirement: Embody Maiden.

Arcanas might not spell it out, but the corresponding Aspect Ability is used if any conflicts arise over the use of the Arcana. Other Abilities may also play a role, depending on what the character is doing, exactly.

The Ability to develop Arcana via the SECRET OF WITCH BLOOD is considered the mark of the true witch in Goren. However, they may also be learned through ritual magic (below) or from other witches, usually in coven environment.

Maiden-Ways (I)
Knowledge of the role and tasks of the unmarried woman. Useful for enamoring and dissuading men and beasts, and for understanding the wilds.
Mother-Wit (V)
Knowledge of the role and tasks of the mother. Useful for household chores, raising children and leading with authority.
Crone-Wise (R)
Knowledge of the role and tasks of the old woman. Useful for scaring people, knowing the spirits and giving good advice.
Key of the Maiden
The character is an unmarried, young woman. Her being and choices reflect the Harmonic Covenant. 1xp: Be in harmony with nature. 2xp: Another desires you. 5xp: Refuse to be tied down. Buyoff: Form a new bond
Key of the Mother
The character is in a position of motherhood and authority. Her being and choices reflect the Covenant of Accord. 1xp: Be in harmony with society. 2xp: You command and others obey. 5xp: You protect or teach an important lesson to one under your protection. Buyoff: Lose your position
Key of the Crone
The character is an old, independent woman. Her being and choices reflect the Covenant of Seeming. 1xp: Be in harmony with the unseen. 2xp: You advice somebody else. 5xp: You perform a rite of import. Buyoff: Be at another's mercy.
Secret of Raising the Maiden
The character may embody the Goddess Aspect of Maiden temporarily with a successful MAIDEN-WAYS (I) check. The result of the check becomes an Effect representing the persistence of the Aspect. The witch needs to engage in sexual intercourse weekly to retain the Aspect. The Aspect will also dissolve if the witch's desirability is challenged by a RESIST (R) check that overcomes the Aspect Effect. Cost: 3 INSTINCT
Secret of Raising the Mother
The character may embody the Goddess Aspect of Mother temporarily with a successful MOTHER-WIT (V) check. The result of the check becomes an Effect representing the persistence of the Aspect. The witch needs to craft a doll she dotes upon daily to retain the Aspect. The Aspect will also dissolve if the witch's motherhood is challenged by a REACT (R) check that overcomes the Aspect Effect. Cost: 3 VIGOR
Secret of Raising the Crone
The character may embody the Goddess Aspect of Crone temporarily with a successful CRONE-WISE (R) check. The result of the check becomes an Effect representing the persistence of the Aspect. The witch needs to perform significant blood-letting rites every season to retain the Aspect. The Aspect will also dissolve if the witch's fearsome visage is challenged by an ENDURE (V) check that overcomes the Aspect Effect. Cost: 3 REASON
Secret of Witch Blood
Witch blood runs strong in the veins of the daughters of Goren. Usually only witchbloods are initiated into covens. The benefit of the blood is that the character can improvise Arcana: whenever the player develops an improvisation that is too strong for a Trick, the Story Guide can declare it an Arcana instead, and one which the character can immediately learn. Thus the character can improvise Arcana.
Secret of the Warlock
The character can learn Aspect Abilities and initiate into Gorenite witchcraft despite being male. Also, the character can use the appropriate Aspect Abilities to masquerade as a female well enough to fool other people.
Herbalism (R)
Gorenite women use many herbs and natural remedies in their everyday life, which reflects on their witchcraft as well. The Ability is useful for finding and preparing herbal cures, drugs and poisons of various sorts. The Gorenite lands are relatively bare, though, so the number of plants is not infinite; usually there is just one for each distinct purpose.
Secret of Potion-making
The character knows how to create POTIONS, Tricks that can be administered to others. The appropriate Trick is performed, and the check used to support a HERBALISM (R), HOUSEWORK (R) or other appropriate craft check, which then becomes an Effect; the Effect can be given to another character or stored for later need. Once consumed, the Effect replicates the Trick in question at the Effect's level. Cost: The cost of the Trick and the Effect.
Tricks of Breath
The character knows how breath, wind and life go together. Maiden: The character's singing is pleasing to both man and beast, even if clearly not high art. Use MAIDEN-WAYS (I) to replace MUSIC (I). Cost: 1 INSTINCT Mother: A successful MOTHER-WIT (V) check allows the character to gain one point of REASON or INSTINCT by calming her breath. Suffer a penalty die for each cumulative use per day. Cost: 1 VIGOR Crone: A successful CRONE-WISE (R) check allows the character to stop breathing and feign death. Turn the result into an Effect to carry it for several scenes. Cost: 1 REASON
Tricks of Hair
Maiden: A successful MAIDEN-WAYS (I) check makes the character's hair change in color and length. Crone: A successful CRONE-WISE (R) check makes treated hair tough like steel wire, and sharp as well if she wants. Cost: 1 REASON
Arcana of Maiden: Shapeshift
The character can change her seeming into that of a natural beast. She gains the attributes of one, and gets to swap any number of her Abilities and Secrets for those appropriate to that kind of animal. The change is permanent until dispelled. The character can only change her shape (to either direction) when nobody else knows where she is. Cost: 2 INSTINCT for large mammals, 4 for others. Requirement: Embody Maiden
Arcana of Mother: Command
The character can force others to do as she wills by the mere use of her voice. However, if the other person is hurt in consequence, her voice loses its power for as long as it takes for the injury to heal. Cost: 2 VIGOR per target. Requirement: Embody Mother
Arcana of Mother: Healing
When the character heals Harm with an Ability check, she can spend Vigor to raise the effective level of healing on a 1:1 basis. The patient has to stay in bed for a day per point spent, however, or the Harm comes back. Cost: 1+ VIGOR Requirement: Embody Mother
Arcana of Crone: Spirit Sight
The character can see invisible and hidden things, including seeing through lies. When it comes to conflict over this, she can pay the difference between the check results in REASON to tie the opponent and make the result inconclusive (effectively meaning that she suspects but does not know). If she refuses to know something, however, the sight is lost until the truth is revealed to her. Cost: 1+ REASON Requirement: Embody Crone
Arcana of Crone: Horror
The character can make another feel unreasoning, primal fear by her mere visage and voice, intense enough to force the person to escape or even die of fright. However, this power is lost if any should laugh at her, only coming back if she manages to scare a person again. Cost: 1 REASON for social stakes, 2 for escape, 3 for paralysis and eventual death. Requirement: Embody Crone

Goddess's High Magic

Finally, there is one other facet to witchcraft, RITUAL MAGIC. It is usually only practiced by covens due to how exhausting it is, and how useful it is to have all Aspects of the Goddess represented in the ritual.

The ritual magic practiced by Gorenite witches is called COVENANT RITES due to the specific theological leverage the witches employ in contacting and treating with the Goddess; other traditions might have other ways to do ritual magic. The purpose is in any case singular, to communicate with the Goddess directly and consciously.

When the Covenant Rites are invoked, the coven can bring to motion several magical workings all at one time, unhindered by the limitations of Arcana. Witches are not rules-wise limited in advance as to the effects their workings may have; instead, they are limited by the following principles:

  • The magical working can only affect matters of which the coven has personal knowledge among them: people they know, places they've seen.
  • The magical working can only act upon the Covenants embodied in the ritual: the natural world can only be influenced through the Harmonic Covenant, human society through the Covenant of Accord and the inner world through the Covenant of Seeming. Should an Aspect of the Goddess not be embodied by a ritual participant, the ritual will be completely ineffectual in that sphere.
  • The magical working cannot affect people within the ritual space. Outside forces can affect them while they are inside, and they can communicate or leave the space, but their magic will not affect anybody within the ritual.

Aside from these limitations, there is little the covenant rites cannot accomplish, provided the witches are willing to pay the price and try as often as it takes to succeed.

Conducting the rites

The Covenant Rites are prepared with a successful RITUAL MAGIC (R) check, which prepares the ritual ground. This check result may be spent as bonus dice on further checks in the ritual. Only witches with the SECRET OF THE COVENANT RITES can take active part in the following rites, but others can participate by donating support: one Pool point per check may be drawn from a willing supporting participant instead of the main ritualists.

Preparing the rites can take a day or longer for an unsuitable place, while a previously sanctified place can be cleared much quicker. The rites themselves can last from an hour to a day or more, depending on the goals of the ritual.

Invoking the Goddess

The coven chooses which Covenants to call upon when they begin the rite. For each invoked Aspect, the embodying witch makes an Aspect Ability check and pays 7 points minus the check result from the associated Pool. Failed invocations may be repeated, but the cost is paid regardless, and failed attempts cause a penalty die to retries.

Ritual Activities

When the invocation has been successful, the witches may begin transforming the world. There are two purposes to ritual magic: drawing forth Arcana and creating ritual Workings. The witches have to cooperate on either, and can do either or both multiple times before closing their ritual down.

Nobody can leave the ritual space while the ritual is in progress. Leaving or otherwise disturbing the ritual ends any on-going ritual activity without effect and sends any finished phases AMISS: the Story Guide decides whether to bring the effects of such workings to fruition, when and in what manner.

Workings

When the witches want to make something happen in the world, they use WORKINGS. Each such working is worded as an Effect and created with one or more Aspect checks, depending on the covenants applied in the working.

Each individual working is described carefully and visualized by the witches, often in many different ways to ensure that the working can find a way to actualize in the world. The Pool cost of a ritual working depends on the covenant:

Harmonic Covenant
workings cost INSTINCT points according to the magnitude of the change to the natural world: 1 point for a minor change, 10 for a storm of the century, sort of like how Three-Corner magic is priced.
Covenant of Accord
workings cost one VIGOR point per person directly affected by the magic.
Covenant of Seeming
workings cost REASON equal to the RESIST (R) check or Effect strength of the target, if any. (Among several targets weaker ones support the stronger.)

Keeping a working within only one Covenant requires careful visualization of the required magic, as the Story Guide takes care of pricing the magic, and he relies on his own vision of the working to do so. However, often the cheapest way of achieving one's aims is to traverse through several covenants.

Drawing Forth Arcana

This is much like a ritual working, except that the witches prepare one among them to receive a specific Arcana (which somebody needs to design). This is done by visualizing the effects of the Arcana, which is again priced by the Story Guide according to the Covenant formulas. This does not have to bear relation to the costs of using the Arcana in question, only to how the witches visualize it.

If the drawing forth succeeds, the witch will gain the Arcana when the ritual is closed down, and may teach it freely to others as well.

Pool Payments

All Pool payments may be shared between witches in any way to which they agree during ritual magic. A witch might well find herself out of Pool points midway through a ritual regardless. She has two options: sacrifice in compensation, or abandon the working.

Sacrificing her own blood allows the witch to take on Harm equal in size to the amount of Pool she would pay in this way. Sacrificing the blood of others allows the witch to drain their Pools (any of them for any of hers) for her needs. Animals work as well as people for this purpose. This need not be fatal, but the bloodletting is difficult to control.

Finally, lay participants in the ritual can offer one appropriate Pool point per head into each check made in the ritual. I wouldn't accept nameless extras here (it could become ridiculous), but would rather create a Secret for public rituals and their benefits.

Ritual Effects

Once a ritual Working has been paid for, it becomes an Effect (for no extra cost) for one witch who embodies the primary Aspect of the Working. These Effects persist after the ritual is finished, and bring about the magic the coven visualized.

The effect might be immediate, but it might also take a day or two to come about, depending on what the witches wanted: an animal attack against a hostile chief might happen the very next night, while the estrangement between two people could happen over a season, for example. The Story Guide has control over the pacing of the ritual magic, except for one thing: the next time the witch learns of the target of her magic, the magic has either succeeded or failed. A witch should thus not be too hasty in finding out whether her magic worked, so as to not force it to effect at an inopportune moment.

If the working targets a person directly or indirectly, the target can defeat the magic in ways that depend on the nature of the attack: a hostile animal attack could be beaten off by force of arms, for example. Conflicts against the magic are against the ritual Effect created by the witch. In whatever way the magic comes, the Effect value is what the victim has to match. Workings that nobody resists come about without fail, of course. Also, if the Working is forced to act in an awkward manner due to haste or foreknowledge by the target, the Story Guide may assign circumstance penalties to the Working: these are deducted directly from its value.

A powerful working with drastic consequences will probably be taken to an extended conflict by a player character victim. This works the way extended conflicts with Effects usually do, as far as the mechanics are concerned; the wise witch might send several Effects against powerful opponents to compensate for their frailty, or she might use the SECRET OF THE WARRIOR RITE to tie her own well-being into the working.

Ritual Magic (R)
Gorenite witchcraft does not involve rituals in its everyday application, but they take precedence at covens and actual worship. This Ability can be used to support other magical Abilities when they're applied in a ritual context: deliberate tools, environment and action help to focus the magic. The Ability is also useful in interpreting strange rituals, developing new ones and might support PRAY (V) in some situations as well.
Secret of the Covenant Rites
The character has the basic knowledge required for participating in Gorenite ritual magic, making her able to spend Pool and make Ability checks for ritual working.
Secret of Blood-letting
The character is skilled in blood rituals, and can make a RITUAL MAGIC (R) check to cause Harm to a ritual sacrifice and draw an equal number of Pool points from it, just like if she were shedding her own blood. The target has to beat the level of Harm with ENDURE (R) to stay conscious; if repeated to an unconscious victim, this is fatal, as is going over MORTAL (6) Harm.
Secret of the Warrior Rite
When the character creates a ritual Working in the Covenant Rites, she may connect herself to the Working, making checks and taking Harm through it, just like it was herself who took the form of the magic. A Working like this is controlled by the player in how and when it comes about; however, it may manifest in at most as many scenes as its Effect value indicates before dissipating. The character herself is only vaguely aware of what the Working is doing on her behalf; Harm manifests as dizziness and illness that drains her of life. Requirement: SECRET OF THE COVENANT RITES
Secret of Archaic Rites
The character can use her Arcana through a Working to decrease its costs, provided that the Arcana's Aspect is present in the ritual. Any part of the Working that is visualized to accord with a magic in her Arcana is not considered for the cost of the working. In this use her Arcana may target others than herself as well. Requirement: SECRET OF THE COVENANT RITES

Vulfen: Primal Urge

Adapted from forum discussions with Josh.

The Vulfen are an inhuman race of lupine beastfolk. They mainly live in the eponymous southern wastes of Vulfland. Vulfen are heavy-built creatures that most closely resemble dire wolves the size of man, with long snouts and powerful hind legs. Their armlegs are more adapted to a running gait than manipulating things; the favored locomotion of the creature is a slow bound on four legs, capable of traversing long distances.

Vulfen are intelligent yet savage, with an inborn inclination towards directness and predatory violence. They are also loyal and honorable, however, as well as sociable, just like the wolves they resemble.

As the Shadow Night recedes, so does the place Vulfen have in Near. They are not likely neighbors to humans, but would rather be rulers or slaves.

Boreal Beasts

Vulfen are not known in Maldorian records from before the Year of Shadow, but according to their own legends, they've always been in the world, confined to the most distant south. When the Shadow Night rose and temperatures fell all over Near, Vulfen prospered in the lands suddenly inhospitable to humans. As the Southern Sea froze over, some even crossed over and staked territory in Near.

As the Shadow Night has receded, most Vulfen remain in Vulfland, the extensive swath of tundra and borderline glacier in the interior of the southern continent. They do prosper in the maritime taiga as well, but the Jošland Gorenites have largely driven them inland over the last generation. This does little to reduce their numbers: Vulfland is an enormous area, almost as large as Near itself, with plenty of room for the current Vulfen population.

Vulfen packs subsist on a diet of hunted deer and smaller animals, as well as megafauna of the far interior. Nothing threatens them in their habitat, their ferocity and intelligence makes them the match of the largest mammoth.

Despite their natural superiority, prosperity does not come easy to Vulfen packs: winters in Vulfland are harsh even with thick natural pelts, and bad hunting can lead to outright starvation. Vulfen are not accustomed to mercy in their cruel land.

Pack Society Politics

Vulfen are competitively social: they put great stock to honor and face among the pack, to such a degree that they can't quite enjoy life in isolation from a pack of worthy peers. Respect and expecting respect comes naturally to the Vulfen.

The pack itself is organized akin to a wolf pack: there is an alpha Vulfen called VALRU and perhaps some beta VAL. A particularly powerful valru is termed a RUVALRU, the master of many packs. Originally all these terms refer to kinship: "valru" is a parent, "ruvalru" a grandparent and so on.

A Vulfen will be uncertain without a clear hierarchy and will often challenge others for dominance simply to find out where he belongs. Even the scapegoat-like HAR on the lowest rung of the pack politic are happier when they know their position unequivocally.

Vulfen have become socialized to humans in different ways: most Vulfland Vulfen make use of human dexterity when it serves their needs, going so far as to capture humans into servitude as FETCHES, hand-servants. Some rogue Vulfen may adopt a human tribe in lieu of their pack, often becoming kings or even gods to the human community, depending on their reaction to the lupine. Vulfen do not need human amenities, but they easily come to enjoy cooked food, shelter and other perks of civilization.

Outside the cold and sparse Vulfland the balance between humans and the occasional Vulfen shift: a lone Vulfen finding himself deep within civilized territory often ends up hunted as a "werewolf" or captured. Such a Vulfen may be tamed and become civilized after a fashion, coming to appreciate the creature comforts that humans can offer. Being tamed is shameful for the Vulflanders, who might slay a weakling or pup unable to cope with the harsh life of Vulfland.

The lure of civilization in its different forms is a perennial source of internal conflict among Vulfen: many Vulfland valru consider it an identity issue that Vulfen are akin to the wolf and despise any sign of civilization as weakness. Others disagree, preferring to interact with humans in different ways.

A similar divided curiosity governs the way Vulfen relate to wolves, which are rare in Vulfland, outhunted by Vulfen themselves. Vulfen who would respect their primordial way of life often look up to true wolves, gladly adopting them into the pack; after all, the wolf is not conflicted by human concerns of morality. Others are shamed or angered by wolves, which to them seem like stunted, incomplete Vulfen.

Dreams of Agarim

Vulfen tend to scoff at religious notions "“ not because they do not believe in unseen forces (they have good noses, after all) or because they do not believe in spirits; it's just that they consider themselves wolf spirits and heirs of Agarim the Father Wolf already, so they should have little to prove and less to ask from other spiritual forces. Again, some Vulfen disagree, especially when they're forced to leave their comfortable pack life on the tundra; while a Vulfen would not be likely to stoop to worshipping other spirits, he might cooperate with them when their interests coincide.

Lacking a religious mind-set does not mean that Vulfen are entirely without spiritual experiences. They take dreams very seriously, and hold certain respect for powerful dream shamans. While they do not practice dream shamanism themselves, Vulfen dreams are important due to their relationship with the common ancestor Ru-Agarim, Father Wolf. Most Vulfen believe that their dreams are visitations to another world, one in which Agarim reminds them of his way.

Of particular import are PROPHETIC dreams, recognized as such when the same dream is shared by many Vulfen. Usually prophecies concern only one pack, but some of the most important, dealing with Agarim, are known to all packs in Vulfland.

Secret of Vulfen
The character has natural weapons akin to the SECRET OF NATURAL WEAPONS, and the Vulfen may use any equipment mastery Secrets with these ratings. The equipment ratings are the same for all Vulfen in the campaign, determined initially by the first character to have this Secret and added to later when characters gain better quality ratings. Vulfen have clumsy paws, and thus suffer a penalty die to all Ability checks that require manual dexterity.
Scent (I)
The character's Ability at interpreting and modifying scents in the form of deliberate markings and natural residues. The Ability is useful for tracking, recognizing social cues and other uses where an inhumanly keen sense of smell and scent memory would be helpful. For Vulfen this is one of their primary senses, if not the most important.
Secret of Truthful Snout
The character can smell lies on other people with SCENT (I). He can even smell their true intent; on a success the player of the other character is obligated to reveal their intent if it hasn't come up yet. Cost: 1 INSTINCT
Secret of Psychometry
The character's sense of smell is so keen that he can interpret past events to a great degree of accuracy by examining places and items and making a SCENT (I) check. Activating this Secret bestows the Vulfen with full knowledge of the events of one scene; if the particular events were not played, the Story Guide frames them as a flashback scene or cut scene. Cost: 2 INSTINCT
Secret of Dream Prophecy
Vulfen are not usually dream-shamans, as the animal totems do not speak to them. However, a Vulfen with this Ability is more tuned to Agarim's dream than the rest: the player can invoke a prophetic dream with a successful BESTIALITY (V) check; the player gets to choose the topic of the dream, while the Story Guide chooses the rest of the dream. If the check is made into an Effect, other Vulfen reminded of it have to make a successful RESIST (R) check to not remember having the same dream. Otherwise this Secret functions as the SECRET OF PROPHECY.
Secret of Animal Attraction
The character is a majestic beast or cuddly pet insofar as humans are concerned. He can use his BESTIALITY (V) in lieu of CHARM (I) when interacting with humans. Cost: 1 INSTINCT
Secret of Pack Tactics
Vulfen are accustomed to hunting together. When the character does, he can share Pool freely with his pack.
Secret of Duel Tactics
Vulfen resolve their disagreements with BESTIALITY (V) domination duels, both within and between packs. The character with this Secret can use other Abilities in those situations without fighting dishonorably. Cost: 1 VIGOR per scene
Secret of Fetch
The character has a fetch, a human slave. The relationship is seamless enough that the Vulfen can use his own Abilities through the fetch, thus avoiding penalties for using his hands. The fetch can also act at some distance from the Vulfen, though the players should keep in mind how difficult a lone human might find survival on the tundra.
Secret of Dire Vulfen
The character has grown into a larger, more primal beast. He now has to pay a point of REASON to use his hands at all, in addition to the penalty die. However, he may now activate any equipment mastery for his SECRET OF VULFEN with VIGOR instead of an overflow die. Cost: 1 VIGOR. Requirement: KEY OF AGARIM
Secret of the Bite
The character may cause AGGRAVATED damage with his teeth, marked accordingly on the Harm track. Such Harm does not shake down and cannot be healed naturally. Additionally, the opponent has to make an immediate ENDURE (V) check after the battle against the highest level of aggravated Harm to avoid paying for and gaining the KEY OF CRIPPLE, unless he already has it. The player of the victim decides how the character is crippled by the bite. Cost: 1 VIGOR per bite.
Secret of the Howl
When howling with BESTIALITY (V) and using MUSIC (I) in support, you can communicate complex messages in your howl, ones that are heard far away on the tundra.
Secret of the Long Run
The character can make an ENDURANCE (V) check to run and not stop before reaching his destination. To interrupt the run before the destination is reached, other characters need to overcome the check result. Cost: 1 VIGOR per day of running.
Secret of Valru
The character is the leader of his pack. He can provide others in his pack with INSTINCT refreshments by leading them. Cost: 1 INSTINCT
Key of the Pack (specify)
The character is attached to a pack with ties of family and honor. 1xp: Cooperate with the pack. 2xp: Disagree with the pack authority. 5xp: Your position in the pack changes. Buyoff: Leave the pack.
Key of the Fetch (specify)
The character has become responsible for a hand-servant, a human who works for him. 1xp: Order the fetch about. 2xp: Take care of the fetch's needs. 5xp: Your relationship changes. Buyoff: Abandon the fetch.
Key of Civilization
The character is curious about civilization, perhaps wishing to find a new way of life for his people. 1xp: Enjoy the benefits of civilization. 2xp: Learn a new thing. 5xp: Change your lifestyle to accommodate civilization. Buyoff: Attack civilization.
Key of Agarim
The character idolizes a balanced animal life-style, refuting his aspect as a person. 1xp: Act like an animal. 3xp: Act in an inhuman way. Buyoff: Accept a trapping of civilization.
Key of Tame Vulfen
The character has become tame and socialized into human community. 1xp: Follow human lead. 3xp: Develop a new human relationship, or change an old one. Buyoff: Slay a person.

Vulfen in Play

The Vulfen vision can be savage. I've wrestled hard with the issue of whether Vulfen are even playable: they are like furry Nazis in so many ways that one might assume that they'd only attract players who want to play a monster.

As it happens, though, there is a trick to making this work: the Story Guide must not downplay the Vulfland environment. The harsh creatures and their unforgiving culture start to make sense when they are contrasted with the stark reality of the wastes. My impression was completely overturned when we found out in play that the Vulfen relationship to their fetches is not necessarily one of slavery "“ it could not be, when the land is so hostile that the Vulfen needs to support his fetch just to allow him to survive. What seems like exploitation may be cooperation necessitated by survival.

This works the other way around, too: when the Vulfen go north, they certainly start looking unnecessarily savage if they insist on the values developed on the wastes. In my mind the grand narrative here concerns the grandiose Vulfen eschatology: how does the proud creature react to realizing that the world is much larger and much more complex than he ever realized? What happens when the other people in the story find out that ultimately, only those basic Vulfen values matter?

Vulfen of the Southern Continent

As the name signifies, Vulfen are most common in and around Vulfland. It is their natural environment. In fact, the whole idea of Vulfland is defined by Gorenites as the lands held by the Vulfen.

Some Vulfen packs attack into Jošland during winter, stealing animals and causing trouble. This can happen all the way to the coasts, making the people vary. Low-level skirmishes between hunting parties and packs make the relationship much more hostile than it is in the actual Vulfland.

Vulfen elsewhere

I haven't really thought about it, but I suppose they could come over to Maldor. Perhaps they'd even prosper there.

Old Goren, in fact, is a pretty natural environment for Vulfen. I would not be surprised encountering them there.

Vulfen Names

Like ratkin, I seen to end up with folks like "Greypaw" or "Growl" with Vulfen. Why fight the inclination, anyway? The Vulfen don't care, they probably think that names are uncivilized.

Vulfland: Glacial Edge

Adapted from forum discussions with Josh. Onomastics are original.

Far south of Near, beyond the Southern Sea, beyond the fjords of Jošland, lie the continental steppes of the southern continent. The maritime climate gives way to dry steppe that remains frozen three fourths of the year, and to southern tundra that thaws not at all. Finally, to the extreme south, there come the glaciers that grow and splinter in turn as the weather patterns slowly seek a new equilibrium.

To the Jošlanders this whole frigid desert is known as Vulfland, the land of the Vulfen. The predatory beastkin rule a land unsuited to humanity: even in summer it's too cold for a man unclothed, and there is little in the way of wood or stone to build from. The Vulfen do not mind, and they make sure that civilization does not creep any farther than it may.

Still, Vulfland does harbor humans: caribou herders and fishers, and pickers of moss and berries that grow up through summer. The Vulfen consider hunting big game their own prerogative, and enforce this law harshly, but they do not care for the bounty of the sea that remains outside their reach.

Impossible Survival

The southern continent is an extensive landmass that has always been inhospitable to habitation according to Maldorian records. The polar shift during the Year of Shadow did little to change this; the continent has moved farther north alongside the rest of Near, but the weakening of the sun has only extended the tundra to areas where once dense boreal forests held sway. Rainfall has increased considerably, however, and now great rivers flow south towards the great depression of the renewed southern glacier, slowly building up into a reservoir that will become a great arctic sea in time.

Human people of Vulfland were there before the Vulfen came, or so they say; they call themselves the people, "Inuk", despite what others say of them. Outsiders often ignore these natives in favor of the Vulfen packs in their tales, even while they trade with the humans for beautiful bone and thick furs of arctic beasts.

Most of the Inuk live either in small lakeside fishing villages or stay on the move, following the half-wild caribou herds as they track the sun north and south over the year. Some few are hunters and fishers far in the glacier, out of the reach of Vulfen. There is ample trade between these population groups: the herders carry surplus production from village to village on their travels, while exchanging their bounty of bone and skins for pottery, fish, oils and other products of the sedentary villagers. Glacier-walkers trade with yeti and come annually or biannually to villages to gain the few supplies they can't make on their own. Marriage customs reflect this interdependence: Vulflanders consider a marriage from a village into a herding family or vice versa a particularly conspicuous one, as the new family members make for trustworthy partners in barter.

The humans of Vulfland are submissive towards the Vulfen packs that roam the wastes, moving over considerable distances in search of prey. Most packs disdain the weak humans, perceived as such because of their dependence on a multitude of tools, clothing and foodstuffs scraped from the ground. Through the Shadow Night the numbers of humans plummeted and Vulfen even ate human flesh, but since then the power relationship has been turning around.

Woodcraft on the wastes

Characters coming to the tundra for the first time will probably suffer severe circumstance penalties if they try to survive on the sparse natural plant life and travel long distances. The glacier is even worse: WOODCRAFT (R) does not help out there at all, survival basically depends on expert LOCAL (R) knowledge and careful preparations made in advance.

Spirits of Aether

Vulfen are irreligious, but the Vulfland humans have an intense spiritual relationship with TOTEM animals, powerful dream spirits that watch over the people and regulate their relationship with the natural world; as one story has it, the Vulfen themselves are children of the Wolf totem, sent to punish people for over-exploitation of their environment.

Totems are usually community-specific: herders bring their totem with them as they travel, while villages abandon theirs if they are forced to move to a new place. Sometimes different genders or occupational groups within the same settlement have separate totems. A mystically potent family or even a person might also have a totem of their own: in these cases people usually consider the person to have some blood of the totem animal in them, explaining the close relationship.

Some people, called SHAMANS, specialize in communing with the totems and recognizing their signs. Most shamans are also expert dreamers; the next chapter discusses this facet of their power. The most important duty of a shaman in inuk society concerns negotiating with spirits that visit the community by possessing its members; some spirits have important tasks they need help with, while others just want to have fun and feel the experiences the body has to offer. The shaman sorts these out and makes sure the spirit gets what it wants, and blesses the community in return.

Typical totems include bear, reindeer, seal, walrus, whale, various fish, arctic birds, fox, squirrel, wolverine and other common Vulfland animals. Wolf totems are not unheard of, but they usually denote a settlement under Vulfen control and are not actually active spirits. Communities honor their animal totems through special feasts, dances and ceremonies, vision quests, carved jewelry, fetishes, and totem-poles.

Wendigo

Not all spirits are totemic; some are malicious and not of animal origin, with unnatural desires ravaging them at unexpected moments. Some are animal spirits driven insane by pain and grief. The general name for these malicious spirits is WENDIGO.

The wendigo can possess a person in his sleep, but the more common cause for spirit possession is the breaking of a spirit taboo, the most prominent of which is cannibalism: eating human flesh is cause for spirit possession because the flesh entering the body also possesses part of the spirit, which is then allowed to enter as well. Animal flesh is safe due to totemic pacts made by the ancestors, allowing the animal to give its body willingly while the spirit escapes. Humans do not have a totem, and thus their flesh is poisonous with spirit.

(In case it matters: Vulfen technically do have a totem spirit in Agarim the Wolf Father, but as Agarim does not negotiate with people, there is no pact; thus Vulfen is also a bad meat.)

A being who succumbs to a wendigo finds that he cannot help but think of other beings close to him as his prey. They find themselves become withdrawn, solitary, but also desperate for the taste of the flesh of other sentient creatures. In most cases, an act which was taken for survival's sake becomes an allconsuming desire; some wendigo survive for a time by gorging themselves on animal prey, but sooner or later, out of desperation or compulsion, they turn to others of their own kind. This delights the evil dream which inhabits its victim, allowing it to interact with the physical world in the most gruesome of ways, savoring the taste of flesh and blood. Some mortals go mad from this possession, and take their own lives rather than face their twisted desires.

Shamans are trained to battle these evil spirits, and can sometimes drive them away from a body. However, a once-wendigo has to be watched closely for the rest of his life, as he is now easy prey to evil spirits, without the normal protections that totemic pacts afford to the inuk.

Hospitality (I)
Hospitality is a necessary skill for people who have to be able to band together regardless of familiarity. The Ability is used to encounter strangers, explain your customs and expectations to them and make sure you both feel richer by the interaction. It is also useful in support of other social abilities.
Harpoon (V)
Inuk are not allowed to hunt by the Vulfen, but they're not prevented from doing it on the glacier and in the water. Use this Ability to fell prey with the Inuk weapons.
Local (Glacier) (R)
Some Vulflanders outright live in the glaciers, hunting and fishing and setting up temporary camps on the coastlines. This Ability reflects their unique survival skills: building structures out of snow and ice, protecting their eyes from the glare of the sun, finding their prey through the long dark winter, avoiding crevasses and so on.
Secret of Many Snows
The character is adept at recognizing and dealing with the dangers of the snow and ice, such as crevasses, avalanches and breaking ice. When he traps another with a LOCAL (GLACIER) (R) check, the target takes an additional Harm equal to the number of "˜ "˜ overflow dice in the check. When trying to avoid these dangers himself, the character gains a bonus die for each such overflow die.
Carving (I)
Inuk have little in the way of material possessions, so practically everything they own is beautifully carved and decorated, from tent poles to shovels. Wood, bone, stone and even ice are used. This Ability is useful in making tools both beautiful and usable.
Secret of Scarification
Vulflanders do not write, but their scarmarks are very intricate and may be deciphered with CARVING (I) checks. A character with this Secret can transmit specific messages carved to materials, even flesh. Unlike writing, scar-marks are context-dependent, and the carver can decide who is supposed to be able to interpret the message. The carving check itself can be used as either bonus or penalty dice for anybody trying to decipher the message.
Secret of the Swear
The character can use social Abilities to cause penalty dice to his enemies with his terrible language, provided they understand him. However, most other languages are not as facile in cursing as Vulfen, so circumstance penalties are suffered. Cost: 1 INSTINCT
Secret of Scar-Rune
A powerful scar-mark created by the master carver can affect the recipient in a drastic manner. The rune is an Effect created with CARVING (I); the carver determines the message and who is supposed to be able to read it. Whenever it is deciphered, the rune causes a dice pool equal to its value, used by the player of the carver to help or hinder the task the rune encourages or warns against. Cost: 1 REASON to create the Effect. Requirements: SECRETS OF SCARIFICATION and SWEAR.
Secret of the Scentless
Some Inuk are born without a natural scent; it is said that this is the fate of those given birth on the glacier under the aurora. Vulfen will usually try to slay such humans, but they (and other scent-dependent creatures) suffer a penalty die for each "˜-' overflow die in their own check when interacting with the scentless. The scentless in turn suffers an additional penalty die to his ANIMAL KEN (I) due to this weird. Requirements: be human, be born with it.
Secret of the Possessor
The character is possessed by a spirit with personality, name, specific motivations and powers. The Story Guide creates the possessor as a dream spirit, like the character was its SIDEKICK, except the spirit may choose which of the character's Keys is left active, and the character can't leave. When the possessor wants something, the character has to succeed in a Resist (R) check to not obey.
Secret of Dream Exorcism
The character is experienced in dealing with hostile dream spirits, and can use PRAY (V) freely to support his dealings with them, and to exorcise their possession if need be. The target of possession regains any Advances they've been forced to spend on spiritual Secrets when the shaman frees him.
Secret of Spirit Boon (specify)
Spirit boons are blessings gained by pleasing spirits or mighty totems. They are exactly like witchcraft ARCANA, except they employ cultural Abilities and require the character to embody the totemic Aspect of the spirit animal the blessing comes from. Requirement: a specific KEY OF THE TOTEM
Key of the Cannibal Urge
The character has eaten of the flesh of a person and thus opened himself to the wendigo. 1xp: Eat meat. 2xp: Treat others like food. 5xp: You are suspected or accused of being wendigo. Buyoff: Confess and get purified.
Secret of the Wendigo
Characters with the KEY OF THE CANNIBAL URGE or who have otherwise broken a spirit taboo do not pay an Advance for this Secret. The wendigo gains the SECRET OF ADDICTION (HUMAN FLESH, VIGOR) for free. Furthermore, this Secret does not disappear if the character is exorcised; it causes him to suffer penalty dice equal to his currently expended VIGOR to any attempts to resist spirit possession when he is currently not being possessed.
Secret of Waste-Walker
The character is immune to cold and can see heat signatures in total darkness. Whenever he would take Harm from cold, his body just gets more sunken and wasted. Requirement: SECRET OF THE WENDIGO
Secret of Predator
The character gains natural weapons akin to the SECRET OF VULFEN, except the player gets to pick the ratings freely. The character can also learn SCENT (I) and BESTIALITY (V). Requirement: SECRET OF THE WENDIGO
Key of the Totem (animal)
The character follows and emulates a totem, either because his community does or because the spirit chose him specifically. 1xp: Emulate the totem animal. 3xp: Serve the totem's goals, general or specific. Buyoff: Desecrate your totem's fetish.
Key of the Shaman
The character is considered wise and able to protect the community from the supernatural. 1xp: Carve runes or fetishes. 2xp: Advice another. 5xp: Defeat or befriend a spirit threatening the community. Buyoff: Abandon the community.
Key of Marriage
The character would like to get married, which can be far from easy in Vulfland. 1xp: Interact with suitable candidates. 2xp: Prepare marriage gifts. 5xp: Gain the agreement of a person involved, such as everybody's parents, village elders and shamans, and possibly others. Buyoff: Succeed, or leave Vulfland.

Actual Play

In my playtesting the Inuk have been a remarkably passive subject people to which things are done and who do nothing in turn. I wonder what's up with that? Hopefully others will play stories that center on these people who live on the border of the universe.

Specifically, consider the heroic potential of PERSONAL STORIES. I imagine that the Inuk heroes do crazy things for small reasons, like visiting other planets to get some wedding gifts for their sweetheart. They also do small things for small reasons, like stabbing each other to death for promiscuity. This zooming in to small things happens to outsiders as well: life in Vulfland is harsh, and sometimes just fighting for your own happiness is more than enough work.

Ideas

The wendigo might or might not come with a personalized spirit. If the spirit is not personal, then it's up to the player to play the subliminal urges and monstrosity of the character as he wishes.

The wendigo is powerful. If it could be controlled and corralled, perhaps it could even be a match for a pack of Vulfen: a weapon born of desperation.

Meetings between communities are a low-key event for heroic drama, but important for the Inuk, for whom new faces mean new marriage and trade opportunities. Consider enjoying this material at the pace it sets.

Spirit interactions can be interesting, as the smart community goes a long way in satisfying the spirit, whatever it wants. But there is a line at which the spirit becomes a liability; the good shaman knows where it lies.

I am personally convinced that the southern glaciers do not hold just doors into dreaming, but to other worlds. Perhaps the two are one and the same.

Inuk Names

Let's use Finnic names for the Inuk. The people usually only have one name and perhaps a patronymic, formed with the suffix -nen (male) or -tar (female) out of their parent's name. A person might also be known by his totem (if he has one) or his village's totem. "Gull-Jakko", for instance.

Male

Gusto, Hentto, Eero, Iskko, Junte, Migal, Niba, Niila, Ola, Henri, Ovla, Spenidna, Kola, Vulle, Kari.

Female

Aillun, Bavval, Aira, Diinna, Karen, Mari, Leinna, Henna, Ravna, Riida, Sara, Sikka, Anne, Birre.

Places and Things

Use any of the above names with a suitable suffix: -järv, -jok, -suo, -nava, -kosk, -hank, -ves, -aapa. Use -i- as a connector where necessary.

Dreaming: Other Worlds

Adapted from forum discussions with Josh.

In the deep south the world is less real than up north. Dream and reality mix up and entangle so that sometimes you don't know whether you're dreaming or awake. The Vulflanders have shamans who can walk through the dream and distinguish what is not real.

Vulfen do not have shamans, but they do respect the power of dreams. Insofar as they have religion, it is based on the prophetic dream: when all the Vulfen dream together and in one dream, that dream is then known to be true for them all.

Dreams of Power

Reality on the southern glaciers is sometimes mutable, strange sights are seen. Green forests and weird beasts may be encountered, things of other words. This is because of the SOFT PLACES, areas that have yet not been perceived enough to separate the real from the imaginary. Dream shamans sometimes seek these soft places because of the power it gives to their dreaming; others dread them for the illusionary dangers they may contain.

The southern aurora is connected to the power of dreams: it is said that dreams seen under the twisting polar lights contain great truths about the future. Such dreams, when they happen, are thought powerful divination that may come to anybody. Seeking the services of a dream shaman is considered most prudent in these cases so as to find out what the dream signifies.

Aside from dreams of divination, there are dream visitations from totemic animals and other dream spirits. Vulfen do not have these dreams, as they do not have totemic animals. Humans take these dreams most seriously, however.

The last type of powerful dream is the LUCID dream. These are especially important for dream shamans, as they can only make purposeful choices in these kinds of dreams. A dreamer will not normally realize that he is dreaming, but in a lucid dream he does. The dream shaman has usually trained to enter a lucid state during his dream; a layman will only enter a lucid dream accidentally or when provoked by a dream shaman.

Dreamwalking

Other dreams are like recorded plays and can't be influenced while they are running, but lucid dreams are different: they happen in an interactive environment, the dreaming of the individual dreamer. Because the lucid dreamer is aware and in control of himself, normal scenes may be framed within the dream.

A character enters a lucid dream by making a DREAM-TELLING (R) Ability check while asleep. The check result gives the maximum number of scenes that the dream lasts before the character wakes up. A dream may also become lucid when a lucid dreamwalker first enters it or interacts directly with the dreamer; in this case a REACT (I) check may be used instead.

A dreamwalker is a character that can move from his own dream to another's using the SECRET OF DREAMWALKING. A lucid dreamwalker may interact with a non-lucid dreamer in the dreamer's dream; however, non-lucid dreamers may only make Passive Ability checks, and they can't realize that the things and events in the dream are not real.

Once a lucid dreamer is present, he may opt to shape a dream freely, or act within the dream, possibly making Ability checks. A DREAM-TELLING (R) check may be required to make complex changes or make emotionally powerful changes without waking the dreamer up. Social interaction is possible in a dream almost normally, but any action that would cause Harm, refresh Pools or otherwise affect the dreamer mechanically will wake the dreamer instead. Secrets can and will change this; Vulflanders fear nothing as much as a dream shaman turned into an enemy, as a non-lucid layman is all but helpless against a phantasmal killer within his own dream; horrible nightmares are the least danger, many enemies of dream shamans are found under their own furs in the morning, frozen to death as if they'd spent the night naked on the glacier.

A lucid dreamer may awake accidentally just like a non-lucid dreamer would, but only within his own dream. Within another's dream he will only wake with a DREAM-TELLING (R) check, when his dreamtime runs out or when the other dreamer wakes, which wakes up everybody visiting that dream.

Aside from the above, dream scenes may be played the same as any scene. However, circumstantial penalty dice work differently within a dream: the Story Guide may assign up to five penalty or bonus dice to individual checks; he is encouraged to make these decisions according to seemingly arbitrary criteria that hide a poetic logic. Different things are feasible in a dream than would be in reality.

Dream-telling (R)
This Ability is used to explain what dreams mean and distinguishing prophetic or sent dreams from idle fantasies. A character may enter a LUCID dream with a successful check while sleeping. Other uses are remembering dreams and distinguishing dreams from reality. This Ability may well replace PRAY (V) for the SECRET OF PROPHECY.
Secret of Dreamwalking
The character can leave a dream and enter another, but only if he is lucid and the target is sleeping as well. The character in whose dream he starts in (probably himself on the night's first walk) has to know the target character, and he may suffer conditional penalties for distance. The target may RESIST (R) reflexively, in which case a DREAM-TELLING (R) check is needed. The dreamwalker can take other dreamers with him, although those may resist as well. Cost: 1 POOL per traveler
Secret of Nightmare
The character's actions in a non-lucid dreamer's dream may cause Harm or burn Pool points from the target: one point from a chosen Pool may be taken with a successful Ability check. Dream Harm is similar to normal, except that only the highest inflicted level counts; it becomes real Harm come morn. This Secret may affect a lucid dreamer as well, but only if he opts to not wake up. A non-lucid dreamer may wake up as well, but only after a successful RESIST (R) check. Cost: 1 POOL per Ability check. Requirement: SECRET OF DREAMWALKING
Secret of Dream Visitation
The character may refresh Pools and heal emotional Harm within a dream, and otherwise have positive mechanical interactions with others. Unwilling participants can opt out akin to the SECRET OF NIGHTMARE. Non-lucid dreamers remember a dream visitation vividly, unless made to forget. Cost: 1 POOL per scene per person present. Requirement: SECRET OF DREAMWALKING
Secret of True Dream
The character may define a dream space within which events are real and consequences follow dreamers into reality. Injuries, healing, learning, sex, even death "“ all become real for everybody in the true dream space. All interactions are possible just like they would be in reality. Characters may enter and leave the true dream by dreamwalking or getting out of the defined space otherwise. Waking up within the true dream is impossible; only waning of the place or getting out ends the dream. Cost: 2 POOL per person present at creation. Requirement: SECRET OF NIGHTMARE or SECRET OF DREAM VISITATION.
Secret of Dream Conditioning
The character knows how to shape the dreams of another person to control their actions in their waking moments. A conditioning attempt is made by shaping the dreams of the target and making an Effect out of the Ability check; if the target later encounters the situation described in the Effect, he has to immediately win the Effect with a RESIST (R) check to avoid acting according to his conditioning. Cost: As normal for Effects. Requirement: SECRET OF NIGHTMARE or SECRET OF DREAM VISITATION.
Secret of Imagination
Normally characters acting within dreams need specific, appropriate Abilities to their conditions. Thus a character flying in a dream might need a FLYING Ability of some sort, for example. With this Secret the character can replace any Abilities needed within a dream with artistic Abilities, such as STORY-TELL (R) or CRAFTWORK (I). This even works for DREAM-TELLING (R) when used to shape dreams directly (but not for dreamwalking or other non-shaping activities). Cost: 1 POOL per check.

Dream Modes

The Pool costs of the various dream shaman Secrets are given in generic Pool points, but the actual Pool used is not arbitrary: the current MODE of the dream determines which Pool the shaman needs to use to activate his magic.

Each dream scene always starts with a mode that accords with the largest current Pool of the dreaming character. A dreamer may switch the mode by making an Ability check: the mode always accords with the last Ability checked in the dream scene, but only if it is stronger than the last mode-change. DREAM-TELLING (R) does not count; in fact, the associated Pool of the DREAM-TELLING Ability itself switches with the mode when the character is dreaming.

Non-dreaming Secrets, when used within dream, are affected by the mode as well: when a character pays points from any Pool, all but one of those points come out of the current mode Pool instead. A payment of three VIGOR during a REASON mode would turn into 2 REASON and 1 VIGOR, for example.

Running out of the mode Pool wakes the dreamer up immediately, provided that they can.

Dream Spirits

Spirits are powerful dreams that do not dissolve when the morning comes. Instead, they escape to the soft places to wait out the day. Some, such as totem spirits, are ancient, powerful and wise, rarely coming out of the soft places. Others are fearsome and hungry, such as the wendigo.

Spirits are just like lucid dreamers (in fact, lucid dreamers are like spirits, except that they have a body to return to) when it comes to moving through dreams, interacting with dreamers and so on and so forth. It is far from unknown for a dream shaman to forge relationships with spirits.

A dream spirit newly summoned has Advances equal to triple the success level of the Ability check used to summon it, distributed in half by the player of the dream shaman and half by the Story Guide. Dream spirits may be very imaginative in their composition, built out of dream logic. Free spirits of course may have whatever statistics the Story Guide finds best. Dream spirits encountered in the real world have their strength reduced: halve their Pools and reduce Ability levels by one. Dream spirits encountered during the day are also fragile: anybody who has a reason to suspect may make a REACT (I) check to recognize the creature for a dream and dissolve it. For this reason dream spirits almost never make an appearance outside the soft places and dreams. Dream items brought out into the world follow similar rules: their quality drops by one, and a successful disbelief causes the item to disappear. For this reason a dream shaman might make his dream equipment seem mundane, so as to avoid disbelief.

Secret of Mode Shift
A particularly sensitive dreamer may have the initiative in this manner: the character may force a dream's mode to shift by bidding Pool. The mode may still shift out from under him, but he can pay to have to change back. Using this Secret clears any prior checks to change the mode, so any Ability check at all changes the mode easily again. Cost: 1 POOL appropriate to the shift.
Secret of Dream Summoning
The character can attract or newly shape dream spirits while lucid. A successful DREAM-TELLING (R) check is required. If creating a dream item, handle it like equipment created with the SECRET OF CREATION, except for the cost and the fact that dream items do not need to be mundane. Summoned spirits are not necessarily friendly, and have to be controlled in some other way. Cost: 3 POOL
Secret of Soft Place (specify)
The character knows of a soft place; these are by definition secret and secluded, as an oft-visited place soon hardens. The player may choose to have the place require a LOCAL (R) check or other travel Abilities to reach it, but then he has to live with those limitations himself as well.
Secret of Hibernation
The character can sleep for unnaturally long periods of time, up to his DREAMTELLING (R) check in days at once. This sleep protects him from moderately low temperatures, bad air and lack of water. Lucid dreams in this state are not limited in length. Cost: 1 VIGOR
Secret of Hypnos
The character has conditioned himself to fall to sleep immediately with a DREAMTELLING (R) check. He cannot be awakened before he himself wills it. What's more, his environment can become a temporary soft place for as long as he remains asleep. Cost: 1 POOL to create a soft place, +1 per awake person in the place. Double the cost to manifest the soft place immediately. Requirement: SECRET OF TRUE DREAM
Possession (V)
A spirit can possess another with this Ability through their dream. A receptive target can be possessed in reality as well.

Soft Places

Soft places are powerful because they are half-dream themselves. Entering a soft place is like entering a true dream space from the SECRET OF TRUE DREAM: the place has a mode, DREAM-TELLING (R) and dream shamanism Secrets work normally and so on. However, a person entering a soft place in waking life is really there: anything that happens to him is real.

Pure soft places have a direct connection to dreaming: there is nothing preventing a real being from moving into the dream or a dream spirit or item from becoming real in a soft place, provided they know how to dreamwalk and know of the soft place. A person going bodily into the dream cannot awaken accidentally or by force; they are like a dream spirit. A person who comes out of a soft place into the world during a dream endangers his original body most gravely; he also loses one level from all of his Abilities and half of his Pools until he returns to the dreaming and/or his own body.

Most soft places are actually in the process of hardening, so they are not so pure anymore: in these places circumstance penalties may be suffered, manifesting spirits may be even weaker, going into the dream bodily may not work at all and the power of dream is otherwise limited. Dream shamans both fear and covet pure dreaming places for their great power.

Species Dreams

The dream landscape is different for the different peoples of Near. Individual dreams are greatly influenced by personal experiences and cultural background, which often allows a dream shaman perceiving the dream to learn much about the person himself. However, this is nothing compared to the differences between the dreams of the races: a dream shaman may take a great risk by going into the dreams of people they do not understand.

Human
dreams are the default described earlier; they are colorful and varied in properties, reflecting the person of the dreamer. The large circumstance penalty range makes the dreams whimsical and chaotic if one does not solve the dream logic the Story Guide uses in assigning the dice.
Elves
do not dream, for they consider the world itself the dream. This does not mean that they are completely unaffected by the dream world; auroras interfere with Elven auras and soft places sometimes seem more real to them than reality does.
Goblin
dreams are largely inherited; they dream of things their ancestors did and felt, not of imaginary things. The goblin himself is usually encountered in the shape of one of his ancestors in the dream. Goblins might well learn important things from these dreams, if they realize their significance.
Dwarven
dreams are utopian: they almost always concern the ultimate success of the individual dwarf's purpose. There are no circumstance penalties in dwarven dreams, and in fact using any bonus or penalty dice carries an additional surcharge of one associated Pool point.
Giant
dreams are slow and calm, with no loud sounds. Giants themselves are humans in their dreams, and part of society. Visiting dreamwalkers are usually insubstantial on-lookers, unless they manage to materialize somehow.
Beastkin
such as ratkin or Vulfen, all have similar dreams. Beastkin in dream take the shape of a pure animal, albeit they may still speak if they want to. Humanite dreamwalkers in beastkin dreams lose their own nature, instead becoming like a beastkin most reflecting their inner spirit (SG choice); this may be an existing kin, or one that is only real in dreams. Otherwise beastkin dreams are relatively mundane, following rules from reality.
Soft Places
and other "neutral" dream territory might be considered in this context as well. They are, perhaps surprisingly, very life-like, and have no special rules to them. Of course, unearthly things may still be encountered just the same. Sometimes a soft place takes on the qualities of the dreams of their residents, though, if people live in them.

Second Wolf Age

Vulfen do not know religion. The closest they come is a belief in prophetic dreams, which is hardly baseless on the boreal plains. However, Vulfen do have an eschatology, a racial destiny if you will. All packs tell this story, and they often dream of it as well. The humans of Vulfland tell the story, too; indeed, theirs is often the more evocative and detailed telling.

Father Wolf Agarim was the first being who killed and ate of his kill. This happened when the world was new, cold and dark. Agarim then was just an animal, content to merely exist in all the ways that wolves do.

Things from the deep waters attacked and forced animals to leave Agarim's territory. They were large and of many forms. Agarim fought back and hunted his rivals to the soft places of the world.

Later Agarim beget all beasts, which started the first Wolf Age. All other animals multiplied greatly and became food to the carnivores.

The first Wolf Age was timeless, and therefore had to end. This was signified when the sun rose, bringing with it warmth and people. Where the sun reached, it brought people with their houses and tame animals. Wolves retreated to places that people did not want.

When animals came to contact with people, their ways changed and they came to depend on the humans for succor. Men sent heroes into the soft places to tame them; their presence caused the soft places to fold up and give way.

When the great empire rose in Near, natural ways were cast aside. Even many men knew then that the natural order had been shaken; they looked for refuge on the southern continent, far from the grasp of the emperor.

Everything comes to an end, but for few things it comes in as spectacular manner as it did for the Empire of Maldor. Agarim, who had slept through the Sun Age, opened his Eye: it was like a burning disk in the sky, slowly opening into something greater than the Sun itself.

Agarim swallowed the Sun and cast the world back into the darkness, intent on a new Wolf Age ruled by his children. This act was significant, for it revealed a change in Agarim as well: like the other animals, he was also changed by men, becoming something more like them and less like himself. Agarim of old would merely exist, content in the ways of the wolf.

Vulfen are the children of Agarim in the second Wolf Age. As the Shadow came over Near, they multiplied and encroached upon lands settled by people. They even crossed the frozen sea to the northern continent.

No creature could resist Vulfen during the shadow night. Humans cast down their totems and took to worshipping Agarim, the oldest of them all. Vulfen did not think to own the land like humans thought, but they did not think to allow the humans to own it, either; human villages were mercilessly culled by the Vulfen, ensuring that none would grow powerful enough to pose a danger to Agarim's ilk.

Something went wrong, however, and the sun returned. Agarim's Eye returned as well, but now it was pale and sickly. Gorenites came back out of their holes with the sun and started building and farming again. They even captured Vulfen and tamed them.

Taming was something of a revelation to Vulfen, who feared the condition greatly, thinking that it made them slow and stupid. In time they learned to be suspicious of humans and only interact with them through fetches, people taken from their villages to serve a Vulfen pack.

In time the land Vulfen would not allow people to own came to be known as "Vulfland" to the humans up north. The land humans could hold against the Vulfen was known as "Jošland", for its apocryphal founder.

Vulfen do not have religion, but they do have dreams: when all packs dream together, that dream is known to be true to all. Agarim swallowing the sun and Vulfen ruling the earth "“ this dream was known to all Vulfen of the last generation, and the generation before that.

Today Vulfen are uncertain: is this the second Wolf Age? Some claim to know the dream of Agarim, but as many as have dreams have abandoned their packs to live with humans, dreaming of nothing. The sun is weaker than ever, but nobody knows if it is weak enough.