Beyond the Breach
From Burning Wiki
Beyond the Breach
What’s the Big Picture? What’s going on in this setting that makes it ripe for adventure. What’s changing, evolving, declining?
Legends speak of tell of a war that raged across the lands, uncounted centuries ago, between the terrible forces of the Winter Witch Zherkoya and the civilized lands of Aleria. The Winter Witch wielded eldritch powers and the forces of winter itself, leading an army that spread like a storm across the lands, slaughtering and enslaving all before them. All was thought lost until the last Archmage, Yurik Brighteyes, sacrificed himself in summoning the powers of the earth to seal the invading horde and winter itself forever beyond an unimaginable wall of stone: The Barrier. A sworn order of guardians was born that day, the Black Watch. Or so the legends tell us…
…but time moves on. Aleria too has moved on. A king sits atop the Throne of Heaven in the capital city of Kendai, ruling over a feudal land of baronies. Ambitious nobles and their liege lords and knights oversee the daily lives of Peasants and serfs who toil to survive. Meanwhile, a growing merchant class dominates the villages and cities. Petty wars and treachery are part of every day life. However, Aleria’s lands have prospered despite injustice and uneven rule. A land without winter is a land without hardship. Eternal summer has its advantages. The Black Watch persists as guardians and law keepers of the northern frontier, although it too is not what it once was and most discount the legends of its origins despite the fact that The Barrier is real…..
…and would be impossible to deny, a near sheer wall of stone nearly a thousand meters high (or so scholars have estimated). No one knows what lies beyond, nor has anyone ever climbed it. How would you?
Two years ago, an ambitious prospector discovered a vein of gold running at the base of the The Barrier. Seemingly overnight a chaotic, nearly lawless boom-town sprang up near the site, Providence, and men began to carve in to The Barrier. The King (Eduard One-Hand) encouraged the mining: After all, he was receiving a tithe of 15% of everything taken from the land. Even the Black Watch showed little concern. After all, legends are just stories, while gold is money. And so the digging continued, chipping away at the wall, a hundred little holes in an unimaginable expanse of hard rock.
Three months ago, the Lucky Dragon mining company, using imported Roden workers, broke through The Barrier. The tunnel was just over 3,000 meters long. The Breach. Beyond the rediscovered Winter. The land was blanketed in eternal snow, frozen and seemingly dead. Or so it seemed.
A month ago, those living beyond The Barrier appeared at The Breach. Men, primitive and powerfully-built, but apparently friendly. They spoke a strange language, but one which scholars of ancient languages would recognize: Drakar, the ancient language of Aleria. These Drakari (as they are now called) brought with them goods to trade: Ivory, oil, furs, gemstones. And thus Providence became even more important. Especially to the King who receives 15% of all trade goods. And so he has sent scholars fluent in Drakar north, to help establish a trading post.
But all is not well… winter is coming.
What’s the basic concept?
The game is a fusion of story elements, names, and imagery from Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the HBO series Deadwood, and the Privateer Press's Iron Kingdom fantasy setting.
What’s the world’s culture? What are the cultural analogs? Analogs can be taken from historical earth, current events or fantasy works.
- Men - Exist at a medieval level of technology. While they come in all shapes & sizes, they can be divided in to the Alerians (Southerners) and Drakari (Northerners). Cultural analogs for the two are medieval northern Europeans; names tend to be Welsh or Germanic sounding. The Drakari can be thought of as similar to the Norse people though without the longships, with Gaelic names and a largely pre-Bronze age level of technology.
- Roden - Cheap labor; they fill the niches in society that most men don't want to. Often exploited but they also are quite good at exploiting those that underestimate them. Their names all sound Russian.
- Nyss - the "ice" elves. I stole the name and the imagery from the Iron Kingdoms setting though their background and history is very different. They live far to the north beyond the Barrier and serve the Winter Witch.
Details on the Drakari Winter's name in Drakkar could be Gevrah (GEV-raw) or Gevrath (GEV-wrath) if you want it to literally mean winter. If you want something more figurative,
1. Bann Fuair (ban FOO-air) means Lady of the Cold, 2. Callyakh Gevrinn (CAL-yack GEV-ryn) means the Witch of Winter, 3. Olain Bonn (all-AIN bon) means the White Beauty, 4. Bann Ufasakh (ban ooFAAsack) means the Terrible Lady, 5. Mawhair Fuair (MAW-her FOO-air) means the Cold Mother, and 6. Teerna Snet Bonn (TEERna snet BON) means the White Snow Land.
Or we could have seven names for her.
Orulya can be a one-point contact, as I may try to bring her south. She's the daughter of Grainne Weyl, the weaving mistress of the Coll Tuatha (Green Wood) family of the Clonn Awraan Dun (Clan of the Fortress of Song). She's not very influential in the clan, but her words carry a lot of weight with her brother within her family, and he will be the next head hunter of the clan.
The Drakkari live in a harsh winter climate. So, here's some logical realities of their culture:
* They can't forage in the true sense, so it's a primarily hunting culture with some nomadic herding. * Power lies in meat, animals, blades, fire, fur and leather. * Flint is more important than metal because flint can be worked without fire, which is scarce. * Most villages would have one ever-burning fire with a fire-keeper to make sure it never dies. A dead fire is a dead village. * Stories and song keep the history and culture alive, but also keep people through the long cold nights. Keeping people awake on the coldest nights is as important as keeping them fed. Sleep means death in the cold. * Writing never developed as such - ink is too hard to work in the cold, making charcoal wastes needed wood, and curing leather and parchment for writing is a waste of clothing material. They use lichens, animal blood and ash to put symbols on clothing. They use flint to carve symbols into stone. * The main symbols of communication and power are: north, south, east, west, setting sun, sky, night, star, crescent moon, wind, snow, ice, fog, deer, caribou, elk, wolf, bear, fox, goat, raven, owl, carrion crow, spider, mouth, hand, man, woman, child, spear, axe, dagger, earth, tree, root, crown, village, table, wall, clan, way, lichen, moss, fire, cold fire, song, blood, heart and eye. * The symbols that Winter does not allow in the villages are tower, sun, rising sun, full moon, robin, snowdrop and summer. * The symbol for troll is considered very bad luck. * There is no symbol for Winter. It is forbidden. * They are either Winter's slaves or they are Winter's children, but they know her terrible power to destroy and kill. She can freeze the marrow in your bones, drive down blinding blizzards, quench the ever-burning fire of a village, killing it, and drive story-tellers, speakers and singers insane. * Sacrifice is necessary. The survival of the clan outweighs the survival of an individual. Grandparents will go out to starve in the snow so their grandchildren can eat. Wives and children will go to Winter's tower to save their village. * There are seven families to a clan, and seven clans to a tribe (although a tribe never exists as an entity: Winter does not allow it). A village consists of people from a few families. Winter does not allow a village to be only people of one family. Winter does not allow a whole clan to live in one village, but Winter does not allow families of more than one clan to live in one village. Winter does not allow a whole tribe to live in one hunting ground. * Families meet once a week. The hierachy is matriarchal within the family: the mother of the strongest men is head of the table, then her husband or strongest son or daughter, then, if the family has a symbol-maker, he or she comes next; if not, the grandmother comes next. Then comes the speaker for the family. Otherwise, it runs down through age and importance, with the general idea that strongest hunter then symbol-maker then speaker then flint worker then story-teller then tanner. Fire-keepers do not have a place in the hierachy, because they are sacred. * Clan leaders meet once a month, moving meetings from village to village. The hierachy can be patriarchal or matriarchal. Chieftain/Chieftain's wife, then lead hunter, then symbol-maker, then head speaker, then second speaker, then second hunter, then head flint worker, then head story-teller, then tanner. The fire-keepers have a sacred speaker to speak for them at such meetings. * Tribes never meet. Tribe is a word, not a reality. Tribes should be seven allied clans, but these alliegences are long-forgotten, a cultural memory.
What’s the conflict in which the characters are involved? What are the sides? What’s wrong?
The characters are all members of, or employed by, the Black Watch. The Watch, originally tasked with guarding the Barrier (though no one remembers why), has been on a steady decline over the past century. The outpost in Providence suddenly finds itself the defacto "law keepers" in the region, something they are unprepared and under-manned to do well.
What physical place does the conflict take place in? What’s the ecology, environment, location?
The boom town of Providence stands at the base of the Barrier, a 1000m high wall of stone created by ancient sorcery. The Barrier completely messed with the climate of the entire continent, causing the lands to the south to become extremely temperate: The temperatures in most places never drop below 45 degrees and no one has seen ice or snow in a 1000 years. The climate around Providence is like that of western Germany: Wet and generally mild. The lands are thickly forested with hardwoods and until recently largely unsettled.
Providence itself is a scar on the land, having grown far too fast and with almost no planning: It's muddy, stinking, and filled with unwashed miners, traders, and unsavory types.
Beyond the Barrier lies the lands of Winter. The weather never rises above freezing and the land is blanketed in eternal ice and snow. It looks a lot like most of Canada in January. Only evergreens grown north of the Barrier.
What’s the name of the most important place in this setting? Not the capital or any dumb shit like that, but The Place where all the action goes down?
The town of Providence and the lands beyond the Breach.
What’s the name of a faraway place that folks talk about, dream about or mutter under their breath about?
Kendai, the capital of Aleria and seat of the king. It lays more than a month's ride to the south.
The lands of Winter. Until six months ago it was nothing but a legend.
Who are the antagonists? Who is opposing the goals of the characters?
Still developing this.
The Winter Witch will play a big role later on. Initially the antagonists are going to be smaller in scale: Some sort of corrupt court official, a corrupt sheriff, a couple of greedy, murderous businessmen, the roden syndicate.
Imagine all of the characters are standing in a room/ruin/field with the antagonists or their minions. What do the antagonists want from that meeting? What do the character want from that meeting? That’s where your game begins.
Still working on this. It likely will start with the arrival of the court official and the roden going on strike. In later sessions the Watch will be sent through the Breach to scout the area and will discover that more than the Drakari dwell in the North.
Alternately, imagine the characters standing at the scene of some great disaster or calamity clearly caused by one of the antagonists. What’s the disaster? How did it happen? What are the characters going to do about it right now?
This I already have in mind: The group is going to find an Drakari village slaughtered and torn to shreds. This will introduce the Raek which is sort of a cross between a puma and dire wolf.
What type of magic exists in this world? Pick one or two of the magic systems: Faith (and Blasphemous Hatred), Sorcery (and Abstraction), Natural Magic, Spirit Binding, Summoning, or Enchanting.
We're using the Art Magic rules from the MuBu
If Sorcery is used, what spells are available? Which spells are inappropriate to the game world?
Still haven't narrowed things down yet.
What character stocks are in play in this world? Which are restricted and why?
Men, that's it. We wanted something built around a human drama. Roden are present to create a race to exploit and be exploited by men (much like the Chinese were in the late 19th century in the US). Although they are available as a character race, no one has chosen to run one yet.
What Cultural Traits apply to the characters of this game world? Pick three Character Traits for each culture.
- Gator - a mysterious man (he refuses to identify whether the name is his family name, first name, or just a nickname) from the south who has set up a shop selling "Books and scrolls." Of course there is a certain amount of irony and humor in this since the town is largely inhabited by illiterate prospectors and business types. He makes his real money selling potions and elixirs to the locals, treating all sorts of needs ranging from simple folk remedies to providing potions to treat STIs and unwanted pregnancies. In reality he's quite a skilled sorcerer who has come north in an attempt to recover the lost artifacts of Winter. He has been in Providence for about 5 months.
- Corvin Drake - a sell-sword who obviously comes from a noble family based on his manner and dress (e.g., he carries a long sword which is something an ordinary man can't afford), though what he's doing in Providence remains to be seen. He appears to be rather unscrupulous and desperate for employment. He arrived in town only a few days before the start of the game.
- Conway - a scout and hunter who has lived in Providence for about half a year. Conway is a bit of a loner - a wiry, hard-drinking man, who fled the civilized southern lands after being accused of rape. He has some really nifty beliefs for me to work with including Love leads to nothing but trouble.
- Modra Rua - son of Fiach Dyff of the Lo'w Lawdir family of the Clonn Awraan Dun has come down from the winter lands to Providence to open up trade with the men of Summer. What does he want? Weapons. He's a social situation (i.e., DoW) monster but pretty physically weak.
- Cyrius McCormick - owner of the Silver Vein tavern and major influence within the town. Cyrius is all about money and power, and completely amoral.
- Lucius von Stein - King's agent. He's a bit of a dandy, clearly out of his element in the rough and chaotic environment of Providence.
- Caitlyn MacPhee - prostitute at Madam Brousard's House of Pleasure. Potential love interest of Conway.
--MJ Harnish 19:52, 6 June 2009 (MST)