So, I was inspired by Mr. Maliszewski's post over at Grognardia about homebrew campaign settings to talk a little bit about what's been established regarding Fellhold so far. There isn't a whole lot, because I'm trying really hard not to indulge my world building bug and detail out a hugely elaborate setting before things occur in play. Instead, I'm trying to fix a firm aesthetic in my mind, so that as questions/situations come up in play, I can incorporate recent events and player actions, but still maintain an editorial voice. I first saw this approach spelled out in Apocalypse World, and it was a recurring point in the Dwimmermount campaign at Grognardia.
So, that being said, I did want to give the players somewhere to start so they're not totally flopping around in the dark. I decided that my setting would be largely inspired by Germanic culture and folklore, but with a decidedly swords & sorcery vibe. Really inspirational to me were the works of Paul Bonner, especially for Drakar Och Demoner by Riot Minds. Along these lines, I decided that there had to be dwarves, but that I wasn't really feeling the other demi-humans. So far, dwarves are fairly typical, revering their ancestors, organized in clans, living in great underground delvings, et cetera. Fellhold itself was once a great dwarven city carved into a lone mountain towering out of immense forests, with the crystal clear waters of the Silverdelf flowing out of springs in the mountain side.
One of the main ways I decided to impart flavor indirectly was to provide name lists. I haven't restricted the player characters to using the name lists, but I do pick all of the NPC names from them. I used the simple expedient of finding historical names from the sorts of cultures I want to emulate and selectively picking them based on sound and meaning. Dwarven names, for example, are Old Norse, with as much emphasis as I could get on smiths, warriors, and tools. Human names are Anglo-Saxon, but where most real-world Anglo-Saxon names were compound, for Fellhold, I picked out the one syllable root words, and most are words that refer to mundane items, like Ketyl, which means "kettle". Trollkin (Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears) have Gothic names, again, selectively chosen to emphasize words for weapon and warriors and violent stuff. Trolls have Finnish names. I'm hoping that this goulash will result in a generically "northern Germanic" feel, without tying too much into real-world history.
The other area of flavor I've fleshed out somewhat is religion. I've tried to leave myself room to adapt, but I wanted to have some of the gods spelled out for any cleric characters. Thus, the main deities shared by humans and dwarves are Hrokr, the Crow Father, Dwyn, the Oak Mother, and Volundr, the Smith. In addition, the dwarves revere their ancestors and believe that their spirits aid them in the form of the tools, weapons, and armor passed down from them. They also especially revere Volundr as their creator, but they recognize Hrokr's pre-eminence as king of the gods. All three of these gods stand for the alignment of Law in different ways: Hrokr upholds and is the patron of organized society, especially the sanctity of the guest-host relationship and the authority of chiefs and elders. Dwyn upholds the wilder, more organic structure of nature, which may appear chaotic to normal men, but is still governed by rules and structures. Volundr, obviously supports the pragmatic and tangible order of physical objects and laws.
In addition to being the king of the gods, Hrokr is a trickster god, and the lord of magic and secrets. He gave men and dwarves the gift of cunning that they might make their own way in the world, but is still open to the occasional intercession.
Dwyn presides over the harvest and death as well as nature, and she is the patron of women and wild animals. She is Hrokr's wife and queen of the gods, but they largely see to their own affairs.
Volundr, in addition to being patron of smiths and craftsmen, crafted the world from the corpse of the mother of dragons after Hrokr tricked and killed her. He created Aki, original forefather of dwarves, to be a companion, and taught him much of his craft. Aki presented nine perfectly life-like statues of ones like himself, richly armed, armored, and covered in jewels. Volundr was much pleased and breathed life into them and created wives for them, and they originated the original dwarven clans.
Contrawise, the trolls and trollkin worship demons, beings of chaos, who seek to undo creation and tear it down, and offer bargains of power to their worshipers if they believe it will lead to chaos and entropy. I don't want to go too much into this now, because the players haven't met any Trollkin yet, and play will reveal more details.
Other than that, I haven't worked much out besides the fact that magic items are scarce and precious, and magic has slightly dark reputation. Also, as mentioned above, Fellhold itself was originally a dwarven city, but it was conquered by a sorcerous cabal who added their own dark additions and delved even deeper into the mountain. Who knows what lies underneath even that?
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