Tuesday, 26 November 2019

[D.R.E.A.D.] Legacy of the 1st Age

Fragments of knowledge concerning the mythical 1st Age

Bragi, holding a harp, sings before his wife Iðunn (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.


Characters proficient in history, and Elves, can start the game with one fragment of knowledge about the first age.
Read the skill check result first on the general knowledge table here, then on the specific one.
On the general table, the characters knows all entries up to his result, on the specific, he only knows that one.


This article refers to the 1st Age of the setting, the Age of Yggdrasil

General Knowledge Table:

History check Knowledge
The Gods created Middellærd and the Elves, the Jötnar created the Giants. Elves and Giants fought a 1000 year warThere was a 3rd side to the “eternal war” - Asgardians vs Jötnar vs Vanirians (“gods” vs “titans” vs “primal spirits”)
Asgardians & Vanirians were allied at first, but treachery tore them apart
The Gods certainly created the Elves, but Middellærd was created before (this opinion is considered to be blasphemous for the elves)
The Eternal War went on for over 1000 years and ended in the “Trinity compact”, which strongly limits the influence of divine beings on Middellærd
The Eternal War was sparked by the abduction and desecration of Idunn, the asgardian Goddess of Apples and Youth
The young Jötunn Thiazi had abducted Idunn as a reprisal for the abduction of his daughter Skathi by the Vanirians

Specific Knowledge Table:

History check Knowledge
The Elves of the first age were mostly organised under the influence of three very important families, all wearing the name of the first important member of the family (the Nerijorites descending from Nerijoriel, the Tanevonites descending from Tanevyr, and the Alrindelites descending from Alrindel)
Nerijoriel was the “First Elf”, supposedly created by Odin himself, using branches of Yggdrasil, a scale of the Jörmungandr (the world serpent) and a tear of Jord (the Jötunn / Titaness of earth)
Tanevyr was the “First Mother”, at least the first to bear a child from a non-divine being, and organised the first clan, therefore was also known as the "First Matriarch"
Alrindel was known as the “the Wisest” after receiving the gift of knowledge after pledging himself to Mimir, thus also becoming the “First Cleric
After the war, Idunn (asgardian Goddess of Apples and Youth), Skathi (jötunn Titaness of bowhunting) and Bekkra (vanirian Archomental of Sea Life) created together an apple orchard as a symbol of appeasement. The salty apples grown there are supposed to give eternal life and the trees' branches make the best possible bows
The “Trinity compact” was negotiated by Jorodiel of the Nerijorites, Loki disguised as a Giant named “Ikolag”, and Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, representing the Vanirians
At the end of the Eternal War ruled the very talented King-General Jorodiel of the Nerijorites. His armor is supposed to make unvulnerable to mundane weapons
Triandel “Jötunn-Slayer” was an exceptional archer and the “First Assassin”. After proving himself to Bragi, God of Poetry, the god offered him a magic brooch, to help him assassinate the Jötunn Thiazi, who had abducted Idunn, Bragi’s wife (thus asserting “revenge” as a poetic notion)
Evondiel “the Trapper” is known to be the first non-divine being capable of trapping a Vanirian and tap into his elemental powers for his own profit.
Idunn’s orchard is protected by the “Trinitan druidic Order of the Avellenau Orchard
Freyja gave her amber mirror (named Spegillsokr) to Völfyr of the Alrindelites, thus giving her the gift of glimpsing in amber the fate of her petitioners. Volfyr was the first of the “Seidrakona”, the amber seeresses, able to foretell the future. They must be female and virgins to keep their gift
Foreseeing death all around the world, Hel decided to build the Gjallarbrú as a network of invisible gates (to the living) leading to the bridge, and appointed Modgud as the guardian of the Gjallarbrú. One such doors lies at the bottom of the Œdramarr (the Lake of Madness)
Roll twice 1D12+11 and give the player both results

Who's who and What's what

  • Odin the All-Father: Patriarch God of the Argardians. Creator of the elves.
  • Bragi: asgardian God of Poetry (married to Idunn)
  • Idunn: asgardian Goddess of Apples and Youth (married to Bragi, abducted by Thiazi)
  • Thiazi: jötunn and notorious for his abduction and desecration of Idunn (Father of Skathi)
  • Skathi: jötunn associated with bowhunting (daughter of Thiazi, she was married to Soffereim, the Sapphire Dragon as compensation for her fathers assassination)
  • Nerijoriel the “First Elf”: founder of the Nerijorites lineage
  • Tanevyr the “First Mother”: founder of the Tanevonites lineage
  • Alrindel the “First Cleric”: founder of the Alrindelites lineage
  • Hel: God or Jötunn (unknown) of the Underrealm, watcher of the unworthy deads
  • Modgud: guardian of the Gjallarbrú, the bridge over the river Gjöll, which encloses the underworld
  • Gjallarbrú: bridge to the underworld
  • Œdramarr: the Lake of Madness, where a door to the Gjallarbrú is situated
  • Loki: the most well known Jötunn, infamous for his uncanny capacity to fool all beings. His spectacular misdeeds outweight his goods deeds, but he is not per se an evil character
  • Middellærd: the continent that saw the birth of the Elves and the surprising arrival of the humans
  • Avellenau Orchard: the holy apple tree orchard founded by Idunn, Skathi and Bekkra, after the Eternal War
  • Bekkra: vanirian Archomental of Sea Life
  • Bahamut: vanirian Platinum Dragon, king of the good aligned dragons
  • Soffereim: vanirian Sapphire Dragon (married Skathi after the war)
As always, remarks, comments and questions are welcome !

Friday, 22 November 2019

DREAD's Mythology (1/5): The Age of Yggdrasil

1st Age: The age of Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil by Oluf Bagge (1847)


The continent of Perfu had a long history of its own, reaching millenaries back before humans stepped on it for the first time.
There probably was a time before the mythical age of Yggdrasil, but it is shrouded in the oblivion of forgottenness


  • Asgardian: The divine beings living in Asgard, also called the gods. They claimed to have created Middellærd, conjointly with the Vanirians
  • Vanirians: The primal elemental beings living in Vanir, the labyrinth leading to the elemental planes
  • Jötunn (plur. Jötnar): the titanic, divine-like beings living in Jötunheimr. They claim to have created Yggdrasil and the whole universe and planes of existence [al least Loki does claim that]


Asgardians and Vanirians created the material world and descended on it, leaving their divine realms.
The Asgardians created the elves, at first out of boredom, but soon thereafter to toy with them in jousts, entertaining themselves with shows of marksmanship, swordsmanship, horsemanship, versemanship, craftsmanship and musicianship.

The Jötunar found their way to Middellærd (the continent named Perfu by humans which saw the birth of the elves) though the Vanbrú (also called the Sturmurbrú - the Stormbridge, literally made of lightning) created by the Vanirians, envious of the toys the Asgardians had created for themselves. The Vanirians tried to enslave the Jötnar but failed. The Vanirians abducted Skathi, the daughter of Thiazi, and tortured her, trying to unlock the secret of using the Vanbrú to reach Jötunheimr.
In the aftermath, the Jötnar abducted the Asgardian goddess Idunn and experimented on her. The young Jötunn Thiazi (the abductor of Idunn) created the Giants combining the elements (captured Vanirian offspring) with the tears of Idunn (hence the different kinds of giants).

The divine war

This abduction (and desecration) of the goddess was the last straw that broke the back of the peaceful relations between the Jötnar and the Gods. Only the Asgardians were directly concerned by the evil act leading to the declaration of war, but Loki tricked his peers into going against all other divine beings, Vanirians and Asgardians. On Middellærd, the Giants and the elves fought a proxy conflict in the name of their respective creators, that will be named "the eternal war" in hindsight.

The trilateral compact

After a millenary long war, Asgardians, Vanirians, and Jötnar realized that there was no way to win this endless battle and negotiated a cease-fire. Loki tricked Asgardians and Vanirians in believing this was a trilateral negotiation, that the interests of Asgardians and Vanirians were completely different, and after long bargaining rounds, a truce was found, but the relations between the Asgardians and Vanirians were forever ruined. The peace compact not only interdicted direct confrontation between divine beings but  also limited their intervention on Middellærd: Each being was allowed only 2 bridge crossings per year.
Only Loki, as the main peace mediator, was allowed 2 crossings per draconic month (one complete transformation of the Dragoness Luna from its full moon form to the next).
The Vanirians were forbidden to use the Vanbrú, but given the right to cross into Middellærd at points were their core element were present in high quantity (not without unforeseen consequences on the material plane), but also limited to twice a year.

Appendix: The 3 main Bridges

  • Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, is garded by Heimdallr, who only let pass the Asgardians. Loki seem to be able to pass the bridge during his sleep, though.
  • Vanbrú (also called the Sturmurbrú), the Stormbridge is literally made of lightning and links Middellærd with Jötunheimr. Old elvish legends claim in lands in the middle of Zibelthiurdos, the land of storms.
  • Gjallarbrú, the bridge to Hel (the plane of dead souls), the bridge over the Gjöll, the river of Hell. Modgud (meaning "Furious Battler") is the female guardian of the Gjallarbrú. Since the arrival of the humans on Perfu, the river is also called Styx and Modgud seem to have adopted a 3-headed dog to help her, but a strange ferryman seem to cross the river under the bridge. Since he doesn't bring back dead souls on his way back to the Middellærd shore, she does not intervene
  • Other bridges exist, but they are even more secret and unknown.

Coming after that age:

  • 2nd Age: The age of Alfheim
  • 3rd Age: The age of Ferlikan
  • 4th Age: The fall of the Giants - Jotnarrøkkr
  • 5th Age: The age of Cornucopia (the actual age. This age will probably be known in the future as "The age of Vileny"

What does a character know about this Age?

read the post: legacy of the 1st age

If you have any remark or question, do not hesitate to ask or express yourself in the comments

Friday, 8 November 2019

[OSR] Gold as XP (1/3) - Theory

"Gold chains in tiny wooden chest" by Marco Verch


The “Gold as XP” was my biggest WTF in AD&D, when I discovered it about 20 years ago.
It was for me an aspect of the meta that I completely rejected. I hated levels back then, because a level based progression was not logical in my eyes (a leap in power every 3-4 scenarios? I preferred a little step after each adventure, like in skill based systems)
Levels were not logical, and getting a level because you accumulated money felt like complete nonsense...


Lately, as I reflected more and more upon the tropes of D&D (OSR and 5E brought back D&D in my life), and accepted them as they were, I tended to analyse (or read analysis of) the meta behind the game design. Then did “Gold as XP” only start to make sense.


It is a very simple tool to emulate a "rag to riches"-campaign that focuses not only on monster-slaying for advancement. Why? Because killing the Monster™ is suddenly optional to get XP. Stealing their loot, tricking them into giving you their riches, parleying for a part of their treasure, all these options are suddenly as valid as killing them. They are also less risky, but on another meta-roleplaying-level also much more interesting. It’s even stated clearly like that in the mythical Redbox’s player’s book: ‘Did you notice that you get a lot of experience for treasure, and not much for killing monsters? It's better to avoid killing, if you can, by tricking monsters or using magic to calm them down. You can sometimes avoid the risks of combat.But you will have to fight many monsters to get their treasures’ (Mentzner: 1983, p. 12).

This was my first realisation that this “Gold as XP” rule was not as stupid as I thought: it was never meant as a tool to explain level advancement, but as a tool to create a certain atmosphere at the table.
My next realisation was that “Gold as XP” doesn't mean you have to give XP when you award treasure, you can award XP for spending gold instead.
Which sounds much more logical to me, but also for some tweaks in the atmosphere at the table, with only a simple few coefficients between what gold is spent on and the XP awarded.
a few examples:

  • You want a sword'n'sorcery kind of game? Make a coeficient x2 on Carousing (which is a political neutral way of saying "Sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll"). You'll have feasts that would attract Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser...
  • You want to emphasize empire building in your game? Make a coefficient x1.5 on building costs, x3 on buying titles (some societies would make you a baron, if you were ready to pay the price), and x2 on armies, followers, hirelings and torchbearers. As soon as they can afford one, your players will hire some swordbearers and start a company...
  • You want an arthurian kind of game? Make a coefficient x2 on religious offerings, bathes and x4 on money patroning for the arts (or spent on creating works of art), and maybe 1.5 on horses and other materials for joust.

I want to test it! How exactly does it work?

I decided to test this mechanic in its own setting, using D&D 5E as a basis (OSR is very attractive, but 5E attracts more players).
Examining the experience table from 5E for an "XP=Gold" campaign, i realised that it works with my vision of a medieval-fantasy world.
If a poor person lifestyle’s costs 14 silver per week, we can imagine them making 15 silver a week (money was tight for poor people in the middle ages), reaching 300 spent gold pieces would mean 200 weeks of labour to get to lvl 2 - nearly 4 years. Without adventuring.
(On the other hand, D&D3, with a 1000 XP necessary for lvl 2 would not work for me - unless using a silver-base for XP, as used in Lamentations of the Flame Princess [LotFP])

Using the “downtime rules” from Xanatar’s guide to everything, working can bring up to 25 gold per week (you’d have to be VERY lucky though) it would mean 12 weeks (3 months) of work to reach lvl 2, but it is very unlikely to happen.

Crime and Pitfighting are much more lucrative, but more dangerous. Still, a very lucky and ambitious thief could reach lvl 3 within one week, and a pit fighter lvl 2 within two weeks.
The other “money making”-activities described there are somehow on the same level.

Should “downtime activities” then be banned? Well by no means, but their gains shouldn’t be taken into account for determining XP.
LotFP does this very explicitly, and goes even further, restricting the gold affecting XP gain to the Treasure found during the adventure. Loot selling? Pickpocketing? Quest rewards or salaries? These will make you wealthy, but not experienced.(Raggi, James Edward IV. "Lamentations of the Flame Princess - player core book: Rules & Magic." (p. 33-34))

This is a very good rule of thumb and a perfect way for the DM to “control” the flow of XP… At least under the assumption that the XP gained is equal to the amount of gold you bring “back to town”.

I decided that I want another assumption for my campaign: "XP=Gold spent"(and it might well be an error and unmanageable, since it needs to be tested: I could not find a source using this method yet…).
Which means i’d have to find a way to not reward “solo-play” actions, particularly from a rogue or bard (the petty thieving and gambling that a lot of young/beginner players seem to always want to try is an example of what I mean here). Luckily, 5E has a tool for this: the aforementioned downtime activities.
These are explicitly for a time outside adventures (this again is an excellent and subtle game-design answer to a recurring problem that 5E mastered).


I will implement a system of coefficients for spent gold that will affect the amount of XP gained for these expenses. This will be discussed in the 2nd part of this article “[OSR] Gold as XP (2/2) - Praxis”.

Just for fun

To conclude with a funnier tone, the devious and sadistic DM in me really wants to give around 275 Gold per player as a reward for their first adventure and watch them divide their treasure… Will one player sacrifice himself so that the others might all get their level 2? Will they all stay level 1? Will they choose one or two of them that will reach level 2 and the others will get their level the next time? Metagame meets sadistic DM at its best.

As always, if you disagree with anything, of find anything useful, start a conversation in the comments. I approve non-spam messages quite quickly :)