Zweihänder: The Village of Piran and a Homebrew Cosmology
Relating to Character Creation session on September 30, 2018
After a lot of giddiness over grimdark RPGs, we busted out the tome of Zweihänder: Grim & Perilous RPG in both paper and PDF form to make characters! I've also been working on an homage to video games like Diablo and Darkest Dungeon which will carry that wonderful, gothic horror vibe that I so love. Zweihänder carries the added benefit of an elegant game play system built on Basic Roleplaying System's d100 roll under mechanic and a wealth of resources for play.
To channel some creative juices, I've begun getting thoughts to paper. Our players rolled characters as well, but I thought I would share some of my writings in combination. But first, we have:
Rath Caspian, a young elf pilgrim recruited by the Church to learn from the Sisters of St. Barberra and minister to wounds on the hard, Moonshine Road to Piran.
[Catie's Character] a female dwarf investigator, recruited as an "unbiased" observer of the Girl's treatment and for her keen eye on the dangerous Moonshine Road.
Yrsa, a rune-marked, snaggle-toothed dwarf anchorite seeking blessing from the Sisters of St. Barberra concerning a generations' old curse on them and their family.
Phebe John, a branded elf with the bonds of enlistment and the weapon training, too. Their violet eyes are the only suggestion of their elvish heritage beneath armor and blade. Their service to the Church is to earn an arbalest's crossbow and go on their way as a sellsword.
And Garreth "Gar" Thad, an elderly human bailiff sent to collect the coin from the Village of Piran, a paltry but necessary task given its fall from industry to squalor. Nevertheless, the coin will support maintenance along the road and please Grantham Town's merchants.
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Below I've drafted my thoughts about this setting and the introduction. Since we have arcane and divine elements in our party, I went ahead and adapted a cosmology that is drawn from the old Final Fantasy games (which share a job/profession system not unlike Zweihänder in feel). I've given it my own spin and this will be further refined as I continue to understand the game system. The introductory quest will focus on the Moonshine Road ensuring the delivery of the Girl to the Nunnery of St. Barberra for treatment. Once in Piran, an old mining town, the heroes will have plenty to do and explore until their band attempts to return to Grantham. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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THE VILLAGE OF PIRAN AND THE NUNNERY OF SAINT BARBERRA
The Nunnery was built over six centuries ago and the Sisters of St. Barberra continue to offer healing and aid to the miners and craftspeople of the village of Piran. Piran gained some measure of wealth for its mines of silver with secondary industries in its ore subsidiaries, lead and sulfur. Metalworkers moved in and St. Barberra of Anthem was one of the first to minister to the miners and minters who came along the wrong side of a furnace, blast cap, or cave in. As a result, the region was blessed with great wealth, though the farmlands were often feeble, shipping in grain and foodstuffs from the town of Grantham. The mountainous countryside is hunted for large game and the slopes milled for the pine that grew on its steep slopes.
Now the region is a shell of what it once was. The silver has been predominantly recovered and while its emblems sit above many portals and adorns the nunnery, all that is left of value is beyond the reach of most who would venture forth. A few addled elders and foolish youths venture into mines’ depth, especially North Elk Mine accessed just to the northeast of Piran, at their own risk. And just as in brighter times the sisters tend to the wounds of cave-ins and the peculiarities with which they return. Trees have grown up in long, fresh wounds along the hillside, but just as often a summer storm washes mud through the streets of Piran in long sloughs, taking a day or two of grueling labor to clear.
The mine’s ore has included other elements, including arsenic and chlorine have often been disposed of in the surrounding areas, poisoning the downslope farmland. The farms, once hardy and certain, have become enfeebled, the crops gray and bent. Ranchers stick to the treacherous cliffs where they say an early slaughter is worth more than a sickened herd.
Below the Nunnery and accessible from two crypts, one in the east courtyard and the second under the west gazebo, are the vast crypts where many of the townsfolk were buried. With an abundance of miners and a dearth of tillable land, it was easiest to dig deeper. For quite a time, cremations were thought to be unsavory, so the first dozen levels are lined with alcoves where the embalmed rest. Below those levels, the bodies were stacked or their bones used to construct the very walls. Only in the past sixty years did burning the dead come into fashion, and even still the nobles and nuns insist on being interred whole. Deaths of the important in Piran, therefore, are met with a peculiar anxiety.
Piran is remote. The nuns of Saint Barberra carry special appreciation for their knowhow with the wounded and the… troubled. For these reason the Girl is being brought to them. She will be… treated there. And if not, she will be absolved of her sins.
FAITH AND COSMOLOGY OF THE GRANTHAM REGION
The cosmology of the region is defined by an ongoing conflict, often portrayed as an ongoing battle between the Five Heroes, one devilish elder evil, and a sentient artifact that corrupts the righteous. The beginning of this apocalyptic conflict represents the end of the primordial era known as the Age of Stars when magic flowed like rivers and all sentient creatures swam in and plucked at the threads of the world. The Age of Stars was preceded only by the Age of Night, a timeless epoch of monsters and chaos. Elves claim their civilizations arose in the Age of Stars and given their own age and their pull on magic, many believe them. The Age of Dawn followed when the dwarven civilizations arose as well as the bands of ogres and other giant-descended peoples. The first human cities, as well as the rise of the agrarian halflings and the cunning gnomes, mark the Age of Day.
At the center of the conflict is the Eight-Headed Mother of Monsters, a plurality in one, who breeds the monsters of the dark. Her heads depicting an infinite chaos of congealed, shifting magic sometimes portrayed as a dragon, serpent, goat, lion, vulture, toad, crone, and an infant boy, though these are more a contemporary portrayal of the Church than any settled dogma. Each head represents a source of corruption, malice, and evil.
Combatting the Mother of Monsters are a hooded sage with a shadowed face, a woman robed in white, a winged warrior with a lance or longsword, a lithe figure with wrapped hands and simple clothing, and a red-clothed duelist their sword wreathed in flame. The Hooded Sage is a master of the arcane, usually depicted as an elf, and often omitted by the Church for its associations with profane magicks. The White Lady is an angelic, matronly humanoid who ministers to the healing; her depiction is common in nunneries and hospitals as well as bags of barbers and field medics. The Gryphon or Winged Knight is the armored warrior who leads the charge from the center; in homage, feathered wings are common on fine armor and the Gryphon is sometimes sculpted above gendarmeries and houses of government. The Stone Fist is an ascetic with cleared mind and purified body, commonly depicted as a dwarf or human with a lean, asexual build; ascetic monks, martial artists, and elementalists call on the Stone First for guidance and depictions of the elements are common sigils of protection and guidance. Last is the Outsider or the Burning Blade who represents the foreign, unpredictable, and strange; investigators, occultists, and many foreigners are attributed with, by choice or otherwise, with the Outsider persona who blends magic, martial prowess, and trickery into their craft. Like the Hooded Sage, the Burning Blade is sometimes omitted or adapted to a zealous, brutal warrior.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, is the Life Breaking Blade which is alternately depicted as a jagged, bone-like blade; a lightning bolt cast of shadow; a chipped, blood-soaked stone weapon wreathed in smoke; or by the removal of a blade like weapon shape from the medium (usually masonry) on which it is depicted. Its name has two-fold meaning: The blade is said to claim the blood of the slain, invigorating the wielder, but also corrupt and claim the wielder’s soul in the process, eventually consuming them. When its true wielder is found, they will come to find a place as the ninth head of the Mother of Monsters and bring about the Age of Dusk, leading to a renewed Age of Darkness. Many a warrior-king and -queen has sought the blade and a few have claimed to wield it in victory, turning its darkness into a beacon of light, but these have generally been revealed as pretenders.
To refer to the Five Heroes as a whole, a cross-like circle is used composed of five lines: Two lines compose the top-piece that arc away from one another toward the center (The Gryphon and the White Lady), this meets a central median (the Stone Fist), which then is marked by mirroring lines that arc below and meet and descend below (the Burning Blade and the Hooded Sage). This is known as the Circle of the Five, or simply the Shield by commonfolk. In common usage, this is bastardized to a cross with its center replaced by a circle, though in formal styles they may be stylized uniquely and in their own hues. Such stylization can even be common when one or more of the Five are not present in accompanying artwork. In addition, the Circle of the Five is frequently displayed in the artwork behind a depiction of one of the Five to highlight how the five are one in their mission.
To commonfolk, the Ages are typically understand chronologically, one coming before or after the other. However, scholars prefer to consider the Ages conceptually, one built atop the other. Therefore, the Five Heroes are not somewhere in the world fighting the Mother of Monsters, but instead nestled in an era parallel to ours engaged in ongoing combat. When divine magic is summoned, it is a manifestation of the Five Heroes against the manifestations of the Mother of Monsters. Similarly, when a corrupted beast attacks travelers on the road, it is the Mother of Monsters herself manifesting in the Age of Day. Metaphysicians extoll endlessly on the esoteric mechanics of such a world, which interest those that sacred shield or sharpened blade against the monsters themselves not a wit.
Image Credit: Grim & Perilous https://grimandperilous.com/