Sage Advice

Sage Advice

This section of The Library is a collection of answers to questions written by Gareth Garfoot in his capacity as SR Guilds. These cover world history, guilds, religion, and universal truths (as currently understood) within the game. You can probably rely on these a bit more than the rest of the Library, unless Gareth was on the wine…

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“What is the difference between the Utterdark and the Plains of the Dead? Are they the same place? I know the Necropolis is in Elysium as the halls of the slain are in there. I just am confused with the others”

The Plains of the Dead is Kharach’s Realm within the Plane of Elysium. The Necropolis is the vast black citadel at the heart of the plains of the dead, that is Kharach’s seat of power (though, it was not always – it was once ruled over by a powerful undead entity, called Kerrius, Lord of the Dead, and Kharach recovered it through the help of a number of adventuring mages about 15 years ago).

As the Plains of the Dead are vast, Kharach’s power wanes the further away from the Necropolis that you travel, until eventually there are areas beyond his “sight”. These areas, known collectively as “The Utterdark” are the very fringes of the Plains of the Dead, areas where undead are known to roam and various powerful undead lords fight for dominance.

It is not known for certain why the Utterdark exists or is allowed to continue to exist, but given Kharach of all the gods is the most unique in his nature, that may well in some way account for it.

It is rumoured that the Plains of the Dead were the first Realm created within Elysium, for one of the gods. This may be true, it may not be, as it’s hard for mortals to understand the true nature of the gods, but given Kharach’s unique nature amongst the gods, it would not be surprising if it was true.

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“How do the gods sit together in Elysium given Sidhe previously banished 6 of them? Is that not a bit of a point of contention?”

Elysium is not a single realm, each of the gods are believed to have their own realm (“Halls”) in the plane, that may or may not be separate from the rest of the plane (i.e. you can’t walk to them).

All we know about Sidhe and the banishment comes from experience (We know they were locked away) and one source of questionable merit (the “Scroll of Sidhe”). We don’t know when (it was a very long time ago, thousands and thousands of years) and the reasons why are couched in allegory rather than fact.

It’s probable, that at least as far as mortals can comprehend and understand, the gods do not interact on a daily/regular basis- they stick to their own parts of Elysium, trying to further their own goals with their followers and Primates on the mortal plane. Meetings of the gods are probably exceedingly rare (and probably symbolic rather than practical- I suspect that in Elysium at least if one of the gods wishes to communicate with another, it’s just a matter of will rather than physically visiting).

We also don’t really know the extent of Sidhe’s power over his “children”, and how that “keeps them in line”, or at least stops them from outright warfare in Elysium, or if the gods have gone past the notion of “conflict” as much as mortals understand it.

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“Most countries seem to have a unique form of Magic:

      • Cathayan Elementalism

      • Mithimese Artifice

      • Ithronian Ritualist

      • Axirian Battlemagic

      • Tholonian Necrology

Are there others that we haven’t discovered?”

Magic around the world is bound since the Sorcerer Wars through pillars of magic. Its these pillars that determine what magical art is practiced in any given tradition (this may not always be geographically based).

There are Major Pillars, bound to the main magical traditions, and there are Minor Pillars, who are sub-practices or minor variations of the magic practiced by a Major Pillar to which they are connected.

The KNOWN Major Pillars are- Ithronian Ritualism, Axirian Battlemagic, Mithimese Artifice, Necromyr Shadowmagic, and the Konnish Pillar (which the Konnish Warlocks destroyed).

The minor Pillars that are known (and the major to which they are connected): Tholonian Necrology (Ithron), Nipponese Ghost Hunters (Ithron), Rummish Ritualist (Mithim), Ynalian Jannissary (Ithron). It is rumoured that there are two more Major Pillars- Cathayan Elementalism may well be one of these.

Most common mages throughout the world appear to be practitioners in the Ithronian tradition, even though they may never have been to Ithron, and their training may be different (as well as any guild rules which they may have), or slight variations of them.

Not every country has a pillar or even a tradition of its own but may well have different “guild rules” than the tradition from which they descend. Consider this… a Mage who specialises in defensive magics may well be called an Abjurer. But he could be an Ithronian Thaumaturge, Battlemage, Rummish Ritualist etc…

Specialism is sometimes just a matter of application of the magic you have. I should add, many of these traditions were practiced before the Sorcerer Wars- not all pre-pillar (indeed only a very small minority) were Sorcerers.

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“Did feudal knights exist in Ithronian society before they were a player character class? If so, how common/rare would non-religious knights have been, in a character’s family tree for example.”

Yes, though not really with a defined structure like the PC Class is. They would generally be a noble who has been knighted.

Not everyone is drawn to faith, and the nobility has always been keen to give itself badges and distinctions that set itself above the common man- “Sir” and “Lady” being such.

As such Ithron has a mess of ” Feudal Knights”, “Orders of Knights” and “Knightly Orders”.

Let’s deal with these in reverse Order.

“Knightly Orders”- These are the four religious Orders, in which membership of the Order (at sufficient rank) grants Knighthood. Three of which draw from the nobility.

“Orders of Knights”- These are the secular groups of knights, such as the order of the boar, where membership is made up of Knights, but membership in of itself does not grant Knighthood.

“Feudal Knights”- These are a class of fighting noble knights. They may be members of an Order of Knight, but equally may just follow their Baron, Earl, Duke etc. This is the basic landed nobility Knight.

In terms of numbers, not all nobles are Knights (even Feudal Knights) and so even if every Duke, Earl, Viscount, Baron, or Baronet who was not a member of the Knightly Orders was a Feudal Knight, they would not number a huge amount.

Because of the nature of Ithron, with much of its “war strength” being in the Knightly Orders, and post 3rd Invasion, the Guilds (who were largely created for the express purpose that would be undertaken by Feudal Knights) and the weakness of the nobility post invasion, the need for fighting noble Knights is less than would be expected in true feudal lands.

Many of the Noble families are proud to be a “Griffin Family” with one or more child per generation usually joining the Order. Being Ithron, naturally the largest familial lines are the Griffin Families which at the height of their power could put 20,000 Knights into the field. Even in the modern-day, roughly 8000 Griffins are sworn to the Order. The second largest Order in Ithron is the Templars (with many nobles having Templar advisors) with around a thousand brethren (though, the Templars are still the largest Order in the world, even after the disasters in Ausremer this last decade). The Black Order of Ithron, is once again growing back up from its near annihilation in Nerese a decade ago, but its numbers are less than the Templars and its Knights less experienced. The smallest of the Orders is always the Grey Order, with rarely a hundred members of the Order, but probably more visible than their strength suggests due to their nature as questing knights of errantry.

In terms of family trees, it would not be unknown for one of the children in a generation to be Knighted by their feudal lord, especially in time of war where a noble child has been called to the banner and it would be unfitting for Lord Gareth Redbeard to command half of his family’s knights without being Knighted himself, but neither I suspect would it be common place. What would be more likely, would be noble children who are not in an Order, and have not been called to the banners.

As an example (from Nottingham Branch Background): Lord Peveril: Sir William Peveril holds estates to the west and north-west of Norham that the family were granted following the 3rd Axirian Invasion. Despite their Axirian origins, they are considered “Ithronians” rather than “Axirians”, and have over the years provided several knights to the Griffin Order as well as to the Black Order of Ithron. The family weapon, is a unique Bastard Sword called “The Honour of the Peverils” and has been wielded by both Griffin and Black Knight Peverils over the years. The Peveril militia are well trained and adapt well to different battle styles and tactics, trained as they have been in both Griffin and Black Order tactics.

Of course, there are always exceptions.

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“What order were the guilds, knightly orders and churches founded? Were they over time or all at once?

They were founded over a very long period of time.

The Griffin Order, was founded before the first signing of the Pact, so many thousands of years ago.

The Templar Order were founded in 118, they only came to Ithron in 540.

The Grey Order originated in 389.

The Black Order formed in 601 in Axir, and was finally split into two Orders in 1003, though for many years there had been effectively two orders, on in Ithron and one in Axir.

The Mages Guild was formed in 683, soon after the Axirian invasion, bringing together various practitioners of magic into five schools (one of these, broke away to become the Guild of Alchemists in 781, while one of the schools already existed as a formal cabal before the creation of the Guild) under the first Archmage.
The rest of the Guilds had formed over time and 764 marked the formation of the Guildscouncil, though the Guilds of Mercenaries and Scouts were not formed until the mid 950’s and the Guards and Foresters within a few years after that and the Guild of Blacksmiths until 1002. Prior to 956 though the Guildscouncil was not made up of Adventuring Guilds (there were no adventurers until that point).

The Churches, as in the organised worship of the Seven have existed for a long time. We know of references to the Churches and Prelates in around the third/fourth century (The Templars fled from one Prelate, into sanctuary with the Church of Vleybor). Given the origins of the Griffin Order, we know that Crowa and Sidhe were worshipped in pre-pact “Ithron”, and its likely that there were leaders of the Churches at that time, though probably not in the strict “Church” format that we have today, which may have come along with the Axirian invasion with a single “Primate” in charge of each faith in a country. Each of the Seven Kingdoms of Ithron may well have had their own structure, perhaps with a senior priest advising the High King. Of course, even though Ithron is an island, there was contact with the Empire and beyond from Ithronians, so may well have been an exchange of ideas, so that the formal structure of a “church” may well be less of an Axirian structure than thought. There is no given date for the formation of the Council of Light as a formal body, but it may have been around the same time as the formation of the Guildscouncil – one to attend the civil matters, and one to attend matters spiritual, but this is just a guess.

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Some questions on the Monarchy of Ithron:

Do we currently have an elected Monarch, and each monarch to be elected after him in a manner similar to the Holy Roman Empire, or is he now regarded as having a line which will inherit from in the future?

Would you describe King Robert as a Constitutional Monarch or an Absolute Monarchist?

Why do we not have the descendants of the former Kings of Ithron as our monarch?

The monarchy of Ithron is hereditary, and the crown passes down through the royal line to the eldest legitimate heir. The royal line is determined as being descended from the current King’s grandfather, so the Royal House of Ithron is now the Blackstone Family. Having said that, the recognition of the Dukes Congress is required to assume the throne, though this is mainly a matter of confirmation rather than any true form of election, with each monarch signing the Dukes Charter (a rather lengthy document that states the law in regards the royal line, inheritance etc). It would only be if there are several strong claimants with equal claims that the Dukes Congress would have much say, as otherwise the option is civil war.

Prior to the Blackstone family, the Royal House was the DeCourtney family (Three monarchs, King Rheinnar, King Mortimer, King Stephen). Upon the death of King Stephen, the house lacked legitimate heirs (there were some claimants to the family line, but they were distant cousins and a mix of illegitimacy) and the Duke Congress declined to recognise their claim. Of the former DeCourtney line, the only legitimate member of the bloodline had previously been refused as a claimant by the Dukes Congress and had their membership of the DeCourtney family renounced under Axirian Senatorial law, which would under most circumstance be a double disbarment to their claim.

King Robert, is both constitutional and absolute- remember the word of the King is law (absolutism), but that traditions are almost as strong as law, as is good governance. A Tyrant monarch would likely be swiftly removed after all “the difference between treason and patriotism is just a matter of dates” (Alexander Dumas).

There are descendants of the Royal House before the DeCourtneys – House Banehart, that are alive. The heir to the last Banehart King, Mortimer (not the DeCourtney Mortimer though) disappeared in mysterious circumstance and claims by Rheinnar DeCourtney (who was Duke of Lindone at the time) that Mortimer had named him heir on his death. By law though, the Royal line passes through the current King’s grandfather. Thus as soon as Rheinnar was crowned, Banehart ceased to be the Royal House. In practical terms, should there be no obvious heir to the current Royal line, and a strong heir from a previous line, it’s not inconceivable that the Dukes Congress would put their support and the Crown back to an old Royal line- especially if the choice was a weak heir of suspect legitimacy (or in the case of the DeCourtney heir, a renounced claim) for peace and security, rather than risk civil war.

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A couple more questions on Guilds “Which guild is the oldest, and when was it formed? Which School of Magic is the oldest and when was it formed?”

The Mages Guild was formed 683, just after the Third Axirian Invasion. This is the oldest of the Guilds that make up the Guildscouncil. It’s entirely probable that there were smaller more trade-oriented guilds in existence prior to this date though.

Technically, all five “Schools” of magic were formed at the same time as the Mages Guild (Thaumaturgy, Enchantment, Necromancy, Demonology and Alchemy) from existing practitioners. However, we do know that there was a formal structure and organisation of Demonologists that became the School (its head became the Schoolmaster) in existence before the founding of the Guild. This “cabal” of Demonologists had existed in Ithron for a significant period of time, at least since the first century (in the Axirian calendar), most likely for a lot longer before then.

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“Why are Dark Elves seen as Foulspawn, but other elves are not?”

Dark Elves, by their nature are evil (like Orcs, Goblins etc). They don’t make very good citizens, and it’s a rare Dark Elf that can escape from their own people to even attempt to break free.

Dark Elves could also be said to represent negative extremes of elven behaviour- domination, militarism, rulership, superiority, etc

Elves on the other hand, are non-evil by nature (though there are exceptions, and extremists- see Del Narror and other similar groups) and are generally to be trusted and participate in society without trying to dominate it or take over.

There are some humans who refer to all non-humans as foulspawn though. So, it’s not just a nature thing for elves, its societal acceptance.

It’s important to remember though that Elves (of all kinds) are not “humans with pointy ears”. If you are extremely long lived and a race of dwindling numbers, you probably have different views on taking action than the brief lives that the humans have.

We don’t know if the two species were once one and separated, and if so, what caused it, or how long ago, or even what their appearance was. We don’t even know if Elves and Dark Elves are two species or if they themselves are several speciest brought together under one human-viewed conception. We do know that the various Dark Elf and Elven cultures in Ithron vary significantly in culture- some are forest dwellers, some have their own cities, some in mountains, some in hills, and some underground.

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“What purpose do Hulda serve, religious or not?”

Hulda is a classification for certain races that have magical or divine origins (generally). Some are naturally magical creatures (Cyclops for an example), some are divine creations (all religious hulda) and some are <REDACTED> creations.

The created Hulda (religious and some others) are formed with a purpose, but also have free will in how to act that purpose/nature out- in the case of non-religious hulda, potentially they could oppose the purpose they were created for. A religious hulda could not go against its purpose without ceasing to exist (hence an excommunicated religious hulda just…. ceases).

But Hobgoblins? Are they Hulda of Abraxis? – no. They are corrupted creatures that were something else and were twisted and changed by Abraxis into what they now are- their “spark” is not divine.

Most beings on the mortal plane are not creations of the gods (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Foulspawn etc) and some creatures origins are more defined by what they are not (e.g. Dragons) rather than what they can be defined as and remain (to quote the late great Bernard Bresslaw in Carry on follow that Camel) “a bleeding mystery”.

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“What is The Pact?”

The Pact at its simplest is an agreement between the Gods of Elysium and the Demons of Sharda. Its actual details are complex and beyond the mortal mind to fully understand in entirety, but it is known that it limits interaction between the Gods and the Demons with the mortal plane to certain degrees. It has to be re-signed every thousand years, and it has been resigned an unknown number of times since its original agreement.

It physically appears as a single stone-like tablet, and while there may be copies held by Elysium and Sharda, they are not “The Pact” itself as it is said that possession of The Pact is something that neither the Gods or Demons will allow the other to have (This is generally assumed to be correct, as The Pact (tablet and agreement) can be broken by the hand of a god- would you let Abraxis near it?) and it has often been hidden away until it is needed for resigning. Study of The Pact itself is said to be the near-legendary aim of every serious scholar of the diabolic and the divine.

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“What is the FnH Universe?”

The extent of existence is the Three Planes (Elysium, Sharda, and the Mortal Plane). Different names for these planes exist, such as Mithra, Theera, Ghora, which has led to some believing more planes exist, but existence is limited to these three planes. Pockets of existence within the Three planes are commonly called “Realms” and have in the past been confused with Planes. However, there is nothing outside of the limits of the three planes.

Fae Realms are part of the mortal plane. The plains of the dead? Part of Elysium.
Three planes, three energies (Soulfire, Mana, “Power”), Three metals (Mithril, Ghoril, Theeril).
The “physical” arrangement of the planes and how they interact is hard to define. Some view them as three flat discs on top of each other, conforming to a traditional “higher” and “lower” plane above and below the mortal plane. Another view is of three spheres constantly in rotation but touching each other.

Neither may be correct. Both may be correct. It may be that the planes themselves change or are changed (certainly it is a common view that Sharda is subject to the whim of The Emperor and she may change its physicality at will).

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“If Sidhe created everything, why did he create demons?”

He didn’t. Much of this confusion comes from a document called “The Scroll of Sidhe” which has been often used to argue this point as if it was some kind of divine statement. It’s not. The Scroll(s) of Sidhe (for there are many versions) are and were written by mortal hands and are subject to the failings and intentions of mortals.

Sidhe did not “create” everything- he did not create the mortal plane, he did not create Sharda and demons, he did not create humans and other mortal races (humans were not created by a god of Elysium… and no, they were not created by Sharda either before your mind goes there!)
Sidhe did “create” six (then twelve) other gods of Elysium.

Sidhe is NOT an Abrahamic style creator god. Longstor didn’t create the world either! The world (the mortal plane) was not created by a God of Elysium or a Demon of Sharda.

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“Are there any naming protocols for Dragonkin young. And how do they raise their young? Cos feeding them Jerky and mice seems to be working but like….do they need a balanced diet of something? Asking for a friend….”

As far as mortals know, there is no certain naming convention for Dragonkin. Granted, not many people can speak Draconic to ask, but the various tribes around Ithron seem to have their own naming styles.

Given Dragonkin lairs are very dangerous places, much of what people think they know about their life patterns is surmised. Its assumed that in some ways they are akin to lizards, but in other ways perhaps similar to humans given their body forms.

As many lizards eat varied foods, including berries and greenleaf plants, it’s possible that Dragonkin also eat similar, but with a larger requirement given their body sizes. It has been rumoured that they are also quite willing to eat the flesh of creatures that mortals would shun…including mortals.

Having said that, has anyone heard of a Dragon eating a salad?

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“There has been talk in a few areas about peasant guilds and such (fishermen guild and such) but I’m also aware some believe these don’t and can’t exist. Also, I have heard of a seamstress guild making and repair clothes”

There are indeed non-adventuring Guilds, however unlike the Guilds that sit on the Guildscouncil they are more local in their organisation and authority.

These “minor” guilds tend to be trade and craft guilds, a seaport might have a Fisherman’s Guild to enforce a set standard, while there might also be a Docker’s Guild.

Seamstress Guilds also appear to be quite common, enforcing standards but also training apprentices. They tend to be the more common clothes that they make, rather than fitted clothes such as formal wear, which would be more likely from an independent tailor.

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“I wanna know more about the Crowan Holy days. I know about St Alfreds Day, but what’s Crusaders Day?”

Much of the history of the Saints of the Churches is mythical and sometimes allegorical. Different priests may have different interpretations, and like on many matters the Gods themselves are typically silent.

It could have been the day that a band of farmers rallied together and brought down the Tyrant that controlled their lands, from there they headed out to other towns to free the weak and oppressed. It could have been the day that the church of Crowa first set out to take the fight to the Konn directly.

What’s more important is that the Saints Days are days of teaching about aspects of the faith, couched in allegorical stories and metaphors.

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“On average, what percentage of the non-guilded populace of Ithron are literate? Obviously, there are those that need it for their trade, but beyond that? The wood cutter, farmer and the like.”

Given the presence of the Churches, especially the Church of Rolbor, the Guild structures, the use of paper money, and that the norm for apprentices and even the humble starting adventurer to be able to read and write, it’s likely that even the humble peasant has some degree of literacy.

Most churches are likely to give basic numeracy and literacy skills to the local children of the community, an area strong in the teachings of Rolbor due to the presence of a local Priest might be taught some more, but likely it’s not that noticeable.

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“What actually happened to make the Dark Elves a thing? And why does everybody hate them?”

Based on the premise that there was once a single elven race, some suggest that there was an event or series of events that led to the fragmentation of the proto-elven race into several distinct races of elves.

It is unknown what this event or series of events was, or even how long ago it was if it happened. There are legends and myths of course, and even today no one is certain what is the truth and what is falsehood. It may even be that these tales are embellished by writer or subject for their own ends, after all, if the legendary “fall” was more an expulsion than some dramatic civil war, it gives neither side a great myth or enemy.

Like the Goblinkind races, it is apparent that Dark Elves are creatures of darkness, that their outlook on life is what most would consider “evil”. While there is the occasional half orc that manages (at least for a time) to overcome its bestial nature, so there is occasion some Dark Elves who flee their brethren and seek a life outside their cultures, cities and kingdoms.

Of course, it’s also possible that Elf and Dark Elf are in fact just similar races with no single ancestor race, in which case much of what is suspected, may well be false.

One counter claim is that the race we call Elves were actually fragmented off the proto-race, a race that became Dark Elves. This theory is based largely around that Dark Elves are able to cast magics from all four schools, while Elves the supposed “magical” race are only able to cast two schools, the “Light schools” of magic.

This would interestingly suggest that the “fall” was where “good” elves managed to break away from their proto-race in sufficient numbers to establish themselves as a separate race, in a mirror version to the more common assumption that the Dark Elves are the “fallen” race.

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“Where do bandages/drugs come from? What are they made from and who makes them?”

To confuse from the off, there are clearly two kinds of bandages in Arda. The first, the physicians bandage, which is capable of healing grievous life-threatening wounds. The second, a bit of cloth that anyone can wrap round a finger or limb to stem the bleed from a superficial wound like a scratch, splinter or small cut from a fruit knife.

Physicians bandages are prepared by the physicians guild, using secret techniques to impregnate them with life preserving preparations, most probably something that helps stop bleeding or perhaps even acts as a wound filler. It’s clearly something that has been improved over the years, so that a “simple” physicians bandage is capable of healing a wound that would otherwise require an expensive alchemical preparation, or the miracle healing of the gods.

Physicians drugs are prepared within the physicians guild themselves, to secret formula (not recipes… keep your hair on Alchemists!). While it’s not unknown for non-physicians to be able to use natural remedies that simulate, they are many degrees of efficiency worse, and while Mrs Miggins mixture of moss and spider web may well stop your leg getting infected today, what happens when there are no spiders or moss. Physicians drugs seem to have no seasonal fluctuation, so either the physicians guild is very good at supply chain management or the materials they use are non-seasonal (like Ithronian weather…). Given that the physicians drugs around the world seem to be the same, its highly likely that they are made from some universally common materials, and that it’s the exact proportions in the formula that make its efficiency without the transmutative process that alchemy undertakes.

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