Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Elves of Ur-Hadad

I just noticed how long it's been since I posted something. I'm technically on vacation right now, but have had to go into work a couple times already this week. I'm chairing a search committee for two positions in our department. Deadlines don't care about no stupid vacation. I've also been working on a couple of adventures, on short one (zero-level funnel) and one longer one, both for Dungeon Crawl Classics. It's been distracting. I don't like to go more than a week without a new post, usually, but here I've gone and done it. Well, it's time to fix that.

+Adam Muszkiewicz and I have been batting around ideas for a long time about the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad setting. We agree on most everything. Even when we disagree, it's more like he has a story about something and I have a story that's different or even contradictory. Our solution is to say, "Well, probably there's truth in both of these, or maybe they're both bullshit" and we just roll with both versions. It works pretty well, because it grants us a lot of freedom in how we approach our individual installments to the Metal Gods campaign. Even more fun, each of us tends to use what we write to introduce new... complications, shall we say... to the setting. Even the bullshit can have permanent effects, in-world. It's pretty neat. It also give me more impetus to write more stuff, as it can become a real part of the story that our group is busy telling through the adventures we have together.

The longer adventure I've been working on deals with reprecussions of the history of elves on Planet Ore (where Ur-Hadad is found). In this history, the elves had enslaved the humanoid races for their own purposes. They were cruel masters, but they reaped a bitter harvest in the end. Here's a bit of that history. It mixes the elves, their political battles, Lovecraftian Old Ones, the reptiloid races, and the peculiar iron allergy affecting the elves metabolism.

I've been meaning to post it for a while, but have delayed doing so for a variety of reasons, some to do with the subject matter, discussed in this post. At this point, I'm not sure how much I want to play elven characters when I'm not GM. I'm weirdly affected by my ideas about them, to the extent that I asked last night if I could play a different character in one of Adam's other campaigns, instead of "a stupid elf." Very strange.

Anyway, here it is:

The Elves of Planet Ore

What we now refer to as "Elfland" isn't just on another plane. It's on another planet, orbiting a binary star, and is impossible to reach from Ore without arcane means. However, the elves of the Old Kingdom were masters of arcane magics and amazing technologies capable of bridging the distance between the realities.

The race known as Elvenkind first came from out of space and time, bent on the conquest of Ore. Man only recently threw off their Dominion, ironically with the help of other elves, sent by the King of Elfland. The conquering elves of Ore were the Dominionists. They were part of a faction of elves within the Old Kingdom who were in favor of expanding the dominion of the elves into a universe-spanning empire.

This Dominionist contingent was also pushing back against the elven caste system. They came from all walks of Elven life, and believed that Elven culture had stagnated to nothing but tradition and formality, and that even those things were hollow and symptoms of a culture in decline. They saw the ruling caste as infected with malaise and ennui, and unable to see beyond the narrow confines of their particular obsession with cataloging and reproducing, with narcissitic abandon, the relics and practices of the past. The Dominionists wanted remake the world in a new image, in which a new way will emerge, and one's position in life will be according to merit and not birth. They believed that their Elven Dominion would be the greatest empire in the history of everything, everywhere.

The elves of the Old Kingdom, and especially the Dominionists, were students of other, less savory technomancies, and these allowed them to dabble in manipulating the very stuff of life itself, breeding sentient starships and a variety of servitors and subject-races. The mainstream elven civilization now regards these as abominations, as they are machineries animated by magic and by the souls of the dead, who are thereby enslaved.

The elves arrived on Ore in two waves. The first consisted of Dominionists who did so in an ark ship (others of which went to other, unknown locations). They arrived hundreds of millennia before their planet-bound brethren of the Old Kingdom would.

Upon their arrival, the Dominionist elves found themselves locked in a savage war with the Old Ones of Ore, a race of god-like creatures and their various minions and subject races (including the serpentkin and lizardfolk, and various other reptiloids). The Dominionists also had a hand in creating humans and other humanoid races to be their slaves, and to build their armies. After many milennia of war, pretty much their Vietnam, the Dominionists sent the Old Ones packing, and the Old Ones fled Ore to find refuge among the stars or into the depths of its hollow core. The Dominionists, now trapped on Ore, set about securing the Dominion, and their bloody rule would last for many more milennia, up until the rebellion of Mankind.

While the first-wave Dominionists battled with the Old Ones, civil war broke out in the Old Kingdom of the elves, between the Perfectionist and the Dominionist factions. The war went on for milennia, resulting in the fall of the ancient elven empire, and effectively leaving the Dominionist Elves of Ore to their own devices. Eventually, the Perfectionists won the war, but it would be many thousands of years before they recovered from the conflict. By this time, they had developed new means of transport by way of arcane gateways, but had made it the highest of treasons to dabble in the technomagical manipulation of life essences, punishable by death of the body and soul.

The Perfectionist doctrine was another casualty of the elven civil war. The Elves of the New Kingdom, as they were now called, for the most part did away with the traditional caste system, but another hierarchy quickly replaced it, one based on power. Those who were the greatest warriors and the most powerful mages now ruled as a confederation of warlords and their retainers, all vying for position. Secret societies also emerged in the New Kingdom, some of which were offshoots of the Dominionists. Most of those secret societies had little real power. However, an extremely powerful group emerged very early in the history of the New Kingdom, a secret society of the most powerful magic users. This group had membership in other secret societies and in mainstream society, using their involvement in civic affairs to mask their actual activities. In truth, this group, the Coulara Mak'Shi (Winds of Eternal Change) controls the direction of the New Kingdom's activities and politics. However, they seem (so far) to have little interest in the poisonous planet of Ore.

The elves of the New Kingdom arrived on Ore to find that several of the Dominionists' servitor races (Dwarves, Men, and Halflings) had banded together to fight both their Dominionist masters and the remnants of the Old Ones' most loyal minions, the lizardfolk and serpentkin. The newly arrived elves of the Old Kingdom joined the fight, but not as part of any stated alliance with the humanoid races. They had a grudge to settle, but were not particularly pleased at the rise of these primitive races, which they considered abominations of the highest order. Subsequent generations of Ore-born elves have become more tolerant as they've been assimilated into the dominant human culture. Still, there's a healthy streak of elven supremacism among even the "nice" elves.

The presence of iron, unknown on the elven homeworld, was the downfall of the Dominionist elves of Ore. Iron changed and corrupted elven magic, driving elves with particularly weak constitutions mad from exposure, causing low birth rates and terminal birth defects, and occasionally producing outright mutations among the children born to elves. These iron-mutated children and their descendents are a long-held secret of the elves, and their ancient shame. Some of these creatures escaped into the wilds of Ore, and are hunted relentlessly by elvenkind, but they are a more prolific race, and not as prone to iron infection. They have thrived in their new environment. Some call them Orcs.

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