Johydee, the 2nd in my series of turning the Hero-deities into warlock patrons for 5th edition. One thing I feel that is equally important for a warlock of Johydee’s ability to change shape is their ability to gather information. Being a patron of espionage information is critical. So, while the shapechanging aspect of the warlock was covered through their spells, I focused the information gathering through their patron granted abilities.
What do you like or dislike about the concept? If you have suggestions, go ahead and leave a comment, and maybe I’ll adjust it if we get a better idea.
As I dive into one of my favorite places in the Bandit Kingdoms, and the Flanaess, I have to say that the history I put forth is one of my own devise. Much of what I have written here was influenced by the writings of Tom Harrison, Erik Mona, and many authors of the Living Greyhawk community. While I try to stay true to canon where I find it, I do alter some events slightly from the materials I find, most of which are not canon. I hope you enjoy this first installment as I take a look at The Theocracy of Dimre.
Out of the chaos that would birth the kingdom of Nyrond, also came the formation of the Theocracy of Dimre. While other lands were in the throws of transition from the rule of the neglectful Great Kingdom to independence, Dimre emerged a small but strong nation.
The seeds of what would become the Theocracy of Dimre were sown in the towns and villages of Wintershiven, Holdworthy, and Hawkburgh. In this area, the religion of Pholtus was growing and becoming more influential. Members of city governments and even lords were turning to this orderly faith. By 300 CY, tensions had been increasing for nearly a century, and the threat of a civil war was brewing. In response, the people who lived there turned to the ridged order of the religion of Pholtus for security. As the influence of the main sect of the cult of Pholtus, the Blinding Light, grew, the once overt repression of other minor sects turned into open religious persecution. Chief among these oppressed sects was the Ture Path's followers or the cult of the Ebongleam as their oppressors called them.
Business owners and officials with ties to the True Path were pushed out of office or had their shops and business looted and burned. Homes were painted with black circles so that followers of the Blinding Light, the dominant branch of Pholtus worship, would know that heretics lived there. This persecution of the Blinding Light against the Ebongleam quickly turned violent, and those who could leave heading westward. Word had spread that in the lands on the other side of the Pholstwood, was a small town called Marskeer that welcomed those of the True Path. Marskeer was in a frontier province called Dimre. There, a priest named Engel Boesch was said to be openly preaching of the True Path.
By 356 CY, war had broken out between the new state of Nyrond, and The Great Kingdom. Other satellite states began declaring their independence, and the Theocracy of the Pale was one of them. While they would not be able to become fully independent from the rule of the new kingdom of Nyrond until 450 CY.
Through Turmoil, the True Path gains Dominance.
Followers of the True Path had been living in Dimre since 200 CY. As the persecutions of the cult of the True Path grew in the east, more religious refugees moved there with the last wave arriving between 354 to 356 CY. During these early years, Dimre was an Earldom, owing it's allegiance to The Lords of Rel Mord. However, the aristocracy of Dimre was not followers of the True Path and thought little to nothing of the religion. Having learned harsh lessons in the past, the worshipers of the True Path practiced their religion quietly. By the time that Earl Wendelaine, the last Earl of Dimre, noticed just how dominant the faith had become in Dimre, it was already too late.
In a last-ditch effort to regain control of the province, Earl Wendelaine had the current Canon, the church's spiritual leader in Dimre, murdered. While Earl Wendelaine did not make public his involvement, the ears of the Church of Pholtus in Dimre are everywhere, and they quickly learned of it. Wendelaine attempted to then influence the appointment of the new Canon to no avail. Unanimously Canon Sagmered took office marking the end of Dimre an earldom and the dawn of the Theocracy of Dimre.
One of the first orders issued by the new charismatic Canon was the arrest of Eral Wendelaine and his family. The Earl was tried with heresy against the church, and then he and his family were burned alive in the town square of Falscheit. As the screams of Wendelaine and his family rang out through the square, Canon Sagmered declared their land was now an independent theocracy to a roar of approval from the crowd. The date of the Dimre's independence was 350 CY.
Favored in War
A popular saying in Dimre is that the Theocracy is always favored in war. The nation found it's birth in the civil war that created Nyrond. It was also because of the war in the east that kept Nyrond from reclaiming it. The wars between the bandit lords and kingdoms that saw the original earldom lose control of the silver mines in the Rift Canyon also benefited Dimre. For surely, if they still retained them, then Nyrond would have been compelled to try and recapture the breakaway province.
Dimre had always had a large militia for a kingdom of their size to defend against Bandit Kingdom raiders. When Dimre held the silver mines of the Rift Canyon, the Earl's wisely recruited, outfitted and trained local militias to complement the garrisons stationed there, which were few, by the Great Kingdom. Like the general population, these militias were full of worshipers of the True Path. They put to use the religious beliefs of a disciplined and orderly life to practical use there. So when Sagmered took control of the earldom, the militias seamlessly followed suit and declared their loyalty to the Canon.
This longstanding tradition of highly trained militias would be invaluable in the future. And in the future, the old saying of "Favored in War" will be proven agian.
So a Leachim the Learned shot an idea past me that I liked so much that I took it and ran with it. What if the Hero-deities of Greyhawk were Patrons for Warlocks in 5th edition D&D. Leachim was speaking of Kelanen, which would have been my first choice as well, and with collaboration from the Learned one, I wrote up this version of a Patron.
These are all works in progress, so if you have any ideas, changes, or suggestions, fire away, and I might alter them. I intend on making a Warlock Patron workup for each of the Hero-deities in the future, which one should I do next?
The Ebongleam, 4th book of the holy text of The Blinding Light (Tomes of Law)
In the religion of Pholtus, several sacred texts that are venerated by its followers. These books outline the history and teachings of the faith. They also describe the strict code of laws that must be followed and adhered to. However, these books were not all the tomes penned in the days the Oeridians made their migrations across the Flaneass. One of these tomes was later banned and declared heretical in nature. Today it is called the Tome of the Ebongleam. Among the devotees of the so-called Cult of Ebongleam, it is known as the True book of Law, and its followers refer to themselves as the Followers of the True Path.
To understand the Cult of the Ebongleam, and why it became hated, we need to look into the past when the Oeridians left their ancestral lands in the west and heading east. The tribes of the Oeridians that began their exodus were more akin to what we see today in the Nomads of the northwest and the Paynims of the dry steppe. As they moved east, however, they encountered not only the nature-loving Flan peoples but also the remnants of the great prehistory Flan civilizations. During this migration, the Oeridians began to refine their own culture, and the laws of their gods began to move from a spoken and memorized religon to one codified in texts and tomes. The teachings of Pholtus were one of these gods who's teaching the priests began writing down. As the god's laws took form on the page, the sects within the worship of this god began to push for their own interpretations.
Primary among the teachings of Pholtus is that to ensure order, the people must adhere to a strict code of laws. Without these laws, chaos will drive all that is achieved eventually into dust. While this principle is paramount in all forms of Pholtus worship, the texts considered to be those worthy of protection became a key topic of debate. As the Oeridians traveled across the lands of the Flanaess, they were not peaceful. In fact, the Oeridinas became increasingly warlike. They did not seek to live in harmony with the peoples already living in the lands they moved into; they conquered them. This warlike attitude was not the sole domain of the leaders and warriors. They looked toward their priest for aid and validation from their gods, and the church of Pholtus responded.
The doctrine of Pholtus, which used to be about the need for unbiased and stern laws applied to everyone who lived on Oerth, not just the Oeridians changed. Definitions of those that were of the light began to be written into the scriptures. The Oeridians became the champions of light, bringing civilization to savages. Those who did not believe in order become those that believed in chaos and dwelled in the darkness. This change in the philosophy caused a schism within the religion and some of the tomes and doctrine that had been a part of the religion since pre-cataclysm times became heretical and outlawed. The Fourth book of law thusly was deemed the Ebongleam and banned. The true believers of the faith's original doctrines were driven underground.
What does the Ebongleam Actually Say
According to the Prelate of the Theocracy of the Pale, the 4th book of law, now called the Ebongleam, fools followers into opening their hearts to perverse practices. They say that they try to align themselves with demons and devils to enforce their will. Turning away from the Blinding Light of Pholtus and embracing the darkness of evil instead. They are the ones who coined the phrase that is now attributed to the cult, "To know the value of the light, one must walk first in darkness." This is not a saying ever used amongst the Followers of the Truth Path as those that believe in the 4th book of law call themselves.
What the 4th book of law actually says and outlines is this; there is no good or evil in the world, only order and chaos. To ensure that chaos does not triumph and destroy everything, an orderly must prevail. And for an orderly world to prevail, there must be law. In the teachings of the True Path, all creatures are equal under the eyes of Pholtus and his laws. Orcs, goblins, dragons, Flan, Suel, Baklunish, and any intelligent being have the same rights under the True Faiths doctrine.
Because of this philosophy, priests of the True Path embrace light and darkness in equal measures because from the black and the white, you get the gray that is the world. Priests know Light and fires spells as well as darkness and cold spells.
The Bastion of the Faith
In all of the Flanaess there is one land that follows all the Books of Law from Pholtus, the Theocracy of Dimre in the Bandit Kingdoms. Followers of the True Path have dominated the Pholtus worship in this former Nyrond province since 342 CY, and openly declared themselves an independent Theocracy of Dimre in 350 CY. Dimre is considered a heretical society by the Prelates of the Theocracy of the Pale, who has openly tried to undermine them since then.
Gnomes in D&D have always lived in the shadows of the other races, yes, even in the shadow of halflings. Where Halflings can draw their evolution from one of the most beloved series of books in the fantasy genre, Gnomes's development in role-playing isn't as clear. In early D & D, they were simply referred to as distant cousins of dwarves and loosely based on some European myths. Not bad, but nothing spectacular either.
Later we did see some more unique interpretations of Gnomes develop in specific settings. We got tinker gnomes from Dragonlance, which played off the Gnomish myths of their industrious natures. We got the Forest Gnomes with their zeal for life. These Gnomes were given wild hair and tied to the wild, much like druids. Then there are the Deep Gnomes, who lived in the Underdark and provided a bastion of good in those dark lands. More somber than the other types of Gnomes, this variation was more like Dwarves than the other Gnome races. So how did these variations of Gnomes come to be? No creation myth, no unifying thread that explained how Rock, Forest, Tinker, and Deep Gnome were related. In short, gnomes in D&D are pretty much a hot mess.
Gnomish gods are pretty cool, but most of them are still the original ones that we got out of Deities and Demigods. Sure, Garl Glittergold is great, but he still seems more like a dwarven god in gnomish clothing. It's almost as if by the time 5th edition came around, the people over at Wizards of the Coast simply threw up their hands and said screw it. The proof is in the pudding. Take a look at Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, where Wizards outlined some of the mythology of the races. Elves get 28 pages dedicated to them, while dwarves clock in at 18 pages. Hell, even the Gith, get 12 pages devoted to them. How many pages did the halflings and gnomes get? They got 15 altogether in a shared entry. The Gnomes got 8 pages, and the poor halflings only got a whopping 6 pages.
I think the lack of attention given to the Gnomes comes from the fact that the real world mythology they are drawn from is so varied. In these myths, there are many variations, and each one shares concepts with other mythical creatures. These variations and the lack of a coherent direction for gnomes led me to come up with a myth that I hope you will enjoy and maybe even use in your own campaigns.
The Gnomes story starts long before man lived in kingdoms, wielded magic, or could read and write. Gnomes made their appearance before the dawning of human civilization when humans were simple hunter-gatherers. This meant little to humans because Gnomes didn't even live in the same plane of existence as humans; they lived in the Realms of the Fey. Gnomish ancestry gets its beginning in the magical land of twilight. They lived independently from the Seelie and Unseelie Courts and resembled little the gnomes of today physically.
They were, however, much like gnomes of today, doing what they liked and continuously playing pranks on others and searching for new experiences. This, of course, did not endear them to the Seelie and Unseelie courts. Still, it was not this carefree lifestyle that upset the Courts of the Fey. What upset the Courts of the Fey was their ability to physically and magically change their appearances.
Gnomes could take on the physical form of other Fey and mimic their innate abilities to the point it was impossible to tell a transformed Gnome from the Fey they were impersonating. The only drawback to these transformative powers was that gnomes, small creatures naturally, could not increase their mass to take on larger forms. While the Gnomes could not take on the appearance of the Lords and Ladies of the Courts of the Fey, they could appear as Fairies, Brownies, Spriggins, and Red Caps, to name a few.
The gnomes of this prehistory time were highly resistant to all Fey's magic as well, which made it hard for the Fey courts to force them to bow to their authority. The Gnomes of this prehistory regularly made the Fey Courts look foolish, by ruining their well-thought-out plans that were part of the eternal struggle between the Seelie and Unseelie courts for the Realms of the Fey. Unlike modern Gnomes, their ancestors cared little if people died because of their practical jokes. This competition between the Gnomes ensured that they would continuously interfere with the courts as the Gnomes tried to one-up each other.
Because of this, the Gnomes became enemies of both courts and all of those allied with them. If it wasn't for the Gnome's natural ability to adapt and mimic others, they would have been eradicated early on. Despite this the Gnomes now felt the intense pressure being leveled against them as both the Seelie and Unseelie courts joined forces to put the Gnomish problem to an end.
A Fey War
As the Fey beings came together to eradicate the Gnomes, their own Lords and Ladies found that even their allies among the Fey had abandoned them. While there were a fair number of Fey that did not partake in the Gnome hunts, they also would not aid them.
For hundreds of years, this war for the annihilation of the Gnomes went on. Hunters from both the courts were vigilant, and if they were lucky and found a Gnome, they were killed on the spot. In response, the Gnomes turned their pranks into open guerilla warfare, and the Realms of the Fey quickly became a paranoid and chaotic place. The very best the courts had to offer were made into hunters, but the Gnomes proved the elusive prey ever.
As the war dragged on, however, the hunters became more adept at sniffing out Gnomes through non-magical means, and the death toll among the gnomes began to climb but at an agonizingly slow pace.
Eventually, both sides began to realize that neither party would be able to win outright, and neither wanted this new paranoid and constant violence to become the norm.
A Compromise and Exodus
Secretly the two sides began meeting to discuss a possible way to bring the war to an end. The Gnomes, while native to the Realms of the Fey, had no desire to live there anymore. Everyone in the Realms of the Fay hated and despised them now. So, it was decided that the Gnomes would leave and go to live on the Prime Material Plane. The only problem was that the Courts of the Fey did not trust the Gnomes to not slip back into the Realms of the Fey disguised again.
Word of this reached the gods of the Prime Material Plane, mainly the gods of the Elves and Dwarves, as humans were not a significant force to be recognized at that time. These Dwarven and the Elven gods intervened wishing to prevent the departure of the Gnomes to The Prime Material Plane. As a result, a grand meeting between the gods and the Lords and Ladies of Fey, and Gnomes was held.
The Gnomes realizing that their ability to change shape and mimic others was the catalyst for the fear others had of their kind. It became clear that this would be a problem anywhere that they went, so the only solution for their continued existence meant that they would need to get rid of these abilities, but how could they do such a thing? The gods of the Elves and Dwarves weren't powerful enough to accomplish such a feat. They could, however, with the help of the Gnomes, cast powerful magic that alters their memories, making them forget that they could do such a thing. In the end, an intricate and powerful ritual was performed by these beings of immense power. The Gnomes willingly submitted, changed, and allowed themselves to be transported to the Prime Material Plane.
The Effects of the Gnomish Transformation
As part of the compromise, the most powerful of the Gnome Lords and Ladies were elevated to the status of divine beings, or gods, and were given residence in Bytopia. The rest of the Gnomes were scattered in small groups all over the Prime Material Plane. What was not anticipated was the effect of such a powerful ritual spell fueled by Dwarven and Elven divine magic.
The Gnomes that appeared on the Prime Material Plane now incorporated certain aspects of those that had cast the ritual spell upon them. Certain aspects of dwarves and elves were absorbed by the Gnomes making them seem distantly related to them. Wood Gnomes were connected to forests and nature, while some Gnomes took on aspects of mining and living underground. Even physically, they changed, with forest Gnomes having a more lithe build. At the same time, those that took after dwarven traits were stockier.
The Ritual of Displacement, as it would later be known, not only removed the Gnomes memories of their ability to change and mimic others. It also stole from them all memories of living in the Realms of the Fey. This explains why the Gnomes have no real memory of their origins, nor myths of their people's dawn. While the average Gnome had forgotten their people's origins, the gods of the Gnomes did not but swore to never speak of it again. As did the Gods of the Dwarves and the Elves that participated in the ritual.
Those left behind
While the ritual magic was successful, albeit, with side effects, none anticipated a small number of Gnomes did resist the Ritual Spell. These Gnomes, known by their ancient name, Gnosh, exist in small numbers in the Realms of the Fey. While they retained their ability to change shape and mimic, they forgot their past as Gnomes and became twisted, vile creatures who hate all. Fortunately, their numbers were so few that they never became a problem in the Fey Realms.
While rough around the edges, I prefer this type of origin story for Gnomes, but that does not mean the story is complete. What did you think of this possible origin of Gnomes? Would you change something, or do you have a better idea of an origin for them? If so, I'd like to hear it about it.
The Druids of the Bone March
The Bone March has a much longer history than most realize. The March's highlands were home to dwarves and gnomes before humans first explored the region and home to tribes of Flan dating back over 1,800 years ago. Unlike the Flan further to the south that established the kingdom of Ahlissa, the Flan that settled in what would become the Bone March preferred to pursue a semi-nomadic lifestyle intricately connected to the land.
These druids, while venerating gods such as Beory and Obad-hai, believed in the Old Religion, or the Green Way. In the religion of the Green Way, Beory and Obad-hai are as much a part of the cycle of life as are mortals. These druids that came to the Bone March formed a circle, the Circle of the March, and took it upon themselves to watch over the land and its peoples.
Within this culture, the druids acted as spiritual leaders and historians of their tribes. They used the potent ley lines that crossed the land, particularly a junction of two lines at a location called the Green Mouth, to weave potent druidic magics to aid their Flan brothers and sisters. The Green Mouth was a depression within the center of the highlands that was extraordinarily lush and overgrown. How and why this is the case in a moorland is unknown, but it is attributed to a connection to the lands of the Fey.
The Coming of the Oeridians
Around -190 CY, the Bone March saw the arrival of Oeridians settlers. Unlike the south of the Teesar Torrent, the Oeridians settled in the Bone March in large numbers. Those that trickled in before 100 CY were mostly families looking for a life outside the confines of the traditional Oeridian hierarchy. These Oeridians, while more aggressive than the native Flan, were welcomed, and the two cultures evolved over the next two hundred years into their own people.
The druids were at the forefront of welcoming the Oeridians, and the Oeridians appreciated the assistance of the Flan and druids that helped them become acclimated to the hills and Moorlands of the Bone March. Unfortunately, with the increase of settlers, so did the raiding by humanoids from the Rakers. This forced many to abandon the semi-nomadic lifestyle and erect more permanent and defensible settlements. At this time, we see the founding of what would eventually become the cities of Spinecastle, Johnsport, and Knurl.
The humanoids aware of these newcomers south of the Tessar Torrent began crossing the Bone March to plunder these lands. This would force the Great Kingdom to station troops in the Bone March. Moving in erecting forts, the Great Kingdom began making plans to turn the Bone March into a new province, or an extension of the Northern Province.
The druids of the Circle of the March, led by the venerable Kalamath, who had been a part of the circle since -701 CY, and leader of it as the Grand Druid since -542 CY, were not initially concerned by this. Those who had come to the Bone March in the past settled peacefully among those who already lived there. They were looking to help protect the people from the humanoids, a mission that all agreed was beneficial. While the druids and Kalamath were not fond of this new trend of the inhabitants giving up their more nomadic lifestyle, they realized it was necessary. The druids even helped in the construction of the early fortifications at the site that would become Spinecastle.
War comes to the Bone March
By 100 CY, the Great Kingdom had established several forts in the Bone March to help prevent humanoid raiders and the seasonal raiding parties of Suel barbarians. Kalamath was not fond of these developments but did not interfere. Openly the Grand Druid said his primary concern was for the people of the Bone March, but there was some mistrust brewing between him and other druids of the circle. It became apparent that Kalamath was more concerned with protecting the sacred sites of the March, like the Green Mouth, which some of the circle disheartening.
By 108 CY, whole armies were sent by Overking Manshen to stem the latest incursion of Barbarian raiders. The humanoids had been beaten back in several pitched battles between 40 to 65 CY giving the barbarians easier access to the Bone March. The Druids' response was almost nonexistent as Kalamath preferred to let the soldiers of the Great Kingdom do the work for them.
The Erosion of Authority and Importance
By 300 CY, the culture within the Bone March had changed drastically. The influence the druids had once enjoyed was eroded to the point that their importance only mattered to the few inhabitants of the March that remained living in small villages scattered throughout the March. The bulk of the Marches population now lived in and around the three major cities of Spinecastle, Johnsport, and Knurl.
Despite their diminished importance within the March's political structure, the druids were still highly respected and thought of almost as mythical remnants of the past. This mythical reputation had allowed Kalamath, who, despite his advanced age, still led the Circle, retain a level of respect. The number of druids within the March had also dwindled to the point that there were only the Seven druids of the circle left.
Starting around -542 CY, Kalamath would disappear for long periods of time. At first for a year, then two, but by 560 CY, these departures could last as long as ten years at a time. This would throw the circle into chaos as the old druid reappear and disrupt whatever order had been established in his absence. When asked where he had been, the only response that was ever given was that he had been sleeping.
Thus was the state of the Circle of the March when the next and most significant threat to the Bone March would rear its ugly head, the Cursed Invasion.
The Cursed Invasion and the Rescuing of a People.
Starting in 560 CY, the raiding of the humanoids increased in volume to such a degree that everyone was becoming concerned. The Marquises of the Bone March had grown more independent over the past two hundred years as the Great Kingdom's attention became more focused on internal matters. No Aerdi troops had come to the March since 443 when remnants of the Knights protectors sought refuge. Before that, the last soldiers assigned to this borderland arrived in 299 CY. The druids knew that the humanoids were gathering in the hills, but they didn't realize that another horde was gathering further up in the mountains. They alerted the Marquis, who took their warning under advisement. Whether due to arrogance or mishandling of the information, the warning went largely ignored.
At this time, most of the March was under the rule of counts appointed by the Marquises. While they had men-at-arms serving them, these were small personal armies and most of them mercenaries or ill-trained locals. The Counts at the best of times paid little attention to the druids, whom they regarded as little more than relics of a bygone age. But the people in the smaller villages, especially the more remote ones, still had strong ties to the druids, and they began warning and preparing them to move when the orcs invaded.
In 561 CY, the largescale raiding turned into an all-out invasion as not just one, but two hordes of orcs and their allies invaded the March. The druids, who had already been preparing, quickly gathered up those villagers that they had warned and took them to secret locations in hopes of riding out the invasion.
After taking those they could to places safety, the druids met and decided to go to Spinecastle to aid the Marquis. They were shocked to find the city had already been sacked, and the castle was under siege. A few druids made their way into the fortress at Spinecastle, where they stayed to help defend it and the Marquis. The rest hurried to help the army in the field. Those druids that stayed with Marquis Clement would die there when the fortress fell.
The druids fought with Sir Stermorn and helped him elude his pursuers when the remnants of his army escaped into Ratik. With no apparent army left to help the people of the March, the druids hurried to help in any way that they could. Stermorn wanted them to stay and help with the reorganizing of those that had escaped, but the druids declined. This was seen as a betrayal by Stermorn and his men. To this day, the remnants of the Knight Protectors and soldiers that survived, and eventually settled in Ratik, curse the Circle of the March.
In the end, the Druids saved thousands of civilians from slaughter and eventually turned those refugees into the nomad tribes that still wander the March. The Cursed Invasion also spelled the end of the Circle of the March. The rest of the Circle focused on taking care of the refugees and put all their time and effort into turning them into a proper nomadic people. Kalamath has yet to come back to the March, and many wonder if he ever will. Some Rumors say the Grand Druid is lying in a magical stupor and will return with the mythical Flan hero Stormano to free the March. Others believe that he was assassinated before the invasion started. Many still wonder what will happen if he does return. Chief among them is General Nar, Breka's hand-picked Successor of the Vile Rune orc tribe, and Gorsh, the leader of the Death Moon orc tribe.