Domain of the Month
Darklord: Baron Eversong
Joël of the Fraternity
In my campaign, I had Baron Evensong's Manor as a floating domain à la Phantom Lover tower. IMHO, Evensong is an adventure useable once only, so a pocket domain was more approptiate.
ScS of the Fraternity
Baron Eversong has got to be one of the most pathetic, most poorly written lords of all time. Read his background - it looks like something from an Kargatane BOS_ reject-pile. Why he deserved such a huge domain, while excellent lords got the shaft is a mystery that would have Azalin scratching his head. But, since Bards rule in 3.5, perhaps some of the ideas can be salvaged...
I once proposed an alternate Liffe, populated by three different ethnic groups. Perhaps three different faiths, or three races (elves, humans, dwarves?). For now, let's call them A, B and the relatively newcomer group, C.
Baron Eversong would be a commoner bard, who traces his family past all the way back to ancient nobility - hense the title Baron. His native land was populated by the people known as AB, and a tiny minority of merchants from group C. A natural born bigot, Eversong blamed his family's downfall on the merchant caste C. He used his potent mind control abilities to gather more men of his thinking, and influence others to violence. He organized several race riots, pogroms and ect... The local Duke, irritated by the unrest caused by Eversong, ordered Eversong's death. Fleeing the squad sent out after him, Eversong ducked into a fogbank, and emerged in Liffe.
Liffe is now a domain populated by groups A, B and C. Group A and B represent Eversong's own race - either group representing one of two aspects - ex: one signifies Religion, the other a code of Honour. Both of these groups are at each other's throats. Group C, on the otherhand, is very prosperous - neither A nor B has any beef with them, and they need the goods that C imports and access to the markets to which C sells.
Eversong is baron, his birthright finally acknowledged. Yet, he must watch as his people die while his enemies prosper. His attempts to reconcile a peace between A&B always fail - some loud mouth always appears at the right moment and organizes a new riot. Furthermore, every time he tries to use his abilities to incite violence, his curse switches the blame from C to A or B.
David of the Frat
Well, since the best adventures need not revolve around the Lord I see no problems with Liffe. Heck, the land is pretty much a Tabula Rasa, anything is possible.
The main things with Liffe are the struggle between the commoners and nobility and rising middle-class as well as the Baron's struggle to keep the island independent and yet the increasing ties between the nobles and the mainland. That almost justifies the large island on the Core, the fact that you have this Lord that would appreciate being an Island of Terror due to the total solitude.
I'd play up that aspect. The tourists from the Core come to this land, the influx of settlers hoping for a better life and the people who now spend their lives in trade and profiting from the position. Farmers work harder to produce more crops to sell across sea which they use to hire more hands and produce even more product. Meanwhile there are the newly starting craftsmen anxiously producing their wares for sell overseas and the traders and explorers hoping for new exotics to bring back. Heck, you could run a whole campaign of explorers from Liffe doing reconnaissance for a wealthy noble looking for the next 'new' thing.
Given that many craftsmen are so new to their skill and may lack the years of experience they might be better are mimicking the crafts from Darkon and Nova Vassa producing copies and knock-off products. I can see waves of cheap supposedly masterwork Darkon pottery being sold in ports across the Nocturnal Sea. This adds an irony to the situation, one class of people is desperate to trade and so much needs to be imported that there is little to offer. The wealthy nobles risk spending more than they are making and everyone scrambles to produce wealth, players might be needed to see out new ore veins, guard what little valuables are there, procure something of tradable value and the like.
There might also be heavily xenophobic elements, the language barriers and the like being mixed with the lord's wish for isolation. I can see problems such as crime and the rise in depravity and social unrest being blamed on outside influence and sedition. There might be strong groups working against the foreign devils and trying to keep the land pure. This is especially hard on the influx of colonists and settlers as well as the traders.
As for the lord himself… Okay, this is harder without changing any elements as presented but lets see if I can fan-wank some explanation or offer some improvements.
Baron Eversong strikes me as a sociopath, he simply cannot express empathy for any other living thing, it escapes him. It would be easy to play him as a tortured failure of a bard then, unable to capture emotion, but that darklord role has been filled (too Juste as Igor might say). Instead he became a bard strictly to manipulate the emotions of these inferior people and abuse the empathy they felt; manipulate them through song or his spells and where that failed a little physical persuasion. This led him to enchant his harpsichord that I would rework as a phylactery. That makes that Baron a manipulative control freak which adds that much more emphasis to his ruling an island filled with people he can't control. A tad too much like d'Honaire but it's a start.
I'd also make Baron Eversong impatient; he has the raw talent to convince people through song and music, saw them to his cause and philosophies but quite frankly he just does not have the patience to slowly work away at them. He makes token efforts to impart his 'wisdom' before he gives up and resorts to magic or force. He's a thinker and a dreamer, a philosopher with a twisted outlook who believes he must convince others to follow his beliefs. Ravenloft's version of Descartes but with a musical edge. This adds a twist to his curse, how every night for him lasts a hundred years. He has all the time in the world, he is practically an immortal and he has naught to do but theorize and think and debate with himself but during the day he must act quickly. He has centuries to plan for the weekend but he always feels rushed when the time comes. Of course if he slowed down he could easily plan out his actions and prepare the perfect plans that could sway the masses to his will, but he always fails. He always botches his plans.
According to the Book of Crypts the Baron cannot leave his manor. I would adjust that so he cannot step too far away from his harpsichord and thus effectively the manor. But at the end of the adventure it was presumably destroyed along with the rest of the study. So that changes things. Instead the Baron managed to survive as it was merely smashed not totally destroyed. After repairing it he had the intelligence (after 200 years of thought of course) to keep a sliver or two separate and on his person and thus he can freely roam the countryside. Of course every night, wherever he is, he is transported back to the study. I can't decide if after the night he is returned to where he was or always returns to the manor. It might just be easier to say he has three harpsichords in three identical studies and he returns to the nearest each night to give him more free reign of the domain opposed to being trapped in a 60 mile radius.
These are various comments and author notes on the FoS report about Liffe:
Jester of the FoS (main writer of this chapter):Liffe made for an interesting project because it was a hodge-podge of small settings from the Book of Crypts which were not meant to be a unified land. You can the lord, Evensong, who comes from the Dragonlance setting (Krynn) yet IIRC the adventure features a calendar with Greyhawk dates. Likewise, you have other adventures with ties to the Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk.
Chris Nichols was instrumental in the initial set-up of the idea and the creation of some of the more interesting elements (the land remembers, the church of the Thousand Gods). He provided a lengthy brainstorming for much of the land and seas.
One of his ideas was to move Evensong to demilord status, lord of the pocket domain of Neverwere manor. A new character was to become lord of Liffe. I veto-ed this idea early on because I just did not feel right re-writing canon; it's not my place. So -for better or worse- I decided to stick with the Baron.
With the mish-mash of worlds and places I decided to make that the defining feature of Liffe rather than an unfortunate side-effect of its creation. Liffe would be a land of contradictions and combinations. Embracing this, I added as many references to past characters and lands as I could, slipping in little extras. While I don't think I explicitly stated it in the text, Liffe draws in the refuge from other lands, it collects the extraneous and homeless.
curemore clarity as to the darklordship is needed. To my eye, there can be A darklord and any number of darklords in waiting OR there can be several demi-darklords with the darklordship as yet undecided or otherwise in suspence (as was the case in Darkon awaiting the return of Azalin). BUT there cannot be A darklord (or even a pair of darklords (Borca)) and demi-darklords in the same overlapping domain. To be explicit this last is to not deny the possiblity of a pocket domain or pocket domains within the domain of Liffe, where the pocket domain(s) locks in its lord and lock out any other lords.
Now I confess to still being confused, perhaps my fault, whether Eversong is a darklord (in which case the demi-darklords should be downgraded to darklords in waiting, i.e., candidates for evalation if Eversong is destroyed) or is a demi-darklord among others. Or are there pocket domains and accompanying restrictions on the movement about Liffe of some or all the individuals concerned.
Finally, if the lot of them are demi-darklords, what restrictions, special conditions, if any govern them when in the presence of one another. This matter goes to the point that the land is supposed to reflect in some sense the darklord and is perhaps best thought of in this case as a variation on a reality wrinkle, which is to say Isolde and Carnival might lend some inspiration to the matter.
Yes, it helps. And indeed it is worthy of explicitly being sited in the 'errata' for the sake of clarity.
The Nightmare Land being of a whole with itself does not provoke the same uncertainty that Liffe thrown together of parts does. So what does not need explanatory comment in the case of the Nightmare Land does in the case of Liffe.
As to the University of Liffe, I wonder if a department of business or even a professor of business is 'historically' accurate. Does anyone know how recently business became a university subject?
The first American business school dates to 1881, the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce of Paris is the oldest business school in the world being founded in 1819, and Aula do Comércio in Lisbon was founded in 1759 as the world's first institute specialising in the study of business. Which of course doesn't answer the question of when a science of business actually began and business took leave of being something one just did, probably under the tutelage of one's family, rather than something first studied.
It is of course perfectly possible that Ravenloft and the Boritsis are ahead of the curve, and there are certainly other instances of such, but still it strikes me as being oddly modern, more appropriate to the Mask of the Red Death than Ravenloft. Then again, the Boritsis strike me as being closer to the Medici and so commerce as an extension of political power rather than business as a science unto itself which may be, and indeed should be, openly shared with others. Indeed it is the secretive Grabens who seem to be behaving in what is a more timely manner.
I suppose my underlying worry is modernity creep. Lamordia is, of course, very modern and Paridon is perhaps relatively too, followed by Dementlieu. Universities in these places that are hardly contemporary, whether in terms of their course content or organisation, but that are far more than fledgling make sense. Elsewhere universities would be correspondingly more limited and even quite primative or, alternatively, steeped in the study of matters unacceptable to us and Lamordians such as astrology and magic. Hence a business professor, from the ruins of even less modern Il-Aluk, setting up shop in Liffe, with the help of a family that should resemble the 15th century Medici, seems a little jarring.
One might even wonder if this is not something of a bias of the FoS itself, the organisation being deeply rooted in Lamordia and Dementlieu, and our modern world too, and so its academic fondness for meeting scholars (and overly modern ones at that) in other lands. A case of finding what one is looking for . . . . when an older, more alien and less accommodating reception might be more in order . . . as seems to have been the case in fact with Dirac and the Drowning Deep.
Then again, it is perhaps nothing more than an attempt to account for the unfortunate and unsensical canonic reference (from Legacy of Blood) to brother Boritsi moving to Liffe.
Lord Cyclohexane: Spot on. With the proposed nature of Liffe being primarily mercantile, and with the canonical reference in LotB of the Boritsi Trading Company opening an office in Armeikos, I wanted to make Hordum College linked to those points. I still think I did ok, considering the above lack of knowledge of medieval education. As such, I applaud Jester for what he was able to do with it.
Returning to the darklord issue, the insert (p 11, FoS NS report) that describes the characteristics of the land says, "Darklord: Baron Evensong (demilord)", while the later insert on the Demilords of Liffe (p 42) says, "If a single demilord were to gain enough power, that figure would become Liffe's sole darklord, and the land would subtly reshape itself around them." This seems rather contradictory. If there is, as discussed and as implied in the second citation, several darklords, even with Eversong being chief among them, it is misleading to invite us to think that there is one darklord in the first citation, even if the "(demilord)" bit is perhaps intended as a warning that the situation is abnormal. An errata for the first insert on p 11 seems in order.
I have grasped the concept and am currently neither arguing against it nor complaining about it. I am just noting that it seems a needless contradiction to say in one breath there is a/one darklord (Eversong) and in a subsequent breath that there are multiple darklords (Eversong and the others). Perhaps the contradiction serves the purpose of explicitly remaining canonical even as a different and worthy path is tred. If not, the matter is confusing and the concept would be clarified rather than damaged with, for example, the errata for p. 11 "Darklord: Baron Eversong and competing lesser figures."
Incidently, by describing Evensong as a demilord on p. 11 he is then expressly denied the perk of closing the border on p. 42 where demilords are said to "have no direct influence over the land: they cannot open or close borders. " So what perks whether fluff or non fluff does he enjoy that distinguishes him from the other demilord ramble? His historical and previously uncontested lordship of Liffe pre death at the hands of adventurers would be my best guess.
Jeremy16’s review of Liffe in the FoS NS report:
I'm a little late to the party, but I just finished the netbook and wanted to throw my two cents in. I figure its the least I could do after all the hard work the Frat put into the project!
Here's my breakdown so far...
Overall, I like what you did here, making Liffe a patchwork country and filling it in with characters and villains from the adventures in Book of Crypts. It was both an obvious and brilliant solution to the blank-slate status it held after the end of 3rd edition.
Would have liked to learn more about Aferdale, how the Beast Cult’s depredations affected the ecology and how the residents adapted to it. Perhaps the area was even returning to a state of natural balance once again, and entering a new, more prosperous era. That would make Malisha’s return even more heinous.
I liked the retrofitting of Malisha’s background (including the schemes of the God-Brain and tying the cult into the Church of a Thousand Gods).
I sure wish the neighborhood names were a little less wonky than “poor district” and “wealthy district”, but I checked and saw that was how they were really listed in the BoC.
I think the atmosphere/personality of the city should have been expanded upon, besides it just being a busy port city. With a body-possessing odem running loose, the idea of not knowing who is your friend or enemy should have been played up more. The “Blake the Baker” sidebar fits very well when put into that context.
This is a nice write-up and I have relatively few complaints. The ALTO Dread Possibility was really good. I particularly like the inclusion of Andres Duval.
The only thing missing was information about the false history pertaining to Lyron Evensong. Is he a hereditary ruler or an upstart? Who ruled before him? That type of stuff.
Also, this would be a good spot to highlight the difference between the land barons and the town mayors. This is something that is glossed over in almost all the entries and I would have liked to learn more about their relationships (do they get along, are they working at cross purposes, etc.).
While small, this entry has a great Children of the Corn vibe. Or you can throw in a little human sacrifice and you have the perfect set up for running a Wicker Man scenario (the original, not the awful Nicolas Cage remake).
Again, I would have liked a little more context when it came to the baron’s succession and probable false history (something along the lines of “first came XXXX, then King Doerdon, then XXXX”).
Sites of Interest
I liked the addition of Maiden Point and the Kelpie to the domain. It’s a simple idea, but it fits the feel of the place very well.
I’m on the fence about the Standing Monoliths. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like the idea of giants and trolls in Ravenloft. Maybe if it were revealed to be a Mistway that led to Ravenloft from other worlds it would be more useful as a campaign starter (and further highlight its “collector of dregs” nature as a domain).
It’s not a really bad idea, though, just if I had to choose between this and Maiden Point, I would favor the latter.
I really liked the write-up for the University of Liffe, however, and plan to use it as a framework for how other universities in the Core operate. I’m in the camp that thinks having a Business School is anachronistic, but it’s not a really big deal. It could easily be remedied by just changing the name to the School of Commerce or the Mercantile College.
All The Rest
Under the Language section, is Sithican-Liffen a reference to the Lyron’s homeworld of Krynn?
The Church of Thousand Gods was a great idea. Kudos to whoever came up with it. It really highlights the fractured aspect of the domain.
As for the History section, I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I would have liked to seen a more than just a couple of paragraphs. I think just a little more false history would have given us a better context to work with. But considering Liffe’s relatively recent appearance in canon, I can understand the difficulties in working that out.
In the Government segment I would have at least liked to have the names of the baronies, if not who rules them. Maybe that could be something added to the errata.
I liked the return of Nightblood (interesting development) and Tavelia (great curse), as well as the introduction of the Patriots of Liffe. This secret society is a natural fit for the island (much like the Brothers of the Land in Paridon), growing out from its contact with the wider world. Also, it’s nice to detail a group of humans with realistic and relatable goals, instead of just some big bad monsters.
The Land Remembers sidebar was very confusing to me. Are the people’s tall tales manifesting themselves? Does each retelling give more power to their beliefs? Or is this just the domain’s false history that is being slowly uncovered?
And for everyone confused about the powers and privileges of the assorted demilords, I thought the sidebar at the end of this chapter summed up the mechanics pretty well.
And that wraps things up for Liffe. I hope my comments weren't too critical. I enjoyed reading every page and just wanted show my appreciation.
Lord Cyclohexane: So, I'm finally getting around to reading the Noctural Sea Gaz... Here are my own notes on Liffe!
- (p12) Why the short days in wintertime? Liffe matches with Darkon in terms of lattitude, and I've not heard of Darkon experiencing such... Or are there portions of Northern Darkon (and the Isles of Agony and Demise) that also experience this extreme northern polar effect? Or, alternately, is this just one of the cool examples of odd localized weather patterns for a domain?
- (p12) While I realize that London has had an extensive brickmaking history albeit dealing with its own London Fog, I found the idea of tons of brick houses in Liffe to be a trifle unbelievable. If the weather is constantly rainy and the cloud cover never allows a truly sunny day, to the point that "[t]ypical plants are mostly yellow and brown, straining to find sun in the overcast skies" (p30), when is the weather nice enough to be drying out the clay for bricks? Additionally, with the limited timber resources, is there enough peat and/or coal to be firebaking the bricks to the proper hardness? [Sorry for the lack of suspension of disbelief... Please blame the TV series "The Worst Jobs in History" with Tony Robinson (Baldric) for teaching me too much about brickmaking]
- (p18) Minor quibble, but the Dread Possibility was originally named "Life's Measure" to match Lofgren's research of Life's Measure. The change in title to "One Life's Measure" doesn't really make sense.
- (p20) "... with heavy snowfalls that bar all travel south." Excellent, Jester!!! Turning the ugly railroad effect of the original adventure into a cool environmental detail? Beautiful, absolutely beautiful!
- (p20) "Predators seem drawn to the town were aid is seldom available." I dunno if typos should be pointed out or not, but this one jumped out at me.
- (p24) "... he took it in stride that he had forgotten ever inviting me. (It seems that Claveria's Baron hosts many callers upon first acquaintance.)" Again, excellent! I'd always thought the unsolicited invitation in the original adventure was clumsy, but like with the above, you've made it fit perfectly by being an acknowledged quirk of his personality. Now I wish I was more familiar with the Book of Crypts to see how many other quirks from the original that you've made work well here in the Gazetteer.
- (p26) "... offering minor lessens in Sciences..." While I'd definitely describe some of my own college courses as "lessens", I believe "lessons" is the desired word here.
- (p27) While I may be quibbling because that Dread Possibility was mine and so I may be overly sensitive, I don't feel that the DP retains enough information for people to link it with the CotN:C coin golem, Lucre. Except for the title ("Filthy Lucre"), there's really nothing to indicate it wasn't simply a curse placed on University property to prevent thievery or the like. Additionally, as a question, what is the blade with the ruby hilt? Is that one of the Grim Harvest soul-sucking blades, so as to go with the crystalline skull and cracked glass rod, or is it the domain of Aggarath, somehow taken from Dr. Arcanus? I do absolutely love, by the way, that you added those pieces from the Infernal Machine or Doomsday Device to their list of saved artifacts, though! Brilliant!
- (p27) Again, picky, but a 300 gp application fee? 300 gp seems a touch steep considering that it's nonrefundable and there's no assurance of acceptance. A quick look at the d20 SRD shows 300 gp as being two light warhorses, three carriages, or 150 nights at a good inn. That's a hefty fee considering that you might get absolutely nothing for it... Especially since, on p29, we see that 300 gp also represents half of a Dean's yearly pay...
- (p27) Has anyone else ever looked at graduation gowns and all the weird accoutrements added to the Masters' and Doctors' gowns as being far too similar to the ceremonial dress for secret societies? Or is it just me? How do we commoners know that Professors aren't actually some secret society? (I'm looking at you, Roti!) Thinking about it, the Fraternity of Shadows is based out of Brautslava University...
- (p30) There's a period in "larg.e" that probably shouldn't be there.
- (p37) The last paragraph of the Dread Possibility seems quite out of place. I'm assuming that paragraph was meant to be part of the normal section on Art & Trade and not as part of the Dread Possibility, correct?
- (p38) "Bodies of victims are weighted with rocks and dumped into the sea, or arranged to be found in sensationalistic fashion." Why did that make me think of Roberto Calvi, God's Banker, hanging from the underside of a bridge for having crossed P2?
- (p39) "Things become more coherent after this event - whatever it was - as more villages were discovered when the Mists slowly retreated." Er, what event? There's nothing in the previous paragraphs that indicates any special singular event. OH! WAIT! Take the paragraph which begins with the above sentence and put that at the end of the "History" section on p40, then it makes perfect sense. Like the above problem with p37, I think pieces of the normal text somehow got spliced into this Dread Possibility on accident. So, start with the above quoted sentence and take the entire rest of the DP out and put it at the end of the History section to make this coherent.
- (p39) "Nocturanl Sea" should become "Nocturnal Sea."
- (p40) "As mundane as the reality may be, it would be vastly superiors to the hogwash..." Please remove the "s" from the end of "superiors."
- (p40) "It was frustrating teased fragmentary remains of the past from the fog of legend..." Please change "teased" to "teasing" and add a comma before it.
- (p41) Please correct "colleages" to "colleagues."
- (p41) The last paragraph in the Dread Possibility seems like it should be located as the second paragraph in the "Government" section on p40.
- (p42) "... and have some of them more or less ignorant of their status, like Drakov." Since there may be some readers who aren't as familiar with Ravenloft who might not get the reference, I think that should be changed to "... like Vlad Drakov of Falkovnia." It's your call on whether that's unnecessary, though.
Whalejudge: I really liked this. You did a great job. Just a couple of points.
Did I miss something? How does Baron Evensong function in a political role on the island given his nightly/century curse and can't leave the mansion curse? Does the senate meet at his place?
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