Monday, September 9, 2019

[Mystara] More on Tepeshy Religion

The Tepeshy immortals can be separated into two factions, that of Burza and that of Vadok. This division goes way back to the days of Taymor, when Nyx and Thanatos fought over the souls of that realm.

Following the destruction of Taymor, they decided that, in the matter of the surviving mountain Taymorans, they would hold a truce and work together to keep the Taymorans a going concern. Thus, while the Tepeshy view them as a married couple, they are viewed as a feuding married couple on a level that make Zeus and Hera seem positively like lovebirds. But as always, even with the feud between them, they and their “family” work together to defend the Tepeshy as a whole.

Even though most of the other Tepeshy immortals owe their immortality to Thanatos, as things go, they are no more or less loyal to the Grim Reaper than they are to any other Immortals, and so the Tepeshy immortals play each other off one another for immortal favor and for further power on the mortal plane.

In Tepeshy religion, all the immortals are viewed in human form; like the Tepeshy, with humanoid characteristics.

I should note here that most Tepeshy look almost perfectly human; most have only a slightly odd cast to their features. Others are less human in appearance, and more monstrous. The best way to understand the Tepeshy physical type is to consider the Addams Family extended family as seen during the party scene in the original movie. Most are slightly off-human norm, some more so, and others quite inhuman… and then imagine what the Addams Family extended family was like in medieval times. That’s the Tepeshy…

Unlike their Traladaran cousins, the Tepeshy do not revere their immortals in a single, overarching faith; each has their own temple hierarchy and they generally remain aloof from one another. Temples are not found in the settlements; they are at a distance, though each settlement has a couple of shrines and the major settlements have shrines to most of the immortals. Low-level clergy (3rd level and under) tend to the shrines, while higher-level clergy pass through to perform more important rites at the settlement shrines during certain unholy days. Most Tepeshy need nothing more than the local village priest can provide; if they do need more, they must go on a quest to the nearest temple of the appropriate immortal or seek out the high temple of the immortal if they require truly miraculous assistance.

The Tepeshy immortals (and more importantly, their clergy) work on a quid-pro-quo basis, requiring sacrifices and payments for their services. The village clergy require low-level sacrifices, such as foodstuffs, animals, and various useful goods (for themselves) and coin and other valuable treasures for their immortals (kept in the shrine or temple treasury, considered the treasure of the immortal, literally). Higher-level clergy require more personal sacrifice, of one’s own blood, a quest, or even the capture and sacrifice of an enemy or specific monster (usually of Lawful sort). These are often personalized to the nature of the immortal.

All the Tepeshy immortals are served by ranks of demons; these demons, regardless of type, all conform to some aspect of the immortal they serve. Thus, a Type IV demon serving Burza would be more wolf and human like than boar and ape-like, while a Type IV serving Strigz would have two faces and be armed and armored.

Each immortal has their own “divine reward” on this world or in another, for their followers. Those whose worship is simply “good enough” end up with their souls stuck for eternity in the Underworld overseen by Rumgoth. Those who displease or fail their patron immortal are cast into the Abyss to be eternally torn apart by demons.

Burza, Mother of Night, Queen of Wolves (Nyx) appears as a matronly woman of indeterminate age; she has pale skin, blood-red lips, long raven-dark hair, and deep, hypnotic eyes, and wears a plain black dress as dark as night. She is never depicted as a wolf herself; the wolves are her children, and she is their queen. She is often depicted with a wolf or pack of wolves. Her symbol is a stylized wolf’s head. Her colors are black and white; wolf pelts are often used for cloaks or other décor. Her greatest servants are rewarded with transformation into a werewolf; her more powerful servants also gain dire wolves as steeds. Her followers often keep wolves or wolf-hounds as pets and guardians. Her clerics can speak with wolves. Her following is strongest among those who live mostly by the hunt or live in the heavily-forested highlands of the mountains. Her faithful can count on being reincarnated as wolves. Note that it is not against her faith to kill wolves; after all, it is a “wolf-eat-wolf” world. However, it is blasphemy to hunt a wolf with magic or any other “unnatural” methods. Wolves who comport themselves well in their death may be reincarnated as wolves or even werewolves; those who die poorly are reincarnated as humans.

Burguul, Lord of Shadows and Lies, Messenger of Burza (Masauwu) appears as a faceless shadow of a horned man with the wings of a bat; it is said that bats are his messengers, and thus also the messengers of his patron, Burza. His symbol is a stylized bat. His colors are black and brown. His greatest servants are transformed into werebats; some of his more powerful servants also gain giant bats as steeds. His followers often keep bats and giant bats as pets and guardians. His clerics can speak with bats. Those who displease him, or his mistress, are sent nightgaunts as punishment. His faithful can count on being reincarnated as bats; those who displease him are cast into the Abyss to be eternally torn apart by demons.

Vadok, Father of Death, King of Vampires (Thanatos) appears as a pale-skinned man of monstrous countenance, with great fangs and glowing red eyes, always dressed in regal finery tainted by the grave. His symbol is a human skull, sometimes surmounted by a golden crown with blood-red rubies. His colors are black and red (in all the colors of blood). His followers seek to placate him, for his canon claims their only way to avoid being cast into the Abyss to be tormented by demons for eternity is to serve him eternally in death, as skeletons, zombies, wights, or some other form of corporeal undead (in this guise Thanatos has nothing to do with incorporeal undead, nor in general ghouls, ghasts, mummies, or liches). His most powerful and worthy servants are transformed into vampires. These are often served by rats, giant rats, and wererats. He is served by Death Demons and Lesser Reapers.

Zhurm, Patron of Sorcerers, Messenger of Vadok (Alphaks) appears much like his master, Vadok, but is much more human in appearance, taller, almost suave, with much nicer finery. However, when he angers, he gets even more hideous and monstrous than his master. He is usually accompanied by two or three beautiful women (succubi), who act as his chorus. He also appears as a red mist within which are seen red glowing orbs for eyes. His symbol is a blood red winged ouroboros. His colors are black and red. In addition to his role as the messenger of Vadok, he is also the patron of Tepeshy sorcerers; those who rise high enough in their power are taught how to summon demons by Zhurm himself. Like his master, he is served by Death Demons and Lesser Reapers, as well as succubi; unlike his master, he is also served by ghouls and ghasts, and at times, red dragons.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

[Mystara] Tepeshiya Map WIP Mk. I

Here's a preview of the map of Tepeshiya; it is a work in progress and subject to change.

I'm drawing on a lot of the resources available at the Vaults of Pandius, though still distinctly making this part of my Mystara, so not everything out there in the Fanon will make it in (and much of what does will be altered).

A complete list of what came from where will be included down the road.

As usual, click to embiggen...

Monday, September 2, 2019

[Mystara] Altan Tepes and the Tepeshy

The Altan Tepes mountain region on the border between Karameikos, Darokin, Ylaruam, and Thyatis is a huge area that is effectively independent. Karameikos is the only state that even attempts to maintain a garrison presence, and even this is recent, with Duke’s Road Keep and Castellan Keep being built certainly no earlier than 30 years ago, likely much less.

The area on the map within the blue border totals 9,625 square miles. For perspective, here are some real-world measurements:

Albania = 10,578 sq. mi.
Haiti = 10,640 sq. mi.
North Macedonia = 9,820 sq. mi.
Israel = 7,850 sq. mi.

So that is a HUGE territory into which just about anything can be placed.

Based on the known history of the Known World, this can include:
  • Ancient Azcan and Oltec ruins (perhaps with some long-lost Azcan/Oltec tribes);
  • Ancient Blackmoorian ruins (perhaps with robots and androids);
  • Ancient Taymoran ruins (perhaps with vampires and undead and lost tribes of Taymorans);
  • Ancient Nithian ruins ca. 1500 to 500 BC (perhaps with mummies and with lost tribes of Nithians);
  • Ancient Traldar and/or Hutaaka ruins, ca. 1400 to 500 BC (as in the Lost Valley of Hutaaka);
  • Ancient Gnoll ruins ca. 1000 BC and onward;
  • Ancient Dwarf ruins ca. 900 to 491 BC (as in Thunderdelve, and perhaps a surviving dwarven delve or three);
  • Lost Tribes of Thyatians, Kerendans, Hattians, etc., ca. 600 to 400 BC;
  • Early Traladaran ruins ca. 500 BC to 500 AC;
  • Plenty of Humanoid tribes and lairs from 491 BC (Battle of Sardal Pass) onward;
  • Displaced Alasiyan tribes from the Thyatian colonization ca. 150 to 250 AC;
  • Lairs of lycanthropes from 400 AC onward;
  • Primitive Traladaran hill and forest folk pushed out by the growing power of the city-states ca. 500 AC and onward;
  • Settlement of Darokin refugees from the internecine warfare in the fallen kingdom ca. 723 to 927 AC;
  • Settlements of Alasiyans either allied to Thyatians or not willing to convert to the Eternal Truth ca. 825 to 860 AC;
  • Settlements of angry Traladarans pushed here by Thyatians and later by Stefan ca. 900 and 970s;
  • Settlements of Darokin noble refugees from the Great Merger, fleeing the rule of the Merchant Kings ca. 927 to 949 AC;
  • Displaced hordes of Humanoids from Stefan’s crusade to push through the Duke’s Road ca. 970s and onward;
We also know that there are at least two major dragon lairs in the region (one centered in the region, the other nearer Duke’s Road Keep), based on Bruce’s article from Dragon #170, though their types, ages, and names are unknown.

So with that, here are some developments for the region:

There are the following minor remnant “Lost Tribes” in the region, usually a single small tribe and a handful of clans controlling a valley or highland region: Azcan, Oltec, Taymoran, Nithian, Traldar, Thyatian, and Alasiyan. Like the Traldar of the Lost Valley of Hutaaka, these Lost Tribes are rather inbred, highly xenophobic, and suffer from some cultural quirk based on their native culture.

There is also a single surviving dwarven delve, which also is home to a clan of gnomes; it is still producing large quantities of silver and gold, as well as high-quality gemstones. This, together with the vast wealth to be found in the Humanoid-haunted ruined delves, is the reason for the road (trail, really), that passes through the Keep on the Borderlands.

There are small settlements of Traladarans and Darokinians on the verge of the region, both descended from refugees from their respective invasion and revolution. Both group’s settlements are centered on a noble family that fled from the conquest/revolution, and thus they are insular and xenophobic.

All these groups are insignificant compared to two tribal groups, the Humanoids and the Tepeshy, which compete for dominance in the region. The Humanoids have greater numbers, but the Tepeshy are better organized (not much, but more than enough). The Humanoids live primarily in the old dwarven delves and other natural caves in the high mountains, while the Tepeshy live in the terraced valleys. The Tepeshy are semi-nomadic, moving every couple of years to other valleys to allow their terraced farms to lay fallow and allow local fauna and flora to recover from hunting and gathering.

The Tepeshy (singular Tepesh) are primarily descended from a mix of Taymorans and Traladarans native to the mountains, with long ages of intermixing with the Lost Tribes and the Humanoids of the region. The Tepeshy are for all intents and purposes a race of demi-orcs, and no few are full half-orcs (though their bloodlines actually include everything from kobolds to ogres and all in between), due to wife-stealing on both sides. They have the pale skin of their Taymoran and Traladaran ancestors (sometimes with a  light tinge of other color from the Humanoid side), with various eye, ear, nose, mouth, and other physical elements from their Humanoid ancestors (to a greater or lesser extent).

Tepeshy are organized into tribes and clans, all of which engage in internecine feuds and vendettas, though they readily unite against Humanoids or other invaders. Like their Humanoid cousins, they prefer to live underground, in the dwarven delves dug lower in the valleys; if such dwellings are not available, they build dugout pit-houses using stone walls and sod roofs, for themselves and their animals. They keep small gardens and maintain larger terrace farms for grains (some of the terraces date back to the time of the Oltecs). They also herd mountain sheep, mountain goats, and small wooly long-horn highlands cattle; some clans have giant sheep or giant goats that they use as steeds. They supplement their diet by hunting (mostly boar, deer, and bear), gathering, fishing, and raiding. Some tribes and clans keep mastiff hounds as pets and guards; others keep and train brown bears or grey wolves. They also keep hawks for hunting and sport, and homing pigeons to send messages between major tribal settlements.

Tepeshy dress in colorful woolens, leathers, and furs, and their technology is such that they can make leather armor, fur armor, scale mail, and wooden or hide shields and bone helmets; they wield spears, long and short swords, battle and hand axes, slings, and short bows. If you use the barbarian class in your campaign, they can take the barbarian class (they are a mountain/hill people).

Culturally, otherwise, they are mostly similar to Traladarans, though even more superstitious. They have the avarice and wildness of their Humanoid heritage; the tendency to engage in internecine feuds of their Azcan and Oltec heritage; the will to conquest of their Traldar and Thyatian heritage; and a fear and reverence for the Immortals of their Taymoran, Nithian, and Alasiyani heritage. Their language is originally derived from Taymoran with many Humanoid and other borrowings and is not mutually intelligible with any other language. They have a unique writing system, maintained by their priests and sorcerers/witches, also descended in a long line from Taymoran.

The Tepeshy do not worship the same immortals as the Traladarans or the Humanoids; they worship a pantheon of generally dark and dreadful Immortals and Demons:

  • Burza, Mother of Night, Queen of Wolves (Nyx)&;
  • Vadok, Father of Death, King of Vampires (Thanatos)*
  • Burguul, Lord of Shadows and Lies, Messenger of Burza (Masauwu)&;
  • Opasha, Lady of Lust and Debauchery (Talitha)*
  • Rumgoth, Lord of the Underworld and Undeath (Orcus)*&;
  • Strigz, Lord of War (Demogorgon)*
  • Zahovara, Mother of Mountains and Jewels, Protector of Lairs (Pearl)&;
  • Zhurm, Patron of Sorcerers, Messenger of Vadok (Alphaks)*

Especial enemy immortals include:

  • Akul-Gurz, Lord of Icy Doom, Father of Giants (Thrym)
  • Gajarpan, the Dread Serpent (Atzanteotl)
  • Magath, the Hammer (Kagyar)
  • Timorsham, Lord of the Burning Sun (Ixion)
  • Zajar-Bal, Lord of Fire and Destruction (Rathanos)
  • All the Humanoid immortals (Hel, Bartziluth, Jammudaru, Karaash, Ranivorus, The Shining One, Wogar, and Yagrai)
  • The Traladaran immortals (Halav, Petra, Zirchev)
Vampires and lycanthropes (werewolves, wereboars, and werebats) have a special place in Tepeshy society. Vampirism and lycanthropy are considered rewards for long service to the tribe and faith; the gift is not given out willy-nilly, and especially not to mere strangers! Heroes of the people, as well as high-level clergy and magic-users of the faith, can be granted vampirism (*) or lycanthropy (&) (depending on their patron god or goddess). Followers of Burza and Burguul are granted lycanthropy (werewolf or werebat); followers of Vadok, Opasha, Strigz, and Zhurm are granted vampirism; followers of Zahovara are granted lycanthropy (were-drakes); and followers of Rumgoth are granted either lycanthropy (wereboar) or vampirism. These “Lords of the Tribes” are respected by all, and usually have their own temple, fortress, or manor apart from the settlements, to retire in some lonely high valley or in some important mountain pass to protect the tribes.

“Altan Tepes” means “Golden Spires” in Traladaran and “Red Dawn Peaks” in Tepeshyan; Tepeshyan legends speak of their immortals impaling enemy immortals on these very peaks at the dawn of time. The Altan Tepes in Tepeshiya are very tall and steep, giving the appearance of narrow cones or spikes, though most peaks are atop long, winding ridges, like some sort of giant stone labyrinth. The Altan Tepes are a karst formation, meaning that they are riddled with natural caverns and tunnels. They combine elements of the Carpathian Alps and the Dolomite Alps, with the valleys heavily terraced as in the Andes (though not all terraces are actively farmed, some are lost and crumbling amidst forest and bracken).

The valleys are often filled with fog and mist, the result of much of the rain that would be taken to the Alasiyani Desert or the Darokin Plain falling in the mountains in addition to the natural level of rainfall. This makes the forested portion of the mountains effectively a temperate rainforest. In summer the mountains are cool, the valleys warm, both hidden and shadowed by mists. In the winter much snow falls due to the magical influence of the glacier, Akuliima (“Ice Throne”), and then the raids of the frost giants reach deep into the lowlands.

The southern and northwestern foothills are covered in oak, hornbeam, holly, rowan, ash, maple, hemlock, dogwood, and lime, among other deciduous trees; the northwestern foothills are barren wastelands. The mid-range mountains, ridges, and valleys are home to beech, fir, spruce, and sycamore; conifers such as the fir and spruce predominate the higher one goes. Above the timberline among the alpine meadows are found thickets of mountain pine, juniper, and alder shrubs. Many tall, nigh vertical ridges, peaks, and cones are barren save for tangles of shrubs and vines and the odd trees growing out of cracks. Oddly, motile and carnivorous plants and fungi are not found in the region, for reasons unknown to myth or legend (these kinds of lifeforms are found in the Underworld of the Humanoids, however, as are many animate molds, jellies, and slimes).

The mountains are home to the following normal animals, among others: bats (normal and giant), bears (black and grizzly), beavers (normal and giant), boars (normal and giant), bobcats, cattle (highland longhorns), chipmunks, deer (red, roe, and white-tailed), dogs (wild), dormice, eagles (normal and giant), ermine, ferrets (normal and giant), foxes, goats (normal and giant), grouse, hawks (normal and giant), jackals, lizards (normal and giant), martens, minks, moles, mountain lions, owls (normal and giant), porcupines, rabbits, raccoons, rats (normal and giant), ravens (normal and giant), salamanders (normal and giant), sheep (normal and giant), skunks (normal and giant), snakes (normal and giant), squirrels, trout, turkeys, weasels (normal and giant), wildcats, and wolves (normal and dire). There are many other species of birds (notably the death-warbler, which has a black and white skull pattern on its wings and back) and countless insects, though especially bees, beetles, butterflies, centipedes, flies, mantises, moths, spiders, stick-bugs, ticks, and wasps (normal and giant-sized).

The mountains are also home to at least the following monsters, among others [NE refers to the northeastern mountains and hills facing the Alasiyani Desert, GL refers to the glacial and alpine region of the frost giants]: apes (snow, GL), baboons (normal and higher, NE), bugbears, chimeras, devil swine, djinni (NE), dragons (white (GL), green, red), dragonnes (NE), dwarves (duergar), efreet (NE), elves (deep), ghasts (NE), ghosts, ghouls (NE), giants (hill, frost (GL)), gnolls, goblins, griffons, hell hounds (NE), hobgoblins, jackalweres, kobolds, lamias (NE), Lammasu (NE), lizardfolk, lycanthropes (werebats, werebears, wereboars, werewolves), manticores (NE), minotaurs (eastern reaches), morlocks (Blackmoorian ruins), mummies (Azcan, Oltec, and Nithian ruins), nymphs (eastern foothills), ogres, orcs, owlbears, pseudo-dragons (and their less intelligent cousins, the drakes) remorhaz (GL), rocs (small and large), salamanders (frost, GL), satyrs (eastern foothills), scorpions (giant, NE), shadows (Taymoran ruins), skeletons, spectres, sphinxes (NE), vampires, wights, winter wolves (GL), wraiths, wyverns, yeti (GL), and zombies. Notably absent are any sorts of surface-dwelling elves, fairy-folk, and many of the sylvan folk (though there are some in the eastern reaches); the Tepeshy are inimical to all such creatures to due ancient feuds (dating from the settling of Traladara by the Vyalia ages ago).

Note that though their realm is on a smaller scale, the variety of monstrous inhabitants of the phantasmagorical Underworld of the Humanoids is on par with that of the Broken Lands and the Shadow Elves.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

[Mystara] B2 and Altan Tepes Ideas

Just hanging this here for now...

According to the Five Shires gazetteer, dwarves were all over the Altan Tepes digging mines and strongholds in ancient days (ca. 900s BC). 

So the dwarves who settled the region in the 900s (and the exiles from the Shires after the fall of Loktal's Realm) were exterminated by humanoids, the same hordes pushed back at Sardal Pass in 491 BC (check out the migrations map in Orcs of Thar).

The monster- and humanoid-haunted delves are still filled with the treasures of the old dwarves, their lands inaccessible due to intervening tribes until the arrival of Duke Stefan, whose army pushed through the Duke's Road 20 years ago (and sent the surviving forest and hill humanoids into the Altan Tepes to settle among their mountain cousins... with a burning hatred for humans and a desire to reclaim their lost lands).

Perhaps some remnant petty dwarven stronghold still exists in that region, south of the Frost Giants, and they are the reason for all the trade in gems and jewelry... them and the adventurers now looting the lairs of the humanoids in the old dwarven delves.

Not to mention, of course, frost-giant haunted mountains are a great reason to have a castle, humanoid tribes or no...