Thoughts on Cirsova as a Setting

Cirsova was initially cooked up as a setting for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I was using 3rd ed rules, mostly because I really liked Red Blade’s Free Character creater, which I used as a DM to cook up almost all of my NPC foes. Even in games I ran wit a large contingent of green-skins, I tended to treat them as leveled NPCs (why should an orc warrior be more of a mook than a low-level half orc? Make em NPCs and adjust accordingly), so it was great for making stock bandits, pirates, brigands soldiers, etc. But anyway, I was thinking about how bloviated Dungeons & Dragons and gaming in general has become, and I was wondering, “What about creating a system specific to Cirsova?”

After some brainstorming, I found it would be problematic. There are certain expectations which Cirsova would upend if it were being used for a D&D setting that would have to be omitted from any core rules that were Cirsova specific.

Was there magic in Cirsova? Yes, but a long long time ago. Most, if not all of it is gone. Clerics would pray prayers that would go unanswered, or at least answered so subtly as to not resemble a “spell”. Mages would be seen as shunned mad-men; they could learn spells and spell progression as normal, have their material components and spellbook and such… but would their spells do anything? Probably not! “Real Magic” would be performed, more likely, by charlatans and alchemists, who’d trained to fool the eyes and minds of the common folk. These were meant to be challenges to work with WITHIN a system that made allowances for such things and to serve as exceptions to the gaming norm. And imagine the player’s surprise when a character, who’d seemingly wasted their time and skill learning useless spells, find themselves somewhere that magic IS real? This twist would be lost if Cirsova were given its own setting specific system.

The twist, as was written up in my notes from years and years ago, was that when using Shuul, players could go on more fantastic adventures in which magic WAS possible. In the dreaming world, players would substitute their Intelligence for their Strength and Wisdom for Dexterity, and any spells a magic-user had learned could be used as normal. Why? Because their belief and imagination made them powerful dreamers! Because Shuul was as much ancient magic as it was drug, actions in the dreaming world COULD have effects in the waking world. The further north, the stronger the ancient northern magic. Ironically, I don’t think I had read Garth Nix’s Abhorsen yet when I’d concocted this idea… but one could think of Cirsova as something like Ancelstierre with the magic Old Kingdom either gone or destroyed, its fate a mystery for archaeologists and scholars to discern.


Pelliora is a fortified city in the south-east of Gatlia, a few days journey east along the Gatlian Highway from Sotune.  It was once built as a forward outpost of the Cirsovans who were preparing to annex the Gatlian heartlands.  Upon finding what would become Gatlia relatively uninhabited, Pelliora became an attractive location for early settlers of the region, due to its excellent graze lands and stone quarries to the north.  Many of the cities of Gatlia are built with Pellioran stone.

Much of the food and livestock raised in Pelliora and its environs is shipped eastward to Ungoza, where good beef and mutton is rare and appreciated.

Those who would travel to Santia over land to consult the wisemen of Owen might do so from Pelliora.  There are no roads across the grasslands and moors to the south, but guides are available, and those from Pelliora are said to be more affordable than those in Davou and more plentiful and easy to find than in Sotune.

Pelliora has four representatives in the Gatlian council in Syflanis, including two Lordly Councilmen and two Popular Representatives.  Though larger and more influential in the council than the highway baronies, Pellioran Councilmen will often throw their weight behind causes of the Baron of Sotune, with whom the nobility of Pelliora enjoy a special relationship.  In recent times, however, the Pellioran Councilmen have unilaterally voiced their support for the rise of a young nobleman, Lord Percival Haruun of Syflanis, who has made eliminating banditry along the Gatlian Highway his cause celeb.

MYFAROG: Varg Vikernes’ (Burzum) new RPG

So, despite poking around on every now and then expecting to see something pop up on the news feed, I’m just now finding that Varg has had a site up since almost the beginning of January this year focused entirely on the RPG he’s been working on.

And the Play Test period is beginning soon!

Just based on the information he’s already posted, his Mythical Fantasy Roleplaying Game or “MYFAROG” looks like it’s going to be fairly brutal for hack n slashers. The combat strives for realism, but as such is complex and unforgiving, thereby discouraging (purposefully so, according to Varg) combat as a first option for problem solving. Plus, as there are no levels, and characters are simply heroic individuals, not super powered plot monsters, the engine looks to force teamwork, cunning and innovative problem solving to take out the sort of monsters who would make quick squishies out of even the most hardened of veterans. Additionally, there won’t be hit-points, but rather some sort of function of toughness (as a calculation of strength, constitution, and size?) vs strength to figure hout the results of hits in combat. In a way, this makes a lot of sense: even if you’ve killed several dragons, that shouldn’t mean that if a dragon hits you really hard you’re going to be able to shrug it off because you’re level whatever; it’s using a crane to crush a fly.

Another point I was interested in was the magic system. Varg has expressed on his Burzum blog that he wasn’t a fan of Vancian magic and that it wouldn’t show up in his game. It sounds like spellcasting is going to be based on a combination of stamina (he says it’s not the same as having spell points, but I guess I’d have to actually see the mechanics of it) and having an awesome beard (seriously, you can depower wizards by cutting off their beards).

He’s spent a lot of time on background and “fluff” a lot of which is available for download on his new page. The font is… unpleasant (I like a cleaner font for anything that will be used for reference). I’ll either get a chance to read it in the next few days or later if it’s included in the PlayTesting stuff.

For the Playtest, Varg is including a sample adventure.

The main questions will be:
How well does combat flow? As someone who has mostly just played older D&D and Exalted, it looks a little overwhelming.
How easy will it be to create for Varg’s system?
Who will be my friend and play Varg’s game with me?

Four Emperors, The Isle of

The Isle of Four Emperors is a large island directly south of Delivals and to the west of Syflanis.  The Isle is used as a refuge to pirates who sometimes raid the merchant ships who are returning to Syflanis from Delivals.  Pirates rarely attack ships that are bound for Delivals, as the Ungoza green crystal is far more valuable after it has been worked by the artisans of Polaris.

The Isle gets its name from a legend that long ago, it was ruled by a mad man, who each day would travel to one of four large cities on the island.  Each morning he woke, he fancied himself a different person.  Despite strife and even civil war caused by the rule’s peculiar condition, he would, without fail, arrive at the next city on his circuit to be its king that day.

For at least the last 400 years, the Isle of Four Emperors has been inhabited only by pirates, however four ruined cities have been pointed at for evidence of earlier occupation and serve as a weak justification for belief in the legend.

Bane: a three-fold villain.

Recently, Campaign Mastery wrote a series of amazing posts on creating truly amazing villains to use in your games. These included the Combat Monster, the Mastermind and the Character Villain.

I’ll only describe each in a nutshell, because Mike does such a great job that I couldn’t possibly do them justice.

The Combat Monster is self-reliant, a brutal force of nature, with ambition, cunning, and an array of flunkies.

The Mastermind has a plan, a goal, bides his time and resources to execute his plan and any necessary contingencies.

The Character Villain is someone who is diametrically opposed to the ideology and character of the heroes.

Now, I’ll go ahead and inform you that I’ve been reading Knightfall, which has recently been collected into new trade paperbacks. In the Animated Series, Bane was kind of a ‘meh’ villain, a roid-rage assassine in a luchador mask hired by the mob to kill batman. Yawn. But in the Chris Nolan movie, Bane is transformed into an idealogically driven villain who demagogues populist nonsense while actively destroying society (something which many people pointed out had great political relevance here in the US). It made me rethink Bane as a villain, but not to the extent that actually going back and reading the comics has.

The comic puts Bane out there as Batman’s greatest threat ever; the comic does not oversell this, because Bane manages to be a Combat Monster, a Mastermind and a Character Villain at the same time. If Bane had ONLY been one or two of these, he would not be convincing as a threat to the Batman. Batman already has villains who are Combat Monsters (Killer Crock), Masterminds (any of the mob bosses), and Character Villains (The Joker, Two-Face).

With Bane, we have a villain who is incredibly physical and unstoppable in hand-to-hand combat, complete with his crew of flunkies to wear down anyone who’d want to face him one on one. He’s also a mastermind: his two-fold goals, destroying Batman and making Gotham his, required great patience, resources and planning. While he could have taken his chances hand-to-hand with Batman from the get-go, unleashing all of the criminal element from Arkham to sap the resources of the police and the strength of Batman created a scenario where he could muscle in on organized crime by his ability to bring order to the chaos he created while he could count on the police and Batman to focus on the more random elements which would’ve been out of his control (such as Joker and Scarecrow). Lastly, Bane is set up to be Batman’s opposite, while still complimentary. They both use fear and strength to achieve their goals, however while Batman fights to create order from chaos, Bane unleashes chaos like a hurricane.

If I had weeks and weeks, I’d go through each of the points that Mike made in his three posts, cross referencing, etc. etc., but for now, I just encourage you to read his original posts yourself.