Sunday, June 24, 2012


(These posts will deal with stuff outside Thunder Rift. Nothing is offical yet, and things may chnage bfore the PCs see any of these places. A map will nail things down-- but it's a bit soon for that.)

The Ogre Despotates—a collection of petty dominions ruled by brutal and surprisingly clever ogres.

The ogre-lords are mostly descendants of Karabas the Shifter, an ogre wokani who had mastered the art of shape-changing. Karabas built a kingdom where ogres ruled and other races served, but his feuding children tore the realm apart within weeks of the his death. Some territory was lost to neighboring human lords, but the rest of the land remained under ogre rule.

The ogre elite in these dominions tend to be of higher intelligence than common ogres (INT 9 instead of 6, in game terms; spell casters are more common than among typical ogres.)The rulers ape human fashions, holding court in crudely built keeps and manor-houses. Goblin jesters caper and blaspheme for the amusement of the ogres. Captured humans and elves are forced to fight in bloody‘tourneys.’ Guests may be shown a crude sort of hospitality—but visitors are advised to beware trusting the ogres. It’s not unheard of for an emissary who displeases an ogre king to end up as part of the next royal banquet.

Common ogres here tend to work as bully boys serving the various ‘kings.’ These common ogres are no more intelligent than their cousins in Thunder Rift.

Among the ogres of these lands, housecats are regarded as the bearers of curses.

Ogres may sometimes hire out as mercenaries. They get plenty of practice fighting one another.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012




The gnomes of Thunder Rift are mostly enslaved by goblinoids, and do not have functioning governments of their own. Among the gnome slaves, there exists an informal division between three factions; collaborators, resisters, and non-resisters. An individual gnome may move among these three groups over the course of his life.

A small number of free gnomes live in the low hills south of Wizardspire, not far from the Brichtwood. These free gnomes have no government because their numbers are too low to require one.

Some few gnomes live as common citizens in Melinir or as guests among the dwarves of Hearthhome.

Outside Thunder Rift, many gnomish communities are ruled by hereditary lairds, the ‘rulers of rock and rill’ who govern mining and water rights in the hilly gnome-lands. A few communities are governed by councils of scholars and artisans.


Gnomes believe in a creator god, much as do many other peoples. Three main sects exist within a shared gnomish religious tradition; Lapidarians, Gearsmiths, and Phantasians.

The conservative Lapidarian sect teaches that the Creator is a divine jeweler, who fashioned the celestial jewels –sun, moon, and stars- from stones he dug out of the deep earth. The Lapidarians greatly honor master jewelers. These gnomes keep relic tools used by the ‘old masters’ inside jeweled reliquary boxes. Divination by watching the light reflected off faceted stones, or by use of a prism, plays a role in Lapidarian religious rites and daily life.

 The new-fangled Gearsmiths see god as a careful builder who made the universe to function like a clock. The Gearmsiths see engineering and invention as a divine gift. Master tinkers and their inventions are objects of veneration.

The gnostic Phantasians conceive of god as a trickster and illusionist. To a Phantasian, the world is a layered illusion on top of a spiritual inner reality. Phantasians see the study of illusion magic as a sacred calling. Master illusionists are often seen as guru-like figures of special wisdom. Death is ultimately just another illusion, so Phantasians sometimes pray for the intervention of dead illusionists.


Most gnomes are not madcap technologists, but the race does show an inclination towards clever artifices and cunning design.

Pickman the Sage (of Melinir) has theorized that this technological edge developed because gnomes are often short on labor force, always small in individual size, and not often skilled at magic other than illusions. Given all those factors, labor saving devices and technological fixes for problems are arguably more attractive and more needful for gnomes than for some other races.

A minority of gnomes show an uncanny talent for building machines. These inventors tend to be eccentric even by gnomish standards. Their devices are often wonky one-offs, difficult to copy. Oddly enough, the weirder gadgets seem to work best for gnomes (especially the ones who built or designed them in the first place) and tend to break down when used by non-gnomes. *

Examples of gnomish technology at the bleeding edge include mechanical gnomes, self-propelled wagons, diving bells, and other odd devices.

*Gearsmiths may explain this phenomenon in religious terms.




Hereditary squires and elected sheriffs hold sway in of most independent Halfling communities. Squires are the heads of old, landowning families. Sheriffs are the chief enforcers of laws.  In some places the squires are more powerful than the sheriffs, or vice versa. In old, well-established communities, it’s not unheard of for the office of sheriff to be the unofficial property of a prominent family, with the election being merely nominal. Newly settled or reclaimed Halfling shires, on the other hand, provide an excellent chance for up and coming Halflings to become sheriffs.

The Halflings of Thunder Rift don’t really have a separate government or separate settlements. ‘Sheriff’ is an old title that is currently not in use, but might be revived if an individual Halfling of prowess and charisma came to be seen as a leader of a distinct Halfling community.  


Halflings tend to see the Supreme Being as a mother-figure, the source of agricultural bounty and all other good things. Most Halfling societies do not have a separate clergy. It is common for heads of families to perform religious functions.

Some Halflings in Thunder Rift have adopted human religious notions, often by combining these ideas with traditional Halfling religion.

Folk heroes play a role in Halfling religion similar to the religious role played by ancestors in the dwarf religion and saints among the Lawful humans.


Halflings in Thunder Rift and several other places grow tabac (tobacco)They smoke it. Some rustic Halflings chew the stuff, and refined Halflings sometimes take snuff.

The custom of smoking tabac is seen as unhealthy or strange by some non-Halflings, but it has caught on with people of various races in Thunder Rift.

Fumbleweed, also known as five finger fumbleweed, is another plant associated with Halflings. It is related to common hemp. This plant produces a mild euphoria and dulls the wits and reaction speed of chronic users. In Thunder Rift, the use of fumbleweed is associated with lazy rascals and ne’er-do-wells; nobody respectable would be seen smoking it in public.

NOTE- I am mortally certain that I got fumbleweed from an old Elric! supplement, but I can’t recall the name of the adventure. Where the authors of said adventure got the idea is pretty obvious. J