Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Elements & Alignments brought to bear: The Rod of Law

Ephesians 2 
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (KJV)
or a queen?
A prince?

In my last post, I set forward a way of using thinking about the classical elements in conjunction with the Chaos-Law alignment spectrum for the purpose of world-building in one's home table-top games.  In it, I advocated a split between the lower (chaotic) forces of Air and the higher (lawful) forces of Air, which are the Heavenly or Quintessential elementals.  Having decided things such the number of elements and their cumulative alignments, is one chained to the cosmological treadmill, far above the interests of players or the cares of their characters?  Of course not.  Having pinned one part of the cosmos, one can immediately get local.

How do alignment issues express themselves in the conflict(s) that faces the PCs?  Perhaps the town that has become the party's base of local operations is suddenly threatened?  Even the chaotic members of the party have a vested interest in the town being lawful enough that their goods are safe, their blackmarket is dependable, their rare ingredients for spells still available for purchase.  Say a cult of chaos threatens the town, and its leader wields a short magical rod that gives him or her the power to heal significantly or send forth great gusts of wind.

You have just made the cosmological of great interest to the PCs, for experienced D&D gamers will recognize two parts of the Rod of Seven Parts (AKA the Rod of Law).   Whether you go for what the latter-day iterations of the game have to say about the rod for inspiration, or to the pages of Gygax's Dungeon Masters Guide for its intriguing hints, you hear of the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, who originally wielded the sevenfold Rod of Law.  Now you are back on the macro side of world-building.  Whatever kind of beings these Wind Dukes are, they clearly are on the side of Law in an elemental realm of Chaos.  "Though heaven fall, let justice be done. Behold! Law is king" is one way the seven parts are interpreted, we are told.  "Though chaos reign, let justice be done" is another way the parts have been said to be inscribed.  Maybe both give us hints.  Though creatures of Air, the Wind Dukes are clearly allied with the forces of Law above them in the Heavens.  They craft the Rod to aid them in spreading justice and the rule of Law to their elemental plane.  Is it coincidence that the Rod has seven parts?  Surely not, in a fantasy world that is based on the Ptolemaic system.  You now populate the Heavens with seven lawful deities, tied to the seven visible planets (i.e., the seven heavens).  The Wind Dukes of Aaqa are their servants in the struggle of Law versus Chaos.

Now the PCs have a hook which they might pursue to lead them into this ancient conflict.  Where are the rest of the parts of the Rod?  Are there any of the Wind Dukes left?  Where (what?) is Aaqa?  What creatures of the Air are involved with the Rod and the greater struggle?  Air elementals?  Sylphs?  Djinn? Cloud giants?  Storm giants? Yan-C-Bin? Pazuzu?  Miska?  The Queen of Chaos?  Wind Yai?  Kirin? Pegasi?  Aarakocra? Avariel (winged elves)  Wind walkers? Wind-touched creatures? Celestial dragons?  Now you're hunting through bestiaries looking for creatures and dreaming up encounters in this planar war of alignments (has it gone cold?  is it about to get hot again?) and locations and a ream of possibilities that the PC's decisions may bring into the game. Will you craft the conflict according to the alignments you find in your source materials, or will you give these creatures alignments fitting with your conception of them in the world you are building?

Finally, I've hinted at more than one possibility for the BBEG.  Well, there is always the cliche of the Four Winds.  Perhaps there are four archons of chaos lording it over the elements of Air.  Yan-C-Bin, the Queen of Chaos (any relation to the Queen of Air and Darkness?), Pazuzu, and some fourth villain?  A storm giant ruler?  Or did the Wind Dukes bring down that fourth villain and retain control of one of the four winds?  Now the compass points could relate these figures and conflicts to the geography of the world. Then, what next?

Maybe you read other materials for inspiration for your game or materials to loot: Skip Williams' adventure, Doug Niles' novel or his article in Dragon Magazine #233, or Paizo's Age of Worms Adventure path (overview here).  Or maybe you rejoice in taking your own cosmological bits and piecing them together with old hints, the interest of the players, and the elements of the game in which their PCs are already invested and hewing a more original path.  In ways such as these, cosmological elements in your setting, the alignments and interests of your PCs, and the monsters of the world they inhabit may creatively be brought together to build a verisimiltudinous and interesting world and provide players with rich, exciting plot opportunities.