Category Archives: Shail

The Gods on Earth, the Million Gods, and the Philosophies

As well as the main family of deities, the world of Shail is home to divine beings who walk on the surface inside the Gloom Barrier, or sometimes show themselves as shadowy spirits before they succumb to Shail’s enchantment.  Even the True Gods must lose their immortality if they descend, so when they walk on Shail they possess mortals or inhabit avatars.

Divine spellcasters on Shail fall into one of two major traditions:  The worshippers of the True Gods, represented by organized clergy and churches; and the shamans of the Million Gods who propitiate countless spirits and ghosts.  Shail’s Druids, the followers of the Gods on Earth and the philosophers comprise other minor traditions.

Clerics of the True Gods are commonplace in every culture, though some gods are more important than others to each of the peoples.  These clerics manifest divine magic, as do the tribal shamans and witch-doctors who conjure the millions of spirit beings.  Some heretical scholars even believe that divine power comes from within, and that the god or spirit is merely a necessary catalyst.  After all, the flickering ghost of a bone-waving shaman’s father seems to grant the shaman as much power as mighty Khiro gives to his sun-priests. Whatever the case, the common people recognize the power of the servants of the gods, and treat them with respect.

THE GODS ON EARTH

HALAHNA (Neutral Good) Halahna is the Lady of Mercy, the goddess of healing, life and compassion.  Her bird was the crane but is no longer.  She was created by Shail from earth and the blood of all mortal peoples, and this bond with the mortals was to prove her undoing.  During the catastrophe, Halahna was so distressed by the plight of humanity that she passed through the Gloom Barrier in all of her glory to aid them personally.  Stripped of her divine powers and unable to pass through the barrier again, Halahna now wanders the surface of Shail as one of the Gods on Earth.  She is of course a supremely powerful and ageless being, still able to apparently grant miracles to her few remaining faithful, but she is now mortal and theoretically can be slain.

Domains: Healing, Good, Protection

MANALAUN (Neutral Evil) Manalaun  was a mighty human wizard a thousand years ago who was obsessed with uncovering the secret of immortality.  In a famous story told across the world, he used magic to trick Luna, herself the goddess of magic, into revealing to him a means to transcend his mortal form.  Once Manalaun gained immortality people discovered that if they prayed to him miracles were granted, and a priesthood was formed, the Cryptika.  It is a strange organization, more a circle of wandering agents seeking forbidden knowledge, with Manalaun himself as first among equals.  All Cryptiks (as they are known) are charged first with discovering a way to aid Manalaun to pierce the Gloom Barrier.

Domains: Knowledge, Divination, Trickery

THE EXILE (Chaotic Good) The Exile is a spirit of the Elves, a being made up, it is said, of their hope to one day return to their home world.  He has grown in power as the Elves degenerated from their original form, and his ascension to godhood tragically happened around the time the last known void craft was destroyed by Orcs.  He shows himself to Elvish tribes in times of great need, where they must escape from overwhelming danger.  The Exile is not a warrior so much as a saviour – he leads the Elves to safety when they need him the most, sowing discord among enemies and confounding their path.  His clergy are known as Callers.  They lead and defend tribes devoted to The Exile and call on him for aid when all seems lost.

Domains: Travel, Luck, Knowledge

THE GOD OF GHOULS (Chaotic Evil) The last of the Gods on Earth is the God of Ghouls, a hideous being who rose to immortality amid the fear and chaos of the Bone Circle’s failed rite in Felor.  He lurks at the heart of that shattered nation, served by the dead, and his motives are unfathomable.  All who live in Felor or travel through that cursed place are at risk of being taken before him as a sacrifice.  It is said he is grotesquely fat and depraved in the extreme, though since none have seen him and lived this seems to be little more than conjecture.

Domains: Evil, Death, Destruction Continue reading


The True Gods of Shail

Continuing my presentation of a complete campaign world for Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition (or, with a bit of tinkering, any FRPG), here are the True Gods of the world of Shail . . .

THE TRUE GODS

The True Gods of Shail are the family of Shail and Avrantos, excepting Halahna, the lost goddess.  They are a small and tightly knit group, and have various manifestations across different cultures.  A god or godess who is paramount to the Dwarves for example may be a minor deity in the eyes of the Goblins, and vice versa.

Most people are not aware that their deity is the same being as another people’s in a different guise, though some scholars know the truth.  The Storm Cloud Orphans for example would be offended at the mere suggestion that their benevolent goddess Luna, guardian of magical secrets, is one and the same being as the Orc’s White Sister.  Nevertheless this is so, and Luna herself plays no favorites.

It has even happened that a god has manifested in two places at once and its aspects have offered encouragement to two warring parties simultaneously, as when Avrantos the Thunderer walked with the Black Serpent Orphans at the same time as his Elvish aspect Iya Skyspan gave hope to the Alluviel tribe in their war with the mercenary Humans.

The gods give strength impartially to those who have faith in them, and regard the aims and plans of mortals as beneath consideration.  The standard names of the Gods are those of the Khi Empire, old names that are widely used and have found their way into the Common Tongue.

SHAIL (Neutral) is the earth and the mother of the gods and intelligent races.  She has several aspects, usually a wise crone or a stern matron, or sometimes a crow.  She is the goddess of life and death.  Shail and Avrantos together came to the world from a realm unknown, and fashioned it into a living planet, forging The Gloom Barrier from their own essences.  Of all the intelligent humanoids only the Dwarves and the Elves were not created by Shail.  The former were made by Shotek from earth and spit, and the latter are degenerate descendants of travellers who crashed on the world before The Gloom Barrier was forged.  Shail is the name the Khiroans gave the goddess, and other races generally use variations of this name.  Shail is known to the Orcs by no name at all, only the title the Dread Mother:  She who gives and takes life.  She is a hideous Orcish woman with a necklace of skulls who brings destruction and blessings indiscriminately.  The matriarchal Orcs regard her as the most powerful of all gods.  Shail has no clerics.  Her clergy are the Druids, an ancient world-wide cult who were given a secret script by Shail herself and whose motives are utterly unfathomable to outsiders.

Domains: None

AVRANTOS the Thunderer (Lawful Neutral) is the consort of Shail and the god of the sky.  He is prayed to by farmers and kings for he guards families and nations and is a lawgiver.  Avrantos is the wisest of the gods but has a crooked leg, and walks with an oak lightning-staff which he uses to strike down his enemies.  At the beginning of the world Avrantos and Shail quarreled over whether to expel the Elves.  Shail wished to get rid of the interlopers, but Avrantos was more cautious.  In a rage he struck the earth with his staff, and the sparks formed the god Shotek.  More amused than threatened, Shail allowed the Elves to stay.  Thus they regard Avrantos as their protector and call him Iya Skyspan.  The Dwarves also hold Avrantos in high regard.  Avrantos’s bird is the eagle.

Domains:  Law, Guardian, Air

ESSA (Chaotic Neutral) is the goddess of love, passion and intoxication.  Her worshippers are lovers, warriors, drunkards, mystics and bards.  Those who live life to the hilt enjoy her favour, but those who cross her are cursed with addled wits.  Essa was washed ashore fully formed from the raging seas at the beginning of the world, so she is also the goddess of the waters.  The seagull is her sacred bird.

Domains:  Chaos, Water, Luck, Trickery

LUNA (Neutral) is the twin sister of Khiro, the goddess of the moon, secrets and arcane magic.  Her symbol is the crescent moon and her totem is the owl.  The Elves call her Lirielle and regard her as the greatest of the gods, even above Shail and Iya Skyspan.  The Orcs call her the White Sister and fear her as a harbinger of the Dread Mother.

Domains:  Magic, Knowledge, Luck

KHIRO (Lawful Good) is the Sun Shield, the son of Avrantos and Shail.  He is a hero who protects the weak and is the patron of many societies in many disguises.  He is the sun and the lord of day, and his bird is the hawk.  Khiro gave his name to the now destroyed empire of Khiroa, but he still has many followers.  The Order of the Sun are dedicated to him, but Khiro in some form is held in deep respect by nearly every society.  The Dwarves call him Kron, and he is their war god.  To the Gnomes he is a cunning and gentle warrior called Kilgillen.  The Elves call him Kailera, but they regard him as a minor guardian god who protects civilians in wartime.  Khiro is also one of the greatest gods among the wise Hashatra.  He is the nemesis of Skorn and is much beloved by many.

Domains:  Good, Sun, Protection

SHOTEK (Neutral) is a trickster and the god of merchants, thieves, and those who make their own luck.  Among the Gnomes he is a scientist and they think him the father of all things designed.  Shotek is a one-eyed wanderer and his bird is the cuckoo.  He was born from the sparks of the first fire when Avrantos struck the earth with his lightning, and as such is the god of fire and, by extension, genius.  The Goblins revere Shotek for his craftiness and guile.  Though he is the creator of the Dwarves many of them have turned to the worship of Kron (Khiro) and Avrantos in recent centuries.

Domains:  Luck, Trickery, Knowledge

SKORN (Lawful Evil) Skorn is the Bone King, and though he is also the guardian of tombs and the patron of medicine he is by no means benevolent.  Shail gave birth to him to be the bringer of mortality to her children.  Skorn competes for his mother’s affection with her other son Khiro, and the Bone King and Sun Shield are mortal foes who have slain each other’s aspects countless times over the ages.  The Great Mother is the only being who bears love for Skorn, and in return he serves her unconditionally.  His bird is the vulture.

Domains:  Death, Destruction, Evil

THE META

The thing to remember I think about making realistic gods in high fantasy settings is that they are real.  That means that they are not really gods in the way we think of them in the real world – beings that may or may not exist and may or not be omnipotent or immortal or any other attribute we want to give them.  Gods in high fantasy are actual beings as real as anyone on earth.  More than that, they are people, with personalities and thus strengths and weaknesses.  They are basically supremely powerful (but not all-powerful) people.

If you think about this, it means mortal people ultimately worship them out of fear or for personal gain or protection.  Of course the same thing happens in the real world, but in a D&D world you have more tangible reason to be afraid of your god or think they can help you out.

Continue reading


Introduction to Shail

I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to update so often anymore, but it’s holidays and I was just going through my old D&D files.  I found something interesting: a campaign setting I wrote in 2007.  I never got to use this world for a variety of reasons – most notably the edition changed and I became disillusioned with D&D.  But I put a lot of effort into this setting and I always thought it was a pity that no-one saw it but me.  I even harboured a secret dream of sending it to a publisher one day.

So I thought I’d put it up on my gaming blog, since that’s what gaming blogs are for, right?  I really enjoy reading step-by-step campaign settings on RPG blogs (like Von’s recent Vampire Dark Ages one), so I thought other people probably do too.  I think what I’ll do is each post, put up some of the material I wrote, followed by a bit of ‘meta’ describing the approach I took, how I got the idea, whatever.  Maybe – hopefully – you’ll see something you find in the material or the meta discussion that’s interesting for your own fantasy RPG campaign.

Right, so I wrote this for Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition originally.  I guess that makes me an OSR blogger now 😉  The material could theoretically be used for any generic fantasy RPG, just ignore the rules stuff. In a couple of posts you’ll see what makes it a little different from your regular generic fantasy.

But first, I’ll begin where all good mythology should, in my opinion begin: with the gods and the creation of the world. Continue reading


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