Ehdrigohr by dwarf74
Obligatory Intro StuffOriginal SA post
Ehdrigohr Part 1: Obligatory Intro Stuff
Around the same time Evil Hat was conquering the indie RPG world with their Fate Core kickstarter, a guy named Allen Turner - a fixture in the Chicago gaming scene, a game design professor at DePaul, and a storyteller - was kickstarting Ehdrigohr . Ehdrigohr is a decidedly different take on fantasy RPGs; it's intentionally non-European, based instead on tribal myths and culture from around the world, especially (near as I can tell) Native American and African.
It's got a good origin story, too. Allen does a lot of community outreach to youth, and he likes to use board games and RPGs as part of his service. The young adults he worked with at the American Indian Center in Chicago liked superhero and horror games well enough, but didn't connect much with the standard European fantasy stuff like D&D. So, some of the concepts behind Ehdrigohr started to gel together from there - a fantasy world that they could connect with and see themselves in.
But what's it about? It's "tribal people meets Princess Mononoke meets I Am Legend and The Black Company." It's post-apocalyptic tribal survival horror fantasy.
Ehdrigohr is a tabletop role-playing game where you get to play a character struggling to survive in this recovering world. It is a fantasy game of high heroics, myth and culture, powerful magic, and survival horror. The tides of darkness are overwhelming but this is not meant to be a game of nihilism. It is about hope. Your characters are the mythic heroes who do impossible things that push back the tide.
Though it is a human-centric world, each of the cultures of Ehdrigohr promises to have its own flavor steeped in magic. These are not “primitive” cultures but nations that have chosen their own interesting paths and traditions in their effort to survive the ravenous hordes that come in the night. Though it presents a different flavor of fantasy, there is a point of entry for many styles of play. There is high adventure, political intrigue, delving, social plays, secret societies, monster bashing, monster fleeing, and so on.
So, in other words, you'll still get a chance to slay monsters and be heroes, but there's a lot more purpose to it. Culture, community, and society are a lot more important than in your traditional D&D-style dungeon-crawlers.
Oh, and the art? Is amazing. Mr. Turner has connections with some local Chicago artists, and went all-out, near as I can tell. (Sadly, though, the printed book doesn't do the artwork justice; the pages are matte and there's a rather overpowering background which gets printed under it.)
Yes, I posted this upthread. Every post can be improved by a giant turtle with a city on its back.
From what I've read so far, this is a real labor of love. But I'm not convinced about its implementation of the mechanics; perhaps you goons will have more input on that. There's parts that are crunchier than I would expect - but that's kind of been a theme with most of the Fate Core stuff I've seen, for whatever reason, including the core book itself.
For the sake of this review, I'm going to assume everyone has at least a passing familiarity with Fate's rules. A lot of them are reprinted from the Fate Core SRD, and it will let me focus on the fun, new stuff instead of the stuff you already know. Fate Core isn't nearly as franca a lingua as D&D or d20, but it's probably close these days.
Anyway, I hope I can do this justice. It's a heck of a tale to tell.
Started With the Story, Now We're HereOriginal SA post
Ehdrigohr Part 2: We start out with a story, as is the norm for thematic RPGs, and as is completely appropriate for Ehdrigohr's theme. It's pretty good at setting the tone - LookingBoy --
Sorry, I need to interrupt this here. Because I have to tell you, one of my biggest pet peeves with RPG writing (and fantasy writing in general) is when someone pushes two words together and capitalizes both of them. It irritates me to no end. I mean, I see what the author was going for here, but it still bothers me. But yeah, if it bothers you, you're not alone. Anyway! Now that that's out of the way...
So LookingBoy and his friends are talking about going out exploring, but he needs to watch his sister Caje-Wi. There's a bit of a tone of foreboding, and then a Weaver (a traveling shaman and storyteller I'm thinking) arrives.
He's pretty mysterious, and he seems to either be a spirit himself, or else in control of the wind. He walks "the Path of the Owls" - I'm thinking we'll hear more about that.
That's really all there is to the story at this point; he shows up and starts his story, and they listen. I'm not sure if I should find this anticlimactic or not.
What follows is a brief rundown of Ehdrigohr. I'll try to summarize...
A long-ago war nearly destroyed the world, scattering all the people and breaking the land. There are no great places to live; even the best places are hellholes. It's no Athas, but it's not Fantasy Island, either.
gratuitous Herve Villechaize picture
There's a lot of tribes, who've merged and separated over the centuries. They don't get along very well with one another.
Lurking in the shadows, in a hidden realm just beyond human perception, are unfriendly Horrors and spirits who corrupt the land and its people. There are ancient beings of power called the Sorrows who rule over these Horrors.
There are organizations who've banded together to rid the world of these evils. Most rever the Crows, but Owls, Jays, and Mourning Doves also work towards these ends.
Spider metaphors. Expect them. The Spinner and the Weaver (both basically spider gods) give individuals a chance to shape the world. However, if they relax too much, the Spinner and Weaver may choose their destiny for them. Those who turn to evil fade into creatures called Sorrowstain.
There's magic, and it looks like all PCs will use it, which is cool. Warriors, storytellers, and artists. I can't wait to check this out.
Oh, and it's not a sad crapsack 90's emo world because it's all about finding hope and making changes for the better, which is good because I'm not on board for another "everything is crap forever" setting. (Heck, even Dark Sun had more hope than some of the settings you goons are posting, and that's saying something.)
And then we segue into mechanics. As I said, I'm going to assume everyone has some level of familiarity with Fate, even if you don't know all the rules. The only weird bit is that for some reason +'s are called Graces and -'s are called Sorrows.
...and then we get into the Ehdrigohr-specific mechanics.
Remember how this is a highly mythical setting with beings of great power walking the earth? This is how Ehdrigohr accounts for it. At its base level, it's pretty simple; most stuff is Common. For every Power Level above someone with whom you're in a conflict, you get a +1 on your die rolls for every power level you have on them.
If I use a Stupendous attack against a Common defense, I get a +3 on that roll. Which is easy enough, I suppose. I get what the designer is going for here, at least - a game with stuff of vastly different power levels (like this one) can use some sort of scaling mechanic. Power Levels make a huge math difference, though, and it's important to keep that in mind.
Everything has a power level; your characters do, weapons do, monsters do, tools, etc. You use the highest power level involved in the action. So, if you're attacking with a Grand spear but have a Common Fighting skill, it's considered a Grand attack. That part's easy. However, two levels of equal strength combine for a total of one level higher. This seems to indicate that for most circumstances, your characters would be considered Grand since you're probably Common and using Common tools, right? I don't get it, and I'm wondering if this was errata'd out.
Okay, so one more thing - if you Succeed with Style and you have a higher power level than your opponent (or if you spent a Fate Point), you get a Power Cascade. If it was a physical attack, you get Devastation , which can be used either to attack more or create collateral damage on the scene or environment, including shattering the ground and stuff, creating scene consequences you can freely invoke. For a Mental Attack, you get Awe ; it can also go against other valid targets, or seep into the environment and create an Awe-related hazard. Finally, for Social Attacks it turns into Glory . Glory's pretty awesome, because the "environment" is tribes and family lines, so if you convince one dude really hard, you end up convincing (or shaming!) his whole damn family.
The rules here are kind of sparse, though. I hope he explains how to implement all this awesome stuff later, because this is pretty much exactly what I want from awesome characters being awesome.
Other New-Looking Rules
So along with this are rules to "Push Your Limits". I'm confused by this; you can spend a Fate Point (and take stress) to treat your action as if it were one power level higher. I'm just not sure why you would want to, seeing as you get a Power Cascade and a +2 for a normal Invoke, and it doesn't even give you any Stress. I think I'm missing something, so I'll reserve judgment, but I think this was left over after some revisions.
Finally, even if you're not trained in the Mysteries, you still have power in them. You can spend a Fate Point to invoke it. Again, I am thinking this will make more sense later.
Even the titty art in this book somehow feels classy.
And that's mostly it for the intro. Next up will be a kickass Creation Myth/History full of spiders!
The Great Telling at Onandag (Part I)Original SA post
Ehdrigohr Part 3a: The Great Telling at Onandag (Part I)
The very next section starts with some world-building. It begins with ... well, I want to say "creation myth" because it pretty much is. But since this is fantasy, it's also the world's actual history. I'm going to try to do this justice without just copying and pasting the whole thing.
sounds kinda ominous
The First Event: In the beginning, was Sni (or nothingness). Alone in this void was
I told you there would be spiders.
It is said that there is a rhythm and sound that the Spinner makes as it spins forth strands of creation. It is said that this sound can be heard in the quiet of the enlightened mind. The sound is the rhythm of possibility, and so we name the whole of creation as this sound: Wey’o Heh’Ya . These syllables can be intoned individually as they do in mantras in Barata, or used for song without words as the Wiitjasa and Batu do in the Shil. In all cases, calling out the syllables of creation with our voices lifted to the sky creates new possibilities for the people. This is why these syllables are in our prayers and songs.
There is another sound, closer to us, that can be heard in the heart. It is the sound and rhythm that the Weaver makes as it gathers, loops, and pulls the threads of possibility to fashion the Great Web. This sound is the tangible and is how we name the world we walk in as people. That sound is Ehdrigohr.
The Second Event: So the Web stretches off in all directions, but it's kinda empty. WhatMoves started a new song of four parts and sang into existence the elements of Earth (Stone), Air, Fire, and Water. The Weaver gathered these parts together, and the world was started.
WhatMoves sang a whole lot more songs - sixteen this time, forming what amount to the gods of Ehdrigohr, created as caretakers for the world. WhatMoves more or less put itself into these beings; they could also sing, though not as potently as WhatMoves, unless they combined their voices together. Only a handful get named here:
M’pya Toh Who Moves-the-Sky; Bryahd Who Shapes the Earth; Brokk Tends the Fire, Counts the Winters; Myndil Dreamer of Ways, Tradition Maker; Creu-Wri Keeps the Flow, Tradition Keeper; Ok'o-wi Transformer of Ways, Tradition Breaker; Shou Bringer of light, Revealer of Truths; and Hahn-Wi Tends the Darkness, Guides the Way.
Their first song was Love, and the witnessing that all beings are kin.
The WhatMoves puts up its figurative apple tree in this garden. He told the sixteen to wait for his return, and that nobody should ever come to look for him in the space beyond the Hoop of the World, because it was worried that would be too terrible for them. And then he started the Hoop turning - time - and traveled away.
The Third Event: So now that the Hoop is turning, it's no longer Sni. The world was pretty empty, so the Songs started to shape it. Some worked to grow plants, others to grow animals, and the last group brought forth the four Peoples. All the Songs helped, but four in paritcular took the lead and created their peoples in their purest ideals.
And then Ok'o-wi, who was among the closest to WhatMoves in her knowledge, made a critical choice. In her curiosity to understand the Song of WhatMoves, she decided to violate its command and seek its council directly. She went for a moment beyond the Hoop, peered into Sni, and called for WhatMoves. Something answered.
Myndil found her weeping, and asked what strange song she was singing. She called it Sorrow, and refused to speak of it with him, only saying not to venture beyond the Web. He told her he didn't much care for this new song, and she agreed - she didn't either, and she had learned other new songs that she did not sing.
“What manner of song do we not share with each other?” was Myndil’s response. Ok'o-wi thought and then offered that she would call them Secrets. Sorrow is a secret that is hard to keep, offered Myndil. You should not keep these Secrets to yourself. Songs are meant to be shared. No, countered Ok'o-wi. Secrets are different. They belong to me. Myndil did not like these secrets. He thought they dis-eased Ok'o-wi but he let her have her way.
These are what are called the First and Second shames. Because the other Songs could not help Ok'o-wi for lack of 'medicine,' they turned their backs on her. They broke the circle and let her slip into darkness. That was the First Shame. Myndil tried to help her, but he didn't ask the others for help. That was the Second Shame. Because of these shames, Ok'o-wi was not healed, and Sorrow was brought to the world.
--Pausing for a minute here. I like this turn on the normal "temptation" myth because it puts responsibility on Ok'o-wi's community - the other songs - to help her. She looked beyond the Hoop into Sni, but they didn't help her deal with the consequences. It's a nice turn on what's so often a misogynistic trope of a woman being tempted and turning to evil. It also puts sharp focus on how important community is to Ehdrigohr, and how families are expected to look after their relatives. Okay! Back to the story.
So let's go back to the Four Peoples. Before they were awoken, the Weaver and Spinner spoke to the Songs. They liked what they had seen, and so created their own Fifth People, called the Iktom, beings of the Weave and Flow who would patch up the Weave's pattern wherever it was breaking. They would control the Essences - magic, I believe. The iktom were awoken first, and got the world put into order for everyone else.
The Brokkur , the Children of Brokk Who Tends the Fire, woke up first. They were "beings of earth and rock, fire and smoke, sky and thunder, and water and ice." The Iktom led them to the mountains, where they tended to the foundations and sky. They founded Holtabrokku, deep caverns through their mountains, which fostered trade.
The Ok'o-wibiyrn , the Children of Ok'o-wi Transformer of Ways, Tradition Breaker, were "beings of wood and earth, water and light, tenders of life and able to encourage things to grow in new and wonderful ways with their songs." They lived in the forests and oceans, tending to the plants, the tides, and the changing seasons. They founded Bruszathis, a grand floating nation that stretched into the deep oceans. Its capital was Lindra-ill. They were very powerful, and were second only to the Iktom in the Mysteries.
The Creuwryona , the Children of reu-Wri Keeps the Flow, Tradition Keeper, were "creatures of Wind and Principle, Fire and Will," who apparently spread far and wide to help the other Peoples. Unlike the other races, they did not found a great nation and instead served as mediators - Revered Wise Ones for their province, maintaining harmony among all.
And finally, the Myndilkin , or Men, Children of Myndil Dreamer of Ways, Tradition Maker, had some of the gifts of all the other children. They were led to the "Shil" - I'm thinking the big continents on the map - where they "started great nations, danced new rhythyms, soothed the heart of the earth, and celebrated the thunders in the sky." They founded O'Makota, the first nation of man, which existed in your typical Utopian peace and harmony, from deep into the earth to high in the skies.
So while all this was going on, two more Songs - M’pya Toh Who Moves-the-Sky and Bryahd Who Shapes the Earth - fell in love and started having progeny instead of making Peoples. These children were incredibly powerful, in some ways more and in some ways less potent than their parents. They had four children, the Thunder Brothers, who were sent to reside in the corners of the world for directions.
Okay, so remember Ok'o-wi's Sorrow? It started making her unable to Sing in partnership with the other Songs. They were uncomfortable with her strange dissonance. She started to withdraw from them, and only Myndil really kept close. Because he was the Tradition Maker, he helped all he could, but didn't know how to stop her transformation.
“What is it that draws you away from the others?” he asked of her.
“There is something growing in me. It is a song I don’t understand. It leaves me feeling unseen and unseeable. It causes me to be and sing in strange ways. I want to belong, but belonging brings pain; and I want to stop singing, but fear I will fade.”
“What is this strange song that disturbs you so?” prodded Myndil. “Name it and we will help you to find its place.”
Rage filled Ok’o-wi’s face as she turned and spat, “I named it before and I name it again as Sorrow! It has many faces and many ways it grows. It is mine. Mine to understand. Mine to resolve. You must respect this if you are my relative.”
He respected her wishes, and simply walked with her.
The Fourth Event : The Peoples began to reproduce and spread, as Peoples tend to do. All was not completely harmonious - the Creuwryona still had jobs as mediators, after all - but overall stuff was pretty okay. Except, as you might expect, from the Ok'o-wibiyrn. They kept secrets, refusing to share their songs and discoveries with the other Peoples. And, inevitably, they became jealous of the Myndilkin's dominion. They wanted land, not just sea, but the Myndilkin spread so fast, they had already claimed all the coastline.
The Men offered to share, but the Ok'o-wibiyrn weren't happy with that. 700 years later, an Ok'o-wibiyrn named d'Ral Sha-Er (or WatchesShadows) was born. She headed her own ship by the time she was 20, ruled her clan by 35, and an entire province by 40. Her province, Xyris, bordered one of the Myndilkin kingdoms, Othase, which was rich and fertile.
So her logic was that Ok'o-wibiyrn were older than men, and that therefore they got dibs on basically whatever they wanted. She called "dibs" on Othase's farmlands, oh and also the people who worked on them could still be slaves or something and Othase could, you know, buy back their own crops. Brilliant plan, really, and I can't understand why Othase resisted.
Remember the Creuwryona? Well, this was basically their whole job, so Othase's council contacted Viltoshius, who called a peace council together, very UN-like. The Myndilkin sent representatives. d'Ral Sha-Er sent a messenger telling Viltoshius to check himself before he wrecked himself. Othase was given 10 days to comply, or else.
So remember, this was before "war" was even really a thing, so the High Council sent ambassadors directly to Xyris. As you might expect, they were imprisoned, and Xyris decided to call "dibs" on the entire kingdom of Othase. She'd enslave all the Men and her people could live large on the backs of their labor. Her armies assembled and invaded.
The Songs were still active in those days, so Myndil and Creu-Wri approached Ok'o-wi and said, basically, "Hey, could you tell them to quit it?" She, however, had gotten just as jealous and bitter as d'Ral Sha-Er and decided that Myndil didn't have her best interests at heart, at all. So not only did she refuse to intervene, she sent visions to all the Ok'o-wibiyrn telling them to follow d'Ral Sha-Er's lead. No longer a victim of circumstance, the War of Sorrows began, known as The Fourth Shame.
The War of Sorrows started when the Xyrian forces started to move, only to get intercepted by Viltoshius and Farugran, his mate. They tried to redirect d'Ral Sha-Er's forces, but they were expecting something more or less like this, and the Creuwryona were defeated and captured, leaving the army to attack Othase. Othase had already basically retreated to neighboring kingdoms, so the remnant were captured or enslaved, pretty much with no Xyrian losses whatsoever.
Now, the rest of the Ok'o-wibiyrn all heard about this. While some felt that this wasn't so much a great thing to have happen, and that maybe they should think about ... apologizing, maybe, and giving all the Othase their stuff back? They were outnumbered, though, and the jealous Oko's decided it was their destiny to rule over all of Men's kingdoms.
Soon enough, the West coast of Ehdrigohr was conquered in a series of bloody conflicts. The Creuwryona kept trying to help, but it was pretty well past time for negotiation, and they ended up captured more often than not.
And that's where we ask, "But where were the other Songs in all this? Why weren't they helping?" And the answer is, they wanted to, but Ok'o-wi did some pretty bad stuff to make sure they couldn't. She had sought out the Spinner, you see, and more or less lulled it into friendship, or maybe seduction of some kind. She took some of the Spinner's seed and some of the mysteries of its womb (because it is no gender, and all genders). She then used those to become pregnant, went into hiding, and gave birth to children just as powerful as the Songs themselves.
Now look, as a rule I'm not in favor of rape in my settings, even hermaphroditic spider-rape, but I'm going to give Ehdrigohr a bit of a pass here in that (1) it makes sure we know that this is Not Good (it is considered the Fifth Shame, and "created the divisions that would "separate the song of love", and (2) this is a creation myth and this sort of thing is all too common in tales of this nature. Fortunately, I've seen some other stuff in Ehdrigohr which reassures me that the author isn't in favor of this sort of behavior.
Anyway! The Spinner went to the other Songs and told them what had happened. Angry, M'pya Toh called a council, where Myndil told what she knew about Ok'o-Wi's secrets. He gave a name to the dissonance that Ok'o-wi created - "Evil." All the other Songs except for Creu-Wri decided to go to war with Ok'o-wi, "unravel her, and then sing her back into a harmonious manifestation." Creu-Wri, on the other hand, thought they had no right to do that, and thought they needed to seek out WhatMoves. The other Songs were entirely too pissed off to listen to this, and took action.
M'pya Toh sent the Thunder Brothers to fetch Ok'o-wi and bring her to justice. She said she'd go with them - but only if they could beat her child in combat. They said, "Eh, whatever," since they were the creations of the Iktom and extremely powerful themselves. They cracked their knuckles, and got taken completely by surprise as Ok'o-Wi's son Yyah erupted from the ground and kicked all their asses. Because she wasn't twisted enough already, this was a big turn-on for Ok'o-wi, who lusted after her child. When the Thunderers retreated, she got busy with him before they were even out of earshot.
The other Songs were now even more disgusted and pissed off when they heard about all this, so got ready to go into battle, themselves. Brokk made some weapons, though he wouldn't fight himself. The only one still abstaining from the war effort was still Creu-Wri, who decided to seek out WhatMoves himself. Instead of calling their sister Ok'o-wi as ShapesTheLife, they called her Unkhte WhoIsEatenByPassions. Her children were the Unkhtehyla.
While all this was going on, d'Ral Sha-Er took over all of the "Council of Leaves and Mists" who ruled her people. Ok'o-wi started talking directly with her, feeding her madness and megalomania. She started conquering all the Kingdoms of Man, until they were pushed all the way past the Brokkur's mountains. So, they started fighting the Brokkur too, in addition to the Myndilkin and Creuwryona.
Upon seeing his children suffering, Brokk removed them from the world where they could continue working on their arts and machines.
Artist's rendition of the Brokkur
Not all of them, though - some of the few they had captured who survived captivity, they twisted into beings called the n'Dar-k'de, who transformed anyone they touched into their component elements. Those Creuwryona who were captured were likewise transformed into Cripcraws, sent to seed the world with lies instead of wisdom. Not just some Creuwryona - all of them; they were exterminated without Creu-Wri's protection.
With the help of Yyah and S'apela (her second-born Unkhtehyla), Ok'o-wi started to capture the mighty Iktom and twisted them into the dangerous and powerful Ferralak, who didn't just kill their victims but tore them out of the Weave entirely. Very Balefire, I suppose.
Three among the Unkhtehyla - Garu’Mkai BreakerOfSouls, Miktlan FlaysTheFlesh, and S’apela WhoTwistsTheMind (apparently after he got done helping mom capture Iktom) started to twist the remaining kingdoms of Men from the inside. They convinced a good many to work with the Ok'o-wibiyrn, others to kill their own kind, and still others to sow further discord. The only reason they survived was that they bred too fast for the Oko's to exterminate them as they had exterminated the Creuwryona. Not only that, future generations started to get stronger.
By 1000 years after the Fourth Event, that promise of growing strength reached its full capacity in the powerful Weavecallers. Defenses were organized, and the Myndilkin worked with the Songs to fight off Ok'o-wi and her Horrors, all the while growing more fractious. The world was on a crash-course for annihilation.
Around then, Creu-Wri gave up the hunt for WhatMoves (or maybe took a break) and found all his People either killed or perverted.
Creu-Wri cried out in grief. He looked upon the Songs as they warred both upon the heavens and on the earth and cried again. He saw that the Children of Myndil were now fighting among themselves and would eventually bring about their own extinction, and cried again. Lastly he looked upon the horrors promoted by Unkhte and her brood, and cried again.
Four times he cried, to the four directions. None heard his cries save the Thunderers who came to see him. They had tired of the fighting and sought another way. They joined with Creu-Wri and cried to the Mover. Four times they cried as a whole, and four times the heavens shook. The thunder was so great that all things stopped and looked to Creu-Wri and the Thunderers. For a moment the fighting had ceased and the world was silent.
Garu’Mkai, Miktlan, and S’apela sensed trouble, and disappeared from the battlefields and lands, along with their people. In the silence all could hear the rumble of something answering the cries of Creu-Wri and the Thunder Brothers.
The Mover had Awakened.
...and holy crap that was a LOT longer than I expected it to be, and there's still a lot more left, so I've turned this into Part 3a and I'll be finishing the rest up in another post.