Valdemar d20 Part IV – Beyond The Borders

There are a number of professional and ethnic options for characters in Velgarth –  although most of them are simply generic packages with a more specific local name. Most of the ones for humans are probably best represented as Package Deals. Thus we have the…

Priest (On Velgarth, “Sunpriest”) Package Deal:

Priests on Velgarth use exactly the same magic system as everyone else – although even non-magical priests are taught how to assist in certain rituals. Their package deal includes:

  • Three Specialties – Summoning and banishing “demons” (known locally as “abyssal elementals”), Providing religious instruction and advice, and Local Management (3 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge: The scriptures of their faith, the rituals and doctrines of their faith, and the rituals for summoning and banishing “demons” (3 CP).
  • Minor Privilege / respected religious authority (3 CP).
  • A +2 on saves versus “demonic” abilities (3 CP). Given that quite a lot of the mental effects used on Velgarth seem to share the limitation “will not work on anyone with a base will save of +x or more”, with “x” being a fairly low number, this is actually quite effective.

Corrupted priests are usually murderous fanatics and/or hypocritical exploiters, while uncorrupted priests are supportive holy men and/or wise and pacifistic councilors. Both of them use the same package deal though. In either case, on Velgarth, the Sun God normally only interferes by sending Firecats to guide notable individuals – and even that is usually only in times of major crisis. After all, he put up with centuries of corruption and only intervened (by incinerating some fo the worst corrupted priests) because a planetary cataclysm was coming up.

Firecats (or other generic anime talking-animal tutors) are a lot like Companions, but only the sects High Priests – the “Sons Of The Sun” – ever come back as Firecats. They’re basically bobcats, with the Basic Companion Template applied (substituting knowledge of the Karsite Faith for knowledge of Heraldic Traditions) – but they all seem to have at least Master or Adept level magic. They’d be a major power if they weren’t, just like the Companions, basically limited to being advisors. Unlike the companions, they generally admit their true nature.

Nomad or Amerindian Package Deal:

Velgarth’s local nomads, known as “Shin’a’in”, restrict the use of magic to their Shamans (who stay home with their tribes, and so are always NPC’s). The occasional trader, wanderer, horse-trainer, or Holy Warrior (known locally as Swordsworn or Kal’enedral) does leave the plains though. Pretty much every nomad shares a special bond with at least one horse that they grew up with and trained from a foal. Shin’a’in Horses in general are supposed to be superior to most others and their Battle Steeds are supposed to act more like dogs than horses – being exceptionally loyal and helpful to their owners. They don’t panic and run away, fight on even if wounded, and do what they’re trained to do even under great stress. They may even heal a bit more quickly than normal horses.

All of which, of course, is just like very other horse in d20, where even perfectly normal animals are treated like character attributes, serve their game functions without distracting player characters from their various adventures, are more enduring than any real animal, and heal more quickly like EVERYTHING in d20. Sure, there are supplements that go into detail about horses and other animals – but after the first few levels only special mounts will really matter. If we want “better horses” to be at ALL relevant… Nomads will just have to take Animal Companions – which pretty much defines their special abilities.

Nomadic Horseman (Amerindian, Mongol, Etc) Cultural Package Deal:

  • Companion (Animal Companion / Horse, 6 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Specific Knowledges: Horse Care, Plains Survival, Shin’a’in (or whatever nomadic group you like) Traditions (3 CP).

Holy Warrior (Known as Swordsworn or Kal’enedral on Velgarth) Package Deal:

Being a Holy Warrior has no initial training or organization involved; you make a sacred oath, it is accepted, and you’re a Holy Warrior. There will be a lot of tutoring after that, but you don’t have to have a lot of skills to swear the oath.

  • Major Favors/Their God or Gods, Specialized / Velgarth’s gods (like most gods) only answer when you are in desperate need – and there is always a price of some kind, if only your ongoing dedicated service (3 CP).
  • Mentor/Deceased Holy Warriors. Holy Warriors get tutored every night. Thanks to this extensive training, they get +2 CP each level to invest in their combat skills (A minor variant on +10% experience – and, not surprisingly, equivalent to a specialized version of Fast Learner, 6 CP).
  • Minor Privilege/Any group of their fellows will feed, treat, and equip or re-equip (albeit only with mundane gear and a mount) any holy warrior (3 CP).
  • Divine Bond Bond: Spell/Power Resistance, Specialized / only versus mental attacks (3 CP). Holy Warriors are very difficult to divert from their purpose. Even if someone penetrates this defense, it’s blasphemy – and just asking for those “Favors” to kick in.
  • Disadvantage: Vows. Holy Warriors are sworn to service of their god/goddess, to the people of their realm as a whole, and to their clans, in that order (-3 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Accursed (Asexual). Holy Warriors give up all interest in, or capability for, sexual responses with their vows. This leaves them quite disconnected on the social level (- 3 CP).

Constant combat training makes most Holy Warriors formidable fighters – but they don’t necessarily start out that way.

This is actually a pretty generic “holy warrior” package. Your god favors you, you get intensive training, other members of your faith will support you, you’re very hard to divert from your purpose, and you don’t have sex. Replace “Shin’a’in” with pretty much any other ethnic or religious group and there you go. 

Falconers (Tay’ledras / “Hawkbrothers” on Velgarth):

In a mildly unusual twist the local Falconers are responsible for cleansing lands filled with warped magic and making them livable again, rescuing harmless creatures of magic along the way. Since they live in close association with powerful ley line nexi, much is made of the bleaching effect of magic to give them an exotic appearance. Why this doesn’t extend to their skin, giving them the downsides of Albinism, is never explained. Neither is why, for example, using massive amounts of magic left Mornelithe Falconsbane with tawny gold hair and gold-green eyes instead of bleaching HIM. Given that d20 normally allows players to describe themselves pretty much as they please, that anyone with a Cantrip spell can trivially adjust the color of their hair, skin, and eyes while the “bleaching” effect takes some time – and that the game allows you to play descendants of elementals, lizard men, and other exotics, don’t worry about this. Why bother trying to tell people that they can’t describe their characters as they please?

Secondarily, the Tay’ledras are a wildly distorted society that exits on an ongoing war footing; practically every adult Tay’ledras is a Mage, a Warrior-Scout, or a Mage-Scout – a culture made possible by the unquestioning, and mostly unremarked, support of several other species who serve about the same role as the peasantry supporting the Samurai Caste. Fortunately, the author tells us that the Hertasi are perfectly OK with that – and are a bit hive-minded, so we can be sure that they all agree. For game purposes d20 also focuses on the elite adventurers, so we can pay no attention to this.

Falconer (Tay’ledras) Package Deal:

  • Companion (Animal Companion / Bird Of Prey, 6 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Specific Knowledges: Heartstone Lore, Creatures Of The Pelagirs, and Birds Of Prey (3 CP).

Quite a lot of the these guys are mage-talented to various degrees, but, with Eclipse d20 player characters, that’s simply a choice as to where they spend their character points.

Heartstones are basically rocks which are anchoring a ley line node. Their primary game function is to allow spells to be tied to them so that the caster(s) don’t need to maintain them. Secondarily, they gradually drain wild magic from the area and convert it into a more controlled form – but this is a GM plot device, On the other hand, they’re used to sustain large-scale ritual magics – not personal spells. Basically… they’re created by ritual magic and are used as a component to make it easier to work other long-term ritual effects. Otherwise they’re just ley line nexi.

Royal Emissary (Herald) Package Deal:

This is basically the minimum you get from the training program.

  • Specific Knowledges: (Country) (Law, Traditions, History, Geography, Etc) and Service Traditions (in Valdemar this includes the Arrow Code) (2 CP).
  • Privilege / Royal emissaries have a great deal of authority and are entitled to supplies and support at any village – but this is Specialized / their privileges are greatly limited by honor and tradition, they are expected to deal with all kinds of problems, they never really get to retire, their privileges (of course) only operate in their home realm, and they must report their doings in detail and justify anything that seems dubious (1 CP).
  • Adept: Survival, Knowledge/Local, Knowledge/Geography, and one Martial Art (In Valdemar usually an Archery Style) (6 CP)
  • Proficiency with Longbows (3 CP).

Royal Emissaries, of course, are expected to serve as solitary voices for the crown – visiting distant villages to act as legal experts, judges, investigators, scouts, messengers, organizers, surveyors, and more – usually starting at about eighteen years old after four to five years of education wither as apprentices or – in Valdemar – at the collegium.

Not surprisingly, the Valdemar stories mostly deal with exceptional cases; Emissaries who have multiple sets of powers, are skilled in anything and everything the plot calls for, and who are remarkably lucky about not being killed. The average emissary is less than universally competent, may not have any psychic or magical powers at all (and virtually never has more than two or three, with one being by far the most potent) – and is probably dead. Ordinary emissaries die a lot. In d20 terms that’s because ordinary emessaries are usually only first or second level and aren’t improving much if at all.

Emissaries on Velgarth normally carry a sword, bow, and knife. The knife because it is a basic tool that any traveler will carry, the sword and the bow because they’re part of the uniform – and because they do need to be ready to defend themselves. They are rarely trained in, and even more rarely use, armor and shields beyond field leathers. Armor and shields are heavy, bulky, and encumbering. They say “I am expecting a fight”. They are entirely inappropriate for most of the jobs an Emissary does and so will rarely be on hand (and even less often be being worn) when violence – which is almost always an unpleasant surprise – breaks out. Learning a combat style relying on armor and / or shields is a good idea for a soldier or mercenary, but Emissaries have to get along without. They thus generally rely on their speed and agility – which makes them even less likely to want to use gear that slows them down so drastically on those few occasions where they could. Armor and Shields… are for war, battlefields, local guardsmen, and military patrols.

At least as importantly on Velgarth, a normal fighter can have their horse cut out from under them and fight on. A Companion and Herald pair are BOTH vulnerable to injuries to either – putting them at a fundamental disadvantage in any fight. A Herald-Companion pair will take full advantage of their edge in endurance and speed to skirmish, to fire arrows and fall back, and will (at least if either of the pair has any sense) prefer to avoid a melee if they can possibly do so.

It’s noted that only the Dyheli – who are all telepaths and who contest for herd leadership with telepathic fights – offer training in combative mind-magic. This is true, for the same reason that Naga do not study how to kick properly – only species that normally have an attribute study combat techniques using it.

That doesn’t mean the (rare) psychics of other species cannot use their powers offensively though. After all, you don’t need to be an expert martial artist to kick, punch, strangle, gouge eyes, smash genitals, and hurt other creatures with your hands and feet either. Martial arts training just makes you better at it – and using Empathy or Telepathy to attack someone who lacks such powers is like getting into a fist fight with a man with no arms. Thus Herald Talia used her empathic gift offensively several times, including an occasion where she locked a man into experiencing the pain he’d inflicted on others over and over again until he either died or came to understand his crime – totally incapacitating him (and, incidentally, burdening the local villagers with his care indefinitely, but no one worried about THAT).

Now, if someone wants to learn psychic combat techniques – in Eclipse, learning a psychic power based Martial Art – and gain bonuses in the use of their powers… They’ll have to either develop it themselves or find a teacher.


Finally, we have the Velgarth’s five or six species of non-humans – they Kyree, Tervardi, Hertasi, Dhyeli, and Gryphons. (Ratha are mentioned once or twice, but never appear that I can think of).

Few of them are particularly playable.

Hertasi are pretty much the local version of Halflings. They share a limited hive-mind, and will get quite uncomfortable if they’re cut off from it – meaning that, unless you have at least a half a dozen to a dozen Hertasi in the party, you aren’t going to have ANY. Worse, they become torpid when it’s cold out and have a built-in urge to be “useful” to somebody else. They tend to live in small settlements of burrow-homes near water or marshes (presumably they are good at somehow keeping water from seeping in). They defend their homes with small missile weapons, sinkholes, quicksand, and various traps. They generally aren’t playable.

Kyree are basically large, intelligent wolves/dogs (there isn’t actually much difference) with some telepathy. Like most creatures which lack hands or some substitute therefore, they make rather awkward characters to play, but they do have enough natural advantages to attract occasional players. Kyree (or other sapient dogs / cats / etc) who want to go adventuring usually team up with a human, simply because creatures that look like huge wolves or other beasts of prey tend to attract a lot of hostility (and not a little missile fire) when they go roaming around civilized and semi-civilized areas without someone to vouch for them or be their apparent “owner”.

Intelligent Wolf (or similar) Racial Package:

  • Gift Of Telepathy (4 CP) with one die of Mana (2 CP).
  • +1d8 HP (12 CP)
  • +2 Str, +2 Con, +2 Dex (36 CP).
  • Martial Arts (Natural Weapons version, 1d6 bite, 6 CP).
  • Defender (Natural Armor, 6 CP).
  • Occult Sense (Scent, 6 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment: Barkskin (1400 GP), +2 Str, Dex, and Con (4200 GP), Warding Rune at CL3 (+2 Resistance Bonus to Saves, 4200 GP), Know Direction (1000 GP), Relieve Poison 1/Day 280 GP), Relieve Illness 1/Day (280 GP), Cure Minor Wounds 1/Day (140 GP). Net Value: 11,500 GP (12 CP).
  • Immunity / The XP cost of Racial Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP).
  • Immunity / Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Severe, Grand), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to protect racial abilities (6 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge / Pack Organization (1 CP), Specific Knowledge / The Pelagirs (or wherever they live, 1 CP).

That’s a total of 94 CP. Fortunately, the entire package is Specialized and Corrupted / No manipulative appendages (use quadruped modifiers – mostly +10′ Move), can only speak with Mindspeech, can use the equivalent of barding but not normal armor, suffers at least a -4 penalty on any attempt to use equipment as they are not natural tool users,  magic item slots are limited to armor, belt/saddle, chest, eyes, head, headband, neck, shoulders, and wrist/feet (not that magic items are at all common in the setting) – resulting in a net cost of 31 CP, for a +0 ECL race.

Bird-People – locally known as Tervardi – are birdlike, but are far too large to fly even if their wings hadn’t been turned into arms. Unfortunately, while they have superb singing voices, and might have other powers (like any other intelligent creature in d20), they are specifically noted as being too fragile (thanks to their birdlike hollow bones and light structure) to go adventuring. In d20 that also means that even for NPC’s they are not going to have many levels. If you actually need statistics for a bird-person treat them as small children with a bonus to Perform (Sing). They generally aren’t playable.

Ratha are mentioned as “what the Kyree are to Wolves, the Ratha are to Mountain Cats”. There’s no other information on them that I’m aware of at ALL. Personally, for variety, I’d use the racial template for the Ri’aal if the need comes up.

Dyheli resemble deer or reindeer, but are somewhat larger and have (permanent?) spiral horns instead of antlers. They are notable for being very powerful Mindspeakers, for being the only known group that actually studies the Mental Martial Arts, and for being capable of near-instant teaching. They sometimes let other characters ride them. On the other hand.. They are herd oriented, have little to adventure FOR, and are even less capable of using tools than the Kyree. If someone should actually want to play one… use the Kyree racial modifiers. Drop Scent in favor of +3d6 Mana, change “bite” to “horns”, drop “defender” in favor of Celerity (additional +10′ ground movement), and trade the specific knowledge of Pack Organization for a specific knowledge of Herd Organization. Males often learn mental martial arts.

Gryphons have flight, natural weapons, lie detection, taloned forepaws/hands with which they can do fine work, and keen eyesight and hearing. They commonly have mental Gifts and are often Mage-Gifted since those who aren’t have a harder time breeding. Like most of Urtho’s creations, they are at least resistant (if not outright immune) to mage-sight, mind-scanning, detection spells, and magical scrying. They even have an attractive scent. They are extremely dangerous in combat, absorb magical energy to live (and so are at least somewhat resistant to it), and are generally all-around better than everyone else – at least as long as the magic holds up. I might make a template for them later – but they’re going to have a fairly high ECL modifier, which means that they won’t fit into most Velgarth games anyway; those tend to assume that the characters are fairly low level.

5 Responses

  1. Under the Sunpriest Package Deal, the first bullet point doesn’t list the third specialty, instead just ending without

    • So it does. Probably another case of Typus Interruptus again. Well, I shall get that fixed, thank you for telling me so that I can!

  2. Falconsbane used his magic to restore his coloration. Its apparently hugely wasteful, so most mages don’t bother, but many bloodmages blow stolen power on such frivolities. Such as his earlier incarnation, Krebain’s bodysculpt or Falcon’sbane’s hybridization with feline.

    • Mercedes Lackey does offer up some excuses – but, as stated in the books, the bleaching effect takes many years. Even if you ignore that this is d20, and that a L0 Cantrip spell can permanently color something (and thus reset that multi-year timer in an instant with the most trivial possible use of magic), are you really attempting to say that “coloring something” is a “hugely wasteful” use of magic even in the books? What makes it harder than teleporting, or throwing a force field around a valley, or setting fire to a forest or hurling lightning? How about applying some dye then? You can do that with no magic at all.

      Yes, there’s a note about dye not working on Companions because their use of node magic is “like having the sun shining on them constantly” – but that runs into that “years” problem again (and the lack of albinism). My curtains are dyed, and they have had the sun shining on them for much of each day, almost every day, for many years – and yet their colors are still holding up save for some very minor fading. Dye colors are not that fragile.

      Mercedes Lackey wanted to give some of her groups and creatures a somewhat exotic appearance (and make them easily recognizable), and so she threw in a quick excuse for it – but like most excuses it really does not hold up to scrutiny. Fortunately, that is not important. This is d20. If someone decides to play a Fire Genasi, with bright red skin, literal fire for hair, and eyes made of glowing purple crystal thanks to a miscast spell, that’s fine. No one will care.

  3. […] Valdemar d20 Part IV – Beyond The Borders: Building Sunpriests, Shin’a’in, Swordsworn, Tayledras, Heralds, Hertasi, Kyree, Tervardi, Ratha, and Dyheli – and why Gryphons don’t really work in most Valdemar games. […]

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