Sunday, March 6, 2011
My friend's sons have been getting into the Harry Potter books.
We had a snowstorm last weekend that knocked out our power for a few days. My sister's kids (ages 9, 9 and 6) came over and I ran a Microlite20 Old School Style game for them (though I just called it "Dungeons & Dragons" and felt quite good doing so), which we all enjoyed. Well, I enjoyed it up until they started getting goofy and sabotaging each other's attempts to escape a cell they'd been imprisoned in. But we'd been playing for about four hours by then, which is a pretty long time to get a 9 year-old to focus on one activity aside from watching TV or playing video games, it seems to me, so I count the experience as positive overall.
Anyway, having had this experience, I've been in the mood to run the game for my friend's sons. We've roleplayed before - Teenagers From Outer Space and Earthdawn - though I don't think I've actually run a game for them yet. When Cataclysm came out for WoW, they got excited about the idea of playing Worgen characters. They've also been interested in our fantasy LARP, which includes animal-based Beastmen, so it made sense to me to run a game for them set in Xaria, the setting of our LARP. That way, they could become more familiar with the setting and thus be groomed for the day when they're ready to start as LARP players*, and they would also have an in-game excuse for being anthropomorphic wolves.
Anyway, back to whatever this has to do with Harry Potter.
While I was toying with the idea of running said D&D game for the boys, I was made aware of their recent interest in the Potterverse and so I began to think about a fantasy setting in which the primary focus was an order of Wizards.
I liked the idea of different Houses, each with its own character, history, philosophy and so on. I looked at a variety of games and settings that include this concept: Redhurst Academy of Magic, Ars Magica's Order of Hermes, WFRP's Imperial Colleges of Magic, to mention the ones that influenced me the most.
(I also looked at GURPS Witch World's color-based colleges of magic, but in the end I concluded that I specifically wanted a D&D world, and so the division that made the most sense was along the lines of D&D magical schools. This is not the time to go fiddling with the D&D magic system...)
I went back to The Complete Wizard's Handbook for 2nd Edition AD&D, and began scouring that book for its suggestions of what the personality types of different specialist Mages would be like. I incorporated those ideas into the ones I'd already started developing based on my own preconceived notions and the inspirations I'd gotten from WFRP and Ars Magica. A couple of the names, like Aegis and Mordant, are straight from Redhurst.
I'm not 100% happy with it yet (for example, Volkheart sounds too close to Voldemort for my liking), and I haven't decided anything about the world in which this order would be set, whether I would use something pre-made, modify an existing setting I already have, or make something out of whole cloth, etc. The cosmology so far is heavily cribbed from Witch World, with its palpable presence of Light and Shadow (I'll probably include Quan Iron, as well, just because I've always liked the idea), but still requiring a few other details to flesh out. Something else I need to consider is whether this means that the vast majority of Wyzards are specialist mages, and mages which draw from all of the colleges of magic are rare prodigies?
Granted, it's not necessary to come up with everything right now, and if I were to run this for my friend's sons, I don't know how much the boys would even be interested in that kind of background stuff. I feel like those details would certainly have been lost on my sister's kids, who played characters like "Merlin, Jr." and "Harry Potter the Girl" (yes, that was what Niece #2 named her character. I'll have to make a post in the future about that game session). But it does make me happy to create it.
Also, as I was working on this stuff, I happened across this analysis of alignment in the Potterverse written by Sandy Antunes, and came to realize how well it works. As much as I like the ninefold alignment system of AD&D-3.5e, I have to admit this four-fold system intrigues me, and meshes nicely with the Four Humours...
Nonetheless, here are the results of my brainstorming, for your perusal:
Wyzards is a D&D game world centered around the exploits of the Magi of the Ivory Citadel and their fight against their ancient enemies, the Shadow-Brethren of the Eldritch Oath.
The Magi of the Ivory Citadel is an ancient order of wizards devoted to protecting the land from all manner of non-political dangers. It was formed ages ago by a council of independent wizards who believed that magic was too volatile and dangerous to be learned without being accompanied by a guiding philosophy. And so these founders - the original White Magi, the Archmagi of the White Robes - created the eight Colleges of Magic, though each College came to be associated with their names. The Magi wear different colors to signify their House affiliation, though individual fashion choices vary widely between idiosyncratic and eccentric wizards. The one color they do not wear, however, is black; black signifies the Shadow. House Mordant once wore black robes, but after a great betrayal rent the order, they renounced them forever, wearing humble brown robes instead.
The Magi of the Ivory Citadel
The Magi are a collection of Orders - sometimes called Houses - governed by the Archmagi of the White Robes. Each Order is represented by an Archmage of that house; when one retires or dies, the other Archmagi elect the most appropriate member of the old Archmage’s Order to replace him.
Each Order is named for its original founding member.
The Amaranthine Order of Aegis
Also known as the Violet Robes, House Aegis specializes in Abjuration, protective magic. They are responsible for the protective magics that shroud the Ivory Citadel. Violet Magi think of themselves as protectors, with a heroic mindset but an unfortunate tendency to try to control others "for the greater good." On the whole they are thoughtful, orderly, gentle and soft-spoken, going out of their way not to attract attention. They care a great deal about family, compassion and selflessness.
The Xanthous Order of Fabricae
The Golden Robes specialize in Conjuration. They are often the mouthpiece of the Order to the outside world, assisting in travel, carrying messages to far-off places and acting as ambassadors to the nobility. They tend toward arrogance and smugness, but are also confident, courageous and bright. They show a definite tendency toward laziness as they grow further along in their studies - anything worth doing can be accomplished through the use of summoned creatures and teleportation.
The Cerulean Order of Oculus
The Blue Robes specialize in Divination. They are quite knowledgeable in many lores, cautious and deliberate in their actions, and strikingly insightful into the workings of men's minds. As a result, House Oculus is best known for its Inquisitors, who police the Ivory Citadel for wrongdoers. Perhaps the wisest of all wizards, Blue Magi are loners at heart who do not make close friends easily, and many have succumbed to cynicism and distrust due to the things their divinations have revealed about the nature of men. But all are respected for their ability to see what is yet to come.
The Verdant Order of Ynamor
The Green Robes specialize in Enchantment. Ynamor was an Elf, and his legacy lives on in the Verdant Order, which maintains close ties to the mysterious realm of the Fey. The Green Magi tend to be charismatic, physically attractive people; sensitive, passionate and caring, but given to romanticism that easily leads to hedonistic tendencies. They believe in the sanctity of life and nature. They are commonly one of the voices of reason in the Order. They also share ambassadorial duties with the Gold Magi.
The Crimson Order of Volkheart
Also known as the Red Robes, House Volkheart specializes in Evocation. The Crimson Order produces many powerful magi, the most respected of which are the battlemages known as the Knights of the Staff, or the Wizards Militant. They are serious-minded, intense and determined wizards, but are often overeager to prove themselves in combat. They are natural leaders, fearless and authoritative; however, in terms of personality they tend to be introspective and emotionally distant.
The Mazarine Order of Chimaeron
The Indigo Robes specialize in Illusion. They are known for two things: their extensive spy networks and their boisterous parties. They tend to be flamboyant and outgoing, remarkably creative and well-versed in the arts. Though possessed of sharp minds, they are not particularly deep thinkers; pragmatists by nature, believing in little but the impermanence of all things.
The Umber Order of Mordant
Also known as the Brown Robes, Mordant Magi are Necromancers. They are often misunderstood and blamed for evildoing and corruption even within the Ivory Citadel. In truth, they know better than anyone the dangers that the Shadow poses, as they are tempted by it daily but also see its pitfalls firsthand. They have a spirit of competition which leads them to seek out conflict, much like the Red Magi, but their pride has been laid low in the past. They fight against the Shadow-Brethren with greater zeal than any other Order.
The Ocherous Order of Thauvissus
Traditionally House Thauvissus has been named for their Saffron Robes, but in recent generations they have tended more and more toward the wearing of Brass, taking on a steampunk appearance. They specialize in Transmutation, and are typically curious, sharp-minded and deeply analytical. They are natural tinkerers, more interested in objects than people. The Brass Mages are alchemists and inventors without peer, obsessive collectors and clear thinkers, but they do not much care for discussions of morality and ethics, seeing such things as entirely dependent upon existing conditions which are seldom permanent.
The Shadow-Brethren of the Eldritch Oath
The Shadow-Brethren, also known as the Shadow-sworn, are the dark reflection of the Magi of the Ivory Citadel. They exist in opposition to the philosophies of the Magi, seeing them as tyrants, meddlers and misguided fools. Though they are often scattered across the known lands, forming cells, cults, covens and coteries to avoid detection and infiltration, they generally operate with a loose hierarchy, as they all serve the Twilight Court of Shadow.
The Eldritch Oath to which their full title refers is an ancient dark pact that each member of the Brethren has taken. They have pledged to serve the Twilight Court, the Shadow Masters, demons and devils who inhabit the realm of Shadow and long to cover the world in darkness. The Shadow-Brethren are their eyes, mouths and hands, always doing their bidding even when they believe themselves to be acting of their own volition.
The Shadow-Brethren often possess personality traits that are the skewed, sinful versions of their Ivory Citadel opponents (something akin to Antitribu from Vampire: The Masquerade - as I understand it).
*It should be noted that they have actually participated in our LARP, but only as NPCs.