Toffoun was a dwarven cleric of Ares who fought with twin swords against the hoblins of the east. Along with Amalgami, Toffoun protected and organized the humans, dwarves, and halflings of Zeus’s Canvas during the goblin resurgence of the late 10th century BCE. He founded the city of Jipangu and passed on his particular code of honor to its citizens. Toffoun joined the other heroes of Cimmeria during the Dragon War. He bound the draconic benefactor of the mortals, Langudina, within the Bronze Orb before entering his slumber along with the other heroes.
I’m doing all my Gurutama work slowly on the Gurutama wiki. There will still be infrequent posts about that here but that won’t be my main goal with D&D Mondays.
I’m trying to develop the site into a storage place for my campaigns in Cimmeria. I’ve got a successful campaign log on Order of the Stick Forums. Unfortunately, my presentation of Cimmeria’s background info on the forums is either nonexistent or god-awful.
Instead of trying to improve the presentation there using the limited tools of PHP forums I’ll be presenting background campaign info here. This will help current and future readers of the campaign log as well as my players.
But what remains to be said about Cimmeria?
1. Descriptions of NPCs. There are tons of them and with so many floating around its easy to get lost.
2. Descriptions of places on the map that are not towns or cities. What are the Elves of Valor’s Forest like? Who lives in the Dominarie Mountains? What about that Primitive Camp in the bottom right of the map?
3. Descriptions of past events. When I first started my campaign I left the history as a blank slate so it could be filled in later. My players and I have come up with some awesome stuff to fill that space, but the specifics of events and timing hasn’t been ironed out yet.
Since I’m most interested in doing more timeline stuff, so I will be taking on that challenge first.
Future posts on D&D Mondays will be about the timeline, perhaps with the occasional character or place description woven in as suits my preference. These updates will be posted permanently at the top of the website under the Cimmeria tab just like the cities have been.
I’ve been doing some more work on the Gurutama campaign setting at the wiki. It’s by no means finished, but you can take a look at the site and see what we’ve accomplished so far.
Moving to the wiki has been a good thing for progress on the world. When I was posting stuff here I was the only one contributing. Makes sense, as I’m the only one with access to the content creator on this site.
On the wiki other people in my group of friends have started contributing or showed interest in contributing. We’ve had discussions that include the whole group on what articles we want to include and where we want to take those articles. Overall, the wiki has been great for the collaborative creative process I was hoping for when we set out to make Gurutama using Dawn of Worlds.
Which brings me to this post! One of the larger pages on the wiki is done, the Cosmology page.
Cosmology in the usual sense means the study of the origin of the universe. In roleplaying games it also means the origin of the gods, the gods relations to each other and the world, and where/if other dimensions exist that are accessible from the main campaign setting.
The cosmology of Gurutama is cyclical. If you’ve been following along with the timeline updates, you might’ve noticed that the dwarves are a survivor race from the last cycle that recorded valuable information for use in future cycles in their Books.
We’ve elaborated on that concept and the cycles are now portrayed as a sort of eternal contest between four elemental gods and the god of death.
The present cycle for Gurutama has been disrupted because a sixth powerful force entered the world, Navillus. He’s disrupted everything which might spell the end of the cycles for good!
My original plan for future work on Gurutama was to have some of the articles moved here for people to look at, but that no longer makes a lot of sense. The wiki’s organization is just so much better in terms of page structure for easy reading of long articles with multiple sections (like the Cosmology article).
I’ll keep what I’ve done on Gurutama on this site posted and available for people to read, but I think all future content will be posted on the wiki.
I’ll still be doing occasional blog posts like this to call attention to the good completed pages on the wiki though!
But there’s just this immense pile of background info that I’ve created over the years of playing in this setting. I’d like to make that available, but how do I do it?
Through posts seems the most obvious way. I think I’ll start trying to post one thing a week about Cimmeria.
I’ll mirror the blog posts with pages setup through the top bar on the webpage so the content will be easily accessible in the future.
This serves another purpose as well. While all this information has been available for my players in the past, its been a little outdated.
About 45 years have passed in my campaign setting since I originally created it, so many of the things I originally wrote are no longer accurate. This king is dead, that building burned down, that city got founded, etc.
If I update that info it will give my players access to better information. Making it available through a website instead of a single word document might also be helpful.
So… I think I’ll start this week off by going through the cities of Cimmeria in alphabetical order. First up, Balin’s Holt!
I finished reading a book called The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro that my step-mom had gotten me. I’m going to be delivering some spoilers about the book in this post, so be forewarned. If you’re interested in Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing or King Arthur stuff I’d recommend you finish the book on your own before reading this post.
The book is set a generation or so after King Arthur, when all his knights are getting old or dead.
The book follows the journey of a married couple, Axl and Beatrice, who are traveling to their son’s village.
A mist covers England clouding people’s memories. People forget things after the simplest of distractions. Old memories are difficult or impossible to recall. And the problem affects everyone.
The memory mist springs from a dragon and it becomes the quest of Axl, Beatrice, and a few people they meet on their journey to slay the dragon.
The dragon slaying is all fine and good and I loved reading those parts. It may not be a traditional King Arthur tale, but I love reading new takes on old things and it hit a home run in being a King Arthur story.
What bothered me about the book is what has bothered me about a lot of books, the ending is sad.
I remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was in high school. I asked him, “Why do modern stories have bad endings? Ancient stories always have the good guys killing the bad guys and everyone living happily ever after. Like King Arthur.”
My dad said something along the lines of, “Modern stories have bad endings because they’re more real. Fairy tales like King Arthur are fine for kids, but grownups like stories that are real, that they can relate to. It’s cathartic.”
That answer was good enough for me back then, but I’ve done some more thinking on it since.
First, bad endings are not solely the province of modern stories. Oedipus Rex is a perfect example of an ancient story with a horrible ending. Romeo and Juliet is based off the Greek myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. The Iliad has a powerful ending, but no one really gets what they want. Hector is still dead and Achilles still feels empty.
The second thing I realized is that it isn’t so much the sadness that makes stories feel real. You can’t just have something bad happen to someone and expect people to start feeling empathy for that character.
No. What makes stories real is having characters on both sides of a conflict who could both be described as good.
The Greek myths are perfect examples once again. Achilles is the hero of the Iliad, but so is Hector. They’re both great admirable people (at least to the Greeks. I don’t think someone with the epithet, “the Mankiller,” would be very popular today),
They’re both heroes in the story, but they have antithetical goals. One must die for the story to reach resolution. And that’s what makes it sad.
The conflict doesn’t always need to end in death and the characters don’t always need to be diametrically opposed, but ultimately the “villain” of an adult story must have real motivations for what they are doing. And most real motivations are fundamentally good. People do things to help themselves or the people they care about, not because they want to hurt other people (sadists are exempt).
An easier separation between what I’ve called good and bad endings in the past would be children’s stories and adult stories.
Stories need to be simplified for children which can mean having a villain who is just villainous for no good reason (Jafar, The Star Wars Emperor, Mordred from King Arthur, etc.).
But back to The Buried Giant!
Early on in the book Axl and Beatrice encounter a woman who tells them about a mysterious island that is clearly some sort of allegory for Heaven.
It’s said that you can live on the island and never see the other people living there.
Only a couple that is truly in love will be able to interact with each other on the island.
A couple’s truly in love status is tested by the boatman who brings people to the island. He asks couples a series of individual questions before permitting them to travel together.
The woman that Axl and Beatrice meet describes that happening to her and her husband. They answered the questions and then the boatman said the water was too rough to bring them to the island at the same time.
Thinking she would get to see her husband on the next boat, she said, “Fine,” and her husband went first.
When the boatman came back he informed the wife that she had failed the questions and that she would not be seeing her husband on the island. She left in a rage and wandered England before eventually telling her story to Axl and Beatrice.
Our protagonist couple talk about the island constantly. They are concerned that they won’t be able to answer questions about their love for each other if the dragon’s memory mist prevents them from remembering why they originally fell in love.
In the final chapter of the book they talk to the boatman. The boatman talks to Beatrice first and then to Axl. We only hear Axl’s conversation.
The boatman is very casual and brings up a fight that Axl had with Beatrice once. Axl explains the fight, but is suspicious that he and Beatrice will be denied joint entrance to “Island Heaven” if he tells the whle truth (the reader never learns the whole truth).
The boatman agrees to take them both to the island. Axl hops in the boat with Beatrice.
And then the boatman says, “I can’t take you both at the same time. The weather is too bad.”
Axl’s face darkens. He knows he failed the questions, but he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his wife. He stays in the boat.
Beatrice tells Axl she’ll be fine. They can just meet when the boatman brings the next boat.
Not wanting to upset his wife, Axl gets out of the boat and trudges towards shore.
And the book freaking ends there.
I understand that sad endings are sometimes more realistic, but this felt more like the author screwing with me.
Couldn’t they have been allowed to go together? Couldn’t we have learned a few more specifics about what Axl and Beatrice fought about long ago?
Nope! Ishiguro does the smart thing. If you have questions that don’t need answering in a story, then don’t answer them. People will come up with their own answers and those will always satisfy the readers more than anything you can come up with.
So does the boatman come back and take Axl to be with Beatrice? It’s possible, but my own answer to that question was, “No.”
Another movie I saw with my wife! Can you tell who my favorite person to go to the movies with is?
Age of Adaline tells the story of a woman who acquires immortality during a car accident. The movie has a pseudoscience explanation for how she becomes immortal that my wife and I laughed at.
Adaline was born in 1908. The movie hops around a little bit, but most of the story takes place in 2015.
Adaline fell in love and had a family back in the day. She obviously outlives her husband, but her daughter remains a character throughout the movie, aging into a granny by 2015.
At some point the FBI figure out that Adaline is immortal and they move to arrest her because she’s suspected of communism or something (this part wasn’t clear to me).
Adaline goes on the run. Every ten years she changes her name and moves to a new place, keeping the same youthful appearance of Blake Lively wherever she goes.
In 2015 Adaline falls in love with Ellis, a rich socialite who spends his time learning about the local history of San Francisco, something Adaline is intimately familiar with.
I suppose the viewer is meant to feel that the love between Adaline and Ellis is something wonderful and worth preserving, but frankly it feels creepy.
First of all, Ellis pursues her in the most stalker-like fashion possible. She sternly tells him she’s not interested at a party. Next he shows up at her work and hits on her there. They go on a date and then she calls it off. After that he figures out where she lives and waits for her outside her apartment.
Like I said, I think the audience is supposed to feel that his love is earnest, but he seems more like a rich boy who can’t have what he wants and starts freaking out about it. A normal person would start considering a restraining order at this point.
Of course Adaline doesn’t do that, she takes him back and agrees to go on a weekend trip to his parents’ house!
When she meets Ellis’s parents Adaline discovers that she used to date his dad after her husband died and was considering marrying him. The plot ensues and I don’t want to ruin the rest of it for you if you plan on seeing it.
The romance of the movie is terrible. There’s the issue with Ellis being a stalker, but the additional problem of Adaline being a little bit of a cougar. After all she is dating someone who is a quarter of her age.
That said, the science fiction parts of the story are interesting. How does an immortal person’s life work amongst mortals? Is she still sad when her pets die? How do friendships work for her? What does she do with all her time? Does she “retire” every couple of years or keep working? Those are all interesting questions that the movie answers well without even focusing on them.
I wouldn’t recommend seeing this movie in theaters, but if you like little science fiction stories about immortality (I do!) then I’d recommend renting Age of Adaline once it comes out on DVD.
Last time I mentioned that the elves allied with the dwarves against the human Najar Empire.
Elves are typically enemies of dwarves in high fantasy. Which is strange because they are both “good” races in D&D.
Tolkein started this trend by making dwarves and elves good, but having them disagree on nearly everything.
Tolkein’s dwarves and elves disagree on how to wage war, on how to act socially, on what professions are honorable, etc.
I controlled the elves and the dwarves in our Dawn of Worlds game, so I decided to change that rivalry into a partnership.
But first! Where did the elves come from?
Our first four races were based around the four elements. Water for merfolk, air for avians, fire for humans, and earth for dwarves.
The second set of races only had three positions in it. One of my friends became too busy to keep playing the game and dropped out (resulting in his race, the avians, becoming a subject population).
The new set of three was based off of the Hindu Trimurti, Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer.
The elves represent creation. Everytime I had the elves do something I always tried to tie it into creation.
The elves built many of the wonders of the world that exist in Gurutama.
This also allowed me to stay within normal elf stereotypes. They live in the forest, are good with magic and bows, and they make beautiful things.
In our Dawn of Worlds game, the elves showed up and began expanding through the Halusho Forest, seen above.
The elves joined the dwarves against the Najar humans because they also thought it was the right thing to do. Demons should be sent back to Hell after all!
The elves created the port city of Cyflenwi at the upper left of the posted image. This city supplied the dwarven invasion of Najar.
The city was subsequently taken over by the merfolk and handed back to the Najar humans under some treaty or another. The details on it are a little hazy, just like everything else when you look too closely at the Dawn of Worlds game.
After Cyflenwi was taken over the elves became more independent from the dwarves. I’ll talk more about the rest of the elves history in my next blog post on Gurutama.