In this part of the Ghartha series, I wanted to explore Ghartha through the classic class system of Dungeons and Dragons. Essentially, I wanted to list each class and describe how something like that might fit into the world. Sometimes the fit is seamless, and other times some edges needed smoothing. I also wanted to talk a bit more about magic before talking about how the classes of D&D fit into Ghartha. If you want to use this world without a D&D system, by all means do so! This post might, however, give you a good idea about some of the peoples and characters you might find in the tomb-world.
My next post later in the week I think I’m going to talk a bit more about how people survive in the eternal darkness of Ghartha. tl:dr: glow sticks!
Ghartha, the Tomb-World III
Magical Theory in Ghartha
One essential thing to note is how magic works thematically in the campaign world. I won’t create an alternate ruleset for magic, but in order to get the ‘feel’ right you might want to take some time to think about how to describe it. Magic, whether it is arcane or divine in the core ruleset, is a precious resource in Ghartha, because knowledge itself is a sort of currency. Those that tend to have magic and knowledge also happen to be at the top of the totem pole. Therefore, the secrets of magic and of the inner workings of the temples and cults of Ghartha are closely guarded, usually requiring initiates to undergo levels of training before even being taught a simple spell.
Ritual itself is very important to society in Ghartha. It is almost a civilization-wide reaction against the horrors of the world. A great many things are ritualized because the mechanics of ritual make people feel safer. Every temple will have adherents making sacrifices of animals or plants, will have priests chanting or spreading the word of their particular patron or philosophy, and the more mysterious seeming, the better the mystique, the more authentic it seems to the normal citizen of a City-State.
Divine magic is considered to work thusly; through the use of ritual, the patron of a deity is able to materialize the will of the patron in the material world. Of course, what the worker of the magic interperates the will of the patron himself, so the inner workings andactualityy of the magic are a mystery. The magic relies, however, on rituals that centralize the deity as their focus. Some occultists have taken to referring to this sort of magic as High Magic rather than divine magic, arguing that the forces at work are the same as the forces summoned up by so called arcane magic users.
Arcane magic (sometimes divided into Low (cantrips) and Middle (level spells) magic by occultists) is magic that usually does not have a specific deity as it’s focus, and relies heavily on learned knowledge especially from grimoires and tomes. This sort of magic usually raises suspicion, especially from the practitioners of the temples mentioned above, who consider it an affront to their divine rituals. Because of this, arcane magical secrets are kept even more closely guarded by their wards than mysteries of the temples. Many magicians who practice this sort of magic call it the Left Handed Path, referring to the magic of the temples as the Right Hand Path. They say this because they believe that all of it comes from, and is going to, the same place. It is simply materialized differently.
Fitting Classes into Ghartha
What will follow will be the ten classes that, as far as we know, will appear in Dungeons and Dragons Next. I chose these classes as I feel they also represent in general the archetypal classes of every edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Fitting classes not mentioned here into Ghartha shouldn’t be difficult, as many classes beyond these ten share similarities with at least one of these anyway. If you don’t feel this is accurate, then I invite you to write your own entry in the comments, and I’ll add it into the list!
Most civilization in Ghartha is centered around the vents, which emit light and warmth, and sometimes slightly noxious gas, where like a well-spring tightly packed cities form. However, there are those that prefer to live in the wilderness of the dark tunnels and chambers between the cities, living on wild game and subterranean plants.
As mentioned in the post before this, Gnomes live life on the move through the tunnels in caravans. They live simply and at a much lower technology level than those that live in the cities, so many of them could be considered Barbarians. There are those too that simply eschew the cities for what they consider a more honest life in the tunnels. A more dangerous life, sure, but it is far away from the stink of incense and the noise of chanting. Many that choose to live in the dark wilderness do so because they hate or free magic, arcane or divine, and would be considered heathens within the cities. (This harkens to the first appearance of the Barbarins in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, in the Unearthed Arcana Book. That version of the barbarian not only hates magic, but seeks to destroy magical items, much like the dwarves I described in the last post.)
The wilderness of Ghartha is extremely dangerous, and so those that thrive there are a hardy folk; enduring and strong. They carve their lives in strange ecosystems, with houses that are merely dried skins hanging over a tunnel entrance. There are rumors even of whole communities of ‘degenerate’ folk living in tunnel complexes, with strange customs that hunt wild game through the dark and wear the skins of animals and monsters.
In Ghartha there are those that seemingly have magical power that fall outside of the usual Priest/Wizard dichotomy. These ‘rogue’ magicians are looked upon with suspicion from both sides. Temple folk see them as just another wizard, manipulating powers without the proper reverence, and wizards see them as people with power who lack the wisdom to use it correctly.
These rogue magicians are very rare, and pop up in different shapes and styles every so often. They often burn brightly and die out, figuratively or literally, in a very short time. One strand of these are the wordsmiths known in some cities as Bards.
These bards are said to be tricksters and vagabonds who specialize in speech, singing, or instrumentation. And, somehow, they seem to be able to utilize their artistic skill as a way to use magic. Though mysterious, many occultists tend to ignore bard types simply because they don’t seem to have the same goals that high-minded grimoire readers do; such as studying the mysteries of life and magic. Instead, they seem to mostly like to travel, perform, and get into mischief.
This would be a misrepresentation, however, though one that is partly encouraged by the bardic person. The truth is many bards are simply magicians of a different sort of school, and the knowledge and wisdom they seek isn’t written down. It exists in people, communities, and crowds. They are people scholars, to be exact, and their abilities to manipulate emotion and even reality with the skill and beauty of song reflects that. Though on the outside this makes them seem as rough travellers with a penchant for trouble, the truth is much of what they do is to learn about people themselves. You could even say that their school of magic is one of the most secret of all, kept locked behind an exterior of sly mirth.
This class could be one of the most common in Ghartha, for priests are never in short supply. The number of different deities, religions, cults, and philosophies, however, means that many MANY different sorts of clerics are about. In order to better break this down, I’ll list the Domains listed in the Playtest Packet and some ideas about them. (If you want to come up with your own domains and some neat cults and stuff to add to this list, put it into the comments and I’ll add them!)
Knowledge: Many clerics belong to temples dedicated to the accumulation of knowledge and lore. These temples, in fact, are the most common, with their patron promising their path as the true path of enlightenment and salvation through knowledge. These are sometimes referred to as a mystery temples for their structure often relies on the revelation of answers to mysteries in order to ascend the ranks of priests. The withholding of the mystery is how they keep those of lesser faith in check, as each mystery is presented as one piece to the puzzle of enlightenment. The Cult of Uro and the Temple of Yiggishuf of Amarethene are among these faiths.
Light: There is one newer cult that call themselves the Cult of Light. This Cult is considered extremely fringe due to their un-organized structure and dogma that states that they are the only true way, and that the other deities do not exist or worse are demons and monsters. They worship Light itself as part of an almost panentheistic being that exists outside of Ghartha, but bleeds into it where light shines. Due to it’s extreme humanitarian nature toward the poor, especially those that the cult claims is exploited by the establishment temples, it is very popular among those in poverty, with even some Halflings joining the (granted disorganized) ranks. One arm of the Cult of Light are the Swords of Light, who are a bit more militant and even sometimes openly rebellious.
Life: A good number of temples are organized around a being that seems to represent or focus on things that grow, the cycles of life, and fertility. Fertility cults are very popular, in fact, due to their lax views of sexuality and for their knowledge of healing and medicines. The Cult of the Rooted One is one of the most popular life cults, and is based on the teachings from an ancient tome called (translated into common) The Teachings of He With Roots. The being is said to reside at the center of all, and extends spiritual roots into all beings, giving them the sentience that allows them to think higher thoughts and act as more than animals. While many of the other temples disregard the teachings of this cult, it’s usefulness as a place of healing has brought it into the fold of almost every city-state. The Dwarrow religion fits under this domain, as well as the domain of War.
Nature: Very few temples are centered on deities of the wilderness, but they do exist. They are generally stranger cults that encourage animism and living closer to the cycles of nature. Cults that worship things that are almost completely monstrous do so in order to summon forth the beastility of the entity, or as a way to save themselves from the doom that the beast represents.
War: Warrior Priests are highly respected in the city-states, for they are seen as protectors of faith itself. A great many temples have a militant wing, and some cults are almost entirely based on the ideas of battle and warfare, especially against the darkness of Ghartha and below-places. The Dwarrow religion relies a lot on the teachings of battle and warfare, for both life and death are seen as the main expressions of the sleeping God.
Those that live their lives outside the cities of Ghartha follow their own mystical faiths as well. Sometimes these are versions of the temple teachings, but other times they are different systems of religion that have evolved separately. The nomadic society of the Gnomes, for one, practice a druidic faith whose priests are said to be able to manipulate nature and even shift into the shapes of the animals of the caverns and tunnels.
Other communities as well, huddled in hidden tunnels and worshipping fetishes of totem animals, lean more toward the primal mysticism of druidism. This sort of magic, however, is either not known or simply rumored of in the city, and many occultists ignore the possibility of savages using magic of their own.
There are rumors of certain spirits that live within the very stone, sleeping entities with broken memories. They are not as active as the deities and outsiders more often studied, and trafficing with these fey spirits is often considered either dangerous or a waste of time.
In the dangerous world of Ghartha, those that can fight have a very solid place. From adventurers fighting the strange creatures in the dark, or city enforcers keeping people in line for King-Priests, the sword arm is highly sought after. A knife to the throat is usually faster and simpler than a killing spell, after all.
Many learn to fight in the rough streets of the cities, many of which are unpatrolled by officials and left to ruffians and bandit lords. Some learn to fight from martial schools, who are structured similar to other schools but teach the secret of sword and shield instead of faith and spell. Some city-states also have Knigthoods, an elite order of warriors who serve the city as beacons of honor and tactical training, usually drawn from the noble classes.
Many cities also have an army as well, for the resources they gather can often be sought after by other cities. The looming threat of the Maturka also spurn on the training of soldiers to help protect caravans and traveler.
Having a strong sword arm is certainly not a weakness in the world of Ghartha.
When one studies magic, and uses that knowledge to manipulate the forces of the world, one is a Mage or a Wizard. The study of magic is one of hoarded secrets; the genesis of almost all magical lore is held within ancient tomes, grimoires, and scrolls, and the access to these are jealously guarded by the keepers. Secret magic schools, who find members rather than accepting petitions, are the most common way to become a wizard, and the amount of study and time is often intense. Earlier in this post is a more complete conception of magic in Ghartha.
As mentioned before, in some cities are martial schools, in which students learn the secrets of different forms of combat. Some of these schools focus on both the body and mind, and the warriors that come from these monasteries are often called Monks. These monasteries are often arms of larger temples, and the monks trained to defend the priests and laymen of the temple structure. Some of the monasteries are temples in themselves, however, following strange philosophies not popular among the more established temples.
The Dwarrow religion has a sect of warriors who fit into this mold called the Stonefists.
Probably the rarest of warriors, the Paladin is a warrior with a mystical link to a force or deity. They differ from clerics in that they do not ritualize, nor gain their power from a temple structure, but rather from seeking a direct experience with the divine. These warriors often exist in the past, as legends of the different temples, as saints who were granted power by deities to make war or seek peace. Today, any who seem to follow this path are just as often thought of as a dangerous heretic, usurping the dogma of a temple with claims of direct divine connection.
They often organize themselves as knighthoods as well in order to gain a support structure, though more in secret than the normal ones of the city-states. In fact, knights of the public knighthoods may be a part of both the public one that has a secret inner-circle of Paladins.
The Cult of Light has a sect of warriors known as the Swords of Light, who endure intense training of mind and ethics to become literal knights of light. They do so to protect those that are helpless, as well as to spread rebellious teachings against the governmental and temple structures of the city-states. As such, they are hunted without mercy by priest-kings. Not entirely selfishly either; for the strict temple structures of the city may be the only thing stopping it from slipping over the edge it so precariously sits on.
(In this setting, the default alignment of the Paladin is considered Chaotic Good rather than Lawful Good due to their unique position.)
Scouts and trackers are common in the cities, because the demand for them is very high. Safely traversing the chambers and tunnels between cities can be a daunting task, and many stake their life for the high profits of doing so. Like warriors and soldiers, these often come from the lower classes of society. Just as often they come from savage folk and nomads, settling in a city for a time to make money as a wayfinder.
More experienced trackers and rangers find that they become more attuned with the wilderness outside the cities, will often find themselves spending more and more time in the darkness. It is said that some even start to gain control over some of the forces of nature as they tap into some world wisdom after surviving so long in the harshness.
In a world of secrets, a sly hand is valuable indeed. From the lowly street rat to the hired agent, rogues are an important part of the City-State structure. If hired, they work under the table, for no one wants to be caught publically hiring a thief to move items or treasure from one organization to another. They’re used very commonly however; almost as an unspoken eventuality in the inter-city conflicts of Ghartha.
Adventurers as well, who seek out the dead cities and ruins to reclaim treasure and secrets, find themselves well rewarded with a stealthy approach and nimble fingers. Traps and other such surprises are quite expected, and many things in the dark are better avoided then faced openly. Treasure Hunter and Rogue are used quite often interchangeably, in fact.
Some who use magic outside of magician’s circles, rogue magicians as mentioned before, were somehow born with the power innately within them. They must use to learn it, of course, but more as one learns to walk than as an academic enterprise. Such sorcerers are both rare and considered dangerous, and not without merit. Some are said to have tapped into a chaotic plane, and their magic might have unintended consequences.
Why some are born with a natural gift of magic is unknown, but many theories abound. Most often is uttered that the person comes from a nonhuman lineage; that someone in their family line was impregnated by an outsider or a demon and the blood of the monster comes out through magical power. Others say that they are somehow naturally in touch with a primal chaotic plane that exists between this world and the others, and magic can surge through them whether they wish it or not.
Sorcerers in some cities are hunted openly, supposedly for the protection of the city and themselves.
A type of magician exists that is more common than many know, or want to admit. This is the magician who traffics with dark powers directly, who eschews studying more common magic in order to learn the darkest of secrets to gain infernal power. Black grimoires speak of summoning rituals to bind spirits, demons, and outsiders, and with communicating to such powers in order to make a pact to gain power. The price of such pacts aren’t spoken of by many, considered to be too horrible to even fathom. Rumors abound of such people; they are said to snatch children for blood rituals, to commit human sacrifice for personal gain (rather than the holy sacrifices of the greater temples).
Such magicians may or may not match up to these rumors. Many of them believe that the truer secrets are the ones too dark for the other magicians to study without fear, and that the cosmos is a black place full of entities that look upon mortals as little more than ants. These warlocks may seek these pacts to elevate themselves above other mortals, to put themselves on the cosmic map so to speak.
Some of them make pacts with spirits that lie within the earth itself, ancient fey beings who remember a time before darkness, but speak in broken riddles.
Warlocks are hunted openly by most city-states, so many hide themselves and their power as normal arcane magic.
(to be continued…) (Tired of Ghartha yet? Sorry! Just a couple more posts until it’s done. I had a sort of spurt of brain activity in regards to this setting.)