Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sorcery of the High Mountains: Nalinot in the Age of Strife

This article was originally a draft for a campaign I ran in roughly 1990 using AD&D 2nd edition. It first appeared in print in an issue of the revived TSS (#44) but I've since modified it a bit and added D&D 5E stats, modified the OSR stats and also added Tunnels & Trolls stats. The default location for the setting as described is my current 2,090 AW era Age of Strife setting for Lingusia (if you are keeping score), but it's pretty malleable.

I really like the core conceit (Tibetan mythology as a Real Thing) as I do it here, but suspect that in today's climate I could probably attempt to rewrite and revise the entire thing into some sort of gargantuan entity for publication. To that end I'll just leave it alone for now...

Sorcerery of the High Mountains
A Keepers of Lingusia: Age of Strife Supplment on The Mountain Kingdom of Nalinot

Nalinot is located deep in the heart of this vast eastern continent, and little is known about it save what can be found below. You may find this an interesting addition or a suitably exotic locale to send off intrepid adventurers… I suggest that a dwarven airship caught in a storm could be a suitable lead-in, since I have not (as yet) released much data on the continent of Takkai. Likewise, you could easily take the data below and extrapolate from or port it in to a campaign backdrop of your own choosing or for your homebrew. The data below is based on some research I did decades ago in traditional mysticism in Tibet, which is used as a springboard for a realm inspired by such.

The Kingdom of the Mountain Sorcerers
   Nestled within the world's most expansive (and second tallest) mountain range are the people called Nalinot. An eon of warfare and subjugation under the mantle of the Tai’Kong Empire of the western lowlands, coupled with the constant fear and strife caused by the closeness of the mysterious  hundred years of close experiences with the demonic entities of Holkynyn have left Nalinot rife with superstitious barbarians that are being slowly but surely absorbed into the mainline consciousness of Tai'Kong. Fortunately, the people of the mountains have managed to cope with the influx of Tai’Kong culture and beliefs. Those who have accepted the ways of the foreigners have integrated the new ways with the principles of the old. Meanwhile, devout tribesmen continue their ancient traditions, worshipping the mysteries of the Bon, which has been their way of life for two thousand years now.

   There are a number of important things to distinguish Nalinot from other regions. The most important is its gods, which are of two different religions, the old Bon Cult and the new Lamas of the Adibuddha. They are categorized as follows:

The Lamaists
   The Lamas of Nalinot, led by the Dali‑Lama, are the two‑hundred year old followers of Tai’Kong monks who came with the first directed houses of Tai'Kong. Their religion has since diverged from the common followers of the Path among the western empire, and now takes on a pantheistic form all of its own. Mixed with the beliefs of the older Bon cults, they now seek to suppress the hardcore followers of the older way, perceiving them as originating their beliefs from the demons of Holkynyn to the north.

   Lamaists revere their principle deity, the Adibuddha, followed by a pantheon of lesser gods (the bodhisattva). The lamaists of the Adibuddha must uphold three significant notions to their teachings, regardless of which class they specifically follow. They must learn these teachings through the understanding and use of Mantras, and all magic of lamaists is performed through the chanting of these memorized mantras (therefore, all Lamaist magic is verbal in its components; additional components apply as necessary).

   The three ideals of the Lamaist are as follows:
  • Clang: The Spiritual Power of the Adibuddha, and the power of the self. This must be understood to attain internal understanding.
  • lung: Knowledge of teachings. The knowledge that is imparted of life and those who speak of it must be understood. This entails not merely the process of learning, but of knowing how to learn.
  • hired: Ability to teach is the final great requirement of the Lamaists, to be imparted to them upon attaining the other two states, but not necessarily having attained dbang (enlightenment). Then, the knowledge previously gained can be imparted to others.

   PCs should be awarded experience for upholding to these three ideals.

   Some titles among the Lamaists are as follows, with meanings:
  • K'anpo These are the monastery heads who oversee the teachings and activities of their charges.
  • LoPon: These are the travelling buddhist teachers of the Path.
  • Lama: The lamaists of the monasteries, the most common priests.
  • DaliLama: The Lama who has been chosen to be the mortal incarnation of Buddha.
   There are several principal deities recognized by the Lamaists. These deities are usually identified as the bodhisattvas, and reflect influence from Tai’Kong in the west and Al’Jhira in the south. They include:

Adibuddha (Life‑Death‑Rebirth)
   The Adibuddha is the embodiment of Buddha as seen by the Lamaists; the latest of a cyclical series of incarnations, the Adibuddha is also the most northern incarnation of the Followers of the Path. The Adibuddha, within Nalinot, has been seen to manifest additional incarnations which reflect the needs of Nalinot life. These manifestations are known as the Boddisatvas.

Ch’os-Skyon (servants of Adibuddha)
   There are said to have been eight giant immortals who have reached the heavens and ascended to true enlightenment. These immortals are collectively the Ch’os-Skyon, and they are regarded as the servants of Adibuddha, slayers of those who stand against him, and fierce archons of power. They appear as immense, fire-breathing three-headed giants.

Avolakita (love, war)
   Avolakita is a deity who makes her presence known in Al’jhira in the south, and manifests as Kuan Yin in Tai'Kong. She is seen in Nalinot as a manifestation of mercy, compassion, and other important human elements, and one of the derivations of the Adibuddha. She is a goddess of love and fertilitity, and sometimes takes on Athena-like aspects of war. Her temples in the deep south are manned by priestesses who are also sacred prostitutes, but the phenomenon is less common in Nalinot, where her cult has spread intermittently.

Da (war)
   Da is the representative of war, who sits upon all warriors' shoulders with bow in hand. He is the conqueror of enemies in all forms, and the favorite god of the Nalinot warriors. He receives attention both among the Lamaists and the Bon cults.

Manjasri (wisdom, age)
   Manhasset is the Boddisatva of Wisdom, the representative of the idealized concept of "the right choice, the best possible action." Manjasri is respected among the venerable elders of Nalinot, and is a god which all, with age, will embrace with time. Manjasri is principally worshipped only among Lamaists, though, and rarely recognized by the old traditionalist cults of the Bon.

sGrol‑Ma (Nature)
   sGrol‑Ma is the mother goddess of the land. Her form is the mountains, her breath the clouds. She is a representative of nature, but also in known for fertility, sGrol‑Ma is debatably an incarnation; her origins could go far beyond the Lamaists into the Bon. She is one goddess on whom the Bon and the Lamaist both agree about, and both cults worship her equally. SGrol-Ma is said to have married sPyan-ras-gzigs, the monkey god, and it was through this union that all things of the earth emerged.

The Bon Cults
   The Bon Cults hold to the belief of many more gods, some of which (Nan Iha, for example) are tolerated by the Followers of the Path. The Bon Priests are called Nag‑pas, and are not in fact religious men but shamans and sorcerers who work to defeat the evil demons (I suggest that player characters who follow the way fo the Bon choose multiclass combinations such as sorcerer and shamans combined with clerics).
   Nalinot demons are called the po, or mo for females, and their dark powers are used by malevolent shamans of the Bon, while other nag-pas seek the aid of the good spirits (called iha). The Po demons are said to come from Holkynyn, while the Lha are said to embody the land of Nalinot. These spirits are grouped as follows:

rGyal‑po: The King Fiends
   There are eight classes of fiend demons in the Bon myths, and this is the most malevolent of them. They might be considered comparable to traditional greater demons of different types, and one could no doubt find evil personages such as Demogorgon, Orcus, and Yeenoghu labeled among them. To model fiendish servants of the rGyal-po, one might use oni or other ogres to typify their followers in Nalinot.

Dharmalapolas: The Protectors of Religion
   These are the demonic fiends who serve to maintain the balance of spiritual energies necessary for the pursuit of worship; they are the generals of Yi‑Dan, who is a manifestation of Kali, from Akira. Priestesses of Yi‑Dan look to Kali for their class requirements, and do exist within Nalinot, gaining the additional fealty of the Dharmalapolas.

Yul‑lha: bDud, the hoarder
   The Yul‑lha are one of the eight classes of benevolent demons in the Bon cult, and bDud is the most famous, a fiend who is known for having great treasure, and a free will to prosecute the lamaist priests.  Nag-Pa who call upon bDud are very dangerous sorcerers, and seek to destroy the lamaists and drive them from Nalinot.

Hayagriva: The Horse Protector
   A dreadful demonic god, Hayagriva is the originator and protector of horses, which are a rare and desired commodity in the Nalinot Mountains, where yaks are far more common. Hayagriva is given tribute by any warrior who wishes his mount good health.

Ma‑Mo: The Mistresses of Disease
   These are among the eight classes of fiends, and are wicked mistresses of disease and other forms of bodily detriment. They are tortuous and come with the night winds, to seduce and infect those who would fall prey.

Non‑lha: The House God
   In all houses of the Nalinot, both Buddhist and Bon alike, you can find ceremonial shrines to the house god Non‑lha. Non‑lha is the one to bring benefits to the house and those who live within, and keeps it free of the Srin‑po (ghouls and vampires).

Srin‑po: The Ghouls and Vampires
   The ghouls and vampires of Nalinot lore come from this category of fiends; these fierce and deceptive undead are vicious beast who prey upon the living in many different forms. The MC stats will work for representing members of this fiend class.

Other Gods of Nalinot
   There are, in fact, a great many more gods than this in the pantheons of the Nalinot, but the deities mentioned tend to be the most active and important in the affairs of the present. If you are interested in more deities, or would like to read a nice treatment of the Tibetan Mountain God religion, I recommend for a useful and interesting overview of Tibetan myth. Take note that the Nalinot religions are still steeped in fantasy, so you need not extrapolate everything whole-cloth from traditional Tibetan belief, but by all means, pull anything out that you like if it makes for a good story!

The Nag‑Pa: Sorcerers of the Bon
   These are the mysterious devil dancers, who take up sword and armor to combat the fiends of the Bon. Believing that the lamaists are misleading in their attempts at order in the midst of the obvious conflict between good and evil that occurs within the mountains, the Nag‑Pa have a strong following among the barbarians and traditionalists of Nalinot.

   The Nag‑Pa are not recognized by the Lamas of Nalinot, but often works with them, indirectly, simply because both believe in the need to defeat the demons that plague the mountains, pouring in from the northern lands of Holkynyn. This has often created some strange alliances between the two rather contentious religious factions

Nag-Pa and Lamaist Player Characters
   The Nag-Pa is less of a class and more of a way of thought. In D&D 5E, for example, a Nag-Pa could easily belong to the cleric, druid or sorcerer class; what matters is how that character perceives his universe, one of perpetual conflict between mortals and demons, with a very difficult road to the path of enlightenment. The Nag-Pa certainly fight the demons of chaos, but they themselves tend to be wrapped within chaos to do so.

   Likewise, the Lamaist is most likely to be a paladin or cleric, a character with a stronger sense of good and evil and a firm belief that the forces of darkness can be dispatched, allowing for peace in the land and a chance to at last attain enlightenment. The Lamaists revere no single god, and serve the Dali-Lama with their lives. A traveling lamaist might join a party because he has a vision or a sudden sense of intuition that he must aid these souls, or help them on their path. 

The Phurbu
   Nag-Pas use a specialized ritual dagger in their arts. The Phurbu is a mystically enchanted dagger for use against demons. It will purge a body of possessing spirits, and acts as a magical weapon against those creatures affected by such.

      To create a Phurbu, the Nag‑Pa must have a properly prepared dagger which he then performs the ceremony upon. The ceremony lasts six hours, and imbues any dagger forged of iron with the following traits (a Nag-Pa may only ever make one):

The Phurbu Dagger (D&D 5E)

+1 (uncommon), +2 (rare) or +3 (very rare); requires attunement.
This is an iron dagger carved with sacred mandalas, pulsing with dark energy to harm demons and other spirits. It can be found in different varieties of power. A +1 Phurbu deals an additional +1D6 damage against demons, devils and other evil outsiders. A +2 dagger deals +1D8, and a +3 dagger deals +1D12. Once per day you may declare any attack roll with the dagger to be a critical hit (this replenishes at dawn each morning).

A Nag-Pa makes a +1 dagger if he is level 1-8, a +2 dagger if he is level 9-15 and a +3 dagger if he is level 16-20. Though a Nag-Pa can only ever make one dagger, if it is destroyed he can forge another. He does not need to be the wielder.

The Phurbu in OSR & AD&D:
   The Phurbu Dagger is a basic +1 /+3 versus Bon fiends (any demons, devils, daemons, evil gods, Baatezu, Oni, etc. will do). Once per day the dagger will do double damage against such a target. A level 9 Nag-Pa can forge a dagger that is +2/+6 vs. Bon weapon fiends, and a level 17+ can forge a dagger that is +3/+9 vs. Bon fiends. It is rumored at even higher levels very powerful Nag-Pa could forge artifact-like weapons.

Phurbu Daggers in DT&T
In T&T the Phurbu Dagger may be any type of dagger/short blade but it deals double dice and adds against demonic foes that qualify as Bon and deals spite damage to such creatures on a 5 or 6. Against all other foes it is enchanted to deal +1D6 additional dice in its attacks. The wizard spell Enchant Phurbu Dagger is a level 1 spell that costs 20 WIZ to cast and forges the basic dagger. A level 7 spell costs 50 WIZ plus a permanent sacrifice of 5 WIZ and forges one which deals triple dice damage and +3D6 against normal foes. A level 11 spell lets the wizard forge one which deals quadruple dice against demons and +6D6 against normal foes but costs 100 WIZ to cast and requires a sacrifice of 10 permanent WIZ or 5 WIZ and 5 CON. 

...Yes, this is the dagger which attacked Lamont Cranston, alias the Shadow. For a fiend-possessed Phurbu you could look to the animated object stat blocks for some ideas.

Landmarks of Nalinot
   The following are some of the locations that can be visited within the mysterious mountains of Nalinot. It is very difficult to map this realm, as the constant groaning of the mountains, the howling winds, the constant snow and the endless mist seem to leave the land constantly swathed in mystery and uncertainty; stories of Tai’Kongese cartographers going mad in this land are common fables among western entertainers!

   This is the capitol of the New Nalinot government, established by the Jade Emperor, and maintained by the ever‑present House Sho'jukin. The current Lord of Nalinot is Hendicho, who is served by a coalition of necromancers called Ch'yo Kyon and the family housings (mostly in Ishikoro) are the dwelling spots of the Na'Ch'un, the representative advisor to Lord Hendicho. Needless to say, neither the local Bon cults nor the Lamaists appreciate the presence of the Ch’yo Kyon in their lands, but they are forced (on the surface) to tolerate this enclave of the governor’s own deviant servants. Rumors abound that the depravity of these eunuch-sorcerers was so strong that the Emperor banished them along with Hendicho to this remote corner of the empire specifically to keep them as far away from the palace as possible!

   Rataeo is the most secure city in Nalinot, but it has strong, ancient stone walls for defense and maintains a strong regular garrison to stave off local attacks from angry tribesmen. It seems like every season another charismatic Bon sorcerer sends some local tribe of barbarians in to a frenzy against the city walls, to overthrow the foreigners.
   There are a few other local threats, as well. The mysterious Tiger Cults from the south has a presence here, and among some of the more elite members of Rataeo it has become fashionable to espouse membership in this mystery cult. The hardcore members of this group are said to subject themselves to transformations, changing in to actual tigers for strange rites.

Shining Sky Monastery
   Several miles up from the virtual sea-level grasslands of the western Tano province, resting on the slopes of the Sacred Seat of the AdiBuddha (the name given to the mountain) is the Shining Sky Monastery, the heart of the Followers of the Path in Nalinot. Here the Dali Lama directs the ceremonies and intrigues of the Lamas, while working to persuade the government of their interests over that of the Ch’yo Kyon. The current Dali Lama was chosen long ago (centuries, the Lamaists suggest) as a young boy, but he is now venerable and beyond all human years in appearance. There are rumors and whispers that he will soon shed his mortal coils and ascend to the heavens and true enlightenment, but no one knows who, then, will become the spiritual vessel for the next Dali Lama…

Place of Seeing
   Atop the Sacred Seat of AdiBuddha, still a half-mile above the Shining Sky Monastery, is an ancient center of Bon sacrifice, that has since been decentralized in its meaning to include a place of spiritual sanctity for the Lamaists of the Shining Sky Monastery. Still, on certain starless nights during the equinox and solstice, secretive cults of Bon travel to this point to carry out their ancient rituals.

Caverns of the Horned Devil
   This is a difficult  place to reach, known only by the Nomads of the mountains. It is a legendary center of Bon activity and belief, a sacred place of supernatural manifestations as powerful in its magic as that of the nearby Shining Sky Monastery. Strange and horrifying things occur here; the Tiger‑Cults also meet inside a section of the caves to carry out their shape-shifting ceremonies. The cult leader is a Bon priest called Anhama, a powerful woman who some claim is a Deva, descended from the benevolent gods, but cast out of her community in Al’Jhira in the south for her sacrilegious practices.

Valley of Many Voices
   Here, it is said that the voices of the dead echo through the canyon, bringing down avalanches on the living below. It is a dangerous place to cross, but the only "safe" way to get to the southern regions of Nalinot. Any traveler who wishes to travel to the rural lowlands of the mountain range, to Al’Jhira beyond, or to the long but safe western valley which leads to the Tano province of Tai’Kong must pass through this valley. It’s haunted nature scares many superstitious folk away, and the native mountain dwellers  appreciate it!

Weeping Valley
   The name of the Weeping Valley stems from an ancient local legend about several mysterious hags that dwell within the valley, seeking out the unwary travelers who would fall into their grasp. The Hags are given to be Me, Demons who were once women that lost their lives looking for the men of a tribe that was buried beneath an avalanche. They have been driven mad in their new-found state, and while they might initially disguise themselves and beautiful nymphs and attempt to lure hapless men to the valley, they will inevitably grow angry that these are not the men they seek, and tear them apart, devouring the marrow of their bones. Or so the tales go…

Nalinot Villages
   Some of the villages deep in the mountains include Ago, Gosh'pon, Alo'Pan, Chanja, Ishikoro, Tano, Tasgon, Loga, Compos, Cheno. These are the towns, villages, and cities which are loyal to the indigenous government established two centuries ago by the Jade Emperor, for the dissident tribes tend to roam as nomads. Nonetheless, the villagers of these town are fearful and superstitious, and tend to revere both the Lamaist faith and the Bon cult at the same time.

Bon tribelands
   These include Cheno, Yoinja, and many nomad groups. These are only two of many isolated towns, as well as hundreds of nomad groups that exist throughout the mountains, continuing the way of life that that they remain happy with, even after the arrival of modem Tai’Kong beaucracy. They will not necessarily be hostile to outsiders, though they may look askance at any adventurers from foreign lands who somehow think that Nalinot is a fun place to travel!
Encounters in Nalinot:
   The mysterious, ice-covered, snow-laden mountains of Nalinot are filled with frozen undead, chilling demons, and dark spirits. This place at the top of the world appears to be a center of spectral and demonic activity, and it is no small wonder that the Bon cults are so certain that a great conflict between the heavens is spilling down to the mountains. The demon-haunted lands of Nalinot are a great place to mix up some unusual encounters. A few suggestions follow:  

Ghouls and vampires of all types (pretty much any free-willed undead) prowl the desolate mountainlands terrorizing the hearty folk who dwell here

Hags, such as in the Weeping Valley, are a particularly cruel form of local undead.
Oni and Ogres-the ogres and their smarter cousins are dangerous giant-kin dwelling in the mountains, and see all humans on the region as encroaching on their territory. They dwell in the many deep caverns of the mountains, but regularly emerge to harry caravans, travelers and smaller villages. The oni strongly revere the rGyal-Po demon fiends.

Kala Frost Barbarians
This especially remote tribe of barbarians believe they were the first men of the land, born from the very frost, sculpted in to life by bDud himself. It is possible, at best, to earn the grudging respect of a tribe of Kala, but rarely will they ever be friendly, or even trade amongst any other than their own kind. They are a harsh, forlorn people.
Lamias-The lamias are a dangerous local presence, and strong servants of the rGyal-Po in this region. Lamias build up covens of evil Bon sorcerers and dedicated remote tribes to carry out their will, and often war with one another. In the hierarchy of demon-servants they are near the top.

Bakemono Goblins and Hobgoblins
The bakemono of the mountains, goblins and hobgoblins are a terrible plague, said as a race to have sprung from the sweat of the rGyal-Po in the old days during the great wars of the demons against the gods. The goblins do little to quell this belief, as they worship the rGyal-Po feverishly, are terribly obedient to lamia and oni alike, and strike out against man whenever and wherever they can from their subterranean lairs.

Lha Spirit Tiger Cultists
   These weretigers are dangerous cultists locally, belonging to the slowly growing mystery cult formed by an enclave of exiled evil devas and rakshasas who dwell in Caverns of the Horned Devil.

   The yetis are a powerful yet mysterious presence in the lands of Nalinot. The most powerful of the yetis are called Dzu-Teh, and their lesser kin include Meh-the and Yeh-teh, the smaller and smallest of their kind.

Local Wildlife
From the semi-intelligent deranged snow-trolls, Yaks, snow tigers to the remhoras ice wyrms, there are many local dangers that adventurers can encounter. Nagas are also a local danger, often dwelling in ancient ruins of pre-human kings, guarding their sacred treasures. Some dragons also make their home in the high mountains, although these are the mysterious and haughty eastern dragons who believe themselves to be divine celestial beings.

If I find the map I made I'll scan it in...otherwise I'll make a new one soon(ish).

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