A day of cold rain swept the valley floor. The speaking stones seem to pulse with potency. A menace was coming. The women shook in their halls, stifling the cries of children. The men clutched fast to their spears awaiting their lords command. Today carried menace. For whatever or whoever dared to trespass into our lands!
When beginning a hex based campaign I usually start with a story in the back of my mind. Not stuff that the adventurers will do, though they might get involved in some of it. It’s more about what the current layout of the land is. How it got that way, why it got that way.
The start of this process is to pick an era or epoch I like to play with. In this case I’ll be doing a pseudo-Iron Age Nordic and Celtic peoples. It will be set in a fictional land to avoid anachronisms, and allow plots to flow without need of historical consistency. So yes, it’s something of an easy button when it comes to this sort of writing.
Unless you people want a full scale lesson on La Tène and Hallstatt period Celts? Or the migration era? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So suspend some disbelief and let’s make the starting paragraph to describe the 24 mile hex. We will title it Hex A-1
In the years past, the Nordic chiefs raided the coastal lands of the Celts to much success. Until they had encountered the mighty chieftain Cathbhar (Pronounced Cah-War). His spearmen pushed the Nords further and further towards the coast until a peace was made under a pair of spears lined in Mistletoe. The price for the raid was land for Cathbhar’s son, and men he selected in Nordic fiefdom, and that the mightiest Nordic Chief Hrolki would wed his daughter to Cathbhar’s son Feargus.
(So here we have the idea of a story coming. In the past there was a struggle between the two peoples but a peace was forged and solidified through marriage.)
The land that Hrolki intended to give the Celts was known to be cursed. Placed twenty miles from the sea in a mountain region known for troll and dwarves. It was an ill-place. The deadly flooded forest, “foraoise diabhail” The devils wood lay within six miles of where Feargus intended to lay his stone round houses. He built the fort strong with timber reinforced turf, in a strong circular mound. His druids raised great monuments to the gods and set about the business of taming the devil’s forest. Setting mighty stones in a circle around the forest they placed the skulls of captured thralls and poured iron over the top of the stones to prevent the fell spirits from escaping. (Hex 0602)
(So we have established the Celtic lands here. This six mile hex lays far from the Nordic Chiefs coastal hill fort but close to the mountains. At the far end of the six mile hex lays an adventure site which has been temporarily tamed.)
The Nordic Chieftain occupied a coastal stronghold from which he raided, as the land near his town was poor for farming and the sea was not bountiful. Hrolki decreed that the gods had abandoned him because of his defeat in the Celtic lands of Eiru. His fort was built by his great grandfather and has been reinforced multiple times over the years. It’s strength at repelling invaders is well known. Surrounded by meager villages of farmers and hunters. (Hex 0204)
(Uh oh, sounds like we’ve got some bitterness here. Especially since in the five years that Feargus has been working his land, his grain houses have grown full, and his animal houses are stocked with beef and sheep every year. A hard winter looks to be coming and Hrolki’s wife has recently died. Times do not look well for the former mighty Thane.)
Despite making no pledge of tribute to Hrolki, Feargus has sent 3 wagons of grain and 10 cattle. A kingly gift meant to assist his fathers old foeman. The wagon train was waylaid in the steep paths of (Hex 0403) by bandits. The few surviving members of the wagon train came to Rath Sidhe (The name of Feargus’ now completed fort and village pronounced wrath-she) They said the men wore blackened leather vests with a mammoths head painted on in red over chain shirts. Chain! No mere bandit could afford chain. Something is definitely afoot.
(The bitter Hrolki has turned to a foreign god for aid known as the Devourer, or the Mastodon. A mythical beast said to be laid under the earth and must be fed blood to restore him to power. Those who aid him he shall aid. Feargus has seen members of this religion before on one of his own raids into the Pictlands north of land of the Saxons.)
Now the rest, is all you.
Here is a cast of characters and recommendations:
Important people from Skorborg the town of the Nords.
Thane Hrolki Lord of Skorborg. Fatally Ill and will die within a year. Level 5 fighter
Horlbak Hrolkisson Oldest Son of Hrolki and known for vicious cunning and skilled raiding. Level 3 Fighter
Anakyros Priest of the Mastodon. A murderous lustful man in his 20’s He often rapes slaves before sacrificing them in horrific ways. Priest level 3
Starolf Hrolkisson The younger son of Hrolki, born robust and hale yet with a warp in his brain. He has been sequestered away from the fort into the wilderness. Barbarian level 2
Runa Krolkissdotir The wife of Feargus of the Celts. Her beauty is considered unmatched in any land. She has had four children in five years for Feargus and is loyal to him beyond reproach. Her skill with the distaff and weaving make her considered extremely valuable. Though she possesses something only her husband knows of True Magic. Level 1 Mage/Witch Any cloak made by her hands will give a nonmagical +1 to resist cold weather.
Rath Sidhe Characters (Recommended starting place for PC’s)
Feargus Mac Cathbar A powerful warrior, known to carry a magical spear he won from a dwarf (Supposedly) called Screaming Hate. Warrior level 6 Spear +2 makes a shrieking sound in battle that causes fear.
Aona Mac Cathbar A younger brother of Feargus and his best friend. They have held shield walls together alone many times and they are both feared equally. Warrior level 5 +1 Spear “Widow’s Scream”
Banbha the wife of Aona has been blessed with 4 sons each of which are now adults. 19,18,16,15 A recommendation for character choice.
Brandan of Ash, Oak, and Thorn.
Brandan is the head of the druidic order in the area. He has 4 lesser druids who assist him, both male and female and most of his time is dedicated to holding back the evil from the Devil’s Wood.
Who will you need to add?
People on the fly my friends, unless you have an idea for someone just go with it. There’s blacksmiths, tanners, gongfarmers, farmers, herders, hunters, weaponsmiths, woodcutters, and a whole host of others. People too old or sick who stay at home and count on their loved ones to help them.
Some things to note, Chain is going to be the heaviest armor in this place. No one goes into battle without a helmet and a shield at least. Swords are a backup weapon not a main weapon. Spears usually are used first and to terrible effect. Many people carried daggers as well as a matter of course.
Celtic Roundhouses look like:
Regular ol’ people?
Installment II – Details and Maps
Society – Celtic
Hierarchy of order
Curaidh (Hearth Champions)
Fianna (Hearth Guard)
Bonnachts (Warrior Class)
Celtic Law (Universal)
No one may harm a Druid or a Bard. The penalty for this is death and the torture of your soul in the shadowrealm for all of eternity by said Druid or Bard
An oath sworn must have two witnesses for it to be valid. If it is not upheld, the oath keeper may dispose of the oath taker as they see fit (Death, torture, thralldom)
Thralls have no rights as they are property. Therefore, no one may wantonly harm a thrall without recompense to the owner of such who is free to set the price (No more than 4 ounces of silver)
The age of manhood shall be 15 years. From this point on he will take his new name and swear oath to his lord
The age of womanhood is her first moon-blood. She must present herself to her Chief and be proclaimed a woman if any man takes her maidenhead without her consent or her fathers consent will be given 100 lashes by the Chieftain himself. Rape is for Nords not the people of Eire a blood price will also be paid of a full 10 ounces of silver the child will be given to the druids
A mans life is worth thus:
Curaidh (Knight) 16 ounces of gold for his blood price
Fianna (Junior Knight) 14 ounces of gold for his blood price
Bonnachts (Spearmen) 14 ounces of silver for his blood price
Kern (Peasant Levy) 10 ounces of silver for his blood price
Thralls can be priced no higher than 4 ounces of silver
No man shall beat his wife unduly if this is not met he must present his case to the chieftain who will decide the fitting punishment
No wife will lay with another man
No man may disregard the word of the Chieftain to do so is death
Kern may not be treated poorly without due cause for they are the blood of the tribe
A man with a grievance against another may request a fight between them to the Chieftain If it is found to be with merit the fight will commence by the Chieftains order
If a fight is to happen without official sanction of the Chieftain and a man dies or is so maimed as to no longer function as a man should a blood price must be paid and it must be reported to the first member of the Fianna that one encounters
The theft of any property including slaves, animals, children, land, or valuable metals will be repaid in like kind and with one hundred lashes by a member of the Fianna
Murder is to be repaid with full blood price to the damaged family and the Chieftain as they have both been robbed. The murderer is banished for one year and one day As an outlaw, any may take his life without paying a blood price
Drunkenness is subject to lashes against a post to be determined by the Chieftain
Most laws are punished either by paying a blood price, lashes, or banishment if a stronger or weaker punishment is needed the Chieftain will decide it
Law of Hospitality
No man may approach a house without calling out thrice his name, if he is answered he may come. If not, he must leave
No man may leave another mans home without his knife being greased and his cup being filled (He must be fed, and given drink)
A man accepted into a house is expected to place his weapon point down at the door and share any news he may have. Failure to do so after being fed can lead to his forceful ejection
A man may ask for a place to sleep for two days before he must move on he is expected to work the farm as a thrall for this period
Law of Arms
Every man from 15 to 65 is expected to train in shield and spear as well as bow and arrow once a month no matter his station
No man is exempt from fighting for his lord if a thrall is sent in a mans place the thrall will be set free at the end of battle
Fleeing a battle or cowardice is punishable by the death of your family
Law of the Gods
The druids and bards must be obeyed in all matters of spirit failure to do so will lead to curses upon the tribe your family will be sacrificed to avert such a thing
No man may pluck or gather any growing thing or dead thing from the sacred hill or grove
The druids have placed a Geas on the entire tribe;
No one will be buried with treasures
The body will be burnt and only the skull retained
The skull will be entered into the earth in the sacred grove
No one may pass the warding stones of the Devil’s Woods
A man who dies of bee stings must be burnt wholly even with his skull and his family must wear ashes for 3 months afterwards
Men may not lay with men as if they are women to do so is to be brushed with whale oil and beaten by the druids until they receive a sign to quit
Outlaws may be killed by the Chieftains law, it is better if they are brought to the druid for sacrifice as it may bless your family and fields
No one is to make boisterous noise during the new moon past sunfall to do so is to invite danger
To ward yourself from evil you are permitted to spit on the earth and touch a talisman of iron
Druids only collect eyes from living men when necessary
Law of Kern
You must work your appointed duty from sunrise till sunset a lazy man will not be tolerated
You will better your chosen craft every year to do otherwise is to grow stagnant and die
You will obey your Chieftain and his men without fail
If you own a thrall remember before you slay them that you must then attend to their work
Hiding of goods to avoid paying taxes could lead to the loss of your entire storehouse and banishment from the village
Do not cross spears with the Fianna or higher without permission from your lord unless you are training
Do not have more children than you can feed, dump your seed on the floor if you must.
Treat your wife or children cruelly and the Chieftain will do the same to you. Be just in all you do. We are not Nords.