Monday, November 21, 2016


A boy is wandering over a battlefield and from among the dead, finds a gnarled tree limb that was being used by one of the invaders as a club.  The boy drags it home, thinking it a prize, though no one else has any use for it.  The boy scrubs it with sand and makes it smooth, he cuts away parts of the staff and carves his name into it, Gryg.  As he grows into a young man, he uses the staff as a walking stick and later, as a weapon.  The shape and feel grows so familiar to him that he prefers it to other weapons, though he learns how to use a knife and a sword.

One year, there is a civil war and with his friends he goes to fight in it.  In the midst of a battle, his company is in danger of being wiped out when he rallies them, raising the staff as a guide for others to follow.  The tide of the battle turns and he becomes known.  By the end of the struggle, he is the undisputed leader of his company.

Returning home, he becomes one of the important men of his village; his name and his exploits are mentioned in several yearly festivals.  He continues to carry the staff with him, having hammered bits of iron into it to keep the wood strong.  When Gryg becomes an elder, the staff is well-recognized as a symbol of authority.

Another war comes and Gryg gives the staff to his son, Grygson.  It is too old to be used as a weapon, now, but it serves as a standard for others to rally around.  Grygson carves his name into it as well; when Grygson meets the king, he makes a note of it on the staff.  When his father dies, Grygson decides to carve symbols of the battles his father fought.  Now there are several companies who treat the staff as a symbol of luck and power, swearing their faith in the staff's ability to protect them.

Very late in life, Grygson's village suffers from a serious drought and he, an old man, begins a march towards a new land where his family, and other families of the village, will settle anew.  Along the way, Grygson dies ~ but his daughter, Grygora, promises the staff, which she names Gratifier, will lead the people safely to their destination.  When they do arrive, she blesses the ground with the staff; each member of the new village puts their hand on the staff to swear their gratitude for bringing them to to this new place. She is made the chief elder of the new village and sits, with Gratifier on her knees, at every ceremony and at every meeting.

Grygora dies childless, but she gives the staff Gratifier to the wisest male in the village, Hansyr.  This male is well-chosen; he is educated and clever.  He has much of the staff carefully carved.  The bare wood is lacquered.  The bits of iron are replaced with leaves of hardened steel and the tips of the staff are fixed with silver.  The elder that is chosen to follow Hansyr, whose name is Grey, renames the staff Greymail and has a large carnelian inserted into the gnarled head of the staff.

There are three elders who follow Grey before the staff comes into the hands of Marryn.  By then the village has become a town and the surrounding environs have sworn allegiance.  Marryn raises the staff and begins a successful war of conquest with the creatures at the edge of the frontier, destroying them.  Thousands of would-be settlers and partisans of all kinds begin to settle into the emptied forests, greatly raising the strength and power of the region.  The town is renamed Marryn's Grey and the region, Staveland.

After a dozen generations, these names have become Marengrey and Stavland.  Stavland is an important part of the kingdom now, the leaders of which have been conferred the title of Duke.  By this time, the staff has been much transformed; only its heart remains wood, the outer surface completely covered in metal and various gems.  Most of the time the staff rests in a glass-covered case in the palace of the Duke, moved from this place only three times a year for specific ceremonies.  Here it remains, until it happens one day that the Duke of Stavland is named King by an election of all the nobles, when it happens that the former line has died out.

Now, standing in the Great Palace, we are allowed to view the ornate, magnificent staff, the size and shape of a massive scepter, from a proscribed distance.  Can we hope to imagine a boy finding such an instrument on a battlefield, unwanted, unimportant?  Yet is it not the truth that any spectacular item we might chance to see or find, placed into our hands by adventure, may not have a history that is unfathomed as we see only the magnificent thing it has become?


Samuel Kernan said...

And any common item we may hold could be transformed by adventure into such a spectacular thing.

Something I would like to see happen in game.

Agravain said...

Amazing story!

I know this was not the point, but could the staff actually acquire magical power from the faith thousand of people had in it, in your world?

Alexis Smolensk said...


That was, in fact, exactly the point. You deduce me exactly. Why shouldn't a staff acquire power from such faith - or power from deeds? Perhaps magical items are NOT made in a laboratory; perhaps, we should conceive that they are made by the commitment of peoples.

Samuel Kernan said...

I really like that. Is this something you have put into play or something you are just mulling over?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I have tried to give a history to magic items . . . but the passage above is something that hit me as I was watching the opening five minutes of the recent film WARCRAFT . . . where the orc leader has this highly complex staff.

I haven't finished watching that film; seems definitely the type where they've scratched out the word "Conan" and written in a different word for the hero of their movie.

Maxwell Joslyn said...

One thing I want to work on eventually is rules for the gradual transformation of ordinary items into magic ones, by virtue of ritual and social significance, history, and so on. There might even be room for a "number of hits/kills" statistic which leads to weapons becoming better; it's a bit videogamey, and of course the player wouldn't know how many such occurrences they'd need to reach additional power with the weapon, but surely my game has room for "blood-drinker" types of weapons.

You've presented quite an interesting example here, Alexis. (I wish I had jumped into the comments to guess at your designs earlier: hat off to Agravain for beating me.) Do you suppose that you might include, for fighter-types with high amounts of points in the appropriate sage skills, the ability to start "growing" a weapon or other tool into a magic one? In-game I would consider it to be a subtle process, with the character being, at best, semi-conscious of the weapon feeling more right for them to use as time goes on. Eventually this could culminate in gaining a bonus or even in manifestation of intelligence.

Agravain said...

That's a VERY interesting idea that I would like to elaborate.

It would elegantly explain how intelligent items with a purpose came to be, like that sword of dragonslaying that drives its wielders in endless hunts for scaly beings.

It also gives amazing storytelling potential... Are all the crazy demons worshipers looking to obtain that ancient and powerful sacrificial dagger, or has the dagger been cursed by its innocent victims, and now makes its owner insane?

Fuzzy Skinner said...

I had a similar idea a while back, but in the opposite direction: a tree that witnessed a lot of horrific deeds (such as a lot of innocent people lynched from its branches) might acquire a literal malice to go with its nasty reputation. This also nicely solves the question as to the rarity of magic items, although a wizard might certainly be able to give certain artifacts a boost.