Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ironlore- Iron Ages OSR + Random Tables

Like most Dungeon Masters, my game worlds and settings have a sort of anachronistic, but primarily medieval European bent to them. Some people go all in with their historic basis for a fantasy setting, and some, like myself, just put in whatever bullshit we want.

However; after some observation I want to steer my fantasy roleplaying towards a more Iron Age bent. The world is more dangerous, and small fortified villages fit nicely in a points of light style world. With a lower tech level you can justify armor mattering as little as it does in most cases- plus chainmail being heavy and noisy and expensive fits better with game balance as opposed to the real life superiority of platemail over any other kind of armor. The general design overview of man vs nature fits more then the man vs himself sort of religious monsters/demons of medieval times. The stakes are smaller and more personal, which fits a little better for roleplaying game plus the relatively small organizations the players become upon reaching name level. Plus; nobody has to explain why the rich and powerful Kings and Knights haven't raided all the tombs already!
The Clans
Clans are the main organization for the people in the setting, at least for those living in the “player character” zone. Foreign places can be almost anything else, but clans are familiar. Each clan is lead by a Lord or chieftain, almost always the strongest warrior. Clans are made up of the extended family of the Lord, his closest allies, various smallfolk farmers and workers, conquered peoples and slaves, and finally outcasts and hangers-on who stay near the clan for safety while only being partially accepted.

Clans are not nomadic; they live in small colonies and hill forts in their territory, and farm or raise livestock to make food. Some live a nearly hunter gather-level of existence, while others rely on trade to supplement what they have. Clans fight with their neighbors constantly, and capture and ransom each other during the months of the year when little attention is needed for the farms and animals. Large towns are either city-states, or very large and fat clans that have grown into something else.

What symbol represents this clan? - 1d20
[1] Twisted Knots, they are known for their scheming nature.

[2] The dopey face of a manatee. They farm these animals in shallow aquiculture swamps and pools around their territory; their fat and oil is sold to make soap and to power lanterns.

[3] An iron bloom getting struck by a mallet. They pride themselves on their iron.

[4] Several moons orbiting the suggested curve of the world. One of the moons depicted is a secret moon that nobody sees in the night sky and only the greatest Wizards and Astrologers know of it. Yet the clan knows of it and has even drawn its color and a few of its trenches.

[5] The severed head of a goblin. This clan hunts goblins in its spare time, and its youth include goblin slaying in their rites of passage.

[6] Crossed Axes. Strong warrior culture.

[7] Black Arrow on a white canvas. They decide the chieftain by archery contests.

[8] Woman playing a harp by a stream, her hair is black at the root and slowly turns gold as it goes out to the tips. This image and associated legend is based on the clan's mythical origin story; the blood of that demigoddess runs through them.

[9] Clay pot with a tongue poking out the lid and licking the rim. This image is based off of a centuries old in-joke that nobody gets anymore.

[10] Unicorn getting its neck broken by a burly warrior.

[11] An eyeball about to get punctured by a big spiky point. The clan only uses this in wartime to intimidate foes, and covers the symbol with cloth when at home, since it's an uncomfortable image.

[12] Three red bars atop a green circle.

[13] Runic glyph. Takes four common runes meaning Strength, Honor, Family, and Faith and bends them into a lotus flower like shape. Takes a few minutes to realize that it's made of runes.

[14] Green apple with a bloody hole on the side; a lion's head is peeking out.

[15] Man riding a horse and lifting a huge sword above his head. The sword is as long as the horse. The real sword is just as big, and hung up in the clan hall by ropes. It's so heavy and large that no normal warrior could ever use it.

[16] Four squares of different colors; each one represents one of the four families of this clan.

[17] Man wrestling a bull by the horns. Due to the bad artwork, posture, and anatomy it looks vaguely sexual and unintentionally hilarious.

[18] Spear with a blue ribbon tied just beneath the head. The warriors adorn their spears the same.

[19] Three stones with glowing magical winds overhead. The clan welcomes magic users and trades spells. Their resident magicians aren't very powerful, but have useful hearth magic.

[20] Generic dragon breathing fire. Nobody in the clan has ever actually killed a dragon.

There are two primary metals that are vital to the life of the people and the clans. There is Pale and there is Iron. Pale is called Pale Gold, White Gold, or Electrum. It's got some of the shine and color of gold, but lighter and softer, plus it has some of the luster of silver before it tarnishes, along with other metals. It's value is high enough for wealth, but not so high that people can't use it in their day to day life. 

While a handful of coins or bits of coin can pay your daily expenses, thousands of coins are a small fortune. If you want bigger currency, use gemstones. Pale has some of the power to harm and turn monsters; which is why it is forged into holy symbols or made into magically protective charms. The only people who have pure silver or pure gold are the dwarves, who view Pale as a resource for further refining into pure metals.

Iron needs no introduction.

Where does the clan gather metal? - 1d20 - Roll once for Pale and once for Iron
[1] Meteorites fall in their valley. They keep the kids and elders awake at night so they can watch where the fall, and the clan members will seek them out in the morning. Sometimes, a big meteorite will land outside of the valley, and the warriors are summoned to go get it. This clan claims ownership of all meteorites that they see fall, and so feuds with other clans over them are common.

[2] From the bellies of big dumb Auegors. They're like ogres or trolls, but have a goat head, no arms, and are objectively not people so don't even ask. They stayed tied down their whole life and the clan force feeds them scraps and other inedibles. Once they get old enough and turn gray in the fur, they are slaughtered and their bellies are cut open to take out the raw, unprocessed ore. Occasionally, one will slip loose and stomp a few villagers to death or break some fences and have to be put down since they're really hard to catch.

[3] They don't. They need to trade, steal, or war with other clans to get this metal.

[4] Within Brandybrock cave. The more they dig out, the further they have to go inside, and they're starting to dig into a monster cave deep underground.

[5] Every baby in this clan grows unusual metal teeth during their first few years; 1d4+1 if iron and just 1 or 2 if Pale. These fall out naturally as normal baby teeth do, and are gathered and melted down and shared among the clan based on the parents and who needs it the most. Hellish for nursing mothers. The clan keeps this secret, lest they be enslaved.

[6] The clan's oldest females gather around to share the secret of spinning the metal out of cotton and wool. It's kept a secret for a reason; it is said anyone who reveals the secret outside of the clan will suffer unimaginably and naturally destroy the clan too. Spinning too much thread at once will anger the spirits as well; so the old seamstresses go slow and produce a steady supply of special thread.

[7] In little nuggets on the ground, you can just walk up to them and pick them up. They get taken advantage of by every other clan though, and the nuggets are getting harder to find in recent years. The youth are berating the elders for wasting their precious treasures like fools.

[8] The clan digs up ore in their hills. Those hills are cursed too; everyone who goes out there either comes back with a broken bone, raspy lungs that take years to heal, or a sneaky monster terrorizes the camp where the diggers sleep. The clan sends their upstart youths, undesirables, cowards, and hot heads looking for something to prove up there.

[9] Yearly wrestling competitions with the orcs from the ridge. The orcs wear humanoid masks and your people wear pig-like when they meet them, but everyone knows they're orcs and they all know you're not. This is the only circumstance when you can meet the monsters without bloodshed; the orcs grant ingots to those who can beat them at a wrestling competition. Other clans think you're a bunch of pig fuckers and can't be trusted.

[10] They pan for it on the side of the river, swishing that silt around over and over to get a few tiny shards. It's boring work, but eventually it yields the metal they need.

[11] They gather it from the bright red grasses that grow on their lands. The grasses are gathered up in huge piles, burned in bonfire celebrations, and the ash is sieved again and again to pluck out the metal bits. Since the grass naturally absorbs the metal in the earth, any animal who eats the grasses here will get sick and die, so this clan cannot have herds of animals unless they are carefully managed or raised in a far off valley.

[12] Sacrifices of food, cloth, and deeds declared in favor of the Gods are common among the yearly festival. The children place out wicker baskets covered in cloth and by morning, they are filled with iron or pale. Sometimes they are filled with stone instead, which is a sign of not enough sacrifices and a lack of proper respect to the Gods.

[13] This clan has enslaved a small tribe of badger-people to mine ore for them. The badgers walk naked and are total simpletons, but their culture hints at them being more then mere animals. In exchange for water and food, they must dig and give up their ore. Some of the clan fear an eventual uprising or divine retribution for this industry.

[14] Once ever few years, the sacred tree this clan tends to sprouts an iron apple, or once every few decades if it's pale gold. It's purity is quite a sight to behold. It has a great shine which makes it more valuable before it is worked into other units, and very rare high value trade deals between this clan and another might involve a full sacred apple as a payment or dowry.

[15] This clan borders a large lake or the ocean itself. Within the deep water is a massive shipwreck filled with ingots, but the best swimmers can only get down there long enough to grab a handful before returning to the surface. Those who swim too greedily drown from the extra weight. The location of this shipwreck is a mystery to outsiders, but the clan incorporates fish, splashing waves, or boats split in half in their iconography.

[16] The clan has a large store of this metal, reclaimed from an ancient time and placed within a sealed tomb. Those who do not know the passwords and secret ways will find a dangerous dungeon, its defenders ready to defend the clan's treasure to the death. For the clan however, it is easy to extract some of the metal when they need it, and restocking the treasure hoard for future generations is always on their mind.

[17] Odd, bright colored lichen grows on the rocks on the rivers and streams. Huge quantities of it are scrapped off, left to dry, and forged to create a tiny amount of the metal. The clan keeps careful watch of the lichen and hunts it almost to extinction each time they need metal, but always leave enough so it can grow back.

[18] This clan farms rocks. They push the rocks around a field, angling their shadows, and flipping them over. Over the months, the rocks slowly grow from pebbles to boulders. When they split the rocks open there is anticipation; some years they find good ore and eat well, others it is full of clay and they starve. They also sell the rocks to masons; but all rocks lose their growth once they leave the farm.

[19] They collect colorful sand from the nearby dunes and beaches. They then pour special acids on it to make it into grit ore. The only people who know how to make the acid are the villager elders and shamans, but they have no qualms selling it to outsiders for weapons or other uses.

[20] This clan is warlike and managed to capture a wealthy member of royalty from the next kingdom or empire over. Due to the complex exchange rates, value of firstborn sons, weighted scales involving ore and a very fat, very old cow the clan keeps just for this purpose; the clan is owed a stipend of ingots of this metal every three months. The royalty find it easier just to pay this due and its ungodly interest rate; so the clan has a form of income forever, as long as somebody with sense doesn't just kill them. If the shipment arrives late, the clan will kill all but one of the wagoners anyway. Dicks.

Clan Religion & Beliefs
Instead of worshiping a single God or following the doctrine of a massive church, Clans worship numerous smaller Gods according to their myths and legends. Some clans are Pantheistic, and all things are divine, or worship spirits of nature, or worship individual Gods or families of Gods, or they worship living beings- especially if they are primitive or under the beings control.

Clans can also be very superstitious and find the natural magic of the world more at home to them. To live in harmony with the monsters, magic, anomolies, nature spirits, and powerful-god like beings they find out in the world they have to develop superstitions and special practices.

What special belief is followed in this clan? - 1d20
[1] This clan respects the symbolism of the eye. Depicted as either a single eye or three columns and rows of eyes. Eyes carved on trees, rocks, and items owned by this clan are under their watch, and their sages can peek through them to spy in their territory.

[2] Living God- Giant yellow slug that lives in a ravine. The slug is from a time before order; and as such elements mix into mists and slime in its presence; it is resistant to magic and has other powers too. Magic users of the clan can treat their counterspell abilities as though they were one level higher; breaking enemy magic into useless elemental slurry. The clan must sacrifice a person, preferably a young boy, to the slug once every few decades to keep it sated. They prefer to capture the boy from another clan or grab an orphan and adorn him with pearls and give him nothing but good days before throwing him down, but will use one of their own children to avoid the wrath of the ancestral slug.

[3] It is said if you get lost in the bog, you will be cursed to wander it eternally. Very old warriors and men from the clan may venture into the bog to avoid death from old age; they would rather die after many years of wandering to a monster then from natural causes.

[4] The warriors of this clan brand themselves with black ash tattoos along with upper arms and legs. It is said to grant strength and virility.

[5] The purest stream in their clan grounds is forbidden to all members. Nobody can drink from it; instead a single golden cup is used to carry some of the pure stream water to sprinkle on their crops each year during the summer, and because of this their crops grow tall and strong and they have not known famine for a long time. Drinking from the stream or stealing the chalice would break their magic, and cause much suffering and chaos.

[6] This clan's leadership only makes decisions with the clan elder's advice and blessings in mind. Whenever they need guidance, they visit the burial sites of their ancestors and sleep on the graves. This is not seen as disrespectful, and in fact the ancestors memories and visions of the future seep up into the dreams of the living. While cryptic, these supernatural visions can help lead the clan.

[7] The blood, sweat, and tears of this clan have seeped into the soil, plants, and animals of their clan territory. The land itself seems “aware” and aligned with the clan in some ways; invaders find thorny bushes growing in their path, the wild animals fight with ferocity towards them whilst being docile towards clan members, and secret caves and hiding places seem to open only for the clan in their hours of need, revealing their hidden treasures.

[8] Whenever the clan members replace old limbs or body parts with new ones; either simple prosthetic like peg legs or hand hooks, or if regrown by magic or some advanced fantasy technology; the clan is always suspicious of these new body parts as being life draining to the host. They tie ribbons around these body parts and paint them sacred colors to protect the wearer. This even applies to mobility tools like crutches and walking canes, as well as eye patches.

[9] Every child paints their right foot and places it against the soft floor stones of the clan house's grand hall. The stone slab floor is covered in little feet prints, with the older generations so faded away as to be replaced by the march of the younger feet.

[10] The youthful young women of the clan, waiting to be wed, sneak into bear caves in the winter to braid their fur. This is extremely dangerous, but is said to give the women the strength of the mother bear and make the bears more docile in spring and summer. This is true, and the clan warriors have been known to live among the bears, or even ride them into battle in the old days.

[11] There are rare blue birds that live in these clan grounds. Anyone who kills one is to be killed by the clans warriors, no exceptions, as they are sacred and peaceful birds. Outsiders who kill the birds on purpose or on accident are also killed by the clan's warriors. Feathers taken from these birds abandoned nests and used to make arrows let the arrows fly true.

[12] The monsters that live nearby this clan are placated once a year by a sacrifice. The clan members bring out food, some treasures, crafts, and place it on an altar with red candles. Because of this sacrifice, the clan is not harassed by the monsters, but this protection ends the moment you try to sneak into their lair.

[13] Every warrior is supposed to make their own first weapon; usually a knife or short cudgel made of iron. While rough and low quality, these weapons are said to be especially trusty and can come in handy right when the warrior needs them most.

[14] This clan has erected standing stones, circling them during different parts of a person's life is traditional. Their magic grants protection to the clan's homes and horses, and the tallest stone is actually carved into the shape of a horse's head.

[15] The clan follows the movement of the stars and astral bodies religiously. Every thing is planned from the movement of the stars; insults and wars with other clans are set on a schedule by the star charts, marriages, times to reap and sow, celebrations, and so on. While restrictive, the clan are the masters of the most accurate calendar of all the clans and know the secrets of navigation by the stars; they could cross the ocean as long as they had a ship capable of the journey.

[16] There is a huge black stone, half buried at the foot of a mountain. The clan has it covered with a quilt and believes it is a gateway between worlds. Spells involving summoning or calling beings, either dead or unnatural, count as one level higher if cast with this stone. The clan protects the stone and uses tales of curses and horrible diseases given off by the stone to keep outsiders away.

[17] Freshly born infants have a small “belt” of beads tied around their waist in their cribs. The number of beads varies in both size and color, but it's always at least 60 or more. This is supposed to ward away vampires from sucking on the infant's blood, as they will be too busy counting the beads to drain the life of the infant away before morning comes. Clerics who wear these beads get +1 to turn undead rolls vs vampires and other bloodsucking undead.

[18] Dogs in this clan are forced to bow their heads to their masters before being fed any kind of meat or table scraps of meat; lest the dog think themselves above their station. This clan states that the dire wolves that kill travelers in their territory were once loyal lapdogs corrupted by pride and arrogance.

[19] Anything as technologically advanced as a crossbow is considered bad luck by this clan, and they refuse to sell or work on these devices, and prefer if people keep them away. They attract gremlins; little creatures that create bad luck and misfortune, and they seem to be drawn to technology. Magic and knowledge doesn't have this same stigma.

[20] This clan worships an unusual, somewhat malevolent God. They are a hard people, and in secret the offerings and worship they grant to the God are all based to keep the God slumbering, at peace, and in the false belief that the world worships it. This way, they can restrain its evil only to their own people, and this noble secret makes them most righteous among all the clans.

Culture of Gifts
To these people, honor and glory are more important then physical gain. The hard work of one mans life could easily be taken by fire or an unruly heir, and with monsters and the lack of central organization to fight them means that heroes must step forward to slay them instead. As such, hoarding of physical wealth or possessions is considered bad, where as giving and spending is considered good.

This is further pushed home by the spent gold for XP system; players hoarding wealth gain no benefit from it, they must spend in order to get experience. You could also say only money spent at the end of a session counts, and all money hoarded up is just useful for purchasing but grants for no XP- you have to spend it as soon as possible. To make this more extreme, award bonus XP for money spent on frivolous things, OR to fit it into the Iron Age mindset more, grant bonus XP for gold and treasure gifted to other clans and their leaders.

What treasure does this clan have / what gift did you receive? - 1d20
[1] Collection of 74 silver eggs. Each has a sliding mechanism, which opens the egg with the right combination of twists. Every egg has a lead ball inside, which you can hear by rattling the egg. One egg hides a golden “yolk” that is a small ball made of solid gold instead.

[2] Blowing horn. When blown, creates a tremendous noise that inspires courage in allies, granting +1 morale. The horn is enchanted by a warrior's magic, and cannot be used by meager magic users.

[3] The channeling stick. If used outside and swung over the head in great circles, this stick draws in all magical energies for many miles away to your position; mostly drawn from the land, but sometimes drawn from the people as well, such as nearby magic users losing a spell slot for a day. The magic is gathered to the place where the user dictates and is nearby; such as down a well or around their home in a spell of protection. It can only be used once in a generation- which means the stick can only be swung if the last person to swing the stick is now very old and a new generation has taken over.

[4] The shell of a tortoise, the rim of each hole has been painted with gold and the shell has been carved and slotted with rubies of all shapes and sizes.

[5] Ice box. The inside is infused with magical ice that is very hard to melt through traditional heat. Can store food over longer periods then normal; only large enough to hold a few days worth of foodstuffs though; it's the thought that counts.

[6] The femur of a giant, it's life story engraved on every curve. The engraving features a small humanoid figure bearing a banner with the clan's symbol on it at one point in the story with the clan claiming that's how their great ancestor knew this giant, but some have accused them of adding that engraving once they found the femur as a bad fanfiction.

[7] Red wig of charm and fortitude. Woven from red wooly mammoth hair, fits pretty well, grants a bonus of +1 to Constitution AND Charisma, while worn, as long as it is pristine and properly kept dry and safe in its box while you sleep. You have to be bald to use it.

[8] Frog sculpted from a piece of pure copper, with emeralds for eyes. Several quartz crystals of only moderate value make up the warts on its back.

[9] Well crafted axe with runes along the stained wood handle. The blade is painted with red and orange stripes, and is so sharp as to count as magic until dinged or dulled.

[10] Ugly little pink primordial fish in a clay pot. It can live in salt or fresh water, only needs to eat a tiny amount of scum, and simply needs new clean water every few weeks to stay alive. The fish can be kept as a pet, and seems to live forever, but can also be cooked and salted to make a delicious dish fit for a chieftain.

[11] Three old monster bones, rubbed and polished. Look like oblong river stones, three dark black lines horizontal on each.

[12] Lantern, made of Pale. It's light radius can act as a holy symbol.

[13] Four differently colored dragon scales, glued together and arranged in a pyramid shape. The empty space between them practically glow when they hit the light just right.

[14] Small spinning-star weapon made of carved bone, fused with four dinosaur talons as the spikes. Actually effective, returns after being thrown, minor magic weapon.

[15] Well carved wooden cylinder with a lid and carrying strap. Within are hundreds of sticks, wrapped up in paper, used for incense and the making of different colors and kinds of smoke. Many of them have soothing or regenerative properties, warding away disease, and one is even said to grant wishes, as long as the wish is humble enough for the smoke's liking.

[16] Flat bits of silver, each one inscribed with a prayer to a local God. Each has a hole in the end, and they are tied together by a yellow lanyard.

[17] Suit of armor. Small packs of dirt are stuffed in compartments along the shoulders, chest and back, real grass grows out of the armor giving excellent camouflage and a closeness to nature.

[18] Magic horse. White coat with a natural yellow stripe down its neck to its flank, long black mane and tail. Random gender. This horse doesn't get tired as long as it is being ridden, and can go for days without exhaustion, but the horse offloads some of the strain of being ridden on its rider. If ridden for more then 5 days straight, the rider will find themselves unable to walk for each day over the 5 days they rode the horse without a break.
The horse's name is (1d4) Donvan – Beltfast – Yimmer – Tusslemane

[19] Magic knots along a red string, there are 14 of them. The knots can only be unwoven by a debt repaid, and as such this string and its magic knots are essentially a kind of currency.

[20] Cured leather helmet, made of a hammerhead shark. Is magic, +1 AC, immune to many spells that would try to destroy it, grants +1 initiative, headbutt instantly breaks apart all skeletal creatures of 3 HD or less. The piece of headgear is coveted among many clans, and thieves are sure to come if you reveal you own it.


  1. Another great post, I love the Where Does the Clan Gather Metal list so much I wanted to write one of my own.

    "The church holds an enormous sacred chunk of iron ore kept hidden under and guarded. It is rationed off as the gods please, and is only to be chipped off by children who are ceremoniously blinded. In their old age those blinded hear the whispers of the gods and are respected sages. Most of this is a ruse, and in truth, the priest is a sorcerer who made a deal with a devil for the children's eyes. He is becoming ill in his old age."

    1. Interesting! Leads the way to potential intra-clan conflict.