Your characters home will not only help shape your character background and ties with others but also be a key story point of your game. The community in whcih you live is not intended to provide characters with mechanical advantages or in game resources, but instead to provide a solid foundation for your character to build their story upon.
World events, player action, victories and losses will all have an impact on your community, generating information for your pre-game briefs and in game objectives enabling a personalised roleplay experience at the events themselves.
When bringing your village or community to life, you will need to decide on two key terrain types which help describe the geography of your village and surrounding area. Some examples are given below but feel free to define your own.
- Good Farmland
Common in the Summerlands and rarer elsewhere, these are the rolling fields and open spaces perfect for the rudimentary farming practices undertaken by the Albanni. Good farmland or grazing land is a blessing - and a source of envy for other communities.
Found throughout the lands of the Albanni though obviously a characteristic of almost all Greenwood communities. Forests can take on an almost mystical guise, deep and dark the light struggles to penetrate the canopy in the winter months. Larger forests can mean enclaves of Those Who Went Before.
The seas around Alba are both a source of sustenance and anguish for those who live near them. Coastal communities will have fisherfolk and skill with boats - but are more open to attack from the sea, from whence most of the threats against Alba originate.
- Hill Country
Commonly found in the North Country and the Old Country but can be anywhere (though rare indeed in the Fenlands, where this marks a hill fort). Hills provide more resources for the makers and crafters of the community - mines and excavations for stone and precious metals - but food can sometimes be scarce.
Suitable habitable cave systems that can sustain a whole village are not unheard of, and are often rich in metals. Those who dwell out of the light of day sometimes find that other things like to lair in caves too, though, and more than one Keeper has sought out a community in a cave only to find it mysteriously decimated.
Dangerous, wet and magical places are the swamps of the Fenlands, though renes, meres and bogs can be found in any of Alba's lands. Here can be found strange and magical plants, a higher than usual risk of encountering Those Who Came Before or worse, and frequent rot and degradation of community assets.
Isolated small communities occupy islands found amongst lakes and wide rivers, or off the coast of the main territories. Islands are defensible, but easily cut off; their resources are limited, but unlikely to be challenged by other communities.
Most common in the North Country and the Old Country and prohibited for the Fenlands. Mountains are stark and inaccessible, isolated and often harsh in terms of the conditions. Those who dwell on them are hardy in the extreme and know their land well to be able to survive there.
As well as the geographical element we’ll also be ask that you think about your characters community, practices and their place in it. With isolation being such a significant theme of Alba chances are these will be unique and very personal to each community. You must ensure that these fit the setting and remain within the respect guidelines/policy.
- How does it function?
- Who is the leader?
- What practices do the village hold dear?
- What are your legends and stories?
- Which gods and spirits figure in your group history?
Sacrifice and the Festival
Sacrifice is a way of life among the Albanni. Throughout the year, Druids communicate the Gods' desires for specific sacrifice and it falls to the Hunters to provide that sacrifice for them through the year. These are the Offerings of the Day - a part of daily life. There is however a second kind of sacrifice that whole communities of Albanni participate in.
Each Albanni community approaches sacrifice in their own way, but there are some constants. On a chosen sacred day every year, many Albanni communities hold a great annual festival and mass tribute to the gods and the spirits - some will load a boat high with offerings and send it out to sea, some will gather prisoners from raids and hold a great and bloody hunt, some will build a great effigy of straw and wicker and fill it with tribute before burning it at sunset. Each community has it's own tradition.
Some communities also have the tradition of the King or Queen of the Harvest - also known as Queen for a Day, the May King, and so forth. This is a chosen sacrifice - one of the community who has willingly chosen to be the centrepiece of the festival sacrifice to the gods, and as such enjoys a special blessing from them. Such nominated sacrifices may rule for a day, a weekend or a year - and enjoy favour from the gods inversely proportional to the length of their reign. Such blessings are always dependent on their willing sacrifice though. A May King who reneges on his sacrifice brings a terrible curse down on himself and his community.
- Do the people of your community celebrate a unique festival each season?
- How is sacrifice conducted by your Hunters?
- What is your yearly festival? How does your community make it's annual tribute at festival?
- Does your community celebrate a Nominated Sacrifice?
- If so, how are they chosen - by lot? By volunteer? Chosen?
- How long do they reign?
Travel in the World of Alba is neither common nor safe and it is extremely rare for individuals to stray a day or more from their own village without the company of a Keeper. There are no maps to guide and the landscape is fraught with those who seek to harm those who dare wander their territory. And that is just during the day - the perils of travelling overnight are magnified tenfold.
At night, the Other Place closes in and an unwary traveller can find themselves lost for ever. Anyone daring to travel during the night - or to travel more than a day's journey from the safety of their community - runs a massive risk of becoming lost in The Other Place.
Those who are so lost may find themselves hundreds of miles - or hundreds of years - from where they began their journey with no way to return to their lost homes - if, indeed, they survive at all. The Other Place is home to many beings who crave what humans can give them and will be loath to let one such out of their grasp. Spirits roam free; Those Who Came Before work their designs, and the dark beasts of legend crave the hot blood and flesh of the Albanni who stray.
With the knowledge of their predecessors passed down generation after generation the Keepers are adept at navigating the lands of Alba during the day - and have the wisdom and skill to avoid the dangers of travelling at night too. Only the Keepers know the ways between villages that avoid the pitfalls of The Other Place - closely guarded hidden paths keep them and their wards safe, charms of passing unseen and unnoticed, and ancient places of power where one can shelter safely for the night.
There are some cases - especially in the Summerlands - where villages are close enough together that some contact might occur between them, but this tends to create rivalry and hostility between communities and reinforces the insular community aspect of the home village.
The result of this lack of travelling (with the exception of the Keepers) is that the people of Alba see where they are now as home, even adopting the local traditions, garments and Woad. It is possible that a character was born in the Old Country and travelled north with a Keeper, or was one of the lucky ones who survived a trip through The Other Place, but once settled they would consider themselves a member of the Northlands.
Why Maps Don't Matter
While the game team have an out of character map of Alba which we use for a variety of purposes, we do not envisage publishing it. Maps, like writing, are a technology currently beyond the grasp or understanding of the Albanni, and would mean nothing to a culture where anything beyond a day's travel is a mystical unknown.
Alba's fluid borders and shifting landscape and the influence of The Other Place make maps a nonsense - and the line between the Lands of Alba is one that is decided by the people and the land, not by an arbitrary line. While Alba draws extensively on British folk legend and myth, Alba is not the island of Britain, and assuming direct correlations between the regions of Alba and the equivalent regions of Britain may lead you to the wrong conclusions.
Nor should you assume that the way the Keepers safely move from community to community is via secret maps. They may have other means of understanding the safe tracks between communities that do not pass through The Other Place.
In Alba, faith is your map and imagination your compass. Let go of everything you think you know and embrace legend.