Sunday, September 22, 2013

Frisland: The County of Hosseta

Continued from "Frisland: Maegryn of Searock"

Bulwark of Freedom, Inheritors of the Glorious Banner, Shining Heart of Frisland and Greatest County of them all. . . Not everyone agrees, but Hossetan inflated pride is easily pardoned thanks to their popular beers and fine chocolates.

Mystara Alphatian Frisland Hex Map
County of Hosseta -- Map Scale: 1 hex = 8 miles
Hosseta is the smallest of Frislandic dominions. Its origins go back to a small Alphatian kingdom carved out of the wilderness, before the time of Old Argonath. Tucked between the Malfati River and the northern Kerothar Range, it survived the unkindness of time and war. After the ill-fated Orzafeth crusade had foundered, its old dynasty was replaced as the result of its duplicity in the plot to misinform imperial circles. When the Kingdom of Greater Frisland was reestablished, the small realm returned in the form of a county subject to royal authority in Shiell, with imperial supervision from Sundsvall.

About 130 miles north to south and 120 miles east to west, Hosseta’s plains rise westward from the Malfati River to the Kerothar foothills, culminating with the Beatha Spur in the north and the Frislandic Range in the west. The Beatha and Hossa Rivers bisect the county, ensuring well irrigated farmland. Aside from cattle-raising in settled areas, mining is the mainstay of the Hossetan economy, producing mostly iron and tin. Other specialties include clockmaking, banking, and chocolate confection. Climate is similar to Shiell’s, though much drier as the result of mountains in the west blocking moisture.

Population: A population of nearly 85,000 inhabitants stretches mostly along the rivers, from the seat of the county at Bogotus to Barzal and Azaht. Bogotus boasts 8,500 people, or one tenth of the county’s entire population. Three-quarters of Hosseta’s lands, however, remain wilderness. Local faith mostly centers around cults of Alphatian immortals, ancient Yanifey beliefs being relegated to the county’s underworld. The map below illustrates the location and density of population (Purple = suburban, Red = settled, Blue = borderland).

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Population Density
Common Hossetans are a mix of Alphatian and Yanifey, with very little Antalian. The latter are generally seen as undesirable heirs to a race of bloodthirsty raiders. As in the rest of Greater Frisland, local aristocracy is of pure Alphatian ancestry. Dwarves are welcome and actively sought after as miners and fine brewers. These are a hardy bunch, headstrong, disinclined to entertain obscure religious debates, and who will defend their excavations against Ogam intrusions. The count has pursued efforts to attract dwarves to this region because of this. Gnomes are also welcome, as they’ve proven their talents in gem-cutting, accounting, and banking. Halflings are tolerated because they’re usually quiet and observant of local culture, as well as talented chocolate makers. They import cocoa beans directly from Davania, through private sources. Elves, on the other hand, aren’t so appreciated. They are seen as uppity and unmanly—no doubt the result of dwarven influence in the region. Repression against anything suspected of bearing ties to the Ogam remains brutal at best. Visitors of dark complexion, such as Isle of Dawn Nithians, are carefully watched when not turned away at the borders. To sum it up, neither the very fair nor the swarthy are appreciated in this place.

Challenges: Hosseta has had to cope with two very real threats throughout its history. Ogam raids from the Baalbeth Vale and the Ogamai area stand as clear and present threats. The town of Bogotus is therefore heavily fortified, and vigilance remains high in the neighboring hills. The presence of three neighboring states, each much larger and more powerful, fostered a wholly defensive mentality in Bogotus. The only time a past monarch agreed to sending an expeditionary force—during the Orzafeth Crusade—it was lost entirely, leaving the kingdom dangerously exposed. This mentality created a cultural idea among Hossetans that they are an island amid a sea of hostility and barbarism. Somehow they believe themselves above all who surround them, thriving in the face of their "larger" neighbors’ arrogance (Hossetans would never say "greater".)

In local opinion, the county is the Bulwark of Freedom, single-handedly protecting the whole of eastern Frisland from the nefarious Ogam, a sentiment no one else shares. Inhabitants see themselves as the best thing after Stoutfellow popped corn because they are united, obedient, and determined to defend what’s theirs—which is true. More than anywhere else in Greater Frisland, this population identifies with its leaders. This mindset led people to be observant of the dos and don’ts of their society, verbally aggressing those who dare defy their well-ordered habits. Following the general sentiment that life ought to be nice, clean, and orderly, people are likely to get riled at the sight of littering, disturbing the peace, jumping lines in a shop, and generally acting in a contradictory manner. Alas, it does fuel an already rampant xenophobia among common folk.

A third challenge has developed in more recent times. Neighboring Wyllareth harbors a large force of Bettellyn knights, just outside Hosseta’s northern border. This bellicose brotherhood is seen as a bully and indeed a danger for the county, not to mention missionaries infiltrating to spread their faiths at the expense of those already established. Although the two dominions are part of the same kingdom, royal authority isn’t very strong and Sundsvall seems very far away. The recent affair that led to the suspicious death of the count’s younger brother did not improve relations between the two dominions. The count’s response was to seek support from Randel. He resorted to the same stratagem as Duchess Elyasatham, labeling Randelese troops as independent mercenaries. The very low cost of these so-called warriors-for-hire, which merely amounts to garrisoning them in Bogotus, implies they are in fact an expeditionary force under the control of King Salmain III in the faraway City of Rardish, the sworn enemy of Bettellyn. King Edjer wasn’t exactly amused by this development, but this time did not object, seeing the Randelese expeditionary force as necessary to eventually expel the Bettellyn knighthood from his kingdom. These troops were able to reach Hosseta from Foresthome, which tacitly tolerated their passage. King Edjer did likewise, as they began disembarking in small groups on the banks of Lake Shiell.

Truth be told, there be dragons in the nearby mountains, which provided an ulterior motive for Randelese mage-knights to show up. Their concern was the protection of these ancient creatures, fearing that they may succumb to the Ogam’s dastardly plots and unholy magic. Some have been swayed by the call of the shamans, and a previously unknown struggle was uncovered among dragonkind. Aghast, local mage-knights have begun recruiting local warriors into their ranks and training others under the count’s authority in a most unorthodox manner. The latter form the Wyvern Brigade, trained in the capture, breeding, and care of wyverns for war purposes. Only eggs or babies are ever taken, as older creatures cannot be safely tamed.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
Armed Forces of Hosseta: year-round household troops amount to a little under 1,000 warriors, nearly all in the county’s capital. Plans have been drafted to construct a fortress at Barzal Bridge, but funding hasn’t materialized. The dominion relies on two skyships, the Bulwark of Freedom and the Spirit of Hosseta, to patrol the hills and the border with Baalbeth Vale. Both vessels employ a resident mage-knight aboard. Among the troops in Bogotus, thirty ride trained wyverns to assist the skyships in their mission or, more ostensibly, as a force of dissuasion for the Bettellyn cohorts waiting just beyond the northern border. The idea is that the Order of the Light’s heavy cavalry is tough to match on open ground, which includes all of the relevant lands in Hosseta. Therefore, if they can’t be matched on the ground, then they will be opposed from the air while remaining out of reach. Furthermore, mature wyverns are strong enough to carry an extra warrior, either crossbowmen or individuals to be dropped behind enemy lines, such as spies, thieves, and spellcasters. A handful of charmed doppelgangers are also ready for the latter mission. Hossetan doctrine rests upon these two main tactics.

The count spends much of his wealth on expanding and maintaining his Wyvern Brigade. Donations are accepted for this purpose, in exchange for which the unit often hosts show-and-tell sessions for children and students, offers free rides, and conducts air shows for the masses during which it performs acrobatics and demonstrations of military prowess. There is also a romantic perception of these magnificent warriors and their flying beasts, which the brigade smartly cultivates. As further promotion, the count also funds occasional air races across Alphatia during which private participants from other realms may compete against the brigade’s best and brightest. Commoners and wealthy folk eagerly contribute, reassured that this force will be their salvation should trouble arise. The names of backers are engraved on the walls of the brigade’s compound.

Diplomacy: Hosseta is the dominion most closely aligned with the Grand Duchy of Frisia and its royal authority. It’s not that the successive counts really enjoy this state of affairs, but since their domain is the smallest in Frisland, they rely on the protection of their king in case of big trouble—a hostile Wyllareth with Bettellyn support on their doorstep qualifies as such. The fear in Hosseta centers on an-almost-guaranteed Ogam invasion taking place during a civil war. Outside the kingdom, relations between the count and Floating Ar remain frosty as the result of the present policy of raising wyverns for military uses. Foresthome and Randel are friendly, while Bettellyn is hostile, even more now that Hosseta willingly harbors beasts of chaos. Sundsvall is concerned about these recent developments, but observes with keen interest growing Hossetan skills with militarizing wyverns. Relations are cordial with Stoutfellow, while those with Shiye-Lawr remain distant. Because of Hosseta’s favorable ties with Foresthome, however, Ambur tends to ignore the count. The dominion’s association to Randel has also sparked shenanigans from shadowy Eadriners seeking to provoke a fight between the Bettellyners and the Randelese expeditionary force. As for the remainder of the southern kingdoms, Theranderol in particular, they just like Hosseta’s fine chocolates, which they import at great cost (it's the extent of what most people down south know of this obscure northern county).

Joining the League: Although they aren’t considered knights with an Immortal connection, Wyvern Riders of Hosseta form a league of their own. To become a candidate one must benefit from personal vouching by a military commander in good standing or a member of the count’s family, as well as undergo evaluation by a mage-knight. Any class may apply although a candidate, preferably of slim or athletic build, must stand between 5’6" and 6’2" tall and have a Strength and Wisdom of no less than 13. Having successfully fulfilled these requirements, a magical oath of loyalty to the count must be sworn, as well as the vow to treat wyverns in a humane manner. There is an unspoken duty to uphold truth and honor among wyvern riders, as well as to behave in a way becoming a respectable Hossetan. This implies the order is only open to Lawful and Neutral members. If a skill system is used, the candidate should allocate available choices to animal husbandry and wyvern riding.

Inherent Dangers: Mounts selected for service undergo rigorous conditioning to curb their Chaotic nature. As a result, they are Neutral. Even then, they can be a treacherous lot. Anytime they sustain a wound, there is a 1% chance per point of damage sustained minus the experience level of its rider that the beast strikes its own master with its poisonous sting. The stabbing isn’t willful, but merely a reaction to pain; it requires a successful attack roll with a +2 modifier to hit (save vs. poison or die).

Rules of Engagement: A new member is given a 1 HD wyvern to care for. At this age, a wyvern is too small to carry a rider. At levels 2 and 3, riders are considered apprentices and never sent into combat, though they may serve as scouts, messengers, and squires for more senior riders. Wyverns with 2-3HD can only carry one lightly armored rider. Riders and mounts between 4-5 HD are often used on patrols with rules of engagement limiting their involvement; if either rider or mount are wounded, they must withdraw. Until their wyverns reach their maximum HD, riders sustain a –50% penalty on earned experience, which enables their mounts to gain new HD at the same rate their handlers reach new levels. As they do, a bond forms between rider and beast, enabling them to communicate telepathically up to a mile per experience level. The wyvern loses half its HD and returns to wilderness if its rider dies. On the other hand, the rider loses half as many HD as the wyvern had (rounded up), should the mount be killed. There is perceived dishonor in allowing one’s steed to perish, or following a course of action resulting in the same outcome. Depending on circumstances, that rider could be banned from the brigade. Posses will be sent to eliminate traitors and deserters.

Because of their small size and weight, halflings and gnomes are often sought after as backseat auxiliaries able to shoot light crossbows or cast spells while in flight. Although they bear no personal connections with wyverns like riders do, they are trained to remain in the saddle during sudden maneuvers. Some attempts have been made to harness chariots designed for dwarven warriors, but so far a worthwhile solution remains to be found.

Wyvern Abilities: As the result of the mind link between beast and rider, mounts learn new abilities from their masters. Abilities depend on the character classes and levels of the riders. Elves and clerics can select either the first or the second categories listed below. Once the choice is made, it cannot be changed.

  • Fighters, Elves, Clerics, Mystics: Their wyverns’ hit points are 1d6+3 per HD, and they benefit from the same saving throws as their masters’. Fighting wyverns are trained to enable riders to attack with lances; they also can wear plate barding providing a +2 AC bonus (chest and neck—see the effect of weight on the Flying Mounts Table). The mounts of mystics have the special abilities awareness, heal self, and speak with animal when those become available to their riders, but they aren’t trained to wear armor; these special abilities come in addition to the riders’ (they both are aware and both can heal self). Fighting wyverns have a functional Intelligence of 4.
  • Spellcasters: These wyverns make their saving throws as their riders and can cast 1/3 of the spells available to their masters, rounded up. For example: a level 15 cleric has 6 first level spells and 5 each of the second and third level spells; the wyvern can therefore cast up to two each of the cleric’s spell levels. A wyvern cannot cast spells higher than level three. These spells are those memorized by the riders (they are not additional spells). Rider and mount can cast these spells simultaneously. A wyvern releases magic generally at the behest of its rider. Spontaneous spellcasting requires an Intelligence check—these wyverns have an Intelligence of 8 and can read if taught. Although they do not comprehend the true nature of wizardly or clerical magic, they do understand the basic casting of spells. These mounts cannot be trained to carry any armor.
  • Thieves: wyverns of thieves, spies, and other rogue-type riders have the same saving throws as their masters’ and comparable abilities to hear noise, hide in shadows and "fly" silently. They may wear leather barding, giving their AC rating a +1 bonus, and have the skill to perform aerial acrobatics based on their riders’ Dexterity scores.  When they do, their Maneuvering Factor temporarily increases to 5, but during the following round their MF drops to 1.  Roguish wyverns have a functional Intelligence of 6, and their top flying speed is 10'/round faster (MV 90’(30’)/270’(90’).

New Wyvern Breeds: the most common mounts are brown, red, or rust-red. Rarer breeds do exist: however, they only reach 6HD at maturity. They include black, pale blue, green, and undead wyverns. These require a special expedition to find and must be acquired before they hatch, except for the undead wyvern, which will find its own rider.

  • Black: the "black widow" has the ability to dimension door up to three times during night hours, when no more than starlight or the glow of the moon pervades its surroundings. This ability affects its riders and all carried equipment. Nocturnal, black widows fight with a –1 penalty to hit, to their AC, and to their saving throws during daylight hours. They can be trained to wear barding if it’s entirely black. They only accept female riders.
  • Blue: these mounts have an iridescent quality making them invisible in flight during daylight hours. This invisibility is relevant only to those observing from the sides or below, and it extends to their riders if they wear blue outfits. The top skin on their wings and back is dark blue, conferring 50% concealment from above when flying over the sea. They do not accept barding of any kind. These only bond with male riders, and show a more marine-oriented nature than other wyverns. They favor large fish as the mainstay of their diets. Blues can dive into water like kingfishers, slither beneath the surface for 1d6+3 rounds to catch prey, and then sally upward to the surface from where they resume flight.
  • Green: these are sylvan natives of the Shyie-Lawr, with an affinity for elvenkind and druids when properly conditioned. They are of a dark green color with lighter colored "tiger-stripes" conferring 90% concealment when in woods or when observed from above as they fly over a forest. This concealment applies to their riders as well if they wear a green outfit. Such steeds have a 15% anti-magic property, but cannot be trained to accept barding of any kind.
  • Undead: zombie-like in appearance, undead wyverns only favor the most chaotic riders, such as avengers, vampires, greater mummies, black hags, or liches. They require a +1 or better weapon to hit, radiate fear within a 15’ radius, can travel the ethereal, can breathe hot smoke during combat (-2 penalty to hit and damage to its foes), and are immune to sleep, charm, hold, paralyzation, and poison. When they kill with their sting attacks, undead wyverns regenerate 1d4 hp per HD slain. They can wear barding only if they had been trained to do so during their living years. Clerics can Turn them as spectres (or as their undead riders, if more powerful than the mounts).

BECMI Wyvern: AC 3, HD7**, MV 90’(30’)/240’(80’), #AT 1 bite/1 sting, Dmg 2d8/1d6 + poison, Save F4, ML9, TT E, Int 3, AL Chaotic. Special Abilities: poison sting (save vs. poison or die). Terrain: mountains or woods. Load: 3,500cn at full speed, 7,000cn at half speed. Armor costs triple the price of horse barding.

First Ed. Wyvern: AC3, HD 7+7, MV 6"/24", TT E, #AT 1 bite/1 sting, Dmg 2d8/1d6 + poison, Int low, AL NE, Size L (35’ long). Special Abilities as above.

Flying Mounts Table
Air Speed
MF & Takeoff
Cost (gp)
Monthly Upkeep
Gear & Armor
Capacity (cn)*
MF 5 (b)
30 gp
MF 3 (b)
50 gp
MF 3 (b)
70 gp
MF 3 (b)
90 gp
(*) An average rider and gear weigh 2,000cn. A wyvern may carry twice its rated capacity at half speed, and its maneuverability drops to MF 1 (c). Statistics and game mechanics are explained in the Dawn of the Emperors boxed set.

Lord Gautharam, Count of Hosseta

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
Not only is Gautharam the county’s lord, he also commands the Wyvern Brigade. This alleviated a political impasse with his liege, King Edjer, who is now satisfied he has some measure of control over the newly formed league even though foreign instructors are part of its makeup. This departs fundamentally from Wyllareth’s use of Bettellyn paladins sworn to serve the duchess, and the duchess alone. Gautharam’s made sure that the top leadership of the wyvern riders remained permanently in the hands of Hossetan counts, as part of the league’s charter. It is his intention to honorably dismiss Randel’s forces and mage-knight instructors as soon as he feels safe to do so.

Count Gautharam’s present desire is to get back at the Duchess of Wyllareth for what he believes was the murder of his younger brother. He cannot do this personally without causing a war. For this purpose, he has earned the services of a peculiar wyvern rider, Hetman Aethwyrna-Dark-Hand, a talented scout and spy. His plan is to abduct the duchess, kill her, and have Bettellyn paladins framed for her death. He suspects her of being evil and does not understand why Bettellyners have associated with her. Gautharam therefore gave Aethwyrna carte-blanche to operate within Wyllareth, investigate the duchess, and execute his plan when a good opportunity presents itself.

Appearance: Gautharam is typically Alphatian, having blue-black hair which he pulls back and knots, very pale skin, and vivid dark blue eyes. His irises reveal a few golden specks to one who looks closely. The count’s hairline ends in a widow’s peak above a wide brow. Between his eyes is a peculiar omega-figured pucker. Rounded cheekbones enhance his rectangular face, and his strong chin is hidden by a short thick black beard. Gautharam is approximately 6 feet in height: the legendary rod he carries, however, makes him appear taller. His attitude is that of a natural commander, and he uses his deep tenor to snap orders to his lackeys and his troop. He is proud of being the leader of the famous Wyvern Brigade. His unusual floor-length, long-sleeved riding coat is made of several layers of his own mount’s shed skin. It has a wide collar, a box pleat in back from nape to waist, and a split skirt for ease of riding. The few craftspeople who own the talent to produce such garments are highly regarded, and kept sequestered by the count’s orders lest enemies steal their precious secrets. The coat is deep red, and shows all the typical eccentric textures of wyvern skin.

Gautharam: MU15, AC3, hp29, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1 rod, Dmg 1d8+2 or by spell, Save MU15+3, ML10, AL Neutral; St13, In17, Wi14, Dx11, Co10, Ch12. Magical Items: rod of Bogotus, ring of protection +3, robe of the wyvern, dagger +1. Special Abilities: as a magic-user level 15. Rides a dark red wyvern (Vulcana: AC3, 50 hp).

Rod of Bogotus: this family heirloom, the symbol of seigneurial authority in Hosseta, is a three-foot-long white rod embedded with golden laurel leaves. In the hands of a usurper, it inflicts its owner 1d6pts of electrical damage per round when held. In the hands of its rightful owner, it holds 10 charges conferring the following powers: lightning bolt (cost: 1 charge) commune (as the cleric spell, cost: 2 charges), and holy word (as the clerical spell, cost: 4 charges). This rod differs from others in that it bears charges, but they replenish themselves during each full moon. The last two powers require the owner to be a follower of Tarastia, patroness of justice and revenge. The rod inflicts 1d8 points of damage when used in melee combat, and qualifies as a +1 magical weapon.

Robe of the Wyvern: it is a dark red leathery garment generating a basic AC of 6 to is owner. Additional enchantments generate a permanent protection from evil 15’ radius, as well as full immunity to poison.

Hetman Aethwyrna-Dark-Hand, Wyvern Rider

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
A Hetman in the Wyvern Brigade, she commands a swarm—three wyvern riders including her own mount. Her swarm is what would be called in modern terminology a "special ops" unit, trained to fly behind enemy lines, gather intelligence, and cause mayhem of all sorts, such as burning supplies, torching villages, harassing reinforcements, and ambushing leaders. They generally act under the cover of night and hide the day.

Aethwyrna rides a black widow. Her two companions, like her, are rogues, but their mounts are dark brown females called seraphas. Over time, the hetman tracked down the duchess’s origins, and ran across an ancient legend connecting her with the Lady of Searock. Bettellyn paladins have come to notice Aethwyrna’s suspiciously nosy behavior while she mingled with the population in Mafertat, and a small posse was dispatched to capture and interrogate her. They haven’t succeeded yet.

The "dark hand of fate," as some call her, bears a burden of her own. Taking to heart her Randelese-influenced mindset and the bond with her black widow, she’s developed an affinity for black dragons. On her free time, Aethwyrna has taken upon herself to care for a community of draconum noctis dwelling in the hills. Her dark hobby has grown ever so challenging as some have become partial to Ogam influence. She now faces a conflict between protecting these creatures and her loyalty to the count and her peers.

Appearance: Her features are severe and imposing, with a high, wide forehead, intense brown eyes, jutting cheekbones, and a forward-pointing chin. She has just a hint of café au lait to her skin, unnoticeable to casual observers. Her hair is dark brown and chopped short to stay out of her way during while fighting or flying. She stands five foot seven inches, just tall enough to qualify her as a wyvern rider. Her hands are callused from wielding her sword, which she does with considerable ability. All in black, the hetman wears a form-fitting leather suit, covered by a shin-length cloak with a shadowy deep hood. Boots covering her knees and gauntlets protect her from cold air while in flight.

Aethwyrna: T13, AC2/4, hp36, MV 120’(40’), #AT 1, Dmg 1d6+3 + special, Save T13, ML9, AL Neutral; St13, In12, Wi13, Dx17, Co10, Ch11. Magical Items: wyvern cuirass, sword of the wyrm, boots of levitation, Amburian spyglass. Special Abilities: as a thief level 13. Rides a black widow (Soot: AC2, 30 hp; fly silently 70%, hide in shadows 58%, hear noise 87%, dimension door x3 per night).

Wyvern Cuirass: this black leather armor was enchanted with a permanent shield effect (as the wizard spell). It is designed to conceal a thief’s picks and tools, and hold a sword in a sheath on the back and several daggers.

Sword of the Wyrm: this +2 blade bears a slight greenish reflection under normal lighting. Whenever it strikes a foe with an unmodified attack roll of 19+ (15+ with a backstab), the sword oozes a paralyzing venom (save vs. poison negates). Paralysis lasts 1d4+3 turns (minus Constitution bonus if any).

Boot of Levitation: these fine black leather boots enable their owner to stand in mid-air or walk an inch above a surface, enabling quiet movement and the ability to get past certain weight-triggered traps.

Amburian Spyglass: a layer of fine black leather protects much of the silver tube. It is fitted with a Luxoflex-Mini lense and an all-weather imagery adapter acquired illegally from an unregistered Luxoflex Anonymous Dweomercraft merchant.

To be continued. . . Coming next: "The County of Orzafeth"

Special thanks to Geoff Gander for his gracious permission to use his work on the Ogam and Outer Beings, and to Janet Deaver-Pack for character appearances as well as her editorial and research contributions.

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