The Supernatural


Magic runs throughout the world of the Commonwealth; it is produced and consumed in countless ways, and bent to numerous ends.

All processes — especially life processes — produce a spiritual essence, which is simply called magic. This energy can be harnessed and put to use — although this can be difficult, given that it is fickle and unpredictable, often following arbitrary and bizarre rules, or operating according to no apparent law at all.

Some learn to manipulate the magic that arises and flows around them, producing powerful magical effects; these people are called mages, and the powerful abilities they perfect are called spells. Others learn to manipulate the magical energies that they produce within themselves, granting them supernatural physical and mental abilities; these are psions, and their powers are called sleights. Some creatures anatomy even incorporates the presence of magic, giving them innate magical abilities. Sometimes, magic forms into strange, supernatural beings, called spirits. Some flesh-and-blood beings serve Spirits — or broker deals with them; these are referred to as priests, and any abilities or gifts the spirits grant them are called boons.

Magic can also be incorporated into the functions of devices, or infused into solutions, allowing for magical mechanisms and potions to be produced; the Commonwealth makes great use of simple magical devices and potions, while extremely powerful magical artifacts are rare, highly prized, and almost always unique.

Mortal Magic

The mage's craft resembles any other difficult craft or field of study. A smith learns to use tools to work different metals so that they may produce goods ranging from plows to shields, and a doctor learns to use different medicines, prepared in myriad different ways, to treat ailments from sore throats to broken bones; in much the same way, a mage learns to use tools — composed of materials that can influence or react to magic — to gather magic, contain it, manipulate it, and produce useful effects, called spells.

Psions, on the other hand, use practice and mental discipline to master the magic that they produce innately. This is a largely introspective process; psions study their own minds and their own magic.

Some magical artisans have learned to incorporate magic into their crafts — they use magic to create potions, devices and structures that would otherwise not be possible.

In any form, magic is difficult to master; much like a doctor must master the use of countless different medicines, preparations, treatments and ailments, so too must a mage, psion, or magical artisan master the myriad different forms and behaviors of magic. Because of this, though simple, weak magic is used throughout the world, powerful psions, great mages and master magical-artisans are very rare.


Spirits are real and present things in the world of the Commonwealth — to the point that, in some cases, someone could walk directly up to them and speak to them, although doing so can be difficult and dangerous.

Sometimes, magic forms into creatures, whether by binding to inert matter to bring it to life, or by forming into creatures made entirely of magical energy alone. Some such organisms are simple, analogous to animals, while others are sophisticated, having minds equal to flesh-and-blood beings. Some are even greater beings; immense, powerful and mysterious, these are known as Great Spirits.

Spirit creatures are fueled by the magical energies they siphon from a particular region, process, or thing; a spirit's source of magic is its Basin. Sometimes, a spirit's Basin may be a particular place, like a lake or forest; sometimes, these regions might be very large, like the whole Worldspine Mountains. For some spirits, their Basin might be a set of places holy to them — which might be as broadly-construed as “all forges” or as specific as “the spot where Lyn was slain.” Other times, Basins are processes: such as music, for example, or decay, or fire.

Many spirits also have the ability to influence their Basin; a spirit whose basin is a river, for example, may have the ability to cause it to flow quickly or slowly, to be calm or turbulent, or to cause it to rise or fall. Spirits may offer to use their influence to the benefit of mortal supplicants — see Propitiation, below.

Spirit creatures are populous, almost as much so as natural creatures. Spirit creatures frequently align themselves into clans and nations, much like natural creatures do — with the additional complication introduced by being bound to specific basins, which can make some alliances tense and some conflicts inevitable.

Some Spirits are mercurial, hiding behind religions and refusing to interact directly with flesh-and-blood beings; others, however, are very direct, presenting themselves directly to mortals and dealing plainly with them. (And, of course, a great many spirits have no concern for mortal affairs at all, dealing only with other spirits.)

Creating Spirits

A theme we'll repeat is that spirits don't follow any particular rules. They can be propitiated or not; they can be bound, or not; they have extraordinary powers, or minor ones, or none to speak of; they may manifest in terrifying form, or humble form, or not.

Practically, this means that spirits can have whatever powers, properties and limits that they need to have for the story that you want to tell; be creative!

We intend for spirits to be cinematic—they're less about mechanics and rules and more about constructing a good scene.


Some spirits can be propitiated—that is, they will do favors for mortals that perform certain rituals or make certain offerings; these spirits are called Patrons. As in all other things, the wants of Patrons vary widely; some will grant simple favors in exchange for offerings of food or song, others might demand elaborate ritual, while still others might command much higher prices — life, treasure or blood.

Priests in the world of Renaisance often function much like brokers or negotiators; they decipher the intricate and complex details of the wants, natures and politics of nearby Spirits, and connect flesh-and-blood supplicants to Spirits with whom they can do business. Priests are also responsible for keeping track of the histories of particular spirits, to determine which can be trusted, which are dangerous, and which can be bound, and how (see Binds, below).

Of course, not all spirits are Patrons. Many have no particular concern for the affairs of Natural beings, while many more simply do not have a useful ability to offer.


Spirits do not dwell in a distant plane or other-world; with the exception of the souls of the dead, Spirits exist within the physical world. However, the forms they take can vary widely; some may exist as a recognizable being at a specific place, others may dwell within the magic that runs through their Basin, or they may inhabit a particular stone statue, or they flicker in the shadows as magical forms.

When a Spirit manifests itself at a specific place in a particular form, this known as a manifestation. Some manifestations may be terrifying, especially for a Great Spirit; when mighty, unknowable beings reveal themselves to creatures of flesh and blood, the experience can be shocking, confusing, humbling and horrifying, all at once.

Many spirits dwell within their Basins, and their manifestations may be connected to their Basins as well. For example, a spirit whose basin is a forest may only exist within it, existing invisibly within the magic that runs through it; they might manifest to mortals by possessing a great tree, causing it to twist and creak.

Other spirits may exist in a particular form, and might be capable of moving about freely, like the Tempters or Shamblers.

Encounters with Spirits

What's true of Spirits in general is true of manifestations in specific; they should be cinematic.

The manifestation of a powerful spirit is an awesome thing; the players are encountering a mysterious being of extraordinary power, who may have the ability to derail their plans, bring them to ruin, or even sidestep at least some of the rules that reality normally operates by. A good manifestation should invoke awe and helplessness on the part of its mortal participants.

Of course, not every manifestation can be awe-inspiring; not every spirit is a great spirit — and writing doesn't work that way.


Some mortals can form special relationships with existing spirits; these mortals are sometimes granted places as Spirits after death (as opposed to passing into the Realm of the Dead). In principle, the formerly-mortal Spirit then works like any other Spirit, and can act as a free agent; Saint refers specifically to those spirits that remain loyal to some other Spirit's cause. In practice, most Spirits do not “sanctify” a mortal recklessly, and so most Saints remain loyal to their Spirit's cause.

Saints frequently do not have happy histories.


Binds are a major part of bargaining with the Spirits. They are also almost a complete mystery.

A bind is a ritual that exerts control over a spirit; theoretically, a bound spirit can be compelled to act in a certain way, such as performing a service (or not doing something).

Only some Spirits have (known) binds, and any two spirits are likely to have entirely different binds.

Binds are terribly understood. There is no known way to tell if a spirit is bound – or learn what its bind is, or tell if it even has one. Only a few spirits have known Binds at all – some skeptics even maintain that binds do not exist – that they are simply acts put forth to lull mortals into trusting Spirits.

Binds can vary widely. Some require a spirit to consent to being bound in order to be effective, while others do not. Some are simple, like speaking a short phrase in a spirit's presence, while others are quite complex, involving elaborate ceremonies or complex rituals. Likewise, their effects and durations can vary wildly – from compelling a spirit to keep vigil until relieved, to preventing a spirit from lying until the dawn, to binding a spirit to serve until released, to preventing a spirit from touching anything orange for a week. Making things even more complex, binds can have bizarre failure-cases and exceptions — a bind might not work if the candles used in the ritual are made from the fat of a mother goat and its foal, for example, or a bind might break if a given spirit crosses running water.

Needless to say, keeping track of which spirits have known binds, how those binds work and, importantly, if those binds have any “gotchas” is a major and valuable occupation for the Clergy!

Sample Spirits and Temples

The Bullrush God

Basin: unknown

Manifestation: unknown; it appeared to Karrach in the form of a Drake

Propitiation: unknown; the price he asked of Karrach was a several demarc of marshland and a noble title

Binds: None

The spirit responsible for the creation of the Drakes referred to itself as the Bulrush God, the Rainstorm Shepherd and the Osprey’s Father. After Karrach began searching for a spirit that would aid him in the creation of a people, the Bulrush God approached him in the form of a Drake; it offered him a people in that image, in exchange only for a stretch of swampland and a noble title. Karrach met his price, and the Drakes were created.

It is unknown why the Bulrush God wanted to own a marsh — or why it needed Karrach to recognize that, if that area had already been its Basin, as some claim; nor is there any obvious reason why a Great Spirit should want to also be a Count. It is unknown if it has any wants, rituals, or binds, and it is unknown what its basin is; it is such that it could aid in the creation of the Drakes, but it is unknown what influence it used to do so. Since being granted its title and domain, it has sought no further contact with mortals, and has made no further desires known.

The Dragonshire zealously guards the territory granted to the Bulrush God, even though it did not specifically tell them to do so, out of concern for what it might do should its lands be invaded; when dealing with a spirit as powerful and mysterious as the Bulrush God, such precautions are wise.

Father Cypress

Basin: the life in a stretch of marshes south-west of the Worldspine, especially Cypress trees.

Manifestation: speaks through cypress trees, especially the old cypress in Shambler's Grove.

Propitiation: gifts from far away lands, meetings with strangers, festivals

Binds: None

Father Cypress is a complex and contradictory Great Spirit. He dwells in a stretch of swamps and marshes to the south-west of the Worldspine, which are also his basin; he has a particular affinity for cypress trees. He is a spirit of nature and wilderness, but he is also a social and gregarious soul who enjoys the company of others — including mortals, whose great civilizations he admires and who he welcomes openly.

He believes that the interests of wilderness and nature do not need to be in conflict with the interests of civilization, prosperity and trade. He is the creator and forefather of the Shamblers (see their entry in Races); they are his attempt to create a people who can bridge swamp and civilization. He encourages his children to travel among the world, and he welcomes mortals into his swamp — so long as they are respectful of it.



Basin: history, law, justice, mercy, death

Manifestation: large black dragon



Lyn is a Great Spirit associated with resistance, strength, courage, and sacrifice; she is an enemy of tyrants, and an ally to those who fight them.

She is also a Saint — an elevated mortal. In life, she was a Gnollish farmer on Islandhome. In CY 447, the Shaded-Sea People laid seige to Islandhome; some residents fled into the fortresses and Dwarven holds scattered across the islands, but may where taken captive by the Shaded-Sea raiders and held as slaves. Lyn was one of those taken captive; she proved "unruly" and would not accept slavery, leading to brutal abuse and torture at the hands of her captors. When the Commonwealth Navy counter-attack liberated her, she followed them to war; in what would prove to be the turning-point of the seige, in a battle with the Shaded-Sea raiders a few miles up the slopes of the island from the Sea, an unarmed Lyn found herself a hundred strides from the mounted Shade-Elven commander. She charged him, lept, was skewered by one of his fellow riders, and still managed to take hold of him; having no weapon, and unable to dismount him, she bit down on his neck with her powerful Gnollish jaws and tore out his throat. After slaughtering the Shade-Elven commander, she succumbed to her wounds and died; she was then elevated as a Great Spirit.

The Mourner

You whose wings embrace the dead as the warmth of the summer night, Your wings are as a balance; on one is written justice, on the other, mercy. Your voice is the voice of the dead; your cry is their call for justice.

Basin: history, law, justice, mercy, death

Manifestation: large black dragon



The Mourner is a Great Spirit associated with history, law, justice, mercy and death; he is also a Saint — a mortal creature who was elevated upon his death. He is closely associated with the Orator and the Mother; in the shifting politics of Great Spirits, he is one of their strongest allies.

In autumn of CY 616, human Champions of the One who Chose Us set out from the Eastern Kingdoms and travelled to the ruins of vanquished civilization resting in the trackless deeps of a stretch of marsh and swampland in the northeastern Dragonshire; the civilization there had been destroyed by human settlers from the Empire of Man a thousand years before their departure, and they hoped to bring back a token of this ancient conquest to present to the One. When they arrived, they slew an old elf who dwelled among the ruins, secured one of the few intact relics of the destroyed civilization — an ancient scroll of unknown purpose — and carried it back to Hate's Hold.

This "old elf" was known to those who lived near the swamp. He had been living there as long as anyone could remember — since before the oldest elves had been born; some believed he had even walked among the ancient civilization that had dwelt in the swamp. It was widely held that he was not actually an elf at all, but in fact a magical construction, formed of the sand and soil of the swamp by some ancient, powerful mage.

What is known for certain is that, after the "elf" was killed and the scroll was stolen, an ancient, massive, black-scaled dragon emerged from the swamp and travelled to Hate's Hold. There, rather than attack the city, he called out at the gates and demanded the return of the scroll. The Lord of Hate's Hold, the King of Tennec, then came out to argue with him. The dragon claimed to be a survivor of the people who had written the scroll, and demanded its return; the Tenna King claimed it as a spoil of conquest, an offering to the One. The Tenna then deployed the soldiery against the dragon; the dragon was mortally wounded in the fight, and died at the gates of Hate's Hold.

Upon his death, he was elevated as the Mourner.

The Mourner is worshipped throughout the Commonwealth. His symbols — which include balances, scrolls, books, black dragon's scales — are often incorporated into the decoration of courthouses, town-halls, libraries, colleges and graveyards. The Mourner is not honored by elaborate rituals or grand shrines; instead, he glories in just law and governance, in peacemaking, in the study of history, and in honoring the dead. He is often invoked in short chants at the opening of trials and at funerals; the Mourner is a compassionate Spirit, and it is widely believed that he offers the dead a chance at a happier fate than passage into shadow — though he reveals no more of the fate of the dead than any other spirit associated with death has.

Unlike the Orator or the Mother, the Mourner's location is often a mystery; one theory is that he is often in the realms of the dead. When he does manifest, he often appears as a lusterless black form in the shape of a dragon.

The day that the Mourner was slaughtered is celebrated in Hate's Hold and in the temples of the One in the Eastern Kingdoms; his death is glorified as a grand conquest by the followers of the One.

The Night

The young orc looked around her; it was dark, like it was hours before dawn, even though it should have been the afternoon. For a time it had been dim, like late evening, but now even that light was almost gone.

Basin: hatred

Manifestation: darkness

Propitiation: None

Binds: None

Sometimes, a horror claims a whole town: one morning, the sun does not rise, and the night continues. Over hours, the darkness moves in, hiding streets and claiming neighbors. In the end, the forms of creatures can be seen moving in the dark — quick, ravenous and terrible, the shadows of maws and fangs. When the night lifts and the sun rises, no-one is left.

Very little is known of the Night. It manifests rarely, appearing as little as once or twice a year; it appears most frequently in Shade-Elven territory, and in the Goblin Empire. It is unknown why it appears in any one place and not another; in the Commonwealth it is widely believed that it is — or they are — drawn to hate and strife, but Shade Elves believe that it can be supplicated, and sometimes sacrifice slaves to it to attempt to earn its favor.

There is no credible story of anyone having fought the Night off, or otherwise resisted it; nor is there any report of anyone having communicated with it.

The One that Chose Us

Basin: the might of his chosen race

Manifestation: animating statues made in his image

Propitiation: conquest, tribute, displays of strength and prowess in war

Binds: None

The One that Chose Us is powerful, cruel Great Spirit. Its basin is the might and adoration of a race or people that accept it. It selects the mightiest among the leaders, conquerors or civilizations that seek its favor, and offers them greater power — so long as they continue to prove their worthiness through devotion and conquest. If its chosen people become weak, it shifts its favor to another among the people who seek its favor. (The spirit is mercurial; sometimes it shifts its favor without a clear cause.)

It often demands great temples be built in its honor, with images carved in its likeness; it demands an image of an "ideal form" among the people that it has chosen — be it a fine mural, a tapestry, or a statue of stone or marble. When it manifests, it often does so by animating these images.

Among its rituals are the Accounting, where its supplicants sing its praises and recount the victories that they have earned with its power. There are also games played in its honor, and ritual combats.

Presently, the One that Chose Us has set it's favor upon worshippers in the Eastern Kingdoms, in the Kingdoms of Men. There are some among the Goblin Empire that seek to earn its favor, and a handful of traditionalist Orcs do as well. The One who Chose Use is a spirit of conflict and strife; it is reviled in most of the Commonwealth.

The Orator

Basin: the achievements of mortals

Manifestation: appears in the form of a mortal in great cities

Propitiation: None

Binds: None

The Orator is a Great Spirit associated with the achievements of mortals; it is unknown if these are actually his Basin, or if he has some other source of power.

The Orator deals with mortals openly, walking among them in their great cities. He accepts no offerings and offers no boons; rather, he encourages mortals to achieve and excel, and revels in their successes.

He currently lives in Merchant's Hold, an old, wealthy city in Heartland Province; he serves as a distinguished professor of rhetoric at the university there.

Uncle Haw

Basin: the Haw River

Manifestation: possesses creatures that dwell within the river, like catfish, otters, rats or terrapin.

Propitiations: offerings of food or drink, particularly harvest grains and wine

Binds: none known

Uncle Haw is a Great Spirit whose basin is the Haw River, which flows east from the Worldspine, through Heartland Province and the Dragonshire, and into the King's Sea.

Though wide and deep, the Haw river is also steady and slow, and (mostly) free of rapid and hazard; it irrigates the fields around it, and carries boats and barges of goods. Likewise, Uncle Haw is good-natured and nurturing, caring for the people who live along the banks of the river. His manifestations are rarely terrifying or awesome; he sometimes appears as a creature of the river, often a catfish. He accepts offerings of food or drink, and, should a mortal earn his favor, he will bless them with the cooperation of the river — with a calm river to irrigate fields and carry goods.

While he does not have a cult or devoted supplicants, he is well liked along the coats of the Haw River, and offerings are commonly left to him.

  • The Mother

    • Great Spirit associated with hearth-fires, bonfires and forges; her Basin is thriving and nurturing communities.
    • deals with mortals openly
    • walks throughout Commonwealth, visiting small towns
    • encourages peaceful co-existence and the building of communities
    • Also known as the Guard: worshiped by an order of Paladins
    • Propitiated by caring for the sick, by providing for the poor, by welcoming aliens into a community
  • Lyn, Daughter of Rys

    • Great Spirit and Saint, her Basin is courage and sacrifice
    • Gnoll farmer on Islandholm when Shade Elves attacked.
    • Taken hostage and tortured.
    • Freed during counter-attack, went to front lines; attacked and killed Shade Elf general, was killed by his body-guard. Had no weapons; jumped him and bit his throat.
    • Was Elevated by the Mother
    • Patron of Sacrifice, worshiped by an order of Paladins
    • manifests as she died: female Gnoll in tattered clothing, covered in deep cuts and wounds
    • appears in company of Orator and All-Mother
  • The Eyrie

    • spirits whose basins exist in peaks in northern World-Spine Mountains
    • spirits of wind, rock, cloud, birds and ice
    • area is mostly pristine, save single temple on one peek, path and bridges to it
    • group has appointed a handful of specific spirits as “Speakers”, only these manifest and speak to mortals
    • arrangements made with mortals (and acceptable propitiations) vary widely
    • have permanent clergy, who frequently hope to fly among the spirits in the clouds after death
  • Bones of Deep Rock

    • Great Spirit
    • largely unknown to flesh-and-blood creatures and humble spirits alike, dwells deep beneath the northern edge of the World-Spine Mountains; they are his Basin.
    • Pays no heed to mortals; goes about his own business, for his own reasons. Is uninterested in mortal affairs, and cannot be propitiated.
    • When his affairs intersect with those of mortals, the results are mystifying, without rhyme or reason, or apparent motivation — and, because he is a strong spirit with a vast basin, the consequences for mortals are often profound.


Most who die pass on into a Realm of Shade, a dark and immaterial place of which mortals know little. There is no known instance of any of the living entering or viewing it, and returning alive to bear witness Though the spirits of the dead can sometimes be coaxed back from it, they are frequently uncooperative. When the dead manifest in the material world, they are frequently changed from their former selves: they are beyond all mortal concern and consequence, and are often aggressive, vulgar and destructive.

Mortal investigation of the world of the dead is further hampered because it is difficult to conjure the spirits of the dead; it often requires the complicity of powerful spirits to accomplish, especially if a particular morta soul is to be summoned. The dangers of a failed summoning can be great; the dead who returned from the realm of Shade are often beyond any mortal concern and, if they escape the control of their summoner, can be a reckless, destructive menace.

Some mortals have never been successfully summoned, despite repeated attempts made by expert Clerics; it is assumed — or perhaps hoped — that some happier fate than departure to the realm of Shade has claimed these beings, and that they simply do not wish to return.