I’ve been rolling the idea around in my head for a while. I suppose there is always the chance someone might read this blog and snatch my ideas, but I don’t like to live my life in fear. So I thought I’d do some brainstorming. This will be a ramble, with no order or outline, just my stream of consciousness as it comes to me.
My blog yesterday laid out a battle scene between the dwarves and the elves. I didn’t do much to underline the cause of this battle, only tried to hint at it. The idea was for the elves, with their great age and their wisdom, to feel that the shorter-lived and lesser-learned races (dwarves and humans for sure, perhaps others) were not fit to govern themselves. That they warred with each other and dug up the earth and chopped down the trees, and the elves would take it upon themselves to protect both the world and these lesser peoples.
In many a fantasy tale, the elves take after the Tolkien fare, with haughty and civilized elves choosing to turn their backs on the other races of the world. In Tolkien they retreat to the Gray Havens, in Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance they sequester themselves in their woodland homes, letting very few non-elves inside, and rarely coming to the aid of non-elves.
My idea was to explore what would happen if instead the elves thought that the right thing to do was to conquer the other races and rule over them. Not out of hatred or anger, but out of a desire to teach these other races their wisdom and to keep them from harming themselves. Hence why the elves cried in my last blog scene as they hacked through the stubborn dwarven army that refused to bend.
In speaking with Gandalf the Tweed I mulled around the idea of repressed knowledge. I considered perhaps that Freidha would come on the scene many decades or even a century later, armed with the knowledge of the past and the proud stories and songs of her people—knowledge that has since been locked away by the elves and forgotten by the people of the world. The humans and dwarves and others can only read fiction books, or books on the long and civilized history of the elves, books carefully read and approved by the elves for the consumption of the lesser races.
I am unsure how to get her there. I don’t want some contrived plot device whose only purpose is to get her from the past to the future. Perhaps instead she is born of the future, but somehow stumbles upon the knowledge of her people?
Gandalf and I also discussed a network of secret knowledge, like the Underground Railroad, but for books and information and knowledge and religion instead of people, all rails leading to a secret and sacred hidden library of lost and forgotten lore. So perhaps Freidha’s parents could be agents of this underground network, and she could be raised with these tales in secret. I think I’d like her to find it another way.
I could tie in deities. Perhaps the gods, or a spirit of the dwarves comes to Freidha. Though I kind of want to avoid the “chosen one” as an obvious trait. I don’t want to have to try and explain why Freidha was chosen. Though perhaps, as an idea just leapt into my head, she is chosen because she is descended from the last dwarven queen, but her family has forgotten their lineage?
It would be a trope. An “everywoman” born as a simple person, a farmer (or in this case, the daughter of a skilled jewelcrafter, as all dwarves now are craftsmen in the elvish empire) who discovers they are the “chosen one” and goes on to fight the evil bad guy.
I also have to ask myself how it will end. Will the dwarves and humans and gnomes and goblins and orcs band together to form an army against the elves? Or perhaps some dark elvish overlord is poisoning the minds of his people and only he must be defeated by the ragtag band of adventurers? With the books span months or years of hard fought battles? Will it begin with Freidha finding her way and beginning to stir the hearts of the people with song and stories of the past?
Here are the ideas I like.
I like the main character being a dwarven bard. I think it’s interesting. And though I will give her a maul and she will fight, her main weapon will be the knowledge she carries and the magic in her war chants.
I like the idea of an underground system of forbidden information, and of Freidha being part of that network eventually, following it to it’s source and finding the secret library of forbidden knowledge.
Beyond that, there are so many questions that still must be answered. Why is the knowledge forbidden? Who forbids it? Why? Will it be the overlord elves? Will it be that cut and dry? Will even the elves be oppressed in ways they don’t understand?
I read once on a reddit post about someone who created a homebrew campaign around the fact that elves, who in forgotten realms don’t sleep or dream but instead trance, discovered a substance, a dream tea, that allowed them to sleep. They become obsessed, dependent, it was like a drug, an addiction. I don’t want to steal that idea of course, but I liked it and it intrigued me. Perhaps there is something that is causing the elves to do this. Perhaps some kind of magic, or drug, or something.
Or maybe it’s just words. Maybe they really did convince themselves that enslaving the lesser races, almost completely wiping out the dwarves, perhaps exiling the goblins and orcs and other nasties to a veritable wasteland, inadvertently causing them to become allies.
Perhaps Freidha grows up with stories of how horrible and evil goblins and orcs and ogres are, that the Elves are their great protectors, their warrior angels, who pushed the armies of darkness back to the exiled lands. But surprise of surprise occurs when the trail of forbidden knowledge leads Freidha to these lands to discover they are vibrant and exciting, that these once monstrous creatures had created a surprisingly diverse and new culture, with cities and markets and money and trade and all the things she never knew existed. And there, amidst it all, is the secret library, protected by the supposed enemies.
Perhaps the tale comes to a head as Freidha and her fellows lead an army of allied goblins, orcs, ogres, minotaurs and such against the elves. Perhaps it starts small with little raids here and there, bringing the freed dwarves and humans to the dessert cities of the orcs, to freedom for the first time.
Hmm… perhaps I like where this is going.
I can almost picture it in my head. Armed with the knowledge the elves tried to steal, orcs and goblins and such become far more advanced, more civilized, than the once were. Forced into desserts and wastelands they made do, building massive cities of stone and glass made from the abundant sands. Perhaps here a few tribes of nomadic humans wander the desserts from oasis to oasis. It’s harsh life and hard life, but free life. On the other side of the mountains is the lush green paradise of the Elvish empire, but it’s full of oppressed people and a utopian society that is far from what it seems. Everything is restricted. Jobs are assigned, there is no money, no wealth or power or nobility.
And what of magic? How will magic work in my world? Perhaps that too is forbidden knowledge, hoarded by the elves. Without knowledge and without trainer even those with the potential to be mages live a life without magic because they know no better. Except across the mountains in the desserts where orcs and goblins have wizards and mages of their own?
But as much as these ideas are tingling my creativity, I cannot help but feel they are still just… Forgotten Realms reskinned with a “what if”? What would set my world apart? What would make it stand out? What would make it different than just D&D reskinned?
To that question… I have no answer.