Court of the Alfar

Well, the PCs, don’t know much yet. But the events of the Game 14 “Down Down to Goblintown” tell much of the origin story.

GM Notebook

For these games, I am creating a “new” type of Wildfae that leverages more fully the Germanic origins of The Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tales and draws less from Celtic/English Folk sources.

I suppose technically by “rulespeak” they’d be Wyldfae strongly associated with the Erlking. The Ljósálfar are indistinguishable from what is generally known as the Summer/Seelie Court (Titania et al). Likewise, the Svartálfar are functionally indistinguishable from the Winter/Unseelie Court (Mab et al).

Álfar is an old Norse word for Elf. Generally, it is used interchangeably with Seelie/Summer Court and Unseelie/Winter Court. However, there are slight differences.

For our purposes, this page deals with the Wyldfae beings who generally refuse to bow to either Court and retain their bloody old customs and names, free from the restrictions of the Unseelie Accords. These beings are called the Dökkálfar or simply Álfar these days. If they have a leader, it’s the Erlking.

“Structure” would be far too strong of a word for what exists for these beings as they have already categorically rejected the “court” structure. Continuing the Feudal metaphor that exists for the Fae Courts – the Álfar would be more like independent Warlords or barbarian chiefs.

Generally speaking, the most powerful entities amongst them are the “Erlking’s Daughters.” These creatures rule a Demesne within the Nevernever according to the dictates of their whims. These dread Princesses are served by creatures generally associated with the Erlking such as Goblins, Hellhounds, Malks, and other entities of “the hunt.”

Why are there no “Erlking’s Sons?”
There are. They are rare. They appear from time to time in the legends like Völundr (Weyland the Smith) and his two brothers. Why are they rare in modernity? That’s the better question.
Powers, Catch, etc.
  • The Catch: These creatures are like most other Fae and are affected by Iron.
    • However, Holy items also satisfy the catch on most of them, especially the particularly vicious ones.
    • There are some that are unaffected by iron (though they are very rare).
      • The most famous in history was Völundr (Weyland the Smith) who is credited with forging many of the ancient magical swords (and a few rings) of European myth.
  • Template
    • Musts: Like with any template, the High Concept must reflect the character’s Álfar roots. Using the word Álfar in the High Concept accomplishes that quite well.
    • Misc
      • (-2) Glamours and (-4) Greater Glamours are common (as with any Fae)
      • Many of the spellcasters amongst Álfar have (-4) Sponsored Magic (Erlking)
        • Elements: Hunting, The Wild Hunt, predatory beasts, fear, excitement, hunger, bloodlust, cunning, strength, and speed
        • Thematic Thaumaturgy: Entropomancy with evocation’s methods/speed
Honor without Accords

Just because the Álfar do not abide by the Unseelie Accords, does not mean they have no rules. Simply that their rules are different.

  • Spirit of the Law vs. Letter of the Law – Like all Fae creatures of their type, the Álfar cannot tell outright lies. However, they are less enamored with the “trickery” and “politics” of the Courts. Their honor is their all, and if two parties are clear about the intent of an agreement, then personal honor will generally hold even if verbiage of the “compact” is murky. If there is disagreement, there’s always Trial by Combat to resolve disputes.
  • Code Duello vs Holmgang – The refinements of the Irish Code Duello govern The Unseelie Accords. The Álfar are far more “old school” and retain the Holmgang.
    • The essential core of Holmgang is that the challenger comes up and levies his/her gripe (this is usually done complete with insulting language) and the conditions of the fight.
    • Those who will “judge” the fight determine what constitutes fair weapons (almost always axes, swords, spears, and/or hammers). If the challenged is clearly unable to defend him/herself against the challenger (for example, a woman vs a professional berserker making a false claim just so he can take her money) then a champion could be found/appointed.
    • The duel itself is fought anytime after the challenge, but traditionally 3-7 days after (this also gives times to get back in shape, find a champion, make final arrangements, whatever).
    • Usually the fighters get three shields but that’s a nicety that can sometimes be dispensed.
    • A very small area is selected to be the “ring.” To run is to be declared outlaw/coward.
    • Whoever won was entitled to payment of weregild or whatever the original conditions of the battle if the battle was not to the death.
      • Generally speaking, if the one who started the whole mess by issuing an insult is the one that gets killed, no wergild is necessary. If the one that did the insulting actually wins, it’s customary to pay a half-wergild to avoid feud.
      • What happens is that both sides tend to pay the half-wergild regardless to avoid blood feuds between the various kith and kin. Usually by the time it goes to duel both sides have issued plenty of insults to spare.
    • If there’s no “higher power” to “govern” the duel, it’s no longer Holmgang but rather called Einvigi. That’s basically just a brawl between two fighters to the death – no ring, no spare shields, etc. etc.
  • Wergild – This is a nebulous entity and has been so since antiquity. Especially today, when kings are gone and classes are totally different, it becomes difficult to explain Wergild in a way that makes sense to both mortals and creatures of the Nevernever.
    • To use modern terms, as a generality, the amount of wergild is a man’s gross annual income. A boy is a fraction of that (more or less on par with the fractional age vs adulthood). A woman/female child is double the male’s price.
    • Really, really old creatures of the Nevernever still think in terms of the price of sheep. A shilling being the value of a sheep, and a free man being worth about 200 shillings. Live sheep in Texas as of 2012 are around $150.
  • Lóð (Hospitality) – Celtic Rites of Hospitality are quite complex, but there are sufficient cognates that the Lóð is quite recognizable. It is far easier to get yourself killed among the Álfar if you have no common sense. However, armed with some common sense and basic manners… most get along just fine among them.
    • Recon – It is perfectly permissible for someone to walk around another’s territory and look for potential foes. Not to actually trespass a structure’s threshold, but just be mindful before seeking entrance of potential threats/enemies.
    • Warmth, Food, Drink – A traveler may always request warmth, food, and drink and be sure that it is not poisoned if conditions are inclement. However, the quality of this freely given food and drink may be meager indeed (gruel, water, and a warm spot on the floor).
    • Overstaying a Welcome – The traveler is encouraged to not overstay his welcome. By ancient custom, five days is generally considered the max.
    • Big Mouth – A guest is only “protected” so long as they do not offend the host. A quiet guest that comes and goes quickly is the only one guaranteed safety. Being drunk is no excuse for being rude.
    • Snide Comments – The host is forbidden from initiating insult or to make sport of a guest. It is also considered very, very rude for guests of the host to insult other guests. The logic is simple, they are guests, they have no way to know what the host and his/her friends consider funny, a joke might easily be considered an insult where none was intended.
    • Who’s in Charge – The owner of the home is in charge. No exceptions. A King must act the guest in the home of a vassal, though once the visit is over all bets are off.
    • Weapons/Armor – No-one is expected to be deprived of weapons/armor on the way to, or on the way from, a home. However, if the master requests weapons/arms to be set aside they must be (his house, his rules). That said, the master of the home is now responsible for those weapons/armor until the guests leave. Additionally, a guest may never be deprived of all weapons (one may always be retained, usually a dagger).
      • Likewise a guest, once welcomed as a guest, should remove some armor (at least the helmet) to show they trust the host.
    • Gifts – They are just damned good ideas. Guests bearing gifts are rarely ever in the wrong. Clothing and weapons are best. Hosts are expected to return a Gift for a Gift (which can be as simple as getting something nicer than gruel and water to eat/drink and a warm place sleeping alongside the dogs as your bed).
    • Friends and Foes – There are no neutrals. If you’re a friend of a foe, you must choose sides once this is known. If you choose your friend who happens to be the host’s enemy, you must leave. Assuming you gave no insult in the process, you will be accorded safe passage.
  • Neutral Grounds, Factions, Free Lords, etc. – No such recognition. That said, the rules of Hospitality still govern and so long as a “Neutral Ground” still has a “host”… they’ll abide by the host’s rules.

Court of the Alfar

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