Goals of Dawn of a New Age

What does it mean for a product or adventure or even an entirely new creation to be suitably Dawn of a New Age?

1.) Does this add flavor to my game?
2.) Is it unique to my game?
3.) Does the uniqueness of this piece stand alone on its own merits without relying on my personal views?
4.) Does it correct/expound on a point that I feel is lacking from similar materials?

Criteria No. 1 Applied Internal Historic Consistency


Nora has a strong internal sense of history that is consistently applied in all Dawn of a New Age creations.

Nora is a storied realm. It's seminal figures, good and ill, are interwoven throughout the setting. It has a defined history that strongly influences the present and future of the setting. Nora's history is not a footnote but an integral part of the setting that must be understood to truly comprehend the relationships among men, nations and even gods. True Dawn of a New Age products or creations build on this history, incorporate it and develop it. The best such creations leave enough open ends to allow for further such development.

Criteria No. 2 Player Resolution of Critical Events


The seminal events in Nora's current history and development are all presented such that the players may not only take part but play a leading role.

Players fight the Severing War. Players defeated the Tarrasque. Players restored the balance of magic to the world.

In the Forgotten Realms, for example, Ao decrees an event and the players get to clean up in the aftermath. Cyric destroys Zhentil Keep offstage and the players get to delve into the ruins. Gods die to be replaced by mortals and the players watch. Elminster sends players on a mission but ultimately keeps from them the greater goal the mission serves.

When you play in Dawn of a New Age, you join in the weaving of a tapestry of which you are a vital part. Dawn of a New Age is about your story in the context of Nora's story. It is bigger than you are but you can become as great as it is. That is the essence of Nora's history. It enfolds, informs and connects every part of the setting and all who play there of any length of time.

Criteria No. 3 NPCs Reward More Often Than They Advise or Direct


NPC's in Nora are not godlike figures who direct the course of events upon which your character is washed like the tide. Neither do they persistently show up to advise you. They may do both but more often they serve as the measuring stick against which your character's performance can be judged and serve to reward your character by recognizing their accomplishments or otherwise admitting your character into their august company.

The Council of Nine are aloof. They do not want to be your buddy. Neither do they have a laundry list of chores for you to perform. Rather, in Nora you will find adventure without such NPCs suggesting it.

In the Forgotten Realms, for example, Elminster is famous for sending characters on their way. The Harpers do the same. Ultimately, Elminster or the Harpers play the directing role and may indeed appear to steal the show or otherwise claim ultimate victory.

In Nora, YOU are the hero. Without assistance from the likes of the Council of Nine and without them acting as a safety net. You can go your own way, in fact, without them ever troubling you. This cannot be so simply said in settings such as the Forgotten Realms and has not a little to do with Criteria No. 2 (Player Resolution of Critical Events in Nora vs. NPC Resolution of Critical Events in FR).

Criteria No. 4 Persistent Personified Evil


Evil in Nora is persistent. It is halted, checked or imprisoned but it is not defeated with finality for all time. The triumph over evil is a relative thing, ultimately transitory.

Evil in Nora is personified. Evil has faces and names attached to it that ring down through the setting's history. It is not an evil that pops up purely to give the players something to strive against and defeat before moving on to the next evil that similarly appears out of relative nowhere.

Vastania Darkheart, Xananua the Deathwhore, Dyne, Nemesis, the Red Gate Society, Raavan, even the Dark Lady, all met this criteria. They are highly personified forces that spring from the settings specific history. By comparison, evil in the Forgotten Realms is of the pop-up variety save for the Red Wizards and Zhentrim. Menaces appear from nowhere or with on the spot histories that never before appeared in the setting. Nora allows for this type of toaster villainy but it also established from the first villains of a historic character that transcend the needs of the adventure of the moment.

Criteria No. 5 Villainous Variety


Villainy in Nora runs the gamut from the cosmic menace of Shaydis, to the planar peril of Aethyx, to the rakshasa menace of Raavan, to the purely moral menace of Sergei the Oathbreaker. There is variety in the villainy. Villainy in Nora is like a box of chocolates from Hell; you never know for sure what you are going to get. Nora's villains do not announce themselves; you have to figure it out.

Compare villainy in the Forgotten Realms. The variety isn't there. You have scads of godly villains. The Red Wizards. The Zhents. It is feast or famine. And FR villains have signature trademarks that all but announce who you are facing, unless of course it is an evil toaster pastry.

Villains in Nora will also turn on each other. The Ail/Kalmarra conflict being perhaps the most famous. In other settings, villains are villains, identified by their clearly visible placards, sandwich signs or more "subtly" their black attire. You can count on them to always do the wrong thing.

Nora keeps you guessing. Like a good Call of Cthulthu adventure.

Criteria No. 6 Heroism With a Price


Nora's heroes rarely slay the evil wizard, who will trouble the land no more, to the full voiced cheers of the crowd. Best an immortal and you are marked. He will be back but you will have to deal with a likely enraged subordinate in the meanwhile. Nora's villains don't exist in a vacuum and neither do Nora's heroes. Everything is linked.

Heroism has a meaning within the setting that makes it more than a solitary act echoing in the vastness. It attracts attention, good and ill. It is immediate and brings a notoriety that other settings can only talk about. Notables exist to recognize your accomplishments and to measure you against themselves and the foe you defeated. And, they will have likely played little or no role in your victory. Evil too takes your measure for darker reasons.

This criterion can best be seen in the breach. The interconnection of people and places and the loose ends creates this effect.

Criteria No. 7 Militant Neutrality


On adnas, the forces of neutrality are arguably at least as powerful as those of good and evil and certainly as active.

Sergei the Oathbreaker alone has accurately defined this characteristic of Nora. Nora is not concerned with the triumph of good over evil. The very nature of the evils loose on Nora makes such triumphs fleeting at best. Nora endures evil and circumvents it. It does not defeat it.

Evil forces, of course, will attempt to conquer Nora. And just as certainly they will be opposed by forces who will seek to banish evil from the world. Neither will succeed. Good and evil are well enough matched that outcomes are never certain and always close calls one way or the other.

Moreover, evil on Nora is not monolithic. Various demon lords and ladies contend with each other. One battles another. A servant seeks a master's destruction. One feuds with his mother and father. Evil beings are true to no one save themselves.

Perhaps accounting for all of this, Nora has strong and active unaligned forces, working to preserve a balance between good and evil. While hardly organized, these forces nonetheless manage to be quite effective. The Council of Nine, mighty wizards all, seeks a middle path. Druids are a quiet but ever present presence. Indeed, many of Nora's deities reflect a distinct neutral bent.

Compare Toril. Evil is overmatched by Elminster, the Seven Sisters (good aligned minions of the goddess of magic), the Harpers, the Lords of Waterdeep and activist gods. Evil is on the run and kept that way. It has but few strong holds and is highly transient, rarely surviving long enough to present more than a temporary challenge. Good triumphs on Toril. The dragon is slain, never to rise. The horror you never heard of before yesterday is laid to rest. The bad gods are thrown down!

The differences could not be more striking. Nora is about struggle against evenly matched and long standing opponents. FR is about victory over transient and overmatched opponents.

Conclusion


These then are the eight traits that define the Nora feel. Most critical are 1st (Applied Internal Historic Consistency), 4th (Persistent Personified Evil) and 7th (Militant Neutrality) points. At the barest minimum to be considered truly Dawn of a New Age a creation must adhere to these three criteria. Better creations adhere to progressively more of these criteria.

Now we have a list of what puts the Dawn in the New Age. This list is by no means exclusive. Have at it.

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