(The first installment of my three-part series on what's currently influencing my interpretation of Ronn McCarrick's Baenrahl setting.)
I traveled back and forth to Buffalo over the weekend, which gave me several hours driving with nothing to do but think. Consequently, I thought a bit about Baenrahl, and also forced my wife to hear me chatter about it. I also listened to some of the Star Wars Radio Drama, but that's another story.
When developing a setting, I tend to envision scenes and settings, equipment and conflicts, motivations and objectives. And these are all influenced by the books and movies I've experienced in the past. Over the next couple of posts, I'm going to talk a bit about these influences as a foundation for the path I see the setting taking.
The first influence I'm going to talk about is the the White Mountains (AKA The Tripods) series by John Christopher
These novels deal with our earth after it's taken over by aliens who rule the populace through metal "caps" -- mind control devices that are implanted on their heads when they reach maturity (14 years old or so). The similarities to Baenrahl should be obvious, although they were not inherent in the original vision of the setting.
In the original setting, the baenrahls simply fed life-force to the Urathear through a mystical conduit. This kept the Urathear alive, but also allowed them to snuff out any uppity, would-be rebels by sucking their souls out through the neck in one fell swoop. In addition, the baenrahls gave the Urathear's minions, the Templars & Champions, the ability to impel people to do things through the power called "Commandment." This ability could force people to do things if they failed their saving throw, and was based on Turning Undead.
The first effect of the baenrahl is it's main purpose: feed the Urathear, slowly or in one swift slurp. No change here.
The second effect, Commandment, was likely designed with the idea that the PCs would have baenrahls. This gave the GM a way to have the Templars and Champions threaten the PCs, but allowed them a chance to resist. Makes sense.
In my vision, I don't expect the PCs to have baenrahls. This means that the Commandment power can exist, but will not need to be mapped out so much in game terms. People are sheep, and the Templars are the shepherds. Templars talk, bearers obey. Simple as that.
The influence of the White Mountains series on my vision moves the baenrahl from a simple energy conduit to a more powerful (and more threatening) mind control device. The Urathear use the baenrahl to control the populace. There's no rebellion because there's no desire in any bearer to resist the Urathear -- how could there be as they are not allowed those emotions? Bearers are allowed to revere the Urathear and worship them, but never, ever consider them incorrect in any way.
This makes the baenrahl a direct threat to individuality, freedom, and liberty, which the heroes want to restore to the populace. From a player perspective, being branded with a baenrahl may actually mean you lose control of your character. This is not a good thing.
Further, the influence of the White Mountains books means that the heroes will be traveling through hostile lands, generally in disguise, with specific missions to accomplish. Goals will include recruiting new freedom fighters, disrupting trade, harassing Templars, and generally looking for ways to beat the Urathear.
Making the baenrahl a mind control device seems to me to make it more threatening, give the players more drama and opposition, and focuses some of the missions. Hopefully a winning situation all around.
In the next post, I will look at another seemingly obvious influence: Stargate: SG-1.