Thursday, June 30, 2011

The City's Druids


Cities (and the City is no different) aren’t just haphazard agglomerations of people and buildings. They develop their own spirits--oversouls made of all the lesser spirits that make up their sprawling bodies. Some hear the call of these spirits and enter their service like pagan priests bowed to the nature spirits of old. These shamans of streets are considered more than a little crazy by the adventurers who sometimes encounter them and refer to them as "urban druids."

It’s an austere life they choose, living close to the rhythm of the City; they eschew wealth and comfort. They can afford few distractions or they’ll miss the whispered truths in the passing of subway, or the secrets to be augured in the tumbling of a scrap of newspaper in the breeze.

In return for their almost monastic devotion, the City gives them power. They can transform restaurant garbage into fine meals, turn fountain water into whiskey, make their skin as hard concrete, or scale the sides of buildings like insects. They know the secret passages between streets, and can summon elementals of smoke, steam, and electricity. Rats and pigeons pay them deference.

Rumor holds the “archdruid” of the City (if such a title really exists) is an old bum called Mad Mooney. More fond of vegetation than others of his kind, he’s often found napping on a bench in Empire Park. In addition to his (likely great) powers, he’s loyally served by a gang of urban-feral children who dress like savages and paint their faces like Natives.  They use short bows and blowguns (their missiles tipped with poison from fungus that grows in subway tunnels) and can pass through the streets unseen and track across concrete.

18 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

Thank goodness I used to be nice to the urban druids when I did security in an A/E department, blowguns are not funny.

scottsz said...

Trey,

I love that the animist door is open (cities/buildings having spirits ~ Mesoamerican!)

I have to formally request a post about the gargoyles on City buildings, though! I'm guessing they do a lot more than try to keep evil spirits away...

JimShelley said...

Well that would finally explain how they can clean 100 car windshields with the same rag and no water.

In all seriousness, this sounds a little like a character type Tug might like to play!

Beedo said...

Rock and roll, I love these urban Druid bums!

Trey said...

@Angry Lurker - No they're not. In fact, they're pretty bothersome. I hope you were well paid. ;)

@scottsz - Thanks. I touched on gargoyles (and the interest they hold for medical thaumaturgy) back in a post on urban monsters. Of course, their maybe more than one type of gargoyle in the City...

@Jim - Tug has a little urban druid in him already. ;)

@Beedo - Thanks!

Johnathan Bingham said...

Damn, this just keeps getting better all of the time. I love the bit about the Archdruid sleeping on park benches and the gangs of feral children. That is just awesome!

James said...

"Damn, this just keeps getting better all of the time. I love the bit about the Archdruid sleeping on park benches and the gangs of feral children. That is just awesome!"

Johnathan pretty much beat me to my comment, so I'll just quote him. :)

Dan said...

I love these kinds of characters. the turn up a lot in urban fantasy comics, like Gaiman's Sandman (and Neverwhere and American Gods) and Morrison's The Invisibles.

There's something about the psychopomp archetype that meshes with the hermit, the old man who is outcast and lives on the edge of society.

Compare with WB Yeats poem 'Fergus and the Druid'(http://www.celtic-twilight.com/ireland/yeats/fergus_and_the_druid.htm)

and also with the tale of Suibhne Geilt, a king who went mad and took to living in treetops but who also found magic powers such as prophecy (http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T302018/text075.html)

Trey said...

@James - Thanks. I don't have a problem with it repeated. :)

@Dan - Exactly! There's also Merlin Sylvester (Myrddin Wyllt)--madman and Prophet, and a real American eccentric (easily fantasticized) Emperor Norton.

It just seems a natural fit to combine that sort of fantasy and urban fantasy character with the druid.

christian said...

When we played Werewolf: The Apocalypse I loved to play Bone Gnawers, the down and out Garou of the cities. I always played that dirty skater kind who could talk to rat spirits, helped out the homeless, knew all the back alleys, steam tunnels and what lurked at night down by the docks.

Urban campaigns with a strong spiritualism linked to a city's unique flavor are so great to explore. Keep up the awesome work!

Professor Pope said...

One of my favorite entries so far! I like how it takes someone who's generally marginalized and looked over and gives them some power and mystery.

Needles said...

Oh my God these guys are a pain. They made a tree grow right in the middle of the daily Tattle Tail, they summoned a swarm of bees to hassle the adventurer's guild, these guys are the worst!
Actually these guys are possibly one of the best things I've seen & given the quality of your entries that's saying something. These are an awesome creation. Keep going but I want this book like now Trey!

Trey said...

@Christian - Thanks, man. Given your various urban White Wolf games you've discussed on your blog, I thought this one might be right up your alley.

@Prof. Pope - Thanks. That was definitely one of the things I was thinking about. Sort of opposite of the hobogoblins where I took the "otherization" of the marginalized to absurdist ends.

@Needles - They do cause trouble don't they? ;) I'm planning on getting that book to you this summer. 4 out of 5 sections completed, and 3 out of 5 laid out.

Pierce said...

Awesome, pure awesome.

I hope you will make some kinda faction guide, there are alot of powers in play in the city.

Martin R. Thomas said...

Great stuff, as always! I love this take on urban druids. Honestly, it's not a concept that I normally like in fantasy RPGs. It just always seemed like a way to try to shoe-horn a nature-based character into a dungeon or city scenario, and I never liked that.

However, I like your take a lot. It just makes sense within the context of "The City." Very cool.

turn fountain water into whiskey

Oh, man! I NEED to find an urban druid that lives around my house!

Trey said...

@Pierce - Thanks. Ask and ye shall receive: I'll do a sort of faction guide tomorrow.

@Martin - Thanks. It may be they can only turn fountains into bad whiskey, though. ;)

Risus Monkey said...

Hugely busy day but this is one of the coolest ideas I've seen in a while. Totally fresh take on a class that I would never have thought of. Pure awesome.

Von said...

I like it. It'd be interesting (to me, at least) to model the shift in the druid class from pre- to post-industrial world; they start off resisting and end up dragged into the City like anyone else, and their long lifespans mean some of them might vaguely remember when things used to be different.

Very nice stuff.