View Full Version : C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Series

2005-11-12, 04:43 PM
I've been reading Friedman's series and I can't help but think how well it lends itself to a DnD system. I was thinking of building a world based around it.

Quick background: Throughout the world of Erna runs the fae. Fae is a basically the substance of magic, invisible to the naked eye. Fae responds to emotion. If your frightened, the fae can take your fears and make them real. This makes technology feasible, but unreliable.

For example, using a gun is a very scary process. If the wielder has any doubt that it may misfire, or if even the enemy is hoping desperately enough it will, the fae may cause the gun to do so. The more complex a machine is, the more likely such doubts are to intrude upon it's workings.

The fae can be manipulated by humans. They use what they call "earth-fae" power that rises from seismic activity. Other kinds of fae exist that can be Worked (magically manipulated) but these entail specially risks and different abilities.

Throught the books fae manipulation is classified into fairly large categories, such as Healing, Knowing, misKnowing, Obscuring, Locating, Seeing, etc.

This system of classification instantly made me think of the skill system in DnD.

Anyway, I'm looking for anyone interested in helping me create a system.

So far I'm into the very basics.

We have races:
Rakh: I'm thinking medium, 20ft movement, scent, something about not being able to use earth-fae, different bonuses for males and females.

Human: Any classes, special suceptibabilty to fae-born fears. Only class that may have adepts.

I think the faeborn are too unpredictable and powerful for player races.

Classes: Adept , Sorceror, Warrior, Tidal-Fae User?, Tidal-Fae Adept?

Some special mechanics for adjucating the creation of fae-born need to be established.

All the fae-skills need to be layed out and classified, possibly including ones that weren't named in the books (things like the gross manipulations where rocks are moved, earth-quakes triggered fires stopped and started). Then DC's for various tasks need to be decided.

Anyone have any thoughts, or sugestions? Or better yet anyone want to tackle some area of the world?

2005-11-12, 04:49 PM
After poking around Friedman's website, I discovered his catologue of Workings, which seemed a good starting place.

Working A "working" refers to manipulation of the earth fae only, very rarely the dark fae. Other forms do not respond to such conscious dontrol.

In general the term Working, capitalized, refers to molding the fae into different forms and patterns, and so sometimes these actions do not have verbs of their own...ie Weather-working (molding the weather), and Working a Pattern (such as a channel) - CSF

Knowing Finding information by interpreting the fae; everything leaves a mark in the fae.

Unknowing An unknowing is simply to make it so something can't be known.
Reference is a spoiler (highlight paragraph with mouse to see):
This is performed in "When True Night Falls" near the end when Tarrant is lacing a knife with coldfire that Damien uses to stab the undying prince and Jenseny to kill him.
(credit to [email protected] for catching this one)

Seeing Used by non-adepts to allow them to see the fae. Tidal and solar fae can't be Seen.

Obscuring Blocking attempts to gain information via the fae, Knowings in particular but other workings as well. Also seems to work on more normal means as well; in BSR Damien uses an Obscuring to prevent the dae keeper from seeing the group so he can study Tarrant without interruption.

[An Obscuring is specifically a real world effect, causing people and animals to fail to notice a person or thing. In some cases, almost the equivalent of invisibility. A Distracting has the same effect by drawing a person's attention elsewhere. - CSF]

Shielding A barrier that blocks something out, pariticularly useful against workings and faeborn.

Warding Similar to Shielding, used to guard against something in particular, e.g. demon-wards, quake-wards, wards to keep guns from exploding, etc.

[A Ward is an object to which an independent Working has been affixed. The Working (Warding) is triggered by some special condition, draws earth-fae for use, and patterns it according to its purpose.

A quake-ward, therefore, is a Warding attached to a physical object, triggered by a quake or pre-quake condition, that draws earth-fae and shapes it to support the building to which it is attached. What we call amulets and talismans would fall into this categories.

Those of my devoted fans who want a sequel (but aren't going to get one :-) ) may wish to note that following the Patriarch's sacrifice, the value of existing wards skyrockets (as no more can ever be made), especially the all-important quake-wards; in the decades following the Second Sacrifice, riots erupt over ownership of these precious items, ward-related theft and violence escalates, and some blame the chaos of the second Dark Ages.....whoops, am I giving too much away? - CSF]

Healing Speeds up the body's natural healing process greatly.

Numbing Used to soothe pain.

Patterns Patterns are ....well, patterns to which the fae naturally responds. So it is a way of controlling the fae without a Working, or of adding to the efficacy of a Working. Sacrifice is a Pattern, created by Casca and Impressed upon the fae. (There's vocabulary practice for you!) So any sacrifice tends to affect the fae, though of course really good ones with a formal working attached have the greatest effect. But theoretically, any human who did something that fell into a Pattern would affect the fae at least in a small way. - CSF

Impression Not really a working but rather the unconscious and conscious minds of many affecting natural evolution, the rakh are an obvious example. It is possible that Impression could be used as a deliberate working and perhaps this is how Tarrant evolved horses, cats, and of course, the Forest.

[Impression refers specifically to the effect of a human or mass of humanity on the fae at large, on its overall patterns, and not on any lesser working. Casca's sacrifice was the First Impression, Tarrant's the Second, Patriarch's the Third. - CSF]

Weather Rather obvious, it is manipulating weather patterns through the fae.

Sacrifice Also not necessarily a working in the normal sense of the word but undeniably powerful. Sacrifice as a working is giving up an appropiate amount of value for seemingly whatever you want.

Simulacrum Uses dark fae. An imitation or clone of someone that is not an illusion but has actual thoughts and substance though it is not independently willed.

Banishing Destroys or at least dismantles worked fae and demonlings.

[b]Summoning Brings a faeborn to the sorceror's location and binds it to their will. Iezu are of course un-Summonable.

Binding Not sure. Examples of it are similat to both Summonings and Wardings. Best guess is that it is forcing someone or something to a specific purpose.

[b]Sending A message sent over long distances. Not sure if this is telepathic or not since the Princes Sending to the Kierstaad rakh is the only sending I have actually read about. Seems to be one way. It is possible that the nightmares Tarrant sometimes uses on Damien when in need of sustenance are a kind of Sending.

[Sending is a message, Calling is an invitation to come to the worker, Summoning is a demand to get your ass here NOW (with implied control after the being has arrived, thus its use as a threat with Karril when Karril had already appeared). Sending is a one-way thing, like mailing a letter, and results some concrete manifestation; the pictures of himself that the Prince sends in Vol. 2 are Sendings. A Calling causes something to want to come to the caller, and if that being is fae-aware (as the rakh are) they may be consciously aware of it as a Working. A summoning is raw agressive force and demands compliance by anything not strong enough to fight it. - CSF]

MisKnowing Related to Obscuring, as the name implies. It misleads a Knowing with false information.

Divining Similar to Knowing, it is used to study fae patterns for the most probable courses the future will take.

Calling Similar to a Sending, it goes out across all of the fae with a certain message for those meeting certain requirements i.e., Senzei's Call for a rakh outside the Canopy.

Transformation Shapechanging. Apparently the hardest Working possible and requiring complete submission to the fae.

Coldfire Tamed dark fae. It is used in Tarrant's shapeshifting and by itself is a deadly and very maleable energy that freezes rather than burns and blinds but does not illuminate.

Fire Bound solar fae. Only many devoted people working together can do it and so only the Church at its height has ever made it.

Locating Another Working similar to Knowing, it is used to find the location of a certain individual.

Illusion Though so far only Iezu have used illusions that I have read about in BSR, Tarrant implies that it is a fairly simple Working though I have yet to read of any humans doing it.

Cleansing Mentioned in capitals and by name when Tarrant first returns to his keep in CoS. It is in reference to the possiblity that Amorril had allowed his wolves, or had himself marked the keep, and Amorrils lack of skill in working a cleansing. It would appear that this is also the method whereby Tarrant is able to appease his vanity, and annoy vryce, with his ever perfect body and clothing. courtesy - John Krukoff

Other Workings are used but they have not been given names. The link that Tarrant makes between him and Damien so that he can feed off Damien is one, and I have dubbed it Linking; a permanent fae channel between two individuals. I believe it is similar but different from the bonds Calesta forms with humans. The powere that Tarrant uses to maintain his unlife is unnamed and I have named the dark fae ability he uses to regenerate himself since he can't Heal, well, Regeneration. The Master of Lema's ability (and apparently Tarrant's as well since he took Ciani's on Morgot) to steal memory and even adeptitude go unnamed as does her and the Prince's vicarious workings through people like Jenseny.

Another, from When True Night Falls, is not formally named, but Vryce refers to it as an unHealing. This occurs when Vryce seeks to topple a tree of the Wasting across a crevasse in order to escape the komodo dragon like predators. It seems distinctly different from his previous and future workings in that he talks of destroying and killing the cells of the tree. courtesy - John Krukoff

[The thing created between Tarrant and Damien is a channel, that is a path of least resistance for the fae. Think of two pools of water in the sand; if you dig a low channel between them, the water from the two flows more easily from one to the other. Technically the Working is what creates it (Working a channel), once in place it simply exists as if it was always there. - CSF]

All information above is taken from and can be found here, along with many other useful facts about this series: http://www.merentha.org/jaggonath.asp

2005-11-12, 07:03 PM
A few comments:

1. Celia S. Friedman is most definitely not a 'he'. Please doublecheck your source material.

2. The Coldfire setting could indeed make an interesting setting for roleplaying. I disagree, though, that D&D or d20 is going to be a good rules set, for the following reasons:
- Fae working is, as you've noted, key to the setting - and it's absolutely not anything resembling Vancian-style spell magic. d20 has no existing mechanics to handle this sort of magic.
- Equally as important are the difficult questions of morality, belief and matters of good and evil - another thing that d20 is not well-equipped to handle. If your characters aren't roleplaying out inner agony over whether they should have resorted to dark-fae expediency to deal with the latest act of evil, they aren't in a Friedman universe. 8)
- Finally, Coldfire is about telling a good story, not about overcoming challenges or presenting a good fight. d20 is undeniably 'gamist', aimed at letting DMs and players judge whether an encounter and session will be a fair and exciting challenge; anything aimed at Coldfire needs to look less at juggling numbers and in-game mechanics, and much more at driving a deep and interesting plotline.

My recommendation? Look at Ars Magica, or port in some rules from Mage, whichever best suits. It'll be a much better fit than D&D.

2005-11-13, 01:43 AM
Oops, hopefully Ms. Friedman can forgive me. When I have the time, I'll edit through my former post. (You know I read Ms. at least 30 times on her website and didn't think to change my earlier post)

However, I have to respectfully disagree with you on your second point.

First d20 does have a model for the type of system I'm suggesting. Star Wars d20 uses a skill based system to adjucate force powers and I feel that fae Working can be defined in similiar terms.

Friedman's books do deal with matters of good and evil and deep questions of morality. In fact I've heard of her world RP'd using World of Darkness to model that.

However, I'm not trying to recreate the ambiance of her stories in an RPG. Rather, I'm trying to fit DnD around the world she's created.

I greatly enjoyed her books, but I'm not really interested in that sort of angst in my roleplaying. I'm merely taking the physical rules she's laid out and working them into a DnD based RPG. I'm more interested in the world she's created, (specifically it's magic system). In fact I was considering removing the Church altogether from the world I was creating.

While the Coldfire series as a whole may make a wonderful RPG, I'm focusing on a couple elements to the exclusion of others.

2005-11-13, 03:39 PM
I've really enjoyed Dark Sun Rising so far, though I ended up putting the book down after Tarrant was capture and haven't picked it up again. I always thought that world would make a very interesting RPG setting though. I think if you did make rules, you'd need some way to incorporate the chaotic nature of the fae. The fact that, especially at night, imagined terrors can become very real would be very interesting. Sort of a twist on the random encounter idea ;) Unfortunately I haven't read enough of the series to be of much help, but I'd be very interested in finding out what you come up with.