The briars are infused by the realm of Spring, a fecund realm of exuberant natural forces whose green eternals care only for life and not at all for humankind. The briars are filled with primal energy: direct, uncomplicated and prone to outbursts of destructive rage.
Briars are most comfortable in military roles, although their primal nature can make them powerful in the Conclave. Some prosper in the Synod where their direct approach to the Imperial Faith often gives them spiritual insight. They often find the Bourse confusing and become easily frustrated by the complexities of the Senate.
The briar lineage is intended to appeal to players who want to play something primal or visceral, with a strong urge to straightforwardness and physicality. They also offer opportunities to play characters who are highly critical of the complexities and shortcomings of civilised society. Briars will allow characters to play with some themes of discrimination as well; this lineage is presented as suspect by many groups within the setting.
One inspiration for the briars draws on characters such as Swamp Thing; individuals who are outside, yet drawn to, the human world. Both the Hulk and Edward Hyde represent a struggle between civilised impulses and the desire to break free of societal restriction. Fictional vigilantes who take a direct, simplistic, approach to solving the problems of society like the Punisher and characters such as Conan the Cimmerian and Kull the Conqueror represent a physicality and desire for simple solutions to problems. Tyler Durden from Fight Club displays a more extreme version of the same archetype. Pragmatic, direct characters are good examples of the briar mindset, as in the story of Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot, or the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman to avoid an unnecessary duel.
What briars are not
- Dryads. Briars are infected by the primal magic of Spring; it tends to make them energetic, physical and wild, but it does not turn them into a tree or instill them with a mystical awe for nature. They feel no more affinity to plants or trees than a normal human being does. While many briars reject the complexities of civilization they do so because of a difficulty fitting in, not because of an instinctive need to protect nature or be close to it.
Leshy, Barkbleeder (derogatory), Spriggan, Cicatrix, Greenscar, the twisted
- Patches of bark Briars have patches of bark that grows in place of skin. The bark can grow anywhere on the body, but must cover areas of skin, it does not extend out away from the body. The effect is best created using latex prosthetics, as make-up by itself will not give the right raised profile. It is better to try and cover a few iconic areas of the body; we do not recommend trying to cover all visible skin. Briar's bark-skin can spread across the body in response to wounds suffered. The bark-skin is as sensitive as normal skin covered in a thick layer of latex would be.
- Green eyes. Briars may have exotically green eyes. Cosmetic contact lenses can be used to achieve this. The pupil can be any shape or design so long as the predominant colour is green.
- Thorns. Some briars have thorns growing from their skin, usually along the lines of the body like the cheekbones or the forearms. The thorns emerge from patches of bark, which requires a suitable prosthetic, but you can have them emerge directly from the skin. If you phys-rep this effect by taking thorns from a rosebush and gluing them to your skin then try to ensure that you put them in places like the face where people are unlikely to catch them.
- Prominent veins. Many briars have distinct veins in dark green or black that spread out beneath the skin. These are particularly prevalent near areas of bark-skin, emerging from underneath the growths. This effect is easiest to create using make-up.
- Briars "bleed" bark. The signature quality of the briars is that when their skin is broken, it heals over with bark-like material. Sometimes this material has thorns embedded in it. Most of this bark-like material will eventually peel away, usually to reveal fresh skin underneath, but some of it never disappears – every briar has a few patches of bark that appear permanent. The bark may grow quickly or take hours to appear, so you can add some more bark to your make-up the next time you are out of character. If you are heavily wounded you might choose to spread your bark-skin effect for an event, but that there is no requirement to keep the bark from event to event. This is an exception to the normal rule that says your lineage trappings should remain constant between events as much as possible.
- Restless demeanour. Briars are often filled with the energy and vitality of the realm of Spring. They rarely sit still for long and are constantly active and mobile. Try to move just a little quicker than is necessary, lengthen your stride when you walk and allow yourself to become frustrated with delays. This cannot be your only trapping - you must have at least one physical trapping as part of your lineage.
- Leaves or Flowers The briar lineage does not manifest itself as leaves or flowers. The appearance of a briar is inspired by bark and briar patch rather than the classical myth of the dryad. For this reason leaves, flowers and other greenery are not part of the briar trappings.
Briars blood influences the character of the one who possesses it. Not every briar expresses these effects to the same degree, but characters who demonstrate these roleplaying trappings possess stronger lineage than those who do not.
- Briars are straightforward. They make straightforward plans, and instinctively take the most direct route through (or around) any given situation. They dislike complexity for its own sake, and respect plain speaking over an elaborate argument. They generally express a pragmatic desire to get problems solved now, and where several options are available, they look for the simplest solution. They will neither avoid a perceived problem, nor dwell on one they see as irrelevant. This straightforwardness can also make them blunt or even rude in social situations, as they rarely hold back from saying what they think.
- Briars are mercurial. Briars change their minds easily, they are swayed by circumstances and whatever seems important at the time. They tend to be spontaneous in their displays of emotion (sometimes inappropriately) and their moods shift without warning. They want what they want now, and some are over-eager to simply take the thing they want and then keep it as long as it interests them, discarding it when they become bored with it. Briars live for the moment and few see any need to plan for the long term.
- Briars are primal. They are often scornful of the trappings of civilisation, dressing simply, using tools only when they make a task easier, some even eschewing material possessions altogether in the long term. They are often driven to pursue self-sufficiency, and may be commonly found among small pioneer communities. Their straightforward attitude may combine with this to make them uncertain in social groups larger than a few dozen individuals known personally to the briar, particularly if the roles and responsibilities within the group are not clearly defined.
- Briars are physical. They like tangible, solid, physical things, rather than getting excited by ideas or concepts. They commonly become frustrated or bored in intensely cerebral situations – they make their point and then expect things to move on swiftly to a conclusion. While this often makes them appear “simple” it is not that they are less intelligent than other humans, just that they have little patience for what they perceive as convoluted logic, circular discussions or anything which over-complicates what seems to them a simple matter. When confronted by a mental or social situation, they try to solve it in a simple physical way (for example, if someone is hungry they provide food, if someone is unhappy they look to physically remove the source of their friends’ unhappiness, rather than formulating a social response to the problem).
- Briars are vital. Briars possess a remarkable resilience and reserve of energy. They are no stronger than a normal person but they can often work that little bit longer than other people, walk further, carry that little bit more. They have reserves of energy that they can tap into when threatened, enjoying boundless vitality.
- Briars may degenerate into madness. Some briars become increasingly short-tempered, until they point where they start to lash out at anything that frustrates them. They insist on having everything their own way and react with anger to anyone who refuses them. They often depart the civilised world completely, withdrawing to wild places (such as mountains and forests) and many turn to banditry. As their madness increases their contempt for society increases and they begin to despise those that defend it. Ultimately they lose touch with their humanity, they become feral, killing anyone who gets in their way and striking out against structures and individuals that represent authority and civilisation.
The briar boon taps into their limitless reserves of energy. Briars that are exposed to any roleplay effect that causes them to feel tired, weary, or weak can respond by becoming energetic and alert. For example, a briar who makes use of the Timeless Hammer Rhythm ritual can choose to start the next morning full of energy and enthusiasm rather than being tired and drained. They are not exhausted by their night of supernaturally enhanced work; rather, they are renewed and exhilarated by it. Likewise, a briar experiencing the effects of a poison, sickness, or curse that causes them to feel enervated or weak can instead roleplay being enthused and overflowing with good health.
Briars are warm blooded mammals. They mate and breed just like humans, they have hair, and they give birth to live offspring.
Briars are almost never born expressing their lineage. Their lineage appears when they sustain a serious injury, with the site of the injury quickly covered in a thick scab with the texture and appearance of bark. In almost all cases, magical healing is involved. It is believed that magical healing catalyses the Spring lineage, causing it to express itself openly. However, magical healing does not always trigger the lineage – some individuals are healed several times before their briar lineage manifests. It is also believed by the scholars of Urizen that any Spring Realm magic has the potential to trigger the expression of the briar lineage lurking in the blood; it is just that the most commonly encountered form of Spring Realm magic is healing magic.
Many people show no signs at all of being a briar before the bark appears. Once that happens, changes tend to happen quickly, thorns may appear growing through the skin and the eyes may turn green. The psychological effects of lineage appear at the same time. If a briar is wounded and healed with Spring magic this can strengthen a briar's lineage; the physical and mental trappings become more evident. This is unpredictable however: some briars are healed many times with no apparent effect.
Because the lineage can hide in this manner it creates suspicion and distrust. Some people feel betrayed when their friend turns out to be a briar; other newly revealed briars (especially if they were unaware of their lineage until later life) suffer shock and damage to their mental stability when they discover they have been lineaged all along and when the urges of the blood become more powerful. Some more prejudicial individuals have inflicted serious injuries on suspected briars and then had them healed with Spring magic, hoping to reveal hidden taint – as well as ensuring their own ranks remain pure. It is a common belief that a briar who avoids magical healing will lose the taint of the blood and not pass it on to their offspring, although this is probably wishful thinking.
After death, a briar’s entire body is slowly covered with bark, appearing a lot like a misshapen, fallen log. According to superstition, an area where a dead briar has lain will be seeded with alien, supernatural foliage. Many individuals, especially among the Navarr, Marchers and the Highborn, insist that dead briars be burnt to prevent this happening.
The eternals of Spring expect their lineaged relatives to be forthright and direct. A briar who displays energy and vitality is likely to be recognised as a kindred spirit, although this may not be a uniformly positive experience.
Lines of the briar
Part of the prejudice some Imperials feel comes from the events of the Freedom Heresy. Between 324YE and 328YE a briar-dominated group of heretics and secessionists attempted to seize territory from the Empire, with tragic consequences. Events such as this help to fuel suspicion of this lineage.
- In Dawn there is an undercurrent of suspicion towards those with briar lineage; it was in Dawn and the nearby Barrens that most of the bloody fighting of that uprising took place.
- In Highguard the bodies of dead briars are commonly burnt and their ashes scattered over water; while there are a few monuments to heroic briars in the the Necropolis, there are none of this lineage actually interred there.
- Briars are seldom seen in League society. They're too direct for the subtleties of Dead Reckoning.
- Many Marchers believe briars are accursed, and have nothing to do with them.
- The Navarr are especially suspicious of the briars, seeing a connection between them and the vallorn.
- Intellectuals in Urizen find the briars too instinctual, too direct.
- The briar lineage is accepted in Varushka, but there is a deep-seated prejudice that they are too willful to be entirely trusted.
- Winterfolk, especially those of the Steinr tradition, respect the bold directness and uncompromising nature of the briars.