Navarr hearth magic
In the world of Empire, formal magic is the application of learning and willpower to create supernatural effects. There is another form of magic, however which does not require the user to be a magician. Hearth magic employs the innate natural magic of the world to produce subtle but significant effects in much the same way that a compass needle always points true north. The magic is not based on the abilities of a magician, but relies on the innate mystical properties of the world. Hearth magic is usually subtle rather than potent, and where formal magic is predictable and reliable, hearth magic is none of these things.
While the principles that underlie hearth magic are common throughout the world, among the Navarr there are certain specific practices, customs, or traditions that draw on the power of the world's innate magic. Often these proud customs are nothing more than traditions - but sometimes their practice taps into some facet of the world resulting in a truly magical effect.
You can learn more about hearth magic, what it is and how it works, here.
There is a widely recognised hearth magic in sworn oaths - especially when the oath is witnessed by others. To invoke this power, the Navarr mark the most important oaths and commitments with tattoos, or sometimes with ceremonial scars or brands. Those who choose to cement vows and solemn undertakings in this way are often hoping to use the power of the mark to help keep them true to their pledge. A mark that can be clearly seen is known to be more powerful than a similar mark hidden on the body, so the more important the oath, the more prominently placed the mark that signifies it is likely to be.
In most cases the resulting designs are constant and unchanging - but stories of such marks suddenly growing or transforming are commonplace. Sometimes a change heralds a warning of dangers to come. Sometimes a mark warns of dangers within, if a Navarr's commitment to that oath wavers for some reason. There are credible reports that the tattoos or brands of oath breakers may twist into wounds that permanently weaken their bearer or torment them with dreams and visions of their betrayals. In other stories, a forsworn Navarr who tries to conceal their treachery by removing the tattoo finds that the mark of their broken oath reappears in another place on their body. There are a few more positive tales as well, of Navarr whose tattoos were damaged or lost due to misadventure or war, finding the design reappear somewhere else provided they stayed true to the oaths.
Very rarely a brand might be used as a punishment. Some scholars believe that the Freezing Brand of Irremais was first developed by a group of Navarr and Wintermark magicians in Hercynia. It deals with a darker side of this hearth magic - the idea that those who have committed unforgivable crimes should bear a permanent reminder of their misdeeds. A handful of Navarr take this a step further, and bear tattoos or brands designed to remind them of failures although in this case the mark is usually combined with an oath to make those failures right or redress the wrongs they have committed.
Tattoos in Play
There are a wide variety of temporary tattoo solutions or make-up options that exist for creating tattoos and brands in the field. It is usually better to focus on one or two tattoos that you can replicate accurately over successive events, and which represent promises or oaths that are important to your character, than to try and recreate too many intricate designs every event. Actual out-of-character tattoos can work fine as in-character tattoos of course, as long as they are appropriate to the setting. In each case the design you use for your tattoos should be meaningful to your character.
When your oath is challenged, or when you want to indicate that you are renewing your commitment to your goals, touching or tracing a tattoo is a way for your character to draw on the power of their oath. There is no taboo in Navarr society about asking people what their tattoos represent. The assumption is that a mark is public so that everyone will know that an important oath has been sworn; so asking another Navarr about their tattoo or brand may be a good way to find out more about them.
While tattoos and brands are permanent changes to a character, the Navarr can also evoke this hearth magic by painting designs on themselves during rituals, or when committing to an immediate course of action. The idea of drawing designs on people is often used in ritual magic that creates a personal enchantment. It's also an easy way to call out some of the elements of the blood magic tradition so popular among the Navarr. Temporary designs are a good way for someone using a ceremonial skill to create a simple ceremony, perhaps tracing a design on the hand or face of someone they are anointing, dedicating, or creating a testimony for. You can combine this with a promise to use the power granted in a certain way - such as to fight the vallorn, destroy the Jotun, or similar.
Self-sacrifice, the idea of selflessly giving yourself to a cause, is particularly important to the Navarr. The founders of the nation, Navarr and Thorn sacrificed themselves to create the ritual that allows the Navarr to fight the vallorn. Isaella sacrificed herself to spare the Empire from the depredations of a mad Emperor. The unselfish devotion to a cause is the essence of the Navarr nation - they are a people defined by their decision to give up everything to oppose the vallorn.
Acts such as these can tap into immense power. While the most tragic stories culminate with the death of some noble figure, death itself its not required. It is the act of giving which grants sacrifice its power, not the loss of life. All that matters is that what is given up is of great value to the one who gives it. If the most famous Navarr stories end in death is it simply that there are few things in this world of greater value than life itself. Many nations have traditions of giving gifts, whether in hospitality or charity, but the Navarr perhaps more than anyone understand the value of dedicating yourself to a cause worth giving your life for.
The appreciation of self-sacrifice may be what makes blood magic such a common ritual method employed by Navarr vates. There is no power in blood itself, mortal blood contains no notable properties, but drawing blood is a powerful way to perform ritual magic.
Sacrifice in Play
Sacrifice is a tricky hearth magic to evoke in play, but can form the basis for stories or character histories. The game has numerous examples of situations where the sacrifice of a small number of people allows others to overcome seemingly impossible odds. Telling a tale of how someone you respect held a pass against an orc warband for the crucial moments needed to escape is entirely acceptable. Likewise, there will often be opportunities for players to sacrifice things presented in Winds of Fortune or the like - in which cases the situation often draws on the hearth magic of sacrifice creating significant results, however obliquely.
When someone sacrifices themselves, or something they hold dear, recognising that sacrifice can add additional roleplaying nuance to the event. When a group of characters stay behind to engage the barbarians buying crucial minutes for others to escape through the Sentinel Gate back to Anvil, this is the kind of behaviour the Navarr in particular should identify and recognise as evoking a powerful hearth magic.
The key element with the idea of sacrifice in Empire is that it has to be willing - it cannot be coerced. There's no hearth magic power in making someone give something up for you, only in the idea that they choose to give something up. The game does not reward human sacrifice; while some eternals might offer boons in return for murder the killing itself does not provide any power or magic it is merely a currency that the supernatural evil demands in return for its aid.
Sharing a Meal
Sharing a meal creates a bond between those who break their fast together, potentially allowing them to benefit from each other capabilities. Beneficiaries commonly report feeling refreshed and invigorated from such a meal. There are rare stories of individuals finding themselves able to accomplish tasks they had no prior experience with, but which those they shared food with are known to excel. A communal meal can create a hospitable and relaxing atmosphere, but the food alone is not enough to evoke this hearth magic. Both groups need to share stories about their experiences and the challenges they face. If that happens it creates a bond that allows each to draw on the other's strengths and abilities. Such benefits rarely last more than a few days at most, perhaps as long as the memory of the meal endures.
This hearth magic is at its strongest when everyone contributes a little of their own provisions to a communal meal, pooling their supplies. This often happens when two stridings meet unexpectedly on the road, or when a striding passes through a steading, with the two communities coming together to enjoy a shared feast. Many steadings in safe locations, such as Miaren or regions where the vallorn has been largely tamed, see this as an important responsibility for it allows them to support the great task of defeating the vallorn by lending their strength to those who walk the trods.
Navarr teachers will often share a meal with a student before a lesson, hoping that their protege will benefit from the rapport that results. Guides also often evoke this hearth magic, encouraging those who need their help to share a meal with them while they talk about their metaphorical burdens. Doing so allows the guide to lend their strength to those who need it, while also granting them insight into the challenges they face, making it easier for them to offer advice or see where the person they are trying to help may be happier.
As with most nations, the Navarr are aware of the significant hearth magic bound up with hospitality. Accepting an offer of hospitality, or making such an offer to someone, can create a bond between people even if they are enemies. Even the most ruthless Navarr is cautious about breaking hospitality in this way. For a host to betray a guest they have freely granted food or a place to sleep, or for a guest to turn on their host, is to risk bringing a terrible curse down on their head and those they care for.
Sharing a Meal in Play
Sharing a meal can be as simple as you need it to be at Anvil. It could be just a jug of water and a handful of fruit, almonds, or hard biscuits. The important thing for this hearth magic is that both parties contribute something to the meal - both food and conversation.
Hearth magic alone is not enough to allow you to share character skills but you can still roleplay that you are sharing abilities such as a knowledge of strategy, tactics, magic, or command. If your character is planning to encounter a specific eternal for the first time, you might arrange to share a simple meal with a vate who has previously dealt successfully with that eternal. That will give you a great opportunity to discuss the experience - which will definitely help you prepare for your own encounter - and you are free to assume that some of the insight comes from the hearth magic of hospitality.
You can make use of this hearth magic when performing rituals that allow characters to share skills such as Shared Mastery of the Magician's Guild or Barked Command of the Iron Serjant. It's also a great hearth magic to use to complement the apprentice skill when roleplaying with a character who doesn't have any skills of their own.
According to the Great Dance, it is possible for two or more people to share a powerful connection to one another, and the practice of braiding has been shown to heighten that connection. Techniques vary; what matters is that strands are braided together, one for each person to be connected, and each has a strong connection to the person it represents. Some Navarr contribute strands of hair, while others write their names on ribbons, or mark a little of their blood onto cord or twine.
By bonding people together in this fashion, a talisman is created that helps people remain connected regardless of the distance between them, time that passes, or even death. Regardless of who carries the physical braid, while it remains intact either party may occasionally feel a profound connection to the other. The hearth magic is commonly used by friends, family members, or lovers who face separation such as when individuals move from a steading to a striding or back, so that even though they are apart they preserve a connection to each other. There are accounts of people sensing when the other is in need, in danger, or has died. The power of these braids can also reach beyond death; there are several tales of ghosts returning to spend a few last minutes with a loved one who carries a braid.
Keeping a braid after it has served it's purpose may prevent those bound to it from finding new partners in the Great Dance. Simply discarding or destroying the braid is seen as disrespectful, and may even be dangerous. If a relationship runs its course, the braid is usually burned as part of a ceremony of unburdening.
Braiding in Play
Braiding can form part of any ceremony in which characters declare a commitment or connection to one another. Weddings are an obvious time to employ braiding, but it is also a way for friends or family members to strengthen their connection to one another. If you carry a braid that represents your connection with a distant partner, you might touch or handle the braid when speaking or thinking of the distant person to try and get a sense of if they are well.
If you have created a braid with a character who has died, and you discover this fact out-of-character, it is appropriate to have a sudden feeling that that character is no longer alive. Normally, you should not use information you've gained out-of-character in this way but this is an exception. It is acceptable to use the hearth magic of braiding as a way to explain knowing when someone is in-character dead or in peril. You can't check this information with a referee, but if you know out-of-character that someone is definitely alive or definitely dead, then you can communicate this knowledge to other characters if you have made a significant braid with that character.