by John G. Wood
At the heart of the Discworld stands the ten-mile-high spire of Cori Celesti, home of the gods -- or at least all the gods that count. It is an inhospitable place for mortals; even if you manage to find somewhere to stand in the icy, near-vertical terrain you are likely to be frozen, electrified by the Aurora Corialis and buried in snow before being knocked off the peak by lightning bolts casually dropped from Dunmanifestin. The laws of narrative causality being what they are, you will then land within the wall of mountains keeping the Ice Giants prisoner at the foot the spire, disturbing their afternoon nap.
Move a little further away from Cori Celesti and life becomes more tolerable. Maybe it's the same thaumic flux that causes the Aurora; maybe it's the high mountain air; maybe it's the fact that the only alternative employment in the region is yok herding. Whatever the reason, there are more monasteries per square mile here than anywhere else on the Disc.
Of course, with dwarfs, trolls, humans, gods, and religion in close proximity it's not all serenity and contemplation . . .
(Author's note: Like the campaign settings in GURPS Discworld Also, this article is not "canon." Although I have tried to make it consistent with previously published material, future chronicles may contradict it. You Have Been Warned.)
Most trade into the region comes via the great river whose valley reaches almost to the Hub. According to Sir Richard de Camp of the Royal Ankh-Morpork Geographical Society, this is the Smarl -- the longest river on the Disc -- whose source he discovered on one of his many expeditions. The river forks, however, and to the celebrated Genuan explorer Antoine Seraglio it is the Vieux, the longest (and fattest) river, whose source he discovered. The locals have their own name for it, of course; most civilized people consider this irrelevant.
The great river valley divides the Hublands. Turnwise lie the Ramtops, stretching from the foothills of Cori Celesti almost to the Rim; Widdershins the sharp, high mountains blend into the Trollbones and gradually soften to form the Hubland Steppes, home of horse people and barbarian heroes. On the counterweight side the glaciers rule, making their way slowly to the sea where the great isthmus joins the continent.
The disc is thicker at the Hub than elsewhere, allegedly to make space for an internal layer of molten rock but more likely because there are no elephants underneath to stop it sagging. Vast quantities of octiron, gold and other important ores make the region an attractive prospect for dwarfs. Unfortunately there are also a lot of trolls, many of them igneous (or as humans would say, "well hard").
Trolls have been in the region longer than any other mortal race. Indeed, many people think that the mountains formed from the bodies of ancient trolls who settled down thousands of years ago and never woke. The Hub is ideal territory for them -- cold, mountainous and largely uninhabited. Because of the temperature they are, on average, no less intelligent than their human or dwarf neighbors.
Hubland troll society is stratified, and dominated by the old. As trolls age they tend to become more contemplative and move further up the mountains; there is intense competition for the highest, most exposed places, where an elder can keep his or her brain in peak conditions (the decision process involves candidates philosophically hitting each other with rocks). Because there is little room at the top, true sages tend to be loners. Acolytes group together in the troll equivalent of monasteries further down the mountain and send depositions in search of wisdom.
Younger trolls sometimes rebel. Most of these simply head for the plains, hoping for a life of freedom and the opportunity to reach the top of a smaller heap. Some, blessed with the appropriate coloration, become Yeti instead (see p. DW71).
Dwarfs have been in the mountains almost as long as the trolls. The mines here are very traditional; Uberwald is regarded as too permissive by many. The rich veins of ore here have been so heavily mined that kingdoms are frequently breaking through into each other's tunnels, usually leading to some good-natured fighting over the territory.
Dwarfen literal-mindedness does not encourage philosophical contemplation -- mention a tree falling in the forest and they are likely to calculate how many pit props they currently need -- and they run very few monasteries. However, since they take things so seriously many dwarf societies have almost religious levels of ritual and discipline. The Battle Orders are the best known examples but there many others, including societies concentrating on armory, engineering, subterranean cartography, and woodwork.
Existence here is harder for humans than for dwarfs or trolls but there are still many isolated human villages nestled in glacier-carved valleys, eking a living from land the typical Lancre peasant would describe as "bare rock." The life of a monk can seem pretty cushy to the inhabitants (especially in those villages which have to supply the food for their local monastery). As a result humans make up the bulk of the religious population.
Humans in the mountains are generally shorter than on the plains. Academics blame this on the lack of meat in their diet while country folk look disapproving and observe that "you know what they say about dwarfs." The locals are silent but it must be admitted that many of the women do have remarkably hairy chins.
Some explorers trapped outside in blizzards on the mountains caught glimpses of hairy humanoids shambling through the snow. Others found footprints vaguely resembling large, unshod human feet. When asked if these were the infamous mountain trolls, locals replied "no, not yeti" and a legend was born.
So many expeditions have failed to find and capture the not-yeti that they are considered a myth by most civilized people. However, they do exist; their closest relatives are found on the tropical island of Bhangbhangduc (or, in one case, in the library of Unseen University). They keep to themselves, so nobody knows how they feel about the climate and the lack of bananas.
Many orders have already been described in the chronicles, including the Balancing Monks, History Monks, Listening Monks, Yen Buddhists, and the Monks of Cool (possibly the authors of the Book of Going Forth Around Elevenish). The only monks with headquarters reported outside the Hublands are the followers of the Way of Mrs. Cosmopolite; even they come from the mountains.
While some temples to the gods of Dunmanifestin exist in the region, opinion is divided over whether it is a good idea to attract their attention -- many monasteries are instead dedicated to the mental and physical improvement of their members, studiously ignoring the neighborhood deities. There are also small gods in the mountains (although not so many as in the desert), and a lucky few find worshippers to found a temple in their honor. Other orders are dedicated to an Idea which has seeped through from another reality thanks to the thaumic flux.
The upshot of this is that the GM can introduce a monastery built around almost any theme, although to keep things consistent it should be given a Himalayan slant. The Wanderer's Monastery Table can be used to flesh out some of the details.
The New World Monks
A plains man now known simply as Leader became convinced that the Apocralypse was close at hand, and that the only place which would be safe was the Hub, since the Ice Giants were going to be leaving there to conquer the rest of the world. Leader formed a cult and led his chosen people into the mountains to prepare for The Day, creating a heavily-fortified temple stocked with long-lasting food as well as the weapons essential for keeping out those who weren't chosen. A network of abandoned dwarf tunnels beneath the building acted as an emergency glacier-proof shelter.
The New World monks are men, women and children of all ages -- families are encouraged to join as a group since their order will soon be repopulating the Disc. The outer circle members spend most of their time on the plains, leading ordinary lives, gathering supplies, recruiting new members, and trusting that there will be enough warning to get to the mountains before the end of the world. The inner circle devote themselves to the rituals of survivalism, checking and double-checking their weapons, reciting contingency plans, patrolling, and maintaining their temple ("The Compound") in perfect working order. They are dedicated men and women with short hair and multicolored robes (usually patchy green and brown) who regard anyone approaching their home with suspicion -- wanderers are likely to find themselves facing the wrong end of a loaded crossbow.
For more information see chapter 5 of GURPS Y2K. If the Apocralypse arrives, consider chapter 10 . . .
The Society for Crisnassen Cookery
Harri Crisnassen was one of the greatest dwarf chefs ever, able to do things to a rat or vermine that would make anyone's mouth (and eyes) water. He would also shave his head and beard "for hygiene's sake"; some of the younger, more impressionable dwarfs saw this behavior as a sign of his wisdom and became his disciples. Dressing in saffron aprons to protect their armor from fat stains, they learned his secret recipes and determined to spread his brand of Low Cuisine throughout the Disc.
There is now a branch of the Society in many traditional dwarf communities but the biggest growth has been in cities like Ankh-Morpork. The disciples are aggressive in marketing "Harri Crisnassen's World Famous Fried Rat," accosting people at docks, bars and mine entrances to press menus into their hands. Most people take the pamphlet just to get away.
The Society is not speciesist and has started catering for humans and trolls. There have even been some experiments blending cooking styles but these have been less successful -- the "chip butty" (small pieces of rock between two slices of buttered dwarf bread) was much admired but didn't sell.
Most dwarfs are only interested in tunnels as a means of getting at promising seams. The Society is concerned about communication and the rapid transmission of recipes, orders, and ingredients; as a result it now runs the biggest network of tunnels under the Disc. People unused to bald, beardless dwarfs saw small, saffron-clad individuals appearing from holes in the ground and concocted a theory about Secret Masters running the world from their mountain fastness via the tunnels. Coincidentally, the top rank of the Crisnassen's, the dwarfs at the Hub entrusted with the secret recipes, are known as the secret masters, but they don't run the world. Yet.
Wanderers' Monastery Table
When stumbling into a new monastery, roll 2d for each of the following:
Other (not-yeti, undead)
Other single-color robes
Other (furs, Hawaiian shirts)
(ignore for trolls, add 2 for dwarfs)
Other specific style (mohawk, dreadlocks)
Disciplines of Faith
Trivial (-1 point)
Minor (-5 points)
Major (-10 points)
Great (-15 points)
(subtract 2 for trolls)
(modifiers: Tiny -2, Small -1, Large +1, Immense +2)
Small leading group
Attitude to Violence
Total Non-Violence (-30 points)
Self-Defense Only (-15 points)
Cannot Kill (-15 points)
Use when appropriate
Violence cleanses the soul
Attitude to Outsiders
Foreigners must prove themselves
Local people only
None may enter
Martial Art (varies)
Longevity (5 points)
Cloud men's minds (Daze knack, 2 power, 40 points)
Mind men's clouds (Clouds knack, 6 points)
Because It's There
It began when Dirk d'Astard, black sheep of the Royal Ankh-Morpork Geographical Society, insulted earnest explorer Sir Edmund de Camp. It became a competition to see who could climb the greatest number of unconquered peaks by winter. Both men planned carefully; Edmund worked on husbanding his resources and cutting time between peaks, whilst Dirk considered ways to nobble his rival. Both assembled teams of bearers, picture box operators, medics, guards, translators, and all the other people needed for a major expedition, Dirk managing to slip some troublemakers into Edmund's party. The rivals were to meet the judges back at the Society on the night before Hogswatch, or forfeit the bet.
The race was on.
Sir Edmund de Camp
ST 11 , DX 12 , IQ 10 [-], HT 12 
Speed 6, Move 6, Dodge 6
Advantages: Absolute Direction ; Fit ; Full Literacy ; Status 3 ; Wealthy .
Disadvantages: Enemy (rivals, 6 or less) [-5]; Glory Hound [-15]; No Sense of Humor [-10]; Obsession (prove himself as a great explorer) [-10].
Quirks: Loves a challenge; Proud.
Skills: Acrobatics-12 ; Area Knowledge (Ankh-Morpork)-9 [1/2]; Climbing-13 ; Heraldry-10 ; Hiking-13 ; Leadership-13 ; Riding (horse)-10 [1/2]; Shortsword-10 [1/2]; Shouting at Foreigners-9 ; Swimming-11 [1/2].
Languages: Ankhian-10 .
Edmund has always lived in the shadow of his famous uncle, Sir Richard de Camp, for whom he feels a mixture of pride and resentment. He is determined that some day he will be recognized as a great explorer in his own right rather than "Sir Richard's nephew." During the competition he intends to test his mettle by climbing the second highest mountain on the Disk, at grid reference K2.
Edmund concentrates on keeping himself in trim, rather than developing the skills he really needs. However, he has a knack for picking good hirelings and so far they have prevented his expeditions from failing, despite their employer's efforts to do everything himself. Edmund is regarded as a humorless bore by his fellows.
ST 10 [-], DX 11 , IQ 13 , HT 10 [-]
Speed 5.25, Move 5, Dodge 5
Advantages: Ally Group (hangers-on) ; Danger Sense ; Full Literacy ; Status 2 ; Wealthy .
Disadvantages: Compulsive Behavior (cheating) [-10]; Cowardice [-10]; Reputation (a cheat and a liar, -1) [-5]; Self-Centered [-10]; Unattractive [-5].
Quirks: Always follows the most complicated plans; Dislikes heights; Twirls moustache when nervous.
Skills: Area Knowledge (Ankh-Morpork)-13 ; Bard-12 [1/2]; Brawling-11 ; Carousing-11 [3 1/2]; Disguise-12 ; Fast-Talk-15 ; Gambling-12 ; Leadership-13 ; Lockpicking-12 ; Shadowing-12 ; Traps-14 .
Languages: Ankhian-13 .
Dirk is seen as a witty party animal by some of his contemporaries and as a disgrace to his class by most other nobles. Although highly intelligent he frequently gets himself into trouble by cheating, even when it would be easier to win honestly. Being a city man with little outdoor experience, he knows that his only chance of beating Edmund is to stop him getting home for Hogswatch. Dirk will have to climb some minor peaks to prove he was trying, and is not looking forward to it.
Involving the PCs
Ankh-Morpork-based PCs can be employed by either team (or, in the case of d'Astard's "moles", by both). The GM should decide the route taken by the teams - either by riverboat up the Smarl or by land to Lancre and then into the High Ramtops.
PCs at the Hub can take time off from their regular activities to help the visitors (people who do this are known as shirkas). Mountain survival skills are particularly useful for getting foreigners out of trouble.
The senior priests at the Great Temple of Buna asked themselves, how do you solve a problem like Trickiparka? The young, talented and devoted acolyte had joined the celibate, all-male monastery as a child and somehow managed to hide the fact that she was female -- until her teens. As she grew into a young woman other monks found their concentration faltering and it looked as if she would have to be expelled, for everyone else's sake. Then a message arrived from the god himself, hand-delivered by a not-yeti, saying that it was time to expand. A monk was to set out with a copy of the scriptures for the lands beyond the mountains and spread the word of Buna. Trickiparka was sent and life in the temple returned to normal.
ST 10 [-], DX 10 [-], IQ 13 , HT 11 
Speed 6, Move 6, Dodge 6
Advantages: Attractive ; Clerical Investment (Rank 1) ; Fearlessness +1 ; Fully Literate ; Imperturbable ; Manual Dexterity +1 ; Musical Ability +1 ; Patron (Buna) ; Single-Minded .
Disadvantages: Disciplines of Faith (Bunaism) [-10]; Duty (to Temple) [-10]; Oblivious [-3]; Pacifism (Self-defense only) [-15]; Youth [-2].
Quirks: Believes totally in her god; Speaks carefully and precisely; Staid.
Skills: Area Knowledge (Temple and Valley)-11 [1/2]; Bard-13 ; Calligraphy-12 ; Dancing (temple)-11 ; Law (Religious)-11 ; Meditation-12 ; Performance/Ritual-15 ; Singing-15 ; Theology-14 .
Languages: Ankhian-11 [1/2]; Gesture-14 ; Hublander-13 .
Trickiparka's parents raised her as a boy and sent her to the local temple for financial reasons, but the decision suited her well. She is puzzled by her selection for this important mission, feeling she still has too much to learn, but obeys the will of Buna. She misses the temple and is determined to keep up standards while away.
Bunaist practice requires her to spend several hours a day in meditation, to eat only vegetables and to follow strict rituals. She also spends a lot of her "free" time studying, leaving only two or three hours a day for travel.
ST 18 , DX 13 , IQ 9 [-10], HT 10/15 
Speed 5.75, Move 4, Dodge 5
Advantages: Ally (Trickiparka, 15-) ; Ally Group (worshippers, medium group, 6-) ; Brachiator ; Double Jointed ; Enhanced Move (brachiating) ; Lightning Knack ; Long Arms ; Recognized Divinity ; Toughness +2 ; Two extra short arms (prehensile feet) ; Unaging ; Very Rapid Healing .
Psionic Powers: Telepathy power 8 (everyone)/16 (worshippers only) .
Disadvantages: Bad Temper [-10]; Bowlegged [-1]; Dependency (worship) [-10]; Hidebound [-10]; Mute [-25]; Overconfidence [-10]; Poor Grip [-5]; Reduced Move (running) [-5]; Self-Centered [-10]; Semi-Upright [-5]; Stubbornness [-5]; Unattractive [-5].
Quirks: Deliberately provokes people he doesn't like.
Psionic Skills: Emotion Sense-12 ; Telereceive-10 ; Telesend-10 .
Other Skills: Acrobatics-14 ; Area Knowledge (Hublands)-8 [1/2]; Brawling-14 ; Gesture-11 [1/2]; Intimidation-13 ; Staff-13 ; Survival (mountains)-8 .
Languages: Ankhian-7 [1/2]; Hublander-7 [1/2]; Orangutan-9 [-].
Buna knows the story of Om's rise to glory from his humble incarnation as a tortoise worshipped by a lone disciple. With several believers and a much more flexible body Buna is convinced that he can do even better. His temper and his inflated sense of his own abilities mean he often gets into fights. Trickiparka tries to rein him in (when she notices); as a god he ignores her.
Involving the PCs
For a confused quest campaign, the PCs could be companions Trickiparka and Buna pick up on their journey -- in a 100-point campaign one person could play the monk. Buna is a handy tool for the GM to get the party into trouble.
An established, relatively stationary PC group could encounter the pair attempting to "spread the word." Trickiparka is innocent, and socially inept; if she tries this in (say) Ankh-Morpork she is likely to need rescuing.
The Hall of the Mountain King
A mining team operating close to the base of Cori Celesti breaks through into a vast, abandoned complex of dwarf-made caverns and tunnels, equipped with some of the finest forges they have seen. The king believes this to be Snifflheim, the ancient home of the dwarfs contracted to supply Blind Io's hammers. Of course, other mining teams are interested in the legendary veins of octiron rumored to be found in Snifflheim. One secret order dedicated to the preservation of the site wants to find out how the breach was made, get everyone out and seal it up again. They are even willing to resort to using outside agents . . .
A Ridge Too Far
Bored with the stability of life in the Agatean Empire, Emperor Cohen goes exploring. He discovers the tunnels leading from the Hunghung branch of Harri Crisnassen's. Usually his army won't venture beyond the wall for fear of the ghosts that lurk outside, but never before has the army been able to travel underground. Cohen decides to annex the Hub. The battle is more even than it seems. The Emperor has the manpower but can only send a few soldiers through the tunnels at a time. The dwarfs are definitely up for a fight, and the famous monastery of Shou Lin (which houses many Agatean refugees) acts as a rallying point for the martially inclined orders.
PCs can join in the fighting on either side, or help organize the evacuation of the resistance leaders.
A new monastery has opened up across the valley, and seems to be attracting acolytes at a rapid rate. Now monks are beginning to defect, breaking their existing vows. It's no longer a simple case of who is the serenest -- what is the secret of the new order? And how can they be stopped?
Rock of Ages
An ancient troll on one of the highest peaks has finally gone completely dormant and it is time to choose his successor. Unfortunately, he has left specific instructions spurning traditional methods -- the new sage must be the one who does the most to make the mountains safe for trolls in the next troll year. Ways to do this include attracting the patronage of a god, improving relations with dwarfs and humans, or wiping out the other races.
A shadowy figure trained in Mysterious Mountain Ways has begun a vigilante campaign to clean up crime in the Shades of Ankh-Morpork -- by turning the perpetrators into messy red splotches. The Assassins' and Thieves' Guilds are up in arms; can the Watch (or other concerned citizens) stop the mystery killer before the body count hits triple figures? Will they have to go into the mountains to discover the source of his abilities?
A group of society ladies in Ankh-Morpork hear about the poor living conditions of the Hubland people and organize a charity mission to save the benighted souls there, bringing decent food, proper religion and information on the correct way to farm. In their enthusiasm the ladies sweep up anyone too slow to get out of the way. Before they know it, the new recruits have a task, a uniform and are on their way to the hub.
Article publication date: July 6, 2001
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