Lore

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A Spread of Rampant Green

From the Playmat

One of the older spirits on the island, though it's even more wild and exuberant these days than when it was young. Contrary to some stories, it does think things through - it's just far more concerned with the process of life than with things like 'consequences".

It's not unfriendly to the Dahan, but its idea of a good time is to smother their buildings in all manner of inconvenient greenery, and its notion of "help" transforms careful cultivated areas into overgrown thickets. Entire villages have been known to move to fresh planting-sites y ears early if a spirit-speaker suspects that Rampant Green is going to stay in the area for too long.

Design Lore

A Spread of Rampant Green is an ancient and enthusiastic spirit of growth and renewal that is extraordinarily difficult to keep down. It can play up to 3 Presence a turn under the right circumstances, and may return its destroyed Presence to play. It assaults the Invaders directly and bodily: clogging water supplies, tearing down buildings with creepers, and overgrowing the land so badly that it brings everything to a standstill: anywhere it has a Sacred Site, it can destroy one of its Presence to flatly prevent a Ravage or Build.

A Spread of Rampant Green is a force of continual renewal and regeneration, a jungle so thick and verdant you can barely see five feet ahead with plants overgrowing your path behind as you walk. Wherever it goes, creepers and greenery twine their way across the land, and the leaves rustle with sounds of laughter; for all that it's ancient and primal, it loves life with the same wholehearted exuberance as a toddler, and shows up at human villages with all the enthusiasm of a kid doing a flying belly-flop atop an unsuspecting parent.

Thankfully, it's powerful enough that its acts of reckless enthusiasm happen at a timescale humans can react to: a village may be overgrown in a night or three, but not in minutes.


Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares

From the Playmat

When the moon is bright, and the leaves overhead are thin enough to let stray beams fall to earth, the Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares may sometimes be spied, an apparition of pale light and deep shadow. Seen this way, it will neither stop nor acknowledge attempts to communicate with it, whether by Dahan or Spirit. It might not even be there at all: perhaps it's a reflection of a self somewhere else entirely; the realm of the The Pathmaker, or some strange road that borders it.

But beings which dream hear from the Bringer frequently, even if they rarely remember it. Certain patterns may even call its attention, if drawn with sand and scatters with breath before sleep. Since the Invaders came, it has tended towards more terrifying forms, even well before the current conflict arose.

Design Lore

Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares draws a distinction only between dreams it carries to slumbering minds and those which arise independent of its touch. It may bear visions of wonder or terror, of prophecy or muddled echoes of past experience; they may illuminate or deceive or simply confuse. It has existed since long before the Dahan arrived, bearing dreams to those few Spirits which receive them from without, but there is little question that its nature changed - and enlarged - once humanity began living on Spirit Island. Some speculate that it is related to those which prey upon the not-yet-departed souls of the dead, though others counter that it does not seem to feed off dreams, merely carry them.

Even amongst other Spirits, it communicates almost entirely through the touch of dreams, either by manifesting in some form suitable to the dreamscape, or by taking a few moments of its mind-to-mind contact for more direct - if often no less cryptic - communication. Spirits are generally better able than humans to retain these fleeting memories, though humans sometimes help interpret a vexing conversation for some Spirit poorly suited to nuanced interpretation.

Bringer of Dreams & Nightmares is a spirit of nighttime mindscapes for humans, beasts, and those Spirits which dream. It has both kindly and fearsome aspects, but since the Invaders arrived has worn only the latter. Its powers are fundamentally over the mind and perception - it has extreme difficulty doing any direct, real harm; its Powers instead cause the Invaders to believe that they have been harmed. These mass hallucinations breed more fear than if they had been real. (High complexity.)


Downpour Drenches the World

From the Playmat

The deluge. As the Dahan say, "When the very air turns to water and the sound of rainfall drowns out all but the loudest of thunder, at that moment when it could not conceivably pour any more - and then suddenly, impossibly, it is raining twice as much - that is the downpour."

A Spirit of the high skies bridging to the earth below with a cascading torrent of water, rain blowing on the wind and soaking the ground. Flies back and forth across the boundary between water which brings life and growth, and water which overwhelms everything save the plants and soil entwined in each other's protection.

Design Lore

Spirit Island has a dry season and a wet season, but those descriptions are very broad. The wet season brings more frequent and heavier rains, but it doesn’t pour constantly - the skies do clear from time to time. And specific areas of the island have their own local variations in climate and rainfall.

Some variation also comes from the travels of Downpour Drenches the World, which flies across Spirit Island (and sometimes beyond), settling down in one place or another for days or weeks. It is, for the most part, a content Spirit. rolling around in the greenery and nosing rain-glossed leaves aside to see what might be growing beneath. Wherever it goes, there is rain, for it is rain: an ongoing pouring from the heavens, sometimes light and sometimes heavy, but never stopping. During its stay, the ground grows muddy, plants explode into verdancy, and many Dahan among those-who-stay spend a great deal of time in a common-lodge, cooking and crafting and telling stories while watching the downpour through the lodge’s open sides. If those-who-travel are caught out near Downpour Drenches the World, they sigh and make the best of a wet situation - its rains may cause inconvenience and discomfort to travelers, or force them to take different paths, but usually don't make journeying outright impossible.

Usually.

Sometimes, the rains grow torrential for days at a time rather than minutes. Riverbeds flood, cleared ground erodes, and the ground turns to vast reaches of impassable mud. A Dahan proverb cautions against sleeping on one’s back in such weather, lest one drown. Spirit-speakers have learned that the rains seem to match the mood of Downpour Drenches the World - when it’s agitated, winds will gust and blow every which way; when it’s angry the rains will wear away at soil more rapidly - but do not yet understand its mood during these times of heaviest rain. Those who have braved the deluge to seek it out at such times have found it standing high with both heads pointed the same direction, relaxed but focusing intently on something distant, or unseen, or all around, heedless of questions shouted up through the rain.

Downpour Drenches the World paid little heed to the Invaders at first, but has been seeing more and more cleared land as it flies on its journeys. It brings rain to the Invaders’ crops just as much as any other plants - that’s in its nature - but finds no joy in rolling around their ranked and serried fields, and its contented nature is slowly giving way to a fierce resentment.

Finder of Paths Unseen

From the Playmat

Finder of Paths Unseen is well known to the Dahan: it traverses the island with ease, and most spirit-speakers have met it at least once or twice. It communicates more straightforwardly than most Spirits, layering thought-sendings over its high-pitched trills. And it - or its assistants - sometimes help soulforms of dead Dahan move swiftly on, eluding those Spirits that seek to devour them.

It is almost commonplace... but also deeply enigmatic, even to those clans who call it Pathfinder. Does it locate paths, or make them? Is the other-space it moves through a realm, or a state of being? While it is occasionally willing to answer, its thoughts do not always translate well to words.

Design Lore

Finder of Paths Unseen is a Spirit of ways and paths, travelers and journeys, places and boundaries. The paths they travel seem to exist in another realm that weaves through and around our world - or perhaps this is just a trick of perspective, and it’s simply our world interacted with in a different way. Regardless, Finder of Paths Unseen interacts with place and way and journey in ways even most Spirits cannot.

They have good relations with the Dahan, some of whom are close enough to them to simply call them Pathmaker, rather than their more formal title-name. (Whether they “make” or “find” paths - or “uncover”, “open”, “enable”, or “empower” them - is something nobody can quite say; all those words are in good measure correct, but none of them exactly right.) Some older spirit-speakers acting as mentors or teachers will walk its paths with their students, reaching places on the far side of the island for an afternoon’s studies or conversation rather than having to make a trip of months or longer. This isn’t done trivially: the patterns that best please Pathmaker tend to be intricate and (from a human perspective) spread out piecemeal over miles, rather than a simple sketch scribed in beach-sand or ash. But given an excuse, they’re happy to help individuals and small groups; they may be enigmatic in some ways, but their nature is clearly not merely of paths, but of those paths’ travel (or forbiddance).

Finder of Paths Unseen is also an occasional psychopomp, helping Dahan soulforms move on promptly to wherever / whatever happens next. (The Dahan have been told by Spirits that yes, when a human dies, a non-physical portion of them continues to exist, at least for a little while. Then it becomes absent - not destroyed, simply “no longer there” - which the Dahan interpret as something roughly like “go somewhere else”. A handful of Spirits can - and occasionally do - prey on those soulforms, should they encounter them, and a number of Dahan death customs originate from the desire to misdirect or deceive these Spirits, just in case.) The Dahan consider hummingbirds in general as potential helpers of Pathmaker: some spirits associated with them and their realm appear as such, and even the physical birds may have some connection.

Fractured Days Split the Sky

From the Playmat

The sun and moon are short-term timekeepers of Spirit Island, measuring days and months with their rise and set, wax and wane. When they meet in a solar eclipse, time collides with time, sending jagged pieces of Was, Will-Be, and Might-Have-Been tearing through the weave of seasons and years. Gleaming vision-shards of future or past events may shimmer across the sky, but often those futures or pasts do not match what others know.

Fractured Days Split the Sky exists mostly in the high reaches of the heavens, but touches the island now and then, time and possibility flowing around it like a wind-blown mantle.

Design Lore

Spirits do not perceive time as humans do - see the recent update about Shifting Memory of Ages for one example - but there is still a certain orderliness to it. Days follow nights follow days, seasons follow seasons, years follow years, and if some events are unmoored in exactly when they happened, it is more that the structure is looser than human minds conceive, not that it lacks structure at all.

Fractured Days Split the Sky is a hammerblow to that structure, the periodic collision of sun and moon overhead. Or it might be the edges of Time, where the usual order cracks and splinters into pieces hanging out over the void. Or perhaps it is simply the eclipse itself, which by virtue of its nature wears Time around itself like a jagged cloak - few Spirits and no humans have the discernment to distinguish between these stories, and in the nature of Spirits and stories, they may all be true and untrue at the same time.

What is certain is that on Spirit Island, when a solar eclipse darkens the sky, fragmentary visions of past and future and present may appear in the air, ghostly but clear. Frequently, the visions are not of the past or future or present that those witnessing it know.

(Fractured Days Split the Sky is not, for the most part, a spirit of visions - these sights that swirl around it carry no unusual wisdom or import, and may be irrelevant - or outright deceptive - to the past-present-future in which the observer exists. If it focuses, it can feel out which fragments of future correspond to a particular present, but the very act of doing so tends to jostle the future about and make it less certain.)

It is a celestial Spirit, somewhat remote and not especially accessible the way that, say, a river-spirit or earth-spirit can be. It's capable of piecing together a humanoid puppet-form if it wishes to communicate with the strange scurrying upright-animal-things far below, but even this form made expressly for contact with humans is difficult for spirit-speakers to interact with; it conveys jumbles of sensory impressions from moments that never actually happened, or haven’t happened yet, a little bit like a modern human might piece together a paragraph by cutting out words from newspaper articles.

But celestial or not, it is connected to Spirit Island by ancient ties between land and sky. Both the island and this connection are threatened by the Invaders, so if an eclipse has happened recently enough for it to be present in strength, it will resist.

Grinning Trickster Stirs Up Trouble

From the Playmat

There are many trickster Spirits, but this one is the most infamous due to its part in instigating the Second Great Reckoning between the Dahan and the Spirits. It wears any form it pleases - perhaps a tree, perhaps a canoe, perhaps a prominent clan-chief - but can always be distinguished by its multitude of eyes, though they may be subtle or concealed.

Despite its knack for stirring up trouble, it's neither unfriendly nor motivated by malice - it just has a driving curiosity to see what will happen when it messes around with things. Of course, this may involve putting Spirits, people, and animals alike into suddenly precarious situations, so the Dahan appreciate its shenanigans best at a healthy distance.

Design Lore

Trickery, misdirection, and curiosity are all common in nature, and so there are Spirits which partake of those things to a greater or lesser extent. The urge to try things for onesself and a “let’s poke the anthill and see what will happen!” attitude also exist in nature... and are particularly prevalent among humans. The being now known as Grinning Trickster Stirs Up Trouble was one of those Spirits who found the arrival of the Dahan fascinating, and over many centuries its nature has shifted somewhat in response.

It’s generally friendly, and fairly congenial - but even in the days before it became infamous, the Dahan learned that “friendly” was no guarantee that it wouldn’t, say, hide a tiger inside your house. Not out of any malice, but because it would be fun to see how the whole ridiculous (and incidentally deadly) situation would unfold.

It became infamous by touching off the Second Reckoning, the second great clash between Dahan and Spirits. It did this by telling the absolute truth in the worst manner possible, throwing the (admittedly already tense) situation straight into outright conflict. (Nobody is quite sure whether it intended such a huge blow-up; it claims not to remember.)

It’s been involved in all sorts of adventures and misadventures since - its life is nothing if not eventful - but nothing quite so large-scale as the arrival of the Invaders! (Well, except for that time with the cave? And maybe that other thing with the Sky Serpent. Or…)

Heart of the Wildfire

From the Playmat

A spirit of natural destruction... and renewal after destruction, though those whose lands have been scoured by flame don't usually much appreciate the latter. Thrives near human habitations, glorying in their fires and sparks, but has existed on the island since long before the Dahan arrived, a child of the Volcano and the Green.

The Wildfire is a long-standing friend of the Dahan: the early slash-and-burn agriculture which turned most Spirits against them gave it the best decades it had had in centuries. It later supported the Dahan during the Second Reckoning, backing their threats of reprisal. It doesn't interact with the Dahan often these years, but spares their villages as best it can, and fights the Invaders in large part for them.

Design Lore

Burning, blazing, rising, consuming - Heart of the Wildfire is quite fond of humans, in a general sense: they keep hearths and use fire as a tool all the time, and those sparks give birth to so many lovely conflagrations! It is the nature of Spirits to be true to what they are, so even though Wildfire knows on some level that too much fire is bad for the land, it just doesn't think about that aspect of things very much. It is also, after all, a spirit of renewal after the blaze, so it implicitly assumes that everything will regrow eventually. (Its strong ties to A Spread of Rampant Green probably contribute to this point of view.)

It fights the Invaders partly due to the exhortations of other Spirits, but more for the sake of the Dahan, as it's become clear that the Invaders have no compunctions about putting them to the sword. (The Dahan and it have a long and storied history together, beginning with the very first Dahan settlements.) It is also, it should be said, somewhat gleeful over the chance to really cut loose without the other Spirits getting all riled up and putting out its firestorms.

Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds

From the Playmat

Spread throughout Spirit Island are pockets of deep wilderness, untouched by human hands. A few have a spirit of sanctity about them. The leaves there whisper words of forbiddance, of warnings, of wrath for those who trespass. The Dahan know how to listen, and stay well away.

A few spirit-seekers claim that these wild-spirits (powerful as they are) are merely custodians and wardens for other more powerful, spirits of ancient trees and deep roots who wake neither frequently nor easily. Nobody much cares to test the truth of the matter.

Design Lore

Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds is a guardian-spirit, charged with maintaining the sanctity of the deepest wilds of Spirit Island. It serves spirits of deep root and ancient branch which foresaw the need for a more energetic guardian, being immensely slow in their age and great power. It takes its charge with unnerving seriousness, and the Dahan have learned that no matter how carefully they respect the land, raising their roof-poles too close to its domains will result in retribution: its charge is to prevent trespass, even if well-intentioned or scrupulously polite.


Lightning's Swift Strike

From the Playmat

The child of a passing storm-spirit, Lightning's Swift Strike danced off the shores of the island many ages ago, and liked it enough to stay. It spends much of its time resting and quiet, waking up to dance through the sky when the winds blow strong.

It only concerns itself occasionally with the Dahan, usually appearing out of nowhere to send them off on some obscure errand. The Dahan cooperate - partly out of wary respect for Lightning's power, but as much for the sake of the Thunderspeaker - Lightning's child - who is a patron and ally of their people.

Design Lore

Most spirits of storm travel the sky, never touching down or staying in any one place for too long, but a few find a place they’re sufficiently drawn to to stay - often a site with high winds or violent weather. Spirits of lightning are especially prone to this, finding the earth below more interesting than their cloud-formed bretheren.

Lightning’s Swift Strike was born long ago, of a storm-spirit off the shores of Spirit Island. It decided to stay in the instant it first struck ground, and has remained ever since. Lightning destroys with a fierce and glorious joy, not for the sake of destruction itself, but for the exultation of swiftness-in-power.


Lure of the Deep Wilderness

From the Playmat

Most early Dahan settlements clustered along the coasts. From time to time, a handful of residents would get a distant look in their eyes and stride off into the heart of the island, no pleading or reason dissuading them from seeking some distant call only they could hear.

Many of these involuntary wanderers survived and settles together in time. This may have hastened the First Reckoning, as they relied much more on agriculture than did their fishing bretheren along the coast.

A few wanderers spoke of finding the Spirit which called them ever-further inward, in voices of wonder mingled with fear. But most never even saw it, only felt its distant beckoning.

Design Lore

Lure of the Deep Wilderness can in some ways be seen as a counterpart to Ocean's Hungry Grasp: it calls humans towards the deep centers of its power, in one case the depths of the ocean, in the other inland areas far from the shore. There the similarity ends: where Ocean's Hungry Grasp is an embodiment of the seas' hunger to consume the land and those who dwell upon it, Lure of the Deep Wilderness is an embodiment of nature's allure and danger intertwined: the desire to seek what lies further in, and the consequences of so doing. For the purposes of fighting the Invaders, most of those consequences are bad ones, but that is not an inextricable truth about it: wanderlust may lead to good things as well as bad.

A digression: Spirit Island generally presents Spirits in a way such that you see the sides of them best suited to the struggle against the Invaders. However, many Spirits have portions of their nature that aren't very relevant to the conflict, so they don't get much mechanical representation. For instance, A Spread of Rampant Green could (perhaps) cause *only* crops to grow abundantly, creating plenty of food for Invaders or Dahan. But the effect wouldn't be enough to support the Dahan the way that River Surges in Sunlight does, and wouldn't be especially useful against the Invaders, so it doesn't have any rules associated with it. If the Spirit doubled down and hyper-focused on that part of itself, it might be able to expand / empower / better control that crop growth enough to make it relevant - perhaps entice Invaders to change where they try to settle - but in the process, other portions of itself would be neglected and become weaker. Mechanically, this trade-off would most likely be captured in an Aspect for the Spirit. End of digression!

For its part, Lure of the Deep Wilderness likes humans, but not in a way that humans find especially comfortable. Arguably it prefers the acquisition more than the actual having (though it finds both satisfying), and while this tilt is probably a boon to those called away by waking dreams (if they survive, they're likely to break free at some point), it's still not something that makes the Dahan want to have it as a neighbor.

(There are, in the way of humans, exceptions: a scattering of families and people hope to be called on such a journey, seeing it as something of a rite of passage. Their neighbors are pretty skeptical, but hey, if it keeps Lure of the Deep Wilderness from snaring their relatives with a vision-call, they'll happily live with it. And sometimes, Lure of the Deep Wilderness will call an entire village during that village's moving-time; the Dahan tend to find this far less objectionable than individuals being lured away. Partly because it doesn't involve the painful bereavement of loved ones suddenly walking off into the jungle possibly never to return, and partly because villages called in this fashion tend to find excellent sites for their next settlement - often previously unknown ones.)

Unlike the Dahan, the Invaders have no agreements with or knowledge of the Spirits, which means from Lure of the Deep Wilderness' perspective they're entirely fair game. At first, there was no malice in its call, but as the threat the Invaders posed became clear, it began acting with more deliberation and anger.


Many Minds Move as One

From the Playmat

A Spirit of flocks, swarms, schools, and packs, where the whole moves together in concert to accomplish what the individuals in it could not do alone. Unlike Weaves a Web of Souls, its nature leans towards smaller and simpler creatures, and it regards other sorts of animals - including humans - as bizarrely alien in their individuality; while it will communicate with the Dahan, it has shown no ability (or inclination) to integrate them into itself.

While it is willing to sacrifice individuals to protect the whole, it is not a Spirit of sacrifice per se - that is a tactic it employs, not the essence of its nature.

Design Lore

On one level, a flock of birds is dozens or hundreds of individual beings: each has a separate body, a separate brain, lives or dies separately, makes its own choices, and may compete with the others over mates or food. On another level, a flock of birds is a single organism, twisting and turning in flight, mobbing predators and keeping watch, finding food and safety for its member birds as best it can.

Many Minds Move As One is a Spirit of these aggregate beings: flocks of birds, swarms of insects, schools of fish. In particular, it is a Spirit of *joined movement* towards a common cause - a single mind manifest in a multitude of bodies.

It is not attached to any single swarm or school, and indeed, maybe in-with-of many such groups at a time, each flock having a distinct single-mind formed from that particular union of animals. Of course, in keeping with its nature, those distinct hive-minds can then move in concert with each other as part of a still-greater aggregate: it has both multiple selves and a single self at the same time, reflecting the thing it is composed of. It has a very different mindset about minds than humans do - it can be a bit confusing to communicate with, particularly because it finds humans equally baffling in their monolithic isolation.

Since the Invaders arrived on Spirit Island, there have been occasional tales - usually from outlying farmers - about someone walking near the edge of the treeline who sees every single bird staring intently at them. These get laughed off - "of course the birds are watching you, you dummy, you've moving nearby!" - but there's truth to them; Many Minds Move As One has been keeping a wary eye on the Invaders since shortly after they showed up. Its instinctive caution is well-founded.


Ocean's Hungry Grasp

From the Playmat

The hunger of the ocean runs deep and powerful, sometimes patient, sometimes tempestuous and angry. It slowly wears away at rocky shores, or devours half an island during a hurricane. It lures humans out onto the water with its sire call, then consumes ship and crew alike unless the proper offerings are made.

The ocean's voraciousness keeps the Dahan from frequent sea travel, though they still manage a trading expedition every decade or so. These trading-trips take the cooperation of several families, and always involve at least two spirit-speakers. That way, even if one perishes abroad, the expedition will still be able to get home.

Design Lore

The seas around Spirit Island were not always so dangerous as they now are; when the Dahan's ancestors first arrived, the journey was no more (or less) perilous than any other voyage between islands. Several centuries ago, between the Second Reckoning and the rise of the Spirit-speakers, Ocean's Hungry Grasp arrived in the nearby waters. It has severely curtailed the Dahan's trade with other islands, though not extinguished it: expeditions are careful to propitiate the Ocean before setting out and upon their return. Some smaller ocean spirits still exist - some playful, some indifferent, some moody - but all are overshadowed by the hungry, waiting presence lurking deep offshore, and many have fled. Thus far, the tall-shipped Invaders have mostly escaped its attention, but that is sure to shift soon.

Ocean's Hungry Grasp is by turns tempestuous and patient; it may slowly eat away a rocky shore over centuries or devour half an island in a hurricane. It has an awful fascination to it, luring sailors to founder and people to hurl themselves into its embrace. The one constant is that it is always willing to consume more, until all things lie beneath the waves.

River Surges in Sunlight

From the Playmat

On most of Spirit Island, the rivers run high during the rainy season, as one would expect. There is one exception: the lingering remains of an ancient curse keep a high ridge shrouded in ice, and when the sun beats down, it feeds a single river with abundant meltwater.

River Surges in Sunlight is a spirit of rushing water, inundation, and bounty out of season.

It gets along well with the Dahan who farm along its banks; they reap the benefit of good harvests, and tend to the health of the river in its drier times. Both gain.

Design Lore

River Surges in Sunlight is one of the greater river-spirits of the island, at least among those moderate enough in their locus of power to still interact readily with humans. (Joining of Three Rivers, for instance, is much larger and more powerful, but sluggish even by spirit standards, and very difficult to contact in any but a few very particular, well-worn ways.) River Surges has a well-established symbiotic relationship with the Dahan, who gain fertile ground from its controlled flooding and gifts of health from its magic; in turn, they tend to the river's needs during times of drought and darkness.

Like the river it embodies, it is a spirit of many moods: exuberant or subdued, curious or focused, playful in its power or grim under gray skies. For the Invaders, it brings its more destructive aspects: the force of rushing water, the destructive power of a flash flood, the inexorable rise of waters in a flooded land.

Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island

From the Playmat

Long ago in an earlier age, there was only water where islands now lie. One day - for there were day and night by then, though humans did not yet exist - a great serpent grew tired of swimming and decided to rest. It drew the earth up around itself, and so the island was born. Other stories say different things - in particular, Volcano Looming High has its own account - but stories do not need to agree for them to be true. Regardless, many spirits can sense the immense serpent deep below. It is mostly asleep, and its influence on the land above is limited, but the Invaders' Blight already begins to sting it towards greater wakefulness.

Design Lore

Let's shift our sight so we see only spirits. There are throngs of them visible across the surface of the island: spirits of tree and glade, of rushing river and entangling vines, of beast and butterfly and mists floating eerily over the marshes. Turning our vision downward, we see nearly as many within the land itself: spirits of hard unyielding stone and of drifted sand dunes, of sinkhole and high peak. Vital Strength of the Earth is here. As we look deeper, fewer spirits greet our eyes - some of volcano, some of dark and ancient caves, a handful of others. But like the earth itself, most of those we see are large, powerful, and slow. Deeper and larger than all of those lies the Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island. It could be argued that it is the Island, or at least its roots. Like all spirits of such size and power, it is slow beyond human reckoning. Unlike many of them, it is also asleep. Or, now, mostly asleep. The distant sting of the Invaders' blight has begun to rouse portions of its consciousness towards waking, those fragments aware of the land's surface far above. Even that small aspect of the Serpent is slow to act, slow to awaken... but contains the potential for power greater than most spirits could ever muster.

Shadows Flicker Like Flame

From the Playmat

The Dahan say, "If the long shadows of sunset stretching beside you being to shift and flicker like tongues of hungry fire, do not run. That will only feed your fear, and whet the shadows' appetite."

This spirit invokes an instinctive fear in humans, perhaps because it doesn't think at all like humans do - it's more alien-minded than most. Until a few generations ago, the Dahan careful propitiated it only at a distance, steering as clear as they could. But during the Years of The Relentless Sun, it shaded large swaths of the Island, averting catastrophe; since then, many Dahan have been willing to carefully - and cautiously - heed its words, feeling they have a debt they out to try to replay.

Design Lore

A spirit of darkness and fire, of the alien and unnatural just out of vision around the corner. Its mindset is even more non-human than most Spirits', and it's somewhat dangerous just to be around; the only reason the Dahan have anything to do with it is out of a sense of reciprocity for a great favor it did them some generations ago. Its darkness works in ways not intuitive to humans; it may engulf a single person or an entire city, and it can act at great distance by reaching through the shadows of the Dahan. While not a spirit of fear, all of its Powers cause some amount of Fear due to their unnerving effects.

Spirits corresponding directly to natural features make instinctive sense to human minds: "the spirit of this river here", or "a spirit of stormy wind" are straightforward and easy to grasp. Some spirits are more inscrutable, such as the Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds, or harder to perceive, such as the Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island. And then there are others still whose nature simply does not mesh well with humanity's view of the universe, such as Shadows Flicker Like Flame. It is the shadow of a candleflame; a fire that withers what it touches rather than igniting it; the dark silhouette of a tree cast across the ground which, when you step on it, turns out to be a pit of ink-black otherspace. Its form is as fluid as as smoke, rising up from any shadow lying on the ground. Shadows Flicker Like Flame does not seem to represent any natural phenomenon known outside of itself, but is associated with shade, transformation, shadows given life, unnatural spaces, and engulfing dark. While it is not a spirit of terror per se, it evokes a primal fear in humans, both due to its associations and the alienness of its nature. It seems to honor its bargains, but it thinks along strange lines... and when it's near, you're never entirely sure that you won't just vanish. Other Spirits do not seem to find Shadows Flicker Like Flame the least bit unnatural, however; perhaps humanity's view of nature is not perfectly complete.

Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves

From the Playmat

A predator-spirit of the jungles, a stalker and hunter of animal and human alike. Wherever it lives, savage beasts emerge to hunt, and the jungle grows dark and ominous.

Sharp Fangs doesn't bother talking to the Dahan. Sometimes it will hunt them, or run them off, but for the most part it ignores them. The Dahan's legends tell of a time when Sharp Fangs hunted them more actively, until a pair of warriors - twins, sister and brother - drove it off with traps and guile, then turned the tables and hunted it down. Since then, it has seen the Dahan as not-entirely-prey, which, for it, is something akin to respect.

Design Lore

Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves is a predator-spirit, half-seen stalker in the jungles, hunter of prey large and small. This most emphatically includes humans - though a pair of heroes long ago won the Dahan the status of "not entirely prey", and with it an uneasy semi-reprieve from its more active predations. Still, the Dahan know better than to stick around too long when it moves into an area to stay.

Where it lairs for any length of time, the jungle becomes a hunting-grounds, and not just for its own hunts - Sharp Fangs can bring the aggressive and predatory instincts of other animals to the fore. Creatures that ordinarily might be dangerous only when provoked become actively marauding threats, or even driven into a berserker frenzy if it suits Sharp Fangs' purposes. It's not that it lives for the hunt and the fight: it is the hunt and the fight, the way that Lightning is lightning and Earth is earth.

Shifting Memory of Ages

From the Playmat

An immensely old Spirit that has ascended to great power countless times over the ages - and then destroyed that power each time, severing huge pieces of itself to become small once again. It does this in part for the thrill of learning anew, but also for the delight of perceiving the living world on the short timescales that larger Spirits grow beyond.

The Invaders' arrival has pushed it to grow much more quickly that it usually would, re-learning lessons and powers from its deep past in order to fight more effectively. After the fight is won, there will be time to forget, to diminish, and to renew itself once more.

Design Lore

Shifting Memory of Ages has been a Spirit of many things over the eons: they are both a Spirit of self-change and of self-memory. To understand the source of this tension within them, you must understand something of the nature of Spirits.

The larger and more powerful a Spirit is, the slower the time frame in which they act: the tiny Spirits of leaf and dewdrop are nearly impossible to communicate with, as a single day for a human is a long eternity to them. (And their knowledge of the world is extremely localized, though still intricate within its bounds.) Most Spirits the Dahan deal with regularly are a touch larger: the Spirit of a single path, of a small glade, of a riverside pool. Not all such places have/are Spirits, but neither are they are especially rare. These Spirits are still fast-minded enough that they may seem somewhat flighty or forgetful to humans, but they will respond to a call, a dance, a pattern, a song.

Spirits who perceive the world on a timescale similar to humans are a bit larger, a bit less common, stay a bit more removed from humanity on average - and the correlation continues, all the way up to Spirits so vast that they could make the Invaders vanish with a thought… but might erase the island in the process, and in any event by the time they acted, they would be far, far too late, as they measure millennia with their breath.

(The Spirits you play start the game in a sweet-spot of “small enough to act on human timescales, large enough to impact the Invasion”. The slowdown that comes with growth is not instantaneous - more like an accumulation of drag over time - so you’re able to ramp up to a combination of speed and potency that Spirits don’t normally exhibit except during the process of such a change.)

Shifting Memory of Ages is an ancient Spirit that has always loved learning, and growing, and understanding. Long eons before humans, they grew to a great ascendancy of power and knowledge. With that greatness, they stopped perceiving the world on the scale of sunrise and sunset, instead of resonating to the deeper rhythms of seasons, of years, of weather-cycles and climate and tectonics…

…and they found that they missed what they had been. Not that they desired ignorance, but they wanted to be able to bask in the slow and perfect glory of a sunset; to hear how the river sounds during different types of rainfall; to watch the antics of this animal or that growing up as an individual rather than perceiving a new generation every time they blinked. They wanted a certain experience of the world that was incompatible with what they had become.

So they changed. They carefully identified, located and protected those parts of themselves that were most core to their being, then slowly let go of everything else: ties to the land, modes of thinking and being, a billion treasured memories, and more. They made themselves small so that they might see the world with young eyes once again.

(This is not a usual thing. Spirits may become diffuse or fade or may shrink as the thing-they-are diminishes in some way, but those which grow-and-diminish cyclically generally do so on a much smaller scale.)

Shifting Memory of Ages found existence different the second time around: they retained aspects of understanding they hadn’t had during their first nascency, learned new things, and grew in different directions (despite the occasional feeling of strange familiarity and ease when they re-discovered something that resonated with their prior self). But their core aims were realized, and they rejoiced in seeing the world with fresh eyes! Since then, they have risen to ascendancy over and over, followed each time by this deliberate forgetting-of-self, a return to beginnings with a mostly - but not entirely - blank slate.

The threat posed by the Invaders has caused Shifting Memory of Ages to accelerate their cycle, progressing along half-familiar paths of power more quickly than they otherwise would. If victory is achieved, they can pause and diminish once more, after making sure that the lessons of the conflict are remembered by some on the island.

Shroud of Silent Mist

From the Playmat

A spirit of dissolution and the cold silence of death, creeping quietly down from the hills and across the open waters. Its trail is adorned with dew-covered leaves and the bones of small animals.

Some legends say Shroud of Silent Mist came from the final breath of a Dahan spirit-speaker who spoke too freely of secrets entrusted to him, for which is soulform was afflicted with a deathbringing curse. Others claim it was born from the legends and tales rather than from any actual person, for the story of Kadura shows that human and Spirit do not so readily transform into each other.

Design Lore

With wetlands, mountains and high-humidity jungles during the rainy season, Spirit Island has plenty of Spirits of mist and fog. Among them are Morning-Glow, a smallish Spirit that lives near a few Dahan villages and manifests as striking patterns of light in the dawn's first rays, then sleeps for most of the day and night; Tide of the Forest's Breath, a dense fog that rolls down from certain mountain peaks; a Spirit called different names on different parts of the island that rises where the sun beats down on wet sand (often near the ocean); and Shroud of Silent Mist, the mist which silently flows in, bringing quiet and slow dissolution in its wake.

(The Spirit's name is an inexact translation; the Dahan don't generally use burial-shrouds. One word being translated refers to the mist-like clouding of the eyes with age and/or death, and another word brings in association of muffling or enfolding cloth. But attempts at literal translation such as "Attenuating Death-Cataract Enfolding-Blanket" mangle the poetry of the original, and completely miss the allusions to mists and cold, so "Shroud of Silent Mist" is, all in all, a better representation.)

Shroud of Silent Mist is one of those Spirits where knowledge of its nature helps greatly in dealing with it. It doesn't (usually) kill humans quickly at all; while there are stories of those-who-travel dying overnight in a mist-shrouded dell, the reality is that the danger it brings is on the scale of months to years: the mists seep in (perhaps just at night, at first), and everyone feels a little lethargic, a little cold, a little not-quite-there, with a slightly harder time seeing or hearing or breathing as the world turns a pale silver-white. Then the mists stay - perhaps retreating for a day or two here and there, but always returning - and everyone keeps feeling a little worse, and a little worse, and a little worse, but it gets harder and harder to muster the motivation to do anything about it.

Those that manage to leave the area of the mists recover fully, given a bit of time. This may be easier said than done: if it's just manifesting in a small hollow or river-basin, you might win free easily, but more often the fog stretches all around for a much greater distance, and it's very easy to get lost in the pall. Overall, though, the Dahan consider Shroud of Silent Mist to be a very dangerous Spirit, but not always an imminent threat, between the slow pace of its enervation and the fact that it doesn't seem to bear the Dahan any specific ill-will. It might enfold a Dahan village for a few days then depart, leaving a few dead herd animals and a scattering of smaller wildlife. (Or it might stay for months and leave only the bones of those who lived there among the trees. If it shows up and you decide to stick around, you're taking your chances.)

There are stories that it once was a Dahan, and was somehow changed into a Spirit, cursed to wander silently bringing death. Most don't give this much credence, but it does make for a good tale.

Starlight Seeks Its Form

From the Playmat

Every once and again, where starlight falls to ground there arises a new Spirit. Its essence is initially that of the stars and nighttime sky, but from the moment it touches the island it begins to change, adapting and reimagining itself for its new home. Only a few of the island's Spirits came to be in this fashion, but many of them have been memorable.

This one arrived after the Invaders started to spread, striking the earth where they had cleared land for farming. Fragile and new, it was saved from dissolution by Stone's Unyielding Defiance, and in gratitude fights the Invaders even as it seeks to define itself.

Design Lore

The natural world is not static, and neither are the Spirits. Individuals among them grow and change, both reflective-of and reflecting-into the parts of the world that they embody. Spirits can cease to exist, either slowly fading away, being severed from the vital life of nature, or through the cessation of portions of the world they cannot do without. They can transform, their nature fundamentally shifting. And new Spirits can come into being, either coalescing around the existing, or via the genesis of the new.

Usually, when Spirits arise, they embody or represent something right from the get-go. There is, however, something different and unusual about the light of stars. While there do certainly exist Spirits of the night and nighttime sky, when starlight itself falls to earth (common) and brings a Spirit (much rarer), that Spirit arises unattached to any facet of nature, other than a lingering and fading connection to the stars above. Over its first hours, months, years of its existence, it transforms, forming connections to local places and aspects of nature, becoming something altogether new.

Are the stars themselves immense Spirits, slower-moving than any on the island, but so powerful they create children from across the vast reach of sky? By the time starlight-Spirits understand this question being posed to them, they no longer remember whether it is true.

Stone's Unyielding Defiance

From the Playmat

From the Jagged Earth Update

Stone lies under everything. All on its own, it's not necessarily the friendliest of environments for large-scale life, but it's still part of the living earth - over time it weathers to help form soil, after all. Until then, while it may not be nourishing like a lovely regolith full of organic matter, it's supportive and durable and makes great homes for all manner of plants and animals. In some senses, Spirit Island is made out of rock. (In other senses, it's made of a giant serpent, and in others still it's made of a volcano. All these things are true, and more.)

Stone's Unyielding Defiance is a Spirit of one particular type of stone: that which won't get out of your way and you just can't budge. (This can take many physical forms; andesite and rhyolite are common ones.) The Dahan are no strangers to quarrying, nor to discussion and negotiation with local spirits over whether and how such quarrying might proceed in a way that works for all concerned, but with Stone's Unyielding Defiance they don't even try - they'll inquire once, politeness masking frustration, and head home when it refuses.

(Once or twice, someone has tried to match its stubbornness, in hopes of winning its respect. This has worked insofar as the respect is concerned, but failed utterly in terms of actually changing its answer. It has occasionally decided of its own volition to gift Dahan villages with building-pillars, however. These endure better than any others and are always appreciated when a village moves back to one of the old sites which has one. None have yet needed to be replaced, despite the passage of centuries.)

Thunderspeaker

From the Playmat

Child of the Lightning, once known as Bright Thunder Roars in the days when it tore across the land as an avalanche of sound and chaos. It lost that form when the Stalker of Hidden Secrets imprisoned it in a canyon, binding it to echo perpetually back and forth until its thunder died out or the stones of the island wore away.

The Dahan freed it from that imprisonment. Weakened but grateful, Bright Thunder Roars bound itself to aid the Dahan until a generation had passed for every year of its imprisonment, and in so binding changed its nature, becoming both less and more than it had been. It often takes human form, now, and with centuries' practice wears it with ease.

Chiefs call on the Thunderspeaker only in times of great need; it has not been much seen since the destruction of the Servant Cults.

Design Lore

Thunderspeaker is a child of Lightning's Swift Strike, metamorphosed through a binding-oath to the Dahan that saved it from imprisonment. It wears human form, now, and is sometimes called upon by the Dahan to act as a leader against larger threats which must be confronted by many clans: partly because of the powers and knowledge it can bring to bear, and partly because following Thunderspeaker's lead helps circumvent the delicate question of who should be in charge of such a large coalition. Thunderspeaker primarily acts via the Dahan, organizing them to fight in ways they have not had to fight for many generations, but is capable of direct Power use - and must decide when choosing new Powers whether to double-down on its allegiance to the Dahan, or to complement that with more direct effects.

Thunderspeaker is a spirit of sound and of power, of words on the wind and bright bursts of destruction. It is tied strongly to the Dahan by a long-standing vow, and most often appears in human form as a result, but no one would mistake it for an ordinary person: its form crackles with energy and its voice carries a storm-born strength.

It serves the Dahan mostly in times of great need - it fought fiercely alongside them during the Second Reckoning - but has also been known to turn up from time to time offering aid unasked-for, calling messages to distant families or guarding against a hitherto-unknown threat. It has occasionally agreed to serve as a commander of sorts, when multiple Dahan clans wish to make common cause but cannot agree on which of them should lead the effort.

Thunderspeaker has not been much seen since the destruction of the Servant Cults. Some speculate that fighting against Dahan - even on behalf of other Dahan - must have taken a heavy spiritual toll, given the oath that binds it.

Elsewhere

>G Forum post on Gender and Spirits: Thunderspeaker appears as female or male or neither or who-knows because it chooses to, but that choice may not have deep import. Some days you pick clothes to make a particular impression, but some days you just throw something on because it's comfortable. Given its nature, it's much more likely to be forming its guise based loosely on Dahan it once knew who had exceptional voices than as any sort of social message! :-) (Particularly since gender among the Dahan is mostly relevant in matters of family - marriage, households, having kids, kin relations, family status, etc - and Thunderspeaker isn't really hooked into that part of Dahan society.)

Vengeance as a Burning Plague

From the Playmat

A Spirit of vengeance, anger, and retribution. In its incarnation as a Burning Plague, it slumbers in a simmering volcanic pool, awakening at unpredictable intervals.... or when roused through supplication by one wronged. Most Dahan consider this foolhardy, for it vents its wrath on entire communities, and its pestilence may spread anywhere. Clans with a close relationship to Hearth-Vigil have less to fear, but still deem it wise - and humane - not to push their luck.

It is unclear whether its recent waking is due directly to the ravaging of the Invaders or to some Spirit's pleas.

Design Lore

The Dahan suspect that Vengeance is a Spirit of many forms, just as vengeance itself can run hot, or cold, instinctive or premeditated. There are certainly multiple Spirits that seem to fit the bill, and certain events from past generations suggest they are at the very least related or interlinked somehow, if not actually a single Spirit with unusually disparate manifestations. Showing a prudent caution, the Dahan call these Spirits by names that would not give offense should they be single or multiple.

(The name you see on the Spirit panel is a shortened version of what the Dahan usually call it, but “Vengeance as a Burning Plague that Scours All Those Who Remain Before It” doesn’t fit in the layout. In the Dahan language, monikers given to Spirits are titles, with longer names being more formal. While this displays a certain form of respect, it is also distancing, a politeness which either acknowledges a Spirit who is powerful but has little to do with the Dahan, or implies a desire that the Spirit and Dahan keep separate both socially and physically. Shorter name-titles usually convey a different sort of respect, implying some sort of connection or closeness which merits the familiarity… though there are exceptions.)

After the diseases brought by the Invaders started to sweep through the Dahan population (5 or so years prior to the game’s start), many Dahan leapt to the thought that someone had awoken Vengeance as a Burning Plague. There was a great deal of bitterness and cursing whomever had been so foolish - painful history has led them to view the Spirit a little bit like modern civilized nations view chemical warfare: everyone leaves it alone because it’s so terrible, and unleashing it just results in more pain all around.

Thankfully for the Dahan, Vengeance as a Burning Plague is currently venting its wrath on the Invaders, so its diseases are tailored towards them. The Dahan are not entirely safe - but when Vengeance is making the rounds, who is?

Vital Strength of the Earth

From the Playmat

A spirit of great and unhurried power. The life that earth yields up to roots, the ground supporting the life that lives upon it. The patience of seasons and of stone.

It is not usually a direct benefactor of the Dahan - rather than giving blessings it prefers to work in concert with them, lending power to joint undertakings.

Currently it is trying to rouse itself to fight against the Invaders, but this swift and direct action runs somewhat counter to its nature.

Design Lore

Vital Strength of the Earth is a spirit of the support and sustenance that growing life gains from the ground below. It finds animals (including humans) quite interesting, but they fall outside of its bailiwick. While it is not a Spirit born of sunlight, its cycle of life is ultimately nourished by the sun, and the sun's constancy and power align well with its nature.

It is old, and its strength runs deep; while most Spirits have heard tell of the Serpent Slumbering Beneath the Island, Vital Strength is one of a few which can sense its uneasy sleep. It is patient and unhurried, though it understands the need to act with more alacrity when dealing with humans. (If you take too long, they forget what you were working on together and pack up to move elsewhere, which is such a shame.) It has good ongoing relations with multiple Dahan clans, treading carefully around their attitudes towards debt and favors; it does not see the world from the same angle of reciprocity, status, and obligation that the Dahan do.

Volcano Looming High

From the Playmat

A spirit of fire and earth stretching upwards to the sky, casting a long and dangerous shadow across the land. The deeper Spirits of vulcanism are too powerful and slow, too removed to respond to the Invaders - but not so this one.

It doesn't dislike humans per se, but neither does it have much use for them, so the Dahan tend to keep away from it as much as possible and will not quarry stone in its shadow. Of course, larger eruptions can impact a good chunk of the island, so they sometimes end up dealing with its temper whether they want to or not.

Design Lore

There is more than one Volcano Spirit, and many others partake of volcanism in some manner or other, but Volcano Looming High may be the most prominent of them all: while its core essence is born from the deep fires of the earth, it exists where that molten stone reaches high into the sky, peaks looming overhead and explosions blotting out the sun. It is extremely visible, and the Dahan take care not to live too close: it’s not hostile, but nor is it a friend. Sooner or later its power will rise, the stone of the mountain will swell upwards, and an explosion - perhaps large, perhaps small - will follow.

It’s a mostly felsic volcano, so it doesn’t burble highly-liquid lava the way Hawaiian volcanoes do - its lava is thick and viscous, sometimes visually indistinguishable from stone save for a red glow visible only at night. As a result, pressure builds up in the earth over time, and the mountain grows larger as a lava dome rises upwards. This may subside naturally or be alleviated by smaller blasts of pyroclastic activity here and there, but can also culminate in an explosive collapse of the built-up lava dome, like the eruptions of the Soufriere Hills or Mt. St. Helens.

Volcano Looming High is tall, and proud, and rejoices in its strength. It’s aloof from most Spirits more due to location than any desire for isolation, though it’s also entirely unbothered by its relative paucity of visitors - it has a magnificent view, after all, can see what transpires virtually everywhere, and is grounded by a pillar of molten stone coming straight out of the earth’s heart. Maybe it has a hard time perceiving down to the scale of individual humans, but it doesn’t see that as particularly important.


Spirit Island's exact size has not been clearly determined, although it is believed to be within one order of magnitude of Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji. The presence of large apex predators implies that it's on the larger end of the spectrum - but it could instead be close to a mainland or chain-of-islands terminating at a mainland, with the arrival of Ocean's Hungry Grasp a few hundred years ago keeping it more isolated than it would otherwise be.[1]

History

From the Rulebook

The Dahan are the first human inhabitants of Spirit Island, who have resided there long enough to develop their own language and culture. They immigrated many centuries ago, in a time when Ocean's Hungry Gasp prowled nearby waters less frequently, and travel between islands was easier. Their lore spoke of Spirits, and they expected their new home would have some, but were greatly surprised by the Spirits' numbers, vitality, and intensity of manifestation. Some mistook the greater Spirits for gods.

The Dahan's agriculture and animals brought Blight to the land and conflict with the Spirits, triggering the First Reckoning. The Dahan capitulated quickly, and an accord was reached: the Spirits would transform crops and animals to be more compatible with the ecosystem. The Dahan would change their methods of farming and seek counsel from friendlier Spirits. The two became neighbors, though unequal: the Dahan were reliant on and obligated to the Spirits.

Many generations later came the Second Reckoning, when the Dahan discovered their advisors and protectors had not been entirely candid with them, and the power balance between Dahan and Spirits evened out - but that is another story. Suffice it to say that the Dahan no longer view the Spirits as gods.

At the game’s start, the Dahan are just recovering from the foreign diseases which swept across the Island in the wake of the first major Invader settlements. They will work with the Spirits if requested, and fight back against the Invaders if attacked, but otherwise tend to their own affairs.

Society and Culture

There is a decent amount of contact (including intermarriage) between local Dahan communities, and communities may split/merge if they grow large/small enough. This means there's ready opportunity for cultural variation to spread and be regional rather than staying in a single community, though of course details in any given case will will depend on circumstance. The one major case which would tend strongly towards being confined to one community would be when something is the result of a particular person - e.g., a farmer or artisan or leader who does something in a way that's distinctive to them. That would usually be confined to their own village, unless it sparked local imitators/a trend.

Also affecting cultural spread is the fact that most inland and some coastal Dahan settlements are semi-migratory, picking up and moving to new lands about every 8-15 years. (And there's a minority of communities that are strongly herding-based which are even more migratory than that.) This acts as sort of a gentle... stirring?... over the whole of the island, which nudges the the broader strokes of culture and language to stay similar.

Finally, some terrible events from semi-recent history (within the last couple centuries) have given the Dahan a lingering mistrust of changes to their core culture of leadership / structure of social organization. Whereas a village experimenting with (eg) new ways of fishing or new types of storytelling isn't going to alarm anyone, a village that drifts into new ways of government / social organization is going to find itself under heavy scrutiny and possibly ostracism.[2]

Linguistics

The Dahan have a strong oral tradition, as tends to be true (AFAIK) of cultures without written records. Despite the Dahan not having a writing system per se (historically, those haven't arisen much in circumstances like the Dahan's, and there is not much reason to believe the Dahan to be unusual in this regard), they do have a fairly rich use of crafted symbols. Some of these are / derive from literal-representation pictograms, others are / derive from more abstract patterns made for Spirits. (Many Spirits find particular patterns pleasing / energizing.) The latter are not confined to Spirit-centric activities - e.g., if a group of Dahan found a trail-marking for "dangerous animals" alongside a pattern often used with a river-spirit when asking for protection, that'd be an obvious cue that the dangerous animal was in/around a nearby river. And then there's crafting and art - patterns pleasing to particular Spirits might be used functionally (eg, woven into something where it might be useful), but also might be used decoratively. And maybe some villages might use them in other ways due to local artisans/customs - eg, one place might accompany stories with sand-made drawings / patterns as the story is told, a sort of blending of visual art-and-movement performance with the aural story.

By the time the game begins, some Dahan have learned about writing via contact with the Invaders. The idea of being able to "leave a message" for someone to come upon later is one they're familiar with, and in that regard the utility of writing is obvious, though the medium the Invaders use seems dreadfully transient. Some Dahan probably found it intriguing enough to experiment with, while others probably saw the benefits sufficiently marginal to not bother, particularly given its poor aesthetics (from their POV). But then the Invaders' diseases ripped through the Dahan communities, and the innovations / interesting differences of the Invaders took a distant back seat to survival.[3]

Death and the Afterlife

The Dahan don't have graveyards. Rather, they set up a spiral-carved post of wood as a mourning-place, far away from where anyone - most especially the deceased - has recently died or been buried. This distance is to help protect the essence / soul of the dead, by drawing away the attention of any malefic Spirits that would destroy or consume them before they depart.

The Spirits are pretty clear about what usually happens to humans directly after death - a non-physical portion of them lingers, for a varying amount of time - but vague about what follows afterwards, expressing variations on "they become absent". Most Dahan interpret this as "leaving for somewhere else". Stories speak of heroes seeking to discover whether the souls of the dead travel Pathmaker's ways. None of them got a straight answer - or at least, none of those who returned.[4]

Gender and Spirits

"Somewhat matriarchal" is a pretty good descriptor for the Dahan. Their families / households are formed around (and headed by) women. Formal clan/village leadership is not gender-associated, though the chief is a semi-proxy for their family, so it's a little muddy there. War-leader(*) is also not gender-associated, but is often drawn from those-who-travel, who statistically lean slightly male due to some women not wanting to take on far-ranging roles during late pregnancy / early motherhood and heads-of-household (who are always women) nearly always being among those-who-stay. Other clearly defined roles of leadership and/or prestige aren't gender-associated and don't skew either direction across the Dahan as a whole. Gender among the Dahan is mostly relevant in matters of family - marriage, households, having kids, kin relations, family status, etc.[5]

(*) = The normal Dahan version of "war" is a far cry from the modern usage, and what Thunderspeaker leads the Dahan in is not considered "war"; "raiding" would likely be the closest translation. This is why "Call to Bloodshed" isn't named "Call to War"... and "The Trees and Stones Speak of War" is the Spirits/land advising the Dahan not just on tactically useful information, but on the different way in which the Invaders are approaching this conflict.

Spirit Interactions

How the Dahan interact with sacred sites depends very much on the Spirit and on the Dahan who come across it. Here are some examples, if a small traveling group of Dahan were to happen upon a previously-unknown but obvious sacred site (with clear indication of what Spirit it was):

  • River Surges in Sunlight: Discuss maybe moving into the area next time they migrate their village. Tend the river's banks for a day or two, greeting the spirit (with dance, perhaps?) if they see it.
  • Sharp Fangs Behind the Leaves: Detour around / leave the area if reasonably possible. Keep a wary eye out with weapons at the ready, regardless.
  • Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds: Immediate purposeful flight at top speed.
  • Vital Strength of the Earth: Chisel marks into nearby stone, both as a marking-of-place and as a friendly greeting/offering[1]. Don't bother hanging around - it might be months before it notices the stone marks - but trust that that space will probably be a safer one in the coming years.
  • Ocean's Hungry Grasp: If there's a spirit-speaker with the group, make some appropriate propitiatory offerings to the ocean then move carefully on. If not, stay away from the shore and camp well away from water.[6]

[*] = It's both of these things, similar to, eg, housewarming gifts. "Offering" does not mean "a gift to a worshiped being", but something more like "something freely given that might not be accepted, and is outside of gift convention". (Gifts between Dahan usually have social implications - the giver's family gains status - that offerings to Spirits do not, at least not in the same way.)

Brandenburg-Prussia

In the alternate history of Spirit Island, Brandenburg-Prussia became a much more significant power than it was in our own world, maintaining some crucial alliances which greatly increased its size, population, and (significantly) port access.

From the Rulebook

Fredric William inherited the Duchy of Prussia and Electorate of Brandenburg upon the death of his father George William in December 1640. Eschewing the ineffective and vacillatory foreign policy of his father, Fredrick William abandoned the Polish Vasa dynasty and allied with King Gustavus Adophus of Sweden against Catholic Poland. The triple alliance of Sweden, Russia, and Brandenburg-Prussia resulted in the resounding defeat of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1644, and its subsequent partition more than doubled the size of Prussian lands.

As a result of this victory Fredrick William, the Great Elector of Brandenburg, declared himself Frederick I, King in Prussia, and set about the process of building infrastructure and extending Prussian control throughout his newly acquired territory. Upon his death in 1701, his sun Frederick II inherited a thoroughly Prussian kingdom and one of the premier European armies.

Frederick II sought to further expand Prussian territory without upsetting the continental balance of power between Sweden Russia, France and the Habsburgs. Building up the Prussian navy, the new king strove to catch up to other European colonial powers and quickly integrate new colonies into the Prussian economy.

England

The alternate-history of the British Isles has taken a different course from our own: Scotland remains independent, for one thing, and while England is certainly powerful, neither it nor the other Great Powers of our own history are quite so dominant in this one.

From the Rulebook

Queen Elizabeth I of England married Robert Dudley, son of the Duke of Northerumberland, in 1562. The marriage was initially a scandal due to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Dudley's first wife, and inspired a revolt in several noble houses. However, the co-monarchs Robert I and Elizabeth I grew in popularity after the suppression of the revolt in 1564 and the birth of their son Edward in 1566. With the defeat of an attempted invasion from Spain and Scotland in 1587, the Kingdom of England became one of the premier naval powers in the North Atlantic. After the death of Robert in 1588, and Elizabeth in 1603, their son Edward VII became King of England

England was only briefly involved in the religious wars on the continent in the 17th centurly. Following a disastrous invasion attempt in France in 1633, and a clash with Scotland in 1651, the Kingdom of England focused on fortifying the Scottish frontier and building up its naval power.

Unable to project power on the continent and constrained to southern Britain, the Kingdom of England was one of the first to seek colonies in the New World, using its oversas possessioins to provide citizens with opportunities that were increasingly hard to come by at home.

France (Plantation Colony)

The French Plantation Colony is really a twofold Adversary: some of its effects are derived from historical France, while others are based off of the Caribbean plantation colonies founded by multiple European powers. Note that this is 1700s France - the policies and practices of later French colonization (such as homeland representation and strong public-health/infrastructure investment) are absent.

From the Rule Book

King Louis XIV, the longest ruling monard in Europe, rules France with an iron fist but requires a constant stream of revenue to finance his wars on the continent. Recently involved in a war against Sweden and the Holy Roman Empire to place his grandson Philip on the Spanish throne, Louis relies on the strength of the French Army to hold together a tenuous alliance with Span and Scotland against the Swedish, Habsburg, and Prussian Kingdoms.

Prevented from raising money from the aristocracy, and with a peasant population already suffering under some of the highest tax rates in Europe, he has begun setting up plantation colonies and extracting the resources of distant lands for the benefit of the Kingdom of France.

Sweden

From the Rulebook

Ruler: King Erik XV

Following his triumph at the Battle of Lützen in 1632, King Gustavus Adolphus led the Kingdom of Sweden to further victories over Catholic armies, defeating and partitioning the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with Brandenburg and Russia in 1644. Following his death in 1651, Gustavus Adolphus was succeeded by his son, King Gustav III, who went on to defeat Kingdom of Denmark in a series of campaigns between 1657 and 1668 and secure total Swedish dominion over the Baltic Sea.

Gustav III was succeeded by his son Erik in 1683, who became the eight Vasa ruler of Sweden. Under his rule, constrained from further growth on the continent by Russia to their East and the Holy Roman Empire and Prussia to their south, Sweden begun leveraging their powerful navy to set up colonies throughout the world.

The absorption of former Polish lands in the eastern Baltic has given Sweden a significant influx of Slavs and other non-Scandanavian people. While a tremendous boon to their economic and military power, this demographic shift has also been a source of internal turmoil as the Kingdom of Sweden attempts the historically difficult task of integrating a multi-ethnic society. Along with a desire for more natural resources, Sweden's desire for a "safety valve" outlet for discontents and political agitators has driven their desire to establish themselves as a colonial power.

Hapsburg Dynasty

Design Lore

Ruler: Emperor Joseph I (Hapsburg dynasty)

Emperor Joseph inherited the Hapsburg monarchy upon the death of his father, Leopold I, shortly after the conclusion of the War of Spanish Succession, a short-lived attempt Emperor Leopold to put Joseph’s younger brother Charles on the Spanish throne. Secure in his alliance with Sweden and Prussia, Emperor Joseph stepped back from territorial conflicts in western Europe and focused on growing the wealth of the empire for his son and heir Leopold Joseph.

Joseph I chartered the Ostend Company in 1697 to bring trade from the East and West Indies through his Belgian provinces, setting up overseas colonies and beginning a program of resettlement of Hungarian peasantry.

Hapsburg colonies are newer than those of any European power save Russia but have grown quickly due to their focus on nomadic herding rather than farming and infrastructure. Hapsburg control of Belgium allowed easy access to Atlantic trading routes but put the Hapsburg fleets in direct competition with those of England, Scotland, and France.

Russia

Design Lore

Ruler: Peter I Romanov

The Tsardom of Russia has long been an agricultural and technologically backward state, but all that has begun to change with the rule of Peter I. Desperate for an ice-free port in the north to supplement the frequently frozen harbor of Arkhangelsk and hemmed in to the west by the powerful Kingdoms of Sweden and Prussia, Peter I committed aggressively to the northern alliance begun by his grandfather Michael I, sending poorly trained but massive armies to assist in the continental wars against France and Spain. In exchange, Sweden ceded Russia a portion of the Murman Coast, and Peter built a new northern capital and seaport at St. Petersburg at the ice-free Kola Bay on the Arctic ocean. This gave Russia free access to the North Sea throughout the year, and lead to a substantial increase in Russian shipping and shipbuilding.

At the same time, Peter expanded Russia eastward. Cossack explorers had already reached the Pacific coast by year of Peter’s birth in 1672, and Peter sent new, larger waves of settlers along the arctic coast to swell the populations of these eastern lands.

The Tsardom of Russia is the newest colonial power in Europe, having recently emerged as a fledgling naval power. Given their control of a massive population as well as the vast lands of Siberia, Russia has no need for additional population or land. Instead, the early Russian colonies have focused on the rapid exploitation of natural resources that require minimal infrastructure to extract, notably furs and ivory.

Scotland

Design Lore

Ruler: King James VII, son of King Charles II (House of Stewart)

Scotland’s position in northern Britain has always been a balancing act. King James VII plays this role well, playing the larger and more populous Kingdom of England to the south against the Kingdom of Sweden across the North Sea and the powerful Kingdom of France on the European mainland. His efforts are aided by the recent success of the Darien colony on the Isthmus of Panama. Thanks to distrust and rivalry among the major naval powers of England, Sweden, Spain, and France, Scotland has emerged as the primary broker of international trade.

The Kingdom of Scotland is currently in a tenuous alliance with Spain, France, and England against the northern European alliance of the Sweden, Hapsburg, and Prussian Kingdoms. However, Scottish merchants frequently carry Swedish goods on the side, rendering any attempt to blockade the North Atlantic largely moot.

Scotland controls the key colony of Darien, allowing Scottish merchants to transfer goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific without traveling thousands of miles out of their way around South America. With the unique ability to rapidly ship goods to the Pacific, Scotland has begun to quickly settle the Pacific Rim, establishing colonies in other key trading locations throughout the region.


To be expanded upon.

These have been mentioned in passing (eg, in the Rulebook) and have not yet been elaborated on

Spirits

  • Stalker of Hidden Secrets (imprisoned Bright Thunder Roars, leading to Thunderspeaker)
  • The Pathmaker (has a Realm, was also mentioned in regards to the spirits of Dead Dahan if memory serves)
  • Voice of the Deepest Gorge (no longer around?)
  • Watcher Acts Not
  • Implied, but not named, is the Storm Spirit which birthed Lightning’s Swift Strike.
  • Joining of Three Rivers- potentially related to River Surges in Sunlight; stronger, but slower and seemingly less creative

Events

Next some events, named or not

  • The Years of the Relentless Sun which Shadows Flicker Like Flame helped “combat”
  • The Ice Curse which feeds River Surges in Sunlight
  • First Reckoning
  • Second Reckoning (This is implied to be super important, but no details are given)
    • Grinning Trickster Stirs Up Trouble was the catalyst for this event. Trickster spoke the truth "in the worst way possible", which directly led to the Second Reckoning.

Other

Other Names of Potential Interest

  • Servant Cults (these seem like they could be important, perhaps related to the Second Reckoning)

Credit to Chaosmancer, from >G and BGG Names notes

Design Diaries

Beginnings

Powers

Adversaries

Questions of Setting

Island boards

Presence and Sacred Sites

Fear and Victory

The Dahan

Events

Released Art

>G Forum from 2015 with (some) compiled art and artist info

Thought Experiment

Question: Canonically, could Wildfire cause a Tsunami?

Designer Answer: As the Spirit is portrayed on the Spirit Mat? No, because start-of-game Wildfire doesn't have that Power. But if they take that Power during a game? Then yes, they could, because they've changed - the word "Growth" can be parsed multiple ways; in the context of Spirit Island it doesn't just mean "getting bigger", it also means "changing, becoming", as in "growing up" or "personal growth". Thematically, this is why you have to Forget a Power Card in order to keep a Major Power: you have to give up something of what you were in order to incorporate such a large new influence into your being. The Spirits fighting the Invaders are making a conscious choice to reach for becoming other than they are - to change and adapt in order to survive.

(If you like, at the end of a game, you can lay out your Power Cards and consider the events of the game, and think on whether your Spirit might have acquired a different name. I played one game with Shadows where I kept doing things around the Sharp Fangs player - taking Beast-centric Powers, using Entwined Power for targeting, other stuff I can't even remember now - and also Forgot several of starting power cards. By the end of it the Dahan were probably calling me Second Hunter Brings Darkness or the like.)

So Wildfire could absolutely change and cause a Tsunami. It probably wouldn't make as big a Tsunami as River or Ocean would, though - that would take a much bigger change to its nature (in game terms: acquiring the necessary Powers to hit Tsunami's threshold).

Response:It never quite made sense to me that the spirits gain elements by using powers. But now I'm starting to see how much the spirits are defined by the powers they are using. The powers don't represent the spirits doing specific things, they represent the spirits becoming those things, at least partially.

Designer Reply:Yes, exactly! And to cause a Tsunami, Wildfire must evoke/concentrate on that part of its nature which is now water-aligned. One could perhaps express it as "choosing Power Cards to play is the Spirit choosing to focus on that part of itself during those years". The tempo cost of Reclaiming corresponds to it being more natural ("easier" along some axis?) for Spirits to express their entire nature rather than just a portion of it over and over... except for Spirits with strong constancy (eg, Earth) or fluidity/flexibility (eg, River).[7]