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Avalanche Press - Celtic Age - Roleplaying the Myths, Heroes and Monsters of the Celts by Azamor

Avalanche Press - Celtic Age - Roleplaying the Myths, Heroes and Monsters of the Celts by Azamor

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Published by Jonathan Azamor

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Published by: Jonathan Azamor on Apr 15, 2012
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03/29/2014

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The Celtic love of music
puts bards in high
demand. A traveling bard
is no poor beggar; Celts
will pay well for musical
entertainment and for
professionally-delivered
poetry. The bard devises
verses to extol the power and glory of his or her
patron, but unless a single chieftain is willing to
support the bard this can be dangerous: there can
only be one supreme warrior, after all. The wise
bard moves on after a while, before having to
extol one paying customer over another within
the hearing of both.

Bards also have a powerful political role: they
transmit the messages of the chieftains and
druids, and bring back intelligence to both.
Thus, they are a focal point of anti-Roman
resistance.

A skilled bard plays the harp and the lyre, and
has a well-trained singing voice honed in the
bardic schools. Some also play the drums and
flutes, but these are less popular as they do not
accompany singing. Bards are individualists;
they chose their course because they sought
attention. A bard wants to be the headliner, not
just play in the band. It is rare for a bard to

accompany someone else’s singing, unless that
someone is a paying customer.

Fili

The fili is the Celtic poet-singer, the basis of
the generic fantasy bard. The fili is much more
than a bard, having mystical powers much like
those of a druid and the
ability to see the past and
future. Female satirists are
known as berach but other-
wise have the same powers
and social status as male fili.

At the peak of his or her
powers, the fili can cause
death by satire, what the
Celts call ainmed
(“blemishing”). This usually
means more than the English
definition of “satire.”
Beyond inflicting shame and
ridicule on the subject, the
verses also possess magical
properties and convey a
curse as well. The target
becomes overwhelmed with
self-loathing for what they
have done, turns red in the
face and gasps for air, and
soon dies of this grief. Alternatively, the targets
of satire have been known to become so cha-
grined that they will take their own lives rather
than live with the shame. Drunkenness is held
to increase the powers of satire, especially when
both the fili and target are inebriated.

Likewise, a fili can also use his or her powers
for good, to strengthen the object of a song of
praise. This is more unusual, as the song has no
power unless the fili can attach deep, heartfelt
emotion to the song. Like all people, it is easier
to awaken anger in a fili than love at first sight.
Chieftains who refuse a fili food and shelter, or
warriors who insult them, are the chief victims
of the blemishing. And much like the modern
game industry, lesser talents who insult greater
ones do so at the risk of receiving biting,
deadly satire in return.

Satire is considered a form of assault under
Brehon law (see below), and the penalties for

96

Gora McGahey (order #19251)

69.136.21.109

wounding with words are severe. Hanging an
insulting nickname on someone is considered a
high crime, as is satirizing the dead (who will
feel the affects in the afterlife). There are seven
forms of criminal satire:

•Giving someone an insulting nickname
which persists.

•Satirizing an absent victim.

•Poking fun at someone’s face.

•Provoking widespread laughter.

•Sneering at someone’s physical form.

•Magnifying a physical blemish.

•Written satire.

While fili are greatly feared, they do have some
legal vulnerabilities. They cannot form
contracts since they are not to be trusted.
Berach are classed as “bush-strumpets” and
cannot demand an honor price if raped, and the
sons of a berach (like those of slaves) cannot
become chieftains.

At the highest levels, the fili or berach (known
as ollam) has little to fear, as he or she has the
social status of a minor king or senior chief and
the right to travel with armed retainers. To
refuse hospitality to an ollam and his or her
entourage is to invite destruction.

A fili or berach can also divine the future or
past, using their magical incantations
to give themselves visions which they
can then describe in verse. This is dif-
ficult and not always accurate.

Training is hard, and fili and berach
attend the same bardic schools as their
more mundane counterparts. All
teaching is verbal, and the
memorizations required are immense.
Formal education lasts for 12 years,
though many minor fili and berach
then seek out a more learned
practitioner to further hone their craft.

Fili and berach are also considered
weapons of war. Some kings and
chiefs employ entire bands of them in
their armies, to shame the enemy’s
warriors and destroy their morale by
chanting satires at them. The

concentration necessary to kill another human
by satire is difficult to attain in the heat of bat-
tle, but the legendary Cridenbel is said to have
wiped out an entire tribe with his biting words.
At times these bands appear on opposite sides
and cast mockery at one another until the weak-
er side gives way, after which that side’s war-
riors are lashed with brutal verses. These fight-
ing fili are especially beloved by Morrigan the
battle-goddess, who is known to appear at their
sides and lend her weight to theirs should she
hear an especially witty and cutting satire
(known as a rindad).

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