Triads are the single most important cultural icons in Tir na n'Og. If we were born in the land, we grew up hearing stories about them. We played with our friends at being Triads, taking turns playing the parts. Storytellers regale audiences across the land with tales of their exploits. Bards write poems and songs about them all (except, perhaps, for the Orange Triad), which we continue to sing and enjoy long after all the members are dead. These characters, if they survive any length of time at all, are legends.
Simply put, a Triad is a team of three people hand-picked to serve a specific Fey Faction. The creation of a Triad is the province of the Greater Fey. There are many Factions among the Fey, but there can be only one active Triad per Faction at a time. These agents serve their Patrons exclusively, marked, initially, by three small dots in a triangular pattern on the forehead in the color of the patron Fey's Faction. Being chosen brings with it many benefits: greater hardiness, strength, and other abilities among them. Being chosen also renders the new Triad members sterile or barren, ensuring that their loyalty remains undivided. The Greater Fey can and sometimes do reverse this condition, but never while the Triad is still whole and able to serve.
When a person is Chosen, he or she has 7 days to reach the Temple of Ohma in Tir. There, he or she will usually meet the rest of his or her Triad and the Triad's patron Fey, who will then offer further instruction. As often as not, however, the individual will encounter the rest of the Triad on the way to Tir, and a Fey from the patron Faction will make an appearance, mark the newly Chosen, and give them their first quest.
Often, the quests of a Triad will benefit all, but this is not always the case. We cannot know the deeper purposes of the Fey, and while it is true that many of the Greater Fey care deeply for their Human charges and use their Triads for the mutual benefit of Mankind and Fey, it is equally true that there are Fey who use their Triads solely for their own amusement or to further some hidden agenda. Patrons will even send their Triad to interfere with the quests of a Triad that serves a rival Faction, sometimes resulting in the destruction of both Triads. In a sense, the members of a Triad are the patron Feys' own private gladiators. They live or die at a whim.
Once chosen, a Triad member's life belongs to his or her patron Fey. Triad service is almost always brief and fatal, but since the Fey only choose those already "as good as dead" — whether from wounds or because they are in a situation where death is the certain outcome — it is considered the greatest honor, a desperately hoped-for chance to die gloriously and have one's name remembered in song and story for all time. To be chosen for a Triad means you are about to become a legendary figure, if you live long enough. Ordinary people are not chosen for Triads.
This theme pervades the art and culture. For instance, there is a famous painting in the Triumphant's Hall in Drachenfel that depicts a mysterious figure roaming a battlefield, searching among the dying for three people worthy of saving in order to serve. It is based on an old, historically inaccurate but very popular, poem about an early Red Triad (which spawned several popular songs as well, but we won't go into that). Phrases like, "chasing the pipes," or "following the music," which are used to mean pursuing your dreams or goals, originated from one of the legendary ways in which Triads are chosen.
The Fey make their selection from among all appropriate humans and their derivative races, but always choose only one each of the available Cavaliers, Rangers, and Mystics, the three "warrior classes."
The Cavalier is the heavily armored warrior/knight. The Cavalier's honor rests in his or her sword, and the loss of that sword is a grave affront. Usually the leader of a Triad, he or she is, ideally, the embodiment of chivalry. To the Cavalier, honor is all that is important, to the point that life without honor is not worth living. By and large, it is the Cavaliers who most ardently dedicate themselves to living for, and by, the Code of Ohma. To a Cavalier, the Code, the quest for individual perfection, is almost a religious calling. Cavaliers are neither monks nor hermits, but they have much the same dedication. The Cavalier strives to become the living embodiment of the Code of Ohma and is, to the native humans, a paragon; the ultimate in Human behavior.
To best understand the Cavalier, try to imagine the Codes of Chivalry, the Code of Bushido, and the mores of Victorian gentlemen all combined with the ways and honorable beliefs of the Sioux warrior. If that boggles the imagination, add in the fact that not all Cavaliers are men and that not all armored men and women are Cavaliers, and you can understand why following the Codes of Ohma can be a tricky and uncertain endeavor, and why the life of a Cavalier is a difficult one. To the Cavalier, however, it is all part of the challenge.
The Cavalier is usually well armed and armored, and generally either came from a well-to-do family or came to Tir na n'Og as a knight errant. This is because only the wealthy can provide their offspring with the quality of weapons, armor, and training that meet the impossibly high standards to which all Cavaliers aspire.
Although dueling is strongly discouraged in many city-states (even against the law within the walls of most of the cities themselves), dueling remains commonplace throughout Human society, regardless of station. For the Cavalier, however, the duel is elevated to the level of a sacred obligation. A duel is not only the favorite way of settling disputes or points of honor between individual Cavaliers, it is also the primary way of showing one's mettle. Cavaliers duel to test their skills, try out new weapons or tactics, for the pure pleasure of it, or for almost any reason one may imagine. A friendly duel is often a way to get to know a fellow Cavalier, and may take place without any rancor or ill feeling at all, ending with nothing more dire than cheerful respect and mild chagrin on one or both sides. Dueling is not usually used as a method of punishment against transgressors; after all, most lawbreakers are not honorable, and therefore are unworthy of dueling. For Cavaliers, formal duels are a privilege reserved for fellow Cavaliers.
A formal challenge is the usual method of instigating a duel, and is strictly ritualized. The challenger must say to his prospective opponent, "By the Seven and by the Three, for Honor and Glory, I Challenge Thee." The correct response is: "For Honor and Glory, I accept," though some individuals may add their own variations. It is possible to refuse a duel, but sometimes difficult to do so without losing face. Depending upon the circumstances, it may even be dishonorable to refuse a challenge. Stakes, weapons of choice, or other conditions, are then decided upon according to the Code of Ohma.
Most duelists construct, and then contain the fight within, a dueling circle, or a 30-foot diameter circle drawn in the dirt. This is to protect onlookers, and also to prevent accidental interference. Because the Cavalier's honor is involved, no outsider — even fellow Triad members, if the Cavalier is a member of a Triad — may interfere with a duel once it has begun. To do so is to invite dire punishment, even death, at the hands of one or both Cavaliers.
Just as the sword symbolizes the Cavalier, so the bow symbolizes the Ranger. Though not all Rangers are archers, most are skilled in the use of distance weapons of some sort. They are the woodsmen, the hunters, or the street-wise fighters who have learned to survive by their wits. It generally falls upon the Ranger to provide for his or her Triad as they travel on their quests. Those who seek to become Rangers spend long hours practicing a wide range of skills.
The Ranger is a bit more pragmatic than the Cavalier and is more likely to be from a lower station in life. Though they are sometimes as dedicated to the Codes and the quest for personal perfection as any Cavalier, they are unlikely to have had the benefits of upbringing and education to assist them, and have learned to adapt to a different mode of life. This doesn't mean that every Ranger is automatically a liar, thief, and sneak, either, but one should not dismiss the possibility.
These hardy souls come from many walks of life and often have an actual trade as well as their skill with a bow or sling. Some Rangers have even been raised on the streets, where they developed certain abilities useful in acquiring items for their Triads. The smart ones quickly learn to take care that these extra talents are not noticed by the honorable Cavaliers.
Though some Rangers are swordsmen/women equal in skill to any Cavalier, they do not usually fight with swords. This is because many Cavaliers look upon the sword as a weapon of honor and will kill any Ranger daring to use one. Long knives, short swords/archers' swords, or axes are the hand weapons most often found hanging from a Ranger's belt.
The Mystic's symbol is the staff. It is also the Mystic's usual choice of weapon. There are several reasons for this, but the best reason is that most of a Mystic's powers are channeled through the hands, which makes picking up a weapon that takes a lot of attention or manipulation a foolish thing to do. Staves are effective where magic is inappropriate, easy to discard, and easily replaced. And most Mystics can channel ki through wood quite easily.
The Mystic is one of the most powerful of all the humans. At some point in the Mystic's life, he or she became aware of strange abilities manifesting themselves within, and in attempting to understand these discovered how much more there was to learn. The abilities of the Mystic are not truly "magic" in the same sense as Fey abilities, but a combination of psychic abilities and alchemy. While an education in herbology and alchemy is usually acquired through apprenticing to another Mystic, the ability to channel the energy of the world is born within.
The average citizen has only the sketchiest idea of what Mystics are capable of; for this reason, Mystics are often treated with as much wariness as respect. Though their ability to heal is highly valued, their other abilities are often looked upon with a great deal of suspicion — particularly their telepathic abilities, such as the power of Suggestion, or the ability to influence and even control the minds of others. Rumors of other strange and frightening powers abound, and many of these have at least a kernel of truth. Most people believe that a Mystic can tell when someone is lying to them, and that Mystics can enter the dreams of ordinary men and women and possess them. And anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a ki-bolt knows how effective and unpleasant a weapon that is.
Mystics come from all walks of life and all levels of society. They may have been born to wealth and influence, or in the gutter. It matters little; the talent born inside them drives them to develop along certain paths. While not everyone with the "second sight" can become a true Mystic, no amount of desire or study will make up for the lack of it. Many Mystics have tried to guide their own studies in harmony with the Code of Ohma and take the Codes as seriously as any Cavalier. Others have taken the more pragmatic approach adopted by the Ranger, and as a result have learned some of the same skills.