Monday, December 26, 2016

A Space Setting

Combining space and fantasy ain't nothing novel. Dragon Star, Spell Jammer, Star Wars, 40K, that odd story arc in the later seasons of Babylon 5... others, I'm sure. The point is that it's been done. Too much, some say. I, myself, am on the fence about the combination. Really, planet hopping is no different than plane hopping. 

Either way, whichever your take on it, I've got a space setting stuck in my head that's distracting me from demon making. Thus, I'm slapping the odd bits I've got down, making it your problem. As always, use as you like, don't if you don't.

RACES

Dwarves  

Originally a subterreanian race due to the conditions of their home system (see Chthon below), they eventually made it out into the galaxy. Creatures of pure science and reasoning, they've neither the talent nor the place in their society for magic, instead turning to physics and genetic augmentation. Their warrior caste are practically veterans by the time they finish training camp. Were the first race humans met as they stepped out in to the greater galaxy, and therefore are the more accepting of the humans. Though the dwarves view the humans usage of AI as sinful, and it will probably cause a holy war in a few centuries, or one really bad afternoon.

Their society is divided into castes, mimicing the strata of their rocky home world.

Elves 

An odd race, largely hated by the others (no thanks to the Supremecy Wars), the elves have never taken to mechanical science, instead showing natural talent for magic and biological symbiosis. Every elven child, on their naming day, receives a familiar ("illith" in their tongue) not unlike a dog sized octopus. Through out their childhood, the elf forms a pshyic bond with the familiar. Should the elf become a fighter pilot, the illith is surgically inbedded within the living fighter craft, allowing for a neural interface between elf and machine. Should the elf become promoted to captain of their own vessle, the fighter is further surgically inbedded within the vessle, allowing the neural interface to spread.

Should the elf ever commit a crime worthy of capital punishment, and found guilty, the illith is instead executed and the elf themself exicled. In the darker shadows of elven society cults have formed where the elves physically bind with their illithes, becoming strange abominations with aggressive mental powers.

Gnomes

You ever wonder what happens when a society reaches the Singularity? Look no further. Seen as ecclectic by other races, this is a side effect from the mixing of personalities caused by the networked neural implants, allowing for near instant sharing of knowledge among the populous.

Half-Elves

None existent outside of strange and unethical genetic research

Half-Orcs

None existent outside of strange and unethical genetic research

Halflings 

See Humans. "Halfling" is just an insult for decedents of the first off world colonists, who tended to be smaller in stature, due to space restrictions.

Humans 

Ah, my sweet humans. Still the Jack-of-all-trades type. Have science, faster than light travel, AI, robots, all the usual human space stuff. Heavy on the cyberpunk aesthetics, but in space. Cybernetic implants and biochemical mixing are both found within the populous. Some (un)lucky few are born with the ability to harness magic. 

Teleporters are a thing, but philosophers have determined they lead to the Death of Self - where the original is killed from being torn apart, and a copy with a new consciousness is constructed on the other side. This is backed up by magic users losing their abilities after being teleported. So, now they're mostly used for equipment transporting.  

Humans are currently trying to find ways to combine science and magic. It hasn't been easy or successful. There are thems that call themselves "Techo-sorcerers", but really they're just jackasses with nanobot implants programmed to mimic lesser magical abilities. 

Planets and Systems of Note

Chthon

The Dwarven homeworld. A craggy, rocky world with very little surface water. Very little life is found on the surface due to constant impacts from space debris, of which the system is littered with (enough to haze the light from the nearby star). From this combination, life developed underground, within the planet's countless caverns. Also, sometimes Lunar Dragons are a problem.

Necrosol

A system with a dying red sun, who's fifth planet is lousy with the undead. Vampire lords rest eternal, awaiting new food sources, as their zombie minions toil away, up-keeping the castles and properties. What does a zombie do all day? I don't know. Go to the planet and look. Then, realize you're the only source of fresh blood on the planet, and enjoy the attention of vampires.

Terra

Earth! But slightly different. Probably. Home and capitol planet for the Human systems, which are in a feudal empire composed of houses, as it seems to be the only somewhat successful way to organize and administrate large collection of humans. Located in Sol system, if you were wondering

Rivenvale 

The ringed Elven homeworld. Thick green forests, with cities that incorporate the trees and plants naturally. Vast orange oceans, teaming with rich tentacled and finned life. The occasional magic storm. Habitable moons. Cancerous asteroids. The system is teaming with shoals of space squid.

Gnomus Prime 

Gnome homeworld. Once a lush habitable planet, it has been reduced to an irradiated nuclear wasteland, with the populous living in an habitation platform around it. The cause of the apocaplyse is unknown, and the gnomes refuse to answer any questions about it, or allow people down to the planet, but they also see fit to re-nuke the planet every once in a while.

Guns and Shields

Given the nature of guns/lasers and their inherent touch attackness, some fiddlin' would have to be done on this part. As it is fairly hard to actually dodge a bullet, attacks are made against dexterity (or however the system figures touch attack AC) modified by personal deflector shields. Think a combination of what you've got in Borderlands and a Holtzman shield. Actual armor, on the other hand, instead of providing "to hit" protection, serves as a form of damage reduction. 

Shields have two primary stats: Deflection rating and Charge. Deflection rating is what it adds to the defense value. Charge is how many times, number of attacks wise, it can provide the deflection rating before needing a new battery. An armor condition, if you're using one of those systems. 

Some more special shields can probably be given adjectives, and special abilities derived from those. For example, "Grounded" probably provides free protection from electrical attacks. "Asbestic" would probably give protection from fire attacks. When in doubt, loot the Borderlands wiki. 

Classes

A brief invisioning:

Fighters - pretty much the same, just with sci-fi gear
Ragers - like Barbarians, but their rage ability comes from cocktails of combat drugs. 
TechoSorcerers - use nanobot injections to simulate magic effects 
Sorcerers - basically the same, though elf only.
Wizards - basically the same, but human only.
Hackers - from ship systems to building security to laser gun firmware; if there's code, they'll bend it to their will

Clerics, rogue sorts, and the others are fairly the same, like the fighter, just with high tech gear. 

Secrets

Because I'll forget them otherwise. 

The gnomes are nuking their homeworld in order to stop a Cyber horror horde (like a clockwork horror, but cybernetic) from becoming too strong. The cyber queen nests safely deep within the planet, however.

Tuskrok, the orc home world, is covered in buried dwarven ruins. The dwarves genetically altered some of their lower caste criminals thousands of years ago to use as shocktroops. They, however, got out of hand and took over the planet they were created on. - Which means the cruel creature god the orcs worship is the scientist that first created them, but with tusks.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Magic of the North


A bit ago I made a spell/item list based on Sumerian mes. It seemed well received. Or at least my two readers and the horde of Russian spam bots that come here didn't complain. One even requested that I make one based on the Havamal.

As that sort of deal has been my focus the last seven years in Legends, I took to it eagerly. What follows is a spell list based on a paraphrased version of Benjamin Thorpe's translation of the Runatal section of the Havamal. Really the only thing I took out was a list of names. I've also tried to keep it system neutral, but occasionally I had to dip into specifics. Shouldn't be too hard to venture into another system of your choosing.

Edit: This site can't deal with a table format to save its, or mine, life. The source material will be in italics below, followed by related fluff and mechanics in bold immediately after. Let's hope it handles font coloring better.

Edit 2: Nope.

I know that I hung,
on a wind-rocked tree,
nine whole nights,
with a spear wounded,
and to Odin offered,
myself to myself;
on that tree,
of which no one knows
from what root it springs.

Bread no one gave me,
nor a horn of drink,
downward I peered,
to runes applied myself,
wailing learnt them,
then fell down thence.

Then I began to bear fruit,
and to know many things,
to grow and well thrive:
word by word
I sought out words,
fact by fact
I sought out facts.

The only method to learn the charms is a rather dangerous one. To reach the proper mental state in which the charms can be learned, one must be on the verge of death. 

Hunger crazed, throat burning; the Seeker gains a vision of the void between worlds as they teeter on the brink of life and death. 

Should their mind be open, and their will strong even now, knowledge of the charms will forever be burned in their mind. 

Runes thou wilt find,
and explained characters,
very large characters,
very potent characters,
which the great speaker depicted,
and the high powers formed,
and the powers’ prince graved:

The charms are not single runes, rather certain combinations of runes strung together, and given power through voice and will. “Rune songs” are not an inaccurate description. Accurate, some would say. 

Knowest thou how to grave them?
knowest thou how to expound them?
knowest thou how to depict them?
knowest thou how to prove them?
knowest thou how to pray?
knowest thou how to offer?
knowest thou how to send?
knowest thou how to consume?

‘Tis better not to pray
than too much offer;
a gift ever looks to a return.
‘Tis better not to send
than too much consume.
So Thund graved
before the origin of men,
where he ascended,
to whence he afterwards came.

Those that sing the charms should know their lore, as knowledge is important to the caster, and a measure of their strength. Intelligence or similar attribute is used in casting. 

Though take heed. Casting too much, too often, has its own dangers, and can lead to harm.

Those songs I know
which the king’s wife knows not
nor son of man.
Help the first is called,
for that will help thee
against strifes and cares.

Provides help in passing a skill check. 

For the second I know,
what the sons of men require,
who will as leeches live.

Sung over a wounded patient this charm causes their injuries heal as though a significant time has passed. 

For the third I know,
if I have great need
to restrain my foes,
the weapons’ edge I deaden:
of my adversaries
nor arms nor wiles harm aught.

When sung in battle, this charm dulls the edges and weakens the wood of any weapon that the singer’s voice touches. The charm reduces the weapon’s dice value by one category (d8 becomes d6, d6 becomes d4, d4 becomes cleaved) 

For the forth I know,
if men place
bonds on my limbs,
I so sing
that I can walk;
the fetter starts from my feet,
and the manacle from my hands.

Should the singer be tied up, this charm unties the knots. Should they be chained, the chains slide off as if too big. 

For the fifth I know,
I see a shot from a hostile hand,
a shaft flying amid the host,
so swift it cannot fly
that I cannot arrest it,
if only I get sight of it.

Sung at the beginning of a fight, the charm allows the singer to attempt to snatch arrows or other missile weapons out of the air for the duration of the fight. This being impossible otherwise, of course. 

For the sixth I know,
if one wounds me
with a green tree’s roots;
also if a man
declares hatred to me,
harm shall consume them sooner than me.

A song of counterspelling. The number of dice used to to empower this song counteracts the dice of the other spell. "Green tree's roots" is poetic wording for "spells." Not fluff, actual thing. 

For the seventh I know,
if a lofty house I see
blaze o’er its inmates,
so furiously it shall not burn
that I cannot save it.
That song I can sing.

This song diminishes all flames within the area of effect by dice applied. 1 die = camp fire; 3 dice = house fire; 5 dice = forest fire. Adjust as seems appropriate.  

For the eighth I know,
what to all is
useful to learn:
where hatred grows
among the sons of men –
that I can quickly assuage.

While this charm is sung, the singer knows who seeks to do them harm, and their location.

For the ninth I know,
if I stand in need
my bark on the water to save,
I can the wind
on the waves allay,
and the sea lull.

When sung on a boat, this song calms the seas, driving away any storm. On land the sea calming obviously doesn’t work, but it could probably clear the skies of any storm. 

For the tenth I know,
if I see troll-wives
sporting in air,
I can so operate
that they will forsake
their own forms,
and their own minds.

When in the presence of spirits, be they nature or dead, this song pains their ears, driving them off. Similar to the "turn undead" ability in that one series of popular pen and page games. 

For the eleventh I know,
if I have to lead
my ancient friends to battle,
under their shields I sing,
and with power they go
safe to the fight,
safe from the fight;
safe on every side they go.

The song dons mystical armor upon the singer and his allies (worth about a leather's measure; or based on the dice used), for the length of one battle. 

For the twelfth I know,
if on a tree I see
a corpse swinging from a halter,
I can so grave
and in runes depict,
that the man shall walk,
and with me converse.

A two parter. First the runes are carved upon the forehead of a corpse, then the rune song is sung. The corpse then gains the ability to speak as it had in life; prone to the same temperament and truthiness. 

For the thirteenth I know,
if on a young man
I sprinkle water,
he shall not fall,
though he into battle come:
that man shall not sink before swords.

Target of the singer gains immunity to iron until the end of the next combat.

For the fourteenth I know,
if in the society of men
I have to enumerate the gods,
Æsir and Alfar,
I know the distinctions of all.
This few unskilled can do.

Should the singer seek knowledge, they have but to sing this rune charm. As the words echo in distance, a vision comes upon the singer in relation to his inquiry. 

For the fifteenth I know
what the dwarf Thiodreyrir sang
before Delling’s doors.
Strength he sang to the Æsir,
and to the Alfar prosperity,
wisdom to Hroptatýr.

Bestows aid in passing an attribute test. Strength, wisdom, whatever you're using. 

For the sixteenth I know,
if a modest maiden’s favour and affection
I desire to possess,
the soul I change
of the white-armed damsel,
and wholly turn her mind.

The listener to this song becomes enchanted with the singer. “Charmed”, some would say. “In love”, others would describe it.

For the seventeenth I know,
that that young maiden will
reluctantly avoid me.
These songs, Loddfafnir!
thou wilt long have lacked;
yet it may be good if thou understandest them,
profitable if thou learnest them.

Where the 16th bestowed love, the 17th reverses this, bestowing loathing upon the listener.

For the eighteenth I know
that which I never teach
to maid or wife of man,
(all is better
what one only knows.
This is the closing of the songs)
save her alone
who clasps me in her arms,
or is my sister.

A song of oath making. Any oath sworn to and agreed upon in this song may not be broken, least doom fall upon the breaker. "Clasps me in her arms" and "my sister" refers to a woman he trusts. Don't get weird with it. Or do, I ain't the cops. 

Now are sung the
High-one’s songs,
in the High-one’s hall,
to the sons of men all-useful,
but useless to the Jötun’s sons.

Hail to him who has sung them!
Hail to him who knows them!
May he profit who has learnt them!
Hail to hose who have listened to them!

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Magic of the Ancients


I've recently engaged in a fireside chat with +Josh over at Rise Up, Comus where we yelled in agreement at each other while gesturing wildly, and generally annoying delighting those around us. Booze was involved. Our lament was just the gods awful handling of magic items in Pathfinder. Buying some magic boots? Congrats, you've just ruined the economy of the small town of earning-three-copper-per-day peasants. That magic item merchant is now probably richer than the local lord.

You monster.

Either way, that led to this article, which put our thinkering better than my rambling ever could. The point of it is magic items should be rare. What got me out of his wordsmithing is the idea of a limited number of spells in existence. This leads to the further exclusiveness of wizardry.

I like that.

It also reminded me of the Sumerian me (pronounced [mɛ]). Me were spells handed down by Sumerian gods in ancient history mythology, deemed necessary for humanity and civilization; some good, some bad, all necessary. The thing about them though, was that, while spells, they also had a physical form, and there were a set number of them. At some point Inanna takes several from a drunk Enki, and shows them off to the people of her city.

Anyway, I made a spell list and a pseudo class out of them. Fluff and details follow.


Exactly nine hundred spells (nine copies each) were handed down from the gods to aid in the crafting of civilization. Once given to humanity, the gods retreated, allowing humanity to rise and fall as it saw fit, under it's own will.

While some are obviously more useful than others, the gods felt them important for the preservation of society - both the good and bad aspects. They, in their unknowable wisdom, saw the destruction of cities just as important as a strong leader to hold the cities together. It was for the humans to decide.

With such a limited number of spells given to the Ens - thems who cast the spells - the society that inevitably grew around them has to budget their resources heavily. Each new member to the society must be thoroughly groomed and, due to the nature of the mes, can only can enter into the society once a former member dies. Further causing trouble, is the fact that a large portion of the spells have been lost through out the ages. Of the original 100, only 64 (listed below) remain with at least one copy still intact.

You see, in order to even cast a me, you must first have the me of enship cast upon you. This casting rewrites your mind and makes you immune to mes, thus allowing you to handle and speak the spells without being altered by them yourself.

Yes, the mes are both physical AND spoken. Appearing as small tablets, covered in the script of the ancients, mes take physical form until read and known by the En, at which point the me absorbs (for lack of a better word) into the caster and awaits casting. Once spoken, the words will slowly begin to reform back into a small clay tablet. Save for the Mes of Enship. Once cast upon the target, they bound with them, and are only reclaimable upon the target's death, or the mes replacement by a higher one.

You can tell an En by the marks the mes leave upon them while within them.

The spells work not by affecting reality, but by affecting the mind of the target and, as such, resisting them is fairly difficult.

The complete list of  surviving mes follows. Their names are often poetical, and sometimes become lost in translation from the ancient tongue.

Mes of Enship

Enship - Once cast upon a target, it allows them the ability to learn and cast mes.
Ishib (a priestly office) - Advances target to second level of Enship
Lumah (a priestly office) - Advances target to third level of Enship
Guda (a priestly office) - Advances target to forth level of Enship
"Divine lady" (a priestly office) - Advances target to fifth level of Enship

Mes of Craft

Art of metalworking - The knowledge of alloy creation becomes known
Scribeship - Bestows literacy
Craft of the smith - Bestows knowledge of smithing
Craft of the leatherworker - Bestows knowledge of leatherworking
Craft of the builder - Bestows knowledge of Architecture and Engineering
Craft of the basket weaver - Bestoys knowledge of basketry and pottery
Art - The target is flooded with inspiration in crafting art
Music - As art, but with music
Lilis (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of lilis is gained
Ub (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of ub is gained
Mesi (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of mesi is gained
Ala (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of ala is gained
Guslim (a musical instrument) - Proficiency of guslim is gained
Lamentation - The artist is filled with sadness, and is unable to produce any work

Mes of Altering Tongue

Truth - Restricts the target to only speaking the Truth
Law - Target is filled with absolute knowledge of the Law. However, it becomes all they can speak.
Falsehood - Bounds the target to speak only in falsities.

Mes of the Heart

Heroship - Bestows upon the target a feeling of bravery and desire to do right
Fear - Fills a target with foreboding sense of fear
Terror - As fear, but for a crowd of targets
Peace - Fills the target with a sense of calmness.
Strife - As Peace but, you know, the opposite.
Weariness - Drains the same amount of energy from a target as a hard days march.
Straightforwardness - Banishes confusion from the mind of the target.
Enmity - Fills the target full of enmity for a stated thing.
Rejoicing of the heart - Fills the listener with
The troubled heart - Sends the listener into crippling sorrow

Mes of Person Change

Kurgarra - Removes the sex of the target.
Girbadara - Renders the target infertile.
Sexual intercourse - Returns natural functions to the target.
Prostitution - Makes the target more inclined to act against their morals when coin is involved.
Holy purification - Burns poisons and diseases from target, as well as rids of any demonic influence.
Attention - Causes target to automatically succeed on all perception based checks.
Libel - Turns the listener to be in conflict with written information about them. Can cause serious problems.

Mes of Governing

The exalted and enduring crown - Marks the target as an authority figure. Their authority is known to all who look upon them.
The throne of kingship - Those in power are known to be prone to corruption. This me reminds them of the responsibilities they bear, making them resistant to corruption.
The exalted sceptre - Fills the listener with the word of the gods, preparing them for service as clerics.
The royal insignia - Bestows the royal insignia upon the skin of the target, signifying them as a vassal of the royal family.
The exalted shrine - Sends the listener into a manic religious fervor.
Shepherdship - Bestows command over animals to the target
Kingship - Bestows command over men to the target
Lasting ladyship - Turns those of ill repute against their ways, reforming their nature.

Mes of Divine

"hierodule of heaven" - Allows the target to host a possession by the gods.
Eldership - Gifts the target with a life time of wisdom and experience. May cause mental side effects due to memories not their own.
Descent into the nether world - Allows the target to enter the land of the dead, to see and experience that which is beyond the veil. This trip is purely mental, though the body will move and react to what the mind is seeing.
Ascent from the nether world - Draws the target back to the world of the living.
Judgment - A mark of the target's crimes grows upon their skin
Decision - Gives the target a vision of the consquences of their possible decision
Counsel - Induces a vision in the target where they hold counsel with spirits, who provide wise advise.
Godship - Drains the corporal properties from a person for a stretch of time. Context of the name suggests "spirit hood"
The cult chamber - Has a chance of granting a vision based audience with a god. Not always a sure thing.
Sagursag (a eunuch, entertainers related to the cult of Inanna) - Bestows the target with knowledge of the holy myths, as well as the acting ability needed to portray them.

Mes of War

The battle-standard - The target glows bright with holy power, encouraging allies who fight within proximity to them.
The flood - The target errupts in a fountain of their own blood, those near them are burned as though by acid. While the flood is known to destroy, it is also known to replenish the fields. The ground covered in this blood becomes extremely fertile.
Weapons - Grants knowledge of weapon usage
The destruction of cities - Fills those who hear it with a desire to turn away from their lives, and go else where. Farmers leave their fields. Wives leave their families. Neighbors turn cruel to one another. Blood betrays blood. The effect spreads like wildfire via contact, effecting any who claim membership to the town in which the me was spoken.
Power - Increases the physical abilities of the target.
Victory - Bestows the hearer with unusual luck in their tasks.
Wisdom - The target gains strategic insight to the current situation.


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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sins of the Flesh

Recently, I've been reading Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan. It's an okay read. There's parts of the world I like, there's parts of the world I don't like. Ya see, in it they've figured out a way to digitize the human mind. Folks walk around with a chunk of computer embedded into their brainpan, backing up their mind as they go about their day. This has, naturally, lead to several advancements: Travel between worlds is easier, casual travel across the globe is much easier, and murder victims can be used to testify against their would be murders. Life doesn't have to be bound to a mere eighty some years.

On the other side, it's also used as a form of punishment. Thems that are found guilty of a crime have their mind placed on storage for a few decades or so, and then released into a new society. This seems weird to me, as the transfer from one body to the next, despite the intervening years, is experienced instantaneously. There's no exact penalty there. Sure, you've a new body to get use to, but you've learned nothing. One minute you're being gunned down by cops for robbing a bank, the next it's three hundred odd years later and you're being decanted out of a skin vat. Why not try again?

This gets even stranger to me as they also have the ability to keep the mind active, via software, and able to experience months in a manner of minutes. So why not keep the meat on ice a few days, while the mind serves a sentence? Give them actual time to reflect, perhaps come to regret their crime. Then, pop them back in the same body and send them on their reformed way. No fuss, no confusion of identity.

Either way, once over the initial existential dread of the though, my old boiler got a bubbling.

A notion is floating around my thick skull to jamble up and run a game, one where the physical stats don't matter all as much, as you can just rent up the body you need for the occasion. Bioware, cyberware. All the favorites. Really focus on the player characters as minds inhabiting interchangeable bodies.

Though, undoubtedly, this generates some immediate obstacles to over come. What consequences can be offered when death, in itself, is meaningless? Legal actions, perchance. What incentives to motivate the small bindle of murder hobos I take as players. Easy: cold hard cash. Still, some more thinkering is needed before anything solid.

I'll probably call it something pretentious like "Sins of the Flesh" and run it through a Shadowrun mod for Fate. Maybe I'll use it as an excuse to finally read the Cypher system. Either way, I'll probably add in a little flavor from the Hardwire series. I'll almost certainly force it upon the monthly gaming group.
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Echoes of the North

I have stood on those niflon shores. I have stood in their silence - the silence of the Dead - and added my own, with only the whispering of the wind and crashing of the frozen waves daring to break it. It was there on those shores that I set your mother adrift, my child, as I have for my mother and father, and, hopefully, one day you shall for me. Wrapped in otter furs, I sent her to swim with the dead. And dead the sea truly is, for it bears the Cold, void of Heat. 

I have stood on those shores, and watched as barbed tentacles coiled around your mother cold, dragging her body under. I stood, and I smiled, for the gods had accepted her. 




Far to the North, past the lands of Berserker Kings, in the shadows of ruined towers once held by Ice Wizards, several barbarian tribes make the frozen wastes their homes. Life there is harsh and, more often than not, miserable. The ground is too hard for crops, the temperature too harsh to support them. Trees are rare. Most flora is moss, heath and lichen. Fauna must insulate themselves in thick furs or blubber. Those that live, anyway.

Culture amongst the tribes is fairly similar to one another, having been forged out of necessity for survival, and pivot around two spiritual points:
  • That which is Cold, is Dead
  • That which is Warm, is Alive
Unlike the beliefs held in the southern lands, that attempt to claim mystical beings and explanations, these beliefs are observable. Animals and people produce heat until felled, then they grow cold. This produces several implications:

The Sea Is Death
When one falls into the sea, submerged within the frozen waters, they too will die, least you dry them and encourage heat to return. Those that dwell within it, unless they bear the protection of fur, are dead. Fish, when drawn from the waters, are icy cold and therefore are dead. Otters, seals and the like have fur, and bear Warmth. Though the Cold will overwhelm them eventually.

The Gods are Dead
Lurking in the frozen waters are horrible things. Tentacled things. Things that once vomited forth the ambergris they carved humanity from. Things that now send their servants into the fishing nets, providing food. Things that whisper forgotten, dark secrets to witches in their dreams. Things that watch over the dead, sent back to the sea. Things cold. Things dead. Things that are gods.

Fire is Alive
How can it not be? Fire grows, fire moves, fire consumes, fire reproduces. Fire is warm. When fire grows cold, it dies. Just as all living things do. Families within the tribes keep fire, not just out of necessity, but as a pets, much how the southern folk keep hounds. When travelers go about, they carry with them a lantern lit from the hearth fire of home; a faithful travelling companion and helpful assistant on the road.

It Might Seem Like It, But Cooking is Not Necromancy
In order for life to continue, it must consume other life. This is why we hunt the animals of the land. The fish of the sea too we hunt, for we can briefly impose life upon it through the cooking arts. This life is a true one, however, it will soon fade should it now be consumed in time. Our methods defer from the lichcalling of the Old Kings, for their works bore no Warmth, and were but mockeries.

Notice that last line, did you?

The tribesmen hold a deep seated, ingrained hatred for most things magical - Sorcerers especially, given their nature. And for good reason. Their oral tradition (literacy is too close to magic) tells of a time when the Old Kings - the Ice Wizards - held sway over the land, and tormented the people in their cruel grasp. Some were forced to work, some experimented upon, some were made to fight as amusement. All were enslaved. The people toiled and the people died, however Death was not the release it is meant to be. The Old Kings, with their dark magics, invited the Cold into the bodies of the fallen, filled them with a false life and sent them forth once more, often to oppress and subjugate their former loved ones. These bodies knew not Warmth.

And so the people suffered for uncounted generations, until one man, Matthias the Flame, backed by three witches, took up arms and struck back against the Kings. The support of these witches, and the fact they speak to the Gods, as well as hold the oral traditions themselves, may explain why witches are uneasily accepted within the tribes. Well, tolerated. On the edges of settlements. It may also explain why witches are honored with wood, a rare and much needed necessity, enough so as to built their strange "chicken legged" huts.

A Northern Witches Hut

The barbarians themselves, though, are semi-nomadic. In the Months of Long Light (summer to you and me), they live in large, transportable tents, clad in hides and furs, following the herds of deer. In the Months of Dwindling Light, they return to their cities of half buried earthen long houses, and take to fishing as the herds fatten on the grasses left to wild. In the Months of Long Night, the herds are brought into the long houses, to share their warmth and milks.

Most barbarian equipment is made of bone and leather. Time honored traditions teach how to hone a bone to a fine edge, just as sharp as any metal blade found in the southernlands. An alchemical oil mixture, made by the witches, can be applied via soaking or rubbing to strengthen the bone to be just as hard. Though through far wandering and trading, metal equipment is not unheard of.  

So, why not leave these awful lands and head to the South, where the very land itself is alive? Simple, that land isn't theirs. The ancestors overthrew the Old Kings, and claimed the as their own. They then passed it down to the current generation. To abandon it would be to devalue the suffering of the ancestors.

Some of the modern youth, however, do take to exploring down in the Southernlands.


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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Class Example - Thief and Berserker

How Classes work

As with most class based systems, when you gain enough experience points you advance in level. When adding a level you gain the abilities listed for that level. Lower level abilities must be taken before higher levels. If multiclassing, the second class levels begin at level one. Or, should you prefer, mix the two classes via selecting one ability from each class, though you they must be of the same level and you must start your multiclassing this way.

Templates, such as lycanthrope or undead, replace one ability per level, player choice. “But my undead werewolf thief can’t backstab!” You’re probably thinking for some reason. Honestly, if you’re both a werewolf and undead, you’ve more important problems to focus on. Namely the lycanthrope and undead situations. Should an ability that offers bonuses get switched out, those bonuses get lost as well.

Based on this, most diseases will probably work in this manner, replacing using abilities with abilities such as "coughing fit" and "bleeding from the ears." That is yet to be seen, however. 


Further, based on the reaction I've gotten from the Erdgeist, I'm considering making the races work the same way. It may lead to hard choices, but that seems good to me. 

The reasoning behind this, is simple: Tools are fun, bonuses are boring. Also, despite being super easy, bonuses go against trying to keep low numbers. Enough plus ones lead to plus fives, but then the types won't stack, because they never do, except for when they do, which is most of the time. 


That sounds powerfully hassleful. 

A difficulty I've run into, however, is with the fighting type folk. Fighting bonuses tend to be their jam. Also, a consideration weighing me is Magic folk can pick up swords and be fighting types too. Shitty fighting types, but fighting types. Fighting types, usually, can't just pick up magic. Something for thinkering. 

Either way, here's the Thief and Berserker classes:



Thief
If Personality 15+, gain Master of Shadows - gain Personality bonus number of Mooks (doesn’t count towards limit) to serve as spies and informants. Can also fense. Rating is equal to Level. Require payment for services.


Level 1
Skilled Skullduggery - Gain levels in pickpocket and lockpicking per level of thief. Further, failed lock picking attempts now break your picks, rather than jam the lock.


Thieves’ Cant - You can speak the code of thieves and read their symbols.


Level 2
Quick Escape - Gain advantage to defense when moving out of combat


Advanced Tools - Select one spell. Unlike other non magic users, you've figured out how to activate a wand of that spell. Max level of spell is equal to thief level.


Level 3
Lightning Reflexes - Your time as a thief has taught you to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Whenever someone attempts to get the drop on you, you instead act first.


Get that thing I sent you? - When in a town or city, you may contact other scoundrels and ne’erdowells. By paying them an amount of gold, you receive a brown, paper wrapped package that takes up one inventory slot. If you find yourself in need of a certain, non-unique, one handed, single slot item of the gold amount or less, open the package and you’ll most likely find that item.


Level 4
Talented Smuggler - You gain two additional inventory slots. If you are ever searched, items in these locations are not found.  


Luck - Level/2 times per day, you may take advantage on save rolls.


Level 5
Gang Boss - You gain five additional mooks, that don't count toward your Personality limit. These mooks are stat'd as level 1 adventurers, with templates from thief and fighter as you choose.

Jack of All Trades, Master of One - Select a skill you're trained in. Stop bothering to make checks for it, you auto succeed.


Berserker


If Personality 15+, you gain Mark of Victory - By wearing symbols of your victories, intelligent creatures instinctively know you are a force not to be trifled with.


Level 1
Berserkergang - After consuming psychedelics or alcohol in battle, a holy rage comes over you. Gain +3 Attack target number, +2 Damage, and immunity to Fear. Defense score drops by 4, but Shield bonus still counts. You lose the ability to make tactical decisions more complicated than “Hit them with weapon until they die.” You continue fighting until all enemies (or anyone who hits you) are defeated or you’re subdued. You can attempt to calm yourself as a free action, for a 1 in 6 chance of success.


Bear Shirt Champion - +3 hp/level if wearing fur armor and nothing heavier.


Level 2
Northern Courage - Can use booze as healing potion. Restores 1d6 vigor points. Adds to drunk points, may trigger Berserkergang, and counts if forced down your throat when unconscious.


Bloody Shield - With a scream of rage, you bash an opponent with your shield. Make a strength check modified by their defense. If you succeed, the target is stunned for a round. By every additional 5 you succeed by, you stun the opponent for another 1 round.


Level 3
Challenging Roar - You give a might roar while making threatening gestures. You make a Personality check against enemies that can see or hear you. If you pass, enemy ranks break, running from you. If you succeed by 10, they fall to the ground in overwhelming fear.


Woaded warrior - Covered in blue body paint, forming spiritual totems, you are immune to Enchantments and Illusions while in Berserkergang.


Level 4
Too tough to die - When below a fourth your Vigor score in health, take a general +2 to Target Numbers. Applies to all rolls and continues until you are dead, or healed a fourth of your Vigor score.


Skin Changer - While wearing the pelt of a creature, which you slayed and drank Heartsblood during a hunt, with a few moments of concentration, you may take the form of that creature, gaining its physical attributes. Berserkergang works in this form.


Level 5
Unrelenting Force - If you roll a critical while under Berserkergang, don't roll to confirm. Select a breakable object the target has (weapon, shield, armor, limb, etc). They lose it.


Kraki's Champion - When under the Berserkergang, neither fire nor iron harm you.
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wizard School


Do you dream of being a wizard? I do.
Do you ever have trouble sleeping? I do.
Do you ever use the time you're not sleeping to spiral into a temporary manic state and carve out one of your half-schemed ideas? I did.

Wizard School. Because morality is for the Mundanes.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Los Luchadores

Trouble rules the land. Bandits surge the country side, as the oppressive Lord increases taxes. The old and weak are forced from their homes, their crops burnt in the fields. The poor are pressed into work gangs as they fail to pay tithes. The people cry out, their voices stifled by their oppression. The people dream of a hero. Their hearts ache for a champion. One man answers their call:

El Luchador

Bound by honor and a desire to bring Justice to the world, the Luchador is a travelling hero who's goal is to bring peace to the lands he walks. His identity hidden by a mask, his heart steeled by righteousness, his spirit unbreakable. He is a man of the people. He is the champion they require.

Any Luchador with Personality 15+ may, once per day, give a motivational speech full of flexing to re-inspire their allies and refresh their endurance points.

Level 0
Espíritu de Misión

Level 1
Mascaras
Mano y mano

Level 2
Influir en los Corazones
Código del luchador

Level 3
Mini-Estrella
Técnica Impresionante

Level 4
Exótico
Consejo de los fantasmas

Level 5
Invencible
Espíritu de un campeón

Espíritu de Misión - It is said that one does not chose the life of Luchador, rather the life chooses them. This, in its entirety, is true. Should one show signs of the honor, truth, and spirit needed within their soul, El Santo will call to them in a dream and assign a Quest. Should they succeed they will be entrusted with a Mask.

Mascaras - To the Luchador, a Mask is more than just a method of hiding their identity, it IS an identity. An embodiment of Spirit. An embodiment of Works Done and Future Hopes. While the Luchador wears the Mask, they benefit from the powers entitled to their level. Further, they use their Personality to determine To Hit rolls. Once the Mask is donned, it must never be removed. Should the Luchador suffer defeat and be demasked, they lose their powers until the atone.

Mano y mano - The Luchador takes advantage when performing hand combat and feats of grappling.

Influir en los Corazones - When making a diplomatic check accented with words of Truth and Honor, and many flexing gestures, the Luchador may add their Level to the Target Number

Código del luchador - To a Luchador, Honor is everything. Should an enchantment ever cause a Luchador to shame himself, the spell breaks instantly.

Mini-Estrella - The Luchador's fame has begun to spread, with tales of his deeds told, and from it an admirer. You gain a specialized Mook who dresses exactly as you, and has half your stats and half your height.

Técnica Impresionante - Through describing "high-flying" maneuvers in a vigorous manner, the player may gain a bonus - determined by the GMs impression - to the attack they are making. HOWEVER! The Luchador must never pile drive, for it is shameful.

Exótico - With a bit of preparation and some costume, the Luchador may impersonate any individual they have studied for at least an hour. While the Mask may not be removed, those fooled do not seem to notice.

Consejo de los fantasmas - The Words and Deeds of true heroes are never forgotten. In times of great need, or in great doubt, the wearer of a Mask may reflect within himself and seek the council of the Mask's former wearers. Activating the process takes one hour.

Invencible - Though the Luchador may lose the fight, they are never defeated. The Spirit of a Champion is unbreakable. Once per day, with a moment of pause to catch his breath, staggering to his feet, and an inspirational monologue (given at the table in real life), the Luchador gains a second wind, restoring half their endurance points.

Espíritu de un campeón - To continue to risk the safety of your friends in a fight you could end is cowardice. Once per day, you may call out a single combatant for a fight. On a successful Personality check, they accept your challenge. The fight is to the finish, as long as others do not interfere.

Unmasked Luchadors 

Any Luchador that becomes unmasked loses access to their powers. They can, however, seek atonement through the retrieval of their mask from the opponent that felled them. If they are successful, while they may not wear the mask again, as long as it is within their possession, their powers return in full. The fight to retrieve the mask is carrera contra carrera, where the loser is forced to "retire", be it through walking away from their army of thugs, imprisonment or, in case of the Luchador, walking away from the life knowing they have failed.

Rudos

Sometimes, despite all odds, a Luchador turns heel. These fallen warriors are known as Rudos. They are men of evil and pervert the Luchador way. It is the duty of every tecnicos (those still true to the Luchador way) to seek out rudos and offer them a second chance, or the taste of defeat.


If there are further questions, please consult this video. 
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Friday, July 8, 2016

More on the Erdgeist

I've had a request for more information on the Erdgeist. I find this a bit strange as, while they are essentially gnomes, they are meant to be horrible monsters. They are not the same as the other races, hardly even related to the Hulder. With that in mind, I attempted to make them different not just in fluff, but in mechanics, in an effort to show how alien they are. They're basically a forced combination of race and class - they were after all only suppose to be GM controlled creatures (specifically Mooks for Huldra), but you monsters drove me to dignify their existence.

The Erdgeist


Your first lullaby was the scratching of digging claws from passing creatures. Your mother's milk was the water you suckled straight from the roots of a plant. Your first memories are those formed when you first took conscienceness within the mud womb, and decided it was time to be born. Your "brothers" and "sisters" are those that also crawled from their holes in the ground around the same time you did. Your "parent" was the first Erdgeist that found and collected you, giving you tasks to perform.

You are an entity unto yourself. No family you have, as the mortal races would see it. From a moist hole in the ground you crawled, and to a moist hole in ground you hope to return once your body is weak and broken. Every fiber of your being urging you to serve Huldufolk. Through service you find neither oppression nor freedom, but rather meaning. As long as your hands stay busy, and your mind full, you hold off the Boredening - your fall into Goblinhood. This is critical, for once it starts, there is no undoing the process.

Unfinished Work is as a piercing, ear splitting siren to you. Tasks are meant to be completed, crafts are meant to be smithed. As such, in this new world, Human settlements, specifically the cities, are cacophonies of torturous bedlam, unlike the idealic symphonies of Huldra settlements attune with the workings of your ilk. Because of this there have been reports of human villages being swarmed at night by Erdgeist; clattering, ratterling, plucking and picking, cleaning and scouring all that needs it, leaving yarn spun, shoes cobbled and kitchens cleaned in their wake - albeit with causalities sustained to pets and sleeping children. Materials were needed after all.

To your ears, dwarrow settlements are a low hum, and the woodwose produce no sound at all.

Most beautiful to your ears, however, are the Words of the Hulder. For their most addictive of voices, you would do anything they command, no matter how dangerous or insane.  Though, their voice is not the only that you know. Through no conscience effort of your own, when in proximity of a native speaker of a language, that language is known to you. This service extends even unto the animals of the air and wilds. Fish, obviously, have no language.

As a creature of Productivity, an undeniable hatred for Urisks pumps through your veins. While Mortals often confuse your two kinds (As you do with humans and those tree dwelling creatures...what are they?...oh, "birds".) there is a very real and striking difference. The Urisk take to Lounging at streams and waterfalls, and offer no domestic help, but often steal or beg for their food. Disgusting things.

Further, as a creature of Productivity, crafting comes natural to you. While not as consistent as the dwarrows, you are able to produce items of stunning quality, with even the slightest of training. In Otherworld, these items were permanent. However, in this new reality, such items do not survive long after your death.

Speaking of your death, traditionally when your body was weak and broken from a life time well spent in service, you would find a nice hole in the ground and crawl in for your reward. Now though, in this strange new world of violence and sleep, when you fall, if left alone, your body will decay and strange mushrooms will crop up in a ring. The commoners have taken to superstitiously burn these rings, for fear of what will grow.

Also of note is your ilk, like the Huldra, sleep standing up, as sleeping while laying down invites death.

The Stats


  • Unable to resist Commands (per spell) given by any Hulder, even through magics.
  • In times of boredom, or idleness, must make a Personality Save vs Boredom. Failure results in a cumulative -1 to Personality score. Upon reaching Personality 4, the Goblinization process begins. 
  • Being a resident of Otherworld, your mind is built differently and, due to which, enchantments do not affect you. 
  • Any Erdgeist with <= Strength 7 gain Levitate Object level times per day. Just because you can't lift a thing, doesn't mean you ignore the order to retrieve it. 
  • When within (level * 10)feet of a natural speaker of a language, you too can speak that language. Should they move out of range, you lose the ability to speak the language. You retain no knowledge of the language. Within the company of other Erdgeist, your native language is a combination of clicks and whistles. 
  • When joining an adventuring group, you must designate one other member as your Master. You should then seek to serve them and fulfill their wishes. To willfully deny a direct order, carries the penalty of a cumulative -1 to your Personality score. To willfully refuse to take a Master carries the same penalty, but applied per day.   
  • You do not benefit from Mooks. You are the Mook. 
Level 1
  • Master Craftsman - Choose a crafting skill. You now gain a rank per level in that skill. Further more, once per level you may generate a masterwork item in the skill. Should you perish through age or violence, the object begins to degrade quickly. Weaves unravel, beer curdles, iron works dull and rust; all becoming unusable. Any spell targeting the item affects the Erdgeist as well. 
  • Gerry Rig - Given at least some time and vaguely the correct tools, you can repair a thing to working condition for Personality Bonus days. If the bonus is zero or negative, the time becomes fraction of a day. After the time passes, or first usage, the item breaks once more and needs to be repaired properly. 
Level 2
  •  Torchbearer - With a moment of concentration (standard action, if this is a factor), you may summon Swiftness number of floating orbs of light. They give off the dim glow of a standard torch and may be directed anywhere within 50 ft of you. They last roughly an hour. 
  • Strong Back - You gain level number inventory slots, as long as the items carried within are your Master's. 
Level 3
  • Transmutation - Given the proper focus (say, a spinning wheel) you may change one mundane substance (say, hay) into another (say, gold thread). This transformation, however, only lasts until the sun crosses the horizon. 
  • Helping Hands - To better assist in their tasks, the Erdgeist may create smallmen (think tiny homunculus) from rocks, sticks, children skulls, radishes, or anything else on hand. They won't fight, but have two inventory slots. Any damage they take, you take, and you can only make Vigor bonus number of them. They remain animated for one day, before the magic consumes the component parts. 
Level 4
  • Treasure Keeper - To better watch over your Master's treasure, you may place it into a nice sturdy vessel, like a pot. This vessel then acts like a Bag of Holding, but specifically for coin. You may only have one at a time. 
  • Chthonic Sympathies - With concentration you may detect the presence of valuable stones within 50 ft of you, Intelligence bonus times per day. 
Level 5
  • Immaterial Made Manifest - To better serve your Master, you may play host to entities on the Ethereal plane, potentially gleaning some of their knowledge. 
  • Hinzelmann's Homing - Should your Master ever misplace or lose an object of their ownership, you, the good servant, can take a few moments of concentration to know instinctively the direction and distance of the object. While arrows and items sold don't count, items stolen and daggers stabbed into the hide of a rare beast do. Tracking. I'm suggesting if you do it right, you can track a creature. Almost perfectly, without regard for terrain.  

So, yes, there it is. Clarification on how classes work will soon follow. Probably.

Enjoy being a Mook. 

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Random Encounters in the Tavalinen Sea

My current leafwrit is taking longer than expected, so to keep activity up, I offer a list of random encounters for adventuring on the Tavalinen Sea.

1d30

  1. A camp of the Wagonfolk, offering trade and rest. But are they what they seem? Yeah, probably. But are they?
  2. A stampede of Dire Bison
  3. Tick bite. Roll for disease (1d6: 1. Blood fever, 2. Lycanthrope, 3. Head broken off in skin, 4. Allergy to meat, 5. Skin fever, 6. Just an itchy bump) 
  4. Cultists around one of the mysterious monoliths. Doin' something evil, I bet. 
  5. A mammoth skull from which an ancient voice echoes within the characters' minds, demanding vengeance.
  6. 1d12 giraffes humming to themselves in the dusk of the plains. Does the air feel...thicker? Soon bats begin to sing, joining in the choir. 
  7. A half-orc on a coming of age spirit quest. 
  8. As 7, but the beast he is hunting has begun to hunt him. 
  9. Quicksand! The horses and wagons are stuck, and in threat of spilling. 
  10. Thick smoke on the horizon, leading back to a raided town. 
  11. Is that some sort of thunder lizard?
  12. A maiden is bathing in hot springs by moonlight. Wait...no, not a maiden. Her head is on backwards and there's blood on her fangs.
  13. A group of riders is chasing down a man. The riders claim he is a criminal. The man claims they're bandits. 
  14. Witches dancing in the full moon.
  15. Wizards picnicking in the noonday sun. 
  16. Bootleggers being chased into the depths by local law.
  17. An active still being tended by corpses.
  18. An active still being tended by goblins. The concoction is highly flammable. As is the surrounding grass, mind you.
  19. The ruins of nameless forgotten city, nearly reclaimed entirely by nature. What treasures or strange idols sleep within?
  20. Pajaki war party
  21. A half burried box. What's in it? (d6: 1. Coin 2. Mold covered scrolls 3. Hope 4. Ancient plague 5&6. Nothing.)
  22. A big god damn snake! 
  23. Heat strokes pretending to be a hookah smoking, vest wearing ferret with bifocals.
  24. Trip on a rock. Nice job.
  25. A memorial stone with weathered inscription 
  26. Large floating human head that vomits lighting from its can't filled mouth.
  27. A nest of Thunderbirds
  28. A man digging up dead bodies. "Mind your own business!"
  29. A river. How are they to cross? 
  30. A sign post which as been knocked over. The signs pointing to the next towns hang limp. Which way was which?

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Taverns and Inns built in a Dungeon

A 1d6 list of Taverns and Inns built into the Dungeon for Katabasis. Or where ever. 


The Bearded Wench: While not exactly "dwarf only" the physical structure of the place makes anyone taller than a dwarf uncomfortable, as they must bend or squat to fit. Rooms are tight and small, just the way Dwarves like them. The Inn also offers equipment repair services. The cook is famed for his Rat Bisque. 

McCarlin's Hearth: Built in the upper level of a dungeon, the interior has been completely remodeled from the former vile temple it once was. Stone floors have been refitted with hardwood floors and thick rugs. The sacrificial alter is now the bar. The blood pit has been reworked into a large, welcoming Hearth in the common room. Guests are waited on hand and foot by the fancified staff, and the rooms are plush and impeccable. This is, of course, reflected in the bill. 
Trouble is, the cult that ran the temple never actually left. They just became wait staff. Sacrifices of blood are made over the bar, guests are kidnapped from their rooms in the night via secret passage, and old chants are given to pacify old, insane gods. That delicious three course meal you just had? Was probably a person at one time. Although, no one knows this. Yet. 

The Accords: Largely a "self service" establishment. Numbered room keys are given with little more than a grunt from the keeper. The bartendress pours and serves drinks at the bar, refusing to carry a tray. "If you're too lazy to get up and get it yourself," the Keeper points out, "you're free to leave." Despite the gruff exterior, the staff are friendly enough, to the Usuals at least. While mage folk are the primary customers, magic is frowned upon (or rather sneered at) with the walls of the inn, and the layout and furnishings reflect this. Thirteen tables fill the tavern, as nine stools line the bar, each lined and decorated with iron. Doors, as well, are banded and knobbed with iron. Also of note is the room-sized, silver summon circle in the common room. No one is sure which accords the inn is named after.

The Malicious Mallard: A foul stank hole of a place, built in the old prison area. The walls are damp, cold, and grow strange mushrooms. Rented rooms are old cells, separated only by prison bars. The drinks are swill (but cheap!) and brewed in jugs that have never known cleaning. The staff are just as likely to cut your purse as the patrons are. Bar fights are often and, should they become lethal, the bodies are dumped in a "bottomless" pit under the trap door behind the bar before they rise again. Yes, that does mean there's a room full of wraiths somewhere. A secret switch in the backroom leads to the Thieves Guild lounge.

The Gilded Pentacle: Built in the ruins of a long abandoned vault, the inn also offers secure storage in addition to room and board. Also uniquely, the guards of the City tend to drink in the bar once off duty. The interior is as gilded as promised, including a bartop inlaid with gold. Some of the more illiterate of the City come to the Gilded Pentacle looking for a guild to apply for. 

The White Hart: Built in the remains of a long ago looted library, the inn caters to a more scholarly crowd. Large shelves that once held uncountable scrolls containing long forgotten lore, now hold codecs of various topics. Guests are encouraged to share their knowledge through impromptu lectures around the fire.  Most rations available are melted cheese based. For some reason. 



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Friday, June 10, 2016

The Huldufolk and Otherworld Creatures


Elves. Tolkien's overpowered, "we came all this way just to let Isildur walk off with the McGuffin, and did nothing about it" saps who refuse to share boats for the most childish of reasons. My displeasure of them is known. I also waggle a finger at Lord Dunsany's version. Albeit, less so.

But never mind that. Ignore it completely. These things don't suffer from the human condition, so why should they mock us with their human traits? Most settings describe them as "fey like." Why? Throw your hat over the wall. Go all in. Make these things the monsters the old stories make them out to be.

With that in mind, and a fifth of tequila in hand, I offer:


The Huldufolk

Some times written as "the Hulder", or "the Huldra" by illiterate peasants ("Huldra" already meaning "The Hulder"),  these creatures are, to put it simply, "not from here." Nearly one millennium ago, a night of strange absurdity poetically remembered as the Great Sigh, saw the entrance of the Hulder into the world as pockets of Reality were torn asunder, and hastily patched. Strangely, however, little damaged was invoked. Oh, sure, towns were halved as chunks of another world forced their way in, but actual damage was minimum. Instead of the smith being next door, just feet away, his shop was now half a mile or more, through a strange and sweet smelling forest of hardwood mushrooms.

Mortals have learned little about what brought chunks of the other reality, "Otherworld" to humans and "Huldreheimen" to the Hulder, into their own. For the most part, the Elders, who's strong magics held chunks of their world together, refuse to speak of the cause of the incident. What they will speak of is beholding Seas of Mathematics, Mountains of Inverse, Forests of Time and other impossibilities as their reality shifted, the skies burning with arcane sigils.


Physicalities

While Huldra look similar to humans, they are most assuredly not. Standing an average of five and a half feet, slightly pointed ears, two arms, two legs, skin ranging from alabaster to olive to ebony. Standard affair.  Were things begin to diverge, and what people usually first notice upon meeting an Hulder is their eyes: Gold, silver or red irises, a corresponding glow, and nictitating membranes. The membranes, when closed, reduces normal vision, but allows for the seeing of ghosts. It also has produced the strange rumor that the Hulder do not sleep. They do, just with the over lids open.

Also usually noticed is their tails, typically fox or cow in nature. Not usually noticed (unless you're one of them perverts and get in the skins with one) is their hollow back. Where a human would have a spine, they have a cavity, reminiscent of a hallow log. Not the best to look at. Kind of gross, actually. Don't try and put things in it.

The differences don't end at simply the physical level. Being of alien origin, their minds are built around a different architecture that the mortals and, in short, work differently. While their conclusions are sound, their logic is absurd. Two plus three equals five not because there are five units total, but because two concede favor in the presence of three to whisper rumors of six, yet we must remove one for our favored daughter who is yet to be. Somehow this works for them. What this means, however, is that enchantments have a hard time effecting the Hulder. Further, their Personality is awkward to mortals, and tends to act as a bane.

Their actual architecture (building wise) borders on and crosses the line of impossible, most notably for their lack of euclidean space. They're not fans of Minkowski space either, as time and space become distorted. Some structures can be built plainly on a hill, but only seen or entered after walking widdershins three times around said hill. Adventures can feast for a single night in their halls and (allegedly) awaken the next morning to find a century has passed in the normal world.

Life cycle 

Huldra are born the same way as any other creature: they're found as babies on the dew covered leaves, wrapped in gossamer blankets. Taken in by who ever finds them, the child is cared for without second thought, as Huldufolk communities aren't in the habit of want.

They soon come to adulthood in a mere one hundred and fifty years. Their days are spent in the pursuit of learning and pleasure. Hunting is often taken as a pass time, with younglings learning to stalk and track through the hardwood mushroom forests, and now, into the surrounding "normal" country side. Charcoal burning has become a popular manner of interest, as of late.

Where death was unknown in their previous realm, in this one they are stripped of their immortality, and are reduced to simply agelessness. In this reality, violence and disease have been introduced into their experience and wordstock. However, there's no place for them to go. Mortals move on, assumedly, to their various afterlives, while Huldra have none to speak of. Instead, their spirits linger as ghosts, while their bodies decay into mushrooms and trees. On the rarest of occassions, these ghosts can be glimpsed in the morning light. Mingling as gossamer in the fog of dawn.  

These ghosts linger for an indeterminate amount of time but, inevitably, grow tired. Drawn by what few memories they have left, they return to the woods, and find rest on the soft dewy leaves. From there, their fates are unknown.

Playing One of the Huldrufolk

While I'm against using Huldra as PCs at the moment, here are some notable stats in case you decide otherwise. You maverick. 
  • Personality (c) 13+ - once per day - command Gnome (no save)
    • Gnomes were/are servants 
  • Dex 15+ - once per day dimension door
  • Save vs Death when confronted with sadness
    • Mortally wounded by sadness
  • Ringing of iron bells stuns them
  • Dex must be higher than Con, Personality (w)
    • Huldra are lithe and agile, but frail and their minds are built different
  • Personality bonus is treated as negative when interacting with non-Faerie creatures in a social setting. Their mannerisms and social cues are entirely different than what mortals are use to. 
  • Glowing eyes make stealth impossible, but the second eyelids allow for ghost sight. 
  • Resistant to enchantments, as your alien mind works on a different architecture. 


The Erdgeist

Also called "gnomes" by the unwashed masses who seem to insist on commenting about every damn thing I type, the Erdgeist are short creatures, roughly knee height. Their entire existence is one of servitude to the Huldra. Not slavery, mind you, but service. It is this service that gives them purpose in their lives. Think English butler with a loose grasp of reality or morals. As such, they are unable to resist a command issued by a Hulder, even through magic.

In their role of servants, the gnomes have the strange ability to speak any language, as long as they are in proximity to a native speaker. This includes both the language of the Hulder and the speech of animals. In times of solitude, they speak their own native tongue, which is largely composed of clicks and whistles. Further in their role, the Erdgeist are quick and quality learners, able to take up masterwork craft with but the basic of instruction.

The Erdgeist aren't so much born, as they crawl out of a hole and report for work. When their bodies have grown weak and frail, they turn in their uniforms and crawl back into a hole. Assuming they don't goblinize first, that is. Within the confineds of the new reality, a gnome must be cosntantly entertained, be it through riddles, craft or service; otherwise, they begin an agonizing and irreversible transmutation into a goblin. Sort of like the Isz from the Maxx.

More info on them here.

Goblins

Goblins, a name give by common folk, as it was in this reality in which they first appeared, are the corrupted form of a Erdgeist which has succumbed to boredom. Prone to random violence and acts of destruction, goblins lust for chaos. The craftlores they once held as gnomes become corrupt within their fractured minds and all quality is lost. In the rare moment a light of skill shine through, it's still shown through a dust covered stain glass. Where a gnome would craft a blade of polished silver with etched details, a goblin hammers out rusted iron, chipped and dented, even before use. Over all just shitty and not worth blundering.

But, there is some reasoning to this quick production, other than laziness and loss of talent, as their numbers constantly swell. Goblins have the ability to heal from almost any wound, but, sometimes, instead of the wound growing shut, it begins to grow a new goblin. Severed arms grow new bodies. Hatchet wounds in necks grow new heads, sharing the same frame with the old. The numbers swell in haste, and the new goblins must be armed! Armed so that the glory of violence can spread!

There are also the Brood Mothers, but they are best left mentioned for another time.

The Fae

"Fae" or wyldfae -  A broad term that can be applied to the creatures that inhabit the Faelands of Faerie (basically "the woods" or wild areas of Huldreheimen). In this instance, however, it specifically refers to what can be equated to the wildlife of that other world. Brownies, nixie, pixies, nymphs; the list goes on and on. While some do appear humanoid and are capable of speech, they are little more than animals to the Hulder and Erdgeist. Since the Great Sighing, the creatures have spread out into the new reality, causing the utmost confusion and trouble amongst the mortals.

There is rumor that the Fae all yield to a "Faerie King," but such notion is absurd. It would make as much sense as there being a King of Dogs. (Dogs, after all, use an imperial system).

The Erlking

The fabled Faerie King, ruler of the wilds of Otherworld, the Erlking stands an impressive nine feet tall. Though rarely seen out of his antler helm, his face is rumored to bear a wild nobility with hair as tangled as underbrush. A cloak of enchanted fur hangs from his shoulders, and a crown of golden flowers hangs from his belt. His voice is that of a rock avalanche. His hall is the thickest part of the woods, where neither Huldra nor adventurers have dared to go.

Of children, he has many, though all daughters they be. It is they who lead the nightly dance deep in the Faelands; a ceremony to ensure that the night continues until dawn. Lacking a male heir, the Erlking rides the roads closest to his kingdom, seeking to steal away sons from unsuspecting travelers.

It is rumored the Erlking was once a human named King Herla who, in fulfilling an oath to a Hulder King, became trapped within the Otherworld. This is troublesome, as the Earlking has been in power long before the Great Sighing. 

Nevertheless, human or faerie, he leads the ritual of the Wild Hunt based on a complicated lunar schedule. 

The Wild Hunt

The Erlking leads the ritual hunt from atop a mount of pure myth and terror, accompanied by his faithful Blood Hound (note: not bloodhound), and swarms the country side looking for game worthy of the Erlking's attention. Sometimes adventurers fall in the path of the Wild Hunt. In times like this they're offered a simple choice: "Hunt or be hunted." Should they choose to join, they are expected to uphold the honor and integrity of the hunt. Should they refuse...well, at least they were worthy of the King's attention.

Of what this ritual symbolizes, many have guessed, few have learned. Some think it to be celebrating the passing of the year, but time is not the same in Otherworld. Some years the Hunt occurs twice, some years not at all.
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