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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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

People of the Plains

Out in the Tavalinen Sea, a rolling plain of purple leafed grass, you'll find two nomadic groups of people: The Vapara and the Pijaki. While they travel the same "sea", they rarely come into contact, or desire to, as their routes often take them in separate directions. There have been known encounters between the two, however it rarely goes well for the Vapara.

Vapara

Also known as the Wagonfolk, the Vapara are a culture of largely human traders and merchants. Traveling in covered wagons, often brightly painted with strange murals reflecting the many stories they collect,  they skirt the edges of the Tavalinen Sea, connecting the "Port" towns and cities along it in a system of trade. While they're certainly not the only traders out there, they are the most well known.

Often seen as thieves and dirty, and accused of stealing children, they actually hold to strict hierarchical traditions, strict hygiene habits, and hold no prejudges in race when taking in orphans.

Gender Roles
Much of Vapara life is separated based on gender. Males hold public authority, while females are the head of a household. Men are typically the producers, seeing the construction and toolage, while the women are the upkeepers, giving to cleaning and preparing. In business, males tend to trade for other items, while females will sell outright for coin. It is thought women are more inclined to mystical arts (fortune telling, speaking with spirits, etc) while men tend to the material arts (song, brewing, etc).

Hierarchy
Traditionally, a band (or Vappania) of Vapara consists of ten to fifty extended families, and is lead by a Voivode, or "chieftain" for the cruder tongue. The Voivode is selected for life, and is assisted by a Phuri Dai - typically the Eldest woman of the Vappania. Whenever two or more bands find themselves in the same city, the Voivodes will hold council, usually to trade news and rumors (as well as to over drink in peace). All Voivodes, upon taking the station, swear fealty to the ancient, one true King of the Vapara - Johnny Faa.

Clothing and Style
The Vappania, both men and women, wear bright colors, often yellows and reds, and loose, flowing clothing. Women always wear dresses or full skirts, as bifurcation would be inappropriate. Men wear baggy pants, loose fitting shirts and large belts. Both wear jewelry, women fashioning gold, men silver. Though, men wear substantially less jewelry than women. In some of the more prudish cultures the Wagonfolk encounter, Vapara women are seen as lustful or seductive. This do to the held belief that the upper body is clean, and is fine to expose, while the lower body is dirty, for obvious biological reasons. The Woodwose don't see the issue.

Religion
While the Vapara do not worship a god, as they have "no king before Johnny Faa", they do hold themselves to a list of taboos, and acknowledge the importance of Faa's first consort Laxshi, Mistress of Wealth. As well, they pay homage and respect to the gods of the culture they are currently surrounded by. To do other wise would be the sign of a poor guest.

While they don't hold to any gods, they do have a handful of superstitions.

  • Pure should not be contaminated by unpure. 
    • This includes cursing. Vapara men are forbidden from cursing. Women, having a natural cycle of unpurity, are allowed leeway and, if really worked up, can generate some of the most sailor blushing curses heard.
    • This also includes not drinking from the same water source as an animal that cleans itself (dog, cat). Drinking from the same water source as a horse or oxen is fine, as they do not lick their genitals. Strangely, it has come up.  
    • A note should be drawn between "unpure" and "honest dirt." "Honest dirt" is gained through work and duty, though should still be cleansed, while "unpurity" happens through blood shed or sickness. 
  •  A lucky charm is good to have
    • A member of the Wagonfolk always has on them a lucky charm. Be it a four leaf clover, a rock with a hole, an iron nail, or nearly any other small carry-able object. (Doesn't take an inventory slot, if this is in question)
  • The hooting of an owl and the screaming of a falling tree are ill omens.
    • Care should be taken, and ears covered, least your soul be taken or the death screams drive you mad
  • Bird droppings falling upon you is good luck
    • this may be a joke created to screw with outsiders
  • The lost and dying should be taken in, and given comfort. 
Stats
  • Any Wagonfolk failing a Save of any sort, may instead lose their Good Luck Charm to ignore the result. Without the Charm however, the character takes -2 to all rolls until a new one is gained. Gaining a new charm should be a task and trial, not just simply "herp, derp, a neat stick, done."
  • Any wearing over 10,000 gold in jewelry gain +2 to Personality(c) when interacting with other Vapara. 
  • Any with Personality(w) of 13+ playing with a tarot has 1 in 20 chance of telling actual future. 1 in 12 if a witch. 
  • Any Vapara that drinks from the same water source as a self cleaning animal, doesn't cover their ears and cross themselves at the hooting of an owl or felling of a tree, or if a male curses,  automatically fail their actions until they make themselves clean - or a bird defecates upon them. 


Pijaki

Named after their word for the bison they follow, cruder tongues refer to them as "Half-Orc." This name is incorrect at best, a horrible insult at worst. The Pijaki breed true, but as an off branch of Orc species, they tend to be more civilized than their cousins. "Half-human" the slur goes. And, of course, "civilized" in this context meaning they don't immediately kill you for trespassing. They'll probably even ask you questions first. Truth be told, they're inclined to ask questions and come to an arrangement, rather than kill out right. This is possibly the sole reason there are any Vapara left.

"Do not kill the entire herd when you are hungry," is an old adage of theirs. Being a people that follow herds, they harvest only what they need from the herd. In this way, the herd survives and grows stronger. From this the Pijaki grow stronger. And you're entirely correct to think they do the same to the Vapara. If you kill a man, and take his stuff, his line and trade end there. BUT, if you take only a few of his nicer things, that man can still make a living, and grow rich to have many fat children. Those children will then form more caravans, which your children will then raid.

Obviously the Pijaki do not share this plan with the Vapara.

But, yes, as stated the Pijaki are herdsmen, following herds of the huge Dire Bison (from which they take their name) across the plains, riding atop great domesticated bears. They take almost everything they need from these herds: meat, shelter, weapons, clothing. In return they see that the herd grows stronger. They cull the weak, stifle sickness, ensure the strong breed. They're like gardeners. Meat gardeners.

Little is known of the Pijaki other than that, and such is the way they prefer it. That being said, here is an assortment of information.

Language
The Pijaki speak a language their own, derived from Orc, but instead of being grammatically gendered between male and female, their words are divided between animate and inanimate. Interestingly, their words for other cultures are inanimate, with the words used to describe themselves and orcs are animate.

While the Pijaki have a rich oral tradition, handed down by a shaman or elder witch, they lack written historical records and even, usually, literacy, as reading and writing is clearly a form of magic. I have, after all, implanted knowledge in your head about a made up fantasy race, without even uttering a word to you. They don't truck with that.

Religion
The world of the Pijaki is a mixture of the physical and the spiritual, the latter bridged by shamans and heavy intoxicants. These shamans, usually alone or with a member of the tribe going through rite of passage, commune with the spirits in holy sites spread through out the Tavalinen Sea - hot springs, neat looking boulders, the mysterious monoliths dotting the landscape. In times of need the Shamans consort the spirits - called the Kwiocos - for guidance and wisdom.

Werocosuk
Chief among the Kwiocos is Werocosuk, the most Pijakish looking of all the spirits. All members of the Pijaki who have undergone the Rite of Passage have encountered Werocosuk, always appearing as a young warrior alone in the towering grass of the Sea. Standing a broad eight feet tall, wearing simple pijaki-hide (the animal, not the people) armor, and encloaked in a fur of an animal not native to the grass lands (actually, extinct, but they have no way of knowing this) Werocosuk will speak to the Tribe Member in a voice echoing of breaking wood. He then challenges the Member either mentally or physically. Those who fail the test, die. Those who pass are warned not to seek him out again, and are made a part of tribe upon returning from their vision quest.

Werocosuk's primary domains are Wisdom and Strength, his words often warning that one must be had only in the place of the other. Wisdom without strength is inaction. Strength without wisdom is destruction.

All members of the tribes go through the Rites of Passage, both male and female, for all members are expected to be strong. Should a member of the tribe grow enfeeble, they are given a melee weapon and a week's rations, and are expected to wander out into the Sea to find their end.

Currently, they are not intended for player consumption, but this may be revisited.


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