2015-10-29

Word salad powers

I really like a lot of ideas  on Dunkey Halton's blog. I'm rather fond of the Adventure Points idea, for example. However, I know from experience that sometimes you don't really know what you want your character to be - which sucks if you're a player in a campaign that is going to use Adventure Points.

So I figured, what if I used groups of, say, three random words (there are plenty of generators online) and try to work those into a power/thing for a character. Which, in turn, would grant some idea as to what kind of douchebag person would have those powers and/or things. Obviously, some word combinations are easier to use than others (and some are plain unusable), but still, this allows me to combine two things that I like: Dunkey Halton's Adventure Points and random generators.

I present you with some examples below. If you like the characters and would like to use them as PCs or NPCs or whatever either as-is or in modified form, feel free to do so.


Flumbar the Factor

  • The Remarkable Draining Squeal (words: drain, squeal, remarkable) - once a day, Flumbar can perform a horrid wailing squeal that steals life force from Flumbar's opponents, damaging them and healing Flumbar.
  • Bright Overconfident Purple (words: bright, overconfident, purple) - clothes of an outrageously bright shade of purple. While these are a giveaway in a crowd, they're also enchanted as to make the wearer impervious to mind-affecting magic.
  • Steam Laborer of Marble (words: steam, marble, laborer) - a steam powered automaton, the outer surface of which is decorated with marble. The automaton is capable of performing simple physical tasks when so instructed.
  • Box of Dashing Mice (words: mice, dashing, box) - a box that can once per day magically produce 1d6 mice. The mice are unusually intelligent and brave and will attempt to follow any instructions given by the owner of the box. The mice disappear at sunrise, but new ones can be summoned immediately.

Zorblax

  • The Twig of Anger Holes (words: anger, twig, hole) - a wand that allows you to blast holes in your opponents. Pure and simple. Could also be a weird name for a gun, I suppose.
  • The Box of the Noiseless Craven (words: noiseless, box, craven) - a box containing magical powder that when inhaled muffles sounds made by the user. This one's kinda meh, but there you have it.
  • Writing of the Vengeful Frame (words: vengeful, writing, frame) - Zorblax can make a runic inscription on items. Anyone attempting to tamper with them will be trapped in a painfully constricting frame of magical energies.
  • Learned Childlike Draconian (words: learned, childlike, draconian) - I guess Zorblax owns a small (but ancient and well-read) dragon-like familiar or some such? Pocket wyvern, anyone?

Ace E. Deesy

  • The Correct Double Guitar (words: double, correct, guitar) - one of those two-necked guitars, except this one is very easy to play. Oh, and once per day it lets you verify whether someone is being truthful if you jam out a wicked tune.
  • Overflowing Volatile Weather (words: overflow, volatile, weather) - once per day Z can cause a localized rainstorm. (Presumably by being metal enough on the Correct Double Guitar.)
  • Material of Decisive Shame (words: material, shame, decisive) - a powder that can be put thrown onto someone (so that they inhale it) or mixed into a drink. Either way, it causes them to start running around, hallucinate, strip naked, shout gibberish and generally act in ways that they will regret in the morning.
  • Lamp of the Shivering Spark (words: shivering, lamp, spark) - a bizarre lamp that emits light via a bluish spark. This spark if touched to a living being causes them pain and damage. (Basically a sort of magical taser of sorts.)

Ginger Lemons

  • Serious Legal Print (words: legal, print, serious) - a mindbogglingly complex legal document that can be used to prove you're in the right in any judicial situation (if you're enough of a quick-talker, anyway).
  • Puzzling Glass Attack (words: attack, puzzling, glass) - a magical spell which launches dozens of glass shards at a target.
  • The Hard Therapeutic Cup (words: therapeutic, cup, hard) - a cup which instills any liquid poured in it with healing properties. It's also hard, I guess? Perhaps it's ceramic, but behaves as if it was metal?
  • Riddle of the Wild Cough (words: wild, cough, riddle) - a spell that sends an opponent (or a group of weaker ones) into debilitating fits of coughing.

2015-07-19

The Murderhobos and the Abandoned City, Session 2

(Murderhobos return! Different adventurers and only one recurring player, but same (persistent) location.)

Dramatis Personae

 Unow - a brave but unfortunate Fighter. (Deceased.)
Oci - Unow's brother, who was bound to meet up with him, but ended up replacing him in the party. (Second character for Unow's player.)
Ausencija - a Cleric of a rather ruthless and violent disposition.
Amir - a polite Magic User with a penchant for carrying numerous daggers.

 What went on

The new party - Unow, Ausencija and Amir - were not debtors like the first one. They also chose to enter through the third floor entrance and proceeded to somehow pick one of the emptiest and most boring paths possible. Eventually, however, they came upon a room containing three orcs - cast outs, formerly of the Cattle Skull tribe, hiding in the abandoned city from their former tribesorcs. While initially intending to fight them, the orcs, observing that these are not pursuers from their former tribe offered parley.  While having the option to gain the orcs as followers, the party opted instead to just let them be in exchange for some information about the layout of the level.

Using the knowledge acquired from the orcs, the party came into a room with an ornate gate leading somewhere - which they immediately proceeded to strip of precious alloy decorations. Then they opened the gate and followed a corridor leading down a ramp to a large cavernous space. As they entered the cavern, they were attacked by a pair of wyverns and chose to retaliate. After a tail spike skewered Unow, Amir and Ausencija quickly retreated back to the corridor, the entrance of which proved too small for the wyverns. Just in case, they pelted the beasts with oil and torches, setting them on fire.* One wyvern burned to a crisp, but one managed to extinguish the flames and retreated.

After brief deliberation the remaining duo returned to the expedition site, picking up Unow's twin brother Oci** there and trading away the metal from the gate. They used some of the new funds to stock up on more oil and torches and went back to hunt down the remaining wyvern. Accosting the wyvern they managed to douse it with oil and set on fire once again, and then pelted the panicked beast with Oci's arrows and Amir's thrown daggers. Ausencija used the wyverns distraction to look for some of the previously lost gear and Unow's body - which was gone and there were evident signs of it having been dragged away.

After finishing off the wyvern with only minor damage to themselves, the party collected Amir's daggers and the fangs (for trophies) off the wyvern corpses. At this time we stopped the game, but it's very likely that the party will wish to investigate the disappearance of Unow's body.

* I am aware that this would not really work. It's special alchemical oil that does work that way in my setting and is as widespread as regular oil is in our world. I just like the trope of setting things on fire too much.
** Unow/Oci's player was a first timer. We had an idea for the twin brother trying to meet the deceased character as an excuse to save him time for re-rolling stats (there was modification of inventory, though) and getting back into play quickly. Also, the players were willing to roleplay the whole "seeing previously dead friend suddenly alive" bit, so we stuck with it.

2015-07-01

Joint Orders Of Necromancers Benevolent

So Arnold K. posted a fascinating thing recently. Since the post had to do with necromancy and the undead, it reminded me of this old idea I had collecting dust in the back of my brain for years. So here it is.

Necromancy in general is not viewed in positive light, mostly because tampering with the dead is taboo and because the non-necromancer-created undead (such as vampires and restless spirits) are dangerous and bothersome enough. However, most societies learn to accept and even welcome the Joint Orders of Necromancers Benevolent. The Orders use study, research and practice of necromancy to benefit society and are often on the front lines of the efforts to remove malignant undead presence. While some aspects of their activity are disturbing, their goals are good and they are always willing to negotiate their means with the local authorities.
That said, the members of the Joint Orders are not necessarily pleasant to be around. While they're trying to work for the living and with them, they're still necromancers and dealing so much with death rubs off on a person.

There are three Orders in the organization, united through several common practices:
  • All members donate their bodies upon death for the use of organization. These are reanimated to perform the kinds of work that the living members prefer not to deal with.
  • Spirits can also be volunteered for some duration of service, especially for instruction of newer generations.
  • While the Orders accept members regardless of race, sex or creed, members are expected not marry or have children. They are also expected to stay within the Orders' quarters rather than in private lodgings or inns if there is an option.
  • Members are allowed to transfer allegiances between Orders.
  • All members give a magically reinforced oath not to knowingly cause needless harm to the living or to raise the dead in any form except within clearly defined circumstance (the circumstance is Order-specific).
  • Lichhood is strictly forbidden.

 

Bone

A Bone necromancer filling out a form. (Painting by Francisco de Zurbarán)

The Order of the Bone is the most involved with local authorities and communities. They wear white robes and are most often providers of services, administrators and leaders of Necromancers Benevolent conclaves. The services they provide usually consist of:
  • Healing - working with the dead yields a lot of medical insights and healing magic is apparently closely related to necromancy. They attempt to provide access to healing to those who cannot normally afford it, although their healers do tend to give out pamphlets that encourage donating your body to the Orders after death.
  • Workforce bolstering - a single Bone necromancer with a group of zombie laborers can significantly speed up various projects, provided they work at other times than the rest of the workers.
  • Preparing bodies of the dead so that they can not be raised by rogues necromancers.
  • Legal assistance - nothing helps solve a murder case like summoning the spirit of the victim.

 

Ash

An young Ash initiate consults a librarian spirit (housed within a skull). (Painting by Anthony van Dyck)
The Order of the Ash is the one specializing in research, archiving and training new members of all the Orders. They are distinguished by their grey robes - the shade of grey usually lighter the longer the person has been a member. At least one third of their number have formerly been active in the other two Orders, but have retired from active duty therein and now function as instructors to the initiates.

Ash necromancers maintain extensive libraries, but usually outside of acquisitions and management there are few living librarians - books are mostly looked up by spirits and shades and the handling is left to skeletons. While the libraries are open to outsiders, many find the undead "staff" to be too disturbing to visit often.

 

Blood


Non-necromancer member of the Order of Blood in his battle gear. (Painting by Anthony van Dyck)
The Order of the Blood is the only one which has non-necromancer members (although even they have at least theoretical basics of necromancy). They are dedicated to exterminating undead infestations and dealing with rogue necromancers. They do not have distinctive garb for practical reasons, but when working in the open they often wear red sashes visibly somewhere on their person.

They are often aided in their work by spirits of the dead, often bound to their battle gear. Of all the Orders, Blood are most likely to request their spirits be bound after death - usually to combat gear of a new generation. While they are often released after two or three lifetimes, there are some that have been transferred from item to item over many centuries.

 

Room for interpretation


I like this organization because it can be interpreted so differently depending on context. Are they what they seem on the face of it - a group of people utilizing an unusual ability for the good of society and honestly believe what they declare? Or maybe they're just pragmatic and realize it's the only way to survive persecution they'd face otherwise? Or a mix of both? They could, perhaps, also be a good PR front for an evil cult that is secretly working on a huge necromantic project - like resurrecting a dead god bound to their will. Might be something else entirely. There's also room for some interesting conflicts with groups opposed to necromancy on principle, or groups who wish to use necromancy differently.

Also they give me an excuse to use 17th century paintings, which is one of the better reasons ever.

2015-06-25

Mundane Magic

Magic is awesome. Fireballs and sleep spells and summons, oh my!

Regular tabletop role playing magic, however, is mostly focused on what might be useful to, y'know, an adventuring party. While that is useful to the players, you'd think that in a world with magic people would come up with relatively mundane, day-to-day uses for it. Because what good is magic to a farmer if it doesn't help with the harvest? What is good for a merchant if it doesn't help her make a profit or balance the books?

 So here's some more everyday uses of magic, many of which conveniently duplicate things we've achieved via technology (i.e. we know they're actually useful). I guess the list could be looked at as a background detail generator table or some such - if you squint hard enough, that is.
  1. Legal documents sealed/signed with drop of blood. Magic can then be used to verify identities of the relevant persons. Anyone who works with paperwork carries a special needle for drawing blood together with writing implements.
  2. Enchanted ledgers that total up income and expenses on their own and are capable of updating them. (Sort of like magical spreadsheet apps. Only inkier.)
  3. Harvest-mages wander the rural countryside looking for work. They mostly only knows spells that speed up harvest, such as Beltor's Fruit Shaker or Greater Wheat Reaper. They get a lot of call in wartime, when being able to bring in the harvest quick and with few people is important.
  4. Mages specialising in pest control. Rats routed, bedbugs banished, termites terminated - or your silver back! Gives me ideas for wizards in coveralls.
  5. Credit-enchanted items - work like our credit cards, but on magic, rather than technology. Come to think about it, if I were a wizard in a fantasy setting, banking in general would seem like a field that could benefit from magical expertise.
  6. Pay crystal balls for contacting home when you're away.
  7. Spells for copying texts from one sheet to another. Who needs printing again?
  8.  Magically-powered keywords allow accessing relevant chapters of a book quickly. Useful in big manuals, encyclopedias and reference books.


2015-06-18

The Murderhobos and the Abandoned City, Session 1


(Last Saturday I started running a campaign. What follows is a summary of  the first session.)

 Dramatis personae

Magrur - a Magic user going through financial hardship
Prince Charming - a Fighter of great Strength
Rosie - a non-haughty Elf

What went on

The PCs all started out with a debt to the city of Zotanga* (I made them roll 2d6x10 after obtaining initial equipment). The backstory was that they had chosen to participate in an expedition explore an abandoned ancient cliff city rather than go do hard labor in the debtors' prison.

After the expedition airship had arrived and deposited the participants on the ground, the PC decided to look up some advice and ended up talking to a scarred ancient elf with a missing eye. He advised them to look for magical materials and artwork and warned them to stay clear of the yellow mold.

After surveying possible entrances, and witnessing some other explorers having to deal with some vicious shrubbery at one of them, the party decided they'd prefer a method of ingress at about third floor. Using Prince Charming's grappling hook and succeeding to climb up the rope, they found themselves standing on a parapet with two closed doors leading inside. While all windows were arrow slits, the wall had crumbled between a couple of them, providing some slight view of the interior to the cautious Magrur. The coast seemed clear, so Prince Charming tapped one of the doors with the ten foot pole and after all seemed safe, opened it up.

Inside things seemed safe enough, and after exploring a couple of rooms, filled mostly with debris, the party finally stumbled into one containing a painting. Since it was too unwieldy to carry around they left it behind and looked at one more room. the room happened to be a home to a shrub much like those at the entrance. The party proceeded to strap a torch to the ten foot pole and light the shrub on fire in relative safety. They decided afterwards that they were too paranoid about the other exploration teams afterwards and returned for the painting, which they took down to the expedition's camp. On their way to turn in the painting to the officials, a young female halfling tried to chat them up about the painting but the PCs found her to be suspicious and brushed her off. After arguing over the worth of the painting with one official and then another, they managed to convince one of them to accept the painting for a 100 silver** deduction to their debts by including a bottle of wine as a "gift".

Emboldened by their previous success and hoping to quickly get the rest of the debt money the party returned to the dungeon cliff city, this time using the second of the parapet doors for entry.

They were initially met with a small swarm of glass butterflies, which they ignored as being harmless and proceeded down a corridor to a room where they found a small pile of coins covered with the yellow mold the old elf had warned them about. Luckily, it seemed to retreat from fire and they started packing the money away to one of their backpacks. Less luckily, they were attacked by a couple of stirges while doing so. A dagger slash from Magrur and some well placed shots from Rosie's longbow quickly dispatched the creatures and the PC quickly finished packaging the loot and retreated back to camp, hoping the coinage to be sufficient to cover their debts.

Upon exiting, they noticed another party returning from the ground floor - seemingly hauling some loot of their own and in good spirits.

Returning to the official who had taken the painting off of them, they were pleased to find that not only had they covered their debts but also had a bit of the money left. The official noticed that while they were free to go now, they could also stay and keep exploring, as long as they sold off artifacts to him or his colleague.

(Here the play stopped since one of the players had to leave. All in all, the players got lucky and pretty much explored one of the safest parts of the dungeon. We'll see how they fare further on.)

---
* I only realized later how much of a rip off of Burroughsian Barsoom, or, more precisely, Zodanga, that name is. None of the players had read the books in question so they didn't mind.

** The game world uses a kind of silver standard.

2015-06-09

Deities & Priesthoods 2: Teluru

Teluru, the Guardian God. Teluru, the Shield-and-Spear. Also known as Tywimh and Shinn Of The Walls. Everywhere where there are enough people to warrant a garrison of professional soldiers there is someone praying to him.

We'd probably depict him like this. But with more arms. (From here.)

Although depicted as a four-armed warrior in ancient armour carrying a shield and a spear Teluru is not a god of war. He is the god of protection and guardians and - by extension - patron of the city guards and watchmen. Every military unit tasked with protecting a civilized locale will have a shrine to Teluru in their barracks and if there's enough of them, they'll have selected a dedicated chaplain from amongst their ranks. (About 10% chance of having one for every 100 soldiers, maybe? I don't know, something like that sounds reasonable.)

For all intents and purposes, this chaplain functions like a cleric of any other god, with some slight exceptions. Firstly, the chaplain does not share the weapon restriction the other clerics have to deal with - instead of all the weapons possible he or she can only carry a spear or another polearm. And secondly, through practice with the weapon, the chaplain wields it as a fighter would.

2015-06-05

Family trees

In the Lakelands it is usual for any person wealthy enough to acquire land - which is rather expensive in the region - to plant a long-living tree of a species that tends to grow to great size somewhere on the property. This then becomes their family tree.

Not like this (from here)

The family then attempts to preserve the tree as best as possible and follow several other tradtions, to wit:

  • The jars with the ashes of the family's dead from now on are burried between the tree's roots.
  • When a new child is born into the family, their name is written on a bit of ribbon, which then is added to a garland of other such ribbons that hangs on the tree. (The first ribbon is simply tied to a branch.)
  • On major holidays and family feasts the tree is decorated with lanterns.
  • If the tree dies, there is a mourning in the family as if several members of it had died at once. Complicated rituals take place for choosing a new tree and a place for it. 
 
 More like this (from here)
 
If the family loses the land with the tree, the tree is burned down where it stands by the new owners and then a fence is put up around its former place. Nothing is done with this patch of land for at least a year. Since this is similar to having all your grandparents being burned alive at the same time, families will often choose to give up other things before giving up the land with the tree. It is therefore not unusual in the Lakelands for a formerly wealthy family to be reduced to living at the base and in the branches of their family tree in poverty, because the tree and the clothes on their backs are the only things that are left to them. (Cautious family tree pickers will often prefer trees that grow marketable fruit for this reason: they figure if their family grows impoverished, then perhaps selling the fruit will help them out.)




2015-06-02

Ogden's Hangman & Supernatural Executioners

Have you read Maurice Ogden's The Hangman? If you haven't, go read it on its wikipedia page. I'll wait.

(From here)

I don't remember how I came across this poem. It's got a message about witch-hunts and conformism and passivity towards evil and bla bla bla. But when I read it I immediately thought that the hangman as described would make an interesting opponent in a game session. My initial thought was just a psychopathic psion of an NPC who uses his power of suggestion to make people submit to his will and then kills them off one by one.

But now I have a set of tables & "rules" for spooky executioners.

Method of Execution

d6
  1. Hanging.
  2. Burning at stake.
  3. Decapitation.
  4. Being hanged, drawn & quartered.
  5. Drowning.
  6. Animal pit.

Nature & Motivation of Executioner

d6
  1. Psychopathic psionic human, doing it for the kicks.
  2. Non-psychopathic psionic human, seeks revenge against town for death of wrongfully executed parent.
  3. A ghost, trying to free itself by putting the living to the same death it experienced. It doesn't work.
  4. Limited manifestation of unknowable eldritch horror, using deaths to fuel entry into this plane of existence.
  5. Incarnation of unjust capital punishment. Just following its nature.
  6. Disembodied entity that keeps possessing a new executioner if the old one is dispatched. Feeds on the fear and suffering it creates.
 Also roll d100 for percentage of original population still remaining (at least 2 people, though) when  players enter town.

My idea is that people need to roll saves at a big penalty or submit and helplessly watch the executioner dispatch its victims... Or be the victim as the case may be. Repeat roll at every execution. Strong compulsion to attend executions - similar save as before to avoid. When attempting to leave town with the executioner undefeated, succeed similar save without penalty or lose conscienceness for 1d6 hours - or until next execution, whichever is sooner.

2015-06-01

Hoarding Hedge-wizard's Horrible Habitat

Because so many mages, and especially hedge-wizards have a tendency to have bizzare laboratories stuffed with magical paraphernalia, it makes sense that many of them would have a hoarding problem.

Roll d8 for whatever may hinder you while visiting a home of one of these weirdos for some reason.

 
(From here)
  1. 1d4 scrap golems (formed of residual magic field and random refuse) aggressively defend a corner they consider their territory. (Scrap golems are from Varlets &Vermin. But you could come up with your own.)
  2. A stairway leading downwards has filled with random crud. Seems like regular floor, but if entered from a side without actual stairs, one tends to sink through the stuff. Roll d6 on subtable.
  3. A crate of 1d6 unlabeled potions of unknown origin or purpose. Might also be expired. Have fun with this one - I recommend this table.
  4. Giant friggin' cockroaches. At least 3d4 of 'em.
  5. A disgrunteled homunculus-in-a-jar is trapped under some random garbage. Will offer information if freed. Has 50% chance of having gone insane, in which case the information will be absolutely useless.
  6. A corner stuffed with stacks upon stacks of old arcane science journals. 10% chance of finding new useful spell. 10% chance of triggering random spell effect if disturbed. 5% of journals animating and behaving like a swarm of small flying creatures - such as bats.
  7. Moving seemingly valuable item (staff, robe, book – whatever) releases disgusting mold spores. If inhaled, chances of being: 25% - halucinogenic, 10% - poisonous (save or die). If not either, then trigger coughing and sneezing, wasting time and attracting attention.
  8. Precarious stack of junk. If fighting nearby, 10% chance of collapse. Randomize combatants affected, does 2d6 damage to each.

Stairway crud subtable


1-3. Sticky crud. Works like quicksand
4. Light and large and properly unsupported things. Works like a pit, except there's stairs out. Falling damaged still applies, though.
5. As 4, but there's something jagged or spiky and hard on the stairway. Works like spike pit trap.
6. As 5, but there's also something smeared on the jagged thing. Works the same, but there's also 50% chance of non-lethal poison, save or take 1d6/hour for 1d6 hours.

2015-05-31

Deities & Priesthoods: An'nana

Try not to look at her directly for too long (from here)

Also known as the Divine Progenitor and the Shining One, An'nana is one of the oldest deities around, being a parent to many of the younger gods and godlings (and even a few heroes). While An'nana changes gender often and at will, the deity's motherly personality and preferred appearance (that of a glowing young woman) lead to the mortals also using the title Caring Mother for her.

 
A "priestess" at her daily work as a blacksmith (from here)

An'nana acts as a deity of parenthood, fertility, nurturing and health. She doesn't have a rigid hierarchical priesthood as such, and since people who directly worship her tend to form small family-based communities, usually the "priest" or "priestess" is simply a leader of the community, who enjoys An'nana's gifts simply for being a decent and caring sentient. Because of this, most of the An'nana's priesthood are usually also farmers, blacksmiths, masons, carpenters and other simple, hard-working folk. When not at work, they spend their time taking care of their families and helping out those in need - especially orphans.

An'nana rewards her worshippers for their kindness and caring with good health and fertility. Her "priests" also get some healing and curse removal abilities. This comes on top of the fact that the worshipper communities are generally very healthy both physically and psychologically and tend to treat people both on the inside and the outside of community with respect and care.


In game

A general worshipper of An'nana will be simply a happy and healthy working person (most prefer rural life, but there are also urban communities) - a good way to reflect this would be decent physical stats. A leader of a community, as an acting "priest", works pretty much as a cleric, but is restricted to light armor and can only use healing spells and those that deal with removing disease and curses.

2015-05-30

City defenses generator table

For all your city defense needs. Roll d10 for each table.

Fortifications & defenses


(from here)
  1. Transparent dome of unknown material (gets stifling in hot weather)
  2. Seemingly conventional walls & towers (actually hasty mock-ups built in hopes of discouraging an attacker)
  3. Magically grown wall of semi-sentient trees that attempt to swipe at attackers with branches
  4. Colossal golems link arms around the city, will attempt to stomp on attackers
  5. A conventional castle on the most vulnerable edge of the town
  6. Simple palisade fort
  7. No walls, but closely placed towers of varying styles and colors
  8. Maze-like system of rounded stone walls with no gates but only narrow passages
  9. High natural cliffs of the plateau on which the city is located, the single path upwards protected by the defenders
  10. Seemingly undefended city actually surrounded by a death zone of traps both magical and mundane (peaceful visitors met at the edge and led in and out by professional guides for a fee)

Defenders 

Where's your armor, soldier?! 
(from here, but I don't know where Hill Cantons got it)

  1. Small pack of death-ray wielding homunculi
  2. Hastily conscripted beggars & petty criminals, used as canon fodder to buy time for fleeing richer citizens
  3. Trained bears – armored and armed with poleaxes
  4. A cabal of experienced wizards (half of which are starting to grow senile)
  5. Highly trained ballista crews
  6. Sabre and lance wielding horsemen, dressed in bright colors and fond of making seemingly random charges
  7. A small fleet of airships carrying arquebusiers
  8. Local dragon, concerned with fate of source of tribute
  9. Fanatical religious sect members – not terribly efficient in combat, but numerous and desperate to fight to the death
  10. A small group of veteran soldiers and engineers who will wait for the enemy to enter the city and then engage in urban guerrilla combat

2015-05-29

NatGeo Photo of the Day Inspiration 1: Cormorant Fishermen

I'm trying to train my gaming-inspiration muscles, and so I'll try to make something out of National Geographic's Photo of the Day pictures when I think it possible. First attempt is today, although the picture/story is already almost a reality-is-weirder-than-fiction type of thing.

Cormorant Fishermen


The villages of cormorant fishermen use cormorants to fish - or so says the common knowledge. However, while many think these are just trained birds, maybe with some modification that prevents them from swallowing fish, the truth is somewhat weirder. In actuallity, the cormorants and the fishermen are one and the same - they're were-cormorants. Unlike many other lycanthropes, were-cormorants are fairly peaceful and maintain cordial relations with most other neighbouring sentients, usually selling fish and buying other kinds of goods.

The fact that the neighbours tend not to know of their lycanthropy is simply a matter of safety.

Were-cormorants usually fish in small groups, where one stays in human form and several others (2 to 5) use their cormorant form to catch fish. The human form were-cormorant is often an elder whose reaction is already a bit too slow for fishing, but who has much expertise and can advise the others. They also steer the raft they use to transport the catch and might even do some preliminary cleaning.

Were-cormorants generally just wish to be left in peace and would prefer that their neighbours not find out about their lycanthropic status. This sometimes ends up netting them into doing scouting work for outsiders who find out about their secret.

2015-05-28

Reedwomen

Some lakes and slow-flowing rivers tend to be homes to colonies of humanoids that call themselves the Children of the Reed or, in some areas, Reedfolk. This often gets translated as Daughters of the Reed, or even Reedwomen. People tend to assume they're one of the female-only races out there.

This is because few have ever seen a male of the species, since the Children only tend to have 2-3 of them for a colony of about 40, and since they're smaller and frailer than the females. Whereas female Reedfolk are about the size and shape of a petite human woman, the males are generally built as a skiny, short, halfling man. Mass and strength are roughly comparable. Regardless of gender they have pale green or grey skin, are excellent swimmers and have the capacity to stay underwater for long durations. The Children of the Reed in general can be regarded as pleasant looking, if one can disregard the fact that there's aquatic and semi-aquatic invertebrates and plants sometimes living in their hair.

 They're kinda sneaky (from here)

Since the Children have few males and they tend to be weaker, they are usually left at the semi-submerged woven reed nests that the Reedfolk construct on the lakes they inhabit, looking after the young and making and repairing the few tools and weapons they use. 

 Like this, but on a lake and there's more of it under water (from here)

The Children tend not too have much in the sense of possessions. Clothing is unusual unless there's non-hostile contact with races that tend to view clothing as preferable, but even then clothes will only be worn for some interactions with outsiders. Decorative trinkets of bone or shells are common, however. Their tools and weapons are mostly made of bone and wood. Reedfolk pretty much distrust metal and will reject metal tools and weapons if offered. Even stone is considered as somewhat suspect, although some bolder warriors will opt for a stone knife or spearhead instead of the more usual bone.


They're still pretty dang sharp even if they're brittle (from here)
If you visit a (demi)human village that is near a colony of Reedfolk, there's a possibility that you'll hear rumors of the Daughters of the Reed kidnapping people, especially children. Some might even accuse them of eating the kidnapping victims. These rumors are somewhat exagerated but the Reedfolk do occasionally steal unattended human or demihuman babies. They do not, however, eat them. Truth is that the Children's seeresses know how to prepare a potion which if fed to the infant with appropriate rituals will transform it into a Reedperson with a 25% chance. If that doesn't happen, the baby will almost certainly die, unless healed by magic - in which case it once again has a 25% chance to turn into one of the Children. Reedfolk thus produced do not differ in any way from the regular ones, and there's a possibility that Reedfolk in general are an ancient magic experiment turned loose.

She's gonna turn your kids into more of hers (from here)

Using in a game

The females should be treated as humans with water breathing and the males as halflings with water breathing. Males are non-combatants. Females will mostly fight with bone spears and knives (should break easily, say 1-4 out of 6, if used against someone with metal armor... although metal armor against someone who can just pull you underwater would be a dangerous idea). There's a 25% chance that one per 20 Reedfolk will be a shaman/seeress (roughly equivalent to lvl. 1 Magic User or whatever you like).