Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unicorn Meat: Hooks and Factions

Another week, more Unicorn Meat. This time it's going to be the hooks to get players out there, and the various factions among the carvergirls. As a bonus, I threw in the David Sugars-suggested 80-word summary.

Opening Crawl


The last unicorn farm rots away deep in the festering backwoods. The adults vanished into the swamp in a single night, leaving the girls trapped in its ruins. White-Eyes and her buchas rule the farm with a brutal hand, but it frays at the seams under the strain of old rivalries and impending starvation. This is to say nothing of the monsters in the swamps and the whispers of some great Beast lurking in dreams of the deep night.

How You Got Here


Hook 1: Colonel Tim Fisk 

For campaign openers and one-shots

A mutual friend from back during your time in the army is cashing in a favor. He’s sending you out to follow up on a kidnapping case that went cold half a decade ago, back when the war was in full swing. In his typical amateur spymaster fashion the coded letter is loose on details, but he's able to tell you this much.
  • A young girl was recently found dead in a field a few miles from the swampland edge. No one claimed or identified the body before burial.
  • He believes that the girl is one Maddy Aberdeen, who vanished five years prior at the age of eight. Furthermore, he believes the case linked to others he has been investigating.
All the rest is directions to a location deep in the backwood swamps.

Fisk wants the job done discreetly. Get in, gather as much information as you can, get out. There’s a fat under-the-table payday in it for you once you dead-drop the evidence with one of his go-betweens.


Hook 2: The Map 

For use in a pre-existing campaign

The corpse can't be older than a day or two when you find it in the roadside ditch. A girl of twelve or thirteen: emaciated, wearing rags, curled up in a ball. There’s blood caked all around her ears, eyes, mouth, nose. A jagged wound stretches across her forehead. The leather pouch clutched to her chest contains some soggy crumbs and a crumpled scrap of paper: “We are dying. Send help. Do not trust White-Eyes.”

A crude map is drawn below the shaky text, leading out into the backwood swamps...

Hook 3: The Girls 

For one shots or campaign openers

The adults vanished during the night, White-Eyes and her Buchas are stomping on our necks, and the rest just twiddle their thumbs waiting for the end of the world.

Fuck that shit.


Getting Yourself Situated


Regarding All Carvergirls

  • The youngest are around four, the oldest are nearing twenty. Most are in the middle. Malnutrition and poor health makes it difficult to tell.
  • Visitors will be met with suspicion. Trust in adults decreases with age.
  • They are more hardcore than you, and they know it.
  • They wear orange jumpsuits and ratty, patched-up hand-me downs. Scars, lingering injuries, and crude tattoos are everywhere.
  • Each one is tattooed with a block of vertical bars on their forehead and on the back of their right hands. They received these when they came here.
  • They all have thousand-yard stares. They have seen some shit.

Scrunts and Carvers

The foundational divide on the farm. Everyone is either a scrunt or a carver. No exceptions.

Scrunts are the youngest and least-experienced of the girls, right at the bottom of the social ladder. They typically roam about underfoot in packs or latch on to a group of bigger girls for protection. When the farm was still running, they were employed mostly in the sweatshop or pastures. Many of them only speak cavehtung. The most trusting of adults. An insult when directed at anyone else.

When a scrunt has bloodied her hands enough to look out for herself, she becomes a carver. Sometimes her gang members will present her with a gift to commemorate this. In other cases it is just a change universally known but never acknowledged: the girl is a carver now, and that is settled. Carvers form gangs naturally; nearly every one is part of a gang, even when affiliated with a larger group.

Some legendary carvers might be called Old Bloods. An honored title, and not used lightly. The most recent was

Buchas

White-Eyes wasted no time assuming control after the adults vanished. Her buchas, all hardened veterans of the killing floor, swiftly took over the factory for their own use.
  • Leader: White-Eyes, acting through Greythorn.
  • Wants: More unicorns for the slaughter, to wipe out the Church.
  • Brutal in the enforcement of their rule, secretive inner workings.
  • Does not currently consider the Big House a threat.


The Big House

The opposition party against the buchas, headquartered in the manor from which the name is drawn. Large number of scrunts seeking protection, with a few hunters among the group's carvers.
  • Leader: Pugs
  • Wants: To wrest control of the farm away from the buchas, to escape.
  • Sometimes used to refer to just Pugs and her lieutenants, other times used for everyone who isn't a bucha, depending on the speaker's factional leanings.
  • Does not have the numbers to directly challenge White-Eyes. Pugs is attempting to get more veteran gangs on her side, to limited success.


Nightwatch

They paint their faces with chalk and charcoal and weave crow feathers in their hair. They cut out their tongues and sit perched in high places through the night. They keep the monsters at bay so you may sleep quietly.

  • Leader: #23
  • No one messes with them, everyone listens to them.
  • Skilled in rootwork and other minor magics unique to their vigil.
  • Can't speak, but know sign language and most can write.
  • Necessary protection if one goes out at night.

Hunters

With the pastures and pens empty, unicorns have to be brought in from the swamp itself. Hunters have always been an eclectic and eccentric bunch
  • No unified leadership: each team picks their own chief. Lots of internecine conflict.
  • Know their way around the backwoods: necessary to navigate the swamps.
  • Has heard talk that the buchas mean to replace or crack down on them: not pleased with this.
  • Usually has some members of the nightwatch around for expeditions.
  • Somewhat insular, lots of strange traditions.

The Church

Separatists holed up in a half-sunken church deep in the swamp. Raid the farm regularly for supplies or leave warnings of impending apocalypse.
  • Leader: Crazy Angel
  • Wants: Complete destruction of the farm and the institution of unicorn farming. To preach repentance, for the coming of the Beast is nigh. 
  • Hostile to all other factions and outsiders. 

Freebies

There are some carvers that don't properly fit into a gang of their own or any of the major groups. Some are listed here.
  • Birdie - The oldest girl on the farm at 22. Simpleminded. Kept around the Big House to help out caring for the scrunts. Sweet and very literal-minded.
  • Stitches - What passes for a carvergirl doctor. Bones set, wounds stitched up, tattoos made to request. Once sewed someone's head back on (so it is claimed). Dry and dour.
  • Tessel and Grudge - Keep watch over the shrines in the barn and the equipment stored there. One is always on duty. Might as well finish each other's sentences.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mini-Bestiary


(David McGrogan brought up the wonderful minimalism of the Zangband monster entries, Michael Bacon suggested blog posts, I need only the flimsiest of excuses to do mini-bestiary entries.)

Antiwarrior, Orc - Powered by a pacifism so potent it ignites on contact with its violent counterpart.

Broskavoska - Something like a bear, something like an ox, something like a wolverine. Smells like whiskey, has a face only its mother could love.

Cannonball Slugger - A big club and a lot of muscle is sometimes all the artillery you need.

Cardguard - Cheap, disposable, less-than-effective protection. A pack of 52 comes with four companies, NCOs included.

Floodcaller - Tall, dark blue, armless, columnar, drooping faces like a great bone trumpet. Always travel in packs of six, will call the waters after settling into a few days of silence. Head for high ground.

Ghost-Faced Killer - Hollow hole for a face, ghosts nest there. The favored knives of necromancers.

Humdinger - Something like a stork with a beak like a bell. Very nasty around mating season, you can't miss the call: Hmmmmmmmm-ding!

Lilithic - Demoness with a head like a screech owl and a calcified womb. All the monsters she mothers are born into stone and need blood to hatch.

Loan Shark - The gold teeth aren't just for show: just ask anyone who falls behind and gets tossed into the university moat.

Procrastinating Beast - Tiger-striped and fat round the middle. "Eh...I'll attack you tomorrow."

Pumpkin Ooze - This is what happens when you leave those Jack O'Lanterns out on the porch for too long past All Hallows.

Snipe - A cute little wading bird never seen without its trusty anti-tank rifle.

Tatterdemalion - A demon that loves clothes, but never takes care of them. Rotten garments slough off and are replaced with regularity.

Walking Tank - Instead of treads, it has four-to-eight humanish arms. Popular with orcs, typical crew consists of pilot, gunner, spotter, and healer.

White Wizard, False - The beard, the hat, the staff, the robe, it's all a ruse, a big skin-sack. The real thing is a dust-bunny with all the legs like hair and big yellow eyes that lives in the head.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Play Report: The Kadesh Club

Playing tonight in the wonderful world of the Danscape Planejammer, we have:
  • Waterblossom, eladrin magelander nee organ farm escapee (Michael K)
  • Blake, a face-stealing traveler and former gigolo (FM Geist)
  • Gavel, a traveler who just oozes everywhere. (Martin O)
We open to find the three crewmembers of the Divided Survival Power in a terrible pickle. They've been trying their hand at running tea and opium out of Yoon-Suin, but the most recent shipment ended up stolen to the last gram by one of Blake's many trysts.

The Lady Sidris, drow matriarch and crime lord, is not pleased with this at all. She wants her money. But, she decides that calling in a slave cleaning the floor of blood would be too much of a hassle - the trio is given a shot at clearing their debt: go to the Kadesh Club, and steal a book from its proprietor, famous genasi businessman Corrin Shen. "You'll know it when you see it, they are told."

Before they leave, Gavel and Blake spend all of their remaining money on opium. Gavel's species leaves sticky ooze everywhere, and so ends up outfitted with a Harkonnen gravity chair, after Blake persuades a lobster-alien dockworker to help them out with a bit of seduction and some drugs.

The Kadesh Club is a place for rich people to go slumming and engage in some war tourism. Being that it orbits around the gas giant Charnel House, where devilish and demonic fleets meet to do battle.  Unfortunately, the war has lulled for a bit, so no fireworks were on the docket.

A casino resort filled with rich people is Blake's natural habitat - he swiftly integrates himself into the posse of the rightes, strongest looking individual in the atrium, a golem anmed Donson who looks like he came right out Renaissance Florence. With WB and Gavel are volunteered to act as servants, Blake handily begins flirting with the golem, and everyone goes to the nearby Valhalla Bar.

(Yes, the one from the game. To complete my horrible reference hackjob, they all witness the manager tossing out Space Dandy and Meow.)

Drinks are had and information is gathered. (The drink list and descriptions from VA-11 HALL-A come in very handy) The crew learns that Shen is a collector of rare art and artifacts, and appears on the casino floor every night to welcome the guests.

The crowd moves on to the casino floor, and the trio start scouting out options. Shen's quarters are seen to overlook the floor, with a single guarded entrance on the stage. Gavel joins a blackjack table and a wins a small amount of money. Waterblossom mind-melds with a guard to steal information and learns that Shen is late tonight - the attempt to act as a desperately-needed crystals-and-chanting healer falls on deaf ears. Blake accompanies Donson to the dice games and scopes out the staff entrances.

Gavel finally finds himself in a horribly complex game that he only manages to survive in because WB gleaned info from the octopoid dealer, and then mind-melded with his fellow ne'er do well. One of the other players gets shot. A discussion with an elf about the benefits of terribly impractical clothing are had. Gavel finishes out his hand by cheating with one of his mutations, a micro-teleport, swiping an extra card and taking advantage of an obscure loophole to walk away with 1000 gold pieces.

At this point the lights go down, the spotlights hit the stage, and from the elevator comes the man himself, dressed to the nines. He gives his speech and goes about shmoozing. WB passes by and gleans images of an angry woman who looks something like a tropical fish from Shen's mind. Blake convinces Donson to buy them a suite in the resort, heads through the doors, meets a salamander lady, and does drugs in the bathroom with her while discussing their life story and hip new fashion tips.

As Shen makes his rounds, Gavel uses his spell-tumor to cast Resounding Command at a vat-cloned halfling creature, forcing it to push him directly into Shen. What follows is a grand display of bellyaching and faked injury the likes of which FIFA players would be awestruck to see.

A doctor is called for, but no need! Shen is, in fact, a doctor! Swiftly Gavel is grav-wheeled out of the main floor and past a staff door.

Meanwhile: Blake has decided to set up salamander woman higher up in the social world to have a contact for the future, and gives helpful fashion tips to get the most out of a wardrobe.

With nothing working, Gavel hands Shen a sending stone phone and groans that he must have his special doctor to have any hope of survival: one Dr. Muffin Glitterhammer.

The call distracts Blake from his fashionable dreams, but gets him swiftly whisked over to where the others are. Blake immediately goes whole hog on being a fake doctor, and we are treated to one of the greatest lines I have yet recorded as a DM.

"Cocaine gives me a bonus at being a doctor."

Blake demands an isolation room, far away from the peasants and their germs - Shen, displaying a great amount of generosity, volunteers his own quarters. The four take the service elevator up. WB is zapping Gavel all the way there with his color changing cantrip.

Shen's apartment contains a great many expensive art pieces, a ghost security system named Bauvert,  a large fish tank containing black water and abyssal icthians, and most importantly, the book.

Blake requests obscure items for the appropriate holistic treatment (blue cat milk, a ball of solid gold, 2 liters of plasma) while manuvering Gavel's gurney around to take a better look at the book. Thick as a DCC core, bound in blue leather, recursive MC Escher occult symbols all over, and claw marks from the inside.

Know it when you see it indeed.

With the materials delivered, Blake declares that the evil has been taken out of Gavel's body. Gavel uses this opportunity to feign a horrible seizure, driving the other three to be whisked away into another room.

Unfolding his handy boarding axe, Gavel smashes the book case as if by accident. Bauvert (who is basically just Poe from Netflix's Altered Carbon adaptation) descends from the ceiling and starts a banshee wail, summoning Shen. Gavel tosses his axe at the fish tank, leaving a large crack.

Something moves in the blackness.

With no time to waste, Blake sweeps Shen into the elevator for safekeeping as the cracks enlarge and more water pours out. WB and Gavel grab the book just as the tank shatters; dark water floods the room to reveal a fucking aboleth.

"It's like if AM was a jawless fish." - Me, describing the aura of said aboleth.

WB whips out his holdout blaster and shoots out the window. The two go flying out, using the gravchair as a way to slow their fall.

On the stage, Blake hands the overwhelmed Shen to some guards, telling them to get him to safetly. Looking up he is able to catch the descent of his two compatriots, followed by the emergence of the aboleth in a cloud of psychic force fields and unbridled abyssal hate.

Blake empties his gun at the creature, abnd while a few bolts manage to break through the shields, the aboleth is unaffected.

Needless to say, they get the fuck out of there.

Amidst the panicking throngs they do manage to spot the salamander lady stepping up and orchestrating emergency evacuation procedures. The manager of the Vallhalla bar is out front screaming "YEAH! RIOT!" and suplexes a fleeing noble on principle. Blake grabs seven gold pieces out of his pockets.

They bang up some other ships on the way out fo the parking garage, but Blake blames it on one of Donson's followers who was giving him the stink-eye.

Upon return, Lady Sidris' guards immediately take the book from them and declare the matter settled. The guard captain is persuaded to look into some backup IDs in case things go south.

And with that, Waterblossom collapses into a weeping, traumatized heap as Blake and Gavel do more drugs.

BONUS TIME; ANSWERING BELOCH'S QUESTIONS

  1. Who did them wrong? Some of Donson's syncophants were definitely plotting something.
  2. Did they do anything stealthily? Hell no. But also yes, in that no one knew it was them.
  3. Who benefitted? Lady Sidris. Shen's other rivals. The Aboleth.
  4. Aftereffects of death? Hundreds of the cosmic rich are now dead, meaning tabloid sales are UP, power grabs are UP, and worker revolts are UP.
  5. Did the characters attract attention? A whole lot of it, but not exactly directly to them.
  6. Desires / interests to hook players in future? Socialite nonsense is ace, use it.






Thursday, August 9, 2018

Unicorn Meat


Nikolay Karelin

“The unicorns shall come down with them; their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”


It sits in the backwoods beyond the black stump, in the dark and steaming place where civilization never took hold. The plants grow up thick and twisted and sick in the poisoned creole soil. The sun bleaches the life from the leaves, boils the mud into dust, turns water into salt, peels the skin away. The cruel air does not move, does not break. Time is stillborn.

There are no gods out here, no help this far from home. The backwoods sent law and light crawling back to lick their wounds in the safety of lands less sickened. The backwoods can tear out a man’s soul, eat it raw and wriggling.

Among the razor grass and arthritic black trees, amidst those bottomless pools of murk and mud, wrapped in the chains of creeping moss, under that evil sun...

Look here, the rust-eaten sign...

"Sunny Smiles Unicorn Farm"

So what's all this then?

Mostly system-and-setting-neutral dungeon module tentatively titled "Unicorn Meat". You've already seen a glimpse of it with my carvergirl class, and it's been coming along nicely enough that I thought that I might as well drop some of what I've been working on for this year's #diy30-slash-#rpgaday. (Or at least the first week of it.)

It's like LISA: the Painful plus Lord of the Flies plus a bit of True Detective plus some Silent Hill and all wrapped up in a neat package of slavery, capitalism, apocalyptic millenialism, a whole lot of blood, and the world's most hardcore pre-teens.

Day 1: Colonel Timothy Fisk

An old friend from back during the War. He's always been a fixer, sticking his nose in places where he can make connections and pulling your bacon out of the pan. Now he's calling in a favor.

Appearance: Tidy uniform, square shoulders, right leg lost below the knee.
Voice: Deep, calm, doesn't stand out much by intent.
Wants: To unravel the conspiracy built up around this kidnapping case.
Morality: Reliable, ruthless, realpolitik to serve idealistic justice
Intelligence: Has the making of a spymaster or investigative journalist.

Day 2: Factory Entrance

Cavernous, shadowed. Smells of dust and rust and heavy, wet air.
  • Forest of pastel-colored tallow candles spread out on the floor. Few remain lit.
  • Mural on the opposite wall: A red dragon with seven serpentine necks, fighting a carvergirl.
    • Text: WE WILL NOT BE DEVOURED.
    • Four necks have golden heads, three do not. One head will be filled in each day before dawn, counting down to the end of the ritual. To accelerate things, add more heads.

Day 3: Orgone Suppressant

Orgone is a metaphysical energy that develops alongside the hormonal changes of puberty. Humans can't detect it without specialized equipment; unicorns can't stand the stink of it, and so will either flee or fly into a frenzy when they pick up the smell.

One of these small green pills can suppress the body's generation of orgone for 12 hours. It can mask one's scent enough to sneak up on one of the creatures, and will prevent a unicorn from flying into a frenzy.

Repeated use of suppressants result in permanent suppression and sterilization. Save vs poison for every dose taken in excess of five days of usage.

Day 4: The Shrine

A corner of the barn has been converted into a shrine to the three primary carvergirl deities. Offerings have been placed at the foot of each icon. Maintained by Tessel and Grudge.
  • Bloody Mary
    • Blood-stained wedding dress, broken hand-mirror, tangled, ratty hair.
    • Danger, survival, cruelty, kindness. 
    • Offer her glass shards, milk teeth, white flowers, all with a drop of blood.
  • Brother Bones
    • Red coat, straw hat, skull mask, dark glasses, hunting rifle
    • Death, crossroads, backwoods, mysteries, abandoned places.
    • Offer him bullets, cigarettes, moonshine.
  • Lily Black
    • Charcoal skin, goat horns, honeygold eyes, smoldering pipe.
    • Pain, endurance, twists of fortune, vengeance, getting even.
    • Offer her pennies, nails, nightmares. 

Day 5: Totem Field

  • Dozens of unicorn skulls on sharpened stakes facing the factory entrance
  • Totems, mojos, and root talismans everywhere 
    • Stealing one gives a -2 to a random roll (to hit, damage, single attribute check, save type) until the mojo is burnt, the curse is shifted to another individual by burying the talisman on their property, or it is broken by a caplata of the Nightwatch.
  • H.C. ( a member of Nightwatch) is napping in a gibbet cage. She has no tongue (as is typical for members of that faction), but carries a slateboard and chalk to write out responses.
    • She hasn't seen anything particularly out of the ordinary, save that White-Eyes has been exiting the Factory less and less recently.

Day 6: Loading Dock

  • Concrete platform with a wooden roof, abuts the railroad.
  • A crocodile suns itself on the dock, blocking the door to Packaging.

Day 7: Pugs

De facto leader of the carvergirls living in the Big House. Most of her followers are scrunts and a few hunters. Rival to White-Eyes.

Appearance: Dark skin, checkered red bandanna, 'Happy Satan Instant Ramen' t-shirt.
Voice: Self-assured and confident 14-year-old chain smoker.
Wants: Take the farm for herself out of bucha control, keep her girls safe, to end her waking dream.
Morality: The sleepy, friendly exterior isn't an act, but not above a healthy amount of backstabbing.
Intelligence: Bright, but overlooks the flaws in her plans.

Bosun Red and Pebblemouth,
sittin' by the fire
Bosun Red told Pebblemouth
"I'm gonna set your shit on fire"

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Banner Saga in the OSR




The Banner Saga is one of the most solidly-OSR video games out there, so in honor of its recent conclusion, here's all you might need to run it.

Class: Mender

Men and women who show aptitude in pulling upon the threads of creation are taken in by the order of Menders and sent out across the world to build and heal.

HD and Saves: As cleric
Weapons and Armor: Light armor and simple weapons

Mend: Menders may repair [level] damaged objects per day.

Herb Lore: Menders are trained in herb lore and healing arts.

A Welcome Sight: Menders gain +1 to reaction rolls among common folk

LeKsoTiger

Class: Valka

The highest and most powerful of the menders are the valka, who sit in council at Manaharr and watch the world unfold around them. Men of their number often go mad from minds over-driven.

HD: As cleric
Saves: As magic-user

Weapons and Armor: Light armor, simple weapons, spears

Herb Lore: Valka are trained in herb lore and healing arts.

Wielders of Power: Men or varl who would willingly and openly cross a valka are tremendously driven or immensely stupid. Wielders of political power are inclined to dislike your interference, and undermine accordingly. 

Loom-Mother's Gift: The valka are masters at pulling upon the threads that weave together creation. They may use their powers [level] times per day safely, as per VAM rules. Beyond this limit, they mus Save vs Magic or risk unraveling (roll on your favorite spell backfire table)

Valka begin with two powers on the following list, randomly rolled. Each time they level up, they may gain another (re-roll duplicates)
  1. Mend  - Repair a damaged object or small structural damage.
  2. Arc Lightning - Does 1d6 damage to target, 2d6 to adjacent target, 3d6 to the next, etc.
  3. Troll Stones - Tears monoliths from the ground
  4. Confusion - Enemy must pass save or attack its fellows this turn.
  5. Inspiration - Target gains 1 reroll.
  6. Ride the Lightning - Shoots forward in 50' straight line, automatic melee attack, then return.
  7. Mend Flesh -  Heals target 1d6+lvl HP.
  8. Breeze - Target may move double their speed for one turn.
  9. Runic Gale - 10' circle grants all who step inside a +1 to all rolls their next turn.
  10. Choose one

LeKsoTiger

Class: Varl

Horned giants created by the god Hadrborg; now a dying race, as no more will ever be made.

HD and Saves: As dwarf

Weapons and Armor:  
  • Cannot use minor or small weapons
  • Cannot wear heavy armor.
  • To-hit as fighter.
Of Our Bones, the Hills: Varl add + 1 to their STR and CON modifiers.

Shoulders Most Broad: Varl may carry twice as much equipment before becoming encumbered. They may carry 2 Sacks during long-distance travel.

It's the Beard: Varl are all male, cannot reproduce, and show no interest in related fields.

Fear of Fire: A successful WIS save is required to come close to or interact with fire. Otherwise, varl will avoid it as a priority.

Canary; full name, Cainánóiridhe

Class: Horseborn

Half-man-half-horse beings from the southern plains of Dalalond. Their relationship with the northerners is strained, for the horseborn are responsible for the killing of all horses in the world. (Use Welsh for their names)

HD and Saves: as fighter

Weapons and Armor:  
  • Can only wear light armor, specially made.
  • Proficient in flails, spears, and lances.
  • To-hit as fighter.
Freedom of Movement: Horseborn move and carry as ponies, being smaller than normal horses. They have no love for cities, buildings, and walls. Underground is right out.

Like a Kick in the Head: Horseborn may make a 1d8 melee attack to an adjacent enemy. On a hit, the target must make a successful Save vs Paralysis or be stunned for 1d3 turns.

Pins and Poisons: Horseborn may 1) tip their spears in poison (1d4 damage for 3 turns, does not stack) or 2) pin an enemy in position with a crippling shot (enemy reduced to 5 movement)

Couldn't confirm who made this :/

Class: Dredge

Created by a bitter and nameless god to wage war against the rest, the dredge are the silent hordes that come up from beneath the earth and down from the north wastes of Valkajokull.

HD and Saves: as fighter
Weapons and Armor:  See below. To-hit as fighter.

Stone Speech: Dredge speech is akin to the tones of a tuning fork. Menders may learn to understand their language, and may speak it with the aid of an appropriately-tuned staff. Dredge can understand the language of men and varl, but cannot speak it.

The Great Enemy: Men and varl (especially the latter) view you as an enemy. Hostility is guaranteed, violence likely.

Special Equipment:
  • Armor: Dredge armor is an extension of their stony skin. They cannot wear any additional armor atop it, but may use shields. A dredge may elect to shatter their armor to absorb 1d12 damage from a single physical attack. They will take -2 to AC for each time the armor has been shattered, which cannot be repaired without the aid of a mender, stonesinger, or two days' work by a trained stonemason. Anyone adjacent to the dredge when armor is shattered takes d4 damage + 1 bleeding damage for d4 turns.
  • Weapons: Dredge weapons are made of stone. On an attack roll of 1, the weapon will shatter, dealing d4 damage, + 1 bleeding damage for d4 turns.
Template: Choose one of the following archetypes.

Stoneguard
  • AC as plate
  • Carries a shield and warhammer (d10)
  • Can wield great weapons in one hand.
Slinger
  • AC as chain
  • Sling does 1d6 damage.
  • Shatterstones (explode on the next turn, 1d6 to adjacent enemies, d6 ammo die) 
  • For -2 penalty to hit, can stun enemy for 1 turn with a successful attack.
Stonesinger
  • AC as leather
  • Carries two stone blades (d8) that may be struck together to cast spells.
  • Disease strike - A successful hit does an additional 1/turn to living targets, non-stacking.
  • May cast the following [level] times per day. 
    • Can mend shattered armor and weapons, or other broken objects.
    • Rupture - Enemies within hearing distance take 1d6 + lvl damage. All dredge armor in range shatters in addition to the damage.
    • Umbrage - All nearby allies lose -2 AC from damaged armor, but gain +2 to hit and +2 damage until the end of combat. Dredge armor shatters.

Gods


The gods are dead, their powers have faded from the world. There was never an organized religion, and now few people hold onto any of the old traditions at all.

Each god has a god-stone somewhere in the world, engraved with their likeness. They are notable landmarks, and gathering places for the few remaining faithful.
  1. Loom-Mother - Creator of the world and of humanity, teacher of magic.
  2. Dundyr - Loom-Mother's counterpart, god of beards, smithing, games, and song.
  3. Hridvaldyr - God of beasts and hunting, of the deep forests. Weilder of a terrible spear.
  4. Denglr - God of fortune and wealth, all things desired that one cannot have.
  5. Radormyr - God of the harvest, depicted as a great serpent that lives within the sun.
  6. Marek - God of waters and the sea, depicted as a vast aquatic beast.
  7. Hadrborg - Disciple of the Loom-Mother that created the Varl.
  8. Ingrid - Through her godstone, the menders learned the language and history of the gods.
  9. Bjorulf - God of mead and brewing. Very popular, despite his stern countenance.
  10. Stravhs - God of secrets and trade. Built weapons the gods used to kill each other.
  11. Aselei - Goddess of all those traveling unfamiliar lands, of what lies beyond the riverbend.
  12. Irynx - The Winter Bird.
  13. Baldringr - A god of war, shunned by the varl for reasons they will not say.
  14. Vez'nan - God of a lost, subterreanean people. Gained the greatest power by forsaking all.
  15. Geirraðr - God of wise council and direction, off invention and good decisions.
  16. Bygglaerer - The Builder, who formed the cavernous foundations of the world.
  17. Lauga - Goddess of love, beauty, and things that happen in the night.
  18. Dredge - The dredge  raised a godstone in their own image. Their creator goes unnamed.

Playing the Saga

Luka Rejec's Ultraviolet Grasslands covers everything one would need to run the travel portions of the Saga. Simply replace the points of interest with locations from the game (or suitable equivalents) and play with the final goal being reaching Arberrang (or, for UVG, The Black City). Besides that, the following points should be helpful.
  • There is a darkness in the north, and the dredge are pushing south. We don't know why.
  • Fighters and specialists are as usual.
  • Clerics and magic-users are replaced by Menders and the Valka. 
  • There are neither horses nor plate armor. You do have yox, which are yak + ox.
  • Most strange creatures come from underground.
  • A single valka is significant. More than one is a status-quo-breaking proposition.
  • Among 100 refugees, there may be one or two menders.
  • You must keep moving. The dredge will not stop and wait.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Regarding the Wages of Sins of the Flesh

Original sin is inherited sin, inscribed on the meat and souls of all of in Adam's line.

This is quite unfortunate. As one might receive grace by partaking of the Body of Christ, one may only receive sin and wickedness by partaking of the Body of Man. Hence come all the monsters of the nights and wild places - beasts that have feasted upon the flesh of men, violating the dominion granted in the Garden are transformed. Sin builds up like poison within their blood and bones until all trace of their rightful station has been wiped away and all that remains is their acting-out of man's stolen depravity.

I have listed here only those beasts I have seen with my own eyes, have heard of from trustworthy eyewitnesses, or have read about from learned and worthy sources. It remains incomplete. Satan's creativity in his perniciousness knows no bounds.

Boars shall be made into the bristlebacked hordes of the orcs. Of all monstrous beings they are most common; a thundering, squealing wave of pillage and rapine. Of war and implements of war they have inherited a great love, though they can make no such weapons on their own, and lack knowledge of any other craft or tool.  

Dogs shall be transformed into the terrible barghest. The black moor-hound may reach the size of a pony, with claws like that of a bear and eyes like burning embers. Its shaggy black fur, matted with filth, is as resistant to a blade as good armor.

Wolves, however, shall be transformed into the loup garou, a beast which takes on a more manlike shape than its common cousin. They do not walk according to their form - bones and skin rebel, and go different ways. I met once a French Benedictine who claimed to have seen one in the midst of its moon-frenzy, and to have witnessed its demise at the hands of a novice who cracked the fiend's skull with a silver candlestick.

Tigers of the east, upon devouring a hundred men, shall be transformed into manticores, who bear men's faces and speak with men's voices. In Jerusalem I met a merchant of Babylon, who has spoken previously with Indian merchants who sell the steely, poisoned needles of its tail as weapons of assassination, and the pearls of its stomach as ingredients to elixirs of life.

Lions shall transform into chimeras. Like a king beset by unworthy advisors, so the noble beast is beset by the arguments of the goat (being the sins of the common throngs) and the dragon (being the sins of the mighty.) and is thus perpetually at war with itself.

The hyena of Ethiopia shall become as a gnoll. I know little of this beast, save that the mere hint of its laughter makes those inhabitants of the region tense, and that I saw one's hide for sale as a rug in Alexandria.

Bears will lose all of their fat, becoming little more than sacks of skin. They will carry around animal hides and stuff stolen children into them, to eat later. The skull and jaw split apart, becoming as the mandibles of an insect. The common folk call the creature a bug-bear. Where practicality reigns, creativity stands aside.

Rats shall grow to the size of a child and stand upon their hind paws, burrowing into the walls and below the foundations of manors and keeps.

The jackal shall become one of two forms: the cynocephalus of India, and the 'goat-sucker' as described by certain scholars of Aragon. The latter is more obscure, but is said to retain a dog-like shape, gaining a leprous appearance and a taste for the blood of livestock.

A lizard might in due time become a basilisk. Several bestiaries I have consulted claim that the tarrasque was a basilisk that had grown since the time of the Patriarchs, but all are conveniently vague on the matter of where its bones are interred. 

I heard of only one instance of a man devoured by chickens, but I have also only heard of one instance of a town overrun by cockatrices. The link is sound.

Serpents become dragons, a most natural extension. Certainly it is the serpent of the Garden who, after having eaten its fill of the lost and damned, becomes the red monstrosity on which the Whore of Babylon sits astride.

Insects grow to prodigious size and ferocity, but rarely change their forms - the scarlet deathworm born of certain breeds of maggot is the primary exception.

Sharks and fish shall become as the Deep Ones of the cold northern waters, and all manner of sirens and mermaids besides. They prey upon man's lusts and drunkenness, drawing the foolish into their saltwater graves.

Of the Nile crocodile there comes the lizardman, so sits indolently upon the bank with birds in his teeth. He cares not that you might see him, nor even that you approach, for he considers you well aware of your inferiority already; he does not need to remind you.

Men who devour men show the greatest variety in evil forms.
  • Those that eat flesh out of gluttony become ogres. It is an affliction of the first estate, as a man without wealth will find it hard indeed to glut himself as a baron would.
  • Those that partake out of starvation become wendigos. Most common they are in the cold wastes of Ultima Thule and the deep deserts of Arabia. Pitiable, were they not most deadly.
  • Those that eat only the dead become ghouls. Dwellers of crypts and ossuaries, bone-gnawers.
  • Those that are driven by the throws of leprosy of syphilus or the plague become zombies. Half-dead and dead of mind, they shamble about in search of warmth before they can go no further.
  • Those that drink of man's blood and blaspheme against God, recanting of His mercies, become vampires. They are struck dead upon the spot, but ride every night to hunt the living.
Of all these creatures and more, be wary. Keep your sword sharp and your eyes open, for the machinations of the Evil One are numerous and his shadow is far-reaching.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A minipost on 40k Ecology

As requested by Evlyn M.

Galactic ecology is akin to a hive city: layers built upon layers built upon layers that have collapsed and fused together so that it has become more or less impossible to separate them, but not so fused that one cannot scrape aside the current state of affairs to see what lies beneath.

Each civilization follows the same pattern. They spread out from their homeworld, bringing with them all manner of pets, pests and other animals with them. Alien ecologies are either wiped out or integrated upon contact; those brought along for the ride spread further afield, and through intent, chaos incursion, or the typical turns of nature, drift from their original forms.

Transplantation is the name of the game.

Then that civilization collapses, and the biosphere stops spreading, and changes become more pronounced. The same animal brought to two different Necrontyr worlds could result in hundreds of different descendant species each, given enough time.

Then a new civilization comes along, and the cycle repeats. They introduce their own local life forms, alien life is further transplanted between the worlds of the new civilization, and this continues until that civilization also collapses.

Repeat cycle, add chaos to taste.

In terms of where this leaves us practically regarding the dark and grim ecology of the 41st millennium, it's a clusterfuck.

The Eldar, Slann, Necrontyr, C'Tan, and Old Ones all came before and all left behind vast swathes of their own biomes, all of which have shifted over time. For several of them, their cast-off pets have evolved into sapient species of their own right, with their own growing civilizations. The Imperium itself comes and goes in great waves, so many of its worlds have had mass introductions and transplantations multiple times over. Then there are the Tau, who integrate everyone they come in contact with (and thus spread a huge hybrid biosphere among their controlled territories) Orks and Tyranids just make more of themselves ad infinitum.

In short, it's likely that only obscure worlds of the galaxy have a native biosphere. Everyone else is using some gigantic chimeric clusterfuck, as it right and proper for the setting.