Friday, September 25, 2020

5 Monsters in the Style of Throne of Salt

Throne of Salt wrote about how D&D gets monsters wrong here:, and how they could be done better.

Monsters in this style are a symptom that something has gone wrong in the natural order of the world, either created by that something or shifted from their normal behaviour into conflict with humanity by it. Something appears which does not belong, something occurs that violates proper action or relations.

Here's five monsters done in that style:

The Cliff-Clinger of Peace-on-the-Shore

There's a town, a lively, prosperous town, on an otherwise wreck-wracked stretch of coast. It's a haven for passing ships, half natural harbour and half painstakingly carved from the cliffs over generations. This town is called Peace-on-the-Shore. It is afflicted by two plagues:

The first plague is organized crime. The trade passing through Peace-on-the-Shore is lucrative, but the town produces little of its own to export. Its economy is based around catering to passing sailors and merchants, their lodgings and their vices. The services and substances unpalatable to the town's burghers are a pie sliced between criminal families that run the gamut from old and publicly respected bloodlines to barely above the gutter rats.

The second plague is a pernicious haunting. The cliffs of Peace-on-the-Shore are tall and steep, its stone-hewn steps often slick with rain. If someone is said to have tripped or fallen to a snapped neck or drowning then few would be willing to question it. It's because of this that criminals often dispose of problematic people with a well-timed shove.

The ghosts of those assassinated and denied justice over the years have mingled together beneath the waves, becoming a revenant stretched like taffy and stinking like a stagnant sea. The thing is indiscriminate (its eyes shut tight beneath bloated lids), striking out when the storms come at lonesome, lightless folk.

Maybe it'll stop when the killers running amok are faced with their sins. Maybe you can destroy it faster than the wrathful dead stack up and coalesce into new ones. Maybe it's too far gone, rotted into the roots of the town itself, and the only end will come when the revenant drags Peace-on-the-Shore down to the depths and into hell.

The Brownie of the Dascala Dyeworks

When humans felled the forests and seeded their fields, there were fairies who adapted.

When the fields were enclosed and entitled to fewer and fewer people, there were fairies who adapted.

When former farmers left their fields behind for the cities and their burgeoning industries, there were fairies who adapted.

Some time ago there was a brownie who lived in a hearth in a farmhouse. It swept the floors, beat away vermin, and generally fulfilled the whims of the house's master. Then the farm was lost, the house torn down for fencing, and the family who once lived there began to work for wages in the dyeworks in nearby Dascala. Bereft of purpose, the brownie too entered the dyeworks, but the master of the farmhouse was just another servant there. The brownie gained a new home, and a new master.

As before, it fulfilled the whims of its home's master. The brownie heated the vats, dried the textiles, invisibly beat slacking workers with a switch, balanced the books, and so on. When its former master tried to lead a strike for higher pay he disappeared, and the next day bolts of cloth with a luscious crimson colour were found in a storeroom. The cloth became an overnight fashion craze, and the dyeworks' owner began treating its workers worse in the hope that one of them would act out again.

Brownies are creatures of fey courtesy. Once they feel they've been disrespected (and a lot of odd things can make them feel disrespected) their anger is unquenchable. The dyeworks' owner is unlikely to ever anger his brownie on his own. He is a meticulous and incurious businessman.


It's said that before the first grain of rice was planted, the demon Mephistopheles gave humanity three great gifts: iron, alcohol, and dogs, knowing that each would be abused. For this it earned the title "Manfriend".

Alcohol was perhaps the first to be abused. In any case it was the easiest. You simply have to drink too much of it, and bad decisions tend to follow. Where enough peoples' lives are destroyed by the devil's drink a ginblissum is born. It is something like a ghost, not of what once was but what could have been.

Normally they're merely annoying poltergeists, content to make messes, fling stuff around, and vomit stinking ectoplasm in unusual places. However a ginblissum is sensitive to emotions, particularly negative and repressed emotions. They'll torment the guilty and depressed, enact the rampages of the hateful, ruin what the jealous covet, and so on. One so agitated can easily become lethal.

If you're sober, you won't be able to see or touch a ginblissum, and the same goes for it (though it can still sense you through your emotions, and throw shit at you). The drunker you are the more material it becomes for you. They tend to look like bizarre and colourful hybrid animals, with comically large noses and throbbing heads.

Ginblissums tend to spawn wherever people are hopeless, lonely, and trying to forget.

The Black-Veiled Bride

Love is not always good, or good for us. Love is blind.

There once was a woman who was very much in love with the man she was to marry. Because she was so in love she ignored the signs that the man was cruel, that he surrounded himself with cruel people, that he had found another woman younger and wealthier than she was.

That man was so cruel that he not only left the woman on her wedding day, he had his friends cut her face so badly that no other man would ever want her. After that day she was never seen again. After that week neither were the man and his friends.

There's a bit of folklore in the city where they lived: If your heart's broken, and you go looking for it, you'll come across a ruddy red door where one shouldn't be. Pour your heartbreak out before that door, give it the name of the one responsible, and they'll be visited by a woman in a black veil. She'll show them her face, and the sight will scare them into a seizure, a stroke, or an awful death.

Many in the city die young, and many that don't are left brutalized. It's not something they like to talk about, whether it was something inflicted on them or that they wished on another. Those that can afford it keep their children house outside the city, arrange their marriages to avoid the tribulations of romance. Those that can't suffer generation after generation from the injuries of youthful and impulsive hearts.

The Devil-Wind

The middle air is the domain of the noble winds, 'noble' referring to their station rather than their character. The gravest of sins among these noble winds can only be punished in the gravest fashion: being bound to the earth.

What sin the devil-wind committed up above, or what is was called before are unknown, and likely incomprehensible by mortal minds. What myth makes clear is that there was an agreement made with the people who inhabited the region where the devil-wind was bound, which gave them the means and responsibility to maintain its binding.

These people were nomads, cattle-herders who painted sigils on their cows, sung spell-songs, and worked geomantic rites with the patterns of their migration.

Their neighbours farmed wheat, millet, and yams. They constructed vast irrigation networks to transform the plains into arable land. As their territory expanded, the nomads' shrank. Some of the cattle-herders took to raiding, razing fields, making terrifying examples of those they caught. Some traded, settled, assimilated. Some did both, depending on the day.

In the end the agriculturalists' state won out. They could organize violence to a greater degree and offer commodities the nomads' elites couldn't get elsewhere. The nomads' lands became a rump at the edge of a swelling empire.

Then entire villages began to die, suffocating in the night.

There were too few left who still walked the old paths, too few who knew the spell-songs, let alone the language they were sung in. The devil-wind's binding was weakening, and so it groped past the bars of its cage.

The empire is confident that it can handle the problem, and woefully unprepared to actually do so. Its might is suited to breaking bones and rending flesh, not fighting an invisible and intangible enemy from a place close to the gods. Many innocents will die before it returns to the sky.

Monday, September 21, 2020

D20x5 Abhorrent Apocalypses

Had a big grilled cheese today. That’ll be an apocalypse for my digestive tract. Click the button below for an apocalypse of your very own

To make your own HTML auto-generator button follow this link here:

D20This apocalypse will begin
1when the Rite of Annihilation is performed during a total planetary alignment.
2if the majority of living souls on the planet pray for it.
3when human civilization achieves the goal for which it was originally designed by entities beyond comprehension: concentrating platinum into an easily harvested form.
4with the first and final casting of the spell Power Word: End.
5when the angels of justice finally manage to argue past their deadlock with the angels of mercy for the destruction of the world.
6when an emperor unites all the kingdoms of the world under one crown and decrees it.
7when the old gods are unchained from their chthonian prison.
8when the Gloaming Horn is blown with enough force to topple castle walls.
9if the four ur-temples at the corners of the earth are desecrated.
10under conditions lost to mortal knowledge.
11if ever the gods’ supply of spilled blood and sacrifices wavers.
12when the last elf fades from the world.
13when the fruit of the Tree of Anti-Life is fed to a would-be messiah.
14in order to censor the spread of an ultimate cosmic secret.
15when an act so vile is committed that the universe rejects itself.
16when one of the thirty-six truly righteous people in the world is made to believe that they are what they are despite their deep humility.
17at the time predetermined at the world’s creation. Manipulating the golden Doomsday Clock might accelerate or delay this inevitable date.
18when the three pieces of the End-Bringer’s Blade are reunited.
19when the seal at the bottom of the Tomb of Worlds is broken.
20when the Questing Beast is caught and killed by an unworthy knight.
D20This apocalypse is most wished to be brought about by
1a militant secret society of skeptics who believe it to be necessary to reveal the illusory nature of the world.
2a disgraced order of paladins who believe this will save the world from an oncoming eon of evil and degeneration.
3a coterie of wizards who seek to usurp the gods by becoming the creators of a new universe.
4a genie bound to the wish of a misanthrope.
5an ultraterrestrial para-deity trapped within the world in a cycle of reincarnation in wretched mortal forms.
6an ultranationalist faction confident that they can preserve their own lands as a habitable sliver while the rest of the world is wiped away.
7an uncanny intelligent machine from the future, seeking to prevent its own abominable construction.
8the demiurge, architect of falsehood, who wishes to shape a new material reality to entrap more luminous souls.
9a fanatical popular movement based on a peculiar interpretation of scripture, wherein the apocalypse will result in a utopia.
10an infamous company of veteran mercenaries who desire an end to all conflict.
11a dryad-like creature bound to ferns instead of trees, who wants to deny the world usurped from them to the seeded and the flowered.
12a ghost who would rather see the world destroyed than move further from their treasured past.
13a union of overworked zeitgeists who want the turning of the ages stopped for an unmeasurable non-eon.
14a beloved, preternaturally-talent composer who desires the apocalypse as the coda to their greatest symphony yet.
15an immortal alchemist who has become terminally bored with everything.
16a nihilist social club.
17a possessing curse bound to kill all the descendants of someone who betrayed its creator tens of thousands of years ago. Most people are now descended from that someone.
18a necromancer who will establish a kingdom of the dead from the bones of the old world.
19invaders from a parallel timeline of secondary possibilities, seeking to supplant their primaries.
20a vengeance-crazed fallen hero who thinks it is the only way to destroy the phylactery of their nemesis, a geolich.
D20An omen heralding this apocalypse
1is artists finding no inspiration for pleasant work, but an abundance of it for the harsh and hideous.
2is sterility across all kinds of animals.
3is the earth welling blood when dug or ploughed.
4is all birdsong becoming the same threnody.
5is the moon appearing as a glaring bloodshot eye.
6is the living dreaming of the dead mourning for them.
7is livestock being born as insatiable meat-eaters.
8is an autumn without end.
9is idols and icons spontaneously weeping black ichor.
10is misrule in all kingdoms.
11is colour dimming and darkness deepening.
12is the rebuilding of the True Sanctum, which will be the sole, hotly contested place untouched by the apocalypse.
13is fresh corpses rising to dig their own graves.
14is oracles and soothsayers all screaming at once before falling dead.
15is the birth of prodigal infants able to speak and walk from the moment of their first breath.
16is an endless storm of locusts scouring the land back and forth.
17is ploughs spontaneously reforging themselves into swords.
18is cities being overrun with wilderness and feral creatures.
19is the appearance of a comet like a bloody pennant.
20is a sickening miasma sweeping through the lowlands.
D20When this apocalypse occurs,
1giants will rise from the sea and trample cities and mountains to dust.
2the stars will rain down, burning away the forests and the seas.
3the barrier between worlds will wear thin and tear, merging a corner of the multiverse into a mind-bending mosaic.
4light will fade from the heavens and all the world will become the larder of monsters swarming up from its shadow.
5an army of hollowed men will be raised, wielding weapons yet unseen to scourge the earth clean.
6the moon will crack as if an egg and release unclean radiance that transmutes all things exposed to it.
7a slow and steady plague of petrification will sweep the globe. Refugees from stone nations will hack up sand from bloody lungs, all triumphs lost to Ozymandian crumbling.
8complexity will flatten until only an infinite featureless plane exists. Higher thought will be one of the first things to go.
9things will begin to decay while still living, the only way to stave it off for a time being to devour another living thing.
10the world will be swallowed by a tempest. The land will be drowned by sky-high waves and vapourized beneath volleys of lightning.
11all water will become bitter and undrinkable, the soil will lose its goodness, and the glare of the sun will intensify until everywhere is a bleached desert.
12all people will become utterly atomized and alienated from each other, irrevocably separated into personal realities that can only contact each other through horrific violence.
13a veil will be lifted, and everything up until that point will seem to have been very silly. People will laugh themselves to death, or not bother with anything further until it all falls apart.
14every pantheon’s Götterdämmerung will kick off at once.
15the perfect cancer will metastasize, an immortal disease that assimilates all life within it.
16the meek shall inherit the earth, and the strong shall devour the meek’s reward.
17fire will spread from the world’s core, and ice from its poles. Everything will be destroyed in their collision.
18sense and causality will dissolve as if all the world were a dream.
19sorcerous ability will appear at random in people, in frequency and potency never before seen. Their magically-backed whims will tear reality asunder.
20the tools and machines of humanity will sprout new forms and complexities at an accelerating rate, coating first the planet and then the sun, ushering in the obsolescence of mere meat.
D20In the aftermath of this apocalypse
1the continuity of time itself will break and turn upon itself.
2all will decline, crumbling over eons into the void.
3the few survivors will shed their lowly flesh and ascend.
4the world will return to primal innocence, as it was in the beginning.
5the lands of the living and the lands of the dead will switch their places, and ghostly throngs will feel their pulse quicken once again.
6the cosmos will reset to the day before it kicked off, with everyone retaining fractured memories of it.
7hyperdimensional vulture-analogues will pick over the wreckage.
8the planet will explode and fill the cosmos with its shards of new kinds of being.
9the dregs of the world left over will drain down to become a new layer of the Abyss.
10there will only be goblins left.
11a circle of skalds will attempt to save some part of the world by singing its stories into other realities.
12the world will be quarantined by the proper authorities to prevent its spread.
13the world’s countless ghosts and sundered futures will merge and be extruded into other worlds as destrudinous psychic sludge.
14most of the world will be reborn through random fluctuations in thermodynamic equilibrium many eons hence.
15the luckiest survivors will sail on celestial winds into the new world born from the old’s ashes.
16the dead world will be raised as a necrokosmos by an arch-necromancer in another universe.
17a new ecosystem with new peoples will emerge, adapted to the changed reality.
18the most interesting survivors will be put in an ultraterrestrial zoo.
19the world and its ending will repeat, diminished and degraded each time, as though remembered by a senile god.
20explorers will come from unreached elsewhere and marvel at what once was.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

D20x5 Alien Invasions

Ayy lmao

For better formatted tables refer to reddit post here:

For an automated table of your very own, try:

D20These aliens kind of resemble
1 velvet worms whose front ends dissolve into a nest of eyestalks and tentacles.
2 two daddy longlegs fused back-to-back, with manipulating digits on the ends of their legs.
3 crabs with a trilateral body shape, stretched along the vertical axis.
4 beaked, furless, four-armed rats.
5 headless vivisected bluefin tuna.
6 a cross between a pyramidal tortoise and a stalk of broccoli, branching digits peeking out from shifting slats of shell.
7 slithering eyeless eel-mermaids.
8 something with the front half of a squid and the back half of a crocodile. Where tentacles should be there are uncomfortably human-like arms.
9 spiny, colourful sea-slugs that extrude and reabsorb slimy pseudopods.
10 bidepal giraffes with dexterous fingers lining their arms and faces like x-mouthed seahorses.
11 a ring of two-trunked elephant heads on top of a bear-like body.
12 starfish with the proportions of gibbons, and distended sensory/digestive organ sacs at the tips of their top arms.
13 skinless ferrets that wriggle and twist together into colonial swarms.
14 Donald Duck if he had a horrific body-wide fungal infection.
15 metallic jellyfish with manifold straw-thin limbs and escutcheon-shaped bodies.
16 termites that evolved into the niche and general body shape of penguins. They’ve got grasping claws on the tips of their flippers.
17 hairy pterodactyls that walk on their wings and manipulate objects with their feet and fleshy lips.
18 eight-limbed gorillas with a head like a cross between a rose blossom and an anemone. A hive of symbiotes nests within their petals.
19 a centaur, if instead of a man and a horse it was a mantis and a newt that were hybridized.
20 mounds of fuzzy folds almost like a pug’s face, only they’re the size of a sofa.
D20These aliens’ technology
1 is all bespoke, each piece fitted to its purpose and user.
2 doesn’t take the form of distinct devices, but instead a nanomachine goop that is shaped with uploaded software to task.
3 was looted by them from the ruins of an extinct species.
4 is based on projected holograms and forcefields.
5 is designed to only work while in contact with a living member of their species.
6 seems to deliberately avoid automation and computerization.
7 is made of selectively bred members of their own clade.
8 exists on a spiritual plane, accessed by extraterrestrial entheogens.
9 is throttled for the invasion force’s equipment so that captured and reversed-engineered pieces won’t jumpstart human development.
10 is nauseatingly organic, all pulsing tubes and throbbing sacs.
11 produces a smoggy byproduct that is harmless to them but toxic to humans.
12 is made to be as subtle as possible, blending into furniture, ornaments, and clothing.
13 is all grafted onto or into their bodies.
14 is capable of making implausibly gigantic robots, which they are very fond of.
15 is capable of converting consumed organic matter into biofuel to power itself, and tends to “go feral” if left alone too long.
16 is strongly personified by them, given offerings, compliments, and funerals.
17 is so laden with update cycles and planned obsolescence that it is practically held together with duct tape.
18 is a parallel symbiotic species of synthetic life-forms.
19 can fuck with time itself: accelerating it to decay enemies to dust, preserving samples in stasis, and so on, but not yet full-blown time travel.
20is symmetrical and crystalline, achieving spooky action at a distance through harmonious resonance. 

D20These aliens are invading
1 because they believe humans were engineered by a hated enemy of theirs.
2 because their religion demands conversion of non-believers at sword-point.
3 in order to neutralize humanity as potential rivals.
4 to extract the cultural and scientific developments of humanity.
5 to fulfill their philosophy of eternal war between primordial races.
6 to capture sapient slaves, the most prestigious commodity in their economy.
7 to test their military strategies before applying them against a more vital enemy.
8 to domesticate humans into useful components of interstellar civilization.
9 to convert the planet into a free-roaming zoo.
10 in accordance with the prediction-prophecy of their post-singularity AI god.
11 to keep themselves entertained.
12 because they believe it will harden humanity up for a hostile universe.
13 because their psychology doesn’t value individual lives, and this is essentially how they greet strangers.
14 to correct what they see as barbaric human cultural practices.
15 as a symbolic display of their superiority before taking humanity as a client species.
16 as a pretence to funnel money into their military-industrial complex.
17 to shut down human research into what they deem to be existential threats.
18 because their military intelligence indicated a rival species was planning on doing it and they wanted to beat their rivals to it.
19 because nearby human space exploration triggered their compulsive territorial defense instincts.
20because their biology is improbably compatible with Earth’s biosphere and they want to take it for themselves to save the effort of terraforming elsewhere.

D20This alien invasion is resisted
1 by only a few remaining pockets of rebellion.
2 by a united front of human nations.
3 with aid from a sympathetic alien faction.
4 by a clandestine organization that’s existed since the Roswell crash.
5 by a mass movement suppressed by human collaborators.
6 by warlords who are almost as bad as the aliens.
7 with the help of a drug that awakens psychic powers in humans.
8 by elite strike forces of artificial human-alien hybrids.
9 by cells of scientists and engineers who’ve stolen and studied alien technology.
10 by fractured guerrilla organizations sheltering in the least hospitable zones of each continent, with no unifying leadership.
11 by army remnants and militias blending in with subjugated populations.
12 by totalitarian regimes that took power in its wake.
13 with Pyrrhic victories and scorched earth tactics that cede as much ground to the destruction wrought by the arms used as to the aliens.
14 with sleeper agents, subverted alien operatives, and hacked computer systems.
15 by genetically enhanced cyborg soldiers armed with weird physics weapons repurposed from CERN devices.
16 by the neofeudal society which rose after the collapse of nation-states.
17 by plucky rebels all over the globe working with scavenged equipment, coordinating with AM radios.
18 by an alliance of the surviving international powers that operates out of extensive subterranean bunkers.
19 through infiltration and sabotage as humanity can’t withstand open battle against the aliens.
20by the brave mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan.

D20This alien invasion might be thwarted
1 by cracking open a rift between factions in tension in the aliens’ society.
2 by taking important enough hostages prisoner.
3 by pledging allegiance to another alien species that can fend it off.
4 by appealing to a body of interstellar law.
5 by dragging out the conflict until the aliens get exhausted and go home.
6 by evacuating all remaining humans to a legendary extraplanetary habitat.
7 by luring in an even bigger, badder alien species to drive them away.
8 by launching a surprise counter-invasion of their homeworld.
9 by developing a sophisticated enough understanding of their minds to unleash a devastating memetic virus on them.
10 by sneaking a small team into their mothership and detonating its core.
11 by obtaining and threatening to use an experimental superweapon that would convert the Earth’s core to antimatter.
12 by blackmailing central alien personnel to get them to back off.
13 by working together with malcontents among the aliens.
14 by becoming more desirable as partners to the aliens.
15 by cutting the solar system off from convenient hyperspace-lanes.
16 by breaking their spirit through crushing defeat in a pitched battle.
17 by amassing sufficient bribes to convince the alien commander to take it easy for a while.
18 by deflecting the invasion to easier pickings elsewhere in the universe.
19 by garrisoning key hyperjump nodes in the solar system, as alien spacecraft are helpless for a time after jumping in.
20by rationally arguing against its premises to the aliens with facts and logic.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The F-122 Challenge: Itaban's Verge

^ Details of the F-122 challenge can be found above ^

The short version: Pick 7 classes. Get 10 random questions from a list of 122. Make a setting that includes all of them.

My Seven Classes (All randomly selected from Whose Measure's compilation here:

1. Book Fairy (start with a Book Bag and a book, A Study of the Effect of Islands on Dwarfism) (Xenophon)
A: You have a miniature Book Bag that shrinks any book into it down to your fairy size and can hold 5 books. You can fly and are tiny.
B: You can expend a book to cause a supernatural effect related to the subject of the book.
C: Your book bag can hold 10 books, and you can expend two books at once to create a more complicated effect.
D: Whenever you run out of books, there's always one nearby.

2. White Hawk Rider (Xenophon of Athens) starts with a very large white hawk, a lance, a saber, and three javelins
A: You have a very large white hawk, which you can ride.
B: When attacking from the back of your hawk, you have +1 damage and +1 to-hit
C: Your hawk has been trained to attack or carry foes with its talons and beak.
D: You're immune to the ill effects of high altitudes.

3. Dice of Death (start with 2 bone dice and a drinking problem) (Archon's Court)
A: If you whisper the name of someone to your dice, you curse them. Both you and your target take 2d6 damage from seemingly random accidents.
B: Your Dice can be used on nameless things (animals, lesser angels, not demons, as they are all named).
C: When you curse something with your dice, you take the better roll of the 2d6.
D: Your curse extends - inanimate objects can be cursed, causing them to fall apart. This requires a detailed description of the object.

4. Witch of the Cliffs (start with a cauldron of sea water, a conch shell, a ragged grey robe, and a witch's hat) (Lexi)
A: You can vaguely divine the future through the sounds of the sea. The GM rolls the next <templates> random encounters, and you can choose which order to meet them. This ability resets after you confront them all, or if by the sea, after confronting one.
B: You can never lose your balance or fall. You can conjure gusts of salty sea air at will, so long as your cauldron is full of sea water.
C: You can summon small sea creatures like crabs or eels from your cauldron, so long as it is full of sea water.
D: You can summon large sea creatures like sharks or sea turtles from your seawater cauldron, like sharks or sea turtles. so long as it is full of sea water.

5. Fake Word Goblin (II) (Corgifan2) Start with Filthy rags, battered dictionary of fake words (d6 damage, 2 hands), bent fountain pen, notebook. You are dubiously literate
A: If you drink a vial of ink and vomit it back up onto a page, it will write anything you wish, so long as it is one page long and contains plenty of fake words
B: When you use one of your fake words in written or conversational instructions, a creature you designate believes the word is real and follows the definition in your dictionary. You can affect an additional creature for each additional level.
C: You can rewrite scrolls to use your fake words. When you do this, gain +X MD when casting them for each fake word you use. There is a 1-in-6 chance, for each fake word you use, that the spell sees through your fake words and backfires, following the least favourable definition of the fake word the GM can come up with
D: When you desecrate a heap of books with your fake words, pile them up, and dance on them, summon a Library Golem from the books (Slow, Vulnerable to fire, Strong). It will aid you as long as you can feed it a desecrated book every hour (1 book per slot)

6. Avenger's Doom (II) (Phlox) (start with a net, a lily, a dopey dog, and a shield)
A: 3/day, make another person charming to someone else, as charm person
B: When you spare someone’s life, make opposed charisma tests. If you win, they become friendly
C: Until you’ve discussed your differences with someone, they deal nonlethal damage to you.
D: You may officiate ceremonies where oaths of vengeance become oaths of friendship.

7. Shore Shark (start with fins, teeth, and an old Jaws movie poster) (RandomWizard)
A: Being a shark, you can swim and breathe underwater. Being a shore shark, you can also breathe air and walk on sand (specifically) with your fins. And you can talk. Somehow.
B: The sight of a big scary shark fin can be used to force people to make morale checks or something.
C: You can now walk on all land, and with a disguise and hooded cloak, you can probably pass for a big gray-skinned human.
D: In shallow shoreline waters, you can dismantle a ship or kill a person with a single bite.

My 10 Random Questions (From the Throne of Salt link above): 

1. Is there a homo sacer?

(Homo sacer is a figure of Roman law: a person who is banned and may be killed by anybody, but may not be sacrificed in a religious ritual)

Goblins are legally classified as a type of mold in the Verge, and property owners can be held liable if someone is harmed by a goblin on their land.

Given their linguistic ability and general attitudes, it's possible a goblin made this law and everyone else just accepted it because it was written on an official form.

2. Does wealth grant access to elite social classes or are they hereditary, ceremonial or awarded?

The inner elite of the Verge don't measure wealth in the traditional sense, or display it in material goods. Gold is just something that sinks, that weighs you down. To be wealthy is to be knowledgeable, of things that can help you and yours and hurt those that oppose you. Flyting is a popular way to show this off. With knowledge you can win a seat at the table, get a hand in writing up what laws the priesthood declares, decide who does what and where they do it at.

That's the ancient and incestous sort of elite though, the ones who can trace their bloodlines back to the stumps of Itaban's wrists. The ones who made their bones dealing with the wider world are more practical and cosmopolitan, with more appreciation for coinage and slitting throats.

3. What is the local menace?

These currently loom in the public eye:

The Unspoken Censors, an order of nuns who make their tongues into bells and believe that language and light are mind-chaining inventions of the demiurge. As a center of learning and letters the Verge is a particular focus of their attentions. They're said to maintain a secret mission beneath it. The Censors don't often act openly, but their presence is suspected behind every arson and assassination.

Tako revanchists. According to dubious histories, way back when the Verge was the territory of the octopoids, who got pushed out with the coming of the fairies and goblins and whatnot. The tako nation of the nearby waters deflects internal tensions outwards by blaming problems on terrestrial influences, particularly from the aqua-traitor sharks. This rarely escalates to open war, but militia raids are unfortunately common.

Foreign occultists. The ritual to get to the Verge the magic way is relatively easy, and no small number of curse-flingers and charm-peddlers wind up on its shore each month. These occultists tend to see the Verge as an extraplanar space where decent sense and consequences for your actions no longer apply, becoming hooligans who harass people for "alien secrets from [their] non-Euclidean realm" and suchlike. The few that manage to stick around congregate in slum-gangs that concoct bizarre and conspiratorial cosmologies, plan library heists, and hook up with goblins.

4. How are soldiers usually paid?

In blackmail. 

Cold hard revenge is hard to come by in the Verge, and precious metals don't hold the cachet they do elsewhere. Coercion, not gold, is king.

Powerful, knowledgeable, and otherwise influential people can "mint" blackmail by selectively leaking their own dirty secrets, or someone else's. This blackmail can switch hands, even targets, like how rai stones can change owners without ever moving, but are "spent" and locked-in as soon as they're publicly revealed. Social consensus is such that even a eunuch could be made into a bastard-siring philanderer with the right blackmail.

This diffuses what might become open revolt against the elites, a terrible prospect for everyone and everything here, into a subtler game.

Somewhat relatedly, soft martial arts are tremendously popular in the Verge. Manuals and tutours of them are a significant export.

5. What are only nobles allowed to own?

Libraries and caves. Books are a common trade good, but amassing them is the sole prerogative of the nobility. There is a long and vicious debate over when a collection of books becomes a library.

Caves are the best place to keep books in the Verge, cool and dry on the otherwise storm-swept shore.

6. Is a bar tab used to hire on cannon fodder or sailors?

The best people for rough work work for blackmail. Outlanders, grudgeless people, and pariahs could be bought with booze.

7. Are there holy fools or other types of weird sacred people?

The Avenger's Dooms (often referred to by the euphemisms Palm-Slaps, Auntie Slobbers, or Gentle Callers, as referring to them directly outside their presence is a mild taboo, believed to attract their attention), are treated simultaneously as overly idealistic eccentrics and vital to the continued existence of the cosmos.

They live in a sort of parallel society, denied such things as marriage and the ability to own property. In return their word carries a heavy weight in mediations, trials, and counsel. They preach mercy, spit on claims of justice, communicate with each other through handsigns and woven patterns. Many are former priests.

8. Are there monsters that have been sealed off in desolate places?

The Verge itself is a desolate place in which a monster has been sealed.

It lies at an end of the world, or perhaps more accurately at a gradient where "the world" bleeds into somewhere that is very much not "the world". You can get there the normal way (good luck finding it on a map), by sailing a ship with a paper sail due south until you lose sight of shore, or crawling to the lightless interior of a cave while wearing a blindfold stained with the blood of an enemy.

The monster is its namesake, the demi-god Itaban. Itaban was born with a weapon in each of his ten hands and a destiny to kill his father, and his father's father, and his father's father's father, starting a kinslaying blood-feud that would eventually unravel reality itself. Rejecting this fate, Itaban sealed himself away and severed his hands. His fingerbones were carved into the Dice of Death. From his boredom and the blood of his right stumps were spawned the first Book Fairies. From his whimsy and the blood of his left stumps came the first Fake Word Goblins.

That's how the popular story goes, anyways.

9. What is the most taboo Vice?

To spill blood through vengeance. Such blood tugs at the thread of Itaban's destiny. Even a single drop brings it and him infinitesimally closer. Violators tend to be exiled on rickety rafts (sent towards shark-infested waters by old agreement).

10. Are there criminal brotherhoods or street gangs or bandit clans that hire out members?

There are three major criminal organizations of note in Itaban's Verge:

The Taltu-Kar. Sharks don't have any sense of kinship towards their relatives like humans, goblins, and fairies do. In fact, they tend to hate any siblings they fail to devour in the womb. Instead of families they congregate in shared interest groups called kars. The shared interest of the Taltu-Kar is providing plausibly deniable violent revenge for a hefty fee.

Sharks are predators by nature. If they eat someone it's nothing personal, just a meal, even if they happen to be compensated by a jilted lover or betrayed business partner of the deceased afterward. A hired killer from the Taltu-Kar is one of the best ways to get around the vengeance taboo.

The Zawb Coven. Double-dealers, conmen, and hexers who dance between the political networks of land and sea whenever the heat becomes too much to handle in one or the other. When blackmail's the real deal it usually came from the Zawb.

They only deal with family (an inflexible policy imposed by the salt-lich Great Grandmother Zawb), but fortunately they're generous with adoption and marriage. The current head of the family is said to have a dozen spouses and over one hundred children.

The Order of the Black Cloud. It's a polite fiction that white hawk riders really ride white hawks. These so-called hawks are in fact giant seagulls. To compensate for this shameful fact, white hawk riders tend to surround themselves with trappings of chivalry, knightly brotherhoods, and suchlike. The Order of the Black Cloud is one such group, a bunch of mercenary blackguards with pretensions to being warrior-poets.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Grugach & Cooshee

Grugach (also called Wild Elves, Green Toms, Hurstlings, Dapplemen)

There are forests, and then there are Forests. Little-f forests are made up of living things. Capital-F Forests are themselves alive. They can think, they can feel. It may seem unlikely that consciousness could arise from an aggregation of trees, moss, grubs, bears, and whatever else, but people have been wondering how a network of neurons could do the same for a long time, without much more in the way of clear answers.

Every Forest has a heart (perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, so do Hells) which is the core of its being. It's possible to replace one's own heart with a piece of a Forest's heart. Getting to the heart is much harder than the procedure itself. People who do this are called grugach. People who do this are generally some combination of desperate, hateful, and unhinged.

Becoming a grugach hollows you out, physically and spiritually. On the surface you might look and act much as you once did (though roots can be seen creeping through their veins and the shoots poking through their follicles) but beneath you belong to the Forest. Past your shifting moods and passing whims, your tics and aesthetics, at the core of your being, your goals and drives are replaced by the Forest's.

Stats: As Elf, plus:

Taproot Soul: Grugach's lives are no longer sustained by mere animal processes but by the Forest itself. Unless killed by means innately opposed to life and flourishing (necromancy, the undead, curses and cursed weapons, demons, particularly noxious pollutants, and the like) they will be reborn in their Forest's heart in seven days and seven nights.

Grudge: Grugach can hate with a depth unmatched by animals, and an urgency unmatched by plants. If you seriously piss one off then until they're dead the result of rolling a 1 on any random encounter table will be replaced by that grugach pursuing its grudge. They may not attack outright however. Suggestions for how they might act based on reaction roll results are as follows:

2 or less: Murderous. They want you dead right now, and will use hit and run tactics, luring you into traps and ambushes to do it.

3-7: Humiliation. They'll beat you, scar you, steal your stuff, but leave you alive to rue the day you offended them.

8-11: Poisoned Gift. They'll give you misleading advice, cursed treasure, subtly poisoned rations, or the like to make you the architect of your own downfall.

12 or more: Assimilation. They'll attempt to kidnap you or recruit you to have you de-hearted and turned into another grugach.

Any grugach with 8 or more HP is Bough-Crowned, and can step into a plant to emerge from another plant within line-of-sight.

Cooshee (also called Fairy Hounds, Invert Dogs, Hark-Snarks, Noddymauls)

Imagine a world like a sky full of endless clouds drifting by. You might look from one cloud to another, see shapes and movements suggested: a face, a mountain, a head of broccoli. Suggested, but never realized, never settling between moment to moment and view to view. There would be no true or false, no this and not that, only maybes, might'ves, possiblies. This is the world as it was. This world was boundless, this world was free.

Then there was light, and the light was blinding.

Where the light went there followed shadows. When the light blinded there were things that could not be seen. Those it burned were scoured away from the unharmed. Now split from back then and will be. Reality fractured and calcified.

Many of the things called fairies are vestiges of this world-before-light, who took shelter in the mists at the furthest reaches of everything. The names they claim, the forms they take, the roles they play, these are not truly them. Unvarnished truth is corrosive to them, and so these things are like parasols that fairies carry with them as a bulwark.

Cooshee are not, technically speaking, fairies. They are fairy domesticates. Just like fairies wear masks to protect themselves from (non-)existence, they can put masks on other creatures to detach them from the same. Whether they were once man or beast or punished fey, something kept in the kennels of Fairyland will eventually be subsumed by the mask of the mock-dog, become a cooshee, and stalk at the feet of their masters.

HD: 3+3
AC: As Chain
Atk: Claws & jaws 1d4/1d4/1d8, Overbearing
Move: As horse
As someone pretending to be a dog
Mor: 7, or 10 if their master's around

Overbearing: Any human-sized or smaller target hit by a cooshee's claw attack must save or be knocked prone. A cooshee's bite attack automatically hits any prone targets.

Invisible Web: Once per day a cooshee can howl to make an attempt to move away from it fail. Paths will imperceptibly twist back around on themselves, doors will open into the same room, and suchlike.