In Plain View:
Taking a look at Almeri’s grasslands

May 5, 2020 at 7:32 pm

“Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones. The wildness of the savage is but a faint symbol of the awful ferity with which good men and lovers meet.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Beyond the Rollers and to the east of the mighty Arástavar, the lands flatten and become arid, leaving the woods and hills behind and opening to the vast grasslands of the Sea of Blades. This wide swath of country is dominated by the sharp-edged dagger-grass and is home to only the hardiest forms of life. Herds of hardy beasts roam the planes eternally hunted by wily predators, and over it all lurk carrion birds in the sky.

The Sea of Blades is not all grass. Shrubs and trees dot the land, from the spreading acacias to the towering baobabs. It is said these mighty trees grow upside down, with their roots reaching to the skies for sustenance. That may not be true, but these trees provide shade and shelter for many of the creatures of the savanna, as well as fruit, edible leaves and even water for those clever enough to extract it from their vast trunks. However, the largest are also home to nests of harpies — cruel, human-faced, vulture bodied predators ever on the lookout for the weak or isolated.

New Creature: Harpies

ST13 / DX14 / IQ8 / MA8 or 16 / AD 1 / D1d

These monstrous carrion-eaters appear as oversized vultures with humanoid upper bodies and twisted human-like faces. They lurk in the trees or circling in darkened skies to drop on weakened or unwitting prey. If a happy can ambush an enemy this way, they can get two attacks from their vicious claws in a surprise round as they drop. Harpies rarely have the heart for a stand-up fight and will usually flee from prey that fights back hard, only to stalk them and attack again from unawares.

Another strange danger on the savanna are the swarming piranhakeets that huddle in shady areas. Even worse, during the dry months, the swarm will create shallow burrows under the soil only to burst our en masse when disturbed.

Harpies are as foul-smelling as they are foul-tempered, and rarely can more than 3-4 nest together. They are smarter than they appear and can speak the common tongue, and often hoard valuable objects in their putrid treetop nests.

The major civilizing factor throughout the length of the Sea of Blades is the Shagga, a breed of nomadic halflings that hunt and herd this harsh country. The Shagga are a far cry from the common halfling burghers or even the wily river folk. They are as hard as their land and always ready to stand up to a challenge.

The Shagga are bulkier than their brethren but slower, with a starting ST of 6 and DX of 10. They do retain the Thrown Weapons talent. The Shagga are also leaner and more sinewy, with thick shocks of hair (and even occasional beards!) that spreads to their shoulders and back as well as their feet.

They hunt the beasts of the savanna along with herding the slow, shaggy water buffalo of the region known as bubbles. They make clever use of these creatures, weaving their thick fur into cloth, tanning their hides, harvesting them for meat and milk and using their horns and thick hooves for utensils and vessels. Even their waste fuels the Shagga cookeries. It is said nothing goes into a bubalu that does not come out as value to the Shagga.

Aiding them and providing swift transport across the open land are domesticated diatryma — or terror birds — of the halflings. These fierce creatures can move at great speed and their claws and beaks can face off against even the largest predators in the region. The terror birds can be handled with a variant of the Horseman and Expert Horseman talent. These beasts are ornery and carnivorous, so that only a select warrior is chosen to learn to ride, and their mounts are kept away from the bulk of encamped tribe.

For the largest portion of the year, each tribe of Shagga is on the move, following grazing pastures and fresh water. But when the rains come in the mid-summer they gather in the great burrows of the southern steppes to trade news, trade goods, and form alliances. In these times the normally taciturn Shagga become quite boisterous; feasting, singing and courting.

Each tribe has a chief, but this title is largely ceremonial. As the men range widely after the flocks or on hunts, most daily decisions fall to the women of the tribe. So, the women of each tribe elect a ‘wife’ for their chief who is responsible for the guidance of the group. Any other wifely duties she may engage in is at the discretion of the wife. The chief has no say over these decisions.

In general, the male Shagga have embraced this idea and revel in their warrior pride. Status and glory are paramount to the males and they are prone to great boasts. They also take insult quickly, and duels are not uncommon. A typical Shagga duel involves blades coated with the poison of the death-blossom spider of the baobab trees. Any hit requires a 4/ST or it causes instant paralysis. If untended, a paralyzed victim will die in 1d minutes, A 3/ST test can stave off death for one minute. While these sex roles are commonplace, they are universal. There are many proud female warriors, and more than a few male among those who do not stray far from camp.

Most Shagga believe that magic is the working of natural spirits, and wizards command, cajole, or bargain with these invisible powers to perform wonders. Their wizards — whether they believe this or not — do not dispute this believe. If a stranger flaunts these beliefs, or argues against them, they risk being put to death to appease these spirits.

While by far the common folk encountered on the Sea of Blades, the Shagga are not the only ones to ever brave the grassy expanse. While there are no proper roads, you will find the occasional wagon train carrying goods to trade with the miners of the far southern Frostspur Range, or a slim elven sky ship flitting across a cloudless sky.

Into the woods: Exploring the Arástavar

April 4, 2020 at 7:25 pm

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

― John Muir

 

Following the Tien up-river from Falcon’s Reach through the wooded hill country, the tree cover gets denser and denser until you find yourself in the mightiest forest in all of Almeri — the Arástavar. Home of the cloud-touching hartwood trees and the secretive Arást elves, the forest holds vast resources and deep mysteries coveted throughout the Cidrian Shards.

The country between the Reach and the forest itself is a lightly populated rising land of low hills and wooded copses known locally as the Rollers, and to Venitine empire as the Verden Protectorate. The empire has paid even less attention to this region than to its typical holdings (other than ensuring the continued flow of hartwood), and when they do post a governor they are most likely corrupt or exiled. The once-mighty river fortress of Verden is now little more than a trading post and night-time stopover for loggers.

Even the few Venetine forces posted in this hinterland know that their authority does not extend into the deeper forest. Only the elves hold sway there, and the few gargoyles that defy their power. The hardy loggers who work the tall timbers do so at the pleasure of the elves — and few range far from their camps.

 

Elves in the Arástavar

There are not many who have deep knowledge of the Arást elves, and even fewer who have seen more than a few of their settlements. They believe that they have been chosen to shepherd and protect the forest, and only allow outsiders within their domain to further this goal.

In truth, the elves are only slightly more forgiving within their communities than to those without. Most elven villages hold no more than a dozen or two family groups and those are spread loosely throughout the treetops to lessen the impact of their presence. In terms of our previous race card blog, they would be more akin to the wild elves than any other group.

Each village is given sway over a region of the Arástavar through a byzantine set of relations that leads to the Speaker — the one who holds the bond to the forest and is the final authority among the elves. The title of Speaker is granted for one year at a secret midsummer ceremony among the leaders of the scattered communities. Very few Speakers publicly admit their status.

These villages are usually made up of loosely connected family groups, or by shared philosophies and interests. They are most often built high in the canopy and building clusters joined by flying bridges and ratlines. There is little centralized power, but occasionally speaking groups of the eldest and wisest come together to make joint decisions. Few outsiders ever live long among the elves.

The Speaker also controls the Privileges that allow loggers to harvest the Hartwood trees. Individual trees are chosen within a region and outsiders are given permission to enter the Arástavar for this work. Workers at the logging camps are given little latitude to move about the forest and poaching is subject to death. Elvish craftsmen have the skills to build sky-ships and ornithopters (see details here) but their use is limited close to the ground.

They have also built working relationships with the wild gryphons that perch high atop the mighty trees. More a partnership than a rider/mount situation, a gryphon and its rider work together to achieve their goals. The gryphons are more intelligent than an average mount, and extremely proud, and might not always follow their rider’s command.

New IQ 11 Skill: Gryphon Handler (3). This talent allows a figure to climb atop and ride a willing gryphon without making a DX test. They may also fight while mounted at –1DX, rather than the normal 3. Untrained figures must make a DX test (determined by the GM) each round to stay aboard a flying gryphon.

New IQ 13 Skill: Gryphon Trainer (2). Prerequisite: Gryphon handler. A gryphon expert can soothe wild gryphons, make them docile, and convince them to be ridden as mounts. If a gryphons reaction is not hostile, they may make 3/IQ test to earn the creature’s trust and begin to train the beast. Figures with Animal Handler talent only pay 1 for this talent.

 

Timber is treasure

Between the dangers of the forest and the work itself, the ever-watching eyes of the elves, and the nature of rough men away from civilizing influences, the logging camps are not warm and inviting places. But the rewards for pulling down these mighty trees and bringing them to market are great, and there is no shortage of those willing to take the risk.

The massive trunks and timbers of these trees are simultaneously strong and quite lightweight, perfect for use in sky-ships and slender towers that crown Almeri’s great capitols. Weapons and tools made of the wood only break on 1-3 of 1d if attacked by a spell or broken in combat, and if enchanted only on a 1. Hartwood shields can be used with one less DX penalty. It requires a master craftsmen to work with the difficult material, and items made from it cost 10 time the normal amount

Red skies

The one group that refuses to bow the elves’ rule is the timberland gargoyles. The treetops are their natural habitat, and are not eager to relinquish their domain. Normally the tribes try to avoid attracting the attention of the elves and their fliers, but occasionally the skies run with blood. Without the magic or the craft of the elves, the gargoyle tribes rarely fair well in pitched battle. So they seek whatever support and allies they can. They work with hardwood poachers and others who would exploit the Arástavar, and its rumored that they have made even darker alliances.

Beyond the great forest the land rises even higher to the ice-capped peaks of the Yaavurii. It is said that this land is also ruled by elves, but even more reclusive and secretive than the Arástavar elves, But that is a story for another time.

Death dealing — Expanding necromancy in the Fantasy Trip

March 25, 2020 at 6:06 pm

“None can use black magic without straining the soul to the uttermost—and staining it into the bargain. Only a strong man, leather-handed, in whom hate and evil are very powerful, can wield them, and he only for a space.”

― Fritz Leiber, Swords and Deviltry

Grimm Hassel pulled his cloak tight against the chill of the crypt. Water dripped from somewhere and racks of skulls leered at him in the pale glow of his alchemical light. Dust swirled in a shallow niche covered in carved symbols and runes. A vaguely humanoid figure seemingly made from shadow and dust began to realize in the center of the niche.

“You should not have come here”, came a voice from the depths of the shadow.

“Perhaps not”, responded Hassel, “but you have something I need. And I will have it.”

For most of us, death is a sealed passage, that you only get access to once and will never learn what lies beyond. But for others that border is more porous, getting glimpses of the next world and being aware of those who have not completely passed over. Some people are merely sensitive to spirits, but those who seek answers from forbidden sources and wish to command the dead are known as necromancers.

New IQ12 Talent: Spiritualist (2) Those who are knowledgeable and aware of the spirit world are often known as mediums. They can sense the presence of ghosts, wraiths and other spirits before they manifest (like Alert figures can notice an ambush) and can recognize their type on a successful 3/IQ test. If an identified spirit has not attacked anyone in the spiritualist’s group, they can make a Reaction test at +1. If the result is Neutrality or better, the spirit will not harm them unless they violate its trust. With a result of Great Friendliness or more, the spirit may offer information or a single piece of advice. This talent costs the same for both heroes and wizards.

Not all spirits are powerful permanent manifestations. Some are merely the echoes of the recently passed that have not left our world completely. These spirits can sometimes be reached and made to provide information.

New IQ12 Spell: Channel Spirit (1) This spell allows the spirit of the dead to speak through the caster and answer questions. The spirit contacted must have a connection to the wizard — either the physical body or grave, or items that were of great importance to the spirit in life. The GM may adjust the casting difficulty based on the power of the connection. Spirits fade quickly as well, so the casting test is made at -1 for each day the spirit has been dead. If successful, the spirit can speak through the spell caster. It must communicate, but is not compelled to be truthful (although it could be, see below) for 12 rounds.

Spiritualists are often benign (if slightly disreputable) personalities. True necromancers walk a much darker path. The pinnacle of the necromantic arts are the Zombie spell as well as Revive, as a necromancer strives for mastery over life and death. Along the way they gain control over the physical attributes (via Clumsiness, Confusion, and Drain Strength), and some necromancers pose as healers to hide their grave pursuits. Most necromancers scoff at illusions and creation spells as lesser forms of magic.

If a necromancer wishes and the spirit is willing, they may converse and share information. But the spirits are often unwilling to engage with mortals on this level. If not, it might be possible to force the spirit to oblige.

New IQ13 Spell: Compel Spirit (1) When in the presence of an undead spirit, the wizard can try to force it to answer questions even do their budding. The spirit gets an immediate IQ saving test, and if it fails it will answer one question each round the spell is maintained (up to the wizard’s IQ). Alternately, the caster can compel the spirit to act on their command. In this case, the spirit gets a save every round the Compulsion continues. While this spell is commonly used to question ghosts and other incorporeal entities, it can be used to command ghouls, wights, and even vampires, but these creatures tend to turn on the necromancer as soon as the spell is completed.

Most spirits do not wish to remain on this side of the veil. A necromancer can help them pass on to the next world. In most cases this is a benign act, but if a spirit is freed before it can finish a task it was bound to, it will reform in 24 hours.

New IQ16 Spell: Exorcise Spirit (1) This spell breaks the bond that holds a spirit to physical world, allowing them to cross over. Any manifesting spirit like a ghost, wraith, night-gaunt will be instantly banished from this realm. The GM may rule that some extremely powerful spirits like revenants or night-gaunt magi get a saving test form this spell. The ST cost of this casting is 10.

Commonly, spirits of the dead are isolated and bound to specific locations. But some places (like graveyards, battlefields and the legendary kingdom of the ghouls) attract spirits in larger numbers. These places are also known to contain secrets coveted by necromancers. A few have found ways to pass among the dead and even be seen as one of them.

New IQ10 Spell: Death Mask (1) Use of this spell fools the undead into thinking the caster is a spirit as well. Most manifesting spirits will ignore them, and must succeed on a 3d/IQ test to notice the deception even ion they interact with them. Physical undead like ghouls will ignore the subject as well unless roused, while more intelligent entities like vampires will be more suspicious and get an automatic save test. The spell costs 2ST to cast and 1/round to maintain.

Spells in Spaaaaace!

March 13, 2020 at 10:44 pm

“A little magic can take you a long way.”

— Roald Dahl

Wherever a sentient species explores, wherever it plants its flags, it carries its culture and traditions with it. And if your traditions include magic, it won’t be long until magic is applied to making this exploration more successful.

This is as true in the Scintillant Sea as anywhere else. Wizards are common among the crew among the skyships and fearsome assets when battle breaks out. One of the most valuable contributions a wizard can make, is aiding their allies against the ST-draining thinness of the air in the Scintillance.

New IQ12 Spell: Airbubble (T). This spell provides a figure with a small pocket of atmosphere around their heads to offset the risks of long-term exposure in the Scintillant. The spell costs 3ST to cast and lasts for 24 hours. Terrestrially, the spell will allow a figure to breathe underwater, but slows their swimming MA by 2.

Several other spells are staples of a skyship wizard. Far vision gives a lookout the ability to spot enemies at a much greater distance, and explosive gems add punch to catapult bursts. Once ships close, battlefield control spells like multi-hex Fires and Slippery Floors come into their own.

 

Super-size it

Even more than most battle magic, being able to affect an entire vessel with magic is critical. But this kind of spellcraft is not simple, nor does it come without a price. One method is ceremonial magic, which is detailed in a fine blog post here. First, it requires the wizards actively involved in the casting (as opposed to those who simply add ST by Aid) to cast the Ceremonial Magic spell.

New IQ 15 Spell: CEREMONIAL MAGIC: (S) [inthelabyrinth.org] Allows groups of wizards to cast larger spells, on subjects locally or far away. The spell involves using strict ceremonies, including candles, special ingredients, chanting, etc. to focus the wizards’ minds and expand the working of the spell.

ST cost to perform this spell: 5. The time to cast the spell is 10 times the normal casting time. If spells are directed at enemy vessels, the casting difficulty is -4adjDX for each tactical hex beyond the first.

Second, the energy cost of the spell is calculated by multiplying the cost of the spell by the radius of hexes it will ultimately affect. Note that for a spell designed for a single subject to affect an entire hex, would add one to the radius So, if you wished to cats Reverse Missiles on a sloop (1 to cover a complete hex plus the ship’s 4-hex radius) it would cost 10 ST (2 ST x 5) for the first round (plus the cost of Ceremonial Magic spell), and 5 ST for each additional round. Note that this radius is roughly spherical and is always calculated as such regardless of the deck configuration of any given vessel.

The extended casting time of typical ceremonial magic spells is problematic in combat situations, however. Clever wizards have solved this problem by crafting vessels with magical conduits built directly into the ship. These channels are all centered on a Locus Arcane which allows ceremonial magic to be achieved with only two rounds of ritual.

A locus arcane can be added to a skyship for $10,000 per megahex of the ship in materials and time. It requires $100/month to maintain. For each month a locus is not maintained, the risk of catastrophic spell failure increases by 1.

 

These are just a few ways to bring magic into combat in the skies and beyond. Do you have interesting ideas on how you could apply spells to ships on seas and skies in y9our campaigns? Let us know.

Battle Beyond the Shards —
Air combat over Almeri

February 6, 2020 at 4:40 pm

“I wish to have no Connection with any Ship that does not Sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

– Captain John Paul Jones

 

This is a continuation of the Airship rules from the previous post. To start from the beginning click here.

While much of the time on a voyage is quiet and lonely, there are threats in the Scintillance. Pirates, raiders, and other enemies might hope to catch a trader unaware or strike a blow for an opposing power. The weapons in common use, however, are not usually enough to destroy an enemy ship unless it is wildly outclassed. Battles are usually decided by closing, boarding, and paying a bloody price for victory.

When two ships come in contact in the skies, it is usually at some distance. Unless there is an element of ambush or subterfuge, ships would spot each other at fairly long range.

When two ships come in contact, roll 1d.

d6 rollDistance
1-2 10 THexes distant
3-4
9 THexes distant
5
8 THexes distant
67 THexes distant

These Tactical Hexes (THex) are roughly 10 megahexes across and represent the relative distance between the two vessels.

Each round they are in contact, their two captains have three choices: close, track, or withdraw. If the choices are opposing, they would make a contested (Captain) check. If there are more than one ship on one side, that captain gain +2 on their skill per additional ship. The winner can move up to two tactical hexes more than the difference of their speed. If a ship moves more than 10 hexes away from an enemy it has escaped the conflict, and must be sighted again before combat renews.

Tactical combat rounds are handled in three phases.
1.    Opposed checks and tactical movement
2.    Maneuvers, including speed changes
3.    Fire weapons and attempt boarding

If a ship comes into range of its enemy, it may fire on its opponent. Most weapons have a single firing arc, and the captain may need to come about to fire all of its weapons. Even if a weapon has range to reach the opponent, the test is –1 for each hex beyond the first between them. Note also that catapults firing arcs prevent them from attacking ships in the same hex.

WeaponSpaceMax. Range DamageCrewROF
Scorpion1 hex4 THex4d41/2
Catapult2 hex6 THex 8d41/3
Petard launcher1 hex3 THex6d3*1
Fire launcher2 hex 2 THex8d**21/2

* One member of a petard crew must have the Guns or Mechanician Talent.
** If a fire launcher strikes sails or rudders, they may catch fire as a figure.

New IQ9 Talent: Siege weaponry (1) The ability to aim and fair siege weaponry like scorpions, ballista, catapults, and trebuchet. The test for a siege engine attack is IQ-based. These skills are all included in the Engineer talent, and an Engineer is usually in command of a siege engine crew.

On a hit, roll 1dSystemHits
1-4HullShip ST
5-6Ship systemSee below
On a 6, roll 1d
1-4Sails10ST / OAD
5Weapon12ST / 2AD
6Rudders15ST / 1AD

Ship system hits can affect the performance of the vessel. If the sails are damaged, its Speed drops equal to the percentage of sails lost, so an MA4 ship with 4 hexes of sail will lose 1MA per hex lost. Weapons hits can destroy individual weapons. If a manned weapon is struck, its crew takes half damage. Rudders are small articulated sails that maneuver the ship. There is one rudder hex for every 2 Size category. If destroyed, the vessel loses Handling in equal percentage to the loss. A ship with functioning sales will always have a handling of at least 1.

Ship systems can be targeted directly by an enemy. Sails can be struck at –3, and weapons and rudders are targeted at –6.

 

Boarding

If two ships are in the same hex they are in point-blank range, and can be become engaged. An attacking ship can send boarders on ornithopters, or can try to attach grapnels. Ornithopter pilots must make a single pilot check to reach the opponents’ ship, and succeed on a 3/DX to land cleanly. An attacking ship must be quite close for grapnels to land, and the attacking captain must succeed on a 4d test to come aside. A 17+ on this test is a collision on both ships take 3d for each speed category they are traveling. If the attacker gains two grapnels per size category for a full round, the ships are considered engaged. The two ships are bound together and neither ship can maneuver until the engagement is broken. Rammed ships are automatically engaged.

New IQ10 Talent: Gliding (1)  This is the skill to pilot single-occupant flying machines. Simply flying in an ornithopter requires no check, but complicated maneuvers like landing on a moving ship or aerial combat may require a DX test. A figure without his talent must make 3/DX test each round to make progress gliding, and would fall to the ground in normal gravity.

 

Tactical Combat Sample

Captain Abella of the sky galley Redolent is patrolling the Scintillance in search of pirates when she comes upon ‘Dark’ Derrick’s sloop Manta Ray with its sails furled. The GM rolls a 2 and two ships are 10 tactical hexes apart. The Redolent is currently moving at 2, while the Manta Ray was at anchor.

Abella chooses to close and Derrick will try to withdraw. Abella (IQ12) wins the contested roll against Derrick, and closes 4 hexes to 6 (their speed of 2+2 for advantage. Abella increases her speed by 2 (with +2 to the check due to the two unused maneuvers) to 4. Derrick lets out his sails and accelerates times to 3. The Manta Ray has extended rudders giving it Handling 3. Neither ship can bring weapons to bear at this range.

Abella wins the second round as well, and closes to 3 hexes. Derrick tries to Evade 3 times and succeeds twice. Abella’s gunners fire two scorpions against their IQ12, with -2 for the evasions and -2 for range (-1 for each hex beyond the first) and +2 for the sloop’s size for a total of -2adjIQ. One hits for 12 damage to the hull. Derrick’s only weapon is a fire projector which is out of range.

Abella keeps advantage for the third round and closes to 1 hex. Her ship must come about to fire its other two scorpions. Derrick evades twice and rolls to protect his sails. With a 5 and 7, both weapons hit. A lucky 6, followed by a 2 on the hit location chart has the second scorpion strike sails for 17 damage, taking one out and lowering the ship to MA2. The other did 12 more to the hull. Since it rolled, the Manta Ray may not use its weapons.

Derrick wins advantage this round, but since their speed (2) is 2 less than the enemy (4) they are still one hex apart. Derrick successfully accelerates to 3, evades, and rolls again. Abella slows to 3, comes about and fires, but both scorpions miss.

The contested roll is a tie, so there is no advantage. Since the Redolent is moving faster, it closes to engage. Abella tries to position for boarding, but fails the Captain check with a 15. Derrick’s crew unleashes their fire projector, but miss.

Derrick wins advantage and manages get slip away three hexes. They try and fail to roll, but successfully evade. Abella comes about to fire and both scorpions strike home, doing 14 and 11 to hull. Derrick’s fire projector is out of range again.

This round the the advantage goes back to Abella, who closes to 0 again. She drops speed to 2. Her positioning check of 8 is successful and she comes alongside the sloop. Six marines launch grapnels and four land. This is 2 per Size category of the smaller vessel and the two ships are lashed together.

Next round the marines will pour over the deck and the battle for the Manta Ray will get personal.

Sailing the High Skies —
Airships over Almeri

January 31, 2020 at 6:19 pm

“Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.”

– Oscar Wilde

 

Between the Shards that sustain nearly all the life we know of is a band of smaller fragments, glittering dust motes, and glowing orbs that we call the Scintillance. A few hardy souls call the Stream home, and sail the skies between worlds.

The Scintillance may seem empty but it is far from a void. The atmosphere thins as a ship rises, but there is breath even in its deepest darkness. A terrestrial creature must make a 3/ST test each day or takes a point of Fatigue. This damage cannot be recovered while in the Scintillance, but can be healed at 1ST/hour when they return to full atmosphere.

The ships that ply this celestial sea are a hybrid of magic and ingenuity. They are built off a structure of dragon skeletons reinforced with light hartwood, canvas, and glass. The size of a ship is restricted by the size of the skeleton, and only 7 hexes (1MH) of airship can be lifted per hex of the dragon skeleton used. This fact is not lost on dragonkind, who do not look kindly on the skyships and can wreak bloody revenge for the loss of their kindred.

Next up in the ‘Aerie: Airship battles!
Check it out here
Skyships are detailed by the scale (Size), durability (ST), Speed (MA), Defenses (AD) and handling (H). Size is determined by the number of megahexes of deck space of the vessel. This is very limiting for skyships, whereas as waterborne ships can be much larger. In tactical combat, enemies gain +1 to target a ship for each Size category above 1. For every two MH of main deck, a ship can have 1 MH of lower deck or cargo space.

Skyships carry sails and rigging equal to its size in MH. These are not counted in its Size, but can be attacked. Each sail hex has 10ST and 0AD without modification. A vessel will lose a percentage of its speed equal to the percent of sails lost, so that ship of 4 megahexes and an MA of 4 will lose 1 MA for each section of sails lost.

Durability (ST) represents how much damage the hull and decking of a ship can take and maintain integrity. This is largely a function of the size of the vessel, but can be improved with magic or investment. In general, a ship has 3ST for each hex of deck space, including lower and cargo decks. A skyship that takes more damage than its ST will collapse into pieces, lose momentum, and float away into the stream. If this happens close to the surface of a shard, the ship will crash to the ground.

Speed (MA) is how fast a ship can travel. Larger ships can raise more sail and move more swiftly through the Scintillance. Unfortunately their bulk drags them in the opposite direction, so larger is not always faster. This is the number of relative hexes a ship travels in a tactical round. This is equivalent to 10 normal rounds and 10 normal hexes, so that a 1-hex dragon has a tactical speed of 1 (MA10) and a 7-hex dragon’s is 2 (MA20).

Defense (AD) is partially a measure of bulk, and partially design. Each size category adds 4AD to the base defense of a ship. Armor plating, magic, and other measures can add to this.

Handling (H) is a matter of how agile a ship is and how deftly her crew can manage her. A ship can make one maneuver per point of handling per tactical round. Once up to speed, a ship maintains its speed without spending a maneuver. Increasing or decreasing that speed does require a maneuver.

A ship may also use maneuvers to improve their chances in a fight. Each round, a ship may use one maneuver for each point of Handling it has. A successful Seamanship check is required per maneuver, but if they forgo using all their maneuvers, the crew gains +2 adjIQ for each unused maneuver. If pressed, the crew can attempt more with a +1d on the test per maneuver. Normally these checks are made by the captain, but larger ships may have a mate that directly commands the crew.

Maneuver options are listed below:

Accelerate — This maneuver can increase the vessel’s speed by one for each maneuver spent, up to the base speed of the vessel.

Climb — An attempt to gain the higher ground (+12 to attacks) on the enemy lower a ship’s movement by one for the next round.

Come about — This is changing the facing a of a ship to bring different weapons to bear. One maneuver can turn a ship 90 degrees, so two would be required to fire side-facing weapons on either side of a vessel.

Dive — A ship can drop toward the nearest gravitational mass, increasing its speed by one for the turn. However, a dive exposes vulnerable assets and doubles the risk of striking sails, weapons, or crew.

Evade — A ship can take evasive action to avoid fire from enemy vessels. Enemy attacks would be at -1 for each maneuver spent.

Heave to — This is an attempt to slow an airship or come to a complete stop, in order to dock or avoid ramming another ship. A ship can decrease its speed by one each round. Slowing faster can be done with a piloting test with one additional die for each MA beyond the first.

Position — a captain can improve its tactical position with maneuvers, adding +1 to their competitive check for each maneuver spent.

Ram— Ships in point-blank range are capable of ramming one another. The captain with advantage can close beyond contact and slam into its opponent. The ramming ship does 10d for each point of movement it has in excess of reaching engagement. If the ships are different sizes, there is +1 (or -1) per die for each level of size difference. The attacking ship takes half this damage. For example, if a Size 3 ship rams Size 2 ship with one hex of excess movement, it would do 10d+10 damage to the enemy and half that to itself. All ramming damage is done to a ship’s hull.

Roll — A ship can turn its hull to enemy attacks, adding 5AD to each hit it takes. A ship using the Rolll maneuver cannot fire its own weapons that turn.

 

Voyaging in the Void

Skyships perch on high towers or atop great hartwood trees when at anchor on a Shard, kept aloft by the lighter gravity and the magic of their draconic skeletons. Once the lines are freed, the captain would Accelerate and Climb until the surface gravity is cleared. Then they are free to maneuver at will.

Sailing between shards is fairly straightforward aside from shard-storms, pirates, and vengeance-seeking dragons. The captain or navigator must make a successful navigation (Practical Astronomy, below) check each day to stay on course. A failed check adds +1d to the next day’s check. If a ship gets terminally lost, they can try to set a new course to the nearest Shard. Typical voyages last between two to eight weeks.

New IQ13 Talent: Practical Astronomy (2) This is the applied knowledge of the locations of objects in the Scintilliance and their relationships to one another. Useful for plotting a skyship course and to avoid getting lost. The talent requires a number of calculations, and only costs 1 if the figure already has the Mathematician skill.

 

Down to Earth

While this system was designed for airships, it could easily be applied to sailing terrestrial seas. The maneuvers list would be shortened, and ships can be much larger. Fire presents a much larger danger on the surface, and would be applied to hull AD cumulatively. The risk of sinking adds additional danger, and if a ship loses more than 1/3 of its ST the hull is breached, and it will take additional hull damage at 1d per size category. More than 2/3 damage and it will sink in a number of rounds equal to its Size category.

 

Ships of the Line

The skyships of the Cidrian shards are vastly expensive to obtain, and only the rare cargoes and even more mysterious passengers can make them profitable. A skyship costs twice as much as a terrestrial vessel of similar size (examples can be found here), and that does not include the dragon skeleton. These artifacts must be acquired separately, often at great risk and expense.

Ornithopter

Size1 / ST21 / MA1 / AD1 / H1
A lightweight transport designed to carry a single figure, used mostly for boarding actions and ship-to-ship travel. Ornithopters can often be fabricated for $10,000 in the right environments.

Sloop

Size2 / ST63 / MA3 / AD8 / H2
A small 2 megahex vessel for up to 4 crew. A cramped stern cabin provides some comfort and there is minimal cargo space. The small deck only has space for one hex of mounted weaponry.

Galley

Size4 / ST126 / MA4 / AD16 / H3
The swiftest and most common of the skyships usually carries of crew of 12 (4 needed per watch) and up to 12 marines in war duty. It can handle four hexes of weaponry, but often mounts much less, as they interfere with cargo carrying.

Frigate

Size7 / ST219 / MA4 / AD28 / H2
Frigates are large fighting vessels rarely seen out of the Scintillance. It can carry 4 hexes of side-firing weapons on the lower deck and 4 more above. It requires a crew of 8 per watch and can travel with as many as 40. These vessels often carry ornithopters on board.

Man O War

Size14 / ST441 / MA3 / AD56 / H2
The fearsome fighting ships are too large to dock on any but the smallest low-gravity shards, so are only seen patrolling the ways between. It takes 16 crewman to handle the ship, with another 24 manning its weaponry. They can carry up to 100 passengers and crew.

 

Customizing Vessels

No two skyships are alike, but some alterations are more drastic than others. Here are a few of the more common changes made by shipbuilders.

Additional Sails. This enhancement expands the sails aboard to increase the ship’s speed. A vessel can improve its MA by 1 for 25% of its original cost. These ships have 50% more sail hexes.

Armor Plate. A ship can increase is AD by 25% for 10% of its original cost. This can be done more than once, but each level of armor beyond the first reduces the ship’s handling by 1.

Concealed Weapons. The ship’s below-deck weapons are hidden from casual view. Each weapon concealed requires an additional hex of space.

Expanded Crew Quarters. Each additional crew space takes one hex of cargo or deck space, and a passenger requires two. A skyship needs one full megahex of deck space to fly, and one full megahex of deck equal to half its size. For example, a Galley (Size 4) needs two full megahexes of working deck space.

Extended Rudders. A ship can improve its Handling by 1 with extended rudders for 10% of its original cost. Using the added maneuver requires a successful 3d Captain test. This can only bey added once.

Ram. A heavy, reinforced prow of the skyship used to strike enemies. A ship with a ram does +1d per Size category damage in an attack, and takes one less damage itself. The bulk of the ram lowers a ships’ handling by 1.

Sturdy Hull. A ship can improve its ST by 10% for 10% of its base cost. This customization can be added more than once, but each additional hull reinforcement beyond they first lowers its Handling by 1.

Underdeep — The world below Almeri

December 18, 2019 at 10:03 pm

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

― Joseph Campbell

 

Almeri is not a large world by our mundane standards, or even by the standards of those well-traveled in the Scintilllance. But like many of the Shards bobbing in this celestial sea, its life is not limited to its surface.

For deep below its lush green forests and raging seas is a near continuous network of caverns, nodes, and vast openings that run nearly to the core of the world. And much of this dark landscape — known to most as the Underdeep — is teeming with life.

Much of the Underdeep is cut with long veins of crystals like quartz and selenite, and huge crystalline spaces can be found deep underground. These areas are prized by more intelligent Underdeep dwellers for their relative strength and reflective properties, and many groups seek them out for their settlements. Another common feature of these crystalline vaults are the the fainting shimmering Selen Moths that flutter about these areas like wandering starlight, and seemingly feed off the crystals themselves. To date, no one has mastered domesticating these light-bearing creatures, but their larva have been collected for use in glimmerworm lamps.

A Chemist or Alchemist can create a Glimmerworm lamp that glows for 24 hours if they have access to 8 glimmerworms and $10 in common ingredients. If sold outside an Underdeep community, a Glimmerworm lamp usually goes $50 or more. Exposure to sunlight destroys the potency of such a lamp/

While the reach of the Underdeep is vast, its food sources are not. Underground waterways hold fish and crustaceans, and there are many edible fungi to be found, but these resources are not nearly enough to support large populations and are a constant source of conflict.

New IQ11 Talent: Spelunker (1). Prerequisite: Naturalist or Climbing. This is the equivalent to Woodsman Talent for surface-dwellers. Due to the harshness of the environment, the test for sustenance is 4/IQ per day, and the failure underground is 2 fatigue. this Talent will also allow a figure to identify rock formations or underground creatures, wit the difficulty determined by the GM.

By far, the most common intelligent creatures roaming the crystalline passages of the Underdeep are the goblins. Whether driven below by other races or their own desires, the goblins have laid claim over this benighted realm. From crystalline cavities to shores of underground seas, goblin tribes have carved out communities and turned this harsh climate into a home.

Goblins — always true to their word but cagey in their actions — make difficult neighbors outside their immediate clan groups. So most goblin communities are either small or are several clan groups living near one another to make use of a large resource like fresh water or robust fungi patches. These groups live separately but in parallel and often have complex and baroque contracts with each other to guide their actions. Tricking or outwitting another group in these agreements is a source of great pride among goblin clans, but stealing or petty violence is below them. However, this restriction does not hold true for surface dwellers.

Goblin societies are strictly matriarchal as the birthing of young is critical to the clan’s survival. Similarly, but is usually the males who are sent to trade or raid on the surface, as their loss will not be felt as strongly. The most revered (and feared) are the priestesses of Areope. These venomous sisters claim to hold the fate of their clan’s in their hands, and none will resist their demands for duties, resources, or even mates.

Aiding the goblins and providing much-needed heavy lifting are the ogres. These simple creatures (Typically ST20/DX10/IQ6/MA12) are said to have traded their freedom to the goblins exchange for fresh meat, and have served them fro uncounted generations. Whatever foul energies that creep through the Underdeep have not been kind to these ogre brutes, and mutations are now quite common among them. Single eyes, additional limbs, shocks of unexpected hair and unnatural horns are common sights among the subterranean ogres. Some of these anomalies are sought out by the goblins (for aesthetic or practical reasons), and they may even try to breed them.

While the ogres themselves are not compelled by their word like the goblins, their long connection has ingrained a loyalty to their masters. This loyalty is quickly tested if the goblins fail to provide for the needs of their brutish servants, and more than goblin has been slaughtered over failure to feed the ogres what they require.

Goblins commonly fashion harnesses for their massive (3-hex) ogres, and use them like beasts of burden. It takes the ogre-specific Driver Talent to manage the stubborn creatures to do much more than carry a goblin, and gifted drivers can control an ogre almost as extension of themselves.

Even more terrifying than the sight of a massive ogre driven by a lash-cracking goblin, are the spider-riders. These elite goblins have domesticated horse-sized hunting spiders as mounts. Like common wolf spiders, these are burrowers and not web spinners, but they can spin out thick strands of sticky silk to trap those who come close their lairs. Goblins revere these creatures, and those that manage to tame and ride the massive arachnids are respected above nearly all others.

New Creature: Subterranean Giant Spider (2-3 hex). ST20-25/DX12/IQ2/MA12, or 6 climb/AD1/D1d+Poison) These massive matte black spiders are nearly invisible in their underground homes, and normally lie in wait in shallow dens for prey to come by. They often leave strands of thick web (as the spell with 3/DX save to avoid) to encumber those that stumble into their trap. Their mandibles are more powerful than the typical giant spider, but their venom is not. A successful bite requires a 3/ST test or it does 1d ST and causes -2adjDX from pain for the next 15 minutes. These penalties can accumulate. Spiders can climb surfaces (or their web strands) at half their MA. They can ridden as mounts with a spider-specific Horseman Talent and be broken and trained be trained by an Expert.

Familiarity breeds context

November 15, 2019 at 7:48 pm

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

― Anatole France

Fantasy literature and folklore are filled with tales of wizard’s with small companions, whispering secrets to them or spying on their enemies. And many games have tried to replicate the idea, some more successfully than others. A familiar — or any animal companion — should be a valued companion and aid, but not a separate character on par with PC itself.

To create a system for these creatures in the Fantasy Trip, we wanted to be flexible to the varieties presented in different stories and balance the power the offer with the cost. A familiar should be available at character creation or after, and should have the ability to grow as the wizard increases in power.

We chose to make it a Talent rather than a spell to accommodate heroes with animal sidekicks as well. Wizards gain added benefits from this bond, and that is reflected in the additional cost.

New IQ 10 Talent: Familiar (1+)

This Talent forges a bond between a person and a creature. The creature will stay by its master’s side, follow their instructions (to the extent of its intelligence), and share an empathic bond allows the master to share its senses and feelings. A familiar is usually a small animal like a cat or a bird, but more exotic creatures like scum bunnies or stinkers could serve as well. A familiar begins with ST4, DX10, IQ6, and MA12. While not normally combative, a familiar can strike with its claws or feet for 1d-3.

A familiar can be improved beyond this by spending XP. For each 200XP spent, the master can increase an attribute by one point. If a familiar’s ST ever rises above 8, it does damage based on the bare hands combat damage table +1 (ITL, p.122).

Wizards gain a few additional advantages with their familiars. First, any spell the wizard cast upon themselves (Blur, Iron Flesh, Fireproofing, etc.) also affects the familiar. An extension of that is any sensory magic (Mage Sight, Dark Vision) is also applied to the familiar, allowing the wizard to use the heightened perception through the familiar. Note that the master does not literally see through their familiar’s eyes, but gains an empathic understanding of what the familiar sees. The smarter the familiar the more complete the vision is. Finally, the wizard can use their familiar’s ST to power their own magic. The wizard may not drain a familiar to 0 or lower, and a wizard that abuses this ability might find themselves abandoned by their own familiars.

If a familiar dies, the master must wait at least one month before calling another. A full night must be spent in quiet contemplation before a new creature answer the summons. This does not cost the character XP, but any advancements the previous familiar had are lost.

Bigger Buddies

Perhaps your wizard is looking for something a little bigger than an owl, or your hero wants a companion that can pull their own weight in a fight. At the GMs discretion, larger animals can be used as familiars

Small creatures (2) such as a dog, large cat, or a sizable snake can be bound as familiars. They would have ST8/DX12/IQ6/MA12 if a typical quadruped, or by animal type. They usually do 1d damage.

1-hex creatures (4) like a wolf, jaguar, or a giant spider would have ST12/DX12/IQ6/MA12 and armor of 1 or 2. They usually do 1d+3 in combat. If a figure chooses to have an unintelligent creature like an insect (or a slime) they do exactly what they are told but have very limited ability to act independently outside of instinct.

2-hex creatures (8) like a bear, horse, or giant lizard may rarely be bound as familiars. They have a base ST24/DX12/IQ6/MA by type, and defense of 1 or 2 hits. They can do up to 2d hits in combat. These are not merely trained beasts, but boon companions and partners. While it may not be convenient to have them with you at all times, they will become restless (as will all familiars) if separated from their masters for any length of time.

Demonic Assistance

It may also be possible for a figure to be bound to a familiar from beyond our normal world. These creatures are more powerful than a mere magical pet, but have their own drives and agenda. Whether obtained by bargain or trickery, a demonic (or elemental or even angelic) familiar will only aid its master when it feels it has something to gain. A contest of IQ might be needed to decide if the familiar follows its master’s orders. A outsider familiar has base ST12/DX12/IQ10/MA12 and may be able to fly or even teleport short distances. The GM should keep a sheet on the familiar and only tell its master what it needs to know. These familiars goals are usually to corrupt the wizard and cause as much mayhem as possible before returning to their hellish homes.

For example, an imp is a common form of demonic familiar. In addition to its base statistics, an imp can teleport within its mega-mehahex at will, and cast invisibility. It also has the stealth talent. This would make an imp an incredible spy, if not for the stench of sulphur it carries with it.

Lords Over Almeri: Deities and religion

November 7, 2019 at 7:45 pm

“Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself lend a hand.”

– Hippocrates

Almeri is a world filled with divine energy, although whether mere mortals can tap into that energy is the subject of some debate. There are places that overflow with it like volcanic caldera or windswept mountaintops, but it is commonly thought that the divine flows the natural world and provides the spark for independent thoughts. And while many areas have their own civic gods or even powers that claim dominion over wider areas, it is generally considered that the Pentarchy are the major deities.

These five gods do not claim to have created the world, and may just be the last of the Makers. Neither do they claim true relation to one another, perhaps it is only their great power and competition with one another that make them a grouping at all.

While individual priests will swear by a single patron, most folk look to each god in need, depending on circumstance. Certain gods hold more sway in certain locations — Akilo is the patron of the Venitine empire, for example — but each are acknowledged as power beyond any mortal ken. Many priests of the Pentarchy do have magical powers, and claim they are but vessels of divine will, but these powers do not vary greatly from those who study mystic symbols or truck with demons.

Each of the Pentarchy have their temples, and they are rarely worshiped together. Crossroads often marked with polished stones that passers-by will lay their hands on reverence, and the superstitious will cover their hearts with an open hand to invoke their blessing over ill omens, but their are no services held in their collective honor.

They are seen as personifications of desires and attributes, and their worshipers often emulated these traits, but this should not be taken to mean that teach moral values. They are mighty forces that need to be glorified or appeased, and their faithful follow their strictures, but they rarely provide any true philosophy or path to salvation. They themselves are often fickle, and legends abound of them acting pretty, vindictive, and often cruelly to mortals.

 

The Gods of the Pentarchy

Zula. The deity revered most widely among the common folk is Zula. She is a goddess of family, strength, and protection personified by a mother bear. Sacrifices are made to her to ensure plentiful harvests, fruitful marriages, and harmonious gatherings. Even the smallest villages will have shrines to Zula. Many members of her priesthood do good works and share the practical wisdom of the hearth and field between communities. Her martial order is the backbone of country militias and border garrisons.

Zula is tied to the Earth, and her holy objects are crafted of stone and clay. Her vestments are of leather and fur, and her symbol is a stylized bear claw. Success is a sign of favor from Zula, and her adherents may flaunt their wealth or offer generous gifts. The chosen weapon of her martial adherents is the mace.

Akilo. Is important largely because his worship is the state religion of the Venetian Empire. Akilo is known as a god of justice, virtue, and glory, and his priesthood reflects that with pomp and ritual. His aspect is the eagle, and temples feature soaring colonnades and domes — often open to the sky above. Shrines to the god can be found in many places in the wild.

The priests of Akilo often do double-duty as judges, and his martial orders hunt down and punish criminals. The ‘justice’ of Akilo is relative, as it often serves the needs of the Empire more than any abstract ideal. The Emperor is said to speak with the force of the god, and his will is seen as divine scripture. This can lead the church into maintaining a difficult balance between the ideals of Akilo and the orders of his earthly servant.

Akilo is bonded with the air, and the raiment of his clergy are often decked with feathers and flowing blue robes. Offerings are made of incense and other costly materials burned and sent up to his mountaintop demesne. The sacred weapon and symbol of office is the spear.

Muranae. The most clever of the gods is often as seen as the least of them. His aspect is the field mouse and he personifies cleverness, industry, and perseverance. It is often said that he was the one who first taught man dominion over the beasts and skill with tools. His legends often feature him siding with mortals over the other gods, or tricking them to achieve his goals.

He is often invoked at the beginning of endeavors and is supplicated by small offerings of food or objects of value. If a creature is found to be taking such a sacrifice, harming it is the worst form of bad omens. HIs is a religion of protecting the weak against the strong, and the concept of mice being crushed in the claws of an eagle is not lost on them.

His priesthood are often itinerant wanderers or cloistered groups. He is tied to fire and his sacred weapon is the bow. Servants favor earth tones and soft fabrics and eschew obvious symbols of wealth.

Khark. The bloody god is more feared than revered among most mortal creatures, but few who travel upon his waters do so without trying to appease his wrath. His aspect is the shark and his will is embodied by both the waves and the storms of the sea. Many consider all ill fate as caused by Khark.

Shrines to Khark can be found at most city gates and port entrances, and usual sacrifices are animals or blood. His silent priests accept offerings of wealth to perform secret rituals to cast the god’s eyes away from petitioners. He is tied to water and his worshipers favor dark grey and deep ocean blue. HIs token is the sword.

Areope. She is an outsider even among the gods. Areope is the goddess of death and fate, and it is said that she even knows when the gods are doomed to die. But through it all she watches and weaves and ensures that the inevitable happens. Only Areope knows what is beyond the veil of death. Legends speak of a time the Muranae plied her with wine and lured her to sleep to peak beyond, but if he did he has told no one what is to be seen.

Her knowledge and detachment has made her a patron many kinds of misfortune, like disease and decrepitude. Children born with obvious deformities are said to be chosen by her, and are often raised in the church. Where Akilo is the lord of Justice, Areope is the patron of law. Many official legal documents are sealed with symbolic eight-pointed star.

Areope’s aspect is the spider, and she is tied to the spirit. The dead are presented to her in her temples, and most communities of even moderate size have a temple for this purpose. After a full night-and-day vigil, the body is removed and is burned, buried, or cast off to sea by local custom. Bodies not brought to her to fate their fate sealed may be doomed to roam the world after death.

Her priesthood (and her children) wear naught but black. Higher orders wear capes of silver links in the shape of webbing. Her symbol of office is the staff.

Priestly Magic

There are wizards in the service of all the gods, and cultists and prophets of many more. In practice, their magic differs little from the hedge wizards or thaumaturges of the secular. They may claim (and may even be correct) that they get their powers from some conduit to the gods, but the casting of spells is still taking on their spirit. Their grimoires may be holy books, but still require words and gestures to channel magical power. And while a priestess of Zula may cure a peasant of a medicament or a monastic brother of Muranae might repair a miller’s wheel, the miracle-working healers of legend are not common in Almeri

New Talent Use (Priest): Divine Inspiration

A spell-casting figure with the Priest talent can perform a ritual of at least one minute to give them additional strength to perform a task. A successful 3/IQ test will give the Priest 2 mana to be used on a task in the near future. This is above any other source of mana and dissipates within five minutes if not used. A Theologian can gain 4 mana with a similar ritual. If the priest prays for inspiration more than once per day, the test is made with an additional die, so the second attempt would 4/IQ ands a third would be 5/IQ.

To perform the ritual, the priest must have their holy symbol and a sacrificial offering appropriate to the god. A Theologian can gain 1 mana even without their symbol or a sacrifice. At the GMs discretion, the priest might forgo the mana and gain a small bit of advice or inspiration from the gods.

Beyond the Reach:
The wilderlands of Almeri

September 13, 2019 at 4:24 pm

“Contrary to popular belief, the outskirts are not where the world ends — they are precisely where it begins to unfurl.”

— Joseph Brodsky

Even with its politics and divisions, Falcon’s Reach is but one small community in a wider and wilder world. In fact, beyond its cobbled streets and slim towers there are vast stretches of wilderness before a traveler reaches the next safe destination.

The most traveled route from the city is probably down the Tien river to the Middlesea. As it flows northward, the river branches into a wide delta of swampy channels known as the Tangle. An open passage called the Cut was dredged by Venettine engineers more than a hundred years past and has become the major trade route for Arástavar lumber and finished goods from beyond. The smaller channels are often impassable or home to the region’s reptile men or other less than savory characters.

While still officially a Venetti military possession, the defense of the Cut has been ceded to the local Wardens. These homegrown heroes man the watchtowers and wayposts along the Cut, holding back the threat of the primitive marsh-dwelling reptile men and even more fearsome beasts. Their dominion gives way on the coast where the Venettine garrison based in Storr’s Haven keep control of the traffic and ensure that tariffs are fully enforced. Not to say that the Wardens deep knowledge of the Tangles have never aided a merchant to avoid unnecessary imperial attention.

New Character Package: Tangles Warden
+3ST, +3DX, +2IQ) Talents: Boating, Bow, Knife, Quarterstaff, Alertness, Tracking, Authority (see new talent here). Drawback: Commitment (minor social). Suggested advances: Weapons Training, Naturalist, Silent Movement, Tactics. As the only representatives of law in the wild country, the Wardens have to be fairly self-sufficient in while doing their duty. They feel equal responsibility to protecting the land as to enforcing the laws, and often their sons of right overcomes what it officially legal.

There are also halflings among the Wardens, but they lean more toward slings than bows, and try to avoid hand combat as much as possible.

The reptile men of the Tangle do not actively threaten the local populace, but protect their control over the wild country with fierce determination. And, miscommunications with their saurian society have occasionally exploded into massive bloodshed on both sides.

These reptile men would be similar to the Varani as detailed here (http://imaginaeriemedia.com/2019/05/23/knight-of-the-iguana-playable-reptile-men-for-tft/), and make their lairs in the canopy, weaving wines and branches together for platforms and bridges.

Moving north and east toward the imperial capitol of Crixus is the old Amber Road. This gemstone, known as drops of the sun, was one of the earliest forms of currency on Almeri and is still widely-prized today. Its value in creating powerstones and other magical artifice boosted its value, and helped build the Venteri to the vast empire it is today. While the scope of the empire and the machinations of its noble classes have lessened its power in recent years, it remains a force to be reckoned with.

Disturbing rumors have recently claimed that the throne of the eternal empire has been usurped by a cabal of alien octopus that struck from the Middlesea aided by crablike Karikinid shock troops. If this is indeed true, no official proclamation has been made and officials from the capitol remain silent on the subject.

Down the Amber Road from Falcon’s Reach to the west the land flattens and drops into lowlands dominated by the large bay of Sycorax, known commonly as the Godless Realm. The Sycorans are a pale, slim intellectual people who have always looked to their minds to solve their problems rather than their brawn. The wide, shallow Sycorax Bay is the center of their society, and their towns and villages are built on boardwalks and artificially-raised land around this brackish tidal expanse. The Sycorans have always had a greater acceptance of wizards among their population, and have had little interest in the truth of the Pentarchy. In recent days, Sycorax has been acting with uncharacteristic unity and aggression, and it is feared that they are being aided by powers beyond their land, or even from the Scintillance beyond.

Upriver on the winding Tien are the rolling prairies and wooded vales of Tienlands dotted with small villages and outposts. Beyond that lies the vast forests of the Arástavar. This ancient woodland is home to the mighty hartwood trees that can rise to several hundred feet, and the elves that shepherd them. These folk are shy and secretive, and are sworn to protect the trees that they believe are the soul of the land. Harvesting of hartwood is a complex process, and only a handful of non-elves are even involved with it. And poaching of the lightweight, sturdy lumber is a dangerous enterprise for anyone.

The elves themselves live in small communities high in the hartwoods and communicate with each other by a network of griffin-mounted Nightriders. While the hartwood is crucial to the crafting of skyships, the elves themselves have very few, and those are usual the smaller sky skiffs manned by no more than five or six.

The Arástavar, and the snow-capped peaks on its southern boundaries, are also home to many tribes of gargoyles who often war with the elves. Their lack of more powerful magics put them at a great disadvantage in these conflicts, and the race often feels persecuted and hunted by the elves.

To the north — beyond Storr’s Haven in the depths of the storm-wracked Thessalan Expanse — rises a shallow maze of rocky reefs and stone pillars known as the Lethren Stacks. It is rumored that this was once an island kingdom that defied the will of Khark, who sunk the land in vengeance and turned its populace to octopus. While the origin is up for debate, there is no question that this region is a bane to shipping and known to harbor those aquatic raiders.

North of the stormy Middlesea lie the islands and rugged coasts of the Einen — fierce dark-skinned warriors and daring sailors of the frozen seas. But even they fear the Kivilim who live beneath the cliffs and snow-capped mountains above the fjords. These are the dwarves of legend, the small, broad, bearded bearers of the secret of steel. Their skill is unmatched, and their greed is nearly as great. They will not share their secrets, but their wares can be had if the price is right. While dwarves can be found in many mortal kingdoms, the working of the Kivilim is held in highest regard. It is said that even the giants bow to their skill.

Next time: Gods of Almeri