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

Falcon’s Reach: Places and people

August 8, 2019 at 7:19 pm

“I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list.”

– Susan Sontag

 

Even a small town is filled with distinctive locations and colorful people. Every corner or back street is populated by secrets, mysteries and the potential for adventure. Or at least that’s the hope when RPG players ride up to a strange, new location. But its not practical to detail every location in every town in your fantasy world. Its a lot simpler to choose a few representative places to give the flavor of a location, and fill in the gaps as needed as the characters explore the new location.

As an exercise, we detailed one location from each of the five boroughs of Falcons’ Reach with descriptions of the structure, the offerings, and the personalities that can be encountered there. Its far from a thorough sampling, but helps to give depth to the village, and can serve as a springboard to finding adventures there.

 

Bucklands: Sambal’s Stumps.

Working-class tavern run by Sambal Sweetbristle. The stumps is simply a covered kitchen and service area with the brewery equipment in the cellar. The rest is open-air covered by seasonal awnings. The furniture (such as it is) is all made form various finished stumps brought in by his customers. Many loggers are quite attached to ‘their’ seats and can get quite protective of them. Beyond the standard draws of a tavern among its hard-working patrons, Sambal is known for his rich, sweet brown ale and his ever-bubbling fish pot.

Sambal is a cheery, russet-haired halfling who favors well-made, simple clothes. He is prosperous, but he still lives in the Bucklands directly across from the Stumps with his wife Lottie and a herd of little Sweetbristles. Sambal is a terrible gossip, and will drop everything to hear a good story or a juicy rumor. He is also willing to overlook a lot of what he calls ‘rowdiness’ in his tavern, and will not call in the guard for anything short of bloodletting or outright theft.


Sambal Sweetbristle, halfling hero. ST8 / IQ13 / DX14 / MA10.
T: Charisma, Business Sense, Detect Lies, Knife, Thrown Weapons, Dagger expertise. D: Gossip (Minor Social).


 

Dunning: The Random Axe.

Just off the crossroads of the High and Amber Roads, its hard to miss the massive broad-bladed axe buried deep into the frame of three-story building. This serves as signpost for the travelers inn and tavern known as the Random Axe. Its common room is large, warm, and bustling, and travelers from across Almeri will attest to its hospitality. The upper floors of the main building have rooms for as many as 16 guests, and the bunkhouse above the stables can sleep 20 more, if they don’t require privacy.

Looming over all of it is the Axe’s proprietor, Gorim Thengarrin. Gorim stands nearly seven-feet-tall, and is rumored to share blood with giants. He is silent on that subject, and is also silent about how and why the oversized axe got buried in the wall. Truth be told, Gorim is silent on a broad range of topics. While he is often quiet, very little in his tavern escapes his attention, and Gorum is privy to most of the secrets of the Reach.

He is dark-skinned and has thick dark hair and beard, and is usually wearing a fresh apron over his homespun clothing. He is fastidious is his preparation and service, and demands his staff adhere to his standards. The severs, almost exclusively female, do not let this detract from their hospitality or the good times had by their customers. The common room is usually a mix of locals and travelers, and is one of the most welcoming places for strangers in town. Gorim keeps a small selection of specialty spirits from a wide range of races and locales for the differing tastes of clientele. He himself is partial to Vassa — a potent, clear liquor that burns like fire — that is distilled by the Einen in the far north.


Gorim Thengarrin, human hero. ST 18 / IQ 11 / DX 12 / MA10.
T: Business Sense, Cook (MT1), Brawling, Axe, Shield, Two weapons. D: Gigantism (Minor Physical).


 

Emperor’s Gate: Quills Guildhall.

Looking more like a temple or a noble’s hall, the headquarters of the Guild of Quills is a tall stone with a high clerestory leaded glass panes. Beyond the entry desk is a wide, open space lined with tables, and walls ringed with bookcases rising nearly 20 feet. The rear of the building is a warren of small cities for copying, paper-making and ink-crafting, as well as losing for visiting guilders. this chamber contains copies of official records, local histories and biographies of its leaders, as well as treatises on local flora and fauna. Guildmembers are free to reference this collection, and employ guild scribes to copy any needed information. Non-guildmembers have to go through Staveholder Leandra Bellcock.

Lady Bellcock is a sturdy woman of late middle-years, and tries to give an air of motherly affection. If treated respectfully, she will be doting and filled with kind words, but is very reluctant to give away access to her collection. She will demand full disclosure from anyone looking to see the archives, and usually gains far more information than she relinquishes. She may seem like a hidebound bureaucrat, but she seeks information to aid in her many plots and schemes throughput the village. She is a master manipulator, and uses her secrets and quickly wits to induce others do her bidding. And while so many need the knowledge she can offer, they continue to do so.

The Guild of Quills is aligned with the Wizards’ Guild, but they are separate, and the wizards work to keep their secret knowledge from her archives. The new, young Staveholder of wizards has little trust for the lady, and the relationship between the two groups is currently strained.


Leandra Bellcock, human wizard, ST8 / DX 14 / IQ 12 / MA10. T: Charisma, Arcanist, Scholar, Diplomacy. S: Clearheadedness, Delete Writing, Image, Lock/Knock, Mage sight, Persuasiveness, Reveal/ Conceal, Staff II (Mana 8), Ward. D: weak eyes


 

Fingers: Brazen Wings.

Named for the wing-like notched V of his maker’s mark, the smithy run by the dwarf Vasara ‘Brazenbeard’ Partauch famous throughout the reach. This is because he is one of the weaponsmiths that has the skills and materials to work in the wizard-coveted bronze. The brazenbeard is a wizard himself, and is closely aligned to the guild. As such, his is reluctant to arm those not approved by its leadership.

Not all of his craft is dedicated to crafting arms for wizards, however. He works in iron and copper as well, and is known for infusing beauty in the function of his work. The front of his shop is cluttered with decorative metalwork, fine tools, and exquisite household goods carefully tended to by his sister Brita. She shares her brother’s honey-gold hair and is as effusive as he is grim.

Weapons and armor sales and commissions are all handled by Vasara himself. He is quite proud of his thick lustrous beard, and protects it in thick scarf when he is at work. He is a dwarf of very few words, and has little patience for chat beyond business. His work is typically 20-30% more than common rates, and is quick to raise prices higher for those who test his patience. One thing that he does indulge in is legends of weapons of power, and is quote curious about the details of their powers and last known locations.

He and Brita live in comfortable chambers on the second and third floors of the shop, and its rumored that he has a collection of magical weapons. It is also rumored that this collection is protected by insidious magical and mechanical traps, and those who attempt to rob the dwarf are never heard from again.


Vasara ‘Brazenbeard’ Partauch, dwarf wizard. ST13 / DX12 / IQ14 / MA8. T: Master Armourer, Assess Value, Lore. S: Fire3, Staff III (Mana 6) Repair, Stone flesh, Weapon/Armor enchantment. D: Obsessivev (minor psychological).


 

Notch: Kaiman’s Lines.

Even among the scaffolds and cables rising about the Notch, the rough-hewn hartwood spires of Kaiman’s stands above them all. Odder still, are the gargoyles flitting about their highest platform. Kaiman’s crew are some of the most sought-after lineman and riggers in the logging business. Her clan are native to the Arastavar, and know many of its secrets.

Persecuted and hunted by the elves, Kaiman and her flight hate the control that the elf-lords have over the hartwood stands, and its rumored that they have even assisted poachers’ logging operations. They care little more for humans, but will stand by their contracts and will do honest labor in exchange for their precious gemstones. Kaiman’s office is an open-roofed structure situated at the base of four massive posts, with several platforms rising above it. When not traveling, her flight next on these platforms and in chambers hollowed out from the huge spires.


Kaiman, timberland gargoyle hero. ST13 / DX12 / IQ10 ? MA 8 or 16. T: Logging (MT1), Rigging (MT2), Thrown Weapons, Axe, Business sense, Literacy, Common language. D: Loyal (to flight).


 

New creature : Timberland Gargoyles
ST12 / DX12 / IQ8 / MA8 or 16 / AD 2
These lighter cousins of mountain gargoyles make their lairs in the tops of tall trees. They have adapted to blend into this environment and it takes 4/IQ to spot a hidden gargoyle in forest canopy. The inner surface of their wings is mottled dark green, and they grow branching antlers as they age.Their grey-brown hides are not tough as their kin, and only stop 2 hits, and their claws do 2d-2 damage. They are more dextrous than the mountain varieties and are known to use tools, snares, and other tricks when hunting. In fact, their highly-flexible tails can hold and utilize tools or even daggers (-4DX to hit rear hexes).

They share the gargoyle’s love of gems and shiny objects, and have been known to accept short-term work with other races. However, their competition for territory and resources often puts them at odds with elves, who they look at as weak and untrustworthy.

Next up: Beyond the reach

Local Flavor

July 23, 2019 at 5:25 pm

“You don’t outgrow where you come from.”

– Brian Fallon

 

Now that we’ve painted the broad strokes off a new world, and placed it in the wider stream of the Cidrian Shards, lets get up close and personal.

The most important place in a campaign world for most players is their starting point. Its the closest thing to ‘home’ in their wandering lives, and its the easiest place to build personal connections and add color and depth to their backgrounds. Its also a place where a GM can take the broader themes of a campaign and bring them down to human scale and literally put a face on them.

For all the majesty and scale of epic fantasy, the best heroes know its not over until they return to the Shire or Winterfell.

 

Home-making

For these reasons and more (look here for our previous discussion of village-building), its important to make the home region small enough that characters can become important, but large enough to hide secrets and provide opportunities for adventure. We’re calling ours Falcon’s Reach.

Falcon’s Reach is a prosperous village of 5,000 souls found on a wide stretch of the Tien River as it breaks free of the great wooded lands of the Arástavar before it once again scatters into the swampy delta morass known as the Tangles on its way to the sea. For generations, it has been a gathering place for the staggeringly tall hartwood loggers of the elves to trade with the clever merchants and shipbuilders of the human folk.

The Reach is a crossroads for many cultures of Almeri and more open to diversity than other villages of its size. Officially, it is one of the westernmost provinces of the ancient Venetine empire but its distance from the capital gives them more autonomy than most. Only the protection of its shipping fleet and defending against the rising aggression of the godless realm of Sycorax justifies any imperial military presence in the region.

Even the defense of the Cut — the deep channel carved through the Tangles marshland — has been ceded to the local Watchwardens. 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 defense gives way on the coast where the Venetine garrison based in Storr’s Haven keep control the traffic and ensure that tariffs are fully enforced. Not to say that the Wardens deep knowledge of the Tangles have ever aided a merchant to avoid unnecessary imperial attention.

The village itself spans an open, slow-moving portion of the Tien just upriver of the shallow Lake Ishgan. The high eastern bank is where primary residential and commercial districts are. The low western bank is dominated by log yards, saw mills, and the camps of the log drivers. Even in the hightown, most buildings are wooden beyond the first floor. Most streets are cobbled and waste runs down side channels to underground sewer that empty deep in the river.

Local Spotlight: Almeri Guilder

One of the largest power blocs in Falcon’s Reach — in fact most of Ameri — are its many guilds. These organizations serve the needs of their members in internal conflicts like standardizing measures or quality controls, and protects their interests against governments and other guilds. Guilds are notoriously political, and members spend as much time fighting within factions as promoting their goals.

A guilder’s talents are dependent on their specialty (such as tanning, heraldry, or fighting), but a member must have at least one relevant skill. Other important talents include literacy, business sense, and diplomacy. Recommended advances would include mastery in their chosen field, courtly graces, and detection of lies.

New Talent: Authority (U)
Cost: 2
Type: Professional
The figure is affiliated with a group (militia, religious order, guild, or other organization) that wields power in the campaign world. This affiliation gives them +1 reaction to those who recognize their group’s authority, and +2 to others within the same group. Authority may also grant other benefits within the group like access to information or the ability to call on allies.

While a few of the guildhouses and the Pentarchs’ Hall have towers that rise to hundreds of feet to show their prominence, most structures in the Reach are less then three storeys. There are a few broad avenues that separate the sections of the town, but most streets are narrow and winding.

 

In the ‘hood

There is a rampart wall that circles the garrison keep, the legate’s manor and the shops and residences of the elite in the quarter known as Emperor’s Gate. Its named the imposing gatehouse that guards that looms over the eastern edge of the Nixie bridge. There is a wooden stockade on the edge of the village, but it is rarely manned.

Between the wall and the river bluff is the Fingers, the commercial heart of Falcon’s reach. Here, forest and fair products are exchanged for finished goods from the empire and beyond. Most of the Reach’s nonhuman residents live here, and this is where the best travelers’ accommodations can be found. Named for the twisting streets that branch off the high road.

Further upriver toward the Amber roads is the Notch. The river bluff here is commanded by the cables and towlines that run to the Bucklands log yards below. Many timber workers call the Notch home, as do those who make their living serving them.

Back across the high road is Dunning, home to the working poor of Falcon’s reach, and those who wrest their income from the land. This is a neighborhood of low-lying houses, small farming patches, livestock, and laborers. The High road and Amber road are lined with shops, inns, and warehouse, but most of the commerce beyond these takes place in cramped front rooms or crossroad markets.

Leaving on the Bucklands across the river. The towers and cable lines of the four large mills dominate the landscape here. Beyond lie the boarding houses, brothels, inns, and encampments of the logging men that are the lifeblood of the Reach. The garrison guard do not regularly patrol the muddy lanes of the Bucklands, but the ‘brotherhood’ of loggers keep their now swift justice. These enforcers are supported by the millers, and few question their authority. Bucklanders are open and inviting to their own, or those who can carry themselves in the wood, but have little patience for outsiders or those who claim authority over them.

The nominal ruler of Falcon’s is the Imperial Legate Morthus Durnae. He is primarily a military man, and meddles little in the common affairs of the people. He is, however, ambitious and is ever on the lookout for ways to make a name for himself at court. The true power lies in the council of staveholders, or the guildmasters of Falcon’s Reach. This group of nine prosperous merchant leaders, craftsmen, scholars, and wizards spend a lot of their time scheming against one another, but without them the city would unravel. Beyond the annual imperial levy, the Staves are even responsible for funding civic services, the constables, and even the Watch-wardens.

 

From beyond

A year ago on a moonless night, there was a terrible tremor that cracked foundations and shattered glass throughout the Reach. Following that, a strange haze could be seen in the woods southwest of the city. The watch responded, and a group set out to see what had happened. Only three miles outside the walls they came upon a huge black obelisk half-buried in the earth amidst broken trees and smoldering underbrush. The visible projection rose at least 200-feet in the air on a strange angle. In the morning the staveholder of arms — Luchan Alder — led a small force into the haze to investigate the object. Hours later there was a bright red flash, and then nothing. In the intervening months the mists have settled and the first burned out, but no credible information has been learned about the obviously artificially constructed edifice commonly known as the Smoldering Spire. Even those with contacts among the goblins of the Underneath have learned nothing beyond the shaft continues deep into crystalline caverns that honeycomb Almeri’s core.

Up next: Notable people and places of Falcon’s Reach

Upbringing, a talent variant for new characters in TFT

June 27, 2019 at 7:35 pm

“Everything depends on upbringing. ”

― Leo Tolstoy

 

A lot of players when creating new characters for TFT will diligently balance and maximize their attributes and talents to get the most benefits for every one of their choices. But very often you simply end up with “Swordo the Swordsmen — master of swords’, which might not be the most interesting figure to role-play.

On the other hand, its not always easy to spend points on secondary talents that make a character more interesting and fleshed-out rather than an important combat skill or extra spell.

Inspired by the Secondary Skills chart in the old AD&D Player’s Handbook, we built a quick low-cost system to give characters background flavor and capabilities. We call it ‘upbringing’ and it reflects how the character was raised, and they environment they grew up around. Upbringing can either be chosen or rolled randomly, and cost one IQ point at character creation. Alternatively, they could be given out as a free benefit to all PCs when they are made, or used in combination with minor drawbacks.

Simply, upbringing gives a narrative backdrop to the PCs youth, and gives them familiarity in two talents related to that upbringing. Familiarity is less thorough than any talent, and only gives smattering of knowledge and experience on the subject. Tests with familiarity must be rolled with one extra die, and automatic affects require a 3-die roll. For example, a figure with the Entertainer upbringing who wants to improve their Reaction roll would have to succeed at a 3/IQ test. The listings below are a sampling of common upbringings, and GMs and players should feel free to expand this list with their own creations.

To randomly pick a figure’s upbringing, roll one die twice. The first die is the broad category of the figure’s history, and second die would a more specific aspect of that category. Note that highly specialized histories — like prince of the realm or mysterious foundling — are not part of this these tables and would have to recreated uniquely by the player.

Roll 1d for the upbringing category
1. Crafter
2. Clerk
3. Hustler
4. Cultivator
5. Trader
6. Traveler
Then roll 1d for the specific upbringing
1. Artist1. Acolyte1. Beggar1. Farmer1. Apothecary1. Bandit
2. Carpenter2. Apprentice2. Burglar2. Fisher2. Entertainer2. Nomad
3. Mason3. Merchant3. Charlatan 3. Forester3. Grocer3. Drover
4. Jeweler4. Retainer4. Courtesan4. Hunter4. Innnkeeper4. Sailor
5. Smith5. Scribe5. Gambler5. Miner5. Tailor5. Soldier
6. Tanner6. Official6. Pickpocket6. Trapper6. Stabler6. Teamster

 

Crafter upbringings

Crafters were raised around artisans or skilled workers. Whether it was family businesses, or they were apprenticed in their youth, they assisted craftsmen before they chose a life of adventure.

Artists gain familiarity in any one artistic mundane talent like painting, sculpture or calligraphy. The congenial lifestyle of most artistic types and the social nature of their business also gives them familiarity with Carousing.

Carpenters are familiar with the mundane talent of Carpentry, and they know the fundamentals of Architect/builder for wooden buildings.

Masons have familiarity with the mundane talents stonecutting or bricklaying, and they too have an understanding of the basics of Architect/Builder fora stone constructions.

Jewelers are familiar with the mundane talent of jewelry making, as well as familiarity in recognizing the value of jewelry, games or precious metals.

Smiths apprentices would have been given basic familiarity with metalsmithing, and a simple understanding of the armourer talent.

Tanners gain familiarity with mundane leatherworking, was well as the basic chemistry of the process of treating skins.

Clerk upbringings

Clerk upbringings entail growing up around the procedures and paperwork of a professional, or at least non-laborer, environment.

Acolytes are functionaries and unsanctified workers in a temple. They would be given familiarity in Literacy, and the Priestly duties of at least their church.

Apprentices serve the worldly needs of wizards and other magical professionals. They gain familiarity with the workings of magic , and basic literacy.

Merchants have many assistants and retainers. Those who grew up around them would have the fundamentals of Business Sense, and familiarity with Detecting Lies.

Retainers are the household staff of the nobility, the wealthy and the powerful. The gain familiarity with the mundane Servant talent, and familiarity with the basic of courtly graces.

Scribes serve the paperwork needs of any complex society. This upbringing would provide familiarity with Literacy as well as writing.

Officials execute the will of those in power, other collecting taxes, enforcing laws, or simply announcing judgements. This would give one in this environment familiarity with Literacy and basic diplomacy.

Hustler upbringings

These upbringings are those who live on the fringes of society, making their way by means that are less than socially acceptable. Growing up this way may not always lead to a life of crime, but it would give you a better understanding of those that do.

Beggars survive by generosity of others, and learn many tricks to maximize this generosity. This upbringing give a figure familiarity with streetwise, as well as the basics of either charisma or disguise.

Burglars take what they need, and hope to get away clean. Growing up around them would teach a figure familiarity with detecting traps, as well as recognize value.

Charlatans are con-men, grifters, fortune-tellers or petty frauds. This life would give familiarity with streetwise, and the basics of the charisma it takes to live this way.

Courtesans trade in flesh, and can be experts in manipulating desire. This kind of upbringing would make a figure familiar with sex appeal, along with the customs of carousing.

Gamblers may seem to deal in chance, but truthfully they seek to minimize it. Those brought up around them are familiar with basics of most games of chance and how to cheat at them, and the alertness required to spot cheating in others.

Pickpockets need a light touch and a quick getaway. This would giver one familiarity with the pickpocket talent, and the street-wisdom to always know where the escape routes are.

Cultivator upbringings

The cultivators makes their living off the land, seas, and waterways of the world. Whether they till the4 land or hunt whatever nature provides, their lives are entangled with their environment. And those who grow up that way are shaped by it.

Farmers tame the land and nurture their crops to harvest. Those raised this way ate familiar with the mundane talent of farming, as wall as the basics of naturalist.

Fisherfolk ply the waters in search of they daily catch. They have familiarity with the fishing talent and are comfortable around boats.

Foresters work in logging and the related areas of woodcutting and firewood gathering. This upbringing gives you familiarity with woodcutting and area knowledge of the forest lands.

Hunters chase wild beasts and bring them down. Growing up this way teaches you the basics of naturalists as well as familiarity with tracking beasts in the wild.

Miners pull resources from deep in the earth. Living around these folks would give you familiarity with mundane mining skills and basic understanding of climbing and traveling about underground excavations.

Trappers also hunt wild animals, but they use snares and other methods to capture the beasts. This upbringing would make you comfortable with the area knowledge of your hunting areas, and teach you the basic principles of trap-making and setting, like the mechanician talent.

Trader upbringings

Traders may not be makers or harvesters, but they are lynchpin of society. They connect the producers to those that need their products. They not only need to know about what they are selling, but they need to understand their customers.

Apothecaries provide means to treat ailments and treat injuries. This upbringing would give a figure familiarity with basic chemistry and as well the ability to understand uses of plants in the making of medicines.

Entertainers bring happiness to people through song, stories, dance, or any number of performances. Growing up around them would teach you basic bard skills, along with familiarity with the carousing that usually accompanies performances.

Grocers provide foodstuffs to their customers, whether it is meat, vegetables, bread or even beer. A grocer would gain familiarity with a mundane talent related to their trading specialty, as well as a basic business sense.

Innkeepers provide hospitality to travelers and comfort to locals alike. This environment would teach familiarity with the skills need to manage an inn, as well as understanding of the carousing that goes on in such places.

Tailors provide clothes and costumes for elite. Being brought up around them would give you familiarity with the mundane tailoring talent, and a foundation in courtly graces to deal with such a clientele.

Stablers care for beasts the way innnkeepers care for their customers. They gain familiarity with animal handling and either horseman or driver. In areas where the horse is not the dominant mount, substitute an appropriate handling talent.

Traveler upbringings

Travelers may not always live on the fringes of society, but often between societies. Moving from place to place gives them a unique perspective on wherever they find themselves.

Bandits lurk in the wild spaces, looking to take advantage of those passing through. They gain familiarity with area knowledge of their chosen hunting ground and recognize value for the booty they claim.

Nomads are always on the move, and rely on the land for their survival. Growing up like this gives you the basics of naturalist, as well as any one physical talent (running, swimming, climbing, etc.) related to their base environment.

Drovers tend the herds and drive livestock to their markets. This upbringing would teach you basic animal handling and knowledge of your native grazing areas.

Sailors ply the seas to move cargo or wage war. Growing up aboard ships would give you familiarity with seamanship as well as basic swimming ability.

Soldiers protect their lands or work to take the lands of others, whether as mercenaries or standing armies. Being raised with soldiers would give you familiarity with one weapon, and a basic understanding of tactics.

Teamsters move cargo from place to place to their final destinations. They gain familiarity with the driver talent, along with area knowledge of their routes.

A shard to call home

June 22, 2019 at 5:06 pm

“As the daydreams grew longer, the distinction between what was real and what was imaginary grew less. Soon I existed in a blissful world of my own creation.”

― Fennel Hudson

In our last entry we introduced the Cidrian Shards, a vast number of worlds floating in a rarified space around a central star. This benighted void, known as the Scintillance, is all that remains of what was once a single world and was somehow broken in ages past. Only dragons and the intrepid sailors of the sky ships call the Scintillance home, and all the other people claim one shard or another as their own.

Let’s take a look at one such shard. One that is large enough to provide adventure, but not so huge that a character would feel insignificant. One with secrets of its own, and opportunities for players to carve their own paths to glory and power. We call this place Almeri.

Of all the shards drifting through the Scintillance, Almeri is far from the most distinctive. It is smallish, measuring only 4,000 miles on the equator and maybe twice that on its egg-shaped axis. Nor is it one of the most visited locations. In fact, it seems little noticed by those who traverse the Void and almost unheard of by those who frequent the Gates the connect so many worlds.

Its isolation may be one of the most distinctive features of the Almeri shard. That, and the abundance of sturdy, lightweight Hartwood trees that tower over the landscape in many of its temperate regions. It is this wood — molded to the dragon-bone core — tat form the decking and hulls of most of the skyships that ply the Scintillant seas.

Another major feature of Almeri is the Thessalan Expanse, commonly known as the Middlesea, that encompasses the entire shard around its midsection. This wide-open waterway splits the world between north and south, and with no landmass to slow their progress is prone to large, violent storms that lash its coastlines.

The major continent is also known Almeri and it lies south of the equatorial band. Most of the shard’s inhabitants are here, as are the major political powers. The mighty Venetine Empire holds sway over much of the land, although its power and control have been fading from weak-willed emperors and factional in-fighting over the past centuries.

While the Venetii falter, others rise to claim their lands. The wizards of Sycorax — the godless realm — have seemingly stopped their endless squabbling and have begun challenging the Endless Empire on its western fringes. While to their south, their borders are threatened by the wild Uglauth tribes.

The elves of the vast Arástavar control the harvest of the Hartwood, and maintain tight control over advancements not their lands. While not aggressive, their formidable skyships and strike teams of griffin-riders defend their borders with impunity. They willingly trade with the lands of men, but they do not give up their secrets easily.

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.

Beneath the surface of Almeri lies the Shadowrealm of the goblins. There are three monstrous cavern complexes known to surface-dwellers, but the crystalline interior ways is a secret known only to the goblins and their ogre slaves. Some goblin groups live quite close to the surface — and the strength of their word makes them values trading partners — but little love is loss between these two worlds.

Next: Up close and personal

On the first day…

June 13, 2019 at 3:58 pm

“Just remember life is all an illusion…..it’s your creation and you can dismantle it and re-create at will.”

Nanette Mathews

Now that we’ve had the chance to get reacquainted with the Fantasy Trip again, we at the ‘aerie were looking for new ways to tell epic stories and stage great adventures with these rules. The background material from ‘In The Labyrinth’ is a start, but we wanted something a little more distinctive for our new setting.

Further, we wanted to break out of our own creative comfort zone and not revisit the ideas that inspired the countless fantasy games we’ve ran since the first Fantasy Trip hit game store shelves. So, we turned to fantastic illustrator and friend of the ‘Aerie Billy Beuthien and asked for some drawings that he thought might make for an interesting world.

This is what he sent:

We’ve got massive trees and towers, flying ships, bird mounts, goblins on spiders, and enough bizarre details to fuel our nightmares for weeks. in other words, a great starting spot. We are also going to (loosely) follow Patricia C. Wrede’s world-building questionnaire as an outline. So come along as we play god and spin a world from our (and Billy’s) imagination, and feel free to chime in and your ideas into the mix.

Welcome to the Cidrian Shards.

1. The Concept

The Cidrian Shards are less a world than a stream of worlds, bobbling along in a celestial current in glittering space. It is said that the shards were once all one world, built by a long-vanished race. But either time or strife broke this world apart and left its shards swirling in the void.

Some shards are truly massive, the size of our own Earth, while others are no more than islands. Between them is the Scintillance — rarefied space of swirling mists, glittering crystal radiances, and the lairs of the night dragons. Few dare ply the currents of the Scintillance, but the sails of the skyships or sweeping wings of gryphons can sometimes be seen in the skies.

The Scintillance itself is a band circling a central star. It is not the true void of space, but holds a thin atmosphere and even a small amount to gravity. Objects in the Scintillance will ‘fall’ toward the nearest substantial shard or, barring that, toward the star itself. Shards do not all share the same orbit, or even the same point along the Scintillance. Some race through at speed seemingly dart between slower objects, while others continue at a ponderous pace as if they are locked in place.

Each world is distinct, and may not even be aware of others outside of shimmering points in the sky. Each is unique, and they are widely varied in climate. culture, and geography. But there are some aspects shared by most. Their gravity, while similar to the reader’s world, is limited to the surface and below, and dissipates quickly as you rise above the ground. At 100 feet up you will feel noticeably lighter, and by 500 feet gravity is less than half. This allows for the growth of massive vegetation and the raising of dizzyingly tall towers. It also allows for creatures of great bulk to fly with only limited magical assistance. Rocs, manticores, and other monstrous flying creatures lair in these huge trees and other high places to make use of lighter gravity, and the sky ships moor atop lofty towers to aid their left.

In addition, many of the shards are all but hollow, honeycombed with caves and passages that open into massive crystal spaces that open like underground plains and seas. These have become home to goblins and other creatures that abhor the light.

If there is true power over the shards, it is held by the Keepers, wizards who use ancient Gates to travel between worlds and extend their will by force or trade. The Keepers hoard knowledge as well as power, and know many secrets of the past.

Next time: A world to call home.

Knight of the Iguana: Playable reptile men for TFT

May 23, 2019 at 3:57 pm

“I am the Lizard King. I can do anything.”

— Jim Morrison

 

One of things that always drew me to the Fantasy Trip was its flexibility. Heroes with spells? Check. Wizards with broadswords or healing skills? No problem. So I was a little disappointed when the player races in the new revision removed the reptile man from the list. So let’s take a look at how we can make the reptile-folk a fair player race, and a few ways to make them even more interesting.

 

Reptile Rules

Not to obsess about ‘game balance’, but it would be difficult to compare the TFT reptile man as written with a typical starting character. The statistics are equal, but the reptile man gains +2 damage for its claws, DOUBLE the HTH damage, and an extra attack for their tail. The only offset is a -1 reaction penalty.

If we use the Drawback system outlined here, we can give them Outsider (minor social hindrance) to reflect how society sees them. And since they are cold-blooded, we could make them Vulnerable to cold (minor physical hindrance) to better offset their other advantages.

New Racial Drawback: Vulnerability (minor physical) reflects that a figure has a particular weakness to a particular element. All effects (attacks or environmental) form, this element are doubled, and the figure seeks to being in its presence. For example, a figure vulnerable to cold would take twice the damage from cold-based attacks and face twice the ST loss from being exposed in a cold environment without the Woodsman talent. Particularly common vulnerabilities (like fire or steel) should be considered major Drawbacks.

This would better offset the benefit of the +2 damage with their claws. One could also argue that merely having long claws could give you the All-Thumbs (minor handicap) Drawback.

As far as their other combat abilities, we can use a variation of Unarmed Combat, using the Kick rules for the tail attack, but only for side and rear hexes.

New Racial Talent (IQ 9): Natural Weapon Training (2) This is the ability to use the saurian’s claws and tail as effective combat weapons. A figure with this skill can:

  • Claw. Does +1 damage with bare hands in either HTH or regular combat. If their base bare-hands damage is 1d-1, they do 1d. This stacks with the +2 claw bonus.
  • Tail swipe. In regular combat, roll to hit at -4 DX, but do +2 damage compared to your bare-hands attack to an enemy in a side or rear hex. If used along with another attack, both attacks are at -4 DX.

This stacks with other unarmed combat talents, but does not require the figure to be unarmored in itself.

 

Scaled Society

The saurians are a race apart from most of the peoples of the world. They share little with their small, soft colleagues and care about them little more. Early saurian history was plagued by violence and warfare, with no check on the naturally aggressive nature of the species. This kept them primitive and desperate in a constant struggle to survive.

This changed with the arrival of the philosopher Xi and his ‘Path of Shifting Stones’, which taught the saurians to question before acting. Following the Path has transformed a primal, rapacious people into a thoughtful and disciplined one, and has greatly increased their contact with other races.

The main tenets of the Path is internal discipline and examining the repercussions of an action before taking it. This also involves meditation and precise movement drills designed enhance internal balance. Outwardly, this makes the saurians appear slow, distracted and unconcerned with the small matters of the day. But do not confuse this with indecision, because once committed a saurian will follow a course to its conclusion regardless of opposition.

Nor has this completely reined in their natural aggression. A saurian may lash out against assaults to its possessions, or even its pride, with a violence few others can match.

Saurians are largely solitary, and their communities are often little more than trading camps. Their technology is not up to the level of other races, but they are quite gifted at wringing every bit of value out of their environment. Their weavers, herbalists, fishers, and hunters have secrets unrivaled by more civilized peoples.

They have also mastered the use of volcanic obisidian in tool- and weapon-making. These extremely sharp weapons do an additional +1 damage, but will be unrepairable broken on a roll of 17 or 18. Saurian Sha-ken are widely sought out by all.

The typical saurian stands 7-feet tall and is covered in green and mottled brown scales similar to the colors of its home environment. There is little difference between the sexes, but the males have a larger crest on their heads that can be brightly colored, or ornamented with gems. Couplers share the duties of child-rearing, but once a saurian has matured (in 5-7 years) the couples usually separate and leave the offspring to fend for themselves. The Path teaches that these bonds must be respected, but there is little family life beyond maturity.

Saurian Starting package (Hero)
ST12 (+0), DX10 (+2), IQ11 (+2) Talents: Natural Weapon Training (2), Thrown Weapons (2), Sha-ken (1), Common Tongue (1), Toughness (2), Naturalist (2) . Suggested advancements include Woodsman, Climbing, Unarmed Combat II-V.

Saurian Specialists

Some reptile men have adapted to their environment in very specific ways. While not entirely different species, these regional variations can provide interesting flavor to reptilian encounters.

Guarrans are hardy, heavily-scaled saurians from dry steppes and desert lands. Dun-colored and covered in thick plates, their hides act as AD1 against attacks and they can go twice as long without water before losing ST. Their MA is only 8.

Varani are smaller, quick-moving saurians adapted to forests and wetlands. They gain the climbing talent for free, and can use their tongues as keen senses even in total darkness. The Varani are the most social of the saurians and have been known to hunt in packs. Their starting ST is 10.

Khamm’do are the largest of the saurians, and are found in the most fetid swampy regions. They are primitive even by saurian standards, and rarely use tools or weapons at all. They use their fearsome jaws in combat (-2DX to hit, ST-2 damage), and their bite is painfully poisonous. Those bitten must succeed in 3d/ST save or lose -2DX for one day or until treated by a physicker. In addition to their bite, the khamm’do are also extremely foul-smelling.

In the shade: Digging up the octopus’ garden

March 28, 2019 at 3:57 pm

“The fact that three-fifths of an octopus’ neurons are not in their brain, but in their arms, suggests that each arm has a mind of its own.”

–– Sy Montgomery

Another of the most distinctive creatures from the Fantasy Trip is the Octopus — fierce, sword-wielding cephalopods that can move upright on dry land. But beyond “greedy, dishonest, and cowardly” and a taste for treasure and human flesh, we get very little to flesh out what could be a creepy and dangerous enemy. Which, we like to think is more an opportunity than a problem.

So let’s take a crack at adding a little more flavor to these killer calamari.

Real-world octopus are extremely adaptive creatures, even capable of rewriting their own genetic code to adjust to changing conditions. Perhaps their fantastic counterparts are even more flexible, ranging from the deep oceans to marshy wilderness, ripe for interaction with delving heroes.

Let’s aside the truly aquatic octopus for now, although its easy to imagine coral-fashioned fortresses filled with clever octopus wizards and protected by massive eight-legged guards. But we might come back for them in a deeper discussion of underwater adventuring.

Land ho

Land-based octopus are amphibious, hunting on land but returning to the water with their catch to recover. It is thought that prolonged exposure to the open air has turned them into a degenerate version of their kind, lacking in some of the intelligence and subtlety of ocean-dwelling octopi.

An octopus is usually a solitary hunter, only mingling with others of its kind for mating. But with proper conditions and a plentiful food source, a dozen or more octopus have been known to combine into a ‘consortium’. These communities are often volatile and short-lived, as competition for supremacy or resources can turn violent quite quickly. Females dominate these groupings, with the more-aggressive males hunting and protect the nest. Octopuses have no compunction against eating their own, and devouring a rival is the supreme show of dominance.

Talk to the tentacle

Octopus do not have a spoken language, but communicate by shifting the colors and patterns of their skin. This is augmented in personal communication with gestures and intertangling their tentacles. Very few outsiders have been able to decipher even the rudiments of the octopus language, but it is widely known that flashing dark colors and rising up to loom over other creatures is a threatening stance.

It is interesting to note that they do have their own form of magic that has practiced through gestures and creating shifting magical patterns on their skins. This kind of spell-casting is always silent. Transferring spells with octopi wizards has not been successful, although they are quite capable of using magical items created for humans or other races.

Tools and trade

In fact, it does not seem that the amphibious octopi have any level of craftsmanship of their own. Their nests are usually natural formations of flooded constructions, with only minor modifications made by their inhabitants. They have no woodwork, pottery, or metal-smithing. However, octopus seem quite clever about utilizing the tools of others, and are eager to collect and use the tools of others.

This seems particularly true when it comes to weapons and armor. Octopus seem quick to understand and make us of swords, spears, axes, shields, and even bows and crossbows. Frighteningly, and octopus can throw twice the number of shaw-ken per round at the same DX penalty with their many tentacles.

One weapon that they have been loathe to take up is fire. Octopus fear flames, and will not use torches, molotails, or even black powder weapons.

The octopus’ desire for tools and weapons is the reason for most non-violent contact between the reclusive creatures and other races. While it usually frowned on to trade weapons to such violent creatures, some merchants care more about gold than the safety of travelers. Octopus have also been contracted to perform tasks (usually raising or killing) in exchange for weapons, but they care little about the words of grass-walkers and are unreliable partners.

In addition to the strength of their tentacles, the octopus’ suckers release a paralytic poison. It can not be transferred to weapons or get passed through an unarmed attack, but if a person is unlucky enough to be enveloped by an octopus, the poison may spell its doom.

Special attack: Paralytic grasp. If an octopus engages in HTH combat with a non-octopus, it may try to pin the enemy in its many tentacles. If they succeed, the victim must make a 3/ST save against paralytic poison that seeps from its suckers. Failure causes -2ST to escape the pin. This poison will continue to affect the figure each round, and if the victim falls to 0ST, they are completely helpless. This tactic is usually combined with dragging a pinned enemy underwater in hopes of quickly drowning them.

Alternative Octopi

Marshstalker. This breed of octopus has perfected the use of their color-shifting ability to provide camouflage in their swampy hunting grounds. In this environment, the octopus can remain unnoticed unless the viewer is actively searching for enemies and makes 3/IQ roll. They can evade pursuit as if they they had the Stealth Talent. Marshstalkers are gifted climbers as well, and like to lie in wait in trees, dropping on unsuspecting prey to pin them, while still being able to attack with a free hand weapon.

Noctopus. Lurking in murky waters and drains below the city streets, these sneaky octopus (also known as ‘gutter wraiths’) have adapted perfectly to their dark and fetid domain. They are deep black, mottled with the colors of mold and ooze, and are nearly invisible in the sewers. Even an active observer would need to make a 3/IQ test to see a noctopus slink by. They hoard items that have fallen into the sewers, and occasionally trek into the upper world to retrieve an object that catches their attention. Boneless, they can squeeze through nearly any opening and bypass most locks and then disappear back into the drain — leaving the theft untraceable. They have also adapted their defensive ink into a fine airborne mist that act as the Shadow spell in their hex and each surrounding hex once per day. This mist lasts for 1d rounds, and is usually used to cover the noctopus’ escape. There are many known instances of noctopus wizards as well, ruling over smaller creatures who live in the depths.

Puppeteer, or Deathshroud octopus. This very rare type is perhaps the most dangerous of the land octopi. They are smaller, rarely over four-feet long, and are mottled blue and gray. If a puppeteer octopus attacks a victim’s head — either with a -6DX attack or by pinning its foe and making them helpless — it will use its strong poison (4/ST or paralyzed) to disable them and burrow into its head cavity. After 10 full rounds, the creature’s body is stretched over what was what they head, and several of its tentacles are deep within the corpse. From there, it can command the body as if it was its own, using its movement, fine muscle control, and even its voice. A puppeteer usually will not keep a body from than two weeks, as this control does not stop the host from decomposing.

Arcanist — IQ10 Cost: 2 Prerequisites: Literacy

This is the knowledge of the mechanics and theories of magic. Figures with this talent can read magical tomes and understand magical concepts. While it does not confer spellcasting ability, it allows a figure to recognize spells being cast or persistent visible spell affects. The check is 3/IQ, but spells over IQ 14 add –1adjIQ to the test for each point above 14.