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.

Bringing Bugs Back

March 14, 2019 at 6:00 pm

“Not all ants use violence to dominate their world, some use more subtle methods.”

– E. O. Wilson

 

One of the stranger aspects of the original In The Labyrinth book were the Hymenopterans, or “Bugs”. As a kid their inclusion fascinated me. In a game that was so simple there were a ton of different types, and they seemed like a grab bag of insect tropes. Not to mention that they had their own society and complex hierarchy that seemed to have nothing to do with the more typical fantasy of the rest of the creatures.

It was not until years later that I learned that they came from the Metagaming wargame Chitin. This added even more weird details (and a lot of cannibalism), as well as some pretty trippy Jennell Jaquays artwork. I never really made use of them in games, but they always seemed like a big part of the Fantasy Trip.

So, I was pretty disappointed when I saw that there were no bugs at all in the reprinted TFT. Whether it was because of copyright issues or just lack of love for the poor hymenopterans, they ended up on the cutting room floor. To rectify this oversight, I created the Formyx. They are more like ants than the old bugs, and there aren’t as many varieties (sorry, Termagant and Phlanx), but hopefully they are a workable options to fill lost hives in Cidri or wherever your heroes delve.

Formyx

The formyx are a race of hive-dwelling insectile humanoids, greatly resembling upright ants. They are most commonly seem in lush tropical rainforests, but their colonies have been spotted in a variety of temperate environments. Formyx typically use their four rear legs for movement and stability, reserving the front two for manipulating objects and simple tools. A typical Toiler stands four feet tall, with the Martials slightly taller and bulkier. The winged Lancers and Harridans stand roughly six feet, and the massive Dories are easily 12 feet at the shoulder. Their color can very from light tan to deep red and occasionally black, depending on their environment.

Formyx Toilers and Martials have little intelligence and must be guided for the good of the colony. Most groups encountered will have at least one Driver in their number. A Driver can command one lesser formyx for each point of IQ it has within 6 megahexes. This command is absolute, and even if an order is dangerous or suicidal the Driver need only succeed at a 2/IQ test to demand it. If left without a Driver, a lesser formyx will gather what food is available (including fallen comrades) and return to the colony.

Lesser formyx fight with claws and mandibles, while Drivers and Lancers use primitive spears as well. Winged formyx have stingers they can use when striking from above. These creatures secrete a kind of venom that makes these wounds extremely painful. Figures taking hits must succeed at 3/ST save or –2DX from the pain of each wound. This effect is cumulative.

Unlike most ants, formyx colonies do not have queens. Rather, they have a number of fertile females called Harridans that vie for dominance over the colony. There are rarely more than a half-dozen of these crafty, winged females in one place, and when one is forced out they will take an escort of Lancers and set out to found a new colony.

The huge, load-carrying Dories are not formyx at all, but a type of subterranean beetle that has been bred into a kind symbiotic relationship with the colony. They are normally docile, but can be commanded to attack (and even ridden) by Drivers or Harridans. They do double damage with a charge, but must defend on the following round. They can also sweep all their front hexes with their massive horn, taking -2DX for each attack beyond the first.

The motivations of the formyx are alien to other races, and most mind-affecting magic and illusions do not work on them. Even their form of communications is undecipherable, although some have had luck creating a simple sign language with them. They only seem interested in food and expanding their colonies. Those that invade their territory, or live in area claimed by a new colony, learn quickly how aggressive they can be.

Toiler
Encounter Group: 2d
ST: 10
DX: 8
IQ: 6
MA: 10
AD: 1
Damage 1d‒2 (3/ST or -2DX per hit)
These are the workhorses of the formyx colony. While small in stature, they can carry 3 times their ST in Encumbrance.

Martial
Encounter Group: 1d
ST: 12
DX: 12
IQ: 6
MA: 8
AD: 2
Damage: 1d+1 plus Poison (3/ST or -2DX per hit)

Often found accompanying Toilers on gathering missions, the Martials are slightly taller, bulkier and have a heavier carapace. They, too, can carry 3xST in Encumbrance.

Driver
Encounter Group: 1
ST: 6
DX: 10
IQ: 12
MA: 10
AD: 1
Damage 1d‒3 plus Poison (3/ST or -2DX per hit) or javelin (1d-1)

Drivers are the leaders of small traveling groups, and speak for the colony’s goals. They are smaller even than the toilers, but their oversized heads differentiate them. Drivers are known to use Dories as mounts and pack-bearers.

Dory (3 space)
Encounter Group: 1d‒3
ST: 24
DX: 10
IQ: 3
MA: 8
AD: 3
Damage: 2d+2
Talents: Charge

Dories are monstrous beetles used as transport as well as in combat. They have long, horny projections on their heads and can charge for 2x damage.

Lancer
Encounter Group: 1d
ST: 12
DX: 14
IQ: 8
MA: 8/16 Flight
AD: 1
Damage: 1d or sting (1d+2) plus Poison (3/ST or -2DX per hit)
Talents: Fly-by attack

Lancers are winged formyx that accompany harridans when forming colonies. They have a curved stinger in their hind quarters that they can use to dive down and impale enemies as a flying charge for 2x damage. A Lancer is capable of limited independent action, but will always succumb to the Harridan’s commands. An airborne Lancer can make a stinger attack at any point in its movement, and continue to it maximum MA.

Harridan
Encounter Group: 1
ST: 12
DX: 14
IQ: 14
MA: 8/16 Flight
AD: 1
Damage: 1d or sting (1d+2) plus Poison (3/ST or -2DX per hit)
Talents: Fly-by attack

Harridans are the female leaders of former colonies, and constantly work to attain dominance over the others. In addition to its painfulness, a Harridan’s sting will drive all lesser formyx nearby into a berserker rage centered on the victim. Harridans can make fly-by attacks in the same manner as a Lancer.

Playing the race card: Goblins

February 28, 2019 at 7:12 pm

“Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Another less-common race listed as a character race in The Fantasy Trip is the goblin. These are not the rapaciously destructive goblins of the Hobbit, or even the disposable stock adversaries of adventure gaming. The TFT goblins are closer to the Harry Potter mold than Tolkien’s.

According to In the Labyrinth, goblins are short green-skinned humanoids with large noses and long fingers. They are “proud, intelligent, and crafty.” Most notably, a goblin can never go back on his word. That alone is more flavor than the other races listed.

Goblin characters start out with a higher IQ than any other playable race, standard DX and ST just slightly better than halflings. This gives the character a lot of flexibility, but its reputation as the “GM’s bad guys in the labyrinth” is going to follow it. How can we make our craft goblins a little more interesting? Here are a few packages that attempt just that.

Goblins claim (and it might be true) that they were created by the mighty pact demons as servitors, and their forefathers were released from this obligation at the end of their contracted term. The most important (and secret) holy works of the goblins are said to come from the stipulations of this contract. While they do not have to relinquish their souls at death like others bound to the pact demons, they do revere these mighty powers and work to emulate them.

Structure is the critical tenet of goblin philosophy. No success can come without a well-drawn plan, and knowing a foe’s weakness is more important than honing your own strength. A goblin is always true to its word, but word is never given lightly, and it is wise to question even the smallest details when it is given. When forced to fight, goblins prefer ranged attacks or weapons like fire or nets that immobilize or scare off enemies.

 

Rollers

These goblins can be found in small mobile groups or even large caravans roaming civilized lands. They are merchants, tinkers, moneychangers, and sellers of mysteries; bringing goods and special skills to even the smallest hamlet until they move on. Few folks truly welcome them, but they are widely known as excellent craftsmen and reliable merchants. Some people claim that the Rollers are spies for far-distant goblin kings planning to invade their lands.

Rollers freely mingle in other societies, unconcerned about what people think of their green skin or small stature. But they rarely share their true feelings with those they do business with. Goblins listen well, and are not above using what they hear to gain advantage in a negotiation. They believe that other races are thoughtless and gullible, and try to use this to sell them empty dreams or mortgage themselves for false hopes. These tactics have enriched the roller caravans, but leave most communities wary of their motives.

In larger cities stable Roller communities can form, usually centered around banking or specialty crafting (gunpowder and jinxes, below). These goblins are often heavily involved in racketeering and blackmail as well, but even then stand by their word.

Roller Goblin Starting Package: ST9 (+3), DX11 (+3), IQ12 (+2) Hero. Talents: Knife (1), Driver (1), Acute Hearing (2), Recognize Value (1), Streetwise (1), Business Sense (2), Mundane Skill (1-3), and Detect Lies (2). Suggested advancements include Skill Mastery, Assess Value, Writing, or even Pickpocket. While all goblins would be bound by their world (Minor Social drawback), Rollers can often be Greedy as well.

 

Jinxers

This is a uniquely goblin kind of wizard, often found traveling in Roller caravans. They are creators of minor magicks and performers of small miracles — for a price. Jinxers are one of the few groups that claim to know the secrets of black powder. They can repair all manner of tools and devices, and some can even create items and weapons of great power.

Some jinxes claim to be healers, and create elixirs and poultices to treat all manner of ailments. All of them are very secretive about their craft.

Jinxer Goblin (Hero) Starting Package: ST6 (+0), DX12 (+4), IQ14 (+4) Talents: Mundane Talents (1-2), Mechanician (2), Naturalist (2), Physicker (2), Chemist (3), Alchemist (3). Suggested advancements include Master Mechanician, Master Physicker and Expert Naturalist. .

Jinxer Goblin (Wizard) Starting Package: ST6 (+0), DX12 (+4), IQ14 (+4) Talents: Chemist (6), Alchemist (3). Spells: Staff I and II, Repair, Scour, and Explosive Gem. Suggested advancements include Restore Device, Enchant Weapon and Armor, Lesser and Greater Enchant Item, and Dissolve Enchantment. Jinxers commonly have the Secretive drawback, and their experiments can often lead to physical drawbacks (lame, one-hand, poor eyes, etc.).

New IQ 12 Talent: Cryptonaturalist (2) A figure with this talent is familiar with the exotic ingredients needed for chemical formulae and magical items, as well as general knowledge of magical uses for plants and animals. A cryptonaturalist can make a 3/IQ test to determine (a) special items needed for a formula, or (b) the common magical uses of an exotic ingredient. When pressed, a cryptonaturalist can make a 5/IQ test to determine a substitute for an ingredient in a formula or potion, or a 7/IQ test for a substitute ingredient in a lesser or greater magic item.

 

Binders

Following the footsteps of their pact demon forebears, Binders are goblin wizards focused on forcing summoned creatures to their will, and subverting the free will of their enemies. Their magic comes from the power of contracts, and they delight in dominating others. Most being their careers as lawyers, and are encouraged down this path by a secretive hierarchy of superiors.

Beyond collecting magical powers, the Binders (like all the gobbling types, their true titles are not widely known) seek worldly power as well. They use secrets to try an manipulate others, and work through cats-paws and subterfuge whenever they can. If there is an organization that unites the Binders, no one is willing to admit it.

Binder Goblin Starting Package: ST8 (+2), DX11 (+3), IQ13 (+3) Wizard. Talents: Mundane Skill/Lawyer (3). Spells: Staff I and II, Aid, Drop Weapon, Summon Scout, Summon Myrmidon, Persuasiveness, Control Elemental, Control Person and Summon Gargoyle. Suggested advancements include Summon Bear, Pentagram, Unnoticeability, Summon Demon and Create Gate. Binders feel like always need to win, leading to both Vindictiveness and Arrogance and (Minor or Major Psychological Drawbacks).

New IQ14 Spell: Blood Pact. This ritual spell allows the caster to create a magical contract with a willing target. It requires consideration on both sides, but the caster’s requirement is not specific. When complete, the caster spends ST as if casting the Control Person spell (3ST +1ST per additional turn). At any later time, the caster may destroy the contract to enact the spell. The target gets not IQ save unless ordered directly act against their nature (i.e, harm themselves or a love one). If they actions are specified in the contract, the caster need not be in the presence of the target for the spell to take effect.

Playing the race card: Orcs

February 14, 2019 at 9:29 pm

“You must dig swift and deep, if you wish to hide from Orcs. “

— Legolas, Fellowship of the Ring

 

Its an interesting thing that the Fantasy Trip lists goblins and orcs as basic playable races. However, they do even less than the others to make orcs interesting or distinctive. Basically, they are humans with bad attitudes.

The game describes them as similar to primitive men, but potentially with fangs or claws. They don’t seem to have much civilization of their own, but can be bullied or forced into military service by others. This is pretty typical treatment for the orcs, who are usually portrayed as ugly, brutish anti-elves. This definitely fills a niche in most fantasy settings, but what can we do to add some meat to these beefy brutes? Here are a few packages to try on your next orc:

Urkhai

These are the prototypical warrior orcs that most adventuring types will come across. Whether they are part of militaristic raiding tribes that prey on the weak, or enslaved shock troops for a local warlord, battle and bloodshed is all they know. For them, power is derived from strength, and orders are never to be questioned. Bullying and petty violence is a constant reminder to respect the hierarchy, and tormenting the weak is merely a fact of life for them. They are not inherently evil, but a life of constant struggle and scarcity has left little room for empathy.

Crafting and building are not common skills among the Urkhai, and skilled masters are almost unheard of. But they respect and maintain the equipment they do have, and covet the well-made good of others. There is little differentiation between the sexes, and once a child is born it is left for the old and infirm to raise if the mother is still fit for duty. They may fear their overlords and torment their inferiors, but they reserve true hate for the outsiders (basically everyone outside their tribal circle) who keep them cold and hungry. Adventuring urkhai who leave their tribes or troops may have wide range of attitudes about life, but the lessons of early life are difficult to erase and they be volatile and prone to rages.

Urkhai Orc Starting Package: ST14 (+6), DX10 (+2), IQ8 (+0) Hero. Talents: Ax/Mace (2), Brawling (1), Shield (1), Mundane Skill: Menial/Soldier (1), Thrown Weapons (2). Suggested advancements include Carousing, Horsemanship, Pole weapons, and Toughness. While a source of pride, Berserking can be a minor social drawback, as well as Mean.

New weapon: Orc Double Axe (ST14): This unwieldy weapon allows an orc (with the 1-point IQ10 talent) to strike twice in one round for 2d damage. The second attack is at -4DX. An orc with both this talent and two weapon fighting can use all the benefits of the two weapon talent (ITL p.41) with the axe.

Gundarr

These are the wilder cousins of the Urkhai, less disciplined but no less dangerous. They live in deep forests or natural cave networks, building little civilization beyond hunting. gathering, and raiding. While this life might seem harsh and distasteful, the Gundarr believe that this is the best way to live, and that they have been chosen for it. Strength and guile are their most prized attributes, and their tribes are usually led by the best hunters. Occasionally these groups can be recruited as skirmishers and scouts by powerful figures, but they do not have the same respect for order as Urkhai and often prove unreliable.

Gundarr society is filled with rituals, spirits, and portents. They believe that the word is alive with invisible threats that must be appeased, and these same spirits give them the power to prevail over all. Most events — good or bad — are attributed to these spirits. Some say these absolves them from feeling any guilt about their wrongdoings.

Gundarr Orc Starting Package: ST12 (+4), DX10 (+2), IQ10 (+2) Hero. Talents: Sword (2), Bow (2), Thrown Weapons (2), Tracking (2), and Naturalist (2). Suggested advancements include Acute Hearing, Silent Movement, Running, and Lasso. The Gundarr superstition can range from a simple habit to a phobia, and could even lead to Overconfidence.

Skragg

Not as bulky or rangy as some others, the Skragg have learned skills to help them get by in the more civilized areas of Cidri. Rarely are they truly welcome, but the Skragg find a way to make their homes in most cities, eking out a living on the fringes.

They live in extended family groups or small clans, uniting in defense of themselves against all others. They are employed as bodyguards and bouncers, or make their own way as muggers, toughs or sneak thieves. A few learn skills, or salvage and repair cast-offs from others. They seen pathetic to outsiders, but they are as proud as any orc, and are awaiting the day to rise up and claim dominion over all those who try and keep them down.

Skragg Orc Starting Package: ST12 (+4), DX10 (+2), IQ9 (+1) Hero. Talents: Knife (1), Carousing (1), Area Knowledge (1), Alertness (2), Streetwise (1) Silent Movement (2), and Pickpocket (1). Suggested advancements include Detect Traps, Bola, Recognize Value, and Remove Traps. Skraggs are often destitute and prone to poverty, as well as being wanted by the authorities for crimes real or imagined.

Fendi

The ‘ghost orcs’ speak for all the spirits, powers, and restless ancestors that surround all their kind. They feel the spirits’ desires and try to appease their demands to guide the orc tribes to the greatness they are due. Most large orc groups have at least one Fendi, but they rarely gather more than a few in any one location. There are legends of sacred orc pilgrimage destinations that where many ghost orcs gather, but no outsider has ever witnessed such an event. And while their words and rituals are important to the tribes, they are usually treated as outsiders even among their own kind.

Fendi are sensitive to the spirits closest to them, so a forest orc might summon a bear totem while a city-bred Fendi might focus on shadows. But all orcs see them as conduits of greater powers and grant them deference.

Fendi Orc Starting Package: ST9 (+1), DX11 (+3), IQ12 (+4) Wizard. Talents: Priest (2), Knife (2). Spells: Magic Fist, Detect Enemies, Summon Scout, Minor Medicament, Analyze Magic, Persuasion, Pathfinder. Suggested advancements include Detect Traps, BolaB;lur, , Recognize Value, and Remove Traps. Fendi usually have a commitment to the ways f their people, and can be Haunted (minor psychological drawback) by the voices of the spirit world.

New spell: Read Portent (IQ10): This ritual spell allows the caster to use a divining device (runes, cards, entrails, etc.) to get a sense of how the future will unfold. Casting requires one minute and 2ST, and then the GM rolls against the caster’s IQ. Success will give a general idea of the the outcome (positive, negative, or neutral) of as future event within the next hour. Critical success may impart more specific indications, and a critical failure will deliver an incorrect and often dire result. Note that magically enhanced divining devices exist that can add improve the outcome.

If you have an orcish background you’d like to share, or have any ideas on how these concepts could play out on a gaming table, let us know in the comments below.

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.

"Packages" is our in-house terms for collections of Attributes, Talents, Spells, and optional Drawbacks to create a particular type of character. These are not restrictive, and are presented merely as suggested structures for easy, flavorful character building.