The 9P sample setting of Spyragia is overseen by its Creator. The Creator has plans for the world. These plans are wise and inevitable. Yet the Creator desires the chocies made by others to change the pace and manner in which these plans unfold.
Because the Creator wants nine specific themes to have extra significance and intentionality, he created the nine immortal Powers and gave them dominions. Every Power:
• builds dungeons to protect treasure and offer challenge to bold adventurers
• sponsors contests to reward exemplifying their values
• chooses champions to represent them
• gives gifts to those who faithfully please them
• creates monsters to serve them
• grants wondrous feats to some followers
Thus these nine Powers help make the world ripe for adventuring through what they oversee: dungeons and temples, heroes and villains, monsters and secret societies, artifacts and quests.
It is simplest to read these rules about dominions in order and before reading about the Powers. Try reading this page first, before following any of its links.
A dungeon is any self-contained adventure location.
The 9P sample setting of Spyragia has nine dungeon types, corresponding to the nine Powers.
Adventure stories in a dungeon typically use different types of resource management than adventures that happen in a town or city. Before exploring a dungeon, a hero or heroing usually plans carefully what equipment to bring: the PC prepares in advance by spending wealth on special items that cannot be replaced while inside the dungeon. In contrast, an urban adventure usually has no tension regadring equipment but involves planning about which people or places to go to: the order of these visits often affects which favors from influential people the PC can gain or spend.
What types of characteristics do dungeons have?
Pacing: Is there a slowly increasing sense of danger or urgency? Are all dangers comparable or is there a climactic final struggle? What types of unexciting or empty intervals separate the exciting moments? Are encounters made distinct by doors or distance? How far ahead can the PC see and hear?
Treasure: Is the loot evenly distributed or clustered in a few spots? Is there a final or principal treasure? Is the challenge to get to the treasure or to depart after claiming it?
Opposition: Are there traps and/or natural hazards? Are foes usually alone or in groups? Do all foes remain in fixed places or are there also "wandering monsters"? Are there evil champions to confront?
Resources: Are there allies to meet? Are there good champions who offer help? Is there useful stuff to find?
Little Humble loves lonely and serene natural locations. Many of the poems she writes feature the stark beauty of a barren mountain peak, the verdant rustle of a breeze across the plains, the purity of a sandy island alone in the sea, the flourishing potential of a forest glade, or the buzz of tiny insects flying above marshland reeds.
Little Humble marks these locations as "hers" by creating a large rock of ornate shape, from the top of which bubbles a small spring of water. Often these rocks become destinations for pilgrimages. The rock's water also aids local animals and non-pilgrim travelers.
These claimed locations are sometimes threatened or used for evil. Perhaps a destructive dragon moves onto the mountain peak, a team of Ogres prey upon those traveling across the plains, a group of bandits construct a camp in the forest glade, or troublesome witches move into the marsh and begin mentally controlling its animals. Little Humble responds to these attacks on her beloved property by creating an isolated keep nearby. She also creates portals in a few towns and cities that provide instant travel to a safe place near the isolated keep.
Many times the keep is claimed as a lair or den by the evil people causing the problem. Then it serves to focus heroic adventurers on where the problem is located. In these cases dealing with the enemy probably involves either progressing room-by-room through the keep while trying to keep the assault quiet enough to avoid alerting the foes in the next room, or determining in advance where the evil leaders are located and the shortest route to their rooms.
Other times the keep is not used by those causing the problem. Then the adventurers who travel through one of the portals gain the option of using the keep as their own base of operations while dealing with the nearby problem. Little Humble often stocks her keeps with food, rope, arrows, and other resources useful for opposing the enemy.
In either case the adventure normally involves some cautious scouting and planning. The evil-doers usually have a camp or base (either in the keep or at another advantageous location) protected by traps and wandering guard patrols. Eventually an approach plan bears fruit and the heroes deal with minor guards and minions until they reach a concluding conflict and principal treasure. The sense of danger does not build up, but is constantly high as the heroes try to avoid putting all the enemy forces on the alert, while themselves avoiding any ambushes or surprises.
Returning home from the keep can be a challenge. Little Humble seldom provides portals to ease the return journey.
Many Errants feel obligated, as Little Humble's champions, to resolve a problem at an isolated keep. But the danger and potentially long trip home cause most Errants to find at least one ally before departing through the portal.
Old and empty isolated keeps are among the places Story Finders visit to learn what happened there years ago. Animals might make an empty isolated keep their home, including the local bigbeasts.
Some stories tell of isolated keeps that have underground rooms as well as an above-ground tower. Other stories describe portals hidden so that only children would find them: in a hole between tree roots, inside a tree fort, or inside an armoire. These portals usually are among those few that allow travel in both directions.
A keep or tower in the middle of nowhere, full of monsters and treasure, is a classic setting for a dungeon in a fantasy RPG.
The technical definition of keep is vague. Here it is used loosely: any fortified tower or small castle can be an isolated keep, whether or not it is surrounded by a wall or moat. None of Little Humble's isolated keeps are part of a large castle, although many real-life keeps are the central feature of a large castle.
The list of geographical locations (mountain, plains, island, forest, swamp) is a tribute to the card game Magic: The Gathering.
Letting children visit a troubled fantasy location by traveling through a wardrobe is a reference to Narnia.
The dungeons of Speleoth are caves—more accurately large cave-complexes ripe for exploration. He creates many dungeons because he delights in providing new opportunities and challenges for his cave-exploring followers. The first few rooms of each cave-complex are impressively welcoming for all visitors, but only experienced explorers should risk venturing deeper because of monsters and natural hazards.
Many of these dungeons initially look like a normal cave. But they quickly become small underground worlds, lit by phosphorescent plants and fiery animals. Speleoth always includes many seeps and springs of water as well as many edible plants in his dungeons, since he does not want adventurers to be distracted from exploration by trips back to the surface for provisions.
Speleoth's cave dungeons have no "big picture": no building urgency, climactic conclusion or principal treasure. They are simply places to explore, for Speleoth believes exploration should be its own thrill and reward. An exception happens when Speleoth uses a room (and item) in one of these caves as the goal for one of his round trip contests.
Most tunnels and rooms within the cave-complex are empty and unexciting. But the others contain many fuses and other cave creatures never before seen by any explorer.
The only traps are the natural hazards contained in any underground cave system. Initially the only treasures are gems from fuses. However, a famous cave dungeon may contain more treasures on the corpses of previous explorers who did not survive encountering a monster or other danger.
Unsurprisingly, exiting the cave-complex is often more physically challenging than the descent into its underground passages. However, the creatures that live in the dungeon move about slowly, so a departing adventurer will seldom meet new monsters during the ascent to the surface.
Speleoth occasionally creates dungeons that look like hewn chambers instead of natural caves. These often contain tricky puzzles whose solutions involve the use of odd items placed in the rooms and passages. A few so strongly resemble small abandoned dwellings or fortifications that Futhorc claims them as his domain and within creates a portal to a ruin dungeon.
Many of Speleoth's caves have one of his Elementalists planning and organizing its defenses. The availability of food and water in these caves makes them an attractive hideout for criminals, perhaps attracting Bounty Hunters. Frosty Kostkey's wicked Remotes enjoy ransacking and ruining his caves, turning a nourishing place of warmth and light into a barren place of cold and darkness.
Another classic setting for a dungeon in a fantasy RPG is a cave full of monsters.
How do all the creatures survive in their underground home with no balanced and sustainable ecosystem? Speleoth makes it so. All the dungeon types benefit from this "cheat" that allows the setting to contain traditional challenges without worrying about how the dungeon endures or maintains itself.
The Enchanted Forest is a magical place near Arlinac Town, at the southwest corner of the island of Theralin. It has impenetrable borders except for a few paths that are sunny and clear. Inside Yarnspinner, who loves stories, creates all manner of fairy-tale-like adventures.
People who enter the Enchanted Forest without focusing on a desire or goal will travel along a boring path while encountering nothing, or perhaps find that the path engages in twists and turns that soon lead out of the forest. But travelers who enter with a desire or goal in mind soon have an adventure whose difficulty corresponds to the size and significance of their objective. Yarnspinner will also structure the story they follow and the challenges they meet so that they learn and grow more than they intended.
Many people who quest in the Enchanted Forest initially desire a goal that will not truly help them. To these adventurers Yarnspinner appears as a character in one of his own stories, wearing a gold brooch to signify dual status as character and narrator. A candid discussion about the person's life circumstances, desires, and actual needs often allows refining desires and seeking a simpler yet more effective goal.
Most adventures in the Enchanted Forest are completed (or failed) within a single day. To minimize aimless wandering, sometimes Yarnspinner provides an annotated map at the start of the adventure.
The adventures that Yarnspinner creates for seekers in the Enchanted Forest are his type of dungeon. These adventures are always isolated from the real world: a new problem or crime is being caused by a villainous person or creature who must be outwitted or fought. The quest's internal logic is clear: all goals, conflicts, potential allies, and puzzles are clear and the solution is always sensible (even if not obvious) and solvable with the resources at hand. Most conflicts are short and involve familiar monsters and predictable tropes. Treasure only appears if a part of the protagonist's goal.
When people adventure in the Enchanted Forest they face real dangers and risk real loss, injury, or even death. But the potential gain is real too: nearly any item, ability, power, or destiny can be obtained by successfully completing a quest in the Enchanted Forest.
Yarnspinner is fond of his witches and most advetures in the Enchanted Forest involve meeting at least one. Usually the witch is not a major part of the adventure, but provides a small reward or hindrance that makes a small side-quest more significant. Because each trip into the Enchanted Forest is a personally constructed adventure, no allies or enemies are encountered except those that are part of Yarnspinner's intended story. Even Story Finders have nothing to find in the Enchanted Forest because Yarnspinner creates new locations for each personalized story.
Numerous fairy tales have the theme of venturing into the forest to find your heart's desire. Usually the hero matures during the journey, and often he or she finds what is truly needed rather than what was initially wanted (or the initially desired goal is indeed achieved but it fails to bring the peace or happiness the hero wanted).
Note that rewards can be anything. The 9P sample setting contains three excuses for "wild card" items that have any magical effect and perhaps unlimited uses: items recieived from Yarnspinner as rewards of quests from the Enchanted Forest, the panoply items given as gifts by Maw Lute, and prizes from Gnash's contests called last one standings. This flexibility allows the GM to include in the story any items expected to be fun, memorable, neccessary to solve upcoming quests or puzzles, or merely helpful in keeping the story going.
The trope of "by leaving the path you can have an adventure" was brought to my attention by this blog post by Shamus Young, reviewing an indie computer game named The Path.
Podajatonx honors his favorite sport by organizing special hunting challenges called wild hunts.
All wild hunts are announced weeks in advance. The starting location is advertised: a field, park, or hunting lodge. No other details are shared until all participants have gathered and the hunt is about to begin. Then an appointed Master of the Hunt greets the assembly, thanks everyone for participating, declares the quarry (often one of Podajatonx's bigbeasts), and shares what makes this particular hunt "wild".
Some types of "wildness" assist the hunters against a dangerous quarry. All hunters might be loaned a winged horse, an intelligent hound, or a magical hunting horn. Or all might be temporarily granted invisibility while outside settlements, extraordinary speed while running, or limitless endurance. Other types of "wildness" are not helpful. All the hunters might be shrunk to the size of dogs, given extra arms that are difficult to control, enchanted to only be able to speak while singing rhyming couplets, or randomly paired as partners and shackled together at the ankles.
As with any large, organized, outdoor endeavor, some participants get lost or encounter dangers tangential to the hunt. Few wild hunts go smoothly for all the hunters even though Podajatonx desires they be safe and fun activities.
Podajatonx rewards the winner of a wild hunt with a bottomless quiver made of sturdy leather and embossed with the winner's name and the date of the wild hunt. This prize is the only usual reward, although hunters who get lost or meet unexpected monsters might find additional treasure.
Participants in a wild hunt are allowed to cooperate, but only the person who delivers the killing stroke to the quarry receives the prize and official praise.
The mythological Wild Hunt is of course the inspiration for these "dungeons".
Maw Lute creates large, sprawling cave-lair homes for her most faithful and active dragons. These dragon lairs are much larger and more elaborately guarded than typical dragon lairs.
The dragons for whom Maw Lute creates a special lair are very proud of their home and enjoy showing it off. About monthly they will fly to a town or city and invite a group of people to a one-day visit. For many who accept, the ride on a dragon's back to and from the lair is the most exciting part because the dragon will only take them to the main entrance and exploring the lair beyond its museum-like foyer is dangerous. Other visitors venture deeper, knowing that any valuables past the foyer are free to take home as souveniers. At the end of the day the dragon returns to the town or city, politely taking the visitors home or notifying their next of kin that they ventured too far towards risk and reward.
This welcoming attitude is not extended toward uninvited visitors. But treasure-seekers do journey to Maw Lute's dungeons, hoping for safety and success because of their numbers and preparations.
What makes these dragon lairs so dangerous?
Most are in remote and dangerous areas, such as mountain peaks, deep in a dense forest, or in the middle of the Ognost Frontier. Around the entrance of the lair is a maze of false trails that lead treasure-seekers on wild goose chases through the area's dangers.
The interior of the lair is even more deadly. It has traps, guardian servants on watch or patrolling, and other hazards that boost the lair's security. These dangers not only discourage most visitors but also serve to weaken invaders and use up their resources.
Even though the lair lacks any cleverly constructed puzzles, progressing through it requires preparation, caution, and endurance. Exploration can be terrifying because long, empty, twisting passages and thick iron doors often prevent intruders from knowing what is just ahead while creating nerve-wracking intervals of potentially false calm between dangers. At other times a tiny crack or immense portcullus teases the adventurer with a glimpse of what lies ahead.
Secret passages hide the hoard in multiple locations so that even "successful" burglars usually take a much smaller share than they realize.
At the heart of the lair the resident dragon has multiple sleeping-rooms to prevent trespassers from knowing where it might be sleeping. The dragon usually ambushes any intruders who get to his sleeping-rooms. The dragon fights using its most potent abilities and hoarded special items, maximizing on the advantages it enjoys as an entrenched defender.
Finally, hidden escape routes allow a besieged dragon to flee and get help from other dragons. Legends warn of "successful" treasure-hunters being killed during the return trip across that lair's remote area as multiple dragons swoop down from the sky.
Because Maw Lute donates much gold to the dragons for whom she makes these lairs, the lairs often attract uninvited adventurers despite the enhanced peril. Thus Maw Lute's generosity of gold indirectly leads to dragons collecting many interesting items: the captured gear of slain treasure-seekers.
Unlike most Powers, Maw Lute's type of champions (Buskers) have nothing to do with her dungeons.
Most of the above nifty collection of qualities of a worthy dragon lair is mostly taken from a discussion in a forum named You Met in a Tavern, which appears to have entirely vanished.
Futhorc loves crumbling ruins that are being reclaimed by nature, lost cities empty of inhabitants, and abandoned buildings forsaken by townsfolk.
Futhorc often creates Puddles in ruins. This is especially likely if the ruin in threatened by people wanting to use the ruins as a source of stone.
Sometimes Futhorc turns a ruin into one of his dungeons. He creates a special doorway or gateway to a new set of rooms and chambers with similar architecture and appearance to the actual ruin. The dungeon rooms are actually in a different type of reality and need not physically fit where the special doorway leads.
The first room of the ruin dungeon contains a spell book. The spell book has only a few pages. Each page contains a spell that can be used only once and only in that dungeon. (Some pages may be duplicates.) A spell book vanishes when the adventure ends, although some people later create reproductions to keep as memorabilia.
The dungeon will have as many potential opponents as pages in the spell book. Each potential opponent will know one of the spells and can use it only once. Thus the adventurer and the dungeon's opponents have matching sets of special resources, but the adventurer has more flexibility about when to use these spells.
The first room may also contain a carved face that speaks a riddle as the dungeon's first clue.
Futhorc creates his dungeons to be harmless fun with the potential of small gain. Any "defeat" only expels the adventurer from the story with no actual harm, although any limited-use items an adventurer uses inside the dungeon do really get used up. The dungeon's traps cause complications instead of lethal damage. Its challenges are solved with observation and deduction as much as combat. No outside preparation or resources are needed to complete the dungeon, although bringing in certain equipment might make a challenge easier or trivial.
The only treasures in Futhorc's dungeons—the only items that remain after the adventure ends—are one or more spell-scrolls. Like the spell book pages these each allow one use of their specific spell. But spell-scrolls endure and function in the real world. Most large towns and cities have stores selling spell-scrolls unwanted by their original owners.
Futhorc's dungeons always contains a final room that cannot be entered until the dungeon's overarching puzzle is solved. Usually the best strategy is to explore all but that last room without attempting to "finish" each room, keeping alert for clues and puzzle components. This will show a clever adventurer how to solve the smaller puzzles and gain access to the dungeon's final room. The final room contains a spell-scroll of above average value.
Someone defeated inside a dungeon appears outside the special doorway unharmed. However, that person is unable to ever re-enter that partcular dungeon. Also, his or her memories about that dungeon may be partially erased.
Unless a group of adventurers holds hands and all willingly desire to explore the dungeon together, everyone who passes through one of Futhorc's special doorways enters his or her personal copy of the dungeon.
Another classic setting for a dungeon in a fantasy RPG is a ruined castle or abandoned underground settlement.
The "dungeons" created by Lamia are the famous and feared grayscale adventures. These adventures begin with someone waking up into a strange world without color. Only the adventurer still has color, although no one else notices or can perceive this difference. The adventure happens in an urban setting that is a distorted place of dream-like views, situations, betrayals, and technology. This "Grayscale World" is marked by stark contrasts: darkness and light; heroism and evil; urban decadence and barbaric violence; blunt, harsh men and deceptive, mesmerizing women; empty, dim streets or warehouses and crowded, garish taverns and clubs; someone with amnesia and someone who knows too much.
To escape from the Grayscale World the adventurer must defeat a villain who is motivated by greed, jealousy, or revenge to acquire or destroy a fanciful technological device or resource. The villain will be the only other person with color, and the only person exhibiting great intensity, animation, and drive in a setting otherwise saturated with ambivalence: apathetic authority figures, ignored morals and honor, uncaring fate, and depressed people surrendered to depressing circumstances. Key clues about the villain's plans or personal weakness can be found by asking the right questions in places intended for relaxation that instead have tense atmospheres ready to erupt into violence—usually these clues can be found in taverns, lounges, theatres, or gambling dens. While searching for these clues the adventurer should try to avoid fighting with seedy thugs or powerful crime lords, but the end of the adventure will feature an inevitable and destructive confrontation in an building of industrial construction—often a factory, cart repair place, shipyard, or power plant.
Grayscale Worlds have a normal supply of the useful items found in any town or city of their size. The adventurer's money will be accepted by merchants in the Grayscale World, although uncolored items will disappear when the adventurer returns back to the real world. (Similarly, an adventurer who decides to loot the uncolored city does not keep this false treasure.)
Most grayscale adventures are inflicted upon people whom Lamia judges as needing a lesson about the suffering caused by a particular vice. The key villain in the Grayscale World will share this vice and often share some of the pupil's grudges, worries, or feuds. For example, one Grayscale World might be a lesson about kindness to a man who treats his servants harshlessly and thanklessly, with a villain on the city council who privately views all non-council cityfolk as servants. Another Grayscale World might be a lesson about greed to a woman whose pursuit of riches is causing her to neglect her own family, with a villain whose insatiable need for the illusionary security of wealth is dooming the town.
In very rare circumstances, the person subjected to a grayscale adventure brings someone from the colorless world back with him or her to the normal world. This "rescued" person is often initially grateful for being elevated from a temporary and imaginary creation of the Lamia's to a "real" person. However, these "Moorlost" never adapt to the world of color: they remain colorless, apathetic, and depressed. Most soon degenerate into lethargy or reckless behaviors.
Grascale adventures might include members of The Hiss or evil twins, if these champions or monsters help Lamia teach a lesson to the person she brings into the dungeon.
The grayscale adventures make use of certain famous elements from Noir films. (If the GM and Player wish, other characteristics not appropriate for children can also be incorporated, such as the Hardboiled treatment of violence and sexuality.)
The name "Moorlost" sounds similar to "Moorlocks", perhaps the most famous humanoid monster known for a colorless existence. However, there are no actual similarities between Moorlocks and minor characters from Noir films.
Note that Grayscale Worlds are in many ways the opposite of the adventures created by Yarnspinner in the Enchanted Forest. The setting is a fairly normal location in which normal behavior is distorted to change what is natural. The root of the conflict is hidden, the plot is a web of past and present events, stife happens when normal people to do bad things, and sometimes the bizarre or eerie intrudes inexplicably into normalcy. If the Grayscale World contains an enchanted item it will be too corrupt, dangerous, or limited to be useful to the hero or heroine who finds it.
The cold dungeons of Frosty Kostkey are ice fortifications. These strongholds are a castle or fortress made of thick ice. They eventually form around Forsty Kostkey's altars if the local spread of Winter is not countered.
Ice fortifications are easy to find when the Winter zone is still small. The ice fortifications might be well hidden in a forest or mountain range if the Winter zone covers that extensive an area.
The interiors of ice fortifications are maze-like in layout. Remotes and cyborgs guard the fortification, with very few rooms empty of an inhabitant. The stronghold is also an active place as squadrons of cyborgs are equipped, trained, fed, and healed. The most powerful guardians wait at an inner temple. The walls of these fortifications are so thick that the ice is completely opaque and absorbs sounds well: invading heroes can often avoid the raising of an alarm.
A young ice fortification will lack treasure, except for the machines with which Frosty Kostkey is having his worshippers build. An old ice fortification contains many treasure rooms full of the wealth and equipment claimed during the raids and conquests of the squadrons of cyborgs based at the stronghold.
Locating and demolishing the altar (or altars) stops the creation of the zone of Winter and will soon cause the ice fortification to melt. The inner temple is often protected by many mechanical traps as well as monsters. Unused hallways may also be trapped, although few of these exist because most parts of the stronghold are busy with activity.
Gnash has many dungeons shaped like enormous mansions. (Or sometimes other large dwellings, such as museums, castles, or barracks.) He creates these as refuges for ruthless criminals who have prayed for his aid.
The mansions appear from outside to be normal buildings. But inside they are huge and can have many rooms per floor. The mansions are infinite in height: every floor contains a stairway up to the next and more dangerous floor. (If a mansion contains basement floors these may of any level of danger, or even contain bizarre features such as other-worldly merchants or basins of glowing healing potion.)
All floors contain a variety of rooms: huge rooms decorated with shining artwork, small rooms containing unsettling personal belongings, dusty rooms of furniture covered with drop cloths, storage rooms with shelves of boxes and vials, studies whose bookshelves hold sinister secrets, unrestful restrooms, bright rooms holding eerie machinery, dark rooms furnished with grim instruments of terror and pain, and kitchens whose cookbooks would cause irreparable madness if read. The hallways are also quite varied in appearance. Most hallways are empty except for artwork, furnishings, and quiet noises that are difficult to identify.
Many rooms contain a strange mirror or book. Gnash is aware when anyone is in any of his mansions, and sometims taunt people by appearing in a mirror looking very like the person but wounded or disfigured, or creating writing in the book that speaks truths or lies about the person's past or future.
Many rooms contain a cup or bottle of oddly colored liquid. Drinking all the contents bestows a small benefit or detriment that lasts until exiting the mansion. Subsequent drinks of the same color cause the same effect.
The first floor is always originally empty of inhabitants, although it may be spooky, confusing, or misleading. This floor may be used as a base of operations by cultists, thieves, monster breeders, or other villains from the surrounding town or city.
The second floor is specifically designed for the criminal seeking refuge. Its layout is defensive. It has many traps and secret doors. One room contains many mirrors, which show the views afforded by all the other mirrors on the first two floors. Another room has a prison cell useful if the criminal has brought hostages into the mansion.
The third and higher floors have undead occupants. Some floors have many and some floors have only a single creature. Most of the undead are alone but some wait or wander as a group. Each higher floor is more dangerous than the previous because its undead are from more powerful creatures. These floors continute to have many types of rooms, many portable valuables (candlesticks, vases, silverware, small statues, etc.), and traps that confine or injure. Most doors are initially closed.
The stairways between floors preternaturally muffle sound so that occupants of any floor never hear what happens on another floor. Ascending a stairway for the first time sometimes causes a momentary effect that changes the person in a harmless but frightening way.
Adventurers in the mansion who have already dealt with the occupants of the first two floors can usually safely rest and plan there. The higher floors have few safe rooms or halls because some of the undead wander the halls and rooms, either aimlessly or on a repeating patrol route. Gnash usually makes a mansion vanish if the criminal it was created for no longer uses it and it is unoccupied except for undead occupants.
The third and higher floors of a mansion often change when they are unoccupied except for the undead created within. The rooms, hallways, Undead monsters, and treasures can all be rearranged or replaced.
If a mansion is ignored by the people of the surrounding town or city then Gnash places a valuable jeweled amulet in the mansion and issues a challenge to any local heroes, daring them to brave the mansion and take the amulet. The amulet is on one of the higher floors, appropriate to the abilities of any local rising heroes.
Mansions usually contain much wealth but no useful items except food. There are usually no potential allies, but the hostages locked up by the criminal could become allies, or there could be other adventurers exploring the mansion.
As a rule of thumb the undead on the third and higher floors have a Melee/Press skill equal to their floor level as well as a typical assortment of other skills. Note that mansions do not contain any altar or other source of necromobility: Gnash personally creates the undead in ways that create constant danger and increasing challenge.
The general plan of a dungeon of nearly infinite levels, each with a dozen or so rooms, randomized when entered, and traveled in search of an amulet is a tribute to Rogue and its computer game descendants. The bother of identifying color-coded potion effects by trial and error is also from those games.
Each of the Powers sponsors a certain kind of contest as a treat to his or her followers.
Contests of various sorts are a fun part of any setting, especially in a game focusing on adventures for only one PC.
The followers of Little Humble are told to exercise the body as part of the second tennent of Sublimity Street. Her champions, the Errants, usually do this by practicing unarmed combat. Her other followers enjoy many types of physical exercise and sport.
Little Humble enjoys celebrating the interests of her followers and their unique contributions to Sublimity Street. Her most visible celebrations are the sporting events she hosts. Most villages, towns, and cities have at least one sporting event each year.
Common competitive activities at sporting events include foot races, weight lifting competitions, tug-of-war tournaments, and gymnastics contests. Many other activities are highlit with demonstrations but not competitively judged: acrobatics, juggling, wrestling, and feats of skill with throwing or archery. Most settlements augment these lists with their own favorite local activities.
Little Humble does not award prizes at her sporting events. The leaders of the settlement often award medals or other prizes to competitors judged best at each competitive activity.
Speleoth hosts round trip contests to encourge people to visit new places.
The contest begins at one of Speleoth's temples. An Elementalist starts the contest by announcing where Speleoth has placed a special flag. The challenge is to be the first contestant to get to the flag and then return to the starting location.
If the flag is touched a copy appears. The person who reached it takes this copy while the original remains, immovable, for others to find. The first contestant to get to the flag is not always the first contestant to return to the starting location!
Often the flag is within a brand new cave dungeon created just for the occasion. When this happens the flag is in one of the first few rooms of the cave-complex, moderately safe to get to. The deeper and more spectacular (and dangerous) parts of the cave dungeon are not part of the round trip contest.
The contestants in a round trip are not supposed to interfere with each other. But just in case, Speleoth has given the flag-copies protective magic that helps shield their carriers from sharp projectiles.
(After the contest, all copies of the flag disappear except for the copy owned by the winner. That copy remains as a useful trophy, retaining it magical protective power.)
Round Trip Traits
The round trip traits are Hard to Pin Down
Yarnspinner celebrates wordsmiths with his bardic competitions. People from all walks of life gather to share poems, stories and songs. Bards perform tales of recent heroics and newly composed ballads. Theatre troupes perform new and old plays. Children act out skits and tell jokes.
Yarnspinner himself awards small trophies to anyone judged (officially or not) to be the best in a category of verbal performance.
Podajatonx enjoys how short-term goals can promote fun and happiness. So he hosts chases in which a person or creature must be pursued but not caught or hurt.
Most of these chases are slightly comic and suitable for both adult and children to participate. Who can follow a singing butterfly across the city? Who can race alongside a giraffe while wearing stilts? Who can track an adorable floral-scented bigbeasts skunk through a castle?
Podajatonx gives a curious reward to the winners of his chases. The victor is allowed to invent a new type of bigbeast that must be tame and no larger than a lapdog; the creature appears as a pet for its designer.
Treasure hunts are one way that Maw Lute encourages collecting. These contests involve locating several items that go together thematically: matching gems, books of all the plays by a playwright, a set of fancy silverware, pieces of clothing from one well-coordinated outfit, etc. Usually the items are valuable yet mundane, but sometimes they are a panoply.
The items cannot be moved until the contest is complete. Whoever finds all the items first wins the contest and receives the items as a prize. However, the set of items is always incomplete. The winner still has more collecting to do!
Sometimes Futhorc organizes competitions in which adventurers race to be the first to complete a ruin dungeon and claim the final spell-scroll.
The winner of the contest becomes a Caster, one of Futhorc's champions.
Many participants rush to enter a copy of the dungeon as soon as the competition has begun. Others wait to learn from the hazy memories of defeated failures, knowing many competitive dungeons are so difficult that the contest will last for weeks before someone finally completes the dungeon.
During these competition the technique of holding hands while going through the entry portal does not work. Everyone must attempt the dungeon solo.
Lamia knows that sometimes people get caught up in evil things. They cannot fully repent until an object is destroyed. Now and then the Lamia helps repentance happen by arranging a demolition contest in which her followers rush to destroy the troublesome object.
For example, Lamia might try to help a struggling gambler overcome his addiction by challenging her followers to destroy his lucky rabbit's foot. (The gambler would not be consulted, and may be very surprised and upset about this contest!)
As another example, consider a vain noble who is becoming aware of excess pride but excuses vanity as "trying to look as regal as my parent"—an effort recently aided by having inherited from that parent the only full-length mirror in the town. That mirror, despite being in the noble's bedchamber, could be the target of a demolition contest.
As a third example, consider a man grieving dysfunctionally for his deceased wife by drinking each night while staring at a small painting of her: the only painting of her that he owns. His pewter mug and that painting might be targeted for demolition as Lamia tries to help by forcing him to move on to other types of grieving.
Lamia offers no rewards for her contests. Her followers believe they are helping people, which is its own reward.
The most ridiculous tag games are the zip tag contests hosted by Frosty Kostkey.
Two teams compete. Each team is assigned its own territory. Players can only tag opponents within their own territory. (While a player enters the opposing team's territory that player is a target.) A goal is assigned: usually capturing the other team's flag and bringing it to friendly territory, but many variations are used.
Every time a player tags an opponent the opponent vanishes and that player gains a supernatural boost to speed. These effects are temporary: when the game ends all tagged players reappear and everyone loses the extra talent ratings in Acrobatics.
Both teams must have the same number of starting players. But people have learned that machines do not count towards a team's size. Usually both teams bring many useful or dangerous machines to help them win the game.
Players are not supposed to attack each other. After all, there is no need to do so: simply tagging an opponent within your team's territory makes them vanish. But there increased inclusion of machinery has made combat an increasingly important part of zip tag games. So players are given one more special power. Each player may, once per game, make an exceptionally potent attack—useful for disabling an opposing machine.
There are often no prizes for Zip Tag Games. The thrill of the game is considered sufficient reward. But occasionally a player will be awarded an overspring for excellence in play, whether or not his or her team won that game.
Frosty Kostkey usually hosts five or six consecutive games so that players who are tagged early in one game have another chance to excel.
Zip Tag Traits
The zip tag traits are Zippy and Powerful Blow.
Gnash hosts vicious contests named last one standings.
There are two varieties. Participants gather together, study each other, and then disperse—no violence is allowed for ten minutes. In the first type of contest, each participant brings a fragile creation (usually an ornate work of pottery) and after dispersing hides it; the person whose creation remains intact longest wins. In the second type of contest there are no target items: the contestants themselves are the tagets and the last one still able to walk or crawl wins the contest.
Gnash offers coveted prizes to the winners of his last one standings: often gold, but sometimes impossible devices, necrotic weapons, or unique items with disturbing properties.
The world around Arlinac Town has special heroes called champions that have been given a calling, commission, or destiny by one of the Powers.
It is simplest to read these rules about champions before reading about the Powers. Try reading this page first, before following any of its links.
Why does the PC have exciting and dangerous solo adventures? Why not stay safely in town with a more normal job? Why do others ask the PC to help them? Why not attempt dangerous adventures as part of a group?
Possible answers are that the PC is a champion, has been asked to help or rescue a champion, or opposes a wicked champion who serves one of the evil Powers.
In 9P talents are the primary way that characters differ by significant abilities. But talents involve a process of slowly accumulating increasing power through experience. The existence of champions provides a second way that characters can be very different with special abilities without requiring any experience or slow accumulation.
Champions also form a useful layer in a plot's "onion of intrigue". Usually when a story features extensive intrigue one or more Powers are at the center. Their champions are often the second-to-central layer of influencing characters.
Finally, champions can be used as major allies or villains in a dungeon. Errants will always be potential allies to a good character unless a misunderstanding is causing conflict. The other kinds of champions can be either allies or villains, or even switch roles mid-story.
Errants are traveling wayfarers who serve Little Humble by visiting settlements to help people and by demonstrating a life dedicated to Sublimity Street.
Errants come from all walks of life. Little Humble only requires an industrious person who enjoys travel and whose life demonstrates integrity. She requests their service politely. They are free to refuse or to retire from the role when they wish. Most do retire after a few years of excitement and adventure.
Errants who own property or wealth usually leave it behind, managed by a relative or friend until they retire from being an wandering Errant. Errants are never given specific missions. Nothing asks them to fight all dangerous monsters, right all injustices, or mend all situations where the poor or helpless are oppressed. But many Errants refuse to leave a settlement until it has security and fairness.
(Similarly, nothing about the role an Errant encourages romance but many Errants meet the person they will later marry while serving as Little Humble's champions.)
Errants must follow the teachings of Sublimity Street and are also bound to honesty. An Errant loses his or her status as a champion the first time he or she tells a lie or otherwise purposefully speaks so that a listener reaches false conclusions. Yet this requirement of honesty brings a boon: an Errant is aware of the untruth of any intentional lie he or she hears. (If the speaker ignorantly speaks a falsehood because of being genuinely misinformed, the Errant senses nothing special.)
Errants live a life that confuses and bothers people who value lives of wealth and luxury. Errants leave the safety and comforts of their home to travel in search of problems to fix and dangerous creatures to subdue. They always speak honestly, even when this angers or insults others. They eat and dress simply, even after being well-rewarded for their help.
Many Errants are skilled diplomats who prefer to resolve problems with words instead of violence. But just as many are exceptionally skilled warriors. Many Errants focus on unarmed combat or nonlethal weapons. Perhaps this is because Errants so often earn the emnity of corrupt governing officials, prompting Errants to prefer resolving personal disputes with an honorable duel instead of within a courtroom.
Little Humble also endows her Errants with quick reflexes to deflect projectile attacks. This ability gives even new Errants greater safely when running from trouble.
An Errant can make an interesting PC. However, it is equally interesting to use NPC Errants. A courtroom trial might be postponed while the PC is sent to find an Errant and ask the champion to help the trial by detecting who is lying. The PC might need to help an Errant who is stuck in a tricky social situation or hunted by corrupt governing officials because he or she refused to lie. An Errant about to travel through a portal to one of Little Humble's isolated keeps might ask the PC to join the adventure.
The Errant traits are Lie Detector and Deflect Projectiles.
Errants are based upon the protagonists in Wuxia stories, who are more properly called a Xiake or Youxia.
The word "errant" is a play on knight-errant and the "in error" sense of the word errant. In the eyes of wealthy rulers, Little Humble's champions are just as often perceived as "doing things wrong" as they are "roving warriors".
Elementalists are people able to transform their bodies into the elements, established by Speleoth as the defender one of his caves and shepherd of its troglosaurs and other creatures.
Elementalists were once normal people, but were permanently changed when they accepted an invitation from Speleoth to become one of his champions.
An Elementalist can transform his or her body into earth, air, fire, or water. Any items worn or carried vanish while in elemental form. An Elementalist in elemental form can be affected by Transmutery.
A person who turns into a Elementalist cannot use his or her race's special ability when in elemental form.
Elementalists neither eat nor sleep; some of the oldest Elementalists have developed a prejudice and look down upon "lesser" humanoids burdened by these needs and unable to fly.
Elementalists can speak with cave animals: troglobites, troglophiles, and trogloxenes (centipedes, millipedes, bats, beetles, flies, spiders, crickets, salamanders, rats, swifts, mites, snails, bears, foxes, raccoons, wild cats, fish, snakes, and frogs). They can also speak with fuses. Elementalists who live in one of Speleoth's cave dungeons will organize and train its animals.
A few Elementalists are given a different kind of task: instead of overseeing a cave, they travel on Speleoth's behalf to gather information or deliver messages.
The Elementalist traits are Sustained, Trogtongue, Elementally Vulnerable (all elemental forms), Rock Solid (earth form), Air Steps (air form), Aflame (fire form), and Unpokably Wet (water form).
The champions of Yarnspinner are Story Finders: people empowered to recover forgotten but historically significant stories. Yarnspinner never gives his Story Finders a specific quest, nor does he reward them when they finish finding a story. Instead, his Story Finders travel as they wish, knowing they will sense when a location has a story they can discover.
Story Finders have a special ability: when they touch an item or enter a location they sometimes see a vision of past acts of heroism or villainy related to the item or location. Not all visions are complete. A Story Finder sometimes knows that he or she must spend extra time with the item or location to receive more visions. The content of a vision does not depend upon the character's Identify/Lore skill rating.
Story Finders usually must use their visions along with more traditional types of research (questioning the locals, reading civic records, etc.) to completely find a story.
A few Story Finders who dislike travel work as detectives, attempting to make their special ability more useful at home. But most Story Finders decide to embrace their destiny and set aside their old lives. These usually find an annotated map to help them get started—typically in a library, museum, dusty attic, or park.
During combat a Story Finders can use his or her power to touch a opponent and learn one of that person's embarassing secrets. Saying the secret aloud can be very distracting for the opponent!
Story Finder Traits
The Story Finder trait is Skeletons In Your Closet.
The profession of Story Finder is taken from Sean Russell's Swans' War trilogy.
The Oathsworn are people who recieve short-term help from one or more Powers by putting themselves under obligation.
A person can become an Oathsworn by asking Podajatonx's for help achieving a goal. The plea must be made in a moment of crisis, when success or failure with skill use will have permanent consequences.
The petition is made in the form of a bargain: in exchange for help now, the person commits to doing later something of which Podajatonx would aprove. (Examples include helping someone make or achieve a goal, doing something that helps the Arlin River, competing in an arena, and participating in a wild hunts or chase.)
Podajatonx can hear any plea of this type, and will often grant the request. The person receiving help can decide to receive any type of bonus. Thus a person that already has an equipment bonus could decide to receive a special item bonus, etc.
A bargain that grants a 1-point bonus needs an oath that requires at least ten hours to complete. A bargain that grants a 2-point bonus needs an oath that requires at least twenty hours to complete. These commitments do not include travel time. (Helping a widow finally mend her farm's fence is not a "bigger" oath if she lives farther away.)
A person needing to fullfill this type of oath to Podajatonx is called an Oathsworn. Podajatonx will not make a new bargain of this type until the first is accomplished.
However, the other Powers have decided to pay a bit more attention to the Oathsworn. They each might grant an Oathsworn a one-time skill bonus in exchange for an appropriate oath appropriate to their individual values and priorities.
No Power will agree to a second bargain until the first is accomplished. All oaths must be fulfilled within thirty days or the Power to whom the oath was sworn might punish the person for swearng falsely.
Buskers are performers who seek a life of "hoarding without having", and can create food, light, and small items by performing.
Anyone can petition Maw Lute to become a Busker. The petitioner must donate a complete hoard or collection that has sentimental value. This is placed on one of Maw Lute's altars and vanishes. If Maw Lute responds then the petitioner must give up all his or her hoards, which usually requires giving away most wealth and possessions. Furthermore, Maw Lute usually requires potential Buskers to discard hoarded pride for a month by dressing poorly in torn or patched clothing and wearing a hat with donkey ears.
Buskers mark their role by decorating their hair with feathers. A Busker who voluntarily removes the feathers for a week ceases to be a Busker.
When a Busker performs music then food appears: fruits, vegatables, breads, and cheeses. More food appears if the performance is in front of a crowd: a greater amount and variety when crowd is larger. The food will appear on empty plates or in empty containers if these are available.
When a Busker juggles he or she can create small items among the things juggled. Each day the Busker can create items with a total cost in coins up to his or her Wonder skill rating.
During combat, a Busker can use the percussion of weapons clanging or feet stomping to create blinding light.
All Buskers understand and learn to demonstrate Maw Lute's appreciation for food and entertainment. Yet as Maw Lute has both motherly and greedy natures, her Buskers tend to become either maternal or selfish. The caring ones travel to impovershed settlements and create food for people recovering from famine, draught, or other disaster. These learn to use performance to aid mourning as well as create festivity and see themselves as "hoarding gratitude" which they can live off after retiring from years of such public service. The miserly ones find well-paying employment at wealthy households where they provide food and entertainment for social events. These hoard normal wealth, both in their wages and in a few coins worth of precious metal they can create each day by juggling.
Both types of Buskers are highly respected. They often declare blunt truths to people of high rank, secure that the town or city would riot if an authority figure angered by plain speaking succumbed to mistreating an honest Busker
Buskers themselves most respect those Buskers who have learned to "hoard without having". They apply this phrase to a Busker owed so many favors and so much gratitude that he or she can retire comfortable although penniless, and to a Busker paid so much for performing that it is possible to live in luxury without any saved money.
A few Buskers never develop a public use for their ability and hoard neither gratitude or wealth. Some degenerate and eventually live alone in poverty only creating enough food to survive. Others live recklessly as gate-crashers of fancy parties. Maw Lute warns fallen Buskers of both types of her disapproval by changing their created food to avocados, olives, buttery crepes, and fatty cheeses. If they do not begin to use their role publicly and hoard something then they fatten up and are taken away by a Dragon.
The Busker trait is Blinding.
The word "busker" simply means street performer. These fantasy super-buskers have a very direct way to get food and a few coins by performing.
As a literary figure, the jester represents a source of advice known for plain speaking and common sense. The traditional jester wears a parti-colored outfit and hood with donkey's ears.
The jester becomes The Fool in tarot: an innocent starting a long journey whose experiences will teach strength and wisdom. This version of the jester adds feathers and tears in the clothing to the outfit.
Casters are the champions of Futhorc, who have earned using a spell-scroll effect at will.
Futhorc believes that "champions" should be those who have won, not those who are serving. So he organizes ruin races in which many people race to be the first to complete a ruin dungeon and claim its final spell-scroll. When these people enter the doorway to the dungeon each enters his or her personal copy of the dungeon. The winner becomes a Caster who gains permanent use of any one spell-scroll.
The new Caster choses which spell-scroll. He or she reads it. It vanishes as usual. But instead of the effect happening once, it becomes an ability the Caster can use whenever he or she wishes (and has a minor loss to "spend").
Most Casters learn the most potent healing ability whose scroll they can afford to buy. A few are sentimental and instead of buying a scroll learn one of those they obtained themselves in the dungeon. Because of Casters, powerful spell-scrolls are worth a small fortune.
A Caster may enter more of Futhorc's ruin race contests. If he or she wins again, an additional spell-scroll will become usable at will.
If the stories told by traveling merchants can be trusted, Futhorc's constests happen only once per century in some villages, towns, and cities, but they happen weekly in others.
The Caster trait is Spellcasting.
Lamia changes those who have lived violent lives but intensely desire to increase in virtue into The Hiss, a community of snake-like people cooperatively seeking self-mastery.
Members of The Hiss have their bodies altered. From the waist down they have a snake's tail. They retain their old appearance from the waist up. They can still use their race's special ability.
The Hiss form societies based upon five cardinal virtues: honesty, loyalty, charity, integrity, and humility. Members advance through five stages as the cardinal virtues are mastered. All newly created Hiss have black tails and are selfish but will always keep their word. Those who have mastered loyalty are no longer selfish when pursuing their community duties and their tail color changes to deep red. Those who mature further develop charity and will sometimes give beyond what duty requires; these have orange tails. Those who develop integrity are generous and kind in all situations and have yellow tails. The most mature, the elders among The Hiss, have mastered humility and always consider others instead of themselves; these have green tails. The changes in tail coloration are gradual as spots, stripes, or speckles of the next color slowly appear and become more dominant.
Among The Hiss many stories attest that those who obtain humility are personally approached by Llamia, who offers to restore them to their old bodies. But the offer is always refused because the elders prefer to remain in The Hiss society to help others follow the path of virtues.
Members of The Hiss actively work to recruit violent people, encouraging them to repent and join The Hiss.
Societies of The Hiss exhibit a beautiful yet strange culture and craftsmanship. Members of The Hiss retain their memories and intelligence, but also aquire snake-like temperament and habits. They initially only cooperate with other Hiss whom they know. They are fond of eating eggs and freshly hunted game animals. As hunters they become skilled at archery and the use of poisons, but they prefer to flee from melee combat. Many of the Hiss keep small snakes as friends: more than pets, for the Hiss can speak with all snakes and many other reptiles.
A few legends claim that The Hiss have the ability to put their virtues in physical form. One of The Hiss who has developed loyalty, charity, or integrity can enter a trance and shed its snake skin. This causes the loss of that highest-obtained virtue; the individual immediately beings acting less mature. However, if the shed skin is eaten by another of The Hiss who is ready to obtain the crystallized virtue then the eater will effortlessly gain that virtue.
Members of The Hiss cannot normally change their shape to regain legs instead of their snake's tail. However, many travel to the Enchanted Forest to quest for an item that will grant this ability, allowing them to blend into normal society to do trade or evangelize.
The Hiss Traits
The traits for members of The Hiss are Serpent Tongue and Tail Swipe.
Remotes are cultists Frosty Kostkey makes into unparalleled machinists by supernaturally changing many of their machines to function unceasingly without maintenance.
Remotes have one further and especially uncanny ability. When in a zone of Winter they can touch a machine to transfer their consciousness into it and mentally control it. The Remote can return to his or her body at any time. Destroying the inhabited machine automatically returns the Remote to his or her body, without distress to the Remote.
Remotes, like all of Frosty Kostkey's worshippers, are able to construct altars to Frosty Kostkey that create zones of Winter.
A few Remotes live in Frosty Kostkey's ice fortifications, inhabiting turrets and war machines. But most live in towns and cities, secretly using their abilities to infiltrate the settlement and spread rumor and terror. They sowi gloom and despair, attempting to distract the other Powers from Frosty Kostkey's larger plans to conquer the settlement.
Traditional children's stories about Remotes often, for no apparent reason, feature male Pixies. The Segacious debate why young minds so enjoy hearing about short, malicious, green-clad workers busy building deadly machinery and steam-powered, flying sleighs in hidden laboratories in snowy lands.
The Remote traits are Perpetual Motion and Machine Possession.
Bounty Hunters are people who carry one of Gnash's bounty posters to receive supernatural help hunting and fighting a criminal.
Gnash puts magic wanted posters on kiosks and notice-boards in village greens, town squares, and city markets. These posters demand justice for severe crimes (mostly house-breaking, theft, and murder). For those appearing on a wanted poster for the first time the punishment specified is time in the stocks. Repeat offenders must be slain. Posters are always specific to a single criminal: a crime performed by a group of criminals generates multiple posters.
When a poster is removed a new copy appears. The removed copy exists as long as someone is carrying it in their hands or on their person. People can carry multiple posters, whether of the same or different originals. When the criminal has finally been punished in the appropriate manner then all copies (posted or carried) of that poster vanish.
Everyone who carries a wanted poster becomes a Bounty Hunter. They gain an extrasensory ability to know the distance and direction to the criminal. This ability is only active when the Bounty Hunter closes his or her eyes. The also gain increased insight when fighting the criminal.
Gnash rewards Bounty Hunters who successfully punish the criminal they hunt (whether subduing a first-time offender and bringing him or her to the stocks or slaying a repeat offender) with coins or special items.
Bounty Hunter Traits
The Bounty Hunter traits are Homing and Tactician.
Each of the Powers gives a certain kind of special gift to loyal followers. These gifts do things that cannot be done with the technology and magic available to people.
The equipment rules describe how the most powerful items cost something to use. The Power gifts are an exception! They cannot be built and are very seldom sold and purchased. Characters with Power gifts have almost always done something heroic to obtain the item, so here is no need for activating the item to also be heroic.
Many followers of Little Humble, including her Errants, enjoy traveling alone. To help them be prepared in an emergency while carrying minimal possessions, Little Humble gives her most devoted followers a serendipity bag. These look like a typical small bag but inside is a faintly glowing ball of light.
When someone with a serendipity bag is in trouble, he or she can reach into the bag and pull out something useful. The ball of light vanishes to show that the bag's magic is used up.
If the crisis is merely the annoyance of not having the right tools for a crafting or exploration task then the serendipity bag always produces the needed tools. Someone who needs to light a fire could pull out flint and steel. Someone who needs to cut mend a tent could pull out sewing supplies. Someone who needs to make a raft by tying together small tree trunks could pull out an axe and rope. Someone who needs to safely climb out of a pit could pull out a hammer, pitons, and rope.
Similarly, if the crisis is caused by needing food, water, clothing, or shelter than a serendipity bag will reliably provide. However, exactly what is pulled out varies wildly. Someone starving could pull out a fully cooked nourishing meal on silver platters, a dead cow, or a melon vine laden with melons. Someone dehydrated could pull out a full waterskin, a geiser, or a ten meter tall ice sculpture of a famous explorer.
For any other crisis the item pulled out will be useful but will not completely resolve the trouble. For example, consider an unarmed hero with a serendipity bag who is chased by bandits to the edge of the cliff on one side of a deep chasm in which flows ice-cold rapids. If the hero reaches into his serendipity bag he might pull out a sword, a parachute, or a bridge that expands to span the chasm. All three are slightly useful, but none guarantee safe escape from the bad situation.
The most historically reknown use of a serendipity bag was when Tirk Heavyhanded, as a lowly foot soldier chosen to accompany his clan leader for the ritual pre-battle demands for surrender (an event that always before was a mere formal and ineffective activity), pulled Little Humble herself out of his serendipity bag. Little Humble gave such a scolding to the two Kobalt clan leaders that they canceled the battle and peacefully merged their clans.
Speleoth encourages people to visit new places, see new sights, and enjoy the pleasures of travel and exploration. He appreciates that some sights are so incredible that family and friends back home may have trouble believing what was seen. So he creates scene recorders in his Caves and in other dramatic destinations. These amazing devices look like a magnifying glass with a metal frame and handle. An ornate button marks the front of the handle. When the button is pressed the device records what it is pointed at for ten seconds. Forever after, the button causes the device to create an illusionary projection of what it once recorded. The illusionary projection is one meter tall and appears in the air a few feet in front of the scene recorder.
Although scene recorders are intended by Speleoth to memorialize the highlights of travel, people have found so many other uses for them that "empty" scene recorders are expensive. Wealthy people buy them to record weddings or other lifecycle events. Politicians desire them to record the summary and handshake that seals an important treaty.
Yarnspinner enjoys giving out annotated maps. These maps have accurate and vaguely intriguing comments. Their magical nature is clear in how the annotations change over time (but they never while being observed).
For example, consider the annotation "Wedded bliss, appreciates visitors". That location could be about a happily married Bergtroll king and queen who need someone to go on a quest. It might mark the home of a sweet, elderly couple who just became grandparents and cannot tell enough people how happy they are. Or It could lead to two dragons who are setting up a lair together and need not stop decorating to go hunting for food if tasty would-be adventurers visit.
Some people claim Yarnspinner uses these maps to help teach his followers that everyone has a story, and respecting other people's stories includes carefully choosing whether or not to participate. Others believe the maps are simply an excuse for Yarnspinner to cause trouble by tempting people into more adventurous lives.
My favorite RuneQuest setting was Griffin Island with its large player's map delightfully annotated with handwritten rumors. Yarnspinner's annotated maps are a tribute to that masterful game supplement.
Podajatonx honors his favorite sport by giving his followers bottomless quivers that hold an unlimited number of arrows.
These quivers also have two buckled flaps on the outside. One opens to a magically large storage compartment about as large as a backpack. The other opens to a second magical compartment that each day produces a few pieces of dried meat and a few coins of the local currency.
Most bottomless quivers are given as rewards to the winner of a wild hunt. But Podajatonx may also present them on other occasions.
Maw Lute delights in music and collections, and encourages her followers to these pursuits by giving them special sets of items known as panoplies.
Panoplies always include at least three items: a weapon, clothing or armor, and a tool.
A traveling minstrel's panoply might include an sword that sheds light when drawn, a cloak that repels all water and dirt, and an enchanted musical instrument.
A merchant's panoply might include a dagger that screeches when held above the head, an impossibly light chain shirt, and an unbreakable treasure chest that can only be opened by one key.
Many panoplies grant their owner an extra power once the entire set has been collected.
Dragon hoards often include several panoplies, both complete and incomplete sets.
Futhorc loves providing people with the opporunity to explore his ruin dungeons that contain no real risks. They can experience unusual adventure even without having exceptional abilities.
As a complimentary theme, Futhorc creates spell-scrolls that grant whomever reads it aloud one use of a specified magic spell. The spell-scroll vanishes after being read aloud. With spell-scrolls people can apply exceptional abilities to their usual circumstances.
Most spell-scrolls must be earned by attempting Futhorc's ruin dungeons. But some are simply given to his devout followers.
Lamia tries to help people overcome paralyzing shame or guilt. The absorb stones she gives to her followers are tools in this effort.
Absorb stones are a faintly luminescent pale blue color, until they are touched to a poisoned person. Then they cure the person of poison and turn into a clump of black dust.
When the black dust is stirred into a liquid and drunk, the drinker feels no shame or guilt for one hour.
The absorb stones are loosely based on stones called naag mani or snake stones, described as being able to absorb poison and bring good fortune.
Frosty Kostkey gives many of his servants the gift of unnatural machine components called oversprings that allow clockwork devices to fuction for days at a time.
However, an oversprung machine is unstable and has a chance of exploding.
The overspring is itself fragile. Bypassing an oversprung machine by disabling it does not damage the overspring, which can then be removed. But bypassing an oversprung machine by damaging it always ruins the overspring beyond repair.
The existance of oversprings means that Frosty Kostkey's Remotes are not his only immensely dangerous machine-builders. If the PC encounters a machine with a very long active duration, the PC does not know if a Remote is nearby or a lesser servant of Frosty Kostley.
Gnash creates necrotic weapons for his loyal followers. Sometimes he secretly changes other weapons also to make them necrotic.
Necrotic weapons are of a superior, magical quality. They provide a 2-point equipment bonus to appropriate skill use.
Anyone killed by a necrotic weapon becomes a zombie. For this reason, most people consider it evil to own necrotic weapons.
The person who wielded the Necrotic Weapon and delivered the killing blow gains temporary control over the new Zombie. He or she may give it one command, which the Zombie will attempt to obey until the next sundown. The new Zombie also identifies that person with its "life sense" and will not attack that person. However, if the person leaves the range of the Zombie's "life sense" and returns, the Zombie will not recognize its creator and will attack.
The weapons that were carried by undead are sometimes intelligent as well as necrotic. These weapons are able to drain a target's speed as a zombie does, and yearn for their next opportunity to feed. They can also sense nearby life, whisper telepathically to whomever carries them, and when unwatched can teleport two meters.
The Sagacious theorize that the curse of necromobility has somehow infected these objects, creating within them personality and hunger. This theory is supported by a few (unreliable) stories of intellignent necrotic weapons that finally drain enough speed to lose all their special abilities and return to being a mundane weapon.
Some people make an exception to the "owning necrotic weapons is evil" rule for adventurers who use intelligent necrotic weapons to hunt undead. After all, if cursed corpses are being defeated, why not let an evil weapon also "feed" on their speed until its curse is also ended?
Necrotic Weapon Traits
Intelligent necrotic weapons share the undead traits of No Breath, Sense Life, and Drain Speed.
Intelligent necrotic weapons also have their own trait, Unwatched Hop.
In the Eidos Thief games, the eye is an evil artifact that can move when not watched and can speak telepathically to the protagonist. More famous for only moving when unwatched are the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who.
Intelligent items can be a lot of fun. What if items other than weapons could become intelligent if worn or carried by an undead for a long time? What if the item's emotions manifested physically: when impatient it rocks back and forth, when frightened it quivers, when worried it attracts condensation, when angered it feels hot, when indifferent it feels cold, and when bored it rusts?
Discuss the 9P monsters at the Story Games forum.
The lands around Arlinac Town have monsters that portray three types of evil or wrongness.
The fantasy setting of 9P contains many dangerous creatures that are not "monsters". Travelers who venture away from the main roads might encounter lions and tigers and bears and dinosaurs.
But being really monstrous requires more than being a big thing that sometimes eats people. The best monsters highlight the types of conflict understandable by and important to children. Fairy tales have demonstrated for centuries how children find comfort in stories where wicked deeds are punished, hurtful secrets are revealed, and wounded people recover and become strong.
Moreover, most children find dealing with only a few types of crime and violence to be sensible, sufficient, and preferable to the wide array of grown-up evils. Therefore 9P focuses on its three categories of monsters. If the GM and Player are both adults then stories might additionally feature monsters that highlight prejudice, lust, oppression, addiction, apathy, entitlement, and other vices that require some maturity to deal with.
A further and more subtle type of wrongness is seen in how no 9P monsters breed. All monsters are created by the Powers. Monsters are distinct from the intelligent races because they lack offspring, not intelligence.
The nine types of monsters have different natures because of both narrative description and traits. The nine types of monsters also have distinct types of treasure. Player characters gain spendable wealth by completing adventures, but get flavorful loot for defeating flavorful opponents.
Monsters must be interesting to fight! Consider using dinosaurs as monsters for a role-playing game. Fighting a tyrannosaurus in a forest sounds exciting, but usually that combat is simplistic. Dinosaurs lack intelligence and equipment. They have no reason to be encountered in locations with strategic options. A dragon would have more interesting abilities. An evil champion could use more interesting equipment. The dragon or champion would both do massive damage, fight intelligently, and deliberately make use of a strategically interesting location. A normal tyrannosaurus is simply outclassed! That is why 9P has several types of monsters that can serve to make normal animals more intelligent, interesting, and unpredictable.
Please pardon my lack of standards for samples of each type of monster. Eventually sample monsters will be part of sample adventures. For now there is a hodge-podge of descriptive phrases and brief descriptions.
Bugaboos are monsters created from the scary things children imagine, which feed on fear, and attack using hallucination and strangling.
Because Little Humble loves children she helps children who are afraid of imaginary monsters by removing the fear from the child's mind. Then Little Humble creates a real version of the monster away from the child's home.
Usually a child freed of its imaginary monster never meets the bugaboo its monster turned into. Nothing special happens if they do meet, except that such an encounter is usually traumatic to the child.
Because children are so creative, bugaboos have tremendous variety in appearance and behavior.
Here are four examples of different bugaboos:
Bugaboos are invigorated when people near them are frightened. They make trouble by causing startling or creepy visual or olfactory hallucionations. Some bugaboos are violent and attack by grabbing and strangling their prey.
Fortunatey for the people who hunt bugaboos, most children never actually consider what the scary imaginary thing feels like. When it becomes a bugaboo, it still lacks well-defined tactile properties. The first person to touch it may "imprint" on it any desired tactile qualities. Clever hunters of imprintable bugaboos use this trick to make the creature brittle like overbaked cookie dough, or weak like poorly made candle wax.
(When a child did decide what his or her imaginary monster felt like or that its body was tough and rugged, the creature is non-imprintable and more difficult to fight.)
A second trick can help the people who hunt bugaboos. When a bugaboo is visible, the person hunting it can receive help from a vividly described imaginary friend. The bugaboo will believe the imaginary friend is real and act accordingly. The imaginary friend cannot touch the bugaboo but does count as another person for providing a group bonus to skill use.
Bugaboos are afraid of magical weapons, which they mistakenly believe were all created specifically to hunt them. Magical weapons are more effecive than usual against bugaboos.
When a bugaboo defeats someone, that victim is turned into a lesser copy of the bugaboo with a shadowy and insubstantial appearance. It follows its new master until that bugaboo is defeated. Then the person returns to his or her normal self, exhausted but alive.
When a bugaboo is defeated it explodes into a small shower of treats: mostly candy, a few coins, and one shiny token that grants the owner an adrenaline token.
The bugaboo traits are Feed on Fright, Hallucinations, Entangle, Strangle, Spawns Copies, Susceptible to Magic, Imprintable, and Smashable.
The word bugaboo is a variant of bugbear, which is similar to bogeyman. Using bugbear emphasizes being obsessed with the fear, whereas bogeyman emphasizes that the childhood fear was purposefully implanted by the child's parents.
The rules are purposefully vague about what happens to the clothing and equipment of people defeated by a bugaboo. Does it get absorbed into the spawned copy of the bugaboo, or is a pile of clothing and equipment left behind on the floor? Perhaps either can happen, depeneding upon the nature of the bugaboo!
Yes, defeating a bugaboo is like smashing a piñata. The adrenaline token is the real prize: it is an extra token that does not count towards the normal number of adrenaline tokens earned by completing the adventure.
The "garb-grabber" and "skin man" were inspired by illustrations in the Libris Mortis. An interest collection of childen's own illustrations of their imaginary monsters can be found here.
Fuses are monsters with a unique magical ability and a body that combines the anatomy of two normal animals: the cave-dwelling troglosaurs have a dinosaur torso, and the mountain-dwelling lionkin have a lion torso.
Speleoth creates these fanciful monsters as one aspect of the wonders found throuh exploration. His caves are always populated by troglosaurs. Lionkin are created on mountain summits with an especially impressive view.
Most fuses have only slightly more intelligence and size than their smarter and larger kind of animal. A few are especially clever or huge.
Although Speleoth delights most in creating new types of fuses that have never yet been encountered, he also has some favorites he creates frequently (yet these favorites are usually given new abilities and habits despite their similar physical appearance to older fuses).
Troglosaurs have a dinosaur torso with some features from a mammal or arthropod. Large and aggressive favorites include an spinosaurus whose back is covered with huge porcupine quills, a stegosaurus whose white spinal stripe (including its plates) hints that it has a skunk's spray, and a triceratops with a scorpion's stinger on its tail. Smaller yet still dangerous are a compsognathus with large bat wings, a troodon that spins webbing, and a juravenator that drinks like a tick. Less dangerous but more common are the clumsily flying "troggles" that combine a mini-ankylosaurus and bat: these look very rocky, sometimes move bipedally, and love eating turnips.
Lionkin have a lion's torso merged with some features from a mammal, bird, or arthropod. Here are some of the most famous lionkin, whose stories are now legends.
Although troglosaurs are created inside caves and lionkin are created at mountain summits, fuses of both types often leave their initial location to hunt for food or a different lair.
Fuses are more socialbe than selfish. They enjoy sharing their space with other creatures. In addition to the fuses initially created in those dungeons, many of Speleoth's caves gain a population of animals, oozes, and sometimes even some undead or a bigbeast.
Speleoth sometimes uses his fuses as his eyes and ears to observe important events.
Fuses are especially deadly whenever they are dropping down upon a victim. They do this by pouncing onto prey, leaping from a tree, or (if they have wings) diving down from the air. When attacking from above they can simultaneously attack with all of their claws and their bite. Usually so many attacks are sufficient to kill an opponent. Therefore the people that hunt fuses know to stay above the monster, or at least dodge when it pounces.
Each fuse has a random magical ability that only affects the monster itself. It might be able to turn invisible, levitate slowly through the air, breathe fire, move twice as fast for a short time, communicate telepathically, spit acid, or do anything else. This ability comes from an organic gemstone that grows on its back at the peak of its thoracic curve.
The alchemical substance alkahest harms fuses. People who hunt fuses often coat their blades with alkahest.
Fuses are often hunted for their gems. Making the gem into a powder produces an alchemical ingredient that when used in alchemical recipes that mimic the fuse's magical ability will increase sevenfold the shelf life (the creator's Alchemy skill rating now measures the weeks of shelf life, instead of days) and doubles the duration of the effect (the duration is twice the impact rating).
All fuse gems look the same. A gem's use is only known by observing the fuse using its magical ability. Powders made from unidentified gems are nearly worthless because attempting to use them in an alchemy recipe is probably a waste of time and other ingredients. Purchasing gems or powder from a stranger can be risky.
The fuse traits are Gem Focus, Gem Powder, Pounce, and Vulnerable to Alkahest.
Fuses can potentially do almost anything that affects themselves. This is a contrast to witches, who can potentially do almost anything to other creatures.
Note that gem powder does not degenerate over time. Unlike a finished potion, it can be safely stored indefinitely without any loss of potency.
The name troglosaur is a fuse of troglobite and dinosaur, meaning "hole-dwelling reptile".
Troggles are based on both gargoyles, Fraggles, and the various types of troglodytes popular in other role-playing and computer games.
All the example lionkin are based upon traditional monsters: alphyn, griffin and more griffin, leucrocotta, manticore, questing beast, sphinx (crio- and hieraco-). Notice that for most of these creatures "traditional" does not mean the legends agree well about what the monster looks like or how it behaves. A GM need not hesitate to be creative! Both ancient and modern authors adapt these classic heraldic beasts in many ways, especially by adding or removing wings, venom, a stinging tail, bird-like claws, dangerous breath, etc.
Alkahest is a mythical universal solvent. The "real" version would have far more uses than damaging the type of monster made from fusing together two animals.
Witches look like women, but are ephemeral creatures who can use an eldritch implement (usually a wand, ring, cauldron, hat, or box) to create magical effects to help them fulfill their mission.
A witches can look like a woman from any intelligent race. There are no bald witches. All witches have hair at least long enough to reach their shoulders.
Witches can appear to be young, middle-aged, or very old: a maiden, matron, or crone. This apparent age never changes. It does not relate to how attractive or charismatic the witch seems. At any age she might be strong and beautiful or might look ugly and shriveled. The apparent age of a witch corresponds to what type of magic they use. Maidens are enchantresses. Matrons are conjurers. Crones are transmogrifiers.
Many witches live or travel alone. Others live in groups that most often have three members, one of each apparent age.
A rumor claims that a witch can be identified because the relection of the sun in her eyes will be shaped like a crescent moon instead of a circle. Another rumor claims that speaking a witch's true name can force her to grant a wish.
Witches are neither benevolent nor malicious. They are never generous but will repay favors.
Witches are created by Yarnspinner, who always gives them a mission. Because witches know they are ephemeral beings who only exist to attempt a brief mission they have no sense of self-preservation. They always prefer a dramatic death to abandoning their purpose.
Most often a witch's mission is to initiate a story. Examples from legends include a witch who kidnaps an oppressed princess to introduce her to valiant suitors, a witch who arrives in a village disguised as a traveling apothecary charlatan but whose lotions and balms have amazing effects, and a witch who moves to a city and turns an abandoned building into an apparently innocent pet store that actually sells monsters each midnight.
A rare witch will be assigned the story of disguising herself to join an adventuring party. The witch will appear to be in need of help or useful as a potential ally. She will initially be genuinely helpful to whomever it meets. However, as time goes on she will become more and more demanding. As soon as any demand is not met, the witch becomes hostile. She tries to take back any sources of aid she has lent to her former companions, fairly offering trades if appropriate but if resisted willing to fight to reclaim what is rightfully hers. Then the witch flees and disappears forever.
Witches can elongate and shrink their hair, and also use it as a dextrous, prehensile limb to reach up to four meters away. Even physically weak witches can do feats of immense strength with their hair.
Witches can do fearsome magic. Many tales tell of witches turning a person into a frog, turning vegetables into vehicles, or instantly creating a house made out of cupcakes. Most people believe a witch can do anything with her magic. Yet the witch needs to use her eldritch implement as appropriate to her age to create an effect that directly helps accomplish her mission's goals by effecting other things or people. This fourfold limitation almost always prevents a witch from using her magic to ambush or attack people.
A witch can gain the ability to use the another type of witch magic by taking the eldritch implement from a witch of a different age.
When a witch is killed or fulfills her mission she turns into a puff of scintillating smoke. After several seconds, the smoke coalesces into a green pearl. Touching one of these pearls to one of Yarnspinner's annotated maps adds a new location to the map and causes the pearl to vanish.
A witch's eldritch implement vanishes when she turns into smoke. For this reason evil witches that prey on other witches by stealing their eldritch implements (to gain other types of magic) must capture but not kill their victims.
The witch traits are Eldritch Implement, Story-Driven, Enchantress (Maiden), Conjurer (Matron), Transmogrifier (Crone), Terrible Tresses, Issues, Magic Resistant, and True Name.
Witches can potentially do almost anything to other creatures and objects. This is a contrast to fuses, who can potentially do almost any one thing that affects itself.
Why do witches fly through the air on or in household items? Because they cannot grant themselves the ability to fly!
Prehensile hair is a trope linked to RPG witches by Pathfinder.
The rumor about a witch's eyes is a reference to the song Witchy Woman by the Eagles.
The wish-granting ability/requirement of witches is similar to shamanistic spirit use in the Shadowrun role-playing game.
Green pearls are a tribute to Jack Vance's novel The Green Pearl, the second part of the Lyonesse Trilogy.
Bigbeasts are larger and exaggerated versions of normal animals created by Podajatonx as challenges for hunters. Memorable bigbeasts are created with fanfare as the quarry of a wild hunt.
Most bigbeasts are unsociable and appear alone. A few live in small groups of identical animals that behave like a family or pack.
Bigbeasts are created far from any settlements. They desire to conquer special isolated locations: buttes, signal towers, signposts at crossroads, remote shrines, etc. If they find such a location they move there. When claiming such a site and establishing a lair they do not disturb the local wildlife and are only dangerous if provoked. After finishing the lair, they strive to expanad their territory. They roam farther and farther, ignoring small animals but hunting other large predators and attacking any intelligent creatures. (Evil people sometimes cause havok by finding a way to lead a bigbeast to a village or town, where its instinct to attack intelligent creatures causes it to frenzy.)
The best hunters use pendants to quietly boast about which bigbeasts they have tracked and killed. Some even mount the heads of slain bigbeasts on a prominent wall of their homes.
Bigbeasts are monsters and thus resistant to therianthropy. They are much bigger and tougher than a normal animal of their kind. As examples of size, a bigbeast rat is as large as a normal wolf, a bigbeast wolf is as large as a normal pony, and a bigbeast bear is as large as a normal elephant. Most dangerous bigbeasts are so large that enough that only traps especially designed to catch a such a huge target can ensnare them.
Bigbeasts gain exaggerations of their innate animal abilities. As examples, bigbeast snakes are unnaturally able to detect heat and hypnotize, bigbeast crows have a shriek that causes pain and panic, and bigbeast centipedes have nearly impervious chitin and can dig with incredible speed. Similarly, bigbeasts have their personalities exaggerated from those of a normal animal of their kind. A bigbeast jay is an especially vicious bird. A bigbeast maltese is dangerous in its doggy desire for attention. Bigbeasts always have extra intelligence: bigbeast insects are as clever as normal rats, bigbeast squirrels deceive with elaborately planned tricks, and bigbeast swine can read road signs.
Bigbeasts are usually at least as habitually alert as a normal animal of their kind. Most have high Perception, although those at the top of their local food chain may have become fat, spoiled, and unperceptive.
To make bigbeasts more difficult to hunt, Podajatonx gives each a special power that makes it difficult to track.
Bigbeasts radiate a faint visible aura (usually green or grey in color) that causes weakness in adjacent living creatures. Old bigbeasts develop incredibly tough hide with rocky or bony protrusions, and often additional horns.
In the lair of a slain bigbeast is a gold pendant. If the bigbeast was killed by a person, the pendant records the person's name and the date the animal was slain. The pendants are magically indestructible.
The bigbeast traits shared by all bigbeasts are Tricky Tracks, Debilitating Aura, and Sucker for Potential.
Most bigbeasts have additional traits appropriate to their exaggerated size and personality. Examples include Bear Hug, Massive Roar, Quick-Acting Poison, Skunk Spray, Trample, Webs, Winged Flight, and Vicious Wrestler.
Fantasy literature is full of fights between heroes and dangerous animals.
Many times the favorite fantasy animal of a GM or Player can be included in the setting as either a non-monstrous animal or a bigbeast. Does the fantasy world contain rocs and unicorns as "normal" animals, or are these bigbeast eagles and old bigbeast horses?
Squirrels really are deceptive, using false caches of food to minimize thefts from rivals. Pigs really do have a talent for understanding print: they have been taugh to differentiate known scribbles from new scribbles they have not seen before
The magic pendants found in a bigbeast's lair only appear after the bigbeast is slain. The pendants resistance to harm means they cannot be used to fuel semblancy despite being magical.
Here in an example of using the bigbeast concept to recreate a famous heraldic creature:
The fearsome seps (reference) is a type of bigbeast viper. It breathes dreadful fumes that cause nausea but no lasting damage. Its steaming venom quickly liquifies any creature it bites, allowing it to swallow whole even huge animals. The scales of a seps are thick and prized by armorers. The venom is used by alchemists as an ingredient for the most potent of acids. A seps is quite agile with its tail, and can pick up one opponent with it (usually to toss it or bash it against the ground) while biting another opponent. Thus, if it fighting more than one opponent it gets two attacks on those turns when it does attack.
Dragons are large and intelligent serpents with a breath weapon and magical flight that gain additional power by hoarding treasure.
Despite their resemblance to reptiles, dragons are warm-blooded. They usually have wiry bunches of hair, such as bushy eyebrows, a long, wispy beard under the tip of the snout, or bristly tufts hair beside the sharp plates that jut up in a row along their back. Most dragons have wings.
Dragons are so big they are slow and ponderous. They can only attack every other turn. (The turns they are not able to attack they may still use skills such as Melee or Wrestle to fight defensively.)
Dragons are colorful and brilliant in habit and appearance. Their lustrous hide has opalescent scales that become truly iridescent on their wings and chests. They work hard to make their lairs flamboyant and eccentric as well as dangerous. They love singing and many dragons are also accomplished musicians using large instruments of their own invention.
Dragons do not gain skill or size through age, practice, or experience. Their abilities instead come from hoarding treasure. Thus they all desire a large hoard of treasure. Yet dragons are not entirely selfish. They will share some of their wealth with less advanced dragons. Maw Lute provides the new dragons she creates with a "starter hoard" of items from at least two incomplete panoplies.
Contrary to many children's stories, dragons do not simply push their treasure into a pile to sleep upon. Instead, they are careful to hide their treasure effectively in several locations, while keeping useful enchanted items accessible.
Esteem and respect among dragons is based upon how many villages, towns, and cities a dragon controls. Dragons do not actually care about ruling or governing the settlements they dominate. Instead they demand a tribute or token that proclaims the settlement's subservient attitude. Unintelligent dragons are appeased with a monthly meal of plump livestock. Intelligent dragons enjoy being creative about the type of tribute. Some demand a specific type of treasure. Others require poems or ballads extolling their frightining might. Some demand marriage to a daughter of the king or mayor. A few require the people they subject to go on quests for obscure relics or spell-scrolls. The bards sing stories of especially eccentric dragons of history, such as Magno the Rotund (who hosted annual pie baking contests and ate the losers), Fang the Conjested (who demanded spicy meals weekly), Cardan the Creepy (who liked eating undead each new moon night at midnight), and Poldore the Also Creepy (who required the king or mayor of each subjected settlement to marry a witch).
(The satirical Ballad of Gladfang humorously describes a dragon whose captive damsels lived in such luxury in his resplendent lair and were treated so well that people traveled great distances to found small towns in Gladfang's territory—hoping their daughters would be chosen as his newest trophies.)
Dragons correspond with each other regularly, using hired messengers or magical communications. This network is called the dragon dominion. The dominion never seeks vengeance for a slain dragon. But live dragons commonly ask each other for assistance. Woe upon the adventurer who nearly kills a dragon but fails to finisht he job!
All dragons can fly. Their flight is clearly magical because they can hover despite their great size. Some dragons can even fly without having wings!
Dragons radiate a frightening aura. Adventurers seeking a dragon's treasure usually rely on teamwork to successfully explore the dragon's complex lair, but because of this aura will be unable to fight as a team once the dragon confronts them.
Dragons are so big their attacks stun whomever they hit, causing the victim to lose his or her next turn.
All dragons have potent breath. Most can breathe fire or steam. Some can breathe frost, gas, or an intoxicating floral scent.
Dragon hide is beautiful but structurally imperfect. Someone who has noticed the flaws in a dragon's hide can double any equipment bonuses when attacking.
When a dragon is awake it is intuitively aware of the contents of its hoarded treasure and the location of each item. However, an item stolen is no longer owned by the dragon, who immediately loses the knowledge of its nature and location. Therefore an alert dragon can notice much about what looters at its hoard are doing, but a sleeping dragon is only able to realize upon waking that items are missing. (If the missing items were especially valued, the waking dragon would quickly deduce which they are.)
Dragons never share their "starter hoards" with other dragons, and prioritize collecting panoply items. Most dragon hoards contain both incomplete and completed panoplies, as well as more mundane treasure.
The dragon traits are Magical Flight, Aura of Panic, Stuns, Breath Weapon, Imperfect Armor, Ponderous, Hoard Armor, Hoard Coins, Hoard Weapons, Hoard Artwork, Hoard Words, and Hoard Gems and Jewelry.
Dragon lairs are "flamboyant" in both sense of the word: stylishly exuberant and using Flamboyant architecture.
Oozes are rubbery and nearly transparent creatures (slimes, puddings, jellies, molds, and lurkers) that are amorphous and mindless when created but gain shapes and intelligence as they consume animals and people.
Oozes are actually colonies of single-cell units which are each too small to be visible to the eye. Their rubbery bodies can make them difficult to damage.
There are three sizes of oozes. Futhorc creates the smallest oozes to be helpful to people. Large oozes are created where Futhorc desires dangerous monsters. Immature oozes advance in size about annually: the single-cell units need to age before being able to effectively network in larger numbers.
The smallest oozes ("compost size") can only dissolve cellulose (plant material) and are not dangerous. These are often purposefully put in compost piles. After a small ooze has grown slightly larger ("outhouse size") it gains the ability to also dissolve proteins, but can still be safely kept in a smooth-walled metal container or at the bottom of a rock-walled pit. A full-grown ooze is about three feet in diameter ("dangerous size") and has the ability to also dissolve fats, making it a threat to animals. Rumors say the biggest oozes can even dissolve rock.
Oozes can slowly undulate across the ground or creep along a wall or roof. But most oozes are encountered when resting motionless.
Oozes attack with a relentless grasp, using a pseudopod or stretching their entire body around prey. Puddes also die in a dramatic and dangerous fashion: splattering, exploding, or expeling spores. Adventurers who attack a ooze should try to kill it from a distance.
Oozes perceive the world around them using the five normal senses and two special senses: they can sense heat and detect magical energy. Oozes feel pleasure when they surround magic things, so even unintelligent oozes seek out magical items and will fearlessly attack anyone carrying a magical item. Oozes keep their magical items in a special vesicle, safe from digestion.
The five traditional ways to attack oozes are by cutting, burning, freezing, electrifying, or splashing with salt water. For a particular ooze two of these will be damaging, two do nothing, and one will cause the creature to split into two smaller oozes, unharmed but disoriented. (Most split oozes grow quickly because their single-cell units have the prerequisite experience networking.)
Some oozes have some unique abilities involving acid, fire, water, ice, or electricity.
Here are four examples of oozes:
Oozes gain two benefits each time they completely surround and dissolve an animal or person. They become as intelligent as the smartest prey they have eaten. They also learn to change shape to approximate that of digested creatures, and with a little practice using those shapes also learn to move as did those creatures. Most oozes have consumed several animals and can quickly change to any of those shapes. However, oozes always remain rubbery and mostly transparent blobs. They can still move along walls in addition to any mimicked movement. They never gains from dissolved prey any claws, teeth, or special abilities.
(An ooze is able to stretch its body incredibly, which enables it to mimic even very large animals. But an ooze can only compact its body slightly and cannot mimic any creature smaller than a fox. Nearly all oozes have consumed countless flies and ants, but cannot adopt such tiny forms.)
The Sagacious debate whether the oozes in Futhorc's ruins that mimic creatures do so because they digested such creatures before any adventurers entered the ruins or because Futhorc created fully functional mimics with a faked history of having consumed certain animals.
Oozes are often collected or hunted. Small ones are useful for sanitation. Big ones usually carry multiple magical items inside them.
A rumor claims that Futhorcs puts one spell-scroll inside each newly created ooze to "seed" its perception and appetite for magical items. But small oozes are too little to carry a spell-scroll while undulating, so this rumor is suspect.
The ooze traits are Transparent, Rubbery, Thermoception, Sense Magic, Death Throe, Attach, Constrict, Easy to Gang Up On, Rule of Fives, and Movement Mimicry.
The first published version of Dungeons and Dragons had several creatures on the "clean up crew": black pudding, gray ooze, green slime, ochre jelly, and yellow mold. That is out of 5 out of 51 monsters—about ten percent of that old RPG's opponents were ooze creatures!
Sean K. Reynolds has written a great rant about D&D infravision.
The phrase "rule of fives" is a tribute to the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, which borrowed it from Discordianism.
An evil twin is a monster that looks like the person whose sociopathic desire it embodies.
When Lamia became a Power she pondered what type of monster to oversee. What creature would help her punish the unrepentant? How could it exemplify her desire that people use violence minimally and only when situations lack other options?
She eventually thought up the concept of "evil twins". When an intense, unhealthy desire makes a person too miserable or desperate, Lamia frees the person from the unhealthy longing by creating a monster that looks like the person. The person is free of the yearning, and the evil twin tirelessly attempts to fulfill it.
The evil twin is not a real person. It does not need to eat or sleep. It only mimics some of the habits, mannerisms, and knowledge of the person it is was based upon. It is intelligent, but overly focused on its singular desire. So it can impersonate that person, but not very well.
Depending upon their particular sociopathic craving, the evil twin may not be violent at all. One famous tale describes the evil twin of a shy bookworm whose deep desire was local fame: it strode brazenly into a tavern and for two days told amazing stories of lost treasures and heroic adventurers.
Evil twins are relentless in achieving their craving, but not ruthless. Often careful plots and shrewd bargaining offer more promise than forcefuness or greed. An evil twin realises that it has an advantage in social situations because of its lack of fears, morals, and propriety.
Each evil twin is created weak. But each week it grows stronger. As it grows stonger, the person it is based upon grows weaker, until they fade into a magical coma that will only end when the evil twin is slain.
Evil twins heal more quickly than other creatures.
The saliva of an evil twin is toxic. Evil twins often lick their weapons to make these also dangerously poisonous. (A paper that has been treated with an alchemic substance that changes color when in contact with poison is an easy way to test if a body is a person or an evil twin.)
Evil twins are gifted mimics. They can impersonate any animal or voice, as well as many other sounds. They use this ability to sow confusion, mislead people that hunt them, and otherwise free up a path to their objective. During combat their mimicry makes them fascinating and distracting.
When an evil twin is killed an absorb stone appears. It is often used immediately as an antidote if the evil twin poisoned someone. (Because the evil twin only produces one absorb stone, these monsters are often hunted by only one person.)
Evil Twin Traits
The evil twin traits are Stronger with Time, Quick Recovery, Slow-Acting Poison, Sound Mimicry, Adrenaline Prevention.
Evil Twins were originally called "attercops", an Old English word for Spider, famously used by Tolkien in The Hobbit. It means "poisonous head" although the word has many interesting double meanings.
Abominables are cold-loving animals whose bodies have been enhanced by Frosty Kostkey's eternally functional steam-powered or clockwork machinery.
Abominables are created in the zones of Winter around Frosty Kostkey's temples and ice fortifications. Frosty Kostkey gives them extra intelligence as well as a mechanical enhancement.
Frosty Kostkey changes his larger Winter animals into living seige equipment. Those who have fought his armies have seen groups of sturdy caribou with antlers changed into ballistas, hissing ice drakes whose tails now work like onagers, huge polar bears with mantlets mounted on their backs, and trumpeting moose with small mangonels on each hip.
Smaller land animals are given machines that augment claw and tooth. Stories tell of winter wolves that breathe freezing mist, carnivorous deer with shocking antlers, cunning ermines with metalic claws, aggressive porcupines with arbalast-like shooting, silent lynxes with ice ray eyes, wily foxes barking sonic blasts, and waddling penguins dropping explosive bombs.
Flying animals support the land animals with with ranged machines. Auks, murre, terns, gyrfalcons, golden eagles, snow geese, snow owls, jaegers, loons, kittiwakes, flyways, and ravens are implanted with machines that drop caltrops or nets, guns that fire darts or bolts, or launchers the shoot barbed ropes or bolas.
Most abominables are modified animals. But a few are modified people: the most abhorrent are captives who have been turned into subservient abominable warriors. These retain what cunning they had as people, but are otherwise unintelligent. There is normally no way to rescue or heal them.
Abominables use one zone of Winter as a "home base". When they leave that location they are usually organized as a squad of eight creatures. For important tasks, pairs of squads become a platoon led by a Remote .
Most abominables outside of zones of Winter are part of platoons the goal of attacking a settlement. They raid to seek captives, claim treasure, and find machinery materials. Then they either switch to targeting a different nearby village, town, or city, or travel for days until their Remote sets up a new home base by building a temple to create a new zone of Winter.
Squads have carefully planned strategies for dealing with intruders into their lairs, infiltrating a settlement to take captives, and other events. Their teamwork is impeccable. However, their plans often rely on the varied natural expertise of the squad members. If key group members are defeated the group's strategies quickly unravel.
Although abominables are agressive they can also be amazingly patient. For example, a squad's expert in Sneak/Track might terrorize a village for months as a monster barely seen out of the corner of the eye until paranoid villagers become demoralized and easier to fight when the entire squad finally attacks.
Each abominable in a squad has one skill whose rating is equal to the number of undefeated squad members nearby. Thus defeating some squad members immediately weakens the remaining ones.
The mechanical weapons used by abominables are so fierce that a abominable's attacks often break its opponent's equipment.
A abominable's mechanical enhancement can be disrupted by other machinery.
Most abominables carry no treasure, but their home base has a stockpile of plunder and mechanical components.
The abominable traits are Squad Skill, Sundering, and Susceptible to Technology.
Because the 9P core rules do not care what weapon a character has there is no need to use traits to explain cybernetic weaponry. As far as the rules go, a penguin with a flipper-mounted repeating crossbow is merely another character that can use the Shoot skill!
From the GM's perspective, abominables have the advantage of wielding equipment that is difficult for victorious PCs to loot.
Most stories of wolves or bears that prey upon people happen during the hungry winter months, making it natural to categorize "Winter" as a category of evil similar to undead or dragons.
The undead are corpses of animals or people animated by the curse of necromobility as resilient predators that drain energy from the living.
An undead is a vivified dead body, not a revived living individual. It retains no memories, skills, habits, or spiritual connection from before its prior life.
The circumstances that cause the curse of necromobility are widely varied but all lead back to Gnash. Established causes of a creature or person becoming an undead include being sacrificed on one of Gnash's altars, being killed with a Necrotic weapon, being killed by an undead, dying near a famous meteor in the Ognost Plains said to be from Gnash's star, or dying while praying to Gnash with an especially intense desire for vengeance or destruction.
There are four types of undead. Newly created undead are mindless, lurching zombies. As undead feed they gain improved metabolism, strength, intelligence, and special abilities. Zombies can become cunning ghouls. Ghouls can become shrewd vampires. Many vampric people take steps to become an immortal, shadowy revenant.
Animals and bigbeasts who become undead often grow extra legs when becomng a ghoul. If the animal or bigbeast has no wings, it might grow wings when becoming a vampire.
Here are some examples of undead of each type:
The intense cravings that motivate undead can be used against them. Zombies desire eating the brain of living or recently killed intelligent creature, and attack potential prey with no tactics or sense of self-preservation. A clever adventurer may be able to lead a group of zombies into a trap, or back up so they pursue single-file and may be fought one at a time. If a zombie eats a brain it becomes a ghoul, who craves the flesh of intelligent creatures. Ghouls do not mind long-dead flesh, and often travel to graveyards to satisfy their craving. Ghouls are cunning and prefer to cooperate as a pack, but are not very smart and can get so focused on their own wiles that they do not notice the tactical significance of their enemies's actions. A ghoul that has become satiated with flesh becomes a Vampire, whose need to drink living people's blood is so strong that even these normally sharp-witted pedators can be tempted to take foolhardy risks.
The Mansions of Gnash have many undead inhabitants that never leave the Mansion. The Sagacious believe these undead are created directly by Gnash and are not cursed animals or people who were once alive.
Undead can appear in a group of any size. Undead of a more advanced stage can mentally control any lesser undead they see. A zombie that is not following the orders of a more advanced undead will be idle unless it senses people to attack.
A vampire who drinks enough fresh blood from intelligent prey completes its curse and becomes a normal, inanimate corpse. But people who become vampires are often unwilling to perish. They instead pray to Gnash and are told how to become a revenant. Revenants are humanoid shadows that attach themselves to people. They retain their undead traits, including the ability to command zombies, ghouls, and vampires. Revenants are slightly corporeal and can be attacked even if they are too thin to be felt.
Undead thrive by overpowering and preying on living people. Ghouls hunt people like game animals. Vampires secretly shepherd peole like livestock. Revenants instead dominate a settlement by infiltrating it and secretly gaining control over its inhabitants.
Undead do not age or breathe. The curse that animates them mimics metabolism by preventing natural decay and healing wounds.
Undead can somehow sense nearby living creatures and feel an estimate of each creature's intelligence. Undead cannot sense living creatures through solid barriers such as walls or glass-paned windows. In complete darkness they can idenfity animals and people, but have no special way to sense walls. The Sagacious debate whether undead can sense plants: do undead truly have "life sense" or are they actually sensing brains?
(Zombies rely on sight and life sense. They are deaf and cannot smell. Ghouls and vampires have an exceptionally keen sense of smell they use to find and track their prey.)
Undead are incredibly resilient. Wounds seldom slow them down because they are animated by a curse instead of a heathy body. Breaking their bones with a bludgeoning weapon works much better than trying to cut or stab them. Losing an extremity does not traumatize them. Their curse heals them rapidly: not noticeable during combat, but after being defeated they must be burned or they will rise again in a few moments.
Moreover, only magical weapons hurt undead. Most people who hunt undead use tempered weapons. Non-magic weapons can knock down an undead but not truly harm them. Necrotic weapons also work, but most people consider owning those evil. (Nothing special happens when an undead is defeated by a necrotic weapon. It was already cursed with necromobility! So these evil weapons are, ironically, "safe" to use against undead.)
However, undead have their vulnerabilities. They are creatures of night and shadow. Direct sunlight harms them. Silver weapons are epecially damaging, and even non-magical silver weapons can do some harm to undead. Most undead are also vulnerable to something related to the source of their necromobility. (For example, an undead created at one of Gnash's altars might be vulnerable to a weapon made from the stones of that altar, to the cloth worn by the Ogre who did the sacrificing, or to proximity to the ruined altar. An ambitious noble who prayed to Gnash to become an undead as he was killed by a rival might be vulnerable to the dagger the killer used, or while seeing the coat of arms of the rival noble family, or while hearing the voices of his children whose safety was foremost in his mind as he died.)
A revenant who has attached to someone is no longer harmed by direct sunlight. It merges with the person's own shadow, almost disappearing but giving the person's shadow a telltale wrongness visible with careful examination. Thereafter, any time the victim is in darkness the revenant can control the person like a puppet, usually causing madly sadistic acts of corruption or intrigue. The victim has no memories from when he or she was under the revenant's control.
Socially, the suffering and ruthlessness caused by revenants extends far beyond what actual revenants directly cause. Gnash clearly delights in creating a fiend whose mere existence causes indirect evil and ruthlessness: many madmen use the concept of a revenant to justify their actions. For example, a serial killer might be a madman who has falsely convinced himself that the motivation for his crimes is possession by a revenant. As another example, an influential civic leader might be framed for a crime in a way that causes people to falsely suspect he or she is possessed by a revenant.
Perhaps the most dreadful characteristic of undead is how their touch drains life energy. Someone touched by a zombie feels chilled and cannot move quickly. A ghoul's touch makes the victim feel faint and muzzy. A vampire's touch causes weakness and frailty. Revenants do not normally leave the person to whom they are attached to take their own actions, but when they do their touch drains adrenaline.
Vampires (even vampire animals) also have a hypnotizing gaze they use to bring prey towards them.
Perhaps the most powerful weapons are the intelligent necrotic weapons created when an undead carries a weapon for a long time.
The undead traits are No Breath, Sense Life, Fewer Senses, Bloodhound, Tough as Bones, Sturdy, Comes Back, Vulnerable to Sunlight, Vulnerable to Silver, Supernatural Skin, Circumstantially Feeble, Lurch, Drain Speed/Energy/Vitality/Adrenaline, Come to Me, Spawns Minions, and Call Minions.
Some undead share the bigbeast traits of Gallop and Winged Flight when the curse of necromobility adds legs or wings. Undead may also have other traits based upon the type of creature whose corpse they use.
Zombies and skeletons are classic fantasy monsters. Note that in 9P an undead skeleton must be skeleton of a creature or person who has so recently became undead that the curse of necromobility has not yet had time to regenerate a body on its bones.
A basilisk, lindworm, and wyvern are not traditionally undead creatures. That change adds an ironic twist to the King of Serpents, and is no odder than imagining a cockrel hatching a snake's egg. (Note that the choice of "adder" is arbitrary: no snakes actually hynotize their prey.) Lindworms have such varied descriptions that the change is comparatively minor!
Wuxia Movement Example of Wonder Talent Feats
Speleoth's wondrous feats empower characters to move and fight like fictional protagonists of Chinese Wuxia literature in ways beyond how talents already do this.
Bardic Traveler Example of Wonder Talent Feats
Barbarian Acrobat Example of Wonder Talent Feats