The 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. They also cause adventures to sprout through their overlapping interests and authorities. Exciting and daring events happen as they vie for influence by trying to convince, manipulate, trick, or coerce significant characters.
When the world was new, in the Age of Greatness, the Creator made three Powers to oversee mighty heroes...
|Yarnspinner||Enchanted Forest||Bardic Competitions||Story Finders||Annotated Maps||Witches||Forensics|
|Achiever||Memorials||Sporting Events||Oathsworn||Passportals||Bigbeasts||Animal Styles|
|Speleoth||Caves||Round Trips||Elementalists||Scene Recorders||Oozes||Movement|
The Age of Goodness began when the Creator made Powers to help ordinary people also seek out adventure and challenge...
|Maw Lute||Dragon Lairs||Treasure Hunts||Buskers||Panoplies||Dragons||Music|
|Little Humble||Isolated Keeps||Wild Hunts||Errants||Serendipity Bags||Bugaboos||Minimalism|
|Futhorc||Faded Realms||Rune Quests||Casters||Spell-Scrolls||Echoes||Spell-Scroll Use|
In the current age, the Age of Troubles, the Creator made Powers that encouraged and equipped violent people...
|Gnash||Mansions||Last One Standings||Bounty Hunters||Necrotic Weapons||Undead||Pursuit|
|Frosty Kostkey||Ice Fortifications||Zip Tag Games||Remotes||Oversprings||Abominables||Overbearing|
The nine Powers are above mortals. But they can be encountered by those brave enough to seek them out. They more often affect events subtly, within the deepest layers of intrigue, as they compete to expand their influence. The Powers can manifest with physical bodies. Each can only observe the location in which it is present, but can instantly travel to any place they have previously been. They cannot be killed, but can be wounded if cut by weapons whose blades are made of the mineral jadeite.
Notes about the Powers
The world of Spyragia has a background of myths rooted in fact. Its people know many stories of ages past that grant them a sense of identity and purpose. Although these stories may have details that are inaccurate, overall they are trusted because they involve the Creator and the nine other Powers, all of which are still active today. Thus religion is an integral part of most lives and most people are actively devout. Both individuals and groups have important reasons for giving devotion, service, and worship. Religious activity helps individuals to find comfort, experience joy, receive guidance, build identity, and gain a sense of purpose.
Unlike in many fantasy role-playing game settings, the Powers do not correspond to character races or classes. (It is not true that all Dweorgs worship Speleoth, all machinists worship Frosty Kostkey, etc.) This allows more subtle and realistic conflicts. For example, the people involved a legal dispute might argue about which Power's temple should help resolve their case: one party might favor Gnash's strict justice, another Achiever's acceptance of ongoing conflict, a third the non-materialistic perspective of Little Humble.
Because the Powers are not tied to races or professions they can be used to allow adventures to spotlight or evaluate spiritual and moral topics: issues such as contentment, temptation, pride, faith, forgiveness, and service can be woven into adventure plots and character personalities to create a setting more worth talking about. (This must involve the nine created Powers rather than truly divine beings, for the realities of knowing and following the divine contradicts the types of suspense and uncertainty necessary for a fun RPG adventure.)
Jadeite is one of the two minerals commonly called jade. According to some Chinese legends, jade weapons can harm mythical or immortal monsters and people.
Notes about the Dominions
A dungeon is any self-contained adventure location. 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 heroine 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?
The existence of champions helps create adventure ideas. The PC could be a champion, be asked to help or rescue a champion, or need to oppose a wicked champion. Champtions also allow characters to be very different from each other, including having special abilities, without requiring the slow accumulation of experience needed to develop skills and talents. Finally, champions add a useful layer to the "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.
Gifts from the Powers allow both PCs and NPCs to have interesting items that do not follow the special equipment rules.
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. Being a monster 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.
(Tangentially, 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 monsters that are warped creatues with unpredictably dangerous powers, with monsters that guard territory and attack intruders, and with monsters that enjoy capturing and enslaving people. 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.)
In the 9P setting monsters do not breed. All monsters are created by the Powers. All monsters are also slightly intelligent, and benefit from their traits in a careful, tactical manner. This ensures monsters are 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 because inosaurs lack intelligence and equipment, and they have no reason to be encountered in locations with strategic options. An ooze would have more interesting abilities. An evil champion could use more interesting equipment. A dragon would have both, and a special location A normal tyrannosaurus is simply outclassed!
Many fantasy role-playing games use "character classes" as the primary way to make characters different from each other. 9P uses wondrous feats, a subtype of traits, to incorporate some of these established tropes without imposing artificial constraints on characters. Wondrous feats do demonstrates a Power's approval of a character's deeds: a person whose behavior displeases a Power will lose access to that Power's wondrous feats. Because a Wonder skill or talent rating of six or more is very rare (typically only one NPC in a region has such amazing skill) the final three wondrous feats (numbers six, seven, and eight) granted by a Power are the stuff of rumors and legend, which most people never witness with their own eyes.
The Planner of Planners spoke to me,
But not about the plan.
My spouse was ill, I shouted complaints,
I asked, "Please help! You can!"
The Creator only told me a joke,
My spouse giggled for days.
Did that laughter help my spouse to heal?
Can a miracle be a phrase?
- Therion nursery rhyme
The Creator is called "Planner of Planners" because the Creator's plan for the world will eventually be fulfilled in every detail despite the agendas of people and of the Powers.
The Creator's plan is secret, wise, and inevitable. Yet the Creator desires the chocies made by mortals to change the pace and manner in which these plans unfold. So questions abound! Which events and circumstances are among the plan's details? When will prophetic events unfold? At what pace will the plan progress? Where will key events take place? Why did the Creator want nine specific themes to have extra significance and intentionality, and for those created a Power?
The Creator maintains no dungeons, sponsors no contests, chooses no champions, creates no monsters, grants no wondrous feats, and gives no gifts besides an occasional conversation.
The Creator apparently does not mind that so many people take being created for granted. According to some philosophers the Creator owns everything because crafters own the items they craft. Other philosophers claim the Creator gave each part of creation itself as gift, so everything owns itself. The Creator has not spoken up in favor of either view.
The Creator has ultimate authority and patience. Exasperated people often proclaim "May I have the Creator's patience!"
The Creator is the only divine being: existing before creation and responsible for the world's existance and fate. The Creator knows everything, can observe any place, can do anything.
The Creator still acts, yet prefers to remain subtly hidden. Usually the hand of The Creator is only recognized in hindsight.
Although The Creator's actions are ambiguous, spoken prophecy is always clear and public. On the rare instances when The Creator reveals more about The Creator's plan for the world, this always happens with hundreds of people hearing, and time after the proclamation to answer questions.
The Creator recently revealed that the island of Theralin is the geographical center of the world of Spyragia. The Creator then prophesied that the island would be instrumental in the upcoming creation of a tenth Power. At the time the island only had a small village. But the village quickly grew as people flocked to the island to search out its secrets and perhaps witness its prophecy unfold. It became Arlinac Town, now one of the region's busiest and wealthiest ports.
The Creator uses no visible form—not even in dreams—and has no gender (and is referred to by name instead of using a masculine or feminine pronoun). The Creator cannot be physically touched or hurt.
A group of strange yet similar legends describe a special doorway through which the Creator will some day enter the world in bodily form. Differences among these legends include what the doorway is made of (diamond, gold, pure light, etc.), where it will be located, and what this arrival will signify.
The Creator enjoys when mortals speak to him aloud. The Creator will sometimes reply privately using a quiet tone that seems very like normal thought except that it could never be mistaken for anything but the Creator's voice. Many replies are humorous truths the hearer would never have otherwise deduced or imagined.
The Creator refuses recognition or worship from temples, shrines, or altars. If a mortal tries to build one for the Creator then the Creator will knock it down with lightning, a small meteor, or a well-aimed giant watermelon.
A small and belittled sect named Primary Laud claims that only the Creator is worthy of worship. They do so with proclamations and shouting.
The Creator is neither good nor evil, helpful nor hindering, generous nor demanding. Yet the Creator and the Creator's plan are wise, noble, and foundational. Because the Powers and other forces struggle to influence the pace and details of this solid plan the world becomes planned yet uncertain, noble yet corrupt, and overseen yet dangerous: a setting ripe for heroism and adventures!
Take a drink, take a seat, and listen to my tale.
Dangers loom yet bravery shines and unfortunates prevail.
Hope and justice win again, it warms you like your ale.
"Life should be like that!" you say,
Then I agree and start my play.
Enjoy your stay.
Pray do not fail.
- on a painted sign at an entrance to the Enchanted Forest
Yarnspinner was created at the dawn of the Age of Greatness to oversee stories and histories, to help immortalize great deeds, and to encourage worthy fictions.
His dungeons are adventures in the Enchanted Forest, his contests are bardic competitions, his champions are Story Finders, his gifts are annotated maps, his monsters are witches, and his wondrous feats involve forensics.
The teachings of Yarnspinner ask people to define themselves in part by the stories they tell about their family and culture.
As the patron of stories and cultural histories Yarnspinner watches over libraries, museums, theatres, taverns, and campfires. Directors pray for his favor. Curators pray for his insight. The guards at libraries, museums, and theatres and the bouncers at taverns pray for his assistance in doing their duties—and his appearance if they encounter more than they can handle.
Many people compliment a well told story with "Yarnspinner would love that!" and ridicule a poorly told story with "Not even Yarnspinner could belive that!".
Yarnspinner is the most accessible of the Powers. He personally greets each person wishing to enter the Enchanted Forest. He is also easy to meet in Arlinac Town. He uses many appearances, but always wears a gold brooch to make his identity clear.
Yarnspinner has no allies or enemies among the other Powers.
Yarnspinner seeks to promote self-efficacy in his followers. The concept of obedience is foreign to his worship. His followers either enter the Enchanted Forest seeking adventure or they do not; his worshipers either travel to meet him or they do not. Some philosophers speculate that Yarnspinner does not understand "worship" because he knows his own worth and does not care if others ascribe worth to him.
However, Yarnspinner does appreciate two types of gifts. He loves when his worshipers visit him to tell him a story. He also treasures being given items of historic value that were recovered from abandoned buildings, neglected attics, or old ruins: these he returns to their rightful owners if possible, or gives to a museum if not. (He usually does not do this personally, but makes this the goal of someone else's annotated map quest.)
As Arlinac Town grew in size and importance, Yarnspinner observed that it was a current locus of stories and an appropriate place to dwell. He adopted an inn named Crashing Place. Yarnspinner can often be met inside, lounging in the common room near the huge fireplace, listening to guests and drinkers. The inn has grown in size and developed physical properties that defy logic. Not only is it now much bigger within than it appears from outside, but it stands in every district of Arlinac Town. (Those who have learned the secrets of its doors can pass through the inn as a shortcut when traveling through the town.) Its floors and rooms are many, and its hallways often extend in impossibly contradictory directions without crossing. Anyone who ascends past the ground floor and tries to hide is automatically successful: only Yarnspinner can find that person. Many stories are told in the inn's common room. After an exceptionally well told tale, Yarnspinner will stand and crash his glass into the fireplace to show his approval. Others in the common room often follow his lead. Less commonly, a person about to tell a story will preface it by crashing his glass into the fireplace as a call to attention, a plea that the upcoming account is personal and meaningful and even if not told well should be heeded as vitally important to the teller.
Yarnspinner is not based on any legendary figure. But a Power in charge of stories, focusing on traditional fairy tale tropes and settings, is worth including!
The name "Crashing Place" refers to both a place to sleep (informally, people "crash" there for the night), the noise of the glass mugs breaking in the common room fireplace, and how the inn serves as a refuge for people facing desperate situations (they have "crashed and hit bottom").
Crashing Place has some characteristics similar to Callahan's Crosstime Saloon but lacks the remarkable empathy of the characters of those stories—a lack which really makes the two places not alike in any important way except in tribute.
The Enchanted Forest is a magical place near Arlinac Town, in the southeast Theralin island. It has impenetrable borders except for a few paths that are sunny and clear. Inside Yarnspinner 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, Yarnspinner creates obvious paths in the forest, and might even provide 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.
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.
Most villages, towns, and cities host a bardic competition four times each year, with seasonal themes.
Yarnspinner's champions 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 are given a special ability. When they touch an item or enter a location they sometimes see a related and incomplete vision of past acts of heroism or villainy. A Story Finder may 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 use their visions along with more traditional types of research (questioning the locals, reading civic records, etc.) to uncover a complete 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 Finder 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 Trait
Skeletons In Your Closet - This creature can touch someone to learn one of the target's embarrasing secrets: in combat doing so and sharing the secret aloud causes a 1-point situational disadvantage that lasts as many turns as this creature's Intuition/Provoke talent rating.
Note: This page about the 9P setting has links to the 9P rules. As examples, a character's skills have a numeric ratings, and traits are abilities that allow a character to bend or break the rules. When reading about the setting for the first time, please skip the links to best enjoy the flow of fantastic and fanciful ideas.
The profession of Story Finder is taken from Sean Russell's Swans' War trilogy.
Yarnspinner enjoys giving out annotated maps. These maps have accurate, intriguing, ambiguous 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.
Yarnspinner's monsters are witches, who look like women but are ephemeral creatures able to use an eldritch implement (usually a wand, ring, cauldron, hat, or box) to create magical effects to help them fulfill their mission.
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.
Witches know they have a temporary existence and lack a sense of self-preservation. They always prefer a dramatic death to abandoning their purpose.
A witch can look like a woman from any intelligent race. Witches always appear to be young, middle-aged, or very old: a maiden, matron, or crone. Their apparent age never changes.
There are no bald witches. All witches have hair at least long enough to reach their shoulders.
The apparent age 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. Instead, 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.
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 she 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 that she has lent to her former companions, fairly offering trades if appropriate but willing to fight if resisted. 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.
Eldritch Implement - This creature has a special tool (usually a wand, ring, cauldron, hat, or box) it can use to create magic effects that effect other things or people (never the creature itself).
Story-Driven - This creature can only do magic effects that directly progress their assigned mission.
Enchantress (Maiden) - This creature can only do magic effects that affect the mind (examples include granting boldness and luck, forcing people to speak the truth, granting intelligence to animals, or helping couples fall in love).
Conjurer (Matron) - This creature can only do magic effects that create items or terrain effects (examples include summoning a flying carpet, creating fog banks, aiding heroes by creating disguises or mystic armor, blocking passages with walls of fire, or trapping foes in suddenly appearing pits).
Transmogrifier (Crone) - This creature can only do magic effects that alter objects or bodies (examples include turning people in animals, making intelligent animals able to talk, granting objects flight, making people huge, shrinking objects to toy-sized, or cursing foes with muteness or blindness).
Terrible Tresses - This creature receives a 2-point equipment bonus when using its prehensile hair for the Melee/Press skill, Wrestle/Disarm skill, and Block/Dodge skill.
Issues - This creature has personal baggage that can make it easy to distract, befuddle, or dupe: all attempts at bluffing or fast-talking receive at least a 1-point situational advantage bonus.
Magic Resistant - This creature is unaffected by special item bonuses with a magical source (alchemy, tempering, musing, and fortunosity).
True Name - This creature can and must use its magic to grant one wish to the first person to ever say its true name: the request cannot happen during combat and must either cause an accident, prevent an accident, make someone invisible, find a nearby missing item (not hidden by magic), or increase walking speed.
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.
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 and the film The Forbidden Kingdom.
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.
Yarnspinner's love of stories respects that many stories have sad endings. In every town and city a few of Yarnspinner's followers become detectives, and solve mysteries involving violence and murder. Yarnspinner devotes his wondrous feats to abilities that aid gritty detective-work. His most talented followers can use forensics to become amazing sleuths.
People learn the techniques of forensics through apprenticeship, or more rarely through the study of esoteric tomes. Gaining a new forensics feat costs as many advancement tokens as the feat's rating.
A character who is a devoted follower of a Power has access to that Power's wondrous feats with rating equal or lesser than the character's Wonder talent rating. That rating is zero for most people, but experienced adventurers may increase it up to 8. Not all Powers provide eight different wondrous feats for their followers to perform.
Yarnspinner's champions, the Story Finders, can search for old stories by seeing visions of past heroism and villainy. But these visions and unreliable, and focus on what is imporant historically, not personally. They seldom provide forensic clues. Therefore Yarnspinner needed to create a separate way to help adventurers find clues.
A river swift starts under ground,
Tunnels of water slam and pound.
It fills the hill with damp and sound
As it starts its journey.
Down from the peaks the river falls,
Crashing down high, stony walls.
In froth and roar to us it calls
Halfway along its journey.
To the ocean deep it flows,
Wide and deep and strong it goes.
We hear new songs and old echoes
As it completes its journey.
- Navigator song
Achiever was created during the Age of Greatness, after the Creator observed mighty people become corrupted and do terrible deeds. The Creator made Achiever to be the patron of setting and pursuing goals, in acknowledgment that mighty people are driven to compete and excel yet sometimes need help aiming this drive along productive channels. Achiever has also become the guardian of rivers and archers.
His dungeons are memorials, his contests are sporting events, his champions are the Oathsworn, his gifts are passportals, his monsters are bigbeasts, and his wondrous feats involve animal styles.
The teachings of Achiever ask people to define themselves in part by what goals they set and how they compete.
Achiever's early followers became divided by a schism. A faction named the Navigators developed a philosophy named the Water-Way to explain how a river is the best metaphor for setting and pursuing goals. The Water-Way emphasized that just as a river passes through mountains, hills, forests, and plains without diminishing these, different people should respect each other's goals and avoid competition. The other faction was named the Toxophilites, and their archery-based philosophy of Goldboss claimed that friendly competition was the crucible that gave meaning and value to personal goals. Achiever appeared when the strife finally became violent. He declared that the two philosophies, although apparently contradictory, only had merit when yoked together harmoniously. The two factions remain both rivals and allies in the philosophical and cultural development of Achiever's followers.
Achiever's connection to both rivers and setting goals has led to the custom of people who live near a river going to its waters and putting a hand in the river while declaring long-term goals and resolutions.
Achiever is the only Power to decree certain calendar days as special days. These days are foremost instructions for optimal fishing, agriculture, and animal husbandry. Achiever's more devoted followers also use them as appointments for worship. For example, the Day of Flax Planting is a day when all farmers know to plant their flax, although only Achiever's followers congregate on that day to pray for a good harvest. (Achiever's oversight of rivers gives him enough influence on weather to make his calendar's guidance trustworthy but not infallible.)
Achiever's calendar features many special days of first-fruits sacrifices. As a particular harvest begins, farmers throw the first of their harvest fruit or grain into the nearest river to express thanks to Achiever for overseeing and guiding their agriculture and to demonstrate trust that the remainder of that harvest will be sufficiently bountiful.
The calendar asks animal herders to participate in a different kind of first-fruits sacrifice. The first newborn animal of each kind is set afloat on the river in a basket. Far down river (out of sight, the distance varies along the river depending upon how smooth is its flow there) poor people gather to collect the animals as their own.
Achiever only appears in physical form when defending a river. He rises from it as a towering and muscular person made of water, with eyes glowing like sunlight reflecting off water and with a long beard of foam.
Achiever is fascinated by Arlinac Town, a current focus of competition by many people and Powers. Within Arlinac Town, inhabitants of the Navigator district must promptly confess any crimes against the Water-Way, or Achiever might take them away during the night. Many members of that district are distrustful of non-Navigators because those outsiders may have unconfessed crimes.
Speleoth is responsible for the Arlin River's unnatural start high within the caves of Arlinac Mountain. Achiever is grateful for this, and is friendly towards Speleoth.
The only buildings dedicated to Achiever are arenas and archery fields used to host various competitions and help his followers rank (and then publicly display) their achivevements in archery, hunting, fishing, wrestling, chases, games of strategy, and other activities suitable for goal-setting and personal development.
Many people who worship Achiever prefer that their home touch a river. Whether the home is a boat, house, or even temporary encampment these homes always include a shrine to Achiever on a small dock. (Usually this is a "ritual dock" too small for actual boat use.) In these shrines are set a bowl of clean river water. The shrines are not otherwise used: replacing the water each day is sufficient to help the home owner remember Achiever. Some people enscribe the five tenants of the Water-Way on the bowl.
The philosophy named the Water-Way has evolved over the centuries. Its current form has five statements.
Some of Achiever's Navigators consider paying taxes to violate the fifth tenant of the Water-Way: a government is taking what is yours. These people negotiate volunteering on the town watch or doing other types of community service to gain exemption from taxation.
The philosophy named the Goldboss has also evolved over the centuries. Its current form has five statements.
Achiever's song is a rewrite of the song Act One Prologue from the musical Into the Woods.
How is Achiever involved in adventures? Holy days are always opportune times for adventures, as many people are busy with rites or celebration. Before the holy day the preparations might include challenging tasks, and during the holy day devout merchants may need hired help to guard their shops. The Navigators or Toxophilites might also be involved in political intrigue or other kinds of adventure plots.
Achiever watches over the achievements of both the living and the dead. He protects memorials built to remember famous people and the goals they accomplished that brought them greatness.
The memorials Achiever loves most are sculpture gardens, cemeteries, tombs, and vaults. He prevents these from decay and weathering, and repairs accidental damage caused by visitors. He will also slowly replenish ancient treasure, so that treasure-hunters will have valuables to find. He will reset traps in tombs and treasure-rooms.
Some memorials are ancient ruins. Occasionally the goals of a famous person will be linked to a lost city, a crumbling outpost, or an abandoned building. Achiever adopts these memorials too, but does not restore them to their former glory and utility. They remain covered by overgrowth or forsaken by townsfolk, but will not suffer further decay.
Achiever may create a bigbeast to guard a memorial, especially if the memorial is threatened by looters wanting to use it as a source of stone.
Achiever cares that memorials are tributes and testimonials. He values remembering abstractly that significant goals require struggle and greatness. He does not value a place's particular history. He does not defend the artwork, literature, or wealth that some created as part of achieving their personal goals. He ignored what lessons from the past should be learned today. Theus memorials are one type of place that Yarnspinner's Story Finders visit to learn what once happened there.
Ruined buildings, vaults and tombs guarding treasure, and abandoned settlements (aboveground or underground), and inexplicably uninhabited castles are classic settings for a dungeon in a fantasy RPG.
Achiever's followers thrive on friendly competition. They enjoy many types of physical exercise and sport. Achiever helps his followers organize and host sporting events to celebrate these activities. Most villages, towns, and cities have at least one sporting event each year.
Common competitive activities at sporting events include archery, foot races, wrestling, weight lifting competitions, tug-of-war tournaments, and gymnastics contests. Many other activities are highlit with demonstrations but not competitively judged: acrobatics, juggling, and feats of skill with balance and throwing. Most settlements augment these lists with their own favorite local activities. Activities also include water sports if an appropriate river or bay is available.
The leaders of the settlement often award medals or other prizes to competitors judged best at each competitive activity.
A person can become an Oathsworn by asking Achiever's for help achieving a goal. The plea must be made in a moment of crisis, when success or failure with skill use jeapordizes achieving a significant goal. The person puts himself or herself under obligation in exchange for receiving short-term help from Achiever.
The petition is a bargain in which help now is paid for with a commitment to pursue a new goal later. Achiever 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 to that skill's use. 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 five hours to complete. A bargain that grants a 2-point bonus needs an oath that requires at least ten 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.)
Achiever will not make a new bargain of this type with someone who is already an Oathsworn. The first oath must be accomplished before a new bargian is heard.
Achiever realizes that some settlements want to feel part of a wider community, especially for how they participate in holidays and sporting events. So he teaches craftsmen how to make special leather or cloth belts called a passportal.
Part of founding a new village, town, or city is dedicating a portal stone to Achiever. The village leaders design a circular motif that represents their settlement. Then they place a large, flat, round stone in the village square or some other prominent and public location. The stone is decorated with that settlement's motif as prayers are sung to Achiever.
The portal stone activates if or when the settlement has a population of at least one hundred people. Anyone wearing a passportal can pray to Achiever while standing on a portal stone to have a metal grommet decorated with that portal stone's motif appear on their belt.
More usefully, anyone whose passportal already includes the grommet for a different portal stone can pray to Achiever to open a portal to that distant settlement. These portals remain for several minutes, allowing many people to instantly travel to that destination. (No return portal is automatically made, but the person who prayed to make the portal normally has opportunity to obtain the grommet needed to return.)
All three types of prayers—dedicating a portal stone, requesting a grommet, and opening a portal—include a requirement that the speaker to say his or her name. Portal stones are therefore sometimes used to confirm the identity of participants affirming a legal contract.
Some people decorate their passportals with embroidered pictures that summarize their significant goals and accomplishments.
Passportals and their grommets only work when used by their owner. They are useless if traded or sold. However, the passportals of deceased relatives are often saved as family heirlooms.
Achiever does not decomission a portal stones if its settlement fails to survive. A few communities use grommets attuned to one of these "wasteland portal stones" to exile criminals. The criminal is pushed through with no passportal, and thus no easy way to return.
Achiever's passportals function as both uses of the word "passport": a way of legally providing personal identification and a "passport to adventure" that allows travel to distant lands.
Achiever creates bigbeasts, which are larger and exaggerated versions of normal animals, as challenges for hunters.
Most bigbeasts are unsociable and live alone. A few appear as a small group of identical animals that behave like a family or pack.
Bigbeasts are created far from any settlements. The are created with a desire to cliam an isolated but distinctly describable location: a butte, signal tower, signpost at a crossroads, remote shrine, 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.
A bigbeast who has finished its lair changes its goal. Now it strives to expanad its territory. It roams 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.)
Passports will record which bigbeasts a hunter has tracked and killed, and whether the deed was done alone or as a member of a hunting party. Some hunters will also mount the heads of slain bigbeasts on a prominent wall of their homes.
Bigbeasts, like all monsters, cannot breed and are immune to therianthropy.
Bigbeasts 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 skill, although those at the top of their local food chain may have become fat, spoiled, and unperceptive.
To make bigbeasts more difficult to hunt, Achiever 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.
All Bigbeasts have these traits.
Tricky Tracks - This creature only leaves tracks under certain conditions (in moonlight, after feeding, etc.)
Debilitating Aura - This creature radiates an aura that causes anyone adjacent to suffer a 1-point situational disadvantage.
Sucker for Potential - Anyone attacking this creature can display (one or two unspent) advancement tokens which count as special item bonuses: this does not use up the advancement tokens.
Possible Bigbeast Traits
Some Bigbeasts have one or two of these traits.
Gallop - This creature's Acrobatics/Climb talent rating may exceed its Acrobatics/Climb skill rating.
Trample - This creature is so huge that its attacks do the same damage to all opponents no matter what weapon they wield or armor they wear: ignore its opponent's equipment bonuses.
Knockback - The character can use Wrestle skill to knock back a foe in one turn (usually this requires one turn to grab, and a second turn to throw). The character's Wonder talent rating counts the number of meters a foe can be knocked back. (Divide by two to count map squares.)
Float Like a Butterfly - The character is much quicker than most people when fighting unarmed. Once per combat, while unarmed, he or she may use the Block/Dodge skill "for free" without it taking a turn.
Sting Like a Bee - The character's experience with pugilism means he or she receives a 1-point situational advantage bonus when using the Wrestle skill to punch a foe. This bonus is increased to a 2-point situational advantage bonus if the opponent is unarmed.
Webs - This creature can create thick, sticky webbing, one strand per turn, as its action that turn. Breaking free requires an Escape skill rating equal or greater than the number of entangling strands.
Intimidating Shout - The character can attempt to intimidate a foe (using the Wonder skill, as usual) for free each time he or she defeats an opponent during contested skill use.
Bear Hug - If this creature succeeds in two consecutive attacks, its humanoid opponent can no longer use its arms.
Tail Swipe - This creature's attacks are accompnied by a tail swipe: when it successfully uses a reach attack to cause one minor loss it may immediately use the Wrestle/Disarm skill in the same action (representing the opponent being struck by the tail and knocked down, grabbed, disarmed, etc.) to attempt causing one additional minor loss.
Pounce - This creature may make an attack with each of its claws and its bite during any turn in which it drops down upon its prey (resolved as one attack benefitting from a group bonus of up to four assisting attacks).
Vicious Wrestler - This creature is especially able to cause harm when grappling: when it successfully uses the Wrestle skill to cause one or more losses (representing the opponent being knocked down, grabbed, disarmed, etc.) it may immediately use the Melee skill in the same action (representing an claw or bite) to attempt to cause the opponent to suffer losses twice in one turn.
Quick-Acting Poison - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss cause one extra loss.
Beast Wrestler - The character has experience wrestling all kinds of strange beasts, in all kinds of situations. He or she ignores all situational disadvantage penalties to the Wrestle skill.
Gang Wrestler - The character has experience wrestling multiple opponents. Using the Wrestle skill to maintain a hold on an opponent never causes a situational disadvantage penalty when facing attacks from the others, and is more likely to provide a situational advantage bonus.
Skunk Spray - This creature has a nauseating spray that reduces one opponent's skill ratings by half for a two turns.
Massive Roar - This creature's roar automatically causes N losses to anyone in front of it; the roar can be used every N turns (N ≥ 2).
Winged Flight - This creature can fly if it moves at least two map squares that turn, which exempts it from most movement issues involving difficult terrain as well as allowing it to soar high above many foes and obstacles.
The tongues of bigbeasts are useful for alchemy. An extract of bigbeast tongue will augment a certain alchemical recipe to increase sevenfold the shelf life (the creator's Alchemy skill rating now measures the weeks of shelf life, instead of days) and double the duration of the effect (the duration is twice the impact rating).
Nothing about a bigbeast hints at which recipe will be augmented by including the creature's tongue as an ingredient. However, an extract of bigbeast tongue is considered a "potion" for using talent in Alchemy. With that talent, a character may identify which recipe would benefit from that extract of bigbeast tongue.
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 fights more than one opponent it gets two attacks on those turns when it does attack.
Achiever inspires his followers to develop animal styles of combat techniques. This efforts respects Achiever's appreciation of martial skill and his creativity in making different bigbeasts.
People learn the techniques of animal styles through apprenticeship, or more rarely through the study of esoteric tomes. Gaining a new animal styles feat costs as many advancement tokens as the feat's rating.
The animal styles of combat use practiced movements to mimic the effect of bigbeast traits. They do not actually change the body or physiology of the character who uses them. (The trait "Trample" involves learning to exploit weaknesses in armor, not growing as massive as an elephant. The trait "Tail Swipe" involves a leg sweep, not growing a tail. The trait "Quick-Acting Poison" uses intense blows to cause more damage, not injections of poison. Etc.)
A character who is a devoted follower of a Power has access to that Power's wondrous feats with rating equal or lesser than the character's Wonder talent rating. That rating is zero for most people, but experienced adventurers may increase it up to 8. Not all Powers provide eight different wondrous feats for their followers to perform.
Picks and hammers make crashing profound
Far—below the wind's calls, below our dear halls.
Mine for the ores whose joy we spread 'round
Far—from our cavern home, to brave ones who roam.
Our ancestors' travels and treasures shine bright,
Our hearts' they ignite and our dreams they incite.
Glory to delving, dark earth will astound
Far—to all that does gleam, the fruit of each seam.
Far—to wonders below, e'er onward we go.
- Dweorg work song
Speleoth is the embodiment of the joys and thrills of exploration, especially exploration that is not searching for anything in particular but only follows curiosity. He is associated with caves and caverns for in those places every passage, formation, and gem is unique and potentially beautiful.
His dungeons are caves, his contests are round trips, his champions are Elementalists, his gifts are scene recorders, his monsters are oozes, and his wondrous feats involve movement.
The teachings of Speleoth ask people to define themselves in part by where they have been.
Speleoth encourages his followers to travel widely. During the Age of Greatness his followers were both unusually heroic and especially vulnerable to encountering strange ideas and corruption.
Speleoth watches over all his worshipers who live in caverns, caves, or tunnels. Speleoth aids these followers by helping underground air stay fresh, preventing cave-ins, training intuition about where to mine, and rescuing lost children and trapped miners. However, Speleoth's aid is unreliable because of his spontaneous and disorganized perception of the world. (Most of these are Dweorgs, Kobalts, Bergtrolls, and Arzens. The Unseemly do live under hills, but instead of considering themselves a "burrowing race" they view themselves as forest-dwellers who live in ornate palaces that just happen to be underground.)
Speleoth is very rarely seen. He has not appeared visibly for many generations.
Stories claim that on those special occasions when he is physical encountered he appears as giant wearing a huge grin, the universal grin of joyful discovery.
During the Age of Goodness, Speleoth was approached by the newly created Maw Lute after she had been created on Arlinac Mountain. They agreed to share Arlinac Mountain, which has since held both the large lair of Maw Lute and a frequently-changing cave dungeon maintained by Speleoth. Both locations are visited by Arlinac Town's more adventuresome residents and by curious tourists.
Speleoth considers Maw Lute his ally. He views Frosty Kostkey as a rival with nearly opposite values.
Speleoth and his followers have many minor conflicts when other Powers or their followers claim underground locations or enter them for reasons other than exploration. (Achiever has many underground memorials, and some of Frosty Kostkey's Ice Fortifications are subterranean. Yarnspinner's annotated maps sometimes lead people to retrieve items lost underground. Many monsters acquire underground lairs.)
Speleoth is worshipped primarily with percussion instruments. Extensive traditions have developed over the years: upbeat rattles and chimes to recall sunrises and new vistas, solemn drumming to remember the dangers of exploration, mysterious bells to commemorate forests and storms, clacking sticks to recount traveller's footsteps. Yet new melodies and ways of using instruments are always welcome when worshipping the Power who celebrates pleasant surprises.
The temples of Speleoth are usually one large room, whether above or below ground. The walls are decorated with frescos or relief carvings that attempt to portray breathtaking scenes. Benches line the walls so that the young, old, or tired may sit. Musicians stand or kneel in a circle, around a central pit used for ecstatic dancing. Many temples also contain archived scene recorders so his faithful can see the wondrous places their colleagues have visited.
Speleoth is not based upon any traditional creatures from myth or legend. However, a being that oversees cave-like dungeons is simply too useful to not include in the religion of a fantasy RPG!
The word "speleology" means the scientific study of caves and the cave environment. I could not think of a suitable name for this Power based on the word "caving", and the word "spelunker" has acquired negative connotations.
Speleoth's song is a modification of the Pomona College song Torchbearers.
Speleoth's followers worship by moshing in literal circle pits.
Speleoth's dungeons are caves. More accurately, they are 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". There is 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 oozes and cave creatures never before seen by any explorer.
The only traps are the natural hazards contained in any underground cave system. Initially the caves lack treasure. However, a famous cave dungeon may contain valuables 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.
Caves make nice hideouts for criminals because of the availability of food and water in a remote location. So Speleoth often puts an Elementalist in the cave to help defend it from those who would rather claim it than explore it. Frosty Kostkey's wicked Remotes enjoy ransacking and ruining Speleoth's caves, delighting in 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.
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.
The winner of the contest earns a trophy-shaped scene recorder as his or her prize. The Elementalist working as the contest's official presents the award.
After the contest, all copies of the flag disappear.
Round Trip Traits
Hard to Pin Down (flag carriers) - This creature is very difficult to harm using attacks made with piercing weapons: halve the attacker's skill rating.
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 oozes 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 cannot 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 oozes. 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.
Sustained - This creature does not need to eat or sleep.
Trogtongue - This creature can speak with cave animals, including oozes.
Rock Solid (earth form) - This creature's movement rates are all reduced by one map square, but ignores most types of losses: only losses that represent being restrained (grabbed, tripped, pinned, etc.) still apply—and nearly all of these are only minor losses.
Air Steps (air form) - This creature can walk through the air, which exempts it from most movement issues involving difficult terrain. It can stand still while in the air. When still its nearly transparent body provides a 2-point equipment bonus to the Stealth skill. However, it is especially vulnerable to being blown about by winds.
Aflame (fire form) - This creature has a fiery body that can burn flammable objects. The heat emitted is normal for its current source of fuel. It need not burn any fuel to remain stationary, the same temperature as the surrounding air. However, it can only take steps while heated by burning some type of flammable object(s).
Unpokably Wet (water form) - This creature has a body that looks liquid but feels somewhat solid. It can douse fires by touching them. It suffers one less loss from attacks made with piercing weapons. However, it suffes a loss when partially soaked up (walking across dry sand or dirt, buffeted by strong and dry winds, etc.).
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 understanding the majesty of what was seen. So he creates scene recorders in his caves and in other dramatic destinations.
Scene recorders are amazing devices that 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.
Oozes are rubbery and nearly transparent creatures (slimes, puddings, jellies, molds, and lurkers) that gain shapes and intelligence as they consume animals and people.
Oozes are actually amorphous 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. Oozes can slowly undulate across the ground or creep along a wall or roof.
The smallest oozes are useful and easily capturable. Full-size oozes are very 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 to people. 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 three feet in diameter or more ("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 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 the least intelligent 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.
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 (but not size) 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 able to move along walls in addition to any mimicked movement. They never gain from dissolved prey any claws, teeth, or special abilities.
The Sagacious debate whether the oozes in Speleoth's caves 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 attack with a relentless grasp, using a pseudopod or stretching their entire body around prey. The least intelligent oozes act like slow-moving hamsters: curiously exploring, tenatively probing their environment, searching for food and movement.
Oozes 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.
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.)
Here are four examples of oozes:
Transparent - This creaure's body is difficult to see, and counts as a 2-point equipment bonus for the Stealth skill.
Rubbery - This creature's body is so elastic and unstructured that all weapons affect it equally: no equipment bonuses affect this creature.
Thermoception - This creature can detect heat and use heat to track warm-blooded creatures who have recenty passed nearby.
Sense Magic - This creature can can detect magical energy, and feels pleasure when close to magic items.
Death Throe - This creature's death triggers causes a certain affect in its map square and all eight adjacent map squares.
Attach - This creature attaches itself to its target after a successful attack with the Wrestle skill: in subsequent turns it automatically succeeds in using the Wrestle skill against that same target, causing a minimum of of one loss (the person the creature is attached to benefits from a 2-point situational advantage to hit the creature).
Constrict - This creature grabs onto its target's arms (or forelimbs) when using the Wrestle skill: while constricted, the target cannot do anything that requires both arms.
Easy to Gang Up On - Anyone attacking this creature doubles any group bonuses.
Rule of Fives - This creature is affected oddly by the five traditional types of harm used against it (cutting, burning, freezing, electrifying, or splashing with salt water): two of these will be damaging, two do nothing, and one will cause the creature to split into two smaller creatures (the smaller creatures suffer a 1-point situational disadvantage the turn after splitting, due to the shock to their systems).
Movement Mimicry - This creature can learn to reshape itself to gain new methods of movement.
Small oozes are useful for sanitation, and some people collect them as a profession. Big oozes usually carry multiple magical items inside them.
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.
Speleoth understands that the joys of exporation can be diminished or overwhelmed by the difficulties of getting from place to place. So he grants his devoted followers movement abilities to assist their travels.
People do not study to learn these movement feat. They are granted directly by Speleoth at his temples. His worshippers have developed several chants used to ask for this boon. Gaining a new movement feat costs as many advancement tokens as the feat's rating.
A character who is a devoted follower of a Power has access to that Power's wondrous feats with rating equal or lesser than the character's Wonder talent rating. That rating is zero for most people, but experienced adventurers may increase it up to 8. Not all Powers provide eight different wondrous feats for their followers to perform.
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.
Welcome to Arlinac Town museum and bank.
Please do not feed the dragon.
- Brass plaque by that building's front doors
Maw Lute was the first Power created at the start of the Age of Goodness to help ordinary people do big things. She is the patron of music and collecting.
Her dungeons are dragon lairs, her contests are treasure hunts, her champions are Buskers, her gifts are panoplies, and her monsters are dragons, and her wondrous feats involve music.
The teachings of Maw Lute ask people to define themselves in part by which items they value.
As the patron of music she encourages people to be musicans, protects wandering minstrels, and helps melodies spread throughout the continent.
As the patron of collecting she encourages people to have at least a private collection, and perhaps also contribute to a group's collection. She watches over all institutions that protect collections: banks, museums, zoos, and merchant caravans.
Maw Lute understands that weath is a popular type of collection. She values people's inalienable right to work to gain wealth. She opposes excessive taxation, greedy tyranny, and all slavery. But she offers no teachings or guidance about how to properly use wealth.
She also oversees heraldic symbolism, allowing even the illiterate to understand who owns what land, buildings, and famous items.
Maw Lute's respect for group collections leads her to respect town and city governance. Many towns and cities have a small dragon living in the town square to answer questions about that settlement's population demographics and to assist with heraldic issues.
Maw Lute loves hoarding but is also generous. Much of her own immense hoard of treasure is hidden in small portions in many locations. Maw Lute can reveal the location of one of these stashes of treasure to reward her followers with some of her treasures without requiring them to brave her own lair.
Maw Lute herself is law-abiding. But many of her dragons pillage to increase their hoards. Thieves, highwaymen, and pirates also ask Maw Lute to protect their wealth—recognizing that she will not protect them but she might help maintain their treasure as a single hoard that a successor can inherit.
Maw Lute considers Speleoth an ally. She has no enemies.
Maw Lute looks like an enormous red dragon. But unlike an actual dragon, she is the same color all over (without splashes of lighter colors on the wings and chest).
Maw Lute says she was created on Arlinac Mountain, and decided that it would be a perfect place to make her home. Speleoth had already claimed the mountain's interior. But Maw Lute won his favor with politeness and a song. He gave her half of the mountain's interior. Maw Lute built (and frequently renovates and redecorates) Igneous Halls, is a vast place that resembles both a stately museum and a dangerous dragon lair. Many of its magnificent rooms and passages are large, made of smoothly worked black rock, and lit by candles in ornate sconces and candelabras. Its wondrous treasure is on display in hallways and piled in treasure vaults: coins, jewels, vases, carvings, statuettes, ornaments, jewelry, musical instruments, paintings, tapestries and vestments (and those sconces and candelabras).
The entrance to Igneous Halls is a cave near the top of Arlinac Mountain. But to show hospitality towards people unable to make that ascent, Maw Lute has created a portal in Arlinac Town that brings people to and from the cave entrance. She does not mind when hikers or sightseers use her portal as a shortcut get to or from the mountain top.
Travelers to Igneous Halls often meet Maw Lute. She enjoys when adventurers accept the challenge of questing in her halls, which are guarded by her newest traps, favorite monsters, and strongest minions. Most who enter will quit—exhausted and defeated—after having only seen a small portion of the outermost chambers and having only collected a little treasure. She bestows her compliments and some additional prizes to honor their courage in making the attempt.
Igneous Halls also serves as a secondary prison for Arlinac Town. Criminals who have committed crimes which in other places would earn life imprisonment or the dealth penalty are instead handed over to Maw Loot, who henceforth provides them with a room and food but forces them to help guard her home.
Maw Lute is worshipped with music, especially singing and stringed instruments.
The "temples" dedicated to Maw Lute are large buildings that serve both as museums and banks. (These banks do not offer loans. They only provide a secure location for storing valuables.) Maw Lute often sends a dragon to roost atop these buildings to help guard them. The building's curators maintain collections owned by the building. People often donate items to these collections as an act of worship. Less common is to donate an entire, completed, personal collection—this is often done posthumously. The curators organize string quartet performances to help celebrate the receptions or anniversaries of exceptional donations.
Any public fountain can serve as a "shrine" to Maw Lute. Coins dedicated to her and then tossed into a fountain disappear, and are added to her personal hoard.
Maw Lute's name is a pun on her dual patronage. Try pronouncing it to say both "mother lute" and "my loot".
Maw Lute creates large, sprawling 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 a barren desert. 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 sadly appears to have entirely vanished.
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!
Maw Lute never creates the location of a treasure hunt. It may be a normal place, or the dungeon of another power (usually a ruin, cave, mansion, or place of avocation—occasionally an isolated keep or ice fortification).
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. Buskers are also unusually skilled at mimicking sounds.
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.
Blinding - This creature can create blinding flashes of light during combat: its major losses may blind the target for the remainder of the fight (normally too serious an effect for the skill use penalty associated with a major loss).
Sound Mimicry - This creaure is remarkbly capable at mimicing sounds and voices: the creature's natural articulation counts as a 2-point equipment bonus when skill use involves fooling people by copying sounds or voices.
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.
Maw Lute delights in music and collections, and encourages her followers to these pursuits by giving them special sets of items known as panoplies.
Panoply gifts 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 include more than the three initially gifted items. Maw Lute hopes that someone will try to finish the collection by questing after the missing items. These bigger 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.
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.)
Magical Flight - This creature can hover or fly, which exempts it from most movement issues involving difficult terrain as well as allowing to soar high above many foes and obstacles.
Aura of Panic - Anyone fighting this creature is too panicked to think coherently about teamwork: group bonuses do not affect this creature.
Stuns - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss also cause the target to lose its next turn.
Breath Weapon - This creature has a dangerous exhalation it can spray at one target (use the Shoot/Throw skill).
Imperfect Armor - This creature's armored hide has flaws: anyone attacking this creature doubles any equipment bonuses.
Ponderous - This creature can only attack every other turn (it may use any skill defensively when not attacking).
Hoard Armor - This creature gains immunity to hypnotism, sleep magic, and other hazards as it accumulates armor and shields in its hoard.
Hoard Coins - This creature gains endurance and a thicker hide as it accumulates coins, providing it with one point in the skill or talent rating of Wrestle/Disarm for every 50 coins in its hoard.
Hoard Weapons - This creature gains fiercer talons and teeth as it accumulates weapons, providing it with one point in the skill or talent rating of Melee/Press for every 50 coins worth of weapons in its hoard.
Hoard Artwork - This creature gains a hypnotizing gaze and voice as it accumulates artwork, providing it with one point in the skill or talent rating of either Intuition/Provoke or the skill rating of Bargain/Wonder for every 50 coins worth of artwork in its hoard.
Hoard Words - This creature gains an increasingly perfect memory as it accumulates books and scrolls, providing it with one point in the skill or talent rating of Identify/Lore for every 50 coins worth of text in its hoard.
Hoard Gems and Jewelry - This creature gains the ability to target an entire area with its breath weapon, targeting one more map square for every 50 coins worth of gems and jewelry in its hoard.
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.
Dragon lairs are "flamboyant" in both sense of the word: stylishly exuberant and using Flamboyant architecture.
Speleoth understands that the joys of exporation can be diminished or overwhelmed by the difficulties of getting from place to place. So he grants his devoted followers movement abilities to assist their travels.
People do not study to learn these movement feat. They are granted directly by Speleoth at his temples. His worshippers have developed several chants used to ask for this boon. Gaining a new movement feat costs as many advancement tokens as the feat's rating.
What's the way to gather the clouds away?
Bitterness can be changed to sweet.
Little Humble dances on, on down Sublimity Street
Every day rest in joy and play.
Don't own, prize, or strive, but love all you meet.
Little Humble dances on, on down Sublimity Street
- Therion children's song
Little Humble was created to teach how exceptional focus could reliably produce a life of peace and purpose.
Her dungeons are isolated keeps, her contests are sporting events, her champions are Errants, her gifts are serendipity bags, and her monsters are bugaboos.
The teachings of Little Humble ask people to define themselves in part by what they can do without.
Little Humble cannot lie. Her name is used to enforce a vow. Even people who do not worship her or follow her teachings swear by saying, "If I do not do such-and-such may Little Humble punish me." This vow, if broken, can cause misfortune. (Often a bugaboo hunts down the vow-breaker.)
Little Humble was the second Power created during the Age of Goodness.
She is respected by almost everyone. But few people follow her teachings rigorously.
Arlinac Town has a special place in Little Humble's heart because she established her first Meek Manor on Theralin island. At that time the only settlement on the island was a tiny village at the foot of Arlinac Mountain, sustained by tourism to the mountain from pilgirms visiting Speleoth's cave and Maw Lute's personal lair. The first Meek Manor was established in the northwest of the island, to make it isolated and very scenic, distant but not overly remote.
Little Humble has no allies. She directly opposes Gnash, whose active ruthlesness completely conflicts with her passive serenity. Her philosophy sometimes brings her followers (who find peace in owning little) in conflict with the followers of Maw Lute (who collect things) even though the collections Maw Lute loves could in theory be small enough to be compatible with Little Humble's values.
Little Humble has no home, but frequently appears to travelers as they walk along roads.
She looks like a young girl, usually a Therion child. Her clothes are plain. She wears neither shoes nor jewelry.
She enjoys being lent a pretty hat. From the time the hat is returned to its owner until the next sundown gently touching the hat will cure any disease.
Little Humble has worshipers among all of the intelligent races. She does not mind when her worshipers also worship and serve other Powers as long as doing so does not interfere with their ability to live according to her values.
There are no altars to Little Humble, even in the many belvedere gazebos constructed in scenic locations as shrines in her honor.
However, quite a few of her devout followers run thrift stores to help people get rid of posessions they do not truly need and to help the poor.
Little Humble is usually worshipped with dance: various slow dances that are often little more than swaying, that allow her worshipers to also be meditating on her teachings and quietly petitioning her for aid in finding tranquility. Her followers also dance joyfully together in celebration, but view these louder and more active dances as social activity instead of worship.
Little Humble espouses a philosophy named Sublimity Street that provides peace and purpose. Its four tenants are:
Little Humble organizes her worshipers into communes named Meek Manors. These large homes for communal living to allow people to meditate and pray about Sublimity Street and together act upon its truths.
Meek Manors function as a small business. The manor owns all property inside its walls; its members own nothing. (Members who often travel may own two sets of clothes and a backpack, stowed under their bed while home at the manor.) All Meek Manors grow their own food but otherwise rely on charity for income. When Meek Manor members are skilled at crafting, the items they produce are given away to the needy instead of sold for personal or manorial income.
Together, Members practice dance and unarmed martial arts to develop the body, and memorize and discuss poetry and philosophy to develop the mind. Most of they day is spent quietly doing these activities or community service. When a town or city has a Meek Manor, senior members are often asked to judge legal disputes as well as officiate trials, coronations, confirmations, marriages, and burials.
Little Humble exemplifies what the Tao Te Ching calls "non-Ado". But her philosophy has differences from the Way of Taoism, so the words "Way" and "Path" were avoided when inventing the name Sublimity Street.
Little Humble's poem pays tribute to the Sesame Street theme song. The line "gather the clouds away" is a tribute to Sean Russel's masterpiece, the two Initiate Brother novels.
Little Humble's fondness for hats is a nod to Neil Gaiman's comic book character Death.
Little Humble represents truth: she cannot lie, her champions can detect lies and must avoid lies, and her name makes a vow binding. Note, however, that there are no oracles in the setting of Spyragia: completing an adventure in the Enchanted Forest is normally the only way for a person to beseech a Power to answer a specific question.
A belvedere gazebo is simply a small pavillion structure open on all sides situated and perhaps furnished to take advantage of a scenic view.
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 and from a safe place near the isolated keep.
Many times the keep is claimed as a lair or den by the evil people or monsters that are 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 these keeps with food, weather-appropriate clothing, arrows, rope, 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.
Getting home is usually an easy return trip through the portal.
Many Errants feel obligated, as Little Humble's champions, to resolve a problem at an isolated keep. But the danger may prompt the Errant to find at least one ally before departing on the adventure.
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 a 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.
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.
Little Humble honors creativity and monster-hunting by organizing special hunting challenges called wild hunts.
All wild hunts are announced weeks in advance. The starting location is advertised: usually a field or park. No other details are shared until all participants have gathered and the hunt is about to begin. Then an Errant appointed as Master of the Hunt greets the assembly, thanks everyone for participating, and describes the bugaboo being hunted and 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, the ability to breathe underwater, or limitless endurance. Other types of "wildness" are not helpful. All the hunters might be shrunk to the size of housecats, given extra arms that are difficult to control, enchanted to only be able to speak while singing rhyming couplets, or when in proximity to each other only be able to move by crawling.
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 Little Humble would like the hunts to be safe and fun activities.
Little Humble rewards the winner of a wild hunt with a serendipity bag 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. When the hunt is over all of the "wild" effects disappear.
Sometimes a wild hunt is arranged for children. These hunts do not require leaving the settlement, and the quarry is a harmless yet strange creature from a child's dream. Who can follow a singing butterfly across the city? Who can race alongside a rubbery giraffe while wearing stilts? Who can track an adorable floral-scented skunk through a castle?
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.
Lie Detector - This creature is aware of the untruth of any intentional lie it hears.
Deflect Projectiles - This creature can deflect one projectile attack in between each of its turns, ensuring the attack does no damage (very large projectiles such as boulders cannot be deflected).
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".
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 until a month has passed.
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 mend a tent could pull out sewing supplies and fabric patches. 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 Kobalt 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.
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.
Most bugaboos are violent and attack by grabbing and strangling their prey. But one famous tale describes a bugaboo that strode brazenly into a tavern and for two days told amazing creepy and frightening stories augmented with subtle, harmless hallucionations.
Fortunately 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.
Feed on Fright - This creature receives a 1-point situational advantage bonus when nearby people are frightened.
Hallucinations - This creature can create visual or olfactory hallucinations when it and its target can see each other; the illusions only affect the edges of the environment, such as the walls and doorways of a room or glimpses of a creature on the ceiling or in a mirror.
Entangle - This creature's attacks that cause major losses will entangle the target for the remainder of the fight, halving the number of map squares it may move each turn (normally too serious an effect for the skill use penalty associated with a major loss).
Strangle - This creature grabs and stranles its prey: after a successful attack with the Wrestle skill the taget is automatically defeated after it takes four more turns, unless this creature is defeated first.
Spawns Copies - This creature makes copies of itself: after a combat is over any person it has defeated turns into a lesser copy of the original that follows the original and acts together (they cooperate normally, using a group bonus).
Susceptible to Magic - Anyone attacking this creature doubles any special item bonuses with a magical source.
Imprintable (only some childhood fears) - This creature's tactile qualities can be changed by the first person to touch it, who may make the creature Smashable.
Smashable (only some childhood fears) - This creature, after being tactilely defined as brittle or weak, is defeated by any attack causing two losses.
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 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.
If you are resourceful quit your worrying
If you clever aim for what's free.
Futhorc offers no-risk adventures!
Quest this morning and be home by tea.
- Kobalt playground rhyme
Futhorc was once a lowly Kobalt who only excelled in courage. When he became a Power he decided to create safe yet excting opportunities for ordinary people to adventure and become special.
His dungeons are faded realms, his contests are rune quests, his champions are Casters, his gifts are spell-scrolls, and his monsters are echoes.
The teachings of Futhorc ask people to define themselves in part by what they have tried to accomplish.
Futhorc loves when people attempt something fun and reckless without worrying about the chance of success. Parents will reprimand their children's dangerous and foolish ideas by saying "Futhorc would like it, but you better not try that!"
Futhorc became a Power by succeeding in the most difficult quest the Enchanted Forest has even known. That ordeal still haunts his memories. He avoids the Enchanted Forest.
Futhorc sometimes visits Arlinac Town. He avoids ascending Arlinac Mountain, from which the Enchanted Forest can be seen.
Futhorc still appears as a small Kobalt.
Futhorc is worshiped at small, enclosed shrines with few chairs but many tables and notice boards. On the tables are boxes in which his followers leave puzzle-folded papers with written petitions. On the notice boards his followers post philosophical, mathematical, or logical puzzles for other visitors to ponder.
At equinoxes and solstices children write letters (often with parental aid) requesting a spell-scroll and explaining how it would be a great help. These letters are put in a box on a table. In the morning the letters might be replaced by a spell-scroll. A child who requests a spell specific to a single, detailed need usually receives it as requested. Children learn to ask for "a scroll to heal Grandma Woodbox of her sickness, during the first week of Spring in the year of the Yodeling Dragon" rather than "a scroll that cures disease".
The name Futhorc refers to a runic alphabet, with an echo of orc because Kobalts are the literary ancestors of orcs.
The practice of leaving various types of puzzles in shrines is broadened from Japanese sangaku geometrical puzzles.
The "dungeons" created by Futhorc are the infamous faded realms. A special doorway or gateway leads to a different type of reality.
The adventurer who travels through does not remember arriving. Instead, the adventure begins with that person waking up into a strange world without color.
This first room is special. It 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 faded realm. (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 spell book may also contain a riddle as the dungeon's first clue.
In the faded realm only the adventurer still has color, although no one else notices or can perceive this difference. The adventure happens in a grayscale urban setting that is a distorted place of dream-like views, situations, betrayals, and technology. The place 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.
Faded realms 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 there, 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.)
To escape from the faded realm the adventurer must defeat a villain who is motivated by greed, jealousy, or revenge to acquire or destroy a fanciful technological or magical device. 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 devoted to construction—a workshop, factory, cart repair place, shipyard, or enchanter's studio or smithy.
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. The adventure's final room (where the main villain is defeated, or shortly afterwards) contains a spell-scroll of above average value.
Faded realms might include Casters or echoes.
Futhorc creates his dungeons to be eerie challenges with the potential of small gain. Any "defeat" only expels the adventurer from the faded realm. He or she appears outside the special doorway unharmed. However, that person is unable to ever re-enter that partcular dungeon. Any limited-use items the adventurer used inside the dungeon are really used up. Also, his or her memories about that dungeon may be partially erased.
All faded realm adventuress can be completed without outside preparation or resources. However, bringing in certain equipment might make a challenge easier or trivial.
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.
In very rare circumstances, a person who adventures in a faded realm can bring someone from the colorless world to the normal world. This "rescued" person is often initially grateful for being elevated from a temporary and imaginary creation of Futhorc 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.
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.
Sometimes Futhorc organizes rune quests in which adventurers race to be the first to find a hidden rune. Usually the rune is large and obvious. It is painted on a boulder, or the symbol on a large tapestry. If the rune is not so obvious than the competition will involve finding clues to the rune's location.
The people who win the contest become a Caster, one of Futhorc's champions. The first person to touch the rune wins, as well as other competitors who also touch the rune within the next few minutes.
These competitions can be in the normal world or within a faded realm dungeon. If the competition does happen in a faded realm then winning the contest does not require finishing the entire dungeon. The rune is never guarded by that faded realm's final, climactic encounter with its main villain.
A sample of the historic Eldar Futhark runes with meanings is here.
The name "rune quests" is a tribute to Chaosium's wonderful RPG RuneQuest. A page of runes from that game is here.
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.
Spellcasting - This creature can cast one of its spells when it has at least one minor loss available to "spend": casting the spell tires the caster (costs one minor loss).
Futhorc loves when people explore his faded realms. They can experience unusual adventure without having exceptional abilities, or facing real risks.
The loot from those faded realms are glowing spell-scrolls that grant whomever reads it aloud one use of the specified magic spell. The scroll may be read silently to learn about the spell without casting it.
A spell-scroll that is used stops glowing and is no longer able to cast its spell. After a year, its glow returns and the spell-scroll regains its potency. A dormant spell-scroll may still be read (aloud or silently) to learn about its spell. Also, a dorman spell-scroll has an additional line of text appear that magically counts down how many days and hours remain before it becomes potent.
Some spell-scrolls are simply given by Futhorc to his devout followers, instead of being looted from a faded realm. Futhorc sometimes wants his followers to apply exceptional abilities to their usual circumstances.
Most villages, towns, and cities have at least one store that sells spell-scrolls. Most of the spell-scrolls for sale are dormant, but some are potent ones whose original owner had no use for the spell.
The "monsters" created by Futhorc are part memory, part trap, and part challenge. He makes interactive echoes of historic events in which cowardly or incapable choices allowed wickedness to spread. He hopes people will make better choices as they deal with the echo, to cause a better resolution to the historical problem.
An echo manifests when triggered by a person entering a location, or touching or using an item. The people present witness an phantasmal re-enactment as a vision, sound, problem, or compulsion. If the people have the wisdom and skill to "defeat" the echo by resolving its historic event well, they are rewarded with a small amount of prophetic attunement.
Most visible echoes are tangible, although some echoes are intangible illusions.
One famous example of an echo is the Haunt of Ulfar Bridge. The village of Ulfar was once terrorized by a corrupt sheriff. None of the villagers had the courage to stand up to the sheriff, alone or as a group. There is a bridge at the edge of the village. Futhorc has created an echo on that bridge. The first time a person crosses the bridge leaving the village, they see a phantasmal image of the sheriff crossing the bridge to enter the village. If they ignore the echo and let it pass by then they fail the challenge. If they confront the sheriff, and with words or deeds drive him out of town, they are rewarded.
Another famous echo is Ria's Ribbon. A noblewoman had given her favor—a purple ribbon decorated with pearls—to a brave warrior who went questing to defeat a dangerous dragon. The warrior never returned. Now an echo of the ribbon sometimes appears among the possessions of those questing after troublesome dragons. The echo is properly resolved if the trouble is dealt with and the ribbon returned to one of Ria's decendants.
All echoes eventually manifest long enough for interaction. But many echoes develop slowly, often with momentary flashes of a spooky sight or sound. People who trigger an echo might be subjected to fleeting whispers, footsteps, rustling, tapping, scratching, chewing, howls, screams, moans, sobs, buzzing, and other noises as the echo builds the atmosphere of the historic problem. Similarly, they might catch passing glimpses of footprints, handprints, flashes of light, smoke, flames, or frost. Wind, fog, or even a storm might coalesce as the echo manifests—or the area might become suddenly silent, or have its light sources extinguished. A few stories tell of echoes that involved plants or furniture becoming animate.
Defeating an echo requires both skill and proper choices. Perception alone is never enough to defeat an echo, but might provide clues that provide a situational advantage bonus to other skills, or guidance about which choices are best.
Some echoes do not feature a sound or vision, but merely cause a throbbing compulsion. An echo might attempt to convey a message to a person with enough Wonder skill to hear it; if the person does not have sufficient Wonder skill then each round they suffer a loss (from headache) and the required Wonder skill rating decreases by one, until they finally get the message. An echo might attempt to implant an emotion or desire to a person lacking the Intuition to resist; if the person does resist but stays in that location then each round they suffer a loss (from mental strain) and the required Intuition skill rating to resist increases by one, until they finally gain the emotion or desire. An echo might attempt to restrain a character by immobilizing a limb unless the person has enough Wrestle skill to pull free; if the person does resist but remains with the echo then each round they suffer a loss (from being grabbed at) and the required Wrestle skill rating to remain free increases by one, until they are finally caught.
The "treasure" gained from defeating an echo is prophetic attunement. This condition lasts one week, and is both a blessing and a curse. The attunement strengthens if additional echoes are defeated before the week-long duration expires.
Prophetic attunement allows a sleeping person to dream about what is currently happening elsewhere, or what is likely to happen in their own near future. These dreams are initially vague because of symbol and metaphor, often involving heraldry, nicknames, or favorite things. Clarity improves if the attunement is strengthened. Most involve scenes with one major detail backwards: the protagonist has forgotten a vital skill, people speak nonsense syllables, people are the wrong age or race or gender, a reliable weapon or loyal ally or favorite childhood toy is creepy and menacing, etc.
Prophetic attunement also causes a physical change to the person's eyes or hands. None of these changes affect skill use directly, but might cause a situational disadvantage to social interactions. People with prophetic attunement might avoid eye contact, maintain eye contact too much, have bloodshot eyes or heavy bags below their eyes, one eye might be nervous or have a tic, their pupils might be huge or cat-like, they might weep tears or ichor, or they might stop blinking. Their hands might tremble or clench, or their fingers twitch, or they might sporadically scratch or mimic grasping and tearing, or the skin of their hands might become too dry or too waxy, or they might wake each morning with sharp and pointy fingernails.
Futhorc teaches his followers how to better use spell-scrolls.
All tax-paying residents of the Gardeners district
may expect and enjoy the benefits
of a community inflexibly devoted to
security, cleanliness, and public lawful behavior.
- plaques at the entrances to the Gardeners district
Fie! Fume! What do I hear?
A man who hurts what he should hold dear.
He beats his child and calls it love.
I'll take them both and drink their blood.
- Ogre nursery rhyme
Gnash is a being from another star, brought to Spyragia to signal the beginning of the Age of Troubles. He elevates ruthlessness: an uncompromising and unyielding loyalty to purpose and people that shows focus, intensity, and strength.
(The ruthlessness Gnash favors allows no room for mercy towards those deserving of punishment. But towards innocents it need not be vicious or violent. It may feel pity and remorse. It may include generosity and charity.)
His dungeons are mansions, his contests are last one standings, his champions are Bounty Hunters, his gifts are necrotic weapons, and his monsters are undead.
The teachings of Gnash ask people to define themselves in part by those things for which they are fearlessly willing to die or kill.
For all of history Ogres have been afflicted by the Ogre's Hunger. Most are predatory, and all are shunned, persecuted, or hunted when discovered by people of the other races. One day many Ogres gathered and pleaded for the Creator to help them. The Creator brought them Gnash. Gnash rallied many of the Ogres and taught them to live in cooperative packs that fed on those neighbors who abhorred them. "Cannibals!" cried the members of the other races. "Justice!" cried Gnash.
But Gnash soon became dissatisfied with leading the Ogres. He realized that he was serving their interests, and they saw him as a tool they were using. Gnash desired the reverence and devotion enjoyed by other Powers. He withdrew for several years. He reappeared with a new identiy: the patron of all ruthlessness, willing to elevate all who act with unbending loyalty to an ideal or person.
Gnash treats every person and Power based upon their recent deeds. Other Powers may consider Gnash an enemy, but Gnash does not have favorites or hold grudges.
Gnash did not care about the island of Theralin until the other Powers decided to share governance of Arlinac Town by each supervising a district. To their surprise, Gnash appeared and declared that he would also oversee a district. His portion of the town would exalt security, cleanliness, and public lawful behavior. The streets and public buildings would be free of crime. The old or infirm could live without fear of violence. No resident would be troubled by litter or graffiti. Those fleeing from persecution or feud could find safety.
Gnash was allowed his district, which he named the Gardeners district. At first, rumors spread that the district was populated by Ogres and everyone within would be eaten. But the rumors were false, and people slowly moved in to enjoy its safety and neatness, its efficient trimness in appearance and laws.
Gnash appears in a variety of forms, appropriate to the temperament and beliefs of those watching.
Gnash receives no worship from the people of his district of Arlinac Town. He occasionally appears in the district square to give an encouraging speech. He acknowledges that living under his supervision can make them misunderstood and mistrusted, and he thanks them for holding fast to his values, demontrating that ruthlessness to civic virtues can be noble and meritorious.
Most Ogres feel a sentimental loyalty to Gnash, and perhaps even a kind of kinship with him as the "black sheep" of the Powers. They often worship him at secret altars hidden inside buildings or caves. Ironically, through abandoning headship of the Ogres, Gnash did inspire in them the genuine reverence and devotion he felt they lacked.
These Ogres believe they can "give ruthlessness" to Gnash by sacrificing ruthless intelligent creatures on their altars. The origin of this belief is debated. Did Gnash teach them? Is it a confused extension of the Ogre's Hunger? Is it a lie from the oldest Grand Ogres, invented as part of their complex game to control Ogre society, in which the winners feast upon the losers?
Some of Gnash's Ogre worshipers secretly distribute religious texts that use metaphor to explain how to worship Gnash. These texts promise both ecstasy and peace of mind to those who properly offer Gnash ruthlessness. Such texts are mostly pleasant proverbs, oddly interrupted by short stories featuring acts that are shockingly calllous, dreadfully brutal, or eerily malevolent.
A popular rumor claims that Ogre altars allow Gnash's followers to create undead, proving that Gnash heeds and approves of that murdurous worship. But perhaps that rumor lies. Many Ogres collect necrotic weapons, and sacrifices performed with those would explain the creation of undead.
Another rumor claims that Gnash will be able to summon more of his kind from his star if he absorbs enough ruthlessness from his worshiper's sacrifices.
A third rumor claims that Gnash sometimes give a tome of forbidden knowledge to an extremely fanatical worshipper. Reading it can unlock a strange and fantastic ability, but at great cost to health and sanity.
The Sagacious claim they do not worship Gnash despite being Ogres.
Gnash is based upon the Great Old Ones of the Lovecraft Mythos: an immensely powerful creature from outer space, with ruthless followers, who perhaps thrives on merciless devouring.
Gnash differs from the Great Old Ones because he might not actually be evil. But three similarities remain: knowledge relating to Gnash can be found in obscure and foreboding arcane books, pursuit of such knowledge causes depression and insanity, and adventure plots may still center around a fanatic cult that is planning an evil and maddening ritual.
A fun list of Lovecraftian adjectives can be found on the yog sothoth forums.
Gnash allows philosophical musing on the "otherness" of ruthlessness and harmful consumption. Our inclinations towards actions we acknowledge are merciless, self-interested, or gluttonous can sometimes resemble an external influence that tempts and coerces, rather than an internal desire or yearning.
Gnash's nursery rhyme ponders Fee-fi-fo-fum. Do the "Fie! Fume" belong to the villainous father or the speaker? This version is perhaps less gruesome than what Jack's giant chants, but irrationally offends more by its blatant unfairness (Yet Jack's giant would also have eaten both father and daughter).
Gnash has many dungeons shaped like enormous mansions. (Or sometimes other large dwellings, such as barracks, jails, asylums, orphanages, or castles.) 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, hallways whose paintings or books tell lies or secrets about those visiting, 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 taunts people by appearing in a mirror looking very like the person but wounded or disfigured.
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 one or more undead occupants. 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.
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 that are randomized when entered 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.
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.
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
Homing - This creature can close its eyes to use an extrasensory ability to know the distance and direction to the criminal it hunts.
Tactician - This creature is unusually alert and mindful of tactics when fighting the criminal it hunts: its maximum situational advantage bonus is three points (not the usual two points).
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?
Intelligent Necrotic Weapon Traits
No Breath - This creature does not need to breathe.
Sense Life - This creature can detect nearby living creatures with an estimate of their intelligence: it can pinpoint their locations even in complete darkness.
Drain Speed - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss also cause the victim to slow down: until combat ends, the victim's maximum movement rate is one map square less (minimum one for skill use that allows movement) and the victim cannot use the Exit skill.
Unwatched Hop - This creature does not move normally. When not observed by any other creature it may teleport two meters (this is the only action it may do that turn).
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?
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 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 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 shrewd 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.
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.
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 an immortal, shadowy 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.
Here are some example undead:
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.
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.
No Breath - This creature does not need to breathe.
Sense Life - This creature can detect nearby living creatures with an estimate of their intelligence: it can pinpoint their locations even in complete darkness.
Fewer Senses (Zombie) - This creature is deaf and cannot smell.
Bloodhound (Ghoul, Vampire) - This creature is has an amazing sense of smell, which provides a 2-point equipment bonus to the Track skill.
Tough as Bones - This creature suffers two fewer losses from attacks made with slashing or piercing weapons.
Sturdy This creature does not suffer the penalties to skill use normally associated with major losses.
Comes Back - This creature recovers from non-fatal wounds in mere seconds: after a combat is over it will not stay "defeated" unless it is dealt with in a special manner (usually burning the body).
Vulnerable to Sunlight - This creature suffers one minor loss each turn it is in direct sunlight.
Vulnerable to Silver - This creature suffers one extra loss each turn it is attacked by a weapon made of silver, whether or not this creature "wins" any contested skill use.
Supernatural Skin - This creaure only suffers major losses from weapons with a 2-point equipment bonus, such as tempered or necrotic weapons. Special items damage this creature normally. (Any weapon taking advantage of the creature's vulnerabilities still does that special damage.)
Circumstantially Feeble - This creature suffers a 2-point situational disadvantage near a certain item, in a certain location, or under a certain situation.
Lurch (Zombie) - This creature usually moves only one map square each turn: if it does nothing but move then every other turn it gets to move three map squares.
Drain Speed - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss also cause the victim to slow down: until combat ends, the victim's maximum movement rate is one map square less (minimum one for skill use that allows movement) and the victim cannot use the Exit skill.
Drain Energy (Ghoul) - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss also cause the victim to suffer a 1-point penalty to all skill use (each draining attack increases the penalty by one, but the victim recovers one point of the accumulated penalty each turn he or she is not drained).
Drain Vitality (Vampire) - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss also cause the victim to weaken: until combat ends, decrease by one (per attack that causes at least one losss) the number of major losses required to defeat the victim.
Drain Adrenaline (Revenant) - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss also cause the victim to permanently discard one adrenaline token (if the victim has no unspent adrenaline tokens this trait does nothing).
Come to Me (Vampire) - This creature can use a hypnotizing gaze to attempt to make a living creature or person calmly walk toward it: this is contested skill use in which this creature's Provoke skill rating is opposed by the target's Wonder skill rating (if successful, the target moves two map squares towards it in a straight line).
Spawns Minions - This creature makes weaker versions of itself: after a combat is over, any person it has "defeated" turns into a related but weaker type of this creature that acts independently (unless otherwise controlled or commanded).
Call Minions (Ghoul, Vampire, Revenant) - This creature can spend a turn to mentally call its nearby minions to come to it (the minions obey but after arriving continue to act either independently or according to established commands)
Undead animals and bigbeasts may also have some bigbeast traits, especially when the curse of necromobility adds legs or wings (granting the traits Gallop and Winged Flight ).
Undead people retain their traits appropriate to their race.
Perhaps the most powerful weapons are the intelligent necrotic weapons created when an undead carries a weapon for a long time.
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!
When problems cause panic, when life gets haywire,
Voker will be there to help and inspire.
If the ground is all swampy and you are stuck tight,
Let Voker free you, in exchange for your sight.
When no one will listen, and scoffers cause rage,
Voker can lift you up to center stage.
If bitterness has drained your cup to the dregs,
Let Voker refill it, in exchange for your legs.
- whispered rhyme
Voker is the patron of things getting out of control. She is worshipped by liars, zealots, criminals, demagogues, lovers, and fighters.
Her dungeons are avocations, her contests are provokings, her champions are Evokers, her gifts are invocations, and her monsters are convocators.
The teachings of Voker ask people to define themselves in part by what they call important and call upon—especially when getting into or out of trobule.
Voker loves watching what people do during crises and pandemonium. She never acts on her own to cause or resolve difficult situations. But she never needs to. People do enough of that themselves, and Voker enjoys aggravating bad situations in a small way. She will also help someone escape from trouble, but only in a manner that worsens the situation for everyone else, or gives rise to a larger future crisis.
Voker uses a philosophy called the Five Contrasts to help her followers understand why situations get out of control. Some of her followers use those insights to sow discord. Others use the philosophy to live a more peaceful life.
Voker believes that violence should never be encouraged. Yet sometimes violence is unavoidable or necessary. She uses the imagery of a snake, since that animal is famous for being dangerous yet only using violence to hunt for food or defend itself. Voker's philosophy does not call violence a virtue or a vice: she sees violence as a tool to calmly use no more than is needed. Soldiers, guards, bouncers, and executioners worship her and pray for her guidance, assistance, and protection.
Voker has no special tie to the island of Theralin. But Arlinac Town is currently a focal point of religious and political intrigue, with a multitude of issues slowly and quickly growing out of control.
When the other Powers established their own districts in Arlinac Town she told her followers to do the same. Various guards, mercenaries, visionaries, and treasure hunters tried to organize themselves but had irresolvable differences and interests. Voker did not assist in the structuring or governing of her district. It has become an eccentric and argumentative place, avoided by respectable people because of its poverty and the occasional outbursts of violence.
Voker has no allies. The other Powers regard her as untrustworthy and unproductive.
Voker appears as a very beautiful woman from any of the eight intelligent races with her lower body replaced by the tail of a snake.
Voker's worshipers are a motley lot: criminals and guards, loners and soldiers, bitter old warriors and naive young lovers, quiet swamp hermits and unrestrained fanatics.
Voker watches over all swamps and slums. Her worshipers pay her honor by leaving statues in those places. On the bottoms of the statues the worshipers write brief accounts of how a crisis has been a crucible that helped them grow and mature.
Voker has decided that most examples of things getting out of control happen because of five vices. These are compared with their opposite virtues in the Five Contrasts.
Voker's followers appreciate these Five Contrasts. Some of Voker's followers want situations to get out of control, and promote the vices. Others of Voker's followers try to avoid things getting out of control, and devote themselves to the virtues.
Voker physically resembles some versions of the Greek mythical Lamia, but has none of the themes of revenge, gluttony, child-eating, or sorcery.
Voker knows that sometimes people get caught up in evil things. They get stuck, and cannot fully repent until an outside agent makes them unstuck. Now and then the Voker helps repentance happen by arranging a provoking contest in which her followers rush to change a troublesome situation. Voker never consults or warns the person being "helped".
Voker might ask her followers to help a gambler who struggles to overcome his addiction, by destroying his lucky rabbit's foot and moving the coins in his home to a bank. Voker might ask her followers to help a noble whose efforts to act less proud are undermined by excusing her vanity as part of dutifully maintaining her family honor, by cutting her hair short and breaking all the mirrors in her home. Voker might ask her followers to help a man who started drinking excessively as dysfunctional grieving for his deceased wife by waiting until he passes out and then carrying him aboard a ship departing to a town where other members of his family live.
Voker offers no rewards for her contests. Her followers believe they are helping people, which is its own reward.
Voker encourages her followers to join an Order devoted to proselytizing one of the ten virtues or vices from the Five Contrasts. The members of these Orders care called Evokers. They advocate for their virtue or vice through speeches, debates, and deeds.
Voker grants her Evokers two special abilities. First, any speaking-trumpet or musical trumpet they use while proselytizing is supernaturally louder and clearer, and the Evoker using it glows slightly with a pleasantly warm aura. Second, anyone who willingly signs one of their pledges or petitions has a heightened ability to feel the appropriate virtue or vice until midnight.
Evokers also slowly develop the ability to put their Order's virtue or vice in physical form. They learn how to enter a trance and quickly grow a small patch of snake-like skin on their arm or leg. This skin peels off. The Evoker who creates the patch of skin loses the ability to feel that virtue or vice until midnight. The first person to eat that skin (or drink a tea made with the skin) will effortlessly gain a great deal of that virtue or vice until midnight.
People who work as Evokers for many years become increasingly snake-like as a sign of Voker's favor. First they aquire snake-like temperament and habits. They become very fond of eating eggs and freshly hunted game animals. They gain skill in use of poisons, but they develop an aversion to combat. They develop the ability to speak with snakes. The people who have been Evokers the longest have their bodies altered, and from the waist down they have a snake's tail, to physically resemble Voker.
The Order of Entitlement helps bring people their due. If the entire village was looking forward to buying and enjoying a farmer's strawberry crop, but repeated hailstorms destroyed his fields, it is not fair for only the hard-working farmer to diminish financially! Since the entire village lost out on strawberries, should not the entire village contribute charitably to support the farmer's family? Otherwise next year the village might lack both the farmer and the strawberries!
The Order of Gratitude helps people appreciate the kindnesses and pleasures they and their neighbors experience. If last year's strawberry crop was ruined, but this year the village farmers are harvesting strawberries, then the opportunity to buy and eat strawberries is an appropriate occasion for feeling and expressing extra gratitude!
The Order of Gluttony helps people achieve lasting contentment from consuming. Many types of food and exercise provide only momentary pleasure. Which make your whole day better? Evokers of this order often volunteer as consultants to help people increase their quality of life by mindfully developing deeply satisfying habits that replace wasteful hedonism. For some people, eating a bowl of strawberries does indeed provide hours of satisfaction; other people might gain more lasting happiness from baking and eating a loaf of fruit bread.
The Order of Contentment
The Order of Luxury
The Order of Resilience
The Order of Irateness
The Order of Compassion
The Order of Envy
The Order of Goodness
Serpent Tongue - This creature can speak with snakes and most reptiles (in those cases this creature does not need to use the Animals skill or talent).
Voker rewards her followers by teaching them chants that can magically summon a single object. Some of these invocations create a new object. Others teleport an existing object to the chanter.
Invocations never summon a living object. Most invocations summon a mundane object, although a few rare invocations are potent enough to summon a magical object.
Invocations often have limitations. They might take a very long time to chant properly, or only be reusable after many hours, days, or weeks.
Voker herself appears to teach the chant to her follower. The chant is normally a special gift to that person. No one else who does the chant can cause its magical effect.
All invocations involve flags. For some invocations any flag will suffice, even a small one sloppily made of a bit of cloth and a toothpick. For other invocations will only work with flags made with special material, of a certain size, in a specific way.
Some invocations create an item in a container. A small flag attached to a purse, bag, or quiver might create a single coin, spoon, or arrow.
Some invocations bring an object to the chanter. A small flag attached to a wrench, lance, or bow can allow that tool or weapon to appear at the chanter's feet, or perhaps in the chanter's hand.
Some invocations mark an area using multiple flags, and summon an item into or out of this area. The most dramatic invocations use this arrangement to summon a (non-living) convocator that proceeds to spawn small monsters. But equally feared are invocations that function as non-mechanical traps. For "trap invocations" the chant does summon an item immediately. Instead, it is triggered when a person enters the area bounded by the flags, and explosive or poisonous gas is created.
The ideas about using flags instead of more occult-like objects are from an article by Jesse C Cohoon in Role Playing Tips #649.
Voker creates monsters called convocators that summon many smaller monsters.
Each convocator is created weak. But each day it grows stronger.
Convocators are usually imposingly huge. Their appearance is always fascinating and distracting. Convocators also heal more quickly than other creatures.
Stronger with Time - When created, this creature has a Wrestle/Disarm talent rating of negative three (one loss defeat it!). Each day this creature gains another 1-point increase to the Wrestle/Disarm talent rating, which may surpass its Wrestle/Disarm skill rating, up to a maximum of talent rating of ten.
Quick Recovery - This creature can heal two minor losses whenever a minor loss would normally be healed.
Adrenaline Prevention - This creature is entrancing to behold: no adrenaline tokens can be used when fighting this creature.
When a convocator is killed a treasure chest appears. The contents are usually thematically related to the location, appearance, and behavior of the convocator.
Convocators are inspired by the "dungeon boss monsters" of MMO computer games.
Biting Cold wants your despair.
Weep and moan for Winter Glare.
Abandon hope, for don't you know?
None escape from Kostkey's snow.
- hiker's chant
Frosty Kostkey is the patron of conquest, Winter, and machinery. He is the original machinist.
His dungeons are ice fortificiations, his contests are zip tag games, his champions are remotes, his gifts are oversprings, and his monsters are abominables.
The teachings of Frosty Kostkey ask people to define themselves in part by what they sustain, and what places they occupy.
Originally Frosty Kostkey focused on the sustaining and occupying done by his armies. He encouraged his followers to conquer, and to share in the glory of his military forces. His military leaders proclaimed the motto "Each gear deserves the glory of the machine".
However, Frosty Kostkey learned that his values were more widely applicable, and could be presented in a more universally attractive manner. For the past three generations he has done little to lead his armies in conquest, and instead has focused (successfully) on making machinery use alluring and captivating.
Frosty Kostkey now avoids mottos. He does not want people to notice the parallels he instills between the bleak snows of Winter and the impersonal uniformity of machinery—and the relentless toil needed in both to sustain oneself and one's works.
Frosty Kostkey remains the most skilled of machinists. He personally builds his armies' most dreadful machines: massive weapons mounted on enormous sleighs, or elaborately fierce whimsical contraptions.
Frosty Kostkey is in many ways the opposite of Speleoth. He focuses on creating or claiming, not discovering and visiting. He secretly delights in the despair caused by repetition and monotony, perhaps the opposite of the joy of exploration and discovery. He is amused when people are valued impersonally as a part of a bigger system. He likes frantic searches where the goal is not to find something new but merely to find a means to endure.
Yet Frosty Kostkey loves and cares for his followers. He is not always successful in moderating his natural cruelty, but compensates by generously providing positive attention. He challenges his followers to sustain, expand, build, and occupy. He sometimes sneers coldly at their failures, but always smiles brightly at their successes. He might mock a person who despairs and quits too early, but merrily celebrates when a follower perseveres to accomplishment and triumph.
Frosty Kostkey longs to conquer Arlinac Town, either literally or symbolically, because it is treasured by so many other Powers. But so far he has not (apparently) acted on this desire.
Frosty Kostkey has no allies. He is often opposed by Speleoth.
Frosty Kostkey appears as an immense humanoid made of ice and machinery.
The worshipers of Frosty Kostkey do not beseech him. Instead, he appears to them and gives them orders as their commander.
Altars dedicated to Frosty Kostkey create regions of Winter around them, in which his monsters and armies flourish.
The only ritual worship of Frosty Kostkey appears, to outsiders, to be a huge snowball fight. Frosty Kostkey himself appears. Then the temperature begins to drop mercilessly. The snowball fight continues at least until the cold forces at least one person to quit. The Sagacious ponder if these bitter contests serve to identify his toughest worshipers or are simply pleasing to Frosty Kostkey as morbid, frantic situations.
Frosty Kostkey is obviously a parody of Santa Claus, Jack Frost, and other Winter characters in Western culture. Frosty Kostkey is also based on Koschei the Deathless, a villain in Russian fairy tales with some ties to Winter through the name Crnobog.
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. Many fantasy authors use winter animals as predators or villains.
Note that the machines constructed by Frosty Kostkey's champions can remain functional until encountered. This allows the GM to create locations populated by machines.
How is Frosty Kostkey involved in adventures? The PC might need to stop a temple of Frosty Kostkey from being built, or find a hidden, newly built temple to halt the spread of Winter; either task may involve fighting one of Frosty Kostkey's champions. Alternately, a PC might need to sabotage one of the potent mechanical items Frosty Kostkey has given one of his followers, or foil the newest scheme to make machinery alluring yet depressing. Frosty Kostkey's dungeons can be of any size and shape, and are suitable locations for a powerful PC to raid. Frosty Kostkey might even be sought for his technological expertise to help bring down a mad scientist who is giving machinery a bad reputation.
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.
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
Zippy - Tagging an opponent grants this participant a 1-point bonus to the Acrobatics talent (to a maximum talent rating of eight), until the creature leaves the game area or otherwise stops playing the game.
Powerful Blow - This participant, once during the game and while in the game area, can inflict a major loss instead of a minor loss: its target is tripped, maimed, or otherwise overwhelmed by an unusually strong attack.
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.
Perpetual Motion - This creature does not use the Machinery talent—instead it has an effectively infinite Machinery talent rating.
Machine Possession - This creature, in certain situations, can transfer its mind into a machine: the creature's body enters a state of suspended animation (not requiring nourishment or rest) and its mind can move any of the machine's moving parts and sense through any of the machine's sensory apparatus.
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.
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.
Squad Skill - This creature has one skill whose rating is equal to the number of nearby squad members (maximum of eight).
Sundering - This creature's attacks that cause at least one loss also give the broken condition (1-point equipment penalty) to one item held by the target.
Susceptible to Technology - This creature's body has parts disruptable by machinery: anyone attacking it doubles any special item bonuses granted by machinery.
Most abominables carry no treasure, but their home base has a stockpile of plunder and mechanical components.
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.
Frosty Kostkey teaches his followers special combat techniques.