The 9P sample setting of Spyragia strives to use very old fairy tale races in enjoyably sensible new ways. There are no humans. All people belong to one of the eight intelligent races. (The word "person" can refer to someone of any race, but not a monster.)
|Races||Magic Abilities||Free Talent Point||Other Traits||When Uncivilized|
Short and sturdy races with large family-clan groups, that use morale to create magic...
|Dweorgs||Tempering||Wrestle/Disarm||may carry twice as much||outposts of artist-raiders|
|Kobalts||Sapping||Machinery||night vision, impolite||warbands of tinker-slavers|
Trolls that can turn wealth into magic, although what they consider artistic differs greatly...
|Bergtrolls||Co-vetting||Identify/Lore||may use Wonder as a free action||wild, haughty nomads|
|Barrowers||Fortunosity||Acrobatics/Climb||adrenaline control||conniving, grim mercenaries|
Forest folk who do magic with time, and value cooperation but have trouble living peacefully together...
|Pixies||Laboritry||Transmutery||flutter or bulldozer||tradition-bound feuding collectives|
|Tuathsith||Phantasmography||Intuition/Hearthwork||invisibility||impulsive, disingenuous families|
Shapechangers that respect ancestors and community, who can turn people's energy into magic...
|Therions||Therianthropy||Animals/Wilderness||tumbling during combat||mounted, reverential barbarians|
|Ogres||Semblancy||Melee/Protect, Alchemy||(none)||lone chaotic predators|
Why do most fantasy settings have multipe intelligent races? In real life we can make many reasonable guesses about a person's job and skills by their appearance. For example, age and clothing generally distinguish college students, lawyers, soldiers, and delivery men. But a fictional world lacks these social clues that provide helpful hints about NPCs. This handicaps the cooperative storytelling. A common replacement is to stereotype about make-believe races so that when a PC meets a new NPC the player then has at least a few informed guesses about what kind of person the PC is meeting, to take the place of the knowledge of appearances learned by someone who grew up in the setting.
What stereotyping is present? Most members of a fantasy setting's race share similar clothing, foods, building types, and family structures. Each race will favor certain arts. Most have a distinct style as warriors. Each race uses different roles and responsibilities for gender and age. (In many fantasy settings each race has a distinct religion and/or patron diety, but this is not true in the 9P sample setting.)
In the 9P sample setting of Spyragia, each of the eight races can use one of eight magic abilities. Each race also has traits that provide exceptions to the core rules. For example, as an exception to the "new characters have no talents" rule, each race receives a bonus point in one or more talents. (Members of that race always have a non-zero base skill rating in the corresponding skill, to preserve the rule that a talent's rating cannot exceed the corresponding skill's rating.
The setting assumes that the PC will be a person (of these races) instead of an intelligent monster. The races made and use civilization. Stories about a PC monster would probably contain more culture shock than adventure.
Comes from deep inside the earth.
Tempered 'till it's strong.
Can warm a meal upon the hearth.
Can fight to right a wrong.
When hot flows quick to fill a need.
Rests warm once learned new role.
When cold has the strength to succeed.
Sturdy body and soul.
Carved in story. Beauty in jewels.
Virtue in shape. Humility in tools.
Wisdom in insight. Experience in rules.
Honor in works. Legacy in schools.
- Dweorg poem
Dweorgs are stout humanoids with phenomenal endurance who are skilled at mining and metal use and hold the expectations of their family jewelry inviolable.
A Dweorg may carry twice the amount normally described by his or her Wrestle/Disarm skill without becoming encumbered. Dwoergs receive a free point in the receives a free point in the Wrestle/Disarm talent.
A Dweorg may become stone-like in heart, mind and body. This is the magical racial ability called tempering.
Dweorgs believe there is an intrinsic and beautiful connection between delving and smithing. A Dweorg only feels complete after establishing a legacy in both. (Most Dweorgs are still working towards that goal).
Dweorgs love the thrill of mild danger. They do not shun the unknown or unpredictable, and enjoy fun activities involving small risks.
Tempering is a method of becoming tough and stone-like. A person using tempering becomes grumpy and gruff (a hardened heart), is unable to learn new things (a hardened mind), and gains skin hardening to be almost stone-like.
Using tempering is a meditative practice that takes a few minutes. Its effects last for the rest of the day, then quickly fade away as the tempered person sleeps.
A person can use light tempering to gain a 1 point situational penalty to social skills, and each combat negate 1 setbacks caused by foes who are not also using tempering.
A person can instead use heavy tempering to gain a 2 point situational penalty to social skills, and each combat negate 2 setbacks caused by foes who are not also using tempering.
The setback negation from tempering is similar to, and stacks with, the similar benefit from being better armored than your opponent.
Dweorgs are wary of strangers, but usually polite. Most civilized Dweorgs are only aggressive if provoked. Because part of a Dweorg's upbringing includes training in selling items he crafts, Dweorgs usually respect doing business and will help to a stranger if appropriately compensated.
Nearly all Dweorgs worship Speleoth, who oversees the caves in which they live as Youth and Elders. They offer gifts of cherished art to his temples. Usually the Dweorg personally and purposefully crafts a finely wrought and exquisitely decorated tool, weapon, mural, or containers to donate. But Dweorgs also donate found or purchased items if the artwork is worthy. For this reason a Dweorg who himself has no need of an excpetionally crafted item may still wish to purchase or trade for it.
All Dweorgs hope to live long enough to become an Elder who returns to the deep place of his childhood with a lifetime of wisdom, stories, and skills to pass on to the next generation. This longing causes Dweorgs to respond favorably to people who turn from a lifestyle of self-enrichment to give to their community. Older Dweorgs revere Yarnspinner as well as remaining devoted to Speleoth.
Some clans of Dweorgs delight in flying and build all sorts of flying contraptions. Raiders from these clans are especially dangerous.
Many Dweorgs respect artfully constructed machinery. Even if they have no personal skill as machinists they will listen in fascination to a machinist detailing how his or her devices work.
As warriors, Dweorgs tend to wear scale or chain armor and use large hammers and picks as weapons.
Because it is easy for a Dweorg to own a tempered weapon, it is often tactical to disarm a Dweorg opponent during combat.
Most Dweorgs dress similarly: shirt, knee-length pants or skirt, tall boots, thick belt, and either a tabard in clan colors or a heavy leather apron if the latter is appropriate for their work. Their clothing is often colorful, even their boots. Fabric is always thick and sturdy. Dweorgs do not wear hats, except when armored, in which case their metal helmets cover less than the helms worn by Kobalts and Bergtrolls.
Dweorg jewelry follows themes of jewels and carving on an iron background. Jewelry is the most culturally important Dweorgish art form. Associated with each Dweorg lineage and family is a unique pattern of color and inlay that identifies and establishes a pincipal virtue for that family. Dweorgs will speak of their jewelry "requiring" or "demanding" acts of bravery, generosity, loyalty, courtesy, or so forth. Although most Dweorgs attempt to behave virtuously by all of Dweorgish morality, a violation of their jewelry's principal virtue is completely unthinkable and would require ritual exile or suicide to atone for the deep loss of family honor. Also, these jewelry-determined virtues, unlike other Dweorgish moral rules, remain equally significant when dealing with members of the other intelligent races. For example, a Dweorg merchant who might normally depart from honesty or loyalty when relating to Therions, Bergtrolls, or Pixies might still be willing to give his life in battle to defend one because "selfless valor" is his jewelry-determined virtue.
Other Dweorg fine arts also focus on metalworking, continuing the theme of jewels and carving on an iron background. Dweorgs prize heavy yet finely wrought sculptures of precious metals, decorated with gems. Instead of painting they create intricate inlaid murals of precious metals and gems on a darker iron background. Their most valued pottery items are decorative metal containers rather than utilitarian.
Tool making is also considered an art form, although tools are usually not inlaid, gilded, or bejeweled.
Dweorgs do not consider weaving an art form but are proficient at weaving and sewing for utilitarian purposes. Similarly, they make sturdy household pottery of clay or wood but never consider it artistic. They do very little theatre or dance but love ballads. Their songs are chants with long, rhyming adventure stories set to a simple yet catchy repeating melody.
The Dweorgs that live in Therion or Bergtroll towns and cities are famous for their sport of Park Running, which involves racing acrobatically along a predetermined route that connects two or more parks. Racers are allowed to throw or wield blunt objects to slow down competitors. The sport is tolerated by others, in part because the Dweorgs who participate always make generous financial compensation for any damage done to property. The Dweorgs avoid discussing the sport's history: some among the Sagacious hypothesize that the activity is an urban version of a traditional underground pasttime.
Dweorgs live a very long time. Many Dweorg Elders are over one hundred and sixty years old, and stories tell of Elders two or three times that age. Younger Dweorgs progress through forty-year lifecycle stages. They do not change much in size as they age, but their skin becomes more wrinkled and their bones become denser.
The youngest Dweorgs are Youth and live deep underground in their clan's high-ceilinged cavern complex. Dweorgs do not discuss with others what their early life is like, except that in involves both "sweatwork" (crafting, smithing, mining, training for warfare) and "smilework" (playing, solving problems, inventing).
On his fortieth birthday a Dweorg becomes a Raider. Raiders still live underground, but not as deep and in cavern complexes that include both vast halls and small rooms. The raiding Dweorgs are responsible for getting food for their own use and that of the deeper-dwelling Youth. Dweorgs do farm mushrooms underground, but these are supplemented with fruit and meat raided from the orchards, poultry farms, and ranches of people who live aboveground. Yet raids are not only a means of acquiring food: raids are also a culturally important source of esteem for successful raiders. A Raider can gain important honor by fighting impressively or committing effective acts of precision theft. Similarly, being forced to flee or hide is a great source of shame. Raiders who are not directly part of a specific raid may involve themselves by betting on the successes of those who are directly participating or by helping prepare and equip those who directly participate. After a raid, the clan chief is responsible for archiving all the Raiders' heroic deeds so these will never be forgotten. A Raider who consistently fails to accrue honor becomes shunned and will no longer be invited to participate in raids; henceforth he only supports the clan by hunting small animals or by gathering wild fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Only a few Raiders leave their clan to live among the other races.
On his eightieth birthday, at his physical prime, a Dweorg becomes an Artist. Artists stop raiding and no longer live with their clan. They move aboveground and build a workshop-home, usually a free-standing cottage but sometimes a dwelling built inside a shallow cave or within the base of a large tree. A few move to a town or city. Artists begin to grow thick beards, which they wear proudly for the rest of their lives. Artists seek to perfect one or more metalworking skills and thus create works of art that will be treasured forever. Artists may study alone, join a commune, or participate in a city guild. Artists sometimes retain a bit of their former raiding mentality: Dweorgs living in towns and cities suffer from a stereotype of occasionally sabotaging or stealing from business rivals (including other Dweorgs). Although Dweorgs do not consider the role of a merchant to be "artistic" some Dweorgs with wanderlust give up metalworking to become traveling merchants. Since Dweorgs may have large families, a group of brothers occasionally will move somewhere together after the youngest reaches Artist age.
On his one hundred and twentieth birthday a Dweorg becomes an Elder. Elders return to the deep caverns to raise the Youth. Elders are very rarely seen by non-Dweorgs. Elders are treated with great respect in Dweorg society, and although they have no special powers they do have a greater chance of owning or carrying interesting or powerful things. The oldest Dweorg in a clan is the clan chief who settles disputes, archives the historical records of that settlement, and authorizes warfare.
Civilized Dweorgs that do not live in cities among the other intelligent races live in clan-sized groups of extended family. Clans usually relate peacefully, but may feud.
Dweorgs are equally comfortable living aboveground or underground.
Dweorgs eat cultivated mushrooms, fruit and meat stolen in raids, and locally gathered fruit, vegetables, and nuts. Some Dweorg clans also employ many snares and traps near the entrances to their cavern-complex to catch small animals.
Dweorg Elders of underground settlements know a magic process that increases the security of their walls. Walls treated with this magic become too hard for most burrowing animals to dig through and also immune to transmutery. Since treating all of a settlement's important walls takes much time and effort, clans of Dweorgs seldom change where they live (as opposed to Kobalts, who often abandon one cavern-complex to live in another with a more strategic location).
A Dweorg secret is that once or twice in a century an entire clan will go to war. Usually an army is formed to conquer a Kobalt settlement, but occasionally the attacked settlement is of another intelligent race, including but most rarely another Dweorg clan. A war begins when a clan chief declares that his clan has amassed enough honor. Fighting in a war is the highest possible honor among Dweorgs, and only those Raiders, Artists, and Elders with the most personal honor may participate in the fighting. The rest of the clan serves by supplying the warriors with food, weapons, and other resources.
Some Dweorgs reject the structures and strictures of their normaly society. This is especially common at the Raider and Artist ages. These Dweorgs band together in groups with a few dozen members. They live a life loyal to each other, exploring the pros and cons of communal sovereignty. But their camps are not independent. Most of their food is acquired by raiding and preying on large settlements.
The 9P sample setting uses old sources in new ways. Traditional elements of fairy tales and folktales are (hopefully) used in a manner novel enough to be interesting and thought-provoking, yet still somewhat familiar.
Since the popularity of Narnia and Middle Earth, most fantasy dwarves have resembled the dwarves of one of those settings. But older folktales feature dweorgs (an Old English word from the Old Norse dvergar) that were competitve raiders.
Many fantasy dwarves follow a trope Tolkein established in which dwarves represent logic, strength, technology, and the grittiness of industry whereas elves represent intuition, agility, magic, and pristine nature. These Dweorgs do not follow that trope. They can be intuitive, agile, fun, magical, and elegant. Instead, as their poem suggests, view metal as the core of Dweorg identity in much the same way water is the physical object that represents the Tao. There is no race representing an opposite philosophy.
The cultural importance of Dweorg jewelry is an idea stolen from the Emblem Men of Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure.
The sport of Park Running is a tribute to Parkour and free running.
Note that the the only races whose members might die of old age are Dweorgs and Kobalts. If they do, that age is unspecified.
Great-grandfather sent me out today.
I wear my brand new hat.
Out to scout and take and play,
And hunt for this and that.
My crossbow's springs are tense and strong.
My wolf beside me where he belong.
Our silent strides are quick and long.
I wait like a spider. I swoop like a bat.
I play far away on my first Hunter's day.
- Kobalt ditty
Kobalts are territorial blue humanoids with vicious temperaent who love their hats, revel in fighting and theft, and delight in making maniacal machinery.
Kobalts have the magic ability to disrupt the morale of a nearby enemy. This is the magical racial ability called sapping.
All Kobalts have tinkered with machinery at least a little. They receive a free point in the Machinery talent.
Kobalts are smaller than Dweorgs, never more than a meter tall. Their blue skin is dry and leathery. They have long pointy ears, dark eyes, and sharp teeth. They move quickly despite their small stature.
Kobalts prefer to live nocturnally. They have keen night vision, and use the Perception skill outside at night without any situational penalty from having lesser lighting.
Unlike all other humanoids, Kobalts have four digits on their hands and feet. Their mathematics is based on eight instead of ten. For example, a Kobalt army is considered full when it has 512 (=83) members.
Sapping is a magical attack that drains the morale of a nearby enemy.
A sapped enemy temporarily suffers a 1 point penalty on uncontested skill use and a 2 point penalty on contested skill use. The sapped person or creature also moves lethargically, with a movement rate as slow as sneaking stealthily.
Using sapping requires touching the victim with the Acrobatics, Melee, or Wrestle skill. The person using sapping becomes giddy for the same duration that the enemy becomes demoralized (this does not affect skill use).
Sapping lasts one minute, but this duration is refreshed if the sapper again touches the target. Only one target can be sapped at a time.
Note that sapping is almost the opposite of tempering. People using tempering give up their own morale to create items that boost skill attempts. People using sapping lower somoene else's morale to hinder skill attempts.
Kobalts bred very quickly. They believe the world has troubles because everyone is competing to fill it. Kobalts feel successful whenever they "fill" more of the world.
Kobalts adore hats. Most Kobalts own several and are always wearing one. If you want to deeply insult a Kobalt, damage his or her hat. If you want to force an aggressive Kobalt to talk, snatch his or her hat and use it to parry—the Kobalt will hesitate to risk harm to the hat and might calm down enough to hear what you have to say.
As warriors, Kobalts tend to wear hard leather armor. For missile weapons they use crossbows or devices that launch harpoons using springs (either small hand-held versions or larger ones mounted on wheelbarrows). At melee range they fight with claws and teeth, or with a variety of weapons.
Kobalts respect anyone who is strong enough to have personally taken captives. They enjoy having healthy prisoners, but for status more than slave labor. Overseeing slaves at work takes effort and is not fun! A poor Kobalt might sell a prisoner. But no Kobalt would buy one—that would be falsely bragging!
In temperament, Kobalts naturally tend to alternate between annoyingly cheerful and depressingly gruff. When a social situation requires politeness they try to mellow their demeanor and adopt social graces. But they are a bit impolite, and suffer a 1 point situational penalty when using the Etiquette skill with members of other races.
Because Kobalts are an argumentative race their extremities often bear the signs of many past scuffles: missing fingers, torn ears, broken noses, and scarred skin. The accumulation of those wounds and an increasingly dour countenance make them appear more grotesque as they age.
The few Kobalts that live within Therion towns or cities are exiles from their Superfamilies. Most are of Worker or Hunter age, eager to please their neighbors and forget their past lives. These Kobalts are very territorial with respect to each other. They divide up the entire town or city into plots, each considered the property of a certain Kobalt. Thus to a Kobalt's mind any piece of property has two owners: the legal resident that claims it in "Polite Society" and the Kobalt who actually owns it.
Male Kobalts are skilled at woodworking, weapon crafting, and engineering. Female Kobalts also work at skinning, leatherworking, and making extra meat into jerky to save for days when no fresh meat is available. Kobalts are the only race to consider leatherworking an art: not only is almost all Kobalt clothing leather but most Kobalt clothing contains at least a few artistically decorated or woven leather components.
Kobalts excel at building machinery. After the Kobalts and Dweorgs of Arlinac Town first established the precedent of dismantling and learning from Frostey Kostkey's machines, Kobalts from every Superfamily quickly copied and expanded that practice. Because Kobalts are a populous race that switches homes comparatively often, they have more conflicts with Frosty Kostkey's armies and machines than the other races. This has given them abundant opportunities to learn from captured machines built by Frosty Kostkey's servants and champions.
Kobalt machinery is easy to recognize, for Kobalts consider functional complexity especially beautiful and near-symmetry artistic. Their machines are compact and efficient despite having decorative gears spinning in many planes (some in pairs going in opposite directions) and pistons included only to harmonize the overall sound and center of gravity.
When Kobalts are not wearing armor they usually dress lightly in what they call a "full set" of clothing: a jacket or vest over a tunic or shirt, drawstring pants, a belt to hold pouches, and of course a hat. Fancy dress for a Kobalt is of similar but of higher quality material, with many colors instead of the plain earth tones of everyday garb, and with either skirts of varying sizes (for the females) or pants with elaborate ruffles (for either gender).
Kobalts can progress through five distinct social stages. Young Kobalts are a pale, almost pastel blue and are called Workers. Workers are given all the laborious jobs and are treated harshly even by their mothers. They are not allowed to leave their settlement or to use weapons or armor. They have short tempers but seem subdued and calm compared to older Kobalts.
Once they have grown larger and their color has darkened they become Hunters who hunt for food and join the military. The goal of a Hunter is to take a member of one of the other intelligent races prisoner, which promotes them socially to the role of Warrior.
Warriors of both genders acquire greater status in Kobalt society by taking more prisoners and keeping these captives healthy. Prisoners may be male or female: both genders may used for slave labor, but are most often kept in a prison so they take minimal effort to own. The Warriors with the largest number of healthy prisoners and thus the most social influence are Captains that command a platoon of 64 Warriors. Through successful intrigue a male Captain can attain the highest social rank by becoming the current Ancestor of his Superfamily.
The Sagacious debate whether Kobalts would naturally die of old age. This question is purely academic because all Kobalts die from violence: fighting or an accident while constructing dangerous machinery.
Kobalts live both underground and above ground. Kobalts prefer to steal homes rather than dig or build homes themselves. Their most valued dwellings are abandoned or conquered cavern-complexes built by Dweorgs.
Kobalts do not care well for their dwellings. Since the damage done while capturing a site gets augmented by months or years of neglected maintenance, most Kobalts live in dirty, broken, worn dwellings.
Kobalts often hunt with trained animals (usually dogs or wolves, but sometimes large lizards or cats). Perhaps the Kobalts' own pack-like nature aids in working with these animals?
Kobalts live in large groups called Superfamilies. Each Superfamily is strictly ruled by a monarch called the Ancestor, who is the only male in the group allowed to breed. All the Kobalts in a Superfamily consider their Ancestor to be their great-grandfather (irrelevant of the difference in ages) even when this is not literally true. When a new Kobalt becomes a Superfamily's Ancestor the rest of the group immediately modifies their family identity for all practical and emotional purposes.
Kobalts are carnivores who usually only eat freshly slaughtered meat. Kobalts will hunt wild animals but prefer the ease of preying on stolen livestock. A popular (but false) rumor claims Kobalts cannibalize those they slay in combat. Another rumor says that anyone who feeds a Kobalt gains its obedience to every verbal command, but no one can recall ever meeting a person with a Kobalt slave.
In early Medieval European mythology there was only one underground humanoid, dangerous to miners, whose name and nature varied from region to region but was based on the Greek koba'los (rogue) and the German kofewalt (room spirit). Modern concepts of kobold, goblin, hobgoblin, knocker, bluecap, coblynau and perhaps even pixy and brownie all branch from this one ancient root. The metal cobalt is named after these creatures, and the color "cobalt blue" is the reason these Kobalts are blue.
Open eyes, pure heart.
Open mind, pure art.
Crowd's eyes, closed heart.
Crowd's mind, closed art.
Nature, muses, wonder, awe—
Sculpt, weave, paint, draw.
Iluminated, illative, illustrious, illimitable.
Stalwart, stainless, stately, stable.
- Bergtroll poem
Bergtrolls are humanoids with mouse-like tails and confident and elegant demeanors who live under or above tall mountains.
Bergtrolls love elegant artwork. They can use a racial ability called co-vetting to experience a dream-like image about artwork a touched person most desires.
Bergtrolls consider herbalism an art form. They receive a free point in the Identify/Lore talent.
Bergtrolls perhaps spend too much time practicing dramatic poses in front of their mirrors. This practice at looking imposing does allow them, once per combat, to use the Wonder skill as a free action that does not take its own turn.
Bergtrolls enter adulthood at a similar size to young adult Dweorgs, Barrowers, Tuathsith, Therions, and Ogres. Yet they grow to be much larger. They are quite similar to Therions in appearance, and some Therions tales tell of Bergtrolls hiding their tails to pass as Therions.
Co-vetting is the ability to touch a person and experience a dream-like image or scene about the artwork that person most desires.
The person using co-vetting does not know whether the visualized artwork already exists, or is only something the touched person has imagined. (Asking about this is common.)
An artist can use co-vetting to firmly understand the artwork he or she is being comissioned to create.
Bergtrolls tend to excel at whatever they attempt. They often act with a confidence that members of the other intelligent races find haughty. (Many Bergtrolls feel doubt so rarely that indecision stuns them wonderstruck.)
A Bergtroll's deepest desire is usually to increase the esteem of their family name. Even Bergtrolls who seldom spend time with family members insist their family name receives proper credit for their notable works and deeds.
No matter what their age, Bergtrolls strive to act as young adults. Elderly Bergtrolls remain playful and alert for small sublime experiences.
Bergtrolls are easily affected by fads and temptations. They view this succeptibility as a shameful weakness. The most respected Bergtrolls have the self-control to develop a unique artistic style. Bergtrolls who act as part of a homogenous crowd are treated with scorn.
Bergtroll society is as comfortable with violence as with luxury. A Bergtroll merchant values his splendid clothing, but will not hesitate to dirty it by fighting with someone who tries to pick his pocket.
Bergtrolls are known for their strict legal codes and unwavering senses of justice. They do not duel over clever insults or other witty attacks on their honor. But slander that is unjust and base is understood as unlawful. When a Bergtroll kingdom is threatened or betrayed all its Bergtrolls will leave to fight as an army.
Bergtrolls have no typical equipment or style as warriors, except for always fighting with grace and finesse.
Bergtrolls value precious metals to make the famous gold, silver, or platinum threads that hilight their elegantly embroidered clothing and tapestries. Yet Bergtrolls do not enjoy mining, and prefer to obtain precious metals from merchants of the other races.
Bergtrolls are unsurpassed at architectural theory. Often members of the other races hire a Bergtroll to design large structures such as a castle, guild hall, or important religious building.
All Bergtrolls consider themselves artists. Most Bergtroll art is focused on what they call the "solid arts" of embroidery, painting, herbalism, pottery, sculpture, architecture, candle making, metalworking, and weaving.
Bergtrolls value oration, and for entertainment attend presentations of witty oration. They are the only intelligent race that considers debating an art form. Some Bergtrolls are fond of the other "airborne arts" of poetry, music, theatre, and debate.
Bergtrolls also adore herbalism. They have bred many herbs that have unusually beautiful flowers as well as practical uses for cooking or medicine. All Bergtrolls who live aboveground have an herb garden.
Religious activity in Bergtroll society is part of their artistic culture. Besides worshipping the Creator and the Powers, Bergtrolls have personified the "Muses" granting inspiration and skill for each art form, and developed a rich tradition of meditative activities (involving thought, breathing, and movement) believed to help the artist imitate or identify with the appropriate Muse to optimally create each art form. Even though Bergtrolls do not believe these Muses are real creatures, Bergtrolls act so much as if the Muses are real that a casual observer would think the actions of artistic creation were genuine religious worship.
Bergtrolls only rarely have children. They age slowly and never die of old age. Compared to their size as a young adult, Bergtrolls double in height every 80 years. Thus, for practical reasons a Bergtroll settlement is home to only Bergtrolls differing by no more than 160 years in age. A Bergtroll who outgrows one settlement will move to a physically larger one. The largest known Bergtroll was 561 years old and almost 13 meters tall (having reached seven 80-year "doubling birthdays"). Bergtrolls of this stature are the probable source of stories of giants in the mountains.
Bergtrolls often remarry when they move to a new, larger-scale settlement. This is socially expected and happens peacefully, even if the old spouse also moves to the same new settlement. However, many Bergtroll love poems idolize couples who remarry each other after moving to a new home.
Bergtrolls always live under or on mountains. They believe living elsewhere would slowly and fatally weaken their constitutions.
An underground Bergtroll dwelling consists of a single passage down to an enormous cavern in which is built a castle of elaborate and fanciful architecture. Each such dwelling is called a "kingdom" since it is ruled by a monarch who swears no outside allegiance. An aboveground Bergtroll settlement is also centered around a castle (much smaller but even more elegant and airy than those underground) but will also include a small village and its surrounding farmland and pastureland. Aboveground settlements are usually part of the kingdom ruled from a nearby underground castle.
Bergtrolls are fond of domesticated livestock and raise both riding animals and food animals. Most Bergtroll families living aboveground raise poultry and own a few sheep and/or goats. Some Bergtrolls live on ranches and raise horses, cattle, llamas, camels, and/or small ornithopod dinosaurs. (Some Therions have observed and copied Bergtroll habits of animal husbandry. But Therions, by nature, prefer to nurture a few pets as family members instead of overseeing a large flock or herd.)
Bergtrolls live in harmony with Therions when Therions allow them into their settlements. In a few places, Therions have built a town around an existing Bergtroll settlement. In either situation the Bergtrolls consider their district to be an oasis of high culture. They are proud of its art museums, sculpture gardens, herb gardens, and castle. The Bergtrolls of a Therion town or city see themselves (usually correctly) as the pillars of the town's artistic endeavors.
These Bergtrolls are loosely based on the huldra and bergtrolls of Scandinavian folklore. They look human (except for a tail), are expert crafters, and live elegantly in underground castles. A few, rarely met, are gigantic. Removed are the trolls' beguiling of captives (this has been altered into the Bergtrolls themselves being captivated by artistic fads) and the kidnapping or exchanging of infants (which is a theme more central to the Tuathsith's literary sources).
The artistic skill and haughtiness of these Bergtrolls is also inspired by the Ska of Jack Vance's Lyonesse Trilogy.
Barrowers are long-limbed pyromaniac cave trolls whose respect for the dead (especially famous dead people) prompts them to live in barrows and graveyards.
Barrowers love gems. They can identify gems by smell, and smell them from hundreds of meters away. They prize gem collections.
Barrowers take pride in protecting burried treasure. A Barrower will have trouble parting with gems, but will otherwise make an effort to return lost treasure to its rightful owners or their descendants. If that effort fails, the Barrower claims the treasure and carefully curates it.
Most adult Barrowers are about the same size as adult Dweorgs, Tuathsith, Therions, and Ogres. But Barrowers have widely varying height and some are much shorter or taller. Their long limbs help them be surprisingly strong and fast. An individual Barrower's size can be difficult to esitmate because of its long limbs and hunched posture.
Barrowers have black or gray skin that appears slightly stony in texture and dully metallic in hue, but is actually soft and waxy. Barrowers who live in the Wilder-ness neglect hygiene and have mossy skin and dirty claws.
Barrowers love both fire and water, and with practice many become expert arsonists and sailors.
Barrowers have control over their metabolism. Their ability to control their adrenaline gives them a free point in the Acrobatics/Climb talent. They can also store energy until needed. During combat, they can begin by moving slowly (its opponents receive a 1 point situational bonus) until it decides to release its energy (the Barrower receives a 2 point situational penalty that lasts one turn for each earlier turn of that combat in which it moved slowly).
Most older Barrowers are only active at night because exposure to sunlight turns them to stone.
Fortunosity is the ability to touch a valuable item and experience a dream-like image about the person or people tied to that item.
The touched item may be mundane or magical. The image will reveal who currently feels the most strongly about possessing the item: either wanting to own the item, or being pleased to already own it.
If the only living person who currently knows about the item is the person using fortunosity, the image will instead reveal an accurate historical scene about the person or people who in the past felt most strongly about possessing the item.
The word fortunosity pokes fun at how the English word "fortune" describes both wealth and luck.
Note that fortunosity is the opposite of co-vetting. Fortunosity touches a valuable item to see information about people. Co-vetting touches a person to see information about a valuable item.
Barrowers are nimble of arm and leg. They enjoy activities that test coordination, especially games and contests of juggling, mumblety-peg, footbag, and shuttlecock. People of any race who win such contests are respected.
Barrowers are omnivorous. Their favorite food is fish. Many excel at net fishing and also use fences and nets to cage off part of a pond or stream to farm fish. Barrowers also eat mushrooms, nuts, roots, and any animals they can catch. Barrowers are the race most interested in cooking. (Although Bergtrolls are more expert at using spices when cooking, a typical Barrower has wider experience with numerous recipes that combine foods to enhance and contrast their natural flavors.) When Barrowers make small talk, they share recipes instead of discussing the weather.
In Barrower society, social status is primarily determined by how much fame and prestige are given to the the dead the Barrowers live with. (This helps the Barrower's fortunosity also, for a piece of jewelry or artwork will be worth more if it was owned by and buried with someone of renown.) The rules about measuring fame and prestige are difficult for any non-Barrower to understand. Barrowers talk about high-value bodies similarly to how some members of the intelligent races treat valuable wines: the collection is a source of esteem and conversation, treated with utmost care to preserve indefinitely. "A fine specimen of Boar-Shaping Therion, who was killed in 411 on a boar hunt." "A Bergtroll king and his entire immediate family—succumbed to the same disease. Marvelous!" "Ah, yes, 423 was indeed a grand year for Ripclaw Kobalts."
A family of Barrowers feels successful when it has "found its place". This includes both finding a respectable place to live, acquiring acceptance in the local artistic community (unless they live in the Wilder-ness), and achieving enough fame with cooking, fireworks, or song so other artists will visit.
Barrower families practice a fighting style that combines slings and stealth with tactical teamwork. For melee weapons, Barrowers prefer one-handed or two-handed maces. Usually these melee weapons are made of ash or hickory with fire-hardened heads, soaked in a alchemical decoction that penetrates the wood's fibers to waterproof and further harden it. Bergtrolls who trade for metal will enhance their mace heads and wield flanged maces or spiked morning stars.
Barrowers treat cooking as an art, as mentioned above.
Barrowers find fishing with rod or net relaxing, and will often spend a few hours at the bank of a pond, lake, or river to rest and fish.
Barrowers adore firework displays. They claim these are the most exciting and dramatic type of art, and those non-Barrowers who have witnessed a Barrowers firework display begrudgingly agree. Barrowers venerate the their expert firework crafters even if these are not from families who live alongside the prestigious dead.
Barrowers also love performing songs that have instruments accompanying singers. All Barrowers consider themselves beautiful singers. Many play musical instruments. They compose marches and dirges to extol the deeds of the dead people with whom they dwell, both as a show of respect to the dead and because distinguished songs can increase the renown of the dead and thus increase their own social standing.
Barrowers who live in the Wilder-ness wear little clothing. Some who live in cities have developed a taste for fancy and trendy outfits, which they cannot make themselves. Ironically, these fashionable Barrowers become so fond of their favorite outfits that they do not change them after growing additional heads, arms, or deformities, resulting in formerly classy outfits that become ill-fitting and sloppily altered with extra sleeves or neck holes.
If a Barrower does have multiple heads, each turn of combat it may make a second action.
Barrowers do not die of old age. With every eighty years of age they grow an additional head or arm. This change is traumatic and often causes deformities such as huge tusks or twisted limbs.
Barrowers live in family groups groups. In past ages they lived in caves in hills. But ther use of fortunosity prompted them to find ways to live beside wealth owned by others. Their preferred home became the barrows in which were buried ancient rulers and their kin (and treasure). The descendants of those ancient rulers often looked favorably on this arrangement, since the Barrowers treated the dead with repect and help defend the barrow from animals and Undead.
Many Barrowers have learned to live in the settlements of Therions and Bergtrolls. They inhabit graveyards, cathedrals, and other burial places and are again tolerated because they work as caretakers and guardians of those places. In addition, sometimes a wealthy person will hire a Barrower to change some of his or her savings into magical statues.
Of course, many Barrowers are thieves who instead of living peacefully with members of the other intelligent races will steal wealth to use with their fortunosity.
Barrowers do no mining. They make little use of precious metals.
Barrowers pay homage to many aspects of stories about trolls: rocky skin, long limbs, extra heads (or, less commonly, extra limbs), turning to stone in sunlight, etc.
The name "Barrowers" is partly a word-play on "Borrowers", because Barrowers need to "borrow" wealth to use fortunosity.
Pixies are tiny humanoids who usually live symbiotically in the settlements of Therions, and after hatching from a nut change appearance and gender as they mature.
Pixies respect cooperation, and can use the magical racial ability called laboritry. The magic of laboritry does not usually age Pixies visibly, except to rush them from childhood to adulthood.
All Pixies use transmutery to assist their laboring. They receive a free point in the Transmutery talent.
Pixies can ignore most difficult terrain. Female Pixies use their wings to flutter a meter above the ground, flitting and gliding over thornbushes, mud pools, rocks, rubble, and other obstacles. Male Pixies are like bulldozers, and plow through hazards without slowing, using their remarkable strength and attunement with nature.
A type of magic called laboritry allows altering the flow of time to help get work done.
Using laboritry is mentally exhausting. A laboritrist must sleep and dream before he or she can use laboritry again.
There are two ways to use laboritry.
The most common use of laboritry allows multiple laboritrists to cooperate to accomplish a task much more quickly than normally possible. The productiveness of their time is multiplied by the square of the number of laboritrists in the group.
Four travelers visit a trading post threatened by bandits, and they decide to use laboritry to team together to build a wooden palisade around the trading post.
There are four participants and the minimum laboritry skill rating is 3. Thus the team can do the work 42 = 16 times as quickly as normally possible. The Player and GM discuss the task and decide it would normally take four adults about four weeks to do this work, so the four travelers can complete the job in slightly less than two days.
The second use of laboritry is to momentarily speed up your personal time so much it appears as if there are multiple copies of yourself. This allows the laboritrist to double any maneuver points saved for the next turn, and also next turn give your opponent a -1 group penalty as you assist yourself. However, anyone watching the laboritrist sees the use of laboritry and will know to expect the magic on the following turn.
Pixies love children, will play with a child for hours, and are very distracted by seeing or meeting an unfamiliar child.
Pixies are naturally nocturnal, but if they live near children will become diurnal to be awake when the children are playing. This change takes several weeks, so there are many stories of the hardship endured in a home with a new Pixie when the Pixie wakes up the children (or sometimes only the youngest child) frequently during the night with music, sing-song, or tossing toys into the crib.
Pixies memorize and exchange many sing-song chants with morals about wise living. These are called "nursery rhymes" and sung to children whether or not the children are old enough to grasp any social advice or philosophical insights.
Pixies respect anyone who can work well on a team to get a job done. They respect most the "go-to person" who solves small problems to keep the team productive, whether or not this person is the team's official leader.
Pixies of all ages and genders love to play darts. Females usually play Grass-Stickers, a game similar to both golf and lawn darts using large, heavy darts. Males usually play Embed-Em, a drinking game involving three dartboards and five colors of darts.
Female Pixies feel days are successful if they are full of love, cooperation, and appreciation. They are troubled by intense and inexplicable hatred.
Most female Pixies show respect to Little Humble, even if they devote themselve more to another Power. A few times each year all the female Pixies in an area will travel to a nearby forest as a group pilgrimage to one of Little Humble's water-rock shrines.
Male Pixies do not worry about whether days are successful. There is much more to life and growth than success or failure.
Male Pixies have invented many games and mental puzzles to occupy their time while sedentary. Aside from darts, the most widely played game is called Board of Battle Hammer Craft and involves storytelling using brass miniatures, hand-drawn maps, and dice.
When fighting, Pixies normally wear soft leather armor and fight with darts and scythes or sickles.
Everyone knows that male Pixies are fearless warriors. Simply marching to war very often has enough travel to age them near to death. It is far more honorable to die in combat than to survive the war with only a few days or weeks of steps remaining.
Pixie clothing styles vary greatly from place to place, depending upon what local Pixie culture considers appropriate.
Pixies of both genders value Transmutery, and view it as the highest form of art. Male Pixies also consider brewing and distilling to be arts. Pixies are especially famous for their mushroom wines.
Newly "born" Pixies hatch from a nut from a special nut tree. All Pixies are born as tiny females, about a centimeter tall, with long hair and large butterfly-like wings.
Female Pixies mature because of selfishness. Every minute they spend nurturing or enjoying a selfish thought or desire ages them greatly. They grow larger and compared to their size their hair shortens and their wings shrink. Their features also become more masculine. Eventually, after many cummulative hours of selfishness, the female Pixie changes into a male Pixie.
(A baby Pixy child can fly. But infants are naturally selfish, and after a few weeks have have grown enough that their wings are no longer large enough compared to their body to allow true flight.)
Most female Pixies find the idea of becoming a male repulsive. Both to minimize selfishness and because life has extra challenges for someone so tiny, they seek work as a domestic servant in the home, ship or merchant caravan of a Therion.
Male Pixies no longer physically change in size or facial bone structure as they mature. Usually this means male Pixies are about two feet tall and have somewhat androgynous faces. Male Pixies age as they travel by foot. To stay young, most male Pixies are lazy and sit around all day. However, male Pixies will travel a reasonable distance (especially if they can pay a merchant caravan to carry them) to be near one or more female Pixies. The tolerance and affection female Pixies show towards these freeloading and often rude males is enigmatic to non-Pixies, especially considering how female Pixies always speak of masculinity as inferior.
As male Pixies age they become gnarled and even stronger. Their skin becomes slightly wood-like. They grow long, white beards and hair. Male Pixies are incredibly strong for their size, and will fight fiercely if attacked. They will even shed their reluctance to travel by foot and organize into an army if such behavior is required to defend the settlement in which they live.
When a male Pixie has aged so much that his beard touches the ground, he dies. From where he is buried (a Pixie would say "planted") a nut tree quickly grows in a single year. The tree's first crop of nuts (typically in the tree's second year) yields only a few nuts, all of which hatch into newborn Pixies; afterwards it is a normal nut tree. Most male Pixies want to be planted in a yard or park near where they lived, but some desire to be a tree far away by the seashore or a waterfall or high in the mountains.
Pixies avoid showing affection except in extreme circumstances. Female and male Pixies never show affection to each other; non-Pixies are unsure if Pixie reproduction even involves physical contact between females and males. But a few stories share that a very aged male Pixie might give a farewell kiss to the Therion(s) whose home or yard he has lived in, to express a lifetime of thanks for kind hospitality. Other stories say a female Pixie might kiss a Therion who saves her life.
Most female Pixies live in a Therion home. Usually the Pixie helps with domestic chores in exchange for food and clothing, and occasional respectful gifts of a special dessert or some brightly colored ribbon. Some Therion families pay the Pixie by giving her time to play with the family's children.
But these arrangements vary from place to place, based upon what a female Pixie has heard from other Pixies about how such arrangements are properly made. In some locations female Pixies only help with gardening, and in certain places giving a special gift to a Pixie is perceived as a serious insult and would cause the Pixie to seek a new home.
Female Pixies are faithful helpers and industrious housekeepers, and can be very picky when choosing a home. Female Pixies approach their domestic work by breaking down tasks into small pieces: they enjoy setting small goals and crossing items off a to-do list. A few female Pixies chose the home of a non-Therion who lives above ground, having a similar relationship with their host family.
Most people who enjoy the domestic or gardening help of having a female Pixie in the home also suffer the imposition of one or more male Pixies loafing about in the dwelling or yard. Usually the help of the female Pixie, gifts of wine from the male Pixies, and the future promise of a nut tree are enough to make Pixies welcomed in any Therion settlement.
Legends tell of some Pixies living in the forest in settlements comprised only of Pixies. These "Tree Folk" wear little or no clothing and use laboritry much less than their urban cousins.
A few non-Pixie legends describe wars between Pixies and Tuathsith, and tell of an entire of grove of nut trees flowing into battle on behalf of the "Tree Folk" Pixies.
The game Board of Battle Hammer Craft is an obvious word play honoring Warhammer, World of Warcraft, and generic pencil-and-paper role-playing games.
One is nightmares, two is dreams.
Nothing now is what it seems.
Three is infants, four is kings.
Who can know such secret things?
Five is rest and six is fears.
Lend us time or we take years.
- Tuathsith chant
The Tuathsith are humanoids with the heads of animals who are capricious yet impartial: they can be kind neighbors with open hearts but silly habits, or wicked predators who steal away people's time.
Tuathsith can use the magical racial ability called phantasmography to create phantasmal objects or illusions.
Many Tuathsith have other features of the animal whose head they have, such as a tail or paws.
All Tuathsith can speak with the kind of animal whose head they share. However, most never use this ability. Very few Tuathsith have pets or keep domesticated animals. Some Tuathsith have the head of a type of animal that only lives far from where the Tuathsith lives.
The Tuathsith have sweet voices that help them fast-talk members of the other intelligent races. They have a phobic dislike of stale food, which they believe damages their voices.
Unlike members of all the other intelligent races, Tuathsith never dream when sleeping.
The name Tuathsith means "People of the Mounds". When the world was new the Tuathsith lived in underground towns beneath isolated hills, and called themselves "The Seemly". But the first terrible wars were between the city-states of ambitious Seemly princes. These wars often extended to pillaging the settlements of other races for food and supplies. Soon all the races feared and hated the Seemly. After those Seemly were humbled, most of their race changed to living aboveground. They changed their name to Tuathsith as part of remembering their history while moving forward. The few who still live underground still call themselves "The Seemly" but because of their pride are often called "The Unseemly" by everyone else.
Intuitive - This creaure receives a free point in the Intuition/Hearthwork talent.
Invisibility - This creature can sometimes turn invisible, which provides a 2 point situational bonus to its attacks and either a 1 or 2 point siuational penalty if its foes try to attack it
There magic named phantasmography blurs the distinction between real and unreal.
Phantasmography can do two things: create phantasmal items, and create illusions.
To create a phantasmal item, the phantasmographer must touch a sleeping person. The phantasmographer can then imagine a mundane item, which is taken from the sleeper's dreams and put into a "phantasmal storage place". A phantasmographer may store as many items as his or her Wonder skill rating.
As an action, the phantasmographer make take an item from his or her phantasmal storage place. These "conjured" phantasmal items act almost as their mundane equivalents. A phantasmal sword or bow can be used in combat, a phantasmal ladder or rope can be climbed, and so forth. But phantasmal items are not made of real material. They have no smell or taste, appear having room temperature, and cannot cause any effects dependent upon the copied mundane material. Phantasmal food is not nourishing, phantasmal fire is not hot and does not burn, and phantasmal acid does not dissolve anything.
The phantasmographer can cancel a conjured item as an action. This makes room for a new item in the phantasmal storage place.
To create an illusion, the phantasmographer must concentrate for a minute. In addition, the phantasmographer must have at least one item in his or her phantasmal storage place. (The item is not used up in any way, but somehow the creation of illusions also requires stored dream stuff.) Three types of illusions are possible.
First, the phantasmographer may alter his or her appearance. Only small changes to height or weight are allowed, but facial features, clothing, and carried items can be faked.
Second, a flat area of size up to eight square meters can be covered by illusion. This is useful for covering a wall, floor, or ceiling with illusionary decoration. A phantasmographer may create a fake wall in a hallway, or cover a pit trap with fake floor.
Third, a rectangular area of size up to two square meters can be decorated with small mundane objects or critters. This is useful for covering a table with fake food, a floor with fake rats, or a shelf with fake artwork.
All three types of illusion are only visual. Adding an auditory component requires the Disguise/Etiquette talent. A clever illusion has an elusion rating equal to the phantasmography skill rating. However, characters might receive a situational bonus to noticing an illusion as fake because of the lack of sound, smell, or temperature being a clue. Touching an illusion always reveals it as fake. Someone who has perceived an illusion as fake henceforth sees a semitransparent image. The person can still partly see the illusion, but can also partially see through it.
The phantasmographer may only create one illusion at a time. It remains until the phantasmographer cancels it, or until the phantasmographer sleeps or otherwise loses consciousness.
Contact with iron interferes phantasmography. A phantasmographer whose skin touches iron loses all the items in his or her phantasmal storage place, all conjured phantasmal items, and any current illusion. That phantasmographer must touch a sleeping person to once again begin the process of phantasmography.
A dreamer whose dreams are used to fuel phantasmography always sleeps soundly through the night. The phantasmographer can choose to have the dreamer sleep additional days without aging, and without needing food or drink.
Note that phantasmography is almost the opposite of laboritry. With laboritry a person voluntarily sacrifices their own mental energy to accomplish real work, and must dream to recover. With phantasmography someone else's dreams are stolen to create phantasmal objects.
The details of illusion creation are intentionally vague. The GM should adapt the size, scope, and effects of illusions as appropriate for his or her setting and adventures.
Tuathsith are mischievous and superstitious. Dealing with them requires caution and precaution. Experience is needed to identify when a Tuathsith is immoral, and when it is simply impulsive and quirky.
Yet all Tuathsith value love and honor, protect beauty and nature, and try to proudly wear their animal features. They are normally peaceful and can be good neighbors. They cause only minor nuisances that are avoidable by anyone with experience in their capricious ways.
Tuathsith who go bad live a mockery the traditional Tuathsith virtures. They nurture passion while believing it to be love, value pride while mistaking it for honor, protect illusion while calling it beauty, and remake nature while calling it protective. They are malicious and dangerous.
Tuathsith society idolizes politeness and cuteness. Beware those Tuathsith who have the adorable head of a mouse or lovebird! Beware those Tuathsith whose cute cat ears or puppy dog eyes! Their charming appearance lets them escape consequences for their bad choices. They are more likely to be spoiled and selfish because of a weak moral upbringing.
Tuathsith are inherently selfish. They consider themselves successful when they take more than they give from other people. Their feeling of triumph cares not who they take advantage of, or in what manner, or even how much. A good Tuathsith simply loves to make a favorable business deal, receive more thanks than a favor deserves, or win a prize in a contest—and will politely hide his or her selfishness and always behave like a good sport. A bad Tuathsith will enjoy stealing, especially if the theft is not noticed and can be safely repeated.
The Tuathsith who live in the Wilder-ness are notably more lively and alert at dusk and dawn, and try to do most of their work then.
A dangerous (yet fortunately a small minority) philosophy among Tuathsith can be summarized as "all above-ground farming and building is unnatural and wrong." The Tuathsith who follow this philosophy often pester or attack Therion or Bergtroll settlements.
As warriors, the Tuathsith tend to use blunt melee weapons disguised by illusion to look like graceful and jeweled rapiers and daggers. They wear any type of armor.
An Tuathsith who is not hurt (not suffering any setbacks or impairments) and not touching iron can become invisible. He or she cannot be seen, but can still be heard or otherwise sensed normally. Only the items he or she was already carrying become invisible. An invisible Tuathsith cannot move unnoticeed through dense fog or a spray of water, and would be revealed by a tossed handful of dirt or flour.
Because Tuathsith can turn invisible, they are best fought with alchemy and with long-bladed pole-arms such as fauchards and glaives.
Tuathsith art is enignmatic because the Tuathsith enhance their appearance and dwellings with illusion.
Many Tuathsith love collecting, and worship Maw Lute.
Tuathsith culture is secretive and veiled in illusion. The Tuathsith keep their stories and songs to themselves.
Tuathsith have few children. Most births are twins. Children develop quickly compared to the other intelligent races: an Tuathsith is fully mature at a dozen years of age.
Once mature, the passage of time does not age an Tuathsith. Instead, it physically ages as more and more lies are believed about it. These lies must be "facts" someone else cares about and for which no one knows the truth. With physical aging it becomes ugly, bent, and physically frail—but also develops impressive strength of mind that includes resistance to distraction, interruption, and hypnosis. Rumors even claim that very old Tuathsith can maintain many illusions simultaneously.
Historically the Tuathsith enjoyed eternal youth by keeping nothing secret: with no truths hidden, they could remain young forever. However, evil Tuathsith now desire old age more than youth, because they value strength and quickness of mind more than strength or quickness of body. They use illusion and guile to create lies whenever possible.
Most Tuathsith live in large settlements under mounds or small hills, often deep inside large forests. The interiors of these settlements are decorated by illusion as well as crafted items.
Evil Tuathsith usually live alone and keep the locations of their homes secret. They give to a few visitors an evening of faniciful and illusionary entertainment before inviting the visitors to sleep (or eat drugged food) so the visitors can be used for phantasmography: when the visitor awakens, outside and outdoors, he or she is shocked to discover the rest of the world has experienced the passing of weeks or months. Other evil Tuathsith steal babies to use as fuel for phantasmography, keeping these captives asleep for decades.
Sometimes a settlement of good Tuathsith are asked (or even hired) to use their phantasmography to aid a nearby Therion village. The Therions willingly submit to phantasmography each night, which costs them nothing. The Tuathsith benefit, and help protect the Therion village. (The Therion mothers of small children are especially pleased by this arrangement, since their children will always sleep through the night.)
When famines happen, Therion families with too many mouths to feed often look for good Tuathsith to "babysit" their children. The Unseemy keep the children asleep without aging (and without needing food or drink) until the famine ends.
Underground Tuathsith settlements, whether occupied or abandoned, invigorate nearby wild animals but sicken nearby domesticated animals.
The word Tuathsith is a word-play on the Old Irish words for "fairy people".
The words Seemly and Unseemly are a word-play on the traditional division between Seelie and Unseelie fairies.
Tuathsith fill the otherwise missing role of hybrid-men in common folk tales. Therions have no half-animal state, whereas Tuathsith have no other option. The GM is encouraged to create Tuathsith based upon common figures of speech. For example: the insults pig-headed (stubborn), rat-faced (sneaky hypocrite), snake-tongued (sweet-talking swindler), and goat-footed (leering predator) could link physical appearance to personality. Of course, other traditional fantasy hybrid-men such as Lizard-Men and Frog-Men are definitely options.
Become a bird and what do you see?
Fiddle-dee-dee my lassie.
Become a hound and what do you smell?
Fiddle-dee-dee my lad.
Become a bat and what do you hear?
Fiddle-dee-dee my dear.
Become a snake and what do you taste?
Fiddle-dee-dee my friend.
Smell what's near and smell what's far.
See the ground and see a star.
Listen low and listen high.
No one loves you as much as I.
- Therion song
Therions are peace-loving humanoids who value family and pets and can copy the form of some animals.
Therions can use the magical racial ability called therianthropy. However, about half of all Therions have a zero skill rating in this magical racial ability until very old. The Sagacious debate whether these Therions lacked therianthropy until old age or merely had lacked occasion to find type of animal with which they would be able to work.
Therions always live above ground. They are very social. Therions are the majority population in all the aboveground cities, towns, and village of the continent.
Their apperance is unremarkable, and believed by the Sagacious to be unchanged from the original humanoid race of Oids.
Animal Handler - This creaure receives a free point in the Animals/Wilderness talent.
Tumbler - This creature may combine the use of the Acrobatics skill with an attack skill: every other turn it may move up to 3 map squares while causing its own attack and all enemy attacks against it to suffer a 1 point situational penalty.
Therianthropy is the ability to change into the form of an animal. The person using therianthropy must touch a sample of the animal's fur, scales, feathers, nail clippings, etc.
Therianthropy only works with animals. It cannot be used to take the form of a monster or person. Therianthropy does not work if the touched sample was collected from an intelligent shape-changer in animal form.
Adopting an animal's form causes the person's clothing and possessions to disappear, as these meld into the animal form during the shape-change.
A person adopting an animal's shape retains his or her own intelligence, mind, and memories. The shape-changer acquires the animal's size and mass, and also gains the animal's abilities in perception and movement. However, these innate animal abilities are unpracticed unless the shape-changer has previous experience in a similar form. Many users of therianthropy have experiene moving about in a few well-practiced forms, but move awkwardly in unfamiliar forms.
A person in an animal's form may return to being his or her normal self at any time. His or her clothing and possessions reappear.
Therianthropy cannot be used if already in an animal's form.
Using therianthropy causes temporary exhaustion. For ten minutes the shape changer suffers a 2 point situational penalty to all skill use, and then for another ten minutes a 1 point situational penalty to all skill use. Special items may be used to alleviate this exhaustion. Someone who is already exhausted from therianthropy cannot use therianthropy again until he or she has fully recovered.
Many stories warn about staying too long in animal shape. After a few days in an animal's form the shape-changer's own intelligence and personality begin to dwindle, being replaced by the animal's. Eventually the shape-changer becomes stuck in the animal's form. This is called becoming a Snag.
A shape-changer in an animal's form will revert to his or her own form if killed, but does not automatically change back if unconscious or asleep.
Note that a user of therianthropy is either in his or her natural humanoid form or in the form of an animal; there is no possible "halfway" form of a bipedal monster as seen in traditional werewolf movies. The change is physical, not illusionary.
The rules are purposefully vague about whether a user of therianthropy uses his or her normal skills or a new set of skills derived from the copied animal. It is simplest to keep the character's skill unchanged. However, if both GM and Player agree it can be sensible for some skills to change because of the new shape. For example, a weak person who adopts the form of a large bear could reasonably have increased Wrestle/Disarm skill and talent ratings.
Therions generally live their lives with little desire for excitement or heroics. They value peace and quiet more than any other intelligent race. Yet they are fiercely protective of their families and settlements, and will fight to protect those they love.
Therions believe that this world has troubles so that individuals can build and leave behind a significant legacy. Usually this legacy is measured in heroic deeds of monster-conquest, civic aid, or scholarship. Therions naturally feel repsect towards any person with such a legacy, as well as anyone they see sacrificing for his or her family.
Therions use tattoos to identify clan and family, and on formal occasions wear piercings (primarily earrings and nose rings) to identify meritorious deeds. Piercings are decorated with short ribbons whose colors describe the meritorious deeds in more detail. When meeting a Therion stranger, it acceptable etiquitte to ask the meanings of any visible tattoos or piercings. Insulting or threatening a Therion's family is a sure way to make an enemy, and may provoke immediate violence.
Most Therions have no desire to amass wealth or social influence, seeing these as distractions from the peaceful contentment and addictive delight of caring for family and pets. However, in large towns and cities there are plenty of exceptions who do covet wealth and power.
Every now and then a person will find an animal that does not age: a very old Therion who has retired as an animal. These should never be kept as pets, since that would cross the ex-Therion's own desire to be free of intelligent society.
When Thereons wear armor they favor Hard Leather on the torso, either Hard or Soft Leather on the limbs, and a Soft Leather hat. Metal armor is normally avoided because of its bulk and the care it takes to prevent it from rusting when worn outside extensively.
Therions have no typical style as warriors, except for training with bows and crossbows in time of war. They tend to be proficient with spears and nets but often this skill is used to capture animals rather than in combat against people.
In their fondness for pets, some Therions have learned how to breed fierce (and sometimes giant) animals. Those who do so consider it an art, but most other Therions view this activity with distrust or abhorrence. The Therions who breed these fierce animals are very secretive about these projects, but also eager to find more people who might become devoted to this strange hobby.
Therions consider animal breeding and training to be an artistic endeavor far more worthy than workmanship with unloving materials. Therions also enjoy storytelling, theatre, poetry, music, and dance.
Therions dress simply. Most seldom wear jewelry aside from the ribboned piercings worn on formal occasions. However, in large towns and cities the influences of Bergtrolls and Dweorgs have made jewelry more commonplace.
Therion literary traditions emphasize memorizing and retelling "wisdom stories". There are many such stories, most of which describe the world before the creation of the eight intelligent races. Some of these stories are believed to be historically accurate, while others are recognized as fiction. The general theme of the stories is how the Oids increased in wisdom and how it is now the duty of Therions to gather this wisdom together and preserve what was learned in those earliest years.
Therions can live 80 to 100 years and slowly gain vitality as they age. They do not die of old age, but eventually take on an animal's form forever. Even those Therions who were previously unable to use therianthropy gain the ability, and feel an irresistable urge to retire from life and become animal. Remaining in the animal's shape so long causes their intelligence, personality, and memories to deteriorate until they fully become the animal.
Most Therions form lifelong monogamous marriages and have several children.
The decade of a Therion's age is important in Therion society: individuals are expected to socialize with members of their own decade and defer to "elders" of older decades.
Therions are gregarious and prefer to live in large villages or towns. Many of these are deep inside forests, but Therions live equally well in settlements outside of forests when beside a river or road.
Nearly all Therion settlements are walled for protection from invading Kobalts and other dangers. A walled Therion settlement is quite resistant to being beseiged since many of its inhabitants can bring in food and harass the attackers by assuming the forms of birds or other flying animals. Those few Therion settlements without walls are built up in the trees and a set of caged animals at ground level allow Therions to travel up to the trees' heights.
Therions are the race who keep the most farm animals. Most only raise food animals, especially chickens, sheep, and goats. Many Therions have learned from Bergtrolls about domesticating pack and riding animals. Therions who live near Bergtroll kingdoms may raise mules, oxen, cattle, llamas, small sauropod dinosaurs, and sometimes horses.
A common type of character in folklore are people able to turn into animals. Therions are a new version of that theme. They get their name from the Greek word therion, the root of the word therianthropy.
Hush stolen baby, don't you cry.
Listen to my lullaby.
Quiet now and show some fear
Or I will eat you to gain a year.
- Ogre rhyme
Taunt. Plunder. Goad. Take.
Laugh and do these for his sake.
In ruthlessness we feed him power.
Their blood will bring our greatest hour.
Chant. Promise. Sing. Devour.
- graffiti etched near an Ogre altar to Gnash
Ogres are accomplished alchemists and warriors, as well as cunning predators who live to eat and prefer the flesh of other intelligent creatures.
Ogres can use the magical racial ability called semblancy.
Many Ogres are unable to control their desire to eat members of the intelligent races. This craving is known as the Ogre's Hunger.
Close Fighter - This creaure receives a free point in the Melee/Protect talent.
Alchemist - This creaure receives a free point in the Alchemy talent.
Semblancy is the ability to change form to exactly resemble a touched humanoid. Semblancy only allows adopting forms of equal or lesser mass than the user's natural state.
Using semblancy drains the touched humanoid's energy: the humanoid becomes extremely fatigued and collapses, unconscious. A victim of semblancy will sleep for several hours before waking (unless woken earlier by someone else).
A person using semblancy may return to his or her normal form at any time, or may use semblancy again to change into the shape of a different humanoid without first returning to his or her normal form.
As with therianthropy, semblancy is an actual physical change (not an illusion). It does not affect clothing. Nor does it give the impersonator the habits, memories, or skills of the copied humanoid.
If someone using semblancy suffers an impairment or is killed, their body reverts to its natural form. Semblancy is not ended by falling unconscious or asleep.
Note that semblancy is almost the opposite of therianthropy. Users of therianthropy give up their own energy to copy the form of an animal. Users of semblancy take somoene else's energy to copy their form.
Ogres are intelligent manipulators as well as devourers. The classic Ogre in a campfire story is a well-disguised assassin or kidnapper. But real Ogres are just as often hiding as apparently helpful advisors or friends to influential people, subtly encouraging a community's elders and leaders to develop faulty morality and greater ruthlessness.
Most Ogres worship Gnash. They listen for reports of greedy and ruthless individuals, whom they sacrifice on special altars so that Gnash can "feed" upon the victim's ruthlessness.
Many Ogres are skilled alchemists, using potions to both aid their schemes and fuel their semblancy. According to some fables, an Ogre will postpone eating a captive if the captive hints that it knows interesting alchemical recipes.
An Ogre feels successful if it can control many other people. It may take captives, but more often uses rumors and disguises to make the populace of a village or town fear imagined threats while remaining oblivious to the predatory Ogre living among them. Ogres show respect to anyone they see using ruthless duplicity selflessly for a larger cause.
When fighting an Ogre, attack with ranged weapons. The Ogre's semblancy usually allows it to win a combat if it can touch its opponent once.
Ogres usually own many sets of clothing and wear little or no armor, to allow the most freedom in disguising themselves. When expecting violence, Ogres will wear as much armor as their disguise allows—or as much armor as possible if they are no longer in disguise.
As warriors, Ogres prefer a combination of a blunt melee weapon and a ranged weapon. Ogres are usually expert with many kinds of weapons, even those which the Ogres never plan to use in combat.
Ogres make many potions. If legends are even partly true then the oldest of Ogres have alchemy expertise far beyond any other people. Certainly alchemy and weapon use are the most notable Ogre arts.
The Ogrish interest in alchemy arises from alchemy's ability to cure the Ogre's Hunger. But the recipe that does this differs for each Ogre, motivating many Ogres to pursue a personal and intense study of alchemy. Those Ogres who have cured their Ogres Hunger call themselves the Sagacious. They usually choose to live in a Therion or Bergtroll settlement as the resident alchemy expert, enjoying a quiet life dedicated to scholarship.
Ogres consider plotting artistic. They praise well-designed and time-tested black operations—especially steganography, sabotage, and tricking others into fighting their battles. Some Ogres venerate august yet shadowy ancestors to whom stories attribute amazing acts of stealth and duplicity. Rumors describe some ancient Ogres using trickery and deception to compete with each other in games that manipulate members of the other intelligent races as pawns: the rules of these games are not known but victory seems to arise by working from the shadows to sow confusion and discord.
Ogres very seldom have children and do not die of old age.
Ogres progress through four different lifecycle categories as they age. Ogres believe they age more quickly if they kill intelligent creatures and eat them.
Young Ogres are Tusked Ogres. They cannot disguise themselves effectively since any humanoid form they adopt retains the large tusks they have instead of lower cuspid teeth. They are normally outcasts from Ogre society who must survive on their own in the Wilder-ness until adulthood. When Tusked Ogres meet they may temporarily partner together, but even then will consider the other a threat and a potential meal (and source of coveted age). Tusked Ogres spend much time practicing their combat skills: unarmed, with a few favorite melee weapons, and with ranged weapons. Unknown to non-Ogres, if a Tusked Ogre is fed by an intelligent creature then the Tusked Ogre must obey that creature's commands until the next full moon; this is the source of the similar false rumor about Kobalts. Tusked Ogres grow to a size of roughly 50 kilograms.
When an Ogre is mature it loses its tusks and grows horns, which also are retained when using semblancy. The Horned Ogre often tries to blend in to town or city life. Horned Ogres have developed numerous tricks for hiding their horns, ranging from finding jobs that allow hats or helmets (guards, tavern bouncers, etc.) or using semblancy to hide horns under curly hair. Some Horned Ogres even work in partnership with evil members of the other intelligent races: the partner befriends people while clearly not an Ogre to visual or magical detection, then the Ogre wears the appearance of the partner but with a hat or helmet as he or she waits for the right moment to attack the "friends", and finally the Ogre and his or her partner share the spoils. Horned Ogres grow to a size of roughly 200 kilograms.
The third stage is the Plain Ogre, which lacks tusks and horns and can better use semblancy. Their natural size can be up to 300 kilograms. Plain Ogres can enjoy living in small villages as well as towns or cities. Some enjoy staying in a settlement for years, secretly preying on travelers to feed their Ogre's hunger, occasionally framing innocent locals for their murders. Other Plain Ogres enjoy being a wanderer, visiting many places and leaving a wake of wrecked lives.
When an Ogre is old enough it changes into the final stage, a Wizened Ogre. Wizened Ogres are rare. They still lack tusks and horns, and their natural size can be up to 400 kilograms. Their natural form has wrinkled skin, although semblancy can hide this. Some Wizened Ogres maintain a staff of Tusked Ogres they control by feeding. As a group, the Wizened Ogres try to keep secret this ability to control Tusked Ogres so only they can make use of it. Some legends claim that a few Wizened Ogres are very old, peaceful, and the enlightened keepers of an ancient wisdom. But all well-known encounters with Wizened Ogres were quite the opposite of peaceful or enlightening.
Ogres are thought to be almost always solitary, with no known natural habitat. Some live alone in the Wilder-ness. Most of the Ogres so far discovered were hidden among the population of large towns and cities, often disguised as their previous victims while preying off other local inhabitants.
These rules are purposefully vague about what Ogres look like in their natural form. Do they look like normal people (Therions and Bergtrolls)? Are they burly humanoids with huge muscles, green skin, and wide necks? Are they an abominable mass of tentacles, eyes, and mouths?
Linguistically, the words ogre and orc may be related, both derived from the Roman Orcus.