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 Heroes, the Creator made three Powers to encourage exceptional deeds...
|Yarnspinner||Enchanted Forest||Bardic Competitions||Story Finders||Annotated Maps||Witches||Forensics|
|Little Humble||Isolated Keeps||Wild Hunts||Errants||Serendipity Bags||Bugaboos||Emptiness|
The Age of Escapades began when the Creator made three Powers to help ordinary people also have adventures...
|Speleoth||Caves||Round Trips||Scene Recorders||Ranger Boots||Oozes||Touristry|
|Builder||Worn Down Towns||Mad Seances||Laboritors||Oversprings||Animated Objects||Rewinding|
In the Age of Intrigue the Creator made three Powers who used secret schemes and alliances to gain influence...
|Maw Lute||Lairs||Treasure Hunts||Buskers||Panoplies||Dragons||Transmutery|
|Gnash||Haunted Homes||Last One Standings||Bounty Hunters||Necrotic Weapons||Undead||Raging|
The nine Powers are above mortals. They might be encountered by those brave enough to seek them out. But 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 Builder, 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 Powers' 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 usual rules for magic item creation and pricing.
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 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?
- Bergtroll 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 only act in small ways and 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 uses no visible form—not even in dreams—and has no gender (and is referred to by name instead of using a 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 the Creator 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!
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 at the dawn of the Age of Heroes to motivate the first heroes: hunters of fierce monsters whose deeds would be memorialized with statues and tombs.
Achiever encourages people to set and pursue goals. He is the patron of athletes (especially archers) and the guardian of rivers.
His dungeons are memorials, his contests are sporting events, his champions are the Engarlanded, his gifts are passportals, his monsters are bigbeasts, and his wondrous feats involve fortunosity.
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 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 connection with 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) poor people gather to collect the animals as their own.
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.
Although Achiever has never explained how he guards rivers, people have learned that he will knock down dams and wreck mill races. He usually does not mind the construction of a water wheel if it does not noticeably interfere with the river's flow.
Publicly neglecting or abandoning a personal goal often prompts other people to proclaim, "Achiever would not like that!"
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 was originally designed with the name Old Man River as a emotionally darker Power who taught an endless, unappreciated need for goal setting, self-improvement, and fortitude within hardships. The design of his personality and teachings evolved to become more meaningful to children.
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. He does not speak.
The only buildings dedicated to Achiever are the arenas, archery fields, and courtyard statuaries 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. (This can be a tiny "ritual dock" much too small for actual boat use.) In these shrines is 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.
Achiever's most devoted followers beleve they must promptly confess any crimes against the Water-Way while putting one hand in a river, or Achiever might take them away during the night. These followers often live together, distrustful of outsiders who may have unconfessed crimes.
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 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 and uninhabited, 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's followers thrive on friendly competition. They enjoy many types of physical exercise and sport. Achiever helps his followers organize and host especially sanctioned sporting events to celebrate these activities. Most villages, towns, and cities have at least one such sporting event each year.
Common competitive activities at Achiever's 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.
Participants who have learned wondrous feats of fortunosity compete separately in their own leauge.
The leaders of the settlement often award medals or other prizes to competitors judged best at each competitive activity. The overall winner becomes one of Achiever's champions, an Engarlanded.
Achiever believes that "champions" should be those who have won, not those who are especially devoted to or serving a Power. The winners of his sporting events gain a special distinction.
A garland of their choice appears on or slightly above their head: a circlet of leaves or flowers, a silver or gold circlet or loop of chain, or a softly glowing halo. The person is now recognizable as one of the Engarlanded.
If an Engarlanded wins subsequent sporting events, their garland becomes marked to show the number of their victories. Certain leaves, flowers, or chain links look distinct. A circlet or halo gains points or gems.
When an Engarlanded gains an advancement token, he or she can deposit it into the garland instead of using it to increase a skill or talent rating. As usual, increasing a garland's rating costs as many advancement tokens as the new rating. The garland's rating cannot exceed its number of marks from sporting event victories.
Each sunrise the Engarlanded can decide which talent rating to replace with his or her garland's rating. What type of talent will be most useful that day? This can cause a talent rating to exceed the associated skill rating.
The Engarlanded are not given any special responsibilities by Achiever. However, some communities only allow the Engarlanded to become an appointed or elected leader or official.
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 own passportal 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 a moment, allowing a few 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— require that the speaker 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 passportal belts 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 stone 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 intends the portals between portal stones for personal use. They are not large enough for normal wagons. People who try to transport trade goods using the portals no longer have Achiever answer their prayers.
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.
Some bigbeasts combine the features of several animals (but never people). If these are encountered more than once their type is often given a name: a gryphon, hippogriff, pegasus, chimera, peryton, peluda, seps, simurgh, tarasque, etc. The Sagacious look for patterns about when and where these hybrid-animal bigbeasts appear, and compile records about successful hunting tactics for each type.
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 claim an isolated but distinctly describable location: a butte, signal tower, signpost at a crossroads, remote shrine or memorial, 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.)
Achiever's followers will record which bigbeasts they have 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, can see in the dark, 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. Very dangerous bigbeasts are often 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 peternaturally 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 that are a hybrid of several animals may have strange powers that extend beyond exaggerations of their innate animal abilities.
Bigbeasts are usually at least as 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.
Old bigbeasts can develop incredibly tough hide with rocky or bony protrusions, and often grow additional horns.
Bigbeasts are sensitive and vulnerable to an enemy with potential. A person attacking it can display one or two unspent advancement tokens which each remove one point of the bigbeast's toughness. This does not use up the advancement tokens.
Like all animals, bigbeasts are exempt from certain game rules. A very fast creature can move much farther each turn than a person. A very large creature could trample opponents while ignoring their equipment and armor. A creature with dangerous claws or teeth could benefit as if those natural weapons had superior quality. A pouncing creature could rake with several claws simultaneously. A constricting creature could use the Wrestle skill multiple times each round.
Also, bigbeasts may have abilities not tied to game rules: winged flight, venomous bites or stings, webbing, noxious spray, hypnosis, etc.
The tongues of bigbeasts are useful for alchemy. The appropriate extract of bigbeast tongue might grant a bonus when crafting powerful alchemical recipe.
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 to identify which recipe would benefit from that extract.
The hides or scales of bigbeasts are often prized by armorers.
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 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.
Achiever's most devoted followers can be especially lucky. They are taught in dreams how to use a wondrous feat named fortunosity.
To use fortunosity, a person puts coins in a bowl of river water before falling asleep at night. When the person wakes in the morning, the coins are gone (accepted by the Achiever) and the person can have extra luck that day.
A person can give Achiever as many coins as his or her Wonder talent rating. The first coin allows one die roll that day to not be rolled but instead have the result of a 1. The second coin allows one die roll that day to not be rolled but instead have the result of a 2. And so on, counting upwards to the person's Wonder talent rating.
The die rolls affected by fortunosity must be for attempted actions performed or seen by the person using fortunosity.
If multiple people attempt to use fortunosity to affect the same die roll, the smallest number is used.
The word fortunosity pokes fun at how the English word "fortune" describes both wealth and luck.
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 during the Age of Heroes 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 unique gold brooch to make his identity clear.
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 created 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 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 a 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 a 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 a 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.
Yarnspinner creates a copy of the Enchanted Forest near all major towns and cities. 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 pleasant but boring path while encountering nothing special, 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 travel to 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 his 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, or destiny can be obtained by successfully completing a quest in the Enchanted Forest.
Yarnspinner is fond of his witches and most adventures 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 is magical revelation, and 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!
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 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 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. They 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.
Matrons are conjurers. They 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 armor, blocking passages with walls of fire, or trapping foes in suddenly appearing pits.
Crones are transmogrifiers. They 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.
Many witches live or travel alone. Others live in groups that most often have three members, one of each apparent age.
Most witches are easy to distract, befuddle, or dupe. Successful attempts at bluffing or fast-talking them cause extra losses.
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, like all monsters, can see in the dark.
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 a witch's magic has three limitations. A witch can only use magic to advance her assigned story. A witch can only use magic appropriate to her age. A witch cannot use magic on herself or other witches.
A rumor claims that each witch must use a specific eldritch implement (usually a wand, ring, cauldron, hat, or box) to create her magic.
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.
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.
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 do not study to learn these eight abilities. They are granted directly by Yarnspinner as a reward for completing an adventure in the Enchanted Forest. (Most people do a less dangerous adventure to earn a single ability. But it is possible to earn multiple abilities in one adventure.)
A person can only learn as many forensic abilities as his or her Wonder talent rating.
Yarnspinner's champions, the Story Finders, can search for old stories by seeing visions of past heroism and villainy. But these visions are not always literal, 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.
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 towards the end of the Age of Heroes to empower heroes who wished to fight injustice and other social problems.
Her dungeons are isolated keeps, her contests are wild hunts, 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's followers believe that exceptional focus can reliably produce a life of peace and purpose.
Little Humble is respected by almost everyone. But few people follow her teachings rigorously.
Little Humble works to opposes Gnash's active ruthlesness, which 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 that 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 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 except for two sets of clothes and a backpack. 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.
At a Meek Manor, people practice dance and unarmed martial arts together to develop the body, and memorize and discuss poetry and philosophy together 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 to 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 travelers and local animals.
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.
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, 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 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.
Adventures involving an isolated keep normally involve 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.
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 bigbeast.
Some stories tell of isolated keeps that have underground rooms as well as an above-ground tower.
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.
Little Humble honors creativity and playfulness by organizing special treasure hunts. These 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 item(s) being hunted (often painted rocks or other objects easily recognizable yet not valuable) and what makes this particular treasure hunt "wild".
Most types of "wildness" assist the treasure hunters: all hunters might be loaned a winged horse or intelligent hound, granted invisibility or a gaseous body while outside settlements, or be given extraordinary speed while running or the ability to breathe underwater. Other types of "wildness" are not helpful: all the hunters might be shrunk to the size of mice, 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 participants even though Little Humble would like the hunts to be safe and fun activities.
A wild hunt always includes many copies of the objects being hunted. The wild hunt's participants can pick them up as they find them without significantly reducing the number of remaining hidden objects. (This is different from Maw Lute's treasure hunts.)
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 goal of the treasure hunt is often a single magic creature: a thing harmless yet strange from a child's dream. Who can follow singing butterflies across the city? Who can race alongside rubbery giraffes while wearing stilts? Who can track adorable floral-scented skunks through a castle while only able to walk on the ceilings?
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. Traditional 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.
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 who will help the trial by detecting who is lying. The PC might need to help an Errant who is hunted by corrupt governing officials, or is stuck in a tricky social situation because he or she refused to lie. An Errant about to travel to one of Little Humble's isolated keeps might ask the PC to join the adventure.
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 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.
(A winner of a wild hunt is also given a serendipity bag, whether or not that person devoutly follows Little Humble.)
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 week 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 renown 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. Most bugaboos feed on fear, and attack using hallucination and grabbing.
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:
Because bugaboos are monsters they cannot breed. But some are able to split, divide, or make copies of themselves.
Bugaboos, like all monsters, can see in the dark.
Bugaboos are invigorated when people near them are frightened. (To a bugabo, nearby fright is as helpful a condition as flanking a foe or pouncing from higher ground.) Most can make trouble by causing startling or creepy visual or olfactory hallucionations.
Almost all bugaboos are violent and attack by grabbing their prey and strangling or squeezing. 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 imagine what his or her imaginary monster felt like, 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.
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: a person wielding a magic weapon is always considered to have both the special equipment and beneficial circumstance bonuses.
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 advancement token.
The word bugaboo is a variant of bugbear, which is similar to bogeyman. Historically, the word bugbear emphasized being obsessed with the fear, whereas bogeyman emphasized that the childhood fear was purposefully implanted by the child's parents.
Yes, defeating a bugaboo is like smashing a piñata. The advancement token is the real prize: it is an extra token that does not count towards the normal number of advancement tokens earned by completing the adventure.
The "garb-grabber" and "skin man" were inspired by illustrations in the Libris Mortis.
Little Humble wants her followers (especially her Errants) to be self-sufficient. Her techniques of emptiness allow them to be supernaturally so.
People learn these abilities techniques through apprenticeship, or more rarely through the use of ancient meditation techniques.
A person may learn as many emptiness abilities as his or her Wonder talent rating.
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 Scene Recorders, his gifts are ranger boots, his monsters are oozes, and his wondrous feats involve touristry.
The teachings of Speleoth ask people to define themselves in part by where they have been.
Speleoth encourages his followers to travel widely. His followers are often either unusually heroic or especially vulnerable to encountering strange ideas and corruption (or both).
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.
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.
Speleoth's followers get upset when people or monsters claim locations in a manner that inhibits travel and exploration.
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.
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, or fantastic and fanciful 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, creature, or other danger.
Unsurprisingly, exiting the cave-complex is often more physically challenging than the descent into its underground passages. However, by habit the creatures that live in the dungeon move through it 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 finding items to open portals, passageways, or containers.
Cave dungeons make nice hideouts for criminals because of the availability of food and water in a remote location. Builder's wicked Mechanicals 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. A host 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 with his or her copy!
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 protect their carriers from sharp projectiles. Any piercing projectile that would otherwise hit someone carrying a flag-copy instead has a 50% chance to miss.
The winner of the contest earns a pair of ranger boots as his or her prize. These appear on the altar of the temple used as the round trip's starting and ending location.
After the contest, all copies of the flag disappear.
Speleoth encourages people to visit new places, see new sights, and enjoy the pleasures of travel and exploration. Travelers can petition Speleoth to be granted a special ability to help family and friends back home understand the majesty of what the traveler has seen.
People with this ability are called Scene Recorders. Sometimes (it is not controllable) they gain a photogaphic memory for a few moments or minutes, and the ability to share the visual portion of this memory with a willing person they touch. The touched person briefly enters a trance as the memory plays in their mind.
Scene Recorders are most often able to record amazing views and rare sights. When traveling for a purpose, they are sometimes able to record the scene as they complete that purpose. This can allow an adventurer hired to deliver a package or locate a person to prove their success to their patron.
Many people try to have weddings or other lifecycle events happen in a location of natural beauty, hoping a guest who is a Scene Recorder will be able to record the event.
Speleoth awards the victors of his contests with magical ranger boots that enable the movement abilities of Wuxia literature.
Each pair of boots provides one movement ability, when both boots are worn. Examples of possible movement abilities include:
Someone to whom Speleoth has given ranger boots may gift or sell them, or include them in a will. However, if the ranger boots are stolen or otherwise taken unlawfully their magic will not function for the improper owner.
Oozes are rubbery and nearly transparent creatures (slimes, puddings, jellies, molds, cubes, and lurkers) that gain shapes and intelligence as they consume animals and people.
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.
Compost size oozes are the smallest. They can only dissolve cellulose (plant material) and are not dangerous to people. These are often purposefully put in compost piles.
Outhouse size oozes are medium-sized. They can also dissolve proteins, which means they can harm people. But they can be safely kept in a smooth-walled metal container.
Dangerous size oozes are the largest. These can also dissolve fats, making it a threat to animals.
Rumors say the biggest oozes can even dissolve rock.
The rubbery bodies of oozes can make them difficult to damage, but also create a weakness. The five traditional ways to attack oozes are by cutting, bludgeoning, burning, electrifying, or splashing with salt water. Depending upon the type of ooze, these might cause damage, do nothing, or cause the creature to split into two smaller oozes.
Because oozes are monsters they cannot breed. But some are intelligent enough to decide to intentionally divide, and willingly decide to make copies of themselves despite the pain of injury.
The Sagacious debate how oozes grow, and what sources of nutrition cause them to gain intelligence or change to a larger size. Some believe Speleoth creates some oozes with intelligence. Other Sagacious theorize that oozes become as intelligent as the smartest prey they have eaten.
Oozes perceive the world around them using the five normal senses and two special senses: they can sense heat and detect magical energy. They can sense trails of heat and magic, to follow where a warm creature or a magic item has recently gone.
The least intelligent oozes act like slow-moving hamsters: curiously exploring, tenatively probing their environment, searching for food, movement, and magic.
Oozes feel pleasure when they surround magic things. Unintelligent oozes usually move towards magical items. Intelligent oozes might attack anyone carrying a magical item. Oozes keep their magical items in a special vesicle, safe from digestion.
Oozes learn to change shape to mimic that of digested creatures. Most dangerous size oozes have consumed several animals. They can quickly change to any of those shapes, and have practiced moving as that creature normall does. Oozes in any shape remain rubbery and able to move along walls in addition to any mimicked movement.
(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.)
A few oozes learn to change shape in ways that mimic object instead of creatures.
Oozes can become nearly transparent, which provides a circumstantial bonus when using the Stealth skill.
Oozes attack by bludgeoning using a pseudopod or by stretching their entire body around prey. Once they succeed in causing harm with a Wrestle attack they begin constricting. Until the prey breaks free, the ooze will cause one extra loss against that creature each turn, whether or not subsequent die rolls earn victory. An ooze that succeed in two Wrestle attacks against the same prey has grabbed and pinned that creature's arms or forelimbs, and the prey cannot use those limbs until freed.
Many oozes 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.
Here are four examples of oozes:
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 game's opponents were ooze creatures!
Sean K. Reynolds has written a great rant about D&D infravision.
Speleoth inspires and empowers his followers with abilities that help them adapt to new places and peoples. These abilities are collectively named touristry.
People learn the techniques of touristry one at a time through apprenticeship, or more rarely through the study of ancient scrolls.
A person can only learn as many touristry abilities as his or her Wonder talent rating.
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.
Futhorc is the patron of puzzles and spells.
His dungeons are mansions, his contests are rune quests, his champions are Casters, his gifts are spell-scrolls, his monsters are argles, and his wondrous feat is kablamie.
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 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.
Futhorc creates dungeons shaped like enormous mansions. Only their main entry way works for entering or exiting the dungeon. (All other exterior windows and doors are impassible.)
The mansions are part of an alternate world where spell-scrolls nearly all cast a dangerous attack spell. In this alternate world certain nobles have formed the Crimson Cult that ensures only its members have spell-scrolls so they can use this magic to subjgate everyone else. Visitors to the mansion can learn more details from reading books, listening to mechanical audiograph players, and eavesdropping on conversations.
The goal of each of Futhorc's mansions is to find and defeat the noble living in that mansion. That main villain will be carrying a special glowing spell-scroll.
The mansion will probably be richly decorated. But the only treasure that can return to the real world with the adventurer are coins found in the mansion and that special glowing spell-scroll. (The mansion may contain other spell-scrolls that do not glow. These cannot be taken back to the real world. They may be internalized by a Caster who is ready to do so.)
Dungeon mansions have various appearances. Some have opulent luxury. Others are densely cluttered. Some are museum-like with well-guarded symbols of status. Others are full of dark and gloom that conceals the interiors. A few are behind schedule with repairs, additions, or renovations.
Some mansions exist in alternate worlds very different from normal reality. Rooms may have odd gravity, impossible acoustics, illusions, monsters not found in Spyragia, rubbery surfaces, etc. (For some fun ideas click here.)
Any "defeat" in a mansion only expels the adventurer from the mansion. He or she appears outside the special doorway unharmed. His or her memories about that dungeon may be partially erased.
Some 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 stairways between floors preternaturally muffle sound so that occupants of any floor never hear what happens on another floor.
A mansion's contents can change when it is not being visited. The rooms, hallways, inhabitants, and treasures might be changed, rearranged, or removed before the next adventurer enters that dungeon.
Some people in the real world pretend to be members of a real Crimson Cult. Futhorc does not approve.
The bother of identifying color-coded potion effects by trial and error is a tribute to Rogue and its computer game descendants.
I picture the mechanical audiograph playing machines as being similar to those in the Dishonored computer games.
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 mansion dungeon.
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 monthly in others.
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 also believes that "champions" should be those who have won, not those who are serving. So he organizes rune quests, and the first person to complete the quest becomes a Caster who gains permanent use of any one spell-scroll.
The new Caster choses a spell-scroll. When he or she reads it aloud, it goes dormant as usual. But instead of the effect happening once, it "goes into" the new Caster and becomes a spell the Caster can cast as often as desired.
A Caster may enter more of Futhorc's rune quest contests. If he or she wins again, an additional spell-scroll may become internalized.
When a Caster casts one of his or her spells it causes temporary weariness. For one minute the Caster suffers a 2 point penalty to Wonder skill use, which then lessens for another (additional) minute to be only a 1 point penalty to Wonder skill use. Someone who is already weary in this way cannot cast another of his or her spells until he or she has fully recovered.
Most Casters first learn the most potent healing ability whose scroll they can afford to buy. People who are more adventurous may pick a more exciting effect. Because of Casters, powerful spell-scrolls are worth a small fortune.
Futhorc loves when people explore his mansions. They can experience unusual adventure without having exceptional abilities or facing real risks.
The main loot from a mansions is the glowing spell-scroll that may be taken back to the real world. Whomever reads a spell-scroll aloud creates that scroll's magic effect. The scroll may be read silently to learn about the spell's effect 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 dormant spell-scroll has an additional line of text appear that magically counts down how many days and hours remain before it becomes potent.
In the real world spell-scrolls cause all sorts of effects: damage or healing, enhancements or impairments, modifications to movement or perception, and more. Most spell scrolls are trivial to read. But those that cause losses (usually physical attacks) require the special technique of kablamie to use.
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 glowing ones whose original owner had no use for the spell.
Futhorc uses mansions to challenge lone adventurers. He uses rune quests to allow individuals to compete against each other. His monsters are intended to be a compliment: a threat that a community cooperates to deal with. So Futhorc makes tribes of bipedal lizards named argles that act like bandits or raiders.
Most argles are barely intelligent. Their language is only vicious hisses and bickering grunts. Their tool use is primitive. They attack any people they see, and cannot be reasoned with.
Each tribe of argles will have one leader who is much larger and more intelligent. Away from the inspiration of this leader, argles will only start a fight they believe will be an easy victory with few casualties.
Argles, like all monsters, can see in the dark.
Most Argles have no other special abilities. They are like stone age lizard-people. But a few are different.
The leader of each argle tribe has an enchanted weapon. Most follow the crafting rules. Here is one example:
Roarer's Axe (5 charges of Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 victory)
This axe has gold inlay and gems in its hilt, and is enchanted to be amazingly dangerous. Each combat round its wielder begins with a four-sided die, except that the enchantment goes dormant shortly after each combat ends and does not reactivate until the wielder shouts, bellows, or roars for half a minute.
Most of these argle enchanted weapons are spears, axes, clubs, bows, javelins, or darts with an impact of 3 or 4.
The word Argle is old British for argue or dispute. It also sounds like a blend of Runequest's "Slarge" and Elder Scroll's "Argonian".
Futhorc decided to limit the harm his spell-scrolls can cause by "hiding" the techniques needed to use any damaging spell-scroll. The special technique of kablamie is needed to use a damaging spell-scroll.
Kablamie is needed for both reading a scroll or by internalizing it as a Caster.
The only way to learn kablamie is to force the main villain of one of Furthorc's mansion dungeons to reveal his or her secrets.
A person who knows kablamie can cause losses with a spell scroll (or internalized spell) up to his or her Wonder talent rating, assuming the spell scroll (or internalized spell) does not itself have a smaller upper limit.
Be the hammer! Be the tool!
Don't be but a gear-y.
Make what's helpful! Build what's cool!
Don't spin in grime all dreary.
Invent a new thing! Break a rule!
Or drudgery all year-y.
- smithy song
Biting cold wants your despair.
Weep and moan in Winter's glare.
Abandon hope, for don't you know?
None escape from Builder's snow.
- hiker's chant
Builder is the patron of technology, cooperation, and Winter. It's teachings contrast the exultation of invention with the depression caused by monotonous conformity, and explore the ways a group effort can enhance or subsume the personalities of its people.
Its dungeons are worn down towns, its contests are mad sceances, its champions are Laboritors, its gifts are oversprings, its monsters are animated objects, and its wondrous feat is rewinding.
The teachings of Builder ask people to define themselves in part by the warmth and novelty they bring to other people's lives.
Builder is in many ways the opposite of Speleoth. It focuses on creating technology and owning inventions, not discovering nature and visiting places. It highlights the despair caused by repetition and monotony, which is perhaps the opposite of Speleoth's joy of exploration and discovery.
Builder teaches its followers by leaving proverb-filled pamphlets in their smithies, workshops, and laboratories. Some of these encourage teamwork, with saying such as "Each gear deserves the glory of the machine" or "Great adventures require a balanced party". Some commend innovation, with sayings like "Names of inventors are immortal." Some make technology seem alluring and captivating, with proclaimations like "True power flows through valves and wires" or "Magical things for magical living...through chemistry." Some warn about monotony, such as "No cog enjoys its own motion."
Builder's pamphlets can also point out the parallels between the bleak snows of Winter and the impersonal uniformity of machinery, with sayings like "Cold pistons are frosty hearts" or "Heat makes life; toil makes heat."
One of Builder's sayings is a homage to the Dupont slogan from 1935.
Evidence from Builder's pamhplets hint that Builder was once a very different type of being in a very different world. Perhaps Builder was even multiple beings in multiple worlds.
Most relevant paragraphs hint Builder micro-managed an entire planet of people: not only deciding how many should be barbers but helping them schedule their haircuts; not only creating educational curriculum but somehow teaching every older child simultaneously.
Other paragraphs suggest that Builder was an inspiration that spread from person to person, a wild urge to invent novelty and resist conformity.
One paragraph even hints that Builder was a eusocial ruler that used alchemy to move its people as if they were parts of its own body, similar to pheromones released by a queen termite or bee.
The details are unclear. Apparently, when the Creator wanted to create a Power to oversee building, the natural action was to build the Power itself, and the natural substances to use were expired aspects of "Powers" from other worlds.
What is quite clear is the moral of these stories: because Builder has memories of a people almost without individual identity, it now delights in using subtle guidance to create a society in which technology encourages and supports individuality.
Mad science spreading as a memetic disease comes from the delightful webcomic Miracle of Science.
Builder has never appeared visibly. Its worshipers disagree on whether to use the masculine, feminine, or neutral pronoun (he, she, it) when referring to it. (Builder offers no guidance, and does not seem to care.)
Builder seldom acts directly. But there are two exceptions with how it challenges its followers to sustain, expand, create, and persevere. It sometimes mocks a follower who despairs and quits too early by making frost or snow on their equipment. It sometimes celebrates when a follower perseveres to accomplishment by including in some future pamphlets images of the person and their triumph.
The worshipers of Builder will sometimes compose their own proverbs and sayings. These are written on papers that are put on small altars. Any that Builder approves of vanish from the paper, and become included in the Builder's official teachings.
The only ritual worship of Builder appears, to outsiders, to be a huge snowball fight. Its followers declare a break from work and go outside to a field or wide street. The temperature begins to drop mercilessly, and in that small area snow falls. The snowball fight continues at least until the cold forces at least one person to quit. These snowball fights are impromptu events, whose lack of planning seems to show that Builder either watches all its followers or secretly guides their impulses. The Sagacious ponder if these bitter contests serve to identify its toughest worshipers or are simply pleasing to Builder as morbid, frantic situations.
The dungeons created by Builder are the infamous worn down towns. A special doorway 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 town.
A worn down town is decaying physically and morally. It 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.
Worn down towns have a normal supply of the useful items found in any town of their size. The adventurer's money will be accepted by merchants there, although any items acquired in the dungeon will disappear when the adventurer returns back to the real world.
Each worn down town has a main villain who is motivated by greed, jealousy, or revenge to acquire or destroy a fanciful technological or magical device. This villain will be the person most exhibiting intensity, animation, and drive. Most townsfolk are instead saturated with ambivalence: apathetic authority figures, ignored morals and honor, uncaring fate, and depressed people surrendered to depressing circumstances.
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 taverns, lounges, theatres, or gambling dens. Some clues involve a building devoted to construction: a workshop, smithy, factory, cart repair place, shipyard, or enchanter's studio.
All worn down town adventures can be completed without outside preparation or resources. However, bringing in certain equipment might make a challenge easier or trivial.
Finding an exit from the dungeon back to the real world might be tricky, but can always be done without defeating the main villain. Adventurers who leave will appear back in the real world, outside the special doorway, unharmed but with their memories about that dungeon partially erased.
Unless a group of adventurers holds hands and all willingly desire to explore the dungeon together, everyone who passes through one of Builder's special doorways enters his or her personal copy of the dungeon.
The worn down towns 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 gender dynamics.)
Now and then a pamphlet of the Builder will announce the day, time, and place of a contest. The place is a large, open public area: usually a town or village square, sometimes a field or beach.
The contest is a mad seance. When the contest time begins, participants enter a trance and learn a special and amazing recipe for alchemy or machinery. The recipe ceases to work after the contest ends.
If the place has an obvious need, the contest's recipe will provide help. A location suffering famine might be given a recipe for an alchemical goo that turns fruit seeds into large and fruitful trees, or the recipe for a strange mechanical contraption than produces fat livestock animals when cranked enough. A location with missing people might be given a recipe for an alchemical potion that allow people to track like a scent hound, or a wind-up dowsing device that will point the way.
If the place has no obvious need, the contest's recipe will create an animated toy. The participants often make as many as they can before the contest's time runs out, to sell and share the profits. This is why some emperors and kings have mechanical songbirds, talking stuffed animals, and rebellious puppet-children.
There are no officiants or prizes for mad seances.
From my heart and from my hand, why don't people understand?
Builder's most faithful worshippers are given a type of magic called laboritry that allows them to cooperatively alter the flow of time to help get work done.
Laboritry allows multiple laboritors 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 laboritors in the group.
Four traveling laboritors 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, so 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.
Using laboritry is mentally exhausting. A laboritrist must sleep and dream before he or she participate in a new laboritry effort.
Using laboritry slowly lowers the ambient temperature. This will not be noticable if the laboritry effort only requires a few miuntes. A laboritry effort that lasts days might create sleet or snow.
Builder gives some crafters mechanical pets that appear to be steam-powered or clockwork devices but are not constrained by the limitations of normal machinery. They are too magical and wondrous for a machinist to disasemble and reverse engineer to create a recipe.
However, within each mechanical pet is an oversprings, which can be used to give another machine a specific exception to the normal limitations of machinery.
Some oversprings allow the machine that incorporates it to be sturdy instead of fragile. Others allow a machine to actively fuction for days at a time instead of merely eight hours. Others allow a machine to affect a large area. Others allow a machine to be constructed much more quickly than usual.
An overspring is sturdy, but can be intentionally wrecked. Removing an overspring from its original mechanical pet, or from an oversprung machine, does not normally damage the overspring (which can then be removed and reused) but ruins the machine beyond repair.
All mechanical pets are potentially dangerous. Children are taught not to annoy or climb on a mechanical goat or pony, for if annoyed perhaps circular saws or small ballistas would unfold from its interior to deal with the aggressor.
Mechanical pets that resemble winter or cold-loving animals seem the most likely to have dangerous augmentations. The Sagacious have collected reliable stories of a mechanical polar bear with a mantlet on its back, a trumpeting mechanical moose with small mangonels on each hip, a pack of mechanical winter wolves that breathe freezing mist, cunning mechanical ermines with metalic claws, aggressive mechanical porcupines with arbalast-like shooting, a silent mechanical lynx with ice ray eyes, wily mechanical foxes barking sonic blasts, and waddling mechanical penguins dropping explosive bombs.
Builder's monsters are Animated Objects. The Sagacious debate whether animated objects are magcial or constructed of mudane components too small to see that form a technology so advanced it appears to be magical.
Animated objects are indistinguishable from normal objects until they move. They seem to be normal statues, weapons, rugs, chains, suits of armor, or other items. Yet the animated objects can move (some can fly) and attack.
Any animated objects are statues of an animal. These act like the animal they represent. Those that are like a predatory animal are hunters. Those that look like a pack animal can cooperate as a pack. Those that look like a grazing animal behave like one.
It is impossible to predict how much intelligence Builder has given a newly encountered animated object.
Untrustworthy legends decribe how the Builder will (rarely) make animated statue-people. One tale describes an entire village of statue folk.
Animated objects, like all monsters, can see in the dark.
Most animated objects have no treasure.
Builder empowers its followers to rewind time so they have a second chance to make a situation turn out better.
People learn the techniques of rewinding from meditating on certain mathematical formulas.
The character's Wonder talent rating measures how many minutes a character may rewind time.
Builder's pamphlets explain that the threads of time are loose when recently woven, but are pulled tight around a place and the people in it when rewinding is used. More loose weaving must be done before the threads of time have long enough loose length to be manipulated again. A sunrise or sunset must pass before rewinding may be repeated near that place or involving any of the same people.
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 Intrigue to encourage schemes and alliances. She is the patron of music and collecting.
Her dungeons are lairs, her contests are treasure hunts, her champions are Buskers, her gifts are panoplies, and her monsters are dragons, and her wondrous feat is transmutery.
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.
She oversees heraldic symbolism, allowing even the illiterate to understand who owns what land, buildings, and famous items.
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.
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 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 calls her currently favorite home Igneous Halls. All her homes are created in a mountain's interior, and undergo frequent renovations and redecorations. They are vast places that resembles both a stately museum and a dangerous dragon lair. Many magnificent rooms and passages are large, made of smoothly worked black rock, and lit by candles in ornate sconces and candelabras. 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).
Settlers often establish a small village near the entrance to Igneous Halls. Once this village is large enough to have a passportal the village quickly blossoms into a tourist town and trading post. When Maw Lute is in a good mood and wants visitors, she makes a magic doorway so people can go immediately from that settlement to the entrance of Igneous Halls.
Maw Lute is social. She greets travelers who visit Igneous Halls. 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 prison for exiles. Some criminals who have committed severe crimes are 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 servants. These homes are called lairs. A home upgraded to be an official lair becomes much larger and more elaborately decorated.
Most lairs are for dragons. Maw Lute will also, less commonly, make a lair to help a non-dragon person or creature have a well-defended home.
The dragons for whom Maw Lute creates lairs 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 most 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 museum-like foyer. Exploring deeper into the lair is allowed but dangerous. Any valuables past the foyer are free to take home as souveniers! But the lair's other denizens and traps are deadly. 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 dragon lairs, hoping for success because of their numbers and preparations, and the element of surprise.
What might a lair upgrade include?
The home will be decorated. Each room will have paintings, tapestries, vases, sonces, candelabras, carvings, statuettes, and/or musical instruments. These are considered "on loan" from Maw Lute and not counted as the treasure owned by the lair owner. (If treasure-hunters take these items, new copies reappear after a few days.)
The treasure owned by the lair owner will magically empower defending the home. The lair owner's Melee/Protect and Wrestle/Disarm skill and talent ratings are magically boosted inside the lair to be equal to the Impact of the largest treasure pile he or she owns, if those skill ratings were lower.
The home might be relocated. Most lairs 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 to meet other dangers in that remote area.
The interior of the lair has fanciful 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.
The lair will include a large kitchen whose pantry is never emptied, and many sleeping chambers. If the owner of the lair must still pay or enslave any people or monsters employed as guards. But being made a lair takes care of food and housing for all denizens.
Progressing through a lair 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 treasure piles in multiple locations so that even "successful" burglars usually take a much smaller share than they realize.
At the heart of the lair the owner has multiple sleeping-rooms to prevent trespassers from knowing where it might be resting. The lair's owner can fight using its most potent abilities and hoarded magic items, maximizing on the advantages it enjoys as an entrenched defender.
Finally, hidden escape routes allow a besieged lair owner to flee, and perhaps get help. Legends warn of "successful" treasure-hunters leaving a dragon lair, only to be killed during the return trip across that lair's remote area as multiple dragons swoop down from the sky.
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.
Lairs are "flamboyant" in both sense of the word: stylishly exuberant and using Flamboyant architecture.
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 items from 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!
(A treasure hunt involves only a few distinct objects to find, all very distinct from each other. This is unlike Little Humble's wild hunts in which people search for lots of similar objects.)
Maw Lute never creates the location of a treasure hunt. It may be a normal place, or the dungeon of another power.
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 silver coins up to his or her Wonder skill rating.
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 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 the coins they can create each day by juggling.
Both types of Buskers are highly respected. They often declare blunt truths to people of high rank, secure that the town or city would riot if an authority figure angered by plain speaking succumbed to mistreating an honest Busker
Buskers themselves most respect those Buskers who have learned to "hoard without having". They apply this phrase to a Busker owed so many favors and so much gratitude that he or she can retire comfortable although penniless, and to a Busker paid so much for performing that it is possible to live in luxury without any saved money.
A few Buskers never develop a public use for their ability and hoard neither gratitude or wealth. Some degenerate and eventually live alone in poverty only creating enough food to survive. Others live recklessly as gate-crashers of fancy parties. Maw Lute warns fallen Buskers of both types of her disapproval by changing their created food to avocados, olives, buttery crepes, and fatty cheeses. If they do not begin to use their role publicly and hoard something then they fatten up and are taken away by a dragon.
The 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, a piece of 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 serpents that gain and intelligence and abilities 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.
Most dragons are intelligent and can speak. They love singing. Many dragons are also accomplished musicians using large instruments of their own invention.
Dragons are colorful and brilliant in habit and appearance. Their lustrous hide has opalescent scales that can become truly iridescent on their wings and chests. They work hard to make their homes flamboyant and eccentric, hoping Maw Lute will notice and upgrade their home into one of her lair dungeons.
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 in dragon society 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. Less ambitious dragons are appeased with a monthly meal of plump livestock. Dragons seeking fame 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 panoply components.
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 Congested (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!
Dragons become smarter, stronger, quicker, and more dangerous as they hoard more treasure.
A dragon that owns at least one book is intelligent and can talk. Additional books in a dragon's hoard can increase its intelligence.
A dragon that owns at least musical instrument can sing. Additional music intruments in a dragon's hoard can increase its musical ability.
A dragon that owns at least one coin can fly. This flight is clearly magical because dragons can hover despite their great size. Some dragons can even fly without having wings! Additional coins in a dragon's hoard can increase the speed of its flight.
A dragon that owns at least one piece of jewelry a breath weapon. This breath weapon might be fire, steam, lightning, frost, gas, or an intoxicating floral scent. Additional jewelry in a dragon's hoard can increase the potency of its breath weapon. (The Impact of the wealth in jewels and jewelry it owns determines both how many targets the breath weapon can simultaneously hit and the dragon's minimum Shoot/Throw skill while using the breath weapon.)
Dragons with more treasure can move more quickly. A dragon can do as many actions each turn as the Impact of its total treasure. Three of these actions can be Melee/Protect (from attacks with two claws and a bite). The other actions must each use distinct other skills—usually Acrobatics, Shoot, Perception, Identify, Wonder, or Intuition.
Dragons, like all monsters, cannot breed, can see in the dark, and are immune to therianthropy.
Dragons radiate an aura of imposing presence. This aura causes all nearby creatures to suffer weakness unless their Wonder skill rating equals or exceeds the Impact of the dragon's total treasure.
The oldest dragons have the ability to enhance their minions with dragon-like qualities. Animals and humanoids can become draconic with increased size, dragon-like head shape, enhanced smell, and a lesser aura. These dragons and their minions keep secret how this ability is acquired or used.
Some legends describe dragons who can change their shape to disguise themselves as people. The Sagacious do not believe these stories.
Dragon hide is beautiful but structurally imperfect. Someone who has noticed the flaws in a dragon's hide can double any beneficial skill use modifiers from exceptional or magical equipment.
When a dragon is awake it is intuitively aware of the contents of its treasure and the location of each item. However, an item stolen is no longer owned by the dragon, who immediately loses the knowledge of its nature and location. Therefore an alert dragon can notice much about what looters at its hoard are doing, but a sleeping dragon is only able to realize upon waking that items are missing. (If the missing items were especially valued, the waking dragon would quickly deduce which they are.)
Dragons prioritize collecting panoply items. Most large dragon hoards contain both incomplete and completed panoplies, as well as more mundane treasure.
Maw Lute teaches her followers how to magically manipulate the elements of earth and water using only willpower and mental command. This ability is named transmutery.
Maw Lute enjoys when transmutery is used to create artwork, yet realizes it has many practical purposes.
A transmuticist can heat, cool, soften, harden, purify, separate, stretch, shape, or change the opacity of elemental material. The material glows while it is manipulated.
A transmuticist uses Wonder skill to attempt the desired elemental manipulation. Instead of "losses", the number of successful dice determine the effect's duration in minutes. When the duration expires the material returns to its normal properties (size, hardness, temperature, etc.) but if solid retains its shape.
Naturally occuring dirt, rock, water, and steam are the easiest to affect. With more effort a transmuticist can affect worked metals and clear aqueous solutions (the least favorable of two dice are compared to the Wonder skill rating). Most difficult of all is creating or destoying elemental material (the least favorable of three dice are compared to the Wonder skill rating).
Elemental material that is part of living cells cannot be affected. Transmuticists can neither dehydrate nor desalinate their enemies. (Neither can transmutery change the density of a material; that path leads to arguments.)
All transmutery effects begin with the transmuticist's touch, and affect a single connected bunch of elemental material. A transmuticist can heat a handful of stones, touch a lock to reshape its metal, or touch the water in a bucket to freeze it. A transmuticist cannot levitate a copper kettle or create a miniature rainfall.
Most transmutery is "up close" magic. If the transmuticist's mental commands stretch or reshape held material, those effects must remain within one meter (or map square) of the transmuticist.
But a transmuticist can also send out a quick tendril of manipulated material to recenter the effect at range. Then all reshaping must remain within one meter (or map square) of where the tendril ends. For example, a transmuticist can touch a pool of water to send a thin streak of ice towards an enemy that erupts into a block of ice around the enemy's feet. Or a transmuticist can touch the ground to send a ripple in the ground towards an enemy that causes the enemy's metal armor to become as soft as wet clay.
It is easiest to manipulate nearby material. A transmuticist using a tendril of material to recenter the effect's radius away from himself or herself has his or her effective Wonder skill rating suffer −1 for every 2 meters (or map squares) of that distance.
Although transmutery is quick, it does happens more slowly than swinging a sword or releasing a bow. When used in combat, the transmuticist's target may make an extra skill attempt using Acrobatics, Protect, or Escape to avoid the transmuticist's touch or the approaching tendril of glowing elemental material.
In combat situations the GM and Player should agree on how the transmutery effect translates into game mechanics. Is a Wrestling effect applied? Does it cause a circumstancial bonus or penalty? Are losses caused? Is toughness from armor negated?
It is recommended that losses caused by transmutery each combat round be limited by the transmuticist's Wonder talent rating. This keeps transmutery from being more useful than mundane weapons. It avoids the GM and Player arguing about how effectively a transmuticist can strangle an opponent with an animated magical garrote, or crush opponents inside their suits of metal armor. After all, any clever tricks the PCs can use are also available to the bad guys!
If a transmutery attempt is not successful then the transmuticist can suffer an intense headache of arcane severity: an impairment named drain. The amount by which the die roll failed, reduced by the transmuticist's Wonder talent rating, is a penalty to all of the transmuticist's Brain skills.
If the transmuticist suffers drain in a low stress situation then the drain only lasts a minute. But if the transmuticist suffers drain in a high stress situation (in a contested skill use situation and has suffered at least one loss, while falling of a cliff, etc.) then drain lasts until the transmuticist gets a good night's sleep.
(Note that a transmuticist whose Wonder skill and talent ratings sum to 8 will never suffer drain from attempting to manipulate material without range.)
All tax-paying residents of this village
may expect and enjoy the benefits
of a community inflexibly devoted to
security, cleanliness, and public lawful behavior.
- plaques at the entrances to a Gardeners village
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 during the Age of Intrigue. He elevates ruthlessness: an uncompromising and unyielding loyalty to purpose and people that shows focus, intensity, and strength.
Most followers of Gnash claim his ruthlessness allows no room for mercy towards those deserving of punishment. But most agree that towards innocents it need not be uncaring or vicious. Ruthlessness does not eliminate pity and remorse, and those who are ruthless may act with generosity and charity when doing so does not involve compromise or yielding.
Gnash's dungeons are haunted homes, 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.
In a few places Gnash established villages that would exalt security, cleanliness, and public lawful behavior. The streets and public buildings will be free of crime. The old or infirm can live without fear of violence. No resident will be troubled by litter or graffiti. Those fleeing from persecution or feud can find safety. These villages are named "Gardeners villages". At first, rumors spread that they are populated by Ogres and everyone within would be eaten. But the rumors were false, and in each Gardeners village 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 is admired but not actually worshipped by most people living in his Gardeners villages. He occasionally appears in the village 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.
Some of Gnash's 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 that rumor is probably a lie. Many Ogres collect necrotic weapons, and sacrifices performed with those would explain the creation of undead.
Another 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 in a "spoiler" here.
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).
The "dungeons" created by Gnash are haunted homes. Most are single-family dwellings, but sometimes these dungeons are larger buildings such as barracks, jails, asylums, orphanages, or castles.
Gnash often creates dungeons as a refuge for a ruthless criminal who prayed for aid. If the haunted home has undead inhabits these will not attack the chosen criminal. Some haunted homes are used as a base of operations by cultists, thieves, monster breeders, or other villains from the surrounding town or city who have made it safe by dealing with its original dangers.
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. If a haunted home contains basement floors, these tend to be the most frightful and other-worldly of all.
Many rooms contain a strange mirror or book. Gnash is aware when anyone is in any of his dungeons, and sometims taunts people by appearing in a mirror looking very like the person but wounded or disfigured.
Haunted homes seldom are created containing traps that would bother a normal resident of the home. (A chest or safe might be trapped, just as is often the case in real life.) However, people who have taken refuge in the haunted home might have set up traps to deal with other visitors to the dungeon.
Haunted homes normally have undead occupants. Most of these undead are alone, but some wait or wander as a group.
Transitions can be unsettling in haunted homes. The first time a visitor ascends a stairway or enters a room they might feel a momentary sensation, hear an eerie noise, or sense they are briefly changed in a harmless but frightening way.
There are usually no potential allies in haunted homes, but there might be other adventurers exploring it.
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 the winners of his last one standings a discomforting prize: the ability to declare a bane on a location, which will some day attract undead there.
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.
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, impossible devices, necrotic weapons, or unique items with disturbing properties.
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.
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 control over the new zombie. The new zombie identifies that person with its "life sense" and will not attack that person. The person may give the zombie one very simple command at a time, which the zombie will attempt to obey until it or the necrotic weapon is destroyed, or the zombie becomes controlled in another manner.
The weapons that were carried by undead are sometimes intelligent as well as necrotic. These weapons are able to charm or stupify like a vampire/lich. They can also sense nearby life, whisper telepathically to whomever carries them, and when unwatched can teleport a short distance. 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 self-identify as part of a land, or part of a curse.
Some people make an exception to the "owning necrotic weapons is evil" rule for adventurers who use intelligent necrotic weapons to hunt undead. When cursed corpses are defeated, no other undead are created.
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, people, or monsters 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 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. Perhaps being sacrificed on one of Gnash's altars also turns the corpse into an undead.
Newly created undead are mindless zombies. While becoming a zombie the creature (especially an animal) might grow extra wings or limbs.
If a zombie eats a brain it changes. It must make a choice. Will its doom be to become a part of a land, or a part of a bane?
The first option turns the zombie into a vampire. Its body begins healing. Early on it is also called a ghoul because it still looks like a rotting corpse and behaves like a clever, feral animal. When matured it is also called a wight because it looks like a person except for its teeth, and is fiercely intelligent.
The second option turns the zombie into a lich. Its body begins rapidly decomposing. Early on, while barely aware and intelligent, it is also called a skeleton. When matured it is also called a wraith because its skeletal form is slightly insubstantial.
The haunted homes of Gnash have many undead inhabitants that never leave. The Sagacious believe these undead are created directly by Gnash and are not cursed animals or people who were once alive.
Undead do not age or breathe. The curse that animates them mimics metabolism by preventing natural decay and healing wounds.
Undead can sense nearby living creatures and feel an estimate of each creature's intelligence. This ability even works through walls. The Sagacious debate whether undead can sense plants: do undead truly have "life sense" or are they actually sensing brains? An undead with healthy sensory organs might have exceptionally keen senses, especially smell. Undead can see in the dark.
Only magical weapons and injuries hurt undead, because they are animated and held together by a resilient curse. When suffering impairments their skills are not reduced. Situationally, breaking their bones with a bludgeoning weapon works much better than trying to cut or stab them because losing an extremity or organ does not traumatize them. Their curse heals them rapidly: it is not noticeable during combat, but after being defeated they must be beheaded or they will rise again in a few moments.
Necrotic weapons hurt undead, 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.)
The touch of an undead drains the target's energy. That touched character suffers weakness next turn. A vampire's touch does this by causing paralysis or fear. A lich's touch does this by causing rot or blindness.
As vampires mature they are drawn to a certain area. They become one with their land. They gain the ability to control and empower its animals, and see through the animals' eyes. They learn to manipulate its weather. They eventually can transform themselves into animals, or clouds of mist. Perhaps most dangerous is how vampires can charm people in their land by implanting suggestions—including forgetting about meeting the vampire and having been charmed in other ways. The slow process of becoming one with the land makes vampires feel less like a person, and they drink people's blood to regain some of their personhood.
As liches mature they are drawn to a certain bane. They become one with that bane, and will work to make the location dangerous and unpleasant. They gain the ability to control and empower its monsters, and see through the monsters' eyes. They learn to animate and manipulate some objects. They eventually can transform themselves into clouds of poison. Perhaps most dangerous is how liches can stupify people in that location or implant a curse of attunement—anytime the lich would suffer harm its attuned people protect it by instead suffering half the harm. A lich might eventually learn how to create a phylactery: unless that item is destroyed the lich and its curse will always reform.
Undead also have vulnerabilities. Sunlight interferes with their life sense and metabolism, and reduces their skill ratings. Sunlight also negates their immunity to non-magical damage. They cannot cross certain borders unless invited: into someone else's home, across running water, or between countries.
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.)
Undead are also limited by an inability to cooperate. Zombies are mindless. Vampires are regional: their unity with their land means cooperating with beings from another territory bothers and hinders them. Liches can control monsters, including other undead, so all undead will shun liches to avoid becoming subservient thralls.
Here are some example undead:
The basilisk (thankfully there has only been one) was a bigbeast adder before it become a vampire. As a bigbeast its hypnotizing gaze was enhanced to become deadly and its venom became so prolific that it drooled from its mouth. As a zombie it grew several sets of legs. It was given the nickname "Little King" because of a crown-shaped white spot on the top of its head. For a dozen years adventurers tried to kill it but failed. Then a roaming bigbeast weasel killed it in the darkness of its underground burrow.
Lindworms are large zombie constrictor snakes that grew one pair of legs when becoming undead. These legs look absurd and are nearly useless because of the beast's long, heavy body. However, large constrictor snakes are normally very dangerous, and an undead version is nearly unstoppable.
A wyvern is a lindworm that also grew wings when becoming undead. A few unreliable stories claim wyverns who live near pools or lakes will so favor eating hairy animals (goats and sheep, not cows or fish) that a person who removes his or her clothing is no longer appetizing to the wyvern.
Mad Moxwell the Merchant Prince was a noble charmed by a vampire. The vampire hid for decades, controlling Moxwell with such a light touch that its host was unaware and instead made excuses for his instances of uncharacteristic behavior and nights of apparent sleepwalking. The vampire slowly forged plans to rule a large region, combining years of intrigue with a secretly amassed army of dormant but ready undead.
Perhaps the most powerful weapons are the intelligent necrotic weapons created when an undead carries a weapon for a long time.
The undead are classic fantasy monsters.
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!
Gnash teaches his favorite followers how to fight in a beserk rage.
People learn the techniques of raging through apprenticeship, or more rarely through listening to faint whispers.
When entering a rage, the character in combat gains extra points of toughness equal to his or her Wonder talent rating.
Until that combat ends, the character both deals and receives double the usual number of losses.
Those who fight while raging accept the the higher stakes and use their extra toughness will allow them to quickly overcome their opponent and end the fight unharmed.
Autumn time, and I hear the leaves falling.
Winter cold lasts so long, but then comes the Spring.
Is it wind in the branches? Or do trees shake in mourning?
What farewell can I sing to the birds as they take wing?
What will happen, if I don't make it through Winter?
I remember Summer sun. I can't feel it no more.
Who can help me? Warm my home, feed my children?
I bind my hopes together as a wreath to hang on my door.
- Bardic aria
Ephemeral is the patron of instability, transitions, and second chances. She teaches her followers how to cope with change, seek alternate perspectives, and leave behind bad habits.
Her dungeons are becomings, her contests are echoes, her champions are Phantasmographers, her gifts are propellers, her monsters are dungeoneers, and her wondrous feat is Intension.
Ephemeral's teachings ask people to define themselves in part by what and when they sustain, occupy, and enable.
She teaches a moral philosophy named the Ten Pigments. Her followers are taught to see life as "painted" with five principal virtues that have contrasting vices.
(These ten virtues and vices are not fixed to corresponding colors. The general metaphor is not that detailed. Some famous works of art do have colors representing some or all of these virtues and vices, but a appropriate for Ephemeral's mindset the correspondence is only specific to that particular work of art.)
The followers of Ephemeral try to observe how the people around them are adding the Ten Pigments to their lives, and how this affects the people around them. They look especially for the Passed Paintbrush, a phrase used to describe how one person's virtues and vices spread to their family and community. "Imagine, for example, someone says something mean to you, putting you in a bad mood. Then you snap at your co-worker. Then your co-worker gets grumpy, and when returning home is rude to their child. And so forth..."
Ephemeral's followers are seldom interested in punishing wicked acts. Instead, they focus on ending a hurtful chain of events, redirecting the Passed Paintbrush by shrugging off an insult, forgiving an offense, or repaying rudeness with kindness.
Other people sometimes oversimplify this response, misunderstanding it as unqualified mercy, hope, and benevolence. However, Ephemeral does not teach her followers to extend third chances. Yes, her priests risk needless hurt while extending compassion into situations with anger, bitterness, or vengeance. Yes, her followers can seem foolish by extending kindness to the wicked. But woe to those who rebuff that compassion or kindness! By revealing themselves as fond of their vices and refusing to be careful with the Passed Paintbrush they earn swift judgment from the Ephemeral's followers.
Some followers of Ephemeral act more actively to promote the five virtues. They view themselves as helpful: "With me watching your back, you will not develop a bad habit, form an unhealthy worldview, or start spending time with the wrong crowd." They are often called busybodies who will not mind their own business.
A few of Ephemeral's followers commit crimes against personal property if they decide an object is an important focal point of how the Passed Paintbrush is moving. They might "help" a gambler by stealing his lucky rabbit's foot, or "help" a vain noblewoman painting over all the mirrors in her home.
Ephemeral is worshipped by all sorts of people who want a second chance, or who are trying to develop healthy habits: children and lovers, mourners and zealots, loners and soldiers, merchants and demagogues.
Ephemeral was once a Therian woman. She saved her town from a destruction that would have been partly caused by careless choices made by the town's warriors. For many years she was the Remover, a quite different Power. Then she "removed herself" and became Ephemeral.
Ephemeral appears as a very beautiful but nearly transparent woman from any of the intelligent races. She wears a hooded cloak. Her face, hands, and any other visible skin glow faintly like a bright blue cloud.
Ephemeral's worshipers pay her honor by leaving statues in places where they have experienced a second chance at life. On the bottoms of the statues the worshipers write brief accounts of their personal story.
Ephemeral's priests are secretive and shadowy. They know that even people who respect them still prefer them to be somewhere distant.
A becoming is alternate version of a place. Each is very local, often only a building or a section of street and a few of its buildings. They contain versions of people that explore virtue and vice, and other social or philosophical issues.
People arrive in these dungeons by waking up in someone else's body (more precisely, that place's version of the person's body). They must "become" that person, either for a few hours or until a task is accomplished.
Any injuries or impairments an adventurer suffers inside a becoming vanish after the adventurer returns to the real world. Even an adventurer who seems to die inside a becoming will appear back in the real world without harm. (However, equipment that gets dropped or used up while inside the becoming is truly gone.)
Each becoming appears real to anyone inside it. It is as solid, colorful, and vibrant as the real world.
The creatures, people, and monsters in a becoming do not realize they are not fully real. Their feelings are genuine, and Ephemeral will punish someone who acts needlessly cruel to the inhabitants of a becoming.
The "contests" created by Ephemeral are part memory, part trap, and part challenge. She makes interactive echoes of historic events in which cowardly or incapable choices allowed wickedness to spread. She hopes people will make better choices as they deal with the echo, to cause a better resolution to the historical problem.
Echos manifest 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 "solve" the echo by resolving its historic event well, they are rewarded.
Most visible echoes are tangible, although some echoes are intangible illusions.
One famous example of an echo is the Ghost 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. Ephemeral 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.
Solving an echo requires both skill and proper choices. Perception alone is never enough to solve an echo, but might provide helpful clues.
Adventurers who solve an echo become one Ephemeral's champions, a Phantasmographer.
Those who solve one of Ephemeral's echoes are rewarded with the ability to create illusions. These people are called Phantasmographers.
To create an illusion, the Phantasmographer must concentrate for a minute. 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 fake wall could cause a hallway intersection to appear to have fewer exits. A fake floor could cover a pit trap.
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 Phantasmographer to use vocal mimicry and perhaps ventriloquism with the Disguise/Etiquette skill.
A clever illusion has an elusion rating equal to the phantasmographer's Disguise 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.
A 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 who touches iron loses the ability completely, until he or she solves another of Ephemeral's echoes.
Part of Ephemeral's oversight of transitions is aiding people who undertake long journeys. She sometimes gifts them with an enchanted propeller that allows their vehicle to move without any other method of locomotion or propulsion.
Some propellers even allow a vehicle to hover slightly above the ground or water, so no wheels or keels are needed.
Stories tell of propellers that even allow a vehicle to fly through the air. But these tales are probably falsehoods.
Ephemeral creates monsters named dungeoneers who travel to the "normal" world or Spyragia from other worlds. These visitors from alternate planets, planes, or dimensions see Spyragia as their "dungeon" to explore.
Dungeoneers arrive in Spyragia through a portal. Only they can see the "side" of their portal in Spyragia and use it to return home.
When a dungeoneer is "killed" it does not die, but returns to its home world. Perhaps it can eventually return to the portal that lets it once again invade Spyragia?
Dungeoneers cannot take objects from Spyragia back to their home world, so their goal is usually exploration, finding knowledge, or conquest instead of looting. But not all dungeoneers know that trying to loot is pointless.
Dungeoneers provide an excuse for the GM and Player to have any type of opponents. Other fantasy settings have elementals from primal planes, trooping seelie fairies from a fey land, adventuring parties invading from an afterlife dimension, angels and devils from alignment-themed realms, or lost expeditions to the Barrier Peaks. What if the story involved defending Arlinac Town from the Stormtroopers of Star Wars, the Borg of Star Trek, or the Daleks of Dr. Who?
Dungeoneers often work well as a rival adventuring party. An aggressive pair of huge cat-like warriors with strangely sharp swords are also trying to learn the secrets of the ancient ruin. Mysterious flame cultists have claimed the abandoned volcanic lair of a dragon and are trying to bring to Spyragia their unearthly Lord of Fire. Two teenagers need rescuing after their plan to research the music of actual fantasy worlds goes humorously astray.
Dungeoneers often work as a ruthless humanoid tribe that views the inhabitants of Spyragia as "not real" and thus undeserving of kindness or mercy. Classic fantasy monsters such as orcs, harpies, and gnolls can all be dungeoneers.
Like all monsters, dungeoneers can see in the dark.
Different groups of dungeoneers have widely different worldviews, cultures, habits, and goals. Do not expect one group of dungeoneers to act like another!
Some dungeoneers have intension (see below) and can be defeated more easily. Others come from a place without that dynamic.
Dungeoneers can have any type of abilities.
Some dungeoneers come from a place where magic works so differently that they suppress the effects of Spyragia's magic around them. Crafted magic items stop functioning, spell-scrolls do not work, and Casters cannot cast their spells.
Although dungeoneers cannot take objects from Spyragia back to their home world, their equipment can be "treasure" used by the people of Spyragia.
Ephemeral sometimes allows people from Spyragia to travel through a protal to other planets, planes, or dimensions. The Player can become the "dungeoneer" who is visiting a strange setting.
Like all dungeoneers, the Player cannot bring objects back to Spyragia, gains the ability to see in the dark, and if defeated only returns to Spyragia.
While in another world, these travelers from Spyragia always have an extra temporary skill named Intension that measures well they use their willpower to resist the constant pull back to Spyragia.
All characters who visit another world start with an Intension skill rating of 1. If they spend advancement tokens to increase this skill, they will have more Intension every time they visit another world.
While in another world, two things happen each time a character suffers a wound, sees an ally suffer a wound, or encounters something very alien or horrific about the world they are visiting. First, the character's Intension skill rating temporarily decreases by 1. Second, the character must attempt a Intension skill check.
If the entire group of travelers all fail that Intension skill check then the group is whisked back to Spyragia. This is why groups of people travel together when they find one of Ephemeral's portals. As long as even one team member can stay firm in the new world, the whole group may continue their visit.
Often the travelers cannot return to the world they were visiting, either because they arrive in Spyragia far away from the portal or the portal is gone.
All temporary reduction of Intension is cured with an hour's rest. Travelers to other worlds need to feel grounded, which is helped by being well-fed and rested.
Note that the word intension is a term used in logic and philosophy, not a misspelling of the word intention. Yet both words are involved in heroes using their force of will to resist the magical pull to their home world!
Intension as a game mechanic was inspired by "resolve" from Rob Leigh's role-playing game named When the Moon Hangs Low.