Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lard Lords

An apprentice Lipimancer learning the pleasure of their craft

Lard Lords

You can smell them before you see them, the sweet stench of gently rotting meat clings to them. As they waddle into view you can see their cheeks flushed too rosy, their eyes gleam with a little too much vigor, and of course their prodigious bulk is the surest sign you are dealing with the foulest and most potent of necromancers, the Lipimancer.

Some say they are simply blessed with corpulence at birth. Others claim that they earn their weight like the rest of us but they weave into their food spells of life and growth and power. Still others claim that these abominations at one point consumed the flesh of man and learned to crave it. But who knows? Ask them yourself, perhaps they will induct you into their ranks and teach you their secrets. Or, more likely, they will laugh a great body quivering laugh and consume you.

They wear their nobility and their power in their rolls. These are spell casters that consume calories instead of mana. The very first Lard Lord took note when their mentor and professors told them about blood magic, how you could trade blood for more powerful and fell magic. They dared to ask the dark question, what else would be suitable for trade?

Blood may be the vehicle for the bodies nutrients but fat is the good stuff, why do you think we love bacon so much? They tried it first on rendered animal fat and found that relative to blood it was like going from coal to jet fuel. The magic of Lipimancy was born, and thus true Necromancy was perfected. For the goal of Necromancy is to master death, and therefore cling to life, and consuming prodigious amounts of magic food will certainly help you cling to life.

You can play a Lipimancer if you want. They are kind of like sorcerers, but instead of spells per day they track the fat stored in their bodies and they can draw more and more fat to overcharge their spells. An over drawn Lipimancer is a withered skeleton, emaciated and horribly gaunt. But they have mastered eating, and given a few days and enough flesh they will be back to their rotund self's.

Lipimancer Spells:

Cantrips:
Consume: The Lipimancer has learned to magically eat food very effeciently. With this spell they can eat and digest food much faster than a normal person, instead of taking an hour to eat and gain the benifits (an calories) from a meal they only require one minuite.

1t level:
Emisis: A Lipimancer can choose to turn their stored energy into horribly acidic magical excrete that they can spew from their mouths. This is a 20ft cone, with a Dex save for half damage, dealing 2d6 acid damage. Those hit by the blast must also make a Constitution save or be poisoned until the next round.
At higher levels: The damage done by the cone increases by 1d6 when cast with each spell slot above 1st.

2nd Level:
Swallow Whole: The Lipimancer has learned to weaponize their eating, they are now able to swallow whole Tiny and smaller creatures. The creature must make a Dexterity save of disappear into the Lipimancer's maw. Once in the stomach, the creature takes 2d8 acid damage each round until dead, or a minute later, whichever happens first. The Lipimancer gains the benefit of having eaten 1000 calories*the HD of the consumed creature after a minute.
At higher levels: Using spell slots above 2nd allows them to swallow larger foes. Each spell slot allows them to swallow one size category larger.

3rd Level:
Vortex of Excess: The Lipimancer can project their gluttony out into a whirling vortex, causing those caught in its current to gain massive amounts of weight. For every round they end in the 40 ft diameter vortex centered on the Lipimancer they must make a Constitution save. On a failed save they balloon in weight. This first failed save causes them to loose all Dexterity bonuses. The second failed save acts as the effect of the Slow spell. And the third and final failed save means they they pop, dying instantly.

4th Level:
Dimension of Flesh: Carrying all of that weight around gets hard, so Lipimancers developed this spell. They send part of their prodigious bulk to a pocket dimension for safe keeping, this has the interesting effect that Lipimancers can partition portions of their HP into these pocket dimensions. When cast at the beginning of the day the Lipimancer determines how much of their weight (and therefore their HP) they want hiding away. They can call this stored fat back to their body as a full round action, though they must make a Constitution saving throw to avoid being sickened from the heady experience.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Player Class Minigames

A while back the amazing Arnold K wrote a post on non-level based advancement that I really latched on to, I used it in my games and my players loved it. I really like the idea, so I set myself to the challenge of making one for each class, as Arnold implies in his own post. I play using heavily bastardized 5e rules, so each class will get these when they get to their class specialization, and each one will be specific to that specialization.

(This is an outline post, look forward to single posts for each class! As I publish them I'll put links to them in this post)

Non-level based advancement:

The whole premise of non-level based advancement is that it gives the PCs ways to improve that are directly tied to their actions. They see rewards for playing to their specialization's strengths. And its a way to further distinguish the classes from each other, and even distinguish the specializations from each other. Everyone gets to be a special flower!

Barbarian:

Ugh, another cliche barbarian

Barbarians are tough as shit angry people that kill things.
Path of the Berserker: Your rage and fury are your deepest joys, track the most amount of damage done in a single rage. With each new level of destruction you find deeper wells of joyous ruin.
Totem Warrior: You find your totem animal in a dream or an ecstatic trance over the heady fumes of a ritual fire. You and the animal meld in body and spirit, you are the primal incarnation of the bear, the eagle, the wolf, or some other. Track the number of animals you help, these must be the as your totem animal(s).

Bard:

You can tell shes a bard because of the smirk

You are an orator, a poet, a musician, and your expression moves your friends to heroism and your foes to despair.
College of Lore: You are a well from which you can draw history and knowledge from the depths of the past. Your long study lore has given you an unrivaled grasp of Lore. For every lost secret that you unearth your knowledge deepens.
College of Valor: You thrill in the heat of battle, pounding a martial beat as you urge your allies on. You have taken to the sword as a duck to a pond. Keep track of every bardic inspiration die that is the difference between life and death for an ally or foe.

Cleric:

Yes, even dwarfs can be clerics

You are a champion of your faith, you are the word and the law. As such you embody some aspect of your faiths principles, that is your Domain.
Knowledge Domain: Your mission is to discover all of the secrets that your gods has scattered over creation for you. Your mind is sharp and adaptable, keep track of the number of times that your divinely guided mind finds a solution to a problem.
Life Domain: You are a gardener of souls; those that you nurture grow in vibrancy and quality, you also ward off death and disease. Keep track of the number of times you guide an ally back from death's door.
Light Domain: Your faith's light shines through you, and you are a scourge to the undead. Track the number of undead you destroy.
Nature Domain: Your faith's mandate is to resolve the disputes between mortals and the Spirits of the land, and as one that straddles the line between you keep track of the number of these conflicts you resolve.
Tempest Domain: Your church is the high windy sea cliff, rain is your baptism, wind is your hymn, lightning is your prayer candle, and thunder is your prayer. Keep track of the kills done with lightning or thunder damage.
Trickery Domain: You delight in mischief and sowing chaos, as is the will of your god. Keep track of the number of successful social deceptions you have committed.
War Domain: You lead the battle hymns and the rites for the glorious dead, in your capable hands the common men place their trust. Keep track of kills with your god's favorite weapon.

Druid:

I've got to wonder what he was doing with his staff behind his back. It looks really uncomfortable. 
While clerics with the nature domain resolve the disputes between mortals and Spirits, druids instead speak for the Spirits as mortal vessels for the natural world's desires.
Circle of the Land: The Spirits lend you their aptitude with weaving the world to their desires. Keep track of your standing in the Spirit world.
Circle of the Moon: While totemic barbarians embrace an animal, you embrace the beast within yourself and you shift skins with ease. Track number of kills while in a particular wild shape form, and get stronger in that form.

Fighter:


As a fighter you are well versed in many combat styles, but there is one style that you truly excel at. Hone this to a sharp point.
Champion: Your weapons are an extension of your body, and you know how to use them to deviating effect. Track number of critical hits you score on your opponents and unlock further levels of might.
Battle Master: You are a tactical thinker, seeing the opportunity in every thrust and parry. Track number of kills with specific weapons, and perfect new techniques with that weapon type.
Eldritch Knight You are a thoughtful hero, melding spell and strike with scholarly dedication. Track number of foes over come with might and magic.

Monk:


Through years of study within your monastic order your mind and body have transcended the abilities of mere mortals. Your fists blur, your feet fly, and with a deep breath your Ki can course out and grant you amazing abilities.
Way of the Open Hand: Your mastery of not only your own Ki but also the Ki of your foes highlights the importance of using your prowess in harmony with that your companions, keep track of how many times your Open Hand Technique allows an ally to kill an opponent or neutralizes them.
Way of Shadow: You have mastered how to use your Ki to meld into the shadows. Keep track of how many times you get the drop on your enemies by using your powers.
Way of the Four Elements: You see the balance in the world and can manipulate it to aid you. Every time you set a natural problem to right your wisdom and strength grows.

Paladin:

Very progressive of WOTC to have a half-orc paladin

A scion of your faith, the fist of justice, or the shield of the innocent; you are a the Law. You embody your religions teachings to protect the faithful and punish the wicked.
Oath of Devotion: You are the purest of the pure, a bright white light in a dark world. Every time you use your Chanel Divinity power, keep track of how many evil creatures you destroy.
Oath of the Ancients: The forest is your cathedral, the stream your place of baptism, the wind your prayer, and Spirits your allies. Woe be unto those that would harm these places... Track the number of times you resolve a dispute in order to preserve a natural feature.
Oath of Vengeance: Spirits and their like a fiends and foes of Civilization, and you have vowed to cleanse the land of them. Track the biggest spirit or demon killed, your power waxing with their deaths.

Ranger:


Masters of their environments and either Nature's staunchest defenders or their most fearsome dominators, rangers are a diverse group of talented individuals.
Hunter: Your mission is to hunt down the most fearsome predators to pave the way for Civilization. Hunters track the biggest beast they have slain, gaining further levels of mastery with the next trophy.
Beast Master: You have formed a deep bond with a beast, and so as your friendship grows so does your shared power.

Rogue:

A Master of Medicine OR a really sneaky Assassin who was your doctor the whole time?!

Master criminal or master killer, master healer or master of the arcane. The rogue excels at arts that few have talent at, through their arts they profit.
Thief: Whether you steal for greed or the challenge, your largest haul is your greatest pride. Keep track of the most valuable thing you have every stolen.
Assassin: You are a master of surprising your foes. Track the number of successful assassinations you achieve.
Arcane Trickster: A subtle mind and a long study have rewarded you with magical talents. Keep track of the number of "roguish" acts you have accomplished with your Mage Hand.
Master of Medicine: Medicine is a slow art, and poison especially requires a thoughtful mind for its application. Keep track of the number of poisoning delivered with a sneak attack.

Sorcerer:


Magic literally courses through your veins, your parentage or the strange circumstances of your life have thrust these abilities upon you.
Draconic Bloodline: Keep track of the number of dragon hearts you have eaten. Double points for killing and eating dragons opposing your own heritages color.
Wild Magic: The variable surges of the cosmos twist and warp your magic, so give in and let them twist you as well.

Warlock:


You have struck a deal, whether you knew it or not, with a being your own reckoning. Now in order to grow in power you must answer their biddings...
Warlocks track favor with their Patron. Perhaps a pool that is only replenished by spreading Patrons message. Can spend favor for special abilities. Of course is specific to each Patron.


Wizard:

"Hey, kid, wanna hear some arcane secrets?"
There are a lot of schools of wizardry, each with their own taboos and secrets. Too many for this post. See Arnold K's excellent posts on the subject while I work on this.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pale Crowns of Fire

Facing to the northern clime,
Thrice he traced the Runic rhyme;
Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
The thrilling verse that wakes the dead,
Till from out the hollow ground
Slowly breathed a sullen sound.

The Nekros Archanis

In the misty reaches beyond Chalcis there is said to be an island that is ruled by the Dead Kings, the Nekros Archanis. Only seen in shafts of moonlight on a foggy night, their island Keep glows with malice and the flicker of pale fires on the battlements.

In Chalcis this story i told of the Dead Kings...: Long ago the Dead Kings where mere necromancers, ruling a small empire of detritus and rot. They would descend on their foes under the cover of Wyrfog to harvest the living for their own lifeless ranks and petty squabbles between each other.

But after a hundred years of living in fear of the Dead Kings the wise mages of Chalcis had discovered the secret to calling the winds to their biding, dispelling the Wyrfog of their undead foes. And there was a reprieve from their dread reevings, and the living could repel them when they did come.

But the Nekros Archanis would not be foiled. They unleashed a new terror on the land weapons of pale fire to use their foe's Sun against them. Their blades only grew in dread with the light of the Sun, and none were safe from their cold grasp. And for another hundred years of darkness the Nekros Archanis' rule spread and grew in dark splendor.

In this desperate hour the living people of Chalcis struck a deal with the Spirit of the Moon. For a year and a day they built a magnificent temple to the Spirit of the Moon on the peak of the Mons Lunae while singing the Moon's praises. After this year of Praise, a year and a day were spent pouring barrel after barrel of wine over the Altar to the Moon in its new temple to appease its thirst. After this year of Revelry, a year and a day past and with each high-tide 29 innocents, one for each day in the lunar cycle, were bound bellow the high-tide mark to be sacrificed to the Moon.

The terms of the deal fulfilled the Spirit of the Moon banished the Nekros Archanis to another Realm. The deal was not finished though, for a father released his young daughter on the last night of the ritual to save her from drowning, and so their domain intersects with ours on foggy and moonlit nights and then they are able to still haunt the lives of the living.

You can enter their Keep if you wish traveler, and you can barter with them for their Pale Fire. They accept many payments, especially blood and favors in the lands of the living. But be cautious, for the Nekros Archanis are always looking for weakness in the veil between their Realm and ours, and many souls have been the unwitting servants of their machinations twords their freedom...



Pale Fire

If you find the Dead Kings perhaps they will give you a weapon of Pale Fire. Even though they ask for no payment, the price is high. In order to wield a weapon of Pale Fire you must step foot into the Realm of Undeath, or else it will surely kill you.

Pale fire does not emit light, it reflects it. As the light around them increases in intensity they too grow bright, so the brightest flame of Pale Fire is in the light of a bright sunny day.

Light Intensity
Effect
No Light
No Effect
Dim Light
1d6 Necrotic Damage
Bright Light
2d6 Necrotic Damage+ Life Steal
Dim Sun
1d10 Necrotic Damage
Full Sun
2d10 Necrotic Damage+ Life Steal

Life Steal: A weapon with this property heals the wielder when the get a critical hit with it, dealing an extra 2d8 necrotic damage and healing them for the same amount as the damage done.

Weapons of Pale Fire must be wielded by creatures of the Undead Type. If wielded by a living creature they must make a Constitution save (DC 16) every morning at dawn or take 1d6 Constitution damage for that day and receive no healing benefit from anything other than magical healing. If their Constitution reaches 0, they die and rise as an Undead compelled to serve the Nekros Archanis.

So give your Undead BBEG a weapon of Pale Fire. It will pose the dilemma of fighting it in the Darkness or the Light, and give some nice cursed loot to the PCs!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Build a Better Cult

How common is the cult trope in fantasy table top RPGs? Super common. Like every other fucking module published has some sort of weird cult in a creepy village or cultists trying to bring about the end of the world.

This is the same problem that the alignment system has, why are cults always shoved into these roles? Are cults intrinsically bad? Apparently they all suck and the PCs should feel good destroying them.

I'd be in Jason Sudeikis' cult

I am wayyyy more into the Portlandia imagining of a cult, built around a singular personality and at the least internally logical and appealing. Like I want to build cults that your players might actually get tricked into joining. Think how great it will be when they realize they have been the bad guys the whole time!

Build a Better Cult

This is what Wikipedia, the best of sources, has to say about cults: 
"The term "cult" usually refers to a social group defined by common religious beliefs. It is from Latin cultus (worship). This, in turn, was derived from the adjective cultus (inhabited, cultivated, worshiped). A cult may be sharply or diffusely bounded, and share a commitment to a charismatic leader, organization, or transcendental ideology, which may be expressed through effective, socially established and ordered forms or in concrete external actions performed within the congregation or community. Cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions."
This is a good summary of where we get our fantasy ideas of cults:
"Doomsday cults predict and in some cases try to bring about the end of the world. Political cults are active in politics, most often on either the left or right extreme. Destructive cults engage in actions that are harmful to their members or to other people. Racist cults promote racism, and sometimes violence. Polygamist cults, which are sometimes on the fringes of main-stream religions, practice polygamy. Terrorist cults promote terrorism, often for political goals."
These are all the bad things we have seen cults do. You usually don't hear too much about the quite cult-esque communities that are simply trying to live in an alternative way. Hell, monasteries might even look like a cult, a group living communally and practicing a shared belief system for self improvement. We generally view monasteries as beautiful and quite introspective places, but cults as communities of delusion and poisonous ideology.

Obviously the line is fine, so lets make it super blurry and give our players something to think about instead of unquestioningly exterminating them. Because most of the PC's are probably in/from some sort of insular community (druid circles, monk monastaries, cleric churches, wizard schools, etc...), they should hesitate before juding others living in similar ways.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Kētos and Their Strange Ecologies

The Kētos

Some say that the Psári grow even too large for the islands, and they flee their deep channels in favor for the Deep. Here in the wide ocean they can grow into even greater monsters of the sea, the mythical Kētos.

Kētos are so large it is said they carry whole reefs on their backs as they slowly wander the world. They can trail miles of kelp behind them that is rooted in their thick hide, and that a mere flick of their massive fins could send any ship flying through the air and then into the depths. Only the foolish and the mad sail in the Deep, so these reports are rarely given credence.

Sometimes, the giants of the deep oceans wander into the shallow Sea around Ánemos. They are strange and deformed leviathans, often with whole ecological communities clinging to their bulk. They can only comfortably navigate the deepest channels, though in such shallow water they often get lost and irritable, they will likely lash out in fear and frustration...

Their Strange Ecologies

Kētos types (1d6):
1: Coral Reef: Coral has grown in the hide of the Kētos  and shelters many animals... Inhabitants will protect the Kētos if attacked, -10 ft of movement +2 AC
All of those little fish are going to come out and fight you

2: Kelp Forest: Kelp creates an entangling cloud slowing ships in 50 ft radius around Kētos, -10 ft of movement


3: Mollusc Armor: Mussels, oysters and clams armor the Kētos and make their tails more deadly, +4 AC and 10d8+12 bludgeoning damage with tail smash
Just ready to cutsmash the shit out of you

4: Mangrove Forest: A mangrove forest grows on this Kētos's back sharing sugars and proteins between them; cannot dive, heals 10 HP per round, -20 ft of movement
Like this, but rooted on the back of a massive fish

5: Sea grass prairie: A living green fur covers these Kētos, and grazing their backs are territorial dire dugongs. Dire dugongs will fight for their pastures.
But giant and sucking off your face
6: Merfolk nomad settlement: The merfolk have settled this Kētos, serving as both home and mount. They are the traders of the undersea world slowly plying the depths between merfolk settlements.

Thoughts

The Kētos is the like final form of the Psári, they should be really scary and more of an environment than a creature. It should also be really hard to kill them (unless of course you land on their backs, get in their ears and stab their brains or something, but who knows what weird creatures make their homes beneath the flesh of a leviathan?) They should be so tough and scary I am not even going to give you a stat block.

Think about the bad ass wizard who lives in a lair made of living trees in a mangrove forest on the back of a Kētos prowling the deep channels around the world, mind controlling his pet/island/home to steer. I wanna meet him.

If your players ever get a few ships and hire a large crew of competent harpooners it's conceivable that they could kill one traditionally. Boy oh boy, all that lard would fetch a hefty price...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Military Hex Tactics and Squad Fighting Rules

Military Hex Tactics

Brief summary of why I decided to write these rules:

So my players wonder over to Apollonia, the largest Island State in Arsuf and seat of the Cheifsmoot. They were leaving the market when an announcement echoed around the city that the Drivas Clan had been found guilty of all charges and that they were expelled from the Cheifsmoot. This was meant as a brief insight for the PCs to see the political landscape in the area, but they decided to be ignorant foreigners and get involved with politics by saving some members of the now ex-Clan and spiriting them off of the island.

They fled with the Drivas to their home island and helped them prepare for the inevitable raids from other small Clans to come and claim their island. So I set up these rules to simulate island scale tactical defense and fast combat resolution if the PCs were not actually present.

 

We play online using roll20.net, it works pretty well. I use this kick ass island generator to create the island shape. It works really well cause you can draw over it on roll20.

Rules


  • Each round on battle map is 20 minutes.
  • Each division of soldiers has two scores: effective strength (a function of numbers and quality of combatants) and movement (usually 2)
  • Movement score can be used to: move (1), ready an ambush (1), pillage(full round, makes roads impassable), fortify against an attack (1), or attack (1).
  • Moving off of roads costs double movement but makes ambushes more effective.
  • Battles auto resolve unless PCs are there, in which case they can either choose to auto resolve with bonuses or to have the skirmish take place real time.
These worked really well I think, though there is the problem of having all of the players be involved in the decision making. Its a bit like five people sitting around playing the same Civ game and arguing about the next turn, but for one or two sessions it was pretty fun I think.

I wrote a spreadsheet up for the auto-resolution and it did a pretty good job I think. (Goodness, I love Excel.)

Squad Fighting Rules

I got to test these rules out the other night too, and I think it worked really well! Largely based on this post (from the excellent Joseph Manola) about crowd fighting. I used this when the PCs decided to fight in real time instead of auto resolving the combats.

The only trick is that I treated a squad (20-40 fighters) as one unit occupying a 20ft square space and getting to attack together. In a combat between two groups of about 100 combatants each this is way easier than just having hordes of little guys. They get three attacks per turn and move slowly. 

It looked just like this

It was a little annoying that I had control of both friendly and enemy squads with the PCs running around killing stuff, so I ended up rolling a lot of dice against myself which is never good.

I am going to continue to use this, but give the party just one squad as follower/NPC, much like the post from Joseph suggests, like the crew of their ship and have them control it in combat so I don't have to roll as much.

Play Report: Naval Combat

The other night I got to try out some of my new and shiny rules for naval combat.

It went okay, here are some notes from my players and myself:

  • Super fun idea
  • Movement worked out okay eventually, its hard to simulate momentum and slow turning.
  • Ships too hard to sink with ramming, I think I need to give them way less health and keep ramming damage very high.
  • Hard for every player to feel involved with the combat when there are many ships, better if everyone captained their own ship.
  • Ships are still fucking tight, but hard for DnD to simulate large scale conflict, may steer players away from formal naval fights and more to like 1v1 ship duels with pirate ghosts.

Oh, also they got a ship! It's an unarmored Arsuf Longship of average make, they helped capture from a blood hungry Clan while helping their buddy Clan. Now they get to find a crew and assign a Captain and get some cargo and become traders cause who doesn't love trading simulations? (Gosh, thats a future post waiting to happen).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It Is Not the Destination but the Journey... Part II: Island Travel

This is part two of my random travel tables, see part 1 here.

I haven't really used this table yet, land travel has been relatively rare so far in the Ánemos. I'm not in love with it, but I like that it folds a lot of social/combat/environmental challenges into one table for the day.

Roll d6
Encounter
Sub Roll
Sub-Encounter/Effect
1
Weather Event
1
Lightning Storm: Take cover and loose a day of travel
2
Mudslide: Loose a day skirting it
3
Earthquake! No real effect, but scary
4
Especially beautiful day, travel two days distance
2
Sign at a crossroads
1
Aids in navigation, travel two days distance
2
It was wrong! Loose a day of travel
3
Crone selling herbs and offering advice, may actually be horrible creature in disguise
4
Ancestor Spirit shrine
3
Wander into Spirit’s sanctuary
1
Roll on Spirit generator!
2
Find spirit’s shrine
4
Wandering Monster
1
Giant animal out hunting, will try and flee
2
Magical beast out hunting, will stare from on far
3
Humanoid defending territory
5
Other Travelers
1
Trading caravan, trade or gossip!
2
Highway men! Lives or money!
3
Hunting party: Rations for sale and tips on area, travel two days distance
4
Wandering cleric/paladin as appropriate
6
No Event
--
Normal day

Epsen Olsen Saetervik
Also Epsen Olsen Saetervik
Xiaodi Jin
Rytis Sabaliauskas

Also Rytis Sabaliauskas

Also Rytis Sabaliauskas

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rhyme Battles

Myths Have the Best Weird Shit

Lately I have been listening to the wonderful "Myths and Legends" podcast while driving or doing computer work. One thing that is in every episode is a monster of the week, usually very weird and obscure folkloric creatures and spirits from across the world. As I listen I have been trying to jot down the good and juicy bits, as any good DM scavenges.

Folklore and myth have always been my main inspirations, especially the super raw/original stuff (Brothers Grimm, not Disney), and this a wonderful way to go through a large catalog of material that is already digested and usable.


The Blue Men of Minch

A group of mythological mermen that haunt the channel between the mainland of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides islands, they hunt ships in bad weather and swim like dolphins. But get this, before they get to attack their leader shouts out two lines of verse and the master of the ship must try and answer with two lines that rhyme. If the captain cannot keep rhyming the Blue Men get to sink the ship.

The classic exchange goes like this:
Blue Chief: Man of the black cap what do you say As your proud ship cleaves the brine? 
Skipper: My speedy ship takes the shortest way And I'll follow you line by line 
Blue Chief: My men are eager, my men are ready To drag you below the waves 
Skipper: My ship is speedy, my ship is steady If it sank, it would wreck your caves.
So basically you can save your ship from being attacked by mermen if you beat their chief in a rap battle. That's awesome and gameable.
"Oooooooooh, you got served"

The Merfolk and the Origins of Poetry

(Largely prompted by Arnold K's post on mermaids and giving monsters conflicting/complex motives)

In Ages past there was a lonely island rising out of Ánemos' Sea, little more than a spire of craggy stone. A man and his wife were sailing by, when their small sloop was scuttled on some shallow reefs. Crying out in anguish they clung to the rocks as the surf beat around them and they hear a small but clear voice answer their cries. "Hold your breath and dive beneath the waves! Trust me, I will shelter you in my caves!" The man and his wife did as they were told and dove, finding themselves in calm water and a large cave that they had not seen.

And so Várdana, the Queen of Poetry, was born along with her first believers deliverance. Though the island was small and rugged, Várdana protected her children and saw that they prospered by learning to work with the long flexible stalks of Nunu and how to build on the rugged cliffs of the island.

Centuries past and Várdana's children had made a home on the small island.They practiced poetry and prayer in the same breath, and she sent her children into the world to soften the speech of Ánemos. These wondering poet/priests became know as the Várdini, and they wore their gift of poetry upon their robes stitched into the very fabric. Everything they said was in perfect rhyming couplet, and they spread far and wide gathering the great stories and histories of the world.

A particularly beautiful Vardini came upon the Mageocracy of the Mágos-King of Histria. She was welcomed into his court and asked to recited for them. She told them many stories that night, but the King only wanted to bed her. She spurned him and fled his island, and in a wrath the Mágos-King of Histria flew as a great pelican to the island of Várdana and scooped it up with his great bill and flew high into the sky where he dropped the island and all of its inhabitants into the Vardic Chanel.

As a dying gift to her children Várdana changed them into the Merfolk we know today. To honor their dead mother they are still the best poets in Ánemos and their capital city still lies in the deepest stretch of the Vardic Chanel. Their sisters, the Vardini are now a homeless sect of clerics to a dead God, and they still wander the world reciting poetry, but now they also spread hope for the common man and subvert cruel governments and wizards alike.

In summary:
Merfolk are the best poets ever and they want to wreck your ship, so you have to rap battle them for it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ánemos: An Introduction

Geography and Ecology:

Ánemos is a large and loose group of islands, united by a common tongue but little else. Warriors and poets, fishermen and aristocrats, scholars and mystics, sorcerers and madmen, beasts and monsters, lovers and warmongers; all of these call Ánemos home. 

Formed thousands of years ago when the Gods one by one awoke and rent the Sea and lifted their lands into the Sun’s light, Ánemos’s islands vary in size from mere rocks in the sea to roughly 48 miles across. Some of the islands seem to clump together in small sub-groups; others sit alone in the ocean. Few have ever traveled its whole breath, and no one can truthfully claim to have seen every one of her isles.
Most islands look lie this,small and crappy and dry
Beyond the Ánemos Archipelago is the Deep Ocean, beyond which is said to be the end of the world, death, or nothing.

There are two seasons, wet and dry. Ánemos is at its best a warm and mild place to live, and people have flourished in her forgiving grace. At its worst Ánemos is the harshest of deserts, with a cruel Sun and an unforgivingly salty Sea. The winds blow continuously, whether from the north, south, east or west and are often unpredictable. They whisper and they howl, and they shape the lives of all.

The Ocean, or at least the sea that the Ánemos group finds itself, is warm and generally pretty shallow (~700 feet max). Because of this sea life has flourished on the wide shelf of shallow warm water. The floor is littered with coral reefs, and schools of fish are abundant.

The islands large enough to have natural flowing fresh water are home to abundant life, and these are the primary ones that support large animals. The watered lands are lush, though people have trouble wresting control of them from the clutches of the Spirits


Cultures in (not really) Ancient Greece:

There are three primary island groups in Ánemos, and there are many more in the matrix of the sea. This has led to four relatively distinct people: the Chalcis, the Arsuf, the Minoan, and the others. Though they all speak roughly the same language they identify more with themselves then with each other.


The Chalcis Chain is lies on the western side of the Ánemos Archipelago and has several  inhabited islands that are close enough to swim between. The two largest islands are so close that they actually have a bridge spanning that gap, a long straight channel. Her people are quite folk, more interested in fishing and magic than trade and war fare. Many hedge wizards sail Chalcis’ coasts in their enchanted sloops, selling their talents or teaching their pupils. The villages and towns along the Chalcis coasts are all allied in a coalition of mutual protection (the Chalcis Alliance of Protection, or CAP), though they hardly view themselves as a nation.


The Arsuf islands are all long and steep, resting at the south eastern edge of the archipelago. The islands all run north east and have sharp knife like ridges. The people that inhabit these rugged islands are themselves rugged and fierce. They are far and above the best sailors in Ánemos and the Arsuf islands are known to be home to many pirates and lawless peoples. Her people take a deep pride in their strength and independence, and with no government or laws they form small tribes and villages that are led by their strongest as chieftains and warlords. In times of crisis the islands have untied under one war leader, though it has been many generations since that last happened.


The Minoan ring of islands rest near the center of the Ánemos Archipelago, and her people feel that they are the center of civilization. They invented the compass, the built the first light houses, they standardized money and trade across the archipelago, and they have they most learned people in the world studying at their universities. The islands have entered into the only true nation in the known world, the Minoan Republic. In the last few generations the young Republic’s power has truly begun to wax, her navies patrol the Inner Seas and protect trade and citizenship can be bought by merit or birth.

The others islands are governed as fiscal dictatorships, mageocracies, anarcho-collectives, oligarchies, idiocracies, big dick contests, divine rite or as anything else or in between. They are united by nothing other than their lack of identifying features and proud of it!


Commentary

In the last couple of posts I have been giving you some tools I use to populate my current setting, Ánemos. Hopefully they provide some interesting rules/ideas. So I wanted to give you a look at the setting itself. Its growing and dynamic, as are all played in settings, but I tried hard to write a framework that could be fleshed out in any number of ways.

Anyway, Ánemos, this is the setting I am currently living in, written for and inspired by a friends request for an "episodic, seafaring, island adventure". So I did some thinking, asked him some questions, and Ánemos was born.

One of the stipulations with the setting when requested was that it be episodic with interesting/wacky islands to explore. Neither he nor I had the language to describe it at the the time, but he was basically asking for a picturesque setting with rogue-ish type heroes. I really like writing with a clear ecology/area of the world in mind, and what better mythology to draw on for wacky island adventures than Ancient Greece? Many of their mythologies have been beaten to death, so I am not drawing too much on that, instead focusing on aesthetic and not story.

[I'll post the document I give my players to give them a working knowledge of their world soon (I also don't really suppose anyone likes to read other peoples world building, but one of my players encouraged me to put it out there.)]

Friday, October 14, 2016

It Is Not the Destination but the Journey... Part I: Sea Travel

After reading a flurry of blog posts by other great writers on the "problem" of making travel in tabletop RPGs fun/interesting/story serving/useful I have tried my hand at making a travel table that I can use in my Ánemos campaign.

I've used it for about a month or two now, and it seems to work pretty well. The important thing to keep in mind is that each of these events can be interacted with, they aren't the end all be all. If you roll a 4 and a 2 you get "sneaky sand bars" the ship is beached and it takes all day to wait for high tide and digging in the sand to get it out. Now say that the party wizard has some sort of spell that turns things into water, they could use it and unbeach the ship in a jiffy, successfully addressing the issue with problem solving. So encourage and allow for creative solutions.

Roll 1d8
Encounter
Sub Rolls
Sub-Encounter/Effect
1
Coral Reef
1
Abundant fish! Extra rations
2
Hull stuck on the reef, day lost waiting for
low tide
3
Mermaids (gossip or food?)!
4
One roll on ingredient table
2
No safe harbor
--
Sail another day farther, but point of
exhaustion the next day
3
Heavy Winds
1
Make good head way, travel two days
distance, but point of exhaustion the next day
2
Blown off course, loose a day of travel,
and point of exhaustion the next day
4
Small Inlet
1
Light House: Aids in navigation, travel two
days distance
2
Sneaky Sand Bars: Grounded, loose a day
of travel
5
Other Ship
1
Trading Galley, trade or gossip!
2
Pirates! Lives or money!
3
Shipwreck! Loose day of travel if searched
4
Wandering cleric/paladin seeking nearby Spirit
6
Psári pod
1
Adolescents (1d8+2), migrating
2
Adolescents (1d8+2), hunting!
3
Adults (1d4), migrating
4
Adults (1d4), hunting!
7
Sea Monster
1
Kraken
2
Dragon Turtle
3,4,5
Giant: Snake/shark/octopus/other animal
6,7,8
Spirit! Roll on Spirit Generator
8
Ship Board Event
1
Normal day, so roleplay!
2
Supplies have spoiled, loose half the rations
3
Crew is exhausted, demand a few days in port
4
Shipwreck! Beached on near by random island

Floating islands optional

A tidal wave is a good reason for a ship wreck
Probably not Ánemos, maybe Vindjord