3/15/2019

A commentary by Dr. Tommaso Tamihatco on certain excerpts of "A Little Diary that Fell from the Moon," by Fr. Filippo Dell'Amore


Tommaso Tamihatco, Man of Letters, Snakebird Clan
   I look down on an earth rotating from Fifth to Sixth. I see Tseen Tsang crack open. From the mouth of the mountain fired a great shot – a war between earth and moon, a cannonball greater than the earth that shot it, like an earth hatching, and from that earth a moth with five wings, turning, then six wings...

Tseen Tsang
   Tseen Tsang was in the most straightforward sense a polity prominent in the days of the Abraxas Primus and described as alternately a military enemy and trading partner of the great City at that time. The name, literally “Lance of Heaven” implied a rifle, and the diaspora of the people associated with the site are identified as Iron Star or Gun star people. Thusly they were known as skilled iron forgers and, especially gunsmiths, being innovators and traders in firearms. Stereotypes depicted them as war profiteers and negative, conspiratorial influences on their rivals.

(In the systems of war gaming taught at the civic military academies, a Tseen Tsang long-rifle dealt 1d10 damage, had range equivalent to a crossbow, and its noise prompted additional encounter checks.

   While typically the bullet of a long-rifle added +2 to hit against an armored opponent, a “Hero,” or a member of a Fighter society led by a hero, would wear warrior decoration efficacious against missiles equivalent to AC 5; AC 3 for a “Super-Hero.”)

Iron Star People

Where from the pale balustrade I had seen the mountain bleed fire […]

   The site of Tseen Tsang is associated with a dormant volcano some 120 miles southwest of the Great City – an example of the underworld creation myth motif particularly common in cultures related to Sixth Sun people, which is reflected also in the creation-destruction motif in pseudo-Dell'Amore – the author of the diary consistently refers to himself as Dellamorte – with the great Moth's five, then six wings:

The forefinger, pierced with a stingray spine
Completion
The sun is occluded by the moon
Flint Knife Moth, its wings are spread
Arriving, the age
With the taste of bitter herbs

– Stanza of the Saklas King Four Corrosion Horse

   Regarding which, more can be said later. But, once again, the Diary:

   And I tumbled from my place and in the moon dust beneath me I saw form the glyphs of folly. And cut in the betweenness of the glyphs the dark places under the mountain with ghosts of men not there. And among the ghosts I was in those inscribed houses.

Underneath Tseen Tsang

   The City itself, Tseen Tsang was purported to have been a great complex of tunnels and vaults, so labyrinthine that outsiders would disappear into the mountain and never be seen again; a kind of contradictory state where the interior of the mountain was simultaneously an efficient forge of industry, home to hundreds of thousands, yet also a kind of haunted and ephemeral knot wherein mythic contests and challenges were faced. Dell'Amore refers, by glyphs, to the Saklas earth-glyph a kind of orientation-dependent expanded writing known in the codex ascribed to the Cartographer-Priest, Death Sun.


   And then, lit brightly, beneath the mountain the city was the market I dreamed of my youth – not truly the streets I treaded, and above me not the sun, but the immeasurable vault, and in the architecture under that vault I traced that name : - - - - - - and saw the yellow hair and the streets folded again over themselves but I did not see those eyes...

   Perhaps if the redacted name could be determined, the specific earth-glyph could be referenced and the imaginary space mapped out. But Dell'Amore means to say, it is clear, that Tseen Tsang existed  as a kind of structural form assembled from the glyphs, as a kind of dream-journey improvised by the performer to reflect the experiences, desires, and fears of the protagonist of the journey.

(A source, requesting anonymity, has suggested that a certain proctor of a prestigious academy uses the earth-glyph or geogram system as the terrain of a targeted wargame scenario where a specific objective must be ascertained, then accomplished, with specific glyphs presenting challenges relevant to the 'houses' of Saklas myth – Houses of Blades, Houses of Flames, etc. In a dual pronged approach where  the struggles of early Abraxas/Tseen Tsang war epics are paired with challenges targeted to the Protagonist(s) personally – a kind of test of mental or spiritual mettle.)

   This, unavoidably, recalls the Tale of the Red Catacomb, purportedly beneath the ancient Temple of Ammon in the upland hills south of the Black Mangal, wherein were “A Place beneath a chimney where Horse Bones were smoked.” The horse, it must be said, was long extinct before being returned to the region by Easterling colonists.


The remains of an ancient horse.

   The horse was long thought to have been lost to memory until remains were found far inland by scholars. Until, that is, the Tale was discovered, and, indeed, used as an aid to decipher certain Saklas glyphs. n.b.


He to whom time is not
He to whom death is not
Heal the sick
Name forgotten, but your title "Lord"
Wind over the plains
Pierced by sharp spears
Broken, the horse
Serpent-eyed
That, born thing, which cannot be born
That, living thing, which cannot live
That, dead thing, which cannot die

-Stanza of Saklas King, Little King Lizard

   “Heal the sick” prefigures the Tale's ghostly figure known as the “Horse Doctor Man,” who capriciously offered medicine to the sons of his killers – but to one son, a bolus or paste that sent him to  “Dark House” after “Dark house” until he found the Jawbone of a Tall Horse with which he killed his eldest brother – the brother,

In whose belly
He inherited
Horseflesh
Ran quickly
As the last  horse
Into that jaw
of a Tall Horse
Who eating Tall Brother
Had eaten himself
Into nothingness

-Tale 9, ll.120-130

Horse Doctor Man

Horse Doctor Man
______________

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 9**
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 1 pestle strike or special
Damage: 1d10+2 or special
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Cleric 9
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: I
Alignment: Neutral

A hulking brute, an ancient horse twisted into the shape of man by the force of eons of spite. It wears a tattered robe and in one hoof-fingered hand holds a great pestle, in the other a bowl of bitter herbs. It chants brayingly in the imitation of an ancient language, and so long as it chants its gaze has the power to charm. It selects a patient, bends that patient to its will, and administers a medicine from its mixing bowl. This has the following effect:

(d10)
1. As a random potion.
2. As Cure Serious Wounds
3. As Neutralize Poison
4. As Poison
5. As Cure Disease
6. As Cause Disease.
7. As Quest (typically to slay a certain person, a distant descendent of a prehistoric horse-killer, or to find and funerate a horse skeleton)
8. As Maze (However, at the center of the Maze can be found a key item)
9. As Maze (However, at the center of the maze is an opponent who can take any appearance but functions as a Mirror of Opposition)
10. Two results.

   If necessary, it will defend itself with blows from its Pestle or, by consuming its own medicine, disappear into a maze to escape.


   The figures of Tall Brother and his siblings in the Tale are early recensions of the beings known colloquially as Those Who Live Anywhere; a kind of quasi-immortal ancestor or supernatural in rustic oral tradition. A man named Yawilaiyi, significantly, a trader of horses became lost in a deep forest and was fed with “food from a stone” by a kindly old man in a white robe. Returning, he had lost taste for human food, and began to waste away, but after returning to the forest would reappear 'from a stone' to visit for many years thereafter. This suggests the way of the people who settled within the stone of Tseen Tsang, and emerged 'from there' to trade crafts – A synthesis between Those Who Live Anywhere and Those Who Live Nowhere.

One Who Lives Anywhere, Seen In Motion

One Who Lives Anywhere
______________

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 9**
Move: Special
Attacks: 1d8 x Staff or special
Damage: 1d6 or special
No. Appearing: 0 (1d8)
Save As: Elf 9
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: G
Alignment: Lawful

A fine-featured man, woman, or other-gendered person typical of the hinterlands of the Abraxas region, with white hair and wearing a shining white robe of ancient design, carrying a walking-stick. OWLA appears near a stone surface, and may move freely anywhere within sight of its observer, even appearing in multiple places. Seldom hostile unless to return hostility, or unless its sacred precinct is defiled. Their clothing and staff generate Light at will. Once a day OWLA may cast Sleep, Lightning Bolt, Cure Disease, Stone Shape, Part Water, and Control Weather. Nigh-immortal, if OWLA is defeated in combat, it must have been very, very old, to have met the end of his life. Dangerously, this instantiates its opposite number, a Tseen Tsang Ancient Brother, into separate existence, drawing its attention.

   In the rain of iron scales from the six wings, rained ghosts bound in iron, into the void between split halves, I see them, bound in circles, in the heart of the city, pulling me, breathing me in...

   As in the Saklas Stanzas, Dell'Amore evokes the foundation of the old world in the remnants of the new – the iron-bound Ancient Brothers of Tseen Tsang, a kind of bound ancestor figure recast as part of a cycle in which they continue to teach their ways to a cloven or strobilated version of themselves...they cast shadows which cast...

...I remember a dream I had last night...a house of my youth, in flames, but through each door, only more house. Deeper. I cannot help but find an echo in Dell'Amore as I hear a moth at the window and see my reflection. In an Iron mask. Breathing in unison.

[Fragment ends here. Ed.]

Ancient Brothers of Tseen Tsang

Ancient Brother
______________

Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 9
Move: Nil
Attacks: Special
Damage: Special
No. Appearing: 1 or 1d8
Save As: Magic-User 9
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: O
Alignment: Chaotic

An emaciated, mummy-like figure, bound in irons, pierced with spikes, masked, breathing arsenic, caught between life and unlife. At the heart of a labyrinth deep beneath Tseen Tsang, Only its chains keep it from nonexistence. If its attention is drawn, those who it recognizes may be drawn into the labyrinth. At will it may cast Fear, Darkness, and Confusion. Ever-distant, it can be reached by no missile, nor by any spell with a range other than Touch. Place it at the opposite end of a 10x10 geomorph. It creates images of objects and beings in the minds of those it perceives in its labyrinth. It is clear that to find the object is to find the brother. Until the object is found, each round the Brother summons a Shadow for each of its opponents from the black lines of the geomorph. When the object is found, the finder must save vs. spells, or the Brother may dissolve it into one of its spell-like attacks. If the object is truly held, the brother may approach. To attempt to strike the brother, save again vs. Spells. If failed, place another geomorph. The brother is places at the far end. The process repeats. If the brother is struck, it breathes out poison gas. Save vs. Death. If the brother is slain, the mask falls away and the face is the face of the slayer. He dissolves Now the Slayer is the brother, but free. This means little until the appointed moment. Once in this new life, the Brother's will asserts itself. Save vs. Spells or do its bidding until the completion of the task. If the save is successful the time has not come. One day, perhaps, it will.

* * *


4/09/2012

Another Monster That Wants To Eat You

Belome by Darren Calvert of http://www.darrencalvert.com


Blanchard of OSR Gamer Stuck In China has another monster that wants to eat you. Check it out here: The Belome

4/03/2012

Hunters of the Swamp



A stretch of the Black Mangal.
 The costal areas of the Abraxas region are rife with great swamps, such as the notorious Black Mangal and the vast Neverglade of Heliodor. Treacherous places, all, they are haunted by many dangerous beings, flesh, spirit, and in between. Below is one of the more sinister:


A deceased Mandrake.
Mandrake
________


AC: 5
Hit Dice: 2+2
Move: 90'(30')
Attacks: 1 Strangle or 1 Bite
Damage: 1d6 or 1d6
No: Appearing 1-4 (2-8)
Save As: Fighter 2
Treasure Type: D
Alignment : Chaotic


Mandrakes are cruel hunters and ambushers that grow from a kind of wetland rhizome into a lurching, roughly humanoid being (6-7') with a toothsome, mudskipper-like face, a dragging tail, and layers of rough, fibrous skin. From sloughed-off layers of their body, Mandrakes fashion tough ropes that they carry twisted on spool-like wooden shields, and use to capture and strangle foes. Unnervingly stealthy, Mandrakes surprise on a 1-3 and attack with their ropes at +4 if they surprise, dealing an automatic 1-6 damage per round unless the rope, which has AC 6 and requires 3HP damage in one blow to cut, is severed. Mandrakes prefer to strangle, but can resort to a nasty bite with sharp, woody teeth, if cornered. If they overwhelm their opponents, they prefer to bind their prey and drown them alive, and Mandrake treasure is usually found underwater, still on the body of a victim slowly bloating in the water in preparation for later eating. 


 Mandrakes are silent while hunting, but have been observed to communicate with a rustling noise from their throats resembling a chuckle. Mandrake ropes have extraordinary strength and lightness, twice that of a silk rope for the same weight if intact, but quickly ravel if cut; they are worth 1 GP per foot and a given rope will be 1d6x25 feet in length. The core of a Mandrake is tough, but has a delicately spicy flavor if cooked slowly in oil or fat, and in Abraxas some cooks will pay up to a gold piece per pound for mandrake core, with a given mandrake yielding 1 pound per hit point of usable core.



The head of a Mandrake breaches the water as it follows its prey.



3/21/2012

Even Less Welcome Guests



This monster is HELL OF MAD.



For those readers  who just can't get enough of monsters wrecking villages, Ian Johnson of I AM SMARTER THAN YOU has worked up cool d20 expansions of the Monster Vices and Grievances tables. Check them out here : Unwelcome Guests, Reprise



3/14/2012

Unwelcome Guests




 Among the villagers and tribesmen who eschew a life amid the splendors and squalors of Abraxas, Heliodor, and their fortified client towns in favor of maintaining what scholars refer to as a "traditional way of life," many challenges arise. In addition to mundane problems such as the outflux of young tribesmen toward a more urbanized way of life, the innate dangers of the wilderness, indigenous banditry and organized raids from Tseen Tsang and further afield, there stands out the severe problem of monsters. In the absence of the military strength of the fortified towns, the great walls of Heliodor, or the puissant sorcery of Abraxas, there is little protection from these rare evils.

 While random predation and frightful rages by wandering monsters are bad enough, it is a particular woe to the people when a monster chooses to impose itself upon a village for the long term. In this dire situation, certain kinds of monster remain in the midst of a community, declaring itself a kind of chief, and steadily growing larger and more dangerous as it consumes more and more human beings.

 Human beings are tasty - when such a monster consumes a human being, it adds a hit point to its HD total. Upon reaching +5, the bonus points roll over to the next hit die, making the monster a more dangerous combatant. In addition, if the monster's hit dice reach half again their starting value through man-eating the dice it rolls for damage doubles. If the monster can double its hit dice, its damage dice triple. Most monsters of this type have the ability to swallow human beings whole, and they especially benefit from eating heroes (and other characters with class levels, even if they aren't of a heroic disposition.) Add an extra HP to the monster's total for each class level as long as the victim is swallowed alive. The monster loses the extra growth if the character manages to escape its gullet alive. Several monsters notorious for this kind of behavior are detailed below. The DM may apply these supernatural traits to other monsters at his discretion, but may want to modify the base HD and damage output of creatures to account for their growth. In the absence of player involvement, the DM may assume the monster eats enough humans to add one hit die each week until its HD reach 150%, at which point its digestion slows and it begins to take a month per HD to reach double. This is the normal limit, but some legendary beasts may be able to grow even larger. Otherwise, the monster may lay waste to an entire area before wandering away or falling into hibernation.

 Once a monster has grown large enough, it may seem impossible to defeat, but usually a monster with the capability to grow through its man-eating ways also has a vice or weakness that can be exploited, possibly causing it to shrink, or at least to be tricked or put itself in a disadvantageous situation. If a monster's weakness can be exploited, it is possible to reduce it as low as half its base HD. In this case, also halve its rolled damage. Consult the following table to randomly determine a monster's weakness.

Monster Weaknesses (Roll d10)
_____________________________

1 The monster is vain, and prone to being deceived by flattery. It loses a hit die each time an act of flattery leads the monster to put itself in a vulnerable or compromising condition. The monster suffers a -4 penalty to its saving throws vs. any spells cast on it as part of such a scheme. 

2 Monster has a gourmandish nature that goes above and beyond its ravening for human flesh, and especially craves exotic or luxurious-sounding food. The monster loses a HD each time it is tricked into eating something dangerous, or as a lump sum when it learns it has been tricked into eating things that are embarrassing to have eaten. Suffers a -4 penalty to saves against anything it ingests.

3 Monster has a craven nature and tends to be deflated by people standing up to it, and is prone to being deceived into thinking its opponent is truly powerful. Loses a HD each time it is presented with a convincing gesture that an opponent is more powerful than it. -4 to saves against any effect that would seem to require the attacker's level/HD be greater than its own.

4 Monster is an aficionado of a certain game and is eager to play it. Options might include as hoop-and-stick, footraces, dice or board games, guessing games, etc. Usually prefers traditional or ancient games. Loses a HD each time it is beaten (the opponent may cheat), and must make a save vs. spells not to demand a rematch. -4 to saves against any spell applying to the game itself. 25% Chance the monster itself tries to cheat. 

5 The monster enjoys riddles, and loses HD if it is stumped with a riddle, or its own riddles are guessed. 50% chance that it has a "master riddle" whose answer can normally only be known by cheating, which it will present for mortal stakes, but the monster will drop directly to half base HD if presented with the answer.

6 The monster is loves to fight and is eager to be formally challenged to single combat. Loses a HD each time it is damaged in such a combat, -4 to saves against any spell cast the round immediately after the monster is damaged. A cunning opponent will attempt to set the rules of the duel in such a way as to disadvantage the monster.

7. Monster is readily cowed by sacred or spiritual authority (or the pretense thereof.) If an opponent fraudulently convinces the monster it has such authority, -1 HD each time it is taken advantage of by a bogus ritual. A successful genuine Turn Undead attempt will reduce the monster directly to half base HD.

8 The monster has some sacred responsibility that it has absconded in favor of menacing the humans, which it will try to keep secret. If presented with this knowledge, it must save vs. spells or leave to return to its proper task. If it refuses, it loses 1 HD each round someone successfully berates it for its dereliction of duty without the monster successfuly attacking the berater for its insolence.

9 The monster is lovelorn, or at least lusty. The monster loses 1HD each hour its affections are apparently, or genuinely returned by a human with 16 or better charisma. The monster is immediately dropped to half base HD if it is tricked into acting out its desires on an embarrassing subject (e.g. an ugly old hag, a dummy, a grubby warrior in drag, etc.)

10 Monster has a taste for alcohol and will consume it voraciously, losing 1HD per gallon. Upon reaching its base HD, the monster becomes intoxicated and also must save vs. poison or pass out drunk.

While for many creatures, the hunger for human flesh is enough reason to impose itself upon a village, there is a 2 in 6 chance the monster has a specific grievance. If so, there is a 1 in 4 chance the grievance is unfounded.

Monster Grievances (roll d10)
_____________________________

1 The monster is punishing the people for faltering in their traditional ways.

2 Someone in the tribe has disturbed the monster's sleep.

3 The monster was sent to plague the people by an evil magician.

4 Someone cheated some of the little people, and they have sent the monster in retributuion.

5 Someone made a deal with monster itself, (possibly while it was in disguise) and broke the deal.

6 Someone poached the monster's game, killed an animal sacred to the monster, or its pet.

7 Someone stole the monster's liquor or other valued possession.

8 The monster has always hated the people, and the medicine man who warded it off in the past has died.

9 The monster thinks the people of today are craven and unheroic, and wants to see if anyone has the courage to stand up to it.

10 somebody deliberately offended the monster

Notorious Monsters (roll d6)
__________________

1 Great Thirster

2 Hungering Mantrap

3 Skin Collector

4 Cannibal Wind 

5 Carved Devourer

6 Panther-Serpent


Great Thirster
Great Thirster
______________

Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 6***
Move: 60'(20')
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1d12
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter 6
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: B 
Alignment: Chaotic

 The Great Thirster is a belligerent, slimy, vaguely toad-like creature that installs itself in a stream, spring, or other local water supply, and absorbs it into its being, becoming more jelly-like and bloated, and reducing the flow of water to a foul-smelling slime. Humans with only the thirster's tainted water to drink will eventually develop webbed hands and feet, and dry, flaking skin that cause it to lose 1hp per hour that it cannot immerse itself with water. The thirster so controls them by allowing them to bathe in the unnaturally vast body of water inside its gullet, occasionally devouring a desperate subject. In combat, the creature bites, and on a roll of 15 or better, swallows the opponent whole, where he must swim to stay afloat or begin to drown, and may be attacked by 1d6 terrfied or crazed Normal Man villagers inside the monster's stomach. The great thirster is so moist, and so jelly-like, that it takes only 1hp/die of damage from fire and bludgeoning, and half damage from other weapon attacks. However, like a slug, it is vulnerable to salt, taking 1d6 damage per pound of salt thrown at it, and if a great enough wrestler can grapple it, it is possible to squeeze water from the creature like a sponge, dealing 1d6+Strength Bonus instead of normal grappling, and every 8 points of damage done through grappling reduce the creature's HD by 1 until it is squeezed down to frog-size and can be mortally crushed.


Hungering Mantrap
Hungering Mantrap
_________

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6**
Move: 60'(20')
Attacks: 1 Tendrils + 1 Bite
Damage: 1d3/1d10+Swallow
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter 5
Morale:  10
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: Chaotic

 This ill-tempered, many-tendrilled and -eyed creature is an ambulatory, carnivorous plant. It can attack with tendrils up to 30' away, and if it hits, automatically pulls a target into melee range. The interior of the creature is a roiling bath of foul decaying matter, whose vapors the creature can, instead of a bite, vomit forth once every 1d6 rounds as a Stinking Cloud effect. causing any victims in a 20' cloud to save vs. poison or be rendered helpless with nausea. If the creature rolls a 20 on its bite attack, the foe is swallowed, must immediately save vs. poison at -4 or fall prey to nausea, and begins to be digeste at 1d3 HP damage per round. The creature's many eyes allow it to see in a 360' radius.


Skin Collector
Skin Collector
______________

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6*
Move: 90 (30')
Attacks: 2 Claws
Damage: 1d8/1d8
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter:6
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: Chaotic

 The Skin Collector is a ghastly undead amalgamation of flayed human hides, draped haphazardly over an ungainly frame of bones. It attacks with bony claws, and if it hits with both, holds onto the foe and begins to smother it with one of the human hides attached to it. The smothered victim must save vs. death or begin to suffer 1d4 damage per round as it is choked and unable to breathe, and is also blinded by the mask of skin. The Collector will move onto another foe the next round, and can so envelop a chain of enemies up to the number of its hit dice. After foes die of suffocation, the Collector will later devour the meat and attach the skin and bones to its own frame. 
Cannibal Wind
Cannibal Wind*
_____________

Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 6**
Move (flying): 180'(60')
Attacks: 3 Flenses
Damage: 1d4/1d4/1d4
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Cleric 6
Morale: 10 
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Chaotic

 This horrible unseen presence attacks by powerful gusts of wind that can strip flesh from bone. It speaks through violent whispers and can throw objects around as if by telekinesis within the range of its movement. If it hits an opponent with a flense attack in 3 consecutive rounds, it forces itself into the victims lungs and automatically deals damage each round, devouring the victim from the inside out. Normally, it is invisible and can only be harmed by magical weapons or spells. However, when it is feeding, by forcing itself into the lungs of a dying foe, it may be attacked normally by damaging the body it is feeding upon, or trapped in a container.
Carved Devourer
Carved Devourer
_______________

Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 6**
Move: 120'(40')
Attacks: 1 Fist or 1 bite
Damage: 1d10+ or 1d10
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter 6
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: Chaotic

 A hideous and bloodthirsty giant intricately carved from wood and stained dark with human blood. It attacks a hammering blow from its fist, and on a 15 or higher, grabs the foe and begins cruelly chewing on him, dealing automatic damage and gaining 1HP each round it hits from the consumed flesh and blood unless its grip is broken by dealing damage greater than its current HD in a single round. It is difficult to injure, taking half-damage from physical weapons and, due to its blackened surface, from fire.


Panther-Serpent


Panther-Serpent
_______________

Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 6***
Move: 90'(30')
Attacks: 2 Claws + 1 Bite + Constrict
Damage: 1d4/1d4/1d6+Poison
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Cleric 6
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: D
Alignment:  Chaotic

 This imperious and cruel being, likely crawled forth from the ruins of an ancient saklan temple, is a coiled tangle offeline and serpentine elements, inclined to discoursing with its prey on esoteric matters. If both claw attacks hit, the panther-serpent begins to constrict its victim in its coils for 1d6 HPe per round. Its venomous bite induces an intensely dream-filled sleep, and the beast will attempt to swallow its sleeping victim whole, in which state the victim will imagine itself running in terror from the vision of the beast, losing 1d6 constitution per round from the stress of running, until he dies of panic and is digested, until the beast dies, or makes as many successful constitution checks as the beast's hit dice, at which point it he is vomited out.

2/22/2012

Whom Mortals Call The Moon

 The calendars of the antecessor culture known by scholars as the Saklas or 'Culture of Folly' are unambiguous that the end is nigh. The form of this apocalypse is obscure. Some interpretations of relics left behind by the Saklas suggest that the end will come in a series of massive earthquakes, but mainstream opinion holds that the world has already been destroyed in this way and since been recreated.


A calendar stone purportedly recovered from a ruined city of the Saklas.


 Forward-thinking scholars understand that if humanity is to survive, humans must find a way to leave the world behind before its destruction comes to pass. While fringe theories exist concerning the notion of habitable parallel universes that could potentially be accessed, the most plausible prospect for human survival is generally considered to be relocation to the moon.


 The moon is culturally and spiritually important to most known human societies, and many tribes in the Abraxas region revere it as a god. With the exception of a few little-respected fringe theories, such as those in currency in Heliodor*, the moon is widely understood even by the most rustic tribesmen to be a large sphere that orbits the world at an as yet undetermined distance, whose phases are caused by the shadow of the world falling upon its face.


 Though the changing expressions of the moon do seem to support the idea that it is alive, the argument has been made that the facial features of the moon comprise a monumental carving on a titanic scale, and that the changes in its expresison are an optical illusion caused by the movement of lunar clouds. Nonetheless the expressions are usually considered genuine, and the auspiciousness of various ventures are commonly related to the apparent mood of the lunar body.


The moon.

Mood of the Moon (roll d10)
_________________


1. Frightened
2. Sad
3. Angry
4. Disgusted
5. Haughty
6. Surprised
7. Joyous
8. Amused
9. Serene
10. Asleep


 The practicalities of travel to the moon are widely debated - sages agree that it will be no mean task. Some of the theories in currency follow:


A balloon of ancient design.


 The most trivial suggestion is that a good enough balloon, such as advance version of those used by the ancient priests in in the Desert of Red Ruin. Advances in the field of lighter-than-air travel have been made by the Heliodorans, but are unreliable, and still limited in range and scope, but the promise remains.


A balloon launches at Heliodor.


 However, even accounting for great leaps in this mode of travel, the question remains of just how far it is to the moon, the temperature and other risks of exposure at such celestial elevations,  and even if it is possible to breathe there, extrapolating from the thinness of air in the highest mountain ranges. Furthermore, the conspicuous silence of the moon suggests to some wise men that there is no medium of transfer to sound, though this has also been explained by the great distance to the moon, or merely the innate silence of the moon's periodic laughter or fury. There is speculation, notably in Heliodor, as to whether the sky might translate to the Elemental Plane of Air, but there is little support for this, nor has this Plane been conclusively demonstrated to exist - traditional belief holds the earthly and heavenly realms to transition continuously.


Several minor skycrags.


 The moon's apparent defiance of gravity has often called for comparison to the skycrags that drift at various heights above the face of the landscape. The crags drift seemingly at random, but the Abraxan sage Apiaka Seven Silvers, known for his controversial model of the motion of skycrags, has theorized that the elevation of skycrags may be considered as relative both to the earth and to one another, such that by carefully predicting or even altering their drift, the crags could potentially be arranged to chain above one another, so that a balloonist, or even a climber, might traverse moonward from one to the next, forming a kind of "stairway to heaven."


Apiaka Seven Silvers presents an equation demonstrating skycrag dynamics.


 Seven Silvers is strongly convinced that the moon is habitable, taking as a given that the moon is alive, and furthermore that the moon's surface is abundant with edible matter. He argues in favor of the traditional wisdom that the noxious levitating beasts known as Mooncrabs are like unto lice who dwell upon the moon, and are occasionally thrown off by the moon's itchy quaking and float down to Alshain.


A mooncrab.


Mooncrab
________


Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4*
Move: 60' (20')
 Flying: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 Claws/1 Sting
Damage: 1-8/1-8/1-4+Poison
No. Appearing: 1-4(1-4)
Save As: Fighter:4
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: V
Alignment: Chaotic


 A mooncrab resembles a large scorpion floating uncannily in the air with a ghastly, skull-like face. Its body is about 5' long with a tail of similar length. They levitate via unknown means up to about 4-5' off the ground, and will fall to that point from greater heights as if Feather Falling. The poison sting of a Mooncrab instantly induces a convulsive hilarity equal to a Hideous Laughter spell. Mooncrabs especially delight in  devouring incapacitated foes as the victims continue to laugh, unable to stop even as they are being eaten. Mooncrabs are as intelligent as an average human but speak only Mooncrab. 
The ichor of a mooncrab is a good ingredient for a Potion of Levitation, and its venom as ink for a scroll of Hideous Laughter.

A coven of Mushroom Women.


 Also believed to have an eventual lunar origin are the reclusive Mushroom Women. A popular folk legend, possibly related to the dogmas of the apocalyptic cult of the Kingdoms of the Sixth Sun is the moon is a form of giant puffball of immense scale, with whose spores the earth is dusted. If the spores of Mushroom Women can float down to Alshain on spores in grace and safety, why not the other way?


Mushroom Woman
______________


Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2***
Move: 90'(30')
Attacks: 1 or Spores
Damage: 1-4
No. Appearing:2-8(5-20)
Save As: Elf 4
Morale:6
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: Neutral


 Mushroom Women are colonial fungus creatures with forms suggestive of humanoid women. They are reclusive, but non-aggressive, and on a good reaction result are willing to converse on esoteric topics. If attacked, they will open with a blast of spores that cause targets in a 15' radius to Save vs. Poison of succumb to a mystical Sleep. Against more powerful targets a mushroom woman will attack a single target with a concentrated blast of spores that cause hallucinations - Save vs. Poison or be affected by Confusion, and the effects of a Potion of Delusion mimicing a random potion for an additional 1d4 hours. The DM is encouraged to describe the hallucinatory experience in great psychedelic detail. If pressed into physical combat, their claws may infect wounds with spores that unless a successful Save vs. Poison is made is equivalent to the effects of a Cause Disease spell.


 Some human priests and medicine men have developed a rapport with these creatures, and have learned to develop their spores into Potions of Flying, Heroism, or Longevity. However there is always a 10% danger of creating a Potion of Delusion when using these spores as an ingredient.


Fra' Lippo Dellamore

A much more radical theory has been advanced by the strange ascetic Fra' Lippo Dellamore, late of Rhadamanthus. After his years of assiduous study of the secret behavior of cats, he claims to have learned that certain rare felines 'leap' to and from the moon so as to "sup on moon-milk," and that thus human riders might themselves travel to the moon, "given a sufficiently large cat." His studies, however, are admittedly inconclusive as to whether cats must jump only in the "dream realm," which notion itself is in contention with the popular philosophy that all life is but a dream. 


While the existence of the Moon-Leaping Cat is speculative at best, the characteristics described in Dellamore's notebooks resemble the following:


Moon-Leaping Cat
_______________


Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 4**
Move: 180' (60')
Attacks: 2 claws/1 bite
Damage: 1-3/1-3/1-6
No. Appearing: 1 (1-3)
Save As: Fighter 4
Morale: 9
Treasure Type:
Alignment: Neutral


This lean, spotted cat is similar in size to a cheetah. Dwelling most of the time in some misty conceptual realm, it surprises its prey on a 1-5 on 1d6 as it appears seemingly from nowhere. If it successfully hits with both claw attacks, unless a save vs. Spells is made, it pulls its target into its dreamy otherworldly lair where the prey must fight the Cat alone. If the cat is defeated, the character may make an Intelligence check each round to wend his way back to the material world. The cat's lunar leap may only be accomplished under certain celestial conditions, as determined by the DM; the cat is not capable of carrying a human rider.


A spy's impression, drawn before he succumbed to alchemical poisoning.

Lastly, a more purely mechanical solution has been rumores - if a kind of vessel could be contained within a great musketball shot from the blast of the entire great foundries of Tseen Tsang, this shot might reach the moon if aimed precisely -  but how would the passengers survive? And there is concern among sober-headed men that such a projectile might injure the moon! And even barring this, it would surely considered the first volley in a war with any potential lunar inhabitants.


Or perhaps...nobody lives on the moon.




* The "Heliodoran Thesis" proposes that the moon is a kind of shuttered window in the firmament, whose phases are controlled by the opening and closing of its aperture.

2/18/2012

Sea-Brides, or, What The Naughty Whistle Is

 Along the coasts of the Abraxas region, many of the local tribes share tales of men who have taken brides from the sea. The common thread of these stories is that the marriage never ends well. "The sons of men and the daughters of the sea do not get along any better than with their own women. In fact, it is worse," the elders say. "Always worse." 

The popular image of a Sea-Bride.
This image is incorrect.

 Still, occasionally a callow young warrior, a bored man of means, or, most likely of all, a desparate sailor will fall to the enchanting song of, or even seek out the affections of a sea-bride, and the Lord of Abraxas is rumored to keep several in a kind of aquarium beneath his palace for his pleasure and amusement, being immune to their spell by means of some puissant sorcery.


A sea-bride.

 Dealing with sea-brides is not universally perilous. They are not overtly hostile, and have been known to show interest in trade or conversation. Sea-brides will surface in the vicinity of passing ships or coastal fishermen, and join in a sustained, hypnotic whistling song audible from several miles away, hoping to attract humans to them. The spell is usually dissipated when they cease the whistling to converse. They are of roughly below-average human intelligence.



 On a reaction of "Uncertain" or better, the DM may consult this table to determine the Sea-brides' interest:
(Roll d10)


1. The Sea-brides have discovered a sunken ship and want to trade for its goods. Goods they desire include sweets, alcohol,and gold or silver jewelry.


2. They have discovered sunken ruins and wish to reach an agreement for long-term trade.


3. They have discovered sunken ruins inhabited by monsters. They want help eliminating the monsters and offer treasure as a reward.


4. They have discovered sunken ruins inhabited by monsters. If help is refused, they will attempt to Charm you into helping them.


5. They are being menaced by a tribe of Crabmen, for whom Sea-brides are a delicacy. They offer the location of the Crabmen's lair and treasure as a reward for helping them.


6. They have sighted the Grandfather Whale and offer to lead you to it in exchange for 1d6x100 GP of desirable goods.


7. They have discovered a sunken monastery and offer to bestow water breathing and lead you to it in exchange for 1d6x100 GP of desirable goods.


8. They have discovered an air-filled section of the ruined undersea city, which they offer passage to in exchange for 2d6x100 GP of desirable goods.


9. They desire a companion and offer to trade treasure from a sunken ship in exchange for him.


10. They are in an out-of-season mating frenzy and will attempt to capture a mate.
sunken ships


 Danger lies mostly during the spring, in the Sea-brides's mating season. Then they are likely to intensify their song and attempt to capture men - treat all results of "hostile" or "immediate attack" as a frenzied attempt to capture mates.

Sea-Bride
_________


Armor Class : 7
Hit Dice : 2***
Move: 30'(10')
 (swimming) 120'(40')
Attacks: 1 bite/1 Sting or Spittle
Damage: 1d6/Poison or Special
No. Appearing: 0 (3-12)
Save as: Elf 2
Morale: 8
Treasure: A (no scrolls)
Alignment: Neutral


 Sea-brides are amphibious, with upper bodies resembling attractive human women, slick blue skin, colorful spiny fins, and long, sinuous eel-like tails. Total length is usually around 15'. The sea-bride's song, when intensified, is strong enough to cause a Charm Person effect against a single male target within 120'. Sea-brides generate a great deal of slippery slime and are difficult to catch or grapple (-4). Their preferred attack is to spit a mass of a thick, gluey substance at a target up to 20' away equivalent in effect to a Web spell. The slime cannot be burned, but can be dissolved with alcohol or washed away with soap. If pressed into close combat, they may bite with shark-like teeth, or attempt to sting with their fin spines. The venom is not weak enough to cause serious harm a humanoid opponent, but will weaken the victim, causing a -2 penalty to hit rolls, saving throws, and AC, and halving movement.


Sea-bride dentition.


 If sea-bride in a mating frenzy captures a mate either through her charm, or, if necessary, by gluing him with her spittle, she will attempt to bring him back to her lair to mate, periodically breathing her slime into his lungs, enabling him to breathe underwater. The new mate will hold her interest for 1d6 months, during which time she will dote on him, and nurse him with her milk, which will gradually enslave the mate totally to her will. At the end of this period, her interest will wane, and when he is no longer being nursed, the mate may have a chance to escape. However, his eventual fate is dependent on the peculiarities of the sea-bride's life cycle.


 Seemingly, sea-brides are all female. However, the truth is more complex. In the vicinity of a sea-bride lair there will be swarms of their male counterparts, ravening eel-like creatures of subhuman and malicious intellect. Normally, sea-brides use their Charm ability to ward off the males from their mates. However, the mate may be in danger when her attentions wane.


An assortment of handsome sea-grooms.


Sea-Groom
_________


Armor Class : 9
Hit Dice : 1/2* (1-4 HP)
Move: 
 (swimming) 90'(30')
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1
No. Appearing: 4-24 (4-40)
Save as: Normal Man
Morale: 7
Treasure: Nil
Alignment: Chaotic


Sea-grooms are vicious, lamprey-like creatures that are the male counterpart of Sea-brides. They are constantly hungry, but have a cunning intelligence and may use restraint and cunning to capture prey. They attack by biting with their toothsome sphinctered mouths. A successful hit means that it has attached itself to its target and will automatically drain blood from a living victim for 1 point of damage per round until either it or its victim is dead. Sea-grooms cannot breathe air.


Sea-brides bear eggs, and early in the mating season, they will be internally fertilized by many males. In order to reproduce, however, they need a host to carry the eggs to hatching and term. Humanoid hosts are preferred since they are needed to pass on their intelligence to the offspring. Once each month of capture, the Sea-bride will spit fertilized eggs from her gullet into her human mate's throat, where, unless he makes a saving throw vs. paralysis they will develop in his stomach over the next 1d4+2 months. If she is successful in hosting her eggs in the mate, the Sea-Bride will conscientiously protect him from her Sea-Groom brethren until they are born. When the time comes, the mate will vomit out 4d6 larvae equivalent to 1hp Sea-Grooms. If he is in water, they will immediately attempt to devour him. A host who has escaped onto land will feel an overpowering urge to return to the sea, and must save vs. spells each week or succumb to this urge. If he is still on land when the larvae mature, he make a final save vs. paralysis to vomit them out onto the ground where they will helplessly writhe and die; if he fails they will desperately try to eat him from the inside out before dying. The larvae may be killed by the application of a Cure Disease spell if the host makes a saving throw vs. Paralysis.


The DM may choose to handle this process by rolling on the table below:


(Roll d10)


1-3. You bear a host of larvae and are devoured by them.


4. The sea-bride's eggs never take host in you; without intervention of other PCs within 1d6 months, she bores of you and you are devoured by Sea-grooms.


5. The sea-bride's eggs take host in you; Without the intervention of other PCs within 1d4+2 months, you will be devoured when the larvae are born.


6. The sea-bride's eggs never take host in you. However, she is enamored of you indefinitely, and may eventually be rescued: 1 in 10 chance per year without intervention of other PCs.


7. You manage to escape 1d6 months later and wash ashore in a random coast hex, bereft of equipment, but carrying 4d6 larvae.


8. You manage to escape 1d6 months later  with your equipment and are rescued by a passing ship, but carrying 4d6 larvae.


9. You manage to escape 1d6 months later, and wash ashore in a random coast hex, bereft of equipment but free of larvae.


10. You manage to escape 1d6 months later with your equipment and free of larvae, and are rescued by a passing ship.


 While most Sea-brides only attempt to capture men, on rare occasions a Sea-Groom will, similarly to an anglerfish, fuse with a Sea-Brides' body after mating, and overtaking her mind. This gestalt creature will always be aggressive, and will capture mates indiscriminately to their sex; it will copulate with a charmed human using the parastitic Sea-Groom as a pseudopenis. The result of this union can be treated as a Sea-Blood Fighter or Thief per Realms of Crawling Chaos, if available.


 Wizards and alchemists find several uses for Sea-bride components. Sea-bride lung slime can be used to create  a Potion of Water-Breathing, skin slime is an ingredient for Oil of Slipperiness, and Sea-bride milk for a Philtre of Love.