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.

2/16/2012

The Riding-Men of Rhadamanthus





The insular and autarchical old Easterling colony of Rhadamanthus is known for its mounted warriors - not its cavalry, for they eschew the horse. Instead, they breed their mounts from human stock. These riding-men are larger and stronger than their masters, essentially horse-sized, and go on all fours. These brutes are no more intelligent than a horse, and have come to feed on grass and other fodder. Their call is an idiot moan, and they go unclothed and unaware of their nakedness. Generally, only males are used as mounts; females are smaller and reserved for breeding. Rhadamanthine etiquette considers the riding of a female to be extremely uncouth. Usually they are groomed to have long, flowing hair and full beards; occasionally a riding-man's hair will be braided, especially if he is a military mount.

A riding man functions similarly to a horse in most respects, though they are better climbers and navigators of rocky terrain than a horse, if somewhat worse jumpers. Though there are numerous varieties, outsiders are most likely to encounter the quick-footed Jeroboam, bred for travel, or a mighty Nebuchadnezzar, bred and trained for war.

Jeroboam
________

Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 2
Move: 240'(80')
Attacks: 2 fists
Damage: 1-4/1-4
No. Appearing: 1
Save as: Fighter: 1
Morale: 7
Treasure: Nil
Alignment: Neutral

Jeroboam: The Jeroboam is bred to carry a rider quickly and over a long distance. He can carry up to 300lb. and move at normal speed, or up to 600lb at half speed.

Nebuchadnezzar
_____________

Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 3
Move: 120'(40')
Attacks: 2 fists
Damage: 1-6/1-6
No. Appearing: 1
Save as: Fighter:2
Morale: 9
Treasure: Nil
Alignment: Neutral

The Nebuchadnezzar is a warrior's mount and popularly held to share a warrior's disposition. The Nebuchadnezzar's rider, if wielding a lance, can score double damage on a successful charge attack. During subsequent rounds, the trained Nebuchadnezzar can attack along with his rider, striking out with his massive fists. Carrying capacity is 400lb. (full movement) or 800lb. (half movement.)



A Knight of Rhadamanthus


Riding-men are an uncommon livestock in the Abraxas region, but traveling merchants sometimes can be found selling the beasts at a premium. Price, if available, will usually be about twice that of a comparable horse (Jeroboam 150 GP, Nebuchadnezzar 500 GP). Most riding-men available for sale will conform to the statistics above, but there is a 10% chance of an unusual specimen:


Roll d6 (Jeroboam) / d10 (Nebuchadnezzar)

1 Strider : This strong-backed specimen is capable of walking bipedally for 1d6 hours per day before tiring (Roll each day). While upright, he can bear a rider on his shoulders, and cradle objects with his forearms. Carrying capacity is 10% more than normal.

2 Wall-Crawler : This remarkable riding-man is a gifted climber and, while unburdened by a rider, can Climb Sheer Surfaces as a thief of a level equal to his hit dice. Uneven terrain is trivial to this riding-man. However, he is high-strung and his morale is 1 worse than normal.

3 Swimmer : This lean and muscular riding-man appears, unusually, to bear traits similar to natives of the continent. He is capable of swimming at 90'(30') for up to 1d6 hours per day, and can carry a rider while doing so. He swims in a front-crawl style, so the ride is not leisurely for the rider and a drenching is inevitable.

4 Hermaphrodite : This strange individual reproduces parthenogenetically. Hardy, +1 to saves.Each month of the summer, roll d6. On a 1, it is on its way to being a proud father/mother. Foaling follows 9 months later in the spring. All foals are male. A Jeroboam will produce more Jeroboams, a Nebuchadnezzar will produce (d6) 1-4 Runtish, effectively a Jeroboam 5-6 Full Nebuchadnezzar. There may be a 2% chance of twins at the discretion of the DM.

5 Scent-Man : This riding-man has an exceptional sense of smell and tracks as well as a hound. He has an incorrigible digging habit and is easily distracted by truffles. Willful, but bold; Morale is 1 better than normal.

6 Atavism : This melancholy-looking beast bares a faint ancestral memory of his human ancestors. He has an effective Intelligence of 3. May conceal his primal and rebellious intellect from his master. (50% chance)

7 Bellower : This barrel-chested riding-man is gifted with immensely powerful lungs and vocal cords. His stark basso calls may be heard up to 5 miles away. Enemies shouted at in a 45 degree cone up to 30 feet away must save vs. dragon breath or suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls and armor class for 1 round. Foes of animal intelligence may be subject to a morale check at the DM's discretion.

8 Fearless : This clear-eyed and handsome riding-man never checks morale and is immune to magical fear.

9 Grappler : This burly and stout-limbed individual (+1 HP/die) is both unusually flexible and unfortunately temperamental. He will attempt to wrestle a creature that attacks him, unless he makes a morale check. +1 bonus to grappling. His rider is almost certain to be thrown, calling for a Dexterity check to avoid d6 damage from the fall. May be trained to grapple on command as a trick.

10 Cannibal : This rangy and gangrel-looking riding-man has an unsettling habit of making eye-contact with you. He prefers a diet of meat and becomes willful if given only fodder (-2 morale.) In combat he will bite, with w
icked teeth, of his own accord (d8 damage). Unintelligent foes in melee with him are at -1 morale, horses and other riding-men are at -2. Prefers horse or human meat.