Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fianyarr Race: Gremlin

Their sweeter than they look.
(Castlevania: Lords of Shadow)
Campaign World: Fianyarr.

Nicknames: Inventor, little wrecker, goblin.

Origins: Not all of the First were aboveground when the bridge was sundered between the world and the heavens.  The First that became the gremlins were hidden belowground in the caves and warrens below the earth and they wondered at what they found there. 

When they felt the bridge breaking, they didn't return to the surface right away and instead adapted to the tight spaces and beautiful places beneath so much rock.  By the time they had ventured to the surface, they had learned to rely on inventions to get by and had many fabulous things to show people.

Demeanor: The gremlins may be ugly but they aren't cruel.  Gremlins are inventive and creative and love talking about the endless possibilities inherent in science, philosophy and the arts.  They are capable of great patience and reliability and are often in great demand for activities that require fine craftsmanship.  Still, other than a natural inventive and creative streak, there are as much difference between any two gremlins as there can be between members of the other races.

Rumors: Other races know that gremlins are far more interested in talking to people, especially people who are highly intelligent or otherwise strange and bizarre, than killing them.  In fact, they're probably the least warlike of all the mortal races though they are perfectly capable of protecting themselves.  It's also known that they no longer keep to the caves and have spread out to pretty much every corner of the globe.  Other societies often do try to find gremlin guides if they do have reason to explore the caves, however.

In other lands, gremlins are judged by their admittedly unattractive and rather frightening appearances.  People react to them like monsters and, in some cases, that has led them to become monsters in defense of themselves considering all that which had come before.  This isn't always the case, however, as sometimes the gremlins hide themselves away using a variety of contraptions and the other races don't even know they are there.

Racial Abilities

Attribute Bonus: +1 to Intelligence and Dexterity.

Small Size: -1 Size (which also affects Health and Speed) as they are rarely taller than four feet.

Weakness: Gremlins take a -1 penalty to their Persuasion and Socialize rolls with the other races as their ugly and rather suspicious looking appearances cause people to doubt their words on an instinctive nature.  Besides which, gremlins have a particular smell which, while not particularly unpleasant, is musky enough that it bothers people.

Inventive Genius
The gremlin can spend a point of Glamour to gain an 9-again on Crafts and Science rolls involving mechanisms and devices (Changeling Inventors Kith: Victorian Lost page 22).

Gremlins can spend a point of Glamour to see heat signatures for a single scene (Changeling custom kith).
So much time spent underground have caused the gremlins to put a lot of effort into learning how to send and notice coded messages passed through vibrations in the ground.  A gremlin may spend a Glamour to send such a coded message which is automatically received by the target who knows the code (Changeling Miner Kith: Winter Masques 96).

Gremlinising Touch
A Gremlin can spend a point of Glamour once per day while touching a device to negate any equipment penalties for a single scene.  This can also be used on weapons to ignore any penalties caused by poor design or shoddy materials (Changeling Gremlin Kith: Winter Masques page 110).

Racially Restricted Merit
(* to *****) Spelunking: Gremlins' experience in caves means that they have adapted to its depths and its darkness and thus it is so much easier for them to learn this movement style and may purchase it at the regular (2x cost) rather than the restricted (4x cost) for those of other races.  If this merit is also provided by the gremlin's class, they may purchase each dot as though it were 1 experience point cheaper (thus the cost of the first dot would be 1xp and the 2nd dot would be 3xp).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Running Solo NPC Companions

I know I've touched on this one before but this is a hefty topic and not everyone agrees on the answer to it.  Some people don't like any NPC companions, period, seeing them as nothing more than DMPCs (Dungeon Master Player Characters) in disguise.  Often their fears are grounded in reality with superpowered or all-knowing NPCs jumping in and saving everyone's life.

I have run companions in both group games and solo games and, by and large, it's worked out.  In LARPs they were simply additional NPCs to deal with rather than true companions so I won't worry about that in this article.  I'll focus on my tabletop examples.

First of all, there's Dallas from the Dystopic Campaign.  He's a Darkling with Contracts of Darkness who hangs around the PCs' bookstore and gives them occasional advice, jokes, and encouragement during the planning stages of their missions.  When I play him as such I take care that his advice isn't better than anyone else's.  Sometimes he might step in with an important piece the others have overlooked but only if he were already aware of it and only when the lack of that piece of information would derail the game or unnecessarily frustrate the PCs. 

When he gets the spotlight its always reflected spotlight - a chance for the PCs to shine through their interactions with him the same way they can shine when seducing a woman or intimidating a thug.  When he's involved in missions it's always in a support role - such as guiding them through the tunnels beneath Miami.  When he gets himself involved in combat (which is rare), he's generally in the background until he sees an opportunity and when he acts he has to make rolls just like the PCs do.

It's so easy for a companion to venture into Die-Die-Stupid-NPC territory when the Storyteller doesn't roll for them.  Sure that failure on their part might destroy that cool image you had or mean that the PCs won't know that the NPC can do a particular something but think of it this way.  How often have you let the dice spoil your players' ideas of how a situation could go down?  They've had really cool ideas that weren't carrie don the dice.  Suck it up.  They do.  Naturally this piece of advice doesn't count if you play mostly diceless.  Just be sure that similar rules apply to companions as they do to PCs.

Except ... never let a companion steal a PC's kill.  They can help.  They can whittle away the enemy's health levels.  Heck, they can even do an outrageously powerful attack and make a critical hit but you must always lie and tell the players that the enemy still has a few hit points left.  Trust me.  This isn't a big deal with minor secondary characters but it does matter if the PCs have put effort into tracking down or attacking the enemy.

Beware giving your NPC companion cool abilities.  Especially if they are cooler than the PCs.  If they are cooler than have them be Yet-Another-NPC.  Companions are best played as sidekicks or perhaps as support who are best in domains that the PCs don't cover.

What if you have a really cool idea for a powerful NPC Companion more potent than the Player Character?  Can't that ever be done?  It works well in movies.

Sure, but you must abide by a few rules:
  • Accept that it might not work.  If it doesn't work, quickly turn them into plot.  They're an enemy in disguise.  They've only got 48 hours to live.  The players never need know it could have turned out differently.
  • The NPC's epic moments must be few and far between.  Depending on how epic they are this could be once ever dozen sessions or so (epic sleuth!) or once during the campaign (epic instant kill!).
  • The NPC must be liked by the players - not just by you.  This means flaws, foibles, predictable strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to need the PCs.
  • Let me underline that point: The players must feel that the NPC needs them more than they need the NPC.
  • The NPC is never the protagonist.  They are always in a supporting role.
  • Ideally their powers come with massive sacrifices or at the behest of the player (kinda like a player-controlled canon).  If the latter is true, best let the player roll the dice.
  • The NPC can only be epic in very restricted and limited ways.  Everybody has their niche.
  • The players are cool with it.
  • The NPC's epic moments feel more like plot.  An NPC who can psychokinetically clear rubble out the way or auto-unlocks doors and copes with traps is fine ... if the PCs aren't interesting in traps, locks or climbing as really the NPC is just a plotted workaround for an issue.  This still only works if the players like the NPC - otherwise just be rid of the traps.
  • Be prepared to remove the NPC.  What starts off as interesting might get irritating.  Be prepared to remove them.  If you don't want to lose access to the NPC, write fanfiction.  I don't mean that meanly.  I've had NPCs so awesome that they were actually worth writing stories about rather than putting them in a roleplaying game.
  • You can generally gauge the interest of the players in the character by legitimately threatening to kill the NPC off or otherwise remove them from the game.  The more sluggishly the players react (even if their PCs seem motivated) and the more joking around they do about the NPC dying, the more likely it is time to retire the NPC.  I can't stress that enough.  If the PCs should be motivated but the players aren't, don't penalise them by making the NPC's death "their fault".  NPCs die all the time.  Why not just have the boss kill the NPC the moment the PCs enter the room?  If the tension skyrockets at the very idea that the NPC might be taken away from them and the players are very motivated then you should feel really, REALLY proud.
One of my NPCs, Peter Walsh, is theoretically immensely powerful but all of his 'cool abilities' are under wraps.  He literally can't access them unless he's starting to break down and when he's breaking down he reverts to plot.  After 30 sessions or so of him being comparatively weak (no disciplines, whinges when hurt, only has one combat ability (Athletics = Archery), and mostly defers to the PC's decisions on what to do), my player has grown quite comfortable with that.  I have bitten back plenty of temptation to make the Walsh-Plot blow up in a big and interesting way but I held back because I knew I'd only really have one chance to do it and I wanted to make it really matter. 

This means that when I do unleash it (to signify the end of one campaign and the start of another) it'll be more meaningful and thus more forgivable.  Walsh won't ever outshine James Tyler - he will simply galvanise or motivate him.  Walsh won't discover awesome powers and then start solving plots with them.  He'll discover awesome powers and BECOME the plot temporarily before disappearing for a few years.

My player loves and adores Peter Walsh and his own characters' interactions with him.  I know this for a fact because I have an antsy feeling that removing him for an entire sub-campaign is likely to cause him angst unless I work it very carefully and cautiously.  Luckily Peter Walsh is a shapeshifter so my player will likely assume that one of his new NPC companions is, in fact, Peter Walsh.  This  may or may not be true.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fantasy Version of the Hedge

In the Hedge, caves can be wonderful and warm.
(The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim)
I can hear your jaws hitting the floor right about now.  I'm including ... the Hedge ... in a fantasy world like  Fianyarr ... where there is no mien nor mask ... nor the usual Fae.  What ... Is ... The ... Point?  What could the Hedge possibly do that nothing else can?


The Hedge can do weird just as well as the Dreamscape but it's all quite physical.

It can unleash monsters like the Hisil but without the karmic justification.

It can trap you in a labrynthine maze without having to deal with ghosts while sapping your memory as you do it.

In the Hedge, your characters are treated as though they were mortal humans by the rules of Changeling: the Lost.  Those are your memories tearing on the thorns.  That is your life on the line there.  The Hedge isn't the place for you.  It's the place for Fae and Fae-like entities to weave their wonders away from you.

They don't want you there.  You're not a part of their story.  The Hedge itself seems to rebel against having you there even as it tempts you to stay.  You go in there and you can become trapped by a story.  You could be talespun into being the dashing knight or the princess in need of rescue.  You could prick your finger on a wheel and fall unconscious.

If you want to contrast Fantasyland with all of its stereotypical tropey goodness with a more realistic fantasyland (albeit one with magical races) then this is especially useful to you.  What would an actual three-dimensional fantasy character do when confronted with the usual fantasy character stereotypes?  How do they react when riding horses that don't get in the way nor have a personality nor need sleep or food?

And more interestingly, what happens when people used to those rules come out of the Hedge and into the mundane world?  When rain leaves them shivering, hunger gnaws at their belly and eating the soup sends them quivering to the latrines?  There can be a lot of fun in taking the typical dungeon bashing type characters, fairy tale characters, or plain old generic Fantasy Landers and seeing what they would make of a richer and more interesting world.

How would you guys use the Hedge?  Can you think of any possible adventure seeds here?  Post your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fianyarr Class: Fighter

Campaign World: Fianyarr.

Purpose: Fighters are always in need whether as part of a nation's army, a caravan's guards, a company's protection, or a VIP's bodyguard.  In a place where criminals can escape with relative ease and most people rely on violence rather than the legal mechanisms, fighters can get a lot of contracts.  Some fighters are employed in more mundane professions after wars called them onto the fields as soldiers or naval personnel only to fling them back into their old lives once the war is done.

While not as effective off the beaten track, some fighters also make a point of teaming up with people with more specialised training to get their jobs done. After all, a fighter in the wilds hunting down a bounty is far more effective with a ranger or a druid just as a fighter trying to protect a city as part of the local militia can find their job made a lot easier with a witch, bard or rogue.

Blessing of the Soldier

Levinquick: A good soldier knows that Speed (to close the distance) and Initiative (to strike first) are both essential elements of any good battle plan.  A fighter can spend a point of Glamour to gain a +2 bonus to their Speed and Initiative for a number of turns equal to their Wyrd.  Changeling Levinquick kith: Winter Masques page 79.

Staunch Defender:
 Fighters are paid to stand their ground, not to run and hide (unless their orders specify otherwise).  All fighters have learned to take that command to heart and thus can spend a point of Glamour to gain a +1 bonus to their Stamina (doesn't affect Health levels), Resolve or Composure for a single scene.  Changeling Metalflesh kith: Winter Masques page 79.

Skilled Commander: A fighter quickly learns that assisting an ally is just as important as helping themselves.  This knowledge allows them to spend a point of Glamour to grant an ally a +3 bonus on a single die roll. Changeling Truefriend kith: Winter Masques page 67.

Fighting Style: All fighters have proficiency in at least one type of weapon and thus gain a free specialty in the Weaponry skill.  The fighter can also spend a point of Glamour to ignore durability when attempting to damage the structure.  This lasts for a single attack.  Changeling Daitya kith: Winter Masques page 109.

Class Restricted Mechanics

Restricted Class Merits: Combat Awareness (**), Danger Sense (**), Emotional Detachment (*), Fae Mount (* to ***), Indomitable (* to *****), Le Parkour (* to *****), Shield-Bearer (*), Small Unit Tactics (***), Strong Back (*), Student of the Blade (*), Stunt Rider (***), Tolerance for Biology (*), Trained Observer (* to ***), Weapon at Hand (**), Weapon to Empty Hands (**).

Fighting Style: Armored Fighting (** or ****), Aikido (* to *****), Chain Weapons (* to ****), Evasive Striking (* to *****), Fencing (* to ****), Formation Tactics (* to ***), Iaido (* to *****), Kendo (* to ****), Krav Maga (* to *****), Langschwert (* to *****), Shurikenjutsu (* to ****), Sojutsu (* to ****), Spetsnaz Knife Fighting (* to ****), Sword & Shield (* to *****), Swarm Tactics (* to **), Two-Weapon Fighting (* to *****).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fianyarr Defenders

Dryads are (attractive) guardians of the wilds.
(The Witcher)
There are creatures in Fianyarr who are fantastic to have around.  Creatures which will risk life and limb to protect people or communities under their care.  Sometimes these are demonics who can be quite dangerous to outsiders as they won't always allow exceptions and some of them can become petty tyrants in their own way, but mostly they are angelics and a breath of fresh air for a community besieged by wandering monsters.

Dryads / Naiads

Dryads are built much like regular mortals and can even gain Paths which has made some wonder if they might not be what occurs when aasimars continuously breed with certain nature angelics until the children become something else entirely.  Dryads gain all of the benefits of the Yuki and Beastfolk while Naiads gain all the race benefits or the Yuki and Nixies.  They often protected natural places and can rebel violently against incursions that seek to irrevocably change the wilds though may sometimes befriend those who are willing to live with nature.  This is because their very lives are bound up in the creeks, rivers, sections of lakes, or glades they protect.  The easiest way to destroy them is to defile such locations which will cause them to sicken and die.  All Dryads and Naiads have at least Striking Looks 2 though some can reach Striking Looks 6.


These guardians enjoy the company of the sentient races and once it has found a settlement whose culture and customs pleases its sensibilities, it will settle down to watch over the location.  It might wait by the gates to see those coming and going (in which case markets often spring up by those gates) or by the communal fire in a small village or even in the palatial ballroom.  Once it has chosen a place, none can force it to move unless they battle it and as it brings protection with it few would dare.  While all sphinxes have the same basic attributes there is a variation in appearance. 

The generic Sphinx has the hindquarters of a lion, wings of a bird, and face of a woman. 

The Androsphinx is similar to the generic sphinx but has the face of a man. 

The Sharabha looks like a generic sphinx but gains the Peaceful Presence* special ability. 

The Nicolonia is part mortal and part eagle with a preference for guarding gateways and secret places, demanding unknown individuals answer riddles that are actually designed as passcodes or be either refused entrance or killed. 

The Narasimha has the body of a lion and head of a human being (no wings means no flight).

Manussiha have a special preference for positions where they can watch children play and are defensive of children - sometimes even rearing whole villages of orphaned children. 

The Norasingh is an upright walking entity with the lower body of a lion and the upper body of a human.  It protects certain routes to keep them safe from violent criminals and thus doesn't bother thieves or highwaymen who never shed blood as the Norasingh sees little value in nonessential property.  The only thefts they care about are those that could end in death - such as stealing blankets in a cold climate or water in a hot one.

Attributes: Intelligence 3, Wits 4, Resolve 4, Strength 4 - 8, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3, Presence 4, Manipulation 4, Composure 5
Skills: Athletics 1 (Swim), Brawl 2, Survival 3
Willpower: 9
Initiative: 9
Defense: 4
Speed: Varies, Fly Speed is 1.5x walking speed.
Size: 8 - 22
Armor: 4
Health: Varies
Type Damage Dice Pool
Bite 2 (L) Varies
Swipe 1 (B) Varies

Sharabha Special Ability: Those who wish to do violence in its presence (within 100 yards diameter) must succeed in a contested Wyrd + Presence roll for each round of violent action.

Yaksha (male) / Yakshini (female)

These benevolent spirits protect glades that contain powerful relics and will often only give up their treasure to those who prove their skill and purity of heart with a vital quest.  Sometimes if the area around the relic is besieged by cruel spirits and temptations, simply reaching this point is enough.  They are generally found in natural areas.  Both the male and female versions have exaggerated masculine and feminine forms though the Yaksha generally  look like exaggerations of old men while the Yakshini tend to appear more nubile.  They are compelled to assist those with pure hearts (Morality 7 or higher) or those who have great need and good intentions.

Power 3, Finesse 5, Resistance 7, Size 5, Initiative: 8, Defence: 5, Health 12, Rank 3, Essence 20.  Numina: Materialise, Gauntlet Breach, Fetter, Commune, Choir, Clothe the Form (once materialised a Yaksha or Yakshini can go one step further and spend an essence to become wholly physical for a single scene).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fianyarr Race: Elf

This is an extreme display of emotion for an elf.
(Dragon Age 2)
Campaign World: Fianyarr.

Nicknames: Pointy Ears, The Heartless, The Fair Folk.

Origins: Before the sundering of the bridge between this world and the Heavens, there were those of the First who made their homes in the forests and the jungles of this world.  Such places were dangerous and required careful deliberation from those who walked through the trees and even the First lost a few of their number to otherworldly beings who made their home in that place.  When the First found themselves trapped here, those that would become the Elves found it necessary to swallow their grief and move forward in order to survive. 

Demeanor: Elves have a resolute determination to survive the jungles and forests (which also accounts for the longevity of some - not all - members of this race) which is what has made so many others find them callous and cold. They feel as keenly as all the major races but often find it hard to allow themselves to show such vulnerability.  Elf hair and skin are similar to that of a humans but for the clan marks which each elf bears which may cause thick strands of hair to be of a different colour or which might create a pattern across their skin.  No one recalls what these patterns truly mean though many have created their own metaphorical significance to meet the needs of their own tribes.

Rumors: Elves are thought incapable of forming attachments to others and its thought that they only defend each other out of mutual benefits.  Due to this, some of the more mercenary settlements try to approach individual elves to betray the group with promises of cash or future alliances with that individual elf.  While elves can be as treacherous as anyone else, the difficulty most people have with reading their emotions means they often pick the wrong elf to offer the deal.  This somehow has only served to further entrench the idea that elves are treacherous sociopaths when those individual elves go straight to their communities to explain what they have been offered.

In other places, elves are regarded as people who have seen too much.  In claustrophobic jungles and tight forests, its hard to see what might be coming for you and those settlements that border or lurk within the confines of such a place are far more sympathetic to the way the elves conduct themselves.  Strong alliances are maintained and romances often flower as the elves are attracted to the emotional vulnerability apparent in the other races - with a desire that perhaps such a spouse might help ease the pains that elves hold tight within themselves.

Racial Abilities

Attribute Bonus: +1 to either Composure or Stamina.

Weakness: Due to your inherited desire to avoid showing vulnerability, you take a -2 penalty to any attempts to convince another of your emotional state, such as to convince someone that you truly love them.

Due to the difficult conditions of life in a forest, elves have learned to keep themselves to themselves as well as coming to better cope with poisons and toxins which are so common among the flora and fauna.  The character gains a +1 bonus to Composure to resist mundane emotional manipulation and +2 for Stamina checks when attempting to resist poisons (Changeling Coldscale Kith: Winter Masques page 67).

Careful Quickness
Elves have learned to be quick when it really matters and thus can spend a point of Glamour to add their Wyrd to either their Speed or their Initiative for the scene (Changeling Airtouched Kith: core book page 109).

Keen Senses - Ears
An elf's ears are better shaped for picking up on sound and they therefore gain a +2 to all attempts to listen to something.  They can also spend a point of Glamour to increase their ability to listen to a truly astonishing degree for a turn.  Think about what a dog or a cat can hear and roll accordingly.  (Changeling Cleareyes Kith: Winter Masques page 67).

Sometimes when an elf runs, they really need to run.  This is reflected in their slim runner's build and the +2 bonus they have to their Speed.  They made spend a point of glamour to double their speed for a single round (Changeling Runnerswift Kith: Changeling the Lost 102).

Racially Restricted Merit
(****) Long of Days: Some elves have an extended lifespan due to their desire to survive.  Those that do age at half speed from whenever they took this merit.  Normally an elf ages at the same rate as the other races.  This merit only ever takes affect at pubery (or later).  An elf with this ability also gets Common Sense for free but only to do with life threatening events or issues.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Flashpoint: Swimming Pools and Hematophobia

Spoilers Within!
This session had a number of thrills and chills.  Warning: I decided to put on my Horror Hat for today’s session.  By the way, the floating cat found a couple sessions before continues to float just behind them with its hind legs hanging limply and its forelimbs pulled back against its chest similar to those ticking clock images.  It has thus far not gotten involved.

The team tried to gather more information from the devil but he didn’t seem to know much else so they moved onward into a large pool room whose water was brackish and whose wood panelling was peeling off and mouldy.  Rather than the usual lacedon that was meant to be a part of this encounter, I instead threw in a Ghawwas Div into the waters. 

At first I warned them with signs of something under the swampy water and then as they spoke by the edge of the water I had a “large horned figure with spiky quills” burst free from the water and grabbed the devil.  Archer managed to shoot and hit it (high AC) but the bullet barely scored the surface (high Damage Resistance).  Lhye fired a lightning bolt at the creature which fizzled around the entity (high Spell Resistance) but electrocuted the devil.  Lunjun attacked it with his gun but it fizzled on the Spell Resistance.  Can’t remember what Proteus ended up doing (sorry Proteus!)

The creature then pulled the devil into the water and tore him apart, leaving floating gibbets behind.  Despite his low Wisdom and the brief glimpse of the creature, Lhye’s planar knowledge ensures he is fully aware of what they face and he strongly cautions against catching the creature’s attention as he knows they’re hopelessly outmatched.

So they decided to go around the edge of the pool.  Lhye and Archer (still carrying that actress) creep around to the left while Lunjun tries to use Expeditious Retreat to speed around the right.  Lunjun forgets how slippery the surface is, however, and while he makes the first Acrobatics check he fails the second and only barely makes the roll to capture himself as he hangs poised over the edge.

Proteus, who has hung back from all of this, reasoning that it would be best if one person were the sacrificial figure on the opposite side from everyone else as predators go for whomever is split off from the pack – decides to intervene.  He summons a pony and drops it in the middle of the water.  The Ghawwas springs up from its position not far from Lunjun and vaults across the space, grabbing the pony and falling with it.

Everyone else hurries.  Lhye slips into the water which has now been set to boiling.  Proteus slaps him with a healing spell as he runs past.  Lunjun uses a forces chain to drag Lhye out of the water and land him back on the edge.

Soon enough they are all sliding down the tunnel at the other end (some enjoying it immensely) toward the next section.  Well, I say they all slid down it.  Proteus simply walked down and took the time to enjoy reading his torture book.

They took the first right and ended up in a chamber that they soon identified as important.  There was a floating ball of chains in the middle of the room, a mutilated body and an eerie warm glow from below.  Proteus had a moment of pure awe and reverence from this unexpected find.  After all, while the place would be considered quite gauche in Nidal, it was an impressive find in Cheliax.

They checked the books they’d stolen for more information on this room’s significance.  Each character rolled a different Knowledge (Proteus – Religion, Lhye – Planes, Lunjun – Arcana, and Archer – Engineering) to figure out that a few of the books describe a ritual that allows for something similar to planar creation but without the high spellcaster level. 

They don’t get much on the ritual though they do get that it requires a gift from Asmodeus to act as the core and that this gift functions much like a nuclear reactor (a metaphor I give the players, not the characters) which powers the place and the Mayor’s house.  This location isn’t a true demi-plane and is more a mutilation of space to provide a location that bulges from the Material Plane and that’s why there’s an anti-teleport / anti-planar-shift spell in effect.  This room is one node.  If they break enough nodes, there will be unforeseen (yet quite clearly negative) consequences.

Proteus threw a silver dagger into the mutilated body to see if it were human.  The reaction of the body to the blade indicated that the silver bypassed some sort of damage reduction.  He then convinced Lhye to touch one of the chains to see how they reacted.  Lhye rolled a 1 on his Wisdom check and being of thoroughly low Wisdom anyway went over to touch it and was immediately attacked and grappled.  Archer shot a chain with a disabling shot that shattered it and then Lhye cast Black Tentacles on the roof to keep the chains occupied. 

Proteus then summoned another pony up there to see if the chains would exchange the mutilated corpse it currently has for a different creature.  In other words, to see if the body there was part of the initial ritual or part of some sort of sustenance program.  If the pony was exchanged for the corpse then a sacrificial ritual was required to continue to power the room.

Rather than continue on through the next door in this room they returned to the prior corridor and went through the door at the end of that corridor into an observation room where a disembodied voice offered them therapy.  Archer wasn’t too sure about the therapy rooms (labelled Pyrophobia, Hematophobia, Ophidophobia and Arachnophobia) but they could clearly see gems in each room and Proteus recommended they pass the tests to see what they could find.

Proteus chose Hematophobia first.  It seemed less likely to be lethal.

He was right.

They left the actress in the Observation Chamber before entering.  The dome-shaped chamber had several steps down onto the floor with a ruby red gem that seemed somewhat crimson crystalline that sat on a wooden thorny pedestal.  Attached to the ceiling were wooden birdcage with groping thorns – the cages contained pretty birds that the thorns soon mutilated and killed.  But worst of all was the centrepiece, a Nymph pinned to the ceiling with iron nails, her belly partly flayed.

The sight of her permanently blinded Lhye, Lunjun and Proteus (the latter of which was most impressed by the sight), leaving only Archer unscathed.  The room started to fill with blood, clots of which brushed Lunjun’s legs, making him worry that something was swimming within it.  Archer grasped the ruby and pulled it free from the pedestal, but it caught to his hand (Fort save to avoid taking Dexterity damage).

Lhye floated up blindly to slowly unpin the Nymph before finally she dropped.  Proteus used his blindsense in fluid (this case, the blood) to use Restoration on the Nymph to remove her madness even as Lhye cured her injuries.  The Nymph responded by giving Lhye a sign of her favour (piece of her hair) and the group left the Hematophobia room.  The Nymph is still obviously enraged by her situation but they haven’t had much chance to talk to her yet.

Proteus ensured that the Nymph would turn of her blinding beauty ability before using Restoration charges from the wand to remove everyone’s blindness ... which had the happy side effect of repairing Lhye’s wisdom score.  Oh, and Archer gave Proteus the ruby whose thorny edges have now embedded into Proteus’ hand.

This Nymph scene is a far cry from the canonical adventure’s striges encounter.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fantasy Version of the Underworld

The Underworld ... cold, wet, full of ghosts.
(The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim)
The Underworld as a place of death is best treated as a dangerous pathway to either heaven or reincarnation as it's a bit grim for fantasy to have it as the destination but not scary enough to be much of a hell.  In Fianyarr, it could also be seen as a purgatory where one purges one's sins or simply as a series of trials and tests that careful religious instruction can help one pass.  There are many plots that can be wrung from such a place.

The Book of the Dead by White Wolf will give you the most information on the underworld including possible enemies like Kerberoi, powerful ghosts and even geists. 

What are the Kerberoi, you ask?  Well they are guardians from the different realms who violently assault anyone who violates the rules of that realm.  This is in keeping with several mythologies where people must know the special rules in order to pass safely through the underworld.  Simply being alive in some of those domains breaks those rules - or requires the enforcement of others.

And geists?  Well, they are a mutated and ancient soul who has come to embody the death they have experienced and who sometimes claim mortals in exchange for the mortals' resurrection.  They then whisper in the mortals' ear, show them the death that lies around them, and offer much greater powers than those generally found in spellbooks.  Such possessed mortals are called Sin Eaters as they are often pushed to help the dead rest.  As Sin Eaters retain their racial and path-based special abilities and merit options, they are often quite powerful indeed (see Geist: Sin Eaters rulebook for more details).

In Fianyarr, the default assumption is that the underground passageways all eventually lead into the underworld itself (barring the magma strewn pathways, of course).  In keeping with this theme, there are a few things to hink about.

First of all, caves that link to this vast underground labrynthe will quickly develop myths surrounding them unless they are far away from mortal settlements.  Therefore have a think about which caves or holes have strange myths associated with them - some may be accurate and some will be wildly inaccurate.  If no one comes back from entering a certain hole then it could be a verge into a wound, a nasty spot in the hedge or the a gateway to the underworld.  If those who do come back are somehow change it could be because they were claimed by a spirit, replaced by a fetch, or possessed by a ghost.  It's not easy to figure out the answer.  Don't feel you have to give the game away by telling them right away.  Give them clues and then force them to investigate the mystery to know more.

Secondly, why don't the ghosts simply leave?  Perhaps they can but there are guardian creatures sitting at the entrance to repel them or perhaps the ten races must create wards and barriers to turn away former loved ones and force them to pass on lest their world become overwhelmed by the dead?  Perhaps a little  bit of both?  It might just be that the dead can't leave unless certain conditions are met - such as summoning rituals or certain days of the year or conjunctions of the sun and stars.  How might this affect ceremonies and celebrations on those days?
Thirdly, if the characters delve into the caves think of the subterranean worlds below and turn to resources on caving and cave horrors when running adventures.  Natural hazards like dangerous gases, falling rocks, cave ins, and pressure changes could affect the living even if are of little consequence to the dead.

Finally, what else might live down there with the ghosts?  What happens if a pack of wolves descend  and evolve to exist down there?  What about werewolves?  What about a group of people who hid from bandits and got lost down among the passageways?  What if ghosts interbred with the living to create whole cities of dhampyr (or something else)?  What sort of ruins might exist in its depths?  What sort of magical items or talismans?

Oftentimes you can get inspiration simply by taking a fantasy trope, situation or creature from a different system or world and come up with something truly unique by placing them in a land of death.  Even drow start to look fresh when you consider that their queendoms would now sit in the lands of the dead.  So feel free to pick up your Pathfinder books, your fantasy novels, or even certain post-apocalyptic modern novels and wonder how that particular element might work in this strange new world.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Dystopic: Two kidnappings and some torture

Things got a lot more action-oriented on this side of the session.  While Nomad 6, Miami and Oxford discussed what they knew, Leningrad and London snuck off to kidnap the man who videotaped himself getting a head job -- who had a swastika tattoo.  They checked his social media and found that he had currently tweeted his location and food, as youths are wont to do.  They also found his name was Carl Durnin.

They found Carl inside a local McDonald's with a blonde, blue-eyed woman on his arm.  After about an hour they went out to his car and she kissed him on the cheek while he nonchalantly waved at her and drove off in his flash red car with pseudo-dubstep playing from the speakers.  When he stopped at the lights, Leningrad went over to his open car window and dragged him out.  Carl got loose so Leningrad bull rushed him through the open door of the van, leaping in with him and slamming the door shut.  After delivering a quick upper cut that ended with one of his wrist knives under Carl's throat, Carl got the idea and stayed still while Leningrad used London's handcuffs on him.

London then drove off.

The trio in the basement turned from their conversations to see Leningrad and London lead a blindfolded man down the stairs, still in cuffs.  They dropped him in a chair and explained that since they were going to torture him, the other three should go.  Oxford, Nomad 6 and Miami did so but they watched over the security cameras and used invocations to stay in contact with the duo to provide suggestions.

Of course, Nomad 6's critique that they should: "Start strong and go from there, just like hitting on a woman," caused Leningrad to cancel the invocation and keep it cancelled.

It turned out Carl didn't know much about anything.  He claimed he got the swastiki on a dare and that it was some kind of Sri Lankan good luck charm.  They didn't much believe that he wasn't involved in Nazi stuff but they did believe that he was a shit kicker who didn't know much.  He did tell them that if anyone would know it'd be Jeff Davies.  So Leningrad provided a "burner phone" (traceless mobile) for him to use to contact Jeff and set him up at an ambush.

Carl didn't know what to say since his voice was so strained with fear so he pretended he'd been chased by hispanics and blacks into the old school (which was the ambush site) and that he needed help.  The group weren't too happy with that, knowing Jeff would now come in force, but Carl did legitimately seem at a loss to cover up his fear in his voice so it seemed likely to be the best he could do rather than a trick.

They told Carl they'd let him go if he replaced himself with Jeff Davies, Oxford stuck a collar on his neck with an electronic beeper that he pretended was an explosive collar, and they stuck him in the van with Dallas to watch over him.  They then hightailed it to the school (same school as had the tyrant meeting in the exclusion zone) and set themselves up in a building.

Once they heard the cars approach, Oxford used Activate to slam locker doors in one of the halls to make it sound like there were hooligans inside.  Nomad 6 tried to use Lore of Frequency (custom lore) to enhance the sound but he Tormented it and the subsequent sound explosion tore the lockers off the walls.  The frat boys who'd gotten out of the car paused and one guy said, "What the...?"

Fearing the frat boys would be scared off, the group attacked them and managed to subdue Jeff Davies while scaring the others off.  They took Jeff to the van in a hood and knocked the other guy out.  Oxford set off the collar as they drove off so that the beeps increased in frequency and then ... the collar clicked and fell off.

They took a handcuffed Jeff down to the basement to try and interrogate him  but he cockily threatened them with his father who ran a PMC (Private Mercenary Corporation).  London did the thing you see in the movies and shot him in the leg.  One twitch of the finger that surprised even him.  What made it worse was the result ... the bullet nicked a major artery and the kid started bleeding out as well as fell unconscious.  Leningrad hurriedly dealt with the wound with Nomad 6's help.  He then sent the others from the room so it was just him and London.

Finally Jeff woke up again and they managed to wring out more information but the kid was defensive, cocky and angry the whole time.  When they started talking about a random summoning, he twigged that they were demons so London went the whole "evil demons" line and even threatened to chew through his spine before anyone could save him.  The guy seemed to accept that but protested summonings were the Order of Nine Angles' deal.  His group, the Karotechia, attempt to learn about the unseen world but aren't dumb enough to consort with demons like that.  He asked about the summoning ritual seen and, when it was described, he stated that it sounded like the pseudo-satanic claptrap the ONA are into.  He bragged that the Karotechia were far more powerful and would usher in the Fourth Reich where even those demons on this Earth would have to fall into line ... while the rest would be sent to hell.

London wasn't so sure that the Karotechia weren't involved in the summoning and kept trying to find out about the Thirteen summoners.  He pointed out that they found DNA samples in the safe one of which corresponded to the demon that got summoned.  Jeff stated that the samples were taken by whores of those of unusual genetic calibre - the mentally or physically superior - to preserve their DNA for the improvement of the race.  The order was handed down to his father from someone in New York.  He didn't know who.

Jeff maintained that his group didn't use the DNA for such a summoning but perhaps someone else did.  Perhaps someone else was also a member in ONA.  If they released him, Jeff vowed to find the one that did it and, if it turned out to be right, deliver information on the ONA to the demons.  London and Leningrad scoffed at that and demanded the name.  Jeff refused, reasoning that they would simply go through his frat boys one by one in their torture dungeon as they lacked the resources and the insider knowledge to do any detective work.

The fallen finally conceded, sedated him with chloroform and released Jeff someone in the city with a mobile phone number on him and a heal spell from Tokyo so he was uninjured.  And we left it there.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dystopic: Booknapping!

Leningrad, Oxford and Nomad 6 finally rejoined Miami and London while Tokyo went upstairs to spend the session checking the computerised security (as her player wasn't available that game).  There was a bit of a debrief before the five headed out to the Tiki Hut Clubhouse for the Delta Phi fraternity on one of Miami's topless beaches.

A quick search on social media found some pictures inside the clubhouse, including one video clip of a man receiving a headjob who had a swastika on his inner thigh, whose facebook account named him as Aaron Kent.  By looking at all the social media pictures they got a decent idea of the layout of the hut including where a door locked by keypad was stationed and that two augmented attractive woman security guards act as protection for the party while attempting to blend in.

So they drove to the location in their pest control van and Nomad 6 used Paths to step them right to the front door whereupon Miami hastily bypassed the electronic security using larceny.  They opened the door and Nomad 6 used Paths to get through the Tiki Hut and under the keypad locked doorway into the study.  How did he use Paths to accomplish these things?  Basically he warped reality so that they could reach the doors without being spotted in the middle and could pass beneath the door gap because the dimensions were enlarged while their dimensions were reduced.  Kooky, huh?

They found the room to be a study containing books on eugenics, medicine and law.  Miami found his own books in a safe which he quickly disarmed by using fingerprint powder on the keypad.  He also find a series of vials which Oxford soon determined (with the aid of Miami's electronic forensics kit) had one vial full of an enzyme that unzipped DNA.  He checked the DNA against everyone in the group's (other than Leningrad's) and found that one vial matched his own DNA. 

Miami's stolen books included a bunch I swiped from Grant's Military Bookshop play-by-post and adapted for use in this game's plot:

"The Sette of Odd Volumes" 

 A London monthly dining society of wealthy bibliophiles, membership somewhere between 21 and 100, founded in 1878 by rare book dealer Bernard Quaritch. They are closely associated with the Athaneum Club. There is usually an after-dinner address by a guest speaker (past speakers have included Oscar Wilde, Samuel Clemens, W.B. Yeats, and other notable authors) on some erudite subject. The address is commonly privately printed for members afterwards, and these volumes occasionally enter the market, fetching good prices. This is one such volume. Past prominent members and office-holders in the Sette have included Sir Edward Sullivan, John Lane, John Todhunter, George Charles Haité, Sir Alfred Edward East, J.W. Brodie-Innes, Edward Heron-Allen, R. T. Gould, A. J. A. Symons, Alec Waugh, Vyvyan Holland, and Burton.

“The Book Of The Thousand Nights” 

Volume 4 of the subscriber-only 1885 first printing of Richard Burton's The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, and looks to be in excellent condition. Furthermore, it is signed. The frontispiece says "To J.C. - from one Odd Volume to Another - Richard Burton".

“An Investigation into the Oracle of Sidon” 

Ludwig von Domenstein, 1843 Whilst many of his peers and contemporaries dismissed the writings of Méric Casaubon (1599–1671) in "Credulity and Incredulity" as fanciful nonsense, informed more by wine and madness than by science, the Frenchman, whilst somewhat lacking in scientific method, seemed to describe with accuracy and good intent a valid phenomenon. Having spent many years investigating the legends surrounding the Oracle of Sidon, even visiting that region of the coast where the temple had previously teetered on the edge of a cliff only to fall to its ruin 600 years ago, the author, Ludwig von Domenstein, divorced due to his studies divulges in this work his findings.

“The Wooden Book”
MY PLAYER WARNING: Only Miami may read this.

The book is a curious miscellany; a large number of unevenly cut leaves, crudely bound with string and pressed between two hand-carved wooden covers. The front depicts an angel weeping; a small figure below catches the tears in a jug. The back shows some kind of flowering, spiky plant; perhaps a scotch thistle? It is written in Latin and contains leaves from a herbal book and some alchemical works as well as some theology tied in there (written in a late medieval hand) but has been bound in with a series of other peoples’ notes. It seems to be almost like a grandma’s cookbook with each generation adding their own recipes. The man who penned it was a Friar John Cor, ex-monk, Dissolution Period, who wanted to prove Trans- rather than Co-substantiation and attempted to distill Communion wine into the Blood of Christ, claiming to be acting on the orders of a ‘Hidden Pope’. The book has been handed down through generations and culminates in classic Victorian spiritualism where one traps spirits in bottles and asks questions by means of a pendulum.

“An Account of the Ottoman Kingdom, and select locations in the Holy Land” 

1911 English translation from the eighteenth-century German edition of a previously unpublished manuscript from the 1580s. The author was a Burgundian mercenary who was hired by some vizier or other to train Janissaries to use heavy guns. This fellow, de Chaut, was also a student of religion. He spent his time investigating little known sects and denominations in the Ottoman Empire - Dervishes, Zorastrians, Miaphysitians, Rodnovers... those sorts of individuals. This tome collated what he had found.

They returned home and discussed what they found.  Miami wouldn't let anyone read "The Wooden Book" as he feels the depiction on the cover refers to himself.  Oxford read all of the others and used his Trained Memory to memorise as much as he could.  It took five days (storm rapidly approaching now) for him to go over it all but he managed to glean a few details that were shared between them.

Several of the books refer to the Ottoman Empire or Germany and also touch upon Paris.  Two of them mention myths and rumors about relics of a person broken into pieces.  The person is meant to be some sort of saint who is meant to be larger than human and better than human though appearing human (some sort of ubermensch, perhaps?) and possession of all of the relics is meant to confer that blessing to those surrounding it.  The name Sedefkar scrolls comes up twice in one book and twice in another.  Other than that, Oxford can't really add much to it all because he's no occultist.

Since it took him awhile to cross reference it (and since he lacked access to The Wooden Book), that's all the information they have gleaned from them thus far.  A better academic or, better yet, a skilled occultist researching it could find out more.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fianyarr Class: Exorcist

To Kill or Not To Kill ... That is the only question.
(The Witcher)
Campaign World: Fianyarr.

Purpose: There are many strange and terrible things that plague their world: demons, ghosts, spirits and other monsters.  Exorcists are among those people who have dedicated their lives to preventing the terrors lurking outside the village walls from claiming the lives of all of those inside.  They care little for political ramifications or national borders in their drive to remove the horrors form the world and keep people safe.

Many Exorcists have deeply personal reasons for following their highly dangerous and risky careers, especially as there are better ways to earn money or attract attention.  Exorcists tend to take jobs that are likely to kill them for very little in the way of reward simply for the chance to save lives.  This tends to make them legendary personages but the trail of angry monsters who somehow survived to seek revenge often makes people want to avoid having an exorcist stay long for fear that the vengeance will land on them.

Blessings of the Ivory Cause

Corpsegrinder: Exorcists have so much experience cutting down monsters that they know how to use a characters' injuries against them.  An exorcist gains a +1 to any attack rolls when the enemy is at half health.  Their skill at quickly despatching undead creatures also grants them a +1 against the undead as well.  These benefits don't stack.  Changeling Corpsegrinder Kith: Winter Masques page 90.

Icy Demeanour: The exorcist needs to keep their secrets close to their chest to keep their quarry from fleeing as well as needing to frighten people into avoiding fights where necessary.  The exorcist gains a 9 again on Subterfuge rolls to hide their feelings or feign ignorance and can spend Glamour in order to reroll any failed Intimidation rolls.  Changeling Snowskin Kith: core rulebook page 110.

Threatening Dedication:: An exorcist's dedication grants them half their Wyrd (rounded down) as a bonus to both Intimidate and Subterfuge.  Changeling Shadowsoul Kith: Winter Masques page 84.

Strong willed:: Once per scene the exorcist can spend a point of Glamour to re-roll a single Stamina, Resolve or Composure roll.  This doesn't work for derangements.  Changeling Treasured Kith: Winter Masques page 85.

Class Restricted Mechanics

Restricted Class Merits: Dream Visions (***), Emotional Detachment (*), Eye for the Strange (**), Higher Calling (*), Indomitable (* to *****), Lucid Dreamer (*), Master Exorcist (**), Mythologist (***), Psychic Resistance (* to ***), Rigid Mask (**), Saintly (***), Spirit Ear (****), Supernatural Lore (* to *****), The Weapon at Hand (**), Unseen Sense - Any One (***).

Psychic Powers: Death Sight (****), Ghost Calling (***), Psychometry (***) or (****), Pyrokinetic Immunity - Ignore prerequisite (** or ****).

Rituals: Countermagic (**) or (****), See Spirits (**), Visionary Trance (** or ****), Warding (***).

Fighting Style: Armored Fighting (** to ****), Chain Weapons (* to ****), Dream Combat (* to *****), Kung Fu (* to *****), Langschwert (* to *****).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fianyarr: The Changed

Curses can make folk so pretty ... like this Wet Ghoul.
(The Witcher)
 The world of Fianyarr is a place of transformation where adventurers and important people step up to complete incredible tasks that will leave them forever changed.  Sometimes, too, changes are wrought on a more physical level whether by alchemical experimentation, strange plants or terrible curses that turns people, often irrevocably, into something else.  These are the Changed.

Wet Ghoul

The wet ghoul results when alchmemical experiments upon Nixie corpses try and fail to resurrect them, leaving bizarre deformities and an overwhelming desire to cannibalise the dead in place of the usual personality.  Such beasts also aim to convert the living by dragging them down into the watery depths and breathing polluted air into their lungs while the victim struggles not to drown. Wet ghouls create small communities that behave similarly to stereotypical rats, investigating threats, fighting for food, and otherwise appearing to be beasts. These are not, contrary to popular opinion, undead for they are actually something quite different. A sentient gas created by the alchemists flows through their veins and can sicken those who cut them at a melee range.

Attributes: Intelligence Negligible, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3, Presence 2, Manipulation 1, Composure 2
Skills: Athletics 1 (Swim), Brawl 2, Survival 3
Willpower: 4
Initiative: 5
Defense: 3
Speed: 11
Size: 5
Type Damage Dice Pool
Bite 1 (L) 5
Health: 8

Alchemical Gas: When dealt lethal damage the wet ghoul releases an alchemical gas that causes a -2 penalty to everyone within a 5 yard radius that fails a Stamina + Composure roll.

The Seeded

There are certain bushes deep within the jungles of Fianyarr that create seed pods which drift upon the wind by way of sparkling filaments. These seed pods stir to life when drifting past sentient beings, drawn by the essence of Wyrd, and then drag themselves on the breezes with their whirling filaments toward such individuals, grappling with them to try to implant themselves into their victim's spinal column.  Those wearing thick clothing and neck protection are thus immune to implantation.

Once implanted, the person becomes mindlessly violent, territorial and ageless as it carefully tends to the various new seeds produced by the pods. After decades such individuals can gain some level of mindfulness and may even begin to use basic humanoid communications. After a century of existence, the seeded regain the host's skills and slowly form new communities among themselves.  They are indistinguishable from mortals of their host race, except for green skin and luminscent mould-like patterns across patches of their skin. At this point they are no more dangerous than any other creature, until after a millenia of growth, the new sets of plants are ready to burst forth seed pods that stretch out across the lands and convert still more humanoids into mindlessness.

The Seeds
Health 4, Size 1
Implant: 4 dice opposed by victim's Strength + Stamina to pull away.

The Seeded
Same statistics as the host character though Intelligence is negligible for the first century.  After this point the Seeded gains the Intelligence and mental / social skills of the host and may gain further Intelligence by spending experience points.  They regenerate health levels at a rate of 1 bashing damage every minute, 1 lethal damage every hour and 1 aggravated damage every week.

Animal Transformation

Some people are unlucky enough to enter the wrong area, insult the wrong demonic, or pick up a cursed item that will leave them turned into an animal and left to roam the wilderness.  Such victims often lose their memories over time though some aren't so lucky and remain intelligent and sentient creatures even as they learn to adapt to their new existence.  Some such creatures are then forced to serve the one that curse them through the use of specially prepared bronze collars that compel obedience toward the maker.  Their physical attributes are turned into that of an animal while the rest of their characteristics remain unchanged.  If a resistance roll is required to apply such a curse involves a Wyrd versus Wyrd roll.

The Bestial Accursed

There are those among this world who have such powerful souls, or whose deaths are so terrible, that with their last dying wish they can lay a terrible curse upon their killer(s).  This curse twists the target into a hideous beast that desires only to destroy every last one of its loved ones, tribe or countrymen (the curse varies). For so long as this task lasts, the beast is immortal though not quite invincible.  Once this task is complete, if ever it is complete, the beast returns to its mortal form with all of its memories intact.  It has the cunning of a human though without any technical skill and thus must resort to monstrous tactics to overpower its enemy.  The curse involves an opposed Wyrd + Sin Level (which is Morality - level of the sin involved so a truly heinous act adds 9 dice while petty theft adds 3) versus Morality roll.

Strength: 8, Dexterity: 5, Stamina: 8, Intelligence: 2, Wits: 3, Resolve: 5, Presence: 4, Manipulation Negligible, Composure: 1.
Skills: Athletics: 4, Brawl: 5, Intimidation 3, Stealth: 4, Survival: 3.
Willpower: 6
Initiative: 6
Defense: 3
Speed: 21
Size: 8
Health: 16
Armor (thick hide): 3

Type Damage Dice Pool
Bite 2 (L) 15
Gore 1 (B) 14 plus Knockdown (requires the Accursed to charge, then opposed Strength + Brawl roll, loser falls prone)
Trample 2 (B) 15, only affects prone targets.

Once the creature begins a charge it takes two rounds to stop.  Therefore if a target is over 42 yards away and uses their turn to step aside or if their target comes early on the Initiative tree but suspends their action until the creature's turn in order to leap aside, then they have a chance to get out of the way and possibly cause the creature to slam into a wall and thus roll damage against itself (ignoring its own armor).  In order to be successful in this, the target must roll Dexterity + Athletics to spring out of the way. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fianyarr Race: Djinn

See the pretty Djinn patterns?
(Dragon Age)
Campaign World: Fianyarr.

Nicknames: Flamesirens, Genies, Pyromaniacs.

Origins: The First People to this world visited many strange and exotic places but none visited the most dangerous locations as the Djinn who delved into the molten magma and dangerous depths of the burning world.  They felt the bridge being sundered and, realising the peril of their encroaching mortality, rushed for the surface.  They were lucky to make it out for the fire scorched their newly mortal forms as it did any other.  They fled the fires and the volcanoes and made their homes on the planes and foothills of such places.  Over time they moved onward and can often be found in almost any location in the world ... even the icy tundra ... though they tend to prefer warmed climates.

Appearance: The light of the flame that nearly claimed them still lights their skin in patterns as well as colours their bodies in reds, purples, oranges and bright pinks.  While the striking patterns appear luminescent they do not glow with their own internal light and thus a djinn can hide in the darkness like any other.  Djinn often have irises in flame-like colours and the 'whites' of their eyes are nearly always 'black'.  Sometimes they have horns though not always.

Demeanor: Ever since their forefathers and foremothers barely escaped the flame, they have been drenched in an adrenaline-fueled blast of hormones that leads them to wild displays of sincerely felt and often changing emotions.  They have found a way to cope with the inevitable issues such outbursts create by being incredibly forgiving - so long as they are convinced of the sincerity of the other person's intent.  This forgiveness can seem borderline saintly at times but it is only because the djinn embrace the future and live in the present.  Though they don't forget the past, with all its griefs and horrors, they don't let it claim them.

Rumors: Other races often find the djinn to be primitive and wild beings that can't be accepted in polite society and this often suits the djinn just fine who live better on the outskirts of such mixed communities anyway.  The people who surround such communities often take advantage of the djinn's better nature and then use their nature as an excuse for why they deserve mistreatment.  If the djinn were truly mistreated, they wouldn't forgive and wouldn't smile so readily, would they?  The violence that such mistreatment creates is also then used to justify holding them at arm's length.

In other lands, the djinn are fully integrated and the various members of the community find much to like in their honest and earnest expressions of emotion.  When you are with a djinn, it's hard not to feel their sadness and happiness as though it were your own and many groups court them as lovers, entertainers, and even simply as visitors to their festivals and celebrations.

Racial Abilities

Attribute Bonus: +1 to either Presence or Wits.

Weakness: Djinn are emotional and passionate creatures prone to wild outbursts and fiery connections.  Due to this, they suffer a -2 penalty in any situation that requires tact and gentle politeness for extended periods of time.  They may spend a Willpower point to negate this penalty if the situation (i.e. a funeral or a visit to the Queen) is significant enough.

Prismatic Heart
A djinn's heart is full of everchanging passions and they can use this to their own benefit by spending a point of glamour to gain a +2 bonus to resist emotional manipulation (including mystical manipulation) for a scene.  All empathy checks against the djinn also suffers a -1 penalty during this time (Changeling Polychromatic Kith: Winter Masques page 84).

The djinn can spend a glamour to glow with an otherworldly light across her patterns that causes everyone looking to have to roll Resolve + Composure or else suffer a -2 penalty to all actions during that scene or until the djinn ends the effect (or is out of sight) (Changeling Flamesiren Kith: Winter Masques page 83).

Tyranny of Ideas
There is just something so inspiring about being around a djinn that makes other people better at their own social skills.  A djinn can spend a glamour to give a mortal a +2 bonus to a single Expression, Persuasion, Socialize or Subterfuge roll (Changeling Muse Kith: Changeling the Lost page 114).

Bright One
A djinn can use their innate ability to light up an area approximately the size of a smallish room with a soft and gentle light equivalent to candle light for a scene.  If the djinn spends a glamour, this light can become blinding and anyone who is trying to target the djinn must take a -2 penalty to hit her as though she were partially concealed (Changeling Bright Ones Kith: Changeling the Lost page 113).

Racially Restricted Merit
(* to ***) Mercantile Skills: Due to the amount of time that many djinn spend travelling or simply bartering for goods, it really isn't hard for them to get credentials as a genuine merchant at the various blackmarket or otherworldly markets around Fianyarr.  The djinn's ranking in this merit is added as a bonus to any rolls specifically related to your area of trade in and around marketplaces.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Flashpoint: Escher Dimension

*Spoilers for the Council of Thieves second book below.

So the rogue has run off and disappeared down a back room. Archer suddenly becomes livelier as his player sits down at the table. They despatch three Howlers but not before three of them are cursed and Proteus rolls a 1 to avoid the pain quill – which his player declares represents his character attempting to block the quill with his hand. No further penalties apply but it looks cool if ineffective.

Afterwards, Archer picks up the poor unconscious actress and the intrepid group head out – but not before Lhye is sent up to fetch the expensive torture books from the shelves which Lunjun puts into his magic bag. Proteus selects one of his own (a newer one) which he promptly sticks his nose into and reads during every spare chance he can get as he’s willingly let the relic in his hand flick his alignment switch to a logical form of Lawful Evil. No fear, enjoys pain, nothing can stand in his way really.

They arrive at a square tower which is quite Escher-like in how the stairs go up to go down which causes a Dexterity-based penalty to anyone attempting to walk across it. Lunjun (think it was Lunjun) tosses a copper coin at the stairs which then rolls down to go up, rolls up to go up, rolls up to go down, rolls along the outside to be on the inside, and then finally falls into the hole where it just keeps falling ... then reappears above them to keep falling ... and on and on and on while gathering speed.

Archer’s eye is drawn to the wall on the other side of the tower (there’s a gap in between) and Lunjun have to roll Acrobatics to cross the stairs toward it. Lhye simply floats along beside them using his levitation ability. Despite being able to float across the gap, his low Wisdom means that he attempts to mimic walking across the stairs though he doesn’t need to. Proteus has his head stuck in the book and is so absorbed in reading it that he just intuitively walks across the stairs. After all, it’s the visual confusion from the spatial distortion that causes the Dexterity penalty so by ignoring the sight of it you can cross it just fine.

As Archer reaches the space on the wall he sees the gaps more clearly as they darken before a Greater Shadow reaches out and grabs him by the throat – costing him 5 Strength damage. Unlucky fellow. A bit of magic and a few hits with magical weapons (that deal half damage) soon sort it out. Lunjun’s clever use of a force chain to blind it is also helpful as it means it doesn’t get a second hit on anyone. Proteus heals him with the wand of restoration (he refuses consider using it on Lhye as his problem was self-inflicted though as no one else has asked in character it hasn’t come up).

Proteus finds the hidden catch to open the doors and they find a room with two black mirror-portals to the shadow realm. Archer shoots them both before Lhye can attack them with his witch-empowered hair. Silly low Wisdom man, what happened last time you touched a portal with your hair? That’s right. Teleportation.

There followed a discussion where the characters quite sensibly debated the reason for remaining here. They stumble across the fact that Lhye hadn’t bothered to try the door portal to get out and were all quite cross with him. They almost decide to leave but the pull of information incites them to go onward – especially after a rousing speech by Lhye with a lacklustre ending about how the clues to Delvehaven must be locked somewhere inside.

They cross a corridor (Proteus’ head in a book once more) and then end up in a corkscrewing tower with stairs that run up along the outside of it to go down thirty feet and where the tower appears to have neither top nor bottom. Lhye drops a coin (luckily it was copper rather than platinum, he had to roll a 1d4 to see what type) and it falls down again and again and again. He then uses feather fall and steps off, falling again and again and again. Proteus reaches out and hits him across the back of the head with the butt of his trident to knock some sense into him, though he doesn’t do it in a way that would harm.

They cross the tower and end up inside a couple of corridors lined with cells. Lunjun and Proteus quickly figured out how the people inside died when Lunjun detected that the cells were ensorcelled with a Ring of Sustenance-like effect. They died of old age.

They spotted a devil inside one cell, still living, and holding a red-tinged glaive (reminding Proteus of the Whisperer of Souls). Lhye charmed the devil through the window before Proteus smashed the glass. The devil came charging to the door but its rage was mitigated by the sight of someone it was Indifferent to – which made it feel hopeful – which swapped its Indifference to Friendly. Lhye pretended to be a servant of Asmodeus when the devil asked and stated he was here to free him but wanted the glaive.

The devil was loathe to part with it as he didn’t want to be alone but when they opened the door he handed it over. Proteus, realising that Lhye’s chaotic gentle requests wouldn’t work here, laid a Geas on him to order the devil around until such time as their needs were met. Basically until they got the information and the glaive from the devil. Naturally Proteus takes the Glaive, provoking the below quip.

"How many things can you have polluting your soul?" asked Lhye's player.

Proteus' chirpy player: "It's like Pokemon.  Gotta catch them all!"

We called the end of the session there.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fantasy Version of the Hisil

Animistic Shrine
(The Witcher)
Animism can add a whole other level to Fantasyland and it depends on how you want to play it.  In  Fianyarr, the easiest method is to simply make the Hisil a divine realm where the sins and good deeds of the populace create patches of hell, heaven or something in between depending on their actions.  It would make sense to worship such a divine realm and give pleas to spirits of rain and where leaving offerings in small shrines or praying at sacred groves has a definitive effect of strengthening the spirits people wish to have around.  Naturally spiritualism is far safer to practise in such a world than in the World of Darkness with fewer spirits having the Possession and Claim Numina.

All of the rules for the Gauntlet (dice bonuses, sensations) can be found in Chapter Two: The Shadow Realm in the Book of Spirits.


Loci could then be monster spawning points in wounds, critter spawning points in wildlands or places of honor and reverence.  People and certain creatures can draw essence or glamour from such locations though while essence can be drawn via the normal routes (one can even extinguish it), only one point of glamour can be drawn by any one person at any particular time and as many people can draw glamour as the loci's rating x 5.  This doesn't affect its pool of essence.  There are certain rituals that may allow a person to cross at a loci - though it's up to the Storyteller whether they would like to provide them and what they will consist of.  A loci is often protected by spirits though as one can draw glamour without affecting the loci's levels of essence spirits are often willing to make deals or turn a blind eye to those regular people wishing to draw from it.


More consistent verges would soon become holy places of pilgrimmage or places that people avoid at certain times of the day or night.  Some verges would be captured in myth while others would be virtually unknown - though perhaps hinted at in a child's nursery rhyme.  Try to keep the Verges in keeping with mythic ideals and seed a few clues into the location even if the characters have no chance to identify them except in retrospect.

Dead Spots

These headache-inducing places appear afflicted by rot and decay with deadened colours and drained sensations and are what might happen in a place where a powerful magic has drained or sealed away the Hisil - often in response to a gateway that unleashed monsters upon the world or due to a single individual whose own terror or fanatical disbelief toward the Hisil has caused this mark.


Some places are filled with positive emotions - not to an overbundance as a drug-addled populace would still create a Wound - but enough that the good outweighs the bad or at least that compassion far outweighs cruelty.  Most often these occur in places with nice villages or towns filled with decent people but sometimes they occur in places of potential cruelty where great or wonderful actions occur.  A besieged town whose invaders merely took over and left all present alive and were thus welcomed into the location might gain this kind of Hisil as might a battlefield where great care was taken to haul in everyone alive as prisoners.  Patches of this sort of Hisil might appear when people make a great sacrifice out of the goodness of their hearts and such patches are often quite resistant to interference - even when they are surrounded by a wound.  They are pleasant places to be and often both the spirits and locations are pleasant to look at - even if they don't match contemporary ideals of beauty.  A much loved ramshackle hut may still be ramshackle but it could be bathed with a warm glow and all the splinters are gone.

Regular Hisil

There are good acts and bad acts that have colored this land and thus some of the spirits will help, some will hinder, and some really couldn't care less.  The landscape is coloured by the lives of those on the other side (human, animal, plant or rock) but it isn't overwhelmed one way or another.  Important buildings may be seen in a more stereotypical appearance on the other side, regardless of whether they still stand, but generally it isn't too different from the mundane world and one might wander it for awhile confused by the differences but unsure of where they are.


There are some places so cruel and depraved that they scar the divine lands with their vice.  This might be the Other Side of a village whose members protect themselves with hypocrisy and cruelty - blaming others while they themselves rape, steal and sell each other out.  Or it could be the Other Side of a monster's lair, a well-used battlefield or a place of slaughter and cruelty.  It isn't enough that something bad happened there.  It must have happened with either such great effect or regularity that it morphs the Other Side.  A wound will be crawling with malevolent spirits stained by those actions and both the location and the entities will be marked by that sin.  A savage battlefield might appear to be an open maw with churning blades as teeth buzzing with carrion fly-like spirits with human faces while a vicious town might have houses embodying secrets with locked doors and hidden windows that is plagued by ghostly dogs.


There are some places that are touched by misery so much so that is stains the Other Side.  These tend to be smaller than wounds - often encapsulating only a single house - and occur when one or more victims suffer so much it seeps through into the Divine Realm.  This could be caused by a great plague or the loss of a village's menfolk to a distant war or perhaps even a famine or even if a person's depression grows too overwhelming.  Such places are often drab and depressing.  The environment itself can be dangerous with ooze-like spirits, digestive acid in bathtubs and basements, and raindrops that slowly drain one of willpower.  Generally even the spirits are too filled with ennui to attack or assist though their mere presence might be dangerous.


There are some places that have lost their energy.  Everyone does the same thing every day.  They're not miserable, not exactly, but they don't feel much either.  Well-kept slaves, overly disciplined soldiers, and people who live a puritanical and joyless lifestyle can all create barrens though more often than not it is caused by a great and powerful magical battle or alchemical experiment that has scoured the other side of the Divine Realm and caused it to weaken.  Such a place might look like land scoured by sands or as a translucent version of its prior self or it might just be an empty plain filled with fog.

Wild Lands

There are places within this world that are dominated by nature and within nature simpler laws of procreation and consumption are upheld.  This isn't an element of cruelty or even callousness but simple pragmatism and practicality.  The Hisil of the wild lands is similar to the canonical Hisil with spirits both dangerous and puzzling yet at times beneficial - if you can offer them something they need or otherwise subdue them.  Loci in these locations often have an emotional aura that lingers across a location and can be felt by any person on a successful Wits + Wyrd roll.  Verges in such places are more invisible than most and often shift about according to natural laws though those who follow the local myths are safer than others (i.e. don't step into a ring of toadstools at night).  Wild Lands are often more primeval versions of themselves with taller mountains, thicker jungles, and wider rivers and its spirits are often of the Nature or Elemental Choirs.


So there you go.  A simple guide to using the Hisil in a fantasy land that uses all of the main categories of places you could find there.  I'd really recommend the Book of Spirits for further advice as, while it deals entirely in the modern world, it's really not too difficult to extrapolate to a fantasy or historical one.  Bear in mind, though, that in Fianyarr the Hisil should be more of a divine place than a dog-eat-dog hunting ground with certain areas being quite safe and others being more typical Hisil.  The Hedge fulfills the role of being the ever-dangerous locale.