6 December 2018

Combinades

combinade(s); hand arms that are a clever combination of a melee weapon and firelock. The firing mechanism on most combinades is an improved wheel lock, being more sturdy than a flintlock, and able to take the jars that come when the weapon is used to strike at a foe. Added to this, the lock mechanism, trigger and hammer are usually protected by gathered bands of metal, a basket much like those protecting the hilts of many foreign swords. When edges and bullets are treated with [alchemical poisons], combinades become very effective monster-killing tools.

An ax-pistol.

A firelock falchion.

A boltarde.

boltarde(s); a combinade made of the bringing together of a halberd and two wheel-lock pistols formed as part of the shaft, one short barrel on either side of the axe-and-spike head. The wheel locks are fired by means of triggers farther down, just above the rondel that protects the hand. Shallow grooves run down the middle of the blade to allow the ball to fly unhindered. An invention of the Sebastians, it is unwieldy but highly effective in the right circumstances, although boltardes have not gained much popularity in the Haacobin Empire.

A double-barrelled punching dagger.
Dare you imagine anything more awesome?


A gun-buckler grants both +1 AC and can be shot.

A combinade can combine any melee weapon with a firelock, and be used as either. While pistol-combinades are the most common, larger weapons (especially halberds) can include a musket instead. If you wish to buy one, they are priced at double the price of the more expensive constituent weapon (generally the firearm), or triple for double-barrelled combinades.

Additionally, all combinades can perform a special attack: When you strike in melee, you may also pull the trigger as a part of the same attack. Should you hit with the attack, you do both the melee and firelock damage. Should you miss, your shot is wasted.

A pair of wheel-lock daggers.

28 November 2018

Class: Leer

Here is another monster-slayer class, the quotes and pictures once again taken from the books.

leer(s), also called perspicrith ("sense-holder"), sensurist, cognister or vatiseer. A creepy lot trained in seeing small and otherwise missed detail, remembering faces, following scents and trails, spying, shadowing, and all such prying arts; and the use of the sthenicon.

They soak their eyes over a period of months in special [potions] collectively called washes or opthasaums, which irreparably change the colors of their eyes and permanently alter the abilities of their sight. The first of these opthasaums prepares the eye for transformation and is called Saum of Adparat or adparatic syrup. After a month of soaking in this wash, one hour each day, the leer spends another month soaking his or her eyes in either of two washes: Bile of Vat√ęs will make the more common leer known as a laggard with brown and yellow eyes, and cognistercus or Swill of Cognit the less common falsemen, with red and blue eyes. The whole process of changing a person's eyes is called adparation, and one can tell a leer by these weirdly colored orbs. Each leer also takes particular kinds of [potions] to enhance his or her capacities in day-to-day duties.

Leers are highly sought after: laggards in the wild places to warn against monsters or other lurking dangers, and to track brigands, smugglers and escaped prisoners; falsemen in the cities to work for the wealthy and for government, wheedling out the dishonest and sycophantic, and interrogating the suspicious. Though they alter their biology in a chemical way, they are not regarded with nearly as much suspicion or loathing as lahzars and are not questioned as potential gudgeons [man-made monsters].
A leer wearing a sthenicon.

Falseman

falseman (falsemen), also called liedermen; leers who can tell a person's true emotional state, and thus can determine whether or not that person is being truthful. The washes they use to change their eyes make the whites turn bloody red and the irises go a bright pale blue.

A: Sense Lies, Contacts
B: Literacy, Memorization
C: Prominence
D: Embarrassing Secret

You gain +1 known language per Falseman template.

Starting Skill: (d6) 1. Etiquette, 2. Law, 3. Streetwise, 4. Investigation, 5. Espionage, 6. Politics.

Starting Items:
  • dagger,
  • proofing (any clothes you want, Def as leather),
  • sthenicon (see below).

Sense Lies
You are well-versed in body language and can smell minor changes of mood. You know when someone is lying. They can evade, they can remain silent, but if they go to speak, they cannot hide their lies from you.

Contacts
Through both informants and official channels, you are often in the know on important informations. You are the first one to learn new gossips, and you have a 1-in-6 chance to have already heard something about any newly introduced NPC.

With a successful Charisma check, you may ask a favour of a contact. The favour will be things not generally available to the average person. The contact will not endanger himself or his employment, and may negotiate a payment or favour in return if the request is difficult or unpleasant.

You may call upon these contacts [Leer templates] per adventure.

Literacy
You can read and write. Most people can do both, but you can really write. Your letters allow for persuasion rolls at a distance. You can also roll under Intelligence to see the intentions of an author, the delicate themes of a poem, or the inconsistencies in a complex text.

Memorization
You have photographic memory. You can memorize any length of text after one reading. You can also search any location you have seen retrospectively, inspecting details you have not paid attention to before.

Prominence
Once per round, you can choose to be the most prominent person in a group or the least prominent person in a group.

Falsemen are sometimes employed as silent observers and discreet advisers, sometimes as spies and investigators, sometimes as terrifying interrogators or skillful barristers. They can switch between remaining unseen and unheard, and being the most interesting person in the room with frightening ease.

Embarrassing Secret
Once per person when you talk to them at least for a few minutes, you can discover a secret they would rather keep hidden. The GM will describe it to you.

A kraulschwimmen,
one of the monsters to be hunted by leers.

Laggard

laggard(s); a leer who can see through things, into dark and hidden places, and notice things far off. The name comes from the word "lag", which means to scour or scrub something. The washes they use to change their eyes make the whites turn olive-brown while the irises become a deep yellow.

A: Sense Hidden, Track
B: Vigilance
C: Danger Sense
D: Trackless Step, Bait

You gain +1 Stealth while in wilderness per Laggard template.

Starting Skill: (d6) 1. Hunting, 2. Trapping, 3. Bushcraft, 4. Monster Lore, 5. Animal Lore, 6. Pathfinding.

Starting Items:
  • knupel,
  • proofing (any clothes you want, Def as leather),
  • sthenicon (see below).

knupel, also called virga; the most rough and knobbly of all the cudgels, it is often awarded to those who gain mastery of a bastinade [stick-fighting martial art]. A knupel is about 4½ feet to 5 feet long, thick at the hitting end and thinner at the strap-bound handle. Regarded as a "battlefield" weapon, a knupel can cause horrendous injuries.

Sense Hidden
You have low-light vision, requiring next to no light to see (though you still cannot see in total darkness). You easily notice anything amiss in your surroundings.

Depending on your GM, you should either be alerted whenever there is something interesting nearby (though you will have to find what exactly triggered your sixth sense yourself), or you receive advantage on all perception rolls (which is boring).

Track
Rather than requiring exploding 1d4 of exploration turns to follow a track, you only need simple 1d4 of exploration turns. Furthermore when you find the track of any creature or group, you learn a piece of useful information about them, and then one new information per hour of tracking.

Vigilance
Once per day when the GM gives you the Omen for an encounter, you can choose to reroll the encounter and get a different one. You must accept the new result.

Danger Sense
If you are surprised, you have a 50% chance to act on the surprise round anyway. If you encounter a creature no one in the group has seen before, you can roll under your Intelligence to remember a detail or weakness, provided the creature is not unique.

Trackless Step
As long as you are not in a significant rush, you leave no trail and cannot be tracked.

Bait
You can automatically trigger an encounter by putting out a bait and waiting in ambush.

Another leer with a sthenicon.

Sthenicon

sthenicon(s), also called leer-box or simply box; a biologue [biological tool] used to seek out tiny or hidden smells, and to show things difficult to see - whether hidden or far off - more clearly.

Usually a simple, dark wooden box, with leather straps and buckles. The back, which goes against the face, is hollowed out and sealed within with a doeskin-like material. On each side of this protrude stubby brass horns. Air and the attendant odors enter through these hornlets and, by the organics inside, are rendered more odoriferous. If the compactly folded membrane inside that enhances smells so effectively was spread out, it would stretch around 120 squares of feet.

At the middle of the top of the box is a modest lens, through which vision is received. Upon the sides of the sthenicon, at the same height as the lens, are three slots, which the user can push in and out in various ways to alter the nature of how he sees. A small hole in one of the lower corners is bored into the front of the box, apparently to render the user more audible when talking, so that the device need not be removed to allow the wearer to speak. Another slot in the bottom of the box allows soups, thin stews and special [potions] that augment the use of this tool to be slurped with only minor inconvenience. The whole kit is fastened to the head - over the whole face - with the straps and buckles mentioned earlier.

If a sthenicon is worn for too long, the organs within can begin to grow into the user's own nasal membrane and even into the skin of the face. After about a week, the box could still be taken off, though the leer would find tendrils up their nose that would tear out painfully. After a month of wearing a sthenicon, it could not be removed without surgery and the loss of the front of one's face.

Used mostly by leers, who are highly trained in its use, and swallow special [potions] beforehand to help make their senses sharper and sniff exotic powders to retard the invasion of the biologue's organs.

As you put on a sthenicon, it will cover your whole face and press it against the warm, pliable artificial organs within. Its main function is to grant you a sense of smell on par with a scent hound. You can tell apart human, animal and monster scents, track different scent trails, and easily recognize anything and anyone you had smelled before. In addition, the different settings of its lens mechanism allow the leer to see as if through a spyglass, or with wizard vision.

One needs an extensive training to interpret sthenicon readings correctly, and thus very few non-leers can use it. Even leers need an hour after they put on their sthenicon to adjust to the altered sensory input, so you cannot just constantly don and doff it. However, your can become accustomed to the strange senses bestowed by a sthenicon, and for every day you wear it, you gain +1 to all perception checks, up to a maximum of your level. This bonus resets when you remove the sthenicon.

The organs inside tend to painfully grow into your nose and face, only to be ripped out when you take the sthenicon off, leaving nasty scars. For every day you use a sthenicon, you take 1 Charisma damage once you take it off. This damage heals normally, except it won't mend properly unless you refrain from using the sthenicon until it fully heals. Should you wear your sthenicon long enough to be reduced to 0 Cha by the damage you would take upon removing it, you will need surgical help to survive.

A brodchin.

Finally, here are two fun types of chemicals that the leers can use (or that can be used against them):
signifer(s); the distinct parts of a scent or other trail that aid leers in their work. One of the more remarkable applications of a signifer is a group of [potions] known as anavoids, which leers use to mark someone or something they want to trail, following the distinct scent wherever it may lead. The best anavoids will last for weeks even in water, and are hard to detect by fellow leers, seeming more like a natural smell to all but the person who used it. It has been known for talented and well set-up leers to follow an anavoided trail even on ship from one harbor to another.

nullodour(s); a [potion] designed to hide or confuse or fake certain smells. Its most common use is to mask the distinctive odor of a person, so that he or she remains unnoticed by monsters. Also highly effective against leers.

25 November 2018

Class: Lahzar

Here is the first type of monster-slayers found on the Half-Continent. All quotes and pictures below are taken from the the books.


lahzar(s), sometimes spelled in old texts as "lazhar"; also called catharcriths, thanatocates ("death-bearers"), orgulars ("haughty ones" - the name once given to the heroes of old), spooks-and-pukes or just spooks.

Though no one knows for sure, it is commonly held that lahzars first appeared in the Empire around [the year] 1263, over a century before the Battle of the Gates. They were said to be among the survivors of [a previously unknown civilization] from far northwest beyond the Half-Continent who called themselves the Cathars. It was rumored that these Cathars were fleeing the destruction of their realm by the rise of one or many false-gods. Settling in the far west beyond Hamlin and Pechenneg, and in the once small stronghold of Sinster in the east, these Cathar refugees brought with them their ancient surgical knowledge, techniques unknown in the Half-Continent except to a learned few.

These techniques were called clysmosurgia and involved grafting into a person's body special organs - called mimetic organs - harvested from monsters, altered, and grown in vats. Once put inside a person's body, these mimetic organs could give the subject unheard-of abilities; the power to generate deadly arcs of electricity inside the body (the fulgar), or send forth brain-frying waves of bioelectricity (the wit). Clysmosurgia was quickly rejected by the conservative as a form of "dark" or "black" habilistics (also called morbidology), and it was declared illegal throughout the Empire. Yet since their refuges were, and still are, beyond the Imperial jurisdiction, the Cathar surgeons continued their work.

To put a person through clysmosurgia is called transmogrification, and a person so transmogrified is called a "lahzar", a Cathar word meaning "those who have returned (from the grave)", called so because of the long period they are under the surgeon's knife. One side effect of having these impostor organs within them is a constant dull ache, occasionally sharp. For wits it manifests itself behind the eyes and in their skulls; for fulgars it hurts in their arms and shoulders and down in their guts. Even a lahzar's scars might ache on cold days. Another problem is gauntness caused by the overworking of their pith - what we would call "the metabolism" and "the immune system" - as their bodies strive to accommodate the intruding flesh; this can bring on mood swings and even psychotic episodes. Lahzars might be powerful, but they are far from happy folk.

It took almost three quarters of a century before people began to catch on to just how much more effective these new lahzars were against monsters. During that period lahzars were outlawed in Imperial lands. Their success at the Battle of the Gates, employed in disobedience to Imperial law, won them a grudging acceptance in society. Since then, while clysmosurgia remains an illegal realm of habilistics, lahzars themselves have been legitimized, their labors rivaling and even eclipsing the work of the traditional skolds [monster-hunting alchemists].

Because, however, lahzars have so many alien organs stuck into them, it is still a topical parlor-room debate as to whether or not lahzars are actually a kind of gudgeon [a man-made monster, an abomination]. This is an idea that lahzars find completely offensive and refute utterly. As a consequence of this question, their foul moods and strange drafts, lahzars are still considered pariahs, a necessary evil.

Even with an expensive set of proofing [armoured clothing], non-lahzars would find them extremely difficult to beat in a fight, and this has granted them a status that is not low but simply outside the existing social ranks. This unique status has made becoming a lahzar popular with the fashionably bored young sets of the gentry and the peers, and they spend large chests of their mama and papa's [gold] to make the trip to Sinster and seek out the best transmogrifer they can afford. A surgeon of average skill will perform clysmosurgia for about 1 200 [gp]; the best will do it for about 3 000 [gp]. Payment can be made in advance, or over a period of time from the lahzar's earnings as a monster-slayer, soldier or bodyguard.

After an initial period of interviews and testing, a subject is either refused or allowed to proceed. A refused subject is free to seek another surgeon. If accepted, it takes several days to complete the operations to make a person into a lahzar (transmogrify them). The whole time the subject is kept drugged and strapped to the cutting table. Once the transmogrification has been done, and the lahzar has been "made", it can take anywhere from one month to half a year for a person to recover. During this recovery they receive training from the surgeon's aides in the ways of a wit or a fulgar. From time to time it is common for lahzars to return to their surgeon for observation and "repairs" - operations to mend damage caused by illness, organ rot, spasming or violent injury. These repairs require only a day or so under the knife and a fortnight at the most for healing afterward.

The "skills" or "abilities" or "powers" their organs give to a lahzar are called potencies (sing. potency). It is these potencies that make a lahzar so effective against monsters (and people too for that matter). The arcs and lightning of a fulgar and the mental and sensory assaults of a wit are much more consistent in their deadly power and easier to deliver than a skold's [deadly concoctions]. Despite this lahzars are regarded less as civilization's heroes and more as a distasteful new "fad".

Obviously lahzars will charge for their services, commanding high prices for the efficacy of their labors. In a quiet year they can earn around 200 [gp]; in bumper years when monsters are overactive this can rise to 500 [gp].

Miss Europa, a fulgar, wielding a fuse.

Fulgar

fulgar(s) (said "fool-garr"), also astrapecrith ("lightning-holder"); a lahzar whose surgically inserted organs (known as the systemis astraphecum) allow him or her to make, store and release immense charges of electricity. [...] Fulgars get their name from the artificial organ known as the Column of Fulgis, a jellylike muscle that produces the electrical charges they wield. Most fulgars mark themselves with the spoor [alchemical tattoo] of a diamond, which is the universally recognized sign of their kind. [The potencies of fulgars] are known as eclatics.

A: +1 PD, Potencies, Chemical Dependency, Arcing
B: +1 PD, Resisting, Vacillating
C: +1 PD, Impelling
D: +1 PD, Thermistoring, Factotum

Starting items:
  • fulgaris,
  • proofing (any clothes you want, Def as leather),
  • ingredients for a week's worth of treacle (see below),
  • a crippling debt to your surgeon.

fulgaris (said "fool-ger-riss"); two poles of differing lengths used by fulgars to extend their reach and give a thermistor control over bolts of lightning. The longer pole is the fuse [treat as a staff], the shorter being the stage [treat as a club]. Both fulgaris are wound tightly with copper or iron fulgurite wire and capped at each end with ferrules of the same metals.

Potencies
You have been surgically altered to gain strange, inhuman powers, called potencies.

You may channel your powers using Potency Dice (PD). Each time you wish to use one of your abilities, invest any number of your PD. The [sum] of the PD rolled, as well as the number of [dice] invested, may affect the result.

Unlike the MD of a wizard, your PD always return to your pool and can be used any number of times per day. However, each time you use your powers, add +1 SD (Strain Die) to your pool. You must roll all your SD whenever your roll any PD. These dice do not count towards the [sum] or [dice] of any given potency, but they do count towards the multiples (doubles, triples, and so on). Use two different colours of dice.

spasm or spasming; wretched condition where a lahzar's body rebels for a moment against the foreign organs squeezed within it and the organs fight back. This happens when the mimetic organs are being used and is usually as a result of not taking one's Cathar's Treacle and the rest. It is, however, a risk (very slight) that lahzars run all the time, whether they have taken their concoctions or not.

The results of spasming can be various, from a slight strain within that goes away after a few hours to severe internal hemorrhaging and serious organ damage. After spasming, a lahzar often needs to return to his or her transmogrifier (lahzar-making surgeon) for observation and even further operations.

Every time you roll a multiple of any number on your dice, you suffer a bout of spasming from overexertion of your mimetic organs. Roll on the table below using Xd6, where X is the multiple you rolled (eg. when you roll a double, roll 2d6 and look below).
  1. (You will not roll this.)
  2. You feel a momentary sharp pain (in your chest for fulgars, or headache for wits), but nothing worse happens.
  3. Muscle cramps leave you fatigued. You gain 1d6 Fatigue that fills one inventory slot each.
  4. You are deaf and mute for 1d6 rounds.
  5. You fall prone in pain, screaming.
  6. A mild seizure twitches your body. You gain 2 extra SD.
  7. You feel weary and aching. The PD used for this potency are burned and will return only with the next long rest.
  8. You take 1d6 damage as blood drips out of your mouth or nose.
  9. You are blind for 1d6 rounds.
  10. A painful seizure nearly overwhelms you. You have disadvantage on your next roll.
  11. Your potencies run wild for 1d6 rounds. For fulgars, anyone touching you takes 1d6 damage. For wits, anyone within 10' must Save or fall prone due to vertigo.
  12. The potency fails spectacularly, doing the opposite of what it should. The GM will tell you the exact effects.
  13. You are paralyzed with seizures for 1d6 rounds.
  14. Your mimetic organs hurt badly. You will gain no benefits from sleep this night.
  15. If a fulgar, your limbs twitch and cannot be stopped. If a wit, you have a splitting headache. You have disadvantage on all rolls for an hour.
  16. You take 2d6 damage as your spasming muscles strain against your creaking bones.
  17. A fit of convulsions leaves you weakened. You take 1d6 Str damage.
  18. A powerful spasm nearly snaps your bones. You take 1d6 Dex damage.
  19. You suffer constant mild cramps. You take 1d6 Con damage.
  20. You scream in unbearable pain and fall unconscious for 1d6 hours. Nothing can rouse you sooner.
  21. (And more.) You spasm violently, breaking your bones and snapping your spine. You die.

Note that the potencies of fulgars do not mix well with larger amounts of water, while wits have no such problems.

Chemical Dependency
Cathar's Treacle, treacle or plaudamentum; draft [potion] drunk by lahzars. Its main function is to stop all the surgically introduced organs (mimetic organs) and connective tissues within a lahzar's body from rejecting their host. The nature of the ingredients and the way in which they react means that Cathar's Treacle does not keep for very long at all, a few hours at best, and has to be made afresh each time. It must be taken two times per day, or the lahzar risks spasming. If lahzars go more than a few days without the treacle, their organs start to rot within them, and after a week without it the lahzar's doom is certain. The parts, or ingredients, for Cathar's Treacle are as follows:
  • 10 of water
  • 1 of bezoariac
  • ½ of rhatany
  • ¼ of Sugar of Nnun
  • 1 of xthylistic curd
  • ½ of belladonna (optional)
There are other drafts that a lahzar must take periodically, but Cathar's Treacle is the most important. For fulgars the next most important is a daily dose of fulgura sagrada or saltegrade. For wits it is a daily drink of iambic ichor; Friscan's wead every two days; and two tots of cordial of Sammany three times a week, plus other traces throughout their lives.

Such dependency is a trade-off for the immense power they possess. A physician would also recommend a dose of evander every so often to lift the spirits and fortify the body.

You need to make and take your treacle, removing all SD when you drink it. Replenishing the ingredients for a dose of treacle costs roughly as much as a healing potion would. Ignore the other drafts except for flavour reasons.

Every day you skip your treacle, not only you won't get rid of your SD, but also risk a [days without treacle]-in-20 chance of organ rejection and subsequent gangrene. Roll every day until you start to take your treacle again, or the check succeeds. Once your body rejects the mimetic organs within, treacle can no longer help you and you will take 1d6 Con damage per day until you can be seen and fixed by a surgeon.

Arcing

R: touch; T: creature; D: 0

The most basic skill of fulgars, you can generate a charge of electricity and release it by touch. Indeed, a fulgar has to make physical contact for their potencies to have any effect, as the electricity must be earthed to do its work.

Your arcing deals [sum] + [dice] damage.

Resisting
R: 0; T: self; D: [sum] rounds

You build up a charge and store it until your whole body becomes charged with electricity. Anyone touching you (directly or through conductive object) will get the full force of the shock, taking [dice] damage.

Vacillating
R: 0; T: self; D: concentration, up to [sum] minutes

A nifty little eclatic whereby fulgars send a mild arc through themselves to be protected from the potencies of a wit (or impelling of another fulgar). It is a variation on resisting, but without storing the charge. The harder a wit tries, the stronger the fulgar needs to make the arc.

Vacillating can help against any psychic attacks, illusions or influences, including spells and various special abilities. You need to invest [dice] equal to your opponent to prevent their powers. It is up to the GM to gauge how many [dice] are necessary to counteract effect that do not use [dice] to measure their power.

Impelling
R: touch; T: living creature; D: concentration, up to [sum] rounds

A bizarre potency that requires experience and talent to master, whereby fulgars take hold of people and make them move or not move as the fulgar sees fit. It is done by subtle manipulations of a continuous charge running through the victim and requires a lot of energy to perform. The best results are achieved when the fulgar has a firm grip on his or her foe.

Resistance to electric damage prevents the effects of this potency, and creatures of HD higher than [dice] x 2 are also immune.

Thermistoring
R: 100'; T: creature; D: 0

Another potency requiring great skill and wisdom, it involves bringing lightning bolts down from the sky. This is the only potency that does not need touch to have effect, for the fulgar acts as a channel for the bolt, directing its blast to targets. However, it does require the use of fulgaris. The better a fulgar gets at thermistoring, the greater control he or she has over the bolt's final direction.

The target takes [sum] damage and must Save or be stunned for [dice] rounds. While this potency normally needs to be performed under open, overcast sky, other sources of powerful electricity can also be channelled and redirected. It can even be used as a reaction to send a lightning bolt back at its caster.

Factotum
factotum; personal servant and clerk of a peer or other person of rank or circumstance. Lahzars have taken to employing a factotum to take care of the boring day-to-day trifles: picking up contracts, collecting fees for services rendered, looking for food and accommodation, writing correspondence, heavy lifting and even making their drafts.

You have attracted a loyal hireling that can prepare your treacle and help with general necessities.

A black-eyed wit.

Wit

wit(s), also called neuroticrith ("holder of a distorted mind") or strivener; a kind of lahzar whose potencies cannot be seen like the sparks and flashes of a fulgar, but are rather felt. Collectively called antics, these potencies are subtle and more sinister, affecting the victim's mind, brain and nervous system. They are all variations on an invisible bioelectrical field, a pulse of energy called "frission" [also colloquially known as "fishing"], that wits make with their surgically introduced organs. The use of frission is called witting.

A wit who is [newly made or] "green" has little control over the direction of the frission and it tends to radiate all about. With practice wits gain control over the area and direction of their frission till they can send it to a particular point. Most wits need to see what they are aiming at, but the most talented need only gently [probe], find the target and afflict it from afar.

Wits must be careful with all their potencies; if they overreach themselves and push too hard, they risk a violent bout of spasming. Excessive use of any of the antics will leave them exhausted and prone to illness. Along with this, after only a few months of witting, they will begin to lose their hair until they become completely bald. Some then show their baldness with pride; others cover it with often brightly colored and jauntily styled wigs. Either is a telltale mark of a wit. They also mark themselves with the spoor of an arrow on the arch of an eyebrow, between the eyes, or the corner or lower lid of one or both eyes; this is the universally recognized sign of their kind.

Wits are trusted even less than fulgars, and their surly demeanor (due in some part to the constant pain they suffer) does little to help their grim reputation.

A: +1 PD, Potencies, Chemical Dependency, Sending
B: +1 PD, Scathing
C: +1 PD, Writhing
D: +1 PD, Faking, Factotum

Starting items:
  • proofing (any clothes you want, Def as leather),
  • ingredients for a week's worth of treacle,
  • a crippling debt to your surgeon.

proofing; a proofed garment, that is clothes alchemically treated until they become sturdy and armoured, as good as any ancient metal armour.

For Potencies, Chemical Dependency and Factotum, see above.

Sending
R: [dice] x 50' radius; T: area; D: concentration, up to [sum] rounds

Also known as probing, this is the most basic and best-known antic, involving a "sending and returning" of frission all about the wit. With probing, a wit can get a mental image or feeling of where all sources of electricity are about them, whether it's the bioelectricity of an animal, a person or a monster, or the electric current within a machine or a biologue (living machine).

It takes practice for wits to understand and interpret the returning. With experience they can actually recognize the distinct electrical flutterings of a particular person, and so sending can be used to track down and find people. Beyond the cities, this antic is used to warn early of a monster's approach, well before any scout can tell.

As a side effect of this potency, any living creature caught in the frission will feel sick or dizzy, and even faint for a moment, throwing off concentration or causing a misstep or fumble. Those who might suffer from travel sickness will be worse affected, vomiting and staggering.

If the wit is not hiding her sending, all creatures caught in the affected area will feel her probing and the general direction from where it comes. Any creature within half the range must also Save or suffer disadvantage on their next roll from nausea.

The very best wits can send with only the slightest disturbance to those around them. Such a wit can attempt to hide her probing, rolling under her Int. With a success, creatures of HD equal or lower than the wit cannot feel the sending at all, while creatures of higher HD can feel faint traces of probing, but not the direction. With a failure, creatures will feel the probing normally, but due to its subdued effects will not suffer nausea.

Scathing
R: 30'; T: creature or area; D: 0

Probably the most notorious of the antics, scathing (or strivening) is a raw pouring forth of psychic power that twists and agonizes the mind. With it, an experienced wit can lay flat a whole room of foes, while the most skilled can use it to permanently break, or even kill with frightening accuracy.

When used as an area attack, the targets caught within must Save or suffer a stronger version of the malaise than comes with probing. On a success, they will have a disadvantage on their next roll from nausea. On a failure, they fall prone in seizures and loose their next turn. Creatures of HD higher than [dice] x 2 are immune to this effect.

When used against a single foe, the creature takes [sum] damage and must Save or take disadvantage on all rolls for [dice] rounds.

Sometimes referred to as "the eye of death" or "the death glare".

Writhing
R: 50'; T: creature; D: [sum] rounds

With this antic a neuroticrith can cause aches and pains in the victims' limbs, forcing them to twitch and stagger. Conversely, it can be used to temporarily numb people and leave them without feeling. Worse yet, writhing is also used to momentarily blind, or stop ears from working, or render a person mute. It requires a goodly amount of experience and a modicum of talent to use this potency with any effect.

Pick [dice] of the following effects:
  • Penalty of -2 to Attack. This option can be picked multiple times.
  • Penalty of -2 to Defense. This option can be picked multiple times.
  • Blindness.
  • Muteness.
  • Deafness.

Faking
R: 50'; T: creature; D: concentration, up to [sum] rounds

This is a very difficult potency, with the wit requiring a view of his or her victim. With delicate, subtle and precisely aimed probings of their frission, the wit can make a person think that he or she has heard or felt something, when in reality there is nothing. The best wits can even make people see what is not there. People can be driven barmy with such unseen pestering, or have their attention diverted at just the wrong moment.

With 1 [die], nothing more than an unintelligible whispers or a faint touch can be faked. With 4 [dice], you could make your unfortunate victim talk to illusory people, read an illusory book, or explore an illusory room. Note that faking always targets a single creature - the illusion is mental and cannot be perceived by anyone else.

Lady Threnody, a young wit.

23 November 2018

Of Monsters and Men

I recently finished reading the Monster Blood Tattoo series by D. M. Cornish, and I probably never saw a story more appropriate to be used as a setting for OSR. Even if you didn't want to read the story itself, the books contain massive Explicarium and Appendices with enough information to run a game in that strange world. Really, I somewhat suspect the author from playing tabletops as he was writing this one...

The world where the trilogy takes place, the Half-Continent, is basically a Victorian Europe caught in a constant struggle between men and monsters. There is an actual metaphysical war between civilization that tames the land by cultivation and "threwd", a genius loci or monster-producing awareness of the wild nature. Humans build cities, each one a hole in the threwd and a bastion against monsters, protecting the surrounding farmland but rarely strong enough to push far against the wilds. Nature responds by sending monsters to fight humanity off.

A nicker.

And yes, there are monsters everywhere. Unless you are within the safe streets of a city, monsters will most likely prowl nearby. All villages are built with a protection of strong walls, all mansions are more like fortresses. Larger roads are patrolled by the military and travellers hire bodyguards. The farther away you go from a centre of civilization, the more common and dangerous the monsters will get. They crawl out from various swamps and muds "impregnated" by threwd, countless in numbers and an ever-looming threat over humanity. They come in every size and shape - goblinoid grinnlings; animal-headed glamgorns, huge umbergogs, aquatic kraulschwimmen, and more, ever stranger creatures. Every forest, river, mountain or marsh will have some, and they will come out at night, invading into the fields, pastures and orchards unless deterred. And should you forget to lock the doors and windows of your fortified house, they may very well eat you.

A glamgorn.

Yet monsters are not mindless killers. They are as intelligent as humans, and very much varied in their attitudes. Many despise humans for their conquest of the wilds, many like the taste of human flesh (or horse meat, monsters are said to love horse meat), but way more monsters would just like to be left at peace. Precious few are even benign, hoping to reconcile monsters and men. And they are also not just disorganized packs or solitary wanderers (quite some are, but not all). The wild lands are ruled over by urchin-lords, monster nobility so ancient and soaked with threwd they basically have psychic powers (there is no true magic, so psychic powers and alchemy is as close as you will get to supernatural). The deep seas then hide the dormant false-gods, gargantuan monsters of apocalyptic powers, inspiring cults (monstrous or human) that try to find ways of waking them so that their false-god can rule over the world.

The Vinegar Sea hides even stranger monsters.

For their part, the people of the Haacobin Empire (a collection of city-states where the story takes place) see monsters as pests to be eradicated, and threwd as a challenge to be overcome. Of course, there are the "heretical, monster-loving" kingdoms that the Empire wages war at, and which maybe live in relative harmony with monsters. But in the Empire, any sympathy to monsters is a capital offense, and even being accused of monster-love can get you exiled into the hostile countryside. And because of this philosophy of "the only good monster is a dead monster", of course there are various monster-slayers and adventurers - how convenient for tabletop gaming!

An undead, man-made monster.

Your usual murderhobo party will appreciate the organised quest-givers, as the number of monster-slayers and monsters to be slain had given raise to the so called "knaveries". A knavery is an administrative establishment where all the hireling slayers, professional killers and freelance murderers can get commission to work on government-declared monster-hunts or private contracts. Monster slaying is rather lucrative business - there are never enough soldiers to keep all the public roads in the country safe, merchants will gladly pay to have their precious cargo protected, and rich land owners or remote villages are always pestered by some troublesome monster. Many cities even offer prize money for every monster’s head you bring.

A monster-slayer.

Monster slaying is also a deadly business. As the average monsters has every physical advantage over humans (even the two feet tall boggles are said to be stronger than a grown man, to say nothing about claws, fangs or armoured skin), monster-slayers need some gimmick to level the playing field. Sure, there are flintlock firearms, but that alone is not enough when monsters may be large and tough enough to shrug off cannonballs. I already mentioned alchemy, though, which is powerful, widespread, diverse and oft-used.

A lahzar.

For starters, there is proofed clothing - clothes alchemically treated to reinforce them against both blade and claw. You can wear a frock coat instead of a chain mail, yet still get comparable protection, and with more expensive alchemical concoctions, better defensive abilities can be achieved. Thus using medieval setting is no longer required to maintain the idea of effective armour, and your players can let their fashion sense run wild as they search for the best-looking armoured embroidery. No one would be caught outside of a city without proofing. Even better, proofing solves the problem I have with firearms in many fantasy worlds - why didn't they quickly spread and made melee combat obsolete? But when everyone is walking around in bulletproof clothes, you can still reliably whack them with a pole-axe or a war hammer.

The Appendices contain explanations
of nearly everything, with pictures.
All of the pictures here actually come
from the books.

But I digressed a bit from actually slaying the monsters. For this, there are many concoctions, acids and monster-poisons - skolds are professional battle alchemists, hurling explosives, combustibles, or caustic and toxic chemicals. Other potions can enhance the abilities of normal humans - leers take drugs that help them to see in shadows or darkness and notice minor details, or use biologues (artificially grown living tools and machines) to track monsters by smell and find their hiding places. There are also the dangerous lahzars, given psychic powers by a combination of alchemy and surgery. And even the common monster-slayer can take advantage of envenomed blade or bullet, and when the job is done they will chug down one of the many restoratives (yes, there are healing potions, or something pretty close).

A leer wearing a smell-enhancing olfactologue.

Alchemy has great many uses, and just as many misuses. While lahzars skirt the line of legality, there are strictly illegal practises of mad alchemists who use human cadavers, butchered monsters and ancient chemistry to create gudgeons - undead made-monsters, Frankenstein-esque brutes and stitched beasts of war. Maybe your players would like the profit that comes from trafficking stolen human bodies and living monsters? Such dark trades can pay really well, as gudgeons are valued both as "super soldiers", and as opponents to  captured monsters in underground fights for the entertainment of the wealthy and aristocratic. On the other hand, monsters see gudgeons as the ultimate blasphemy and will try to destroy them on sight. Maybe the players can find an unexpected ally when hunting such a zombified abomination, or help monsters free their kin from a fighting pit? Either way, they will be hanged if discovered, as smugglers or as monster-lovers.

A single skold against a massive war-gudgeon.

All in all, the Half-Continent would make for an excellent adventuring location. The only thing missing in the books are some forgotten dungeons to explore, if you need those in your game.

I think I might try to adapt some of ideas for OSR...