Sunday, March 17, 2019

Power Ups

So. Numenera and its kin have a thing where there's a ton of one-use magic items about, for lack of a less annoying term. This makes magic items less special and more special at once; their lack of scarcity means you'll probably never be too far away from uncovering/receiving/bartering for one, but once you have it there's no X charges or uses per day, you just have to be judicious in when and how you apply these powers.

We can go deeper. We can go dumber. What if they worked like the ? blocks in Mario Kart? What if we ditch a lot of the magic item tables and just do video game power ups? Magic items become both more common and less common; if these are "all" of the magic items in play then finding a +2 weapon suddenly becomes a lot more exciting. In a FLAILSNAILS game it means you can be free with handing out party favors without worrying about how you're going to wreck the curve for Ed's game or whatever. In public play you can have some fun handing out physical power ups, or using edibles as markers (the way I do for enemies). Basically since gaseous potions affect a whole room of people at a time there's what the kids call free real estate, so I'm moving magic items out of their nested percentile trailer park and into Potion Corners, a new community for living.

Still want some magic armor or weapons or shields? Ornament slots! An Amber equipped weapon is always +1 and overcomes magic resistance, magic armor or shields are always +1AC....if you want to prime these up and get into +8 territory be my guest. HOWEVER, once a piece of Amber ornamentation is activated in a weapon/armor/shield/etc it activates evvvverything that it's set with.

In the year 20XX of the third age of Glamorhammer or whatever there is (hm not mana I'm doing something stupid with that already how about) Amber, the crystalline sap exuded from the tree connecting all worlds itself. This is a substance that is of the gods, that traps pure magic, that has a physical shell, and so it's kind of all three major planes of existence in one little package. Smashing it apart produces some wondrous powers or conjures some needed boons. Some are...strange...but who can argue with results?

Amber is unpredictable, producing a wide variety of effects. We'll get to the different colors of Amber in a minute but first: There is Raw Amber, Polished Amber, and Pure Amber. You can find Amber anywhere, in the wild, in deep mines, some people have even endeavored to find and collect the stuff to sell! It goes without saying that anywhere wealth is gathered, such as a dragon's hoard, some Amber may be found. It can be hidden in a ring or amulet for good luck or just for fashion. Once destroyed/activated, though, all evidence of the Amber will vanish. It's believed that using the magic in the Amber sends it back to the tree that is road to worlds, so the more "magic items" you use the stronger you make heaven. That's a nice thought.

Pure Amber is rare. It's tied to one specific effect from one specific color of Amber. You never roll any dice to determine its effects, but you still roll 1d6 to determine its duration in rounds. Pure Amber designed to Summon is in fact very rare.

Polished Amber is definitely one of the colors listed below and it's gorgeous, but it has bits of bug and plants and stuff in it so it's not pure; these imperfections can still make their effects unpredictable. Roll 1d6 to determine type, plus 1d6 to determine duration. Rolling 6+6, Boxcars, activates the Summon for a color, which causes a Prismystic to appear. These are angelic seeming abstractions of raw interdimensional magic; any personality assigned to these Prismystics is a coincidence. Surely. Probably. They are made of color and cannot be affected by anything that does not affect color, but they can affect whatever they want because they're from a place of perfect color that's too strong for our world. They act independently of the PCs but may - may - act in accordance with/anticipation of their wishes.

Raw Amber doesn't look very impressive and can be cloudy; as such, it's hard to tell what magical effect breaking Raw Amber will achieve. Roll 1d6 to determine the color of Amber, then follow the rules for Polished Amber. If you roll 6+6+6 then you instead manifest Reignbow, a combined form of all the Prismystics who has all their abilities and a bow that does a complete "screen clear" of any enemies and obstacles with less than 50HP. Uh, including treasure.Oops.

Red Amber

  1. Attack Bonus- Roll two dice whenever you attack something.
  2. Damage Bonus- Double all damage dealt for the duration.
  3. Magic Attack- Ignore any resistances or immunities.
  4. Charge Attack- Run into an enemy, knocking them over, then attack; enemy takes a minimum of 1 damage and is on the ground. Ignore normal movement rates; once you start moving to an enemy you keep moving toward them until you make contact, even if the duration expires.
  5. Rev Up!- Every round of the duration you refrain from attacking, you gain an extra attack when you do attack. You can Rev Up the whole duration and then unload or you can split it up.
  6. Knockback- A hit pushes the target back equal to your current movement rate.
Summon:
The many-armed Crimson is unparalleled at hand-to-hand. Uses your movement value.
Multi-Attack- Make an attack against every enemy you can reach at some point during movement, 1d4 magical damage.
Paralyze- Any enemies struck by Crimson must save vs Paralysis/Petrification/Constitution or be stunned for a period equal to Duration.

Blue Amber

  1. Amber Armor- As Full Plate but with none of the weight/stealth/spellcasting restrictions
  2. Force Field- Everything stops 1' from you, including your allies
  3. Energy Field- Roll 1d4, 1 Electric 2 Fire 3 Cold 4 Radiation (as acid), anyone touching you takes this damage
  4. Decoys- You gain illusory duplicates equal to your Duration roll who persist, popping out when they would be damaged or touch an enemy.
  5. Immunity- This makes the DM give you a conditional reprieve. If you are underwater this may mean drowning immunity, if you are in lava this may mean heat immunity, if you are infected with mummy rot this may cure you. Be gentle with this DMs, and be reasonable in your expectations Players.
  6. Extra Life- Gain "temporary HP" equal to half your max HP. If you die, this Amber activates and instead restores you to life with half HP.
Summon:
Lithe and limber Azure is not slowed by their shining gauntlets, possessing Free Movement.
Reflection- While Azure's gauntlets block melee attacks, any spell or missile attack Azure blocks is bounced back, targeting its originator.
Bullet Time- Azure can move use their free movement to intercept any number of attacks in a round, whether on the players' turns or the enemies'.

Green Amber

  1. Re/Gain A Spell- Get back a safe spell or spell slot you spent, or gain a bonus spell slot for the highest level you can cast
  2. Re/Gain All Spells- Get back all safe spells/slots used, or gain a bonus spell slot
  3. Invisibility- Lasts for duration, enemies cannot attack you directly unless they are also invisible.
  4. Healing- Restores your HP at a rate of your Level per Round for the Duration
  5. Levitate- This is really "hover all around like a limited flight deal" but it ends if you take damage
  6. Fireball- The effect is immediate, as the spell, but you can generally direct it.
Summon:
Puckish Viridian thinks walking and running are pointless.
Polymorph- Viridian can use their action to turn a target into roll 1d4 1 a toad 2 an overturned turtle 3 an emerald 4 a cactus.
Teleport- Viridian can move themselves or enemies anywhere they want through the use of glowing green portals.

Purple Amber

  1. Ultra Sneak- No need to roll to hide in shadows/stealth for the duration
  2. Mega Jump- Jump or fall safely for your full movement each round without any rolls
  3. Epiphany- A clue or insight about something or everything around you. The DM has to be nice to you and go here's a hidden puzzle here's a weak spot here's a hidden door, describing up to the Duration in hidden information
  4. Quickster- Your movement rate is doubled for the duration
  5. Spell Craft- You work on some creation or other at 10x normal speed; after the duration is over, you have produced an item or dance or story or cake or whatever of exceptional quality. Anyone you share it with consentually can be considered Charmed, and if you know any spells you can hide a spell in the work.
  6. Big Payoff- Multiply the loot gained from an enemy or party (but NOT a hoard) by the Duration.
Summon:
Sour-faced Plum is all business but never hurries (20'/combat round)
Unlock- With a snap of their fingers Plum can open any lock or door, even magically sealed ones. A number of charges equal to Duration.
Sneak Attack- Anyone Plum actually catches up to takes 5xDuration damage.

Orange Amber

  1. Hookshot- Hookshot can instantly yank you across any distance like Batman's grapple gun. It can also haul enemies toward you if they weigh less than you. Duration equals charges.
  2. Flying Guillotine- Only hits on a flat contested d20 roll, no bonuses applied; on a hit, anything with fewer HD than you is decapitated.
  3. Trick Arrows- Durationx4 indicates number appearing, roll 1d8: 1 glue 2 grease 3 blinding flash 4 fire 5 acid 6 sleep 7 l o u d 8 anti-magic
  4. Bombs- Duration equals number of rounds before it explodes with the force of a Fireball, everyone in 100' blinded for 3 rounds
  5. Poison Powder- Duration begins when the powder is blown in the face of a target, roll 1d4: 1 laughing powder 2 itching powder 3 vertigo powder 4 confusion powder; all of these can incapacitate in different ways, but confusion powder requires an enemy save vs Death each round to move, attack, or use items, failure meaning the player can rewrite that portion of the enemy's turn.
  6. Chainsaw Axe- Duration indicates how many feet of material you can chop through in one go, and otherwise acts like a normal axe in combat except it instantly fells anything with 1HD or less. This item stays until you miss with it, which indicates it falling apart.
Summon:
Rusty looks like a machine and is too heavy to move much at all; half player movement.
Raygun- Deals Player's HP in a straight line to # of targets up to the Duration.
Homing Attack- Mystic missiles fired by Rusty will chase their targets for the Duration.

Yellow Amber

  1. Giant Size- You can smash through most obstacles like they aren't there and gain a damage bonus, but if you get hit this goes away before the Duration ends; your size and damage multiplier is your Duration.
  2. Animal Form- Choose frog, bat, cat, snake, rat, crow; gain all the reasonable abilities of that creature for the Duration and fit through tiny spaces, not to mention be less likely to be targeted. Keep your normal movement rate. If your Duration is 1 that's kind of lame so instead you turn into a person-sized version of that animal.
  3. Elemental Body- Roll 1d4, 1 Marvel Comics' The Thing 2 tornado 3 bubble 4 big fire with arms; can't be hit by nonmagical weapons and you can do about what you'd expect those things to do in a Hannah Barbera cartoon.
  4. Shadow Shape- You can hide in an ally's shadow, turn 2D to fit through cracks or under doors, and attempt to scare enemies away (Morale check)
  5. Double You- Heads you turn into a copy of an ally, Tails you turn into a copy of an enemy; if your Duration is Even you get to choose who, if it's Odd then you don't.
  6. Roll Out- You turn into a big ol' round head face and just bulldoze over anything in your path. You bounce in this form! Arnold K. Seal of Approval. Your Durationx2 is how many feet in diameter you are.
Summon:
Goldie's draconic magnificence blocks out sunlight, rendering movement moot.
Fire Breath- As the monster ability, using player's HP; flames will spread.
Invulnerable- Only Goldie can be targeted while Goldie is around, and Goldie is invulnerable to damage. Dispel Magic works, though.





Want to make this a little bit more OSR/Flame Princess/Lovecrafty? Change the Summons to demons and swap out some abilities. Include some special Amber with its own power tables? Why not! You can expand this or modify it as much as you want. Mutant setting? Cans of Ninja Turtle ooze. Pulp heroes in a lost world? The cutting edge science of "serums." Words of power and madness. Faerie gifts. You can bend this all sorts of ways.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Donald Sutherland and Dragons


You want to know the D&D I want to play?
Image result for body snatchers

You want to know the D&D I want to run?

It's the D&D I was warned about.
Image result for wicker man 

It's D&D for and about grown-ups

"Urbane. Worldly. Mature. Sophisticated. Seductive."


Culpable. Fallible. Susceptible. Callous.

Vulnerable. 


It's a D&D where you take the given assumptions of the best D&D


The world is old

The world is large

Our tragedies cannot be stopped

Because no one is coming to stop them for us

We must endure them

We must stop them ourselves

Sometimes we can't do either.

There is victory

But that's not a happy ending
Image result for donald sutherland don't look now

There are dungeons all around us

The monsters coming or they're here or they were inside our neighbors all along


We were the worst that could happen

We can be better

Sometimes.

And you put them in turtlenecks and drape them in the tatters of the new age and give them a claustrophobic crisis to deal with and give them problems a plane ticket can't help them to escape and you color shift the fuck out of it. Replace armors with like AC charms on all that jewelry everyone wore, maybe scale to-hit down a little, elfs and dwarfs and so on are among us even now but it takes special senses or esoteric knowledge or the touch of their own kind in order to even sense this second world.

It's dirty. It's beautiful. It's...largely white, but we can fix that. It's horror, damn it. It's what they told my parent's generation about the adult world. Is it any wonder the 80s happened? Corduroy realism. Get out of the 70s alive? Perhaps. Unchanged? No way. No how. Maybe it's not always the 70s. Maybe sometimes it's Mario Bava. Maybe sometimes it's David Bowie. You said forever. But the feel of the thing is entirely that this. won't. end. well.

You'll be different. You have to start now. There's much to do.

Journalist, an add-on class

Animaney, Totally Insaney
My add-on classes are, again, inspired by the work of Josie X from Metal vs Skin, one of the best of bloggers of my crop and a classy DM if you're ever so lucky. Let me play an army deer. Hope they publish again. Speaking of publishing...

Any class can be a Journalist. You can call this a Chronicler or put all your notes in a magical flying diary, Historian, whatever flavor you need. A Journalist does not come with any special requirements but if you elect to receive a Journalist's benefits you must perform the work of a Journalist, otherwise you cease to advance as normal in your main class until you rectify the situation.

Journalists change the normal rules of the game in three ways.

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE

Journalists gain +5% xp for keeping copious notes and sharing them with the group. They can gain an additional +5%xp for writing up a full session report in the style of an in depth profile, thrilling expose, or frontline correspondence, and sharing said article somewhere public like Reddit or Twitter. They can elect to instead donate this “bonus xp” to one other PC who features prominently in their report. Journalists “carousing” can elect to gain +1 to reaction rolls in a settlement instead of any xp bonus, better for gathering rumors, establishing contacts, and hiring retainers. No xp is awarded for the cost of distributing your literature; the solace that you’re speaking truth to power (and 5 silver a pop) are reward enough.

WHO'S GOT YOU?!

Any named character in an adventuring party may reroll a saving throw failed by a Journalist with their own values if they are within 10’ of the Journalist and the save would allow them to avoid a trap, hazard, or direct-damage spell effect. Said character acts swiftly and boldly to protect the Journalist, sometimes putting their own life in danger. The Journalist can benefit from this feature once a level for each named character in their party.

NOSE FOR NEWS

A Journalist begins with a special saving throw against Bull Shit. Whenever the DM has some NPC deliberately attempt to outright mislead the party or tell a flat out lie, the Journalist gets a saving throw rolled for them in secret by the DM. A Journalist’s DM should get used to throwing the occasional die just to throw players off the scent of when they’re being lied to, but you’re doing that anyway right? This Bull Save starts at 18 and improves by 1pt per level gained (17 at level 2, 16 at level 3, etc). Other players cannot reroll this save on a Journalist’s behalf as outlined above, although a fellow Journalist may get their own save.

Monday, March 11, 2019

DUNGEON MIX: Slaves of Meteor Fortress


The slavers of Coulche have become weak and can be driven from polite society with a well-placed dagger. A small team has been instructed by a neighboring ruler to do just that.

or

You are abolitionists feared across the Coulche's borders for the force of your zeal. You have hopes to liberate more people than ever before. The orders you intercepted leave no time to lose.

or

An acquaintance of your group stands accused as a kidnapper. After her arrest you pore over her possessions looking for some clue to her guilt or innocence. You find a note from her "victim" pleading for their help, begging them to come for them in Coulche. The note is old, weeks old.

or

You are slaves. You have not dared know freedom. However, emanations from the great houses have chilled all peoples of Coulche. If you don't break free now, there may never be another chance.

---------------------

The men of Coulche routinely raid the forest towns, waylay pilgrims on their way to mission in Ghadabahg, and maintain a constant supply trail through the Sandy Reaches coastward. These are all in service of catching, breeding, training, and selling slaves, Coulche's chief export. All their neighbors, the true kingdoms and the great nations, abhor slavery as a practice on paper. There are some degenerates still who trade with Coulche in secret. There are, of course, envoys from beyond the more civilized nations, blood machines which require grist for their mills of conquest. They would snake their tendrils through the great kingdoms and draw power from the cancer within them. Coulche has remained unlanced by the body politic until now for three reasons. First, the Coulche buy a lot of grains, clay, and lumber to better corral their possessions. Second, treaties from before the civilized kingdoms turned their back on Coulche and slavery make intervention awkward and dangerous, lest many old poisons find purchase in a new wound. Third, it has long been rumored that the Coulche have discovered the body of Lilies In Autumn, feared as a priestess of hellish temperament and diabolical power; her return even as an inanimate fetish of worship would propel the cult left in her wake to new heights of savagery.

What the Coulche have possessed for half a generation now is the sarcophagus of Lilies In Autumn, which acts as a sort of life battery slowly absorbing and amplifying vitality until it can imbue it within its contents. Lilies In Autumn's body was chucked in a ditch to crumble before this had enough effect to raise her. However, the Coulche have come to understand this dread power and even reverse-engineered it. This is the source of the Molds.

It's an elemental question, providing the value of labor without the investment. There's usually nowhere further down to go beyond being a filthy fucking slavedriver, but the Coulche know better now. They know how simple it is to make monsters. Admittedly none of these have proven themselves all that useful for labor but hope springs eternal. They have gathered their resources at Fort Meteor, where these creatures can be easily contained. After all, worst case scenario their efforts prove fruitless and they simply corral them down the pass and into neighboring Argento...

The unfortunate fact is that this is a monstrous act of mercy. Even the lives they're sacrificing to this experiment are deemed a necessary evil. See, the heart of Coulche has turned. They want to be good, to be better. They seek now to abolish their rich slave trade, following the growing will of a new generation of Coulche as well as increasing external pressures. They just need replacements, first. The people of Coulche are the good guys here, and these colossi are as much victims as anything. It's only the twisted upper castes who are so bent they do darker deeds in the name of virtue. The more slaves who are liberated the more the Coulche leaders will turn to these grim arts, the bolder they will behave, the more likely they are to risk a mistake, a breach. Other freed slaves on the run have to weigh their own hope of escape against the welfare of those they travel with, for any who lag behind may become victim or monsters themselves.

The Coulche's sins have long been visited on their neighbors. Now they plan to germinate hells around their sporing new homemade gods.

The map is something of concentric circles radiating from Fort Meteor. This is not a large campaign. Good starting points are marked with a @.

WANDERING ENCOUNTERS

Each section has its own wandering encounter table. Roll 1d6+1d6. I like to use one white and one black. If the black die is equal or higher than your white die then you encounter whatever the value on the black die indicates. If both dice show the same value you still encounter whatever the black die tells you to but you or your enemies are surprised. An odd number means you're surprised, an even number means you're both surprised. You never get the drop on people in their domain from just wandering around, you have to deliberately set an ambush. Anyway, in the event of surprise any Damage dealt to the surprised party is doubled.

There is a separate table included for explicitly noncombat encounters where fighting is never the outcome unless the party chooses to force it, included at the end. One of these will occur in any region where a normal wandering encounter does not occur. This includes wildlife encounters, for hunting/Summoning purposes.



SCENIC COULCHE PASS

C0 @ Fort Meteor is where so many of the great houses have moved the bulk of their slaves. The official explanation for the people of Coulche is that these will be preparing the fort for expansion and modernization, a test case to see if this great force can revolutionize Coulche that they might compete once again with the great kingdoms of the Delt. There are other things here, and they grow in scale and number by the week. Points of interest in Fort Meteor include:
  • The Hall of Heaven - This is where the heads of the high houses spend all their time drinking and eating and otherwise debauching until they pass out wake up and start again. A huge manse in castle's clothes, there's room for a few hundred honored leaders and their coterie of guests and achem "servants." Light the banners. Bar the doors.
  • The Barracks are enough to hold two hundred or so grunts not granted quarters in the keep. They keep a small armory here, a smith, and the fortress' stables. There is also a mess full of unexpectedly fine confectioneries.  
  • The Keep is home to the fortress' commander, Hullum Brunse, and his inferior officers. It's largely composed of the titular meteor, and therefore requires a Constitution roll to advance or attack when in metal armor or armed with metal weapons. There are ancient siege weapons here but they are not readied and are impossible to ready in secret.
  • The Hollow beneath Fort Meteor was once a literal dungeon but now is sort of a...god zoo. This has required excavating additional room, causing great sinkholes to collapse into the enclosure. Glimpses of gods can be seen from above. There are 5d20 Mudmen here along with the new gods of the high houses. Consider anyone in this space completely deafened, no save.
  • The Altar is a ziggurat style dais crudely erected from already-eroding concrete near the Gap Gate, in case an emergency eject has to be pulled; there is a little ramp/slide to the back. Here stands the sarcophagus of Lilies in Autumn, which is fitted in like a filament when powering the magics for the Molds. The gods are conceived here but gestate and hatch in the Hollow. Many don't even realize what they've made, not REALLY, not YET.
  • The Corral takes up fully half the inside of the fortress and stretches between buildings. While it is fenced off with biting wires there are guarded gates at five points along it. This is where the assembled slaves stand in the sun and the rain, creating little shanties from refuse and piling up on each other and each other's filths. Some have died already but the dead body pile is in the Corral so...
  • There is one great godstone here. It is all that is keeping the new gods imprisoned beneath the Hollow. If it leaves or is damaged then all hell (heaven?) breaks loose.
ENCOUNTERS

1. Drunken Lord (use the values of Peasant listed below because fuck 'em)
2. Escaping Slaves (if they are allowed to get away it will raise an alarm)
3. 1d6 Meteor Soldiers
4. Hullum Brunse +2 Meteor Soldiers
5. Tigonlie Soldiers
6. Mold Attendants

B1 Tremont Village lies between Fort Meteor and the Quicksilver Gate; indeed, if one climbs the poplars in the center square, one can just glimpse the tops of each. Tremont is unremarkable apart from being the end of the treeline in western Coulche, right before it disappears into the mountain valleys of Argento. Many of the villagers here have relatives or business interests in the neighboring kingdom. There are fewer slaves in Tremont, they being more progressive, and the ones who remain to work the mill seem to come and go as they like so long as they stay within Tremont and continue to work the mill. There is a Douala here named Non Nooly who can administer basic first aid, and you can usually find a horse to buy.

B2 Humble Gap splits and falls away from Fort Meteor, filled with questing poplars and reaching spear-like pines. A gate in Fort Meteor opens over Humble Gap, and prisoners are often marched off the cliff edge. There really was a meteor once, you know, which extended the gouge of Humble Gap, and part of it is still down there. This is a dead star fragment drawn down by the godstones, and its strange heat has animated the broken dead at the floor of the drop into magnetic husks hell bent on non-euclidean construction. There's...there's so many of these things down here you guys.

B3 @ Ribelline City lies on the other side of Humble Gap from Tremont Village. There's a doctor here, a rudimentary apothecary, and a Magician named Hoy who knows 4 normal spells along with a secret spell called Snakeskin (see below). Ribelline has its own guard as an adjunct force to Fort Meteor but they are not spectacular. You can buy basic supplies and typical gear as found on the equipment table. A blacksmith. Accommodations and drink, enough to carouse. What it also has in abundance are slaves...and ex-slaves. Ribelline is the show city Coulche presents to its critics in the wider world, a city of freed persons, many given slaves of their own along with their liberty. Some freed their slaves, many didn't.

B4 The Temple of Glasses has a veneer of Anglican reverie but it hides a two-faced friar named Bolgefuchs who likes to sometimes help free slaves, sometimes help catch slaves, depending who's paying him the most today. He has also conspired with several neighboring kingdoms, inclusing Argento, to overthrow Coulche. He's your contact, if that's what you're here for, and he may or may not be setting you up the whole time depending on how much money you brought with you. Some healing and quartering is possible here but you tarry at your peril.

B5 Poplar Copse is home to an abandoned grove, once sacred and source of the sparse poplar population here in high western Coulche. If near death Wood Ghost will always retreat here. There is a destroyed camp of assassins here from a previous expedition to "strike the heart of Coulche." Exotic weapons and poisons might be found here, along with a jar containing a spirit who knows Envision.

B6 A lone godstone stands here, waiting. During the day a mighty man of Coulche comes and tries to lift it for most of the day. At night he will disappear into the shadows. He is impossibly strong but will reject all threat or entreaty. He is one of Coulche's own mysteries. Call him the Stoneman. When the godstones move he will be there.

B7 The Sun Tor is an old watchtower situated high above the fortress, attended by a few caved-in shacks. There is a small circle of stones here, as in primordial calendars. Its staircases give way on a 7-8/d8 but its balcony looks out over Argento for first sign of attack. A signal might easily be sent here to alert the fortress, alert the kingdom of Argento, alert your confederates, etc. There are marks of a ritual having taken place here but it's hard to describe what kind unless you're a slave. If you're a slave then it's clear this "ritual" is basically hobo-sign, and "summons" a map of safe havens in Coulche along with the seasonally-appropriate pass phrases to each. The tor has been neglected for a long time since Coulche has feared no true invasion for generations. If the party has yet to encounter Wood Ghost they will face it first here.

B8 The Red Spring has a powerful bacterial colony living within that accounts for its color and its toxic properties. A sample of this water could be valuable to the right apothecary. Roll 1d100: on a result of 1, you witness the "pool" around the spring....blink.

ENCOUNTERS

1. Startled Peasants
2. Hayacinth's Mercies
3. Brafan Muscle
4. 1d8 Ribelline Guards
5. 10 Meteor Soldiers
6. Wood Ghost

A1 @ The Quicksilver Gate to Argento, guarded by a detached but friendly column of soldiers. There are accommodations for many more, and there are mechanisms by which the gate can be stoppered against any Coulche penetration, including rigged rockslides and oil spouts. The captain here is Mawney, a fat man who screams. The Quicksilver Gate is proof against an invasion that never came, more than a match for a single god. 2 or more, however, and the gate will fall and leave Argento unprepared and vulnerable. You can get rations and water here and in an emergency you may be deputized and granted access to the armory. Mawney and the guards use the information for the Ribelline Guard listed below, but Mawney gets +2 Damage and +2 Control. Only roll for wandering encounters to determine whether to use the noncombat table instead: otherwise, any force encountered in this area is made up of Argentoes.

A2 There is a small cave here, the air wet and heavy like breath. It doesn't go back very far. Its surfaces are slick with slime mold. If you're being pursued nearby this is the first place your pursuers will think to look, but it certainly seems like a good place to hide. There is an abandoned pack here with climbing gear and a journal filled with a shorthand account of a journey from the other side of Coulche. There is a potion here which, if drank, gives you a glimpse of the distant past: primitive persons worshiping a massive standing stone. You may recognize its shape and markings as the godstone at the heart of Fort Meteor, but how did it get from the mouth of the cave all the way over there?

A3 The rice farms cascading down the stepping slopes here help to supply Ribelline. A mix of slave and free persons work these fields, depending on who the fields belong to. Contraband and secret messages smuggled over the border with Argento are often secreted here, only in certain fields, beneath the water. The Ribelline guard knows this and will do regular checks of random households. The party has a 1/4 chance of running into such an inspection here, and an even chance this inspection will turn ugly. If the farmers are innocent they will have nothing to offer the players except meager local information and food, but if they are in fact complicit in the smuggling they may have some cool stuff.

A4 The Ruined Rise features buildings set into the mountainsides, in some cases carved from them. Many structures here are destroyed, echoes of a long-ago invasion. This is a ghost town, completely abandoned, which of course means it is occupied. Some slaves live here but for the most part this is a place for criminals. Thieves, fugitive killers...The Brafa from the northeast will be surely hiding out here, and there's a chance another rival party may be using a distant part. You might even run into the Stoneman or Wood Ghost here. If you haven't run into any of the major factions here yet you'll meet one in the Ruined Rise, basically. There's nothing intact of value except what its new population brings with it, the rest being looted long ago.

A5 Humble Gap continues stretching and spreading to the east, its sides becoming less sheer as it does so. There is a Woodcutter's Family here, each of them wearing wooden "shells" and masks like the one Wood Ghost wears. This blocks their bioelectric signals to the magnet men and allows them to move about unmolested. They will be naturally suspicious of you, and have four dice to Hide in this valley when so adorned. This "armor" has no value and protects like Ring and looks very creepy. If you attack and injure one of them thinking them to be Wood Ghost the rest of the family, children included, will set on you.

A6 Brass Boughs on your map represents a particularly gorgeous mix of forest and meadow, a popular hunting ground in the old days, now exclusive reserve for the Overcount of Coulche. There are no signs of civilization here and the animals have become bold for being ignored. 3/6 chance of wildlife encounters here, 5/6 at night.

A7 There is an old caved-in mineshaft here, overgrown with brambles. Dexterity to avoid falling in. There is one Meteor Soldier trapped here, nearly dead from thirst. He can be plied with drink for information, but setting his shattered legs and hauling him out is a daunting prospect. He does carry a letter to his kids that he swears the party will be rewarded for delivering. Some simple tools for breaking through rock and stone can be found here, picks and hammers and such.

A8 High Lake waits still and sour. A big-ass murky lake like this demands a monster. There is a fish here very much like an alligator gar who locals refer to as Fancy Fred. Bigger than a man, Fred doesn't go in for worms. He'll take your bait on a 1/10 chance, +1 for every day you've let your bait decay. Catching Fancy Fred is hard but Summoning him is possible. Landing him as a trophy will be worth 1000c and an audience with most local people of import outside of Fort Meteor, at the very least earning you some ale and lodgings. If you use Fred for food, consider all Rations checks to have +2 while you remain in Coulche. If you gain him as an ally he will ride in the body of a retainer, appearing as a tattoo on their face and conferring +5 to ST, IN, and KN.

A9 The Pines take over here: this is their rightful domain, not a place for poplars. They have a seductive shade and are home to a few cabins of simple Coulche peasants who know little of the political games they're caught in. They will offer rest and safety to those who ask, mostly in fear of night lions. If troops from Fort Meteor or the Ribelline Guard, for example, happened by looking for outsiders, however, you would be turned out quickly. The only factor is whether they make you leave or hand you over.

A10 There is a cave here chockablock full of bats, home to a mother mountain lion and her children. Investigating will cause....tension, but if the cave mouth is emptied it can be followed further down to a great heaving chamber filled with what looks like some sort of wizardly apparatus. It's a still, abandoned so long ago that it's becoming part of the cave. The hooch to be found here could be worth a fortune as spirits or could carry more punch than gasoline. Consider the items in these creatures' Packages to be items strewn about the lair in disrepair, evidence of some previous tenant.

Lion
Basic Animal (1d6+1HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Graceful (Half normal Save to avoid hazards, +1 Die Fitness), Fury (+1 damage each time this enemy is hit in combat), Bloodline (Beastly Locomotion, Natural Weaponry, +1 Mana)
Packages- Lama (3 Unarmed*1 canteen*1 empty book*1 staff*1 bedroll)

Bats
Mundane Animal (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, 1 Damage Maximum)
Extras- Small (+3AR at range, +1 Die Hide)
Packages- Lookout (+1 Die Detect*+1 Die Fitness*1 sling*1 cloak)

A11 A Crucified Slaver hangs here with an Argento flag stuffed in their mouth and the sentence hanging around her waist. She looks long dead but lives, barely. Let your conscience be your guide.

A12 @ The Crossing actually represents an undefended part of Argento territory. Both sides of a long rope bridge are technically on Argento land. However, it requires only one small shack full of robbers on probation to man it, since the whole thing can be taken down so easily in the event of invaders from Coulche. This is a peasant bridge, a peddler's bridge, a simple trade route which the party can use to come and go more or less freely. If the party is being pursued a rider will be dispatched to the Crossing to block escape. The robbers on the other side are friendly enough and there's a 1/d20 chance that one of them is a distant family member to one of the party. They use the values for Coulche Peasants, listed below.

A13 A Peasant Cemetery rests here, old and overgrown. It once belonged to the Argentoes beyond the Crossing and is not used by the Coulche for a mix of superstitious and cultural reasons. It has not been minded or cleared in some time, and likely receives no visitors. There is the sound of sweeping when you're not looking, like someone walking through a pile of leaves. At night a voice from behind you will ask for passage to the valley. This area is protected against the intrusion of the new gods.

A14 Ham Deegle is a small village of subsistence farmers living around an old dried-up mine. There's only about eight families here including a quartet of dwarfs. They know the Rite of Fancy Fred here and the dwarfs know the Rite of the Sentinels, being late converts and final worshipers of the old godstones. They will resent you for inquiring after these but if you pull off invoking these then all 50-or-so people of Ham Deegle will join your quest.

A15 Cloud Lodge is a bath house and bordello found here. Anyone traveling to or from Fort Meteor on official business makes an unofficial stop here. Sister Vondu runs a fairly straight-laced place, considering, with nothing too kinky going on. She can fill out your map quickly and knows one fact about everyone mentioned by name in this article. She also knows anything at all about the Stoneman and Wood Ghost which makes her somewhat unique. Treat your experiences in this bordello as a Summoning with attendant benefits that your Control efforts for those in your employ are increased by 3.

ENCOUNTERS

1. Forceful Peasant
2. Desperate Runaway Slaves
3. Wood Ghost
4. 1d4 Meteor Soldiers
5. Uver's Bounty Hunters
6. 1d12 Crude Bandits (as Peasants; only half will be encountered initially, the rest gain a surprise bonus to Damage when entering the fray)

Other Encounters
1. Squirrel or gopher
2. Hare or mockingbird
3. Fox or hawk
4. Wolf or vulture
5. Bear or ape
6. Fugitive or Hermit
7. Mapmaker or Lost Traveler
8. Peddler or Artisan
9. Lame Horse or Broken Wagon
10. Strange noises or lights
11. Remains from robbers
12. A ruined tent
13. Friendly musician
14. Tax collector
15. Prankish locals
16. Shrine
17. Wandering educator
18. Runaway horse or livestock
19. Ghadabahg pilgrims
20. The Stoneman, glimpsed then gone

THE COULCHE PEOPLE


Hullum Brunse
Feature Officer (7x2d6HP, Guile 20, Save 4, Attack +10, 1d6x2 Damage)
Extras- Wealthy (access to 10,000c in funds), Station (This enemy has all the benefits conferred by a title), Magic Item (Meteor Armor), Extra Attack (Twice each Combat turn), Magic Item (The Oversword)
Packages- Rider (1 horse*1 saddle*1 spear*1 sabre*1 shield (AR), Knight (1 Shell (AR)*1 sword *1 horn*1 canteen*500c), Captain (+10 Control*1 sabre*1 scabbard*+5 troops)
[*Unchallenged Control, Troops 25, and AR 30 Package bonuses]

Meteor Soldiers
Advanced Warriors (24HP, Guile 15, Save 8, Attack +4, 1d6+2 Damage)
Extras- Fearsome (Penalty equal to Type bonus to players' Control rolls), Extra Move (move twice in a round), Magic Item (Meteor Armor)
Packages- Rider (1 horse*1 saddle*1 spear*1 sabre*1 shield (AR), Archer (1 Soldier's Bow*60 ammunition*1 quiver*10' rope)
Level Bonuses- +1 Die Detection, +2 Constitution, +2 Dexterity, +1 Willpower

Ribelline Guard
Basic Warrior (1d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +3, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Extra Move (move twice in combat), Fortunate (roll Skills using 1d12)
Packages- Point (1 Splint (AR)*1 hook*1 lockpick*1 flint*1 oil flask)
[AR 17 Package bonus]
Level Bonuses- +1 Constitution, +1 Dexterity

Hoy
Basic Magus (1d6+2HP, Guile 13, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage with weapon)
Extras- Magic Item (Hoy's Ring), Venom (possesses one poison HR3, one HR4, one HR5, may apply in Combat)
Packages- Sorcerer (4 artifacts*1 grimoire*5 spells*1 face paints)
Spells- Snakeskin, Fade, Reprieve, Prophesy, Sustain

Woodsman and Family
Basic Hermits (1d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 11, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage with weapon)
Extras- Bloodline (Elf Sight, Elf Majesty, +1 Mana), Extra Move (twice each round)
Packages- Sniper (+2 Die Hide*1 hunter's bow*40 ammunition*1 dagger)
Level Bonuses- +1 Die Dodge

Bolgefuchs
Mundane Cleric (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, Attack +0, 1 Damage)
Extras- Wealthy (access to 8888c)
Packages- Prophet (2 artifacts*1 cuirass *1 staff*1 icon* 2 books)

Tinter Mindus
Basic Healer (1d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 11, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Stranger (Half'un), Fortunate (make Skill rolls with 1d12)
Packages- Attendant (1 boat pole*1 hanging lantern*1 backpack)
Level Bonuses- +1 Die Heal, Mastery of Craft

Non Nooly
Mundane Healer (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, Attack +0, 1 Damage)
Extras- Unique (can heal up to 20HP total per day with a successful Craft roll)
Packages- Wastrel (1 dagger*1 staff*1c*10' rope*1 candle*1 ritual)
Rituals- Rite of the Hearth

Sister Vondu
Mundane Madame (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, Attack +0, 1 Damage)
Extras- Wisdom (3/8 chance to predict Orders (treat as intercepted))
Packages- Courtier (+10 Experience *+5 Control*1 ritual*1000c)
Rituals- Rite of the Hearth

The Builders
Mundane Husks (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, Attack +0, 1 Damage)
Extras- Undead (can't be dispatched by the lack of anything; get a Save against Spells)
Packages- Wastrel (1 dagger*1 staff*1c* 10' rope*1 candle*1 ritual)
Ritual- Instead of a true ritual, considered and extended study can lead one to learn how to perform a "Summoning" to break the meteor's hold on the dead; they will wander away and eventually collapse.

Slavers
Mundane Assholes (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, Attack +0, 1 Damage)
Extras- Backup (one enemy in group (often Mundane) gains surprise damage the first time this enemy is targeted)
Packages- Trapster (1 crossbow*1 cloak* 40 ammunition*+2 Die Craft)

Peasants and Slaves
Mundane Victims (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, Attack +0, 1 Damage)
Extras- Last Gasp (always gets dying words, which can cast a Spell)
Packages-Wastrel (1 dagger*1 staff*1c* 10' rope*1 candle*1 ritual)
Rituals- Rite of the Wode

FIENDS ARE VISITING FROM THE COUNTRY

Outsiders from the Brafan plains north of the Delt are here to recommit to Coulche, offering their services as personal security for the slave trade in Brafa. They have a black road cutting through the borders of the Delt kingdoms and they keep it running smoothly. They're here to run interference for the Coulche during this large scale enterprise. They have sent only their bastards.

Brafan Muscle
Basic Bruisers (1d6+2 HP, Guile 13, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage with weapon)
Extras- Unique (Attack bonus actually equals the number of Brafans in a group), Fury (+1 Damage each time they are hit in Combat)
Packages- Berserker (1 axe*1 Furs (AR) *Unarmed 2*1 helmet*1 stein)
[AR 15 from Package Bonuses)
Tigonlies on the other hand are eager to see its slave stock liberated of this mad experiment and down the eastern Delt to its waiting cigarettes. Tigonle makes a lot of money distributing Coulche's slaves and it saves them the trouble of sacking slaves themselves. They are petulant and quick, and prefer a mix of whips and pikes.

Tigonle Soldiers
Basic Mariners (1d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage with weapon)
Extras- Bloodline (Silver Tongue, Beguiling, +1 Mana), Last Stab (get one free attack when you Fall)
Packages- Pillager (1 horse*1 flint*1 net* 3 torches*3 satchels*1 map), Executioner (20' rope*1 axe*1 mask*1 bottle*200c*1 book)

THE RETURNERS

Uver Stamble is a bounty hunter feared even beyond Coulche. Wanted in two kingdoms he has less respect for the law than even his fellows. He makes it clear and obvious to everyone he meets that he plays the flute because he wants the slaves he hunts to know it's HIM coming when they hear they piping, so they lose their nerve and give themselves away.

Basic Bastard (1d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Extra Move, Fury
Packages- Point, Musician

Eli is tired of telling people that it can be a girl's name too. She is stronger than Uver and likes throwing spears for fun. She doesn't prioritize protecting her face.

Basic Bounty Hunter (1d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Last Stab
Packages- Rider
[AR 15 from Package Bonuses and Type Bonus]

Cheen the Mystic has heard of modesty of appearance and doesn't hold with it. In the city he stays cloaked and robed, away from society he usually hunts in the painted nude.

Basic Magician (1d6+2 HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Magic
Packages- Sorcerer
Level Bonuses- Mana Die
Magic Shortcut- Wizard (may replace any one spell requirement with a Relic)
Spells- Boarman, Mana Control, Mana Block, Mana Strike, Stranger Gift, Whispers, Listen, Trace, Darkness, Disguise

Wetherbee is a dwarf of flexible moral fibre, like a bamboo reed. He believes in justice, law, and peace, and he also believes that any attempt at dissolving Coulche's slave trade begins with these things being done properly, and returning runaways to their owners is the first step. We can't just have chaos! Soooo tired of Uver and Cheen, and come to that Eli...

Basic Bounty Hunter (1d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +4, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Stranger (Dwarf), Station (has a high title in Dwarf society)
Packages- Knight
[AR 21 with Package bonuses]

They just call the big mean orc Rusty. He sleeps in his armor and so is always poorly rested and never properly polished.

Basic Murderer (2d6+2 HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +3, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Hideous, Extra Attack
Packages- Goon (1 mallet*1 Chain (AR)* 1 prybar*3 satchels*1 pipe)
[AR 18 from Package bonuses]


THE SIDE OF ANGELS

Hyacinth is a fiercely abolitionist Halfl'un Hunter with her own gods on her side: she knows Mouthpiece, and has been touched by Glaswulf Bowin, an angelic ancestor spirit sort of deal. Very locally-sourced farm-to-table godding is Glaswulf Bowin. She is something of a holy terror, known as the Widow Deacon due to her habit (alllmost a joke there) of dressing in a friar's frock. She is skilled with hatchets and is easily identifiable from her ears, which have been clipped to a point. She is accompanied by her three Mercies.

Advanced Abolitionist (32 HP, Guile 15, Save 8, Attack +4, 1d6+2 Damage)
Extras- Stranger (Half'un), Enchanting (Players must succeed in a Willpower roll x2 to overcome this enemy's beguiling words), Wisdom (3/8 chance of anticipating Orders)
Packages- Warlord, Pillager
Level Bonuses- +1 Die Detection, +70 Experience

Tanny is Hyacinth's right-hand woman and protector, sure with the bows and arrows of her fallen enemies. She is slightly too tall and has a long chin. She is too distant to be friendly and she wishes she could help that.

Basic Bodyguard (1d6+2 HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Fortunate, Venom
Packages- Archer, Pillager

Felor and Goughtri are twins who use their appearance to aid in subterfuge. They rely on each other utterly and trust each other utterly and hate each other utterly.

Mundane Spies (1HP, Guile 10, Save 16, Attack +0, 1 Damage)
Extras- Backup
Packages- Musician (1 drum*1 flute*1 horn*3 outfits*1 ritual*1 spell)
Spells- Felor knows Double, Goughtri knows Reverse



WOOD GHOST

Wood Ghost is a kind of spirit soldier who lives where forest and mountain meet, a mediator of sorts whose cloak and mask are always dusted with a powdery snow, even now in July. They reek of sweat and honeysuckle. She can fling her hand-carved wooden shafts like arrows from a Hunter's Bow. She cannot speak your languages but the language of "oh shit a monster we're going to die" is universal, and she can intuit intent. The people of Coulche are familiar with her taboos - where to leave offerings, trails which are forbidden - but do not tell the slave population as a means of security and control. As a result Wood Ghost's actions seem random to the Coulche slaves, affording them an ominous legend. In reality Wood Ghost is an un-alive vessel for dead slaves, rooted in the brittle further-rotted husk of Lilies In Autumn. She delights in killing cruel masters and slavers who wander into her domain, and protects places of sanctuary or egress for escaping slaves. It doesn't know what to make of the party at first, and will stalk and/or attack as it deems necessary until they make their intentions clear.

Lilies In Autumn does not want to rise again to wreak havoc, she just wants her sarcophagus back to rest. Turns out death sucks. However, if reunited, she brings her hundred ghostly passengers along for the ride, and now these new gods filled with primordial confusion and anger and fear and running rampant? Now they're filled with pain and hate of decades, centuries, and all the people of Coulche will be scorched from the world without regard to virtue or vice. THEN maybe they turn to face the world which allowed Coulche to endure.... This is a win condition that stands as worst case scenario.

Star Revenant (80HP, Guile 18, Save 4, Attack +6, 1d6x2 Damage)
Extras- Extra Attack, Last Gasp, Last Stab, Undead, Magic Item (Wood Ghost's Mask), Graceful, Hideous, Ancient (+30 Experience, 3 Rituals)
Packages- Attendant, Sniper, Lookout, Wastrel
Level Bonuses- +1 Die to every Skill


THE THINGS WHICH AREN'T PEOPLE

Okay so I'm giving these things HP but to be clear, we're treating the gods like....a storm, or an avalanche. They're something you can survive. A Hazard to save against. You can pick away at them over time if you're lucky and clever but the idea of going "how many HP do you have left" after a god hits you - even a small god such as these - is anathema. You dead.

The gods haven't been alive long enough to stop screaming (that's one thing that must be absolutely clear when encountering one, the noise, the way the air completely boils around them with the sound of their skin sliding, joints grinding) so they haven't been given names, and the high families call them by house. That information will have no real bearing here so we'll just go largest to smallest, starting with....

G1The Mold for G1 was a bunch of sewn together still-living slaves. These still live but are catatonic with shock and fear and hate, and are worn like a living crown on a face with far too many mouths. Its fingers bend the other way and its skin flickers like charcoal just starting to catch. Things it touches keep sparking to life for a single round. This includes the skeletons inside people's own bodies, who rip themselves right free.

200 HP, HR 10

G2 This god blinds all who look at it for a round, and if you keep looking at it you'll stay blinded - maybe even go blind permanently! Its eyes and mouth constantly pour a frothing sunshine and its skin and extremities are blackened and cracking.

200 HP, HR 9

G3 can't decide whether it wants to be one million snakes or not, so its body is constantly shifting in waves like a broken CRT monitor. The snakes it sheds fall to the ground and become sticks.

150 HP, HR 9

G4 seems to be made of solid gold and burns to the touch like lava. Storm clouds burst open in its footfalls.

150 HP, HR 8

G5 crawls about everywhere bent over backwards, all its joints facing the wrong way. Things in its wake age away like they chose the wrong grail. This god seems most prepossessed with crossing over into Argento.

100 HP, HR 8

G6 can reasonably pass for the biggest, hairiest man or orc you've ever seen at a distance. Up close he's clearly 14' tall and covered in tiny cillia-like arms with babyish fingers all over them. He grows bigger and more dinosaur-like as you watch.

80 HP, HR 8

G7 is the size of a child because oh no. They exude death beams in an arcing plane.

50 HP, HR 10

Mudmen were the early god experiments. There are a lot of Mudmen. They have the same sort of divine consciousness but it's spread too thinly. They mostly mill about in large groups to beat on things. Now these are more like your standard enemies, but they're still a lot to deal with.

Basic Gods (3d6+2HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +3, 6 Damage)
Extras- Extra Arms (+1 trivial act a round, climb or swim without Fitness roll), Giant (-2AR, +2 Die Fitness, 6 Unarmed, Ignore Weight as a Dwarf)
Packages- 1 Random Package's worth of stuff is stuck to/inside of them, largely ruined

The Molds themselves crackle with a power from beyond the bounds of light and shapes. It grounds itself in peculiar ways, giving each a dangerous aura. These can be colored in any way you see fit but amount to raw damage taken the closer you come to the Mold once it's been activated. They turned the dial up too far and now all your me-juice is getting sucked out to create yet another of these...things.

50 HP, HR 5

Attendants are little more than living zombies now, their head all filled with god notions and set to their holy tasks. It's possible the Coulche haven't realized yet that they'll never be able to fully switch off. They busy themselves about the dais and it's not entirely clear how much they're accomplishing. If you get aggressive and they don't just stove your head in with one of the hooked poles they use to manipulate the Molds and their components they may simply make a Mold of you, or try to. This is not a spell that can be learned but, well, you'll become a vampire battery, slowly leaching life away from everyone within 5' of you at 1HP/round.

Basic Zombies (1d6 HP, Guile 12, Save 12, Attack +2, 1d6 Damage)
Extras- Undead, Magic (pick a Magic Shortcut and gain its spells and abilities)
Packages- Attendant
Level Bonuses- Mana Die, 3 Spells
Magic Shortcut- Cultist (may layer Artifact benefits from Aesthetics)
Spells- Forbid, Ward, Distract, Bleed, Chill, Prophesy

THE GODS OF OLD 

The western mountains of Coulche near the duskfall pass were considered sacred in olden days. This was before Coulche became a dire nation, even before they rose to be a great nation. The reverend standing stones, great granite obelisks which can't have originated from the local rock strata, still figure in many of the tales and superstitions of the Coulche. The most exalted ones have the most rings carved into them. There are some 114 of these, 9 of which are considered of paramount importance. One resides within Fort Meteor, another just to the west... These godstones can move under their own power if they have a mind to, and they're growing more and more restless as the first among them struggles to contain the blasphemies (gods from stone but disgusting half shapes and fleshes?) beneath the young fortress. These are a vessel for the divinity of the mountains themselves, which have become crowded with gods of late and grown impatient. Don't touch them.

50 HP, HR 5

ARE YOU MAD?

Confronting a Mold or any god or being ensorcelled by a Coulche mystic has a negative effect on your whole brain. Like the Crazy Boys of old, consider yourself +1 to Damage and -1 to Saves and Control/Morale from mounting Horror. Once your Horror overcomes your current level you have to make a Willpower/Wisdom save with each new nightmare. Failure means your actions are not your own: on each turn you may only choose Fight or Flight, and the DM takes care of the rest, controlling your pawn in your stead. Once they decide you've had a chance to collect yourself your actions return to you but your Horror never diminishes. The spell Forget, cast in a timely fashion by another pawn, can remove a point of Horror along with your memory of the horrible thing that caused it; this is not always feasible or pragmatic. Your Horror may be reduced at any time by 1d4 by Jibbering, which makes everyone who hears you make a Willpower save or take 1 pt of Horror.

WATCHING CAMP

A watch must be set to protect against, well, everything in this adventure. Watches involve each player trading off in the night. A normal wandering enemy check will occur for each leg of the watch unless the parties involved in the handoff do 2 minutes of in-character RP. This doesn't have to be an involved conversation and can even just be about how each approaches their shift differently, or what their mind drifts to in the dark. Successful monster checks always indicate the player responsible has drifted off and the party receives no warning of any intruder.

EXOTIC RECIPES

There are four types of god you can make.

The first is a god of humors. This requires a Mold, liquid gold, as well as blood, tears, sweat, piss, ejaculate, fresh spring water, bile/vomit, and the juice of 1 pomegranate. It also requires a different person to contribute each of these. These are the simplest gods, stupid but ferocious.

The second is a god of life. This requires a Mold, as well as cooking an ox's heart in an underground fire, at the center of a clay figure sown with barleycorns. This is one of the hardest gods to make, in order to keep the heart cooking without being consumed and maintain the underground fire in the first place. These also make the biggest gods who are hardest to control.

The third is a god of storms, which requires thirteen skeletons crammed into a Mold and soaked in pickle brine. If lightning can be coaxed to strike the mold its body accretes, pushing out and bending the walls of the Mold until it is a thin adamantine flesh the god wears out into the world.

The fourth is a god of gods, created with a viridian anointing of one who has emptied themselves of soul. Their body will enlarge and expand far past its limits, held together with new and undulating hamburger. These gods know regret, and so can be cruelest. This represents the bulk of the Coulche gods.

The recipes for these gods are closely guarded by the great houses of Coulche and their manuals are made deliberately hard to carry around in order to prevent them from being carried off. Go ahead, try and just transcribe them. You probably got everything you needed. Good luck with that. Anyhow, the formulae themselves can be traded for 66000c each, the manuals can fetch 100000c, and a working and infused Mold can fetch 500000c. A new and awful god, somehow taken alive, would be worth a kingdom, and the creation of a bespoke god would let one name their own price.

Because of this there is a kind of god language, walking words which dance away from all magical attempts at interpretation, impenetrable to any intuition or cipher. The current god makers gave up most of their minds to understand it. Be prepared to do the same.

MAGICS AND REWARDS

SPELLS

Snakeskin - Takes 10 minutes to cast and requires Faith, Postures, and Conduits. Your old skin sloughs away revealing a body free from any scars, tattoos, mutations, conditions, and grants you up to 1HP/level in a healing renewal.

Envision - Can be learned from a potion, requires Signs and Drugs, only works conditionally: there must be something worth watching to have occurred in the place you're casting back in the distant past. You can see a scene with perfect clarity and understanding. If nothing of note is available to Envision you do not cast this spell or take Strain from this spell.

Home - Requires a Relic or object infused with magic power like a potion or grimoire. If you are separated from this item it will return to you by magical means by the full moon.

Boarman - Transforms the target into a boarlike peoploid for 10 rounds. Boarmen will fight to the death and deal +3 damage. Boarmen are not able to distinguish non-Boarmen as friend or foe and attack everyone. Humans, Dwarfs, and Half'uns do not get to use their skill bonuses or Mana Powers. Orcs get to add their level to MD rolls as a Boarman. +1 Strain.

Empty - This spell requires Blood, Aesthetics, Signs, and Words. The higher mind of a being is cast out of it for a round, reducing it to a doglike intelligence. If a spirit wishes to take hold of this vessel while it is available the original mind will just sort of wait at its metaphorical shoulder, taking root again once its body is again vacant, and with no memory of any time passing. -3 to MD rolls to cast.

Walk Away - This spell requires Aesthetics and Relics. So long as you look sufficiently magic when you cast this spell you can cause everyone around you to ignore you, conditionally: you are free to walk at a normal pace calmly away without speaking to or engaging anyone or taking any other actions. This stays in effect for 10 rounds, only after which anyone will notice you or notice you've left. You must rest after using Walk Away or be penalized 2 to all rolls.

Mouthpiece - You may cast this on any mortal or spirit, or even invoking the name of a god. For the rest of the day the target you selected can speak through your mouth whenever they wish, saying whatever they like, even speaking languages you don't understand. The communication is not two-way, and people around you cannot talk to the party on the other end of the line.

ITEMS

Nut Liquor- Temporarily raise your HP to max, reducing by 1 every 10 rounds until this boon is depleted. This is a temporary HP situation and when it runs out you revert to whatever your actual HP is, even if that's 0. You can keep drinking doses and topping yourself off but consider yourself -10 EXP and -1 Instinct (purely for the purpose of positioning, Dexterity is unaffected) for each dose you take until all the Nut Liquor is out of your system. One more thing, there is a specific requirement to imbibing: it only works if you say "I want a nut liquor" and another player says "Who doesn't?"

Wood Ghost's Mask- Enemies are -1 Control in combat while you wear this mask. While wearing it you can enter and exit a tree at will. You don't transport between the trees but you can move through them as if they weren't there and get +2 Dice Hide to secret yourself within one when being pursued or planning an ambush.

Oversword- The wielder of the Oversword gains a bonus equal to their HD to both Troops and Control, as well as all Willpower saves during a Summoning. +1 to hit.

Meteor Armor- Enemies attacking you with metal weapons or advancing on you in any armor better than Splint must make a Constitution Save before attacking you, otherwise they are repelled. This also applies to any allies trying to come to your aid or climbing a metal ladder or something.

Hoy's Ring- +2 Mana

RITES

Rites are intentionally ill-defined, intended to be sort of a system for bartering with the spirits of things and beings and places, a bargain struck with the person running the game; whatever they think flies at a specific tier of Summoning can fly. That said, if you need some off the shelf options, try these reward rites on for size along with some specific repercussions

The Rite of Fancy Fred
1. Invoke Fred's evasiveness for +1 Die Dodge
2. Creates a big ass fish made of water like that part in Ponyo
3. Fred hisself sort of puts spirit to use for you on the condition that he is free to leave whenever he wishes and his vessel may never be caught or impeded in any way
4. Fred's vessel gains all the mythic properties Fred once enjoyed in his watery home.

The Rite of the Sentinels
1. Know instantly the location of each godstone, sense them at distance
2. The godstones vibrate as if in song, and are capable of independent movement
3. The godstones speak to you, telling you every secret thing they know about this pass and the abominations growing in it; Willpower save to descramble as they each tell you everything all at once. You must act as their agent and guardian in the fight to come.
4. Spinning forward, the godstones become little blenders capable of breaking down nearly any barrier; you may consider any godstone near you to be Troops.

The Rite of Hearth 
1. Invoke warmth enough to stave off cold from climate or magic.
2. The spirit takes root in a normal fire, granting it resistance to rain and wind, and control over brightness
3. Agreeing to share your meal with the spirit convinces them to add succor to your savor; that is, you'll recover your full HP when you dine with the spirits.
4. The spirit can appear when bidden and offered any flammable thing, and will listen for you through distant fires.

BOONS

Boons are little video game achievements you unlock by doing cool things and they can be used with a Mana Die (and all normal bonuses), or can be invoked by those without a Mana Die 3/day.

Godbotherer- If you encounter anything that is worshiped it must pay attention to you. Unlocked by having an encounter with a true god, an awakened godstone, or physically injuring the Stoneman or Wood Ghost.

Emancipation- Gain additional +2 Dice to Craft rolls for escaping bonds or breaking the bonds of others. Unlocked by freeing/aiding the escape of 100 slaves (yourself included, if applicable).

Knife of the Mountain- You may count a combat where you stood alone as a successful Travel roll. Unlocked by holding the Crossing or the Quicksilver Gate against enemy forces.

Detect Evil- As the Goblin ability, this allows you to sense the specific sins another has committed or crudely rank everyone around you in order of corruption. This is a sign of corruption. Unlocked if you learn the true name of a godstone.

Immortal Wound- Roll to avoid all injury from weapons, even magical ones. Unlocked immediately by attacking a god and surviving.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Sketches From When I Couldn't Sleep

Memory is a tattletale. I saw a sunrise bone and black. I recalled a man as a vessel, a collection of them, moving shapes like a tower of cups, swirling and threatening to collapse as he moved, waiting. I remember his thinness, his paleness, The King Of Where He Should Be. His scepter was more of a crutch, and was part of the ground, and became sky. I remember the shuffling and the deep big horns that the meat men play. There were slices in the air and out of these came armies and parties and fireworks and sisters and never wanting to break your own heart and burning powder and shouting and valleys filled with screams. Ash of grass. The shroud you wear for the horizon.

There was a dark and aching something underneath the car. I did not approach, not because I feared for my safety, but because I did not want to fall in, to let my life become adjunct to the dark, to commune with its need, and it was need. I wanted to remain myself. I wanted control. And so we watched until the sun came. It silently howled at us, growing exponentially louder toward dawn, until all that was left was my own self judgment where the car should be. He's still there, and I would avoid him all the time except that I need to know whether he's still there. He is, though. So I ignore him.

I remember screaming apart. I didn't trust myself at the time and nothing existed right or at the proper speed or timbre. I wanted to help, and they needed the story to be that I broke, so I did, and sometimes I believe "so I did" and sometimes I believe I just did and sometimes I worry how many layers there are before I can just sleep now.

It will fall hard when I am silent. Without my grasp everything will slip out. I want to be a dancer but no I don't. I just want to dance the best dance and nobody ever know it.
----
I lay awake tonight thinking on a volcano as a great parasitic crustacean of an elemental earth form, a towering muzzle. Inside it is ringed with jagged edges like teeth, constantly shifting as it foams fluid stone. It's eating the sky. Outside of the mountain are sacred ropes, holy base camps, where the death people climb. Green priests shouting toxic smoke at the heavens, eating only ash. They want darkness. They want the heat of the sun on earth. The very air thins as you go higher, consumed, bleeding a thick black noxious blood. Kill it. Kill the sky.

I see that and it's a beginning and I know stretched out like a hand there's a big fun idea to be screwed with here but by the time I get up, get the dog settled, and get situated, it's gone. All I've got is a pale reflection of the original idea. Coleridge as fuck.
----
That was life with the hole. It wasn't gory or oozing or even sexual, in the same way that for most people a flower or Greenland aren't sexual. It was there where it shouldn't be, between the gut and heart. Wide, excavated, the skin perfectly folded like those little places on the leather arms of chairs all around the opening, disappearing immediately into a blackness which....was what and went where? Every morning the hole was there, every night it lingered, sometimes smaller, sometimes wider, sometimes - and there was no way to verify this, for reaching in only left the touch of static and ennui - it was deeper.

The things which crawled out of that hole were all small, though some were the size of kickballs and about as attractive. They had eyes, so imagining more of a face around them, impressions of personality, was easier. The true thoughts behind those beady and googly eyes may have been only hate and madness but they were pleasant enough and harmless as long as you watched them.

He became hungry. Soon everything tasted like yellow mustard, to the point where he hated even yellow mustard. He couldn't eat anything, couldn't rest, but he never died. He was sustained by....

He realized it must have been the creatures. They came and went and must...fill him somehow. The terror came of what he would be if more of them came out, more than ever, their little tree frog hands scaling his Farrah slacks. If they could put things in him they could take things out. Sometimes it was deeper.

He began to fear it always. He slept poorly and lived in a constant state of dread, until the dread, while becoming no less salient or searing, became boring. The pattern of his life was a painting of a scream. The rictus maw of his thorax. And he lived comfortably if not well in the terror, because at least the terror was his. This malfunction of the body was something he understood, at least in a naturalist's sense. It was not something anyone controlled.

It happened all at once that whatever rare element of homeostasis kept the comings and goings of the little homunculi in check failed. The antibodies buckled and like a firehose the little muppets, each stranger than the last, each departure more shockingly final, poured out of his waking wound and painted his tiny world with everything he wasn't and would now never be.

That was life with the hole. You saw right through him now. Somehow he waited, and wasted, but did not die. The hole grew wider, but he maintained his composure. He was weakened. He was empty. Even his fear was now gone and alien and living in someone else's trash bin by now. A shell on legs, ready to crumble like cigar ash, but safe, for now,
so long as nothing happened
so long as nothing happened so long as nothing happened
so long as nothing happened so long as nothing happened
so long as nothing happened so long as nothing happened
nothing happened nothing happened nothing happened
so long
so long
so long

So long.
----
Paper skin and hanging meat. No place holy, yet so sacred, since always. How many eyes? They all watch and loll, yellow rolling clouds. The world is flies. Little legs and vomit and larvae teeth and undulating eggs (HOW MANY EYES?). Every surface dances. The light moves. You are protected. You are loved. A thousand thousand thousand eyes lust. Just meat and time yourself. Time is a luxury the fuzzy light doesn't have but echoes of that lust through generations hum, warming the anticipation of trillions of mouths which are not mouths.

It is an orchard.
----
The pig nails in her hand bled into her blood. Rage and scream. The metal slicing metal keen of the tusked blade. Decapitation now. Revenge later. Her knee bone split against wet stone covered in chunks and beetles, crushed, into her blood.

His stride made silence, each cloven step a mountain split with lightning, each breath a butcher wind of decay and copper. She didn't see his eyes, held down by hocks and swollen oak. She felt the good one searching her wounds. The savoring.

A bed somewhere missed her warmth. A couple fellows. Melissa or Melinda or something. Bregganoch. His majesty. The bruise of her would linger and annoy. They would come and see the shade of her steel in the faces, the earth, the very walls of this place. Reflected in the eye of a god. They would see no small flesh thing, no cooling blood and sweat, no ragged scalp. The shape of her, footprint in pig shit.

Rage and scream. Into her blood.

Hell warm and impossibly wet it slipped around her, cascades of anticipation on its lips, closing her softly in the dark, stillness, rank. It breathed her in, and drew her breath out, and grumbled and gurgled.

They would not find her body. The would not find the shape of surrender. She gave little thought to salvation, only wreckage. She ignored the piercing tusks of her tormentors, so easy to reach. Gave no heed to the axe of the guardian. She needed a weapon.

Breaka chose god, and bit first.
----

They elected the goat and, at first, it was funny.

She built the lanterns herself, clumsily, little fire cages of rust and blood which her hefty husband hung in the boughs of the stillborn swamp.

The Ship of Apes screeched into the harbour without sail or oar, accompanied by a thundering sound like fingernails on bark.

She descended the stairs an etching of elegance, all covered in the finest ticks.

The evergreens shed all their needles white as death.

The creature was laughable but it emanated a confidence that this should kill them which was hard not to take seriously.

The skins of their palms caught in the leaves of the crop, and if you didn't know what happened here, didn't hear the screaming, the singing, you'd think a pink, rustling snow had fallen.

The church was slung low in the valley like an afterthought, or perhaps embarrassment.

"It doesn't *need* to climb trees."

She was pregnant, a widow these two years, and rotting in the ground since june, and a swan.
----

Crime rate in Dorwold spikes 9000%. City watch catches a criminal and executes him for his crimes. When they take down the body his mask slips off. It's an old artifact from the thieves guild, a mask which makes you appear as whoever the observer wants to see, good for seeming inconspicuous during an infiltration. If you get caught you are always someone who is supposed to be there. Watchman tries it on. Other watchmen beat him to death because he's a dangerous assassin the watch has been after for years.

Repeat.

With the watch occupied the guild ramps up its activities, which makes people more cautious. They arm themselves. The city leaders get the hang of what's going on eventually, but it takes a while, because showing the effect of the mask just creates new chaos, you're the duke, you're that bastard who owes me money, you're breasts.

Watch seals themselves off, suspicious of each other and the whole city by now. Word gets out. Whispers of goblins, faeries, demons. Your loved ones who are next to you right now are most likely people interested in robbing or killing or ravishing you. If you think they're not, that's the magic working.

Time. Fear. Beer.
Pitchforks. Torches.

Local regiments are called in to restore the order. Did you hear? Armies are massing outside of town. That's them. They've come. It begins.

Soon it's not even safe for the criminals. The town is dying. The power the guild spent to much time acquiring is worthless tender now. The guild is undone. The thief master was a fool to ever unseal that frankly *Stupid* artifact to begin with.

If that *was* the thief master.
----

The shoes were the haunting thing. The smiles were antiques, the comfort bedusted, the light hollowpoint. An absence of orientation trickled out of a stained-red rag and filled the air with pennyfunk. The walls were tall, the faces around him were young, and he was all alone.

The walls kept going far past the paint. Those faces were yellowed and long dead. The claws on its feet moored the bed to the previous century with fixed iron. Smiles were pinned. More cobwebs and curtains kept out only clarity. The gray hung heavy. Maybe gray it was.

The shoes, then.

These were modern styles and foreign sizes. Some looked his size, but most...

The big ones weren't concerning. The little ones kept shrinking, and there were too many. Too many for what, who knows? Too many for anything. The room was more theirs than his.

They ached at him. They longed at him and regretted in his direction when he tried to look away. They gnawed in his stomach. The shoes, aye, the shoes were the haunting thing.

The bigger concern was the chain.
----

All the ribbons came loose and the mud was made of beer and dancing and the swan was full of fire and fire leaped and trumpets trumpets and blind men cried as the tableau was reduced to swoons and children went to bed early and the moon bled and oaths forsook and vows broken and trumpets trumpets while animals bowed and the wind surrounded and everything that could be the Devil was thwarted and rejoiced and trumpets and hosannahs and IS is what was, when the law fell silent, when the virgins shook, when the world forgot, when the screams were one scream

...on a Thursday.

On a Friday, smoke. And Hooks. On Saturday a feast. Sunday just rocks, rocks everywhere.

On Monday, trumpets.

No sleep. Trumpets.
----
The stars are all in pain. There is no orbit or firmament. Constellations are families, cities, kingdoms. There is only falling. There is exploding forever. There is no death yet. There is dying forever.

Only falling. Not always so. Once, there was a world, perfect and orange. Its seas boiled in the cool quintimoonlight. They brimmed with ancient skeletons and angry pods of proteins and neurotoxins. One million forty seven land masses pockmarked the complexion of this perfect life engine. On three thousand of these were eyes. One eye looked up.

Star.

There was a little, low room in a squat building made of polished compassion on a terraforming chrysalis deep in the heart of nothing much existing. In that room was a girl, as close as we can reckon. Tomorrow her head would be cut off and she'd become a woman. She understood what this meant.

Star.

In Kent a madman scrawls in a dirty book. He speaks the language of the universe. The morphine and the caterpillars told him. He had to make up new numerals that meant the oldest numbers. Now he knows that what we think of as constant change is actually static, that there are great shifts we only register retroactively, piecing life together in the stillness and writing in what must have been. But also what could have been. The universe works like thumbing through photographs and we accidentally created ghosts, God, and goodness leafing through our memories. Hold on a tick, that's not right, carry the four...

Star.

To ever truly know anything, any fact, yourself, to know the universe, is anathema. Knowledge is panacea to the cosmos but truth is curare. You are missed, perhaps, but you are gone. You are not you. You don't exist as you. Your truth burns. Your soul oxidizes in the vacuum, and that can't even work really because *STAR*

The heavens are hell. We made up angels but they were real anyway. Only falling.

Which Means It's Coming.
----

It thinks it's passing as human.

The room is filled with hardened men and women, some by soldiering some just by surviving. Nobody here is a stranger to fear. Nobody's a stranger to the horrible things in the world.

This thing comes in, see? Thing is the only word for it. It comes in to...let's say it's a bar. Into the bar. It walks in, but it doesn't walk right. It politely and gently closes the door behind it, but it doesn't do that right either. It's like every movement it makes is a little wrong in an obvious, alarming way, like if you saw someone close a door with several compound fractures in their arm, their noodly appendage slopping against the lacquer.

Not that this thing is just a LITTLE wrong, mind you. A golden garment more holes than thread hanging over it. Something approximating a lower jaw, rattling up and down, side to side, with no seeming match to the sound its mouth(?) is making. It's like it's made from pieces of things. Wicker, or cobwebs, or dried leaves, or insect parts. They hang in a mass in the shape of a bridal gown. As it moves, little filaments of things catch on different surfaces, stringing itself about the room. As it stands still, things writhe up, small skittering things leave its folds, and these probing tendrils slowly fan out, filling space, searching along each surface...

You know when you open a window in an old house and it hasn't been cleaned and it's a mix of dust and cobweb and exoskeleton and hair and vegetation? There's sometimes a big clump of that? Imagine that slowly unweaving itself in a glass of water. It's standing at the bar, since we said this is a bar, and it's ordering a drink.

Now it's talking in a voice you know. Not KNOW know, you've seen the guy it belongs to here before. The bartender knows him. Calls it by name. He's not sure of the play. And the thing just starts making small talk with the bartender like nothing's odd. It dawns on you, as it must have the bartender, that this thing  is something beyond what we know but we are also beyond what IT knows because it thinks this is working. It thinks you're fooled. It's jabbering your man sounds at this other man shape and it thinks you are lulled. It is impossibly alien and a little stupid. That's when you actually become not afraid but terrified.

Because now you can't feel fear. You can't just not show it, you can't let it sense fear, or smell fear. It's slowly filling up the space in the room. A piece is in your drink. Better not notice. Go on with your festivities. It can reach everyone and everything. You're all inside it and if even one of you does something, makes a wrong move, if Johnson tries to play the damn hero, if it suspects?

That's all your mind can fill itself with, the knowledge that you're helpless, that there seems to be no obvious end to this, and that if you think about all the terrible things that might happen or ARE HAPPENING then you and everyone in here may.....what?

And now the thing is looping back on itself. It's starting over parts of the conversation. It's saying things the bartender said, interspersed with perfect bars from the song being played on ever more entangled instruments. You're being touched now. Everyone is. The thing's speech breaks down into tapdancing Moses nonsense, and then into just sounds, and then guttural clenching...

In that moment there is a terror knowing you're trapped but outside of that bar, and that world, a different story is written. One that can't be appreciated in the moment, in the room, but which potentially makes the thing pale in comparison.

If it is not hunting it may be hiding.