More Flames

A continuation of this post. Let’s get freaky.

Liar’s Scourge

Color: Normal, but difficult to look at directly for most humans
Owner: None

A flame that feeds off of lies, and also the people telling them. People who attempt to lie around this flame will feel excruciating pain, while the fire grows and turns white. No effect on those lacking empathy/conscience, except the cancer. Exposure causes cancer, by the way.

Contraction Flame

Color: None, but it makes the area it affects take on a reddish hue
Owner: None

This one burns/consumes space itself as opposed to physical material. An area that has caught will literally shrink until nothing is left. Adjacent areas will rearrange themselves to accommodate the shrunken areas, no holes in space. The material within the alfame area will eventually be shunted out, often quite violently as the walls buckle and spew their material.

The Imitator

Color: Normal, but throws off a lot of sparks
Owner: Unknown, formerly magician/Spell-thief Letario

First, find an animal and feed it to the flame while it’s still alive. Then keep the flame low and stored safely. When you need it, just expose it to a regular amount of oxygen, and the flame will take the form of the animal you fed, and mimic its behavior and mannerisms. It’s just mimicry, the fire-animals only respond to the most basic stimulus (objects in their way) and won’t respond to commands. It’ll survive a couple of hours.

Making the flame kills the animal, but as long as the flame is kept low you can split it off an use it again and again. Most often used on mice, rabbits, and small doves, because kids love it when street magicians roll this one out. Just keep in mind that they can still definitely catch things on fire. Once a magician on the island of Gambor accidentally released an entire flock of doves at once in a town with mostly thatch-roofed buildings. This resulted in the destruction of town, over a hundred dead, and the island-nation’s first state execution in three decades.

Delver’s Flame

Color: Pure molten orange, very dim
Owner: Mulis

A very, very dim flame- to actually see it you need to be in pitch blackness. No moon, no stars, not even the comfy glow of cave fungus. The reason you want to see it is because the dim low flame will point towards what you want most in that moment, whether that be treasure or a way out of the dungeon.

The fire needs special oil to burn. Oil that only a few people know how to make, chief among them Mulis. Mulis is a dirty, skinny older man in a straw hat, what appears to be a burlap sack for a tunic, and a walking stick. He also usually has a large pack. From this pack he is capable of pulling out all sorts of wonders, amongst them the flame and its oil. He will exchange these for a night by your campfire during which your rest will be ruined by vague anxieties, or people who are comatose or mad or otherwise willing to follow him (and no mentally sound person will agree to this. It is part of his curse. His very presence causes others to be ill at ease) into the depths of the underworld, which is where he can be found, or more likely where he will find you. He’ll also take silver (no gold or other metals) and flawed gems, but he’ll grumble about it and ask for stories as a supplement. He likes stories.

The fire can also spread on natural unworked stone, where the flame spreads as a series of curvy whirling lines, moving towards the thing you wanted when you put them down. However, experienced delvers know that about a sixth of the time the fire (both on stone and in the oil) doesn’t actually point towards what you want, and instead leads you somewhere else. No one who follows those flames is ever seen again.

Un-Wildfire

Color: Black
Owner: Unknown

Imagine a candle, but instead of burning a wick, the top of the wax burns. Also instead of burning down the wax, it burns up, building more wax as it goes. Now imagine that but as a tree, and you have and image of what Un-Wildfire is. It was created as part of an ill-considered attempt at environmental restoration. This flame can be spread over ashen areas to repopulate them with trees, sort of. The trees that result will have no leaves, incredibly wide-spanning branches, and anemic root-systems. In fact, most of them will rest at an angle, supported by their branches touching the ground because the roots can’t hold them up. An Un-forest is a tangle of slanting tree trunks and jutting branch systems that is a plain bitch to navigate. Very little else will grow in an Un-forest, although in a couple of older, larger Un-forests unique (and deadly, but also pretty goofy) ecosystems have started to form.

The wood of the Un-trees is valuable, as it is flame-resistant, stronger than normal wood, and a rich, deep black. It’s also pleasantly warm to the touch. The trees only have papery-bark of any color (it seems to depend on soil and atmospheric qualities) or none at all.

Mutation Fire

Color: Normal
Owner: None

A fire that mutates you as it burns you. It mutates you about as fast it burns you, so if you want to know how long getting mutated is too long, just figure out how long being on fire is too long and you’ll be in the right ballpark.

Those subjected to the fire gain several deadly (to other people) mutations (in addition to dozens of useless and cosmetic ones) and go insane before the fire kills them. Any surviving victims of mutation fire will be incredibly dangerous in addition to being fire-immune. This is unfortunate, because fire is usually one of the best ways to cleanse mutants, and mutant-hunters very much like to use it, and they will be upset and confused if they can’t.

Mirror Fire

Color: Normal
Owner: None

Only burns in the Mirror Realm(s) or things from it(them), no effect whatsoever on our world. Very helpful if you have an evil twin from an alternate dimension that needs dealing with.

Moundmaker Flames/Swarm Flames

Color: Cool, phosphorescent colors
Owner: None? See below

A flame that mimics the actions and society of eusocial species. They were originally named after termite like examples that built large mounds out of singed or burnt material, but it appears they can imitate ants, bees, wasps, and aphids. The search for a imitation of a mole-rat colony continues, but is thus far unsuccessful. The metaphysicians have corrected their nomenclature, but everyone else calls them moundmakers.

Some metaphysicians suggest this is merely a form of The Imitator, but that doesn’t explain the relative permanence of specimens, or the color, or the intelligence. The moundmakers are just as intelligent and active as their living counterparts, with a couple of important differences. The first is that they don’t seem to set up separate colonies very often. The second, discovered in a moment of inspirational genius on the part of Leading Swarm Metaphysician Investigator Delaflent (on medical leave, wishing her a speedy recovery), is that they communicate with each other instantly, apparently with the queen as a conduit. The bruit runs that each colony queen is actually a platonic flame. Verifying this has encountered…setbacks, as the colony is just a defensive of their queen as their physical counterparts, and far more effective (again, wishing Delaflent a quick recovery). But if it’s true, who or what the hell is making them? Really, the metaphysicians are at a loss for this one.

Metaphysical Flames

I love the notion of what I call metaphysical objects, which essentially boil down to bodily/material representations of natural laws or representations. Sort of like when Admiral Zhao kills a fish at the end of season 1 of Avatar and the moon goes out. And because the moon governs waterbending, waterbending also stops working. In that case, the fish is the metaphysical object.

Rules of Metaphysical Objects

  1. They are tied to some abstract thing, usually a process or natural law
  2. Ownership of the object confers great power over the thing
  3. Building the object incontrovertibly alters the nature of the thing (possibly bringing it into existence)
  4. Destroying the object incontrovertibly alters the nature of the thing until it is rebuilt
  5. They have some physical mass, somewhere, even if it’s tiny or only energetic
  6. Usually they are unique for each thing
  7. They are created by sentient beings, never by natural processes
  8. Creating metaphysical objects is a perversion of the natural order of things*

*strictly speaking, this is a moral judgement, but all metaphysicians agree on it

The Platonic Flames are specimens of their associated fire that someone can move around and keep on the mantelpiece, with the added benefit that they never need whatever fuel they normally use. Owning a particular flame can give some powers over other instances of it (seeing through them, sensing them, extinguishing them or starting them at will). In extreme cases, only the holder of the Platonic Flame can actually start the flame of that type. The processes for forging a Platonic Flame in general and specifically (they vary type to type) are secrets of the highest order.

Fire is unpredictable, and most of the reason Rule 6 is more like a guideline than a rule. For some, it seems possible that more than one Platonic Flame could exist at one time. For others, more than one existing or trying to create another leads to Very Bad Things Happening.

Not even natural law is safe from the voracious Devil Lords, and several are owned by Ceras.

Types of Fire

Phoenix Fire

Color: Normal
Owner: Ceras

This flame appears as normal flame, but is a lot harder to put out via smothering. It has the property of spontaneously re-combusting after some time. It powers and is contained in all phoenixes. Created by the Son of Ceras, before Ceras confiscated it.

Profane Fire

Color: Red to very dark red
Owner: Ceras

Infinitely burning, buts produces no heat, casts no shadows, and does not spread naturally. Every instance of Profane Fire is created, and the first instance was either created or discovered by Ceras. The entire star of Carbax is said to be composed of this flame. It deals no physical damage (unless you stand in it for a very long time) but does erode spirit/memories/information, and will wipe away text and cause XP damage.

Gelid Flame

Color: Very light purple, to pure white, to the slightest hint of yellow
Owner: Ceras

Consumes heat instead of producing it. Very useful in alchemical experiments but incredibly dangerous. In a room of constant temperature, it can spread across a football field’s span in less than a second. It has a hard time spreading across sharp temperature differentials, particularly across colder areas.

Ash Fire

Color: Invisible
Owner: Ceras

Cribbed directly from Arnold K.’s blog Goblin Punch (check it out if you somehow haven’t yet). Basically, the flame creates no heat or light but still burns objects, and is thus very dangerous (since you can’t see it). If someone sends an Ash Fire elemental after you, either start wallpapering the floor or find a less bad way to die (most of them).

Estus

Color: Orange to Pale Yellow to Light Green
Owners: Ceras and Nereyl

It’s Estus from Dark Souls. It heals undead and acts more like a very light liquid than traditional flames. It has two owners because the schism between Ceras and Nereyl was a very ugly one. Both claim to have invented it.

Fire of Discord

Color: Indigo to Purple to White
Owner: Ceras

A pulsing purplish flame, that burns quickly and hungrily. The flame has a chance of randomly teleporting to another flammable object within a range determined by its overall size on each pulse (frequency varies, could be a minute period or a millisecond). This flame is understandably incredibly fucking dangerous, as the only way to reliably put it out past a certain size is to hope it teleports somewhere without enough fuel to sustain it. A creation of the Daughter of Ceras.

Anima Flame

Color: The whole rainbow
Owner: None

Often appear in whirling twisters, with kaleidoscopic or long patches of varying colors. It is instantly snuffed (via diffusion) if it touches a dense enough object. Usually this will be the ground, but most living creatures will do. It cures insanity, madness, mood disorders, curses, spiritual malaise, and XP drain. Of course, if it touches you it will deliver the equivalent of a lightning bolt of energy to your body, so good luck surviving that.

Basal Fire

Color: Dark blue to baby blue fringes, core is always white
Owner: Ceras

Moves around like mercury droplets. Reduces the fuel it touches to its very base components- atomic hydrogen. This requires a massive amount of energy in most cases, so the little beads of basal flame don’t usually get very far, but this can be used to destroy otherwise indestructible objects.

Solvent Flame

Color: Varies
Owner: Varies

More a category than a specific flame, these essentially “burn” a component of an item out of an object, usually depositing it in gaseous or liquid form. Functionally similar to industrial processes but they get much purer yields and also sometimes allow the host object to be preserved.

Jester’s Fire

Color: Normal
Owner: None

A fire that produces its light in one place and heat in another, almost never more than a meter away. Mostly used by street magicians because the kids love it.

King’s Fire

Color: Royal Red to Blinding Orange to Golden Yellow
Owner: None

A fire that causes everyone to defer to the wearer. Even bitter enemies will be ill disposed toward striking someone bathed in the flames, and will be swayed by their commands. Hotter flames are hard for men to even look at. If you get it hot enough, it will literally start melting people’s faces like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The trick, of course, is not melting yourself in the process.

Normal Fire

Color: Normal
Owner: See Below

Some groups have claimed to create a Platonic Flame for regular fire, most notably the Pyrurges and the Cult of Dazna (a goddess of justice, the downtrodden, and flame), but such claims seem unverifiable, and most of the powers the parties claim as a result of this accomplishment are easily attributed to spells.

Star Flame

Color: Pure White
Owner: None (anymore)

Also called the First Flame, the First Fire, True Flame. The fire that burned at the genesis of all things, and continues to burn in the hearts of stars.

Pandemic Flame

Color: Black or Grey
Owner: The lich Galogarda (deceased)

A vicious bastard of a flame. It only “burns” humans, with a preference for soft tissue. It burns low and slow and often starts on the interior of a the body. The first stages of the disease, which can last weeks without adverse effects, during which time they are “contagious” and the only way to tell is cut them open and look for the soft grey flame. It’s easy enough to put out on skin, not so much for the cardiovascular system. Common symptoms include heartburn, blindness (from eyes burning away), nausea, vomiting, internal bleeding, weakness, and sudden death. Almost always terminal; cure disease does nothing, but an expert surgeon might work.

Shadow

Color: Black
Owner: None

Whether shadow constitutes a flame, whether a Platonic Flame has been created for it, and whether a Platonic Flame should be created has been a source of… lively debate amongst academics. The main parties are wizards, metaphysicians, and regular physicists for centuries. The wizards insist that it is a flame but that the Platonic Flame has yet to come into being, the metaphysicians tend towards “no” on the flame question but believe under no circumstances should a metaphysical object be created. Physicists continue to insist that shadows are merely an absence of light, to the derision of all other parties.

So you think interdimensional interlopers killed your dog and started a war

There may come a time when you feel as if the world has conspired to set you on a path not of your choosing. Strange things happen to you, and the people around you. You on a course for something you do not want, and may not even understand. You are no longer in control of your life. Someone else is steering the ship, and you don’t like the look of the waters you’re headed towards.

Say you are in the army, at war. You are a scout, but your assignments are erratic. You never seem to see the enemy, even when you’re sent in their direction. After a while you feel something like apprehension. Well, more like honest fear, but you can’t say that out loud, or even to yourself. Maybe it has something to do with the empty wilds and tiny towns that you are constantly visiting for no apparent purpose. Or maybe it’s because your officers never explain why they send you out, and also seem to die at an alarming rate, and of apparently random causes. Burst stomach, pneumonia, falling from a horse. One got hit by lightning – lightning! You soon expect to enter the command structure – something you are not looking forward to.

And these events would be random, taken alone. But it keeps happening. Arrows narrowly miss you. Your outriders fall in a gorge in a night time ride, but you land unharmed. The whole camp gets dysentery, but you don’t. No one is this lucky. And when you think about it, it has also been happening. Your father dies suddenly and young, and you inherit his mill. Your mill burned down in the off season. Yet because of your property qualification and in spite of your lame foot, you have been drafted to fight in a war and can no longer pay someone to take your place. And come to think of it, how did this war start again?

You become convinced of a conspiracy. Someone, for some reason, has decided you will comb the wilds, looking for something. They have decided you will also come into the command, eventually. They have ruled that you will serve some unknown purpose, and they are altering your life to accomplish it. They have decided this despite your lack of distinction in military – or really, any – matters. It doesn’t explain the lightning, but that has to be it, right? Right?

When you fall asleep, before the dreams that you can’t remember the next day while still sitting heavy on your mind, you wonder if you’re going mad. Maybe this is what going mad feels like. Maybe your mother was right about you.

What the hell is happening to me?

The good news is, you are not entirely wrong. It’s not who, really, more “what” or perhaps “why.” Let the metaphysicians handle it. But anyway, you’re life is definitely being fucked with. Good of you to notice.

The bad news is that your life is being fucked with, by something so totally beyond your control that your only recourse seems to be riding it out. And let’s not even get into what your mother thinks of you.

Imagine you flip a coin. 50% heads, 50% tails. Simple enough. Now you flip two in a row. 25% chance of getting two heads, a 25% chance of getting tails, and a 25% chance of getting a heads and a tails in each order. Straightforward.

Now imagine you flip the coin thirty billion times in a row, looking for a very specific number of heads and tails in a specific order.

Now say you need some specific outcome, where there’s more than two choices. Say you need someone to be in a very specific place at a very specific time, and they have to be wearing the right color shirt and socks on top. Because when the princess passes by in her carriage and locks eyes with your ridiculous gettup under the clock tower at 5:14pm, her mood will be lightened. She will become breezy, fatuous, even a little flirtatious. She will go to her state function and so woo a potential suitor that the man will be driven to suicide when she refuses.

That man’s father was a duke. He just started a war against his liege, and you can bet your soon-to-be-devalued bottom dollar that things are going to get Out of Hand. Maybe try chartreuse next time?

But of course, it isn’t your fault all this happened. You do not possess the machine-like mind to calculate the probabilities leading up to such an event, nor the foresight to imagine the possibilities that may branch from each action leading up to your maroon socks precipitating civil war. And even if you did know about all that, you have only a limited ability to steer the probabilities involved. Even with inhuman intelligence, you would still be looking at almost non-existent odds of pulling something like this off. So who could do this?

Them

They aren’t from here. They live outside our reality. They have some goal, and they have the tools to make it happen. They will never set a foot in our world. You will never see them. They use probability like an artist uses paint. Or a canvas, or a block of marble. And not just “if x happens, y is twice as likely to happen” stuff either. They can alter probabilities directly, with relying on the crutch of causality. How else do you explain the lightning strikes?

On that subject, they are not subtle, hence why people tend to notice their interfering. They like to use singular agents, one person at a time, usually an otherwise unnoteworthy one. It seems to be easier that way. A human is a contained system, at least in comparison to an entire kingdom, continent, or world. But honestly, who’s to say they didn’t “cause” the high taxes that grew the revolt, or the king’s foul demeanor that soured his vassals on him, or the suitor’s suicidal tendencies.

They always have some specific goal in mind, when using an individual. Those metaphysicians are sure that they don’t really think. These are just quantum anomalies. Purpose without thought, morality, or malice. Their tools almost always “survive.” because a living human can do a lot more than a dead one. Any sense of humor they seem to have is just a projection. Really.

But of course, they never want nice things, do they? It’s always wars and plagues, famines and floods. Maybe we only notice the bad ones. Maybe someone, somewhere, had the perfect, incredibly unlikely sequence of events placed before him so that he would meet the love of his life, marry, settle down, have four beautiful blonde children who grow fat and happy, and dying contentedly in his sleep after 87 years of fulfilling, joyous life. He just didn’t think to examine or question his circumstances, which is why the metaphysicians have never heard about it.

A comforting thought. Strange to think that these even chains never lead to, say, a bumper crop harvest, or someone catching the dam’s fatal design flaw in time, or the most worthy son inheriting the throne. Strange that probabilities only seem to be altered in favor of the bad outcome. Very strange.

And you swear they’re fucking with you. I mean, obviously they are, in the broader sense. But also in a sense that they seem to delight in ruining your life, and also in needlessly close calls. They act like a child holding a finger a half-inch away from your face, yelling “Not touching you! Not touching you!” Did that arrow really need to punch through your armor before being caught by your undershirt? I mean, come on. It could’ve just missed, and somehow you doubt pissing yourself is a necessary step in the inexorable process of achieving whatever the hell it is they want.

Maybe they aren’t as mindless as we hope. Maybe they just seem cruel – maybe stopping the arrow at the last moment is easier for them than causing it to miss. Maybe they only understand the difference between alive and dead, and not all the intermediate steps in between.

Maybe.

How to use this bullshit

Fuck if I know. One thing you should keep in mind is that you don’t want to railroad your players. The primary challenges in fighting them should be noticing them and figuring out what they want. They can be beaten this way, perhaps even fairly easily. They don’t actually seem terribly creative, and this is probability, not prophecy. It is entirely possible, perhaps even easy, for a human to preclude something happening. Take a vacation to the country you’ve been thinking about.

That said, it shouldn’t be the only challenge. Maybe give all rolls that help bring about the outcome they want advantage or something. And of course, encounters should be designed with some intermediary steps to their goal in mind, but that’s what you were doing anyway, wasn’t it? Your vacation will definitely be interrupted at some point.

You could always have this happen to a player, but I think the more interesting path is having it fall on some unfortunate NPC. First of all, this gives you more leeway to control the target’s actions, and thereby makes the interlopers seem more effective, since the target’s actions now follow their plan. She asks the PCs for help, and despite seeming (and at this point, possibly being) insane, the PCs slowly realize something is up. It could be a huge payoff/reveal that something is really happening once the evidence is too compelling to ignore.

It also gives you the chance to explore the psychological effects of this happening to someone. For PCs, it may fall flat, or backfire, since they may not care too much about their characters or get annoyed at your obvious fuckery. To be totally clear, this shit is totally fucked. Absolutely out of line. It would ruin your life. Sell the destruction, disruption, the anguish. Sell the cruelty of a world that at best doesn’t care, and at worst actively wants to ruin you and employ you for ruin, while you are powerless to strike back. Sell the hopelessness of facing an enemy that seems infused into the fabric of existence. Sell the paranoia, the second guessing, the sense someone is watching you, taunting you, that you must be going mad. This could be powerful stuff.

The Devil Nurses

They were tutors, servants, and guards for the young Prince. While Ceras mastered magic, built his empire, and worked on a thousand different projects, they nursed his son and taught him the ways of magic.

While Nereyl wove her dread energies, raised her legions, tutored her apprentices, they tended to her daughter and showed her the mysteries of creation.

But they were more than their chaperones and maids. They were friends, beloved childhood companions. Like a toddler’s favorite blanket, they shadowed their steps, never far.

No longer. The son and the daughter long ago departed. Their Nurses serve Ceras now, for he created them, and he reclaimed them.

They have the form of large men, but with the heads of beast. They fly on cloak-wings of smooth sewn thread, gliding here and there. To scare away intruders, they appear skeletal and menacing to adults, bones of ivory-white wood. To please his children, he gave them flesh, due, and feathers to match their heads. To teach them a lesson, he made them rot away as they grew to adulthood. 

For whatever reason, they have an easier time entering the world than other Devils. They are sent to further Ceras’s inscrutable machinations, or they come of their own accord. Some have been trapped. They are harder to kill, and though possessing intelligence, lack ingenuity to escape cleverly designed bonds, even after eternity. 

They will not harm children, and will often instinctively protect them. They extend no such mercy to adults, and make deadly assassins, warriors, and manhunters. Most of them carry large weapons, for hacking, cutting, bashing their enemies.

They do not speak, but will carry messages. They can not communicate complex notions, but nonetheless have a sense for immediate danger. They know when people want to hurt or maim. They read fears, hopes, and dreams as learned men read archaic texts. Haltingly, and with difficulty, but they see deeper and clearer than any mortal can hope to. They peer right through you and see your weakness, the worst of you, and the best of you as well. Your soul is laid bare before them. 

You will know it. Their empty eyes will bore holes in you, and you will feel the ragged emptiness they leave behind. If they seek to defeat you, you will fill in with instinct, id, and the shames you hoped to forget. Otherwise, they will fill you with hopes you long abandoned, assuage your worthless worries, and banish your dark and hidden thoughts.

Despite serving the Devil of Death, they are famed as healers. Madness and despair pass out of their charges at a whim. Scars, grievous wounds, even the doors of death lose and knit shut with a wave of their hand. They rarely bestow such boons, but some seek them out nonetheless. Their cures will never fail, never falter, never complicate. The petitioners that receive these boons are marked by Ceras, soul and spirit, but that is a small price to pay. Some even consider it a benefit- better eternity, even one such as his, than uncertainty. 

Many of them still carry their wards’ old trappings. One carries the daughter’s dirty ragdoll, another the son’s little wheeled wolf. Perhaps some of them once made the tokens they carry. They have been forbidden to do so, commanded in the magic that holds them together, yet some part of their being persists in this minor rebellion. Any of them will serve (or kill) in exchange for even the meanest of these artifacts.

Most agree that around 30 wander creation freely, if not often. Diabolists argue bitterly whether the exact number is 33 or 34. A small camp of 35ers have been making a resurgence. Regardless, each Devil Nurse is unique, with their own animal head, weapon, fighting style, and extraneous magical abilities. However, they will as a general rule have the following statistics and abilities:

DEVIL NURSE– HD5+15 [Big] Moves as human, flies twice as fast; AC As plate + shield Immunity/Magic; Weapon; Never checks morale
Shaded- The cloak that gives them flight also protects them, giving any attacks a 50% miss chance when they are not flying, and allowing them to halve an attack’s damage twice per round. 
Danger Sense- The nurse is never surprised, and always wins initiative unless the party can figure out some way to start combat without either side choosing to do so. They also know what attacks are going to hit them, from where, and by who.
Soul Gaze- By locking their eyes on a target, they may inflict 1 negative level of experience per level, and cower in catatonic fear for the round. Sv Death to prevent the level loss. The nurse may also heal madness and mental ailments or remove all negative XP/level drain on a target at will.
Heal- As the spell. Will not cure cursed wounds or explicitly magical diseases, but will do pretty much anything else. 
Sitter- Will not be compelled to hurt a child, for any reason. They must Sv Charms or attempt to save children in danger. They will often do this willingly anyway. 
Indestructible- The Nurse can not be permanently destroyed by any means in mortal ken. They may not even be reduced below 1HP by most means, and will undo all their damage within the week (unless trapped). If their wooden bones are incinerated in sunfire, they will reform in Ceras’s domains after a few months.
Savant- The nurses take naturally to most manual tasks, and can understand most languages after a few days of hearing it. They can theoretically teach others, but recall they can not speak, nor will they write. Learning requires a patient student, and a patient teacher.

Examples of specific nurses:

SCALYHEAD– Zhua 2d6+1
Pull- The creature can use its zhua to pull people towards them, rip objects out of their enemies hands, and so on. Treat the creatures strength modifier as +3.
Fire Breathe- The dragon’s head can breathe fire in a 30′ long cone, 5d6 damage, Sv Breath Halves

The dragon-headed one. Patient, watching, implacable. Carries d4 beads of blindness, which create darkness in a 30′ when smashed against the floor, but deals 1d6 cold damage per hour (which it is immune to).

HOPPER– Moves faster on land than a human; Ultra Greatsword 3d6;
Crush- By jumping straight up 30′ and landing, Hopper deals weapon damage to all within 10′, Save vs Dodge Halves
Charge- Hopper can charge 120′ by leaping forward, and deals double damage in a line on a successful hit. Save vs Dodge negates.

Hare-headed. Tics and twitches in slow motion. Brash, brutal. Prefers to hop and glide than to fly. Rarely gazes at the same target twice in a row.

MAUNCH– Flaming Sword 1d8+1d6 x2
Long Neck- Maunch can swing around his huge neck, knocking everyone in melee down, Save vs Dodge Negates. Free action.
Long Arm- Maunch’s left arm is 30′ long, and usually folded up in its body. The arm can sweep around in an arc and knock everyone in range prone while dealing 1d4+1 damage, Save vs Dodge Negates. It can also be used to grab objects or people. Treat it as having a strength mod of 3.

Giraffe-headed. Likes to play dead and watch enemies from afar, and strike when its enemies least expect.

How to Use This

As Treasure. Turns out the dread baron of skull island’s dear departed uncle kept one of these in a solid silver birdcage the size of a shed. Who knew? You may extract a boon from it before setting it free (which I have no doubt you’ll do, you naughty adventurer). If adevnturers manage to get the cloak, it will give 20% miss chance to anyone who cuts out a piece for themselves, and allow them to glide 100′ without taking any damage.

As Delayed Treasure. Turns out that grungy tile puzzle with half the pieces missing was the calling card and currency of some of the most powerful beings to walk creation. Who knew? See above with the extraction of boons. Keep in mind that most of these treasures are totally mundane in every other way, in addition to being thousands of years old.

As an Obstacle. Turns out the gold dragon wyrmling guarding its deceased parent’s hoard has been sucking at the metaphorical teat of a skeleton boar. Who knew? In any case, you better figure out a way to get the treasure out without pissing either of them off, right? Right?

As a Goal. Turns out this menagerie warden is into really, really exotic fare. Capture one and bring it back. Alternatively, put them at the bottom of a dungeon as a boss battle. Normal combat won’t work against them.

As Fluff. Turns out that incredibly powerful creatures may not be appropriate encounters or rewards for low level or low magic campaigns. Who knew? This is fine, and there are other ways to use them without them ever seeing play. As hinted above, diabolists love to argue on the nature, neurology, and number of devils. Maybe you need two cults in you next adventure- this gives them an esoteric reason for their dispute. Maybe you need to show that the Devils in your setting mean business. Send this guy in to wreck shit, pull a few souls out of people’s bodies, and fly off into the night.

Explaining Myself: The Adept

What are adepts?

First, a refresher of how the adept, and spellcasting in general, functions. To cast a spell, a character has to succeed on a spellcasting roll, which is a d10 + modifiers. The modifiers in the adept’s case include their spellcasting statistic (charisma or more often wisdom) and their current strata (up to 3, more on this later). The goal of all spellcasting rolls is to beat 10. If they roll a 10 or higher, the spell goes off and they continue on their merry. If they get a five or higher, they get the spell to go off, but usually lose something, most often a resource. Below that is a spell failure and minor complication or further loss of resources. Rolling a negative number or a 1 can easily lead to catastrophe, and always accompanies spell failure.

So, with my adept classes updated and the campaign stuttering along, I thought I’d take some time to explain what the deal with my class decisions/design is. I’m sure that I’ve done this before, but in a slipshod, incomplete, or scattered sort of way.

Digression: The d10 was chosen to represent the more chaotic nature of spellcasting, as the chance of rolling a critical mishap is effectively doubled, and the comparatively low modifiers means its hard to guarantee a safe spellcast.

In the case of the adept, the penalties for rolling under a 10 are, in order, lose 1 strata, lose strata equal to that of the spell being cast, or set your strata to 0. Comparatively tame when taken in with what can happen with wizards., but the adepts can run out of juice on their first cast.

But of course, you’re asking “what the hell is strata?” Strata is my answer to the clunkiness of spell point systems, which I quickly came to realize was an annoyance to most players. Granted, the player that uses adepts most often is averse to book keeping at any rate, but amazingly I’ve found that they’ve actually been paying attention to the new mechanic.

Basically, strata is a numerical value representing how much magical power, divine favor, or whatever your dude has stored up. As the adept advances, their “baseline” strata advances with them, from 1 all the way to 7. Strata can also be increased temporarily with drugs or meditation, and is lost throughout the day through casting, as explained above. Yes, a caster could theoretically go infinite, but it doesn’t always come down to resource management and I feel like I’ve prevented the propensity for it do so.

Spells also have a strata associated with them, which is pretty much a 1 for 1 stand in for spell level. To cast a spell, the adept needs strata greater than or equal to the strata of the spell.

Okay, but what *are* adepts?

So who the hell are these people? What place do they occupy in the world? Why is the class boundary drawn around this group of people, and not somewhere else?

Adepts are magic-users that don’t belong to one of the traditions of arcane magic, which is its own thing. Magic itself isn’t distinctly divided into arcane/non-arcane, but the method of studying and using magic is, and the arcane tradition happens to be comparatively ubiquitous one. So the adepts are very much a catch-all for all the not-wizards that can use magic, whether through study, innate ability, or the favor of higher beings. As such, the adept is the most varied of the classes in terms of specific cultural background and things like hitpoint or attack progression.

In the greater (fictional) world, adepts almost inevitably come to be associated with spirituality and religion. Chosen sons of god, paladins of the church, intermediates between the material and the beyond, that sort of thing. The organized church structure methodology of worship/religious organization is far from universal or all encompassing, but those that exist (and have adepts) tend to treat their god’s chosen as a combination of prized lap dog and special forces operator.

For adepts outside a church, their ties to religion still manifest. The spirit shaman (see below) slides in as a perfect stand in for the local holy man in rural communities, and most disorganized “pagan” belief systems defer to and respect the shamans. Sorcerers believe in no god but themselves, and are oft convincing enough to attract followers of their own to do their bidding and kiss their radioactive, holy feet.

The best way to hand this is to actually go subclass by subclass and explain the place they occupy in the game’s design, setting, and narrative. All the class documents are available online at this link, if you wish to follow along.

The Sorcerer

The inspiration for the sorcerer is pretty obvious if you read other blogs. Skerples’s (of Coins and Scrolls) take on the class was the direct inspiration. Add more powers, add a huge mishap table, and call it a day. I wanted to impart a notion of inherent deadliness to the sorcerer, and I figured the best way was to make their powers capable of altering the world directly instead of through spells, and also make them radioactive. I got that idea from Skerples as well, through his excellent Archaeans post. Radioactivity is one of the unplumbed depths of human fear, I think. It’s invisible, and near impossible to effectively defend against. Radiation poisoning’s effects on the human body are not as well understood as most other conditions, but we know that it is immensely painful, messy, and frequently fatal. A very powerful thematic tool, I think.

Sorcerers in my setting are all invariably mad on their own ego and power. You would be too, if you could think lightning strikes and solid gold statues into existence. Most kings and church fathers will send people to kill any sorcerer that gets too powerful, or give them a massive incentive to fuck off and not come back.

Solar Warden

Mechanically, this class is meant to be a stand-in for the paladin. They attack as well as fighters, and have almost as much health. They have fewer spells, and most of them exist to help them in combat. For flavor, I decided to give them a very strict “equal exchange” rule for their light spells. Whenever they cast, they must roll or extinguish lights (though not necessarily heat or flames) They create light, but it is of a falser, cursed sort. The light they create is not hope or comfort, but harsh and punishing. They also gain power through darkness, and their additional talents allow them to get the better of their deprived enemies.

Setting wise, the wardens are all from an area of cold desert, roiling with political turmoil and managed by a related organization called the Oasis Wardens; see this post for details Their culture has very much to do with deprivation as a whole, usually of water. Sun Wardens fall very much in the lap dog category of adept.

The Monkey Disciple

The monkey disciple is probably the first class I wrote for this campaign, if you can believe it. My initial impetus was a kung-fu monk/paladin/cleric type thing. I feel like I hit that balance pretty well. Their spells deal with throwing shit, breaking shit, or being annoying; all in the noble primate’s portfolio. They function as tanks, and get armor and weapons to complement that. Not much else to say.

The place they occupy in the story is much more complex. In theory, they are the chosen dudes of a twinned church structure that rules/shares power with the state of the Zhylyr Empire, the other being the church of the crane (see crane disciple below). The monkey church serves the farmers, laborers, and general underclasses/mid-classes of the empire, and the monkey disciples are their champions. Again, in theory. The actual situation is that the Monkey Church (composed of mostly non-magical priests) nor the central government holds no official relationship with the disciples as a whole, who are basically organized into various monasteries for training. Some monasteries are friendly, others are indifferent, a few serve the church or state or both (but I repeat myself), and a few are actively antagonistic or proscribed. Some continue to serve their function as guardians of the humble commons, others are largely corrupt.

The Crane Disciple

The crane disciple is my attempt at a more traditional cleric class. They’re still effective in combat, but only get a light armor. Their spells also gear them more to support and utility. A lot of divination and buffing. Again, not much more to say.

Their place in story is as the chosen dudes of the Church of the Crane, the elite half of the twinned religions of the empire. The Church serves the upper classes that have gained membership through birth or merit, plus the mysterious Zhylyrs, and the disciples serve the church as bodyguards and agents. The structure of the church is sprawling, and the disciples are only a small part of it, but they are integral. If your character is a disciple, they need a good reason to be adventuring instead of working for the church.

Digression: I got the idea for the moietic church from reading about the Tangut people.

The Farm Sage

The nice druids. For flavor, I borrowed from the myth of Shennong in the chinese tradition, and gave them a heavy association with agriculture and fire. Not much else to say, although they have the most magical healing of any class.

The setting fluff around them is that in the big empire what everyone is from early magical/intellectual history was dominated by the Three Grand Schools. The first of these schools (called the First School) was the province of farm sages and their art.

The Spirit Shaman

My attempt at the “standard” divine caster, although I wrote this one last. In my setting, there is no defined heavenly cosmology or whatever, but there is the spirit world. The spirit world is indelibly linked to the human mind and dreams, and so the spirit shamans which draw their power from the spirit world invariably have powers relating to illusions, enchantments, and so on. The rainbows are mostly there for flavor, although in my own dreams all the colors are fairly vivid (if hard to describe). I also took some perverse joy in a class that can see great distances and predict the future but can’t reliably describe most objects in detail due to their constant minor hallucinations. Another inspiration from how I/most people dream; describing any object in the dream becomes impossible on waking.

As for fluff, these guys are also actually all descended from one common tradition of magic-users, almost as pervasive as various forms of wizard. They are both less unified (in terms of belief and religious practice) and more unified (in terms of what their magic can do) than the wizards.

image by Kory Cromie

The grand document dump

So, I’ve been running my campaign and working on various classes. None of this work has appeared on this blog.
>>>>> Until now! <<<<<
This is the link to the google drive with all the documents the players need to play, if they want online references.

There’s a lot there, and I’m planning on making some more blog posts explaining my design process and highlighting the class for each of the following:
The spirit shaman
The new wizard
The updated specialist (nee rogue)
The updated farm sage

The Inhabitants of The Fifth Moon, stats

Followup from this post. You can learn what all these things are there.

Naga

HDAC leather  Bite 1d4 Speed Fast Int Better than yours  Mor 7

Naga Determinism- At the beginning of combat, the naga rolls 3 d20’s. At any point, it can substitute these d20’s for one of their rolls.
Spellcaster- The naga can cast spells as a wizard or holy man of level equal to its HD.
Obedient- A naga will always follow a more powerful naga, as determined by their knowledge of their names.

Greater Naga

HDAC chain  Bite 1d4 Speed Fast Int Better than yours  Mor 8
Greater Naga Determinism- As above, but with 5 d20’s. Once per combat, they may substitute someone else’s roll.

Naga Maestro

HDAC chain  Bite 1d4 Speed Fast Int Better than yours  Mor 8
Master Naga Determinism- As above, but they may substitute the another character’s roll at will. The first time the naga would die, an improbable event somehow intervenes.

Nagas want to increase the knowledge of their own names, and will give their petitioners bizarre tasks that somehow further this goal. However, they are also obligate carnivores and will usually barter for livestock. Lacking hands or arms, they also need semi-willing peons to write things down, open doors,brush their teeth, etc. Rural widows with magical talent often fill this role. Finally, they like a degree of isolation, and often require hired help to chase off petitioners.


Bizarre Naga Requests (1d8)
1. What’s in your pocket? How did it get there? Who owned it before you? Are you planning on giving it to anyone?
2. Go to this non-dangerous location, memorize the layout, prominent features, acoustics, and general ambience. Report back to me.
3. See that sandy area? Draw parallel lines/circles/rectangles/hexagons in the sand, of varying size until I tell you stop. (The area is the size of a football field, and the naga will ask them to erase their work several times over the course of a week.)
4. Swallow this deadly poison, and tell me what it tastes like.
5. Count these hay straws/pine needles/pins, within 10% accuracy, please.
6. Put a few drops of ink into this jar of water, and describe the motion of he spreading ink to me. What patterns do you see? Does it favor the left?
7. Go to this not immediately obviously dangerous location, memorize the layout, prominent features, acoustics, and general ambience. Report back to me.
8. Drop this very valuable, very breakable object from a very tall place, collect the remains, and bring them to me.

Naga Cannibal

HD12 AC chain  Bite 1d8 Speed Ferociously Fast Int Tiger-like  Mor 10
Immortal- The naga cannibal can not be killed. Reducing it to 0 HP will temporarily kill it, but after a week, month, year, decade, century, or millenia, it will arise and hunt again.
A ferocious, degenerate form of naga, with no spellcasting abilities or ability to manipulate fate. Possibly all time-clones of the same mad naga that originally walked this path. Basically boogeyman and vampires in naga culture. Called the Nameless, because of course it is.

Chalog

HD0 (1 hp) AC naked  Bite 1d4 Time Suck 1d6 years 10′ Speed Literally a slug Int Teenager Mor 3
Time Eater- The chalog grows in power as it consumes time from unsuspecting creatures. It can suck away time from an unwilling target, but only a quarter of the time from this counts towards the creature’s “year total”. A human can donate time to a chalog for a 1 to 1 exchange rate, however. The number of years required to promote a Chalog is 2 to the power of their current HD.

1 year- HD1
2 years – HD2, bite is now 1d8. Flesh now defends it as leather.
4 years – HD3, will be servile to anyone who promotes to here from HD0. Gains arms to drag itself around on, upgrading its speed to slow. Also has two 1d6 claw attacks if it stands still. About the size of an adolescent human.
8 years – HD4, time suck attack now ages by 1d10 years, Morale increases to 5
16 years – HD5, gains stubby legs that let it move slowly without needing to forfeit its attack.
32 years- HD6, its rubbery flesh is now tough enough to reduce all physical damage by 1. About the size of a human. Bite is 1d12. Hirelings must Sv Fear at the sight of the Chalog.
64 years- HD7, time suck now ages by 1d20 years, flesh gives it protection as chain.
128 years – HD8, arms lengthen greatly, and grow sharp carapace. Claw attacks now have reach and deal 1d8 damage. They can also vault themselves around very quickly on their arms if they give up their attacks (for that pair). Horse-sized.
256 years – HD9, additional set of arms. Time suck is now ages d66 years. Legs gain carapace, giving a 1d6 kick attack. The size of an elephant.
512 years – HD10, additional set of arms. Carapace now protects as plate. Grows venomous spurs on their legs. The venom causes drowsiness, and makes the target more compliant (and more likely to give up their years willingingly)
1024 years – HD11, the impossibly hard carapace halves all physical damage. Time suck ages 1d100 years. Now the size of a giraffe.

By promoting a Chalog to HD3 from HD0, one can gain a powerful and loyal servant, although maybe not an effective one. Chalogs are cowardly, even when they grow into nigh unhittable, six-armed killing machines, and will flee if reduced below half health. They also have a tendency to get distracted, and prioritize sucking up time at the expense of completing their missions. However, they will always return to their master.

Chalog Cocoon

HD12 AC plate Speed Immobile Int Rock-like 
Time Dilation– Time immediately around the cocoon is heavily dilated, and anyone within 5′ of it has their time slowed. For every minute they spend there, 1d8 minutes pass on the outside. The effect does get stronger closer to the cocoon, and for this reason they often have “DO NOT TOUCH” signs around them, since limbs will rot off.
Indestructible- The weave and strength of individual threads make the cocoon immune to all damage.

When a chalog gains enough years to reach HD12 (2048) it forms a cocoon out of threads the color and opacity of green-tinged oil spill. These threads are metamaterials, and if used to make armor they act as chain, but are as light as normal clothes. Wearing them causes the wearer to age at double rate. They also have strange effects, based on which cocoon thy are drawn from. Making enough for a cuirass or backpack requires 1d6 years of work to extract the threads.

Chalog Thread Effects (1d8)
1. The fiber’s color is distinctly washed out and gray, and is a nearly perfect insulator, and electricity attacks merely spot-heats wherever they strike. This heat can be drawn off with a conductor and used to quickly start a fire.
2. The fibers react to ultraviolet radiation, and in addition to glowing incredibly with phosphorescence, they give a bonus to defense in sunlight.
3. The fibers, when viewed from a certain angle, reflect light and matter. When an enemy rolls a 7 or 14 on their attack, they must reroll the result.
4. The fibers look are black and store entropy, and can release it randomly. On an attack roll of 20 either by or against the wearer, and wave emanates from the wearer and deals 1d12 necrotic damage to everyone within 10′
5. The threads actually appear as distorted negative space, and can be used to create backpacks, cuirasses, etc with an extra two inventory slots.
6. The fibers display strange, facelike patterns, and if listened to astutely, it can be heard speaking. The voices are drawn from conversations occurring within a 400′ of the wearer. It takes d8 minutes to isolate a particular conversation by voice, content, etc. The voices fade if no one is around.
7. As above, but you’re the armor is trying to communicate with you using snippets of conversation. It even starts talking when no one is nearby.
8. Rapidly reforming, the armor pulsates and undulates. Once per combat, you can use your action to make a 20′ spike shoot out of the armor at incredible speeds before shrinking back in, dealing 1d20 damage to anyone in the way.

Cavari

HD2 AC naked Speed Slow Int Toddler Mor 0 (will never fight)
Entropic Instability- The cavari explodes when near sources of entropy. Furnaces, engines, machines, too many humans, a collapsing tower, etc. The explosion deals 10d6 damage in a 100′ radius.
Time Extraction- Cavari are often used to extract time in potable form. What can liquid time do? That depends on you. It should be powerful, valuable, and irreplaceable.

Vikaz

HD1 AC naked Speed Slow Int Human Mor 0 (will never fight)
Augury– The Vikaz can see the future with its big eye, but needs time to do this. This manifests as XP drain, as the time given to the creature is literally taken out of the donor’s previous life. By giving up 1d6!x1000 XP, a person can a clear answer about their future specifically. (The exclamation point denotes exploding die, which means that on a roll of 6, the die is rolled again and the previous result is added to the new.)

Zira

HD6 AC leather Speed Slow Int Amoeba Mor 10 (too stupid to run)
Resistance- The creature lacks innards, and only takes half damage from everything, and is immune to poison, toxins, and critical strikes
Slow Maw- A 30′ cone in front of the zira is slowed whenever it opens its mouth. Characters in that area may only act once every other round.
Aging Maw- Same area as above, but everyone in the area ages 1d20 years. It will only activate this if it is about to die.

The mouth of the zira is actually quite warm as a general rule, and can protect a single person from damage and exposure. Two, if they don’t mind intimacy. The maw can also be warmed to forge temperatures by feeding the zira a few stone of radioactive ore.

Danta

HD4 AC leather Thrash 1d6 (hits all in melee) Speed Normal Int Territorial Bird Mor 5
Sudden Replication- The danta can suddenly cause d66 clones of itself to burst out of itself. This deals 1d12 damage to all in d12+10 ft, double in close quarters.

Tagkara

HD2 AC leather Punch 1d4 Speed Normal, can climb Int Clever Monkey Mor 4
Temporal Scream– The tagkara can compress many of its screams into one, generating a devastating sonic attack. Everything within a 20′ cone in front of the creature takes 12d6 sonic damage, Save vs Dodge/Breath for Half.
Noisy- The creature vocalizes constantly and loudly, thus making it difficult to focus on wizarding or delicate tasks. The distraction gives -0.5 per tagkara to all rolls that may require focus. (GLOG wizards gain a hazard die- only counts for doubles or triples- per three creatures). Theses creatures come in packs of 1d8+1.

Zayalu

HD1 AC leather Bite 1d4 Speed Slug Int Insect Mor 2
Phased- Anytime the zayalu is attacked, it can phase out of existence right when the attack strikes, giving a 90% miss chance.
Phasing- Attaching the leech-like zayalu to oneself allows them to phase out at opportune times. Every attached zayalu gives a 1 in 10 chance of disappearing right as they are attacked, but they have the same chance to disappear when they attack as well. This also gives them a chance to phase through walls and obstacles by running at them at a dead sprint, but the chance must be re-rolled for every 5 feet traversed. Attaching ten zayalu causes the creature to disappear for 1d1000 years (how long it takes for one of them to die)

Bhuj Germ

HD0 AC leather Speed Slowly floats Int Obsessive Human Mor X
Time Parasitization- A creature that the Bhuj attaches to ages at double rate.
Growth- The parasite grows as it sucks time, gaining an HD every month it is attached, growing over more and more of the host’s body. When the HD of the parasite equals the host, the parasite takes over completely, appearing as a sack of oily green flesh roughly in the shape of the original, and wanders around trying to implant its young.
Time Clone- When the parasite is killed, it time clones itself after 1d12 days with one less HD.

Bhuj Adult

Int as Human, Morale X, Other stats and special attacks as host
Spore Implant- By jabbing a target with a syringe-like appendage, the Bhuj can implant its pore-like young. They usually do this to dead targets, which immediately decay and release a swarm of floating bhuj young. But against a living target, it ages them 1d100 years for three rounds, no save. This reduces the bhuj to 1 HP.

Bhamuk

Stats as a bat.

Often seen sifting through ash, water, dirt, and so on.

Aka Seed

The seed looks like a wrinkly black almond. It has no effect, but many consider them to be good luck charms. I encourage you to tell your players the same. After a 1d20 years it will sprout.

Aka Sapling

A beautiful twisting vine, impossibly big next to the seed. The sapling also has no effect, but is rumored to be even luckier than the seeds. However, every year it is carried, there is a 1 in 100 chance that it will grow a bud that blooms. The flower is a panacea, and a potent anti-agathic. Really, it returns the eater to their physical prime (25), and any damage or diseases they gained after that age are gone. This does not cure madness. or mental afflictions.

After 1d20 years, the sapling will suddenly and fully grow into whatever it’s adult form is, before immediately decaying to ash, all faster than the human eye can see. Anything in 10′ radius cylinder with 400′ height takes all the d6’s you have in damage.

Candra

Candra is identical to bamboo from a distance. It has no stat block. However, some varieties can be made into charms or other items. The vast majority of these are useless from age or damage, and many have negligible effects, in any case.

1d20 Candra Bamboo Charms and Items
1. Auldwood Charm- Dark, pale green. Every ten years you instead age only nine.
2. Roof Candra Charm- Brown with red splotches. Fall slower. Only noticeable to birds.
3. Bending Plain Charm- Featureless tan. Move very slightly faster if wind is blowing.
4. Blood Grove Dreamcatcher- Blood red. Gain 1 xp for everyone you killed today, if you sleep with this over your head.
5. Skewlands Charm- Dark green, strangely easy to stand up. Time doesn’t pass for you if you stand on an incline of at last 75 degrees. Lasts one round before the charm breaks.
6. Skewlands Powder- Claimed to be an erection enhancer of unparalleled potency. Useless.
7. Pipe Candra Vessel- Gray with white spots. A cylinder of bamboo, made to hold liquid. Basically a kind of bad thermos. Only keeps things cool for 2 hours, half that for hot liquid.
8. Recursion Shoot Charm- Green but with fringes of red. The wearer has a 1 in 100 chance of reviving after death.
9. Purity Shoot Straw- Translucent green-yellow. Water passing through this straw will be purified. The star is about a millimeter wide.
10. Millennial Orchid Charm- A simple blackish shoot of bamboo that has a 1d1000 chance each year to bloom into a beautiful and otherwise useless flower. Will definitely impress that girl you like.
11. Cowering Candra Charm- Thin and off-white. Will shrink by about 5% length when danger (to the bamboo) is nearby. The longest ones are 10 inches.
12. Crater Slopes Charm- Gray skin, but pale multihued flesh. The effects of poison, radiation, and other toxins will have a 1 in 2 chance to be delayed for one round.
13. Eternity Wood Charm- Grainy texture, yellow and green. Rumored to reverse aging when worn, but will probably have no effect. In truth, the charms are always part of a set, and anyone wearing one appears as the average (actual) age of everyone wearing one from the same set. This doesn’t actually increase your lifespan, and there isn’t any easy way to tell which charms are linked to each other, so better hope that an elf isn’t wearing one.
14. Polar String Charm- Highly flexible but heavy, dappled grey and green. Compasses within 100′ point to it instead.
15. Withering Blue Charm- Turquoise, plump shoots. Food spoils twice as fast within 10′ of the charm. Good for making cheese.
16. Grand Height Arrow- Carved from featureless gray bamboo. As the arrow ages, it grows more deadly. For every power of ten years since it was crafted, the arrow gains +1 damage and flies twice as far.
17. Purging Forest Charm- Stubby and blue, these charms, when swallowed whole, will void the stomach of anything that has been swallowed.
18. Zaral Valley Pipe- The vibrant, almost glowing dark green. When used as a pipe, it is rumored to improve memory, in addition to infusing the tobacco with an incredible flavor. Gives 5% bonus xp if smoked daily. Very rare and expensive.
19. Antediluvian Horn Charm- Sections are whorled instead of segmented, and alternate yellow-green and off-white. Ancient creatures will target the wearer last.
20. Lonely Stand Charm- Darkest green, almost black. Quadruples the wearer’s natural lifetime, although they still appear as their proportional age.

Matya

HD6 AC chain Bite 1d12 Speed Slow or Very Fast when rolled up Int Reptilian Mor 6
Rolling Attack- The matya’s mouth latches onto its end and rolls itself around like a hoop snake. The attack does damage in a line along the creature’s movement, dealing 1d8+4 damage 1d6!+1 times, as it rewinds the moment over and over again. Save vs Dodge to negate all attacks. This attack requires a round of wind up.
Camouflaged- The matya’s natural camouflage means it is hidden when standing still.

Balaf

HD5 AC chain Swing 1d12! Speed Very Fast Int Furious and stupid Mor 9
Amplified Swing- Once per combat, the creatures arm can swing with much greater force, shattering stone and wood with ease and dealing triple damage (3d12!)
Resurrection– An hour after the balaf dies, it revives with half health, unless the body is destroyed entirely. All varieties have this ability.

Blinder Balaf

HD4 AC chain Swing 1d8! Speed Very Fast Int Furious and stupid Mor 6
Amplified Swing- Once per combat, the creatures arm can swing with much greater force, shattering stone and wood with ease and dealing triple damage (3d8!)
Blinding Spray– Every round, the balaf’s arm sprays a blinding poison at a target, 1d6 rounds, save vs poison to reduce to 1 round.

Choker Balaf

HD6 AC chain Swing 1d12! Speed Very Fast Int Furious and stupid Mor 7
Amplified Swing- Once per combat, the creatures arm can swing with much greater force, shattering stone and wood with ease and dealing triple damage (3d12!)
Tar Spray– The balaf’s arm sprays a tar like substance around itself. Anyone within 10′ must Save vs dodge or be stuck in place one round.

Long-tongue Balaf

HD4 AC chain Swing 1d6! Speed Very Fast Int Passive mammalian hunter Mor 4
Amplified Swing- Once per combat, the creatures arm can swing with much greater force, shattering stone and wood with ease and dealing triple damage (3d6!)
Sensitive Tongue– The balaf can flick its tongue through the air, and sense anything by scent within ten miles.

Red Wolf Balaf

HD3 AC chain Swing 1d6! Speed Very Fast Int Wolf Mor 7
Amplified Swing- Once per combat, the creatures arm can swing with much greater force, shattering stone and wood with ease and dealing triple damage (3d6!)
Pack Hunters– These balaf always hunt in packs, with 3d4 appearing. If a balaf has attack a target this turn, every other balaf has advantage against that target.

Great Stone Balaf

HD10 AC chain Swing 1d20!+2 Speed Very Fast Int Tiger+Trapdoor spider Mor 7
Amplified Swing- Once per combat, the creatures arm can swing with much greater force, shattering stone and wood with ease and dealing triple damage (3d20!+6)
Camouflaged- The balaf’s natural camouflage means it is hidden when standing still.
Ambush Hunter- The balaf gains an extra surprise round if it surprises its enemy.
Regeneration- This creature regains the health lost to the largest damage attack that hit it this round.
The size of a watchtower.

Musician’s Grave Module Playtest

My players shouldn’t read this

Greetings! It is a momentous day, friends! I’ve recently taken to compiling a dungeon I made for my home game into a module. While the module is tested, it isn’t that tested, so I’m designating it playtest material on drivethrurpg. The digital pdf is PWYW, and always will be. So please check it out!

LINK

This is the first in a series of connected modules, and financial support will go primarily towards making those new modules. In particular, a word processor other than Overleaf (probably Affinity) is the first goal. Any comments or questions should be directed to profane.ape.games@gmail.com.

Thanks a ton!

The Inhabitants of the Fifth Moon

“In my travels, I have spoken to many wise men, both in the universities, and in the wilds of the world. The practitioners of the scholarly or arcane arts are all in agreement on this matter, that the ring has no ‘moons,’ that is, a world that revolves around it. Other planets in the sky have as many as a hundred or are as bereft as the Ring. 

The shamans and many demiurges and even others that have walked among spirits claim that the Hidden Lands have four moons. And although that world is evidently not a ring, it undoubtedly is the ring in terms of place, though it means less there. And the moons on occasion appear in the skies of the Hidden Lands. Of course, the wizards and scholars consider such notions silly nonsense, but I have seen the Yellow Wanderer, and have it on good authority the Red Spectre and Pale Familiar are often visible to those that know where to look. Though few have ever seen the Sable Companion, I doubt not that it exists at well. After all, where would the fabled moonstones come from, else from them? The men of science have no convincing explanation for their existence or power.

Yet I must remark on the discourse and nature of the fifth moon. While most shamans agree that it exists, they all universally say that it has no presence of itself in the realm of spirits, though it can be reached that way. Instead, it only occasionally exists in the material realm, an inversion of the nature of the other moons. Most curiously, some scholars have recorded seeing this moon in the night sky over history, for as long as an hour at a time, though these are often disregarded in modernity. 

Stranger still, the fifth moon’s inhabitants enter the spirit world and material, for their forms are physical. In my travels, I have heard of these outsiders, and even met one, and describe them below. Universally, they seem to have strange powers to manipulate time, and are often parasitic or predatory.

The Nagas

The most well known of the inhabitants of the Green Itinerant are the fearsome nagas, These beings appear to have the bodies of snakes, with the heads of men or women attached. They, like most of the inhabitants of the Itinerant that find their way into our world, have strange powers over time. They also often study magic, either of the spirits or of the arcane, and do so with great facility, as their intelligence far exceeds that of most men. To them, these studies are lesser arts, just as wizards often study sciences and grammar.

They do not age, but often hibernate for hours, days, or years at a time. Shamans and villages often come to worship these beings, wherever they are found. They can eat many times their body weight with ease, invariably meat, giving rise to their tendency to eat people in times of desperation, but can just as easily go decades without eating.

In regards to their highest mystery, they are often secretive of it, just as wizards are of theirs, though they often mention it in passing, vaguely, and with a certain condescension, also quite like wizards. One naga I met in my travels finally agreed to divulge to me the nature of their study, recognizing me for a man of learning, and also in exchange for a handsome gift of food. It divulged to me that the naga have names as long as ‘their lives’ in its words, and to know it wholly is to know their fate in totality. This was the reason for their meditation, as they seek to achieve absolute knowledge of their future. As they learn more of their name, they gain greater power over the flow of time as well, being able to slow down, speed up, or even stop time at the highest reaches of proficiency.

All rank in what passes for naga society derives from their accomplishment in this pursuit, and groups of naga, where they can be found, almost instinctively defer to the naga most knowledgeable of their own name. Even in a chance meeting of two nagas along the road, my confidant told me, the greater naga will have near complete command over the lesser, though the compulsion breaks once the nagas separate. It told me for this reason most naga choose to remain solitary, as many resent this part of their nature. Even those rare few that do remain together well advise their better not to overstep their command, as a dissatisfied servant naga will often contrive escapes. 

The Chalogs

These strange creatures likewise have snake or slug-like bodies, but with far lesser length and no grace whatsoever. Their heads hold glowing, blind white eyes and rapacious grins of jagged, gapless teeth. Where nagas are stoic and measured in their pursuits, the chalogs are frantic, ceaseless, and grasping. 

The desperate may use them for servants. Time is the only cost of their service. By sacrificing one’s youth, one may empower and employ a Chalog. They grow stronger as they leech away time and hew strongly on those who donate them out of their earliest stages, serving with a form of loyalty, often transgressing orders for personal gain but always returning to their donors. They may also do this to unwilling targets, but the effect appears to be greatly lessened.

The chalog grows in size and ability as it sucks away youth. The more powerful forms grow limbs, and their appetites grow ever more rapacious. At the greatest extent of their power, they bury themselves deep in soil or stone, and weave themselves a sarcophagus of nigh indestructible fibers. These fibers can then be extracted through several painstaking processes, as time immediately in the vicinity of the torporific creature is slowed to a crawl, and have many desirable and exotic qualities, in addition to their mundane but exquisite strength. The abilities of these fibers vary from chalog to chalog, but the source appears to be effectively infinite. 

Cavari

A creature that resembles a caterpillar with four stubby legs instead, and is nigh as wide as it is long. The creature is often used by time-collectors and nagas, as their secretions can manipulate time, as most creatures do. Most beneficial is the fact that, for a single specimen, the effect of their time-feeding is nearly unnoticeable, but their byproducts retain a good deal of potency.

The only hitch in such operations is that the creatures are highly explosive under certain conditions, though what conditions those are a matter of some debate. Outlandish claims such as second sons, the color yellow, or cuckoldry of their owners are generally disregarded. It is well known that the creatures should be kept away from fire, but not necessarily heat or light. Some claim motion disturbs them as well, and many further elect to keep them away from mills, rivers, and wind of all sorts, although one shaman I knew claimed they saw one mewl happily through an earthquake. Lastly, most agree that the less people and animals nearby, the lower the chances of an unseemly detonation.

They are said to possess the intelligence of most children by their owners.

Vikaz

These strange worms possess a single, orblike eye, glowing at the end, usually identified as the head, though not treated in this way. A companion of mine once claimed that a vikaz was as likely to look at you with its eye as its ass. They possess some ability as oracles, but it is said they require the past of the petitioner to tell their future, usually manifesting as memory loss, but sometimes in the loss of possessions or scars. They often cohabit with naga, their abilities being useful to them. 

They do not speak, lacking the organs for such, but possess an intelligence equaling or exceeding most men. When they perish, their eyes continue to glow, and serve as powerful magical tools or reagents, particularly to diviners. It is said that in the eye intelligence of the vikaz persists.

Zira 

The toothy gullets of these creatures can suck away time. When the mouth opens, all in front will have their perception of time greatly slowed. However, they can also open their mouths to quickly age the things in front of them, though they rarely use this. They also have trouble orienting themselves, as they appear to possess no sensory organs – though they still find their “prey” with alarming alacrity – and they push themselves around on undersized flippers. 

The creatures are also, I am told, breathtakingly stupid. They appear to eat large boulders primarily, grinding them to pebbles with the flat teeth in their maw. They are also mostly resistant to damage- hurting them enough to warrant a return in aggression is a mighty feat indeed. Their bodies are mostly their mouths in truth, and they appear to lack viscera for the most part.

Some keep them around as (somewhat) mobile hearths and furnaces, as the interior of their mouth is naturally quite warm and apparently fairly comfortable. By means of feeding them certain cursed stones, they may be heated to the temperature of the most advanced forges of men.

Danta 

The serpentine danta has many hundreds of arms haphazardly along its small body, with two fingers each. The creature is passive, but has a most curious defense mechanism. It digs itself into a hole, and covers itself. When attacked by predators, it simply uses the time it has gathered to duplicate itself, repeatedly, till the aggressor is literally crushed between the bodies and the hole. This also serves as the creature’s method of reproduction.

Some enterprising time-collectors have attempted to use this creature’s secretions, as they seem somewhat effective in that matter, but the trouble of triggering the defense mechanism makes this a dangerous gambit. 

Tagkara

These creatures have the arms and legs of primates, though their body nonetheless still has a wormlike shape, and their eyeless head ends in a horrific mouth that opens four ways. The mouth is used to release horrific sonic attacks and defend their themselves. Wise men say this creature’s screams are enhanced by its manipulation of time, which in effect makes a chorus of its own voice, as it screams a thousand thousand times in each instant. 

Thankfully, they are quite pliable, trainable, and even a delight to children, if well fed. They vocalize somewhat loudly almost constantly, however, and most scholars find them an unconscionable distraction to their focus. 

Zayalu

This small, double ended snake creature uses its mouths to latch onto a larger creature, and leech time from them. Instead of slowly drawing away time, the zayalu instead takes time away in discrete moments, causing the parasitized to cease existing for a brief moments. Some thieves use this ability to phase through locks, doors, and other impedances, but the chances of having your limbs severed or being encased in stone deter all but the most mad from their use. 

Bhuj

This small leech creature is rather similar to their terrestrial cousin, but it sucks time instead of blood. As it does, the creature it parasitizes ages faster to an outsider’s view, and the leech grows in size, gradually enveloping more and more of the creature, till it is only a sickening sack of green-black flesh, roughly in the shape of the original creature, remains. The Bhuj adult then shuffles around, attacking living creatures till it catches and kills one, allowing it to implant its young, that later burst out and float through the air, seeking a new target. 

Bhamuk

These strange winged worms are considered pests and nuisances, and frequently accompany visitors and travellers to the fifth moon when they return. Their large mouths are used for sifting water, dust, ash, or anything that they deem to have a surfeit of time.

These creatures appear to be mostly useless, though one traveller I chanced upon claimed that the teeth of their cavernous maws, in addition to resembling whalebone, can serve a similar purpose. 

Aka Tree

The aka tree is an oddity, in that it is quite possibly misnamed. As a result of their peculiar life cycle, only seeds and sprouts are ever seen by men, thus suggesting that it may not be a tree at all.

A shaman I befriended in my travels carried a sapling in his knapsack. He explained to me that when the sapling reaches some point in maturity, it explosively grows into its adult form, pollinates itself, dies, and decays into soil, all faster than the eye can perceive. This has a tendency to kill anyone in the immediate vicinity, drastically age those in a large radius, and emphatically demolish anything overhead. He carried it with him for good luck.

Candra

Candra is a plant that resembles a form of bamboo. I one form or another, it covers most of the surface of the fifth moon in great forests. To an outsider looking down to the surface of the fifth moon from the ring, this is the cause of the alternating waves of black and green running over the surface. For the bamboo forests experience massive die offs, and stay dead for a time before resurrecting, but to an outside observer this occurs in mere seconds as opposed to months, years, decades, or centuries, as seen on the moon.

The varieties are too many enumerate, but they slow time around them to a crawl. Some bamboo have the ability to reverse time, and their resurrections are, in truth, just that. Some forests display a sort of intelligence, and actively retaliate against feeders and attackers. Some grow tall, some short, some cover continents, some a bare handful of yards. Once, a group of explorers united in common cause to travel to the moon and catalog all the varieties, their abilities, and their uses. They have not been heard of since, though whether this is owed to failure or the time dilation the expedition experiences, none can say.

Dessicated or fashioned pieces of the wood often find their way into the world around the necks or travellers or nagas. Purportedly, their abilities are preserved in this form, though there is some doubt of that.

Matya 

The bodies of these gluttonous snakes are so uniform when their eyes are closed that their fronts are often mistaken for their backs and vice versa, and their usual motionless habit leads many to believe they are inanimate altogether, even if their natural camouflage is seen through.

This is a deadly miscalculation, as they are one of the few predators to make the trip from the moon. As soon as unexpecting prey wanders into their midst, their mouth latches onto their tail, and they roll the bulk of their ring shaped bodies around with shocking alacrity. 

When it strikes its prey, it may repeat the instant until the creature is crushed to death. Thankfully, they are quite poor at striking with their charge, as their eyes are poor, but even beyond that, their imposing bulk and fearsome bites make them deadly enemies. 

Balaf (or bailiffs)

These deadly creatures are stand apart, literally, from their fellows on the fifth moon. Whereas most creatures are low to the ground, soft, and wormlike in body plan, these predators stand on tall, bony legs, connecting to a body so small one barely perceives it. They are made taller yet by their single bony arm that extends upwards from their body. The arm’s myriad joints and great length allow it to extend back to the ground, where it wreaks havoc on its prey.

This arm also serves as tongue and mouth. The end opens seamlessly into a cone-like beak, that can tear at flesh after the arm bludgeons the prey to death. The arm can swing with enough speed and force to reduce stone to dust, though this often greatly damages the arm itself. The balaf can simply regenerate these wounds by reversing time, and as a result attacks with a reckless, ferocious abandon.

Many variants of this creature exist across the fifth moon, but they are said to almost invariably deadly, whatever species they are. Some species can lash with their arms many times in a moment, other focus on a single strike a million times to magnify force. A few use acid and long probing tongues. Some species are also singular and rewinds time itself after death or as it ages. 

Thankfully, these creatures rarely make the journey here, perhaps because they are not parasitic in nature and prefer the prey of their homeworld.”

– Olbede

TN Note: This is one of Olbede’s more esoteric works, an oft forgotten segment of is Treatise of the Satellites. Sadly, most of the manuscript has been lost, including the rest of the glossary of beasts, which is presented here in as complete a form as could be managed. Some of the chapters for naga, chalogs, and the matya survive yet, though they are exceedingly rare, the rest, if he wrote any, are gone from this world.


Stat blocks later

The Rivers of Mysticism

Translator’s Notes: The Rivers of Mysticism represents one of the more complete works on the origins and means of the “innate” practitioners of magic, often termed adepts, but just as frequently confused for practitioners of the arcane arts by the ignorant and undereducated. Many wizards consider shamans, demiurges, and their ilk as weak dabblers in folk magics, and beneath academic study, but the successes of the Zhylyrs owes in part to their clerics. Even in our own country the shamsn yet predominate those areas far from the cities. And thus the nature of these “adepts” seems well worthy of consideration. 

The manuscript was written c. 2200 by the philosopher-king Ol-byadi Hadar inas-Gatam inas-Zair inas-Falim im-Sud, known colloquially as Olbede, or infuriatingly Imsod by some less rigorous scholars, leading to a great deal of confusion with his ancestors, the historical rulers of the distant city of Arsud, in those lands against the wind. Olbede was the fourth son of the king of Arsud, and thus considered unlikely to inherit the kingship, as it falls always there to the youngest son. He travelled to all the places in Fengdi, studying spirits and learning to bind them, as in the manner of the demiurges. He travelled as far as the Great White Coast and those lands near there, and went also into Ashotho. He crossed Barinthia and the Great Steppes, and even walked in Medai and Bod and further on to Shingo, and is said to have visited Arxact. 

When his travels were concluded, he returned to Arsud with the power he had gained from the spirits he bound to himself, and killed his all of his remaining brothers save one and also all the burghers and priests of Noddim to reclaim his throne, and thereby gained his throne and founded a votive cult much alike to those of Laersia and Zhetimia, lands he also visited. But his reign coincides with the great war of the Noddimites and the followers of one Saint Matiri and also a third belligerent party of cultists of a water god apparently from the lands of Zhetimia. Olbede’s part in this conflict is unknown, other than that he was overthrown and Arsud is now believed to be Matirid territory. 

Following below is a segment of the introductory section of the manuscript, detailing the nature of the “innate” spell casters: 

On the Nature of the Adepts

The arcane scholars of the great cities of marble [TN: Barinthia] universally deride those who come by their magic through other means as dilettantes and fools who were gifted their powers and thus have no discipline or skill in wielding it. A preposterous notion, reflecting their ignorance and misunderstanding. While many adepts are born with their powers, only years of study can hone them into true practitioners of the Arts. Further, the powers of the Hidden Lands lies within all of us, from the highest king to the lowliest wretch. My own journey along the path of demiurgy even at its outset has given me power I never imagined.

In my travels, I have encountered, interviewed, killed adepts of all persuasion and origin, and in my estimation their exists three general categories of adept. These are the Adepts of the Blood, Adepts of the Way, and Adepts of the Spirits, and their natures I will explain further below. 

Adepts of the Blood are those born with their power, as though their bodies are infused with the divine grace of their god. These types often come associated with some religion already, and are treated as saints, heroes, and often celebrities in whatever religion they were associated with. The frequency of births of these adepts varies from place to place and religion to religion, to a great degree. Their powers often lie dormant in them till they near adulthood, but the time of manifestation is highly variable. The Hime Savants [TN: of Shingo] are amongst the most destructively powerful of all people to walk the Great Ring, and their powers often manifest in the womb.  Meanwhile, a Smarvalkyr’s [TN: the Small Valkyrs of the Churches of Fate] powers can lie dormant within them their whole life, suggesting their numbers are even greater than those within the College. 

Adepts of the Way gain their power through study of religious doctrine and rite. Some of them claim to gain power from their god in exchange for devotion, but a few of these have no god and barely possess what could be called a unifying theology. Their works are often much akin to spells in the manner of the wizards, but yet more chaotic and less formulaic. The Noddimites of my homeland claim that Noddim itself gives them their powers of the mind, while the non-theistic examples of note are the disciples of the First and Second Schools [TN: the Sons of Yinong and the Theurges, respectively] and the Dark Druids. The religious masters recruit from a pool of volunteers and many search for initiates directly, basing their selection on criteria such as intelligence, obedience, and diligence. 

[TN: This passage appears to have been added at a later date, after his travels concluded.]

My dear friend and companion Nortidur suspects that most of the religious masters have some method of detecting a natural, inborn ability and that the Adepts of the Way and Adepts of the Blood are one and the same. Indeed, Adepts of the Blood likewise require a lifetime of study to hone and use their powers, and the difference I perceived is none other than the difference between those powers that are obvious and those that remain latent unless trained. My own experiments on the imported slaves have not been illuminating in this matter. 

Adepts of the Spirit have access to magic purely through their interaction with the Hidden Lands [TN:the Spirit World] or the beings that inhabit that world or this one. The shamans draw on the inherent magic of the lands to do their works, while the demiurges bind spirits to themselves and gain their powers. Any human can embark on these studies, as I bound my first spirit with only the aid of manuscripts, and many shamans also claim to have had no master other than the spirits themselves. 

On Adepts and Faith

As has been said, most Adepts of the Blood are born into a religion, with the exception of the dreaded Wytches. They are believed to be signifiers of the validity of the faith. Why else would people capable of extraordinary miracles related to our doctrines appear amongst the faithful, if the faith wasn’t correct? As such most of these adepts get absorbed into some church structure where they are trained, and often turned into weapons and tools of the church leaders.

Adepts of the Way can only access the rites that supposedly allow them to channel power through faith and membership in the faith, and so naturally they will be part of some religious tradition or the other. 

Adepts of the Spirit have no unifying religion or theology, beyond an acceptance of the Hidden Lands into their mind. The shamans do recognize each other as part of a common tradition with a shared history and descent from Samnus, the first shaman, but the demiurges make no such distinction, although there must have been a first spirit-binder. Shamans often work with powerful local spirits/mystical elements and perform religious services as a mediator between the locals and their “god” that they worship due to proximity. Most organized religions reject shamans as pagans, charlatans, and idolaters, but the common folk adore and require them as mediator between them. Often times, I would come to a shrine by the roadside, or not far from it, kept by a shaman and his followers. There they would meet their god, often a spirit or occasionally a Monk of the Dead. As they tend to servility by nature, the shamans are understandably less powerful than other sorts of adept.

[TN: A further manuscript called Godhead by the Roadside details the types of beings he found worshipped by villages and their resident shamans] 

My fellow demiurges often come to reckon themselves as beings of godly power, and a few demiurges through history may have even been right about it, attracting shamans and cities or nations of followers to their service. The most long-lasting of these God-like Demiurges even created religious orders based on the binding of spirits similar to their own to distribute amongst followers or pass down to later generations. These are called Votive Cults, after the statues that contain the spirits when not in use. Once, all the lands of my home and beyond supplicated to Votive Masters, though now the practice is much diminished. 

Of course, it must be mentioned that there are faiths with no adepts whatsoever, nor any need for them. The cities of Rephinicia worshipped giants and gave their children up as food and sacrifice, for no other reason then their size. And near there was a city that claimed descent from a giantess named Tanit, and worshipped her as their leader and marked themselves her descendants, and indeed they stood taller and stronger than most men, but were imparted no magic by blood. 

Demiurges also sometimes associate themselves with those religions that have no adepts born into them, as their access to magic allows them to rise quickly through the ranks, if they will have them. The cult of a love god in the lands of the 3rd League [TN: also Barinthia] were composed of demiurges and wizards at their highest levels.

On the Natural Talents of Adepts and the Failings of Church Mastery

Long in my travels and study of history have I and others before me noted a decline in the stability of church organizations as the number and power of Adepts of the Blood that are born into the religion. The more adepts that are born, the more churches tend to fracture as heresies and heterodoxy push up between the cracks. The Church of Fates claim that Smarvalkyr are sent to do their gods’s bidding in Creation, but the early Patriarch Noyzeimi II famously cried out that the gods could have sent less. He oversaw a time where sectarian conflict shattered the church. The success of these sectarian conflicts largely rode on the many Smarvalkyr schismatics could access and train; many were born in sect territories or aligned with sects for their own reasons.

This is because the notion that the adepts are born with some innate adherence to the strictures of their churches is simply false, in my own estimation and in the eyes of any true scholar of history. Their power is innate; their theology unconnected. This truth is denied by all churches, yet all but the greatest fools know it; the histories run too deep and red with the blood of conflict caused by the church’s mystics to deny the notion.

Furthermore, the common belief that adepts are heroes and the chosen of their god rather inflates their own sense of worth as theologians, and possibly their actual worth in that regard. The adepts have their powers from their god, it is so, and thus they feel their convictions are sacrosanct. Resolution of church conflict is made no simpler by the common practice of training adepts to use their abilities to maim and kill. And so if an Adept of the Blood wishes to practice heterodoxy, they have legitimacy and the capacity to resist suppression.

The necessary ending of all this is that most organized religions engage in measures to control their adepts and make sure they are always on the side of church leadership. In the case of Adepts of the Blood, this involves bringing a child that displays powers into the church structure as soon as possible, through separation, education, or some combination thereof. The Patriarchy now demands that all Smarvalkyr enter into the Wyrd Collegium, though this doesn’t always involve separation from their families, as otherwise a whole new rash of rebellions would crop up, in addition to the heterodoxies that they must compete with even with their other measures. The Hime Savants can only properly direct their powers by using their distinctive tattoos given to them by the priests of the Fire Giants. 

Another result is that Adepts of the Blood are oft discouraged and actively obstructed from achieving high rank within their church. One reason is the aforementioned training as weapons of the faith, this leaves them poorly equipped to handle matter of faith. Of course, the true cause is this matter of instability. Deprivation of church rank prevents the adept from accruing followers. All religions with Adepts of the Blood that I have yet encountered practice this seclusion in one way or another, codified or not. 

When learning of those religions with Adepts of the Blood, their management reminded powerfully of my father’s management of his stables of racing horses. Every morning, my father would take to the stables in our palace to inspect his stallions, mares, and ensure the dozens of servants that kept them kept them well. He would have each one brushed head to tail each day and after each ride, and they drank water from the cleanest well in Arsud. Each day he would take one to ride and hour in the evening. And when he went to war, he chose his best horse to carry him, and when it died beneath him, he would weep bitterly, and drink deeply to his victory, and carry home gold and captives and a hundred horses for his single dead one. Adepts of the Blood are respected, trained, used, and often even pampered or fawned over, but never trusted.

Adepts of the Way seem to have a lower frequency of sectarian conflict, and since the power comes from the religious teaching, at least in part, the prevailing orthodoxy is somewhat self-preserving, even in such cases as the Dark Druids with no central church. Those that do have churches have an easier time of controlling who accesses their teachings and associated magical powers. Except in that perhaps less initiates are taken in so as to control the number of adepts and thus the number of possible heretics, Adepts of the Way face lesser and less universal resistance to their rise in church ranks than the Adepts of the Blood. Some monastic faiths I came across in the lands near the Great Plateau of Bod [TN: possibly referring to the Disciples of the Crane-God and the disciples of the Monkey-God before the rise of the Zhylyr Empire] had their monastic heads picked from the most experienced of their adepts.