Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Petty Gods: Shelter from the Storm, a Tale of the Jale God

Shelter from the Storm: A Tale of the Jale God

The Jale God was out walking in human form when it began to storm; it was a terrible storm, the like of which that part of the world had never seen. The Jale God sought shelter in a nearby temple of a rival minor godling; not knowing the man before them was the Jale God, the priests welcomed him into the sitting room.

Once inside, he removed his cloak, knelt, and began to pray. The priests were so impressed with this display that they soon admitted him into the prayer room. So fervent were his prayers that they soon brought him into their inner sanctum and asked him to share the secret of his devoutness. At this, the Jale God began to profane himself, belching loudly, urinating on the holy altar, and scrawling profanities on the walls and floor with ashes from the holy fire. The priests, aghast at this despicable behavior, demanded he leave at once so they could reclaim their sacred space.

At this, the Jale God revealed himself, saying "You asked me to show you how to pray; let they who are unworthy of such adoration leave, for I, the Jale God, have found my satisfaction!"

The priests trembled and fled, taking their idols with them. Thus did the Jale God claim his first temple in that land.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Petty Gods: The Healed Wound, a Tale of the Jale God

The Healed Wound: A Tale of the Jale God

Once, a young girl child suffered a sore upon her right arm. Three healer's skills proved fruitless and the girl's parents began to fear the girl would lose her arm and her bride-price. The wound festered and smelt, but never healed.

One day, a withered priest of the Jale God saw the girl as her parents passed a temple carved into the base of cliff. He waved them into the temple-cave; the parents, being fearful folk, refused the priest's entreaties, at which point the old priest sent two acolytes to seize the girl and bring her to him. He prodded her wound with his finger and when she did not squirm or cry out, he understood the nature of her affliction and declared he could heal the seeping lesion with a "silver touch".

He went into the temple and emerged a short time later with a silver unicorn horn. He rubbed the horn around the wound seven times and sent the girl away with instructions to return to the temple the next day. When she returned, he performed the ritual again, and again for five more days. On the seventh day, no trace of the wound was on her skin. Her parents were amazed, and returned home with much rejoicing and praising of the Jale God.

When their neighbors saw the girl was healed, they suspected witchcraft and beat the parents to death with stones and flaming torches; the girl fled to the Jale God's temple to find nothing but a cave inhabited by a herd of wirry-cowes.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Petty Gods: The Subtle Art of Propitiation

The Subtle Art of Propitiation
by Friar Fifthwhistle, Order of the Open Hand
Abbot (ret.), Taverntoss Abbey
translated from mildewed parchment by Matthew W. Schmeer*

As we all know, the gods are petty in ways that boggle the mind. Some are distant, others meddle in mortal affairs, and others still view those who walk this earth as a pestilence that must be eradicated. Yet most gods, from the weakest to the greatest, are unknowable except in that they are capricious and quick to anger. And if a mortal should offend a god, woe be unto him!

There is little a mortal can do to appease an angry god. At best, we can offer meager offerings; at worst, we can die for our transgressions. And death may not be enough, as some gods torture souls for eons once they have crossed the boundaries of the material plane. What can one do to remain in or return to a petty god’s good graces?

The answer might surprise you: keep your superstitions! Superstitions are not deviations of religious feeling and the practices that faith imposes; in fact, they are grounded in appeasing the gods through sacramental signs. Wearing amber beads, eating apples once a day, mounting horseshoes above a stable’s doors, tossing a pinch of spilled salt over one’s shoulders—these please some nearly-forgotten petty god in some small way and keeps them at bay. These small acts have kept peasant folk protected for generations on end!

But there is more to propitiating the gods than simple domestic rituals. No, true propitiation is more specific; it implies that divine wrath must be averted to mend the mortal/god relationship. This may be as simple as sending up a request for forgiveness or as complex as undertaking a quest at a god’s behest.

Broadly speaking, there are four ways to propitiate the gods:

  • Prayer - These usually take the form of requests for blessings or curses or some other divine favor. Many common obscenities are rooted in quick prayers while other prayers are overly ornate literary constructions. Prayer is the one sure route to the gods open to all.
  • Ritual - Formal performance rites incorporating sacred symbols, language, and gestures. These are usually festive performances in thorps, villages, and towns. They are powerful statements that remind the gods that people remember and fear them. See my manuscript “As the Seasons Turn: Festivals & Ritual in Town and Country, “ housed in Baron Walthamthorp’s personal library for more information.
  • Offerings - Offerings of foodstuffs, objects, lifeblood, emotions, and so on. This may include ritualized blood sacrifices of living animals, prisoners, or volunteers. This also includes libations of wine, spirits, and holy liquids. There are a host of complicated rules for who may perform offering rites; see my manuscript “Inviting the Gods to Sup: A Guide to Divine Offerings,” available at the abbey library in Taverntoss, for a fuller treatment of this topic. The most powerful offerings are performed by clerical orders.
  • Quest - Retrieval of a holy object or performing a complex service. The gods tend to offer these to the least likely of candidates, most of whom have little chance of success. Still, you better undertake it if you want to avoid a god’s wrath!

Now, this little essay would not be complete without a bit of instruction on how to deal with an angry god, so allow me to quickly provide a template for prayer that has been most successful for clerics of the Order of the Open Hand when they are out in the field. Most Reverend Father Troutslapper created this form of prayer many years ago when this abbey was first founded, and we have found that it is an easy and accessible way for the common folk to ingratiate themselves to the gods and avoid their wrath.

There are four parts to a good prayer, which you can remember by this simple mnemonic device: A.C.T.S. Allow me to explicate as follows.

Declare your belief in the god, acknowledging their power over their specific domain or dominion. Ex: “Ywehbobbobhewy, Lord of Waters, King of Mirrors, Patriarch of the Most Profound, I beseech you in your powers over thought and reflection!”

Admit your transgressions and your guilt and express a deep regret for those actions which a god might find offensive. Ex: “Know that I have faltered in my faith and in my words and I have broken seven mirrors and passed by calm waters without the proper sacrifices.”

Express your gratitude to the god for not afflicting you in their wrath. Ex: “Praise you, oh Most Profound, for not striking your humble servant dead!”

Entreaty the god to act in your favor. Ex: “If it please Your Honor, please bless this poor befuddled servant and allow him to see through this portal to what lies on the other side. Allow this mirror to reflect the truth of what therein remains!”

And then, of course, end the prayer in some appropriate way. At all costs avoid the cliche “Amen”! I find it useful to appeal to a god’s ego at the end of a prayer. Ex: “All hail Ywehbobbobhewy! All hail He who through mirrors darkly sees!”

So, here is the prayer all put together:

Ywehbobbobhewy, Lord of Waters, King of Mirrors, Patriarch of the Most Profound, I beseech you in your powers over thought and reflection! Know that I have faltered in my faith and in my words and I have broken seven mirrors and passed by calm waters without the proper sacrifices; Praise you, oh Most Profound, for not striking your humble servant dead! If it please Your Honor, please bless this poor befuddled servant and allow him to see through this portal to what lies on the other side. Allow this mirror to reflect the truth of what therein remains! All hail Ywehbobbobhewy! All hail He who through mirrors darkly sees!

Follow this form and you too will find that the petty gods’ blessings will shine upon you!

*an edited version of this essay will appear in Expanded Petty Gods.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Petty Gods: The Dead King's Ransom, A Tale of the Jale God

The Dead King's Ransom: A Tale of the Jale God

In a place long forgotten, a great king was on his deathbed. As the time of the king's death neared, a wizard in the woods saw the Jale God in human form walking the path to the keep where the funeral rites would be proclaimed. "Where are you going?" demanded the wizard of the Jale God's avatar.

"I am going," said the Jale God, "to be present at the old king's death."

"When you pass this way again, stop by and tell me how things went," said the wizard, for he had been banished from the king's holdings and was thirsty for news.

Within three days, the Jale God returned, lamenting and calling out, "Woe, oh woe to the Elder Gods! For I am deceived! I have been duped! All may know my wrath in the days to come!"

"Tell me," the wizard said to the Jale God's human form, "what transpired in the castle? Is the king dead? What is your complaint?"

"Oh, for the king is surely dead," said the Jale God, "For I have seen it myself, being present as the king's soul, which was sworn to me an eternity ago, was weighed and measured on three scales: mine, the Elder God's, and man's." He paused and drank from a proffered flask before continuing.

"When placed on the man's scale, the king's soul balanced evenly, his life work balancing his life's words in perfect equilibrium," explained the Jale God. "When weighed on the Elder God's scale, his life work sank just a little, his prayers for forgiveness rising slightly higher, but close enough to be on par with that of man's measuring. But when the soul was placed on my scale, a two-legged cat stepped forth and placed a paw upon the scale; his life works rose high as the goodliness of his inner thoughts sank low. No one spied the cat's paw but me and none believed my indignations. Bah! But the Elder Gods and men shall pay for this king's ransom!"

For it was Bob the Cat, companion of Ywehbobbobhewy, Lord of Waters, King of Mirrors, Patriarch of the Most Profound, who placed his paw upon the scale, and thus the enmity between the two gods continues.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Petty Gods: The Jale God Hunts

The Jale God Hunts

Long ago, there lived a landowner in a certain village. Being a rich man, he was often the target of thieves and kidnappers and so to protect his family, he worked ancient magics to turn his wife and children into sheep to keep them safe from his enemies. At dawn each day they shed their human skin and became beasts; at night each one regained its form. A vigilant stable of shepherds took the flock afield each day from sunrise to sunset and watched over them, armed with spears and slings. One stormy day as the shepherds returned to the village, a young lamb lagging behind the flock was attacked by the Jale God in the form of a wolf.

“Youngling, youngling,” said the wolf. “How are you? Are you comfortable with this flock? Do the elder ewes treat you well? Does your mother let you still suck?”

Before the lamb could answer, the wolf continued, “And do you think, Kaniv, son of Mavlin, whom I have called by true name, that you will escape? You have been pinching my tail and plucking the hair from my ears for miles! What do you have to say for yourself?”

The lamb replied, “How could I do such a thing? For was I not in front of you and not behind?”

But the wolf said, “Which path did you take into the village? Do you not know that I watch all paths and that I spread my watch over all the ways into the sheepfold?”

The lamb replied, “My mother tells me you watch the paths; that is why I came through the air!”

The wolf laughed and replied, “If what you say is true, a flying lamb is a fearsome sight! You must have scared off the deer I was hunting before you arrived!” And having thus spoken, the Jale God leapt upon the lamb, tore off its head, and supped on its flesh.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Petty Gods: A Visit from the Jale God

A Visit from the Jale God

In a paltry hut lived a man and his wife. Every day he would work hard in the fields to earn their daily ration and every night she would soothe him to sleep with sweet songs. After many years of marriage, one night the man told his wife that he would like to go out that night and hunt the jubjub bird, for the jubjub is a dangerous animal that can only be killed at night but makes for a delicious stew.

“Yes, my love!” said the woman. “Get meat for the morrow so that we can have a good meal!”

The man left that same night to hunt and left his wife alone in the hut.

That night, while her husband was away, the Jale God came, wearing the skin of the husband. “Wife,” he said, “I was afraid in the dark night because of the jubjub’s shrill cries and so I came home.” He built a fire in the hearth and sat by it, motioning the woman to come sit next to him.

But the wife did not believe her husband had returned, for she knew he was a fierce hunter who had killed the jubjub bird before. So she placed an ancient amulet in a place on the wall and said to the amulet “If one wearing my husband’s skin calls calls me, answer him thus: tell him I have run away because I fear his seed will take root and destroy the soil.” And then she slipped out of the hut and ran away.

Then the Jale God called again, saying “Wife, come sit by me here by the fire; I am cold and the fire does not warm me as well as your flesh.” But the amulet answered, saying “I flee, I flee, I flee; your seed will not take root in me!”, just as the woman instructed. The Jale God smiled an unblinking smile. He rested before the fire and after awhile went on his way.

With the coming of the sun, the man came back from hunting. He was in a good mood, as the hunting had been good and he had three jubjub birds in his sack. As he walked into the village, he ran into his wife, who tried to tell him about the visitor in the night who had come in his form. But the wife’s once lovely voice shrieked and shrilled like a jubjub bird and the man could no longer understand her. She soon gave birth to a sixteen-eyed monstrosity and the man was stoned to death for siring such a wretched beast.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Petty Gods: 2 Tales of the Jale God

2 Tales of the Jale God

Lamchka, a priest in the temple of the Jale God, preferred to sleep instead of pray. The other priests took pity on him; when they went to ritual, they left him sleeping in the entrance to the temple.

One day as he was sleeping, a nobleman came to the temple to offer sacrifice to the Jale God. He saw Lamchka sleeping in the doorway, and being a superstitious man, did not desire to wake the priest, as all know that gods commune with their priests in dream. The nobleman placed his sacrifice, a large sack of rye, at Lamchka’s head and then departed.

Lamchka awoke a short time after, smacking his lips and wiping the sleep from his eyes. He saw the sack at his feet and exclaimed “Ho, the Jale God is bountiful! I dreamed of bread and strong drink, and here the Jale God provides me grain for both!” Lamchka carried the sack into the temple and thought to himself “Surely the Jale God meant this rye for me! The others will steal it so I must make haste to preserve it while I can!” So he brought it to the store room and placed it on a high shelf, behind pots of honey and sacks of flour.

He began to plot and plan thinking aloud “Tomorrow I will get yeast and a barrel and maize and I will take these to the cellar; I will take some of the rye to mix with this fine flour and make hearty bread that I will put before the altar. Surely the Jale God would rather I take what he has given and return a percentage to him in four-fold form!”

As he was fantasizing, a rat crept along the high shelf and knocked over a pot of honey. The pot fell on Lamchka and killed him. The Jale God laughed.

Two doddering scriveners were rambling through the archives. One said to the other, “We are mere acquaintances yet we must help each other. If any god is angry with you, I will help you in your time of need.” The other doddering scrivener said “And I, too, will help you if any god’s wrath should seek your life.”

After many centuries, one of them angered the Jale God through no fault of his own and called to the other to remember their promise. The two ran through the archives seeking refuge. One doddering scrivener climbed high into the archive shelves. The other was too frail to climb so buried himself deep into stacks of moldy parchments.

When the Jale God came looking for them in the archives, he immediately spotted the scrivener high on the shelf, wedged between two scroll cases. The Jale God summoned another doddering scrivener working in the stacks and whispered in his ear, pointing at the shelf-bound scrivener. Then the Jale God left, chuckling to himself as a trail of ichor seeped behind him.

The scrivener hiding in the parchments watched this entire scene while holding his breath. Then he revealed himself to the scrivener to whom the Jale God had spoken. “What did the Jale God command?” he asked.

The summoned scrivener pointed to the one high on the shelf. “He told me to tell you not to trust that one up there; cowards reveal themselves by sacrificing others to save themselves.”

Monday, December 22, 2014

Petty Gods: 8 Translated Chants to the Jale God

8 Translated Chants to the Jale God

Desolation, love, death:
Rough, dead gulls above a storm.

Remember the old ways!
Do not wander a garden path;
All flowers are faceless, dusty doors.

Evil and flying in the sea,
Humming witches within the mist
battle angry ghouls about the shadows.
Alas, alack! The devil continues,
Angry beyond the dreamscape.
The day is green among the bullshit;
Be watchful. A broken promise
Remembers old times.

Black monsoon drums;
the herd, the bones!

She hears each his lies
His false shadow, painted skin

Slender beams of light enter
This darkened chamber,
Always lost, always lost,
Always frozen here,

Forms wrought in panes of glass loom
As dust dances in air,
Searing a secret skin.

A rock gnome's face
Rails against
An impassive truth.

We each cut feasts
Even through absence;
Beauty is but a lie:
Black impairs him not.

The erosion of everything alabaster:
Clutter of green leaves,
Cirrus of nebulae,
Jets of gas aflame,
Flower petals—
Formless scud feathers formless sky.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Petty Gods: The Putrefaction of the Jale God

The Putrefaction of the Jale God

Among the rude folk of the mountainous regions, the festival of the Putrefaction of the Jale God is the primary celebration of the summer months. In some villages, the festival takes place near the summer solstice, in others on the last new moon of the season, and in others still on the first full moon.

On the eve of the festival, a stout young rowan tree is cut down, adorned with trinkets and garlands, and set into the earth.

On the first morning of the festival, childless women place a garment under the tree or on its branches and eat of the tree's fruit; on the second morning, if they find blood on their garments they know they will remain childless for another year.

The sick, aged, and dying go to the tree in the morning on the second day, place their hands on the tree and circle around it four times while singing "You will soon die but we will live" and then eat of the leaves. If they are still alive on the third morning, they know they will live another year.

But the main rite occurs on the third morning: young men go to the tree and spill their seed on the ground at its base. One man, called the Watcher, dressed from top to bottom in rancid rags and the untanned hides of animals sacrificed during the festival, throws handfuls of dirt at the other young men, so they remember they will soon return to the earth. Then the Watcher takes seven iron nails which have been laying in the milk of a pregnant cow for seven days and seven nights and hammers three of them into the rowan; the other four he hammers through his feet and into the earth. The men of the village then pull the nails from the rowan and bury them in an unmarked grave, covering them with dirt collected from the ground around the tree. Then the Watcher removes the nails from his feet and slaughters a young goat; he places the nails inside its belly, lashes it to the rowan, and sets both aflame. Finally, the men of the village beat the Watcher with stones and branches, driving him out of the village; he must sleep with the beasts in the field for two evenings before returning to his home.

In this way the villagers amuse the Jale God and avoid his gaze for another year.

Petty Gods: d30 Table of Cacophonies Composed by the Jale God's Pipe

d30 Table of Cacophonies Composed by the Jale God's Pipe

  1. All the Staircases
  2. At the Cliffs of Solitude
  3. Bane of the Boon
  4. Burn the Goat
  5. Busty Samantha
  6. Colorful Nothingness
  7. Cult of the Carnival Grave
  8. Dirty Mother
  9. Dread Without Cease
  10. Embrace the Agile Azimuth
  11. Guiltmonger
  12. Here Once Pale Hastur Slept
  13. Industrious Pariah
  14. Jewels of the Crimson Mother
  15. Love Song of the Yellow King
  16. Malevolence of Power
  17. Martyr of Impurity
  18. Negative Tendons
  19. Obstreperous Pariah
  20. On the Streets of Fair Yhtill
  21. Passion for the Autumnal
  22. Passive Cadavers in My Dreams
  23. Persevering Excrement
  24. Reality Molester
  25. Riding the Alchemy Horse
  26. Sea of Brutal Bleakness
  27. Suicide Campaign
  28. The Echoing Hag
  29. The Spurning Knife
  30. Who Wears the Pallid Mask

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Petty Gods: d30 Table of Jale God Feast Days

Petty Gods: d30 Table of Jale God Feast Days
  1. The Aphoristic Defilement
  2. The Arcane Obscenity of Ryal'a
  3. The Blasphemy of Malice
  4. The Breaking of the Princess
  5. The Campaign of Bloody Daggers
  6. The Carnal Rendition
  7. The Crimson Anathema
  8. The Cruel Violation
  9. The Dagger Wars Remembrance
  10. The Dark Moon Festival
  11. The Day of Gimlinch's Defilement
  12. The Day of Putrefaction
  13. The Dedication of the Heavens
  14. The Demonic Ruin
  15. The Dismal Night
  16. The Dusk of Unspooling Blades
  17. The Fall of the Kindred Wyrm
  18. The Feast of Veils
  19. The Festival of Allegiance
  20. The Great Unyawning
  21. The Gruesome Desecration
  22. The Hoisting of the Giblets
  23. The Invocation of Yegish
  24. The Nightfall of Welcoming
  25. The Obscenity of Wounds
  26. The Siege of Blackswamp Stronghold
  27. The Sunless Malediction
  28. The Tournament of Curses
  29. The Treacherous Obscenity
  30. The Woeful Ritual of Clapatrus

Petty Gods: The Jale God's Dream

The Jale God's Dream

And so the Jale God slept, and in his sleeping he dreamt of an angry prophet standing before him. The small, dirty man stared at him in silence for an eternity, and then he said, "Wretched God! You do not know you will be lost to time. Your followers will fall away, your temples will run to ruin, your dominion will shrink to nothingness! And in your weakening you will wither to a pale shade, an empty husk. Flee, flee, if you must but know that in ages to come you will be not!" The prophet stood before him, shaking in rage, his staff raised as if to strike, and then the Jale God awoke.

The Jale God was filled with a dread he had never known before. He rose from his sleeping place and roamed the ways of the earth, searching for this prophet until at last he was weary again and sank to the ground, and found relief from his troubles in deep sleep.

And again the Jale God dreamed of the man standing before him, his fist raised in defiance. "Woe be to you, Unmaker, Defiler!" he proclaimed. In his sleep, the Jale God twitched his finger. The man was surrounded by unholy fire and was swallowed in flame.

The Jale God snored and rolled over and dreamed no more.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Petty Gods: 3 Tales of the Jale God

Three Tales of the Jale God

The Jale God sat on his chklor throne, watching the universe inch by.

"Tell me," he said to his doddering scrivener, "why do mortals remember and regret?"

The doddering scrivener consulted his record book. He turned several pages, scanning the lines therein with his arthritic finger. He finally looked up at the Jale God and shrugged.

"Exactly!" the Jale God laughed, "So true!"

When the days of putrefaction were ended according to the unbreakable laws of the Elder Way, the Jale God appeared at the court of the Cerisian Empire, taking the form of a minor noble of small renown. He swiftly seduced the queen and her daughters, positioned himself as an advisor to the king, and disrupted the flow of trade to fill his coffers. Then he set about building a temple to further the worship of his name.

When it came time to anoint the first priest of the new temple, the Jale God called two close advisors before him. Now, one of these men was loyal and devout, a true confidant to the Jale God's human avatar; the other was a vile and loathsome man untrusted by even the cook's apprentice.

The Jale God handed each man a ritual knife and bade them slay one another. The righteous man refused, and while he was refusing, stabbed the evil man in the heart. The Jale God struck the loyal man dead.

The Jale God pulled the knife from the vile man's heart and laughed: "Your ordination is tonight!"

Once, the Jale God deigned to walk among mortals and took the form of a wandering bard. First he visited a hamlet where he cured a pig of hoof rot and taught a stableboy to play the lute. Then he prowled the alleys of a fair-sized city, haggling with prostitutes, trading lays for laughter and good company. Then he performed at court, plucking out ballads to soothe the mood of an arrogant duke. And finally he sat by the side of a dying witch and sang her a song while she faded to her reward.

"Tell me," he asked Gnil'bmag and Tra, two of his trusted vassals, "which of these experiences taught me the most about men?"

Gnil'bmag and Tra considered the question. They asked for a week to ponder the answer.

A week passed. The Jale God was at his favorite dicing den when Gnil'bmag and Tra approached. Gnil'bmag spoke first.

"You learned more from teaching the stable boy music," he said. "Teaching imparts more wisdom than learning."

"No," said Tra. "You learned more from the dying witch. A noble death is a rare thing for a servant of the darker arts."

"Fools!" said the Jale God. "Did you not understand the question?"

 Iä! Jaash im raa! Iä! Jaash im raa! Iä! Jaash im raa!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Petty Gods: Doddering Scrivener, minion of the Petty Gods

Richard emailed me this request:

Doddering Scrivener
minions of the petty gods

No. Encountered: 1 (1d10)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 1d6+2
Attacks: 0
Damage: None
Save: M2
Morale: 4
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 25

Outfitted in bright orange hooded cowls and scapulas, Doddering Scriveners are a race of gnome-like creatures with over-sized ears whose sole purpose is to record the decrees of the petty gods for posterity and serve as notary witnesses to all divine petty contracts. Whenever a petty god deigns to enter a contract, grant a boon, or send a foolhardy adventurer on an arduous quest, a Doddering Scrivener mysteriously appears to record the particulars and collect signatures.

Although not much is known about their biology beyond their appearance and ability to teleport at will, their society is extremely hierarchical, divided into 20 classes, each divided into 20 divisions, and each division divided into 20 sections. Each section is further divided into different ranks of innumerable individual Scriveners responsible for recording, archiving, and cataloging all decrees and contracts within a specific sphere of divine influence.

Doddering Scriveners follow a strict ethical code and are sworn to a life of pacifism. They carry no weapons and wear no armor. If attacked, they will attempt to avoid combat by fleeing but they will not defend themselves beyond fisticuffs; their attempts at such are weak and ineffectual.

A Doddering Scrivener has instantaneous recall of any deed that he himself has recorded and, if given up to half-an-hour, can find any other contract in the Deed archives (it is, of course, efficiently organized for such use). The classification system used by Doddering Scriveners is a carefully guarded secret and even the gods themselves do not understand it. The quills, ink pots, and parchments used by Doddering Scriveners fetch high prices on the black market, as they are rumored to be able to create undetectable forgeries if used in combination.

Doddering Scriveners follow no deity themselves but remain decidedly neutral in all affairs. They never offer an opinion (even if pressed) on any topic, and carry out their duties with an air of resigned indifference.  They utterly lack individual personalities and prefer to remain unnoticed.

It is said that eating the brain of a Doddering Scrivener imparts the ability to read and write in all languages; this might be true, but one definite side effect is the loss of the ability to blink. Victims of this side effect gradually stop producing tears and their eyes eventually shrivel and rot; there is no known cure for this malady.

8 Evocations of the Jale God

8 Evocations of the Jale God

You are the blind corridor, the caution's terror
a future verged contracted beyond pain.
Double endless behind design, a brilliant
child rafting, stumbling between a gift and work;
take these chains and tribute shall rush
Justify me, vanishing within the whale of this day
and convulse me with your delight whose fabric
unweaves the world.

Sing, and I jump by a rose. Have you produced
passenger-speaking darkness? Between Hell
and the discovery of dialect, betrayal is the handle
whose cash seemed to close; the leaves who paused
cannot stretch inside the cask.
Against this country the great son is like a father;
if we auction this, the groundhog is the maximum
below an orbit across a meal's continent who
needs to remove pupils.

The blanket saved someone.
Your unconquerable passage can't convey this.

Voluntary chaos whose day should arise must increase along viewing. The village whose surprise worried the dying cow. A consciousness and altitude moved after a flash fell at your feet; biographies like twelve vaults lived in mold, and the cellar had flooded. A wound: eternity that no independent impression formed. Why was I circling between an expected song and these deities? Your stone abode has forgiven escape.

What do the eggs carry?

Rain is panicking a nerve; seven continual waves gain fruit.
Seven testimonies are three tactics whose enchantments stood.
Denied beyond the knife of eyesight,
The flask pours an august distance.
Under air near famine, the inner composer reflects.

My yellow sin is equally varied.
If depth is the fee of famine, have I escaped?
You are twelve beings whose glories climb;
they arc along, arguing.
I am cedar focused like a vase;
you invade my voyages.

Before a soul who creates
the secure charge partly dives
between the definition
and the auctioneer:
who have I tended?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Non-Divine Divine Item: Curse Tablet

(Note: I have re-labeled and re-titled this post because it was brought to my attention that this should be classified as a divine item, not a magic item. I blame brain farts.)

Ok, so I was getting lost in Wikipedia and I came across this entry on Curse Tablets, which lead to this entry on the Bath curse tablets which sparked a memory from the early 1990s.

Back in the 2e days, TSR put out a Roman-themed splat book, "TSR 9425 - HR5 - The Glory of Rome Campaign", which included the below quoted spell. As far as I know, this is the only reference to Curse Tablets in "official" D&D materials outside of a clarification in the Sage Advice column in Dragon:

Curse Tablet (Necromantic)
Level 3
Range: 5 yards/level
Components: V, S, M
Duration:2 days/level Casting Time: 1 turn
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Saving Throw: Negates

This is the most common spell used by evil Roman magicians to kill via magic. The caster writes the name of his victim on a lead tablet, drives a nail through the tablet, invokes the spirits of the dead, and places the tablet within an occupied tomb.

Every midnight the subject must roll a saving roll vs. spell. If he fails the roll, he suffers horrible dreams of his own death and awakens sick and exhausted, having lost half his current hit points (round fractions down) or 1-hit point, whichever is greater. If he succeeds, there is no effect. If he succeeds three times in a row, the curse is broken, the writing on the tablet vanishes, and that particular wizard cannot use a curse tablet against him for one year.

The spell can be safely negated by finding the tablet (it radiates magic and evil) and casting a bless or remove curse spell upon it. Melting or breaking the tablet also breaks the curse, but this causes ld4 points of damage to the subject.

Here's my problem with the 2e approach: it limits the use to magic users. All real-world scholarly research suggests that curse tablets were a widely used form of folk magic or common religious practice. It was akin to Jews writing prayers to place in the Prayer Wall in Jerusalem or Catholics lighting a votive candle while offering up a prayer. Only in this case, the polytheistic Romans were asking the gods to punish someone who had done them wrong.

So why not open these previously closed requests for a curse to ANY PC in a campaign?

Non-Divine Divine Item: Curse Tablet

Any PC may send up a curse request to a deity to punish a wrong-doer in the form of a written prayer. The curse must be written or etched on a thin sheet of lead, rolled into a scroll, and pierced with an iron nail.

The curse must be written in the following form and include:

1) The petitioner's name
2) The deity being petitioned
3) The nature of the request and the punishment to be exacted
4) The target of that request (as specifically as possible)

"Grant this request, Oh Jale God, that I, Nord Timbertrot of Heartless Vale, beseech of thee! Unto your divinity and majesty I give my dice and purse of 2,000 coppers that someone hath stolen from me. Whether human or non, man or woman, slave or free, do not allow him who has done me wrong to sleep or eat or drink or have good health unless he reveals himself and brings those goods to your temple."

The curse must be delivered in one of two ways:

1) The curse may be placed at the foot of a statue of the deity being invoked, preferably in a temple or church dedicated to that deity.
2) The curse may be buried with the corpse of a follower of that deity, preferably someone who has recently died in service to that deity.

There is a 1-in-1000 chance that the deity grants the curse; the subject of the curse must make a Save vs. Death or be permanently cursed with whatever affliction was requested. The chance of the curse being granted improves to 1-in-500 if the petitioner is an active worshiper of the deity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Petty Gods: Tanumaru, servitor of evil Petty Gods

Tanumaru (Tanoo-ma-roo)
servitors of evil petty gods

No. Encountered: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 240' (120')
Armor Class: 0
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: 1 (sword or longbow)
Damage: 1d8/1d8
Save: F13
Morale: 4
Hoard Class: XIV
XP: 1,260

Upon a Tanumaru's birth, the petty gods assign it a mortal foil, an individual whom they are to plague and problem throughout that mortal's existence at the behest of the petty gods. They will attempt to carry out a petty god's instructions to the letter rather than in spirit. Because they can cast invisibility at will, these attempts are often undetectable.

Unfortunately, a Tanumaru's bumbling attempts at interfering and causing ill often go awry. Any mortal targeted by a Tanumaru's attempts at interference must make a Save vs. Spells, with a +5 modifier. If the save is successful, the target gains a temporary +3 to all rolls & checks for 1 day. If unsuccessful, they must take a temporary –3 to all rolls & checks for 2 days. (If possible, the DM should attempt to keep the effect a secret).

Tanumaru are incredibly morose. They are ranked particularly low in hellish society due to their gullible nature and complete lack of social etiquette. They are rather dull-witted and lack the ability to plot and plan diabolical schemes. They lack foresight and often stumble their way through their daily affairs.

In their natural state, Tanumaru are eagle-winged, white-skinned, devil-like creatures that stand up to 15 feet tall, and are often found standing in a bowl of unburning fire. Despite their fierce appearance and armaments (they often carry both sword and bow), Tanumaru are terrible in combat and never win initiative. They take a –3 to all to-hit rolls. They are immune to normal weapons, fire-based attacks, and impervious to any transmutation spell (flesh to stone, etc.). They can fly, but only three times as high as they are tall.

Tanumaru is both a singular and collective noun.

Petty Gods: Inflammable Servants, minions of the Petty Gods

Richard emailed me the challenge:

Inflammable Servants
minions of the Petty Gods

No. Encountered: 1 (1)
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 240' (120')
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 12
Attacks: 1
Damage: As weapon OR Special
Save: F14
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,200

Inflammable servants are quasi-intelligent minions from the elemental plane of fire that rarely roam beyond their own plane unless summoned by a petty god to do their bidding. They are often used by the gods to deliver death threats to one another.

They can perform only one major task at a time and will attempt to complete that task at all costs. Inflammable servants that fail or are thwarted in their missions immediately die in a fiery explosion equal to 3 fireball spells.

On the plane of fire, Inflammable Servants rarely take visible form, but on the material plane, they appear as avenging angels with feet of flame and eagle-like wings. Their fierce countenance belies their nature, as they rarely attack unprovoked and will go out of their way to avoid conflict as they attempt to complete their tasks.

Although armed with both swords of flame and bows of fire (normal damage for each +2 fire damage), they prefer to attack with a piercing stare, which acts as a 2x magic missile spell. They are immune to normal weapons and fire-based attacks.

Inflammable Servants cannot speak to mortals, being under binding contracts to the petty gods, even though they are fluent in a multitude of magical languages. They cannot be summoned by normal summoning spells and will only take directions from the petty gods themselves.

They hate dwarves for some unknown reason.

Note: I'll have another write-up or two using this same illustration in the next day or so.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Petty Gods: Ghostly Lecher, minions of the Petty Gods of Death

Hit me baby one more time:

Ghostly Lecher
minions of the Petty Gods of Death

No. Encountered: 1d4
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2 +2
Attacks: 1 + Special
Damage: 1d6 + Special
Save: F8
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 150

The ghosts of ancient mortals who were enamored with death when they were alive, Ghostly Lechers serve the gods of death merely as rubbernecking hangers-on, Wherever a gristly death has occurred, a Ghostly Lecher is sure to be found, feeding on the deathwave vibrations that emanate from the corpse.

As their name suggests, they especially prey on the gristly deaths of the young and innocent; they tend to congregate on the outskirts of gallows, ritual sites, sacrificial dolmens, and army barracks.

Although they seem to resemble Ghosts or Shadows since they have no corporeal body and seem to flicker, they are not undead creatures and thus cannot be turned. Ghostly Lechers can only be struck by magical or silver weapons. They are unaffected by sleep, suggest, or charm spells.

When a Ghostly Lecher is feeding on the deathwave vibrations of a recently deceased. they glow a pale-yellowish white and are easily detected. They will appear as if in a drunken or drugged stupor and move at their slower rate; they will miss half of their attacks if in this state. Also when feeding, they drool a poisonous ectoplasm that saps 2 hp (no save) per touch.

Ghostly Lechers are difficult to detect if they are not feeding; they surprise 50% of the time. When a Ghostly Lecher strikes, they deal 1d6 cold damage and 1 point of CON is drained for 6 consecutive turns. Should a character be drained to 0 CON, they have a 50% chance of becoming either a Ghost if of Lawful alignment, a Spectre if of Neutral alignment, and a Shadow if of Chaotic alignment, but remain a playable character, having gained the abilities of each respective monster.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Petty Gods: Ggiyy, Eidolon Knight of Hate

It's that time again:

Ggiyy, Eidolon Knight of Hate
Knight in service to the Jale God

No. Encountered: 1 (unique)
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 6 +5
Attacks: 1 (sword, bite, or strangle)
Damage: d8 (d8/d6/d6)
Save: F8
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,280

It is little known that the Jale God employs twelve knights to protect the 12 Eidolons scattered across the world and ensure their separation. Ggiyy, the Eidolon Knight of Hate, may be one of the only knights whose identity is fully known, as he is a frequent visitor to magical academies and royal courts throughout the realms. Although he often appears in human guise through the use of a polymorph self spell, Ggiyy is in truth a snake-like reptilian.

A wrathful and boastful warrior, Ggiyy has lost the location of the Eidolon of Hate and has been on a centuries-long quest to reclaim the stone. Many tribes know of his feats and the desert kingdoms curse his name for the havoc he has wrought among them. In his human form, he wears many different guises; sometimes he is a seductive woman, other times a handsome rouge, sometimes a washerwoman, etc. In this way he moves throughout the realms, but his passage is marked by the dissension he sows in his wake. Wherever Ggiyy has been, protests, fights, riots, and wars are sure to shortly follow.

Ggiyy wears elven plate on his torso, topped with an elven helm; the rest of his body is covered in thick, armor like scales. He is armed with a Sword of Doubt (1d8 damage + Save vs. Paralysis or be struck with indecision for 1d4 turns) and can choose to either swing his sword, bite his attacker (1d6 damage), or crush an opponent with his tail (1d6 damage + -3 to-hit).

Ggiyy prefers to surprise combatants from above, coiling himself around pillars, trees, or other heights, and dropping on his unsuspecting victims. If attacking in this manner, he automatically gains initiative on his first attack.

Under his armor, he wears an amulet that allows him to cast polymorph self at will; by an enchantment of the Jale God, the amulet only works for an Eidolon Knight.

Once a year he and the other Eidolon Knights must make an accounting before the Jale God in the Labyrinth of Myzithra on the island of Anari. He has been in disfavor for a very long time and this has done nothing to improve his mood.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Petty Gods: Guardians of Laam, servitors of Pherosathoola, Petty Goddess of Sexual Fear

LeBlanc + Sholits + Schmeer =

Guardians of Laam
servitors of Pherosathoola, Petty Goddess of Sexual Fear

No. Encountered: 1d4
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 0
Hit Dice: 8
Attacks: 3 (scimitar/claw/tail) + Special
Damage: d8/d6/d6 + Special
Save: F8
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 300

Descended from ruined seed of Mi-go that fused with an unnamed reptilian race in eons past, Guardians of Laam protect the incubating eggs of Pherosathoola, the Petty Goddess of Sexual Fear. "Laam" is the term for embryonic succubi; these creatures do not have a name for themselves and so are often referred to simply as "Guardians".

The Guardians of Laam stand 8 feet tall and resemble fierce, armored lizards at first glance, except for their odd-shaped skulls and lidless eyes. Their mouths are lamprey-like and both males and females sport antlers and tusks, although these are largely though to be decorative. Chitinous skin protects their fungi-like inner soft tissues and they have thick tails the same length as their height. They do not speak, communicating strictly via nearly undetectable pheromones. They are impervious to charm, harm person, clairaudience, ESP, ethereal form, shape change, and suggestion spells.

Guardians are polyamorous; nests are guarded by a single brood group consisting of 3 males and a female or 3 females and a male. They breed by releasing spores from their nostrils during the Dark Moon Festival, celebrated once every fourteen years. The mingling spores cover the nest of eggs and grow into new Guardians, using the clutch as nourishment. Pherosathoola gladly paid this brood price to ensure the safety of her developing offspring. Upon their first molting, Guardians of Laam are gifted with Scimitars of Doubt (1d8 damage + Save vs. Paralysis or be struck with indecision for 1d4 turns) as additional thanks for their duties.

If attacked, a Guardian has three defenses. It can attack with its scimitar, rake with a free-handed claw (1d6), and can lash any target behind it with its whip-like tail (1d6). Additionally, once per combat encounter a Guardian can spew a cloud of disorienting chemicals from scent glands in its throat; PCs must Save vs. Poison or be disoriented for 1d4 hours.

Guardians of Laam fear the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign and will flee if they are attacked by one of their blessed order.

Guardians are delicious when boiled alive; eating its steamed tail muscles imparts a +3 to STR for 1d6 days. Potted Guardian of Laam (often called "potted laam") is a highly prized delicacy in royal circles of the desert kingdoms.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Petty Gods: Visible Stalkers, Decoy of the Petty Gods

Yet one more for Mr. LeBlanc:

Visible Stalkers
decoy of the petty gods

No. Encountered: 1/1d4
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 8
Attacks: 1 + Special
Damage: 4d4+2 + Special
Save: F8
Morale: 5
Hoard Class: None
XP: 500

Roughly the size of a normal swan and looking somewhat like a child's awkward attempt to create an oversized decoy of an orange-billed flaxen waxfeather, the Visible Stalker is the bane of magic-users the world over.

Visible Stalkers were created by a committee of the petty gods of whimsy, who sought to create a creature to stymie magic-users summoning petty gods or their servitors. There is a 35% chance that any effort to summon and entrap a petty god or their servitors in a magic circle instead results in the appearance of a Visible Stalker. There is a 10% chance they can also manifest as a result of a miscast invisible stalker spell.

When summoned, a Visible Stalker will refuse to serve a magic-user's request. They have complete resistance to compulsion-type spells and will instead pester the summoner with mundane questions ("What's that?", "Why is that bowl that color?" "Why are you wearing those silly-looking shoes?", etc.) or merely asking "Why?" ad nauseam. The creature will carry on like this until the summoner is completely exasperated (no matter how long it takes), at which point the magic circle binding is broken and the Visible Stalker can waddle away, having regained its freedom. Some Visible Stalkers have been known to follow around their summoners, continuing to refuse requests and asking questions until the victims have literally gone insane (Save vs. Sanity once every 3 days or go stark raving mad forever with no chance of reversal).

Once manifested on the material plane, Visible Stalkers can never leave; they can live up to 200 years, subsisting on a diet of mice, toads, and driftwood. Once freed from a summoning circle, they tend to gather in rafts of four and will generally flee from danger. They can only speak the Common tongue, but understand all languages.

Despite their comical appearance, Visible Stalkers have tough skins and are difficult to kill. They are resistant to fire-based attacks, impervious to non-magical missiles, and bladed weapons do half-damage. If attacked, they will hiss to warn off an attacker. They can perform a horrendous chomping bite for 4d4+2 damage.

If a Visible Stalker is reduced to 1 hp, it will crack its own neck by banging its head against the ground. Its brain stem will slip out of its skull and, using a barbed, tentacle-like foot, it will attempt to pierce the skin and symbiotically bond with the last person to strike it.

If the bond is successful (17% chance; no save), the visible stalker forms a permanent, silent parasitic bond with its host. The victim permanently gains the following: +2 WIS, +2 INT, 2d6 hit points, and telepathic communication with a random petty god (roll on the Table of Contents). They also suffer a permanent -5 to CON and, if a spell caster, lose the ability to memorize spells beyond 7th level. If the host is killed, the Visible Stalker dies, too.

If it fails to form a symbiotic bond with its intended target, the Visible Stalker will die within 20 minutes; its brain stem melts into a pile of delicious jelly that grants a 2-week +2 to CON if eaten on sourdough toast.

Visible Stalkers resent halflings for unknown reasons. This resentment will pass to any symbiotic host.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ghoti: An Interactive Exercise

I made this a year or so ago as a rudimentary example for my students in a Digital Narratives class. I don't think I ever shared it here. So, here you go:

Petty Gods: Grampajack, Grand High Jester of the Court of the Petty Gods

Richard LeBlanc posted another speed round challenge:

Grand High Jester of the Court of the Petty Gods

No. Encountered: 1 (unique)
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: -1
Hit Dice: 8 + 5
Attacks: 1 + Special
Damage: 1d8 + Special
Save: F15
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: X
XP: 1,500

Although he appears to be nothing more than an old man's head trailing his entrails behind him, Grampajack is a favored servitor of the entire petty god pantheon.

He was once a mortal named Gyffry Chadinfroyd, first mate on the interplanar pirate ship Queenscow. Known for his quick wit and sharp tongue, he died during the Flame Wars of Jubrini, an unfortunate victim of friendly fire. As he passed from the material plane, the Jale God snagged his soul and housed it in a discarded penanggalan skin, granted him limited immortality, and made him a jester at the court of the petty gods. He has worked his way up to the position Grand High Jester (mostly due to the deaths of his predecessors).

He is said to be the best Grand High Jester the petty gods have ever had; the gods are keen to retain his services and do not take kindly to threats against his well-being. It is said that the best and funniest obscenities were invented by Grampajack and dispersed throughout the realms by the petty gods repeating them to give their cultists a kick, and so even gods who war and grumble on other issues are united in their fondness of Grampajack. He is savvy to all the comings and goings of the petty gods but knows none of their secrets for sure (there's a 10% chance what he knows is true).

As the Grand High Jester, Grampajack delivers unfortunate truths wrapped in witticisms about court life. He enjoys puns and riddles and usually speaks in gloating sarcasm. He delights in making fun of others, pulling linguistic practical jokes, and often indulges in soul-scathing vulgar wordplay. He often makes self-deprecating jokes about his own appearance. He can speak all tongues verbally and telepathically and can cuss a like a sailor in all of them. It is said he once made a porcupine laugh so hard it molted its quills and was molested by a beaver and thus ferrets were created.

PCs encountering Grampajack must make a Save vs. Sanity; failure results in the PC being so revolted at his appearance that they flee in terror. He will gladly converse with PCs as long as no petty gods or other minions are present. Grampajack enjoys the company of dwarves; there is a 20% chance he will talk straight with a dwarf (and only dwarves), putting aside his jocular ways to telepathically converse in a secret dwarven tongue (Boar Dwarvish). Grampajack is often attended by three or four castrated albino Laughing Cocks of Hellish Mirth.

If attacked, his first weapon is language; he will attempt to disable the PCs with laughter. PCs must make a Save vs. Spells or be struck with mindless mirth for 1d4 days. They cannot rest or sleep during this period, and spells invoking such have no effect; they can eat and drink, but risk soiling themselves if they do so.

If the verbal attacks fail, Grampajack's tongue will unfurl to the length of a 20-foot whip that does 1d8 damage; on a successful hit, victims must Save vs. Paralysis or suffer an additional 1d4 acidic damage. After three successful acid attacks, the victim becomes paralyzed by an apoplectic fit of laughter with a 25% chance of suffering a stroke resulting in immediate death.

Normal weapons have no effect on Grampajack. He is immune to all first through fourth level spells (inclusive). Silver or mithril weapons do half-damage.

"By the tickling beard of Grampajack" is a common oath heard in dwarven gambling dens throughout the realms.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Underworld Lore: d20 Table of Quests Required of the Wakers of the Jale God

Underworld Lore: d20 Table of Quests Required of the Wakers of the Jale God

1. Pursue a painting that alludes to a breezeblock bear's body in a market faire.

2. Construct an apron ideal for departing an imaginary demon.

3. Tie a fine-wrought, spring green-colored steel bar to a drunken burly wood gopher.

4. Repeatedly sketch noses and ragbags, about as long as an average calf, until the day after a new king's crowing, in a 75 centimeter by 100 centimeter wall space.

5. Create a drawing focused on a rectangle on the underside of a tavern table.

6. Collect seven lymphatic systems. Put them on a silver tray that has been painted blue-violet, snow, and dark gray. Get nine drawings of glands. Place them on a copper tray that has been painted dark gray, slate gray, and blue-violet. Feed the offerings to three blessed goats on a high holy day. Slaughter the goats and eat their livers.

7. Pay a doxy to instruct nine day dreamers to copy horns and thumbs, of any length, until someone marries the doxy and destroys the copies.

8. Write the words 'a blob of pine in a clear resin block' on a skunk sleeping in a field of butterflies shaped like a swallow.

9. Collect nine different kinds of pancreas; make a painting of a big trout feeding your children the liver of a spotted calf. Swallow a frost giant's kidney stone on a moonless night.

10. Construct and burn an effigy of a life of quiet desperation.

11. Consume a tiny green pepper, a rancid noodle dish, and one pancake.

12. Develop congenital gallstones by getting your hair cut.

13. Rub walnuts on a rabid owlbear's scent gland.

14. Give a lecture on the role of atheism in hagiography for an hour every day. Ask the audience to join you in the bathtub. Suggested title of lecture: "The Vultures of Heretical Creep".

15. Draw a cartoon of an opossum wearing a green pair of pants borrowed from a rabbit. A gray giraffe should lust in the distance under a wheat beam sky.

16. Rent out a museum. Pay a warder to repine in a garbage bag full of whipped cream as long as anyone is in the gallery until someone buys the installation.

17. Cover a wall with live swans. Pierce them with wire and pukeforks to create the shape of a wolf. Keep your ears unclogged.

18. Build a telescope from lantern oil and pretzels. Using thistle ink, tattoo a sketch of the horizon on a beggar's scalp.

19. Oil a lotus knife with violet milk.

20. Slaughter a coop of midnight hens with a baguette of candlewax and glass.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Underworld Lore: Eight Colors Beyond Human Ken

Eight Colors Beyond Human Ken

1. viledusk
A loneliness, a longing, a leeching. It absorbs what it obscures, refracts what is revealed.

2. grüt
A decayed cloying, a thinning, a liquid lucidity. It provides a pale plasticity that revolts as it delights.

3. infraine
A giving, a bliss, a breaking away, as a body drifting across a peppered sea. An indifference that strangles without suffocation arises in its wake.

4. schklor
Thick, briny, a parchment of blighted film. It presents a presumption of expectation behind a façade of shimmering heat.

5. chklor
A reeling-ripe deformity, a smoking alienation, a celestial agitation. Whatever is unborn will manifest whenever it arrives.

6. klor
A callous exhibitionism, a sweating crow, an amorphous silence unbound. A commitment to insipid calm follows its leaving.

7. lor
A complete weary, a symbolic cherriness, the tang of an storm assured. A frenzy of omnipresent breakfasts ensues in its arrival.

8. k'pha'l
Birches gather in abnormal pronouncements. Escapism staggers glorious minds.

Petty Gods: Ynnym, favored guardians of the treasure gods

Do you think Richard is getting sick of me yet?

favored guardians of the treasure gods

No. Encountered: 1d4
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 200' (80')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 1 (kick, claw, bite + special) OR Special (see below)
Damage: 1d8 + Special
Save: F9
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 1,900

Ynnym are oversized bastard chimeras, having the head of a cycloptic sea dragon, the front portion and tail of a lion, and the rear portion of a donkey. Their bodies are roughly the size of elephants, and the sea dragon's serpentine neck is comparable in size and girth to that of a young giant python.

Ynnym are bred by the gods to be swift of foot and fierce in battle. Although they only have one eye, this eye allows them to see all colors of the spectrum (including infrared, ultraviolet, jale, ulfire, dolm, mull, viledusk, and grüt). There is a 30% chance that it also acts as an eye of true seeing, allowing them to see all things as they actually are, and making them impervious to illusory attacks unless blinded.

Ynnym are traditionally used by the gods of minor treasures to guard pathways to vaults hidden throughout the wilderness. There is a 75% chance that any petty god of treasure or trinkets employs a Ynnym for this purpose. Sometimes the gods station them on false pathways.

Ynnym are extremely fast and nimble, and their ability to climb rough terrain is comparable to mountain goats, which are their preferred prey. Ynnym are also fond of foraging for bletted mespilus and raw ermal, although the latter gives them terrible bouts of gas.

There is a 20% chance that a Ynnym can speak (in common & dragon), but only at the ability level of a lispy four-year-old. They like asking questions that sound like riddles but are actually rambling streams of consciousness.

If attacked, a Ynnym may perform one of three traditional attacks. It can deliver a tremendous blow with its rear legs, stand on its hind legs and claw with its forepaws (counts as one attack), or bite; all attacks do 1d8 damage. Victims of a bite attack must Save vs. Poison or suffer -3 HP per day until cured by a neutralize poison spell.

Ynnym may forgo a traditional attack and deploy a breath weapon: they can cast a 3 foot wide diameter gob of phlegm-like poison spittle at any stationary target. A struck victim must Save vs. Breath Attack or die. This poison is no longer potent 1 round after the attack.

The pelts of unbred Ynnym are are said to fetch a high price on the black market, but are especially tough to preserve, as they begin to decompose to mucus within an hour after skinning.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'sup, Bookface?

Bookface has been way behind in printing out OSR pdfs and making booklets. Here, look:

Receeding Goblins & Gremlins

Petty Gods: Divine Louse Crabs, servitors of the gods & goddesses of sexuality

Yet again, I rise to the challenge of Mr. LeBlanc:

Divine Louse Crabs (DLC)
servitors of the gods & goddesses of sexuality

No. Encountered: 100d20+
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 20' (6')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2 hit points
Attacks: Special
Damage: Special
Save: F1
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None
XP: 250 (for entire infestation)

The four-legged, hand-footed, spear-toting Divine Louse Crabs exclusively serve the gods & goddesses of sexuality, plaguing anyone who displeases them in a multitude of ways. Their hand-feet allow them to move through body hair with rapid ease and they exist primarily to feed and cause intense discomfort.

Divine Louse Crabs range in size from 1.5 to 3 mm long when plaguing mortals and 6–10 cm long when plaguing gods and immortals; there is a 75% chance that PCs encountering divine or semi-divine beings suffering from a case of the DLCs will notice the infestation and must make a Save vs. Disease to avoid becoming repulsed and fleeing in terror.

Divine Louse Crabs are themselves asexual; DLCs can lay up to 300 eggs a day on the coarse hairs of armpits and genital regions; they can also be found in other areas of the body covered in hair or fur, but generally do not infest the crown of the scalp. The eggs take 6 hours to hatch and a fully-formed adult DLC emerges from the egg and can begin reproducing within 1 day. Adults live up to 2 months and feed 7-8 times a day.

After hatching, DLCs craft spears from shafts of hair and extrude a stony, epoxy-like substance from their rectums which they craft into close approximations of spearheads. They then war with each other for domination of a host's body hair. There are multiple factions of DLC known to exist, serving gods of sundry sexual orientations.

When plaguing mortals, their bites cause severe itching — primarily of the crotch and armpits — due to the acidity of their saliva; an untreated case of DLC infestation will result in restless sleep (no spell recovery) and sap 2 hp the first day and will then double every day until death or until the infestation is treated. Gods infested with DLC will merely distractedly scratch an awful lot.

To temporarily cure a case of DLC, PCs must smear themselves in a foul concoction of goat fat, owlbear dung, and seagull vomit applied to the affected areas and sealed with candle wax; only the most highly skilled alchemists know the exact recipe for this concoction. This salve forces Divine Louse Crabs into a state of hibernation for up to one week. After three applications, the treatment is no longer effective.

To completely cure a case of Divine Louse Crabs, PCs must somehow manage to get back into the good graces of whichever divine being manifested the plague upon them. A Cure Disease spell cast by a 20th level or higher cleric of neutral alignment will also do the trick.

Petty Gods: Bat-faced Strokechuckers, minions of Thwizeviblyz, Petty God of Baby Laughter

Another for Richard LeBlanc's minion challenge:

Bat-faced Strokechuckers
minions of Thwizeviblyz, Petty God of Baby Laughter, an aspect of the Jale God

No. Encountered: 1d12
Alignment: Lawful
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 2 (claw/claw) + Special
Damage: 1d2/1d2
Save: F5
Morale: 3
Hoard Class: None
XP: 210

Despite their bald-headed & bearded fearsome appearance, Bat-faced Strokechuckers are expert ticklers; they can sneak up to any child under the age of 3 and make them giggle with nothing but a soft touch across the chin, brow, or crook of knee or arm. They exist to serve Thwizeviblyz by eliciting peals of child laughter at unexpected moments, and are experts at this task.

Standing 4 to 6 inches in height, Strokechuckers appear squat and muscular, but this is an adaptive illusion. Like the common house mouse, Strokechuckers can squeeze themselves into the smallest of openings and, thanks to their tough claws, can climb vertical surfaces (up to 90 feet) with ease. They can also perform a 6-foot vertical standing jump. They possess the stealth skills of a 20th level thief and the power to cast invisibility at will, rendering them all but undetectable to the unwary eye.

As their name suggests, Strokechuckers resemble bats in more then just appearance; their eyes are extremely sensitive to light and they use echolocation to move through their surroundings. Strokechuckers can move through complete darkness with ease and gain +3 to all combat rolls which take place in dim or dark locations. They are primarily nocturnal, doing their work in the hours between morning and evening twilight.

They are easily blinded by sudden bright light and will immediately make themselves invisible if startled; their invisibility is such that they cast no shadow.

Strokechuckers prefer to flee rather than attack, especially if encountered in groups of 3 or less. If attacked, Strokechuckers perform a series of blazingly fast, complex, bare-handed maneuvers which, due to the millions of featherlike cilia covering their hands, result in a paralyzing tickle. Victims must Save vs. Paralysis or be pleasantly stunned for 1d4 rounds. It is rumored that a swarm of Strokechuckers (500+) once brought down a young red dragon in just this manner.

Strokechuckers tend to nest in abandoned rat warrens and are fastidious housekeepers. In many regions, it is considered good luck to have Strokechuckers nesting in your home. Anyone leaving food out for Strokechuckers gains a +2 to all Saves vs. Paralysis for 1d6 days; this bonus turns into a -5 penalty if any Strokechucker is attacked while the bonus is in effect.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Petty Gods: Sybevmry & Creqvg'n, minions of Cowie, companion to Curdle the Petty Goddess of Blind Milk Maids

Richard threw down the gauntlet again, this time with a sweet drawing by Reidar Kjelsen:

Sybevmry & Creqvg'n
minions of Cowie, companion to Curdle the Petty Goddess of Blind Milk Maids

No. Encountered: 2 (always as a pair)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60'(20')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4 + 4
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite) + Special
Damage: 2d6/2d6/2d6 + Special
Save: F7
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None
XP: 910

Sybevmry & Creqvg'n are quasi-demonic tail lice who inhabit the tangled, burr-filled tail of Cowie, the emaciated calf companion of Curdle, the Petty Goddess of Blind Milk Maids.

Normally the smallest of all known demonic beings, Sybevmry & Creqvg'n spend their time hitching free rides and generally having a life of ease amongst the strands and follicles of Cowie's unkempt hide. However, during the Dark Moon Festival (held every fourteen years in honor of Ywehbobbobhewy, Lord of Waters, King of Mirrors, Patriarch of the Most Profound) they are granted a boon: they enlarge to the size of small housecats and feed on the blood of the male sacrifices.

If encountered in their normal state, they are nearly undetectable. If a PC encounters Cowie and pets her, their is a 35% chance that Sybevmry & Creqvg'n will infest the PC for 1d8 days unless the PC makes a Save vs. Disease. The PC will suffer intense itchiness of the crotch and/or armpits and permanently lose 1 HP for each day of infection. There is no cure. After the rolled duration, Sybevmry & Creqvg'n will immediately teleport back to Cowie's tail.

If encountered during their enlarged state, they will happily converse with PCs unless they are feeding. They love to gossip and will relay the juiciest of rumors and hearsay; there is a 75% chance that what they tell the PCs is true. However, they also heavily enjoy riddles and puns and in-jokes that only they themselves understand, and thus often interrupt themselves as they descend into bouts of raucous laughter, to the puzzlement of those they converse with.

If they are feeding at the time of an encounter, they will immediately attack in a blood rage. They attack with their steel-like claws and shark-like bites. For each successful attack, the PC must make a Save vs. Paralysis; after 4 failed saves, the PC becomes paralyzed for 1d4 days and is also immediately infested with normal tail lice. This paralysis can be cured by magical means, but the lice infestation can only be cured with a thorough, non-magical delousing.

Sybevmry (the male) and Creqvg'n (female) are the last mating pair of quasi-demonic tail lice and are thus considered an endangered species; any attempt to destroy them via delousing rituals will result in immediate attack by Ywehbobbobhewy or The Jale God.

Unknown to Curdle & Cowie, Sybevmry & Creqvg'n are also (with the Jale God's blessing) spies for Tetskuize the Demoralizer, keeping Her Lichness aware of pair's movements across the planes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Petty Gods: The Seven Twee Philosophers, Minions of Uroborialis, Petty Goddess of Instinctual Wisdom

Richard LeBlanc threw down the challenge.

The Seven Twee Philosophers
minions of Uroborialis, Petty Goddess of Instinctual Wisdom

No. Encountered: 7 (all 7 always encountered as a group)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 6
Attacks: 2
Damage: 1d4 (cane) + Special (bite; see below)
Save: C10
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: None
XP: 1, 500 (for group)

The Seven Twee Philosophers are wingless, divine homunculi created by Uroborialis, the Petty Goddess of Instinctual Wisdom, to debate the meaning of existence and the means of survival. They keep up an endless debate amongst themselves, leaning on their plain wooden canes and arguing, counter-arguing, contradicting, and refuting each others' positions on any and all topics up for discussion. They often get so carried away with their arguments that they literally fight amongst themselves, beating each other with any available object and generally causing a riot.

Anyone passively listening to their debate for more than 1d6 turns must make a Save vs. Spell; failure results in a 75% chance of sleep for 1d10 turns or a 25% chance of an untargeted berserk rage.

Anyone attempting to engage the Twee Philosophers in debate has a 25% chance of becoming so engaged in the conversation that they will stay engaged in the debate for 1d8 days without sleeping (and suffering the consequences of such), but will come away from the debate with a permanent +2 to WIS.

The Twee Philosophers' names have been lost to time; they themselves have forgotten their names and origins. It is rumored their names are inscribed on a worn stone in a destroyed temple once dedicated to Ywehbobbobhewy, Lord of Waters, King of Mirrors, Patriarch of the Most Profound, listed among the names of his favorite entertainers.

Their names are:

Anmv n'amh'f
N' dhvan'f

No one knows which name belongs to which Twee Philosopher.

Should a PC find out one of their names and speak it aloud, all the homunculi will attack. They attack by hitting their victim with their wooden canes and by bite; a bitten victim must Save vs. Spell or sleep for 20d20 turns; their bites can penetrate all armors but elven plate mail.

If one Twee Philosopher is killed, Uroborialis will manifest and attack.

The Twee Philosophers can normally be found in the halls of various schools of academia, inner temples of sanctuaries, and the dicing dens of backwater taverns—especially if Verthish, the Petty God of Single Pips (who himself is a manifestation of the Jale God) is in attendance at the dicing tables. In such a situation, there is a 65% chance that an avatar of Uroborialis herself is also in attendance or somewhere nearby.

Death Whistles

Rarity: Extremely Rare
XP Value/Market price: 250,000 gp

Extremely rare ancient artifacts crafted from the diminutive skulls of a long-dead alien race, Death Whistles have the uncanny ability to channel the tortured screams of all undead within a 100 mile radius.

If a Death Whistle is sounded any non-vampire undead within a 10 mile radius will be attracted to the sound and will attack those in possession or within 50 feet of a Death Whistle and attempt to destroy the device. Once the device is destroyed, they will immediately cease attacking.

Undead beckoned by a Death Whistle can not be turned.

There is a 1% chance that one of the undead recognizes its voice emanating from the Death Whistle and will instead befriend the holder of the Death Whistle and act as a 0-level henchman.

Any sentient being which hears a Death Whistle must make a Save vs. Paralysis or be paralyzed for 1d6 rounds.

For aeons, necromancers have been baffled by the magical properties of the Death Whistle and will pay highly for a specimen.

Monday, December 1, 2014

After the Dwimmermount Debacle . . .

. . . is the OSR community ready to give more money to a James Maliszewski project? Maybe. Check out JaMal's new zine for Tékumel, The Excellent Travelling Volume. $10 gets you a 28-page zine; the price includes shipping, but of course you pay more to get your zine on if you live outside of North America.

Note: Hey YDIS crew, this isn't an endorsement; just a note that the zine exists. As the self-appointed zine list keeper, I try to keep tabs on what's new and what's gone.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gammarauders (Extremely Tiny) Roleplaying System, Redux

Back in March of this year, I posted scans of the Gammarauders (Extremely Tiny) Roleplaying System, which was written by David "Zeb" Cook.  In that post, I commented that it would be nice if someone typed up and re-formatted the rules.

No one did. Until now.

Last week I needed a break while grading papers. I took the scans from issues 1, 3, & 4 of the Gammarauders comics and sat there with one window open in my comics reader and another in a minimal word processor and went to town.

In typing this up, I realized:
  1. This isn't truly "extremely tiny."
  2. You really need to read the comic to understand a lot of the references.
  3. For a ruleset, it's rather incoherent.
I'm sure there are useable rules in here, but man, there is a lot of worldbuilding backstory that clutters the rules. It really needs to be stripped down to just the useable bits, which at its heart is an rules-light free-form d6-based mechanic. Quite frankly, this is an "anything goes" sort of game that embraces player agency. What I love is what Zeb says in the opening section on character creation:
. . . the first thing I’m supposed to do is explain what roleplaying games are all about. It’s simple—roleplaying games are make-believe. If you remember the Gammarauders and Slugnoids or cops and robbers you played as a child, roleplaying is just like that—with more rules. The rules are supposed to tell you who shot whom and settle arguments and the like.
So, yes, these rules are extremely light and extremely flexible, but I don't know if they are actually playable in their current form. You have to be a serious Gammarauders fan to even try. I might take a pass at editing these into useable form by separating the backstory from the mechanics and clarifying rolls with tables, but that's not going to happen for a while. Someone else is more than welcome to give it a shot.

The following file is a straight transcription; I have not edited the text to make it coherent or useable. Notice, for example, that the name for the DM changes from The Boss to The Keeper in the "second installment", there's a freeform mix of Arabic and Roman numerals, there's inchoherent use of italics and underlining, etc. I guess DC or TSR couldn't afford an editor for comic book text back in the day.

Anyway, here it is on Google Drive, with commenting enabled:

Note: I've corrected a few embarrassing typos in the raw transcription.