Monday, May 25, 2015

Monsters of Sarvaelen: Creatures encountered by the Sullen Watch

Since I'm riding a wave of interest in turning Sarvaelen into a S&W setting, here are stats for some of the unique monsters of the world of the Watchers of the Sullen Vigil...

Ghuls of Camrinal
Hit Dice: 3          
Attacks:  two claws (+3 to hit, 1D6 damage each) and bite (+3 to hit, 1D4 damage plus ghul fever)             
Armor Class: 7 [12]         
Saving Throw: 15
Special: ghul fever, cannibals, half-dead, fear immunity, disease immunity, +2 turn resistance
Movement: 9
Alignment: any, but inevitably gravitate toward chaos
No. Encountered: solitary or in small groups (2-12)
CL/XP: 4/120
Ghul Fever: once bitten by a ghul, the target must make a saving throw vs. the poison of the bite or suffer from a debilitating fever. The principle effect is 1D6 minutes long and induces nausea and severe cramping, causing the target to suffer a -4 penalty to attacks, saves and any other physical prowess checks the GM deems appropriate.
Cannibals: Ghuls are known cannibals. The ghuls of Aelghast restrain themselves, and feed only on their own (so far as anyone knows) and the dead (suspected but not proven; they are very careful to avoid being caught). Any ghul that feeds off of living kindred flesh may immediately recover 1D6 hit points.
Half-Dead Immortals: Ghuls don’t age. They look like zombies, with rotting skin and bones visible, clearly not being quite “alive” yet not dead, either. However they do breathe and effects which affect the living usually also harm them (except for diseases). Ghuls are susceptible to turn undead effects, but with a +2 bonus to the saving roll. They “appear” as undead on spells that detect such conditions, but with an eerie aura of half-life suggesting something unusual about them.
Seen Too Much: Ghuls have already experienced some amazing horrors in their time. Ghuls are immune to fear effects.
Disease Immunity: Ghuls are immune to the effects of all disease.

The ghuls are a survivor race, mutated descendants of a handful of Camrinal citizens that survived the apocalypse and kept their wits about them. Even hideously changed into half-dead beings the ghuls prosper, though in time it seems the madness inevitably creeps over them.

The ancient empire of Camrinal was a vast, dominant power that subjugated the old kingdoms to its rule about two hundred years ago. Camrinal not only ruled by force of arms but by force of magic as well, for it indulged the aristocracy of its era with a culture of free experimentation and arcane dabbling that eventually led to a magiocracy in which only those who demonstrated sorcerous talent were allowed to hold the reigns of power, ownership of property or positions of strength in the Empire. Magic had, in this now lost era two centuries gone, become ubiquitous.

When the fires of destruction rained down upon Camrinal in the Final Conflict, the vast majority of the old empire was wiped out, but many of its lesser citizens and a few elites survived. Today these survivors are mostly found as changed beings among the population known as the ghuls, but in some odd corners of the world there still exist untainted purebloods, though they often do not realize their own lineage.

As ghuls age they gradually begin to lose their mental faculties, and slowly go insane. When this happens they become feral creatures, driven purely by a desire to devour flesh. When a ghul dies or is slain, it returns within 1D4 days as an actual undead ghoul.

Hit Dice: 6          
Attacks:  two, by weapon (+6     attack, 1D8 cleaver or pick plus special, below)  
Armor Class:      3 (17)
Saving Throw: 11
Special: slayer of mirth (deals double damage to surprised target that was laughing/happy); silver or +1 or better weapons required to hit; magic
Movement: 9
Alignment: chaos
No. Encountered: usually solitary but 10% chance of 1D4 working in a group
CL/XP: 800
Slayer of Mirth: the feyril despise the happy, friendly or optimistic. A strike against an unsuspecting target that is in such a state deals double damage due to the sheer venom of the feyril attack.
Skin of the Goddess: The rugged skin of the feyril can only be harmed by magical or silvered weapons.
Magic Skill: feyril are usually (60% chance) magic users of INT 13-15 on average. They typically know the following spells as a wizard of 6th level experience, but will choose any spells that help hunt prey:
Level 1 (4/day): sleep, charm person, read magic, magic missile
Level 2 (2/day): Invisibility, Strength
Level 3 (2/day): Hold Person Slow

Feyril are short, dwarf-like men who have developed a superstitious reputation thanks to the folklore which precedes them. The stories speak of how feyril are not really men at all, but a curious sort of creature born from the turbulent, bubbling dreams of the mad goddess Matrigias, said to have been the first of the Old Gods, and that she was accosted in terrible ways by the male gods who were unable to control themselves. From this horrific union she became pregnant, bloated from one horizon to the next with the spawn of the world, and when she at last broke water she was destined to give birth to all of the animals of the world. The stories say that Matrigias was driven mad by the endless spawn of animals which crawled from her womb to populate the world, and that she shed unbearable tears of blood and water at the endless pain. From these tears grew the feyril, squat and toad-like little men that were described by some as almost like infants in appearance, but horribly wise to the world due to the suffering of their mother. The feyril crawled forth, to extinguish any joy or revelry where they found it. Such was it that when mankind was at last born into the world he could know joy, for the feyril had stolen all of the pain and suffering of their mother by then. It was only later that humanity came to fear the feyril, for they found the joy and merriment of men to be offensive, and sought to extinguish it by means of murder and fright.

Naga (of Nagapuram)
Hit Dice: 6+4
Attacks:  one weapon (+6 attack, polearm 1D8+1 damage) and bite (+6 attacl, 1D4 damage plus venom below); or one bite or weapon and constriction (+6 attack, 1D8+2 damage) 
Armor Class: 3 (17) or by armor
Saving Throw: 11
Special: constriction, naga venom
Movement: 9 (land) or 15 (swimming)
Alignment: chaotic
No. Encountered: 1D4 or 2D12
CL/XP: 8/800
Naga Venom: if bitten by a naga, the target makes a saving throw against poison at -2 due the potent nature of the venom. If failed the target is paralyzed for 1D6X10 minutes. Naga can only perform this bite once every 2D4 hours, as it requires time to regenerate.
Magical Talent: naga are naturally skilled mages and clerics. Any given naga has a 10% chance of being a magic user or a 14% chance of being a cleric of 1D6 levels of skill. In any community of naga there is a 50% chance of a magic-user or cleric of at least 6+1D6 levels of the give class.

Naga in Sarvaelen are an ancient race, cursed long ago with the serpentine traits that mark their lineage. Once, or so the story goes, the Naga were among the greatest of the old ones, the races that predate modern men long ago. A series of ancient tomes, most of which are now lost to history called the “Yavandreth Manuscripts” tell a bit of the ancient tale of the naga. A mostly complete  set of the four surviving tomes can be found at the Library of the Sun in the port city of Aramen, Aeronost’s southern port and capital of the so-called Stormsinger Coast province. There the lone monk Procosius maintains these books and remains the land’s foremost authority on Naga lore.

As legend goes, naga were once men, albeit of a breed of old that was naturally inclined to sorcery and spoke directly to the Old Gods but were changed in some forgotten time to the half men, half serpents they now are. The naga ruled all of Sammar in the south and were allied with Camrinal, but were cast down during the Great War two centuries ago. Their ancient king was the sorcerer Kaliya, a powerful necromancer and priest of the old gods revered by his people. These four gods they worshipped were said to grant great strength to the naga.

According to the Yavandreth Manuscripts, Kaliya did something to anger his gods. There are conflicting tales. One says he was to sacrifice his eldest child in honor of the gods and as a payment for his great necromantic talent, but he refrained from doing so and brought down a great curse upon his people. Another tale suggests something similar, but that it was his wife, Padmavati, could not bear to lose her child and so spirited him away before Kaliya could sacrifice the infant. Yet another tale says nothing of this curse induced by loss of sacrifice and instead suggests that the naga were formed when they sought to make a dark pact with the elder god called Dev Yama’Dragoth. Yama’Dragoth granted the naga their wish, giving them supreme power and immortality as sorcerers, but in exchange he took their humanity, leaving only the twisted, serpentine forms naga are known for today.

Whatever their origin, naga appear to be half men and half serpent, often with strongly reptilian facial features and sometimes the wide, decorative “hoods” of a cobra enveloping their head and neck. Naga are fearsome to behold. Naga are known for their poisonous bite, also a shared feature with the cobra, and they are exceptional swimmers, albeit not aquatic, a common misconception among humans since the only known kingdom of the naga is to be found on the Isle of Stoneblight, where the naga city of Nagapuramcan be found.

Nagapuram is an impressive, ancient city located on an expansive island about two hundred miles off the Stormsinger Coast in the Pavain Sea. The naga call the island Manak’tagar, and defend it vigorously from outsiders; one must seek a benefactor to vouch for a foreigner who seeks to visit the island and its amazing city of ancient monuments. Stories of travelers, diplomats and merchants indicate that there are ten thousand naga within the city and probably three times as many slaves, usually of humans from the south eastern kingdom of Sammar, which does not normally disturb the citizens of Aeronost who have frequently had to deal with hostile pirates from that distant land.

The island itself is ruled by the so called Living Goddess who goes by the name of Padmavati, the mythical first queen of the naga. Whether she styles herself a descendent or a reincarnation of this first naga queen is unknown, but she does believe she is a demigoddess, imbued with the powers of the current naga patron deity, Manasa.

The naga are a potent force locally, and the diplomats of Aeronost have sought to keep them as allies rather than enemies. Still, the naga are so feared that the often do as they will, and treat much of the Stormsinger Coast as their own domain. This has often led to unfortunate bloody conflicts between the soldiers and naval forces charged with protecting the dominion of the Pavain Sea and the forces of Nagapuram.

In the region of Aelghast, there is a small community of about one hundred naga who have taken up residence in the subterranean caverns around a sacred hot spring that they call Uk’halat. The hot spring has been turned into a shrine dedicated to the seven-headed serpent god called Agharda, said to have devoured the original four naga gods of old and absorbed their essence. It is believed by this remote group of exiles that the seven heads of Agharda represent the seven kingdoms of the naga, spread throughout the world, and that worshipping this deity will reunite the naga into a powerful force that will resume the mantle of rule again.

This worship of the seven-headed god is regarded as heresy by the Living Goddess Padmavati, as it was only a century ago that the cult of Agharda was embraced by her people. This period led to a vicious war with the distant eastern empire of Kadatha, and nearly led to the destruction of the naga kingdom. As a result of this conflict Agharda’s worshippers were forced into exile lest they be hung for heresy. This branch near Aeronost follows the fanatical priest Yazzad Sydaris, and calls their unique sect the “Sons of Sydaris” or simply Sydarites. They believe that Sydaris has a unique ability to channel the thoughts and speech of Agharda.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

D&D 5E Saturday Creature Factory: The Living Godflesh of Umbras

After a hiatus it is back! Saturday Creature Factory returns. This time with a 5E edition of something I used in a published module...

Living Godflesh of Umbras
CR 6 (2,300 XP)
CN Large Monstrosity (though some would call it an aberration)
Initiative +2
AC 12
HP 152 (15D10+70)
Resistance: psychic, cold, acid and radiant
Immunity: necrotic, poison, disease, prone condition (unless in risen form), frightened
Vulnerable: fire 
Speed 10 feet
Multiattack special, see below.
Melee Attack – Sucking Maws +7 attack (melee, each target adjacent to or occupying the same area as the living godflesh), 1D6+4 bludgeoning/crushing damage to each target.
Melee Attack  - Flesh Absorbption +7 attack (melee, target must be occupying same area as living godflesh), 4D6 acid damage and living godflesh gains damage dealt in additional hit points. If a target is reduced to zero hit points the living godflesh gains one divine spark. When it gains 10 divine sparks the living godflesh gains 18 intelligence, 18 wisdom and polymorphs into a medium humanoid form for one day.
STR 18 (+4), DEX 14 (+2), CON 18 (+4), INT 6 (-2), WIS 10 (0), CHA 10 (0)
Languages: none (but in risen godflesh form it gains common and either abyssal or primordial)
Senses: Superior Darkvision, tremorsense
Absorbing Mass: when the living godflesh moves into an area occupied by another creature, the target must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw or be grabbed by the living godflesh. It subsequently gains advantage on all attacks against that target and may initiate the flesh absorption attack.

Stories tell of a shadow god called Umbras who was slain by rival demiurges that took his place. The story says he was trapped in a planar gate that simultaneously opened…and then closed…on ten thousand locations, each one severing a piece of flesh from Umbras. The living godflesh might be the remains of this deity, now trapped in infinite planes of existence trying to pull itself together.

The living godflesh seeks to attain 10 divine sparks, which allows it to attain a moment’s clarity of mind for a day, and seek out a way to find other pieces like itself. Unfortunately each piece of godflesh is a dim shadow of the being it once was, with no magic ability to manifest in other planes and reassemble it’s lost form.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Is D&D 5E Good for the OSR Economy?

I have a theory (that lacks support beyond the usual anecdotes) that the ease with which D&D 5E allows one to adapt older edition modules and content to the current rules system may in fact be promoting more expansion and growth among OSR games, as well as more sales. When you can pick up any number of OSR tomes and use them with minimal effort in D&D 5E, the absence of a robust product release schedule...or even an OGL....for D&D 5E is not so troubling.

For those gamers who find D&D 5E to be a bit simple in design, that is certainly not the case....but I think there are more of "us" out there buying OSR books these days then there are of the other variety, who reserve their attention for all things Pathfinder and the now dead but still voluminously covered 4th edition rules. I didn't use to think that.....and I don't mean to suggest that total Pathfinder players aren't far in excess of OSR players (they most certainly are), but among those who actually buy stuff....the RPG whales...I think there are a significant number of us these days buying OSR books or D&D 5E stuff that we then perhaps use with OSR content as well (or at least a growing number of the latter).

Most Pathfinder players I know never buy anything....Paizo is lucky if they even pay for the $10 PDF of the core rules over pirating it or using online OGL resources...suggesting that all the buying is being done by the GMs for Pathfinder. Even then I wonder just how many there really are; it's a hard thing to gauge, since the fact is, most visible Pathfinder content out there today comes in the form of 3PP PDFs with price tags, and I don't really find that many blogs that do things creatively with the game.* Certainly not blogs like you find in the OSR, which with few exceptions are all usually quite involved in the hobby in a very creative way (notable exception: cool blogs like The Daily Bestiary for Pathfinder).

Then again, I could just not be looking in the right circles...and right now most of my circles are giant "Os" at the start of OSR....but to get to my question in the header: maybe it is, but maybe its more like a complimentary sort of arrangement; people who might not have used an OSR product by itself can now do so because there is a contemporary system that is at least OSR friendly....and often times that's all it really takes.

*My theory is that stat block and design for Pathfinder/3.5 is considered onerous, unpleasant work by most, such that paying for content is preferred over just making it...and those who take the time to make for it realize that it is hard work, and want to be paid for the time and effort. Unlike OSR bloggers and 5E bloggers who are riding a sometimes decades' old sense of visceral joy at their hobby's creative expression and love giving things away, sometimes even very classy things for free or at cost.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Formal work on the Realms of Chirak, 2nd Edition has begun

I am ready to tackle it. I feel my familiarity with 5E rules is reaching a comfortable point, and the ease with which one can design monster and NPC stat blocks is greatly appreciated. Realms of Chirak 2nd edition will be designed initially for use with D&D 5E and I will use the same publishing scheme I used previously to publish it (as an OGL resource), similar to the method used by Frog God Games and Goodman Games....unless WotC manages to produce an OGL of some sort before I am finished, anyway.

I'll post some rules stuff on the blog as I go to try and vett ideas to the general crowd. I've done a bit of this already....some 5E designs on Chirak races are already up here and if anyone wants to provide some feedback I would welcome it. Players in my group will likely already offer feedback; my next planned Chirak campaign in 5E will be a "one year later" revisit to the fabled Espanean city of Corlione, a locale which the prior adventuring crew all but trashed in their rise from level 1-15 in Pathfinder, before sailing south to the remote lands of U'al for some serious high level gaming.

So yes, their level one 5E characters will get to roam a city still rebuilding from the destructive wake left behind by the prior adventurers. That same campaign even had a grand plot involving time travel using a legendary "Pillar of Eternity" (no relation) which when united with a planetary convergence that happens only once every 2500 years allows for those with the know-how to slide up and down the time stream, to reappear at the exact point in the past --or future-- that the last or next convergence takes place. That campaign witnessed the birth of the Final War and the death of all Chirak at the hands of the cosmic fiend Molabal. It also destroyed Molabal, presumably changing the future history they witnessed.

Anyway....the new Realms of Chirak book is going to focus more tightly on the Sea of Chirak region to start (plus a couple key locales such as Sabiri, Xoxtocharit and Kasdalan), and then I'll work on expansions that focus on the other regions of the setting, since each one alone would merit a book in its own right. I figure this will keep me motivated for some time.

I was considering a Swords & Wizardry Complete editon as well. This requires both more and less work: 5E philosophy of design is much leaner and easier to work with than prior recent editions, and closer in spirit to the classic 0E retroclone, but in terms of "what you need" to run S&W it's still more detail than the original game demands. As such, it would be a matter of refining and paring down that which is not needed and replacing those rules and stat blocks with the slimmer and more frugal classic 0E design. But worth it; both games have a lot in common, and being intensely fun to run and play is top on the list. *

I wish I had the energy to work on a Pathfinder version of Chirak...I certainly have the detritus of such lying around to assemble something. Alas, much like the reason a D20 3.X era version of the game never came to light (despite my personal guide to such used from 2000-2008) the simple fact is that the raw mechanical rigor of that iteration of D&D is just not fun for me to mess with. There are many who love that rigorous approach to the game....I am not one of them. You'd literally have to pay me, quite a bit, to do it, because it feels like a job, not fun to mess with 3.X era stat blocks. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if I ever Kickstart this (a possibility once I have a finished manuscript in layout and edited, if only to secure money for decent art) then a Pathfinder version could be a stretch goal or something. Or maybe not, I'm really not much of a masochist....

*On the other hand....I have this idea for doing (yet another) revision to a different setting, one with a grim old school thematic that I think might fit really well with S&W....Sarvaelen, the one I developed on this blog a while back, first for T&T and then later for a medley of BRP/MW/Legend. I only ran one campaign with it so far (in Magic World) but for various reasons I felt like the world wasn't quite "clicking." In my original T&T edition, initially done for the fun of it, I still presumed a world with elves and dwarves and hobbits/halflings...but with the darkness of a Howard/Lovecraft sword & sorcery feel. I later questioned the need to include Tolkienesque tropes in the world, which oddly was both liberating and the sense that focusing on humans only helped develop the world as a more grounded and realistic locale, but it also carved out a lot of what at the core of a D&D world makes it D&D for many people (the fantastical elements are permitted for players as well, at least in so far as elves and dwarves are still fantastical, sort of). So now I'm debating the idea of going back to my original conceptualization, and reintroducing more elves and dwarves and such, albeit perhaps in new and darker forms...more mysterious and remote, ancient races withdrawn from the world which only recently saw fit to re-emerge when the empire of Camrinal destroyed itself. Orcs and goblins may surface as well, as a malfeasance boiling out of the damaged earth in the wake of Camrinal's fall, forcing the dwarves to interact with surface dwellers again. We'll see....there's a lot of room in this world for all of these races, as is fit for any good D&D world.

More to come on this, but once I started thinking about how S&W would fit Sarvaelen and the Watchers of the Sullen Vigil thematically it was like that setting finally "popped" for me....I think it's the final piece of the world-puzzle that that setting needed. More to come on that, probably soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who Knew??? GURPS Mars Attacks is a thing!!!!

It's one of those things you'd never imagine was possible but, once presented, seems hard to fathom how we went so long without it. GURPS is getting a new sourcebook, and it's actually going to be a print product: GURPS Mars Attacks, based on the Topps cards of the same name. Check out the cover:

According to "PK" it's going to be derived from the card game (as opposed to that old movie from Tim Burton) and set in a default modern era setting. Here's some gloriously weird old card art to give you an idea of what to expect:

Interestingly the Mars Attacks trading cards apparently came out in 1962, which last I checked put them past the McCarthyism era of the 50's that prompted the rise of the comics code authority (and also these were trading cards as opposed to comics, so there is that). Many of the original cards from this series are downright gruesome in an EC comics sort of fashion.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Petty Gods are waiting for you

If you aren't familiar with Petty Gods its a New Big Dragon Games collaborative project (out of the ORC...Old School Roleplaying Community) outlining over 300 deities for your sandbox campaigns. I couldn't help but notice that the PDF version is currently free right here and the print version is up at Lulu for a very attractive price as well. I've got my physical copy ordered, and the PDF is tantalizing. You should check it out.

For those of you with a score card, New Big Dragon Games is where the OSR Creature Compendium, D30 DM Companion and D30 Sandbox Companion come from. Everything I've gotten from NBD has been pure gold and is being used at my game table (and with D&D 5E no less, although plans are in the works for S&W too).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Atakans and Vumaskans in Swords & Wizardry Complete

Continuing my efforts to dual-stat Pergerron for Swords & Wizardry as well as D&D 5E, I offer up some stat blocks for vumaskans and atakans in S&W Complete:

Atakan (jackal-men)
Hit Dice: 2+1
Armor Class: 3 (17) (plate mail and shield)
Attacks: bite (1D4) or by weapon: longsword (1D8) or javelin (1D6)
Movement 9
Alignment: law
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30
Scent: Atakans have a keen sense of smell which grants them advantage to detect the nature and approximate location of any target within 60 feet that could emit an odor (including invisible creatures or objects).
Hardy Desert Dwellers: Atakans are used to roughing it in harsh desert climates.. Atakans can go for up to one week without water before experiencing dehydration effects.
Character Racial Options: Atakans gain both of the above abilities (scent and hardy desert dweller) plus the bite attack (1D4, Strength based). Atakans may advance without limits as fighters, thieves and magic-users. They may advance to level 9 as clerics. Atakans may multiclass as fighter/thieves.

Atakans are tall jackal-headed men who have the bodies of humans but the heads of jackals. They are not related to jackalweres, which are a cursed race infected with abyssal taint….the atakans are an ancient race which claims to predate human and elvenkind’s existence in the mortal realm. In Pergerron atakans dwell mostly in the wastelands outside of the human city-states of Anansis, and many atakans dwell in the vumaskan lands to the east. They are suitable as a player-character racial option.

A typical atakan mercenary group will contain 3D12 atakans with 2 hit dice and the above stats. For every 15 atakans their will be a 4 hit die leader. There is a 50% chance that an atakan mercenary group is working for and escorting 1D3 atakan magic users of 1D6+1 levels of experience, or 1D4 vumaskan merchants (each of which has a 25% chance of having 1D8 levels of magic user or cleric).

Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 7 (13) (leather armor)
Attacks: by weapon, usually longswords (1D8) and long bows (1D6)
Movement 10
Alignment: law
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30
Shrewd Negotiators: vumaskans can sell a funeral plot to a lich. When negotiating with a vumaskan, the opposition must make a saving throw to avoid buying up whatever bridge the vumaskan is selling.

Vumaskans are tall (6 ½ to 7 feet) human-looking men with six digits on each limb (an extra thumb) and skin colors in a hue of greens and blues with occasionally more exotic tints. Vumaskans don’t travel in large groups, but usually are accompanied by atakan mercenary companies for protection. Any given vumaskan has a 25% chance of being gifted in 1D8 levels as a magic-user (1-3) or a cleric (4-6). 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Vumaskans, the shrewd merchants and rogues of Pergerron (D&D 5E and S&W)

Since I've been getting back in to Swords & Wizardy lately I think I'll start dual-statting my Pergerron entries for both D&D 5E and S&W Complete. After much procrastination I have finally written some details up on the vumaskans of Pergerron....a mercantile race of green and blue skinned half-giants aimed at the spirit of the planetary romance genre: 

Pergerron: The Vumaskans

The vumaskans of Pergerron are considered an indigenous race, one of several (which include the elves, dwarves, atakans and orcs) that predate the appearance of man and may have been created from the dreams and musings of the Primordial gods. Though they are identified as one of these elder races little has been written of ill-will toward the vumaskans by humans; it seems that the bulk of the ire in ancient times was reserved toward the great empire of Sar, which was dominated by elves. As such, it is reasonable toexpect that the vumaskan kingdoms of Asparta to the far east may in fact have much longer lineages than the human kingdoms which arose in the last one thousand years in the wake of the fall of Sar.

Physically vumaskans average 6 ½ to 7 feet in height, almost always towering over mortal men. They have distinct skin tones, varying in hue from aquamarine to light green and cerulean blue. Vumaskan women tend toward greener skin tones while the men are inclined toward blue, but this is only a generality and not always true. About ten percent of the population have distinct ochre, yellow or jet black skin tones of shocking tonal quality. Once in a generation an albino vumaskan is born with shocking white skin. Such vumaskans are regarded as either sacred or profane gifts from the gods, and are always blessed with significant magical talent. Vumaskans are also known for being polydactyl, with four fingers and two thumbs on each hand, and six toes. This polydactylism makes them especially fine manipulators, and contributes toward their reputation for producing elaborate and detailed art.

Vumaskan culture is one of mercantilism and trade. The kingdoms of Asparta are much like the human lands of Anansis and abroad: a loose collection of city-states, although they pay nominal respect to the Caliphate of Dakarta, which is regarded as the spiritual center of vumaskan civilization. The Caliph of Dakarta, called Manaskan Draei, is considered a prophet of the primordial sea god Trigaril. Manaskan Drei’s wisdom is believed to be imparted directly from the Primordial himself. Aside from Trigaril, the vumaskans pay close reverence to Yoka Vataras, the only other primordial they continue to worship. Belief in the Enkanneth is also strong among the vumaskans, which helps to explain their good relations with humans. They especially favor Tekastei, a sort of local culture hero among the vumaskans who is seen as the Enkanneth that befriended the vumaskans during the ancient war against Sar and the fall of the Primordials, and the one who allegedly “tamed” the beastly nature of Trigaril.

Vumaskan language is a practical language which employs a surprising number of adopted words from the human Anansic tongue (common) as well as elvish and ataakan. The vumaskan relationship with the atakans is an interesting one: it is known that their lands overlap with the remnants of the fallen atakan empire, including the famour ruins of Pavagar and Ulhambra in the region of the Starry Wastes. Most vumaskan cities have significant populations of atakans, who willingly work as mercenaries and agents for the vumaskans. Among ataakans in this region of the world they have adopted a curious reliance on the vumaskans for broad political leadership, refraining from the need to rule themselves outside of their family clades. The vumaskans are fine with this, and treat the ataakans as equals while letting them self-govern within their own communities.

Among the men of Anansis vumaskans are regarded as wealthy foreign traders and merchants who bring exotic goods, fabulous art and exotic spices. Vumaskans are known for their production of opium as well, and are a principal supplier of such to those city states which do not frown upon its use (usually inland cities such as Samaskar allow opium use without restriction, while more conservative cities such as those which worship Abia along the Silver Coast have all but outlawed its use).

Vumaskan Characters

Vumaskans are excellent choices as player characters, though uncommon in lands outside of Asparta. They have the following traits:

Vumaskans in D&D 5E:
Attribute Modifiers: vumaskans gain +1 Dexterity and +1 to Strength due to their polydactyl nature and larger physical build.
Movement: 35 feet; the larger average size of the vumaskan gives them a longer stride.
Shrewd Negotiators: vumaskan culture encourages quit wit and fine negotiating skills. As such, vumaskans start with proficiency in Persuasion and Deception.
Fine Manipulation: The six-digited hands of vumaskans with two thumbs make them exceptionally talented at fine manipulation. They gain proficiency in Sleight of Hand.

Vumaskans in Swords & Wizardry:
Attributes: Vumaskans generally have better strength, dexterity and charisma than a normal human; if you are using optional attribute requirements they should have at least 9 in each of the above to qualify for vumaskan as a racial option.
Shrewd Negotiators: vumaskans can be shrewd negotiators. Typically this means in traditional old-school form that the GM should consider any reasonable persuasion from the player to be indicative of the shrewd and manipulative vumaskan’s acumen for negotiation. However, if you would like a mechanic for this, try the following: if a vumaskan is speaking with an NPC and is trying to convince him to do something out of the ordinary (but not harmful) the GM may opt to let the target make a saving throw against common sense to see if he buys into whatever the vumaskan is selling. Alternatively you can make the vumaskan PC roll against Charisma (D20 equal to or under) with a penalty set by the DM (equal to what seems right, or 1/4th of the Hit Dice rounded down, or if the target has a Wisdom score apply a penalty of -1 for every point over 14).  Success means the target must make a saving throw or think the vumaskan’s idea is really great.
Fine Manipulation: vumaskans gain a +15% bonus to Delicate Tasks & Traps and Open Locks skills.
Class Options: vumaskans can advance without limit in cleric, fighter, thief and magic-user classes. They may advance to 12th level as assassins or monks and may multi-class as cleric/fighters, fighter/thieves or thief/magic-users. There are no vumaskan druids, rangers or paladins. If you are using an expansion (such as the Player’s Companion) with bards as a class then vumaskans may advance to 15th level as bards.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Greyhawk & Wizardry plus more Frog God Coupon Madness

I figured out what works well for my hypothetical Greyhawk campaign that I am most definitely not spending too much time on, such that I am neglecting my blog and other hobby duties:

It's a cool Erol Otus cover, which is indisputably awesome and such, but to be honest I prefer the original Complete edition cover:

To be fair though S&W Complete would fit well with my Ages of Lingusia setting, too....or Pergerron, which is spawned out of the Basic/Expert core conceits. Or I could return to my decommissioned S&W setting, the Rising Dark Campaign which I had wrapped up and published right around the time I started this blog. But the idea of a pure Greyhawk game continues to nag at my mind...

While I have owned the original Complete edition of S&W for some time now (and played in a campaign my wife ran with it a few years back, shortly before we acquired the munchkin) I haven't gotten the latest version yet, nor have I picked up Monstrosities (or the GM Screen). Thanks to yet another coupon deal from Frog God I've rectified that. Speaking of which: 25% off until Midnight May 15th with WOOT-25%-OFF!

Just spreading my fever for the Frog God....

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monday....oh Monday

It's been a long couple of weeks. I've been out of blog steam, mostly I think because everything else in life has been sucking up all my free energy, including some sickness which has been lingering unpleasantly throughout all of this; work has been in overdrive, and when I get home it's a lot of time with my son (and one night of a 5-hour binge dive into the PC version of GTA V which I was happy to see runs on my older PC just fine).

Michael in GTA V is such an awesome character. That entire game is like a Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey novel writ large in video game format.

Anyway, more content eventually! I have had these burn-out phases in the past, but usually disguise them by loading lots of pre-programmed blog posts. However I've been sufficiently burned out that I haven't even had time to load up canned content....yes, that's some serious burnout.....

On gaming I will mention that I picked up Iron Kingdoms Unleashed on a lark. This is a weighty tome and really wild, a weird steampunk vs. monsters universe that holds its own well. Good enough that I found the original Iron Kingdoms RPG from 2013 and may get more. It's like a Warhammer game that people who hate the Warhammer universe and lore (but love the conceptual space) can appreciate.

More later!