Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Few Lessons Learned About Fatherhood

So we're two months and a few days in, and already I've learned some important lessons about early fatherhood. To wit:

1. It turns out that there is a special phenomenon known as the All Consuming Hunger that is experienced by only two classes of being: babies and zombies. And they sound a lot alike when expressing this hunger, too!

2. Unless your stomach is cast iron, give up any love of spicy mustard or thick curry for a while. Or corn meal.

3. What do Babies and the French have in common? They both think Jerry Lewis's slapstick is hillarious! In fact, babies pretty much think anything you do is hillarious if you make enough funny noises while doing it.

4. Kids can be remarkably well behaved and quiet when you are responsive to them. In defense of parents who may have to deal with colicky babies, I concede that I may just have gotten extremely lucky.

5. We as social entities learn to manipulate at a very, very early age.

6. I am startled that more parasites in nature don't go for the ultra-super-duper-cute look, it seems to work well for babies!

....more to come, I am sure....!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Death Among the Sabiri

The Sabiri regard death as part of the process. They revere their fallen dead, especially the warriors and those who perished honorably. They regard a long life as honorable, too. One who is wise or clever enough to live to an old age and pass away without a sword in the gullet deserves recognition, it is felt. Cowards, traitors, and those who exhibit utter selfishness are disdained and rarely given fair treatment when time comes for burial.

While most notable Sabiri are interred in stone-capped dolmuns (and most tribes have at least one or two such locations that they will tavel to for the burial and honoring of noteworthy personages of the tribe) the average Sabiri is buried in a small stone cairn and without too much fanfare. They revere the dead, but do not feel that the soul, once it has migrated from the body, has any use or memory of its prior life as it moves on to the next.

Chieftains and great heroes get treated a little differently. Over the last few centuries the Sabiri grew fascinated by the immense ziggurats and other burial mounds in a large region called the Necropolis, adjacent to where the city of Fartheren was established. It has long been the practice that chieftains, warlords and heroes be buried here. High priests, too, have come in to the habit of seeking interment in the Necropolis. Tribes will deviate from their routine, sending large funerary processions over hundreds of miles to reach this location, that a chieftain may be buried.

While a few especially megalomaniacal chieftains and warlords have seen fit to erect their own burial mounds at the Necropolis, just as many have seen fit to have an existing Kadelan ziggurat excavated or opened, that their body would be interred within. This practice is actually quite common.

When a wealthy Sabiri passes away, he tends to take it with him. Some chieftains will even have their favored wives and daughters (though never their sons) buried with them, and it goes without saying that all Sabiri prefer to be buried with their horse. This practice of wealthy burials has also led to a surge of interest among foreign grave robbers. A small cult of sabiri death priests called the Kad’harak tend to the Necropolis for this very reason, and will vigorously defend the hundreds of monuments and mounts at the site against possible theft.

Sabiri have a decidedly different (though not unusual) reaction to undead. The undead are regarded as abominations, and only the demon cultists of the Servants of the Shroud seem to regard the undead as anything to be valued. Most Sabiri are very superstitious about undead, for they represent a break in the cycle of reincarnation, a scar in the symmetry of the universe. Undead are reviled and hunted. Those who manufacture them, such as warlocks and necromancers, must do so in secret for fear of reprisal. Most Sabiri prefer to be buried with the Mark of Tilalk, a white runic etching placed in paint upon the foreheads of corpses, believed to grant good luck on their journey to the next life, and to protect them from unnatural reanimation.

Next: Hnaka Warrior Women

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tales of the Cannadad Dei: Warfare in Sabiri


Sabiri avoid warfare when it is not necessary, despite their proclivity for ritualistic violence and blood sports. Though there have been as yet no anthropological studies of the Sabiri by those few who are elsewhere inventing the field (among the Preservationists), such observations would see that the nomads are prone to using violence as a means of managing overpopulation. When a tribe begins to starve or finds its herds and water sources depleted, then violence is sure to break out. On rare occasion an especially charismatic warlord, such as the revered Zvhakkatas, will rise to power and can bring the chieftains together for a specific act of war, the vanquishing of enemies, or the seizing of territory. Rogue tribes, those which have forsaken the ways of Kobal entirely, are often also targeted by other tribes for extermination.

Most traditional disputes are settled through ritual warfare, blood sports and individual contests. The Sabiri do not practice arena or gladiatorial fighting, but they have no shame in making it a sporting event. When two tribes come to conflict, be it over land, bison, women or simple honor then they will meet on the field and seek to humiliate and defeat their opposition. Though the goal is not to slaughter the rival tribe, it can often lead to such consequences, for the hot blooded warriors may lose all sense of purpose and descend in to bloody battle. This is nothing unusual, and the Sabiri do not frown on a warrior who fails to control his blood lust.

As indicated in the history, warlords have on occasion risen to power among the many tribes. Such warlords are especially charismatic and usually driven by purpose.

There is one warlord who holds power at this moment out of Zen Hettar, claiming lordship over the northern sabirath (dominion). Despite Zamad-Ruus being a warlord, he is not seen as very powerful, and serves mainly as a figurehead to speak with the Espanean governors when needed. This makes some of the chieftains restless; the populations of the tribes grow large, and many sense that a new time of bloodshed is brewing.

Recently the Ghuzdar’Shadoan orcs have become increasingly bold, striking out against the nomads and seeking to claim their own space. It is believed that for unknown reasons their ranks have swollen and the orcs, much like the Sabiri, are feeling population pressure. It is only a matter of time before a new battle rages. The orcs, in turn, are being driven in to a frothy rage, for they claim that a new avatar to Shaligon walks the land, a orcish warrior-woman named Griska Swordthane. If these stories are true, then it does not bode well; years ago the last avatar of Shaligon was reportedly slain in a great battle between the Khasdrikana tribe of Sabiri and the Wyvernclaw orc clans, which were reportedly eradicated. The avatar and high priest of Shaligon was slain that night, and it was said that the restless spirit of Shaligon trod the land, one hundred feet tall, in furious anger at the failure of her followers.

If a new avatar has indeed arisen, it will give the orcs a new focal point through which to direct their rage. Many Sabiri hope this is the case. While they have no issue with taking arms up against one another, the Sabiri find true delight in the slaughter of their inhuman neighbors on the field of battle.

Next: Death among the Sabiri

Showing off!

My wife's cousin Jessie has a real talent for photography, and I couldn't resist showing off a few of the pics she took this week while my wife and son were down visiting her (I am missing from the pics, sorry! Was busy working my butt off this week, thanks to a big promotion).

Why am I in this bowl???

Mom and Son

In case you're wondering, yes that is a tattoo of the Tzimisce vampire Sascha Vykos from Vampire: the Masquerade. How cool is that?!?!?!?!

More 5E Goodness

So fresh posts that aren't part of the pre-programmed features haven't been as frequent lately due to a very busy work schedule that's been eating into my free time. With any luck things will slow down and I'll have a chance to work on some new content...part 2 of my Mutant Epoch Travelogue, for example!

Anyway, some free time on this Friday evening, and I thought I'd point out this transcript from the D&D Experience over on Enworld. It's some interesting reading, and helps to get a bit more info on what D&D 5th edition (D&D Next) is going to be like. Some of the bits I picked up include:

1. They implied all classes to appear in the core PHBs of prior editions will show up in the 5E PHB. That's roughly fifteen classes in all. If they keep the warlock in the core I'll be happy.

2. Monte loves his wizards. We all knew that though! I'm not one of those "linear fighters vs. quadratic wizards" people, though, if only because I rarely run games where this phenomenon pops up, and also because I've seen high level fighters in 3rd edition and their frankly terrifying. But either way, it sounds like they want to balance out wizard vs. fighter damage with "better overall average damage per round vs. occasional amazing damage"....which is pretty much how it's always been in D&D (until recently).

3. 15 minute character generation. Goooooood.

4. "Vancian" magic is back. Or rather, Pre-4E Vancian magic (because Dailies were kinda Vancian).

5. The fighter is taking a lot of work. It sounds like they are recognizing that the many active features of the fighter from 4E (and the other approaches in 3E and 2nd as well) are key to making the fighter just as fun.

6. They're really pushing for the idea of "preset/default design" as the core book, followed by "addiong on options" that allow for increased complexity.

So I'm really getting eager to see  the playtest doc for D&D Next when it comes out. I'm seriously hoping that this is a game that offers just enough of what each player wants to really, finally, settle the whole "edition war" nonsense....or at least throw some water on the fire, maybe give us enough time to ...you know... play the game for once!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tales of the Cannadad Dei: Life in the Sabiri Tribes

Life in the Sabiri Tribes

Sabiri are migratory, and settle in specific locations several times a year. Most tribes have a region they consider properly theirs, through which the roam. Such regions can span the length and breadth of the Sabiri lands, or only a portion of it. As a rule, the largest tribes tend to migrate over a larger range of territory out of necessity.

On the outside it appears inexplicable, patterns of nomadic movement that may at best seem to follow the waterways and paths of the great bison herds. To the insider it is a mixture of sacred determination; the waterways and bison are placed along a path preordained by ancestors long gone and the communion of venerable and helpful spirits.

Most tribal paths make at least one round a year through one of the sacred ceremonial centers that have turned in to great “tent cities.” Zen Hettar and Uvalin are two of the largest such sites, a communical gathering center where chieftains can convene to discuss news and events, games are held, the trading of brides is made, and warriors can display their prowess. Trading is very common, and though the Sabiri enjoy the commodity of coin they are as likely to barter for and with good as they are gold.

Sabiri tribes focus heavily on preparing for winter. The winters last for several months, starting early in the fall on some years and creeping in to mid spring if the season is especially bad. As hot and humid as summer gets, winter is atrociously cold and snow can blanket the land for months. Tribes prepare accordingly, insuring that thick pelts and stored food is readily on hand. In the deep south some tribes, less affected by the weather at the closest stretches of Helios, tend to be more relaxed about the seasonal changes, and these are fiercely defended territories.

Tribes are divided in to four main units. There is the individual family, which has a patriarch and his wives, as well as all relatives under his protection and dominion. A group of families (from as small as two to as large as several hundred) comprise the tribe proper. Several tribes under a charismatic warlord constitute a Kaskir, or nation. Multiple nations can assemble in a loose unity under a sabirath, or dominion. The dominions are centered around one of the chief ritual centers, which right now consist of Uvalin and Zen Hettar. Dominions rarely have a ruler, though the greatest chieftains may form a council. On rare occasion they may elect a warlord to power. Northward is Madalios, which is regarded as its own dominion, though the settled relatives of the Sabiri are regarded, like all who have given up the nomadic lifestyle, as a people of less worth.

Sabiri Merchants: The Askartin

There are a few tribes that have developed semi-sedentary or even given up the nomadic way of life. A cluster of such Sabiri dwell around the great communal centers at Uvalin and Zen Hettar, small families of Sabiri who claim the regional “city” itself as their tribal land. These Sabiri are part of a unique sect described as askartin, which literally translates in to goat merchant. The Sabiri see these specific families as providing a necessary service that benefits the more traditional Sabiri ways. The askartin are the smiths and traders who have learned to sustain themselves year round by way of trade and commerce with he nomadic tribes and the Espanean colonials. Indeed, most of the indigenous Sabiri population that has settled around Fartheren belongs to the askartin sect.

Askartin are much like their nomadic brethren, though regarded as somewhat less important in battle. The askartin see themselves as no less significant, however, and have advanced their love of horses from the nomadic way to a more sophisticated pastoral approach, raising horses in larger numbers and selling them to the nomads and Espaneans alike. The askartin skill take steeds for their own, and still train in ritual warfare, but they do not roam.

Askartin have not attempted to domesticate the bison, though they have taken to raising the butu goats in the region; thus, the name “goat merchant.”

Next: Warfare

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tales of the Cannadad Dei: Sabiri Tattoos

Sabiri Tattoos

Tattoos are vitally important to the Sabiri. The nomads long ago learned to imbue the inked and scarred marks with magical force, and in turn learned to attune their own bodies to these symbols etched on their own skin. Though Sabiri spell casters can and do employ written tomes, those warriors who dabble in magic prefer to use the spell tattoos, as they are easier to access in the fields of battle.

Despite the notoriety of spell tattoos, it is much more common for most members of a tribe to carry tattoos commemorating various deeds and actions, even if they do not contain magical power. A major victory (and sometimes a defeat) can be reflected within a tattoo. A marriage, alliance, a newfound brotherhood, or a symbol reflecting dedication to a specific cult or order is all celebratory with a new mark upon the flesh.

The process of making tattoos for the Sabiri who practice the art is complicated, and involves a sacred language of ideograms, in which each stroke or mark reflects a key proponent of the overall mark, but only in relation to how it is placed with the other symbols. It is a form of language, but not one that can be easily read without a trained eye.

Conventional marks are easily understood by most Sabiri; it is a special part of their greater language that they can understand. Tattoos imbued with magic are not so easy to grasp; the symbols used for magical language are a carefully guarded secret among the tattooist, and the tattoos themselves are said to reach deep in to the owner’s body, to tether to the soul, allowing the magic to flow freely between the symbol itself and its bearer.

Regardless of the nature and type of mage, most spells learned by that mage can and will ultimately end up as tattoos upon his or her body. Over time it becomes quite evident that the magic is a being of extreme power. These mages exhibit a strange sort of quintessence around others, which give away their nature as sorcerous beings. As such, these powerful tattoo mages will cover their own body from head to toe in obscuring garb, to avoid detection by simple visual observation of their many spell marks; thus the common saying among the Sabiri that “You know a warlock, for he the man who is always cold.”

Interestingly, because most older Sabiri women dress in heavy robes and dresses, the saying is a bit different. “You know a witch if you know a woman.” Sabiri are, indeed, a society divided by deep gender differences, and a male culture that has not a small amount of fear and superstition about the fairer sex.

Sabiri Tattoo Magic Feat (Pathfinder Version)

Prerequisites: Sabiri cultural background, Craft (tattoos) 4 ranks or better.

Effect: The Sabiri have learned the unique art of inscribing ritual spells on their bodies. Through the use of this feat, along with 100 GPs worth of tools and a special ink which comes from the blood of an enchanted creature (usually a gorgon), the Sabiri artist can spend one day (12 hours) placing the inscription for any spell in question upon the body of a person. All features of the ritual spell must already be in place; the recipient of the tattoo must already have learned the ritual spell, for example.

Once it is placed upon the character’s skin, then he can never lose or forget the spell; he knows it innately by virtue of the arcane or divine script tattooed upon his body. Characters can have up to eight imbued ritual tattoo on each of the following areas: head, arms, legs, neck, chest and back. A Break Enchantment spell will remove a tattoo to make room for another one.

If the tattooed character dies, it is possible to take the spell from his flesh. The character must make a Knowledge (arcana) check at a DC of 20+the spell’s level to grasp the weave of the spell tattoo. It is also possible to imbue it on one’s owns kin through the process described above if the caster also has this feat. Otherwise, the skill check allows the caster to flay the skin and convert the region of the tattoo into a scroll.

Tattoo artists among the Sabiri often charge enormous sums to foreigners for the privilege of an integrated tattoo rune. The base price is usually 1,000 GPs, plus maybe some task.

Next: Life in the Sabiri Tribes

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tales of the Cannadad Dei: Arms and Armor of the Sabiri

Arms and Armor

It is not typical for nomadic cultures to have sophisticated steel weapons, but the Sabiri are surprisingly adept at metallurgy. Certain cultural “hot spots” like Uvalin and Zen Hettar support this trade and because of this Sabiri steel is a prized commodity.

Sabiri are fascinated by the construction of long-lasting weapons that are useful in mounted combat. Sabres, falchions, scimitars and other one-handed slashing blades designed for use from horseback are regarded as favored melee weapons. The women of the Sabiri have developed sophisticated knife and dagger practices apart from the men, though women on the path of Hnaka are as proficient with sabre or scimitar as as male.

Aside from close combat weapons, charging weapons such as lances and spears are highly valued, and in ranged combat the sabiri self bows are considered beautiful works of art, crafted in secret rites from the long bones such as the ribs and femurs of the immense amasa bison.

Lances, though valuable to the horse warriors, are actually rather prized, due to the lack of useful timber in the land to generate poles of sufficient size to manufacture the weapon. Most lances come from expeditions to the Kossarit Mountains or northward toward Madalios, where certain tribes specialize in the manufacture and trade of lances made from the wood of more mountainous regions.

Short spears and javelins are also very popular, and javelin sports are a common entertainment in Sabiri tribes, even more so than ritualistic dueling. A good javelin thrower can make a reputation for himself. Some women are allowed to participate in certain tribes, but it is generally frowned upon.

Sabiri women excel instead in close-quarters combat. The Shumariin assassins are famous for their deadly knife fighting skills, and warrior sects of women have taken up the scimitar and turned to duo-wielding styles of combat that are terrifying to behold. These blade dancers are a breed of dervish known for integrating a deadly dance with swordplay, a technique that fears Sabiri men who believe the blade dancers to be witches that mesmerize them in to obedient death by blade.

Armor, in contrast to the preferred garb worn by most sabiri on a day-to-day basis, can get quite complicated and bulky. Most of the time Sabiri wear soft leather garb that offers some modest protection, but in regular skirmishes they prefer to wear lacquered armor and cuirbolli worked in to fitted plates. Such armor is impractical from day to day, but it is considered a necessary addition to the warrior’s repertoire in times of real conflict. The cuirbolli and lacquered plat armor is preferred for its light weight material and ease of use. Such armor is also relatively quick to assemble and wear. Keeping with fashion traditions, most such armor is dyed or painted blacks and dark reds, though color variations creep in from tribe to tribe. Most individual families paint their symbolic crest upon the armor, which is derived from the same sacred language used for tattoos.

(left) A Sabiri woman in the markets of Fartheren

Next: Sabiri Tattoos

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tales of the Cannadad Dei: Dress and Garb of the Sabiri

Everyday Garb

The Sabiri dress with an economy of design; short vests, breeches and laced boots and moccasins are common, and garb is designed to be comfortable and not to chafe. The wilderlands of their domain are a warm region in the spring and summer months, followed by bitterly chill winters. The entire region is humid almost year round. This tends to promote garb that breathes freely, though tempered with garb which is functional.

Most Sabiri prefer the soft worked leather that comes from the local amasa bison which roam the region. This supple leather is naturally dark, due to the ebony pelts of the bison, and has the accidental side effect of looking rather ominous from an eastern viewpoint. Nonetheless, sales of amasa hides with the east is fairly brisk. The amasa are principally saved by the fact that the Sabiri rely on them and covet their herds. If the Espanean traders had their way, these beasts would have been driven to extinction by now, no doubt.

Espanean men tend to wear leather breeches and a harness for their tools and weapons. They sometimes wear a variant of chaps while diring, providing leather protection on their legs in combat; these same chaps are often worn at other times, designed for comfort first. In the winter they tend to wear heavier fur coats and hoods, stitched together by the women.

Many tribes enjoy unusual head dresses made of woven horse hair from the trimmed manes of their steeds. These head-dresses can get quite elaborate, and some of the men in the tribe will weave the horse hair with their own for unusual extended braids. Although the women fo the tribe (especially elders) are master weavers of the horse hair, the women themselves do not decorate themselves with the braided horse hair; it is another custom reserved for men. Women in Sabiri have instead adopted complicated lapidary designs for themselves.

Espanean women disdain long dresses and garb more common in the east except in the winter or as a sign of age. Elder matrons often settle with long fur skirts and coats, often worn year-round, and will wear decorative garb that stands out with evocative lapidary work. The younger women favor vests, light blouses, short skirts and breeches, sometimes with the utilitarian harnesses for equipment and weapons like the men do.

The Sabiri are a modest people, and it is considered taboo to appear overly “sexual” in Sabiri society. This manifests in the form of a disdain for eastern makeup and a preference for useful clothes over garb that accentuates the female form. Curiously, women who have adopted the warrior’s focus (the hnaka, below) tend also to eschew restrictive garb that doesn’t breathe well, so they are often dressed as lightly as the men save for their bustiere-like vests. Sabiri women dressed as warriors do not appear sexualized, however, despite showing off their extra skin, as they tend to emphasize their capabilities by additional tattoos and a plethora of visible armaments. This is how the women say, “do not touch, or you may die.” It works well.

Ritual Dress

Ritual dress is always more stylistic and designed for beauty and grace. Dance is a preferred social medium among tribes, and when two or more tribes come together they always throw a party. Ritual forms of dress are often quite elaborate; during such conflagrations the women of both tribes will exhibit atypical garb designed to show off the wealth of their immediate family and the tribe as a whole. Men will anoint themselves with artifacts of victory and war, and wear revealing garb to show off tattoos earned in battle. The most frightening members of a tribe are the ones who show no tattoos at all; the truly powerful shamans and sorcerers of the Sabiri prefer not to advertise their sacred tattoos at this time, lest they be compromised by an observant enemy.

Some Sabiri, especially around Fartheren and along the coast near Westgate among the Sendenar have taken to Espanean garb during these meets. It is at least partially due to acculturation from the foreign groups these Sabiri regularly interact with, and also due to the fact that the standard garb of the east is seen as so outwardly flamboyant that while it is scoffed at as a form of conventional wear, these Sabiri have accepted Espanean dress as suitable for gatherings and events.

Next: Arms and Armor of Sabiri

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Commemorative Editions, or "I just Got Internet Whiplash"

I would honestly regard this as bigger news than the 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons announcement...

First is the ENWorld article here.

Next is actual press anouncement here.

..aaaand here's the WotC page for the PHB.

I for one am amazed that they are doing this, and actually this really suggests to me that WotC is now officially "thinking outside the box" about what D&D is and who plays it (and who they want as their customers).

SO yeah, I'll be ordering these new prints of AD&D, and I think I see a brand new 1st edition campaign in the near future to enjoy them!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tales of the Cannadad Dei: Culture of the Sabiri

The Culture of the Sabiri I: Appearance and Horses

The Sabiri are really three distinct cultural groups: The Madalians of the north, the Sendenar of the coast and the Sabiri nomads of the mainland. There is a fourth group, rarely identified as such but still worth mentioning, in the form of the Eredites of the Jagged Coast. Details on the other subcultures of the Sabiri will be discussed in turn, but the overview of the nomadic culture shall be looked at here.


All Sabiri are known for their distinct, almost eerie skin tone. Best described as “chalk white,” Sabiri have a sin coloration that is variably whitish or grey, and foreigners who first meet a Sabiri often believe them to be ritually painted at first. The Sabiri accent their skin with sacred tattoos, usually favoring stark black lines over colors, which further accents the grey-white of their skin. Despite their unusual appearance, Sabiri are otherwise completely human.

Horses and the Sabiri

The Sabiri are a nomadic culture. They thrive on being in a state of perpetual motion, maintaining an unhealthy obsession on transience. To the Sabiri, the sedentary life is something one assumes when death has at last come to claim its due.

Horses are extremely important to the Sabiri, though unlike other nomadic cultures in Chirak (or even the local orcs) the Sabiri regard horses merely as equals, as beings of flesh and blood that you can tame and befriend. Most Sabiri treat their horses better than their own kin. A well-kept and trained horse will see you through many conflicts; relative, maybe not so much.

Every Sabiri learns to ride the horse at a young age, and is exceptionally proficient in the art of mounted combat by puberty. Women and men alike excel at this task, though the women are generally expected to take up more supportive roles after puberty and to rely on their horses for tasks more mundane than battle.

Horses in the Sabiri lands are strong, robust animals, some of the largest breeds in all of Chirak a Sabiri steed is noted for its black coat, though some spotted black and gray variants exist, as do pure gray horses. As many horses as Sabiri wander the land, perhaps more, for there is a healthy number of wild horses that roam the region as well. Some Sabiri men find it a challenge to capture and tame a wild horse, but others consider it folly; most Sabiri raise their mount from the time it is a foal, to develop a close rapport with their steed.

Because of this attachment, Sabiri characters should begin play with a horse, one which they have spent most of their puberty riding and learning to trust. Female Sabiri do not develop as close a bond to their horses, though they sometimes develop close bonds with multiple pack horses.

Selling a horse is considered a serious offense in Sabiri culture. A horse that has grown too old to be of much use is retired to the ranks of the pack horses and tended by the women. A horse which is too frail even for that duty is still cared for until death, or until they are forced to put it down.

Next: Dress and Garb

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cool Legend Stuff at rpg.org

Stumbled across this site while perusing the Mongoose Forums. The latest offering is some handy write-ups of various common NPCs you might encounter in Legend, and prior posts include ready-made characters. Good stuff! I need to do more like this for Legend. I've been caught up in the Pathfinder fervor lately (my Wednesday group has 9 people in it now, egads!!!!!) but if Pathfinder is my wife, then Legend is like my secret mistress*.

*Actual wife doubles as my secret mistress, thus one of many reasons we have such a good relationship.**

**Please dont' kill me sweetie if you are actually checking my blog out. Joke! Joke!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tales of the Cannaded Dei: Recent History of Sabiri

Recent History: From 200 years ago to the present

When Espaneans arrived in the West, the Sabiri had settled comfortably into their roles as nomadic masters of the great lands they had conquered. The only true rivals to Sabiri dominion were nonhumans such as the orcs and centaurs, and the greatest threat the Sabiri faced daily was one of internal conflict and the appeasement of Kobal. The Sabiri had divided in to roughly fifty prominent tribes, each one several thousand strong, and united under a collection of charismatic warlords. This was not a people accustomed to subjugation.

Antonio Fartheren was an aspiring noble in Capitol Barcen, which had recently undergone a coup against the throne. Fartheren was a supporter of the old guard, King Demetrio who was assassinated by his cousin, Androsos Aguirre. This was followed by a bloody but brief civil conflict in which the streets of the Capitol ran red with blood. When all had settled, Aguirre had established himself on the throne (for a few years, until his own execution at a later date) and supporters of the old king that had survived the coup were now out of favor. Fartheren, concerned for the life of his family and himself, settled on a plan: he vacated the city entirely, placing his estates in the hands of his younger brother and seeking out eager volunteers to set sail westward, to find new and unclaimed coastland. While he seemed mad to some, the truth was he had already discovered the pleasant bay where Westgate would be founded in his younger years, and had long aspired to make use of the unclaimed coastland.

Fartheren arrived at the western shored along the Sabiri coast with four ships of eager colonists and his own extended clan. They found the beautiful unnamed bay where Westgate was soon to be built. Ancient ruins that stretched along the shoreline were surprisingly intact, and over the next decade many of Westgate’s buildings would integrate the remnants of the original ruins in to their own architecture.

The first decade of the new colony was fairly smooth. The colony established trade lines with the southern provinces of Grelmaine to the north, but rarely had any conflicts with the rather suspicious people of that land, who were themselves mostly uninterested in expanding in the the Sabiri lands. Only the Gordoska would come to follow the lure of colonial expansion in to the region, and then mostly as an effort in conjunction with Espanea. The Grelmanics had many superstitious beliefs, and felt that the entire land and its chalk-skinned people were bewitched and spawned from demons.

Westgate’s first encounter with Sabiri came from small coastal tribes that migrated along the coast engaging in vigorous fishing and hunting. These coastal dwellers called themselves the Sendenar, and bore the same chalk-white skin as their nomadic inland kin. Unlike the Sabiri, the Sendenar were friendly and not at all territorial. They enjoyed these new neighbors and quickly adopted the tools of trade and commerce that the Espanean merchants introduced to them.

A few expeditions inland led to some terse and unfriendly encounters with Sabiri nomads. It was the adventurer Galston Drotheros who forged all the way to the Kossarit Mountains and found the passage to the mysterious Pelegar city of Valen. His journey took him as far as Abraheil, and he returned six years later with amazing tales of what lay in the distant West.

Drotheros returned and reported word of the distant Western kingdoms. This was the first official contact between the lands of the West and East. Drotheros was more impressed with the ancient antiquity and clear wealth of the West; his journals preserved from the period in a travelogue still printed to this day mostly described the Sabiri as uncouth barbarians who appeared more interested in ritual sparring than communication and trade.

Westgate itself was a successful colony, initially. Lord Fartheren later petitioned the successor to Aguirre after word of the usurper’s execution had reached Westgate for recognition as a formal colony of Espanea, and he was granted full recognition. Moreover, his colony was recognized as an important bridge to the West and further colonization efforts by the new ambitious King Satero. Within months Satero declared that any commoners and freemen who wished to stake out land on the unclaimed western shores were encouraged to do so, and subsidies were offered to merchants who wished to explore the west for trade and profit.

The second decade of Westgate was a period of rapid, uncontrolled expansion. Before the decade was over two dozen colonies stretched out along the coast and inland, settlements picking choice locations along the inland rivers and lakes, favoring an arc along the path that the explorer Drotheros had charted out to mark the western passage to Valen. Explorers were everywhere, forging inland and uncovering evidence of the ruins of a lost civilization while having periodic skirmishes with the locals.

The Sabiri began to take notice of the Espaneans when they realized that the newcomers were now setting up shop along all the known lakes and rivers that were the lifeblood of their people. When the new colony of Fartheren was settled near the legendary Necropolis, it was an affront to the Sabiri, who could not believe the audacity of these foreigners to set up shop in land that was both the sacred burial site of their chieftains and the central grounds where annual rituals and events would be staged by the nomads.

The governor of Fartheren in those first years was the ambitious youngest son of the King, Gavin Satero. Gavin had a plan to forge a small empire for himself out in this remote land, and he set about trying to integrate the nomads in to his scheme. First he tried to make the area of Fartheren tempting to the Sabiri, inviting them to continue holding their rituals and celebrations in the area, and encouraging them to continue using the Necropolis for the burial of their chieftains. Then he began an aggressive campaign of mercantile exploitation, in which he attempted to expose the nomads to a sedentary way of life in the pursuit of fine goods and creature comforts. Few of the nomads took him up on this offer.

The Espaneans eventually reached a period of colonization in which thousands of new colonials were pouring in to the region every few months. The prospect of becoming land owners was too much to pass up for many, and records from this period suggest as many as one hundred thousand commoners, criminals, landless freemen and other hopefuls arrived in Westgate, eager to stake out their claim.

The Sabiri as a whole became nervous as the chieftains of the many tribes gathered at the sacred site of Zen Hettar to discuss what to do about this unexpected invasion. In the end, a new warlord stepped forth named Khaddaram. Under his unifying rule Khaddaram was the first of the Sabiri warlords to strike against the foreign invasion.

From 170 years ago right up until a 130 years ago the nature of the colonial holdings changed from one of bountiful opportunity to perpetual conflict. At various times the colonists would sue for peace and perhaps establish friendly relations for a time, but inevitably an ambitious governor would come to power and seek to expand once more, to subjugate the nomads, sometimes even trying to force them to settle and pay taxes. About 130 years ago, however, things got much worse when Marcus Escobado took power in Fartheren.

Escobado was exiled to Fartheren, granted control of the colonies at that time because he was seen as a dangerous threat to the throne, a potential urusper, back in Barcen. The plan worked, for Escobado was thoroughly enchanted with the defiant locals and the hardy colonials he now had been given dominion over. He set about his own plans for conquest and domination, at first by wedding the daughter of the warlord Hrados. Hrados became a strong ally of Escobado’s, who enticed the warlord with gold, Espanean women and plans for power. Under Escobado’s plans, Hrados would help unite the Sabiri in to a force strong enough to conquer all the lands, and perhaps even take the great city of Valen in the mountains.

The Sabiri trusted one of their own, and so Hrados was elevated by unanimous agreement of the chieftains to supreme warlord. Hrados then assembled the nomads in to an army, which joined with Escobado’s own forces to forge westward, to the very gates of Valen, where a protracted siege eventually led to invasion. The city, seemingly impregnable, surrendered to the invading army after only a week. Though it should have seemed suspicious to the attackers that such an impregnable fortress should have relented so quickly, Escobado and Hrados were too elated with their victory to be concerned.

The invaders entered the city to accept its surrender, but to their surprise they were greeted by only one being, a penumbral entity called Gloom. “This is my city,” Gloom intoned, and the being, truly some demon from the outer darkness, tore in to the warlord, general and their men, committing to a slaughter of the invaders that to this day is remarked as one of the most terrifying events in recent military history.

Later scholars would identify this Gloom as one of the last great immortal soldiers of the Last War to survive the Apocalypse, and surmised that this entity chose to settle and protect the city of Valen for unknown reasons. Nonetheless, the damage was done, and the Espanean and Sabiri forces were routed.

The defeat at Valen had a long term resonance with the Sabiri, who blamed the misguided trust of their defeated warlord on the silver tongues of the Espaneans. They would never have had such hubris and impudence as to invade their mysterious Pelegar neighbors, the Sabiri contended, if the Espaneans had not tricked them in to visions of power. Some warriors also felt Kobal had abandoned them, and this led to enough doubt that the emergent demon cults gained a foothold. The Espaneans in turn blamed the Sabiri on their defeat, if only for the need to make someone a scapegoat.

From 130 to 110 years ago this ill will between both parties led to constant minor conflict and warfare. The trade routes had dried up as the city of Valen locked out the easterners entirely, and the colonies suffered for it. The final telling blow to the colonies came when the new, young warlord Zvhakkatas rose to power.

Zvhakkatas was the first warlord since the failed Hrados to be placed in power by agreement of the chieftains at Zen Hettar. His vision was simple: drive the foreigners from the land. His approach was direct: attack and slay them until they fled or they had fallen in battle.

Zvhakkatas’ unrelenting assaults lasted for twelve years, during which time over two dozen towns and small cities were sacked, pillaged and burned to the ground. The Espaneans were unprepared and under-manned for the attacks, so it was often more of a slaughter than a proper fight. The unrelenting attacks by the warlord and his followers led to tens of thousands of deaths and left the land dotted with burnt ruins.

Zvhakkatas was never able to destroy the two largest cities of the colonies, however. He met his fate sieging the walled city of Fartheren, which managed to hold against the Sabiri horde, at last turning the tide of battle. This victory was made possibly only because the governor of that time, Darton Calidos, had withdrawn most troops from the smaller towns and cities to consolidate his fighting force in Fartheren. This had insured that Fartheren survived, but at the cost of all the outliers.

Zvhakkatas was slain in battle by a renegade Sabiri, one of the few who had chosen the sedentary civilized life the Espaneans had to offer named Midragas. Midragas was a paladin of the fiery demon god Vargre, whom he had taken up the worship of. Vargre’s cult was small at this time, but it had gained a footing some years ago after the defeat at Valen, for many Sabiri had been shaken in their beliefs by the defeat, and some who blamed Kobal turned to other venues of worship. The cult of Vargre had been rediscovered by explorers who had begun to plumb the depths of the ruins of the Kadelans, and a young Masirian Arcanist named Arathys had uncovered a mysterious temple to this demon god. Within the temple he had a vision, and with that vision he was compelled to begin a new cult.

When Midragas slew Zvhakkatas, it was at once seen as an affront to his own people, but it also quietly garnered more support for Vargre, as some disillusioned warriors turned to the mysteries of the fire cult and soon became immersed in it. The recognition of the cult subsequently gave Fartheren a holy prominence in the eyes of many Sabiri, which in turn gave the city a meaningful quality to the nomads that insured the city would stand. Hostilities were eventually ceased entirely, and both Fartheren and Westgate remained viable cities as a result.

The last century has remained peaceful. Fartheren is ostensibly still an Espanean territory, but most visitors who travel here find that the city has become quite removed from its colonial origins, as many Sabiri have settled in the region year round, and several cults have now risen to prominence. The followers of Kobal insist that one day the demiurge will come to obliterate the city from the face of the earth, but for unknown reasons he has not yet chosen to do so. In the meantime, more demon cults sprang up as more Sabiri have been lured to the mysterious religions of the Old Empire revealed by the Arcanists who studied Kadela. Boolion, Colobon, Vargre and others have all gained prominence here.

Westgate remains a viable port city, and within the last three decades negotiations with the council of Valen have reopened trade between the West and Espanea. Caravans now ply their trade across the Sabiri lands and in to Pelegar. Additional trade routes have since been opened to Helios, Madalios and even Zann.

For the Sabiri, the traditionalists continue to congregate annually and await a time when a new warlord of sufficient charisma will appear once again to unite the tribes. The Espaneans are not seen as a threat at this time by most of the tribes, but they remain suspect. The tribes of the eastern lands near Fartheren are also looked upon with suspicion, for they continue to congregate at Fartheren, and are also more receptive to these curious demon gods, a heresy among the Kobal traditionalists.

Next: Culture of the Sabiri

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tales of the Cannaded Dei: History in Antiquity of Sabiri

History in Antiquity: 700 to 200 years ago

Sometime around the fall of the Kadelans, the Sabiri arrived on scene. They may have been conquerors or opportunists, but it is certain that they were migratory folk even then, and may have come from a region near the Everdread Desert. It is possible that the Everdread may have been somewhat inhabitable at some time in the past, but that as the climate changed the natives were forced to move on, and they migrated northward until they came to a vast region freshly vacated by the Kadelans. The Huron minotaurs just north of the Everdread have stories of chalk-skinned folk in some of their old folklore, which suggest that this may be true. There are also splinter populations, such as the sedentary folk in the remote city of Eredar along the Jagged Coast who are clearly related to the Sabiri.

Sabiri do not write, except on rare occasion to commemorate a great event or victory. The learned men and women of their tribes keep language a carefully guarded secret, so few outsiders can learn it first-hand, and even fewer commoners in the tribes can understand it. To the Sabiri language is a powerful device for magic, not unlike their unique magic tattoos.

Because of their habit of making monuments to commemorate victories, scholars have noted that there appear to be no such monuments declaring a victory of the Sabiri over the Kadelans, nor do the Sabiri themselves tell any stories about such an event. It seems that when they arrived in the land, the Kadelans had been gone for decades.

Until about four centuries ago the Sabiri did have to contend with the Auman minotaurs. The minotaurs roved the land in small, militant bands, sometimes squatting in old ruins and occupying them, and at other times roving about looking for conflict with nomads, orcs, or anything else they could find.

Kobal was already present when the Sabiri arrived on-scene. This enigmatic demiurge was already quite powerful, but appeared to be utterly disconnected from reality. It is believed that his body and some primal level of consciousness wandered the land, radiating so much power that he generated a perpetual storm wherever he traveled. His consciousness, meanwhile, roamed the astral realms of the planes seeking cosmic truths.

The minotaurs revered Kobal as their own god, and made sacrifices, including virginal females, to appease him and keep his wrath from their own communities. The Sabiri picked up this same practice of worship soon after occupying the land, realizing it was the only way to keep Kobal at bay. In time the warrior caste of the Sabiri adopted similar teachings to the Auman, including a reverence for martial prowess and strict codes of honor. Such beliefs stemmed from the cultists of Kobal, who said these beliefs were dictated in dreams and visions sent to them by the demiurge himself.

Around four hundred years ago the Sabiri believe the Auman minotaurs met their final fate. The nomads have a number of folktales which revolve around the Auman, who they claim revolted against Kobal, and attempted to overthrow the demiurge before he grew too powerful. Some of the stories suggest that this was hubris on the part of the Auman, but the most commonly known tale speaks of an Auman prince named Holorash, who grew discontent with Kobal’s dominance after the demiurge chose Holorash’s wife as his own consort. Holorash rose up and seized control of the Auman tribes, and set out to destroy Kobal and claim the demiurge’s Zodiac Stone for himself. The story, of course, ends with the massacre of the Auman at the hands of Kobal, who after all was clearly powerful enough to have taken down the Old Empire, if some accounts are believed to be true. In turn, Kobal spent several decades eradicating the Auman. In the end, as all Sabiri tales say, Kobal came to the Sabiri and declared them his flock. A flock which would behave, and offer supplication and sacrifice, lest it fall like the Auman did. Kobal had truly become the last of his kind.

The cult of Amorgas began sometime after this event, possibly around 300 years ago. Amorgas was a strong woman, and she was chosen for sacrifice to Kobal, to be taken as one of his many short-lived wives. The story tells of how Amorgas was so captivating that Kobal let her live, and she grew close enough to him that she was able to steal a shard of his divine Zodiac Stone. In turn Amorgas fled, and survived in the northlands of Sabiri, evading Kobal in his wrath. She was at last found by the demigod, who locked her away in his subterranean realm, so that she could not flee again. He let her keep the shard of stone that in turn granted her the power of an Avatar. From this spark of the divine did her cult begin, and it grew to be a strong secret society to which only Sabiri women may belong.

Sabiri life continued from this time, an uneventful period until about two centuries ago, with the arrival of the Espaneans.

Next: Recent History

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tales of the Cannaded Dei: the Prehistory of Sabiri

The Prehistory of the Land: 700 years ago and beyond

Sabiri’s history is murky after around seven centuries ago, due in no small part to the absence of written records from that time. It is known that there was a large kingdom that ruled the entire region for several centuries that fell about six hundred years ago. The name of this empire is lost to history, but most locals call the people who built its ruins the Kadelans, after the most famous of its ruined cities, believed by some to have been the capitol of this lost kingdom. The word itself, Kadela, is Sabiri for “Those who Came Before.”

Exactly how long the Kadelans ruled this region is unknown. Arcanists have recorded over one hundred ruins and sites throughout the land, and suggest that they were driven people, for many of the monuments and structures they built are fairly impressive, but most of the stone used to build these structures came from quarries two hundred and more miles distant in the Kossarit Mountains. There are few consistent rivers in Sabiri, so building in a location to rely on local rivers for the easy passage of cut stone was unreliable at best. There is plenty of evidence that the Kadelans used slaves, however. All in all, it is suspected that the Kadelans may have ruled for at least seven to ten centuries, as such a range of time would help to explain how they built so many fantastic monuments.

One of the most famous Kadelan sites is right next to the city of Fartheren, where the infamous Necropolis can be found. It has been very popular in recent centuries for Sabiri warlords to seek out the Necropolis as a place of burial. Although most of these warlords like to suggest they will build their own monuments, the truth is that almost all of the ziggurats in the Necropolis were there long before the fall of the Kadelans. Most of the monumants are large ziggurats, the largest of which is nearly 300 feet high, though most are only 20-30 feet in height. The oldest monuments exhibit very detailed, sophisticated architecture and design. The newer monuments, including the impressive mound that belongs to the famous warlord Zvhakkatas, are much simpler and are often created by heaping earth over a barrow and then hauling in stone plates to give the exterior a pyramidical shape. The last such tomb to be made was Zvhakkatas’s tomb, a century ago.

Although the Kadelans wrote in an ancient script derived from the lost Inadasir language, they were prone to offering little detail in their writings. Almost all translated script, stelae and remnant scrolls found among Kadelan ruins amount to business records, proper names, and occasional land deeds. They appeared to have little or no interest in recording details of their culture, history, or deeds. Although they left no sacred monuments behind (other than to their buried rulers), some take the absence of any idols to Kobal and other demiurges as a sign that they revered no gods. This is at least partially true, as the only temples found to date are dedicated to entities best described as demon gods, not unlike the one hundred and thirteen entities worshiped in distant Xoxtocharit. Boolion, Colobon the Asp, and Vargre of the fire are three of these beings worshiped by the Kadelans that have recently seen their cults restored after being rediscovered by the Arcanists.

No one can really say why the Kadelans perished six centuries ago when warfare quickly destroyed their many cities and drove their people to extinction. Some speculate that the Sabiri, believed to be migrants at the time, arrived in the land, perhaps driven by a very charismatic warlord, and that they eradicated the Kadelans. Others point to the many remains of the old minotaurs in the land, called the Auman, of which tens of thousands of skeletons have been unearthed in the ruins of the city of Kadela alone. It is clear that the minotaurs were far from extinct in that lost age, though perhaps whatever killed them also killed the Kadelans; perhaps they killed one another.

There is one more link to the mystery of Sabiri’s prehistory. The port of Westgate is built on the ruins of an older city, founded by Masirians and abandoned six centuries ago. Many feel it was abandoned in the wake of whatever terrible war destroyed the Auman and the Kadelans. Unfortunately, the Arcanists who have such a keen interest in the region are barred from activites in Westgate, and so little formal research has been done. Although a few Preservationists have been interested in investigating, a treaty between Espanea and Masiria prohibits tomb robbing in Masirian ruins, as there are miles of crypts and catacombs beneath Westgate. For this reason many possible questions about what happened six centuries ago remain unanswered. Even descendants from that time in Masiria (some of whom may have been children at the time, Masirians being so long lived) have been silent on whatever transpired so long ago.

Next: History in Antiquity

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Wife's Future (and Mine)

Found this, realized it is what life will be like just a hop, skip and a jump down the road...

Comic for: January 10th, 2012 - Click Here for more Info!

Penny Arcade always Knows How to Make My Day

Penny Arcade always knows how to make my day!

The Way Forward

The Mutant Epoch, Travelogue Volume I

Buy. This. Book.
The Mutant Epoch Travelogue Episode I:
Wandering in the Wasteland

Alias “Enrico Fermi’s Surviving the Hard Way”

I first stumbled across the “Let’s Play” concept (at least, the concept done well) on Shamus Young’s website (http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/). Shamus does it to video games, but I think the concept would work just fine for RPGs, too. Kind of a weird “fourth wall” fiction exercise with a little game mixed in, if you will. So with that intro, let’s start the new series, featuring the further adventures of Enrico Fermi in the Mutant Epoch (or whomever succeeds him if Enrico dies).

Enrico’s adventures will be a creative framework I throw up around the components of the tale generated by the GM resources in the core TME rulebook. The rules provide for a bewildering variety of charts and tables, encounters, creatures, artifacts, traps, hazards, vehicles and rules to deal with all of it. On occasion I may stop and discuss a feature of the rules for clarification, which I shall put in italics.

So! Remember Enrico? Here he is:

Enrico Fermi
Type: Mutant (minor); Former Caste: gladiator slave
Appearance: pitch black reflective skin, purple-grape bulbous eyes, a bulbous head, with rusty colored hair (probably long and in a braid to keep it out of the way from his fights); he has whip scars on his back. Gender: male Age: 18 Weight: 94kg Height: 1.69 meters
Traits: Endurance 37; Strength 55; Agility 58; Accuracy 46; Intelligence 47; Perception 59; Willpower 38; Appearance 88               
Secondary Stats: Move: 6.75 meters; Healing Rate 4; Melee Damage Bonus +6; +30% strength range; Agility DV -6; Acc SV +4; Initiative Modifier +2
Skills: Brawling 2, Grapple 2, Riding 1, Stealth 1, Weapon Expert (pistols) 3
Mutations: fangs (medium), deviant skin structure (reflective skin), bulbous eyes, bulbous head, mental mine (1D20+4 damage; ranges based on WILL)
Gear: hatchet, spiked leather armor, spiked shield, iron helmet, one regular round of pistol ammo, tattered slave garb.
Armor: Total DV -27 (-6 AGL, -16 armor, -5 shield);
Weapons: Hatchet (SV 01-54; 1D12+6 damage); Brawling (SV: 01-59; 1D6+8 damage); If he ever gets a pistol his SV is 01-62 with a +6 damage modifier for skill.

Fermi looks a little like this, but shinier, more handsome, and coal black:

Today, Enrico Fermi is a free man! We’re going to put him through the wringer. The Mutant Wringer, that is!

The Mutant Epoch has a very interesting scenario mechanic, as evidenced in The Mall of Doom: you can run the game with a group, or you can run the game much like a programmed adventure with a party of 6-10 mutants done solitaire style, ala Tunnels & Trolls, Fighting Fantasy and other games. That said, the actual format of how this works is singularly unique, and I plan to sit down soon and try it out; it’s a really cool concept, as for the first time I might get to enjoy a published adventure as a player, without having to hunt down a willing GM. I’ll talk more how that goes in the future, but for now I thought I’d demonstrate some of the rules, GM tools and features in TME that are available by simulating a little tale of excitement and woe for our recently created mutant Enrico Fermi.

Remembering Enrico, he’s an escaped gladiator slave who looks like a shiny metal ebony alien with overly large eyes and cranium. He has a bounty on his head as his former owners very much want him back alive, and he escaped with some basic gear, probably grabbed from the armory of the gladiatorial pits where he was kept.

To elaborate on the time and place of Enrico’s environment I am going to place him deep in the Animas Wastes, the post-apocalyptic future of Southern New Mexico that I have devised for this setting. He was kept a slave in the compound outside of Silver City in the north mountains of the region, where the cruel warlord Brakas rules with an iron fist. After his escape, he found himself fleeing the mountains and down into the south valley, where he eventually emerged into the vast, trackless white salt flats of the Animas Playas, a wasteland even in the pre-apocalyptic era!

Many mysteries await Fermi, but I’ll give him a break and say he’s heard rumor of free civilizations south of the mountains. He knows that somewhere outside of Silver City can be found the ruins of ‘Kirkie, the Free City of Cruze and the settlement at Bordertown (formerly known as Lordsburg). He figures he can find one of these places, he’ll be safe, for a bit anyway. Only problem? No map, no knowledge of life outside the slave pens, and no idea where to go.

Fermi sees lots of flat, open cracked desert before him, with occasional scrub, periodic jutting stones, and far in the distance to the west he can tell that there’s some sort of craterous area dotted with ruins, and further south what looks possibly like an old city or township. Mountains wall in the entire region in the far distance. He decides to head south, to the sliver of building on the horizon.

In TME Fermi can typically walk at 3 meters per round, a round being 3 seconds, which means 60 meters per minute. Eight hours of walking in a day can get him 3600 meters in one hour, or 3.6 km, so Fermi is capable of getting approximately 28.8 km (17.9 miles) before he risks issues with fatigue. He’s traveling on relatively flat desert scrubland, so there are no movement modifiers. It’s about 80 km (50 miles) to the settlement in the distance, so he’s either going to have to push to get there or risk issues of thirst and starvation over time, as he left Silver City without any food or water.

Long before Fermi has to worry about dehydration, however, he’s got a problem with wildlife….

There’s a 1 in 10 chance of an encounter for every two hours of daytime travel in the desert (TME page 129), and that changes to hourly at night, and if the encounter does occur there’s a roll (in meters) to figure out the point at which both parties may become aware of one another. So, let’s see how Fermi’s first day of travel goes (firing up the official Mutant Epoch Die Roller app, of course!)

Fermi doesn’t travel 8 hours continuously, he’s stopping periodically to rest (1 hour of rest per four hours of travel sounds fair), of course, so the I as GM roll five times and get the following spread: 8, 6, 6, 1, 4. Looks like something happens on his seventh hour of travel…he’s journeyed approximately 21.6 km with an hour’s break by then, so he’s making good time, about a quarter the distance he needs to reach the distant settlement in the low-lying animas playas ahead, when suddenly…..(Page 131 has the desert encounter matrix, which uses a D1000 roll; I roll a 46!)

963 meters away a Colossal Scorpion crests the horizon! Anyone who’s ever played Fallout 3 might have an idea of what it’s like when you see a massive scorpion slaughtering Brahmin mutant two-headed cows, sure….but what Fermi is seeing is (according to page 169) is a 5 meter long (!) 810 kg monstrosity!!! Let us all be very happy it’s so far off. But wait….does it notice tiny little Fermi?

The ubiquitous and hypothetical GM in this scenario decides to grant Fermi an opportunity to act before the colossal beast turns to notice him in the distance, like a delectable bacon-wrapped shrimp at an Overeater’s Convention. Fermi, naturally, tries to hide. It’s not going to be easy, there’s flat, cracked plains and minor scrub as far as the eye can see. Luckily, Fermi is good at this, or at least has done it before with his Stealth 1. He can attempt to conceal himself (not moving, crouching down and trying to look like a boulder, or otherwise lowering his profile) which requires a class A hazard check by Fermi to pull off. The Hazard Table shows that a class A check with his Agility of 58 grants him an 85% chance of success. A quick check, Fermi rolls an 80, and he narrowly avoids detection as he hunkers down.

A note about TME’s Hazard Check Mechanic: the hazard check works as both a skill check, saving throw system and avoidance mechanic. It is player-driven for the most part, in that, as in the above example, the player rolls to hide, rather than the GM rolling to see if the creature spots him, although the chance of success for the player might be shifted one or more hazard codes if the circumstances were different. For example, if the giant scorpion was only 100 meters away and popped out of a cave unexpectedly, I as GM could decide that that’s a class C hazard to hide from, which would reduce the chance to 78%; and if the scorpion had made its own stealth check and was watching Fermi all along, he might require much worse, such as a class H, forcing him to roll 33% or less to hide in plain sight from a lurking predator that knows he’s out there. This is a very old school approach that will feel familiar to veteran long-time gamers.

So in short, the Hazard Check system in TME is player-driven and does not dither about opposed rolls or other issues, instead requiring the GM to adjudicate difficulty by hazard code accordingly.

Back to the story!

Colossal Scorpions are pretty near-sighted, with an average perception of 24, and this one is no exception. It’s completely oblivious to Fermi in the distance and eventually wanders away. This is fortuitous for Fermi, as it turns out it was a mutated Colossal Scorpion with giant wasp-like wings and a hard outer carapace that could withstand ballistic strikes! He watches as the massive beast takes flight and heads off to new territory. The GM, ever burdened with a calloused and cruel soul, decides there is a 20% chance the giant beast takes flight in Fermi’s approximate direction. A quick roll of the dice gets  a 95, revealing that fate is at least on Fermi’s side and the beast instead heads west toward the distant crater.

Three hours later, Fermi collapses at last, as night descends and he looks at the beautiful cracked moon in the sky and the ephemeral, whispery shards of light that run like a band across the starscape, oblivious to the fact that the band around the earth is a floating landscape of relic technology used in space warfare, thousands of dead satellites that have not yet been dragged into near Earth orbit yet to burn up, and a vast swathe of moon rock cast into space in its own eccentric orbit around the Earth from when the nukes were dropped on the Lunar Colonies in the final days of the pre-apocalyptic era. Fermi just thinks it’s cool, and appreciates that the extra light makes it easier to look out for danger.

The GM, ever the heartless soul, determines it’s approximately 7 PM when Fermi collapses. Fermi does decide to scrounge around a bit, see if there’s a slow moving animal or a source of water near his rest point. Unfortunately Fermi never learned to fend for himself in the wilderness, and lacks the Wilderness Survival skill, so his odds of success are slim. In TME if you have Wilderness Survival then you can basically do stuff that keeps you alive; it’s a 1 rank only skill, and no rolls are really needed. Without it, you must guess. The GM considers Fermi’s plight and decides that given it is night time, his surroundings are alien to him, and it’s a sparse desert that only a Class E hazard check on perception will yield any fruit. For Fermi this is a 62% chance, still not bad, thanks to being an observant fellow. Fermi rolls a 37%--take that, cruel world!

After a bit of consideration the GM decides to make Fermi’s success interesting. He decides Fermi has stumbled across some rusted relic junk in the desert, beneath which lies a den of desert rats. Rolling to see what sort of relic junk Fermi has found, we go to the table on page 210 and get 53: armor (using the low rank listing). Armor is usually something you wear, so the GM decides it’s got a body in it, and rolls on the corpse chart, getting an 18: White Plague!  Next the GM decides to see what sort of guy this was who perished from the white plague, checking the NPC chart on page 137: rolling 28 we see he was a militia officer of some sort, maybe a soldier out of Silver City who went A.W.O.L. or was cast out when the white pustules started appearing on his body. He died out here with 8 gold coins on hand, a suit of scrap relic armor, a junk helmet, and just for fun the GM assumes he has a weapon (broken) and some random item: a quick roll reveals a broken razor sword and a pair of women’s knee high fashion boots, worth about 50 silver pieces, not that Fermi knows.

All Fermi knows is that there are desert rats in a nest under the corpse, partially burrowed in. Also, the corpse is rather mottled and covered with unpleasant white pustules. It doesn’t look like this guy was dead for very long before perishing. Fermi, none the wiser, flips the corpse aside and starts bashing rats.

Luckily for Fermi it’s a lone desert rat defending her den of babies, and it does not have a mutation. He tries to smack it with his hatchet as soon as he flips the corpse over, and the rat tries to escape! Initiative ensues.

Fermi rolls a D10 and adds his modifier (+2) for a total of 5. The rat rolls a 7 and has no modifier, but that means it still goes first. The GM figures it will try biting Fermi once first and then flee, so he rolls to attack. The rat has a SV of 01-30, modified by Fermi’s DV of -27. Fermi is well protected against rats! She rolls a 99, which is always a miss and almost a fumble.

Fermi reacts in turn, hatchet in hand, he strikes down with his modified SV of 01-54, and he needs to roll 39 or less after taking account for the rat’s DV of -15. He rolls a whopping 25! He hits. He deals 13 points of damage to the rat’s total Endurance of 1, probably cutting the creature in two. The babies are easy to mop up.
After killing the rat and its babies then gathering them up, he investigates the corpse. It’s got a decent sword that needs repairing (snags that), some cheap armor, and a few coins. Fermi loots it all and shakes the rotting corpse out. The GM chuckles evilly.

Now Fermi’s only problem is how to cook his meal. He has no flint and tinder, though he does have a case of ammunition, which means he has flammable gunpowder if he wants to crack open a bullet and try to ignite it with a hatchet swing. He needs tinder. The GM concedes that there’s dry brush all over the place, so tinder is good.

Meanwhile, the GM suggests that Fermi make a Type C Endurance check, because he is starting to feel a little itchy as the night goes on.

Fermi may be in trouble here….his Endurance is only 37, but a type C hazard check means he has a 58% chance he hasn’t contracted the white plague from touching the dead body, so the odds are slightly in his favor. He rolls….a 71!!!! Fermi is idly wiping snot-like puss from his hands onto his face, mouth and jeans. Mmmm tastes like a gummi bear without any flavor.

On the side the GM starts tracking the disease. Fermi has 3D6 hours (rolling 10) before the illness begins to show. After that, things get ugly; but first let’s see if Fermi survives the night…

The GM decides that Fermi spent an hour hunting for rats and meanwhile Fermi has decided he likes bullets more than cooked rat meat, so he eats them raw. The GM feels sorry for Fermi so he doesn’t make him roll an Endurance check to see if he can stomach raw rat meat. Before going to sleep, Fermi takes the time to dig a hole for himself to lie in lengthwise, and drapes some stray brush around (gathered from his aborted fire) to camouflage himself. This is important; he’s using his stealth for concealment, but the GM rolls secretly since Fermi will be asleep and may muck up his own disguise. The GM gets an 88, over the 85% Fermi needs. A sense of foreboding layers over the night…

Over the next ten hours of rest until dawn the GM rolls for each hour to see if something unpleasant creeps up on the camp: we get a spread of 4, 8, 1, 8, 9, 8, 1, 5, 2, 2. Oh boy, looks like tonight is going to be rough.

Three hours into his rest and Fermi has a guest: a dune spider!

Actual Size May Vary
(It is at this point that the narrator figures Fermi is an idiot for traveling alone, but such is life in the wastelands….)

The dune spider starts 38 meters away from Fermi’s camp spot when they are first detected. They are not innately stealthy creatures, relying on pack hunter techniques instead, and dune spiders are large (2.4 meters in length). He figures Fermi might have a decent chance that he awakens to the sound of the razor barbed scuttling (hazard type A) modified by 2 (type C) for being asleep. That’s a 78% chance, and Fermi rolls a 97….this ain’t gonna be pretty….

The GM figures the spider is on the hunt, so it is actively looking for prey. Fermi tried to hide when he went to sleep and failed, and he’s not even awake now to react to the spider. However, he is motionless because of this, so the GM figures the spider has a chance it will overlook him and makes the spider check its Perception (62) against a Type A hazard (giving it an 85% chance it’ll spot Fermi). He rolls for the spider; and it notices the tasty meatbag nearby!

The spider has it on round one, and it rushes in to strike at the tasty prey. Fermi sleeps in his gear, but he’s not dodging actively nor is he wielding his shield so his DV is reduced to -16. The  spider has an SV of 01-66, modified to 01-50. Worse yet, since Fermi is asleep it gets +80 to the SV (total now being 01-130; it can’t miss). The foreboding and doom thicken….

The spider attacks! It rolls a 77, and the spider’s razor sharp hooked fangs sink into Fermi’s left shoulder (the GM rolls on the location chart for fun), dealing 6 points of Endurance damage (on a D20 for damage). He is also down to 31 Endurance from his lowly 37.

A round in TME is 3 seconds long, and a human can run about 6 meters in a round. Fermi is starting prone from sleeping, but he is awake now. A new initiative is rolled….will Fermi fight or run? He rolls a total with modifiers of 11, and his foe rolls for a 6. Fermi has the upper hand!

Note: TME uses group initiative rolled at the start of each round. It’s classic old school in this regard, with the optimum or most eligible PC affecting the initiative with modifiers. It also makes the combat mechanics ideal for narrative style play and avoids the clutter of multiple-initiative tracks, though house-ruling in individual initiatives would be a snap.

The GM determines that Fermi can get up and attack, he can crawl and attack, or he can get up and run 3 meters. The spider looks very quick quick, so fleeing may not be a realistic option. Fermi decides to bury his hatchet in its skull and attacks.

The Spider’s DV is an impressive -30, so Fermi needs 24 or less. He rolls a 99; that’s an automatic miss, so his hatchet blow flies wide. He finishes by staggering to his feet and snagging his shield as he swings around wildly.

The spider senses its smaller prey is dangerous and tries to go for the kill. It needs a 39 or less to hit a standing, awake and armed Fermi. It rolls a 92! The two appear to be in a traditional dance of near-misses.

Round two begins. Fermi is ready to take the spider on, and he’s feeling like once again he’s in the battle arena in Silver City. He gets a 5 for initiative to the spider’s 7. As he maneuvers the spider strikes out again, this time with a 99 (hmmm the dice roller likes that number) and it wildly misses him. Fermi retaliates with a firm blow and rolls 24 exactly! His hatchet connects for 13 damage against the dune spider’s  42 Endurance, reducing it to 29; the DM says he lops off a leg.

Note: There is only one humanoid hit location chart that is mostly available as a reference for flavor or for use with specific critical charts; location-based damage is not specifically in TME other than for flavor.

Getting hit for more than 25% of its Endurance is worth a morale check, the GM decides. Dune spiders have excellent morale, which means a type A hazard check against Willpower. The dune spider has a 52 Willpower, so it has an 80% chance of success and rolls…100! That’s the TME equivalent of a critical failure in combat, and it means the creature is suddenly thinking twice about the meatbag it thought was an easy meal.

On round three, Fermi’s initiative is 9 and the spider’s is 1. Fermi decides to finish the spider off and strikes again with his hatchet, rolling a 58 at this time and missing. The spider, on its round, flees at its full movement rate of 9 meters/round. Fermi will not be able to keep up, but he has an ace up his sleeve.

On round four, Fermi goes first again (initiative 4) and the spider last (2). He uses his psychic mutation to generate a mental mine, and tosses it at the fleeing spider that is now 9 meters away from him, which puts it well within his radius of effect (10 meters) and keeps him outside of its blast radius (5 meters). His SV with the globe is 01-80 and he rolls a 29, bypassing the -30 DV of the fleeing spider (he also got a +20 to his SV since the spider was fleeing at full tilt away from him). He then deals 1D20+4 explosive psychic dripping plasma damage from the mental mine, dealing  a lucky 23 points, almost maximum! The spider is now badly wounded with only 6 Endurance left.

Fermi hasn’t got the energy to make another mental mine, and he has no melee weapon. The dune spider scuttles off into the night, probably moving in odd patterns due to plasma scaring and a missing limb. Fermi breathes a sigh of relief, then goes back, remakes his camouflaged bed, and goes to sleep. Did I mention Fermi’s not very wise?

On the seventh hour we have one more tragic encounter, in which Fermi once again gets to dance with death….or does he? The GM rolls for the encounter and gets a 282. An event! This should be interesting. A couple rolls later and it’s a massive thunderstorm rolling in; sometime shortly before dawn the crack of thunder and a torrent of much needed rain is dousing the Animas Playas basin, and Fermi is soaked in his little hole.

At last, dawn arrives, and so does the creeping chills. Fermi is wet and miserable, so at first he may think its just a cold, but in fact the white plague is starting to settle in. As the day progresses, his traits are dramatically affected; his appearance drops by half as white, thick pustules begin to cover his skin (technically making Fermi look like a grey alien wearing a polka dot tuxedo) and he loses 1D20 from each trait (to a minimum of 1). His sickened stats now look like this:

Fermi’s Sickened Traits: Endurance 24 (18 counting the injury); Strength 46; Agility 49; Accuracy 31; Intelligence 40; Perception 46; Willpower 34; Appearance 44    

Fermi doesn’t know it, but he’s only got 2D4 days to live, as in all likelihood he won’t make it with his weak Endurance as it is…

Fermi trudges onward, desperate in his delirium to reach the distant settlement! It’s less than 53 km away, maybe is he pushes all day he can make it. Before he leaves, he takes the time to drink deeply of puddle rain water, avoiding any issues with dehydration; he manages to fill up his only canisters, being his gladiator’s helmet and the pot helm he found on the corpse, to carry extra water. He ate the rats, and he is good to go.

Fermi can walk 8 hours (with about 2 hours of rest for a total of 10 hours), and he can push it for another 8 hours of travel time. This means he can force march himself 57.6 km in a day if he pushes himself to the limit, but he will suffer for it. Given that he needs medical attention, and his only chance of such is in the settlement, he decides to risk it.

Pushing the extra 8 hours amounts to a 10% reduction in Endurance for every two additional hours of forced marching (dropping it from 18 to 12, after rounding out). He’s sick, injured and exhausted, but he might have made it to the settlement sometime after dark, if the GM doesn’t roll a terrifying encounter…

Since Fermi started off right after dawn (about 5 AM) and pushed on for 16 total hours plus 4 rest hours, he has 7 rolls to make during the day and 6 night time rolls. Hooo boy….

So, our cunning and malicious GM rolls the following for daytime: 6, 1, 5, 10, 3, 8, 4, and at night: 3, 10, 7, 7, 5, 1. Looks like he’s got something unpleasant on the second hour of travel, and maybe right outside the settlement gates if he survives the first event…

So early in the morning as he is jogging tiredly along Fermi sees a massive armor-plated snake in the distance (937 meters away, thankfully). In the Epoch of Mutants it turns out EVERYTHING is massive. Or colossal.

Tastes Like Chicken

Fermi’s got this covered. He hunkers down and gets very still (rolls a 36, a success on his stealth). The snake has limited vision and is mostly interested in movement. The GM decides that Fermi loses an hour waiting for the snake (so he rolls for one more possible encounter at the end of the day, getting a 5).

The rest of the day goes uneventfully, although Fermi is in a delirium! He is about an hour away from reaching the walls of the distant settlement, which glows in the darkness of the evening with the lights of multiple torches, when the second event of the day happens.

Dirk. Or maybe Gibs.
Not 25 meters away from Fermi when he spots them are a roving band of warmorts, a pair of brothers with dusky tan skin that lets them blend in with the desert. Warmorts are unknown to Fermi, all he sees is two odd humanoids that blend in well and appear to be armed with some decent gear. He understands body language just fine, though, and as the two warmorts raise their axes caked with dried blood and grin viciously at him, his instincts tell him RUN!!!

Fermi looks hesitantly at the pair, his voice croaking from lack of use….he hasn’t spoken to a living being in weeks. “Fellas,” he says, studying their axes. “Nice to meetcha. You from that town out yonder?” he looks hopeful. Pleeease let them be from that town…

“Look at da little sweetz that’s come wanderin’ outta the desert, Dirk,” says one warmort.

Dirk nods. “Aye, Gibs! We’ve got ourselves a fine and tasty morsel! Get ‘Im!!!”

Welcome to TME’s Chase Rules. Survival in the wasteland is dependent heavily on recognizing when you’re outgunned and outclassed (or out mutated). Luckily for Fermi the warmorts are fresh out of ranged weaponry, so they take chase after him with their axes instead. Fermi is the target, the warmorts are the chasers.

Chase rules provide a way to resolve quick escapes, desperate runs, and any situation involving group A pursuing while group B flees. After adding up a series of modifiers, we get a +2 (as Fermi has a base run of 6m and they have 5m). Rolling a D10 plus the modifier yields a 12 total, compared to the appropriate terrain table (running across open ground).

As a result, Fermi takes advantage of the slight dips and rises in the area to elude his attackers, forcing them to make Hazard type D perception checks (to which they roll a 7 and 40, both better than the 52% chance they need). The warmorts have not lost sight of him!

Next chase round, Fermi is making ground but can’t shake them yet; he’s now run some distance and is at least 33 meters away from them. The modifiers haven’t changed, so with a new roll we get a 6; nothing special, so this continues for a while, until he is 37 meters distant when he stumbles across a shallow ravine, a crack in the earth. He can jump across it (the GM rules for an agility check for the sick fellow, who rolls a 16 and beats a type B hazard), but the warmorts have to make another type D perception check or stumble into the ravine; they get a 63 and 55 respectively, which fails the 52% target and both stumble at the crack in the ground, losing a round of movement while Fermi gains a round plus D6m for his agile maneuver (total of 12m!)

By the third chase round Fermi is 53 meters away, and the GM checks morale on the warmorts, who quickly get tired of chasing this skinny freak in the dark.

Ahead, Fermi sees the firelights of Bordertown….he has arrived!

A kilometer away, Dirk shakes his head. "Dat waz da faztest gibbet I ever sawr, eh Gibs?"

Gibs just shrugs. "Oi, more where dat one came from, Dirk. Oh yes indeed....get da' boys, we're gonna go gibbet huntin'."

The two warmorts trot off, rubbing their axes with glee....

TO BE CONTINUED! Part Two: Of Mutants and Men!!!!! With a special crossover guest appearance by the spider goat. Or not….