Sunday, April 12, 2020

Secret Jackalope 2020 - Gnarly Swamp and Deep Jungle Witches

I took part in the OSR Discord's Secret Jackalope event! It's uh, like Secret Santa (which I also did!) but in March, I guess! 

My prompt comes from TROPICAWL, who wanted...
...A table or list of some gnarly swamp and/or deep jungle witches...
 Sounds fun! And turns out - it was! 

d6 Famous Deep Jungle Witches

Image from Old Book Illustrations
1. Elder Bogli Pagli - An old, decrepit lady with a deep hunch that acts as a shelf for the home she carries on her back. A large nest that houses several very colorful (and loud) birds and holds trinkets, alchemy tools, and various medicinal herbs and remedies. With a closer look, the old lady's mouth is sewn completely shut and frozen in a crusted smile. The birds whisper in the voices of those lost deep in the jungles. If you pay some sort of tithe, you can take an egg from the nest. 
2. The Cravens of the Crooked Hill - 4 witches, each a Fey spirit cursed long ago to rule over a pathetic patch of land. Each witch's emotions and appearance represent the four seasons, like they were exposed to the harshest elements of each season. The Summer sister has hot-pink, blistering skin that oozes pus with each movement, the Winter sister is completely frostbitten and stutters in both speech and motor skills, etc. Each sister wants the same thing, but they refuse to compromise on how to get it.
3. Mestel & Porter - Two old sister crones that travel in a mortar, using a pestle as an oar. Giggle furiously between sentences, which they usually finish for each other. They enjoy torturing people with obscure and obtuse riddles. Usually the riddles they give don't even have an answer - they just love watching people sweat under the pressure. If someone solves a riddle with a clever answer, they are often quite upset that someone thinks they're smarter than them. This tends to lead to a fight. Villagers that know about the couple might warn travelers that the right course of action is ignoring the riddle and complimenting their sick ride.
4. Barkback - A lady with brittle, bark-like skin. Crawls along trees, nearly invisible. Eats like a crocodile. Rather than torturing people, Barkback takes pleasure in torturing animals - especially human's pets, mounts, and familiars. Can usually be seen stalking the waters like a crocodile barely out of water, or clinging to a tree, watching from afar.
5. Spoontooth Mooneye - A gaunt, bony ghoul of a person that is covered in metal pots and pans. Cursed long ago, and now all they want is to find a spoon big enough to eat a tree. Signs of being near her lair includes scratchings against tree bark, trees missing chunks of wood like a creature bit off a piece, and randomly finding smooth, wooden sticks (spoons half-made and abandoned). Just wants to share a nice dinner with good company - it's a shame that not a lot of good company enjoys eating lost villagers.
6. The Moldy Princess - An old woman covered from head to toe in various fungi. Cursed by some deity/being of rot, she watches over the undergrowth of the jungles, taming and tending to the mushrooms that litter the deep depths of the jungles. Just wants to find a nice bride/groom to settle down with. Unfortunately, her curse makes "settling down" be more like "be slowly consumed by mushrooms over the span of a couple decades". 

Monday, February 3, 2020

Dolmenwood DM Journal 1 - Prelude to Winter's Daughter (5e)

I've been trying to get my table more interested in the idea of playing some OSR systems, and so far it's been a steady progression of wanting to mess around with it. Playing a game set heavily based off Dolmenwood has spiked that interest for the two players I'm running Winter's Daughter for. Something about it's fairy tale Brothers Grimme approach to a lot of it's backdrop and history really appeals to us and our current binge of Witcher 3 and the Witcher Netflix series. Something about the perfect sync of taiga ambience, soft music with haunting vocals, and the oddities of the setting that are accepted as the norm really enraptured the whole table - me included.
Like Dolmenwood, Witcher's setting mixes fairy tale legends and a medieval setting to make a unique environment for swinging swords and talking like a viking at a renfair.
I was not expecting the setting's materials to spark such excitement from me. Being in the middle of setting up another homebrewed world, I thought I'd pluck away at the Welcome guide and take what whatever seemed handy. At the end of the day, I basically just glued Dolmenwood into a far-Northern corner of the map. By the end of the session, I started seriously considering abandoning most of my worldbuilding prep for places outside of Dolmenwood and start planning a West Marches game.

Basically, the setting is really good, y'all. You can grab the spoiler-free introduction to the setting here, as well as the (super cool looking) DM/Referee map for it here.


- Gwendalyn Thatcher, handmaiden and chore-runner for the noble Lady Maryaa-aa-aa-an
- Sif of Prigwort, ex-soldier of the Kingdom's army, currently in-training to be a Grey Guard from the School of the White Wolf
- (NPC) Egthil Gruewater, acolyte of the True Faith sent to accompany Gwendalyn under official orders from the duchy

(Egthil is an NPC I added to the party so they can have a couple heals on their side.)

Ambience | Music ]

The party starts their journey on the tail-end of a week's travel. Lady Maryaa-aa-aa-an, a noble Goatman lady of a popular house, has recently received a large inheritance from an old and long-lost relative. Among the papers Gwen had sorted through was a charter with a family tree that connects her fair Lady to one Brigford the Wise, brother to the legendary Sir Chyde. The charter showed a rough map of the tomb's general whereabouts, and mentioned an exquisite sword and a magical ring that could potentially open doorways to the fey land of Fairy.

With a Moss Dwarf as their guide, the party landed on the beach shores of Itch-by-the-River, a small hamlet that rests on the side of Lake Longmere. With little idea of where the tomb is, they began asking villagers if they've heard of any old burial grounds. One villager said he knows where it is, but wants to trade the information for a task - get rid of the wolves that keep eating his livestock. With such a simple-sounding job, the crew agreed to help out.

And so they followed the path to the bait left out.

[ Ambience ]

In the evergreen forests that hug the hamlet's boundaries was a clearing of sweetgrass; in its center laid the body of a recently killed goat, guts laid out in front of it. Sif thought this was the perfect place to spring a trap on the wolves, and suggested the group camp up until nightfall to wait for the pack's arrival. Gwen, with the help of her magical servant Gavin, positioned herself in one of the taller trees surrounding the 60ft clearing. Meanwhile, Sif and Eghtil stayed on the ground, Sif spending the rest in thought. "Maybe I should have told someone I'm, like, deeply afraid of wolves after my near-death experience that led me to monster hunting." thought Sif to herself. "Hrm."

When the wolves arrived, the party quickly figured out that the pack is led by a sentient talking wolf that goes by the nickname "Two Moons" when talking to two-legs. He explained that the pack has been pushed out from their normal hunting grounds by other creatures that are gaining sentience. The pack has been eating the livestock of the nearby village out of desperation - Two Moons was taught to avoid civilization for as long as possible. Moved by their struggles, Gwen convinced the party to help out the wolves - and in return the pack will leave for greener pastures.
 A beautiful view you can find deep in the forests. Art by Ville Assinen
The party headed back to the village and bartered with some locals to get enough food to last the pack at least a week. Two Moons promised that he, and his pack, are forever in their debt before running off into the night. With no one that will take them in and not a tavern in sight, the group camped out near a shed on the outskirts of the town for the night. Sif kept watch, drinking to get over the trauma she had to fight back during the wolf encounter.

[ Ambience ]

In the morning, they packed up camp, got the location of the tomb, and embarked on a mission to collect the inheritance they came for. On the way out of town they found a notice board with a "HELP WANTED" posting by a court wizard from a nearby town. Seems the wizard is looking for a ring in the tomb, possibly the same one that is Lady Mary-aa-aa-aane's property now. With the thousands of gold the wizard is offering, the group began considering what to do if other adventurers rear their head around the tomb.

During their walk they were interrupted by two gray goblins coughing furiously as they stepped out of a trapdoor laid out in the grass. Turns out they're oddities merchants that collect old belongings wherever they find them. The trapdoor they took leads to Fairy, though it looks so blended into the ground that it might not even be there anymore! The goblins waved a how-do-you-do, traded some items, and went their separate ways from the party without much issue.

After an hour of walking along the calm forestry, they ran into a stonehedge-like circling of large rocks. In the center was two hooded figures in black robes chanting ominously near a tied up woman. One of the hooded men lifted a great, jagged dagger in the air, while the other moved a copper bowl beneath the lady's throat...

And that's where we ended. Next session, we'll see what the crew will do with this dilemma. Fun stuff!
Art by Pauhami for the Dolmenwood Campaign Book coming later in 2020.
Stuff I liked:
- The general setting that Dolmenwood encourages was very captivating. There was a point where I was revealing some backstory for one of the mythical figures in Winter's Daughter and it felt similar to telling a bedtime fairy tale story. Sentient animals, goat people, and weird threatening druids are a great recipe for a fun time.
- The player characters are fun and very fitting to the world. Since I'm running this in my post-magical-apocalypse world, I was worried about running into the dilemma where someone makes a character that doesn't fit at all in the world. I was pleasantly surprised to see characters that can blend into the established lore right off the bat! I think this is also mostly the setting of Dolmenwood, it has a very strong "voice" for lack of a better word.
- The incredibly small and boring atmosphere of a tiny hamlet that barely qualifies for a name. It truly is the itch by the river, a tiny speck in the great woods that stretch for miles and miles.

Stuff to note:
- Gotta remember that Two Moons and his friends are out there, somewhere. My hopes is that they can come back up during a crucial fight (maybe the druids next session perhaps?) like the dog in Resident Evil 4
- Should start considering if I should add some fun mystical items somewhere along the adventure.

All in all, I'm very excited to run the whole adventure, and I've only run the very introduction! I hope to keep this up so I have an easier time recalling previous sessions - with any luck I can also track my train of thought when prepping future sessions!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Ghouls of Tothegsia

Image result for ghoul
Image grabbed from Darkest Dungeon
“Stay close,” Jean muttered, the length of his sword slick with blood. “They only follow if you’re alone.” It was more a guess than a fact, but a guess that kept the two fresh-faced ribbonsmen close to the captain. Outside the dilapidated shack the men took as refuge stirred a small group of hunchbacked monsters with whispy white skin stretched tight over long-limbed muscles. Jean could hear one of them gnawing on lieutenant Martin’s arm, the same one which only minutes ago kept a steady grip on his sword before the ghouls sunk their claws into his skull.
Ghouls are a neat concept. They have potential cannibal backgrounds, sharp claws and teeth, and tongues stretched out for better bone marrow suckin'. Typical zombie stuff, really, but they also have the added twist of being demonic. Here's how ghouls operate in one of my worlds I'm slowly developing.

Rather than a necromancer raising a ghoul with the mutter of a spell, ghouls are usually the result of a magical mishap in an area. In the techno-magik state of Tothegsia, small magical anomalies weaken the barrier between the planes. Some of them connect to the Sewers of Hell, an ever-growing labyrinth of spacious sewers. It is here where ghouls fester, living like rats feasting on the waste of Hell's citizens. Knowing their origins brings some of their odder features to light: their shadow's skinny tail, the constant wiggling of their holes-where-noses-usually-are, their dirk-like claws as thick as a pole-arm's head. When you see a ghoul, it's usually the last thing you see - unless there's dead meat around.

Ghouls have a heavy preference for dead flesh. This taste is developed from their natural habitat in the Sewers of Hell, where ghouls pick apart the corpses of punished sinners. Their eyes are hyper-sensitive to light, but work incredibly well in the dark, dank pits of the brimstone sewers. Since corpses in Hell are coated in a thick layer of rock, a ghoul's tough dagger-like claws are perfect for breaking through the shell. In fact, if given the proper sanitary measures and effort, ghoul claws make an excellent gift for your eccentric wizard friend who's favorite food is crab.
Ghouls like hanging out around cemeteries. Photo from the British Library.
Sometimes a ghoul gains a bit more sentience than its peers, these are known as ghasts. They grow psychically sensitive and begin to develop a personality of their own. This process naturally occurs when enough ghouls are grouped tightly in one spot such as a single cemetery or spacious sewer dead-end. Given enough time, a ghast could theoretically reach a level of intelligence matching that of the common Esarian person. With enough time, they might even exceed that. This worry is what propels adventuring groups such as The Golden Ribbon Exchange to be hired for local purges - ghouls left to their own devices for too long might realize there's bigger things out there than eating dead meat.

Imagine if they voted, yuck! Image from the British Library.

When hunting, ghouls travel in packs if possible. Small platoons that grow no bigger than 7 or 8 of them, though usually capering off at 3 or 4. In the rank Sewers of Hell, ghouls group up more often, and in bigger numbers. The highest recorded pack of ghouls spotted in the Sewers has been 12, recorded by a ribbonsmen who developed a deep fear of sewage and now requires a small group of escorts to use the privy.

Sometimes when ghouls are clustered in an overcrowded spot for some time, their shadow's tails can get wrapped up within each other. This is known as a ghoul king, a bundle of ghouls psychically tied to each other so they cannot wander more than 5 feet from another. Ghoul kings are incredibly dangerous, as once the tails have locked into each other the ghouls passively feed off one another's intellect. This can quickly develop into each ghoul of the pack becoming a ghast, with the time it takes to reach such a stage growing exponentially to the number of ghouls in the ghoul king. When this happens, the pack is known as a ghast king.

Tothegsian Ghoul Stat Block

Armor Class: like studded leather
Health: 3HD
Damage Resistances: poison

Multi-attack: A ghoul can attack 2 times each turn
Claws - +3 To Hit, damage like shortsword, average difficulty CON save to avoid poisoning

Planes Adjustment - If the ghoul is in Hell, they get 1 additional HD and 1 additional attack.

Tothegsian Ghast Stat Block

Armor Class: like chain shirt
Health: 4HD
Damage Resistances: poison
Damage Vulnerabilities: psychic

Multi-attack: A ghast can attack 2 times each turn, or forgo one attack to let a nearby ghoul attack immediately
Claws - +4 To Hit, damage like shortsword, same save as Ghoul stat block

Planes Adjustment - If the ghast is in Hell, they get 1 additional HD and do not need to forgo one attack to let a nearby ghoul attack immediately

Ghoul King Stat Block

Armor Class: like studded leather
Health: 1HD per ghoul in the ghoul king
Damage Resistances: poison

Shadow Tails: Ghoul Kings are psionically tied to each other with their shadow's rat-like tails. This connection can be cut by either killing at least half the ghoul in the ghoul king, or by using a shadow weapon to sever the tie.

Multi-attack: A ghoul king can attack 2 times each turn.
Flurry of Claws - +3 To Hit, damage like longsword, challenging CON save to avoid poisoning

Plane Adjustment - If the ghoul king is in Hell, they get 1 additional attack

Ghast King Stat Block

Armor Class: like chain shirt
Health: 2HD per ghoul in the ghast king
Damage Resistances: poison
Damage Vulnerabilities: psychic

Spellcasting: Ghast Kings can cast fire-based psionic spells such as Fireball, Scorching Ray, and Fire Bolt. Their spellcasting To Hit is +3 and their Spell Save is DC13, unless they are in close range of a wizard - then they use the wizard's To Hit and Spell Save.

They can cast a number of times equal to half their total HD count per day.

Shadow Tails: Ghast Kings are psionically tied to each other with their shadow's rat-like tails. This connection can be cut by either killing at least half the ghasts in the ghast king, or by using a shadow weapon to sever the tie. Once either condition is met, each ghast in the ghast king becomes a ghoul instead. 

Multi-attack: A ghast king can attack 2 times each turn, or attack 1 time and cast 1 spell.
Flurry of Claws - +4 To Hit, damage like longsword, challenging CON save to avoid poisoning.

Plane Adjustment - If the ghast king is in Hell, they get 2 additional HD per ghast in the ghast king and 1 additional attack per turn.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Secret Santicorn 2019 - Reinforcing themes through mechanics

This year, I participated in the OSR discord's Secret Santicorn. The basic idea is that you submit a concept you want someone else to make a blog post about, and then you get someone else's concept and have to make a post about it. Here's the prompt I had:
Mechanisms for reinforcing themes in OSR games. I've got a number of ways I do this myself, but I'm curious about other takes. How would you make OSR mechanics that emphasize loneliness, for example? Or romance? Or revenge? Keep in mind, these are mechanisms to be used in existing games, not new games in and of themselves!
Let's see how well I can stick to that idea (Hint: not very)

Themes in OSR

So what are themes, anyways? My completely amateur understanding (gathered from here) is that a theme is an underlying message in a work. Lord of the Rings is about a group of friends trying to stop the end of the world, but it's also about power and how it can corrupt others, death, and industrialization (just to name a few).

Image result for lord of the rings isengard
It's no coincidence that the bad guys are the ones chopping down trees and making technology.
With that in mind, how do tabletop games have themes? It makes sense to have them in a movie or book, since those all (typically) have entire arcs and conclusions in mind before they reach the general masses. But in tabletop games it's you and everyone else at the table that's in charge of where the story goes. Not to mention that the story can go in all sorts of wild directions depending on a million and one factors! All that being said, however, tabletop games have some tricks up their sleeves to guide players into messing around with the stuff designers wanted their players to think about. One trick is mechanics.

Take Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition for example. In this system, you play as a vampire (un)living in the modern day. You have super strength, fast reflexes, and weird specific quirks and abilities you pick up depending on what type of vampire you are, but the life of an undead monster comes with some rough costs: there is an ever-constant hunger that gnaws at you in every waking hour. A beast inside you is just itching for a taste of that sweet, sweet lifeblood that is in every human you'll pass by on the street when you're out doing urban vampire jobs. Whenever you start a session, you'll roll a check to see if that hunger increases. The interesting twist to this mechanic is that you start the game already hungry, and it can only go down if you kill someone.

So what does this do to the game and how it's played? For one, it reinforces the theme that while it's cool to have vampire powers, being an undead monster that preys on humans for survival will make your character, well, a monster. You can mitigate it by feeding on blood bags, but they taste bland and you might not even get any satisfaction from it if you're an older vampire. You could have a consensual agreement with someone(s) to feed off them, but then you risk exposing the existence of your kind to the world, which in vampire society is considered "a dick move". You could just straight up ignore it, but sooner or later the hunger grows, and when it reaches a certain point you revert back to a primal beast, attacking the nearest source of Human Wine you can find.

The developers want you to consider the fucked up stuff your character is doing to survive, as another mechanic in the game (Touchstones) force you to make a set of morals and human characters that you give a shit about. Do you selfishly feed on the unsuspected to protect your secret? Is it even selfish to want to hide that, as the knowledge of your existence could be life or death for not just you, but vampires as a whole? And, if you take it even further, would vampires going extinct even be a bad thing? Mankind is doing quite a number on our surroundings with all the pollution, littering, and infrastructure we're setting up around the whole world, but you still breathe, you still shop, and you still gotta drive to your 9 to 5 job. What's a few humans getting a bite they won't even remember or even register as painful to getting to wake up the next night, and the night after that, and on and on?

The moral dilemma of being a human turned monster is a core theme of V:tM 5e, and the Hunger mechanic reinforces it by having you juggle your character's morals with the constant demands of their inner beast.

Kinda fucked up, ain't it? So, how do you set up mechanics to reinforce themes? That's a good question, and one that I don't really have the answer to because I am but a ye olde novice of the trade. But, I have at least a suggestion!

The 5 Point Scale

The basis of this mechanic is largely influenced by a whole jumble of different mechanics from different games, but the launching pad for it is mostly DnD 5e's optional Loyalty rules for NPCs.

For this 5 Point Scale, you have 5 boxes jotted somewhere in a row on your character sheet. As your character works toward a thematic goal, you move up and down the scale in accordance to the theme and the step your character is currently on.

The Movie Example

I'm gonna use Lord of the Rings again because you've most likely seen it. For this scale, let's set up a theme of Power and how it corrupts. In this example, I'll be playing Frodo Baggins, sidekick of the story's actual hero Samwise Gamgee. My DM says the story is about destroying a powerful magic item that can doom the world? Sounds good, considering my dude just wants to smoke pipeweed and play Xbox until the end of his days. On one end I jot down "Innocent joe schmoe" and on the other I write "Corrupted". With that out of the way, we're off to the races as my character and my good friend Samwise make way for the Prancing Pony tavern!

At said tavern, I stumble and the magic ring flies out of my hands. Reaching out, it accidentally slips onto my finger and I get the first taste of its true power. Holy shit, it makes me invisible! And I can see weird wispy mist? Wait, isn't this the same ring from the other hobbit-based game the DM ran a while back? Cool! In fact, it's almost a little too cool. Not cool enough to make me go all Bad Guy, but enough to make me consider maybe purposefully putting on the ring in the future. I know it's evil, but it lets me go invisible! I mark off one box on the "Innocent joe schmoe" side of the row and keep playing.

Flash forward to the end of the game, we're at the mountain I gotta drop the ring into. So close! And yet, so far... I mean, why should I toss it into the fire? It's dope! And it makes me invisible! My friend Samwise pleads for me to toss it, and the logical part of my brain is screaming "Yes! Cast it into the fires!"... but power corrupts, and I'm 4 boxes deep into this mess. I make a save... and fail. Oops, sorry Samwise, I'm hopping outta here with the ring and y'all can get fucked. I check off the final box, and I have completed my corruption. Yippee!

The Tabletop Example

For example, let's say that one of the character's/campaign's themes is Revenge. In this example, you're playing a character that has recently been slighted by an NPC - let's say a local Baron named von Badguy. You and your DM agree to use this 5 point scale because I've bribed you, and you set up the 5 boxes on your sheet. You label one end "Beginning" and the other end "Revenge!" Since this vendetta is new, you mark off one box near "Beginning".

Throughout the following sessions, the DM provides a chance for von Badguy to get the short end of the stick. Maybe you're in a granary owned by the baron and are given the chance to mess up his profits or make him look like a careless owner. One sabotage scene later, the granary is set to start spitting out bad yields (I don't know how granaries work, I chose poorly for this example). Word spreads and the baron has to save face. Depending on how bad you wanna mess von Badguy over, the DM will ask you to mark off a number of boxes equal to how satisfied your character is with that sabotage being the full of their revenge.

As you move closer to the other end of the row, it becomes harder and harder to ignore your lust for the baron's comeuppance. At 3+ boxes marked off, you have to make a Willpower/Mental/Wisdom/etc roll to fight back the urge for revenge even at the most inopportune times. Sure it's easy to brush off the thought of cutting all the roses in his garden off when you're supposed to be sneaking around his mansion, but this is the same man that slighted you once so long ago - fuck him! Ideally a roll will only be required in situations where answering the inner beast's call for revenge can lead to interesting scenarios, such as having you expose your presence in the gardens to a patrolling guard, or alerting the guard to intruders when he stumbles upon a dozen freshly cut roses on the garden grounds.

His poor, poor roses. Photo from the Dallas Arboretum website.
Once you have checked off all boxes your revenge is considered complete. You have ruined this man to the extent you wished for and can die a happy adventurer. Wipe the slate clean and see if there's another desire you can put in the 5 point scale in its place!

This method can also be reversed, where you go down from a full row of marks to none at all. For this example, let's say the character's/campaign's theme is Loneliness. You're playing a hermit that doesn't get along well with others, or feels like they don't in some way. You set up your row and fill in all 5 boxes, labeling one end "Content" and the other end "Lonely". When you're in a depressed, lonely state, it's hard to come out of it, especially in the beginning.

The Willpower/Mental/Whatever mechanic stays the same, but now is called when you run into a mixed bag situation that your character could take the wrong way. Did you get downed in a fight alongside another character and the healer picked the other guy to patch up first? Maybe the loot was unevenly split, maybe not even on purpose! It's hard to take people at their face value when they say they care for you when you've conditioned yourself to only depend on yourself, and so it's in turn harder to get rid of those bad habits that keep whispering "Do they really care, though?"

Hell, the loneliness example works even if you're the only character around. Playing a post-apocalypse survivor with a haunted past? Maybe the family photo you ran into in that house you just searched brings up painful memories, memories that can only be pushed back with brown liquid in a clear bottle.


1. Establish a theme with the DM that your character will reasonably interact with consistently enough for it to matter
2. Jot down 5 boxes in a row somewhere on your character sheet
3. Label one end the desired end result (Revenge, Contentness, a Full Stomach) and the other end "Beginning" or something else that lets you know where to start.
4. As you go through the game and interact with these themes, mark off a box (or erase a mark if working backwards) for each decision or scene that reinforces the theme somehow
5. As you get closer to the other end of the row, mental fortitude checks are needed to push on towards the resolution of said theme
6. Once you've reached the other end, you've completed the thematic arc! Erase it all and start with another theme

Ideally, the DM and player(s) discuss potential consequences/rewards that accompany having a high revenge/loneliness/blah blah, but I've already written more than I thought I could manage so that's a story for another time.

This is a pretty messy system, and can get a little complicated, but I hope there's some leeway for it being the first mechanic that I've really written down - and for having only about a week to get it done! Do you have another way to reinforce themes through mechanics? I would love to hear them, cause making this one was pretty fun.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Oesaria: The Hardfoot Halflings

In the province of Melloria live two peculiar races of smallfolk. They are distant cousins to their neighboring Hill Dwarfs, though their cultures are not that similar. In Melloria, there are two kinds of Halflings: Hardfoots and Softhairs.

Hardfoot Halflings

The Hardfoot ancestry traces their origins to the very foundations of the mountains they live on today. When Emperor Heritus Septin, Fourth of His Name claimed Melloria a province of the Empire, his soldiers were surprised to see the mountains populated with jovial smallfolk instead of stubborn dwarfs. The Halflings welcomed their new guests with open arms and trays of cheese and bread. Upon being told that the Emperor has claimed dominion over Melloria, the Hardfoots chuckled. "He may claim dominion wherever he like. Fat bellies, smoked pipes, cheery tunes - that is all we claim dominion over!"
A Hardfoot adventurer enjoying a break. Art by Tony DiTerlizzi
Hardfoot Halfings take pride in their carefree nature, and believe it to be why all of their meals and weeds are beyond satisfying. When life gives you lemons, the lemonade tastes much better if you never worry about why life didn't give you apples instead. What a Hardfoot gets, a Hardfoot appreciates - even the worst of crops in the coldest of winters doesn't hinder their spirits too harshly. Hardfoots understand that life, in its multitude of ups and downs, is what you make of it. And for every passing of a close friend, there's a blooming of a new flower that bears that friend's smile.

Hardfoots usually spend all of their long lives in the Splinter Clay Mountains on the border of Melloria and Sainne. Their capital, Cabbagedirt, hosts most of the Hardfoots that still live in those mountains and is surrounded by clusters of smaller village-like communities. The Hardfoot culture is one of sharing, looking out for one's neighbor, and living to the fullest as best you can. Because outsiders don't climb the mountains often for neither trade nor travel, Hardfoots don't get many visitors and thus regard outsiders with an excited curiosity and misguided well-intentions. They may welcome a Catfolk visitor from Sainne with a bowl of warm milk and a plate of raw ram, completely blind to their ignorance until corrected. This has earned them a reputation as fools and bigots in some circles of the Kingdom, usually from those that met this blissful ignorance first-hand.

A Hardfoot may adventure for the thrill of a great tale to tell, or the chance to try new foods, pipes, and beds. It is rare, but possible, for a Hardfoot to leave for adventure out of a need to look for another community they fit in better.

Playing a Hardfoot Halfling

Like with all character creation, the race's lore is not a straitjacket for your creativity.

FOR KNAVE, Reroll either your lowest CON score or your lowest DEX score and choose the higher result.

FOR MAZE RATS, add a +1 to EITHER your health OR Dexterity

Most Hardfoots have agricultural jobs that pay nothing. In the communal living of Cabbagedirt, coin is only for dealing with outsiders. Everyone pulls their own weight as best as they can to help the rest of the village. Roll a d8 to determine what weight you pulled around when you still lived in the mountains.
  1. You were a Fertilizer. You practiced in the art of proper fertilization for all of the crops in your village, or for a sub-community in Cabbagedirt. You can accurately predict how long it will take for a crop to grow based on the surrounding soil, what crop it is, and how often it rains in the local area. You have a bag of mountain goat manure and 4 prize-winning tasty cabbages.
  2. You were a Weaver. You spun the sheep wool into sturdy clothes, and weaved the twigs and dry grass of the mountain into even sturdier baskets. You can quickly repair any small tears and other damage to commoner-level clothing, and can find work easy in any village that needs a weaver. You have a sturdy wicker basket with 3 turnips.
  3. You were a Woodsworker. You helped design patterns on doors, tables, and chairs, but most of your work was crafting pipes for the smoking of tobacco and pipesweed. You can better appraise the price of any pipe and any object that is mostly wood. You have a expensive, carved wooden pipe worth 1 gold/XP.
  4. You were a Scarecrow. You fought off the Giant Ravens of the mountain that would try to steal the freshly grown crops. You can accurately mimic the sounds of bird-hunting predators, and have a better understanding of how a scavenging bird may 'think'. You have a hand-drum and mallet.
  5. You were a Harvester. You harvested all of the crops when they fully grew, pulling roots and hacking away at wheat. You can find work easily in most villages that have plenty of farms to harvest from. You have a sickle and backpack-sized wheelbarrow.
  6. You were a Repairman. You fixed the housings, furniture, and tools of the community to keep them in tip-top shape. You have an easier time noticing weaknesses in a structure's foundation, so long as that structure is mostly comprised of clay, metal, stone, or wood. You have a hammer, mallet, stake, and sticky adhesive.
  7. You were a Weatherman. You would climb the tallest spires in Cabbagedirt to judge the coming week's rainfall, and kept a vigilant eye out for odd patterns in the clouds that could indicate natural disasters. You can accurately predict whether it will rain today or tomorrow so long as you spend at least an hour outside somewhere you can see several miles of the sky. You have a weather stick.
  8. You were a Spice Master. You were one of the many cooks in the kitchen, your role mostly tasting and spicing the various meals that were prepared around the clock. You can make a decent living with your culinary skills. You have a bag of spices and well-seasoned wild turkey.
In addition, you can roll a d8 to determine what you brought with you from home.
  1. A small bag of pipeweed whose smoke depicts a story of a Halfling playing riddles with a cave goblin. The bag holds enough pipeweed to see the whole story twice.
  2. A small wooden statue of a cabbage. Bounces like a bouncy ball, weighs half a pound.
  3. A small bag of seasonings, enough to spice a week's worth of meals (or two week's worth of not-Halfling portioned meals).
  4. A cart that is big enough to fit you and your mountain goat companion. The goat pulls the cart and is loyal to you, but is not trained for combat.
  5. A bundle of catfolk bread that was traded for your services. One serving is enough for two days, though it is rather bland without extra seasoning.
  6. A small clay model of a nondescript figure. Acts like a tiny sponge, can store enough water to feed a small to medium beast.
  7. A mountain songbird that is trained to collect small seeds and berries for you.
  8. A lock of hair from someone that fancied you back home. Still smells of mountain berries.


Like their towns and songs, Hardfoot names tend to include some sort of food grown in their community or a past-time that keeps spirits up. Their family names are usually two to four syllables long, and usually state where their initial home in the mountains is. When interacting with outsiders, Hardfoots may use various nicknames picked up throughout their life. You can roll 2d6 to determine your Hardfoot name if you wish. The first d6 is for the first name, while the second is for the surname.

First Names

  1. Rootsmell
  2. Weedpuff
  3. Singsong
  4. Cabbagehair
  5. Picklesip
  6. Gigglefart
  1. Left-Of-Bricks
  2. Undercabbage
  3. By-The-Weeds
  4. Next-To-Stream
  5. Overhang
  6. By-The-Piles

Friday, April 19, 2019

Oesaria: The Gristletooth Goblins

[Edit 4/22/19: Besides small lore changes that have developed since I started building this world up a lil more, I added the equipment table at the bottom of the post rather than make it its own post.

Goblins are a staple in most fantasy settings. They're loud, obnoxious, chaotic, and a little bit silly. In the land of Oesaria, goblins are a nuisance to the commoners of Melloria. They're known for ravaging defenseless hamlets, stripping small villages of their metals, livestock, and supplies, all the while being rather mean about it. However, there are those that find a life of constant scavenging hell on earth and have pledged their allegiance to the Empire's royal crown. These goblins are branded for their loyalty and given a place to live in the squalor of the cities and villages under the King's control.

A Gristletooth goblin, identified by their tattoo. Art by Miro Petrov
In return for their service and patronage, they are given refuge from wanton murder by adventurers and the same rights granted by all citizens that pay their taxes and live under the crown's law. They are given the clan name "Gristletooth", a symbolic gesture of their dulled hostilities and temper. Those in the kingdom-wide clan that seeks a life of adventuring are met with confusion by other Gristletooths and caution by commoners.

Playing A Gristletooth Goblin [Knave]

You are a goblin from the Gristletooth clan. You were most likely born in some civilized area and spent most of your childhood in squalor. You probably grew up in a tight-knit clan of fellow Gristletooths and might have a strong sense of community for others that share your background.

Reroll your lowest DEX score and choose the higher result.

Most Gristletooths have low-paying jobs that keep them fed. Roll a d12 to determine your previous occupation before adventuring.
  1. You were a street-sweep and janitor, cleaning the waste left by others in the community. You know your way around a sewer system, and have a knack for finding lost valuables dumped with the rest of the garbage. You have a twice-cleaned shit-stained shovel.
  2. You were a construction worker, your days filled with carrying heavy stones and wood to the next development. You have a keen eye for spotting weaknesses in infrastructure and can properly assess repair costs for damages to buildings. You have an auger and handsaw.
  3. You were a dog tamer, left in charge of cleaning the kennels and keeping the pups well fed and trained. Dogs and similar animals are friendlier towards you. You can live off of dog food just fine, though the smell of the beasts makes cats warier of you. You have a dog whistle and 1 pound of dog food.
  4. You were a cartwright, skilled in the art of repairing and maintaining carts of various sizes. You have some skill with wood, hammers, and nails. You can find steady work in most villages. You have a hammer and a bag of nails.
  5. You were a chimney sweep, your days spent cleaning the various chimneys of the village's households. You're more used to noxious fumes than most people and are adept at scaling close, narrow walls. You have a chimney sweeper and one random item found in a chimney, as chosen by the DM.
  6. You were the cook's aid, fetching the various ingredients around the kitchen in a hurried manner. Your cooking skills are better than most adventurers and can provide a morale boost in the darkest of times. You have a bag of spices and wooden cooking set.
  7. You were a candlestick maker, a master in the art of beautiful and efficient candlesticks. You have an eerily accurate sense of how much light a candle has left. You have 3 ornate candlesticks and a 5ft strip of wick.
  8. You were a fence, a seller and buyer of illegally acquired goods. You can spot Thieves' Guilds easier than most people, and know a bit of The Cant. You have a broken down crossbow and 2 silver coins.
  9. You were a butcher, your blades rusted with the blood of hundreds of lamb. You can get more food out of captured game in the wild. You have a bloody cleaver and apron.
  10. You were a gravedigger, the mortal reaper that carried the dead onto the River Styx (metaphorically). You can get a sense of someone's wealth and stature judging by their tombstone and burial grounds. You have a shovel caked with grave dirt.
  11. You were a tanner, treating animal skins and furs to sell them as warm coats for the winter. You make the most out of every animal you catch in the wild, knowing the best way to skin it to preserve both the hide and the meat. You have an extra waterskin and a pair of fur boots.
  12. You were the steward of a noble or high-blooded person or family. You were treated better than most of your brethren. You recognize all the house names and associated livery of local nobility, as well as the symbols they use to wax-seal their letters. You have a fancy ink pen and inkwell.
Additional Equipment
Roll a d8 to determine what you bring with you from your home.
  1. A cracked brass decanter gifted to you by a close friend when you left. Can hold half a day's ration of water.
  2. Two dead rats tied together by their tails. Recently dead, they can be used to bait bigger game in the wilds.
  3. A small vial of acid collected from a dead troll. Can burn through small metals.
  4. A golden ring, thrown into the dump by a Halfling. The inside of the ring says something in Elven.
  5. A pet dog that is loyal to you. It is not trained for fighting, but it will defend you.
  6. A small bag of recently-rotted food. Still good enough for you!
  7. A belt with an onion tied to it. Older Gristletooths tend to give you more respect when you wear it.
  8. A dirty abandoned blanket re-purposed into a hood and cloak. Needs to be cleaned often, as fleas are quite fond of it.