Saturday, September 29, 2018

OSR: Abberations: Doppleganger

We first thought they came from the Land of Reflections, or the Floating Realm.  Some still believe these notions.  Others repeat stranger tales of how they are actually our Reflections, or they are all spawned by us.  Smallfolk will tell you with total sincerity how they take on the forms of harlots of seduce young men, even when they also claim that the very same creatures only ever target virgin maids, cloaking themselves in amiable skins and slipping into their bed-chambers at night.

As with all comforting tales, this is not the case in reality.  The truth is far stranger.

The Doppelganger

We know nothing of where they come from.  The most common belief is that they come from some other world, though one not like ours.  It is believed that this is the same world that other oddities come from, but this unsure.  The Doppelgangers themselves are reluctant to speak of their origins, or of their past in general.  They loathe not just their own origin, but anything that distracts them from the current moment.  They care nothing that might remind them of their past, for that is nothing but a wound in of itself.  Sometimes they carry small mementos with them, but eventually even these precious memories drain away, and the Doppelganger is left holding some small, insignificant treasure, mourning something they didn't know they had.

For Doppelgangers can never remember what they are supposed to be.

It always starts the same.  The Doppelganger attacks someone, or comes across a freshly slain corpse.  It feasts on the corpse, but most importantly, it cuts open the head of the person and eats their brain.  This allows it to absorb their memories.  For a little while, the Doppelganger is that person.  If your wife died and a Doppelganger ate her brain, for a while, she would essentially be your wife, in terms of memories, personality and appearance.  She would know everything your wife would, and feel the same as your wife did when she did.  If she loved you, so will the Doppelganger.

But then, slowly, things change.  First the Doppelganger begins to forget unessential things that your wife knew.  When was your anniversary was, or what her favorite type of wine was.  Then her memory loss accelerates.  The Doppelganger will soon find it difficult to recall even basic facts about your wife, and eventually, you will realize that this thing is not actually your wife.  It is something else, impersonating her.

The Doppelgangers know this.  Some try to stave off this inevitable memory loss with rhyming tricks, memorization techniques and other such things.  Others merely skip town the second they can't remember what "their" brother's name is.  Either way, this wounds the Doppelganger.  They feel just like the person whose brain they devoured.  Even as they tell themselves that what they feel can't be real, they still feel it, and the heart is much more persuasive than the head.

Sometimes it doesn't last that long though.  Sometimes the husband finds his wife corpse which was quickly disposed of by the Doppelganger.  Sometimes he assumes the Doppelganger did, and kills it.  Sometimes the Doppelganger even did do it.  How the Doppelganger reacts is always different.  If the Doppelganger is hardened by years of this, and the wife was not particularly fond of her husband, or the Doppelganger has already forgotten most of what it "remembers" about the husband, it may just kill him.  On the other hand, it may still feel some sort of love for this man, and may simply flee, or even try to explain itself.  This rarely goes well.

Other Doppelgangers find this whole cycle too depressing.  They reject brain-eating and the consumption of other's memories, and instead try to live their own lives.  They use their Shape-shifting powers not to impersonate others but to craft elaborate personas for themselves.  They borrow a nose from the beautiful man next door, the hair of the maiden who ruled the hearts of the village where they grew up, and the King's shapely chin to become their own person.  They attempt to create their own memories and reject their own alien nature.

This doesn't usually work either.  Though the Doppelganger is usually spared the negative effects with this path.  For upon death, a Doppelganger reverts to their previous form, a hideous, alien freak.  This reveals the deception, and often scars all of those involved.

For this reason and for others, most people who know they exist hate Doppelgangers.


Fear of the Other

We don't understand Doppelgangers, and even if you do, they are still strange and odd.  The idea that your loved one was actually a shape-shifting monster, it is scary.  People are burned not just for illegal magic or necromancy, some are accused of being Doppelgangers and beaten with axe handles until they confess to being a "skin-wearing devil", then are dragged off to be burned.  Very few of those killed like this revert to being a Doppelganger upon death.

However, these victims being killed by a mob rarely calm things down.  This usually just leads to more blood, more corpses and more innocents fed to the flames.  Discovering someone you knew, especially if they might have killed the "real" version of that person, is a monster can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.  But the idea that anyone around you could actually be a Doppelganger, that is enough to make you never trust anyone ever again.       

Distortions


Doppelgangers are not from our world.  They do not obey our laws, but like a citizen of a wealthy and powerful nation, carry their privileges with them like an invisible force-field.  This subtly warps the fabric of reality.  For one Doppelganger, this effect is minor, and barely noticeable.  A large group on the other hand, is all but impossible to not notice.

How their Distortion works is this: they cause objects to change shape.  Your sword suddenly changes into a feather-duster.  It feels like a feather duster to you, weighs as much as one, and looks like on.  It still possesses the same qualities, not that you might realize this.  This means that areas around Doppelgangers are slightly weird, and Dungeons full of them are madhouses, where Goblins attack with mops and brooms and hurl jack-o-lanterns, and Ogres dressed in ball gowns and rainbow silks throw glittering chandeliers at Fighting Men clad in pajamas and wielding pillows and an enormous stuffed bear.  This Distortion never affects people.

These aren't hallucinations, by the way.  They look and feel real to everyone, and only a magic spell can reveal the truth.  The distortion ends if the Doppelganger dies or either of you get more than 1 miles away.  This is how a Fighter can be standing over the corpse of a Doppelganger, panting after a hard fight, only to realize that instead of their magic sword, they are actually holding a broken broom handle dripping translucent viscera.

                                                                  from Depravity Falls

Doppelganger Madness

Doppelgangers don't have a society.  Their seems to be no kinship between them, and they seem to work independently of each other.  There is no Doppelganger society.  There is certainly no secret Doppelganger order bent on controlling our world through subversive means.  That would be crazy.

Entering the Doppelganger Conspiracy: You encounter a Doppelganger or see one revealed.  If the Doppelganger is in disguise, it doesn't count.

Aware: You are now aware that Doppelgangers exist.  You likely develop a new caution bordering on paranoia.  Anyone around you could be a Doppelganger.  The Referee should call for you to roll on the Doppelganger Encounter Table whenever you are in the presence of a Doppelganger (disguised or otherwise). 

Note for the Referee: Each session has a 3-in-6 chance of the afflicted being near a Doppelganger.  However, there is also a 2-in-6 chance that this is a false alarm.

Involved: You are now aware that the Doppelgangers are working together.  They want something.  You trust less and less.  Strangers could be spies, presents could be traps, invitations could be snares meant for something.  Nothing is at it seems.  The Referee should call for you to roll on the Doppelganger Encounter Table at least once a session.

Collaborating: The Doppelgangers are not just working together with each other, you now realize.  They have friends, other people who are not Doppelgangers working for them as well.  You trust nothing now.  Even close friends are suspected.  You see conspiracy in every side-long glance, and daggers in the dark haunt your dreams.  The Referee should call for you to roll on the Doppelganger Encounter Table at least twice a session.

The Doppelganger Encounter Table
1d12

1- One person here is secretly a Doppelganger.  You saw them transform when they thought no one could see them.
2- One person here is secretly lying about something.
3- Two people here are lying about their relationship.  They may be allies when pretending to be enemies, hate each other when pretending to be lovers, etc.
4- One supposedly good thing is actually a trap.
5- One seeming trap is actually a double-bluff, it hopes you think it is a trap so you won't try and use it.
6- One enemy here is actually also aware of the Doppelganger conspiracy, and could be recruited if you told them about your secret knowledge.
7- You become aware of the fact that someone is secretly observing you right now. 
8- One ally here is plotting something.  Their smile seems a bit forced, and you swear you saw them conceal a knife in their boot.
9- You find a sign that indicates a Doppelganger was near your location.  Examples include but are not limited to mysterious corpses, footprints, human brains left lying around, the fact that your helmet now looks like a coonskin cap, etc.
10- One object you possess changes to look like something else.  It still keeps its same properties, but you don't know that. This has a 2-in-6 chance of being a "False Alarm" and no Doppelgangers are actually within range.
11- The next person who dies, no matter who they are, transforms into a Doppelganger upon death.                       
12- You suddenly encounter yourself.  This other version claims it is the real version, and that you are actually a Doppelganger.  You have a 50% chance of secretly being a Doppelganger, and this version of you being the "real one", and vice versa.  Additionally, if you roll this option, advance one stage in the Doppelganger Conspiracy and increase the amount of times you roll on the Doppelganger Encounter Table by 1.  If you are already at Stage 3, you instead become a Doppelganger and start forgetting everything about who you once were.  Now, instead roll on the Descent of the Doppelganger table whenever you would roll on the Doppelganger Encounter table.

For the Descent of the Doppelganger table, roll 1dX, and add +1 for each previous time you've rolled on the table.  When you reach 10+, you have forgotten everything.

Descent of the Doppelganger
1d10

1: You forget your place of origin
2: You forget some minor fact about yourself (favorite food, color, song, myth, etc)
3: You forget some minor person from your past
4: You forget a trinket or other unimportant possession
5: You forget an important someone's name
6: You forget a very important person from your past
7: You forget what your goal is.  If you didn't have a clear goal before, you suddenly get one, as you were sure you had one up until now. 
8: You forget some of what you know about a skill (lose access to a class level)
9: You forget what your face looks like- it slowly begins to change over the course of a few days, until you look like someone totally different
10: You forget your own name.
11+: You forget everything about who you once were.  You know nothing of what you were.  Your character becomes an NPC Doppelganger, under the control of the Referee.


Nuts and Bolts

Doppelganger Statblock
HD 2  AC 14  Atk as Weapon
Mor 8  Saves 9 or less is a success

Shape-shifter: Doppelgangers can change themselves to look like any type of medium or small Humanoid.  Their stats do not change, no matter how they look.

Brain Eater: If a Doppelganger eats someone's brain, they can absorb their memories and personality.  For a time, they are that person, in all but technicality.  But soon they forget, and return to as they were before.

Sneaky: Doppelgangers are very sneaky.  They get +4 to all stealth rolls, and +4 to attack rolls during surprise rounds.

Distortion: As long as they are within 1 mile, Doppelgangers cause objects to change their shape.  This doesn't change their actual properties, but they look and feel like something else.  Ex: A sword that looks like a feather duster looks and feels like a feather duster, yet it can still cut you.  A skull that looks like a pillow will cold, dry and hard, no matter how nice it looks.  These Distortions last until the Doppelganger dies or one of you gets far enough away. 

Tactics:
- Impersonate someone
- Lie effortlessly
- But is it a lie if I believe it?
- Run if confronted with serious resistance

Doppelganger Encounters/Plot Hooks:
1d8

1- In a dungeon, a Doppelganger waits for a player to wander off alone, or lures them away, then beats them up and throws them down a chute or off a cliff down to a lower level.  Then it pretends to be that player.
2- If you left a body behind, a Doppelganger finds the corpse, eats its brain, and dresses itself in the corpse's clothes.  They come back to you and pretend to be that person.
3- A Doppelganger approaches the players as someone they do not know and tries to befriend them.  It wants to manipulate them for some sinister purpose, probably.  Or maybe they just want to be loved.  Who knows?
4- A village hires the PCs to investigate a missing girl.  However, just a little while into their search, the PCs find the girl.  However, she seems odd and not quite normal.  Is she a Doppelganger, or just confused?
5- As you enter a village, you see everyone crowded around the courthouse.  Apparently, a local has been accused of being a Doppelganger and is being tried.  The evidence is ridiculous and laughable, but the whole town has been worked up into such a frenzy that this seems reasonable.  You might be able to talk them down, or you might be accused of being a Doppelganger yourself.
6- When the players return to a certain place they have already been, one of them is accused of committing various crimes.  This is because unbeknownst to them, a Doppelganger stalks the players for a certain amount of time.  Then it returned to this place  to do crimes, using the PC's face as a mask.
7- A small group of Doppelgangers is working to take over a small city.  They have stable identities not based on brain-eating, and use their brain-eating and  stealth skills to eliminate any challenge to their rule.  They know everything, and since they know everyone's secrets, no one dares moves against them.
8- A city recently discovered a Doppelganger in their midst, and is currently tearing itself apart as it searches for the rest of them.  Armed inspectors are going door to door, interrogating any strangers, ethnic minorities, or practicioner of small, possibly heretical sects.  The whole city is perched on the edge of violence, and one spark could ignite the powder keg and plunge the whole city into open revolt.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

OSR: Scoundrel

                                                            by YoungGirlBlues

I honestly hate reading other people's retro-clones, because they're all so similar.  We all have the saem goal and we're all drawing from roughly the same sources, so perhaps it should be no surprise they're all so similar, but it still makes it a bit annoying.  So I won't waste your time rambling about mine.  This is the Scoundrel Class.

Scoundrels are my versions of Thieves or Rogues.  They have no powers relating to traps, locks or climbing.  Everyone can do those things.  Instead, I'm adapting the Dark Heresy class of Scum for D&D.  Scum in thhat system are kind of grab-bag of abilities, but they generally focused on 1) being the face in criminal or illict arenas, 2) being very hard to kill, and 3) being able to get in a good hit if they set things up properly.  That's what I tried to capture with this class, a hard-bitten survivor who comes from a rough neighborhood, metaphorically.  Scoundrels don't necessarily have to be bad guys or steal stuff, but they are familiar with the underclasses and criminality, and know how to deal with rough men who have rejected society's script in favor of loose women, quick cash and street cred.

Scoundrel
Starting HP: 1/3 Con
FS: +1 per Scoundrel level.
Starting Equipment: Leather Armor, Lockpick, Dagger.

1:

Contact: You start the game knowing a guy.  For a favor, he can answer any of your questions, and maybe do something minor for you.  For every new place you visit, you can make a WIS check to gain a new Contact there.  Example checks: 5 for a seedy city, 10 for a respectable city or town, 15+ for a small town or nice neighborhood.  On a success, you gain a new contact in this area.  At level 3, when you try to find a Contact, you can instead look for a Fence.  Fences have less knowledge then contacts, but they buy stolen goods, no questions asked.  At level 5, you can try and find an Enforcer.  Enforcers are the hired muscle who work for crime bosses and syndicates.  Knowing one is the first step to joining such an organization.  Additionally, Enforcers can get you access to information, goods and favors that no one else has.

But a word of warning.  To get anything out of these guys, you have to promise them a favor.  And if you fail to ever make good on your word when they contact you and ask you to do something for me, word will spread, and no one will want to help you.

Criminal Encyclopedia: You grew up around crime and criminal activity, and thus know it pretty well.  You automatically know anything someone raised in a rough neighborhood would know, such as local gangs and rackets, crime bosses, how to steal a coin-purse without getting stabbed, etc.  Most of this knowledge is automatic, so if the Thief is about to do something dumb, you (the Referee) should tell them about the mistake they're about to make.  Additionally, unless failing to know something might have dramatic consequences or there's no way the Scoundrel could know, answer any questions the Scoundrel might have on criminality.  If in doubt though, call for a check.

2:

Knife Fighter: When you make a successful attack against someone with a dagger or knife, you can wrestle them to the ground and automatically do damage to them next turn.  However, you will be opening yourself up to retaliation, with each round you cling to them giving the enemy +1 to hit you.

3:

Sense Motive: You can make a check to try and determine someone's motivation while in conversation with them.

4:

Fast Hands: When you attack an enemy and successfully hit them, you can, instead of dealing damage, do something else to them, such as pick-pocket them, cut their swordbelt so they drop their sword, or plant something on them.  However, this does not work on something someone is actively protecting.  For example, if they are currently tightly holding onto something, Fast Hands could not take it from them.  But if it was hanging from their belt, it could.  When in doubt, the enemy gets a saving throw.  On a success, the Thief cannot do what they asked.

5:

Escape Artist: You are slippery like an eel.  If you can think of no way out of situation, no clever way to escape the clutches of a foe, 1/Day your criminal mind can suddenly reveal an escape route.  The Referee should immediately point out a weak-point in the enemy's defenses, a potential chink in the armor, or some other vulnerability you overlooked.

Note to the Referee: This is not where you just let the players go.  All you should do is tell the players about a weak point and give them an escape route.

6:

Smash and Slash: When you use Fast Hands, now you may also deal damage if you choose to.

7:

Great Escape: You may now use your "Escape Artist" Ability 2/Day.               

8:

Clean Cut: Whenever you strike an opponent with a successful attack, 1/Day you may make your attack count as a critical hit.

9:

One Last Job: If you are ever trapped in a desperate situation with no way out, Once and only Once, you can suddenly reveal how this was all according to your unforeseen master plan.  Suddenly the tables turn in your favor, and your comrades achieve victory, but your fate is left ambiguous, such as you were last seen wrestling Moriarty and tumbling off a ledge, or you were accidentally shot by your own allies at the last second, or something equally tragic.  However, there is no chance this actually killed you, and you'll be back.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

OSR: The Orc

                                                          
"He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need for it because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a God."  - Aristotle

"I know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right, yet to fail nonetheless. It’s frightening. Turns the legs to jelly. I ask you, to what end? Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. And now, it's here. Or should I say, I am."  - Thanos

"Girl. You there, girl. Girl, quit all this scurrying around. Do you believe you can escape me before I arrive? How do you expect to outrun me when I am already here?" - Lord English 

No one knows where they came from.  Most suspect that they came from the steaming North, at the distant, mythical Boiling Coast that borders the night time abode of the Sun.  Others claim they came down the Ice Road through the Southron Peaks, that only the bone-freezing gales of the Freezing South could breed a people so hardy.  However, the Dwarves who are also from that region originally claim no knowledge of such a species, in their homeland or otherwise.  Maybe they were always here, and we just never noticed.  Regardless of where though, one thing is for sure, they are here to stay.
     
There is no Orc civilization that we know of.  The Gods have been merciful, at least in that regard.  However, this hasn't prevented the Orcs from rampaging virtually unimpeded, moving with near impunity.  This is not to be considered a blot on anyone's character, however.  The weakest Orc is said to as powerful as ten men, and the greater ones are even stronger.  The greatest of the Orcs are the equal of Dragons or Giants, though the Great Wurms and the Cloud Giants are still stronger then these Orcs.  We have never met an Orc that strong, thank the Gods.

Still, despite their individual pussiance, the Orcs are few in number.  This is our greatest advantage against them.  The Orcs are very few in number, strangers in whatever land they travel through.  They go in disguise, as no civilized land will tolerate an Orc for very long, but many are willing to look the other way, at least for a while.  For while dangerous, most Orcs are not as dangerous as a steading of Giants or a Rampaging Troll.  Instead, they move in silence and shadow, leaving mysterious piles of bodies in the wilderness or in back alleys, before vanishing, never to be seen again.  Few have ever seen an Orc, recognized what it was, and lived to tell about it.  But it does happen.  Many simply assume that the green, grey or red-skinned foreigner with a hood and his pale bodyguards is a wealthy, well-armed merchant and do not pay him anymore attention then is needed for a courtesy or to take his money.

For Orcs move in silence and shadow.  And they must, after all, for no one catches any game being loud.  That is what Orcs are: hunters.

They all have their preferred prey, but they will usually hunt whatever they find is appealing.  They do this for two reasons.  Firstly, it is to prove their dominance.  In slaughtering the strongest among their foes, they prove to everyone how strong they are.

The second reason is that because it is fun.  Orcs live for the hunt.  For the chase and the kill. 

Orcs categorize people, and prey, into three categories.  The strong, the weak, and the unrealized.  The weak are the majority of people and creatures.  These are things that fail to provide a good fight or chase.  This quarry is dispatched dispassionately, in the most effective way possible.  However, in some cases, if someone is so weak they cannot fight at all, then the Orc will usually just spare them, because it is not worth the effort of killing them.  This usually only applies to children, pregnant women, and some others.  As for the strong are killed as well, or at least, the Orc will attempt to kill them.  The Orcs define strength in terms of someone who could defeat them.  They respect the strong, and if someone strong survives one of their hunts, they are usually willing to allow the strong one to live.

But the unrealized, they are a different story.  The Orcs despise those who have the potential to be strong but refuse to put in the effort to manifest it.  So they offer the unrealized a choice.  Join or die.  If the first option is selected, the Orc brands the Unrealized and makes them the Orc's slave, until they die, manifest their potential, or the Orc releases them.

But if they choose the second option, well, that is all too easy.

                                                                    by  Manzenado
Base Orc Statblock
HD Varies  AC 15  Atk varies (see Weapons)
Mor 10   Saves 11 or less is a success

Hideous Strength: Orcs are strong.  For purposes of grappling, STR checks and STR saving throws, consult the "How Strong is this Orc" table to see what their STR stat is.

Twinkle-Toes: Orcs are surprisingly agile.  For purposes of escaping bonds, climbing, and delicate work, consult the "How Strong is this Orc" to see what their DEX stat is.

Sneaky Boys: Orcs are very, very good at hiding and sneaking.  Unless in some way impaired, they get +4 to all rolls to sneak or use stealth.  If an Orc has set up an ambush ahead of time and is waiting nearby, this bonus increases to +10.

Slave-Mark: If an Orc defeats someone, encounters someone who is helpless, or someone surrenders to them, it will place its mark upon them.  This process takes at least 1 minute and is painful to the person receiving it.  Once done, this process leaves behind a scar and the gives the person who had it bestowed upon them the Conviction of "I am terrified of this Orc, and do not wish to fight, or see them, ever again."  Additionally, if someone with a Slave-Mark angers the Orc, it can cause them to take 1d6 damage, no save.  This damage can be lethal or nonlethal, the Orc's choice.    

Tactics:
- Do not kill those who pose no threat or cannot fight
- Hunt down and kill the strong to prove your dominance over them
- Accept the surrender of those who, in good faith, lay down their swords and surrender

                                                      by DiegoGisbertLlorens

Then, to generate a Unique Orc, roll on the tables below.

How strong is this Orc?
1d6

1- Not at all.  3 HD.  This Orc is mediocre, as Orcs go.  This Orc has a STR of 16(+2) and a DEX of 13(+1).
2- Strong.  5 HD.  This Orc is the stuff of local legend, though not quite famous enough to be known outside of the local region he terrorizes.  This Orc has a STR of 16(+2) and a DEX of 16(+2).
3- Yes.  7 HD.  This Orc is a freakish terror, a monster that will peel the flesh from your bones with little effort.  Exercise extreme caution.  This Orc has a STR of 18(+3) and a DEX of 17(+2).
4- Run.  9 HD.  This Orc is a Warrior-King, a Prince of Carnage and Death.  Death is his meat and terror his wine.  Do not face him without a plan, great might, or a deathwish.  This Orc has a STR of 18(+3) and a DEX of 18(+3).  It gains the ability of 'Instrument of Violence' (see below).         
5- Help us.  11 HD.  This Orc is no mere opponent.  It is violence made flesh.  To fight it will be the most difficult battle of your life.  This Orc has a STR of 19(+4) and a DEX of 19(+4).  It gains the ability of 'Instrument of Violence' and 'Rapture'.    
6- Forgive us.  0 HD.  "I am the wrath of God.  If you had not committed great sins, God would not sent a punishment like me upon you."  This Orc has Super Hit Points and a Damage Threshold, as detailed here.  Give it enough SHP to make it seem godlike and near-divine.  This Orc has a STR of 20(+5) and a DEX of 20(+5).  It gains the ability of 'Instrument of Violence', 'Rapture, and 'Red Dominion'.  

Instrument of Violence: You cannot defeat a natural born killer in mortal combat.  Every round someone remains in combat with an Orc, they must save.  On a failed save, they get -1 to attack and damage for the rest of the combat.  Additionally, for every failed save someone makes, the Orc does an additional +1 damage to them. 

Rapture: This Orc is so powerful all pale before it.  When you enter combat with this Orc, you must save.  On a failure, you take 1d6 CHA damage.  If this CHA damage ever equals or exceeds your CHA score, you must flee, and gain the Conviction, "I will never fight that Orc ever again."

Red Dominion: Any who would raise their hand in anger or feel hatred in their hearts toward this Orc are automatically marked as its prey.  All who enter combat or act against the Orc must save.  On a failure, they can feel the Shadow of Death looming over them.  Against these targets, all damage rolls do maximum damage, and if they are called upon to save against a negative effect, they must roll twice and use the worse outcome.

What is this Orc's preferred/current prey?
1d20

1- Humanoid Warriors.  Alternatively: you.
2- Exotic Beasts.  Monsters that can sort of be thought of as strange, yet still beasts.  Examples include but are not limited to, Displacer Beasts, Blink Dogs, Wyverns, etc.
3- Intelligent, Magical Creatures.  Giants, Dragons, Djinn, etc.
4- Elites.  Kings, Princes, Cardinals; the rich and powerful in a society.
5- The Proud and Arrogant.  These Orcs have a great love of schadenfreude.
6- The Holy Ones.  The Sons of God.  See here and here for examples. 
7- Outsiders.  Compared to them, hunting mortals is like shooting fish in a barrel.
8- Priests and Prophets.  The chosen of God, here on Earth.
9- Magic-Users and Wizards.  Most people don't like Wizards, and this Orc is no exception to that rule.
10- Living Weapons.  The Living Weapon is a magic weapon with a will of its own.  The person carrying it is just a tool.  They may be a willing tool, or they may be a mind-slave, crushed beneath the weapon's grasp.  Either way, the Orc intends to kill the vessel and then when the Living Weapon is helpless, destroy it.
11- Abberrations*.  Abberrations are not Outsiders, but they are outsiders.  They come from outside our universe, but they are mortal like you and I.  Their power comes from the alien rule set they obey, and how reality folds and buckles around them.   12- Lesser Divinities.  Small things that don't quite count as Gods, but are more then monsters.  Dryads, Spirits of the Wild, Naiads, etc.   
13- Cultures.  This Orc systematically sets about destroying a culture.  This can mean assassinating the tribal elders and allowing a head-strong fool into taking over for them or by carefully brainwashing infiltrators to subvert a city-state so that it falls into ruin.  These are the longest hunts, but after a certain point, even if the Orc is killed, the prey will still die.
14- Dreams.  This Orc assists someone in pursuing one of their agendas, then secretly subjects them to hard-ship, in the hope of crushing their spirit and getting them to abandon their goal.  The hunt is successful if the prey abandons their goal.
15- Hope.  These hunts are simple.  Put a group of weak prey into a desperate situation, then offer them false hope to escape and live.  Then, once they have labored hard for the pleasure of achieving this hope, reveal it to be an illusion.   
16- Innocence.  First the Orc finds a mark.  They always choose someone innocent and good-willed.  Then the Orc engineers a situation where that person must do something despicable of their own free will.  The hunt is successful if they do it.
17- Justice.  First, the Orc finds a mark.  Then the Orc engineers a situation, either framing the mark for something hideous, helping them get away scot free and blaming it on someone else, or something else entirely.  The whole point is to cause a miscarriage of justice.  If the guilty go free and the innocent languish in prison, the hunt is successful. 
18- Goodness.  The Orc sets about tormenting and destroying one particular person, subjecting them to as much suffering as is possible, like the Creature in Frankenstein.  Killing their bride, framing their friends for the murder of family members, haunting them for years, none of these are off the table.  The point is to make the mark go through as much suffering as possible.  The hunt is successful if the mark renounces Goodness itself, and devotes himself solely to some despicable end.
19- Fortune.  Fortune is no God.  It was said that once a famous gambler had the tools to kill Fortune, but they were lost. The Orc is determined to find these, and butcher Fortune once and for all.   
20- One of the Hours.

*Coming soon to a city near you...

How does this Orc prefer to hunt?
1d6

1- Ambushes.  The Orc will stalk its prey, then strike at the most opportune moments.
2- Traps.  The Orc will set a trap with some juicy bait, and then wait.
3- Betrayal.  The Orc will try to become the ally of the prey, and then at the moment opportune moment, stab them in the back.
4- Honorable duels.  The Orc will set up a duel with it against the prey.  It will allow the prey to choose the weapons used in this fight, while it chooses the date and time.  If accepted, the duel will be arbitrated by a neutral party, and the two combatants must have a second and a physician on hand.  The duel can be to first blood, concession, or death.  All these things will be negotiated on neutral ground.  The Orc expects you to cheat, but is unlikely to do so, unless it would surely result in victory.  
5- Random Encounters.  The Orc will just intrude in your space and wander around the area you frequent until it encounters you.  Then it will attack you.
6- Self-Defense.  The Orc will not attack you, but instead antagonize you until you act against it.

What weapons* does this Orc have/use?  To determine this fact, roll 1d3 times for each Orc.
1d20
1- Sword.  1 attack per person in melee combat with them, each dealing 1d6+STR damage.
2- Daggers.  2 attacks, each dealing 1d6 damage.
3- Throwing Knives.  4 attacks, each dealing 1d4 damage.
4- Bow and Arrow.  1 attack per person firing projectiles at them, each dealing 1d6+STR damage.  2-in-6 chance of having poisoned arrows.
5- Blowpipe.  1 attack dealing 1 damage.  Dart is covered in horrible poison.
6- Chakram.  2 attacks each dealing 1d10 damage.  If this drops someone to zero or below, it automatically hacks off a limb as per the Horrible Wounds system, with everything else as normal.       
7- Punch Dagger.  1 attack dealing 1d6+STR damage.  Ignores non-magic armor except for shields.
8- Eyeball Gouge.  1 attack dealing 1 damage.  Requires the Orc to be grappling or touching the person's face.  Assume this is impossible if the Orc didn't get the drop on them or they're flailing around with their sword.  On a hit, the Orc pops out of on the person's eyeballs and slices through optic nerve.  Reduce their WIS by half immediately, and they lose an eye.
9- Giant Axe.  1 attack dealing 1d8+STR damage.
10- Warhammer.  1 attack dealing 1d8 damage.  Destroys shields on misses, and reduces AC from any other armor by 1 per unsuccessful attack.
11- Hatchets.  2 attacks each dealing 1d6+STR damage.  Can throw a Hatchet as a free action, but this reduces the number of attacks by 1. 
12- Clawed Gauntlet.  3 attacks each dealing 1d6 damage.  If the Orc is grappling someone, can spend any number of attacks to automatically deal damage to them.
13- Spells.  Can cast 1 spell a round as a free action, if it doesn't damage anyone.  Otherwise, casting is a full action.  Knows a number of spells equal to half its HD, and has a number of spellcasting dice equal to that number.   
14- Shuriken.  Can make 1d20 attacks each dealing 1 damage.
15- Rope Dart.  Can make 1 attack dealing 1d6 damage on a hit.  The Orc can then drag the person hit by this attack closer to them each round as a free action, as long as the Orc is not in melee combat with someone else.  Removing the rope dart requires a successful DC 10 STR check and does an additional 1d6 damage to the person it was removed from.
16- Firebomb.  Can make 1 attack dealing 3d6 fire damage in a 15' square area.  The burning oil also does an additional 1d6 fire damage each round to everyone originally hit until they take an answer to stop, drop and roll or otherwise extinguish the flames.
17- Bolas.  Can make 2 attacks, each one dealing no damage.  On a hit, target is restrained, and must succeed a DC 15 DEX check or someone else must take an action to free them, or they cannot move.
18- Chain Whip.  Can make 2 attacks, each one dealing 1d6 damage.  On a miss, the Orc can ensnare a weapon with their whip.  The target must then succeed a STR contest with the Orc or have their weapon yanked out of their hands and thrown away.
19- Javelin.  Can make 2 attacks, each one dealing 1d6+STR damage.  Can also throw the Javelin for the same damage, but then cannot use it until it is retrieved.
20- Musket**.  Can fire one shot or make 2 bayonet attacks.  Firing a shot does 2d8 damage but the target is allowed a save to reduce damage as per the rules here.  Bayonet attacks do 1d6+STR damage each.  To reload, the Orc needs at least 1d3 rounds.  The Orc has enough shot and powder for 1d10 shots besides the first.

*Each Orc has at a 50% of one of their weapons being magical.

**And no, I don't care if your setting doesn't have guns.  Just give one Orc this one, it'll be even better that way.

Who serves the Orc?
1d6

1- No one, this Orc hunts alone.
2- A group of Undead.  The Undead want to perish, as such, following someone who is constantly getting into fights with dangerous foes seemed like a good idea.  The Undead and the Orc don't really have a relationship, but the Orc tolerates their presence.
3- A pack of Ghouls.  They were hungry.  Orcs generate a lot of raw meat.  It is a mutually beneficial relationship.  The Ghouls are the Ghouls body-guards and valets, providing excellent dinner conversation, guarding the Orc, and cleaning up the bodies.  They regard as their patron and meal ticket.  The Orc regards them as fair-weather friends, who will either stab the Orc in the back or abandon them the second the corpses stop coming.     
4- The Orc's children.  Most so-called "Half-Orcs" have none of the pussiance of their Orc parent, and are indistinguishable from the usual inbred bandit yokels, beside their taste in dress, regalia, and how some of them paint themselves green, grey or red.     
5- A group of defeated warriors.  They were ritually bonded to the Orc through the use of its 'Slave-Mark'.  They despise and revere their master.
6- A clan of Demons (like this one).  This Orc, they're a riot.  So the Demons thought they'd stick around, to see what crazy nonsense the Orc gets up to next.

What trophies does this Orc have?  To determine the Orc's trophies, roll 1d12 once and 1d20 once.
1d20
1- A necklace of 1d10 rings taken from previous victims.  1-in-10 chance one of these rings is magic.  Otherwise, the rings are all 100 silver.
2- A string of 1d20 shrunken heads.  These are magical.  Decapitate a freshly killed corpse and place one over the bleeding stump.  That corpse will then reanimate and stagger around for 1d10 minutes, obeying your orders until the small amount of life force in the head is used up and it dies.  The heads cannot animate anything larger then a man, but if placed on a smaller corpse (such as a snake, ferret, mink or dog) they could animate it indefinitely.    
3- 1d6 skulls adorned with gold with gemstones in their eye-sockets.  1d6*100 silver each.  Speak with Dead works on them.   
4- 1d10 bottles of wine.  1d100 silver unopened, worthless opened.  Quite tasty, though. 
5- A crown, in two pieces.  Formerly belonged to one of the Kings of the Young Kingdoms.  Returning it would be a great way to curry favor or get a sackload of money.
6- An ancient, ultra-rare book of huge historical importance.  To a collector, worth [the Orc's HD*100] silver.  If you can sell it.  You might find that as soon as you announce it, other groups will want to claim this, as it once belonged to them. Also be careful with it, as its very old, and might fall apart if you so much as sneeze on it.
7- 1d6 paintings.  Each one is 1d10*50 silver, or double the total if they are sold as a set.     
8- 1d6 swords.  If the Orc didn't have any magic weapons, you will find one here.  Otherwise, the swords are all worht 1d100 silver, with a 2-in-6 chance one is masterwork, and thus does +1 damage and is worth 5x the value of the others.
9- 1d8 suits of armor, still bearing the wound that killed the original occupant.  Each suit is worth 1d8*100 silver, or more as a collectible if the person who formerly wore it was famous or notable. 
10- 1d20 A wall of shields.  Has an equivalent chance that one of them is magic.   
11- The flayed skin of the Orc's greatest foe.  The skin radiates magic.  If you slip on the skin, it sews shut around you, and the person wearing the skin becomes convinced they are the person whose flayed skin they are wearing.  Nothing will convince them of this fact.   
12- 1d20 rations.  Most of this meat comes from exotic sources, however.
13- 1d10 Occultum Coins.  Each coin is a 1000 sp.
14- A prophet's Mummy.  May whisper secret truths into your ear.  Or may be a liar.  Either way, certainly valuable to someone, even without potential prophecies fluttering from dead lips.
15- An ancient tablet bearing some kind of prophecy, curse or a treasure map (maybe all three).  50% of each.  Also a nifty historical antique. 
16- A vial of Dragonsblood, or Dragon Bones, or Dragon Scales.  A king's ransome to any Wizard or Prophet, and Invaluable to the Dragon's family, if they still live.  Returning them to the Dragon's kin is a good way to make the former plot your downfall, and selling them is a good way to make the latter hunt you down and destroy you. 
17- A cursed magic item.  For me, it is the Warhammer of Hamaz, a famous Dwarf.  Hamaz of Icicle committed many great deeds in the name of Mother Madrigail, and is publicly known as a hero among the the people of the Young Kingdoms.  However, in his homeland he is better known as a filthy traitor and a democrat.  His hammer possesses the power to freeze water and other liquids.  However, anyone who uses the Warhammer will be cursed to betray their friends at the worst time.
18- An item that a Ghost is bound to.  For me, it is the Oath Ring.  Rumors says that anyone who breaks an oath in the presence of this ring or betrays their former friend is cursed to die.  But the Referee knows that this isn't the case.  They aren't actually cursed however, as it's not a curse killing them, just the Ghost that lives in the ring.  The Ghost leaves at night, finds the oath-breaker and betrayer, and kills them.  The Ghost is strong, but cannot break through magical defenses and fears sunlight and Necromancers.  The Ghost's name is Lucinda, and she wants to kill oath-breakers and betrayers, as well as get her revenge on her former husband (till death do us part, after all), who she thinks is still alive.
19- Some kind of potion.  For me, it is a potion of Vampire's Brew, made of child blood, alcohol, and a fossil Vampire heart. Drink it to immediately gain the abilities and curse of a level 3 Vampire.
20- A piece of God-flesh, ambrosia.  This is a small piece, either a lesser organ (spleen, lymph node, gallbladder, appendix), a finger or toe, or a facial feature (eyeball, nose, or ear).  You could sell it back to the God it was originally taken from, or you eat it.  Eating just a nibble restores you to full HP, if you are of the God's alignment (see Sub-Table A).  If you are not, it instead makes you projectile vomit and curses you, no save.  Each piece of God-flesh is good for 1d3 nibbles.  Or, if you scarf the whole thing down, roll on Sub-Table B. 

Sub-Table A:

What was that God's Alignment?
1d3

1- Lawful.  If you pay your taxes, obey the law, and respect authority, you are fine.  If not, you are cursed to lose every single one of your possessions within the next 1d20 days.  This curse is broken by clothing yourself in sack-cloth, pouring ashes on your head, and offering an appropriate sacrifice to the God of Law you offended.  
2- Neutral.  As long as you aren't a sworn Minion of the Dark Powers, a Slave of Jessai or a Cultist of Abraxus, you're good. However, if you are one of those, you are cursed to be devoured by a lion.  This curse is broken by attacking a bee hive bare-handed.
3- Chaotic.  If you live freely, don't paid your taxes, and hold the Agents of the Law in contempt, you're good. However, if you are an obedient subject, you are cursed to attract lightning.  Whenever their is a lightning storm nearby (assume each day has a 2-in-10 chance of having rain/thunder and lightning) you have a chance of being struck by lightning equal to 0-in-6, the number increasing for each minute you spend outside.  

Sub-Table B:

Do you ascend?
1d6

1: No.  You are engulfed in pure ecstasy and feel the most amazing, glorious warmth.  You begin to glow and levitate.  Brighter and brighter.  1 round later, you explode, dealing 2d20 damage to everything within 30', save for half.  
2: No.  You gain an amount of mutations equal to your level.  
3-5:  Almost.  Your lowest stat becomes 16, and your highest stat becomes an 18.  1/Day, you can scream at someone and cause them to take 2d6 damage and burst into flames.  You also become incredibly beautiful.  But you are still mortal.  Monsters will desire you flesh, to feed on you and gain some of your power.   
6:  Yes.  You begin glowing and start regenerating at a rate of 1d10 HP/FS a turn.  You gain the ability to fire 1 glowing laser from your eyes each round that does 1d10 damage.  Your highest stat also begins increasing at the rate of 1 point a round.  You may abort this process at any time.  If not stopped by your will, this continues until you reach full health or your highest stat exceeds 18.  Then, suddenly, you realize how pointless everything on this planet is, and desire immediately to leave it.  You cannot be persuaded otherwise.  You may leave your possessions and offer your friends a boon, but you have no further business here among mortals.  You say farewell to them and leave them behind, flying into the Heavens and vanishing from sight.  Your comrades will probably find you soon after in a mural about the Gods, a godling serving at the feet of one of the Major Gods.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The One-Eyed Man and the Forsaken Ones (part 1)

This is a fully playable adventure for OSR D&D, based in my Nukaria setting.  Check the tags for other posts related to that.  This is only part 1, dealing with characters, places, and events.  The who, what, when, where and why.  There will be a part 2 with my statblocks for these characters and enemies, along with two "shovel-ready" dungeons.  But that will all come, in time.

The Hook.

The Queen of Cryanne is a recently elevated peasant, a commoner by birth with a gilded tongue for manipulation and sucking cock.  She wormed her way into power through the old King, and after silencing the more conservative elements of the Martial Class, the Wizarding College and the Church, became the de facto ruler of the Kingdom, even though technically the old King's champion is the Regent.  The reasons for this are two fold.  First, the King's Champion is a good man, but completely unsubtle.  The subtle movements of the Court are utter impenetrable to him.  He is a blunt instrument, through and through.  The second reason is this.  The Queen was elevated to her status when after appearing before the King, she told him she could spin cloth that was light as hair, yet made for the hard, impenetrable armor.  The King humored her for a while, but after she failed to produce any results, he had her thrown in a cell with a dawn deadline.  Literally.  But the next morning, rather then lopping off her head, she emerged with a formula that only worked under the rarest of astrological conditions and a shirt that looked like it was woven of shadow and moonlight.  And when the shirt proved able to protect the wearer from anything short of a flight of arrows, the King vindicated her and promptly married her.

However, in the months since the abdication of the old King, the Queen's countenance has become troubled.  At first the Queen's brother suspected this was merely because of her swelling stomach, and some discomfort caused by her pregnancy.  Then a strange One-Eyed Man has appeared at court, shadowing the elite of the Kingdom.  They all remarked on his presence, and all matter of ill omen was attributed to his arrival.  The Queen especially seemed troubled by his arrival.  Finally, the Queen's brother spoke to her, and upon hearing what had happened, was horrified.  He knew his sister was no Magic-User, she could not have made such a thing.  So when this strange One-Eyed Man had appeared, at first he had merely suspected that the Queen had blown him in exchange for him stealing the shirt and smuggling it into her cell.  When he found out the bargain the Queen had actually struck, he was horrified.

There are three months left before the Queen must make good on her end of the bargain.  But if she can find out the One-Eyed Man's name, she won't have to pay the grisly price.  The Queen's brother has no idea what it is, but he desperately needs you to find it.  You can name your own price, but if you don't have one, he is willing to make you Friends of the Queen, and heap gold and honors upon you.  If you succeed.

And one final thing to note.  The One-Eyed Man warned the Queen that knowing his name wouldn't help her.  All hope he was bluffing about this.

                                                                  by Nick-Zero

The One-Eyed Man.

No one knows his name, but he's been everywhere.  From the Merchant-Kings of the Young Kingdoms to the old Sovereigns of your Holy Cities, everyone knows who he is.  He appears to help people, to give them what he needs.  He always asks a ghastly price, though few will state what it is.  He also appears near and after recent catastrophes.  There are numerous bounties on his head, but he's never been caught for anything.  He is attributed many feats, some bordering on gruesome myth.  He is said to be a pervert and possesses a wicked appetite for all evil things.  But very people have any hard information on him.  One thing is known though.  He came from a desolate region to the Far South, from a group of people who only recently conglomerated with their neighbors into the Young Kingdom of Cryanne.  It's a region bordering on savage, with few resources and even fewer reasons to go there.

Additionally, unbeknownst to anyone as of now, the One-Eyed Man has returned to his homeland in the far South to perform a ritual for a lucky woman.  A Croning, based on the passage from beauty and youth to wisdom and maturity.  Once he has finished this ritual, he will then return to the capital, speak to the Queen and extract his terrible price.  He does not expect to encounter the players, but when he hears of them, and he will, he will enlist them in his purposes.   

The One-Eyed Man is the most important person in this adventure.  He is the one who will string the players along, and if you do it right, manipulate them into doing something despicable.  At first, he should only be a whisper on the wind, with people whispering and talking about him.  Secondly, he should start stalking the players, appearing where they least expect it, enough for them to catch a glimpse of him, but no more.  Finally, he should confront them.  His goal from this confrontation is not to kill them, but to manipulate them.  He will arrive and say something cryptic like, "If you've come to stop me, you're fools.  Better men than you have tried, and they're moldering in the earth now.  What hope do you have?"  Then he will mention, "The Opal Eye will be mine.  You cannot have it!  Then once I have it, no one, not even the Queen will be able to stop me."  Then he'll laugh maniacally.  He might fight them, he might not.  But he won't kill them, he'll toy with them.  This is because the One-Eyed Man cannot enter the Catacombs, because he is worried that if he does he will be trapped down there with no way out.  He wants to plant the idea in the player's heads to go retrieve it for them, then take it from them.


The Southern Borderlands.

Where the One-Eyed Man is from.  These lands are a rugged series of foothills and plains, where the people live in scattered, isolated villages or travel around, living in tents and setting up their pavilions wherever they see fit.  The primary occupation of most is to try and scrape by as a farmer or to herd livestock, particularly goats, sheep, and other hardy creatures that can survive on the sparse greenery and in such rugged terrain.  The people here tend towards chauvinism and conservatism, priding themselves on the fact that they live as their fathers did, carrying out their pure, unsullied traditional ways.  They can be quite friendly if you get to know them, but they tend to shun those who are undeserving of their affection.  As such, most reckless, rootless drifters (such as Adventurers) or spoiled, soft urbanites will earn only their scorn.  They'll take your coin, though they will always make sure to let you know that this is not your land, and you do not belong here.

Another thing to note is that this is a land littered with shrines and totems dedicated to the Gods of the Wild, and the Servants of Chaos.  Here, far from the Temples of the Law Gods on the borders of wild, untamed mountains, such things are still common, despite all attempts by the Agents of Law to expunge such practices.  If you know where to look, you will find that your God is not the only one honored here.  And while the local authorities pay little heed to this, despite the protestation of their Overlords back in the Holy Cities, there are also rumors of darker things that occur in these places.  Heresy and human sacrifice are said to be common place here, with strange, vile religions sprouting in the shadows of the Mountains, where masked cultists worship things not quite Lawful and not Quite Chaotic, freakish monsters that twist and melt reality like candle wax.  And while this is largely gossip, there may some truth to these stories.  This is another reason why no one sensible or sophisticated ever dares go here.

Things everyone knows about Cryanne's Southern Borderlands:
- The people here are staunchly conservative and opposed to change
- Alcohol is banned here, with strict penalties to those who would break the law
- They have a reputation for heresy, superstition and worshiping false/evil Gods
- Human sacrifice is supposed to run rampant through the place
- The people are hardy, well accustomed to the rocky wilderness in which they dwell
- They drink a lot of tea
- They practice arranged marriage
- Their women go about veiled, for cultural and religions reasons
- Some of the men do too, but these are for pragmatic reasons

The Southern Borderlands are an area with a danger level of 2.  Whenever the players travel through here, roll 6d6, one for each time of day: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Dusk, Midnight, and Predawn.  Every time you roll a 2 or lower, roll on the random encounter table below.
 
Randon Encounters in the Rocky Hills
1d6

1- The One-Eyed Man.  He needs to run into the players anyway at some point, this could be as good a reason as any.
2- The Grey Mountain Ape.  This is a Hallucination monster.  The players can only encounter the Grey Mountain Ape have heard of it and they believe it is real.  If your players hear the story of the Grey Mountain Ape and do not believe it, they will never encounter it until they change their minds.  Instead they encounter a totem of the Ape, a carved wooden pillar with 1d30 silver worth of hand carved jewelry, some food and wine left behind as offerings.  Taking any of these is majorly bad luck, and the locals regard it as blasphemy, but it has no mechanical effect if you do not believe in the Ape.  If you do, then the Ape appears the next night and tries to attack the Thief or Thieves. 
3- Ikul and his "hunters".  They are armed with bows and arrow, long knives and spears.  They are out hunting game.  Ikul seems like a nice guy.  They will invite the players to come have tea with them.  They will tell them about the Grey Mountain Ape.  If the players seem vulnerable, they will put on their masks (wood covered in tin) and attack them, beat them until they stop resisting, tie them up and drag them to the Mountain Cave, to offer up as sacrifices.
4- Blowdog.  A small, doglike thing that looks like a living stuffed animal.  If approached, it inflates, doubling in size.  It will continue inflating like this until it explodes.  All adventurers know what Blowdogs are automatically, and will know to steer clear.
5- Flock of Crows.  These Crows, like all of their kind, can talk.  Crows cannot speak a direct lie, but they can lie by omission and cleverly misspeak.  As long as they do not speak a direct lie, they are fine.  Since Crows love to make mischief, they will fly over to anyone they see to talk to them and beg for scraps.  The Crows do know a lot, but much of it is gossip, idle speculation, or strange things the Crows overheard from someone more sensible.  Roll on the Crow sub-Table below to see what they want to talk about.  If you feed them something, they will start following you around for more food.  If you feed them enough, they might even be eager to do something for you.  If you attack the Crows, they will attack as a swarm, but they don't want to fight, just to harass you.
6- Corpsewood Tree.  Trees are rare in these parts, so the ones who manage to survive do so through pure spite.  This aura of darkness tends to attract disreputable men, who come to these trees to do despicable things.  Roll on the Corpsewood Tree sub-Table to see what this tree is most associated with.

Crow sub-Table: What do these feathery assholes want to talk about?
1d6
1- tell the players about something dangerous
2- tell the players about the Grey Mountain Ape
3- Tell the players about the Human Sacrifice that happens around here
4- Tell the players about how marriage is basically the same as human sacrifice
5- Tell the players about how raising a daughter is like specifically preparing a whore for another man
6- Tell the players about how adventuring isn't a real profession and they are just too stupid, immoral, or lazy to find a proper occupation.

Corpsewood Tree sub-Table
1d4

1- Sex Tree.  This tree is associated with acts of sexual conquest, whether willing or unwilling.  If anyone pauses to rest under this tree or passes by, a number of beautiful naked women equal to the group's number will appear and beckon them over. These women do not speak, but they will invite the other group to come engage in coitus with them.  If the other group refuses, they will attack the group with stone handaxes and their supernaturally long nails.  If killed, they are revealed to be shells of skin over wooden sticks and that they bleed red sap.  If the players do lay with them, the women will disappear immediately after.  Approximately 1 year later, the half-wooden children of the players who resulted from this coupling will appear before their parents and seek revenge.      
2- Murder Tree.  Someone got stabbed under this tree.  At night, a Ghost will manifest beneath this tree.  The Ghost is a warrior named Pentagoras.  He was an adventurer traveling these roads with his companions until they were attacked by a man wearing an eyepatch.  Pentagoras' companions traveled ahead to try and find help, but they never returned for him, and he succumbed to his wounds while they were gone.  As such, Pentagoras hates his companions and wants them dead.  Only after all of them die will he be able to move on.  He will ask any who seem martially inclined to assist him in this endeavor.  In exhcange, he will offer them his magic sword, which was buried with his body.  But he wants to see his remaining companions dead first.
3- Sacrifice Tree.  A human corpse is draped through the branches.  It has a golden necklace around its slit throat and a pair of rings on its hands.  Each piece of golden jewelry is worth 50 silver.  If you take them, as soon as the sun sets, the corpse will animate and, along with 1d6 other corpses that rise from their resting place among the roots, will proceed to hunt down the Thief and retrieve the treasures.  They always know where the Thief is, and will not stop until the Thief is dead and the treasures returned to their dead hands, or until they have been destroyed.   
4- Drinking Tree.  This tree produces delicious looking red fruits.  If you taste one, the fruits taste faintly of brandy.  If you eat one, make a CON save.  On a failure, you get drunk as if you'd just spent the last hour guzzling wine.  Effect lasts for 1d10 hours.

The Town of Icharis.

A small town, ringed by independent farms and a wall of hard packed clay, with a small moat full of wooden stakes and flammable tar.  The population here is homogeneous as a pod of toads, with nary a child to be seen, though there are many of pregnant women.  The locals all speak with a strange accent that makes them a bit hard to understand when they talk to you, and when they speak quickly amongst themselves, it is all but impenetrable.  Most of them will offer you a polite nod and a stilted greeting, but few will be willing to talk to you.  However, there are a few people who would be willing to speak to you.

                                                                   by hazeldarkman

Sella and Mayone [My-own-a].

These are the two servers who work at the tiny, disreputable tavern in the center of the village.  The owner, Zarvan, is only occasionally around and they usually have little work to do, so a bunch of exotic strangers will be more than enough to peek their curiosity.  Sella is a doting, almost motherly figure, and she loves to cook and if you let her, she will bore you stiff with stories of her children, now grown up and moved away. 

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He's very old, according to her.  When she was just a child she saw him walking down the path in front of her house, carrying what she guessed was a piglet in a sack.  Even back then, he looked no older then he does now.  Or at least, she assumes, since she hasn't seen him in years.

Mayone is the younger of the two, and much prettier.  She has an interest in exotic men, and will crawl under their covers if you let her.  This sort of behavior wouldn't be tolerated of any village woman, but Mayone is from another town over, so the locals just pretend it doesn't happen.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He has no real interest in women.  Once she was nearly caught philandering with a swineherd, so she ran and hid in an outbuilding.  She ran into him there, smoking a hookah and watching over a mother pig, who was sleeping while her piglets ran amuck around her.  Despite the fact that she was barely dressed and clearly flustered, he seemed not to care, or even notice.  He also warned her that she should probably stay away from men for the next week or so, if she didn't want her belly to grow.  She has no idea how he did that, but it spooked her.  Since then, Mayone hasn't seen the One-Eyed Man, and has no desire to do.

Zarvan.

Zarvan is the closest thing to a leader Icharis has.  He manages the other people in Icharis, oversees and arbitrates disputes, and handles anything else the village needs.  He's also a generous host, and if the party sticks around for too long or is too helpful, he will offer them one of his three daughters as a bride.  Assuming they can pay the price he offers them, of course, and seem to be good-hearted, successful men.  He also has a son, named Ikul, though Ikul is not around much.

Zarvan is also an expert on local legends and has much knowledge of the area, and if any Adventurer types show up in his town, he will ask them to look for the Grey Mountain Ape.  It's a beast that is said to come down from its mountain den to snatch disobedient children from their beds and newborn lambs from the midst of a flock.  Shepherds and dogs are no match for it, and rarely even see it.  He claims that it was recently seen near here, and has been a problem for years, eating travelers and those who stay out too late, or wander too far from the protection of town.  He will also offer to come along and guide them, or round up some men with strong arms if the party fears they need help.

What he knows about the One-Eyed Man: Ikul has a particular vendetta against the One-Eyed Man, though Zarvan doesn't know why.  He also knows that the One-Eyed Man has an unusual interest in the Palace of the Forsaken Ones.  Zarvan will tell you that the Palace of the Forsaken Ones is an ancient structure up in the mountains that many centuries ago was the home of a group of Sorcerer-Kings, whose cruelty and violence was unmatched.  These were the Forsaken Lords, brutal men who sold their souls to demons for immense power.  They ruled this land and many others for three centuries, but were eventually brought down by a group of heroes.  But with their last breath, they cursed their Palace and Treasures, and it is said that too this day, the Palace of the Forsaken Ones is infested with murderous ghosts who kill anyone who enter.  Zarvan then says that only madmen and fools would even think of entering the ruins of the Palace.    

                                           All the Elf-Men are cute as heck, and very attractive.
                                                                 by Renzus

           (All the armor of the Handsome Men and their Elf-Men allies is ridiculously impractical.)
                                                                            
The Adventurers.

They are a group of beautiful strangers who came from a distant land.  All of them are absolutely gorgeous, very polite, and dressed in strange, bizarre outfits.  The locals think they are terribly exotic, but they are also worried about them, as they believe they are Handsome Men, and thus are walking on egg-shells around them.  However, they have money and haven't made any trouble yet, so no one's rounded up an angry mob to try and run them out of town yet.

However, these Adventurers are not Handsome Men.  They are actually Elf-Men, Humans kidnapped, purchased or stolen as a child by the Handsome Men, and then modified to better suit their "big brother"'s needs.  They are riddled with cancers and defects on the inside, but outside they are shockingly beautiful.

Why they are here is a mystery, but the long of the short of it is this.  They are the Elf-Man equivalent of stray dogs, having run from their "older siblings" and fled into the Young Kingdoms, far enough away that they hope the Handsome Men will not bother sending soldiers to retrieve them.  This guess of theirs has proved fairly correct, but they are still looking over their shoulders for Man-Snatchers or slave hunters.  They will not say this, of course, but they will claim that they have many powerful enemies, and are just keeping a low profile.  This is also the reason they travel at night, or so they claim.

The Adventurers won't reveal this unless severely prodded, but they were hired by someone to investigate the Palace of the Forsaken Ones.  This someone is Cali, but they won't say this unless you really seem to be helpful.  However, Cali has asked them to delay for some time, so they are bumming around town, waiting for her to give them the order to go ahead.

Mesaline is the most social of the group.  She is beautiful, charming and friendly.  She hates making a fuss and is very helpful.  As such, when she arrived, wearing a partially translucent robe of silk with a low neckline, she nearly incited a riot.  As such, she has covered her hair and bosom with a black shawl of homespun.  This, if anything, makes her look more beautiful.

However, there is something you should know about the Elf-Men.  Like the Handsome Men, they dislike involving themselves in anything messy, dirty or violent.  They cannot bear to see others in pain.  However, these four are adventurers, and thus, a certain amount of messiness is necessary.  As such, the Elf-Men, like their Masters, develop alternate identities called "War-Faces".  For the Handsome Men, this usually involves magic and actual transformations, but for Elf-Men, it is merely a change of clothes, mannerisms, and usually a mask of some kind.  So if you catch them unprepared, the Elf-Men will just run away, get changed, and come back to fight you.  Make the most of that, but be warned, the Elf-Men are very good at running away.  And of course, if the Elf-Men are going into a situation they know is going to be dangerous and messy, they change ahead of time.

Mesaline's War-Face is one of the secondary types, as she is no Magic-User.  She changes her clothes out for a translucent catsuit of spun glass and lacquered mask of jade and wood.  The catsuit is magical and grants you the ability to apply double your DEX modifier to your AC, though only a small woman could actually wear it, and you would need another Elf-Man to modify it for you to be able to wear it.  Mesaline doesn't use weapons additionally, her knowledge of Handsome Men martial arts letting her fists strike as if they were d6 weapons.  She is a level 2 Boxer.              

Huella is the most maternal of the group.  Like all the Elf-Men, she is sterile, but they couldn't eradicate her motherly instincts, so she cares for the other members of the group as if they were her juniors.  This mothering is very appealing, and even Gorax likes it, though he'd never admit it.  She has also adopted a shawl to cover her long hair, but her otherwise conservative dress made her much more presentable. 

Huella's War-Face is a reflection of her conservative and compassionate nature.  She covers herself head to toe in clinging, rubberized leather with only small slits for vision and breathing.  This does look a bit like a gimp suit, by the way.  However, despite the restricted vision and tightness of the fabric, her accuracy doesn't drop and neither does her speed.  She fights with a telescopic sword concealed in a fat conductor's baton.  She is a level 2 Alice.

Pinoto is the cutest thing.  He is an excellent archer and a very beautiful creature, but years of comparing himself to the Handsome Men have left him with a very severe inferiority complex.  This makes him very self-effacing, self-sacrificial, and a bit cowardly.  As such, he prefers to follow other's leads and only attack those they have softened up first. 

Pinoto's War-Face is mostly body-paint, mixed with tight pants of dark blue silk, and arm bands meant to stealthily store more arrows (his weapon of choice is a bow).  He then paints himself the darkest blue imaginable, and covers his face with a mask that looks like a compound eye, dark lenses pointing in all directions.  This War-Face leaves his muscular chest exposed, a fact he finds endlessly embarrassing.  He was told not to change it though, as Huella and Mesaline both believe that would be an act of cowardice, and he is determined to show them he is no coward.  Pinoto is a level 1 Fighting Man.   

Also, a note.  Mayone has developed a crush on him, and as such, Pinoto avoids her.  He is too embarrassed to tell her that when he was made into an Elf-Man, the Handsome Men took his testicles.  The same is true for the other Handsome Men, though they were obviously neutered in other ways.
       
Gorax is the reason they travel at night.  He's vicious, brutal, and a good friend.  They like him and he likes them, though he would find it difficult to say.  He's a man of action, not words.  Also, unlike the others, Gorax is pure human, his features lacking the subtle artistry of Handsome Men.  Yet despite this, he still looks slightly off, and his touch is cold.

Gorax doesn't have a War-Face.  If violence starts, he will leap into the fray with no preparation needed.  Gorax is a level 4 Vampire.  He's stronger, faster, and can regenerate if he has blood.  His teeth can tear out someone's throat if he gets a grip under you, though all Bite attacks are made at -4, unless done against a restrained or helpless target.  He also wields a sickle made of glass that leaves ghastly wounds that do 1d6 damage a round until you take an action and successful check to staunch the flow of blood.  He takes 1d4 damage a round from sunlight, and if he is bathed in light, he cannot use any of his Vampire powers.
     
What they know about the One-Eyed Man: Not much, but Cali seems to admire him, for some reason.  He's also a bit of a local legend, but they don't really know anything about him.  They suspect he is a local adventurer who retired, and they hope to track him down and learn his secrets.


The Palace of the Forsaken Ones.

It's a massive, crumbling complex outside of town, perched on a distant, lonely plateau.  If you are standing in the right spot, you can see the tip of its stone roof poking out.  As you approach it, you will find its dense walls have been reduced to a few small hills and the thick foundations of what must have been impressive walls.  Beyond that, you will find a massive, seven story building not disimilar to an elaborate villa, with many domes and minarets and the like.  The bottom three floors of this structure are covered in a stone pyramid, and the base of the pyramid and the four corners are covered in magical runes to "Preserve" and "Strengthen" and "Repel Life" and "Harm".  Any living creature that tries to approach the pyramid starts to feel a sense of nausea that gradually builds to an overwhelming urge to puke.  About thirty feet before they reach the pyramid, they puke up everything in their stomach, and every hair on their body is standing straight up.  If they manage to reach out and touch the pyramid, they will find that touching the stone does 1d6 damage, no save, as anti-life energy surges out of the enchanted stone and blazes its way up their nerves, causing exquisite pain and no other effect.

There is one other structure on the grounds that is still standing, and it appears to be an elaborate church building, a small, hollow pyramid with an altar on top.  If you enter it, you will the interior degraded and water damaged, full of murals that have been mostly destroyed, some tarnished fixtures too large or bulky to steal, and dozens of statues of other, archaic Gods being tortured in graphic detail.  At the end of the nave you will find an altar made of black granite, with human bones set into the stone itself through some feat of magic or craftsmanship.  There is also a somewhat obvious door behind the altar, leading down into the Catacombs beneath the Palace.

Rayna [Ray-nah] the Priestess.

She is an older woman, her beauty full and ripe like a cornstalk.  She wears a translucent dress of reddish silk, and is quite attractive.  She will pretend to know who the players are, and will ask them to do something for her.  And if your players are anything like mine, they will immediately distrust her.  Don't fight against such a response, play it up for them.


Rayna will pretend to have been waiting for the players, claiming that she has long awaited a group of noble souls who would arrive at this place.  She will speak to them and try to figure out what their desires are, but if she has no idea, she will offer them three things, 1) the chance to be heroes, 2) the chance to obtain great treasure, or 3) the chance to obtain great magical power, as well as eternal life.  Rayna will tell them about the Forsaken.  She will say they are Demons of utmost power, who once ruled this land and others, but were cast down and imprisoned in their palace.  She will claim to be part of an ancient, long-dead order that has the sworn duty of guarding the Palace of the Forsaken, and preventing anyone unworthy from entering the Palace to potentially free the Forsaken.  She will tell them that while she would never abandon her duty, she is no longer enough.  She says that the Forsaken are slowly breaking loose of their bonds, and soon they will be free. 

Thus, she has been awaiting a group of heroes to come down into this place and aid her in her quest to finally kill the Forsaken, and rid the world of their evil once and for all. 

If the players seem unmoved by such a noble goal, she will tell them of the enormous wealth the Forsaken possessed, how they filled their Palace with the plunder of a thousand conquests, and how their ledgers overflow with stolen goods of all the great civilizations of the West.  She will also tell how they possessed great magical arms and armor, rare relics of the type not seen since the Age of the Gods.   
                             
But secretly, Rayna is actually the exact opposite of what she claims.  The order that once shielded this Palace and attempted to maintain its defenses, Sejakis is its last surviving member, and the One-Eyed Man has seen that he is no threat to anyone.  Rayna is actually a member of the Forsaken's scattered cult, having finally returned for the Croning and to hopefully ascend to semi-divine status.  However, there is one catch.  She is a lowly Wizard/Scholar, and cannot brave the Catacombs or the rest of the Palace without help.

But she was delayed in arriving here, and had no time to hire any adventurers or mercenaries.  So when she found out Cali was ahead of her, she is hiding out here, hoping to somehow stop them from entering before her.  She would kill Cali, if given the chance.  The feeling is mutual.  So when the party enters, she will spring at the opportunity.

Rayna will ask them to accompany her.  She can translate the runes and languages of those inside the Palace of the Forsaken Ones, and she is a moderately powerful Wizard.    

If anyone tries to attack Rayna or cast a spell on her, she vanishes.  This is because of her Invisibility spell, which is one of the ones she can cast.  She will use this to creep away.  But if the players somehow manage to penetrate this, she will flee down into the Catacombs, where the Forsaken Ones are said to dwell.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He has instructed her to retrieve some of the water from the Black Fountain, the Black Despoiler's sacred treasure, and if she can, he will elevate her to the status of divine.  The One-Eyed Man is powerful and benevolent, but totally lacking in mercy.  She also knows about the Opal Eye and that it is the One-Eyed Man's treasure.  She won't mention the latter fact, but she will tell them that it possesses great power, and can be found in the Catacombs.

                                                    by johnsfboslet2001

The Catacombs.

This is a dungeon, where strange creatures inhabit an ancient, abandoned underground structure, meant to contain the beasts that were once worshiped here as Gods.

That dungeon will be covered in a later post.

 (It becomes much less impressive when you realize the masks are made of wood and covered in tin)

The Cult.

The Cult has no name, regalia or official scripture.  When doing something that might mean they are going to be doing something illegal, they wear masks, and all the members have a wooden talisman.  This talisman is etched with a strange mark.  The mark is not magical, but looking at it for more then a few seconds make you start to go cross-eyed, and induces migraines.  They aren't really a cult per-say, more of a secret society. The cult has one real objective, and that is, to secure living people for sacrifice.  Every so often they round up travelers, strangers and local eyesores and beat them with sticks, hog-tie them, and take them to the Mountain Cave.  There they leave them, hoping that the Forsaken Ones accept their offer.  They usually do, and thus the town is allowed to continue existing in the holy land of the Forsaken Ones, for these creatures do consider it their land, the current inhabitants mere tenants in their eyes.

A note on the Cult, additionally.  The Cultists are all motivated by loyalty to their families, who would be endangered if sacrifices weren't provided to the Forsaken Ones, and fear of the former.  Some are also motivated by a vague loyalty to their leader, but if they are challenged by a foe sufficiently strong or blood-thirsty, they will break and flee.  They are not loyal to the Forsaken Ones, and actively loath the fell creatures, but do not actually believe they stand any chance of defeating them.  They are correct in this assumption.  Without the help of any other group (such as the party) the Forsaken Ones would take them apart with impossible ease.


Nica [Niece-a].

Nica is a girl that the players should meet in Icharis if they are asking around for information.  Nica seems like a nervous, flighty girl, constantly looking over her shoulder.  She seems constantly anxious, though she will deny this.  She is decently attractive, in the same way a familiar living room is, but her constant tension irritates people.  Nica will answer any real questions about Icharis and will remind the players of the story of the Grey Mountain Ape.  She will even invent a wild tale of seeing it not to long ago.

However, Nica has some secrets.  First of all, she is actually a member of the Cult, and knows that the story of the Grey Mountain Ape is actually a lie perpetuated by the Cult.  It helps explain why people suddenly vanish in the middle of the night, and keeps people away from the Mountain Cave and the Home of the Wizard Sejakis.

She doesn't know anything about the Palace of the Forsaken Ones, except that some kind of Demon King lived there long ago, and that his ghost still wanders the halls, devouring those he comes across.  It's majorly cursed, and bad luck to even go near it.  Steer clear is her advice.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He's terrifying.  She saw him once from a distance, and that was enough to convince her of how dangerous he was.



Ikul [Ih-cool].

Ikul is the leader of the Cult.  He acts as a charismatic father figure to the members of the Cult, who cling to him and ask for his protection.  The Cult members are, to a certain extent, aware that this is a fantasy they are clinging to, but most are too scared of the Forsaken to bother.  Ikul also knows it is a fantasy, but he is willing to play along, for as far as he can tell, appeasing the Forsaken is the only way Icharis won't suffer a fate worse then death.  But while Ikul keeps a cool head, he has personally experienced the power of the Forsaken before, and knows that they cannot be defeated by mere humans.  As such, if someone who wished to oppose the Forsaken were to come to him, he would aid them, but always in such a way that gave him plausible deniability.  He will not risk everything on a vain hope, he knows what happens to those who do battle against the Forsaken.

Ikul lives in the hills with a troupe of hunters, living mostly off the land.  They hunt goats, elk, and hare, and claim to be looking for the Grey Mountain Ape.  They don't actually though, because they all know the Ape isn't real, and it's just a story that they made up.  But if any travelers encounter them, they will regale them with gruesome tales of the Ape.

They will then try to capture anyone who looks vulnerable, hide them and bundle them off to the Mountain Cave, where they will offer them up for sacrifice.  If Ikul is caught doing this or threatened for doing this, he will explain that this is the only way that Icharis can continue existing.  If he doesn't provide warm bodies for the One-Eyed Man, the One-Eyed Man will destroy Icharis and kill his father and sisters.  Ikul sincerely believes this, and cannot allow that to happen.

Ikul doesn't know much about the Palace of the Forsaken Ones, other then that the One-Eyed Man seems interested in it, which is enough of a reason in Ikul's book to stay away from it.

What he knows about the One-Eyed Man:
He demands sacrifices from them.  If living humans are not presented to him at least once a month, he will destroy Icharis in the most personal, cold-hearted way possible.

The House of Tysiak.

One thing everyone knows about the Southern Borderlands is that the semi-famous Sejakis, Son of Tysiak, Wizard of Cryanne was from there, but after several decades of faithful service, finally left the King's household to return to his homeland.  Most people assume that in the years since, Sejakis died, as men are known to do.  In truth though, Sejakis is still alive.

You can find his tent pitched among the distant hills, overlooking the town of Icharis, though if you didn't know where to look, you'd never find it.  His dwelling place is an ancient edifice of weathered bricks and stone that was sculpted by Sejakis' magic when he was young.  Around it you can find a cluster of green houses and livestock barns, to keep his flocks in and help maintain his plants.  Sejakis was known for his green thumb, and as long as he lives, his gardens will continue to overflow with delicious produce and beautiful flowers.  His servants come down to Icharis every so often, bringing wicker baskets overflowing with potatoes, figs, dates, barley or nuts, along with the occasional old goat or horse that Sejakis wishes to give to some impoverished family or large blocks of cheese, carefully wrapped in embroidered cloth.  This has made Sejakis very popular among the locals, and almost all feel some affection toward him.  At the same time though, they do wonder.  If Sejakis does love them so, why has he not been seen outside of his home in a decade and a half.  Indeed, no one knows the answer to this question.  Those who go up to visit his house will find his servants welcoming and affable, and his daughters beautiful, but they will not see Sejakis himself.  And since he has been so generous to them, they respect his apparent wishes.  So when his daughters tell you that Sejakis is busy, or locked in laboratory, or sick, or any number of excuses, they accept them and leave.  Some never go back, deciding it was just bad luck and returning to their lives.  Some suspect some other reason why he couldn't see them, but these are mere suspicions, and rarely voiced to anyone, as most would regard speaking against Icharis' generous patron an act equivalent to blasphemy.

If you go to speak to Sejakis, if the servants cannot turn you away, you will be turned over to his daughters.

                                  Cali looks very normal, she goes to great lengths to ensure her image.
                                                         by CJ-Backman

                                                     
                                     But if you look under her robe, you will see she is no mere Human.
                                                                   by johnariosa

Cali [Ka-li].

Cali is the oldest daughter, and usually stalks the parlor of her father's house.  She seems to be about 20 or so, easily old enough to wed.  It's a little weird that she hasn't yet, the villagers would agree, but most assume this is because of her father.  This is not entirely correct.  Cali invites people in, entertains guests, and charms them with her winning smile.  Most people ignore how she stares, and her strange conversation topics.  She's nice and pretty, so most forgive her eccentricities.  Besides, most have only spoken to her once or twice, and they haven't been in contact with her for long enough to notice anything weird her.

But Cali is also a vicious, brutal killer.  She serves the Forsaken and the One-Eyed Man, and she wishes to free the rest of them from their shackles.  She hopes this will grant her favor, and the Forsaken will then grant her the power she desires.  Cali has allowed her Wizard sister, Alino, to enhance her body, to make her strong and fast and much tougher than any mortal.  However, she still needs more.  Cali wants to head down for the Palace with her hired Adventurers immediately, but Alino is asking her to delay, saying she has some kind of formula that will greatly increase her sister's strength.  Cali is fine with delaying for a little while longer, but if her sister was hurt or killed or her lab was destroyed, she would immediately see her sister to safety, then set off to raid the Palace with the Elf-Men at her back.  

But Cali is smart, and know how bad that soundsSo she goes goes out of her way to keep people from suspecting her inhuman nature or her status as a secret cultist to a bunch of imprisoned Monster-Gods.  She keeps a small book with her, but then will "accidentally" forget it while she steps out of the room, so people might check it.  The book, if opened, will be revealed to be a spellbook full of a few "relatively" harmless spells.  She also wears a full, voluminous robe and a ring associated with an ancient Wizarding college.  In truth though, Cali is no Wizard or even a Magic-User, but a freakish monster.  Underneath her robe her body is a mass of twisted muscle and piercing bone spines, capable of impaling almost anything.  If threatened, Cali will attack with the retractable claws hidden in her wrists and knees, and with her stinger.

Cali's weakness is that she hates both Wizards in general and Rayna the Priestess.  She also has a desperate thirst for power.  She knows that the One-Eyed Man has returned to his homeland for a reason.  He is here to uplift a mortal, and he has decreed it will be woman.  But he has not said who it will be yet.  As such, Cali has decided it will be her, and will do anything to achieve it, even if that requires tricking a bunch of fools into killing Rayna then killing them.  Unlike Rayna, who seeks spiritual transcendence and life everlasting to become closer to her "Gods", Cali is only interested in the Croning for power.       

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: That he is not human, and possesses powers far greater then her.  He has also chosen her for his election.  If she can bring him the Chalice of Unending Sleep, then she will allowed to ascend as the subject of the Croning.  She knows about the Opal Eye, and will use it as a potential lure to get the players to retrieve the Chalice of Unending Sleep for her.

Alino [Ah-lean-oh].

Alino is the younger sister of Cali and a daughter of Sejakis.  She seems kind of stuck up and disciplined, roaming around the grounds in quilted leathers no matter the temperature, armed with a brace of daggers, a sword and staff.  She very effectively channels the image of a martial woman, and judging from her appearance and cold mannerisms, you'd think her some kind of woman warrior.  However, this is not true.  Alino is no fighter, and has no interest in fighting anyone who could possibly fight back.  She only likes prey that has been sufficiently weakened to be utterly helpless, and will not fight anyone who she thinks could be a threat to her.  She also has very little interest in power for its own sake, and the offer of the One-Eyed Man.  She supports her sister Cali's bid to complete the task set before them, and hopes that Cali will be the one to ascend to the status of semi-divine, like one of the Forsaken.  However, at the same time, she cannot stand the idea that Rayna or anyone but a true-born daughter of Tysiak will ascend.  As such, she has been working frantically on a new formula, a series of potions and muscle grafts that will make Cali even stronger.  If she has just a few more sacrifices or a few more days, she will finish her work, and will be able to greatly increase Cali's strength.  Once her work is finished, then she will release her sister to go claim the Chalice of Unending Sleep and return victorious.  

Alino's weaknesses are two-fold.  Firstly, she cannot resist potential prey.  Abandon a child, young girl, or wounded man near her and she will whisk them away into one of the hidden caves near her father's home, then begin working on them.  There she tortures them, slicing them apart and extending their deaths into days, weeks or months of agony.  She is a true artist of her craft.  Unbeknownst to everyone, she is the one taking the people left in the Mountain Cave and killing them.  Others would suspect the One-Eyed Man, her Father, or the Cult.  All are incorrect.

Alino, when she fights, if she must, is Magic-User, and a good one at that.  The sword and armor all are a distraction, meant to throw her opponents off.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: That he is one of the Forsaken, broken free of the shackles that still bind his three siblings.  He wants to release them, but cannot enter the Catacombs himself.  Neither can Rayna, Alino or Cali.  They wards have weakened over the centuries, but they aren't weak enough yet to tolerate the presence of the very thing they were meant to contain yet.

Sejakis [Se-jack-is].

The Wizard Sejakis is still alive, and living the home he built by one of his ancestors for their clan so long ago.  But while she has endured, Sejakis is a shell of his former self.  He's an old, senile, slightly demented man, his brain and body long ago given over to the rigors of age. Now he rarely leaves the second floor, eavesdropping on coversations taking place below and imagining monsters in every corner.  He only trusts three people, Cali, Alino, and his Wife.  The last one especially, she has been his constant companion for almost forty years, never once leaving his side.  Even now she watches over him, he will tell you, pointing her out.  You might not be able to see her, but you will know she is there.

Sejakis is afraid.  He knows something bad is going to happen.  Despite his wife's calming words, he still fears for his safety.  He suspects that the Uglies are coming for him.  He has written vast, rambling treatises on the Uglies, the ones he can see in his dreams, and made gruesome art of them to cover the walls of his bedroom and study.  Anyone who mocks him for this or disagrees with his assertion will be thought of as an Ugly, and Sejakis will ask his wife to get rid of them.

Sejakis is insane and weak, little more then a mad fool at this rate.  If his wife is not around, you will be able to kill him easily.  If she is, he will still die like any man, but so will you.

Additionally, Sejakis is not wrong.  The "Uglies" are coming.  Not just for him though, but for everyone.


 The Family Crypt.

Sejakis is a descendant of Tysiak, an ancient and feared warrior from legend.  Few know of Sejakis' ancestry, and few outside of the people from this region would care too.  But here it is an ancient and prized bloodline, one that many are eager to enter into.  As such, Sejakis' ancestors all rest here in a set of intricate tombs, made from caves that have been modified and extended.  You will find the bones of everyone here, from Sejakis' brothers, all long dead, to his father and grandfather and all the way back to Tysiak himself, whose bones are interred behind a massive boulder that could only be shifted through the use of magic or a combined STR of 35.

Each of these individual dead are interred in stone cells with limestone lids, that can be rolled back with a STR of 10.  Inside each skeleton has been adorned with the clan symbol, a Rhinoceros Beetle (usually made of gold) and a few small trinkets.  Each Rhinoceros Beetle is worth 50 silver, though no one from the Borderlands will buy such a thing, as it is bad luck to.  Additionally, each skeleton has 1d6 small trinkets, each worth 30 silver.  None of these are magic.  Taking them from the dead will have no effect, and the skeletons will not rise from the grave.  However, if the players are caught looting the tomb by any servants, they will be attacked and the servants will try and capture them.  If they can succeed in this, they will take them to the Mountain Cave.

There are no tombs for the wives, daughters or sisters of these dead men.  If Speak with Dead is used on them, they will all say that their female relatives outlived them, and the corpses do not know where they are.  As far as the corpses are concerned, their women are still alive.

If you shift the boulder at the end of the tomb to try and loot Tysiak's body, you will find it empty.  There is no body there, only a single Rhinoceros Beetle made of carved jet and a secret passageway leading down into the Mountain Cave.

The Mountain Cave.

There are dozens of caves littering the hills around Icharis and Sejakis' home, but this one is special.  It is a small dungeon, where Alino does her work, and where the Croning will take place.  This is full of the transfigured, tortured and tragic "daughters" of Alino and the One-Eyed Man, the twisted monstrosities she has created with the people delivered to the cave for sacrifice. 

This dungeon will be covered in another post.

The Croning.

Whoever first manages to bring their treasure to the One-Eyed Man will be the winner of the contest, and a candidate for ascension.  They will then be invited, along with the losers, to the ritual chamber in the Mountain cave, beneath Sejakis' home.  There they will endure an hideous and macabre trial, but with the help of the One-Eyed Man, they will survive.  They will return to life almost as strong as him, though still weak compared to the other Forsaken.  This ritual is terrible to behold, and anyone seeing it will likely be scarred for the rest of their lives.

Any other Forsaken who were liberated from the Palace of the Forsaken Ones will also be here, to attend the ceremony.

The players may be able to find and interrupt the Croning, and to prevent any of the women from ascending to semi-divine status.  During the Croning, the One-Eyed Man will be temporarily weakened, so if you wish to try and strike him down, now is the time.    

If the players do nothing:


The One-Eyed Man will elevate Cali after she manages to free the Red Tormenter and steal a cup of water from the Black Fountain.  Rayna will be killed in the ensuing battle, along with all of the Adventurers but Pinoto, who will be scarred for the rest of his days.  Then after she ascends at the Croning, she and sister and her sister's deformed "children" will join the One-Eyed Man and assault the Queen in her castle.  The Queen's newborn will be snatched away and the Queen herself will vanish in the night, despite the heavy guard around her.  The Queen's brother will flee the castle and begin a desperate search for her, one that he will never complete.  A few days later, other claimants to the throne will rise up and the whole nation will be rent apart by horrific civil war.

And the One-Eyed Man?  He will escape any form of justice or blame, though some will suspect his involvement.  There won't be any proof though.