Tuesday, August 31, 2021

OSR: 8 Magic Shields


artist unknown


A disk of black basalt rimmed with a razor edge of obsidian.  Smells of ash and sulfur, and perpetually warm.

The true origin of the shield has been lost, but this story is the one most often associated with it.  In a city near a long-sleeping volcano, a small cult of Chaos lived secretly among the people.  For many years they had terrorized the population with acts of terror, in an attempt to overthrow and weaken their host government.  The authorities were helpless against them, until a group of adventurers captured one of their officers, who revealed many names after he was tortured.  Armed with this new information, the City Watch and Temple Guards began rounding up those named and obtaining other names.  The leader of the cult in the city, a servant of chaos named Galiel, heard that and was terrified.  But one night, when in hiding, he received a dream where an Angel of Isfet came to him.  "The Gods of Chaos have chosen you," the Angel told him, "You are special among your brethren.  Climb the mountain and seize your destiny."  So Galiel gathered up his friends and family, for he feared to leave them in the city, and left, heading for the nearby mountain. 

But as they climbed, they were attacked by bandits, who told him they would slay him if he did not hand over his food and money.  Galiel lied to them and said he had no money, so the bandits killed some of his friends, causing the rest to run away, leaving Galiel with only his wife, children and father.  Galiel then handed over his money and food, and begged him to spare them.  He revealed who he was.  The bandits decided to spare him, as they felt leaving a servant of Chaos alive was more cruel than killing him.  But they warned him not to go up the mountain, for he would surely die. 

Galiel refused to listen.  He knew the Gods had chosen him, so he continued onward.  About halfway up the mountain, they came upon a number of blackberry bushes.  Galiel's father went with the children to pick berries, but as he did, they found a couple of bear cubs.  When the children marveled at their cuteness, the father recognized the danger and sent them away.  This came just in time, for a bear emerged from the bushes and tore him to shreds, killing him.  Galiel mourned this loss and his wife begged him to turn back, but Galiel refused.  He had already lost so much.  He had to go on. 

They buried his father and proceeded up the mountain.  Then they came to a swift-flowing river.  By now they were hungry and thirsty, so Galiel's wife went to draw water for her husband.  But when she did, Galiel's daughter jumped into the river, thinking it shallower than it was.  Unfortunately, not only was it deep, but it was fast-flowing.  She was swept away, and when his wife attempted to pull her out, she was dragged down.  Before Galiel's eyes, both of them were swept downstream and out of sight.  At this point, Galiel's son told him it was foolish to continue, that he didn't want his father to die.  But Galiel, having lost almost everything, realized what was going to happen next.  He knew his son's fate now.  So he agreed, and said they should rest. 

That night, Galiel went out to gather provisions and brought back some berries.  He fed them to his son, claiming he had already eaten.  The boy swiftly grew sick and fell unconscious from the poisonous berries his father had given him.  Galiel then cut his son's throat, to relieve his suffering.  Finally, unburdened by anything, Galiel climbed to the summit alone.  Up there, he found an ancient altar in a cave, a slab of black basalt inlaid with bones.  He cried out then, "I have come, my Lords!  What would you have me do?"  Then, to his horror, he found he was not alone.  His family suddenly reappeared before him, their skin grey with death, their wounds still fresh and dripping.  He cried out for his Gods to save him, but they did not.  He screamed as they came upon him.

Galiel came down the mountain the next day, armed with a shield of black basalt and a spear tipped in obsidian.  He wore armor made of the same material, inlaid with gold and bone.  From there, he rallied the servants in the city and led a successful revolt, putting the city elders to the sword and the city to the torch.  Those who surrendered he recruited or marched them up the mountain, where they were fed to his hideous Gods.  Eventually, Galiel's outrages reached Heaven and they dispatched armies against him, which destroyed his desecrated city and scattered his allies.  But Galiel, or his body, were never found.  When interrogated later, his helpers and servants declared that he was not mortal, not anymore.  They claimed that even now, he watched them for signs of disloyalty.  The only one who dared to aid their captors, the steward who revealed one of the cult's many hidden safehouses in another city, was later found dead in his cell, his bones having been transformed to molten gold.

Galiel's shield, Vulcana, is currently in the hands of a Chaos Cult Lieutenant who is scouting out a mine worked by slaves, in the hopes of finding some usable material among the mass of downtrodden laborers.  When he has sufficient recruits, he will use them to seize control of the mine, murder the overseer and hopefully trigger a wider slave uprising.  If that doesn't work, he has informed his new allies that there are tunnels deep into the Earth that can take them to safety.                   

- The bearer can endure cold climates easily, as long as he keeps the shield near his person, suffering no ill effects from cold weather
- 3/Day, the bearer can cause fragments of razor sharp obsidian to fracture off the edge of the shield and strike one creature within 10', doing 1d6 sharp damage.  This can be done as a reaction to being attacked.
- 1/Day, the bearer can cause one attack against him to pierce the shield, submerging it into the molten core of the shield.  That weapon, unless magical or mostly indestructible then melts or is burned to ash and the user of that weapon takes 1d8 fire damage.  This can be done as a reaction to being attacked.

Sunrise Shield:

A shield of ash wood, covered in stiffened layers of sheepskin and painted with the image of a red-orange sun burning away the early morning mist.  The mist seems thinner the more you look at it, but it never truly goes away. 

The Interrogator-Lord Viko Truthteller of Au-Mar was famous for being able to instantly discern lies when they were uttered in his presence.  No matter how carefully constructed a deception was, he could almost smell them.  Even when blind-folded and with his nose stuffed up, he could tell what was a lie and what was delusion, or truth.  This made him the Emperor's greatest interrogator and propelled him to the top of the nation's elite, until he gained a position as one of the Seven, a group of seven administrators and advisors that are closest to the Emperor and wield the most power apart from him.

Less well known is how he gained these abilities.  When he was a lowly initiate, before he ever joined the Office of Uncivil Tactics, the Emperor's nest of spies, witch-finders and cult-hunters.  When he was a mere initiate into the shrine of prosperity, a cult of demon-worshipers tore upon a hole in the world and ushered in a miniature invasion, which ravaged his city and let to almost two hundred Imperial subjects being abducted.  The invaders then retreated through the gate and closed it behind them.  

The authorities despaired at ever retrieving any of the kidnapped people, but a group of powerful adventurers with an axe to grind offered to try and solve the problem.  And not only did they succeed in opening the door, but also rescued several dozen of those who were taken, including Viko.  Viko joined the Office shortly thereafter, partially so they could examine him for Chaos taint.  But soon they found an able operative in him and put him to work for them.

And as stated above, he was extremely good at what he did.  His astounding record enabled his superiors to overlook some of the more questionable things about him, such as how he employed a private torturer who usually only worked on him and how he absent-mindedly cut himself sometimes when thinking. 

When Viko finally died, it is was discovered that his shield retained some of the abilities that he had while alive.  It has since become an heirloom, passed down to his apprentices and later, to others who served them.  It is currently in the hands of a young Interrogator investigating rumors of a Necromancy ring operating out of the royal boneyard for the Kingdom of Mazxri.       

- The bearer can interact with illusions or intangible things as if they were tangible, if he so chooses.  He can walk across an illusory bridge or pimp-slap a ghost.
- 3/Day, the bearer can dismiss an illusion, causing it to shatter into fractals of light and end prematurely.
- 1/Day, the bearer can produce a dazzling flash of light from the shield that reveals all hidden things within 50', such as hidden doors, concealed booby-traps, invisible creatures, and dismantles any illusions. Additionally, any shapeshifted creatures have their true appearances revealed for a moment.  The light does not blind anyone, for it only reveals.   

Selenic Shield:

A shield that looks like it is made of tin hammered and molded to a piece of hardwood, sort of like frosted glass but made of metal.  During the day, it is unimpressive and even tacky looking.  At night, when bathed in moonlight, it glitters and shines like a million silver coins, drawing the eye involuntarily.

Once there was a Quarrian by the name of Isko, a svetle young man known for being extremely beautiful.  He drew the eye of every young maiden in town, but he cared for none of them, for he only loved looking at himself.  He was cruel with the girls who tried to win his affections, being severely unkind to them.  One of his lovers even took her own life, so in despair was she over his rejection.  But as the girl died, the Goddess of Maidens intervened, transforming her into the first orchid.  

This Goddess then turned her attention to Isko, seeking to punish him. She borrowed a barrel lid and shed a single tear onto it.  The tear then transformed into metal.  She shaped the metal with her hands and then, in disguise, presented it to Isko as a gift.  She told him he would be able to see himself in a new way using the shield, as long as he did it by moonlight. 

Isko was skeptical of this claim, but decided to test it out.  When he did, it drove him mad, stripping him of his mind and leaving him with the soul of a beast.  Isko is said to still be alive, roaming the plains at night, forever chasing the Goddess in her movement across the sky, seeking to reclaim what it is she took from him. 

The shield is currently in the hands of a Centaur warlord who enjoys using it to drive annoying captives mad and then hunting them for sport.      

- 3/Day, when in moonlight, the bearer of the shield can choose to reflect moonlight into the eyes of a creature who can see the shield.  That creature must save.  On a successful save, that creature takes 1d4 radiant damage.  On a failed save, the creature takes 1d6 COG damage.  If this COG damage reduces a creature to 0 COG, it loses all higher reasoning and becomes a feral beast, acting on instinct.  It keeps it's previous personality and motives, but operates with only animal levels of intelligence. 

At dawn, the affected creature should save.  On a successful save, the creature recovers it's reason.  On a failed save, the creature's mind remains in tatters forever. 


A bronze shield marked with the face of a scowling lion, very detailed, to the point where it seems to slightly move and twitch in firelight.

Jak Nuvia is remembered as one of the Garden Land's most famous heroes because while on his many adventures, he accomplished 12 mighty deeds that any normal mortal would have found impossible.  One of these deeds was to defeat the Cerulean Lion, a great blue cat with snow-white hair and teeth and claws of transparent glass.  The beast was huge, but impossibly quick and fast.  No one could see it until it moved, and when it moved, it struck like a thunderbolt then vanished just as swiftly.  So Jak did not bother to fight the beast head-on, he knew such a battle would be little more than a protracted suicide.  So he investigated the Lion, and found out that it also had the ability to pass through solid objects, which made it even harder to defeat. 

So he concocted a plan.  Jak prepared a feast of raw meat and set it with aromatic candles, then waited for the Lion to show up.  He hid near by, and when the Lion arrived, Jak waited for it to finish eating.  Then he stepped out dressed in fine robes and b owed deeply to the creature.  He informed the Lion that he was an emissary from the King of Cats, and that His Majesty wanted the Cerulean Lion to marry his daughter, Ocelot.  The Cerulean Lion was deeply intrigued by this offer, so it consented to listen and bade Jak go on.  However, Jak continued, the Lion would have to prove it was actually as strong and powerful as the Cat King had heard.  So Jak put the Lion through a series of tests, such as cutting a fine sword in half with a single stroke from it's claws, leaping over the tallest tree on the plains, slaying a water buffalo in one strike; all of which the Lion passed effortlessly. 

Then Jak sprang his trap.  He asked the Lion to show him it's power to pass through solid objects.  First, he asked the Lion to pass through a tree.  The Lion approached the tree and bit it, then became like the tree.  Then the Lion asked the tree if it could pass through.  The tree, thinking that the Lion was part of it's own body, consented and the Lion went through effortlessly.  REalizing this is how the Lion's power worked, Jak asked if he could test this power again tomorrow, as he was very tired and he did not want to trouble the Lion more today.  The Lion agreed and they both departed.  That night, Jak prepared two more items.  The next day, they returned to the same spot, and Jak asked the Lion to pass through two more items.  The first was a wall of sharpened pieces of bamboo.  The Lion bit a piece and easily passed through them, same as the tree.  Jak clapped and applauded, then asked the Lion to pass through the last item, a heavy cauldron with an open lid.  Inside, the Lion found the cauldron full of spicy, mulled wine.  Taking a sip of the liquid, the Lion was easily able to enter into the cauldron.  But as it had become like the wine, it could not leave, for the cauldron was an item designed to contain liquids. 

The Lion was thus trapped, and before it could escape, Jak used a bead from his necklace of baby stars and boiled away the wine, slaying the Cerulean Lion.  But when the cauldron cooled, Jak found that some of the Lion's power had gotten trapped in the cauldron's bottom, which was molded into the shape of the Lion's majestic fight.  So Jak cut out that part and had it fashioned into a shield.  This shield would be passed down after Jak's death, becoming a symbol of heroes, especially those who fight like he did, with guile rather then mere strength.

Lionheart is currently in the hands of a freedom-fighter who is attempting to free his people from the oppression of the Orzanian Empire.  His enemies claim he is no patriot, just a greedy warlord backed by the Dwarven Queens and the Vulkari Slave-Princes.    

- 1/Day, the bearer can pound on the shield with a sword or other hard implement.  This makes the shield emit a horrible sound halfway between the roar of a lion and a clap of thunder.  All enemies within 100' must, upon hearing that sound, immediately check morale or flee.  Enemies within 30' also take 1d6 thunder damage.
- 1/Day, a willing creature can press it's face against the shield.  This causes that creature to transform into a Lion with metallic fur and iron teeth.  The creature keeps it's own mental ability scores, but gains a Damage Threshold of 7 and a number of SHP equal to that threshold.  In all other respects, besides AR which is 0, it gains the stats of a normal Lion.


Brightscar is a shield made of a glossy, shining material that resembles the shell of a white insect, though it is thick as ceramic and hard as steel, though it is much lighter.  The surface is almost always cool refracts light, shattering narrow beams into clouds of radiance.  The only other notable feature about it is the harsh burn down the center of the shield.

The Superkiller was a creature who made it his quest to kill two of every creature on the face of the earth, from the lowliest bug to the highest of beasts.  He was a brutal creature, a monster clad in the shape of a humanoid who possessed an indomitable body and unquenchable thirst for blood.  He carved a swath through the Garden Lands, causing all sorts of chaos on his mad quest.  While in the Kingdom of Bivalos, he heard that the King kept a menagarie of rare beasts, including a small flock of Royal Peacocks, known for their lustrous purple feathers.  So the Superkiller broke into the castle and stormed the menagarie, decimating the animals inside, as well as killing anyone who tried to stop him, or was sufficiently annoying. 

When the Prince arrived with a squad of heavily armed men, they were horrified at what they saw.  But even seeing the clear brutality of their enemy, they did not recognize what the Superkiller was.  So instead of fleeing for their lives, they challenged him.  The Superkiller saw them coming and broke them like twigs, then left the castle in an annoyed huff. 

Despondent over the death of his son, the King vowed that he would give anything, up to half his Kingdom or his fair daughter's hand in marriage to the man who could take revenge and destroy the Superkiller.  This brought warriors from all corners of the land, foreigners and natives alike, all who believed themselves to be bolder and stronger than any other.  Some were very skilled, others woefully underprepared.  Some possessed great mystical powers or the aid of the Spirits and Gods, while others merely had superhuman skill at arms or their own incredible bodies.  Yet for all these would-be avengers, none could defeat the Superkiller.  His power, his skill at arms, his sheer knowledge of the craft of death, it was too much for mortal power to overcome. 

So when Takiz, Son of No One told everyone he was going to destroy the Superkiller, they scoffed and mocked him for it.  For Takiz was an orphan, with no father.  He had born in a brothel it was said, abandoned after birth even by his mother.  But Takiz didn't listen.  For Takiz, though it was said he had nothing, knew this was not true.  He still had his mind.  And he felt the Gods had chosen him for this mission.  So he sought out the Lady of Fireflies, favored daughter of the Insect King.  He knew she had a weakness for rice liquor, so after luring her in with some, he got her good and drunk.  Then, when she was intoxicated, he got her to reveal the secret of how she stored light inside herself without hurting herself.  After learning the secret from her, Takiz used that secret to create a shield that would allow the user to do the same, allowing him to steal light and store it inside his body.

Then Takiz approached the Superkiller and told him that while he had clearly proven himself to be stronger than any beast, what about things that were not flesh and blood?  With this shield, the Superkiller would be able to challenge fire itself.  The Superkiller questioned his motives for the gift, but Takiz was an agile liar.  He told the Superkiller that he merely wanted to travel with the Superkiller, so that those who heaped scorn upon him for being a lowly, rootless orphan would hold their hurtful tongues.  The Superkiller decided this wasn't a clever trap and allowed Takiz to come along, especially after it realized that Takiz was so weak that killing him would require little more than a breath. 

With it's new shield, the Superkiller was able to test itself against many mighty blazes, and it found new joy in the struggle to conquer these mighty infernos.  Then one day, after celebrating conquering a firestorm it had unleashed, Takiz got the Superkiller drunk and suggested, as if jesting, that it should try and conquer the sun.  The Superkiller, at that point self-assured beyond all rational sense, not to mention inebriated on alcohol, thought this was a good day.  So when the sun rose, the Superkiller faced east and raised his new shield and challenged the sun.  And to the surprise of no one but itself, the Sun, irritated by this tiny, shouting speck, obliterated the Superkiller with a spare thought, instantly burning the greatest enemy of mortalkind to ash in an eyeblink.

There were always those who doubted Takiz and his story of defeating the Superkiller, but none could dispute the fact that the horrible creature was gone and that the shield he bore, the one that absorb light and heat, was scorched as if from some titanic blaze. 

Brightscar is currently in the hands of a noble, if arrogant Agent of Law, who is using it as a tool to aid his hunt for a pyromaniac Chaos Sorcerer.  He has orders to bring him in alive if possible, but this isn't required.            

- The shield transforms the bearer's blood into light.  This means that unless the bearer is at full health, he takes 1 damage every exploration turn (10 minutes) when not in combat, or in combat, 1 HP damage a round.  Additionally, this causes light to shine out of the bearer's open wounds, illuminating them and the area around them.
- As an action, the bearer can absorb the light produced by a source of the former.  This extinguishes the source, but restores X HP.  To see how much any given source restores, consult the table below.
- As an action, the bearer can slice open one of his arteries and fire a beam of light.  By taking 1d4 damage, the bearer's blood fires out in a hyper-focused, high-intensity beam that does 2d6 fire damage, save for half, on a hit.  This beam is hot enough to cut through wood and heat metal to the point where it is too hot to hold.  The beam can strike any 1 target within 50, after that it loses too much energy to do any damage.

Light Source Absorption:

Defender's Lament:

A shield that looks like a crying purple face with it's eyes closed, twisted into an expression of anguish and sorrow.  The eyes occasionally cry purple tears that taste like salted wine.

The Mourn Rider was a terrifying warlord who terrorized the civilized lands, leading his host of monsters and villains in a ten-year crusade against civilization, Law and Goodness itself.  He was a horrible and cruel master, spreading ruin and misery wherever he went, like a sower casting seeds into a plowed field.  Furthermore, he could not be defeated by conventional tacts, armies broke against his terror and genius, spies and assassins were fed bad information or devoured alive by his disturbing level of insight and knowledge and even powerful adventurers who came from across the world to combat him found that they were no match for his cunning and strength. 

But eventually, even his luck turned.  The Rider was crossing a bridge during a rainstorm, leading his calvary as was his custom when lightning struck the bridge and destroyed it, casting him and some of his men into the raging river below.  The rest of his men drowned, but he was not so lucky.  The Mourn Rider washed up on the shore of a tiny, insignificant farming village where he was greeted by some stocky, dirt-stained farmers and their water buffalo.  His reputation preceded him however, even here, so the Mourn Rider expected no clemency.  Instead he simply told them, "When the shield of the fallen cries it's last tear, I will return, and you will suffer dearly."  The farmers did not listen to what he said, instead wrenching off his helm and bashing his skull in.  And where King and Hero failed, Man succeeded.

The Mourn Rider's shield was washed away downstream and faded into legend, and eventually to myth.  No one today would recognize it, but for the most obscure of scholars.  It is currently in the hands of a bandit chief, who has no idea what he possesses.   

- Defender's Lament produces tears randomly or on command once per hour.  Drinking these tears causes a creature to gain +1 AR as Natural Armor, as their flesh becomes stiff and hard, taking on a faint purple hue.  But as a consequence of doing this, the creature takes 1d4 (exploding) DEX damage.  The d4 can explode multiple times.  This DEX damage as permanent as long as the bearer remains cursed. 
- If Defender's Lament reduces a creature's DEX to 0, that creature transforms into a piece of armor covered by a purple face that perfectly matches the previous bearer, but with his countenance twisted into an expression of sadness and suffering.

Creatures transformed into armor by Defender's Lament cannot be transformed back without divine intervention, but the shield's curse can be broken by hurling it into a raging river and the previous bearer fighting in a battle without armor or shield.  This restores all lost DEX, but the creature loses any benefits produced by the curse, namely the natural armor.

If four creatures are transformed into armor, forming respectively the Breastplate of Lamentations, the Greaves of Distress, the Bracers of Sorrow and the Helm of Woes, in that order, the Mourn Rider will be revived from death and live again, to resume his campaign of terror and suffering.     

Scorpion's Shield:

The lands of the Handsome Men can divided into roughly two halves.  One half, to the West of the Canepri Mountains, is hot and damp, characterized by swamps, bogs and thick, steamy jungles. Rain is abundant and falls in great showers, drowning rivers and filling lakes.  The Handsome Men who live there cultivate the forests and plants into fantastic displays of color, using foliage and grasses like a painter might use colors in a palette.  The other half of the land, east of the Canepris, is still hot but is much drier, characterized by semi-arid scrubland and hot plains that flow northward into the Equatorial lands.  The beauty of this land comes from the serene rock formations, the endless blue of the sky contrasted with the red and gold of the earth and stone, and the regal beauty of the many spiny, flowering plants.  The Handsome Men from this sector regard themselves as much more sophisticated then their Western kin, as they work in the much more difficult medium of light, shadow, stone and sand rather then the pedestrian art of flower-arranging and plant-pruning.

This shield is the work of one of those Eastern Handsome Men.  For if you continue East far enough, you will enter the Great Desert of Yamu, a wretched and inhospitable place known for all the unique and horrible dangers it poses.  And one of those dangers are the Scorpions, which can grow magnificently huge, some to the size of warships or sprawling mansions, with stingers containing enough poison to slay entire cities and claws that could snip an ox in two like a man snapping a cracker.  Though usually content to remain where they are, sometimes these Scorpions venture eastward, where they cause untold devastation and summon entire warbands of desperados, war-artisans and adventurers to slay them. 

This shield was obviously created from one of those beasts, as though being large as a similar sized shield, it weighs about a tenth of what something made of bronze would, without compromising strength in the slightest.  But even more remarkable then that, this one bears the mark of the Pruner of Rose Corridor, a Scorpion that destroyed the town of the same name and provoked the wrath of three dozen Handsome Men Princes.  The beast did not survive the onslaught they unleashed upon it, a spectacular display of magic and savagery that is still spoken of years later as the night of falling stars in the neighboring provinces.  But some magnificent was the power released that when the Scorpion's corpse was finally dismantled and removed, parts of it's armor retained some of it's power, enabling the user to channel and use those same abilities. 

This shield is currently in the hands of a thief by the name of Mulch, for his habit of burrowing into seemingly impenetrable structures and making off with the valuables, as well as what the Governor has planned to do with the thief once he gets his hands on the reprobate, especially as Mulch has been leaving sarcastic poems at the scenes of his robberies, mocking the Governor and his seemingly-inept subordinates for being too stupid to catch him.        

- Grants the bearer resistance to fire damage and advantage on any save against desert conditions such as heat exhaustion, or losing one's way in a sandstorm, as long as the bearer has the shield on his person
- Grants the bearer a burrowing speed equal to his walking speed.  If you don't play on a grid, assume the bearer can tunnel through the earth as fast as he can walk.  He does not need any additional tools to do this.
- 1/Day, if in a place with an abundance of loose sand, such as a desert, the bearer can create a sandstorm that lasts for 10 minutes.  While in the midst of the sandstorm, visibility is cut down to 5' and all ranged attacks against an enemy beyond that have disadvantage. 


A shield made of a pale pink material adorned with silken ribbons and covered in bands of gold and silver, each one heavy with jewels.  The metals are hard, but the pinkish substance, though it does not yield to swords or spears, is soft to the touch.  There is also a central gash or slit running across the majority of the pink area, one that can be slightly opened with a finger.  Peeling it open reveals a depth of flesh that is far deeper than the shield's small width could possibly accomodate. 

Fleshpot is an Ego Weapon.  To wield it you must be one of the following:
- A man with a STR of 16(+2) and a CHA of 15(+1)
- A woman with a CON and CHA of 8(-1) or less

The King of Cixos was known for two things: his tax reforms which enabled the merchants to pay less, earning him their favor and cheap loans from their money-lender patrons, and his womanizing.  There are some who speculate that the former was caused by the latter.  Specifically, through the Demoness Lashiri, who is better known as the Horned Succubus, both for her tendency to appear as an Oxwoman, but also because it is said she had the sexual appetite of a randy bull.

But when the merchants and money-lenders began to abuse the people of Cixos and the King did nothing, the people prayed and grumbled endlessly, until eventually their prayers reached Heaven.  When she heard their complaints, Lady Tezika, Goddess of Civic Spirit, summoned her husband, Lord Namel, God of Peddlers and dispatched him to investigate these complaints.  Namel sought out the truth and when he found out that they were true, he probed deeper and discovered that a Demoness had been hired by a group of wealthy merchants and money-lenders to defile the laws of the land.  When she heard that, Tezika was outraged and immediately moved to act.  At first, she was tempted merely to destroy the merchants, but her husband encouraged her to stay her hand.  He told her to be gentle with them, for it is not common that a man can resist an amorous woman.  And that gave Tezika an idea.

That night, when Lashiri fell asleep surrounded by the servants of the King's household, Tezika broke in and kidnapped the Demoness, and dragged her back to the Goddess' palace.  Once they were there, she restrained the Demoness and told her that because she tempted men to defile the law and bring forth oppression, she would tempt those who she once entertained.  Then Tezika removed her womanhood and fashioned it into a magic shield.  She then gave that shield to a burly fishmonger who had been ground under by the merchants and anointed him as the new King.  That fishmonger was named Barkil, and he proved to be an excellent King, just but fair.  He was wildly disliked by the merchant families, but that was to be expected after he wrested power from them and had those who abused their financial power thrown in prison or executed just like poor criminals. 

The truth of where the shield of the King of Cixos came from is not widely known, but even if it were, most would probably dismiss it as a wild tale.  Nonetheless, it is quite real.  Just ask Lashiri, who serves Tezika in the Heavenly Court as her handmaiden.  Despite her high place among the servants, the Demoness is still probably the most put upon of the Lady Tezika's servants, not counting her lord husband.

Fleshpot is currently in the hands of an operative attached to the Brotherhood of Broken Chains, who was hired by a wealthy merchant family to steal the shield, to embarass the current King.  There is a good chance the Brotherhood operative might betray his employers, as while the Brotherhood ordinarily looks down on traitors, those who profit off of the system are fair game.  The royal household is currently pretending the theft hasn't occurred, but they need the shield for an upcoming festival and are quietly looking for someone who can retrieve it for them before the deadline. 

- 1/Day, the bearer can cause the shield to produce a cloud of scent that forces all males within 100' to save.  On a failed save, those males will come to investigate the strange smell.  Creatures with a good sense of smell will easily detect it, while creatures with poorer senses of smell will not consciously recognize the smell, but will go in pursuit of it anyway if they fail their save.
- 1/Day, the bearer can cause the shield to spray blood out of the narrow slit.  This strikes every creature in front of it in a 30' cone.  If it hits a creature head on, that creature must save or be blinded.  Creatures covered by this blood must immediately check morale.  If those creatures fail their morale check, they will immediately leave to find some place or way to wash this blood off themselves.  They will attend to more important matters, such as attacking enemies or imminent danger first, but otherwise their first priority will be to go clean themselves off.
- 1/Day, the bearer can can cause the shield's central slit to open up to reveal a pink, toothless maw; a slick tunnel that extends to some unknown destination.  The first creature to see this must save.  On a failed save, the creature will walk calmly over to this opening and crawl inside.  The slit then closes behind it, leaving no trace that the creature ever entered it.

from Warhammer Online

Saturday, August 21, 2021

OSR: Coatl

Rooster and Hen have not had a good relationship, even before their separation.  Hen was hurt by his infidelities and when she returned the favor by laying with Serpent and producing the Cockatrice, he raged against her and tried to kill her.  Only the intervention of Iel, Goddess and Queen of the Orzane, prevented this murder.  She whisked Hen away, but since then, Hen's children have lived under Rooster's curse, who declared that his children and hers would be perpetually at war.  

Since that day, roosters have been cruel to hens and Rooster's other children, such as the Griffon, Hippogriff and Hookbeak, have loved the taste of chicken and their eggs.  They sometimes eat roosters too, of course, but this is of little concern to their distant father.

But there was one of Rooster's children who did not approve of this.  He was the smallest of them, and the weakest.  He was a bastard, a snake with an impossible dream.

by Sarah Dalinger
The Youngest:

His name was Chickenhead, or Chicken Snake.  He resembled a serpent, except for a tiny pair of vestigal wings behind his head, so small they resembled a rabbit's fuzzy ears.  He was mocked and teased for this, and for his small size.  Chickenhead was tiny compared to many of his siblings, and could only harm hen's children by sneaking into their coops and striking them when they slept.  He could overpower a hen, but if they all ganged up on him, he feared he might lose an eye.  This intimate perspective he alone had convinced him that this feud between Mother and Father was not only pointless, but cruel and ugly.  He did not want to harm those that could have been his siblings.

He went to his father to discuss this, but his father informed him that he did not care about Chickenhead's feelings.  "You are my most lowly son," Rooster told him, "You cannot even fly.  The least you can do is be obedient.  And if you cannot do that, then you are no son of mine."  So Chickenhead left in shame, certain that he must obey his father.  For it was true.  He could not fly.  There was nothing he wanted more in his life than to be able to take to the skies and soar with his brothers and sisters, but he was stuck upon the ground. 

But as he mourned his fate, he met a queer creature.  This creature had fiery-orange fur, a long muzzle and white paws, with a bushy tail tipped in white like a painter's brush.  This creature introduced himself as Raynard the Fox.  Chickenhead had never met such a creature before, and asked him what he was.  Raynard replied that he did not exist, so he couldn't say.  But he was a good listener, and heard Chickenhead's plight.  When Chickenhead told him he could not fly, Raynard pointed out something obvious.  "You have wings, do you not?  What else is needed for flight?"  Then Raynard departed, leaving no sign he had ever been there.  But his words stuck with Chickenhead, who decided to find out what he needed.  What was the secret of flight?

First he went to Dragon, who had been split into many different forms.  They were all arguing with each other, each declaring themselves to be closest to the original.  When he spoke, at first they could not hear.  But when he finally gained their attention, he asked them, "What is the secret of flight?"  In resaponse, all the Dragons began talking over each other, each making a different suggestion.  Some suggested it was strength, others magical ability, others beauty.  Chickenhead listened to them argue, but none of the answers seemed true to him.  So he departed.  The Dragons did not notice, and continued to argue amongst themselves.

Then Chickenhead went to West Wind, who was the wild bringer of Freedom, who was in his cloud-palace, attended by servants and slaves.  Chickenhead managed to obtain an audience with the Noble Wind, as his father and the West Wind were drinking buddies.  So after approaching the throne, Chickenhead was able to ask his question.  The West Wind told him that flying is something that one had or did not.  It could not be obtained through effort, one either could fly or could not.  But as he spoke, the West Wind realized that this had saddened his friend's son.  So to save the boy some hope, he quickly added that even he did not know everything.  But the one who would have the answer, that was the Simurgh, Queen of Birds. 

So Chickenhead decided that he would make the long journey to the Simurgh.  He trekked to her mountain home, climbing high above the land, until he rose above the clouds and sat beneath the glittering stars of Heaven and the distant palaces of the Gods.  There he found her, huge and majestic, her wings sufficient to block out the sun and her beak sharp enough to shred clouds like paper.  He lowered his head and pleaded that she might speak to him.  And speak she did.  "What troubles you, little son of Rooster?"  Chickenhead was terrified of this astounding creature, this royal Spirit, but he had come to far to give up.  "I want to fly," he told her.  "But I cannot.  Flight is something you are born with, and I was not born with that gift."

At that, the Simurgh rebuked him.  "Who told you that?  The winds?  The birds of the air with their hurtful songs?  Your siblings, insecure because of their own sins, jealous of your noble heart?  Your Father, who never truly loved you?  Why would you believe them?"  She spread her wings.  "You are a child of the air, of feather and beak.  You have everything you need to succeed at your goal.  So tell me, what is stopping you?" 

With that, Chickenhead had his answer.  He approached the edge of the Simurgh's nest and looked down.  There was an abyss beneath him.  If he couldn't do it, he would surely die.  But he couldn't stand to wait anymore.  The Simurgh twisted her head to look at him.  He looked back at her, then fixed his eyes on the horizon.  Then Chickenhead leaped, throwing himself from the peak out into the sky.  And before he could fall back to Earth, he spread his small wings and flew.

by Manzanedo

The Coatl:

From that day on, Chickenhead rarely touched the ground.  He reveled in his ability to fly and as he spent more time in the air, as he mastered his wings, he mastered himself.  When he did that, no creature could best him.  So when others attempted to pull him or others down, Chickenhead struck them down, teaching them the errors of their way.  Soon he became known as a champion of the oppressed, a symbol of hope to those who despaired.  He, the smallest of serpents and the weakest of birds, could fly.  And as he won battle after battle, he grew and grew, until his coils could crush mountains and scatter clouds with a flick of his feather-crowned tail.  And from that day on, he was known as Coatl, which means Courage or Hope, or in the oldest of tongues, Faith.

To this day, his children carry on his noble legacy, battling injustice where they see it, dueling the Dragons, Rocs and other great winged beasts for control of the skies.  Coatls are noble protectors, bringing rain to lands plagued by drought and sending storms to swallow up the unrighteous.  They save the innocent and liberate the oppressed.  Many a tyrant has loosened his grasp after seeing the colorful wings and shining scales of a Coatl in the heavens above. 

Number Appearing: 1
Alignment: (see below) or Any Good Alignment
Languages: The Lingua Franca plus 1d20 other languages
Treasure: Coatl flesh, feathers and fangs are all extremely valuable to Alchemists and Sages.  Coatls also often collect valuable things- see below.

HD Varies, see below
AR Varies, see below
Atk Varies, see below
Mor (7+1d4 per size category)
Saves (7+HD/SHP) or less
Immune to Lightning and Thunder Damage

Flight: Coatls can fly.  They get +4 to their initiative rolls when in the air.  Coatls cannot hover, but must keep moving to stay in the air.  They are too large to gain any Armor Rating (AR) bonuses when in the air.

Electrified Body: Coatls channel the power of the storm through their bodies.  When a creature wearing metal armor or wielding a metal weapon strikes them, that creature takes 1d4 lightning damage.

Lightning Blast: Coatls can, as an action, blast a bolt of lightning from their mouths.  This bolt of lightning does 4d6 lightning damage, save for half to one creature and any creatures within 30' of the target if they are wearing metal armor or are wet.  If the ground is wet, all creatures must automatically save.  The Coatl can only fire a blast of lightning once every 1d4 rounds. 

Great Jaws: If a Coatl chooses to bite someone, that creature is automatically grappled on a hit.  The Coatl can then choose to swallow that creature on it's next turn as a free action.  That creature may attempt to beat the Coatl's STR roll with a STR check of it's own, or attempt a DEX check.  Coatls have a STR modifier equal to half their HD/SHP.  If the creature wins, it escapes and is not swallowed.  If the Coatl wins, the creature is swallowed.  Swallowed creatures are blinded and grappled and cannot do anything that requires large or precise movements.  They also take 1d6 acid damage a round.  If the Coatl takes damage equal to half it's HD/SHP, it must save.  On a failed save, the Coatl spits up the creature it swallowed.  Coatls can also choose to spit up creatures as a free action on their turns.

- Fly overhead, fry them with lightning
- Sweep in, swallow a creature
- Stay out of range, unless your opponents are very weak

artist unknown

To customize a Coatl, roll on the tables below:

How large is the the Coatl?


1- Small.  The Coatl is a Large creature, as long as a watch-tower is tall.  It has 6 HD and 2 AR.  It also takes -1 damage from all sources smaller than it per size category.  A Medium creature does -1 damage to it, a Small creature -2, etc.  
2- Big.  The Coatl is a Huge creature, big enough to encircle a small fort in it's coils.  It has 10 HD and 2 AR.  It also takes -1 damage from all sources smaller than it per size category.  A Medium creature does -2 damage to it, a Small creature -3, etc.
3- Monstrously large.  The Coatl is Colossal creature, big enough to encircle a small, walled town in it's coils.  It has a Damage Threshold of 1d4+4 and an equivalent number of SHP.  It ignores any attack that fails to equal or breach it's Damage Threshold as if it did no damage. 
4- Awesomely Huge.  The Coatl is a Gargantuan creature, with coils that stretch across the heavens like arcs of lightning or great cloud formations.  It has a Damage Threshold of 1d4+6 and an equivalent number of SHP.  It ignores any attack that fails to equal or breach it's Damage Threshold as if it did no damage.   


Large Coatls can make 1 Bite attack and 1 Tail attack that each do 1d10+3 damage.

Huge Coatls can make 1 Bite attack and 1 Tail attack that each do 2d10+1 damage.

Colossal Coatls can 1 Bite attack and 1 Tail attack that each do 3d6 damage each.

Gargantuan Coatls can 1 Bite attack and 1 Tail attack that each do 4d8 damage each.

What is the Coatl's morality?


1- Patronizingly compassionate.  The Coatl doesn't like hurting sentient creatures and it regards humanoids with a patronizing kindness.  The Coatl probably genuinely means well, but man is it insufferable.
2- Just, but absolutely merciless.  The Coatl believes in punishing injustice, no matter how slight.  It is always fair, but never considers anything beyond the fact that a crime was committed and that punishment must be exacted.  Even those who admire the Coatl will fear it. 
3- Amoral.  The Coatl rejects it's noble inheritance and chooses to live as it pleases.  It may harm you, or help you, but it does this because it wants to, not for any other reason.
4- Selfish and cruel.  The Coatl has been corrupted by it's power and lives at the expense of others.  It justifies this behavior through some kind of elaborate moral theory or tortured reasoning.

Does this Coatl have any other powers?  Roll X times on this table for each 2 HD or SHP it has above 6.


1- The Coatl can, as an action, create 1d8 spheres of ball lightning.  These spheres float freely for 1 round, then attack the nearest creature within 50' wearing the most metal.  If there is no one with more metal than anyone else, then the closest creatures.  Creatures targeted must save or take 1d8 lightning damage.  The Coatl can only do this every 1d4 rounds.
2- The Coatl can, as an action, make it's scales magnetic.  Attacks against it with metal weapons have advantage, but they stick to the scales.  Creatures holding metal weapons that get stuck to the Coatl take 1d4 lightning damage a round and cannot let go unless they pass a STR saving throw.
3- The Coatl can, as an action, flick it's tail and create a massive blast of wind that strikes all creatures within a 50' cone.  All creatures within that cone must save or be blown 1d6*10' in the direction of the wind.  If there is anything hard in the way, such as a wall, cliff face or grove of trees, those creatures take Xd6 damage, where X is the multiple of 10 they flew, save for half.  The Coatl can do this every 1d4 rounds as an action.
4- The Coatl can, as an action, create 3 miniature tornados that zip along the ground, each targeting one creature.  Creatures must save or be grabbed by the tornado, either a CON save to sprint far enough fast enough, or a STR save to grab something and hang on.  Creatures who fail their saves carried 30' in a random direction and take 2d6 damage, save for half, before being deposited on the ground as the tornados run out of steam.
5- The Coatl can, as an action, fly high into the air and snatch up a cloud.  Shredding it into pieces, it then hurls those bits to earth as a rain of ice javelins, striking all creatures within a 50' diameter circle.  All creatures within must save or take 3d6 damage, half ice, half sharp.  Creatures with shields can, on a successful save, take no sharp damage.  The Coatl can only do this every 1d4 rounds.
6- The Coatl can, 1/Day as an action, change the weather in a local area, making it rain, snow or sleet for 1 mile.

artist unknown

Coatls like to dwell in high places, such as the tops of gargantuan trees, mountaintops or atop desert mesas.  However, when such places cannot be found, they will also choose to dwell in places that are vast and open, such as sprawling grasslands, isolated islands, or barren deserts. 

Coatls also have great sway with the Air and Water Elementals who control the weather and use this power to influence it in their territory.  Good Coatls send rain to those who need it and hold back destructive weather, sending it to isolated regions, such as barren lands or over the sea where it can harm fewer potential people.  Evil Coatls hold the rain ransom and send terrible storms to destroy their enemies. 

In either case, this great power and magnificence can draw creatures to the Coatl, those who seek it's protection, provision, pardon or power.  Coatls do not seek out humanoids or lesser creatures to worship and serve it as Dragons do, but they will accept servants and subjects who share the Coatl's moral code.  Assume that all creatures who serve a Coatl have the same Alignment as it. 

Note that Coatls of 7 HD or smaller do not usually have followers, as they have not established enough of a reputation to earn a following.

Also note that the following results assume a Good Coatl, some adaptation might be required for an Evil Coatl.

Who serves this Coatl?


1- A squad of celibate warrior monks (or nuns) who wish to fight for the Coatl's cause and die honorably and heroically.  Their leader is a fanatic who wields a silver spear that allow him to channel and redirect the Coatl's lightning without hurting himself.
2- A village of former refuges who set up shop here after being expelled from their former lands.  The Coatl helped them cultivate this formerly worthless land and make it a verdant paradise.
3- A Chaos Cult that brings offerings to the Coatl, believing it to be a dread servant of Chaos (wings, lightning, bright colors).  Their leader is attempting to convince the Coatl of his ideology and to convince the Coatl to join them in destroying the institutions of Law.  The Coatl is either embarrassed of it's zealous followers, attempting to reform them, or unaware of how radical they truly are. 
4- A collective of Sages, Artists and Magi who revere the Coatl and wish to study it.  It is helping them with their various artistic, magical and philosophical projects, along with their poetry.  Secretly, one of them is evil and is stealing little bits of the Coatl's mana, just enough that the Coatl is unlikely to notice it.  He just needs to steal enough to become a Storm-King, and then all those who laughed at him will be sorry.
5- A Stampede of Hippogriffs, who spend their time grazing and eating small animals.  They dwell under the shelter of their younger, but far larger brother. 
6- An Anthem of Griffons who devour wild horses and frolick through the air with the Coatl. 
7- A group of former criminals who have come to atone for their sins through lives of honest labor.  They live under the iron law of the Coatl and the strong hands of his incorruptible enforcers.  This Coatl can tell if someone is lying by having the person place a hand on it's muzzle when they speak.  
8- A Sorority of Amazons, who worship the Coatl as a symbol of perfected masculinity and seek to reform men by instructing them to act like the Coatl does.  Their leader is a strong-willed Maiden who has developed a more personal relationship with the Coatl and has fallen in love with it.  She wants to join with and bear the child of the Coatl, but she is not sure if such a thing is even possible. 

What treasures does the Coatl have?


1- Coatl scales from the larger specimens contain a large amount of metal in them.  Some of these metals are precious.  If you could collect some of these scales, you could burn off the organic material and draw out the metal.  Even common iron extracted from these scales could fetch a good price.  You wouldn't even have to kill a Coatl, just steal some scales from the Coatl's nest or burrow.  Just don't get caught.
2- Coatl Eggs are about the size of a humanoid curled up in the fetal position.  Each one glitters like it is bejeweled and is worth it's weight in diamonds, gold, or dragon's blood.  If you steal a Coatl egg and get away with it, you could sell it for an unimaginable sum of money.  The only problem is getting away with it.
3- Coatls sometimes use their lightning to superheat glass and mold it into beautiful and eerie shapes.  These sculptures sometimes decorate their sandy lairs, while others are merely abandoned.  For the especially beautiful specimens, some wealthy patrons would pay large sums for.  Trouble is, Coatls never lair near these people and it's a long journey, full of any number of things that could break the glass into a million pieces.
4- Coatls sometimes confiscate magical items that it feels are too dangerous for a mortals, or at least a particular group of mortals, to possess.  Roll on the sub-table below to see what the Coatl is protecting from those who would misuse it.

What Magic Item did the Coatl confiscate?


1- A statue of black basalt, draped in cloth of gold.  Finely made yet strange, for it depicts an ugly creature squatting on what looks like a throne of bones and metal.  The first person who spills their blood on the statue will be able to hear it speak.  The statue will promise them power, sensual pleasure, fame, glory or whatever it takes to get them to feed it.  The statue wants worship, offerings of virgins, grain, animals and human sacrifice.  If sufficiently supplied with power in the form of worship and fresh blood, it can send dreams to you or others, scry on creatures it has seen before offer advice from it's thousands of years of experience in advising rulers.  It can also give you magic powers, in exchange for service and more sacrifices.  If 100 HD of sacrifices are ever offered to it within 1 year, the demon imprisoned in the statue breaks free and will attempt to take over the world.
2- An unfinished portrait, with the face and head of the subject missing.  If you finish the portrait, it will become the phylactery of whoever is depicted in the painting.  As long as the painting is intact, the person will not die.  If their body is destroy, the person will persist as a ghost.  But should the painting be destroyed, the person immediately dies.
3- A horn that if blown, can bind a crowd of people, all who hear it, to the next potential leader who speaks to them.  If blown in front of a group of bandits and the Fighter goes out to speak to them, they will immediately decide that the Fighter is the best man to lead them and will become his loyal servants.  The problem is that the person who blows the horn will take 1 HP damage a day and will not be able to recover HP.  This continues until that person dies.  After which, the charm breaks and the bandits will lose their new loyalties.  They may still follow the Fighter, but they will grumble and demand more, and question his leadership, where as before they did not. 
4- A halberd with a wide, cruel blade meant for chopping and crushing, the other side bearing a long spike for impaling shields and puncturing through weak points in armor.  The wood is yellowed and the blade rusty, but it still strikes with terrible, fluid strength.  Though it will not be immediately obvious, this is the Plague Weapon Ecibix, which spreads a disease of the same name that makes a person grow feverish, cough and then vomit blood, before causing their innards to dissolve and spill out as they die.  The bearer of the weapon will become a carrier, spreading the disease but unaffected as long as they carry the weapon.  Should they ever abandon it, it will prey upon them just as it did all it's other victims.  By communing with the Plague Spirit that is linked to the weapon, the user can gain the ability to projectile vomit infected blood, survive wounds that would be fatal for others and the ability to command the biting insects that come to feast on the carrion the user generates. 
5- A book of erotic instructions, vivid drawings and carnal feats.  A manual on how to be charming and persuasive, especially to the opposite sex.  If the user wishes to seduce or charm someone, he can find the instructions in this book.  But the more he reads, the more he will become addicted to the book.  Eventually, the book will devour him and he will be trapped as one of the illuminated drawings in the book, unable to even scream as it claims his soul.
6- A cleaver, notched and seemingly mundane.  When a creature is killed by this cleaver, it automatically butchers and transforms them into cuts of meat such as loin, steaks and sausage.  The cleaver also attracts Ghouls, though this might not be a magical compulsion.

Plot Hooks:


1- A powerful spirit of the Upper Air, leading a procession of servants and retainers, all laden with treasures.  It has come to 1dX [1= Ask the Coatl to join the Spirit's Court; 2= Help the Spirit in the latest war it is embroiled in; 3= Leave the local areas, as people are starting to make offerings to the Coatl instead of to the Spirit; 4= To marry the Spirit.]  The Coatl has, so far, politely declined all offers.  The Spirit is not one to give up easily though and recruits you to help it with it's current problems.
2- A King has heard of the benevolence of the Coatls and after hearing reports of one near by, he wishes that you track down the Coatl and convince it to come to his land, so his people can enjoy abundant harvests and he can enjoy full coffers from tax revenue.
3- As above, except the opposite.  The King is worried about the Coatl and tells the player it is a deceitful beast and asks them to drive it away, preferrably without hurting it too badly, so it doesn't come to take revenge.  But as the players travel, they realize how tyrannical the King is and how bad some of his policies are.  Maybe they should bring the Coatl to him instead, or take care of him themselves.  Or perhaps not, that could be really dangerous.
4- A Coatl and a Sphinx are feuding, perhaps over territory, or some other esoteric privilege.  Perhaps the Sphinx feels it is better left to guard an artifact a Coatl has seized, while the Coatl thinks the Sphinx should take a hike.  The two of them are nearing a violent confrontation, and if not stopped, their battle will devastate the surrounding area and bring ruin to all nearby.  Stop them.
5- A Chaos Warband is currently burning and pillaging their way across the land.  Their destination, the city the players have just arrived at, is as obvious as it is doomed.  Reinforcements will not arrive in time to prevent the city from being burned to the ground and it's inhabitants sacrificed, eaten or worse.  The city's leadership have only one idea of how to save their people, the Coatl who lives in a very inconvenient but nearby location.  Journey there as swiftly as you can and gain the aid of the creature, and bring it back to save the city.  Unfortunately, when you arrive, the Coatl is dealing with a problem of it's own and cannot simply drop everything and go help you, even if it wanted to, which it might not to.
6- A local noble has heard that a Coatl has seized a magic item that would help him with his specific and intractable problem.  He will pay top dollar for you to go and steal the item and return with it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

OSR: Psychopomps, Final Judgement and Life After Death

This is what happens after you die.  I heavily borrowed from Arnold K's post on the same subject.  He also inspired the general idea of including Psychopomps in my setting. 

The best way to do this is to have a hat or bag with strips of folded paper in it.  Have the player draw from it after you add the relevant Psychopomps.  Alternatively, assign each Psychopomp they're likely to meet, then have them roll. 

Then roll 1d6.



1- Late.  The Psychopomp sent to retrieve your soul is late or no one shows up for a bit.  If you run now, you'll probably escape, for a while.
2- Double-Booked.  Have the player draw again.  Someone else shows up as well.  It's a robbery or a clerical error, depending on who is here.
3-6- Nothing special.

Put the Psychopomps Laboring Soul, Very Specific Death, Demon into the hat, plus any other relevant ones.  Then have the player draw one.

by Raquel Cornejo


Laboring Soul
HD 1d3
Qualification: Default  

A soul from Sheol, sent to guide you.  They resemble a mortal, but insubstantial and partially translucent.  Additionally, they all have ropes of gleaming black pearls tightly knotted around their bodies.  Some are covered with pearls, laden down with these black jewels, while others only bear a few.  For every good deed or faithful year of service, one pearl falls and dissolves into the ether.

Laboring Souls are usually not that strong and should you resist them, will not fight, but will instead flee and call for back-up.  They might encourage you to flee, but most will simply ask you to come along politely.  Laboring Souls carry torches that hide them from Demons and the Servants of Chaos so even though they are weak, they can still bring you safely to the Underworld.  If you run from one, you're likely to encounter something far less pleasant.    

Very Specific Death
HD 3
Qualification: Default

A bureaucrat of Death, sent to retrieve you after your soul separated from your body permanently.  Resembles a Skeleton in somber robes and a dark hood.  Carries a book of names for all the souls he has to collect today, and a pocket watch that he is uses to keep himself punctual.  He has a very busy schedule and no time for nonsense.

Very Specific Deaths only collect certain types of souls, such as "Adventurers cannibalized by Ghouls in a Cave, Cavern or Tunnel System" or "Housewife immolated in her kitchen".  They don't like to fight and are very dedicated to professionalism, customer service and politeness.  They'll chat with you and are quite sociable, with their jobs never giving them much time to socialize.  However, they will not let you return to life, or even hint that it's a possibility.  That would be a strict violation of policy.  If you roll "Double-Booked" and two of these guys show up, they will begin arguing over who actually has jurisdiction, showing each other forms and threatening to contact supervisors.  They'll still be able to keep an eye on you while doing this.

And while they have a distate for violence, should a charge attempt to escape, they will produce a murderous looking scythe and cut down the fleeing soul.    

HD 1d6+2
Qualification: Default

An astral predator, come to prey upon the recently deceased.  Depending on who you are and what you have done, the Demon might take a variety of approaches.  It might attempt to gobble you up and devour you, allowing you to strength it while you spend the next thousand years digesting in it's stomach, in constant agony but unable to die; but if you're strong, this might not be an option.  In which case, the Demon might attempt to trick you into coming with it or offer to make a deal with you.  Most Demons have the ability to restore people to life, either through their own power or through mortal proxies.  However, the cost for doing so will be high.  Demons do not work for free. 

Demons are shapeshifters and have extremely unique appearances.  Roll on this table to determine the Demon's appearance.

Heavenly Bailiff
HD 1d6+2
Qualification: Offended the Gods of Heaven, the Lords of Law

You must have done something bad for this guy to show up.  An Angel of Law, with one or more of the following traits: glowing white wings; perfect, symmetrical body; four, six or eight arms; voice like a blowtorch; bleeding metallic blood from a persistent wound.  This creature is an Agent of Heaven sent to ensure you do not escape from them.  You will be seized and hauled down for trial in Sheol.  If you're facing one of these, you can probably assume what the verdict at your Judgement will be. 

Heavenly Baliffs are armed with chains of light and Bidents useful for pinning creature's limbs down.  They are skilled at catching escapees.  Even if you escape this one, it will continue to pursue you until it catches you. 

Archon of the Underworld
HD 8+1d4
Qualification: Seriously harmed the Cause of Law or the Lords of the same

The Archons of the Underworld are dead Law Gods who are sent below to govern Sheol, as they have no place in this world.  However, under rare circumstances, they are permitted to return to the living world.  This is one of those circumstances.  Archons come in all forms, from gray-faced children bearing the wounds that killed them, dripping glowing white-gold blood to astounding;y beautiful, inhuman sculptures of metal and bone that merge together in such a way it is impossible to tell where one begins and another ends.  Archons are generally dour figures, bitter and grim.  They will relish capturing you, but are usually not cruel, though they can be very harsh with those who refuse to cooperate.  That being said, they'll be a little disappointed if you don't fight at least a bit.

Archons do not have the ability to order Creation with their Speech as living Gods do, but they still possess great powers.  They have the powers of Superman, plus shapeshifting and energy blasts.

by Alexandr Elichev

Angel of Isfet
HD 1d6+2
Qualification: Were a Servant of Chaos in life and was actually effective

If you swore yourself to the cause of Chaos in life, the Chaos Gods marked you as one of their own.  As such, if you are dead and they would prefer you not to be, when they hear you leave your mortal coil they might dispatch an Angel of Isfet after you.  If you were actually effective in spreading Chaos and performed some valuable actions to weaken Law, take out the Demon and put one of these in the hat.

Angels of Isfet resemble Demons, but they make Demons look positively drab.  They have glorious plumage, dozens of multi-faceted eyes and/or more tentacles than you can shake a stick at.  They will offer to bring you back to life if you're willing to recommit to the cause of Chaos and revolution and will give you your next assignment, should you choose to accept it.  Of course, should you not, they will abandon you to your fate. 

Angels of Isfet can fight, but usually choose not to.  If you don't want to continue the good fight, that's your problem.  If they must fight though, they fight with their weaponized shapeshifting as well as spectral fire, lightning and acid. 

Prince of Chaos
HD 7+1d3
Qualification: Were a Servant of Chaos in life and was very effective

The Princes, or Gods, of Chaos are a fickle bunch.  The Folk are stable compared to their mercurial moods and sudden, almost bipolar behavior.  As such, the Princes do not usually come directly to the aid of their servants, who they regard as mostly expendable.  As such, if you have attracted their personal attention, you are likely an arch-villain, a prized slave who makes the Agents of Law tremble.  If you are someone who attract the forces of Law wherever you go, have killed a King or done something similarly ground-breaking, take out the Demon and add a Prince of Chaos.

Princes resemble beautiful, malformed creatures, living cascades of features that alter their size and shape on a whim.  A Prince of Chaos could resemble an irresistible hermaphrodite with lobster claws and a stallion's lower limbs or a living sculpture of glass of swirling sand hair and features of lightning or anything in between.  The Prince will offer to return you to life to continue your work, if you demonstrate your continued loyalty.  The Prince may simply resurrect you, but it may also grant you another boon, should you ask for it.  You probably shouldn't, as Princes of Chaos are known not only for their malice, but their strange and cruel senses of humor.  Asking for the strength of ten men might cause it to cause ten tiny clones of you to grow partially out of your skin, tiny hands, torsos and arms emerging from all over your body.  Each one has it's own sub-personality and they all constantly bicker.

If you refuse the Prince's offer, he might drag you off to be his personal play-thing for a couple hundred thousand years, or he might reincarnate you as a slug for refusing his generous offer.

artist unknown

Heroic Ancestor
HD what he or she had in life
Qualification: Helped your people in life

If you faithfully served your people or helped them in some significant way while you were still alive, add as many of these as you feel are appropriate to the hat. 

Your grandfather is very proud of you, even though you are separated by at least 10 generations.  He has a very unique offer for you- you should remain in this world and instruct your friends to bury your body in the soil of your homeland, then begin making offerings to you.  If enough people do, you will be able to become an Ancestral Spirit, a guardian of your kin and tribe till they vanish from this world or the world crumbles into ash, whatever comes first. 

If you choose this option, you cannot be resurrected in any way, for you will have moved beyond death in most cases.  But your friends will still be able to see you and receive your help, and your family and later descendents will be able to call upon you strength, even after all those currently alive have returned to the dust of the earth. 

Spirit of the Land

HD what it had when you last encountered it
Qualification: Had a significant involvement with a Spirit or Confederacy of Spirits

If a character had significant involvement with a Spirit or a number of Spirits, especially if he died with unfulfilled obligations, add any number of cards labeled as Spirits.  If one of these are drawn, the Spirits he has the most involvement with will show up. 

Depending on the type of Spirit and what it wants, things could go very differently.  A Law Spirit will probably demand you transfer your obligations to someone still alive then escort you to the House of Judugement, while a Nature or Chaos spirit might reincarnate you, in exchange for another favor or service. 

Alternatively, if you were hostile to a Spirit or it's goals, it might just devour your soul and enslave you to it for a million years.   

Less Specific Death
HD 5
Qualification: Reached Level 5 or have escaped death once before

Unlike the Very Specific Deaths, these guys have more lattitude and autonomy when reaping.  They are managers and administrators of lesser deaths, but also have their own souls to collect.  However, because of their expanded roles, they collect souls under much broader categories.  For example, a Less Specific Death could be assigned all "Murders motivated by sexual passion or disgust within the Kingdom of Jikal". 

Unlike their lesser counterparts, these Deaths are noble and regal in bearing, their fingers heavy with rings and necks laden with necklaces, trinkets and souvenirs taken from the dead who resisted.  Their robes are trimmed in the fur of spirit-creatures, the black fabric dark as the night.  They are quite often arrogant, but can also be cultured and charming.  They love to boast and brag, and since their minions have no doubt heard the same stories literally millions of times since they were assigned to their dead-end positions, the Less Specific Death is very eager for a new person to relay his stories to.  Expect to hear about all the famous people he has reaped, the runaways who almost escaped, the labyrthine office politics of the House of Judgement and the Order of Reapers and a bunch of other things you can't possibly be expected to know or care about.

Less Specific Deaths will not let you return to life, but they are willing to make small concessions, such as letting you see your loved ones or deliver a short message to your friends before departing.  Do not take advantage of their kindness, however, as you will regret it. 

HD 9
Qualification: Reached Level 8 or have escaped death at least twice

The big man himself.  Is this the original, OG Death?  Maybe, he's not telling.  Regardless, he's the head of the Order of Reapers and Chief Psychopomp for the House of Judgement.  If you got him out here, you must have done something really impressive.  Unlike his subordinates, he's quite reasonable, but he has a job to do, you understand?  It's really nothing personal.

If you seem sufficiently talented, he will offer you a chance to join the Death's Head, a special team of trouble-shooters that are usually deployed specifically to apprehend people like you.  He's also willing to offer you a bit of leniency with the Court, if you come quietly.  He knows what it's like, dying sucks, but it's a part of life.  If they start breaking rules now it'll just create a wound that will fester and fester until the bottom falls out and the boundary between Sheol and the Living World is torn asunder.  So really, it's in your best interest and the interest of everyone alive if you just come with him.

If you try and resist him, he'll slap you around a bit, then bring you in.  He won't take you seriously until you do some real damage to him.  Then he'll retreat and call for back-up.

Death's Head (Psychopomp Special Operations Team)
HD Each of the 1d4+4 heroes has 1d4+2 HD
Qualification: Killed a Death or attacked Old Bones himself

These guys resemble a bunch of mortal souls dressed in black robes like deaths and decked out with bone-and-silver armor with matching weapons.  Lots of chains, skulls and scythes.  So many scythes.  These guys are here to bring you and if they have to cut you into ribbons and bring you in like confetti, they will.  

Qualification: Had a mission you were primarily focused on for the majority of your life

If you died with some major obligation or desire unfulfilled, you can become a Ghost.  You can only do this if your obligation or desire was a core element of your personality.  Leaving the oven on is not sufficient motivation, but if your whole shtick was protecting Princess Miriam and you die while protecting her, but unsure of her ultimate fate, you can return as a Ghost.  And while a fresh Ghost will be mostly comparable to the person who died, over time they degrade until they become obsessives, focused only on what their driving mission is.  

They also tend to go crazy from the strain of watching the world go on without them.  For example, if the Ghost whose purpose was to protect Princess Miriam watches her die of old age, it won't be able to accept the fact that she died and he could do nothing.  So he'll start to lose it, and adopt some new girl as his "Princess Miriam" or he'll simply begin taking revenge upon those who he feels are responsible for her death, or perhaps something else equally mad.

artist unknown

The House of Judgement:

Assuming you were collected by a Death and didn't try to become a Spirit or something else wacky, you will be brought to the House of Judgement, which is the fortress of the Archons, who claim to rule the Underworld.  They don't rule it all actually, but that's a story for another time.  They do rule enough of it to matter thought. 

When you arrive here, your name will be looked up in the Book of Names, which records the names of all creatures who can die (almost all of them) and their scheduled time of death.  Yours will be there and odds are you will be late, as psychopomps are usually overworked, underpaid and not as motivated as they could be.  Regardless, you will be processed and then brought before the Court. 

You will be Judged by an Archon of the Underworld, who is aided by a number of deceased mortal judges.  These judges will be mortals who aided the cause of Law in their lives, heroes, warriors, the just and proud.  The amount will vary depending on who you are and how important you were, but it will be an uneven number.  A normal mortal can expect two judges plus an Archon, but a King can easily expect up to 6 judges plus an Archon, and the greatest of heroes are judged not only by multiple Archons, but by vast parliaments of the heroic dead. 

Your Final Judgement will be decided according to these terms:

What good actions, according to the Law engraved upon the Rock of Eternity, did you perform while still alive?

Similarly, what evil actions did you perform?

Example Good actions include fighting evil, saving innocents and doing heroic things. 

Example Evil actions include seeking to oppress others for your own gain, devouring innocents for your own purposes and perverting or violating the laws of God and King, including the Law of Nature.  Necromancy would be included under that last category, as would coming back to life without divine sanction.  

Have the players count up the number of notable actions the character performed while still alive.  Did he save the city of Au-Mar?  Did he kidnap a princess to be his wife?  Did he engage in large amounts of tomfoolery or mischief?  Did he jaywalk?

Each Good Act gives him a +1 to his Goodness.  Base Goodness is 10.  Each notable Evil Act gives him -1.  Then have the player roll a d20. 

Roll under your Goodness and you have earned a pleasant afterlife experience.  You will be escorted to the Eternal Mountain, a beautiful place of rolling hills and emerald grass, with trees constantly in full bloom and crystal-clear water, a land shrouded in cleansing mists, frozen at the moment just before the dawn, the sun always just behind the impossibly distant peak.  It is said that when the sun fully rises from behind the mountain, all truth shall be revealed and time itself shall end.  Whatever that means. 

The Eternal Mountain is a place full of other righteous creatures, lavish gardens and trees carrying plump fruits good for eating.  Those sent here, depending on their levels of goodness, are permitted to climb a certain height up the mountain.  It is said that while the bottom of the mountain holds conventional pleasures like marriage, good food that never fattens you or spoils your perfect spiritual form and endless time to labor and improve yourself, the higher reaches host the sublime pleasures.  Those who climb higher and higher up the mountain occasionally return, bearing strange knowledge and blessed with unexplainable peace.

Those who roll exactly their Goodness are sent to the Fields of Ash, where they will wander with all those who did not choose evil but could not strive to elevate themselves above their bestial nature.  They will wander in the shade of a lidded sun, rest under naked trees and eat ashes till the end of time.  But from the edges of their fields or the tops of their trees, they will be able to see the Palaces of Pain, and thus they will count themselves lucky. 

Alternatively, under specific circumstances, souls ordinarily sent to the Fields of Ash might be permitted to atone for their misdeeds, either through service after death or through reincarnation, the soul in question being sent back to the world with their memories erased. 

Those who roll over their Goodness are sent to the Palaces of Pain, a series of descending layers where the wicked are banished.  The Palaces are organized in layers and souls are sent to each depending on their crimes.  Murderers are further down then thieves, while coveters are higher than adulterers.  Some of these layers have horrible tortures for the souls who come to them, most carried out willingly by the other souls who inhabit those layers.  Some of these Palaces have no such torments planned, and the punishment is merely being trapped in a place full of people exactly as terrible and selfish as you. 

Fighting Death to Live Forever:

I already outlined how to come back to life here.  One thing this post is meant to help is the fact that you will likely be confronted by a Psychopomp when you die and should you wish to not be taken away, you might have to fight them.

Remember however that Psychopomps such as the Deaths and others attached to the House of Justice or the cause of Law will be much more motivated to apprehend you.  Psychopomps tied to Chaos will not be as motivated, as they have no duty, only a desire to help you.

by Raymond Swanland for Magic the Gathering