Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Endlings & Terminarchs

Elves are a dying breed.

In fact, you could say they are already dead- the name "elf" certainly is, at any rate.

Those withered, rail-thin people were never the most vigorous. One of the reasons for their exceptionally long lifespan is that they acted upon the world with an almost geological slowness. Sure, they're hasty compared to a treant or an earth elemental, but they could outwit either handily- for their minds ran faster than a human's, allowing them to play every scenario out dozens of times before they commit to a single, stubborn course of action.

Some believe that they exist in multiple points of time or existence at once, and their slowness to act is a consequence of rallying those disconnected facets together.

Looking at them now, one could be excused for believing that they barely exist in our universe at all.

They resemble mummies more than anything, with bony extremities, sunken faces, leathery skin of a bruised, pale blue color, and torsos that leave little of their bone structure to the imagination. When they have hair, it is long, thin, wispy, and grey. Among those who still have functional eyes, yellow is the most common color- and they always seem to resemble the eyes of someone who is screaming. Distinguishing sex characteristics are almost wholly withered away, not that they had much of a use for them- they reproduced by some other means which is now lost to them, and it can never be regained.

They are loathe to speak of how this happened- they are loathe to speak in general, really. It may have been a curse, or a deal with some entity that came back to bite them. perhaps they were rendered infertile epochs ago, and only managed to get along by abusing a nonrenewable ritual resource plus borrowed time.

The youngest elves were born millennia ago, and they have already pushed their species' life expectancy with preservative magic. Now their life energy is stretched thinner than common sense is across aristocrats. It is only a matter of time, and none know that more keenly than the elves themselves, rapid minds left to race within their slow, ambling bodies. It is a hellish experience, not unlike a waking coma at times.

In their melancholy they renamed themselves the Endlings, and the youngest among them is their leader in futility- their Terminarch. The Terminarch is the most spry among them, relatively speaking, and they deal with matters requiring the most urgency. Other than that, there is little to the office- they primarily bear the burden of being the assumed last to die, and the immense psychic guilt that knowledge carries with it.

They walk in the most desolate parts of the world now, seeking out a secluded place where they might preserve the memory of their people before lying down to rot.

Or perhaps they seek out a way to liberate themselves from their wretched bodies- either through the release of death, or something more transcendent.

There might be some wisdom in seeking them out while they yet live, assuming they will hold audience with you- and that you have the patience to wait and listen to them speak in what is simultaneously the slowest and most frantic manner.

Ascendent Counselor by Andrew Jones

Monday, June 15, 2020

Koilotheism: Hollow Gods

Mind Palace by u/jdbugs

It was once a common thing for one to carry one's own god, or even gods, with them on their travels through the unmarred world. Sometimes this takes the form of carrying small images or symbols of said gods, and other times it involves merely carrying them in prayer. Today, both are quaint and old-fashioned at best, and blasphemous at worst.

It is of course absurd to think of anyone carrying a god with them. On the most basic level, they are simply far too big to carry, being hundreds to thousands of times the size of even the largest and strongest people. But the more important reason is that it is the gods who do the carrying. Such is the proper nature of things.

Whether it is on two legs, four, countless, or even none at all, the gods trudge across the wastelands like indefatigable barges, carrying their worshipers with them wherever they go.

Some of their mortal supplicants stand upon their backs and shoulders, or in the cavities across their bodies, surveying the world for dangers which their single-minded god cannot be bothered to perceive in its endless march. Far more live within them- not only within their stony, corporeal forms, but within their infinitely more capacious minds.

Every god has a vast, psychic landscape which puts so-called "mind palaces" to utter shame. They possess matter, laws, and physics, or can be made to possess them through the combined efforts of gods and their passengers. They can be tamed and expanded, made to hold entire villages, towns, cities. Thousands of generations live and die within the confines of their gods, with no thought or worry for the dead World Beyond, and with only a few prayers offered to the troubled Watcher folk who straddle the inner and outer realms as their ceaseless guardians.

These hollow gods do not eat or drink or sleep. They are sustained by the thoughts and prayers of those who live within them, and in return they sustain them. Those who are born able to Murmur may commune with the god's placid, droning Hum, which permeates its entire mind and being. Sometimes an understanding is formed. Other times, guesses and misgivings have led to centuries of internal conflict and dogmatism. It is a symbiotic relationship that can tilt toward commensalism or parasitism more easily than one might expect.

When two gods meet upon the wastes, they rarely register one another's existence. Rarer still do they interact directly, which is generally for the best. The titanic, animalistic battles between these beings have sundered and rearranged continents, to stay nothing of the populations stored within them.

More often, their worshipers make forays into the space between them, and deal with one another on behalf of their walking gods. Communication, diplomacy, and an understanding of difference are profoundly rare and precious gifts in the world, but even with all three, these meetings can turn tense or hostile. Most end with each party hurrying home to instruct a blinded and nailed Murmurer to tell their god to change its course away from the other.

Sometimes an understanding is reached, and news about the wider world is shared: news of recently dead gods and their shunted-out refugees baking in the sun, of lands recently made too dangerous even for gods to walk, of the almost unheard-of arrangement made to form a Procession between gods, or even Harmonic Communion.

Gods do not die on their own, but when something does kill them, the effects are immediate and disquieting. Most passengers do not survive the collapse of the god's mind, and of those who do escape the ordeal without becoming bloody smears with a sprinkling of stardust, most will die within the first few days of exposure to the World Beyond.

In these most trying of times, it falls to any surviving Watchers to lead these refugees away from their mountainous, broken wreck of a former benefactor. After generations of protecting their gods and its occupants, they are the few who know how to get along in the marred world. Any former passenger who tries to carry a piece of their god with them is punished severely.

When a column of bedraggled pilgrims ends its trail of exhausted dead at the feet of another god, the remaining passengers are absorbed into it if they are fortunate. It can be a profound or traumatic experience depending on the exact beliefs they hold. They are given a corner of their new god's consciousness to dwell within, and are often treated as second-class citizens until their first children are born there. Some truly ancient and durable gods have patchworks of peoples from other, fallen minds. Such a wealth of diversity in background and experience is rarely acknowledged.

The former Watchers and Murmurers of the dead god, as well as the more recalcitrant passengers, are executed or encouraged to commit ritual suicide, again depending on dogma.

The idea of exiles, surviving Watchers, or even whole congregations excavating and scratching out a living amid the crags of their dead gods and other stretches of the wasteland is unspeakably taboo, but not entirely unknown.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

1d6 Backgrounds for TROIKA!

After incorrectly comparing Tequendria to it, I bothered to actually read through some TROIKA!, found it interesting, and decided to make a few backgrounds for it! Don't hold your breath on a full d66 table anytime soon, though. I was barely able to squeeze out enough gonzo for six.

... Side note, "squeezing out gonzo" sounds like something that should get my blog flagged as adult content.

Anyway! Enjoy. I took the custom background rules to heart and tried not to fret too much about balance, which is usually my Achilles' Heel after a lifetime of enjoying tinkering with character builds.

 d6 Background
1Derro Biomass Reaver
2Flowerbed Troll
3Goblin Pioneer
4Longfolk Pruner
5Very Lost Orc
6Zood Knight

Derro Biomass Reaver
Your world's atmosphere drained away millennia ago, forcing you and your kind deep below the crust, where your stature and sanity both shrank in equal measure. Now, you travel the spheres seeking out the choicest flora, fauna, and stranger forms of life to bring back home for the re-terraforming effort.

Catabolizer (Damage as Pistolet).
A Map of some of the Crystal Spheres.
 Oversized Goggles.
A Tank of Unidentifiable Organic Goo.

Advanced Skills
1 Acrobatics
2 Astrology
1 Awareness
1 Catabolizer Crafting
2 Catabolizer Fighting
2 Mathology
1 Reaving Barge Pilot
2 Trapping

Your signature weapon zaps at organic targets with tongues of black and green lightning, splitting cells into base elements and collecting them in a melange of goo in a tank on your back. Stamina lost to your catabolizer takes twice as many points of healing to recover, and the weapon leaves telltale fractal scars. You can repair and maintain your strange disintegration weapon with the relevant Advanced Skill. If you lose your catabolizer, you can only get a replacement from another derro.

Flowerbed Troll
Trolls are said to inhabit every climate across the hump-backed sky, including the spaces between crystal spheres. You are a placid, vacant-eyed flowerbed troll, loamy and always smelling of petrichor and sweetly rotting fruit. You still hunger for flesh, but you learned long ago that it is easiest to barter for it using the flowers and medicinal herbs which grow betwixt your sagging, mossy shoulders.

Ballet Shoes.
Claws (Damage as Sword).
Hedge Trimmers (for personal grooming).
Homemade Fertilizer.
A Sack of Raw Meat (d6 Rations).

Advanced Skills
4 Gardening
2 Healing
1 Poison
4 Strength

Your mossy, meaty metabolism allows you to regenerate, making nasty wounds easier to bounce back from. You can eat rations to regain d6 Stamina 1 additional time per day.You can also eat raw meat and mildly rotten plant matter without suffering ill effects.You have to eat three times as many rations as a human to keep from starving, and you can't regenerate while hungry.

You can also pick d6 random herbs, flowers, berries, or lichens from your back per day without ill effects. Your verdant hide grows a new random assortment every day, unless the last batch was never picked. Unpicked plants rot away and fertilize new growth after one week.

Goblin Pioneer
The crystal sphere you hail from has grown so tightly packed with labyrinth that its surface is beginning to crack. You and countless others of your ilk took to the hidden passages between, and now seek out new spheres freshly bobbed to the surface to tame and civilize with snaking, confounding tunnels.

 A Missive from the Goblin King.
 Bricklaying Tools.
 Broken Compass.
 Utility Knife.

Advanced Skills
1 Awareness
2 Bricklaying
2 Climb
1 Secret Signs
3 Sneak
2 Tracking
1 Trapping

You can Test your Luck to become MEGA LOST. Your trailblazer's intuition points you toward someplace nearby ("nearby" being relative to your position in the entirety of the hump-backed sky) that has never been discovered. These places are often mythical, exciting, rich, and even stranger than most. A place that is so deadly that none of its would-be discoverers survive to see civilization again also counts as undiscovered.

Longfolk Pruner
You and your mirthless, elongated tribe live a hard life, burning away the carnivorous rot in the forest depths while warding away childish outsiders with ballista-sized longbows. But the corruption is running deeper than ever before, and now your distorted and rangy limbs traverse the spheres in search of a solution.

 A Box of Ashes (3 Uses).
 Flint & Tinder.
 A Loincloth.
 Saw-Bladed Glaive (Damage as Polearm).
 A Very Large Longbow and 6 Arrows.
 Topiary Hobbyist's Kit.

Advanced Skills
4 Firemaking
1 Healing
3 Longbow Fighting
3 Poleaxe Fighting
2 Run
1 Second Sight

You can paint yourself in multicolored streaks of soot and ash for protection. A full coating of ashes from multiple types of hardwood makes you Lightly Armoured for one day, or until you are exposed to heavy rain or full submersion in water.

Very Lost Orc
You were just minding your own business when that foolish apprentice wizard accidentally summoned you far from home. You couldn't even get the satisfaction of beating them senseless, since the swarm of gremlins beat you to that. Now you must find your way back to your smoky and garishly colored clan-hold before your chieftain finds you missing from your post.

 Bone Dice.
 Light Armour.
 Tribal Totem.
 Weapon of your choice.
 Your Half-eaten Lunch.

Advanced Skills
2 in a Fighting Skill of your choice
2 Awareness
1 Run
2 Scrimshaw
3 Strength

You can Test your Luck to get back on track after becoming truly, hopelessly lost. This ability only works when you have a specific destination in mind. You don't have to possess a perfect mental image of your exact destination- at least a proper place name and some major landmarks will do. This ability can't be used to bring you straight back to your clan-hold, frustratingly.

Zood Knight
Bowlegged and stocky, you sit proud atop your majestic zood. Few across the spheres have the good breeding or sense to appreciate all the fine qualities of this noble, if noisy creature. Never mind that it looks like an elephant seal-sized tardigrade, or that it is constantly flatulent.

 Diving Bladder.
• A Firkin of Zood Blubber.
 Fishing Net & Line.
 A Saddle.
 Toggle-Headed Lance.
 Waterproof Zoodskin Clothes (Modest Armour).

Advanced Skills
1 Acrobatics
2 Climb
1 Etiquette
2 Lance Fighting
3 Resist Odor
2 Ride
1 Swim

You never sink in water or other liquids unless you wish to. You can also float straight up to the surface of a body of liquid at up to twice your movement speed. Once you break the surface, this ability may or may not jettison you up high into the air like a rotund, though no less majestic, porpoise.