Saturday, October 31, 2020

Carving Mouths with which to Scream.

The forested hills that the Esgodarrans now call home boast considerable farmland, dug into the slopes and concealed by the trees. These terraced gardens favor smaller numbers of nutrient-rich crops quite unlike the vast fields of grains from the plains dominated by modern Ersuunians. Among these staple crops are included a variety of gourd vegetables in diverse colors and shapes. Just as diverse are the customs and cultural traditions surrounding many of them.

Some gourds are grown solely for the purpose of housing medicines or sacred substances for the holy folk of the hill people. Others are used as food, or animal fodder, or their rinds are ground up for several purposes. One type of spotted vine fruit is even known as a source of a potent intoxicant, when fermented properly. All of these uses and more are ingrained in Esgodarran tribal memory by a wealth of stories and songs.

One story in particular is told and retold every harvest season, to explain why so many of the hill tribes hollow out different gourds, carve their sides into elaborate shapes, and then plant them around the tops of specially prepared torches as part of seasonal celebrations.

Once, long ago, the Esgodarrans were fighting a losing war against the encroaching Haraalians. Before the chariots and the saddled archers of the horsemen, they fell like so much scythed wheat. As they retreated into the hills where they eventually built their holdfasts and villages, they brought the bodies of their dead with them.

When the first crops were planted in soil ill-suited for farming, pragmatism led to a creative, albeit somewhat grim, use for those bodies. The dead became fertilizer, so that their families could live to see the coming year. And their sacrifice was not in vain: the legend claims that the hills bloomed with produce, chief among them being swollen gourds of proportions that any farmer then and now would be envious of.

But when the harvest season drew close, the Esgodarrans sensed that something was wrong. The gourds seemed to be disturbed ever so slightly when looked over every morning, and at night strange sounds could be heard coming from the gardens. These happenings continued and intensified over the following weeks until the hills were weighed down upon by a terrible pall- the people were sure that a curse had settled upon them like clinging spider's silk.

Eventually, the source of the omens was discovered. It was the gourds themselves, writhing and moaning upon their vines as if they were alive. When terrified tribespeople dared to stalk closer, they found that they could recognize the pained, muffled sounds as human- even as the voices belonging to their deceased loved ones. Terror gripped one and all as they realized that in growing their food from the corpses of their kin, they had unwittingly trapped their souls.

A wise and skilled woodsman proved to be their salvation, as he stepped forward brandishing his biggest and sharpest knife. One by one, he cut the gourds from their vines and then cut into their sides, carving faces into their hard outer layers and allowing their soft insides to spill forth. Blessed with eyes that could weep and mouths that could scream, the gourds wailed their horrors out. They had been reliving the moments of their deaths over and over again while trapped in the blind silence of the earth, and only through the woodsman's cuts were they able to rid themselves of the accumulated pain.

Days passed as the hillsides screamed and lamented, the sound of which drove even the most stalwart of god-king Haraal's soldiers away from the hills in fear. The Esgodarrans stuffed their ears with tree cotton dipped in beeswax to block out the worst of the wailing, but it grated terribly at even those steady folk before the end.

One by one, the gourds expelled their anguish and gave up their ghosts. The nightmare ended at last when the final gourd's voice quieted to a pulpy sputter, in which it thanked the woodsman and their tribe for the mercy. It bequeathed the banquet of their bodies to the people of the hills, but warned them that never again could anyone be buried beneath a garden. With that, the last trapped Esgodarran soul sloughed out and moved on to the afterlife.

Ever since that day, the use of human fertilizer has been strictly forbidden among all of the Esgodarran tribes. As a reminder of that grave mistake, the people carve more mundane fruits into contorted faces or depictions of other mythological scenes every year, and place them on display for all to see.

A popular trick aimed at children or very wayward lowlanders is to throw one's voice so that it sounds as if a gourd is speaking--or screaming--at the observer.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Another 1d6 Backgrounds for TROIKA!

Here's another couple of backgrounds for TROIKA!, the game I have now written more content for than any other system despite having never played it. As always, the balance is probably nonexistent. Check out my first 1d6 backgrounds here, and be on the lookout for more in the future. Eventually. Like, deep cosmic future...





Blood Wasp Hive


Endling Terminarch


Esuvee Rancher


Heinous Idolater


Koilotheist Murmurer



Blood Wasp Hive

You were lonely, once. But then the swarm came, and burrowed deep into your flesh. Your abdomen bulges like papier-mâché, and your head is barely distinguishable from the honeycombed masses through which they fly and crawl. Now you have friends in multitudes. Now they sing to you- a never-ending, buzzing chorus, urging you forward to new lands and new friend-hives.


A Jar of Crimson Honey.

Tattered rags.

D6 Sheaves of Waxy Paper.

Advanced Skills

1 Acrobatics

3 Disturbing

1 Heal

2 Poison

3 Secrete Honey


You can expel a cloud of agitated blood wasps from your torso once per day. They seek out and aggressively invade the mouth, nostrils, ears, or equivalent orifices of one target of your choosing. This functions as the Drown spell, except that anything that dies from the blood wasp infestation becomes a new (but inanimate) hive.

Endling Terminarch

You are the youngest and spriest of your dying, desiccated kin. Your joints creak, and your mind wanders, but there is time yet for your kind to be remembered in greatness. When you are gone, there will be no more. When you breathe your last rattling breath and the blood in your veins congeals into dust, the universe will sigh at your passing- it is up to you whether that sigh is relieved, or mournful.


A Runed Cane (Damage as Club).

A Reliquary of your kin's ashes and skulls.

D6 Scrolls detailing your people's achievements.

Scrivener's Kit.

Advanced Skills

3 Astrology

1 Club Fighting

1 Etiquette

3 Mathology

2 Mortuary Science


You can recall any piece of mildly useful, parabolic advice relevant to the situation at hand by telling a long and rambling story from your youth, full of tangents and chiding interjections aimed at any party members younger than you. The tale takes 10 x d6 minutes to tell, and the moral of the story is decided on by the GM.

Esuvee Rancher

You were a cityslicker once, but you soon heeded your calling and headed out to the saw-grassed prairies of the Teal Wastes. Now you ride with the esuvees, with musk in your lungs and chrome on your boot spurs. You know the secrets of the majestic, mechanical beasts, how to treat them right, and how to pull the tightest turns on one without so much as a tip. You also know to avoid the herds during mating season, so you decided to take your trusty electro-gelding and explore for a it.


A Box of Chewing Scrig (10 Uses).

Blue Jeans & Leather Boots.

3 Days of Esuvee Feed.

Electro-Whip (Damage as Hammer).

Advanced Skills

1 Acrobatics

1 Awareness

2 Drink Alcohol

2 Herding

3 Riding

1 Strength

1 Tracking


You can tame and ride wild esuvees, or other similar electro-mammals. You never fall off your mount while riding. Any vehicle you are piloting cannot be rolled over or tipped. You also have an acquired tolerance for fox-urine whiskey.

Heinous Idolater

You and your stocky lowland kin worship against a variety of loathsome entities, trapping their selfsame manifestations of disaster and bad luck inside of grotesque idols that you then deface and damage in order to weaken them. There are many evils out there, in need of trapping or keeping trapped. Pray they never escape- or remember you.


Carver's Kit.

A Big Lump of wood, stone, or bone.

Fermented Alpaca's Milk.

An Excessively Wicked-Looking Knife.

Advanced Skills

2 Astrology

2 Evaluate

2 Harvesting

3 Idol Carving

1 Knife Fighting

1 Swim


You can take one day prepare an idol meant to embody an evil out of a huge and unwieldy hunk of wood or similar material. The evil in question must be very specific, such as drowning, deception, or haunting by the ghosts of eyeless children. You can mar a respective idol to grant yourself or another person a +1 to one Advanced Skill roll or Roll Versus that evil. After marring an idol 3 times, it is destroyed. An idol takes up two inventory slots.

Koilotheist Murmurer

You were shunted out of your lumbering stone god-beast, either by its death or by the cruelty of your fellow passengers. Now you wander the spheres, a tatterdemalion savant seeking out new, resonant hums with which to harmonize. Orichalcum nails stud your body, and leather cords drag in your wake. Your eye sockets are empty, but your ears and mind are so full of wonder at the susurration of the spheres.



10 Pounds of Leather & Chains (Light Armour).

Walking Stick (Damage as Staff.)

Seashell Ear Trumpet.

Advanced Skills

3 Astrology

1 Awareness

1 Languages

3 Second Sight

2 Singing


You can hear snatches of thought, psychic background static, and celestial music at all times. This counts as being under the effects of the Thought Vapor spell, except it is auditory in nature, rather than olfactory.

You can also Harmonize with one target within speaking distance. The target must Test their Luck or be entranced by your humming for 1 minute. You are unable to act for as long as you are Harmonizing.


You have seen the darkness that gnaws at light, metal, and flesh with teeth like fractals. You have smelled the sickening odor of unrefined pallite. You've heard the howling screams coming from beyond the light fences. You have felt the sweet, cancer-inducing radiance fill every inch of your body. You've set out to challenge the darkness, before it swallows up another sun.


Fractal Scars.

Battered Pallite Carbine (Damage as Fusil).

4 Pallite Batteries (as Plasmic Cores).

Radiation Skin & LEDuster (Modest Armour).

A Bottle of Vitamin D Supplements.

Advanced Skills

1 in a Fighting Skill of your choice

3 Awareness

1 Firemaking

2 Fusil Fighting

2 Pallite Refinement

1 Run

1 Strength


You can see perfectly in total darkness, but not magical darkness. You are never afraid of the dark. You are not disoriented by sudden bright lights, and are immune to the Flash spell. You also definitely have some form of cancer, but it's a kind of cancer that kills every other kind before it can affect you.