Friday, September 27, 2019

The Quiet Caravans - a Faction for Volmusia



Population: 850, split between 9 communities
Major Industries: Hide, Meat, Scrolls, Tallow
Safe, Mobile, Enchanted (Obfuscatory Illusions), Possession (Various tribes), Monsters (Dire Moles, Svirfneblin)

          Referring to a cluster of nine different tribes, allied through bonds of blood and oaths of obligation, the Quiet Caravans are essential to the movement of goods through the Mushroom Forest and the Underridge beyond. Naturally inclined towards wanderlust and trade, the deep gnomes are on at least neutral terms with every major polity of the region, with the only exception being the Cranium Rats of The Choruses' Redoubt with the more friendly Troupe settlement of Stone Teeth Town being too new for them to have even heard of. The regions prime source of candles, fresh meat and hides, their dire mole-pulled sleds are both a welcome sight for friendly communities and a tempting target for those foolish or mighty enough to rob them. As a result of their status as potential prey, as well as the relative paucity of easily obtainable food in the Mushroom Forest, the various caravans are constantly on the move and they deal only with trusted individuals for trade. It's not uncommon for only certain families with a tradition of dealing with the Svirfneblin stretching back years or decades to be allowed to approach their hidden camps without being ambushed, killed and then eaten. This wariness frustrates those who wish to engage them for the first time, but their paranoia has served them well, raids are infrequent and generally foiled before the main camp is discovered. Even when the raids are successful, the savage reprisals demanded by the murder of their fellows by the deep gnome's rigid codes of honor give their would-be victimizers pause. 

          Beyond trading and raiding, tribes support themselves through hunting, opportunistic theft or scavenging, anything to get by. Already possessing formidable skills in stealth, their proficiency with illusory magic makes them terrifyingly effective guerrilla fighters when roused. An individual caravan generally is made up of four or five extended families, with perhaps double that number of sleds and dire moles. Rarely traveling as a unified whole, the tribe will spread out over miles of whatever haunt they've chosen for themselves to forage, bringing their spoils back to the central camp for distribution only after the area has been picked clean or become too dangerous. When encamped the deep gnomes live in cylindrical tents crafted from the rib-bones and hides of their beasts of burden with the sleds (themselves made of bone and hide) acting as the foundations. Tribe members dress in mole hides, occasionally augmented with spider silk or wool traded from the surface. Dyes or other forms of artificial coloration are rare, so browns and grey predominate and any dangling or metal objects are wrapped carefully against the body to muffle any noise or reflections. Tribes are generally led by a council with membership pulled from the component families household heads.


         There are few true professions in the hard-scrabble, nomadic existence beyond that of hunter-gatherer, but there are illusion specialists known as Gloom Weavers & priests of the Wordless Lady known as Whisper Keepers. Dire moles are extremely important to the function of a tribe, useful for tearing new tunnels and pulling sleds, as well as for their milk, hides and meat. A tribe without a population of moles to draw upon will slowly find itself without the means to transport their goods, dig new tunnels or supply themselves with food and will generally be forced to in-debt themselves to a wealthier tribe for a new Labour. Tribes are governed in their dealings with one another through layers of blood relations, grudges and personal vendettas with few formalized agreements existing beyond the lives of those who swore the original oaths. Membership in a tribe is hereditary and new blood is added through marriage by capture or arrangement during one of the frequent occurrences of tribes meeting one another in the tunnels. 

         To outsiders it seems as if the Svirfneblin are as hard bargaining and ruthless with one another as they are with strangers, but that attitude only persists as long as there is no external threat to the Quiet Caravans, who will quickly band together to face threats to their way of life as a whole. On the rare occasion when deep gnomes go to war with another it's uncommon for outsiders to notice anything amiss other than the losing tribe simply disappearing, never to be spoken of again by the others. Tribes are generally similar in outlook when it comes to faith, hewing to the worship of an enigmatic deity known as the Wordless Lady, a goddess whose rites must be kept entirely secret from those outside the tribe and whom the stories about are passed on entirely through the oral lore of the tribe's Whisper Keeper. Devotions to the Wordless Lady are performed in temporary and unadorned shrines, or if available, the abandoned shrines of other deities. While primarily inhabitants of the Mushroom Forest, the deep gnomes can be encountered as far afield as the Underridge, the Cernunnokian Depths or even above ground on moonless nights in the wilds of Ingram's Tangle.

  • Gaining the trust of a caravan is very difficult to say the least, no amount of persuasion or bribes will convince a tribe to trade or sway them towards affability, only concrete deeds which either benefit or protect the tribe are considered worthy of notice.
  • It is reasonably common for the Svirfneblin of the Quiet Caravans to use their favored contacts as agents to buy goods on their behalf. Merchants on the surface may unwittingly be supplying a Quiet Caravan.
  • Given their reliance on Dire Moles for digging, meat, shelter and clothing, the Svirfneblin consider the Cranium Rats an existential threat and the recent destruction of two Caravans by the creatures has only increased this fear. They avoid the creatures whenever possible, and exterminate or drive them away when they cannot.

         Treasure & More: Beyond their mole products, the deep gnomes carry a potpourri of small and generally highly valuable items such as potions, scrolls, bolts of exotic cloth, precious stones and magical baubles. Goods which are always in demand among the Svirfneblin are foods, especially calorie dense ones, wood and any sort of metal.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Place of Commerce & Enterprise


         
         Without industry, a town is simply an assemblage of farmers, miner or hunters scratching a living out of the ground. Money and trade, whether it be in the form of coin, paper or barter, raises us up from the constraints of the local area and allows us to better ourselves beyond where we started. Intrepid merchants, willing to brave the treks between towns, or those canny enough to fill a need they see locally can easily launch themselves and their communities into wealth beyond their dreams, or their risks can ruin the fortunes of those they sought to help in the first place. While not the reason for the community's existence, it could be argued that their presence makes it worth staying there.

          The fourth in my series of tables to roll up the demographics of a community, this entry focuses on merchants, traders and professionals who populate the various areas of the world. There are undoubtedly more than a single shop in your typical community, so it will be necessary to roll on this table multiple times to give a decent spread of interesting shops and owners. As before, while it may seem bizarre on the surface that each and every shop is hiding some potentially dark secret, Referees need only choose to involve the interesting shops. General stores where the PCs simply buy a horse in a rush probably need not be rolled. These are places to provide interesting hooks with the PCs to interact with simply beyond spending their wealth.


d8
What kind of shop is this?
1
Bank, or another sort of financial institution
2
Smithy or Manufactory
3
Drover/Caravansary
4
Kiln/Glassworks
5
University or other institution of learning
6
Hospital or some sort of healer
7
A crafter such as a tailor or haberdashery
8
An artist, such as a painter, sculptor or poet. 50% Chance of having a Patron.

d8
How's the business doing?
1
Collapsing. Whether through the incompetence of the owner(s) or outside factors, the business is falling apart and is likely up to it's eyes in debt.
2
Dwindling. The flow of customers or clients has almost dried up completely, though this may be the fault of the owner, rather than the community dying.
3-5
Steady. The business is profitable, but not so much that the proprietor is well to do.
6
Busy. The day is constantly packed with things to do, people to help.
7
Growing. Customers or clients find that they have to schedule in advance to get service. The business is looking for more help.
8
Bustling. There's more work than there are hands, and any new clients will have trouble getting what they want in a timely manner


d8
Who runs the place?
1
A family business, perhaps the founder is still alive, but just as likely it has been going for several generations.
2
A number of proprietors, perhaps only a pair, but maybe as large as a board.
3
A sole owner, who may or may not have any employees.
4
A distant and far away owner, such as a merchant prince or a noble. They likely have local representatives to look after their interests.
5
The business is ran by the local government, or is an extension of a government monopoly.
6
A cooperative or group of merchants, teachers or workers run the business.
7
The ownership is contested. This certainly does not bode well for the future.
8
Ownership of the business is unclear or actively obfuscated.

d8
What is unique about it?
1
The owner is getting the majority of their stock or funding from an illegitimate source, such as from smugglers or by acting as a front.
2
The product or training that the business provides is widely considered to be somehow corrupt or scandalous in some way locally. Patronizing it marks you as someone willing to overlook that reputation.
3
The business has paid protection money to local criminals. Any harassment or theft on the premises is going to be met with serious reprisals.
4
The business or institution is famous; they could have made some legendary item or trained or saved some notable personage.
5
Due to reasons inscrutable to those on the outside, the business is only open during certain times, such as during the night or certain seasons.
6
Doing business here is bound by some custom that may not only be immediately obvious, they may only accept patronage from a certain ethnicity, social class or faith.
7
Coin is not accepted here, only barter or service.
8
The business has no set locale or storefront, they may even serve several nearby communities as well.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Elementalist - LotFP Custom Class


The Elementalist


          The four elements make up the world around them; Air, Earth, Fire & Water are the building blocks of the planes themselves. Most have to weather their various manifestations, and while some can access their power indirectly through the means of summoning elementals or through the usage of particular spells, they are at best exerting a clumsy and incomplete control of them. There are those who have a greater connection; shamans who can whisper to the land, psychics who have trained in various arts, those with the blood of genies or elementals flowing in their veins or who have struck a pact with a such a creature.

          Whatever the form their connection takes, these folk gain a mastery over a particular element which allows them to manipulate it as if they were born to it, shaping and twisting it around with their wills like a potter does with clay. They can call their bound element to them, banish it, command it to move, attack, shield them, or whatever else their imagination allows. Most Elementalists do not consider themselves to be using magic at all, since they are not bound by the crude strictures of ritual and observance and are able to use their powers as often as they'd like, provided that the elements are willing. The scourging that they suffer from drawing upon their abilities too often is merely a result of them being imperfect vessels, and the changes that are wrought to the most potent of them are only seen as further proof of their puissance.

Level
Experience
HP
Paralyze
Poison
Breath
Device
Magic
Backlash
Control Points
1
0
1d6
14
16
15
14
14
12
4
2
2,250
1d4
14
16
15
14
14
12
+1
3
4,500
1d4
14
16
15
14
14
12
+1
4
9,000
1d4
14
16
15
14
14
11
+1
5
18,000
1d4
11
12
14
13
12
11
+1
6
36,000
1d4
11
12
14
13
12
11
+1
7
72,000
1d4
11
12
14
13
12
10
+1
8
144,000
1d4
11
12
14
13
12
10
+1
9
288,000
1d4
9
10
12
11
10
10
+1
10
432,000
+1*
9
10
12
11
10
9
+1
11
576,000
+1*
9
10
12
11
10
9
+1
12
720,000
+1*
7
8
10
9
8
9
+1
13
864,000
+1*
7
8
10
9
8
8
+1
14
1,008,000
+1*
7
8
10
9
8
8
+1
15+
+144,000/lvl
+1*
5
6
8
7
6
8
+1
*: Constitution modifiers no longer apply.


B/X & OSE Rules
Requirements
None
Prime Requisite
INT
Hit Dice
d4
Maximum Level
14
Armor
Leather, no shields
Weapons
Any
Languages
Alignment, Common


         Unlike other forms of spellcasters, Elementalists do not have spells per day, nor do they have any sort of spellbook or have to memorize a set of particular effects. Instead the Elementalist gains points to distribute to different skills similar to the Specialist, which represent their talent influencing a particular aspect of their element. The Elementalist's skill checks function in the same way as a Specialist, with the exception that the Elementalist can choose to increase the strength of their effect by risking a greater chance of failure by rolling additional d6's. Each additional die rolled increases the magnitude of the skill roll by a step (i.e. a 1d6 becomes 2d6), each additional die rolled must also succeed or the entire effect fails. An Elementalist may choose to risk additional dice equal to 1/3 of their HD, with a minimum of 1.

          Elementalists need to have their element present to use their abilities. While this is obviously not usually a problem for those bonded to Air or Earth, adherents to Fire or Water must either have a good amount of their element present, or they must use the Beckon skill to bring some into being.


The skills that the Elementalist (and only the Elementalist) has access to are:

  • Attack is used to directly strike an opponent, whether that be through the means of lashing them with razor sharp winds, or hunks of rock torn from the ground. Attacks deal 1d6 damage per die successfully risked.
  • Defend can be used to reduce incoming damage by crafting a temporary shield out of an element. The exact effects of Defend are governed by which element it is drawn from, Earth and Water defend against melee attacks, while Air and Fire help reduce the severity of ranged attacks. Each successfully risked die reduces the incoming damage by 1 point.
  • Beckon can twist the element into whatever configuration that the Elementalist is imaginative enough to achieve, as well as to bring the element into being from nothing. Each risked die allows the elementalist to bring in a cubic foot of their element, or shape the same amount to their desire. While this may have little effect in the case of air, it is possible to tear through or craft walls this way with Earth, start and direct fires with beckoned flames, or pull pure water from muddy soil. Summoned material, especially fire or water may dissipate into the environment within a few rounds unless fed or put into a vessel.
  • Resist is used to guard against the excesses of the particular element that the caster is bonded to, in essence any time that the Elementalist may suffer as a result of their element (such as suffocating from being buried alive for an Earth Elementalist) they may roll their Resist in an attempt to negate the effect. Every successfully risked die allows the Elementalist a minute of protection.


          The only limit to an Elementalist's powers is known as Scourging. Backlash points are gained whenever an Elementalist chooses to enhance the magnitude of their effect beyond a single die. Each die in addition to the first adds a point to the character's current backlash pool. These points do nothing to an Elementalist until they fail an elemental skill check. Upon failure. the Elementalist must test against their backlash, and if they fail they suffer the scourging as detailed in the table below. Backlash points reset after a scourging is suffered or the Elementalist rests.

Points 
accumulated
Scourging effect
1-5
Indifference. The next elemental skill check made by the character is at a -1, cumulative for the next 24 hours.
6-10
Enervation. The character is stunned for 1 round.
11-15
Lashing. The Elementalist takes 1d10 damage.
16-20
Impairment. The character cannot use elemental skills for 1d4+2 rounds.
21-29
Transmogrification. A part of the Elementalist's body permanently changes in some way in tune with their element. Eyes are replaced by flames, teeth with gemstones, etc. The Elementalist also suffers Impairment.
30+
Eruption. Save again. Upon a failure, the character explodes and everyone within 20 ft takes 1d6 points of damage.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Land of Bounty & Prosperity


          

          Communities and towns don't simply pop into being out of nowhere. They need things which attract people there in the first place; sources of water, stone, wood and food are all necessary to be even considered as a potential place of settlement. Residents then exploit the resource, building infrastructure and eventually building it into a local industry. The settlers pin their reputations and livelihoods on their ability to extract and sell the bounty of their land. Whether they be wise in their stewardship or fools who waste it, the drive and ambition for ever more will never truly cease.

          My third post in the demographic series, these tables aim to give the community character through the natural bounty around them. It should be assumed that every healthy community of note likely has the basics covered and that the results of this table are more emblematic of notable concentrations of resources, but that does not necessarily have to be the case. I would also like to note that every result seeks to be 'interesting' in some way. The reasons for this are simple: if the place wasn't interesting or did not have some sort of central conflict, the Referee would have little reason to go into it. There are plenty of non-spooky forests and mines without hauntings. We're not trying to talk about those. These are places for the PCs to either adventure in, or to try and claim for themselves. Short of conquering or founding towns themselves, there's little means for them to usually gain an in on the ground floor for these sorts of places. To use these tables, simply roll 4d8 and consult the results below. For smaller communities a single roll could suffice, but for larger ones it may be necessary to roll multiple times to simulate more than one basis for the local economy.


d8
Resources of the Community
1
Aquifer.
2
Non-Precious Stone or Metal.
3
Timber.
4
Range land.
5
Fishery.
6
Sap/Rubber.
7
Pelts/Game.
8
Precious Stone or Metal.


d8
Relative prosperity
1
Nearly exhausted. The community is likely dying if this is the only major resource in the area. The resource itself has nearly petered out.
2
Last legs. While there are some reserves left, it has grown increasingly clear to everyone that the good times are gone.
3
Hard times. If any one was on the precipice of leaving, they'll probably do so now.
4
Rough patch. The easy work has started to dry up; outsiders trying to make their fortune will not be welcome.
5
Business as usual. Residents have long ago developed a routine, the extraction is steady and the methods are all well known and effective.
6
Rising tides. People are rich, there's always a hunger for new laborers and the community is building for the future.
7
Flourishing. New claims are being made all of the time, the amount seems almost endless.
8
Boom Town. The amount of material they have on hand is enough to support their own needs, as well as several smaller outlying communities.



d8
General level of hazard
1
Hellish. Procuring the resource is almost more trouble than it is worth. Perhaps there are hostile beings or spirits guarding it, or it is in an area of active environmental peril.
2
Miserable. There could be aggressive or predatory creatures which lurk in the area, or it could be in a place which is unpleasant to work in, such as an area with constant inclement weather.
3-6
Normal. It is as dangerous to gather this material as it would be in real life.
7
Safe. The resource is well-managed and maintained, perhaps there is competent management, or the area itself has somehow been changed to ease the work.
8
Arcadian. It is so easy to find or secure more of the material that is is nearly worthless locally.


d8
What is unique about it?
1
The resources is contested, whether by another nearby community, or some sort of population or force which guards it.
2
While the quality of the material is objectively as high as any other location, it is widely thought of as being cursed or bringing ill-luck.
3
The material isn't naturally occurring, it is being drawn from the ruins or rubble of some previous civilization.
4
An annual ritual or sacrifice is required to keep the spirits or beings which inhabit the area satisfied. The consequences will be dire if the oblations aren't performed.
5
The resource requires a special treatment or process to be rendered safe to humanoids. This process is a closely guarded secret.
6
A guild or another similar organization controls access. Competitors can expect serious reprisals.
7
The quality of the resource from this area is renowned far and wide. It fetches an unusually high price.
8
Gathering the resource can only be done on a certain schedule. Perhaps it is underwater some of the year, or the path to access it is cut off for weeks or months on end.