Thursday, August 16, 2018

The People of the Bronze City

This post is part of my series on my Meager Country campaign and how I've handled rules changes and character creation for it. This post will make more sense if you've read about the wound and encumbrance systems I use. I wanted all the changes I made to 5e to be integrated, so no part of the game felt like it was tacked on. The way exhaustion works in 5e is like this, it's treated like an after thought and hardly referenced by the other rules. 

I wanted everybody coming to the Meager Country to be strangers to it but I wanted strange strangers, so here's a bunch of new types of people to play.

I should also mention why I use the word people instead of race. One, the word race is so loaded and implies ideas of hierarchy or that one kind of person is default. Two, race doesn't apply at all to a group of varied species. Three, even species is a poor descriptor, there are lots of species of creatures you don't usually play in RPGs. Instead what unites these groups, what is important about them is that they are all people. They come in many shapes and sizes, not all are even made of flesh, but at the end of the day the best way to understand them is as varied types of people, not different species and certainly not different races. Really, the only issue with the term people is that sometimes it's a bit awkward grammatically. 

These are the people of the Bronze City. 

The Women of Glass
The Women have flesh made of semi-transparent glass which comes in a variety of colours, inside they are filled with a colourful, churning stew of molten glass which spills out of them when injured, cooling into bulbous scars. They all look somewhat feminine, though they come in many different shapes and sizes with different features, different glass hairstyles. Additionally, they are all gifted with foresight which allows them to foresee tragedies in the far future.
Considering herself 
Women live forever, though the secret of their creation has been lost and they all know that their shattering is constantly drawing closer. All the Women know each other, as they are all sisters. Many of them have risen to high positions in the imperial bureaucracy. Others devote themselves to sculpture and glassworking, hoping to rediscover the art of making Glass Women. More decide to live lives of risk and danger as merchants, pirates, and adventurers as a way of seeking their own shattering. Every Glass Woman has a name subtly carved on the back of her neck in a language nobody understands. The Women instinctively know what that name is, but not all of them go by it.

Women of Glass traditionally live on the shore of the ocean of pearls in the skeleton of a massive coral reef from an earlier age. Their communities are littered with pieces of glass statuary. Some are imitations of lost friends, some attempts to create a new generation.

Women are often described as thoughtful, mournful, solitary, well spoken, petty, unempathetic, selfish, patient, cooperative, distant, unemotional, forgiving, overemotional, perfectionistic, and indecisive.

Broken but unbowed

Languages: Besharan, Glass Talk, Speed: 30ft
-Have resistance to piercing, fire, and poison damage
-Are vulnerable to bludgeoning and force damage
-Roll at -2 on the wound table but all wounds are permanent (rolling 0 or less does not garner a wound)
-Can make a wisdom check to predict tragedies in the far future once a day
-Glow gently, casting dim light in a 5ft area
-If you roll 18 or greater on a history check to recall information on a historical event,
you were there and still remember what happened
-If you’ve eaten a lot of sand, you can vomit a gout of molten glass as a reaction to being struck by an attack once per short rest/long, treat as if you cast Burning Hands with constitution as your spellcasting ability

(A note on making rulings for Glass Women: Think of them as alchemical engines. Potions and other magical components effect them, but when alcohol or some other purely chemical compound is introduced to their system it just burns. They get sick too because sickness is caused by evil spirits, not by little organisms. When I resolve tragedy checks, I try to describe threats which might be ahead in dreamy and unsubstantial ways.)

The Lagash of Kerzerk
They are the pillar builders, the ash eaters, the slave masters, the accomplished pagans. Their skin is jet black, their hair ebony. Even their bones and organs are tinted shades of gray and charcoal. Their eyes, however are gold, green, and blue. Most are somewhat short, standing between 5’ and 4’ tall. Lagash men either shave their beards completely or decorate them with beads and gold thread. Women wear their hair up in turbans dyed dark colours.
Of course all their art is made of diorite

The Lagash feel a near constant compulsion to keep their hands busy. Idle hands, after all, are a sign of an idle mind. Some whittle wooden trinkets or cut rough pieces of obsidian into more pleasing shapes. The nobility play with Besharan meditation orbs and richly decorated puzzle cubes. Above all, they enjoy smoking the dried leaves of Kerzerkian flowers in long ivory pipes whose fumes are poisonous to other peoples.

Kerzerk is a harsh country defined by three marshy rivers and unpredictable floods. It was incorporated into the Besharan empire recently, only after years of war. The Lagash have had trouble integrating into imperial society. They are not allowed to become officers in the Slave Armies and few have risen far in the imperial bureaucracy. However, their skills as architects and artisans have earned them acclaim.

More importantly, the Lagash are still suspected of fire worship. Their priest-kings converted to the Besharan faith. Missionary efforts have succeeded. But whenever a cult of a blasphemous fire god is discovered, the Lagash are always implicated.

The Lagash are often the butt of jokes. They are stereotyped as being shrewd, diligent, cynical, untrustworthy, anxious, calm, introverted, cunning, obsessive, intense, speaking poor Besharan, and eating bland food.

Languages: Kerzerkian, Speed: 25ft
-Become immune to a poison after being exposed to it three times
-Gain advantage on saves against being knocked prone and disarmed
-Can automatically tell what opinions others have about them

-Opportunistic, when making a weapon attack with advantage, increase the damage die of your weapon by one size (d4 -> d6 -> d8 -> d10 -> d12 -> d12 + 2). Cannot deal non-lethal damage

The Bronze Folk
They are a ambitious and capricious people. Their skin is the colour of copper, but tans in dark, bronzy shades. Their hair is black, ginger, or a shade in between. Generally, they are 5’ tall, give or take a few inches. They hang on, in small and large ways, to their formerly nomadic way of life. They still prefer wearing loose pants, as opposed to constricting robes. Both women and men are taught how to string a bow and ride a horse. Poorer families happily sell their children to the merchant caravans, just so they acquire the skills of the saddle.

Court is best held in the garden

The Bronze folk are proud of their long and storied past. Their history was once described in a vast oral tradition which recorded the names of kings, the victories of Faridun and Sellum, and the many conflicts which have divided the Bronze folk in the past. This tradition is quickly dying and slowly being recorded and illustrated. Still, all the best routes across the Silent desert and through the mountains of Beshara are passed down by word alone.

They consider the Bronze city their official home. In the year 431, the Sultan of the Bronze Palace led a revolution against the Pale Folk, wresting control of the empire and moving the capital to the Bronze city.

The Bronze folk are known for a love for horse races, a more than passing interest in camel races, telling tall tales, being easily distracted, having some money invested in the caravan trade, having good senses of humor, and their skill in archery. All the best archers this side of the Sea of Pearls are Bronze folk.

Languages: Bronze Speak, Besharan, Speed: 30ft
-Alert, gain a saving throw to avoid being surprised, roll d20 under wisdom to succeed
-Attacks made with short and long bows crit on 19, 20
-Can sheath one weapon and draw another as a single free action
-Every community the caravan runs through has a Bronze Folk hostel where gossip can be exchanged and the food is cheap. Larger settlements have a Caravan House, where money can be deposited and withdrawn at another branch.
-Are owed a small favor by the merchant caravan, worth about 10GP
-Can give a 10 minute speech once a day to up to 6 friends to fill them with vigor (gain 1d6+ level temporary HP for a hour) or nihilistic fervor (advantage on attack rolls but -4 AC, being struck removes this effect)

The Pale Folk of Beshara
The Pale folk live in the mountains and valleys of Beshara. Their skin ranges from being a pale blue to an ashen white in colour and they are completely hairless. They are rather tall, with most being just under 6’. When the moon is full their flesh becomes semi-transparent, nobody knows why. The Pale folk take religion seriously. They are all well versed in the 5 Holy texts of the Besharan faith and can recite most of the psalms verbatim.

The Pale Folk dress in simple white, black, or dark blue robes decorated with flowing lines of holy scripture. Both sexes wear black or silver eyeliner. They enjoy words games and puns which only make sense in old Besharan dialects and have excellent singing voices.

I feel bad for just taking this from Against the Wicked City,
 but it's everything that I imagine the Pale Folk as

Many Pale folk become Blind Monks or Ascetics and view the empire as corrupt and failing. A few are desperate to become martyrs. They pursue missionary work and train as holy soldiers. Pale folk are also respected scholars and serve as educators and cultural ambassadors for the empire.They make poor bureaucrats otherwise.

Currently, the nobility of the Pale folk are in hiding. Many believe they’re living somewhere in the network of caves beneath the Sacred Mountain, but the Sultan would risk widespread condemnation if she violated the mountain’s sanctity.

The Pale folk have a reputation for being obtuse, argumentative, arch, proud, humble, creative, enjoying tea far too much, killing the mood at parties, getting worked up over nothing, and writing poetry.

Languages: Besharan, Speed: 30ft
-Gain the ability to smell magic by concentrating. This ability can distinguish between arcane and divine magic. Curses smell exactly like oranges.
-Can hold their breath for twice the normal length of time
-Only require 5 hours of sleep to gain the benefits of a long rest
-Once per short/long rest, can take 2 bonus actions on their turn instead of 1
-Have a 2/10 chance of remembering a parable or saying which is vaguely relevant to the situation at hand
-When the moon is full, roughly 5 days of every month, you have sunlight sensitivity

The Clay People
Originally, the Clay people were slaves in Kerzerk but have spread all through the empire. Their skin is a muddy cream colour, usually covered with lighter and darker splotches. Their hair is usually blond or light brown and they have dull silvery pupils. The Clay people grow ivory horns, some small, some long. The older Clay people have had their horns cut but the younger generation take great pride in their horns. They enjoy the high arches of the Bronze city, they no longer have to stoop at every doorway. In Kerzerk, there are still pieces of old Clay Person ivory for sale.

Face of a Canal-Digger
The Clay people have quickly integrated into the empire after Kerzerk fell and they were freed from enslavement. They easily picked up the common languages of the Besharan empire. They’ve become passionate defenders of many different branches of the Besharan religion.
At the same time, there is also a movement within the Clay people to revive their traditional culture. They take care to record the old songs sung while digging the Lagash’s canals and building their ziggurats. They decorate their horns with strips of blood soaked cloth and pieces of agate and onyx. They wear nothing but loin clothes and sit under the midday sun for hours.

The Clay people are known for keeping secrets, being friendly, approachable, accepting, mysterious, eccentric, rude, lethargic, and drinking too much.

Languages: Kerzerian, Speed: 30ft
-Tireless, only feel the effects of exhaustion after acquiring 2 exhaustion points
-Can gain advantage on a skill check they aren’t proficient in or on an attack roll with an weapon they aren’t proficient with once a day.
-Learn new languages twice as fast
-Have horns if charisma is 11 or more, higher scores mean bigger horns
-Have innate spell casting if they consume a mixture of crushed ivory or amber and fresh blood every day for at least a week. If their horns are cut they lose this ability. The greater the amount of ivory/amber and volume of blood ingested, the more spells a Clay Person can cast.  Consuming 3 GP of ivory/amber + 2 HP of blood allows one to cast Hex once a day. 6 GP and 4 HP allows one to cast both Hex and Blur once a day. 12 GP and 6 HP allows one to cast Hex, Blur, and Clairvoyance once a day. Charisma is used as the spellcasting ability for these spells.

The Pomroy
They may be foreign, but they are mighty. The Pomroy stand tall, regularly reaching 8’. Their skin is the colour of ivory or marble. The Pomroy heal quickly. Their wounds fill with a purple fluid which leaves colourful scars. Men and women wear their hair, the colour of molten gold, in long manes or braids which often trail behind them. They find all other kinds of body hair disgusting and shave regularly. Often, they are made to keep their hair in large turbans for the sake of decency.
The taming of Drakes

The Pomroy tell strange tales about their homeland. They recount battles fought by soldiers riding great hogs to inspire fear in drake-cavalry. They describe how magic is practiced by making pacts with fossilized trees. Sometimes, they even seem to refer to the peoples of the Meager Country. What is referenced most often is a plague of petrification that has driven many of the Pomroy abroad. Some are desperate to return home, others less so. They generally dislike the heat.

Many of the Pomroy have sold themselves to the Slave Army, a few have become officers. They have difficulty understanding the tactics the army employs. Some have integrated into imperial society as merchants or raise families in the margins of the Bronze city, taking small jobs as they come and never knowing when the next meal will be. Pomroy princes and scholars, dressed in red robes and fine-smelling wreaths, have been able to win the favor of the court by gifting them with fine red pottery and crossbows. Both have become a huge fad with the elites.

They have a reputation for enjoying drinking contests, skill in sword duels, being boisterous, brave, earnest, convincing, overbearing, sloppy, extroverted, and betting too much on horses races.

Languages: Pomroy patois, Speed: 25ft
-Roll all hit dice with advantage when regaining HP
-Require double the amount of food to sustain themselves
-Can automatically make either a charming or intimidating first impression.
-Gain advantage on all checks to grapple or disam others
-Grudges, if something or someone gives you a wound, you can write a scar on your character sheet with the name/description of the creature/person which wounded you. After, you gain +2 to all d20 rolls made while trying to kill (not subdue) or stop yourself from being killed by the creature.
-Can spend 1HD to regain hit points when dropped to 0 HP, once per week

The Bauda, or Between People
The last people of the empire to continue the long tradition of nomadic life. Their skin is a dull red colour and rough to the touch. Their fingernails, bones, and teeth are flecked with gold. They fear being dismembered for a profit. The Between people wear heavy robes and keep their faces covered most of the time. Each has a linen belt whose large circular buckle records their clan affiliation, name, and titles. They are 5’ tall on average.

Some Between people clans work alongside merchant caravans. They’re relied upon to lead  caravans through the summer sandstorms. The Between people are also respected treasure hunters and regularly bring all manner of strange trinkets, dragged from the desert sand, to Great Market of the Bronze city. The Sultan trusts certain respected Bauda clans to transport newly minted coins across the empire.

Times are good, robes more colorful 

The Between people keep large herds of goats with them and ride flightless Naema birds which can detect oases. They practice Mahrebism, a form of Besharan religion which is merely tolerated by the empire. Their priests perform animal sacrifice and swirling dances in colorful robes. All Between people are expected to travel to the ‘heart of the desert’ alone once in their lives. Some acquire the ability to cast spells from this journey. It is a great honor to have a desert magician in one’s clan.

The Between people have a reputation for having long names, raising large families, being blunt, careful, loyal, treacherous, selfless, unapologetic, awkward, wise, making bloodpacts, and using crude language.
Languages: The Desert Tongue (can only be spoken with a mouth full of sand), Speed: 30ft
-Can concentrate to sense the presence of metal 60ft from them. You know the type of metal and its direction
-Require half the normal amount of food to sustain themselves
-Can’t swim
-Start with a random, semi-useful, trinket
-Can take 2 reactions per round of combat, rather than 1
-Gain 2 extra inventory slots

The Tamani
The Tamani live to the west of the Besharan mountains. Their domain extends to the end of the empire. Their skin comes in shades of dark green and their curly hair is usually black, though they often dye it pastel colours with sticky tree resin and components bought from merchant caravans. The Tamani have purple or orange irises and are known for being broad shouldered. They wear necklaces of pearls or seashells as a sign of status.

The Tamani were the first people to be conquered by the Pale Folk. The institution of the Slave Army was based on how the old Tamani queens organized their military, minus the fact that all their generals, male and otherwise, were married to the queen. To this day, many of the officers and generals of the Slave Army remain Tamani. Despite adopting Besharan dress and religion, the Tamani have kept their language alive. Their scholars translate hundreds of books and documents into Tamani and continue to write treatises and novels in their own tongue.

The Tamani are respected for their skills as craftsman. All the most delicate woodwork is made by Tamani masters, though with Bronze folk designs. The most wondrous items in the Sultan’s possession are created by Tamani wizard-artificers. Tamani mosaics cover the floors of the empire’s elite.

A memory from before the empire

In the oasis cities of Tamania, hot forests grow thinly on poor soil. Beggars sit atop the toppled effigies of the fire gods as dogs in golden collars share the scraps thrown by priests in gray robes. Rain is collected in great basins to feed the gardens of Tamani homes. They cultivate red aloe to brew sweet liquor. Only the ascetics deny themselves the thick, intoxicating drink.

The Tamani have a reputation for having irrational fears, biting off more than they can chew, being shameless, observant, self-disciplined, excitable, sarcastic, and making friends easily. Most Tamani have a pet dog.

Languages: Tamanian, Besharan, Speed: 30ft
-Shrug off, are not negatively affected by minor wounds until they have 2
-Immune to water borne illnesses
-After using the dodge action, the effects last until the end of your next turn
-Gain advantage on checks to determine the age, origin, or value of art objects and woodwork
-Can climb trees without needing to make an athletics or acrobatics check

Credit where it's due: The way I've laid out the information in this post and many of the people's traits, the are adapted from Arnold K's excellent I Killed all the Humans. I hope you, gentle reader, are able to see this as a adaptation rather than theft. I promise things will only get more original from here.

This post is dedicated to Wen Zhenheng, who, like me, took great interest in useless things