Saturday, September 29, 2018

You Are Five

The Self is a maze. Please take care.
(The Lonely Ones by Edvard Munch, 1899)

You are not you. I know, it’s hard to understand. You are not one person, one thing. You are five. They are all whole, not parts. You are not any of them. You are their tendency to stay together. But they wander, oh they wander so.

First is your Skin. It is the heaviest part of you and the easiest to change. It is your face, it is your shape, it is your limbs. It is one thing your parents give to you. It stays right where you left it when you dream. It is your breath and your life. But take care of your skin, my friend, there are sorcerers who want to take it and wear it themselves. They will do terrible things to your Skin. And if you choose to change your Skin, do not forget what you once were.

Second is your Memory. It is a little bird. A sparrow, a magpie, a dove. Its feathers are all you know. It flies to your side days after you are born and joins your unwhole wholeness. When you sleep, it glides through the dreaming world. But, oh, my dear, take care of your Memory. There is a huge raven called Desires-to-Know and he will dive at your Memory in the dreaming world and pluck out your feathers. This is called forgetting.

Third is your Follower. It is the last to become part of you. When you begin to teeth, you will know that it is with you now. It takes many shapes. A fish, a mammal, a bird, a man, a woman, a shapelessness. It is your personality, your sense of who you are. It keeps you safe. Evil spirits fear it and it can be made mighty in the dreaming and the waking world. But, oh, my sweetness, take care of your Follower. If it is destroyed, your whole self will be undone. If it is estranged from you, you will sicken and die. It goes ahead of you, not behind. So worry for your Follower, your enemies will see it in their dreams before they see you on the road.

Fourth is your Will. It is a bird also. A hunter, it soars in the clouds. It is your mind’s sharpness and the speed of your wit. It stays with you and does not wander in the dream but it may if you know how. In the dreaming world, it is a great protector. It can fly with your Follower, it can fly with your Memory and they will be safer from the hidden forces of the dreaming world. It can find lost spirits and bring broken selves together once again. But, my darling, take care of your Will. It desires things which should not be desired and in the vast expanses of the dreaming world it is easily tempted, it is easily lost. If you lose your Will, your thoughts will unravel and you will sicken and die. Keep your Will close, my dearest.

Last is your Luck. It is your eyes, bright and strong or dull and weak. It is your capacity to succeed. If your parent had a good Luck, hope it passes onto you when they die. It is always with you, your Luck. You cannot part from it no matter how hard you try and nothing can take it from you. Do not worry for it. Love it and carry it like a banner in the sun. When you have nothing left, you will have your Luck and it will draw your whole self together in such a way that nothing can stop you from finding victory. 

It’s so hard, my sweetness, to keep yourself together. You have so many parts to lose. But keep trying, one day, soon, you will feel whole.

It is made of lost things

Losing Your Self
To see is to be seen, to touch is to be touched. When one thread is pulled the whole tapestry can be unraveled. Your luck and your skin are usually safe, but your memory, follower, and will are often in jeopardy. There are evil spirits who can steal these things from you in the spirit world and in the mortal one. If part of you is taken by such a creature, there is usually a way to reclaim it.

If you are in a trance state or traveling in the dreaming world free of your skin and are unexpectedly brought back to the mortal world you have a 1 in 6 chance of losing your memory, a 1 in 6 chance of losing your follower, and a 1 in 6 chance of losing your will.

Your skin. It is hard to remove, but there are tools to do so. One Eyed Chief has a knife which can. All shape shifting involves mastering, transforming, or replacing this part of your self. Often, you must remove one skin to don another. Then it is vulnerable to those who would love to wear it themselves.
If you are without a skin:
Your speed is 5
You have only one hand
You have disadvantage on all d20 rolls
You will die in 2 days.
A creature without a skin doesn't just look a creature which has been skinned. Skinless, a creature is malformed and strange, no distinct limbs, always leaking, somehow resembling all animals and none.

Your memory. It is not just the contents of your mind. Losing your memory is not just a case of amnesia. It is losing the ability to remember at all. The locus of your connection to so many things is kept in this part of you.
If you lose your memory:
Your proficiency bonus is -2
You lose all armor proficiencies
You forget everything you know and you cannot form new memories. You can only remember things by using objects and mementos to fix information in your unwhole self.
All your acquaintances forget you. All your friends, family, enemies, and allies have a 4 in 6 chance of forgetting you. All your closest friends and any animal companions you have have a 2 in 6 chance of forgetting you. Even if you are remembered by a person, your face seems vague and indistinct.

Your follower. Your follower is your conduit to the dreaming world, it connects you to other spirits. Without it, you seem listless, dull, passionless. Even the naturally melancholic seem to have lost something vital to their personality without a follower.
If you lose your follower:
You automatically fail all saves against magical effects. (making a Dex save to avoid being struck by a fireball spell is not saving against a magical effect, but saving against a charm person spell is)
Any bonuses you gain from pacts made with spirits or boons provided by guardian spirits are lost
You cannot cast spells or make use of magic items which require attunement
You gain a point of exhaustion which cannot be removed in any way every 2 days.

Your will. Without a will you seem like yourself, personality intact, mind whole, but then it becomes clear that your sense of humor is gone, your ability to make conversation is shot, and you can't sing worth a damn. You also can't want anything. You may need food or water or love but never can your self be driven into motion to get those things.
If you lose your will:
You can't make your own decisions, you must follow another person's orders.
You automatically fail all WIS, INT, and CHA ability checks which aren't related to recalling information.
You gain a point of exhaustion which cannot be removed in any way every 2 days.

Your luck. It can be replaced very rarely but it can never be removed from you entirely.

Related image
 Hunt by Nikolai Triik, 1913.

Putting Your Self Together 
Getting your self back is not easy. If you're missing your skin, you must either take it off whoever is wearing it now or get a new one. If a creature or spirit has stolen another part of you, there will usually some specialized way of getting it back.

 If your follower, will, or memory is lost in the Dreaming world, it's easiest to hire a shaman to find your missing parts. It will cost 10d20 gp in gifts and one favor, to be rendered at a later date. The Shaman will then enter a trance to find and return the missing piece, which takes 1d6 days.

Speaking with Whole Parts
Each part of you is whole. Each can speak in its own way in the dreaming world. Usually, it's hard to isolate any single part of a self, but when somebody has died recently their parts fly in every direction. A shaman can catch one and bring it with you to speak with in your dreams, usually for a fee of 3d20 GP in gifts or a single lamb. 

Skins can speak, they are lethargic and forgetful. They talk about food and adrenaline and love to show you all the dances they once knew. 

Memories can speak, they are fast talking and nimble. They will twitter on about people and places and things. There is very little to connect all these recollections of theirs but they enjoy telling you nonetheless. 

Followers can speak, they seem like their person but more extreme, flaws and passions made more perfect. They'll like to tell you about grudges and crimes and deeds in a way which would suit their their personality. 

Wills can speak, they are subtle and curious. They have such plans, so many things they have yet to do. They will ask you questions, lots of them. They want your secrets, your schemes. They have hated being locked up with these four other idiots who lack their vision but they can't wait to be slotted in again with another four. 

Lucks can speak, they are either filled with conviction or weak with failure. They remember the long lineage of selves they have been a part of. Their lineages, which they love to remind you of, are often not perfectly genealogical. 

This post is dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, who doubted. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Devouring Priests: The Faith of the Knife and the Crook

Spirit and Flesh. One.

It is written in a book with pages like thin white tissue:

“And so Petrus went among the slaves of King Aerom’s court, preaching deliverance from hunger and from tiredness and from hopelessness. The bonded men and women gathered around Petrus and the poor and the needy from far away followed him. Partaking of the Sacrament of Spiced Meat, all were cleansed of that which makes mortal life unbearable and so became devoted disciples of Petrus. The holy man wore robes of wool bound with a simple length of cord in which he kept his saw and his butchering knife, he only sustained himself by the sacraments offered to him, and he smelt of sugar and cinnamon and sweat. This is what he taught to those assembled: ‘I have given you communion from my own flesh and made you my kindred, but to receive and not give is folly.’

And then the Spirit arose from Within Petrus and tore his flesh asunder. The Flesh spoke, saying: ‘Rejoice, for to love is to lack and you lack everything! Feast and be feasted upon!’

At this, King Aerom looked down from his balcony and was aghast. And none could stop the tide of those who had ears to hear the Spirit and mouths to taste the Flesh.”

They are the Devouring Priests, always maimed and always ragged. Theirs is the faith of the crook and the knife. In Voich they are called Disciples of the Empty Belly, but in every land they choose a new name. They need no temples. They carry with them the heart of their worship: the place where the Flesh and Spirit meet, a mouth. It opens from the Priest's chest. Its lips are a scar reaching from shoulder to waist. Its teeth are wide and sharp. Its saliva is dark and sweet, like molasses. The tongue varies, horribly so. It may be an arm, a leg, an eye, it is a mark of the Priest's own order.

They offer a blessed sacrament, always meat and never bread. It is sweet and fragrant, like honey. It is the flesh of men. When you partake of it, you hear a deep voice in your ears, like a whisper. It is so calm, so loving, so reasonable, so silent. So long as you can hear and are within 120ft of the Priest, you are charmed by him and his disciples. This lasts for a day.

The voice compels you to eat more. It is hard to say no. When you have consumed a whole limb’s worth of flesh you become a disciple of the Priest. The voice swells in your ears, you hear it everywhere, it is inside you. This can take a week, 3 days if there’s a rush. Give your character sheet to the DM, you do not need it anymore. Your flesh will feed others.

The Devouring Priest requires his sacrament. He needs not food or drink, he is a kind of ascetic. He must feed the body of a person to the mouth in his chest each week. This is a sacred duty, his disciples, who hear his voice, who have their feet washed and their bellies filled by him, kneel before him as the muscled jaws of his body stretch open. If he cannot feed, he loses the ability to cast spells and perform miracles. He withers. He gains a point of exhaustion each day until he has 5.

Where is the lamb? Behold, it is before you.

The Devouring Priest has come to your doorstep. You have found him in the wilderness. He has brought his faith with him. He is concealing his scar, the tabernacle of his body. What is he like? Roll 2d6 to determine how the Priest is maimed and unmaimed and what he yearns for. 

Devouring Priest
Medium Humanoid, Lawful Evil (I don't really use alignment in my games, but you might)
Armor Class: 16 (Chainmail)
Hitpoints: 62 (12d8+8)
Speed: 30 ft
STR 14 (+2) DEX 9 (-1) CON 16 (+3) INT 12 (+1) WIS 16 (+3) CHA 15 (+2)
Saving Throws: WIS +5 CHA +4
Skills: Religion +5, Deception +6, Persuasion +6, Perception +5, Athletics +4
Senses: Darkvision 30ft, passive perception 15
Languages: Trade Tongue, Pomroy Patois (or Common and some foreign tongue) 
Challenge: 4? (1100 XP)
Spellcasting. The priest is a 5th level spellcaster. Their spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save is DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). The Priest has the following spells prepared. He does not need verbal components to cast spells, his 2nd mouth does all the incantations.

Cantrips: Guidance, Sacred Flame, Thaumaturgy, Spare the Dying
Level 1 (4 slots): Cure Wounds, Shield of Faith, Command, Sanctuary
Level 2 (3 slots): Hold Person, Calm Emotions, Hungry Touch
Level 3 (2 slots): Wither, Mass Healing Word
(See 'New Spells' below for Hungry Touch and Wither)

Face of Hunger: The Priest's mouth is usually closed and hidden, he must use an action to fully open it and cannot move on a turn in which he does so. His mouth must be open in order to use his Bite and Consume actions or to use the limb inside his mouth. When the Devouring Priest is reduced to half his hitpoints (31) or below the mouth in his chest is revealed and opens automatically. It vomits a mixture of blood and dark, sweet saliva.

Heavy Crook. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5ft, one target. Hit: 1d8+2 bludgeoning damage
Dagger. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5ft, one target. Hit: 1d4+2 piercing damage
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5ft, one target. Hit: 1d10+4 slashing damage.
Consume. As a bonus action, the Priest partakes of the flesh of a living disciple adjacent to him. The Priest regains 2d8+4 HP, the disciple then takes that much slashing damage +5

He is maimed and unmaimed. Something was taken from him and something greater was given. It is a mark of his particular conviction.

1.  The sheep must never stray far. A strong grip makes this so.
He is missing an arm. He has disadvantage on checks which require 2 hands.
His mouth contains a long arm with five strong fingers. It has a strength of 18, has a total of +8 to athletics checks, and may attempt to grapple a creature as a bonus action. Whenever the priest makes a melee attack he may make an additional one with his extra arm.

2. Unity is kept through scrutiny. If they wander, he shall know.
He is missing both eyes, blinded. He will have a disciple close, to guide him.
His mouth contains a huge eye, purple where it should be white, a pupil like gold. He gains blindsight 10ft around all his disciples. When the priest's mouth is open, he gains darkvision 90ft and truesight. As a bonus action, the Priest may scrutinize a creature with his eye. The target must succeed a Charisma saving throw (against his spell save DC) or become paralyzed as the Priest invades their mind until the end of their next turn. The Priest learns the target's deepest fears and closest secrets this way.

3. Our faith is a wandering one. He must never stay in one place long.
He is missing a leg. He moves at half speed (15 ft). He uses a simple prosthetic.
His mouth contains a twisted leg, all muscle, joints moving every which way. While his mouth is open, the Priest's speed's increases to 40ft and he does not provoke opportunity attacks. As a bonus action, he may attempt to sweep all creatures adjacent to him off their feet. They all must succeed a Dexterity saving throw (against the Priest's spell save DC) or be knocked prone and take 1d6+2 bludgeoning damage.

4. The soul of the faith is the voice. He shall sing for all the world.
He is missing his tongue. He cannot speak. He may have a disciple to talk for him. 
His mouth contains a long, sticky, purple-black tongue. When his mouth is open, even those who have not tasted the Sacrament can hear the Priest's voice. You cannot help but find it beautiful. As a bonus action, the Priest can speak in enchanting tongues. All creatures who can hear him must succeed a Wisdom save (against his spell save DC) or are unable to intentionally harm the Priest and cannot defend themselves against melee attacks the Priest makes against them until the end of their turn.

5. The Spirit turns all weakness to strength. From infirmness he finds fermity.
He is missing a vital organ. He looks sickly. He makes Con and Str saves at disadvantage.
His mouth contains an amalgam of grey-purple tubes and lobes. Like the liver and the lungs and the heart bred together. When his mouth is open, everyone can hear their hearts beating in their ears and all their organs convulsing within them. Everyone who can hear the priest makes all saving throws at disadvantage. As a bonus action, the Priest can spew sweet bile at a creature, treat as a ranged spell attack. On a hit, the target takes 1d6 acid damage and the Priest's disciples gain plus +1 to attack rolls and damage rolls against the target, this stacks and can only be ended by washing the bile off.

6. Eyes deceive as much as words, as much as ears. He lives by faith alone.
He is missing his entire head. The stump of his neck continues to bleed. He is blind, deaf, mute.
His mouth contains a malformed head. It has perfect black orbs for eyes. Teeth like razor blades. When the Priest's mouth is open, he regains the use of all his senses and speech. His two voices harmonize perfectly, Disciples of the Priest gain advantage on all attack rolls and ability checks. As a bonus action, the Priest may drive all Disiples into a frenzy,  they may make a melee attack as a reaction against a creature adjacent to them.
(This is a very rare sect, if you roll this option first, reroll)

He yearns not just for flesh, but for something more.

1. He yearns for information. He keeps well connected socialites close to him. When he tastes the blood of a humanoid, he may gain a whole day's worth of their memories. These memories can be kept into perpetuity.

2. He yearns for truth. He keeps sages and wise men close to him. When he tastes the blood of a humanoid, he may gain a spell they know of 3rd level or below for a day. 

3. He yearns for experience. He keeps people skilled in every craft close to him. When he tastes the blood of a humanoid, he may gain the use of a class trait they posses (such as a fighter's Action Surge or a paladin's Divine Sense). He may only gain one trait at a time this way and can't gain Spellcasting. 

4.  He yearns for perfection. He keeps those who excel in every quality close to him. When he tastes the blood of a humanoid, he may increase one of his ability scores so that it matches that of the person who's blood he tasted. He may only have one score increased at a time.

5. He yearns for culture. He keeps all manner of people from all places with him. When he tastes the blood of a humanoid, he may gain one the traits they gain from their heritage (Such as a Dwarf's Dwarven Resilience or a Rowing Person's Wide Eyes). He may only gain one trait at a time this way.

6. He yearns for devotion. He keeps many people close and none can leave him. When he tastes the blood of a humanoid, he gains the ability to track that creature perfectly and his attacks against them cannot have disadvantage. This effect lasts for two days.

File:Pieter Brueghel the Younger Preaching.jpg
My house is for all people

What of the Disciples?

It is written in a book with ink of auburn:

"That day the Anointed One had fled to the hills where the shepherds plied their trade, and indeed a great many people had followed him. He told them many things in parables, saying: 'Look upon that herdsman. Though he be a servant to one man, he does toil day and night not for his own welfare but for the creatures under his care. Though he carries his crook in his left hand, at his right is a knife.'"

File:Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn - Return of the Prodigal Son - Google Art Project.jpg
Who are you to stay my hand?
He does not come alone. His Disciples follow him. They could be anyone. They remain themselves, in some ways, placid but happy expressions, old edges made smooth. They will always follow the Devouring Priest's commands and will never flee or suffer from cowardice.

 Most are maimed, their flesh needed to feed others, give them a major injury from your preferred death and dismemberment table (let me volunteer my own). If you need to run a large number of Disciples, run them all as having the same, vague, major disadvantage like disadvantage on Strength rolls, or all as having 1 hand because of both missing arms and needing a free arm to hold a crutch, whatever you feel is appropriate.

The Priest knows the value of protection. He may have unmaimed Disciples who were once soldiers or mercenaries to guard him.

The Priest may create an equal. He will take a time to prepare, eating 10 of his followers in 10 days. He will take one of his Disciples and cut them open, a laceration reaching from shoulder to waist. He pours himself into them, dark saliva and seeds of a foreign flesh. There is much chanting and jubilation. This is a kind of marriage. It takes 3 hours. The scar will heal quickly and in a week it will open, a new Devouring Priest is born. The maiming comes afterward, when it is time for a new congregation to be gathered, when the first sacrament must be prepared.

Should you meet a Devouring Priest, he may appear in this manner.

1. A tent in the wilderness. The cripples are so kind, they speak so highly of their new faith. They have plenty of meat, but there are no animals in sight.

2. A poor maimed holy man stumbles upon you. He looks withered and tired. He begs you to take him to the nearest town.

3. The local authorities are trying a man for heresy on the roadside. His followers violently agitate for his release.

4. He has been caught at a bad time. His gaze (or lack there of) meets yours just as the legs of a woman slide into his chest. His followers are shocked by your arrival.

5. A child calls out to you. Her parents followed a man who promised to feed them in this hungry time. They have not returned.

6. A caravan of wealthy men and women on horseback, traveling with their new spiritual guide. Beggars tied up, trailing behind, parts of them cut off, they beg you to free them.

Many fleshes, one faith
Illustration by Harry Clarke, from Faust

Devouring Priests grow as their congregation grows. His voice will become greater, the bond he shares with his Disciples deeper. He gains spell slots and cantrips as a Cleric does and he learns new spells from the Cleric's spell list. When the congregation shrinks, the benefits the Priest and his Disciples enjoy take 3 days to disappear.

The Faith of the Crook and the Knife will spread using all the tactics of a plague and with all the grace of a modern cult. They spurn public displays until they have a critical mass and spread whispers of dissent, of secret answers and initiations.

It is unlikely that a single Priest will assemble more than ~170 Disciples. The cult will split into new segments as new Priests are created and it will take a long time for one Priest to prepare the sacrament required to acquire so many followers.

 Number of Disciples/Benefits
0: No benefits. The cult must grow.
20~ (about the size of an extended family): All Disciples gain +1 to all saves. Priest's health increases by 10.
40~ (about the size of a small war-party): The Priest becomes a 6th level spell caster.
80~ (about the size of a large merchant caravan): All Disciples gain +1 to hit. The Priest becomes a 7th level spell caster.
170~ (about the population of a small village): The Priest's voice takes on a new confidence. Though still silent to the uninitiated, it can effect the devoted and the infidel in new ways.  Roll a d6 on the table below.

1. His voice is louder. Whenever he casts a spell of 1st level or higher, all enemies who can hear him must pass a Wisdom saving throw (against the Priest's spell save) or take 1d6 psychic damage.

2. His voice is more horrible. Whenever he casts a spell of 1st level or higher, an enemy who can hear him must pass a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of the Priest until the end of their next turn.

3. His rhetoric is more mocking. Whenever he casts a spell of 1st level or higher, an enemy who can hear him must pass a Wisdom saving throw or be compelled by rage to move their speed towards the Priest, avoiding dangerous terrain if able.

4. His rhetoric is more extreme. Whenever he casts a spell of 1st level or higher, two allies who can hear him gain advantage on their next attack roll.

5. His voice is more soothing. Whenever he casts a spell of 1st level or higher, two allies who can hear him may regain 1d4 hitpoints.

6. His rhetoric is more uplifting. Whenever he casts a spell of 1st level or higher, all allies who can hear him may make another saving throw against negative effects which require a save to end.

350~(about the size of a hamlet): The Priest gains 25 health. His Disciples gain Pack Tactics.

700~(about the population of a small town): The Priest's ambitions grow. Roll a d6 to give the Priest a new yearning. If you roll a yearning the Priest already possesses, then his desire deepens. Whatever he gains by tasting the blood of a humanoid, he may also cause the humanoid to lose. For example, if he yearns for information, he may cause people to lose the memories he gains from them. For the yearnings for which this principle is not obvious:
Yearns for perfection: Victims have the ability score the Priest steals reduced to 10
Yearns for devotion: Victims forget all the places where they have friends or allies
Anything stolen by the Priest is returned when the Priest dies or after 2 days.

1900~(about the size of a medium sized town): The Priest is now a 9th level spell caster. His Disciples gain +1 to their unarmored AC. The Priest's voice becomes greater again, roll a d6 on the table above, rerolling if you get a trait which the Priest already posses.

4000~(about the size of a large town): The Priest becomes a 11th level spell caster. His ambition explodes. Roll for 2 new yearnings. He gains 25 HP.

9000~(a small city): A metamorphosis, perhaps a crisis of opinion. The Priest gains a new organ/limb in his mouth, roll on the Maimed and Unmaimed table again but don't apply the maiming portion.

18000~(a large city):
It is written in a book with a spine of ivory:

"What of the world to come? Even if you knew all, saw all, and were prepared for all, you could not fathom it. For now we see each other as in a mirror, dimly. Then we shall be face to face and flesh to flesh and all these mysteries will fade. " 

Once in his life, the Priest may consume 1000 of his followers in a ritual frenzy over the course of a week in order issue forth from his body, in a process which is similar to a snake unhinging its jaws, an ANGEL OF HUNGER. 











I am doing as I should

New Spells:
Hungry Touch, 2nd Level Necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action, Range: Touch, Components: V, S, Duration: Concentration up to 10 minutes
You lay your hand on a creature. They begin to feel starved, as if they've been without food for 2+your proficiency bonus days, and gain points of exhaustion appropriate to the number of days they've been effectively starved for (a creature can go 3+their constitution modifier days without food before they begin to gain a point of exhaustion for each day spent starving beyond their limit). If you continue to touch the creature they continue to starve, feeling as if they've been without food for an additional day for each round you touch them. The creature cannot gain more than 4 levels of exhaustion this way and may lower their exhaustion level by eating an amount of food equal to that which they would have needed during the time they've been effectively starved for. 

Wither, 3rd Level Necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action, Range: 20ft, Components: V, S, Duration: Variable

You call out to the limb of a humanoid which can see and hear you. You command either an arm or a leg to wither. If an arm is targeted, the creature drops anything it’s holding with that arm, if a leg they fall prone. The target must succeed a constitution saving throw or their limb withers and becomes unusable for 1d4 days. If an arm is targeted, the creature has one less usable hand and gains disadvantage on all checks which would require two hands to perform. If a leg is targeted, the target moves at half speed for the duration and has disadvantage on all saves against effects which would knock them prone.

Credit where it's due: This post is based of Zedek Siew's excellent Priests of Want class, which you should go and read now. I've taken the main ideas of his post, the cannibalistic and enthralling sacrament, and added my own twists.

It is written in a book bound with perfect black leather: 

"How do you think that I come alone? When I arrived to this country I had ears to hear and eyes to see but I was nothing. Now I have seen this country. I have eaten with the people of the villages and of the hills. They have showed me such kindness. Do you think they are not with me now? For I have been made greater by all those who have loved me. 

For all the might on earth and all the miracles of the Spirit, nothing can match devotion."

This post is dedicated to Jón Arason, who, I have read, was the last good man in his nation

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Gifts from One Eyed Chief

One Eyed Chief has many names in many countries. Famed One and Grey Beard. Raven Feeder and Terrible One. He has been everywhere and remembers everyone. He is patron of the ecstasy of madness, the terror of war, and all those who seek power above all. Outlaws, kings, and magicians call to him and he answers. He appears as an old wanderer wearing blue, an ancient chieftain dressed for war, a huge wolf with black fur, and a raven with a mouth full of entrails. He always has a single piercing blue eye with a rectangular pupil. Sometimes he uses a glass eye to trick those who know him. He comes to our world to sow discord, discover secrets, and test the hospitality of men. He will refuse all food offered to him but accepts drink readily. He is selfish and anxious and vicious. He kills those he favors and those who draw his attention. He eats their flesh as they hang and takes their spirits to his hall.

You will be noticed by One Eyed Chief if you do any of  the following:
-Provide food for the ravens and wolves by causing men to turn on each other
-Find victory on the field of battle through incredible bravery
-Protect or advance the cause of people who are not gender conforming
-Make great sacrifices for knowledge
-Quickly gain worldly power  through cunning
-Betray your allies for personal gain.

One Eyed Chief can be contacted by hanging an animal from a tree and slitting it open. A chieftain is the best animal to offer him but he will accept bulls, horses, and slaves in a pinch. If ravens descend to eat the sacrifice you know he has accepted it. You will be visited in your dreams. You will find yourself in a dark hall with a dying fire. One Eyed Chief will speak to you from his throne in the darkness, his eye smolders like a dying star. His voice is soft but firm and flows through the hall like music. He knows every secret and tells you to look out for yourself first. His laugh is insincere and more akin to raven's squawking.

If you have pleased One Eyed Chief and advanced his many causes, you will be visited in your dreams. He will appear as an old man and meet you on the road of the dreaming world. He will offer you a gift. He has collected many strange and dangerous things over the years. He knows just what will temp you and just what you need. Or just roll a d20 and see what he has for you. He will kindly explain how to use his gift and then you will awake with it clutched in your left hand. Nobody on watch could tell you how it got there. 

1. One-Eyed Chief's Battle Standard: A huge Raven in profile on a red field, the banner is tattered at the bottom.

When you raise the standard of One-Eyed Chief as an action all your allies who can see and hear you gain the following for the duration of combat. The banner does nothing if you do not bellow your war-song:
-Advantage on all attack rolls
-Advantage on all saving throws
-Gain +3 AC

When you raise the standard of One-Eyed Chief, you gain the following:
-You are vulnerable to all damage types
-You make all saving throws at disadvantage
-All attacks against you are made with advantage
-If you drop to zero hp, you die instantly

If the banner is dropped during the battle, due to death, cowardice, or any other reason, all your allies are treated as if they themselves were raising One-Eyed Chief's standard and lose all its benefits. This ends if it is picked up again.

When the battle ends, huge ravens descend and feast upon the corpses. If you ever flee a battle, the standard evaporates. If the carrier of the banner turns his back on the enemy, the standard evaporates. Treat such a situation as if the banner had been dropped.

2. A Flask of the Inspiration Mead: A drinking horn with a leather cap filled with a sweet-smelling golden liquid. There are three sips of mead in the horn. It tastes vaguely of blood.

When you drink the mead your body and mind feel like they are on fire. You are bursting with energy. You do all work twice as quickly, you will win any battle of wits you engage in, you can answer all questions on lore perfectly, you can compose verse which is magical, timeless, and profound, you are charming and attractive in ways nobody could match. This effect lasts 10 minutes and when it is gone your mediocrity becomes painfully obvious.

When you drink the mead in battle, you enter a battle trance like no other. You gain resistance to all damage types, advantage on all melee attack rolls and damage rolls, your speed increases by 10ft, you make one extra melee attack as a free action against any target whenever you make a melee attack, and you must attack the nearest creature each turn. This effect lasts for a minute or until you’re knocked unconscious. When the rage ends, you gain 3 levels of exhaustion.

3. The Wanderer’s Whetstone: A smooth, spherical stone which can be easily held in one’s hand. It can be used to sharpen melee weapons which do slashing or piercing damage. It takes 5 minutes to sharpen a single weapon and grants that weapon +2 to damage rolls for a day. If used on farming implements, the sharpened tools can do work twice as fast for a day.

After seeing the stone’s work, envy and greed are aroused in people’s hearts. If any fight over the stone, their bladed weapons become sharp and loosed from their sheaths, causing horrible lacerations. People of low status, slaves, and peasants have their throats instantly slit if they fight over the whetstone.

4. Skin-Stealing Dagger: A dagger with an incredibly sharp blade set into a fine wooden handle. Just touching the blade draws blood but causes no pain. The knife can be used to take the skin off an unconscious being. This process takes an hour. The victim will not notice until they awake. If you aren’t wearing a skin (not excluding your own, you can use the dagger to remove it), you can assume the empty skin of any other creature to take on its appearance and statistics, though your eyes remain the same. Empty skins are tempting to lost souls and evil spirits who will steal them to do mischief and inhabit them to do violence. This is a very crude way of shapeshifting. Any skin removed by the knife can be exited 1d4 times before it rips and is made unusable. If you give a skilled shaman 5d10 gp in gifts he can prepare a skin so that it is usable for a year. If you do not have a skin, your speed is 5ft, you have only one hand, you have disadvantage on all d20 rolls, and you will die in 2 days.

5. One-Eyed Chief’s Wolf Skin: The hide of a huge wolf, with leather straps and a clasp so that the hide can be secured around your shoulders. When you pull the skin over your head, the hide wraps around you and you assume One-Eyed Chief’s wolf form. You have black fur but your eyes remain your own. You can remove the skin as an action.

You are a large beast with 65 HP, 14 AC, 60ft Speed
STR 18 (+3) DEX 15 (+2) CON 15 (+2) INT 12 (+1) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 7 (-2)

Keen Hearing and Smell. You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

Pack Tactics. You have advantage on attack rolls against a creature if at least one of your allies is within 5 ft. of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.

Call of Nature. When you taste the blood of a person for the first time each day you must make a DC 10 Intelligence saving throw. If you fail it, your wolf from loses one intelligence permanently. If you lose 9 intelligence this way, you lose your memory of your former self and cannot take off the wolf skin. One-Eyed Chief will give you a new name.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (2d6 + 4) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone

Howl. Once every two weeks, you may call One-Eyed Chief’s pack. They have the same statistics as your wolf form but lack Howl and have an intelligence of 3. The members of the pack are as follows: Devours the Sun, Hunter of Shepherds, Destroyer of Boundaries, Hungers in Winter. It takes 3 days for the pack to arrive to an urban location, 1 day to arrive at a rural location, and in the deep forest they arrive in a minute. The pack will follow your orders but are hostile to all civilized life. They wish to devour all people and all animals who live behind fences and within walls. If you return to your human form they will turn on you, all except Hungers in Winter. The pack will follow you for a day before dispersing, killed wolves can be called again in two month. Hungers in Winter will try to speak with you in her wolfish tongue, trying to achieve higher orders of speech, trying to warn you of something.

When you return to your human form, you are filled with an animal rage and an endless hunger. The smell of blood drives you into a rage. The sight of the deep forests makes you desire to run on all fours.

6. One-Eyed Chief’s Stave: A quarter staff of ash wood who’s worn tip looks like it once held a spear’s point. Treat as a +2 weapon against those of lower social standing, cannot be used to attack outsiders or guests. If you are an outsider or exile, all people are above you in social standing. The staff is richly carved with 18 scenes describing the abilities it possesses. For example, the 2nd scene depicts a man breathing life into another and the 11th a mighty shield wall. The 18th scene is utterly indescribable but entrancing to gaze at.

If you wield the stave, you may do one of the following once a day:
1. Give a person complete confidence in their own success and thus advantage on their next saving throw, attack roll, and skill check
 2. Restore an unconscious person to full hitpoints
 3. Dull the edges of all bladed weapons held by nearby enemies
4. Burst all chains and break all locks, magical or otherwise, constraining you and your nearby allies
5. Strike an enemy with an attack which cannot miss
6. If you are the victim of a hostile spell, make the spell effect it’s caster instead as a reaction
7. Quench a fire of any size
8. Turn two enemies to friends or resolve any dispute between two people
9. Ensure any journey by water reaches its safe completion
10. Make any people wearing animal skins (as per One Eyed Chief’s Wolf Skin, Skin Stealing Dagger, or a druid’s Wild Shape) who you can see forget their humanity forever
11. The shields of nearby allies increase AC by 4 rather than 2 for 10 minutes
12. Revive the spirit of any person who has been executed or has died by violence whose body you can touch, they must answer your questions and cannot deceive you
13. Bless a newborn child so that they cannot die by violence, they can still be horribly injured and tortured, but it can never kill them
14. For a minute, you know the name of every spirit and mortal and can recognize them as if they were an old friend. You can solve every riddle with ease.
15. Sing a mighty ballad to call upon one of One Eyed Chief’s allies (of the GM’s choice)
16. Make any mortal fall in love with you for a night
17. Make yourself accepted as a friend would be by any person in any social situation

These are not spells or magical effects. They just happen.

7. A Piece of the Huldra’s Fire: A round gold coin with reddish tint. 30 men died to retrieve this one piece. It calls to its brothers, subtly pulling the hand which holds it towards the Huldra’s Fire, or to some other great or cursed fortune in a pinch. The coin can guide its holder through the most winding water routes safely. Weak willed people become obsessed with stealing the coin if they see it. 

8. Prince Killing Dart: A sprig of mistletoe sharpened to a wicked point. It will instantly kill anybody who is blessed with a great destiny or is heir to a great fortune or is an especially beloved child or is gaining popularity and power rapidly if it is successfully thrown at them. The dart requires two people to throw and one must be related to the dart’s intended victim. When these conditions are met and the dart is thrown, roll a d20, if the result is greater than 2 then the dart hits. Nobody killed by the dart can be brought back to life and their spirit cannot be consulted by any means.

9. Spear which Breaks Swords: An iron spear head. It is long and speckled with rust. A few old-words are carved along the point. If it touches a magic weapon, that weapon breaks into five pieces. The wielder of that weapon is cursed with bad luck so that they suffer a great loss. A loved one dies. A home is destroyed. A fortune is made forfeit. A battle is lost.

If the spear head is attached to a shaft, it is a +2 weapon and when thrown makes its damage rolls with advantage

If the Spearhead is attached to One Eyed Chief’s Stave, it becomes a +4 spear with all the abilities of both items. The old words engraved upon the spearhead become legible again: “It that Sways” they read. In addition, the spear returns to your hand when thrown at the beginning of your next turn.

10. The Helm of Terror: A circlet of oak wood with a lead disk fitted in its center. This is not the helm of terror; the true helm is your own fearsome aura which emerges from you when the oak circlet is worn. Your eyes look serpentine, your brow emits a bright light, and nobody can gaze upon you without succeeding a Wisdom saving throw whose DC is equal to 11 + your Charisma mod. If they fail they are terrified of you and flee in fear for 6 rounds. If they fail by 6 or more, they are paralyzed with fear and may attempt the save again at the end of their turn.

11. Atli’s True Arrow: The Rowing people know him as Atli, the wolf in the skin of a man. He was the greatest Khan to rule the Meager Country and the lands beyond it. Nobody is sure how he died. Some say he was killed in battle, murdered at his wedding, suffered a horrible nosebleed, killed by grief after being tricked into eating his own sons, ect.

This arrow might have killed Atli, it certainly remembers doing so. Dip it in the blood of an enemy and it will deal 6d10 piercing damage against them and cause massive internal bleeding, requiring immediate medical attention or magical healing. If the victim of the arrow is any kind of steppe nomad, you get advantage on attacks made against them with Atli’s true arrow.

12. A thread of Destiny: A few strands of thread the color of gold, about the length of your forearm. If you tie it around your arm, you are blessed with luck. You may reroll any d20 roll once a day. When you do so, you see the flow of destiny before you for an instant, it is horrifying. You die so many times.

If you take a lock of hair and burn it with the thread, the hair’s possessor will be cursed with bad luck so that they suffer a great loss. A loved one dies. A home is destroyed. A fortune is made forfeit. A battle is lost.

13. A Sip from the Well of What Once Was: It looks like water, held in a wooden bowl wrapped tightly in leather. There is very little left. Three drops of water remain in the bowl.

When a drop of water touches your tongue, destiny unfolds before your eyes. It looks like a tapestry on the loom, threads wind around the world, water runs up and down at once. It is circular and infinite. You can ask one question and it will be answered perfectly and in depth by visions of what is, what was, and what should be. Afterward, your dreams will be haunted by images of eternity and your demise.

Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse, 1886

14. A Severed Hand: Severed a few inches above the wrist, tendons dangle, bone is splintered, it was ripped off. It is four fingered and bears a distinctive tattoo: a ring of stars and strange symbols around the wrist. The tattoo glows blue when the hand is pointed North.

When you hold the hand, its fingers tap against your palm, communicating through the strange language of the body, it ‘speaks’ in the choppy scrip of a telegram. You can tap back as if an old instinct were returning. The hand will give advice.

The hand’s personality can be described thusly:
-Believes deeply in the value of honorable behavior and just conduct in life and war
-Trusts traditional power structures completely and wishes to defend them
-Obsessed with violence, particularly revenge and self-disfigurement. Violence against ourselves will save others and violence against others will save ourselves.
-Admires acts of personal sacrifice for the sake of others above all else
-Has a deep respect for those who carry through on their promises, even if doing so hurts them
-Hates exiles, outlaws, traitors, usurpers, liars, and One-Eyed Chief above all other criminals
-Terrified of wolves

The hand is most likely to communicate to offer counsel during disputes which need adjudication, chastise dishonorable behavior, and lionize honorable behavior.

If you gain the liking of the hand and find yourself subject to its praise, you will be visited in your dreams by a tall figure in a heavy blizzard. He has eyes like blue stars and the stump of his right arm drips blood. His voice is deep but sounds like a whisper in the whipping snow. His name is Steward of the North Star. He is the lord of oaths, of laws, and of war. He defended his people, he saved them, but he cannot lead them. He is full of a rage to protect. He will offer to swear himself to you. It will cost you in flesh but you will make up for it in spirit. If you accept, you awake missing your left hand. It has been replaced by the severed hand, the fleshes are not separated clearly, the Steward’s pale skin mingles with yours. You gain the following:

-You now have 2 right hands
-You speak with the voice of justice, when you adjudicate disputes all parties will accept your judgment without contest, unless they are chiefs or mighty warriors
-When you turn northward and stand still, your eyes burn like blue stars. You cannot be moved against your will. You have advantage on all saving throws.
-If not wielding a weapon, the Steward’s hand will drop what it’s carrying and draw a weapon when combat begins. It refuses to wield spears or javelins or wands and will break them in twain.
-You gain proficiency with all types of swords, expect rapiers because they are too dainty. When making a weapon attack with a sword held by the Steward’s hand, treat your strength as if it were 22.
-You are terrified of wolves. You must flee from them if they are in your sight and their howls paralyze you with fear for a round.
-You are possessed by the spirit of Steward of the North Star. As long as you act in accordance with the Steward’s values, he will not interfere with you. He will ask you to justify any violence you intend to commit by his hand, appealing to him via his own views about violence will yield success most readily. In addition, he desires to execute outlaws, murder followers of One-Eyed Chief, and protect the weak preferably at great cost to himself. If your wills conflict, you must contest control of your body (via the Straits of Anián possession and ego rules). The Steward has an ego of 10. If the contested action relies specifically on the Steward’s hand, his ego is 11. If you do something deeply dishonorable (lie, cheat, steal), the Steward will not interfere, but will attempt to gain control of your body so as to choke you into unconsciousness. He will give you two chances before he tries to make you kill yourself.

Steward of the North Star will continue to speak with you in your dreams, weather you accept his fealty or not. He tends to lecture and addresses you with a mixture of respect, love, and contempt. If you die, One-Eyed Chief will return for the hand.

15. A Golden Torque: A glimmering armband beautifully made, etched with Old-Words and the faces of ravens. There are plenty of these to go around.

When you don the Golden Torque it clenches around your arm and cannot be removed. You become one of One-Eyed Chief’s chosen, you have forged a bond of debt. He owns you.

Wearing the torque makes you a born leader. You gain the following.
- Men will be eager to swear fealty to you.
-Even a modest dowry can secure you a marriage into a powerful house.
-You can cast command twice a day using charisma as your spellcasting ability.
-You can sing a powerful war-song as an action, giving your allies +2 to their attack rolls and damage rolls for the round so long as they can sing the chorus

16. The Bolt which Killed Friend of Deep Waters: A crossbow bolt with a barbed tip and blue fletching. It was fired into the shoulder of the primordial singer, Friend of Deep Waters, who could sing flesh to wood, water to honey, and sand into grain.

If you have the bolt’s tip embedded in you, you cannot cast spells or speak and no guardian spirits can be called to your aid. This lasts after the bolt is removed and until you can be purified by a great water-spirit or travel to a distant land. After you are free of the bolt’s effect, you forget the time you were affected by it.

17. The Ashes of a Powerful Witch: Contained in a skull filled with wax. The ash seems to glitter slightly. If you eat the ash, you are put into a powerful trance state. All the realms of the spirit world are close to you and you may visit them as you please almost instantly. You can walk from the River of Death to One-Eyed Chief’s hall in a moment. One skull of ash can fuel 5 trances.

18. The Wanderer’s Cloak: A dark blue cloak made of wool. Donning it makes you appear aged and renders you unrecognizable to all who know you, so long as you act the part of the old grey hair. This disguise also fools spirits and magic cannot reveal your true identity. Effectively you now have two separate identities. While wearing the cloak you gain the following:

-Carrion birds and scavenging animals will do your bidding if they are hungry. They expect to be fed.
-By tapping your walking stick against the ground three times, you may summon nearby minor spirits to your aid. House spirits, hidden-people, and land sprits can be called, but they may recognize your elderly form from somewhere else and do not like being bothered over and over again.

19. A Great Serpent’s Scale. One-Eyed Chief offers these in black and in yellow. There are many false scales taken from lesser wyrms but these are true scales from the great serpents themselves. Roll a d2.

1. Scale of the Jet Serpent. Grants the holder resistance to acid damage. You can breathe under water with ease.

Hanging on to it for too long causes lust for power to posses your heart. After a week, you cannot help but become enraged when commoners and slaves fail to show deference to you. You gain the following.

- Your chest is full of power. Once a day as an action, you can breathe a gout of acid in a 20ft by 5ft line. Any creature in the area must make a DC 12 Con saving throw. They take 2d6 acid damage on a failed save and half damage on a successful one. The acid leaves sticky globules of burning matter in the area it effected, turning it into difficult terrain for a minute.
-Your hands are full of sharpness. Your unarmed melee attacks deal 1d6 slashing damage.

After two weeks, you cannot help but become enraged when free-men and warriors fail to show deference to you. You gain the following.

-Your tongue is long and thin. You can speak to serpents and reptiles and they will do your bidding. If the creature is domesticated, it must to succeed a DC 9 Wis save to resist your influence.
-Your chest burns with potential. You can now breathe acid in a 30ft line. It’s save DC increases to 14.

After a month, you cannot help but become enraged when chiefs, shamans, and heroes fail to show deference to you. You gain the following.

-Your hands are even sharper. Your unarmed melee attacks deal 1d8 slashing damage.
-Your chest is bursting with energy. You can breathe acid in a 40ft line. It’s save DC increases to 15. It deals 2d8 acid damage. If a target fails its save against your breath attack and is wearing armor, their AC decreases by 2 until they can get their armor repaired.
-Your flesh blossoms with gleaming black scales. Your unarmored AC increases by 2.

After a month and two weeks, you cannot help but become enraged when your closest allies fail to show deference to you. You gain the following.

-Your chest is like a great engine of destruction. You may use your breath attack 3 times a day.
-Your eyes are that of a great serpent. Once a day as an action, you may reveal your horrible nature to all creatures who can see you. They must succeed a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be overwhelmed by fear, they have disadvantage on all attacks and ability checks and they cannot move closer to you willingly. They can repeat the save at the end of each of their turns.

After another week, your humanity is gone. Your blood is poison to all life. Your mind has evolved into a completely serpentine intelligence. You recall your other life, but is the life of another person, a collection of memories which only happen to be in your head. You are the Great Jet Serpent now. You cannot suffer these fools any longer. You leave one night with all the loyal, submissive, followers you can rally.

2. Scale of the Gold Serpent. Grants the holder resistance to poison damage. You can breathe water easily.

Hanging on to it for too long causes greed to posses your heart. After a week, you cannot help but covet gold, you cannot bring yourself to part with it. You gain the following

- Your chest is full of power. Once a day as an action, you can breathe a cloud of poison gas in a 10ft cone. The cloud lingers for 2 rounds, or until winds blow it away. Any creature who begins their turn in the cloud, must make a DC 12 Con saving throw. They take 2d6 poison damage on a failed save and half damage on a successful one.
-Your hands are full of sharpness. Your unarmed melee attacks deal 1d6 slashing damage.

After two weeks, you cannot help but covet silver, you cannot bring yourself to part with it. You gain the following.

-Your tongue is long and thin. You can speak to serpents and reptiles and they will do your bidding. If the creature is domesticated, it must to succeed a DC 9 Wis save to resist your influence.
-Your chest burns with potential. You can now breath poison in a 15ft cone. It’s save DC increases to 14.

After a month, you cannot help but covet copper, you cannot bring yourself to part with it. You gain the following.

-Your hands are even sharper. Your unarmed melee attacks deal 1d8 slashing damage.
-Your chest is bursting with energy. You can breathe poison in a 25ft cone. It’s save DC increases to 15. It deals 2d8 poison damage. If a target fails its save against your breath attack, it is weakened for a round.
-Your flesh blossoms with gleaming yellow scales. Your unarmored AC increases by 2.

After a month and two weeks, you cannot help but covet everything which is not made of a precious metal and has a value of at least 5 GP, you cannot bring yourself to part with such items. You gain the following.

-Your chest is like a great engine of destruction. You may use your breath attack 3 times a day.
-Your eyes are that of a great serpent. Once a day as an action, you may reveal your horrible nature to all creatures who can see you. They must succeed a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or be overwhelmed by fear, they have disadvantage on all attacks and ability checks and they cannot move closer to you willingly. They can repeat the save at the end of each of their turns.

After another week, your humanity is gone. Your blood is poison to all life. Your mind has evolved into a completely serpentine intelligence. You recall your other life, but is the life of another person, a collection of memories which only happen to be in your head. You are the Great Gold Serpent now. You cannot afford to live with these thieves any longer. One night you slip into the water and are gone with all the loot you can carry.

20. A Missing Eye. It comes in a leather pouch filled with water. Its pupil is rectangular and misty with cataracts. Its optic nerve twitches slightly. It is not given lightly. It should not be One-Eyed Chief’s to give. But here it is, in your hand, watching you. If you hold the eye for 3 hours, your right eye’s iris begins to turn a dark blue, after 6 hours your pupil begins to elongate, after 10 hours you begin to go blind in your right eye. After 14 hours, your eye is identical to the one in the pouch. If you relinquish the Eye before this point, your eye returns to normal by next morning. If you do not, your new eye feels cool in your skull, it no longer blinks and cannot close but is always wet, dripping. When you try to shut your eyes, you still see. You see a vast ocean, a massive tree, the memory of destiny in a water droplet, and the intention of the future in a shard of ice. It takes awhile to get used to.

- You are blind in one eye. You have poor depth perception, you have disadvantage on all ranged attacks. Even your good eye’s vision seems foggy sometimes, clouded with visions. You have disadvantage on all perception checks relying on sight.
-No matter what skin he wears, you can identify One-Eyed Chief but you cannot reveal his identity to others. He will smile and wink at you.
-When you look a person in their eyes, you can see their plans for the future. Peasants see eternity stretched before and behind them but chieftains and heroes see change and upheaval and victory.
-If have spoken to a person recently, you can hold a possession of theirs, concentrate and see through their eyes. You can do this until it has been as three days since you last spoke with your target.
-You can sit in meditation for an hour under a tree. While you do so, you see visions of the past replay themselves over the landscape around you. You can do this once a day.
-You may whisper the name of a place, a person, or an object which is known you to the Eye in its pouch. For a week, the Eye acts as a compass and stares at the object of your desire. You must fill the pouch with the blood of a chief before you can use this ability again. It takes 1d10 days for the blood to be absorbed by the Eye.

If the Eye is removed from your person for an hour, your right eye begins to burn, you can feel your optic nerve dying. This continues for another hour, after which you are left with a dry socket full of dust. You lose all the abilities the Eye granted you, except the blindness. A cataract like ice will form over your one good eye in a month and render you blind. One-Eyed Chief will come to reclaim the Missing Eye, where ever it is.

This post is dedicated to Dan McCoy, thanks for responding to my, admittedly rude, email. I hope the Gnosticism thing goes well

Saturday, September 8, 2018

People of the Steppe

Here are last of the peoples of the Meager Country. The previous posts in this series are about the Rowing People, and the other Peoples of the River. So now the Meager Country has 5 new types of people and 11 different ethnic groups, which I think is a good number. As before, each group has its own spirit boon which players can gain access to by being initiated into that group.

Image result for mardu heart piercer full art

The Seluk Confederacy:
They look just like the Bronze Folk. Maybe they’re a little shorter, maybe their eyes are a little brighter, but the broad strokes are the same. Even their style of dress is familiar, but far more practical. Their faces are covered in ritual scars, their legs are bent from a lifetime in the saddle, their color is green, and their Seven-Stranded Banner has flown over the steppe for longer than any other. They would laugh  at the fat merchants of the Bronze city, who think they know horses, who think they know archery. Every Seluk was born in a tent, underneath the endless sky, and each will ride a horse before they learn to walk. Their bows are recurve and their mighty tents are pulled on wheels by teams of bulls. They heard goats, sheep, cattle, and keep wolfish dogs who run beside the herds to keep them from straying. Their favorite drink is a hot thick liquid with the colour and taste of mud, they call it tea. Their horses are swift but tire quickly, every man and woman except the poorest owns several. The Seluk confederacy is a spiritual unity. Eight times the world has ended when the steppe was set alight and the rivers ran with blood and nine times it has risen from the ash. Each time, the confederacy has been united again. The souls of the Seluk people will always find each other on the fresh steppe and ride into the Final War as one. There are seven Seluk clans but each is divided into three strata. The Bull strata take after The Horned One, they are herders and craftspeople. The Horse strata takes after Thunder Shaker, they are warriors and defenders. Finally, the Eagle strata who take after Sky Father himself, they are shamans, generals, and leaders. These functions are divinely appointed, if one does not perform their function they endanger the survival of the Seluks past the next Final War. The Seluk Confederacy controls the eastern bank of the river Sargal up until it forks. Their domain is threatened by the Kazan, who push west every day. The Seluks merely tolerate the other peoples who inhabit their steppe. These others are but ephemeral, their civilizations particular and not eternal like the wheel and recurve bow and Seven-Stranded Banner. The whole Confederacy is organized from the Eagle Tent, a massive mountain of yellow fabric and hide which moves with the turning seasons up and down the river. Their current Khagan is Bahram of the Moon-Kissed clan, who are represented by a strand of white hair in the great banner. He is convinced the Final War will happen in his lifetime and is trying to introduce writing to the Seluks. He wishes to create a network of messenger birds so he always knows where his soldiers are.

Guardian Spirits: Thunder Shaker, Sky Father, The Horned One, The Twins, The Sun and Moon

Languages: Seluk Speech (Close enough to Bronze Talk to be understood by speakers of that language)
Traits as Bronze Folk

-Bull Strata Boon: At day break, can drink milk from a hollowed out cow horn which has not been properly treated as to be used as a drinking horn (smells terrible, everything in it tastes like wet cow) to do all physical work twice as quickly until the sun is risen to it's highest point in the sky

-Horse Strata Boon: Can dip an arrow tip in the blood of an enemy and wrap it in strands of horse hair for a day to make the arrow do an extra 2d8 lightning damage to the target who's blood was used to make the arrow

-Eagle Strata Boon: Can whisper a person's name to a feather from a bird of prey and throw it to the wind. Whichever way the feather blows is the direction of the person named. Can eat the egg lay laid by a bird of prey to see through its eyes but not its ears for a day. This causes temporary blindness and usually nausea.

By Bulat Gilvanov
The People of the Narrow Tooth:
In the shadow of high mount Tekdar in a country far north and a thousand years away, the black wolf lay down with the yellow hawk. They sired the People of the Narrow Tooth, who hatched from three eggs. Their skin is the deep yellow of turmeric, their pupils are milky, and their hair is jet black but turns gray before most reach the age of 17. Blue blood runs in their veins, it tastes of copper and burns hot in battle. They’re all born with a hard spine protruding from below their upper lip which quickly falls off, a remnant of the egg tooth their progenitors needed to crack their birth-prisons. Their features are angular and stern. They are nomads who herd yak, goats, sheep, and miniature deer across the steppe. Each of them is expected to be self-sufficient first and part of a tribe second. Tents are small, fit for only two or three people. Men and women are equal, all wear loose fitting pants and jackets of yak-fiber trimmed with fur or decorated with feathers, beads, and antler. Their horses are hearty and thick calved, able to drag and carry burdens great distances and almost immune to cold.  There is no type of meat they will refuse to eat. They cook and eat the flesh of ritually slaughtered animals, this is considered a terrible insult to the spirits by others. The meat is divided carefully, the choicest cuts reserved for those of high status or pregnant women. Their sense of smell is impeccable, war-bands communicate by burning specific herbs to send scents across the steppe. Poor winds have led to the destruction of whole armies. The People of the Narrow Tooth are split thusly.

Speed 30ft
-Adrenaline, gain 2 temporary hitpoints, to a maximum of 2 + your level, at the beginning of your turn in combat.
-Gain advantage on all perception checks which rely on smell
-Can communicate in a basic way with birds of prey and wolves. You can ask yes/no questions or questions which can be easily answered with a bob of a head or the stretching of a wing, such as asking for directions. It's a horrible idea to always trust these animals though. They want you to get lost so they can eat you when you tire.

The Koto Kete of the United Femur: Their last confederacy was broken when Khan Naran broke the femur of a sacred ewe during the moot-feast, leading to years of bloody war. Now they are joined together once again. Their domain rests in the lower river region and travels up the west bank until the river forks. Their warriors file their teeth to points and obsess over virtue and spiritual purity, which are both deeply intertwined. They have a tight grip on trade coming westward and extract tribute as they please. Sometimes this tribute is knowledge, great teachers are invited to spend years with the Koto Kete before continuing their scholarly journeys. Cults from Voich are making becoming more and more popular with the Koto Kete and the word of disgraced Besharan theologians is becoming accepted among them. The emissarys of the Sultan have been warmly welcomed by the Koto Kete and they work closely with them to protect trade going up and down the river. The Koto Kete are led by Khan Sarnai and her council of elders from each of the 10 Koto-Kete tribes. The moot-feast is held in the coldest month of winter. Leaders from all the tribes gather under one tent to plan the confederacy’s future. Every ten seasons, the elders elect a new Khan. The warriors compete in tests of endurance in the frigid weather, sometimes they die of hypothermia. It is a great honor to be chosen by the Winter Wind this way. Sarnai’s greatest ambition is to reform the Koto Kete so that officers are chosen based on merit rather than lineage, she will probably die mysteriously in a hunting accident.

Guardian Spirits: Black Wolf, Yellow Hawk, Sky Father, The Four Winds of the World

Languages: Narrow Tongue, Trade Tongue
-Can sing to a  silver mirror for 6 hours and hold it in the smoke of a ritual sacrifice to make the mirror show the true face of the world on it's surface. In the mirror, spirits appear as they are in the spirit world, magical disguises are erased, and crimes appear on people disfiguring the flesh while the good deeds look like beauty marks. The mirror loses this ability after 3 days.

Image result for khazar art
7th Century Reliquary, Don river area 

The Kazan:
At the end of the Boulevard of Khans, in the Jet Palace, on a pile of twisted iron crowns, on a huge velvet pillow, sits a massive serpentine skull covered with gold leaf and festooned with jewels and precious stones. This is Sargal Toihor. Her spirit flies across the Meager Country like a bad wind. Milk curdles, women miscarry, yak sicken and die in her wake. She chose the Kazan two centuries ago, when they were just a minor tribe of the Koto Kete. They found her skull, hidden far north at the beginning of the endless forest of the Untamo and brought it to a place south of the river Altai. Here they have built the Venomous City and expand their new domain. They have two High Khans. One’s role is spiritual, he spends his days lavishing Toihor’s skull with praise and devotion. The other is a military leader, she keeps track of the movements of all the Kazan warbands. Lesser Khans and officers are picked from several powerful families. The lesser Khans operate with independence but compete for the favor of Sargal-Toihor and the High Khans. Toihor rewards princes and warriors who act with cunning and disrespect for human life with black scales and venomous breath and incredible strength. They can decapitate a man with a single arrow. These chosen warriors are waited upon by spindly kobolds who show up in the Venomous City at random. They were once vermin, but now they are little beady eyes and twisted ears for the Great Jet Serpent. Toihor values trade highly. She needs more jewels for her throne and greater power over all the business going up and down the Meager Country’s rivers. How she would love to speak with someone from the Bronze City. If only such a place existed when she had flesh instead of bone. Make no mistake, it will not be long before this whole country belongs to the Kazan. 

Guardian Spirits: Sargal-Toihor the Jet Serpent who wears 600 crowns and commands a million archers

Languages: Narrow Tongue, Trade Tongue
-Gain resistance to acid damage and advantage on constitution saving throws against poisons while wearing a belt of snakeskin with a piece of jet set in it. The piece of jet absorbs any poisons which effect you. If you are favored by Sargal-Toihor, it can turn into a serpent with jet fangs whose bite inflicts all the poisons absorbed by the jet stone on its victim. It may just as easily bite you if Toihor wishes it too.

Kalka by Pavel Ryzhenko
The Pomroy of Voich:
The kingdom of Voich is doomed. In a century or two the Kazan will burn it to the ground. But now, it shudders on in a hilled part of the steppe far west of the Sargal. The kingdom’s most notable export is the courage flower, which the Koto Kete buy is vast quantities. Its bright red petals are a powerful stimulant but the plant will only bloom where blood has been shed. Incidentally, Voich is one of the few Pomroy kingdoms to do away with public executions. They execute criminals on courage flower fields instead. Voich also produces wonderful tapestries which make their way to the Bronze City from time to time, they will inspire a generation of artists in an age far away from this one. There are four aristocratic families (Alma, Alba, Alra, and Alta) who control Voich, their grip is iron and they live in a world wholly different from that of the peasantry, who are no better than slaves. In the court of Voich, there are a hundred titles one can hold and it takes years of education to learn them all and then a lifetime to master the proper way of speaking to the holder of each. The drake knights of Voich ride slim, confident beasts with four limps, a long jaw, and large blue-green scales. Their war hogs are covered in hair the texture of steel wool. These beasts are docile until enraged and all animals fear them by instinct. The peasants carry on traditional forms of spirit worship. Their local customs involve burying liquor for the ancestors to ferment it and celebrating the arrival of shooting stars. The nobility have no time for such superstition. They follow a number of semi-magical occult groups, the most prominent being: the cult of Three Stars, the order of the Yellow Serpent, the disciples of the Empty Belly, the slaves of Chaos at Feast, and the inheritors of the True Flame. 

Guardian Spirits: Donar the Strong, Moss Beard, The Shooting Star Woman, The Earth Mother

Languages: Pomroy Patois (with a distinct Voichean drawl), Trade Tongue
Traits as Pomroy
-Can eat a piece of moss soaked in liquor to become brave and strong, gaining resistance to poison damage and becoming immune to fear effects. This lasts until the moon rises or falls.

New Items:
Courage Flower Paste. Held in a little wooden box with a red bloom painted on it. The case has a single dose of the paste in it. A round after you put it under your tongue, your flesh feels like it's burning and you forget what fear is for 10 minutes. You gain +2 to hit, +2 to damage with melee weapons, and +2 to Dexterity saving throws. At the end of your turn, make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. If succeed nothing happens, if you fail, your body overheats and you fall unconscious for 1d6 hours. If you move half your speed or more on your turn, you gain advantage on this saving throw.

This post is dedicated to Ivan Mazepa, who sided with Charles the 12th at Poltava