A Ghastly Companion to Gothic Icons – PDF Available Now!

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THEY’RE ALIVE! ALIVE!

Let history, literature, and folklore come alive with A Ghastly Companion to Gothic Icons !

Inside the virtual pages of this macabre PDF you will find such Terrors and Wonders as:

  • Ghastly Affair stats for Carmilla Karnstein (from Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”), Count Dracula (from Stoker’s “Dracula” and “Dracula’s Guest”), and Lord Ruthven (from Dr Polidori’s “The Vampyre).
  • The Clockwork Impostor (inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman”), Victor Frankenstein (from Mary Shelley’s immortal classic “Frankenstein”), and a book-accurate rendition of Frankenstein’s Creature – in all his fast, agile, and literate glory!
  • The Amorous Revenant (inspired by Goethe’s “The Bride of Corinth”), the Reclaiming Revenant (inspired by the classic folktale “the Golden Arm”) and the Woman in White (inspired by folktales of ghosts such as La Llorona).
  • The Fire King (from the writings of Matthew Lewis and Walter Scott), the Hell Beast (a template for creating folkloric monsters such as Hell Hounds, Hell Horses, and Hell Cats), the Pact Devil (inspired by both medieval European and American Hoodoo lore), and the Seducer Devil (inspired by medieval demonology, and Lewis’s “The Monk”)
  • A writeup for Deacon Brodie (the real-life Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Ghastly Affair stats for Heathcliff (from Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”), and stats for none other than the Marquis de Sade himself!
  • Ghastly Affair stats for three giants of early 19th century Gothic and Romantic literature – Lord Byron, Doctor Polidori, and Mary Shelley!
  • A complete system for randomly generating villages filled with strange inhabitants and dark secrets.
  • A fun set of table for randomly generating the baroque (and bizarre) titles of 18th century Gothic Romances.
  • A complete discussion of converting Ghastly Affair creatures for use with other OSR systems.

Plus, OSR-compatible stats for the Clockwork Impostor, Amorous Revenant, Reclaiming Revenant, Woman in White, Fire King, Hell Beast, Pact Devil, and Seducer Devil.

Guaranteed not to drag your soul down into awful and eternal torment. At least, probably not. Unless the man with that odd black book was misrepresenting the terms of our agreement.


A Ghastly Companion to Gothic Icons contains some material intended for mature readers.

The Five Peoples of Panzoasia, Part V: Humans

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About Humanity in Panzoasia

As Dwarves are known as the “People of the Caves”, Elves are the “People of the Forest”, Gnomes are the “People of the Hills”, and Halflings are the “People of the Fields”, so the Humans of Panzoasia are considered the “People of the Sea and Stars”. Before the Invasions, all the large city-states above ground were located on rivers or shorelines, and inhabited by Humans. During the Reign of the Monsters, the Humans who lived in those cities took to the seas in great arks, living there for two generations. Some Humans still live a nomadic, sea-based life. These “Sea Folk” are allied with the Saganic Undines of the ocean – and sometimes even intermarry with them!

Humans dominate the national governments of all but two realms of the Ultimate West – Bythebia and Auddisland. In Bythebia, the interests of the Human population are represented before the Senate of Gold Dragons by a popularly elected Tribune. In Auddisland, a semi-hereditary Voivode (elected by the resident Human nobility) advocates for the Human population before the Dwarven King, and governs the northeastern region (which is majority Human).

The Appearance of Panzoasian Humans

Humans native to the Ultimate West usually have pale to olive complexions. Their hair can be blond, brown, black, or red, and their eyes can be brown, blue, green, gray or hazel. In the Ultimate North, Humans tend to have pale complexions, with light hair and eyes. Humans of the Ultimate South usually have complexions ranging from very dark brown to tan, with eyes and hair that tend towards dark colors. In the Ultimate East, Humans tend to have complexions that range from pale amber to deep tan, also with a tendency to dark eyes and hair. Many in the Ultimate East have uncreased, almond-shaped eyes (especially in Amikura, Hian, and Xidu), as do some in the Ultimate South (especially in Tezaca). Because they are all one People and freely immigrate, however, Humans from any region of Panzoasia can actually have any possible skin tone, eye color, and hair color. There are dark-skinned Fjaldarheimers, as well as some Tezacans with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Distinctive Characteristics of Human Culture in Panzoasia

Because the Invasions killed off many male warriors and leaders, the Human societies of Panzoasia are more egalitarian and inclusive than similar societies were on our Earth. No human society of Panzoasia currently practices slavery, although many did before the Reign of the Monsters.

Humans tend to glorify Elves (despite the fact that Humans had actually achieved a much higher level of technological advancement before the Reign of the Monsters). Having an Elven lover or spouse is regarded as a status symbol. Adopting Elven clothing, make-up, jewelry, and manners is considered high class – or pretentious, depending on the social setting. Wealthy Human children are often taught to speak Elven – albeit in a manner that native Elven speakers find archaic and stilted. Elves, for their part, generally find Humans interesting and attractive – and are especially fascinated by the way Human men and women can look so different from each other. Most Humans have at least one Elf somewhere in their family tree – and most “pure” Elves have at least one Human in theirs!

In modern times, most Human cultures consider burial at sea (or on an island in the sea) to be the most desirable. Burial in the ground on the mainland is definitely less prestigious. In the Ultimate West, those of Good Alignment considered it an especial honor if the boat that carries their corpse to its final watery destination sets off from the Sacred Isle of Albelon. The corpses of wealthy and important people are often embalmed where they died, and then shipped to Albelon.

Every Human culture enjoys ball games, board games, dice games, and card games. Humans are also known for their especial love of gambling and betting. Every Human culture endows their games with spiritual and philosophical significance – but also employs them as means to gamble. In the Ultimate West, the most common ball games somewhat resemble Field Hockey and Gaelic Football from our Earth; the common board games are essentially Backgammon, Checkers (Draughts), and Chess (with many local variations); the most common dice game closely resembles Craps; and the most common card game uses a pack that is oddly similar to the Tarot.

Humans keep a wide range of animals as pets. The close relationship between Humans and dogs is particularly noteworthy, approaching the level of affection the exists between Gnomes and burrowing mammals. Most dogs (other than Elven Dogs) will seek out Humans for companionship, in preference to any of the other Peoples. Additionally, only Humans among all the Five Peoples keep fish (and other aquatic life) as pets.

Throughout Panzoasia, Humans completely dominate the maritime trades (including sailing and fishing) and every other trade that requires long-distance travel – especially the spice trade. They also do most construction above-ground, as well as most large-scale agriculture. Humans are the primary practitioners of astrology. Humans invented glass, and human-made glass is prized particularly by Elves (who often trade it in turn to the Saganic Sylphs) and Gnomes (who employ it for lenses).

Alignment and Religion Among Panzoasian Humans

Before the Monsters invaded the lands of the Five Peoples, those Human societies who did not build cities worshiped at the Stone Circles which still stand in many places. Most of these Stone Circles had been sacred to the Neutral Powers of Life. In modern times, however, adherence to other Alignments – and worship of the corresponding Divine Powers (especially those of Destiny and Light) – is prevalent. Most of the ancient Stone Circles now stand abandoned, with only a few still being active religious sites.

The original Depradators were all Human. The humanoid Bogeymen – Goblins, Orcs, Gnolls and the like – actually tended to be Neutral in Alignment before the Depradator evangelists spread the worship of Darkness to them. In fact, the Reign of the Monsters was also the reign of the Evil Human Depradators – a fact that the Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, and Halflings do not forget.

While there is much social pressure in modern Human societies to profess allegiance to either Good or Law, in actuality the Good, Lawful, Chaotic, and Neutral Alignments are about equally represented among them. Unfortunately, a full 5% of Humans are Evil – the highest rate among any of the Five Peoples.

The Human Languages of Panzoasia

While all the Humans across a particular Region of Panzoasia (West, South, East, or North) may share a common language, each nation within that Region also has its own distinctive dialect (and accent). For example, the dialects of Human Common in both Corthis and Maeland are heavily influenced by Elven – and both the place and personal names in those countries are often Elven in origin. To a traveler from our Earth, the basic vocabulary of Western Common otherwise suggests a combination of Latin, Greek, Welsh, and German. Southern Common’s vocabulary seems to somewhat resemble a strange mix of Swahili and Nahuatl. The vocabulary of Eastern Common is oddly evocative of a mixture of Sanskrit and Mandarin Chinese. Northern Common’s vocabulary mildly suggests a mixture of Swedish and Russian words. The non-Human Peoples of Panzoasia also use the regional varieties of Human Common as trade languages.

Each of the four Common languages of Humanity uses a different writing system. Western Common is written in the same alphabet as Western Gnomish. Southern and Eastern Common shares pictograms with the corresponding varieties of Elven, and the runes of Northern Common are identical to those used by Northern Dwarves.

Mysterious Road Exits off the Uncanny Highway

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There are many unmarked exits off the Uncanny Highway of U.S. Route 28. Should anyone be curious (and foolish) enough to follow one, roll on the following table.

d100

This mysterious exit off the highway eventually leads to…

1 – 2

a volunteer firehouse.

3 – 4

a roller-rink.

5 – 6

a machine-gun firing range.

7 – 8

a brothel. (5% likely to actually be a part of a C.I.A. mind control experiment.)

9 – 10

the clubhouse of a motorcycle club (or gang).

11 – 12

a “gravity hill” (Place were objects appear to roll uphill.)

13 – 14

an abandoned hospital. (30% chance that all equipment was abandoned and left in place.)

15 – 16

an abandoned asylum. (30% chance that all equipment was abandoned and left in place.)

17 – 18

an abandoned drive-thru.

19 – 20

a Native American Reservation.

21 – 22

an abandoned house. (50% likely to be filled with Satanic graffiti.)

23 – 24

a strange house. (d8. The strange feature of the house is its: 1 = unusual architectural style. 2 = unusual materials. 3 = strangely colored windows. 4 = complete lack of windows. 5 = lack of any apparent door. 6 = holiday decorations kept up all year. 7 = obvious lack of electricity or telephone wires. 8 = odd paint-job.

25 – 26

a bizarre sculpture made of discarded items.

27 – 28

a working farm. (25% chance the farm is worked by a cult.)

29 – 30

an abandoned farm. (10% likely it is now a criminal hideout.)

31 – 32

a farm stand selling fresh produce. (Abandoned in winter.)

33 – 34

a lone, abandoned windmill.

35 – 36

a deserted town.

37 – 38

a mine.

39 – 40

an isolated, but functioning town. (25% chance the local “festival” is occurring)

41 – 42

a forgotten state (or national) park.

43 – 44

a factory. (10% chance all signage is in an unidentifiable language and alphabet, and it is impossible to figure out what the factory is producing).

45 – 46

an abandoned factory. (50% chance it is used teenagers for drinking and sex).

47 – 48

a well-maintained cemetery. (10% chance the tombstones are inscribed in a foreign, or unknown language.)

49 – 50

an overgrown, abandoned cemetery. (50% likely the deceased were members of an obscure religious cult.)

51 – 52

a natural cave. (30% likely to be a state park, or operated for profit.)

53 – 54

a pond or lake.

55 – 56

a field where a trailer or RV is parked.

57 – 58

a clearing where 1d4 unoccupied tents are pitched. (10% likely to find blood spattered inside the tents)

59 – 60

an active hobo camp.

61 – 62

an abandoned train depot.

63 – 64

an abandoned garage.

65 – 66

a utility complex. (Electric generator, sewage treatment plant, etc.)

67 – 68

a garbage dump.

69 – 70

a toxic (or radioactive) waste dump. (Save versus Constitution each Turn or become sickened.)

71 – 72

a bomb shelter.

73 – 74

an isolated church. (5% chance the religion practiced here isn’t Christianity at all.)

75 – 76

a Christian shrine. (25% chance the Saint honored is otherwise unknown.)

77 – 78

a pagan shrine.

79 – 80

a secret germ-warfare laboratory.

81 – 82

A C.I.A. (or K.G.B.) safehouse.

83 – 84

a solitary artist’s studio.

85 – 86

an active military base. (5% chance the soldiers are not American.)

87 – 88

an abandoned military base. (25% chance the evidence of a strange experiment is still here.)

89

a secret military base housing a U.F.O.

90 – 91

a dry well shaft. (5% chance a child is currently at the bottom.)

92 – 93

a serial killer’s dump site. (1d12 bodies)

94 – 95

an abandoned car (or truck). (Determine vehicle characteristics as you would for a car on the road.)

96

an abandoned plane (or helicopter).

97

literally Nowhere – it continues on infinitely.

98

Hell.

100

Heaven.

The Five Peoples of Panzoasia, Part IV: Halflings

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A Gnome-kin Halfling Woman of the Ultimate West.

About the Halflings (or “Humblekin”) of Panzoasia

Halflings (or “Humblekin”, as they call themselves) tend to have the same skin, eye, and hair colors as the majority of the local Human population. Whether they have dark or light skin, however, their complexions tend to be ruddy. A Halfling’s facial features are generally  proportioned very much like those of a young Human – with large eyes, a short face, and a high forehead. They tend to have dimples, and short, “button” noses. Most male Halflings can grow long sideburns, but no other facial hair. The noses of older males with pale complexions also tend to be distinctly reddish.

Halflings often dress in patchwork versions of the local costume – and may take pride in remembering how they obtained each individual scrap of their outfit. Once, Halflings made patchwork because of their poverty, but nowadays they wear their patches as a symbol of their People’s resourcefulness. Halflings of the Ultimate West are particularly fond of tartan and cheque patterns, and keep their pants and skirts up with suspenders, not belts. Halflings are also known for their distinctive hairstyles, with exaggeratedly large curls held in place with pomade. Some dye their hair pure hues of yellow, red, green, or blue. They often make jewelry out of old coins, or small objects discarded by Humans, Dwarves, Elves or Gnomes.

There are four Halflings “Kins”, each of which had associated with a different People before the Invasions. The Man-kins (or “Robins”) have a noted preference for patches (or patterns) in various shades of a single color, and always live in above-ground houses. The slender Elf-kins (or “Huldurfolk”) have pointed ears, prefer clothing of many colors, and traditionally live in the same manner as Elves. The dexterous Gnome-kins (or “Dobs”) have hairy feet, and traditionally live inside artificial earthen mounds. The stout Dwarf-kins (or “Knockers”) have attached earlobes, traditionally live in mines underground, and are the only Halfling Kin whose men can grow mustaches. Gnome-kins and Dwarf-kins do not commonly wear shoes, but Man-kins and Elf-kins do.

Halflings do not have their own languages, but speak the tongues of the other People associated with their Kin. Halfling dialects are full of unique slang, however, and may be nearly incomprehensible to the speakers of the regular language.

Halflings love to sing, often mocking the pretensions and failures of their enemies (and even friends) through improvised lyrics. These songs frequently include strings of nonsense words. Other songs are often sad laments for the oppression, disrespect, and tragedy that Halflings have historically suffered – covering such topics as being abducted and forced to work in a Orcish factory, having your husband-to-be run off with a Elf woman who will grow tired of him in just a week, or being stuck in a collapsed coal mine and realizing that your Dwarven employers only care about saving their own kind.

Halflings of every type traditionally use cairns as markers and memorials, but most of the ancient cairns were vandalized and destroyed during the Reign of the Monsters. Halflings prefer to bury their dead directly in the ground, with the grave marked only by a cairn. It is still traditional for newly married couples to build a cairn together on the day after their wedding. While ancient ones were made exclusively of stones, modern cairns can incorporate any items that are important the Halflings the build them (or the people they memorialize).

During the Reign of the Monsters, those Halflings who were separated from the Human, Elven, Gnomish, or Dwarven communities they once served survived by hiding in underbrush, lurking in ruins, and otherwise living at the margins. There the Halflings became adept at scavenging, and re-purposing objects discarded by others. Other Peoples notice that their Halfling friends never throw anything away. They will even incorporate found objects into the construction of their homes.

A male Man-kin Halfling of the Ultimate West.

Humans and Elves have a tendency to call all Halfling men “Bill”, and all Halfling women “Cutie” – regardless of their actual names. While these Humans and Elves may think they are being affectionate and endearing, most Halflings actually regard the practice as patronizing and insulting. Increasing, younger Halflings are standing and up and demanding that the “Bigs” refer to them by their real names.

Halfings ride ponies, and keep small cattle, sheep, and goats half the size of those raised by humans. Halflings love milk, cheese, and butter, and their dairy livestock are extremely important to them. Very small dogs are most popular pets among the Humblekin.

About half of the Humblekin are Good in Alignment, and they are among the most fervent devotees of the Lord and Lady of Light. Their worship is notable for its many choral hymns of praise. Many older Halflings are Lawful, but younger Halflings are increasingly embracing Chaos to rebel against their history of subservience to the other four Peoples. Chaotic Halflings often sport spiky hairstyles, or shave the sides of their head and stiffen the remaining strip of hair to stand on end. Less than 1% of Halflings are actually Evil; they often lurk near burial grounds, robbing graves and waylaying visitors.

Halfling communities of the Ultimate West are traditionally governed by a Sheriff or Headman, who is nowadays elected, but historically had been appointed by the leader of other People with whom the Halflings live. Despite being otherwise generally Good in nature, Halflings seem to express their resentment for their historical exploitation by electing Sheriffs and Headmen who make a point of being aggressively obnoxious towards non-Halflings.

In mixed communities, the predominant trades of Halflings will be weaving, herbalism, the growing of high-quality produce, distilling, beekeeping, and the making of candy. They take also pride in succeeding at hard and dirty jobs nobody else wants, such as cloth dying, cleaning, charcoal burning, and trash reclamation.

The Five Peoples of Panzoasia, Part III: Gnomes

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About the Gnomes of Panzoasia

Gnomes from every part of Panzoasia tend to have deeply tanned complexions, with blue, green, or gray eyes. Male Gnomes have gray or white hair from birth, while Gnomish women (or Gnomides) have the same range of hair colors possible for Humans. Gnomes of both sexes stand about 3 feet in height. Male Gnomes typically have pot bellies, while female Gnomes tend to be pleasingly zaftig. A Gnome’s face is generally roundish, with the eyes, ears, and nose much larger in proportion than those of a human. Their lips are full and expressive, while their eyes are wide and round.

A Gnome considers their hat to be the most important article of clothing. A Gnomish hat can range from fanciful to bizarre in design – and can be almost as tall as its wearer! It is common for a Gnome to place objects under, or in, their hat. Gnomish hats of a practical nature include the large pincushions and baskets worn as headgear by many female Gnomes at home, and the Lantern Hat often worn by Gnomish adventurers. Gnomes considers themselves “exposed” if their heads are uncovered – and removing one’s hat is an expression of the strongest emotion. Although stereotypically associated with Gnomes, pointed hats without brims haven’t been fashionable since before the Reign of the Monsters.

Beyond their outrageous hats, Gnomes tend to dress in the most colorful and whimsical version of the local clothing. As footwear they prefer clogs, which are often fancifully decorated. Gnomes are also noted for their love of striped patterns. Among Gnome of the Ultimate West, formal wear always includes tassels and small bells sewn into the garments.

The Gnomish sense of humor is legendary, and they tend to make jokes even on serious occasions – particularly funerals. Unfortunately, since Gnomes are also more prone to actual insanity than any other People, it can be hard to discern whether a Gnomes strange behavior should be cause for laughter, or genuine concern. Among Gnomes, it is said that one must sometimes act crazy, to avoid going crazy.

Before the Invasions, the Gnomish people built and lived inside artificial earth mounds called Hollow Hills, or Tumuli. After the Invasions, they survived by hiding their homes behind magical illusions. They burrowed deeper, and formed a close alliance with the Saganic Gnomes of the Chthon. Traditionalist Gnomes continue to live inside Hollow Hills, but in modern times those places are far more open to the larger world.

Despite the small stature of the inhabitants within, the burrows inside a Hollow Hill are always at least 6 feet to the ceiling. While Gnomes say that it is so even Humans feel welcome, the actual reason is to accommodate the tallest possible hats!

A respected Gnome is buried directly within the ground inside a barrow, without a coffin, and never with any valuable objects. A wicked Gnome, however, will be buried in an elaborate “dungeon” filled with tricks and puzzles intend to entertain their restless minds, and treasures to sate their undying greed. The tunnels will feature elaborate death-traps to keep out tomb robbers. When Gnomish engineers started to be employed by human wizards to create subterranean treasure vaults, they naturally relied upon such tombs as models.

About 60% of Gnomes are Good, and approximately 30% are Neutral. Lawful and Chaotic Gnomes represent just under 5% of the population each. Only about 1% of Gnomes are truly Evil.

Gnomes of the Ultimate West love fruitcake (which they sometimes call call “gemcake”) above all other foods. They regard it as the symbol of a life well-lived – enduring, very sweet, a little boozy, a little nutty, and filled with jewels! Western Gnomes will even bake fruitcakes in the shape of hats, periodically breaking off pieces for the occasional snack.

The favorite pastimes of Gnomes across Panzoasia are various forms of bowling, and other lawn sports.

Gnomes employ a special breed of four-horned sheep as their primary mounts and beasts of burden. Rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, badgers, and hedgehogs are the most popular animal companions among Gnomes, and such animals will roam freely within the burrows of every Hollow Hill. Cats, however, are generally hated and despised by Gnomes.

To a traveler from our Earth, the Western Gnomish language sounds vaguely like Dutch; Southern Gnomish seems to somewhat resemble ancient Aramaic; Eastern Gnomish is oddly evocative of Malay; and Northern Gnomish mildly suggests Finnish. Gnomes from one End of the Earth often have names typical of another, however. Each Gnomish language is written with its own alphabet.

Gnomish communities have always been governed democratically. A Traditional Hollow Hill is led by an elected Mayor, advised by a council of Elders. Traditionally, several Hollow Hills would be joined together in a “Commonwealth” headed by an elected Chancellor. Nowadays, in countries other than Auddisland, Chancellor is just a ceremonial position – and Hollow Hills function like any other communities within their respective nations.

Wherever they dwell with other Peoples, Gnomes predominate in the intellectual trades. They often become bureaucrats, sages, jewelers, bankers, engineers, local merchants, and toymakers. As everyone knows, the best gemcutters are Gnomish, but it is the hatter who holds a special place of honor among their tradesmen.

The Five Peoples of Panzoasia, Part II: Elves

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About the Elves of Panzoasia

An Elf’s hair, skin, and eyes can be any shade of any hue – including pink, purple, green, and blue. Elves of the Ultimate West, however, tend towards either pastel shades or Human-like tones in their skin colors – while those of the Ultimate East often have skin that is deep blue, green, or red. In the Ultimate North, the Elves often have skin and hair that is the palest blue, or even pure white, with deep blue or purple eyes. Elves of the Ultimate South tend towards dark reddish brown, deep amber, and golden hues in their skin tones – and can actually have hair that glitters like metallic gold!

Panzoasian Elves of either sex tend toward a slim, lithe build, and stand just over 5 feet tall. Both males and females are of the same height and general build. Elven women tend to have only slightly wider hips than males. Elven faces are androgynously attractive and usually heart-shaped, with high cheekbones and relatively large, almond-shaped eyes. Elves cannot grow beards. While the hair of most Elves is straight or only slightly wavy, very curly hair is sometimes seen on those from the Ultimate South. The ears of Panzoasian Elves resemble those of deer, and are similarly mobile. Elven ears are always in motion – pitching forward to express interest, sweeping back in anger, standing up in joy, or drooping in sorrow.

While Elves can live for a thousand years or more, they can only actually remember the last 30 years (or so) of their own life. A five-hundred year old Elf knows how old she is, and may be surrounded by mementos of her previous exploits, but cannot consciously recall what she did, or where she was, two hundred years ago. An Elf can even forget their own parents, siblings, or children. One of the best known Elven songs, “The Wheel of the Wind”, concerns a triad of Elven lovers whose life journeys cause them to constantly become separated and forget each other – only for the three of them to be repeatedly reunited so they can fall in love all over again.

Elves completely stop aging around the age of eighteen and don’t age any more until the last decade of their natural lives. A thousand-year-old Elf dying of extreme old age would have a face no more wrinkled than a Human of about thirty. With their ever-youthful bodies and short memories, Elves never experience the world-weariness or emotional trauma that can affect aged members of the other Peoples. Perhaps for that same reason, however, Elves are often dismissed as impulsive and emotionally volatile.

Traditionalist Elves tend to wear the most colorful, frivolous, and diaphanous version of the local costume, and prefer silk and lace as fabrics. They often wrap themselves in capes patterned after the wings of butterflies, moths, or dragonflies. In colder weather, the capes will be of fur, feathers, or velvet. Elves in every region of Panzaoasia love to decorate their faces with glued-on spangles of precious stones and metals, often wear body glitter, and like to wear feathers, ribbons, and insect wings in their hair. Elves feel completely free to dress in typically “masculine” or “feminine” manner as they desire – a male Elf is apt to wear a silken gown while lounging in his home, while a female Elf will often cut her hair into a short “pixie” style and don trousers when she goes off to adventure.

Before the Invasions, the Elves lived as semi-nomadic bands that frequently raided the other Peoples, and periodically retreated to the the vitrified forts which still lie in ruins atop hills across Panzoasia. Large geoglyphs were carved from the turf on the sides of those hills, in the shapes of people and animals. Sometimes the geoglyphs were actually the symbols for rude and insulting words in the local Elven language.

During the Reign of the Monsters, most of the surviving Elves fled to the woods and jungles, where they allied (and occasionally intermarried) with the Saganic Sylphs who dwell in the clouds. In the Ultimate West, the massive Zoswood Trees (or Beharbres) were hollowed out and turned into refuges. Some Elves, however, actually took the fight to the Underworld itself, and settled in the caverns they captured from their enemies. These lost Chthonic Elves are effectively a fifth division of the Elven People, but are almost never seen by surface dwellers.

All Elven cultures allow any number and combination of adults to be married to each other. Traditional Elven marriages last only a year, unless renewed. There is no expectation of monogamy, even among those who consider themselves married. Traditionally, Elven children are raised communally, and most never know the identity of their biological father. A Good-aligned or urban-dwelling Elf who who loves someone from another People will probably make an effort to conform to that person’s expectations about proper behavior in a relationship, but most other Elves will become indignant if told that they must remain faithful to single partner for more than a month.

Panzoasian Elves prefer to practice sky burial of their dead. A deceased Elf is places on a platform in the highest tree, (or else atop a tower or pole), and scavenging birds are allowed to devour them. The remaining bones are pulverized and scattered (a job traditionally done by Elf-kin Halflings). Elves value change and renewal, so fixed monuments naming the dead are considered to be in extreme bad taste.

The worship of the Lord and Lady of Light was completely unknown to the Elves of Panzoasia before the Reign of the Monsters. Now, however, many Elves are of Good Alignment – although most are still Neutral or Chaotic. Lawful Elves are social misfits who usually live away from others of their own kind. Only about 1% of surface-dwelling Elves are actually Evil. The Chthonic Elves of the Underworld, on the other hand, are rumored to be largely Evil – but that might just be a baseless slander.

Elves enjoy mushrooms and fungi of all sorts, both as food, and as sources of intoxicants. Elves can safely eat species of fungi that are lethal to other Peoples – even such deadly mushrooms as the Death Cap and Destroying Angel. They can also derive nourishment from tree leaves, and eat ferns that would be indigestible to others. Traditionalist Elves have no prejudices against consuming any kind of animal meat – and particularly relish insects such as grasshoppers, wood-grubs, cicadas, and caterpillars.

Fencing and archery are the the great Elven pastimes, but Elves also love to play variations of “Hide-and-Seek”. Also widely popular is a sport called “Nêbata” in the Western Elven language, generally similar to Lacrosse.

Elves prefer special breeds of deer, elk, and antelopes as mounts and beasts of burden. They have also domesticated the giant Zoswood Cicada as a flying mount. Sylvan Unicorns and Winged Unicorns will sometimes allow Good-Aligned Elves to ride them, and some Elves of the Ultimate North even ride polar bears into battle! Birds and foxes are popular pets, as is the green Elven Dog (or Cooshee). They especially love the phosphorescent Hercinia bird, whose glowing plumage illuminates many Elven communities.

To a traveler from our Earth, the Western Elven language sounds vaguely like a strange mixture of French and Irish; Southern Elven seems to somewhat resemble a combination of Yoruban and Taino; Eastern Elven is oddly evocative of Vietnamese; and Northern Elven mildly suggests Sami. All Elven languages are tonal, and those who lack perfect pitch can find them hard to understand or speak properly. Additionally, the vocabularies of Elven languages are very fluid, with new words constantly being invented, and old words changing meaning. Elves are apt to ridicule those who cannot pronounce their languages properly, or use outdated words. Each of the four known Elven languages is written with its own variety of pictograms.

A traditional Elven Commune is nominally led by an elected Princess (who can actually be of either biological sex), who chooses a Prince (of either biological sex) to be responsible for the security of the group. A group of Communes will collectively elect a Queen, who then selects a King to oversee the security of all the Communes who accept her leadership. As with Princesses and Princes, Queens and Kings can be of either biological sex. All Elven leaders must be reelected every year, and are often chosen on the basis of their good-looks and fashion sense. Their actual power is extremely limited, and most of what they do in modern times involves organizing games and parties. Princesses and Queens wear attire and cosmetics that look very “feminine” to Human eyes while attending to their governmental duties, while Princes and Kings wear more “masculine”-appearing attire.

In mixed communities, Elves will predominate in the fine arts, perfumery, the making of cosmetics, the crafting of luxury goods, silk and lace production, music, mushroom gathering, fine carpentry, and the cultivation of tree crops. Many realms of the ultimate West have special orders for knighthood for Elves sworn to use both sword and spell in defense of the nation. These include the “Order of the Unicorn” in Corthis, the “Order of the Griffin” in the Free March, the “Order of the Golden Stag” in Maeland, and the “Order of the Dragonfly” in Ombratia.

The Five Peoples of Panzoasia, Part I: Dwarves

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A Dwarven Lady wearing ochre in her hair. The face-paint on her jawline, and her chest-wrap of Dire Wolf fur, denote her high status.

Some Things to Know About the Five Peoples of Panzoasia

The overall population demographics of the Five Peoples in Panzoasia is roughly 50% Human, 20% Halfling, and 10% each Dwarf, Elf, and Gnome. The exact figure varies greatly from place to place however.

The universal symbol of the Five Peoples is a pentagram with the point upwards, while the upside-down pentagram symbolizes the evil Monsters and Depredators.

The Five Peoples (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Gnomes) all originated in the fabled Terrestrial Paradise, but left it for Panzoasia thousands of years before the Monsters came. The physical location of the Terrestrial Paradise is unknown – most claim it to be a now lost and inaccessible Corner of the Earth, while certain others claim it actually lies ruined somewhere in the Wasteland in the center of the continent.

The Five People all reach adulthood at the same rate – although Elves regularly live to be a thousand, Dwarves three hundred, Gnomes five hundred, and Halflings one hundred and fifty. Most Peoples who live longer than a human lifespan can still only remember the last 70 years or so of their lives, however. For Elves, the forgetfulness is even worse – they can only remember the last 30 years they have lived.

All Five People have always recognized the same Divine Powers. They do have not separate “pantheons”. Each People has their own set of traditions for honoring the Divine Powers and Immortals, however. Humans tend to build large, permanent structures for mass worship, while the other Peoples tend to prefer smaller-scale, or more informal, expressions of piety.

Intermarriage is most common between Elves and Humans (who are notably attracted to each other), but almost every other combination also occurs. Although less frequent, there is also a fair amount of intermarriage between Gnomes, Dwarves, and Halflings – and almost every larger town has at least one Human / Halfling couple who seems to “make it work” despite every challenge. All the Five Peoples are in fact capable of having children together. Generally, people of mixed heritage tend to have the height and general build their mother, although they frequently possess at least one feature typical of their father. For example, a man of mixed Gnomish and Dwarven parentage might mostly resemble any other Dwarf (and follow the Dwarf adventurer Class), but have the white hair and large nose typical of a male Gnome.

The cultural differences between People are generally most pronounced among “traditionalists” in rural and isolated settlements, and minimal among town dwellers. The urban population of Panzoasia tends to freely mix cultures. A Dwarf that lives in a settlement with Humans and Elves, for example, will still wear some distinctively Dwarvish body paint, but less than his subterranean kin – and will probably adopt Human-style clothes. Elves who live among other Peoples will dress and act more modestly than they otherwise would, and may even form stable nuclear families – something almost unheard of in more isolated Elven Communes. Gnomes who live outside a Hollow Hill will still sport outlandish hats, but they will be nowhere near as bizarre as the ones they don inside their own burrows. Urban Humans are famous for freely adopting cultural practices from other People – sometimes dressing in typically Elven outfits, wearing Dwarven body paint, or donning headgear of Gnomish make. Halflings, on the other hand, have always lived with other People – so their cultural ways are the same whether they live in the countryside or the largest town!

A high-status Dwarven man, wearing ochre in his hair and beard.

About the Dwarves of Panzoasia

Panzoasian Dwarves are noted for their distinctively broad and prognathous faces, with prominent brows, wide noses, and low foreheads. Both males and females are muscular and squat in build, and both stand about 4 ½ feet tall. Both male and female Dwarves tend to be more hairy than their Human counterparts, but Dwarven woman are not actually bearded (despite constant jokes to that effect). Dwarves tend to have the same skin and hair tones as nearby Humans, but a full 20% of the population are albinos with white hair and skin.

Dwarves across Panzoasia use body paint made from clay earth pigments, chalk, animal fat, and charcoal on their skin and hair – the most common patterns varying from region to region. Dwarves considers themselves “naked” if they are not wearing some body paint or hair ochre, no matter how many (or few) articles of actual clothing they are wearing. The jewel-like irises of Dwarven eyes can be the color of any gemstone – blue, green, red, purple, or orange are all possible. Because of their eye colors and body paint, there is a popular rumor/joke that Dwarves are actually made of earth and stone.

Most Dwarves prefer to use leather, skins, and fur as clothing wherever possible. They particularly love reptile skin, and the most prestigious garments are made from the hides of evil dragons and giant serpents. The only cloth they use is wool. They like to set stones and jewels directly into their clothing as decoration. Traditionalist Dwarves dislike cloth of vegetable origin so much that in hot conditions they may may wear nothing more than a leather loincloth (and chest-wrap in the case of women), otherwise covering their body with paint. In any event, Dwarven men are extremely proud of their hairy chests, and will dress to expose them as much as possible.

In the Ultimate West, Dwarven women in positions of authority often wear a face-paint design made by dipping the fingers in dark pigment, and dragging them vertically down the cheeks and chin. This the reason for the joke that Dwarf women have beards. High-status Dwarven women will also wear corset-like, fur chest-wraps – leading to another frequent jibe that they actually have hairy chests also!

Dwarves are the “people of the caves”, and prefer to carve and sculpt their settlements from solid rock. When they must build above ground, they use carved megaliths. After the Invasions, Dwarves retreated into deep tunnels, where they met and formed alliances with the Saganic Salamanders (also called “Vulcani”) who live in fiery rifts underground.

A dead Dwarf is cremated, as a symbolic return to the “Forge of Creation”. As an especial honor, a Dwarf’s charred bones may be used to help make steel for an heirloom weapon or piece of armor.

Every Dwarven culture is extremely fond of smoking pipes. These pipes are generally made of clay, or carved from various minerals – even precious and semi-precious stones! Pipes are smoked for leisure, and shared to seal deals and agreements. Much of Dwarven trade with the other Peoples is for the purpose of obtaining various herbs for smoking – particularly tobacco from Ha’wakun.

Dwarves are overwhelmingly Lawful or Neutral in Alignment. A sizable minority are Good. The small number of Chaotic Dwarves are widely despised by others of their own kind, and form a secret subculture. About 3% of Dwarves are Evil.

Dwarves use goats, mules, and cave dogs as mounts and beasts of burden, and have an especial affection for bears. They are the only people who dare to herd the Hrycus goat, whose fiery blood is needed to forge Adamant.

To a traveler from our Earth, the Western Dwarven language sounds vaguely like German; Southern Dwarven seems to somewhat resemble Zulu; Eastern Dwarven is oddly evocative of Tibetan; and Northern Dwarven mildly suggests ancient Norse. Each of the four Dwarven languages is written with its own set of angular runes designed to be easily carved into stone or wood.

The most common governmental form among isolated, traditionalist Dwarves remains hereditary monarchy, with the eldest child of either gender inheriting the title. A Dwarven Clan is headed by a Boss, whose position passes to their oldest child after their death. The Clans of a particular area will generally owe their allegiance to a Lord or Lady. If the Dwarves are living inside a nation not dominated by Dwarves, the Lord or Lady will be responsible for representing the interests of those Dwarves in the government. In the Ultimate West, only the monarch of Auddisland holds the title of “King” among the Dwarves.

Wherever they dwell with the other Peoples, Dwarves will naturally dominate the trades of mining, quarrying, masonry, and metalworking. Their armor and weapons are considered the best (and most expensive) throughout Panzoasia.

The Point of All This

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It can feel strange, even irresponsible, to write about fantastic worlds when reality seems so dire. Some part of me chides the rest, insisting that I should focus only on this world of pandemic, conflict, and oppression. But, perhaps it is precisely now that we need fantasy the most. Fantasy is the exercise of the imagination, and it is imagination that we will need if we are to transcend our problems. We must imagine a better world, where society is not predicated on exploitation and racism; where the law can be enforced without brutality; and where government represents all the people – not just those born into a privileged race, class, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. Without the ability to imagine something better, we may just trade one oppression for another, as has happened too many times throughout history. Without the courage to imagine, we might revert from our current insanity, back to the same system that ultimately resulted in the madness now standing in place of true governance.

The poet (and prophet) William Blake posited the Poetic Genius as the true God, and Imagination as the Savior. Who am I to argue with Blake? So I will write fantasy. I will write fantasy because Hope flows not just from Faith, but also Imagination. Our ancestors entertained each other with stories of fantastic worlds and beings, while dealing with diseases for which they had no cure, disasters for which they had no warning, and wars that seemed endless. The stories they told sustained them in their darkest hours. We exist because those who came before us could imagine a better future, and that imagination gave them the hope to endure.

Fantasy is serious business, for the most serious of times.

Unique Trees, Plants, and Fungi of Panzoasia – Part I

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See also “Wondrous Metals, Minerals, and Materials of Panzoasia” and Viridantine and Calidurum – Two More Wondrous Metals of Panzoasia.

Allfruit

This tree-like bush is short and stout, standing 6 feet high, with a 2 foot thick trunk. Its leaves are round and yellowish with serrated margins, turning bright red in the autumn. The Allfruit is widely cultivated by Man-kin Halflings for its delicious, five-lobed fruit, the outer skin of which is striped yellow, purple, blue, and red. The intensely sweet pulp inside tastes like a mixture of apples, lemons, raisins, and cherries, and is a beloved pie filling. Its showy, pink and white flowers are also woven into floral crowns worn by young Man-kin women in the spring.

Fool Hares are notably fond of ripe Allfruit, causing no end of headaches for orchard owners. Thefts are such a problem that there are ongoing contests in many Man-kin communities to see who can build the best trap for the annoying creatures.

The Allfruit tree is native the Ultimate West, but has been introduced to the East as well. It requires direct sunlight, but does not do well in conditions of extreme heat, cold, or dryness.

The best-known of all Halfling songs in the Ultimate West is “Under the Allfruit Tree”, the bittersweet tale of a Halfling maid who defies her disapproving family and pledges her love to an adventurer in the shade of an Allfruit, only to have him be slain the next day fighting off a gang of Goblin raiders. After she gives birth to their baby, she takes the child every day thereafter to that same Allfruit Tree, where she sings him a song about how courageous his father was.

Coffin Pine

This strange conifer grows up to 50 feet tall, with a peculiar, wide trunk distinguished by its coffin-like hollow that is usually large enough for a full-grown human to stand inside. The bark is grayish black, and the undersides of the leaves are dull neutral gray, further contributing to the tree’s ominous appearance. Because their empty hollows might otherwise be used as hiding places by bandits and robbers, it is common for Coffin Pines that are left standing to have their trunks converted into funerary shrines – complete with a statue of the memorialized person.

Before the Reign of the Monsters, Coffin Pines were sometimes actually used to inter the dead. The corpse was placed in the hollow, which was then sealed up with wattle and daub. A crude image of the person inside would then be painted on the surface. Some of these Coffin Pine tombs still remain intact, but all are said to be haunted by angry Wraiths.

The needles of Coffin Pine are a potent medicine against intestinal worms, if brewed into a tea.

Dwarf Bread

Dwarf Bread is a lichen used both directly as a staple food by many Dwarven communities, and also as livestock feed. A colony of it somewhat resembles a mass of thick lettuce leaves, gray-violet in color. It grows naturally on bare rock, surviving well above the tree line. Terraced fields of Dwarf Bread – cultivated on stones by Dwarf-kin Halflings – are found throughout the mountainous regions of Panzoasia. Dwarf Bread tastes somewhat like toasted rye when raw, becoming sweeter when cooked (typically as a porridge). Cooked Dwarf Bread can also be fermented and distilled into a spirit resembling whiskey. Among everybody other than Dwarves and Dwarf-kin, however, the lichen has a reputation for causing vivid nightmares of being turned to stone.

Glistenwood

This short, stout deciduous tree (typically 12 feet high with a 3 foot diameter trunk) has shaggy gray bark, and heart-shaped leaves that are purplish in color. It is prized for its unique wood, which glitters like crushed mica. Typically, Glistenwood is used for statues, fine furniture, chests, and decorative accents (as it is also carves well). The wood retains its glittering quality even when stained dark colors. Glistenwood prefers to grow near waterways, and on the edge of swamps.

Wounds inflicted by the wood sting terribly, and take twice as long to heal naturally. Those who work with it must take special precautions against being stuck by splinters.

Objects and furniture made of Glistenwood are worth twice their normal values. Elves and Gnomes especially love things made from it. Dwarves aligned with the powers of Destiny (Law) have a peculiar distaste for Glistenwood, however, often going so far as to destroy objects made from it for being somehow “indecently indulgent”. Conversely, those few Dwarves who are members of the “Free Brethren” (Chaotic, but not Evil) will deliberately carry small Glistenwood carvings.

Gloamtree Fungus

This strange, tree-like fungus often occurs in forest-like colonies underground. In appearance it closely resembles a small white tree about 8 feet high – but instead of leaves its branches end in thick, disk-like pods filled with a blue-green phosphorescent jelly. A complete Gloamtree emits light equal to a torch, while a broken branch will continue to emit light equal to a candle for a week. Gloamtrees are not fixed in their locations, and their apparent roots actually enable them to move in search of nutrients (albeit very slowly). The phosphorescent jelly can also be removed from its pod, and if dissolved in alcohol will continue to shine for as long as a month. Unfortunately, all parts of the Gloamtree are extremely toxic – if eaten the consumer must immediately Save versus Poison or suffer 1d6 points of damage, and must Save again every Round thereafter, or take an additional 1d6 points of damage. A successful Save ends all further loss of Hit Points.

A branch of Gloamtree Fungus sells for 10gp outside the Underworld, if fresh. A glass globe filled with fixed Gloamtree jelly(enough to illuminate a 15’ radius with blue-green light) sells for 50 gp, and a refill of jelly costs 40 gp. Gloamtree Fungus (and Gloamtree jelly) can generally only be obtained from Dwarven merchants, who control the supply to surface-dwelling folk.

Homestead Mushroom

These giant mushrooms have woody stalks that are often hollowed out and used as temporary homes by forest-dwelling Elf-kin Halflings. In addition to providing housing, the cap of the Homestead Mushroom is delicious fried, or boiled in a stew. Even the woody stalk can be eaten if first soaked and pounded to soften it. In fact, it is usual for an Elf-kin family to actually eat the mushroom as they inhabit it!

A mature Homestead Mushroom stands 8 feet tall and just as wide. It has a white trunk, and a yellow, orange, or red cap. The mushrooms appear in the spring, usually beneath or near Zoswood trees (See “Zoswood” below), and naturally endure until Autumn (unless completely eaten). Those Elk-kin who inhabit Homestead Mushrooms in the warmer weather will often spend the winter living on the lower level of a hollowed-out Zoswood nearby.

Sword Lacquer Tree

This gnarled and bulbous tree is prized for its sap, which can be prepared into a lacquer that dries nearly as hard as bronze. The substance can also used to create armor, or even edged weapons. The sap is mostly collected by certain Elf-kin Halflings, who also create the highest quality Sword Lacquer objects. The tree is deciduous, and also noted for its small leaves, growing in rosette clusters that resemble pom-poms. Sword Lacquer trees are most common in the Ultimate East, but some can also be found in the Ultimate South and West.

Weapons made of Sword Lacquer are a quarter the weight of their metal equivalents, but cost double the normal amount. Since Sword Lacquer is not quite as hard as actual steel, however, the user suffers a -1 to hit if the weapon is edged, or a -1 on damage if the weapon is blunt (with a minimum of 1 point of damage on a successful hit). On the upside, Sword Lacquer weapons (and armor) are immune to attack from Rust Monsters, and creatures such as Black Puddings are actually repulsed by their taste.

A complete suit of Sword Lacquer Plate Armor is AC 4 [or 15], but weighs just 12 pounds (120 coins) if sized for a human. It costs 100gp. Such suits are more common in the Ultimate East and South, but are not unknown elsewhere in Panzoasia.

A Sword Lacquer Breastplate weighs grants AC 7 [or 12] and weighs only a pound (10 coins). It costs 40gp. Sword Lacquer Breastplates are especially prized by Magic Users, since they are so light and easy to wear that they do not interfere with spellcasting.

Zoswood (Beharbre)

The evergreen Zoswood has a central place in the culture of Western Elves (whose name for it is “Beharbre”). This massive and hardy tree often grows to over 300 feet in height, with a straight trunk up to 60 feet in diameter. About half the height of typical tree is trunk, and atop it grows a cloud-like canopy of twisting branches that end in seven-lobed, palmate leaves. Zoswood does not burn or rot (although its leaves will), and the living tree seems to be immune to almost every disease. Since it wood is almost as hard as stone, actually felling a Zoswood is arduous in the extreme. For all those reasons, hollowed out Zoswood trees became the primary refuges of Western Elves throughout the Reign of the Monsters. A single tree could easily house up to thirty Elves (and /or Elf-kin Halflings) – and up to a hundred could take refuge inside one in extreme emergencies.

Besides its durable wood and tolerance for being inhabited, the Zoswood has a number of other unique characteristics. In the spring it erupts in enormous, red and pink flowers that eventually give way to spiny fruit with chestnut-like seeds that are both delicious and extremely nourishing. There are several species of giant insect endemic to Zoswood forests, and even ordinary bugs that consume the sap or green leaves of the tree can grow to gigantic proportions – and acquire intelligence equal to that of a dog or horse. The enormous Gilout Moths from which Western Elves obtain their silk were bred from slightly smaller ancestors that live only on Zoswoods. Likewise, the Elven Riding Cicada is a domesticated and specially bred form of the wild Zoswood Cicada, which naturally grows to six feet in length.

The tallest Zoswoods are visited by the sky-dwelling Saganic Sylphs, and host the markets where Cloud Silver is traded for incense and scented oils. The area directly below a Zoswood is in perpetual shade, but is often populated by the similarly enormous Homestead Mushroom.

Objects made of Zoswood are extremely rare, and worth 10 times their normal value. Zoswood furniture is especially prized by Dwarves, since it will not rot from exposure to damp conditions underground. A club made of Zoswood functions exactly like a steel mace in almost every respect. Zoswood worked into a suit of plates is equivalent to Plate Mail (AC 3 [or 14]) – but at half the weight. Unfortunately, the secret to properly working Zoswood is known only to Elves – and apparently, no member of any other People has ever been able to master it. Naturally, the various Elven Communes strictly control the supply of Zoswood.

Inhabited Zoswoods: Beharbre Refuges and Communes

The original type of Beharbre Refuge created during the Reign of the Monsters consisted of a mature tree, with its heartwood hollowed out to a diameter of 20’. The removed wood was used (among other things) to construct an central spiral staircase linking up to 20 interior floors. The entrance to the tree was a carefully constructed secret door indistinguishable from the trunk. Ventilation and light shafts were bored to the exterior of every floor, the aperture of each barred with viridantine and screened with Gilout silk painted to exactly resemble the tree’s bark. Each floor had a fireplace, the flues of which emptied into a single chimney cleverly constructed like a branch of the tree. Smoke was conducted above the tree’s thick canopy, and could remain unnoticed by all but the most observant viewers below. At night, interior light was provided either by phosphorescent fungi, or by globes of magically created Continual Light.

Modern Beharbre Communes inhabited by forest-dwelling Elves follow the same general plan of a central spiral staircase vertically linking many interior floors. Nowadays, however, the main entrance will be obvious and ornamented, with carved window frames marking the apertures of the ventilation and light shafts along the tree’s trunk. The Elven occupants (each of which is considered a co-owner of the Commune) often change their sleeping arrangements from floor to floor as they form temporary romantic partnerships (couples, triads, quads, etc.). Any children born inside the Commune are considered the children of all the inhabitants, and may spend as little as one day a week on the same floor as their birth mother – or father, if his identity is certain. It is also common for the lower floors of a Beharbre Commune to inhabited by Elf-kin Halflings. The upper branches, on the other hand, will be fitted with platforms where the community’s Riding Cicadas are hitched, and Gilout caterpillars are raised for silk. If it is not filled with Homestead Mushrooms, the area around the base of the Zoswood will often be cultivated with various other kinds of ornamental (and useful) fungi. Juvenile Riding Cicadas will often be living below the surface, feeding from the Zoswood’s roots, and waiting to emerge in the summer. Generally, the Commune’s herd of riding deer (or elk) will be kept in a glade nearby, rather than within the shade of the tree.

Doubtless, the historical experience of living inside Zoswood trees is at least one reason that city-dwelling Elves of the Ultimate West show such a preference for inhabiting high towers.

(Yes, Zoswood is my version of the old “Elves-in-a-tree” trope, with man-sized cicadas.)

The Mad Scientist Class for Classic B/X Rules

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Frankenstein, pg 7

This version of the Mad Scientist class from Ghastly Affair has been reworked for use with the classic “B/X” rules, and OSR retro-clones that emulate them (such as Necrotic Gnome’s “Old School Essentials”).

MAD SCIENTIST

Those who lack vision say you are insane, but one day they too will recognize your genius! The ignorant fools of the world may say that your creations are “unnatural”, and that your pets are “abominations”. They claim that your momentous discoveries are the ranting of a deranged mind, and that the creatures you have created and trained are menaces. But you know that your work is more important than their little brains can comprehend. Muahaha!

As a Mad Scientist you start the game with either a 1st Level Mad Invention, or a 1 HD Monstrous Servant (but not both). Each Level thereafter you can either create one or more new Mad Inventions, or else gain (or advance) your Monstrous Servant(s).

Use the Mad Scientist Class to create characters inspired by such fictional characters as Victor Frankenstein (from “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”) and Doctor Moreau (from “The Island of Doctor Moreau”), or even historical figures such as Franz Mesmer and Ada Lovelace.

ABILITY REQUIREMENTS: Intelligence of at least 12.
PRIME REQUISITE(S): Intelligence
HIT DICE: d4 + Constitution Bonus, up to 9th Level.
+1 Hit Point per Level after 9th, and Constitution Bonus no longer applies.
USEABLE WEAPONS: Dagger, Staff, Club, or Crossbow. (+ Pistol and Whip, if available.)
USEABLE ARMOR: None. No shields.
ATTACKS: As Magic user
SAVING THROWS: As Magic user
ALIGNMENT: Any. Mad Scientist tend towards extreme expressions of their Alignment – rigidly Lawful, coldly Neutral, or capriciously Chaotic.
LANGUAGES: Common and Alignment. Mad Scientist often learn extinct languages.

SPECIAL ABILITIES:

Academic Credentials: You have contacts in Universities and other academic institutions, and will be allowed to see books and objects others cannot access. Of course, the traditionalists dislike you and your theories, but even they must grudgingly accept your academic achievements.

Mad Inventions: You can create Mad Inventions, which produce effects similar to the spells of Magic Users and Clerics. These Mad Inventions are rated in Levels just like ordinary spells. The total Levels of your existing Mad Inventions can never exceed your own character Level. Only you (and the people you designate) can understand how to use your Mad Inventions. They can take any appropriate physical form you like.

If you do not gain or advance a Monstrous Servant when you gain a Level, you can make a new Mad Invention instead. You can destroy an old Mad Invention if you want, so you can create a new one of a higher Level. You can never have more than one Mad Invention that creates the same effect, however.

Once created, a Mad Invention can be used a number of times equal to your Level before it breaks, is used up, or needs to be recharged. Mad Inventions are created or recharged in the downtime between adventures, and cannot be recharged while an adventure in in progress.

Mad Inventions are revealed by Detect Magic, and are affected by Dispel Magic just as if they were spells.

Monstrous Servants: You can attract, create, or train creatures to serve as guardians and helpers. The Hit Dice of Monstrous Servants you control can never exceed your own, none can have a higher Intelligence than you, and they cannot be inherently magical or planer in nature. Some ways by which a Monstrous Servant might be controlled include strange drugs, hypnotism, a brain implant, sonic waves emitted from a hand-held device, or even just the force of the Mad Scientist’s personality. If the Monstrous Servant is basically unintelligent, you have nonetheless developed special means of communicating with it and influencing its behavior. The total Hit Dice of all Monstrous Servants you command can never exceed your own character Level. If one or more asterisks are appended to a monster’s listed HD, its effective HD is raised by the number of asterisks for purposes of being a Monstrous Servant.

If you command your Monstrous Servant to do something obviously suicidal, or completely against its nature, you must make a regular 2d6 Reaction Roll. The result of the roll determines if it (or they) rebels and decides to attack you, refuses that particular command, or acquiesces.

If you do not create a new Mad Invention when you gain a Level, you can instead gain new Monstrous Servants (up to your limit), or increase the Level of an existing servant that has a character Class. You can also dismiss Monstrous Servants you no longer want, to gain more desirable ones. Monstrous Servants are generally assumed to be attracted, created, or trained in the downtime between adventures. If your GM allows it, it may be able to convert an encountered Monster of the appropriate Level into a Monstrous Servant, provided it otherwise qualifies for such status, and you can achieve a result of 12 or more on your Reaction Roll.

Laboratory: You have access to a fully-supplied Laboratory – perhaps in the University you attend, in the attic of the house you rent, in a hidden part of your family castle, or even secretly built in the city sewers. Here you make and repair your Mad Inventions, experiment with the creation of new life forms, and train your Monstrous Servants. If your Laboratory is destroyed (by an Angry Mob, for instance), to cost to replace it will be 1,000 times your own Level in gold pieces.

Scientific Knowledge: You have a base 60% chance to recall useful useful scientific knowledge applicable to your current situation, identify materials, or solve complex mathematical problems. This chance increases by 3% per Level, to a maximum of 99% at 14th Level.

WEAKNESSES:

Attracts Angry Mobs: Every month spent actively working in the same location incurs a 1 in 20 chance of an attack on your Laboratory by an Angry Mob of 2d20 ordinary humans, led by an enraged Cleric of your own Level.

Incurable Madness: You will always suffer from an incurable mental derangement or compulsion of some kind. For example, you could be subject to fits of morbid melancholy (like the fictional Victor Frankenstein), be a compulsive gambler (like the historical Ada Lovelace), or harbor strange delusions about being hundreds of years old (like the historical Count Saint Germaine). If put into a situation that might trigger your particular Madness, you must make a Save versus Spells to overcome it. If the reality of your delusions is directly challenged, you must make likewise Save versus Spells or fly into a berserk rage for 1d4 Rounds.

FOLLOWERS AT 9th LEVEL:
At 9th Level you can build a new Laboratory and attract 1d6 1st Level Students, all of them as insane – excuse me , I mean to say dedicated – as yourself. Each of them will have their own particular derangement – I’m sorry, I mean evidence of genius. Unlike those shortsighted fools at the University, your new students will be eager for instruction in your groundbreaking theories, and assist in your vital research. Your new laboratory can be elaborate as you can afford, and located in any suitably (melo)dramatic location – such as a dark castle atop a bare mountaintop, a small jungle island, or even a sprawling subterranean complex.

Experience Points

Level

Title

Hit Points

Scientific Knowledge

Maximum Mad Invention Level

0

1

Student

1d4

60%

1

3,000

2

Experimenter

2d4

63%

1

6,000

3

Intern

3d4

66%

2

12,000

4

Natural Philosopher

4d4

69%

2

24,000

5

Anatomist

5d4

72%

3

48,000

6

Chemist

6d4

75%

3

96,000

7

Physician

7d4

78%

4

192,000

8

Professor

8d4

81%

4

384,000

9

Doctor

9d4

84%

5

559,000

10

Doctor

(10th Level)

9d4 + 1

87%

5

734,000

11

Doctor

(11th Level)

9d4 +2

90%

6

909,000

12

Doctor

(12th Level)

9d4 + 3

93%

6

1,084,000

13

Doctor

(13th Level)

9d4 + 4

96%

6

1,259,000

14

Legendary Doctor

9d4 + 5

99%

6


MAD INVENTIONS BY LEVEL

For compatibility with existing “Old-School” games, the following lists utilize the Cleric and Magic User spells from “Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells”. Except where otherwise noted , adjudicate the effects of Mad Invention just like their namesake spells.

1st Level Mad Inventions
Floating Disc
Light
Darkness
Purify Food and Water
Cause Light Wounds (Mad Invention must physically touch victim.)
Shield
Ventriloquism

2nd Level Mad Inventions
Cause Fear
Charm Person
Cure Light Wounds
Magic Missile (The Mad Invention can only fire 1 missile at a time.)
Read Languages
Remove Fear
Resist Cold
Resist Fire
Sleep (Victims always receive a Saving Throw.)

3rd Level Mad Inventions
Detect Invisible
ESP (6 Turns duration)
Hold Person
Invisibility
Knock
Levitate
Locate Object
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force
Silence 15’ Radius (Emitted by Mad Invention, and moves with it.)
Snake Charm
Speak with Animals
Web
Locate Object

4th Level Mad Inventions
Animate Dead
Cause Serious Wounds (Mad Invention must physically touch victim.)
Cure Serious Wounds
Continual Darkness
Continual Light
Cure Disease
Fire Ball (3d6 damage)
Fly
Growth of Animal
Haste
Hold Person
Infravision
Invisibility 10’ Radius
Lightning Bolt (3d6 damage)
Protection from Normal Missiles
Striking

5th Level Mad Inventions
Charm Monster
Confusion
Create Water
Dimension Door
Growth of Plants
Hallucinatory Terrain
Neutralize Poison
Polymorph Others (Only one shape per Mad Invention. 1 in 20 chance per use of a backfire, affecting the Mad Scientist instead of the target!)
Polymorph Self (Only one shape per Mad Invention.)
Speak with Plants
Wall of Fire
Wall of Ice

6th Level Mad Inventions
Cloudkill
Control Weather
Create Food
Feeblemind
Finger of Death (1 in 20 chance per use of a backfire, affecting the Mad Scientist instead of the target!)
Flesh to Stone (1 in 20 chance per use of a backfire, affecting the Mad Scientist instead of the target!)
Lower Water
Move Earth
Pass-Wall
Raise Dead (1 in 20 chance that the subject is raised as a Vampire.)
Stone to Flesh
Telekinesis
Teleport
Transmute Rock and Mud
Wall of Stone

SOME POSSIBLE FORMS FOR MAD INVENTIONS

• a white powder.
• a small clockwork.
• a luminous disk.
• a vial of perfume.
• a metal rod with a projecting wire.
• an ointment.
• an earpiece with a hanging wire.
• a rod tipped with a ball of metal mesh.
• a mask with colored lenses over the eyes.
• a helmet with strange projecting wires.
• a set of lenses set into a complex mechanism.
• a pill.
• a set of wings that unfurl from a backpack.
• a flask of liquid.
• a crystal.
• a lantern with changeable lenses, and a strange mechanism.
• a specially coated metal cone.
• an opalescent pendant.
• a bizarre gun.
• a circlet set with a crystal.
• a set of needles that connect to a chemical battery.
• a set of metal shoes and leg braces.
• a hose connected to a pack worn on the back.
• a chemical-filled contraption that straps to the arm.
• a wind-up mechanism inside a metal box.
• a set of bandages woven with metal wires, and saturated with a strange substance.

SUGGESTED MONSTROUS SERVANTS

The following lists of possible Monstrous Servants are based upon the monsters found in the “Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy Rules”. Obviously, not all Monstrous Servants can be taken onto the streets of a typical town – at least not without somehow disguising them as something normal!

NPCs who serve as Monstrous Servants are usually dimwitted Fighters or amoral Thieves. Sometimes, a twisted Dwarf, outcast Gnome, or rogue Halfling will become a Monstrous Servant. Elves, Magic users, and Clerics never submit to becoming Monstrous Servants.

1 HD Monstrous Servants
Beetle, Fire
Berserker
Ferret, Giant
Goblin
Hobgoblin
Killer Bee
Kobold
Normal Human
NPC, 1st Level
Orc
Pterasaur, Pteradactyl
Rat, Giant
Rats, Pack of Normal
Shrew, Giant
Skeleton
Stirge
Water Termite, Swamp

2 HD Monstrous Servants
Bat, Giant
Bat, Giant Vampire
Gnoll
Golem, Wood
Insect Swarm, 2 HD
Lizard Man
Neanderthal
NPC, 2nd Level
Rock Baboon (can be taught to wield regular weapons)
Shark, Bull
Snake, Spitting Cobra
Toad, Giant
Troglodyte
Water Termite, Freshwater
Wolf, Normal
Zombie

3 HD Monstrous Servants
Beetle, Oil
Beetle, Tiger
Bugbear
Crab, Giant
Fish, Giant Piranha
Hawk, Giant
Hippogriff
Insect Swarm, 3 HD
Living Stature, Crystal
NPC, 3rd Level
Robber Fly
Snake, Pit Viper
Spider, Giant Crab

4 HD Monstrous Servants
Ape, White
Bear, Black
Carcass Crawler
Giant Lizard, Draco
Giant Weasel
Insect Swarm, 4 HD
Living Stature, Iron
NPC, 4th Level
Ogre
Panther
Rhagodessa
Shark, Mako
Snake, Sea Snake
Spider, Giant Black Widow
Water Termite, Saltwater
Wold, Dire

5 HD Monstrous Servants
Bear, Grizzly
Driver Ant
Hydra, 5 Heads
Lion
NPC, 5th Level
Owl Bear
Pterasaur, Pteranodan
Scorpion, Giant
Snake, Giant Rattler

6 HD Monstrous Servants
Crocodile, Large
Fish, Giant Rockfish
Giant Lizard, Horned Cameleon
Giant Lizard, Tuatara
Hydra, 6 Heads
Leech, Giant
Living Stature, Rock
Manticore
Minotaur
NPC, 6th Level
Ochre Jelly
Rhinoceros
Sea Serpent, Lesser
Snake, Rock Python
Squid, Giant
Tiger

7 HD Monstrous Servants
Bear, Cave
Caecilia
Griffin
Hydra, 7 Heads
NPC, 7th Level
Troll
Warp Beast

8 HD Monstrous Servants
Fish, Giant Catfish
Giant, Hill
Golem, Bone
Hydra, 8 Heads
NPC, 8th Level
Octopus, Giant
Rhinoceros. Woolly
Saber-toothed Tiger
Shark, Great White
Wyvern

9 HD Monstrous Servants
Elephant
Giant, Stone
Hydra, 9 Heads

10 HD Monstrous Servants
Giant, Frost
Hydra, 10 Heads

11 HD Monstrous Servants
Black Pudding
Fish, Giant Sturgeon
Giant, Fire
Hydra, 11 Heads
Stegosaurus
Triceratops

12 HD Monstrous Servants
Golem, Amber
Hydra, 12 Heads
Titanothere

14 HD Monstrous Servants
Cyclops

Note: NPCs who function as Monstrous Servants will always be below 9th Level.

Special Note

I like to take this opportunity to give thanks to all the real-life scientists and medical professionals working to alleviate the current pandemic. All hope for the future rests with you. I salute you!