Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thawing Kingdom: People and Knights

If you don't know what the Thawing Kingdom is, find out. If you do, go ahead.

After the kingdom woke from its frozen sleep, its people discovered that their world was not as it had been. What had been luscious forests, are now dark and tangled woods, thickets halfway submerged in the mud with barely any leaves remaining. The fiels of grain have become flooded by water from the molten ice. Valleys are now lakes. Meadows are wetlands. Castles have crumbled and eroded under the ice. For five hundred years the land had been submerged in a profound stillness, and the sounds that broke it first was the gushing of glacial rivers and the shattering of what had been perfect sculptures for half a millenium. Most if not all was destroyed by the kingdom's harsh awakening.

What is left, now?

People seek dry places. Islands amongst the many thawing-ice streams. They span the old nets in the new rivers to gather fish, and debris for building material. People become wooddryers, stacking the wet driftwood over hot charcoal bins. Children flock to the drying stacks to stay warm. They search the nets for frogs, or funny rocks. Rope and clothing fibre is important. Food is important. In some places, where the river ran once but no longer, the land has grown very fertile from all carried down with the water. The farms look meagre, but they can provide, even if barely. Keeping livestock is hard, even for those lucky enough to thaw next to what was presumably their enclosure of sheep, so the people eat fish, and the fowl that has returned to the kingdom. Geese and ducks, herons, water birds. With wax from insect nests, and fish oil, they make their wading trousers keep the water an extent. Better smear that wax on extra thick, let it harden in a dry place.

The people are fishermen, riverside-combers, driftwood catchers. They're bootwaxers and wooddryers. They're goose hunters and pea farmers. They're nurses for the unimaginable amount of trenchfoot. They're priests of small, simple faiths that send people down the river on a raft when they die so nobody gets sick. They catch the rot when some bloated dead buggers drift into the fishing nets from upstream. They're the travellers that tell people about the importance of pushing your corpses down into a fen somewhere instead of lopping them into the river. They're the rotting moaning undead fenfolk that seek revenge for not being given a river burial. They're the paltry but persistent knights that put the fenfolk back down into the fen.

Aha. Knights. Charming and heroic. Mudsoaked and rusted. We're back at the interesting part.

The people of the kingdom need knights to protect them, always have. But, in the waterlogged new land that they had inherited this profession did not seem as noble as it once had, and definitely a lot more messy. However, being a knight still brings with it a sense of worth, and a sense of pride, which is hard to come by in dire times. So the people also became knights. They moved into the ruins of old keeps and castles, or into a reasonably dry forest, or even a somewhat pronounced hilltop, depending on what was available. In any case they needed a home for their order. A value to fill the "And the brave knights rode out from X" variable.

They have names that inspire awe and terror in their foes. The goose knights have geese painted on their shields and on their vests and breastplates. No two geese are quite the same. Well, at least it's artisanal. They no doubt have a gooseherd whose gaggle patrols the ruin in which they've taken roost. But are they as noble and impressive as the knights of the purple boots? Likely not. These glorified highwaym- ahem, guardians of the realm live in what used to be a beetroot field, where the purple sap of the beets has mingled with the mud and started to permanently stain their leather boots. When they are a few helmets short, hollowed out beets are better than nothing. Ah, however, they surely tremble at the sight of the flotsam riders, who live in a big camp built of driftwood and boats on a series of rocks in a river. The reality of that is a lot less practical than the idea, but it is almost as impressive. They have a few huts on the rivercoast for when they need to rebuild.

These are of course examples. There are as many knight orders in the Thawing kingdom as there are fenfolk, drakes and undead to fight. Possibly because fighting one tends to require an entire knight order for a decent success chance.

No one speaks of the black swan knight. Or rather, people love to say that no one speaks of him while in fact they speak of him all the time. If it even is a he. He travels across the kingdom fighting evil, as legendary knights tend to do. Sometimes he meets the white swan knight, who is another bugger thawed with horse plus full armour and without the capacity for speech in anything but grunts or cryptic lines. What happens when they meet? Some say they fight. Some say they make out. Some say they play a few games of Crown and Anchor, which the white swan knight always wins and make the black swan knight very upset.

(All above art by Skraww)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Setting: the Thawing Kingdom

I once saw a fungus, a mould that usually infects the breathing organs. Rather, I heard a camel talk about it at a bar, heard it say how that peculiar mildew yelled into the forest and rustled the feathers of all the birds with its screaming about the self-gratification of the rulewrights. Though it was just a meagre toadstool, I can’t shake the feeling that maybe when you pick apart the mycelium threads of its fungal rage, you might find an intriguing truffle.

So, I’m going to create a setting. Or rather, I’m going to tell a story, which is the same but more graceful. It’s a story about a crazy old king, because who doesn’t love those?

King Iceheart was a mean name, but unfortunately it was accurate. The king, for all his attempts and efforts, simply could not love anyone. Many candidates came to his castle, were shipped there by hopeful parents, or simply appeared quizzically while some witch stuffed her pockets with silver and was one frog poorer. It never worked out. Especially once he started freezing his wives into ice statues filling the throne room. For “looking at my generals lecherously!” For “wearing the wrong dress to the walking dinner!” For “sticking her bubblegum under her throne!” It’s safe to say that his loneliness, his age, the artificiality of his love life, and possibly his inbred line made him go progressively kookier as he aged. He was archetypal. Long white hair and beard. Sunken eyes. Long thin nose. Sharp and tall crown. The collective idea of the Mad King made flesh.

At long last, when the throne room was so crowded with frozen wives that terrified servants had started to stack them for optimal spatial management, King Iceheart’s love-deprived heart hurt so much that in a fit of mad desperation and contempt for all the little loving people, he cast a spell that banned the sun from his kingdom and said that no one would be able to love, not for five hundred years. Without the light of the sun the lands were cast in thick ice, and everyone was frozen solid. It was a still picture of the precise moment that King Iceheart cast his darkest spell, which had killed him as it turned his hart to ice. It was a final defeat for the king as he gave in to his nickname.

For five hundred years, not a soul stirred.

Everything was cold, dark, and silent.

Until finally, the land had served its sentence, the sun rose once again and the Frozen Kingdom became the Thawing Kingdom.

For the people waking from their five-hundred year sleep, the world is strange. Their memories are far away, sometimes even gone. They only have the things around them to remind them of who they were, and who they loved. The ice melts in patches: most of it has thawed and formed muddy and water-eroded landscapes and big new lakes that have sometimes swallowed whole villages. Some of it is still around, big patches of glacier producing broad and rapid rivers. The whole land has a wetness to it, recuperating from the initial floods caused by the melting ice. Fields have become paddies, ferries are everywhere for travelling across the wetlands-dominated landscape. Bootmakers and boatmakers never run out of business. The land beyond the Kingdom, which is 500 years further in its progression, is colledtively called Draailant, Drayland, or simply Dryland. Spelling has become a bit funny, now that the water has ruined many books. Oddly enough everyone remembers the King, and they feel a little sad and angry whenever they speak the name of King Iceheart.

Local lords have started to spring up here and there, some of whom actually were lords, some of whom took the opportunity of the chaos in the thawing's wake and gathered a few people to squat in an abandoned castle. A few lords may actually have succeded at creating a somewhat functioning county or community, some may just live in a windy and empty castle and call themselves the lord of it to try and console their loss of identity. Small bands of hedge knights are very common, as someone has to fight the bears and wolves that have unfortunately also been thawed out, and the drakes that have taken roost, and the devils that have crawled out of the murky crevices. They lend out their service for food, which is scarce. Sometimes they will become a lord's loyal knights, because it makes them feel harboured and important in a world that just showed everyone who's boss.
Plus, they get to hang out in a castle, which is cool even if it's in disrepair. Sometimes, people from Draailant come along. They tend to be lonely travellers, but they have a strange air around them. They never stop talking about their machines. Machines, machines machines.

That's the Thawing Kingdom for you. It's moody, wet, and there's a cold wind that blows through the entirety of it. Some people say that that's the last sigh of the king, an icy current forever trapped in the kingdom. But people band together, as they do in harsh times. Sometimes they fight too, as people also do in harsh times. There are recently thawed castles or keeps that if you're lucky nobody has explored yet. There are drakes, wild animals, monsters and devils that prowl the muddy land. There'll be posts about all those in the future. This is it for now.

(All art above made by Skraww)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cult of Unfission GLOG Resources: Monsters, Spells, system-neutral Lich Star Influence Table

The first post on this blog introduced an alternative route for Necromancers, a motivation for their cults, and a threat to all things: Unfission.

A cult of derailed necromantic potential being used to achieve a demented perfection, to fuse everything back into the very singularity that exploded into the Big Bang at the dawn of the universe. With the promise of perfection and ego-death, new cult members are recruited to fuse into terrific monsters, from amalgams of matter and flesh to miniature black holes. Far in the cosmos, the Founders of the Unfission cult (fused to the size of star-sized leviathans by now) destroy solar systems to fuse them back into Lich-Stars, undead heavenly bodies created from the matter that they produced upon their death.

This post will expand on the Unfission Cult's lore with some mechanical elements to bring them to (un)life in your game. Keep in mind: the cult of Unfission never truly resurrects: their fusions are always creepy unwholesome semblances of what the precursor they are 'resurrecting' was. They're necromancers after all.

Unfission Masters' corporeal bodies (art by Jesse Balmer, Adventure Time Come Along With Me concept art)


Point Convent
When devout and strong-willed Unfission Acolytes fuse, they compress into a football-sized orb of flesh and sheer absorbing force, like the cube that comes out of a car crusher. Their only drive is to suck in so much mass that they reach a critical point and advance into the next stage: a miniature black hole. Point Convents will attempt to fuse with anything in their vicinity to gain mass, even their peers: the Unfission Mantra is absolute to them.

HD 1; ATK /; DEF 14; MOV 8, levitation; Morale 12
  • Spacetime Depression: A point convent attacks by producing waves of pulling gravitational energy in a (HD*20)’ cone, producing a corona of visual distortion around themselves when they activate this power. Instead of damage, targets in the cone must save or be pulled a significant distance closer to the Point Convent, (HD*10)’ if you want a more exact distance.
  • Add to Mass: When in melee range (next to) a Point Convent, targets with equal or less HD must save or die as they are sucked and compressed into the Point Convent by its deadly gravity. Creatures with more HD take (Point Convent’s HD)d6 damage instead as part of them is ripped off by the gravitational pull. When a Point Convent kills an equal amount of creatures to its current HD with this ability it adds a HD to itself.
  • Mutagenesis: When a Point Convent absorbs a wizard, it rolls a d6. If it is 1 to 4, it rolls a random mutation. If it is 5 it gains one of the wizard’s MD and a random spell it knows. If it is 6 the Point Convent must save or be destabilised by the rabid spell entering its system and explodes into a mess of protoplasmic goop.
  • Singularity: Once a Point Convent reaches 6 HD, it surpasses critical mass and becomes a miniature black hole. It moves extremely slowly, but cannot be hurt by physical attacks anymore. It will start to rip apart the terrain and becomes a destructive environmental hazard. Its gravitational cone ability is now applied in every direction around it, constantly. Its Mutagenesis trait no longer causes mutations, it only either gifts it a MD and spell on 5 or prompts a save or die it on 6. It now only gains a HD when it absorbs a significant amount of matter and/or energy.
Vestigial Convent
It is not always that aspirants to the Unfission mantra are prepared enough to fuse into a proper Point Convent. When the arcane power, the carrying out of the fusion ritual, or the conviction of the participants are lacking, the result is a Vestigial Convent: the human equivalent of wet clay puppets smudged together and then smeared on the most nearby surface. It becomes a shoggoth-like creature, a sludge of agonising mass. These are the lowest forms of Unfission beings, considered fit for nothing else than to be dead mass absorbed by Point Convents.

HD 1, ATK 12, DEF 6, MOV 4, Morale 6
  • Desperate Absorption: Vestigial Convents attack with long sinewy tendrils, attempting to physically pull things into themselves. Any creature succesfully hit by an attack takes no damage but must save or be dragged closer to the Vestigial Convent (similar to the Point Convent's ability, except that this needs both a succesful attack and save to pull). When a creature is pulled into melee range this way it must save or die as it is absorbed by the Vestigial Convent, identically to the Add to Mass ability of the Point Convent.
  • Mutagenesis: Identical to the Point Convent's trait, but cannot gain spells/MD: 1 to 5 is a mutation, 6 is self-destruction.
The coordinators of the Cult of Unfission, these are the few instances where rabid fusion has in fact produced, or where from previous individuality there has been retained, more intelligence than simply the dogmatic adherence to the Unfission mantra. Unfission Masters understand that when minor fusion is strategically put off, greater fusion steps can be accomplished. Being able to assert authority over Point Convents, they are the ones to orchestrate the Cult's schemes, meditating to receive the will of the Founders from deep in the void of space.

True Form: as a 10 HD Point Convent.

Flesh Body:
Unfission Masters have enough self-control and arcane power to pause their fusion hunger and produce a body from their mass, and contain their black hole-like self. They still, however, have a necromancer's twisted sense of what a 'body' should be, and thus their bodies are generally terrifying fusion monstrosities.

HD 4, ATK 11*; DEF 11*; MOV 11*, many possiblities of movement; Morale 12
  • Morphic Manipulation: An Unfission Master can warp and change their body to suit a chosen purpose. It assigns a +5 bonus to one of the skills marked with *. When it assigns this to Movement it may choose a mode of movement (flight, walking, swimming,...), when it assigns it to Defense it may choose one save (except Morale and Death) to which it is immune, when it assigns it to Attack it may choose a weapon type that this form wields (ranged or melee, but it always deals 1d8 damage). Changing options inside a chosen skill takes an action, changing between options half a minute. It may also, as a fourth option, not gain a +6 but take a form with expansive brain mass to store spells, and gain 4 MD and 2 random spells. These MD do not regenerate when switching back and forth between forms, but the spells are always rerolled. MD only regenerate upon forming a new body.
  • Generate Body: When it is in its true form, or when its current body is destroyed, an Unfission Master can sacrifice a part of their mass to fashion a new body. This deals 6 (1 HD) damage to itself, and gives the Master a new form as detailed above. Producing a new body takes about a minute.
More Unfission Master bodies (art by Jesse Balmer, Adventure Time Come Along With Me concept art)
To add some Unfission flavour to necromancy in your game, these following spells can be usable for necromantic players in your game. Or, they might acquire them only by unearthing tomes of the cult's less maniacal precursors in forgotten libraries, when they still did things like write in books. They might have to pry them as living spells from the broken singularity of a dead Unfission Master.

Alternatively these spells can be wielded by evil casters, or they can be locked away inside lead books in the university tempting players to free them (and causing a obsessive fusion mania in the university when they do). There's many uses for a few more semi-necromantic spells.

1. Amalgapparatus
R: within hand's reach T: [sum] (broken) tools D: instant
Fuse broken or intact items into one functional unit. Roll a d6: if it is 1 the resulting device loses all functionality, becomes a weird pointless machine. If it is 2 or 3 it gains the function of (randomly selected) half of the tools. If it is 4 or 5 this one device becomes a multi-tool that performs the functions of all the tools invested. If it is 6 the tool hybridizes the function of the tools invested into an apparatus with one oddly specific function: for instance, hybridizing a corkscrew and a sword yields a spiralling sword with a powerful enchantment against enemies made of cork, whereas simply having all their functions yields a sword with a corkscrew as the pommel.

2. Clustering Vector
R: 50' T: [dice]+1 creatures no more than 30' apart D: [sum] minutes
Creatures that you target must save or be pushed together and stick to each other as if glued for the spell's duration. At the end of the duration all creatures still stuck must save again. The creatures that fail this save have their flesh melded together by the ever tightening embrace. They are permanently grafted together. These creatures save one last time. If any of the creatures fails the save, all these creatures merge into one new hybrid entity. Creatures that succeeded the last save are the ones who mentally stay in control. Willing creatures may voluntarily fail any of these saves.

3. Remold
R: Touch T: 1 object D: [sum] minutes
Summons fragments of a whole that the touched item was once part of to it. Shattered sword pieces, carpentry made from the same tree, identical twins. More MD invested means they are drawn from further away and/or with more force. Any parts that make it to the touched item within the spell duration fuse with the touched object to recreate the lost whole.

4. Point Compress
R: 50' T: orb of space D: instant
Compress everything within an orb of space into a marble-sized superdense pellet. This orb's size increases with the amount of MD you invest. A 1 MD orb is the size of a baseball. Hitting a moving target with this is very difficult.

5. Monoharmonium
R: - T: [dice]*20' radius around self D: [dice]minutes
One sense becomes completely homogenised, rendering you and all creatures within the target radius incapable of any differentiation in the environment based on said sense.

6. Feigned Convent
R: - T: self D: [sum] minutes
A spell not developed by the Unfission Cult itself but by the people tormented by them, allows you to compress your body into a ball, like a Point Convent. Unfortunately the makers of this spell found out that Point Convents do in fact fuse with everything, even their own kind. They also missed the floating part. The spell is still useful for crawling (rolling?) into tight places though. A 1 MD Feigned Convent is the size of a football. A 4 MD one the size of a marble.

A Lich-Star can be a fun element of cosmology to add to your game, even if it's only a tiny pale green speck in the sky, burning brightly and hungrily. The following chart contains possible effects that may apply to your world when a Lich-Star is aligned with others in a certain way, forms a constellation, passes convexely under the moon, etc. Lich stars or Lich Planets aligning are the Cult of Unfission's GREAT ECLIPSE. Maybe, if you're very unlucky, you're living on a piece of ripped-apart planet floating about and this table always applies during the day, when the Lich-Sun is out. If you are dramatic, roll multiple effects. If this is the event those damn Mayans put on their calendar, use all of them.

  1. Necromantic spells become exceedingly more powerful.
  2. Both mania and despair become exceedingly difficult to resist.
  3. Ghosts  and shades start appearing everywhere, unable to interact with the mortal world, silent (or howling) watchers.
  4. The Undead rise.
  5. Any other magic than necromancy is significantly powered down/nullified.
  6. People's thoughts are influenced with visions of Unfission, waves of temporary madness afflict the population.
  7. Milk turns sour, animals become rabid, crops die.
  8. Ancient Unfission ruins or artefacts reactivate. Their purpose is without a doubt heinous.
  9. The Sun cowers behind the moon, hiding itself from the Lich-Star's evil eye. Solar eclipse.
  10. Tides turn freak, either causing floods or drawing back impossibly far.
  11. Children born have bizarre mutations.
  12. Minor or sometimes major spontaneous fusions happen. Objects, buildings, animals, people.
  13. The planet, influenced by fusion mania, compresses together ever so slightly. Major earthquakes.
  14. Gravity increases significantly.
  15. The Lich-Star's fusion pull extends with its light. Things are sucked/ripped off the planet surface.
  16. The clouds try to fuse with the earth. Constant thick fog.
  17. Children born have powerful innate (necromantic) magic.
  18. Due to planets shifting in their orbit due to induced fusion mania, the length of a day/year is permanently altered.
  19. Space debris gets fusion mania, speeds towards the planet to fuse. Meteors.
  20. One very oddly specific and harmless event occurs, which even Unfission Masters do not know the meaning of.