Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Baleful Sky: Ruhn

There is no succor for the eyes of Man
in the baleful sky
These stars the harbors of ancient evils
in the night's expanse
Neighboring worlds housing covetous minds
on the trail of dusk

A perilous dusk, as all worlds visible with the naked eye have risen.

Hear the wolves howl? They are on the hunt.

This is the gift of Sol; a single Point, a commonalty that all men share. It is the Hearth around which the Faithful gather, to ensure peace and brotherhood throughout all kingdoms. These are the tenets by which we guide mankind.

Next, foul Ruhn, a brackish world of swamp and shallow sea, rising just over the horizon, to the left of Lune, past the arc of Alfim. Its red seas are awash with luminescent filth, providing the glow you see from its dark side. It is a planet of ooze and rot, of fecund horrors, forever damp and dismal.

The endless marsh of that world is populated by all manner of foul beast, many of which have found root here. The common troll, stirge, and the troglodytes which infest the swamps around Henja all hail from that place.  Those creatures are not the lords of that far sphere, however; they are but common animal or slave stock to more powerful forces.

Firstly, the Ranians, batrachian daemons of varied type and color - their color determines their status, from the pearl type, of little worth and of infinite number, to the onyx type, of fell power. They are all but servitors of the Ranian Masters, dread lords who rule from their incomprehensibly mobile ziggurats. Their holdfasts reside in the swamplands; amidst the muck and grime. Ranians hail from everywhere and nowhere; their society an enormous bureaucracy, ponderously moving towards some unknown cosmic plan. They have footholds everywhere in the baleful sky, and there they sit; observe, plot, and, with the occasional nudge, topple empires; an unfathomable action in a strategy so all-encompassing that, to the observer, it seems nothing more than utter chaos.

Then, Vrock, cunning creatures with a vulture's aspect and an ogre's size. They fly on grand wings of stiff feathers, a long, thin bald neck supporting an avian head, with a cruel beak and bright eyes. They rule from the sky, from eyries slashed into the jutting mountains sprinkled across that globe. They are aloof, cruel, and vain, often affecting a regal composure where no nobility can be found. They are collectors of baubles and gaudy trinkets. They prize knowledge; especially secrets - the guiltier or more ruinous the better - and through eldritch arts they solidify these into iridescent gemstones of strange geometry. These are the basis of Vrock economy, and find value as currency across the cosmos.

There is a tale related by sages of the stars, perhaps apocryphal, that there was once a planet of men who had somehow found peace. Part of this peace was a worldwide vow of silence. The Vrock came across this globe; each and every person on that planet died screaming everything they had ever done alone, for each of those pleading revelations were a secret never told.

These two factions are locked in an eternal skirmish over this tainted globe; sending wave of minions against each other as regularly as the seasons. Neither, however, are truly invested in this battle - this is war for war's sake. It is exceedingly rare for a Ranian above the topaz grade or almost any Vrock to fall in this struggle. It is as if it is done as a matter of courtesy to the other side, as if it is courtly etiquette to march their lessers against each other. It is madness.


Here I plug BRW Games' Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary, the source for these. The true reference here is the Slaad, first appearing in the Fiend Folio, but they were not included in the OGL. There are six types listed in the Bestiary; I convert here only the Pearl type.

% In Lair: 0%
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 20' (6')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2**
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage: 1d2, 1d2, 1d4
Save: F2
Morale: -1
Treasure Type: None

The pearl ranian is most often found as a familiar for sorcerers who have allied themselves with the Ranians of Ruhn, in order to gain knowledge and power. It looks much like a humanoid frog, under 3 feet in height, of a pale, pearlescent complexion.

Pearl ranians can only be harmed by magical weapons. They may alter their form into that of a terrestrial amphibian, but will retain a very pale coloration.

A pearl ranian will act in every way like a regular familiar (see pg60, ACKS) with the additional features below:

  • The mage will accept the implantation of a pearl in the flesh of his forehead; this allows the familiar bond. Removal of the pearl results in the same effects as if the familiar has died.
  • Once per month, the mage may Contact Other Plane, as the spell, with the Ranian he has compacted with.
  • The mage enjoys a telepathic link with the familiar, and is able to see and hear what the familiar experiences with a range of 1 mile.
  • The mage gains a +4 to all saving throws versus spells.
The pearl ranian itself may communicate with it's Ranian master at any time.

Additional responsibilities the mage may have to the Ranian it has compacted with are left for the Judge, but it is suggested the mage may receive a task once per season.

This vrock is from the ACKS version of Dwimmermount. I've made an attempt to change the treasure to be more fitting to the above fiction.
% In Lair: 25%
Dungeon Enc: Flight (1d3) / Coven (1d6)
Wilderness Enc: Wing (1d6) / Coven (1d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40') / 180' (60') fly
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 8*
Attacks: 5 (2 claws, 2 rear claws, beak)
Damage: 1d4/1d4, 1d8/1d8, 1d6
Save: F8
Morale: +3
Treasure Type: D+H (replace all coin with gems of equal value)
XP: 1,100

Vrocks resemble 8 foot tall humanoid vultures with fierce beaks and four sharp claws. In combat they can attack with all four claws and a bite if airborne, or two claws and a bite if on the ground.

Vrocks have the following spell-like abilities usable at will: darkness 10’ radius, detect invisibility, and telekinesis (200lbs.). In addition, a vrock can attempt to gate another vrock demon once per day (10% probability of success). 

Like all demons, they take half damage from attacks based on cold, electricity, fire, and gas, and possess 90-foot infravision and telepathy.

They are vain and aloof, and are often receptive to offers including treasure of a gaudy or sparkling nature. They are especially covetous of secrets; the darker the better. These secrets they congeal into gemstones, which are used as currency across the cosmos.

Ranians. My wife has toads downstairs in a terrarium. They are lazy; immobile; gluttonous. Their main movement during the week is towards and into the small bowl where she occasionally places snacks of mealworms; so that they guilt her into a feeding. Imagine this attitude on a cosmic, immortal scale, creatures of malign intent, malevolent intelligence, and infinite patience waiting for a payoff only they can comprehend, the tiniest of nudges (on a cosmic scale; on the scale of mortal men, this nudge may topple emperors) the next step towards fulfillment.

Vrock? Imagine the Skeksis from Dark Crystal, including the voices, who instead make gems out of the basest and guiltiest secrets they can pry out of living creatures. Their wealth is inexhaustible.

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