Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Baleful Sky: Alfim

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

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

A chill night, but, not so cold as amongst the stars.

This is the gift of Sol; a Light, a warmth that quickens Life, a heat that does not  burn but kindles hope, a comfort that does not coddle but enables progress. These are the tenets by which we guide mankind.

Emerald Alfim; home of the Elfish

Next, past Lune, past the glory of Sol, is Alfim, an emerald gem, ever clouded, surface hidden from our arts. We know that planet's masters, the Elfish, as they are part of our history here. In fact, their history here is all we know - they do not speak of Alfim. So; instead, a brief history of Earth:

In ages long past, after the Starfall and the destruction of the snakemen, after the High Men arrived from across the sea, there was the Translation.

According to the Elfish; their planet was wracked by a war spanning generations, in an immortal race, such a war is eternal. Two sects of Elfish decided to escape this war by quitting their planet. Over long eons they labored to invent the sorceries and sciences that would allow their flight, and when the stars were right, they made the Translation.

The first one would have noticed of the event were two rings of stones, many miles in diameter, falling through the sky aflame; these were the Obelisks. The first landed in the northeastern forests of the world, known know as the Atalosta Forest. The second landed in the hills astride Lake Khundru. Moments later, a blinding flash, then: silence. Had you survived the event, a roiling fog emanating from the center of the obelisk ring would have soon consumed you, as it established a border for their home.

Some years later, the Elfish emerged to take stock of their new home. They came upon the scions of the First Empire, founded by the High Men, and found peace for the first time. The northern enclave, the Atalosta, sought trade and travel, and, after time, saw most of the world. The Khundru, more circumspect, kept to their city on the hill, accepting visitation but keeping mostly behind their own walls.

In time, both settlements thrived; the natural poison that is the iron of our world was controlled within their realm, children were born, arts created, sorceries invented. The bond between the Elfish and the High Men grew stronger, and in those waning days of the First Empire, an alliance was formed. By arcane rituals the noble bloodlines were joined, and the Second Empire was founded, that of the Half-Elven Princes.

This was an age of sorcery and science, of sages and sailors.

But, all empires must fall. The blood of the Princes began to run thin. The Low Men (of which we are today) became restless, beginning to think they exchanged legless masters for legged ones.

The will of the immortal Elfish began to fade. The Khundru, never quite comfortable with the idea of the Princes, began to withdraw to their city. The Atalosta retreated to their forest realms. Children no longer graced a family's hearth. The Princes and the Second Empire were left to fade.

A rift developed between the two settlements. The Atalosta began to drown in regret. They retreated deep into the forest, behind their glamours and shrouding fogs, and watch the night sky in their somnolence, eyes always on the green gem of Alfime. The Kundru, more mercurial, denied their heritage, and abandoned their city. They divorced themselves from their inherent magicks, embraced the iron of the Earth, and bent their backs to the tunnels of the underworld. They are now the Dwarrow, masters of crafting the fruits of the deep Earth, and they are a dark, brooding people. They can be approached however, with promises of wealth. The Wartables of Tallis and the accompanying 'ironboys', to use the vernacular, were crafted by a Dwarrow of particular cunning. The majestic towers of Khundrukar now stand silent, haunted by memory.

Thus ended the Second Empire.

The Elfish were not all that Translated, however; with them came their servitors, the goblinoids, as well as any number of strange fey creatures, caught up in the area of the ritual, some accidentally, others purposefully. A wondrous time for a sage, perhaps, when they first arrived, but now, well. In the long term, perhaps, better they had not came at all. Fortunately, our world is high in iron and other true metals that have long impeded these Fey - if our world was not naturally inimical to these creatures we may have been overrun long ago.


% In Lair: 10%
Dungeon Enc: Fellowship (1d4) / Haven (1 Company)
Wilderness Enc: Company (1d10 Fellowships)/Fastness (1d10 Companies)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 5*
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d8+2 or weapon
Save: F5
Morale: +2
Treasure Type: L (per company)

The Elfish of Atalosta are tall humanoids, ranging from 6 to 7 feet tall, with a lithe build. Their skin tends to a fair pearlescent, and their hair will range from a blued black to platinum. Tilted, oval eyes, without pupils, in a myriad of natural colors grace aquiline faces, framed by long, pointed ears.

Elfish dress themselves in clothes of exquisite quality, and armor themselves in light chain of a metal alien to earth. They are armed with curved swords, shields, and composite bows.

Elfish cast spells as a 5th level Mage. Companies may be led by a leader having 6HD (casting at 6th level). Each fastness is it's own independent entity; led by a 9HD Elfish (casting at 9th level); these lords and ladies pay some small deference to their Queen, ruling from the dim center of the Atalosta forest.

Elfish take 1 extra point of damage from iron-based weapons, and will not abide holding or wearing iron items.

% In Lair: 50%
Dungeon Enc: Squad (1d4) / Redoubt (1 Company)
Wilderness Enc: Company (1d10 Squads)/Vault (1d10 Companies)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d8+1 or weapon
Save: F4
Morale: +2
Treasure Type: H*2 (per company)

The dwarrow physically resemble the Elfish; however, their height is masked by a stooped posture, their skin is darkened to a dusty grey, their eyes glinting and metallic.

Dwarrow prefer functional raiment, usually in leather from some underearth beast. They wear heavy chain mail of iron, flouting their past, and prefer heavy bladed axes and warhammers. They do not use bows, due to their posture, but have crossbows of masterwork quality. 

Companies may be lead by a leader having 6HD; each vault lead by a 9HD lord. Dwarrow do not recognize any central authority; each vault lives independently. They can be persuaded to turn their minds to crafts of unique quality and menace, if the price is right. Each is a grandmaster craftsman.

Rumors persist amongst the learned of a splinter group of Dwarrow ruled by a tyrant-cultist "el Oth", who lords over a force of eight vaults, in defiance of Dwarrow norms.

Dwarrow take no extra harm or discomfort from iron.

On Goblinoids

Goblinoids were engineered as a servitor species by the Elfish on their homeworld, and despite an effort (a token effort, according to most historians of the Second Empire) to leave them behind, much of the detritus of that planet came along with them during the Translation, including the goblinoid.

Since that time, goblinoids have been found nearly everywhere, often in the keeps of sorcerers - here in mighty Hendja, it is said one is not a wizard if one does not have a goblin grotto.

There is much to be said about these versatile creatures, as there is ample research published by these self-same sorcerers. What follows is an abridged introduction from Kaihish Khalsa Rahooj, once the most learned sage on the goblinoid:

Goblinoids are grown (in a sense; it is much more like congealing), not born; in dank grottoes filled with mulch of unknown provenance. This is the only true industry goblins show, and a major part of their culture - from the moment they claw themselves from the muck of the grotto, they are put back to labor tending that same muck, while the oldest goblin in the hierarchy is then free to occupy the next rung on their social ladder. That rung is that of collector; goblins sprout buds from their skullstones at irregular times, and can't be bothered to place them someplace central - collectors sweep the warrens, gathering these buds, and skullstones from goblins who have expired for one reason or another, taking them back to the grotto. Eventually the collecting goblin is accosted and put to a different task, and the circle of life continues.

Goblinoids of the same grotto tend to have the same coloration and general demeanor, in fact, study of their skullstones (a small woody pit around which their skull has fused, and the final remnants of the bud around which they congealed) reveals that much of their inborn behavior, and, indeed, "cultural" memories, are contained within and available to the live goblin, and an agreeable specimen can speak profusely on the history or their particular strain, albeit from a somewhat alien perspective. Arcane libraries of repute will have several copies of the known skullstone strains; it has been some time since a new one has been discovered.

When directed or in times of stress, the larger specimens of goblinoid, the hobgoblin and the bugbear, to use the common terms, can be produced via fertilization of the grotto in various and increasingly morbid ways. A goblin ripens in about 6 months, the hob in 8, and the bugbear in one year, allowing for quick population growth when pushed. It is known that this is wholly an invention of the mages, wizards, and various arcane practitioners of this planet, and the moral implications of teaching an invasive species to grow and better itself have been written on exhaustively and will not continue to be spoken of here.

Goblinoids naturally organize themselves into a semblance of civilization, and have hierarchies based on age and size. Free-range goblinoid warrens will often be lead by what they term a Goblin King, usually an enormous specimen of particular cunning. These underground warrens tend to be chaotically arranged, with haphazard bridging and ropes connecting various levels in the caverns they prefer, with oddly ingenious machinery aiding them in what lackadaisical industry they perform when missing clear direction from a superior mind.

Goblinoids eat little, and excrete not at all, and continue to grow until they reach some equilibrium depending on their heritage and other random factors. Their bodily structures resemble more plant and fungus than animal, and their bones are somewhat haphazard growths of mineral. The Elfish were wholly against sharing any history of the development of these creatures during the Second Empire, and their science and sorcery is still beyond our best. Goblins from the eldest strains reveal their forms were much more different; fair and fine; when they were produced on Alfime; it is the common opinion that the iron content of this planet which so vexes the Elfish also affects their produce.

Goblinoids are compelled by nature to obey orders from an Elfish; it is said the Dwarrow lost this ability when they divested themselves of their powers, and now simply eradicate the creatures when found. They have a genetic desire to serve a more powerful being, and as such make easy hirelings for a practitioner of the arcane. They are particularly keen to serve Barghest; shapeshifting daemons from a far-off star, whose general appearance resemble goblinoids. The warg riding elites ape these creatures -  hoping to find a measure of respect in imitation.

All in all, they are highly useful creatures, and like any tool, their effects upon the local ecologies are wholly left to their wielder. I and the Thaumaturges of Hendja continue to promote responsible use amongst our brethren.

Addendum: It is rumored Kaihish Khalsa Rahooj was successful in his research of producing a goblinoid completely isolated from iron. There is talk his last notebooks were found, and within he refers to the goblinoid as a "she", frequently remarking on "her exquisite form and grace" in various florid and increasingly cryptic texts for several days before the date of his abrupt disappearance. The Thaumaturges dispute these rumors, and if this feat has been repeated, it has not been publicized amongst the learned.


% In Lair: 40%
Dungeon Enc: Gang (2d4) / Lair (1 Warband)
Wilderness Enc: Warband (2d6 Gangs)/Grotto (1d10 Warbands)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60' (20)
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 1-1 to 4
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d6 or weapon
Save: Level 0 to F2 
Morale: -1
Treasure Type: E (per warband)
XP: 5 - 

All goblinoids have 90' infravision, and take a -1 penalty to all attack throws in full sunlight. Each gang will be lead by a 1 HD champion; each warband by a 2 HD subchief; most established grottos will have a 4HD "King", a large creature of some girth. Most grottos will have at least one gang of hobgoblins, and perhaps a handful of bugbears, nominally loyal to the king.

There are, of course, many more fey types; the satyrs who plot in the high mountains, the minuscule pixies, sprites, and other such nuisances, the nixies, nymphs, and dryads, who charm men irresponsibly. Those are for another lesson.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Two Magical Items

So, nothing like a boss swap at work to tamp down on one's lunchtime punditry.

As proof of life, a couple magic items I'd sent in to the OSR Superstar contest.

Unexpectedly, the first one made the cut, so I'm trying to summon something from further stars that may or may not survive the second round.

The Lode Rod

This  5 ft long hollow iron rod (one end open, the other closed) is heavy (about 1 stone), and magnetized. Normally, it will only attract other magnetic metals.

However, if one melts 10 coins worth of a different metal, and pours it into the rod, the magic will activate and it will act as a strong magnet for that specific metal type, whether naturally magnetic or not. 

Fill it with copper, and drag it through a rat colony's refuse piles, and find all the coppers. Fill it with platinum and drag it through a dragon's hoard, and sift the platinum from the gold. It will attract (from no more than 2 feet away) and hold quadruple its weight (4 stone) in coin or metal of it's current affinity.

The closed end of the rod has a rune inscribed (Dwarfish for 'release'). If tapped firmly on stone thrice, the metal melted into the rod will slide out once the rod is upended.

The Dayglow

A dayglow is a 2 inch crystal sphere; perfectly clear. If placed outside in a clear area (a roof; a clear field; top of a tower) where it stays out of shadow from dusk till dawn, it will become charged. When charged, peering into the dayglow will show you the current position of the sun in the sky, as if you were looking up on a clear day. It sheds light as a weak candle; just enough to read by.

The charge will last one week, useful for underground expeditions.

If the dayglow is charged outside in the same conditions at  night, it will reveal the current phase and location of the moon in the sky. This charge will last until the moon again reaches the same phase it was charged on.