The Ambition to Fight Back

More Tumblr-spiration.

One of my biggest peeves about Harry Potter was the scene in Deathly Hollows where all of Slytherin was thrown under the bus because of one loud-mouthed turn-coat. It was the conclusion of the paper-thin, transparent archetype houses that Rowling had wrote for seven books, where all of Gryffindor was good and righteous and main character material (except Pettigrew, who hadn’t been a Gryffindor for decades) and all of Slytherin was evil and cowardly and conniving and antagonist material (except Regulus Black, except he just happened to turn good at the last second of his life), and all of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were background characters more akin to props than people.

Apparently Rowling justifies Slytherins’ objection to fighting by saying that they would have been fighting their family. That… ok, maybe this is an american thing, what with the war of brothers in our history, but that’s just not good enough to me. That seems like all the more reason for them to fight.

“Potter’s right there, let’s just give him to Lord Voldemort!”

Pansy Parkinson was pointing to the boy who lived, who’d sought a brief refuge in the long final night of conflict between him and the would-be tyrannical facist, and he froze. The Gryffindors stood and whirled around to face the Slytherins, wands drawn as they turned.

Each and every Slytherin had already stepped back twice, save the loud-mouthed young woman who was ready to sell Potter out, leaving her standing alone in the center of four houses of wizards and witches.

“Does anyone else believe we should hand over our own student to the wizard who wishes to finish the murder he could not accomplish 17 years ago?” McGonagal asked, a brow arched.

Pansy looked around to find the rest of her house staring intently at their shoes and the cobbles beneath them. “But- but it’s him or us!” she cried in a strangled voice.

A single Slytherin pushed through the crowd and put a hand on her shoulder- turning her around to face them, a queer magic user who used the terms witch and wizard for themselves on a whim, who’d been found in several parts of the castle and dungeons entangled with both witches and wizards over the years, who was widely considered an embarrassment in Slytherin, not so much for their predilections but more for their libertine attitudes about Muggles and mixed blood magic-folk. “Pansy,” they hissed, “I can assure you that there will be death this night. But it will not be a matter of Potter or us. It will be a matter of Voldemort or us. After seven years, do you really think that Voldemort and the Deatheaters can prevail when they could not kill Potter and his friends in the chamber of prophecies? In a graveyard with no one aware of his whereabouts and no assistance? Potter will live this night, and even if that were not the case, I am sick of being part of this racist, despicable house. I am sick of the people out there in grim masks spouting all sorts of anti-muggle, homophobic, sexist bullshit, assuming not only that I agree with them, but that they are right.”

The witch-wizard released the quivering woman’s shoulder, and she slumped to the ground.

“Alright, you den of serpents,” they said, turning to address the bigots and aspirants they’d dormed with for seven years. “The fuckers out there believe that lineage, or sex, or blood dictate magical power, and they’ve been a blight on our proud house, changing our reputation from ‘those who aspire’ to ‘those who hate.’ Meanwhile, we’ve just spent seven years trying to outdo a muggleborn woman who was born to dentists and is regularly called ‘The Brightest Witch of Her Age.’ I don’t care if you like it, we have empirical proof that magical talent is about intellect and cleverness, not blood or parts.” They whipped their long, ebony wand from a sleeve, “and I for one am tired of being held to such an archaic, offensive standard that would deny my mind and attribute everything I am to what is in my veins or between my legs! So I’m fighting those fuckers!”

The crowd of Slytherins murmured to one another, and looked to them doubtfully.

McGonagal peered at the foul-mouthed agitator, and stepped up to join them, “Are any other Slytherins going to join us in the fight?” she asked imperiously.

The murmured amongst themselves again, but this time one stepped forward, a young fourth year, one eye concealed by her hair, a voice that faltered unaccustomed to being raise, “Professor,” she beseeched, “those are family members out there,” she said. “A lot of us… we can’t go into that. But… we know our potions. Some of us are pretty decent with healing, especially those who often patched up the… trouble makers of our house. Let us see to wounded, we can see what we can do inside, but it’s just… not in  a lot of us to level a wand at our parents. …or sisters.”

The woman nodded, “very well,” she turned to Filch, “Escort Ms. Parkinson to the Dungeons, Filch.” She turned back to the assembled Slytherins as the crooked man put a hand on Pansy’s shoulder and steered her to the stairs. “The rest of you, make yourselves useful. We will triage wounded here. Get what will be needed from the potions room, Snape kept more supplies in his office. Those with the stomachs to fight come with me.”

McGonagal strode out of the Great Hall with three houses, and more than a few Slytherins falling in behind her, the queer-witch pushing through the crowd level with McGonagal and Potter, but addressing neither. The older witch placed a hand on their shoulder, though, “While the sentiment is appreciated, as is the convincing of your house mates to aid us, the language…”

“I got ya,” the young wizard-witch nodded, “Sorry, my passions got away from me.”

“Well, such is the liberty of youth,” McGonagal replied, “I wouldn’t say that such a speech would not have come from me at your age…”

The young wizh smiled and doubled their speed as the army neared the bridge, crossing it eagerly as Deatheaters began to ready themselves for the battle to be rejoined.

They can’t remember which side cast first in the second stage of the war, but they remembered every familiar voice, every seen-before boot, every cloak-clad body she’d seen elsewhere. The witchard shouted in gleeful fury as they spun and dodged and threw spells. They, being a Slytherin and famously under-trained in it, were never skilled at the Patronus charm, but they found themselves making a new memory, a memory of standing up to every hateful wretch she’d had to take tea with, had to listen to as they were lectured about the inadequacies of half-bloods, had to bite their tongue to keep from raging against the homophobic slurs of, of blasting handsy “uncles” in the fork for every pinch of their ass, and in the heat let loose an explosive cry of EXPECTO PATRONUM! and marveled as an immense basilisk of silver light, crowned with crest and horns and a wide hood rimmed with spines spreading from it’s neck slithered from the end of their wand, hissing and rasping and sending Deatheaters flying with deft swipes of it’s luminous tail, the King of Snakes sending the servants of the pretender to the throne sprawling.

Inside the Great Hall, Slytherins mixed potions and worked with Madam Pomfrey to administer aid. They rubbed salves in, coaxed people into drinking bitter brews, and bandaged wounds. At first, wounded students could only remember every cup of pumpkin juice they’d drank that’d been hexed by a Slytherin, and hesitate. But little by little, whether due to pain, or shock, or horror, they trusted in the new leaves turning over, and every sip redeemed the house’s reputation that little bit.

The Slytherins, for their part, kept their heads down and focused on the matter at hand, trying to block out the shouts outside the walls. Everyone of them could hear the cries of family and friends all too clearly, even if it was imagined, and shut their eyes as they stirred and cut and poured. Some pleaded that their family be brought in to be healed too, others told the fighters that the people who birthed them could be left to rot like the refuse they’d decided to be.

As the queer-witch fought, they also thought about those vast halls that would lie empty and filled with all sorts of magical goods–not everyone in Slytherin had trust funds, some had ambitions to acquire wealth as well as power.

But most of all, they aspired to topple the hateful upper echelons of Wizarding Society, and repay every injustice they’d ever given.

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[D&D, Tome] Character Backgrounds

A few years back, a couple of the more prominent posters on the gaming forum I post on wrote up a rather extensive series of fixes for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, collectively called The Tomes, aimed at bringing non-casters up to the power level of spellcasters (because the reverse is even more work). Lately there’s been a bit of a resurgence of focus on working on the Tomes, collating things into a single pdf, adding more material in a less sporadic method, and so on.

One thing they introduced in the Tomes to beef characters up a bit, and encourage those characters to be organic and more fleshed out was Backgrounds, which were sort of like mini-feats you got for doing the bare minimum work in writing a backstory for your character. They also helped you figure out what your character’s backstory was by giving you a prompt when you knew you wanted a specific one. A thread came up about creating some more, because there’s only 10 or so backgrounds in the original Tome material, and I’ve written up a few, so I figured I’d move those over here for more exposure.

Living Weapon Snkt
You, for some reason, whether hyper specific psionic meditation, experimental meddling with your aura or genetics when you were a child, possession by a violent spirit, or some other thing, can create weapons attached to your body at will.
Effect: As a move action, you may produce a weapon from your body which mimics the stats of any one Simple or Martial weapon (or a pair of light weapons), which may be composed of bone, chitin, horn, psionic/spiritual/arcane energy or whatever material–however, whatever material it is made of, it behaves exactly like a standard version of the weapon it mimics. Form and material are chosen at character creation and cannot later be changed except through magic. However, people who don’t have metal claws hidden up their arm find your augmentation horrifying. While this does give you Intimidate as a Class Skill, it also makes NPC initial attitudes start one step worse. Also whatever gave you these weapons was probably pretty traumatic, and you may occasionally run into parts of your past which want to kill you, fill you with rage, or are complete mysteries to you.

Artificial “I am fully functional, and anatomically correct.”
You were made by another person. But, like, not through the usual means- through special magical artifice means. You’re a robot person, is what I’m saying.
Effect: You have the Construct type (See below). The DC to repair you is 10+one half your HD+your highest stat. You are confused by living creatures and their emotions and habits, and probably spend a lot of time trying to understand them. Charisma based skills meant to affect you suffer a -2 penalty, but charisma based skills you use to affect others do as well, as you and the living things around you aren’t speaking quite the same language. The exception to this Intimidate–being an emotionally distant, pain-resistant arcane construct with glowing eyes just makes you better at that, and as such, Intimidate is always a class skill for you and you gain a +2 bonus to it.

  • Low Light Vision
  • Dark Vision 60′
  • Poor Healing: Daily healing rate is 0, can be healed through magical means
  • Mindless: Immune to [Mind Affecting] effects, cannot be detected with detect thoughts.
  • Never Alive: Cannot be raised or resurrected, immune to energy drain.
  • Repairable: Becomes inert, not staggered, at 0 and below hit points, does not die at -10. Can be repaired with a Craft check taking 1 hour of work per point it was below 1 hp.
  • Nonbiological: Does not eat or breath, does not age. A construct is not affected by any effect that allows a Fort save unless that effect affects objects or is a (Harmless) effect. For example, a clockwork horror is not going to catch red fever or become nauseated by a stinking cloud. But it is not outside the realm of possibility for an eidolon to be afflicted with a totally magical disease that functions off of Willpower saves.

Gladiator “I’M CRUSHICUS!”
Before adventuring, you were the star of a gladiatorial arena. You may have started a mere slave, but through crushing the skulls of other mere slaves and winning the hearts of the crowd, you gradually earned your freedom, a reputation, and experience in crushing skulls. Or maybe you just escaped.
Effect: You may tell stories of your time in the gladiatorial arena to wow new people and make them like you, or to make your existing fans willing to help you out. People who have heard of your time in the arena have their initial attitude improved by one step, people who haven’t heard about you can be subjected to stories for ten minutes over drinks and likewise have their attitude improved by one step. As showmanship is important in the arena, Perform is always a class skill for you, but your first style must be something usable in the arena (this is somewhat broad, singing is fine, pipe organ not so much). Finally, you should probably fight in the arenas at least once a month to keep your reputation up. If you are an escaped slave, your former owner probably has men looking for you.

Magical Girl “In the name of Lolth, I will punish you!”
In the name of some vaguely defined concept or personified object, you punish evil doers. Or kill good doers. Or spank the naughty. Whatever. You are a magical warrior who makes speeches and shit, and that comes with some very specific implied powers. Or, you may or may not actually be a prepubescent and/or female. Whatever.
Effect: You have some manner of magical patron who will offer advice and might be the source of particularly plot important magical items that get used once and then forgotten. You also have the magical girl power of transformation–pick one outfit which may be armour and one weapon (or pair of light weapons) these start as masterwork items, and can be hidden in a dimensional pocket which will not hold anything else. You also have a small token of some sort, possibly disguised as a makeup compact or other mundane item, which allows you to summon these items once per encounter as a Full Round action where in you twirl and pose and are enshrouded in light. During this round, no one can attack you, and at the end the outfit is equipped and you may be holding your weapon readied, if you wish. If your outfit or weapon are damaged they will be fully repaired the next time you call them. Your special outfit and weapon have the Linked quality and can be further enchanted by sacrificing items to them as if you had the Ancestral Weapon feat from BoED. You’re probably ambushed by things with tentacles a lot when you’re not wearing your armour and trying to have a normal life, and you feel this weird compulsion to never tell anyone who isn’t part of your adventuring group about being a magical warrior, regardless of how much simpler it would be, and your propensity for making friendship speeches in battle makes Perform (oratory) always a class skill for you which you can use like Diplomacy for attitude improvement.

Medic “No one wanted to be relegated to healing duty and the cleric has better shit to do.”
Look, I get it, no one wants to spend major character resources on restoring hp for people. But people need to be healed if you’re going to get that infant-sized ruby at the bottom of the dungeon, so you scribbled down a bit in your background about being an army medic.
Effect: First, Kn. Nature, Heal and Survival are always class skills for you, and you have a +2 bonus to Heal. Second, you can perform a twenty minute ritual which restores X hp to each member of your part (three people plus one per point of Wisdom mod) where X is half their max hp. This ritual may be performed at will, but each time it is used without at least an hour passing since it’s last use, it takes twice as long as the last time it was used (1st time: 20 min, 2nd time: 40 min, 3rd time: 1hr 20 min, etc). This ritual requires special herbs which cost 1/4th the amount you would heal your party, or can be scrounged from most wilderness areas with twenty minutes and a successful Kn. Nature or Survival check. You can gather these ahead of time if you wish, but they lose potency 3 days after being picked. You probably also keep a pile of bandages which can be applied to injured people and allow them to heal 1hp per five minutes for a number of hours equal to your Wisdom mod.

Cook “And in the morning, I’m making waffles!”
Look, not everyone has special noble birth or great destinies or sob stories about growing up in the gutter. You grew up in a surviving merchant or inn owning family, and you learned to cook in between mucking out stables, cleaning shit and putting up with idiot customers. And you found you really enjoyed it.
Effect: What does being a cook get you? Well, people forget that cooking is actually pretty physical work. Your familiarity with knives and cleavers translates over into daggers, handaxes and throwing axes pretty well, and in fact you are proficient in them. In addition, lugging around bags of potatoes and flour has conditioned you for carrying shit and your carrying capacity is calculated as if your strength were two points higher. You have a repertoire of recipes and cooking techniques which you can put into use to keep your party’s morale up–anytime you take an hour to cook a meal while your party camps, everyone who eats can activate an Guidance, Resistance or Virtue effect with your character level as the caster level once in the ensuing 24 hours. If you have leftovers, people can eat them to gain another use after using their first (use Survival to determine how many servings you can make, or figure each serving costs 10 gp). Finally, you effectively have max ranks in Craft (Cooking) as if it were a class skill for you, if that ever actually matters.

Animal Magnetism “He followed me home, can I keep him!?”
Animals just inherently like you for some reason. While other people get mauled by wolves when they wander into the woods, you get a bunch of wolves sniffing at your backpack and begging for handouts while you’re trying to eat lunch.
…maybe they like you because you always share and word got around.
Effect: Creatures of the Animal type always have an attitude at least one point more in favour of you, and no worse than indifferent unless you attack them. If you’re in danger, there is a 10% chance that an animal appropriate to the environment will show up to help you. This chance is increased by 5% for every 5% your hp is below maximum, and decreased 10% for every time an animal has come to your rescue in the last 24 hours. The animal’s CR cannot exceed yours, nor be lower than yours minus 3. If you want a specific animal, roll charisma vs DC 20. Finally, you have a +4 bonus on Handle Animal and Ride checks when made to affect Animals. On the other hand, animals will wander up to you in the wilderness and want attention and handouts, and Mister Cavern is encouraged to have this happen when you’re trying to sneak, especially if you rolled poorly.

Crocodile Charmer “Look at this beauty. If she bites you, the cleric won’t even have time to cast a healing spell. …I’m gonna touch her!”
You have a way with reptiles and similar creatures. Maybe you got dumped in a pit of them when you were a kid, maybe you grew up in a crazy religious sect that uses snakes to test it’s piety. Maybe you just like them.
Effect: You begin play with three doses of antitoxin and a pet tiny viper that has 2 int and already knows a full array of tricks. You also gain +4 to handle animal and diplomacy checks made against Scaled Ones. Scaled Ones Animals and Magical Beasts have an initial attitude one point in your favour (no worse than Indifferent), and will not attack you unless you attack them first.

Sea Monkey “Warblgarbl.”
You come from the sea. You have fins and gills and probably a bluer skin tone than normal, and people think you want their land-women. They’re not necessarily wrong.
Effect: You’re an otherwise normal specimen of your race, you just happen to be an obscure sub type which lives in water. You can swim at your land speed and either have the Hold Breath ability or can breath underwater, if you select the latter, you cannot breath air, but you do have a bulky collar-like piece of equipment that allows you to adventure on land for up to 16 hours at a time before you need to rest in water and let it recharge. This collar is a very simple magic item and just needs to be immersed in water for eight hours, which you can do while you sleep since you’re usually going to be sleeping in water too.

Giant Frog “Ribbit.”
The primal chaos of limbo flows in your veins. And sometimes outside you veins. And sometimes through other parts of you. Look, it’s all very complicated hipster math, alright?
Effect: In times of great need, you can call upon the power of giant frog to giant frog your giant frog giant frogs. When you are at or below 1/4 your total hit points, the power of chaos activates within you, and you roll on the following chart-

d20 Effect 1d8 Spell School
1-8 Cantrip 1 Abjuration
9-17 Level 1 spell 2 Conjuration
18-19 Level 2 spell 3 Divination
20 Level 3 spell 4 Enchantment
Roll d12 Caster Level 5 Evocation
1 Character Level-2 6 Illusion
2-3 Character Level-1 7 Necromancy
4-9 Character Level 8 Transmutation
10-11 Character Level+1
12 Character Level+2
Cantrips wrote:
  • Abjuration– Resistance
  • Conjuration– Acid Splash*
  • Divination– Prestidigitation (yes, I know it’s Uni.)
  • Enchantment– Daze*
  • Evocation– Ray of Frost*
  • Illusion– Ghost Sounds
  • Necromancy– Touch of Fatigue*
  • Transmutation– Mage Hand
1st Level wrote:
  • Abjuration– Roll 1d6; 1: Prot.Good, 2: Prot.Evil, 3: Prot.Chaos, 4: Prot.Law, 5-6: Shield
  • Conjuration– Summon Chaos Bullfrog (Anarchic Dire Rat)
  • Divination– True Strike
  • Enchantment– Sleep**
  • Evocation– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Burning Hands, 3-4: Magic Missile*, 5-6: Shocking Grasp
  • Illusion– Roll 1d4; 1-3: Colour Spray, 4: Minor Image
  • Necromancy– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Cause Fear, 3-4: Chill Touch, 5-6: Ray of Enfeeblement
  • Transmutation– Roll 1d6: 1: Animate Rope, 2: Enlarge Person, 3: Expeditious Retreat, 4: Jump, 5: Magic Weapon, 6: Reduce Person*
2nd Level wrote:
  • Abjuration– Roll 1d4; 1-2: Protection from Arrows, 3-4: Resist Energy
  • Conjuration– Summon Toad Swarm (Rat swarm)
  • Divination– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Detect Thoughts, 3-4: Locate Object, 5-6: See Invisibility
  • Enchantment– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Daze Monster*, 3-4: Hideous Laughter*, 5-6: Touch of Idiocy
  • Evocation– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Darkness (centered on you), 3: Flaming Sphere (moves a random direction each round, d10, stays put on a 1 or 10), 4: Gust of Wind, 5: Scorching Ray*, 6: Shatter* (weapon or armour)
  • Illusion– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Blur, 3-4: Invisibility, 5-6: Mirror Image
  • Necromancy– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Blindness/Deafness, 3-4: False Life, 5-6: Scare
  • Transmutation– Roll 1d8; 1: Bear’s Endurance, 2: Bull’s Strength, 3: Cat’s Grace, 4: Eagle’s Splendor, 5: Fox’s Cunning, 6: Levitate, 7: Owl’s Wisdom, 8: Spider Climb
3rd Level wrote:
  • Abjuration– Roll 1d6; 1: Dispel Magic*, 2: Magic Circle v. Chaos, 3: Magic Circle v. Evil, 4: MCvGood, 5: MCvLaw, 6: Protection from Energy
  • Conjuration– Summon Dire Toad (as SMIII, Dire Toad is MM2)
  • Divination– Cure Serious Wounds (yes, I know it’s Conj.)
  • Enchantment– Roll 1d4; 1: Deep Slumber**, 2: Heroism***, 3: Hold Person*, 4: Rage
  • Evocation– Roll 1d4; 1-2: Fireball, 3-4: Lightning Bolt
  • Illusion– Roll 1d4; 1-2: Displacement, 3-4: Major Image
  • Necromancy– Roll 1d6; 1-2: Animate Dead (random corpse in range, destroyed at end of encounter), 3-4: Bestow Curse*, 5-6: Vampiric Touch
  • Transmutation– Roll 1d6; 1: Blink, 2: Fly, 3: Gaseous Form, 4: Haste, 5: Keen Edge, 6:Slow*

*affects a random enemy in range
**Randomly determine center of effect
***affects a random ally
If not otherwise noted, you are the target of non-touch spells. Touch spells can be held until you can touch a target.

Note- Giant Frog and Mister Cavern are Denisms. Giant Frog refers to the fact that in D&D, chaos shows the least diversity of form with the Slaad all being giant rugose things. Mister Cavern refers to an 80s Russian D&D clone where Dungeon Master was translated as Mister Cavern.

Transgressive–Valren

Valren fell into a chair in the dim tavern, and rifled through their bag, pulling out parchment and a quill. They hardly looked up as a server approached, “Mead, please.” Valren sighed as they scribbled. A potion of Altered Visage would cost 5 silvers, but only last about ten minutes. If they bought a more expensive one, they could be disguised for an hour’s time, but the potion would cost 30 silvers.

“Sorry boy, the temple of Hestic only accepts women as students.”

A temple course was easily within that duration, but they’d also need to keep up appearances throughout the day. If Valren was lucky, they could get a three hour potion, but it would cost nearly 100 silvers, and they’d need eight of them a day. If Valren learned how to brew the potions the materials would only cost half that, but 50 silvers a day is still a lot of money.

And a temple to a goddess of magic is not a place to expect to be lacking in magical detection.

Valren stabbed the quill into the table in frustration as the server returned with a mug of mead for them.

“Here you are, sir. 2 coppers.”

“Not a sir.” Valren muttered as they fished two coppers from a robe pocket.

“‘Scuse me?” the server asked confused.

Valren looked up. They knew their stubble was already growing back in, that their frame was too gawky, their chin too square. They peered into the server’s eyes. “Never mind,” they said, pushing the small coins into her hand.

“Let me know if you need anything else!” she said chipperly, turning to leave.

“Wait- do you have any pie today? Blueberry?”

“Yeah, would you like a slice?”

“I could use one, yeah,” Valren said, turning back to their quill sticking out of the scarred table. Valren grumbled again, and plucked the quill from the table, slipping it behind their ear, the pen’s long feather mimicking the long green point of their ear. They rubbed their face, reaching blindly into their bag to produce a soft leather bound bundle of crumpled and stained pages. In a move practiced to hind brain functions, they set the book on the table face down and opened to the piece of cardstock they were using as a bookmark.

The book was scribbled with a dark ochre ink–fortunately people don’t think about the colour blood turns when it’s dead and dry–and the pages smelled sickly sweet if you got too close–fortunately the only people who knew what that smell was had horror stories from the war where they were the monsters, so they didn’t pry. Valren scanned the pages to find where they’d left off last and started scribbling notes down in mirrorscript goblese.

Their native script of goblese would probably have been safe enough in most cities, but Golan had a not inconsiderable goblin population. Mirrorscript was about the least they could do to keep some secrecy.

Fortunately they’d invested in Secret Ink and and a lens of Magic Detection. When the server set down the plate of pie, even if she could read goblese written backwards, it would look like nothing more than incredibly tedious notes from the market approval board meetings.

“Are you a wizardry student?” she asked.

Valren looked up, “I wish,” they scowled, “No, there’s precisely one place to gain magical training in this town, and it only takes people it deems to be women. Valren speared a bite of pie with their fork and shoveled it into their mouth.

The server looked around and sat down. Valren hadn’t paid much attention to her at first, but noticed now she was a half-elf, a species surely only marginally more popular around town than goblin. “And of course only a fairly narrow scope of magic,” she said.

Valren cocked a painted on eyebrow. “You want to study too?”

The light boned, oak-toned half elf nodded, “But the sisters don’t take too kindly to the use of cast off husks.” She slipped the rough-bound tome from the goblin’s hand and turned it over to look at the front, “Binding?”

Valren’s golden eyes widened slightly, just an instant, “Well, when no one wants to teach you healing or fire magic and you find a book full of summoning sigils and incantations… you take what you can get.”

The two appraised each other–the server noted Valren’s awkward frame and crafted femininity, Valren noted the stud of bone next to her eye that they’d previously taken for a piercing.

“Viola,” the half-elf said, offering a hand.

“Valren,” the transgendered goblin said, taking the thing hand and shaking gently. “Magic detection?” they asked tapping the side of their eye socket analogous to the half-elf’s bone stud.

“Less conspicuous than goggles, greenie,” she taunted lightly.

“Lots of goblins wear goggles,” they replied. “Light makes us tetchy.

Patreon

My journey has been something of a rambling one. If life is a path, then my path was confused by so many people telling me what to do or not do or what path to take based on their own path, and just… some of the advice is good and always will be (“watch out for wolves”), but some is outdated (“oh, there’s a rest stop three miles down the path, it was there when I went down the path twenty years ago!”) and some is just wrong because their path is not yours (“You have to hop across the river on rocks for half a mile once your five days in.” “…there is no river here…” “Of course there is!”).

I had no map, and the maps people tried to give me were outdated and often for entirely different paths, but no one could find one for my actual path. I’ve started making my own map, asking advice from and looking at people who have similar end points. But I’m also just tired of trying to follow a path that isn’t there, or doesn’t work for me. This blog was a stuttering attempt to train for a path, but I’m tired, and so it is now a machete with which I’ll carve my own, that I may show it off to those who believed and doubted me.

To that end, I’m launching a Patreon so I can hopefully focus on this blog and my creative assets more and more, until I’m making a living writing and designing games. The road will still be hard, I’m probably going to need to sharpen this machete a good number of times, and I may have to trudge back to the old path a few times, but I’m always going to come back here, and if the people who like my writing are willing to spot me a whetstone, I’ll put my all into this.

…that was a long metaphor and not at all planned… I’m glad it worked out.

 

Anyway. Looking at one of my creative role models, I’m taking her advice, and I’m asking. I’m asking for help. I’m asking for people who enjoy reading my weird ideas to help me keep writing those weird ideas by taking care of more material concerns.

 

What do you get from supporting me?

Well, I’m new to this, and I’m not producing a single constant product, so it took some thought. I’m starting the rewards at $3 a month where you get my thanks, and $5/mo where you get my thanks and your name in whatever my first book is (it’s going to be a bit of a wait, but I’m hoping that book can be a reality sometime in 2016).

The last two levels, $10 and $15 a month relate to a couple features I’m looking at introducing to the blog. I’m going to push myself, and having found that my longest stories here hover around 2500 words, I’m going to try to get a 5000 word story written each month. Patrons at the $10 a month level get to suggest story ideas and topics and then vote what that 5000 word story will be. I also want to start writing about food and put together my two majors from college, so every week I will write a food article, usually a piece about a dish, it’s history or cultural significance and my experience making it, or possibly a review (though I’m going to avoid these since they’ll be so localized). As a $15 a month patron, you get to suggest what a week’s food article will be about.

As time goes on, I’ll hopefully have more things going on, more inspiration, and more money to put into some of the ideas I’ve had percolating, so all Patrons will also get first announcement of major projects.

 

So, will you help me make this a reality?

Minds Turning Like Graves

It was a young shepherd who first told us, before we heard a thing.

He came running flat out into town, “the, the nec-” he gasped for breath as he stood doubled over in front of the town elder. He put his hand on the boy’s hot shoulder, told him to take a moment. Standing up straighter, he tried again, “The necromancers,” he wheezed, “they- they’re coming and…” he sucked in another breath, “Well. you have to see it.”

We heard it first. The sound of wind whistling through bones clattering slightly, a slow march step and the creak of wheels. A large white banner rose over the hill, poles clutched in shining white hands of skeletons marching before wagon with white pennants streaming from short poles on it’s corners. A group dressed in blacks and reds sat in the driving seat of the wagon, and on the walls of it’s bed, but no one held the reigns. A skeletal horse team drew it, and seemed to need no direction. It slowed of it’s own accord as it approached town, but stopped just outside the gates.

One of the spellcasters hopped down from the wagon, and straightened his robe.

All of them wore fine plush robes, so clean they shined, without wrinkle or blemish. They seemed to want to make an impression on us.

“Hail,” the necromancer said, “may we speak with the elder? We have an offer to make.”

There were murmurs through the crowd that had gathered, and a wave of fearful anger swept through it, until it dissipated as the elder stood from his seat on the wall of the town well and held a hand up to calm his people.

“I am the elder,” he said, “you may call me Jerrick.”

“Hail, Jerrick, I am Vesner. May my companions- sorry, living companions, come into your town? The skeletons will stay out here.”

“Who will control them if you come in?” Elder Jerrick asked, more inquisitive than accusatory or fearful.

“They have orders to remain here and do nothing. Doing nothing is their default state, it takes a command for them to act.”

Elder Jerrick nodded, and motioned for the watch to let them in. “Do you take tea?” he asked the necromancer who’d identified himself as Vesner.

“Yes, please,” the necromancer said with unexpected graciousness.

Elder Jerrick whispered a request for tea to his daughter who disappeared into the Elder’s house at the center of the market. “Well, it’s quite a lovely day, shall we speak out here?” Elder Jerrick asked Vesner, motioning to a shaded clearing surrounded by fruit trees.

Vesner and his companions looked around, “so long as your people don’t mind, with pleasure.”

The group sat and talked over tea as Elder Jerrick’s daughter emerged with a tray and kettle. The spellcasters explained their plan, including the provenance of the skeletons they’d brought–some were prisoners who’d been executed, others who’d had no family at death and accepted a lavish religious funeral in exchange for donation of their body, but, surprisingly, many of them were apparently entirely magically created.

We didn’t know magic could do that.

At the end of hours of talk, Elder Jerrick, who’d listened politely and quietly, only asking for clarification when it was needed nodded. “I cannot speak for my people on this. I understand that you are making this offer in good faith, and that your methods are quite apart from what we would assume. But at the end of the day, it is for them to decide whether they will accept.”

“Will you accept a skeleton, or small group of them, as town property?” Vesner asked. “They can be of great value.”

Elder Jerrick considered, and finally spoke, “let me think on that. Let us see what the people say. You have my permission to present your offer to them, though…” Elder Jerrick looked to the amassed horde outside the gate, “perhaps for space reasons, staying outside the town for that would be best.”

Vesner laughed. “Certainly, certainly. Thank you, Elder Jerrick.”

The older man nodded and shook their hands–he would later tell me those hands were quite cold–as they stood.

Vesner and his companions returned to their wagon and took a chest from beside the staves. As they opened it and pulled a table from it’s depths–far too large to have fit the chest’s apparent size–an attractive female necromancer started gathering the townspeople.

She was slight of form, but with a healthy softness. Her robes clung delicately to her body, and her hair was a bright red–in another context, it would be the colour of blood, but here, with such a cheerful smile, it called more to mind roses.

Maybe it was the rose that adorned it.

“Alright, we’re all friends here, gather around,” she said, motioning people to draw closer. “Does anyone have any particular magical training or talent?” she asked before beginning.

“I’m an adept,” Elder Jerrick offered, “I can manage a few blessings and tricks, but nothing on the order of a wizard. I’ve explained a few magical phenomena to my people now and again, though.”

“Great, just needed to know what the knowledge level was, wanted to make sure we didn’t accidentally talk down to you guys.” She flashed a brilliant, perfect smile. Those teeth were more otherworldly than any skeletal horde, just for their whiteness and evenness. A few in the crowd were audibly jealous.

“So, as you probably gathered,” Vesner said, taking the center, “we’re from the college which opened up a few days travel back–though with our horses, it’s one day’s travel. Horses that don’t need sleep are handy like that,” he stage muttered, to the appreciative murmurs of the farmers and couriers in the crowd. “We know that a tower full of necromancers is viewed slightly less favourably than an devastation beetle infestation popping up in most places, so we thought about what we could do to build some bridges with our neighbours.”

“What we came up with is offering some of the benefits of necromancy to folks, free of charge, just to take some of the mystery out of it,” the female necromancer said, “Hi, I’m Aleys.”

Another necromancer, a man of obvious ork lineage, with shoulders the size of Vesner’s twice over, and standing easily two feet taller, with a cloth over one eye, came up holding a staff and a torch-sized rod in one hand. His voice was a deep whisper, like far off rockfalls in caves. “You may call me Graf. What we decided to do was offer each household here a skeleton. We sent a runner up for some basic supplies who also did a quick count and a bit of reconnaissance,” tilted his head in theatric contrition, “Sorry about that.”

At Graf’s beckon, a skeleton emerged from the horde and walked over, clattering slightly as it walked. “One of the common misconceptions about undead,” he began, “is that the soul of the person is trapped inside. While it is true about some undead, usually sapient undead such as vampires, mindless undead, such as these skeletons, are magically animate automatons. Necromancers have used magic to converse with the dead in the afterlife, who had no knowledge of the use of their corpses in necromancy, so we can say with quite a bit of confidence that this skeleton is the shell that was used by a person in life, and nothing more.”

“Another misconception is that the undead hunger for the flesh of the living,” Aleys said. “Again, this is true for some, vampires and ghouls notably, but this skeleton hungers for nothing.” She crouched down and produced a rabbit from the chest and dramatically held it in front of the skeleton, which made no move.

“Much like an axe can be used to commit murder, a mindless skeleton can be used to destroy life.” Vesner said. “Kill the rabbit.” he commanded the skeleton passively and without interest. As the skeleton reached for the animal in Aleys’ arms, Vesner suddenly said “Stop!” causing it to halt in mid grab. “And just like an axe, it only carries the intent of the person who uses it. Hold the rabbit.” Vesner commanded, and Aleys placed the rabbit in the skeleton’s cradling arms.

The crowd’s breath held as the rabbit shifted in the arms of the skeleton, and it did nothing to the animal, even as the rabbit began to brux on the skeleton’s rib.

Vesner held the staff in his hand up, “This staff allows anyone holding it to use the spell Command Undead at will, as well as Inflict Light Wounds to repair the skeleton of any damage which it might suffer. Undead are fueled by antilife– the energy which heals a mortal harms an undead, and the energy which harms a mortal heals the undead. Would anyone like to try controlling the skeleton?”

The crowd muttered among themselves before the blacksmith, Richt, stepped forward. Vesner handed him the staff, “Remember, the skeleton will follow your command verbatim, exactly as you say.”

“How do I use the staff?” Richt asked.

“Just give a command to the skeleton with the intent to command it, the staff does the rest.”

Richt looked at the skeleton and pointed the staff at it, “Dr-put the rabbit down,” he said, with a steadiness that belied the anxiety inside him.

The skeleton bent at the pelvis, and gently placed the rabbit on the grass, and stood up as Aleys moved to pick the rabbit up and place it back into the chest.

Richt considered, and looked to Vesner, “May I?” The necromancer nodded. “Follow,” the muscle-bound man in a leather apron said, as he walked to his forge. “Can I demonstrate an action for it to perform later?” he asked.

“Certainly. We’ve ‘taught’ them to harvest pumpkins. Tell it to watch your actions, and then say ‘that is making a sword,’ or whatever you want to show them.”

Richt nodded, “Watch me,” he said to the skeleton before leaning the staff against the counter of his open air shop and picked up a bellows. He carefully stoked the fire inside, blowing air in, and telling it conditions under which to give it air or turn coals over, with Vesner’s aid. “That is stoking the forge.” Richt said. “Stoke the forge.”

The skeleton took up the bellows, peered into the forge, and gave it two short bursts of air, set the bellows down, and picked up an iron to turn the embers over. Richt stood back in awe.

“In your line of work you will need to exercise care if you take a skeleton. They could reach into a baker’s oven and be little the worse for wear, and in general, they will have no problem with radiant heat, but your forge is hot enough to cremate bone, so they will need safety equipment much like your own.”

“Can they make weapons?” Richt asked.

“Skilled labour is best left to sapient creatures, but with a detailed enough process of conditional orders, it is possible for them to produce basic weapons. Artisanry will still be the purview of yourself and other sapient smiths.”

“And they can work all day?”

“No rest needed. This skeleton can stoke a fire or make basic metal ware all through the night and into the day. The only limit will be how well you can sleep through the pounding.”

Richt considered. “What if I wanted two skeletons?”

Vesner’s smile spread across his face, a look of genuine satisfaction, “Well, the typical human requires five silvers worth of obsidian to animate. There is also the cost of the, er, material, which is dependent upon a number of things. But a simple skeleton such as this one we could create for a cost of 10 silvers, and would sell for 20.”

Richt nodded.

The boom of an explosion thundered across the town. Everyone spun in the direction of the mill and ran flat out to it.

“ALEYS, GRAF! BRING TEN!” Vesner shouted as he followed the crowd.

No one in town will forget the sound of eleven skeletons in an all out run. The clatter was deafening, and the scrape of bone on stone as they neared was like nails on a chalkboard.

“SKELETONS! ENTER THE MILL, PICK UP A WORKER, AND BRING THEM OUT, KEEP THEM SAFE FROM THE FLAMES.” Vesner commanded as Aleys chanted a short invocation and touched his shoulder with a hand that shimmered red, blue and green, a radiant cascade slowly enveloping him as he strode into the flames with the skeletons. Flames licked at his robe and feet, but were rebuffed by a thin force.

The remaining horde of skeletons were brought up to aid the bucket chain, forming two pairs of rows of their own, handing up an endless stream of buckets along two rows then down the other.

“HOLD THAT FRAME!” Vesner shouted inside as timbers cracked.

Eventually, nine skeletons carried out nine men, burned, coughing, but alive. Vesner and the tenth did not emerge until the flames had been doused, the last skeleton carrying a prone form in it’s arms.

My father.

“He was at the center of the fire,” Vesner said as the skeleton laid him on the ground between us. In the moment, with it’s blackened bones, I hated the thing, blaming it for his death, as if it were an avatar of the grave that killed with a touch, rather than the unwavering tool that tried to save him. Vesner indicated the burns over his body, “he likely died instantly, probably painlessly. I’m sorry.”

I looked at the necromancer. Then from him, to my father, to the skeleton.

“Yes.” Vesner said reading my open mind, “I could raise him. I have no skill with the gods, but his body can be animated. If you wished, if he wished, I could animate him as a skeleton, then use another spell to return his mind to him. Speech with the dead is a simple matter, we can speak to him privately, later.”

I nodded.

The town was still hesitant about using the skeletons. In the end, the necromancers let every household take a staff as they’d be useful in defending the town from rogue undead, bandits and monsters, and as a sort of receipt to claim an undead at a latter point if the household changed its mind. About a third of my neighbours took skeletons, and the town was gifted ten in trust. Richt commissioned several skeletons with more trainable minds.

My father wasn’t sure how he felt about becoming an undead. He wanted to think about it. But he also didn’t want to leave us without his income and protection. I still don’t fully understand, but Vesner created some psuedo-duplicate of my father’s spirit to place in the skeleton, and a small pebble that could speak to him in the afterlife. Vesner cautioned that though my father was a good man, he only had so long to make his decision, before his spirit was subsumed into the divine.

Transformation Log– Entry 2

This morning, I woke up, and happened to look at myself in the mirror, wearing just the more feminine underwear I’d bought earlier this week and realized something.

I’ve often doubted my “trans-ness,” because it always felt like something I’d chosen. It always felt like it was continuing on from seventh grade when I found out that a crush had realized they were a lesbian, and I wished I was a woman (because middle school hormones and being raised on stories of courtly love are a potent mix), and thought about how I wanted to become one for her.

In time I got over it. Maybe it was having actual relationships, ill-fated as they were, maybe it was just time. But I always felt like wanting to be a woman had been a conscious decision on my part, an exception to people who are born queer/trans.

As I looked into the mirror and tousled my long hair, and genuinely smiled, I realized that, no, no I really am genderqueer and really do identify as at partially female, because I’m vastly more comfortable with my body when I’m presenting as feminine.

Anyway.

I did a couple sessions of counseling. It was helpful, and cheap, but I cancelled this week’s appointment because I didn’t have the fee, and just wasn’t up for it. I don’t think I’m going to bother going back. The counselor was very helpful, but I can just talk to a friends about the issues I’ve got aside from trans ones, and she didn’t know much about transitioning. So maybe I’ll do sessions when I’m in moods, to help me get past them, but aside from that, I’m going to save the $10 for sessions and $6 or 7 for gas they cost me, and try to talk to friends more when I need support, and just do online research about the technical aspects of transitioning.

As part of crafting myself, I decided to dye my hair again, as I’ve wanted to for years, but didn’t so I could better fit a traditional job seeker image. I’m done with fitting an image that isn’t getting me anywhere anyway. Let’s see if creating my own image works better than trying mirror an image at least fifteen years out of date. I’m willing to bet that if I’m smart about who I apply with, dyed hair and a septum piercing won’t be disadvantages.

Telling my mother about the plan to ask her help in a fairly complex plan I had for it, however, led to a huge stupid debate about dyed hair and nose piercings in the context of a job search.

Which of course led to religion, because all roads lead to God with my parents.

I mentioned wanting to be a creative writer, and needing to work on that more. I have to work on finishing things, but I have a few more drafts waiting to be posted.

Anyway.

Oh, as mentioned, when I got my unemployment this week, I went out to buy some more clothes. I’d gotten a couple pairs of feminine underwear about a month ago, and decided I wanted to expand, so I went back to Torrid and spent money I shouldn’t have. Then a skirt. I don’t know if I’m going to have a lot of opportunity to wear the skirt, but I have it for when I have the house to myself, if nothing else, and maybe I can start presenting as feminine soonish.

So, I guess outside of realizing that I have every right to call myself transgendered, and some minor changes to craft a more pleasing appearance, this log doesn’t have a lot to say. But I wanted to update even so.

The Cargo Cult of Quatrex

On the small island of Quatrex, in the sea of Unbekannt, there is a remote tribe with a somewhat unique magical tradition.

Since their earliest days, the Quatrexians practiced a fairly typical shamanistic animism which focused on reverence of natural forces and the land. Their primary spellcasters were adepts who might occasionally reach some basic druidic ability, but never, or so seldom as to be the subject of myths, attained druid wildshaping ability. The clerical arts of domains and energy channeling were completely unknown to them.

Their island was in time visited by a group of wizards exploring the uncharted sea. The natives were fascinated and awed by the frightful power these men and women wielded, but while the wizards shared the boons of their abilities, none ever taught the natives how such marvels were attained, rendering them god-like figures in the Quatrexians’ minds.

After the adventurers set up a base camp with many strange and arcane devices, and did some basic good will work with the natives to ameliorate potential conflicts, they tromped off into the jungle from which awesome sounds and lights would emanate. Eventually the meddling wizards awoke a great monster who slept within a mountain. The fiery beast slew most of the wizards in its rampage towards the Quatrexian’s impressive bronze age settlement. In the final half mile, it was halted by the last wizard, who eventually was forced to sacrifice themselves to stop the beast.

The Quatrexians viewed the events through the lens of their beliefs, and interpreted the wizards as powerful spirits of a previously unknown primal force–Arcana. They arrived to reward the Quatrexians for their reverence for the land, but also out of Arcana’s mild jealousy that it’s sibling forces–wind, fire, water, earth, storm, light, dark, and others–were so revered but it was unknown to the pious people. The spirits of Arcana were destroyed as they tried to save the Quatrexians from a monstrous beast of primal fire.

The Quatrexians still revere the primal forces, but now revere Arcana above all for it’s power to harness and call the other forces. They were left with a wealth of arcane resources–potion labs, wondrous item workbenches, a library of spell tomes, magic items of all sorts–but no idea how to use it all.

But they had watched the wizards. They knew not the methods behind the words and motions, but they knew them. They didn’t know how to tap the arcane energy of the multiverse, but they knew it could be done.

They began to copy the motions and incantations of the wizards in their rituals, and slowly, they developed a clerical caste as some began to show the ability to copy the might of the wizards.

Quatrexian Arcana is its own clerical faith. Practitioners have access to the Spell and Magic domain, and their holy symbol is a spellbook into which they have copied “The Tracks of Arcana” (being a culture with no written tradition, they interpret the writing of the “Arcana Spirits” to animal tracks). These are functionally identical to wizard spellbooks, and allow Quatrexian Arcana clerics to cast Anyspell, but do not allow them to prepare wizard spells. Quatrexian Arcanians also have access to any domain which shares a name with a school, subschool, or descriptor of spells, such as Fire, Evil, or Charm.

The vestments and regalia of the priestly caste of the Quatrexians is entirely predicated on the faithful reproduction of wizard garb, and so while many non-priestly Quatrexians still wear the simple linen loin clothes and wraps they always have, priestly vestments are elabourate robes and skirts, often with capes and gaudy jewelry (frequently, but not always, enchanted). Where other priests might wear mitres or other psued0-crowns, the Quatrexian priestly caste wears well-worn wide brimmed pointed hats, frequently embroidered with symbols of the primal forces they choose to focus on.

Quatrexian priests practice a sort of apprenticeship model of theological instruction, with older priests instructing a no more than a handful of pupils. The acolyte-apprentices wear simple linen and woolen robes until they are deemed to have learned the rituals sufficiently that they may be gifted their vestments-magically fabricated luxurious wizard’s robes.

Quatrexian Arcanism dogma is an unusual philosophy of benevolent mastery of nature and the world, and of being at once the sum of and a part of the multiverse, founded on the principles of arcane magic.