[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.

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.

Ran’s Escape pt. 3

“We tried this.” the older wizard told Ran as the group of them walked down an alley and through a small carved opening in the rock wall on the edge of the large subterranean cavern most of the drow city sat in. The wizards were all disguised as drow males, specifics guided by Ran’s suggestions. The disguise consisted of a simple spell, laid over a physical makeup job.

“Right, a group of unknown drow, with no tie to a woman of the town, looking like a surface elf’s caricature of drow men. Now, you are accompanied by the boy-whore of a well respected drow mistress, and actually look like drow men.”

“Yes, which apparently means barely dressed.” piped up one wizard, in the center, who would have been rather a similar shade as the kind of elephants you see while heavily drunk were he not magically disguised.

“It’s as if you haven’t actually seen any of the thousands of men you’ve passed just between the tavern and here…” Ran replied.

“There are men wearing full leather armour. I mean, actual armour, not, er…”

“Leather body suits which cover everything but a strategic hole? There is no way that you would pass for soldiers. You do not have the personality, acting skills, or registered names and carefully kept secret tattoos” Ran said. The group approached a pair of such soldiers, the ones in actual leather armour, half way down the passage, a slight shimmer in the air behind them. The soldiers stopped the group.

“Ran. Weekly trip for Mistress Calathar?”

“Yes. She sent some more hands with me, as she has a lot of errands.”

The soldier raised an eyebrow. “Well, if they’re with your mistress, they should all-”

Ran interrupted him, “Come on, boys, show the guard the mistress’ mark.” His face turned away from the guard, he contrived an expression which very succinctly and quietly expressed a great many things about screwing up and painful torture. The wizards shuffled up to the guard and tugged their pants down, showing the tattoo which Ran had told them to include in their disguises–one which would have been quite painful had it been real. Ran turned to the guard after the wizards had all shuffled by “New. They spent a lot of time above ground.” Ran said to the guard, who nodded in sudden understanding. “Need to see mine, soldier?” he smirked.

“We both know it’s there. I’ve seen it often enough.” he smiled, letting the lot pass through the post.

Once through the shimmer, the wizards each nodded, following Ran further down the tunnel, waiting a moment before the oldest piped up “Portal. Not surprised, are we still on the material realm?”

“Yes and no. It’s something of a transitory plane to the transitory planes. An area where they all overlap more than usual. We are essentially in the material, ethereal, shadow and astral planes all at once.”

“innnteresting…?” the old wizard said somewhat quizzically.

“That can be done?” the young wizard who’d carried cards said hesitantly.

The oldest looked at him, with the careful expression of a wizened instructor carefully not letting on that he himself does not know something about his own area of study. “Well, obviously.”

Ran laughed. “Yes, it can be done. It is reportedly quite difficult,” he said before the group stepped out into a large cave, save that there was no ceiling past a visible mile, but rather a black starless sky. Arches and ships studded a hewn stone dock-like arrangement, as a bustle usual to trade ports went all around them. Drow mingled with all manner of other beings from across the multiverse as the wizards’ careful dispassionate expressions fell away into delight and awe.

Ran’s Escape pt 2

The door clicked quietly behind the last wizard and Ran padded over to the corner farthest from the table in the room, “just let me know what you gentlemen decide.” He puffed on his pipe.

The wizards leaned their staves against the wall, and sat at the table, leaning on it, all refilling and lighting their own pipes and beginning to confer. Smoke hung in the air, as Ran’s soft humming lilted through. A drow male of his age was well versed in raising the ambient noise in his immediate space to block out what could be heard quite clearly by an elf in a quiet room.

The wizards had no need to question why a dark elf man would turn traitor to his race. The society was matriarchal, which wouldn’t be so bad, but it was also steeped in evil. Rather than simply not being given positions of power, male drow were servants of the women at best, and their slaves at worst. They had no power, save that which they fought for amongst themselves. If a peasant drow woman objected to even the mere presence of a noble-born male, that male could be sure his immediate future would hold painful torments that seemed unending. Every single drow is a murderer and a sadist. By the time they’re born, they’ve killed at least one sibling, murdering their twin in the womb.

The highest honor a male drow could receive was to be allowed to practice wizardry. Ran had the interest, but his mistress had more need of a pair of holes to rent out to clients than she did for a pair of deft hands to weave the threads of the multiverse. The highest honor a drow woman could obtain was high priestess, and Ran’s mistress was far from that position, though her slaves and the shows she performed torturing them and whatever males could be captured in the caves, afforded her wealth and prestige, and the favour of many women who were priestesses.

Drow reproduction comes in two varieties- grim necessary things, where the transfer of genetic material is an after thought, the woman using the man to slake her more visceral lusts; or ribald, debauched ceremonies in which a priestess summons a fell demon from the deepest pits of the abyss to sire a half-demon child in her. Ran’s lot in either was not good.

There was precisely one legitimate path to something resembling freedom for a male in Drow society- service in a military troop sent away from the drow cities for long periods of time. Even then though, a man’s mistress had to let him be trained, and Ran’s was far happier to keep him skilled in other arts. He had no choice for escape but desertion.

The lead wizard beckoned Ran over, and the elf sat on a nearby bed. “Well?” he said, puffing on his pipe again.

“If you can get us the information we seek, we’ll take you out with us. After you’re on the surface, your life is your own. You get into the Order on your own merit, not as further thanks for this.”

“Agreed.” Ran said. “It hasn’t been long enough. If I leave the room now, mistress will be suspicious. Anyone have any cards?”

One of the younger wizards, still old as humans count years, but likely less than half Ran’s age, smirked and pulled out a pouch. Opening it, he took out a deck of cards and poured out an assortment of tokens and dice.

Ran’s Escape pt 1

The men sat at a table in the dark tavern, hewn from one massive stalagmite, lit by phosphorescent gems held to the walls by nets. They carried few weapons to speak of, but each had a staff more than a match for ten armed men, and the weapons they did carry bore runes and glowing auras. each held a wand in one hand, absent mindedly, as they talked and drank and ate.

Most towns would object to such a show of force, but the drow city would have laughed if the men hadn’t so obviously been prepared for a fight. It was well known that visitors to the city would sometimes, even often, just disappear, only ever again seen in the torture-galleries, or as part of some priestess’ harem.

The men, however, had no real reason to fear. Only a particularly foolish dark elf would risk trying to take them. They could be sitting in the street, without their robes, weapons, staves or wands, and would still be a target only a fool would dare aim for. Their bracelets marked them as mages of Hallius. The wizard nation-guild would respond poorly if high standing members were to disappear on a trip to the Underdark. Perhaps the drow could win such a conflict, but one is naturally cautious in dealing with a force that can turn the roof of your underground civilization into millions of tons of mud–or worse, lava–and drop it on you to smother your entire civilization. Even just a few discrete, disguised mage-sabotuers could wreak havoc by moving the very earth from beneath major temples and civic buildings and barracks, dropping them into pits or magma pools that could have been prepared far in advance.

All the same, just because no sane dark elf would target them for slavery does not mean any need help them. The men had traveled to the Underdark searching for information on planar trade rumoured to be conducted by the drow, but had hit a wall.

A slim male, clad in only loose breeches and a thin, open robe, slid into a seat at the table, lighting a long bone and metal pipe and drawing from long and smooth, before slowly exhaling it. The wizards sat patiently, waiting for the young elf-man to finish his little performance, waiting to reject services or defend themselves. He propped his pipe on the ash dish with theirs and leaned in close to their own heads, previously bowed in discussion.

“We all know what you’re looking for. Obviously.” he said. His words wafted like the sweet smoke of his pipe from dark lips. His eyes glowed in the dim light, and he brushed his hair behind one long pointed ear. A couple of the men shifted uncomfortably. “Pretend we’re talking normal business. My mistress would torment me all the more harshly if she had any idea what kind I’m actually about to speak.” he eyed their bracelets.

“What are offering?” one of the men said suddenly. Even a wizard’s patience has it’s limits, and theirs were all frayed by their fruitless search.

“You want to know about drow inter-planar trading. My mistress has some dealings in that arena, and some of the clients she has provided with my services like to talk when they’re exhausted.” Again the men shifted uncomfortably, “Oh, relax. Elves have only the hair on their heads, with our builds, you’d forget what sex we were in the right position.” he smiled. His night-black hands picked up his pipe again. “What I’m proposing-” he took a shorter drag, “is that I show you what you want to find, and help you with whatever information I can, and in exchange…” the dark skinned elf shuddered and–uncharacteristically for a drow, so learned in the ways of awareness and stealth–looked towards the bar where his mistress sat. He shifted closer to the wizard next to him, the one who’d spoke, who was clearly in charge. He put a hand in the man’s lap, and wrapped a look which up close said “I apologize, go with it” in one which at a distance spoke of carnal promises. “You take me with you.” He looked the man hard in the eye, and his pipe tapped the man’s bracelet to make clear just how far he wanted to be taken.

The men looked at one another, before the one next to the drow looked back “We’ll have to confer…”

“So take me to your room. Mistress, strange as it may sound, actually doesn’t observe the rooms. She’s found that when clients do find out, as some always do, it’s terrible for business.” he laid his head on the man’s shoulder, “just make it look convincing. You all can… take your time, and I’ll not mind at all. I’ll be as quiet or vocal as you wish.” he purred.

The wizard then shocked the elf, smiling before breaking into a raucous laugh, one hand grasping the elf’s rump, the laugh being picked up by his fellows. The laugh was an uneven, overly loud thing. A laugh one might expect from a table full of men who couldn’t hold their spider wine.

“My name is Ran, my price is 100 gold. I can make sure you’re recompensed, but it has to look right. Put the gold in the bowl in the center of the table.”

The man nodded and dropped a pouch of gold into the bowl. “Wizards. Don’t worry about recompensing us.” The group all stood, stowing wands and picking up staves. The lead wizard looked to the woman drow that Ran had looked to earlier, and tilted his head in acknowledgement. She smiled to him, a wicked curve on her lips, and tilted her head in response, and Ran led the group through the curtains near the bar.

The brood-matriarchs of Baal

A Brood Matriarch of Baal (as conceptualized, she would probably be nude save for adornment, but this isn't an NSFW site, so she is covered in leather throws)
A Brood Matriarch of Baal (as conceptualized, she would probably be nude save for adornment, but this isn’t an NSFW site, so she is covered in leather throws)

In the center of the continent, lies the fens of Baal, home to a group of goblins which would be called a culture, were those inclined to use the word not loathe to apply it to goblins.

Goblins are, generally speaking, small, fecund and highly variable, and often lacking in much in the way of a social structure more complex than “horde” (or so the general opinion goes). The goblins of Baal, on the other hand, squatting in their murky dens dug into the muck, have established a matri-oligarchy, similar in some ways to a hive of social insects.

The culture of the Baal goblins is ruled over by a group of fertile females, called Brood-matriarchs, whose primary function is to become pregnant and give birth to litter after litter of goblins. Because goblin life tends to be short, often artificially so, due to lack of caution or extermination with extreme prejudice enacted by neighbouring cultures, the typical goblin hyper-fertility has started to be seen as a blessing by the Baali goblins.

Holding the blessing of their god, and controlling, literally, the means of production of new goblin warriors, the fertile females of Baal rose to power. They receive counsel from other goblins more able to travel, but make all decisions for the clan. They are always pregnant, or nursing and receiving males to become pregnant. The opportunity to become the father of part of the next generation has become a highly sought after form of prestige amongst the males, and copulation with a brood-matriarch has become a reward for those who perform valuable services for the clan, and those who perform their duties above and beyond all expectation. The opposite fate, awaiting those who too-frequently fail their clan, is castration, the utter revoking of the opportunity to ever serve the clan as anything more than fodder or labor. Those who fail again after already being castrated are often given the duty of guarding the brood matriarchs. Far from the honor this might be seen as, it is a constant reminder, in the form of the wanton and lascivious brood-matriarchs and their open rutting with more honored clan members, of the guard’s failure and the fact that he cannot perform for his clan the highest service a male goblin can-fathering the next generation.

As they are the direct power behind the greatest strength of the goblins–numbers–the brood matriarchs receive the greatest respect, honor and treasures of the clan. They have no responsibilities, only privileges. The privilege of giving orders, the privilege of not working, the privilege of food at their mere request, the privilege of their pick of mates, and the privilege of the spoils of raids.

Not all females of the clan are brood-matriarchs, however. When a power behind being fertile began to condense, those females of the time who were pregnant sealed that power away. They, essentially, created an eldritch poison which made females barren when ingested, and had shamans enchant their bodies to produce this poison in their milk. They then created an antidote, and jealously guarded that formula. When a female goblin has proven worthy of great honor, she may be selected for possible fertility, and given the choice. Should the female accept, she will be given the antidote, and shortly become fertile and take her place. If she declines, she is given another position of high honor–high priestess. All females of the Baali goblins serve the shrines in some function, usually as acolytes, but only those who have proven their worth to the clan, and decided that brooding is not a life for them, may lead the clan’s holiest rites.

The goblins of Baal are otherwise normal goblins for the most part. However, the brood-matriarchs keep a constant watch for strong males who could potentially pass their strength on to children. Due to the highly adaptable nature of goblins, they are able to be impregnated with almost any male’s material. The mother’s system will pick out the most useful traits and add them to the genetic concoction assembled from her many paramours, and, after a certain period of time, begin to grow the fetuses of the new litter, saving copies of the best genetics to potentially impart on the next, much like a cat’s reproductive system save with a complex and sophisticated intelligence all its own.

Dominia20: the alignment of colour pt 2

I left off with two colours to describe, Red and Green. I’ll cover those here.

Dominia20CharacterSheets

Red

Chaos, Impulse, Freedom, Action, Short-sightedness

Red is the colour of freedom, proactiveness, fire and earth, and emotion.

Obviously individuals of all colours are capable of feeling emotion, but it is Red’s focus. The pain felt from the death of a loved one, or the anger felt towards the one who killed them is felt strongest by Red. Black may be known for hatred, but Red allows that hate to flow through it and come out in the form of lightning bolts or flames.

Whereas White is the colour of healing and prolonging life, and Green is the colour of nature and the life within it, and Black is the colour of creating cruel mockeries of life, Red is the colour of Living. Red wants to go and do things and have experiences and meet people, and yes, probably burn them. Red is defined by constant Action. It’s main elements, Fire and Earth are key symbols of this. While Earth is seen as being very still and very static, beneath the crust there is a constantly moving, roiling, liquid mantle and core, and on the crust, the plates constantly move.

As it is so active, Red acts on Impulse. It decides it wants to do something, and goes and does it. It doesn’t worry about planning. It doesn’t deliberate. These are things for Blue. Red and Blue see a pretty girl, and while Blue tries to figure out what it’s going to say, Red runs over to talk to her, because if you wait too long, she’ll leave. Red’s Impulsiveness stems from the sea of emotion in which it stays. It’s emotions tell it to do something, and it does it.

In order to do as it pleases, Red must be free. It cannot abide rules and restrictions. It has parallels to what Chaos wanted to be in D&D, but it’s more fully realized and not bogged down in structure.

While this may seem very similar to Black’s self-servingness, and is, indeed, why they are allied colours, Red is different in that it may be driven by love to care more for another, or even a small group, such as a family, than it does itself. But contrary to White’s nation-focus, Red chooses who is as or more important than itself.

The best of Red is passion and decisiveness. The worst of Red is ignorance of consequences and wanton destruction.

Red magic deals with fire and destruction. The Red-aligned individual is a passionate adventurer. The iconic Red-aligned races are Dragons and Goblins. The iconic Red-aligned class is Barbarian.

Green

Instinct, Interdependence, Growth, Nature, Naivete

Green is the magic of growth, nature, adaptation, life.

Everyone has a certain amount of instinct, but it is the driving force of Green. In the forests and jungles from which Green mana flows, there is little time for thought, one must obey their instincts, or they will likely die.

Green’s big theme is nature, in all it’s forms. It is the magic behind the smallest squirrel, and the great thundering wurms. It is the magic behind beautiful gardens, and the serpents slithering beneath the flowers. It is fruit and refreshing streams, but it is also survival of the fittest. It is life, but it’s also death.

Green is very straight forward. Even though many creatures in nature use cunning and stealth, Green isn’t all that good at subterfuge. It may be hidden, but you’ll generally see it when it leaps out to claw your face off. At the same time, nature holds no grudge. It is more than willing to let bygones be bygones, and allow the lion to lay down with the lamb. When the lion gets hungry, well, the lamb will probably die, but it’s body will feed the lion, and what isn’t eaten will feed the soil from which the plants grow.

Green’s highest goal is growth. It doesn’t care how it grows, and it doesn’t care why. Plants will grow fertilized by night soil just as readily as they will the bodies of a thousand soldiers. Green doesn’t care. It merely consumes the resources available to it, and uses them to grow bigger. It’s other goal is “the natural order.” However, anyone who has looked hard enough knows that a great many things are natural. From jellyfish which are each the result of long chains of dying and reanimating “zombies” to mothers eating their own offspring to survive lean times.

All of life is interconnected, most obviously in the pattern of predator and prey, and so too, often, are Green-aligned creatures. The elves, for example, are a race which grows healthier and better as more elves are born.

Green, at it’s best, is nurturing. It fosters life and growth, and acts quickly. While Red acts quickly because it doesn’t care about consequences, Green acts quickly because it instinctively knows what to do. At it’s worst, Green doesn’t care to think, and acts viciously.

Green magic brings mana, and most readily summons creatures. The Green-aligned individual is often either a nature-protecting druid, or a machine-choking, flesh rending berserker. They care very much about nature, and mistrust the tools of industry. The iconic Green-aligned races are Elves and Centaurs. The iconic Green-aligned class is Druid.