Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Blind Skies: A Post-Apocalyptic Neon Fantasy Setting

The gods are watching.

Blind Skies

A post-apocalyptic neon fantasy

    Long ago, civilization prospered, and bright-cities shone with infinite neon lights, blinding out the stars from the sky. We did not know why these cities shone so brilliantly, then; only that with their opulence, the natural beauty of the sky was erased. Like fools, we rebelled- and in the ashes of civilization long fallen, we now know why they shone so brightly.

    Because the gods are watching, and we wished to make them blind. Nothing blinds them now.

Blind skies is a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk fantasy, hazardous not through the radioactive fallout of nuclear war- but because of vindictive alien gods that watch from above, affecting the world in strange, unpredictable ways. The sprawling cyberpunk cities of the old world are nothing more than ruins, save for one; and the land is filled with poorly understood, irreplicable technology and esoteric magical arts. 

Blind skies is primarily inspired by Ultraviolet Grasslands, RIFTS, Caves of Qud, Death Stranding, and Hyperlight Drifter. Whilst I can't ever hope to capture even a fraction of the magic of those properties, I do hope I've made atleast something interesting here. The setting initially came out of a single prompt; "What if instead of nukes and radiation, it's elder gods and alien tech?" I then slapped on 'Cyberpunk cities existed to blind out the sky, to hide from the eldritch gods', and boom. Blind skies was born!

Pracht, the last Bright-City

Whilst the civilizations of old have long since fallen to ruin, one city of the past remains lit; Pracht, the last bright-city. The last bastion against the horrors of the sky, Pracht is a maze of cold steel and glowing neon, impressive and sprawling, and yet... Ghostly. Where droves of hundreds or thousands once roamed the tightly packed streets, barely a fraction inhabits the city now. Further still, the light of Pracht dims, and the aging technology of the ancient city continues to fail by the day, causing it's inhabitants to steer clear of the dark, unlit sections of the city, for fear of the strange things that could happen in the dark gaze of the night gods.

Neon is the hot commodity of Pracht, and land within the ever-failing swathe of lights grows scarcer every year. The wealthy live comfortable lives, never having to fear what lies beyond the city lights, whilst the poor must contend with what lies just beyond sight; beds of crime and evil, with both violent gangs and mad cultists stalking the dark in equal measure. But despite the wide disparity between the two classes, Pracht is a city of opportunity; artifacts from the abandoned sectors are unearthed daily, and bring a fine mint to the adventurer daring enough to go into the darkness and find them.

The Umbral Wastes

Outside of Pracht is a land shrouded in eternal night, the dark sky being lit only by the stars above, and the Iris; a ring of light that shines down on the world below, opening and closing in regular cycles that bathe the land in a soft purple glow. The land is dim even when the Iris is open, and is impossibly dark when it is closed- thus making the wilds completely vulnerable to the whims of the gods. Horrors crawl in the darkness of the Umbral Wastes, and the gaze of the gods twist and mutate all that their eyes fall upon.

Roving bands of gnollish barbarians, cyber-brigands, and horrific monsters are not only common in the Umbral Wastes, but to be expected; adventurers must contend with a myriad of hostile forces out in the field, and would best move with subtlety and care, lest they wish to be hounded endlessly by those who would seek them harm. Modest villages and rogue tribes can be found all across the wastes, though the majority focus on being hidden, to protect from harmful threats.

There are ruins of the old world aplenty to plunder, all across the Umbral Wastes; but to reach them, travelers must prepare for more than just violent adversaries to be an obstacle; the myriads of environments and weather patterns that can be found in the Umbral Wastes are extremely varied, along with the alien geography and other paranormal events the average adventurer will find treading the dark.

Random Anomalies and Encounters (d6):
  1. M.A.W. Storms: The most dangerous weather effect, MAW storms are when MAWS begin a dangerous replication event, where they begin multiplying excessively and spreading outward. During a MAW storm, tears in reality open and close like droplets of rain, shredding nigh anything caught in a MAW storm unprepared. It is possible to weather a MAW storm relatively unharmed, so long as you keep still, and carry a big enough magnet.
  2. Fallen Eyes: The skies above are alien, and monstrous- And sometimes, their eyes fall down to the world below. Sometimes they are small enough to hold in one's hand, other times they are large as a tank; but all of them share the same strange power, the ability to see through eachother, so long as the two eyes have gazed directly at eachother before. For this reason, the eyes are collected, and often put inside the heads of adventurers who wish to share sight with those they trust.
  3. Thinker Unions: Every few months, Thinkers drift together to share ideas, and pool their processing power together for immense mental tasks. It is dangerous to be around them in this time, as their excess thoughts unrelated to the task at hand are violently ejected from their minds as arcs of electricity- should you be struck by one of these bolts and live, you will learn things that you previously did not, should you survive.
  4. Mirror Lakes: Said to be lakes made of enchanted mercury, it is said that should the Iris perfectly reflect within one of these pools, then it is possible to bring the dead back to life, should they be dipped into the pool; they don't come back entirely human, however, as their skin becomes a silvery metal, and their eyes glow a soft lavender. Many question if the soul returns at all, or if the lake merely allows aliens to inhabit corpses, mimicking the dead.
  5. Nuaz Lines: Strange white carvings that stretch all across the known world; supposedly when viewed from above, they form the shapes of animals from the old world- knowledge that was imparted to us through the insight of the sky gods. Magic flows through the lines; if someone steps into the boundaries of the lines, and knows the shape of the creature depicted, they can channel the magic of the lines and assume the shape of that creature, for as long as they remain within the lines' boundaries. Entire tribes exist within their borders, defending the secret of their shapeshifting powers.
  6. Data Leaks: A rare event. Every so often, the Iris will suddenly close- and then re-open, replaced by a strange, chaotic static in the sky. During this time, data-disks run the risk of being erased, as well as automata running the risk of being overwritten, their minds replaced by some sort of malevolent alien. However, there is a benefit- the sky itself buzzes during a data-leak, and so the sky gods close their eyes, making travelling in the dark far safer than normal, so long as you can protect your machinery and other software.

Factions & Creatures

The ruined world is characterized by a myriad of strange folk, most of which who have arisen due to the influence of the sky gods' warping gaze. Most people in the new world are mutated, in some way- unique, unlike anyone else. Others still are entirely alien, spawned from the darkness- and as unknowable as the dark gods that spawned them.
  • Argonites: A strange race of humanoids that have found their own way to combat the gods, through breathing in a mysterious gas, and burning it within their body, forcing tattoo-like neon lines to glow across their body. Argonites can't breath normal air, and are rarely ever seen without their helmets, hiding their mysterious faces.
  • Gnoll Tribes: One of the most prolific nuisances across the Umbral Wastes, Gnolls are savage creatures that roam the waste, raiding and pillaging anything they come across. Gnolls are barely intelligent, and have little in the way of language, culture, or history- though there have been controversial studies to attempt to make peaceful contact, and prove they aren't so savage; they aren't so successful.
  • Automata: Thinking machines aren't exactly trusted, in the new world; what automatons or living machines exist are usually met with distrust at best, and outright hostility at worst- though that does not stop the few relics of the old world that still exist from attempting to continue living. Alien and strange as the machines are, few can dispute the fact that their mimicry of humanity is not only uncanny, but scarily accurate.
  • Thinkers: Strange, psychic jellyfish creatures, that float through the air as if floating in the sea. Most people believe that Thinkers are not intelligent, as they are generally unresponsive to outside stimuli- but that is far from the truth. You see, Thinkers are hyper-intelligent living supercomputers, and are usually extremely focused on a singular task. Psychically communicate with one, and you will be bombarded with a barrage of information- but attempt to decipher it, and you may learn something- or go mad.
  • Light-Barons: Light is the greatest commodity in the new world, as something even as simple as a candle can give one a small amount of comfort against the dark gods. Those who are wealthy have light, and whoever has light has control. Light-Barons are known for loaning out their valuable burnable gasses and fuels, in return for ludicrous prices and outrageous interest- but often, the less fortunate have no other choice than to accept such prices from the barons. After all, how does a poor man fight a monopoly, when they can't even keep the lights on themselves?
  • Sclerites: Sclerites are cultists of the most prolific and vocal madman to ever live, who left behind a series of data-scrolls that postulate that the Iris is the eye of an immense god, and the blackness of night is the sclera of that great eye. Sclerites push eachother to do depraved, sick, twisted acts to others, in hope of being noticed by this immense god, and being gifted dark powers and unnatural insight in return. Most agree that Sclerites are dangerous and delusional.
  • Stitchers: Known for their patchwork bodies covered in scars and stitches, Stitchers have the belief that old-worlders bodies were 'purer' than those of the new world, supposedly uncorrupted by the gaze of the dark gods. Stitchers thus go into the ruins of old Bright-Cities, ripping out pieces of long dead corpses, and attaching them to themselves.
  • M.A.W.s: Mysterious Alien Warpthings, MAWs are strange alien machine-creatures that seem to exist between realities, being half real, and half thought. Characterized by being a series of rifts in the fabric of space stitched together, MAWs open and close seemingly at random, but whilst they're open, allow instantaneous travel between two points in space. Once you find one in the wild, simply feed it junk to make it grow, and then walk through.

Lost Technology

Blind Skies is characterized as a post-apocalyptic cyber-fantasy, and as such, most technology found in the ruined world is malfunctioning and poorly understood at best. Thinking machines are distrusted, and as such those who can understand the esoteric language of computers are rare. Data-Disks are common enough, containing broken pieces of information or programs from the old world, though terminals are rare, and those who can decipher the data without machines even rarer.

The technology of the old world, despite being used daily, cannot be replicated. Weaponry is valuable, as repairs are difficult; ammo is scarce and precious, so conventional means of violence are preferred. Bladed weapons and mechanized slugthrowers are the most common type of weaponry; laser rifles and beam swords are legendary and scarce, held by only the wealthiest of men, or the most daring of adventurer.

Vehicles are a valuable commodity, as parts can be difficult to replace, and fuel scarce; though vehicles are such a valuable asset in travel that they're usually well worth the cost. Simple motorbikes, reliable hoverspeeders, or formidable gravtanks; few things compare to the utility, mobility, and firepower of these ancient machines, though few know how to operate them.

Most famous however would be the cybernetic enhancements left behind by the old world; whilst poorly understood, replacing pieces of one's body with machinery is common enough, especially for the wealthy or social elite- as cybernetics tend to come with their own esoteric powers and capabilities that far exceed that of the common man.

Terrible Secrets & Hidden Powers

In the old world, ignorance was bliss, a safety; now, nothing is safe, as we understand now what they wished to forget. Insight is both a blessing and a curse, as it gives us power over that which we understand, yet threatens to destroy us for simply knowing it.

An optional rule for playing in the Blind Skies setting, Insight is a measure of the 'forbidden knowledge' a character knows, such knowledge revealing to them the true nature of the world, whilst also granting them blessings and curses. Every time a character reveals hidden, dark lore about the true nature of the world, they gain a point of insight, at the DM's discretion.

Insight comes with two aspects; Terrible Secrets, and Hidden Powers. Terrible Secrets and Hidden Powers are both measured by dice, ranging from d4 to d10; every time you gain a point of insight, you may either gain a new Terrible Secret and Hidden Power (at a d4), or upgrade a TS and HD you already have by one step. (d4 < d6 < d8 < d10)

Terrible Secrets are ways in which you see the world differently, where the world itself has changed for you, and you alone; whether this is because you see the truth of the world, or merely because you are going mad, is impossible to tell. Every morning after a rest, roll the die associated with as many terrible secrets as you have; should you roll anything but a 1-3, you are wracked by the horrors of the world, and suffer the debilitating effect associated with that power for the day. 

You can stave off the effects of terrible secrets for a number of hours, should you fail; narcotics are a favorite of the deranged for a reason. Clouding the mind is the only respite one can find against the terrible secrets.

Hidden Powers are the mental techniques that one gets in return for such terrible secrets, giving knowledge about the alien forces that harrow our world, and thus allowing us to wield them ourselves. Every time you use one of your Hidden Powers, roll the die associated with them; on a roll of 1-2, step down the die size. Should you roll a 1-2 when the die is a d4, the power is expended for the day.

Hidden Powers (d6):
  1. Cybromancy: You have discovered that many Data-Disks thought indecipherable are not corrupted or jumbled- they contain spells. You gain the ability to use data-disks as if spell scrolls, reading and writing to them as if you would a spell scroll. Additionally, you can attempt to create a spell-scroll from an empty data-disk, conjuring a spell from the static of the universe. Roll the die associated with this power every time you; attempt to cast a spell from a data-disk, every time you conjure a spell into a data disk, or copy a spell-disk.
  2. Nuaz-Carver: You have not only learned the shape of one of the Nuaz lines, but also learned the true nature of the magic flowing through them. By carving a replica of the lines upon your own body, you are able to channel the power of the line pattern, thus becoming the associated animal anywhere in the world. Roll the die associated with this power every time you wish to assume the form of the animal, up to a number of turns (ten minutes) equal to the die roll.
  3. Carbunculus: You have learned that the pieces that make up 'you' can not only be split, but also make up entire creatures and intelligences of their own. One of your hands has a terrifying one-eyed face upon it, capable of seeing and speaking with average intelligence. With this power, you are capable of manipulating your alien hand in various ways, such as extending your fingers into articulate tentacles, growing extra eyes, mouths, or ears at the end of your fingertips, or even turning your nails into blades. Further, you may ask the carbuncle something that you do not yet know, and get a possibly truthful answer. Roll the die associated with this power every time you change the makeup of your hand, or to ask a question of the carbuncle.
  4. Automind Backup: You have learned the secret of the living mind, and how to store it's contents; you are able to eject memories, experiences, and feelings from the minds of yourself and others, in the form of silvery disks. You are then able to inject these disks into yourself, or other individuals, and have them experience the memory within. Additionally, you are capable of creating a backup of your own mind, that could be injected into another living being upon your death, in order to remain alive. You can have only one of these backups of your own mind at a time. Roll the die associated with this power whenever you backup or inject a memory.
  5. Warpmagy: You have learned the truth of M.A.W.s, and have become capable of creating your own. You are able to create smaller MAWs that last for mere moments, and only stretch between two places you can see- or you can take the time to nurture and maintain a larger, matured MAW. A matured MAW can act as a permanent transport point between two locations in space, however it takes time for a MAW to grow to that size, and they must be consistently fed to maintain themselves. If left unfed, the MAW will close. Roll the die associated with this power every time you create a new MAW, or transport through your own matured MAWs.
  6. Twin-Mind: You have learned that the sky gods can peer not only at our bodies, but within our very minds; you have found the creature that lurks within your mind, and made a covenant with it. You are capable of letting the creature take over, and pilot your body for you- allowing you to raise one mental attribute by the die amount rolled; however, you must lower another mental stat by the same die result. Additionally, you can focus on an additional subject that requires intense concentration (such as spells). Roll the die for this power every time you switch control with the creature, or whenever you delegate part of your concentration to it.
Terrible Secrets (d6):
  1. Curse of Eyes: You know that the stars are eyes, and can see them all watching you, staring; when you gaze at the sky, the sky gazes back, hateful and judging. Whenever you fail the die roll for this secret, you have succumbed to your fear of the dark gods' gaze, and refuse to be under the open sky where the gods can see you, without some sort of disguise or light- you begin to panic when in the dark.
  2. Sleep of Stone: You learn that stone is living, and breathes; the earth itself is a creature, and you can feel the beat of it's heart, the gentle rise and fall of it's breath, underneath you feet. You know that the creature stirs, and that it hunts. Whenever you fail the die roll for this secret, you have succumbed to the fear that the earth itself will open it's maw and swallow you alive; you step as quietly as possible, and must carefully move at half-speed, in hopes of remaining unheard by the earth.
  3. Lies Unspoken: You have learned that the written word is merely a gateway for terrible things, that the ancient runes of language itself hold a power over us, and can be influenced by the dark gods, and worse. After all, what is to save you should you read an errant spell, causing your heart to shrivel and die, or your mind to twist in agony? Whenever you fail the die roll for this secret, you have succumbed to your paranoia over writing; you refuse to consciously read any piece of writing. You may have it read to you, but you refuse to lay eyes upon such things yourself.
  4. Flesh's Facade: You have seen the facade of flesh, and know it's true nature. Every living thing that claims to be of flesh and bone is merely a skeleton of black stone, wrapped in bundles and colonies of writhing, poisonous worms; you alone see this truth. Whenever you fail the die roll for this secret, you have succumbed to the fear of these worms, and refuse to expose your skin, bundling as tightly as you can; further, you fear any exposed skin, seeing it for the worms they are, and refuse to touch any creature with flesh exposed.
  5. Cage of Dreams: You know the true nature of dreams, as mere fabrications crafted by the sky gods, so they may pilot our bodies in our sleep, to do their dark, terrible bidding. You refuse to be their pawn, to be controlled, and placated by their dreams. Whenever you fail the die roll associated with this secret, you are unwilling to sleep, and try to keep your eyes closed as little as possible, to the detriment of your own health. You can be put to sleep with anything that would normally bring unconsciousness- but you will not rest willingly.
  6. Starving Parasites: You have learned the secret of hunger, and understand, unlike anyone else, that none truly need to eat to live; your stomachs, they are an alien creature, influencing our minds and emotions, forcing us to sustain them by consuming and eating. You will not fall for it, and instead, will starve the creature out, let it die. Whenever you fail the die roll associated with this secret, you are unwilling to eat for the day, to the detriment of your own health; you are convinced that you are killing the alien inside you, and that your weakness is merely the creature rebelling. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Short Story - Gladiator

 Gladiator


There was no greater glory than to be surrounded by the roars of men, locking in battle against a worthy opponent. Glory was not found in victory or in loss, merely the contest. All men fail, and all men may find success; there was shame in neither, and honor in both. These were the ideals of the Grand Arena of Nohia, the most ancient and venerable of men’s battlegrounds. Thousands across history have partaken in the contest of sweat and bronze, and some have forever enshrined themselves in the sacred halls of battle as warriors deserving of eternal praise.


    Koblai had no such ambitions.


An Ornn, Koblai was an oddity in the isles, and a greater anomaly still in being found in the arena; Ornns historically found no joy in conflict, and looked down upon battle and warfare as barbaric pursuits. And yet, Koblai showed more passion for the contest than most men to have entered into the pit. Like most men to enter the arena, he had something to prove; acceptance from the people, respect from his peers, perhaps even support from the nobility.


The difference was that Koblai did not fight for his own sake. He had nothing worth proving, no recognition he wished to gain; not from any of the jeering crowds, atleast. No, Koblai sought something greater, beyond the acceptance of mere men; Koblai wished to impress the great Hero himself, and the gods overhead and underfoot that upheld him.


The Ornns, for hundreds of years have lived in exile from their true home, having been driven out by the Naga hordes long ago. Ever since, the Ornnish people have lived under the gracious hospitality of the Oozan, deep within Mazria. A fine home, perhaps; but it is not the home of his ancestors, of his people. Now, the great works of his grandfathers lay within the hands of sickening, twisted barbarians, used for dark purposes few understood.


Koblai wanted nothing more than to take back the land of his ancestors, to free his people.


But Koblai was young, deemed impulsive by the wisened of his clan. The wise ones, they claimed that in time, the world would right itself, and their lands will return to them. But Koblai, and many of the younger Ornns of his age, had no patience to watch the men who still remember the look of their home slowly die on foreign land, unable to be buried within the earth alongside their forefathers before them. Men like Koblai all claimed that without action, the world would not move, and no lands would ever be reclaimed through inaction.


And so Koblai acted, like many of his peers, seeking to gain the favor of a power far older and greater than any Ornn, to finally see the birthright of his people. And today, he intended to win it.


~-~-~-~-


“Tonight is a test of honor, unlike any other to grace us in some time. Look upon our combatants; know their names, and learn them forever, for their souls deserve immortality, for stepping into this holy place of contest! Look upon them, and know that they are champions.”


The priest spoke with a particular commanding reverence, demanding attention and respect from all who heard him. He was a decorated man, garbed in a myriad of colors, representing him as a high-priest of the horizon gods, devoted to each and every one in equal measure.


He swept his hand outward, gesturing to each side of the arena. To his left was an Ornn, taller than most men, standing at nearly two stones above your average man. His body was like that of an upright bull, carved with a subtle musculature that was hard to pinpoint around his mane of fluff. His tail was long and slender, nearly prehensile in it’s flexibility- and tipped with another tuft of soft fur.

His head was almost akin to a dog, with a long snout and large, almost lizardlike mouth. His face was without eyes, having merely empty skin where you would expect such a thing. He was, after all, blind- though you would not expect it from the way Ornns carried themselves, seemingly able to sense their surroundings through various means.


“Here is Koblai, our challenger! Know him, for he has fought countless battles for the honor of standing here! Know him, for his efforts are valorous!”


And then the priest swept to his right, gesturing to a man twice as tall as Koblai, and nearly twice as thick; a giant, a human of abnormal size and strength. They were said to be the children of Adoman himself, able to trace their blood back to the first of the giants.

His skin was dark as ink, and was marbled with all manner of scars, long since healed. His limbs were as thick as tree trunks, and his weapon- a thick metal club- was as long as Koblai was tall. The man looked as if he could bend steel with his gaze alone, what with those piercing, muddy-brown eyes. He radiated power and intensity. A difficult opponent, indeed. 


“And here stands our champion, Maiarn! Know him, for he is mighty without equal! Know him, for he has proven the glory he holds!”


The two combatants walked toward eachother, at the priest’s beckoning. They took a moment to examine one another, and with a grunt the giant spoke;

“You. I offer you a challenge, given to all whom face me; make my back meet the ground below, and I shall forfeit this battle, and recognize your strength. Is this acceptable?”


Koblai sniffed the air, taking note of his surroundings; he could sense the man was large, and powerful beyond his own capability- though he could not see the man in any exacting detail. Eventually, he looked up and replied.

“Very well. I will agree to this test of strength, and will find glory in it.”


Maiarn nodded, and kneeled to bow before Koblai- of which Koblai offered the same, going to his knees to bow his head to his opponent. The crowd of the arena hushed in silent prayer for both combatants, as was custom; and as both opponents rose to meet one another, the priest raised his hand to signal the beginning of the match.


And the crowd cheered in celebration.


~-~-~-~-


The Ornns were a people of patience, and their way of battle reflected this; the Ornns, they struggled to go onto the offensive, due to their inherent lack of sight- and so their way of combat became reactionary, waiting for the opponent to come to them, and acting the moment an attack was detected.


And so Koblai restrained himself, waiting for the giant to approach him, before he made any movements. He focused, washing away the roaring of the crowd until he heard nothing; he became an urn of water, still and peaceful.

And then he felt the ground shake beneath him, thunderous stomping as if a drum of war. The water of the urn rippled, disturbed. He could feel the size of his opponent from his impacts on the ground, could sense the shape of his body and the strength of his muscle. He could feel the man rushing toward him, arms tensed to swing his great club.


Koblai could feel the shock ripple through his snout, and across his whole body, as he detected the giant enter his immediate proximity; it was the great strength of the Ornns, their ability to ‘sense’ their surroundings, despite their lack of eyes.

Koblai’s body reacted before his mind did, relying on his instinct and training as he lunged forward, ducking underneath the giant’s powerful swing, before raising his own hand and striking into the giant’s side. The small balls of clay on Koblai’s knuckles shattered, causing a thunderous clap to ring out, as Koblai and Maiarn were both thrown backward by the blow.


The giant managed to retain his footing, slamming his great club into the ground to right himself. He looked to Koblai, and nodded.

“Sunder Clay. A mighty weapon, indeed. But you will need more than just tools to defeat me, Ornn. If you have no wit nor will to back up such a mighty weapon, it will mean nothing. Come! Show me your essence.”


Koblai was simply silent, as he flexed the fingers of his gauntlet; such blasts were reckless, so much clay in one attack could have broken his wrist if he wasn’t careful. He refrained from loading more clay into the gauntlet, and merely re-took his stance, beckoning Maiarn forward.

The two clashed for minutes, the crowd roaring and swelling with each blow; Maiarn was powerful, and skilled- his attacks commanded space and attention both, and one slip-up and Koblai knew he would be defeated after only a handful of blows.

But Koblai was nimble for his size, able to weave between Maiarn’s wide, sweeping attacks- though he was caught unawares by swift strikes from the giant’s fists, Koblai prided himself in never being touched by the man’s weapon. Koblai struck swiftly, though his power was lacking compared to the strength of a true giant; Koblai could only hope to whittle him down.


Koblai was beginning to get exhausted, and was breathing heavily as the battle wore on. His reactions were slower, his ability to sense Maiarn muddled and unfocused. For a moment, he lost all sense of Maiarn’s presence, before he felt a tingling in his nose, and felt the powerful metal club slam into his face not even a second later.

The blow sent Koblai sprawling, flung across the sands. He jumped, Koblai realized. Even without his feet on the ground, he’s able to send me soaring. I will never doubt a giant again.


Blood splattered from Koblai’s mouth, and dribbled from his nostrils; that blow had left him weary, and weakened. He wobbled to his feet, slowly regaining his footing; he could hardly smell much of anything beyond his own blood and sweat, and knew that this fight would come to an end quickly. 


And so he devised a way to end it.


Koblai went onto the offensive, shouting with the crowd as he ran toward Maiarn; first, he placed the capsules of sunder clay he required into the notches on his knuckles- an excessive amount, perhaps, but if it left his hands broken when the fight was over, so be it. Next, when he met Maiarn, he focused entirely upon putting pressure upon the giant- quick jabs with his palms, swipes with his claws, even kicks with his hooves.

He did not relent, never giving the giant a chance to bring his wide club to bare; Koblai took several hits from the giant’s great fists for his effort, but he remained steadfast, keeping Maiarn exactly where he wanted until the exact perfect moment. 


And then the moment came.


There was a CLAP underneath Maiarn’s foot, a large capsule of Sunder-Clay that had gone unnoticed, swept there by Koblai’s dexterous tail; the blast set the giant off-balance, his stance unsteady. Maiarn showed true surprise, as Koblai reared both his arms back, and with a shout slammed his fists into the giant’s side, sending a deafening, thunderous crack across the arena.


A blast of dust swept across the battleground, and there was a great moment of tense silence as the dust cleared, revealing the giant flat on his back, several yards away- and Koblai, fallen onto his knees, breathing hard as his arms fell limp at his sides.

There was a quiet gasp from the crowd, a stunned silence that even Koblai could not escape; but the moment was broken when the giant broke into bellowing laughter.


And then the crowd roared .


~-~-~-~-


Cheering and chanting enveloped the arena, though Koblai could hear nothing except his own beating heart. He didn’t feel much beyond adrenaline, unable to truly revel in his victory until it passed.


When he finally regained a level of composure over himself, Koblai felt a tingling in his snout, before he realized it was the giant, hoisting him to his feet, and keeping him standing. Koblai gave a vague, appreciative nod, but was too stunned to speak to the man.


As Maiarn began to escort Koblai out of the arena’s battleground, he heard jeering from the crowd, curses and other slander from disgruntled betters, no doubt. As soon as he heard it, Maiarn snapped his head toward them, face full of rage.


“Be silent! Should you wish to see this warrior defeated, step into this arena, and see him defeated yourself! We seek victory in this sacred place, and should you not have the will to take it yourself, only seeking to find the defeat of others, then simply stay silent! Men like you, you dishonor this place.”


Koblai was stunned, and so were the men in the crowd. They bowed their heads in shame, hiding from Maiarn’s stern gaze, before the giant continued on his way. He set Koblai upon a cushioned bench within the arena prep-area, before clasping his arm.

“Whatever you hoped to find in defeating me, I hope you have found, warrior. If not, I offer it to you, should it be within my means.”


Koblai wiped the blood from his nose, before he did speak up. “Your gods. I seek favor from your gods; their might, their bravery, their guidance. I wish to have it bestowed upon me, to free my people.”


Maiarn was silent for a time, and Koblai wondered if perhaps the man had left his side, before he heard the giant speak gently, with a softness he’d not expect of a man so large. 

“You have earned more valor than many men I have met, and are deserving of them, I think. I will take you to meet them, and should such an idea as gifting power to a non-man would offend them so greatly, I will take the blame for it upon myself. I promise you this, I will see this task done.”


“I do not understand.” Koblai replied. “What do you intend to do?”


“I intend to take you up the mountain, to Olyianos. There, we shall petition the hero himself, and through him, the gods who uphold his strength. Mankind, our greatest heroes were forged destroying oppressors; surely they would not shy away from breaking another.”


“I…. I thank you. I know not what to say.”

“Then say nothing, and let us get moving. Your people, they have waited long enough for a hero to be born. You’d best not leave them waiting.”


Sunday, August 9, 2020

My roster of characters, oh me oh my!

Hiya! So, the fantastic blogs Throne of Salt and Mad Queen's Court recently posted rather lengthy, personal posts talking about their past characters, and their general history in the hobby. I've decided I'd like to do something similar, and list off my old characters. 

Of course, I have no real sense of chronology with any of them, so I'll just mention who's older and newer than who. I'll also try to group them by system, and game. 

Small note, all art used within this post I own; I either made it myself, or paid for it in a commission.

My 5e Characters.

I don't really play 5e much anymore, as I believe I've outgrown the system, and honestly there's a lot of it that I take many issues with; but, I've a fondness for it, as it's where I started to get into the hobby seriously. I've been playing since 5e was released, and own and buy all the books for it, even if I've no interest in the system anymore.

Aima Duren, Human Sci-fi Assassin Rogue. 
My first 5e character, made way back when the system first came out. Back then, I played the game in person with a close friend as my DM, and his siblings and some other mutual friends. Aima was originally made for a one-shot for the DM's birthday, that eventually moved into a rather short-lived campaign. Scheduling issues, and the fact that none of us could drive ourselves, killed that game. I can't really speak much for Aima's exploits, because I truthfully don't remember a whole lot of it. I can assure you however, we were all a bunch of dumb teenagers, and I'm not exactly proud of how I played Aima- I remember a tendency to steal the spotlight a lot, and really take control of the game. I'm glad I've grown past that.

Aiden, Human Fiend-pact Warlock. 
My second 5e character, Aiden was made for a more proper game with said DM from above, and his brothers. You know the concept of selling your firstborn to the devil in return for power? Aiden's that firstborn. His father sold him for power before Aiden was even born, and when he came of age, the demon decided to collect. A shy and awkward teenager, Aiden's forced to do some terrible things he never wanted to do, all because his warlock patron essentially owns him. He's seeking revenge on his father for selling him into this- and originally, the game ended before I could finish his character arc. But, with the discussion of a friend of mine, we've decided that he met a warlock in a similar situation, who is helping him break his need for revenge, and wants to free him from servitude. I'd love to come back and play Aiden, finish up the game he was in, but unfortunately the DM who ran him is no longer with us. I've thought about using the character in other games, and in my own personal writing projects, though.
A drawing I did of Aima

Aima Ilduri, Elf Moon Druid. 
Yeah, I re-used the name. I liked it, okay? This Aima was made for an online west-marches style discord server, and at this point I was still rather new to 5e. This Aima came about right around when Aiden was made. Aima was essentially the youngest of a rather rich and successful house of Elves, all renowned as scholars and politicians; well, Aima wasn't about that life, and went to spend three centuries in the woods, smoking pot and trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. In this time, he learned the ways of the Druids, and decided that's the lifestyle he wanted. Eventually the party bard Redford found him, and the two joined the local adventurer's guild. Part of a group within the guild called the Not Dragons, Aima, Redford, and Walkul the mute monk, were nigh inseparable. Evidently so, because I've become close friends with those two once internet strangers.

My favorite Aima story is that he got his iconic burnt and tattered red cape by fighting a group of cultists trying to summon a demon into the material realm, and Aima single-handedly took out a group of cultists, and dueled their leader, winning. Aima takes prizes from all his wins, and his greatest win was against the chief cultist- that, and he wore it as a symbol that he would make them burn for what they wanted to do. He once risked his life inside a massive camp of cultists just to get his cloak back. Aima's also been thrown into the air by a mechanical gorilla as a puma, in an attempt to knock down a flying Demon. Aima fell to the ground, and then Redford was thrown and fell next to him. The two gave eachother thumbs-ups.

Abather Crowley, Human Great Old One Warlock, Pact of the Chain. 
Hooooo boy, this one has some history to it. So, the DM for the game with Aima the Druid took me, Redford and Walkul's players, and one more player, and made a new campaign with all of us. A world where magic is mistrusted, and the gods have abandoned the world; all played over text, on discord. Abather was originally a farmer, turned escort for merchants, as travelling the wilds between cities was quite dangerous. Along his journey Abather met Nuria Quill, one of the first women to receive power from the gods in centuries. The two fought an ancient evil under Colley Hill, a mining town, before Abather got cursed by a witch with magical power, becoming a warlock. Wanting to be like Nuria, and put his newfound- if poorly understood- magical power to good use. So, with his misguided sense of heroism, he set out to free some slaves, which eventually became his entire quest, as he went on to use his magical might- which was slowly driving him mad, mind you- to free the slaves of the Teeth, and disband the gladiator rings they were put in.

Abather eventually accidentally freed his warlock patron from captivity, unleashing an ancient evil upon the world; a very powerful Beholder, a relic from the age of gods. Gifted with newfound power for his mistake, Abather and his retinue of once-slaves went on a crusade across the Teeth, abolishing the slave trade, and appointing Abather as the King of the newly formed Free States. In the coming centuries, Abather would be venerated and worshipped by the Unitariat nations as a Saint, representing freedom, justice, and vengeance for those wronged.

Abather's one of my most successful characters ever, and he led to me meeting my closest friends. The campaign was magical, and I'll never forget spending very late nights together in calls, all stoked about what would happen next in the game. It's an experience I'll never forget.

Art of Ginerva, as done by FatefulShadow

Ginerva 'Tonic' Poppylocke, Human Artificer.
Admittedly, I didn't play Ginerva for very long. In the sequel game to our original text campaign (the one with Abather), Ginerva was my new character. Centuries after the first campaign, the world is quite different. Originally an archaeologist and tinkerer, Ginerva was quite interested by the history of the world, and the personal stories of the Saints in particular. I admittedly didn't play Ginerva long, as life eventually got in the way of my ability to continue to play. She remains an NPC in said game, and admittedly I'm not sure what she's up to anymore, but I know she's in good hands. Sometimes I use Ginerva for other, non-D&D related things. She's a fun character.

Yuanne! Art by Phosphosu

Anne Yvette 'Yuanne' Paewai, Human Wild Magic Sorcerer/Swashbuckler Rogue.
One of my favorite characters ever, Yuanne was part of a west-marches style game that I was in with a couple friends. She's wild, narcissistic, and over the top in oh so many ways. She was just a ridiculously fun character to play, and probably one of my more fleshed out characters overall. She's turned herself giant, lit everything around her on fire, turned her skin blue, lost and regrown her hair, and summoned a unicorn before, all in the span of a minute. I have the most art of her, being completely honest- and I still use her in some of my non D&D stuff. 

Narnt the Hero, Barbarian Folk-Hero
A short-lived character, Narnt was a barbarian along the lines of Conan. He was originally meant for a one-shot, and there's not a lot to say about him. His greatest achievement was that he stole from a dragon's hoard, and robinhooded it back into his home town, earning him his Folk-Hero background.

'Stockholm', I forget his class but it was some sort of Rogue.
Another short lived character, Stock was part of a steampunk type setting with mechs and shit, it was rad. Stockholm is a nobody from nowhere, who doesn't even have his own name. He's a master of disguise, and pretends to be other people because he's so unremarkable and such a nobody. He wanted more than anything to be someone, anyone at all. So, he killed the king, and incited a civil war because of it. He's the most wanted man in the world right now, and that's got his heart pumping. I'd love to keep playing that game, but unfortunately the game ended rather abruptly for reasons I don't remember.

My Pleismouth Characters.

Okay, so Pleismouth is a modern-adjacent Urban Fantasy setting, created and run by my buddy Tim, who played Nuria Quill in those text games. The core premise is that mythological and fantasy creatures have been wiped from all our records, and public consciousness; for all intents and purposes, they don't exist, and the concept of them never existed in that world. That's because, the more you know about something, the more 'real' it is, and the more it can affect you and be perceived by you. Goblins? They're real, but only if you know what they are.

Riley Jack Ferguson. Art by FatefulShadow

Riley Jack Ferguson, Human Wizard (Pathfinder)
My first and most successful character in Pleismouth, Riley was the brother to one of the other player characters. The token wizard, he was all about enchantment and illusion, and manipulating the minds of those around him. You have no idea how powerful erasing memories is in this setting, let me tell you. Riley and the Cavalier biker (he's in a gang), Snake, were quite an effective and hilarious duo together. When it was just them, they got a lot of things done, such as stake-outs, detective work, and other such activities, like tracking down an HQ for a bunch of cultists. Riley's one of the few characters I've had to see a campaign from beginning to end, alongside Abather. 

Riley's done things that include but are not limited to:
  • Took a selfie with the Orc god, of which came in useful in convincing a group of Orcs to rebel against their dragon overlord. 
  • Took a selfie of himself and the other members of the party beating up a Lich, at like level 5- I wanna get this event commissioned because it's so god damn funny.
  • May or may not have accidentally bought a fairy slave that lives in his phone. His sister gives him shit for it.
  • Alongside the party found a reality-altering artifact, and then used said artifact to hide it where it will never be found. Later, in the final fight with the big-bad in which the entire party was plane-hopping every few rounds, Riley found the artifact again and used it after the fight to re-write the rules of the world. He keeps half of the artifact as his wand.
  • The spell that lets him erase-memories 6 seconds in the past has been used as a great story-telling device by the GM, in which we suddenly wake up after doing something, covered in cuts and blood, and with my spell slots missing. That may seem powergamey to some, but to us it was a brilliant tool to signal that something big and scary was nearby and we weren't ready to handle it- and it led to an amazing chase scene.

Amaretta. Art by FatefulShadow

Amaretta Faelman, Changeling Street-Oracle (Pathfinder)
Just a normal girl, with some rather unusual features, until recently; Amaretta has always been considered weird by everyone around her. Eventually, she found out why, by discovering that she wasn't human, and that she had supernatural powers given unto her by something else, for an unknown purpose. The daughter of a hag, she's yet to fully discover her true nature, and her place in the world. She's still coming to terms with the supernatural, and her newfound powers. She's my character for our second Pleismouth campaign, which is currently on hiatus for a few reasons. I'd love to get back to playing her, she's an interesting character.

Marrion G. Fisher, Gillman International Police Officer/Inquisitor (Pathfinder)
My character for a spinoff Pleismouth game, Marrion was rather short lived as that game got axed for a few personal reasons. Marrion however was incredibly fun and eccentric, as a non-human trying to fit into human society. He worked as part of a special government agency, with the express purpose of policing and dealing with warded creatures. I hope to play him again one day, he was fun, if brief.

My Divided Lands/AD&D characters.

Okay, so Divided Lands is my AD&D 2e game, run by our illustrious DM Tanis. I've known the people in this game for years at this point, some of them verging on 5+. I've been in the game itself for I wanna say three, four years now? We've gone through two campaigns already, and are currently in our third, with a fourth and fifth game planned. We intend to keep playing for as long as we're all alive, tbh. At this point it's filled with a lot of (dubiously balanced) homebrew and house-rules, and it's barely recognizable as AD&D anymore, for better and for worse.

Uthmael Sonoran, Human War Cleric
My first AD&D character, Uthmael was made for the proto-campaign that eventually became Divided Lands. There's not much to say about him, he only existed for about three sessions, I wanna say? I was figuring out the system, and still trying to figure out RP in a tabletop environment, so there's not much to him, admittedly. Maybe I'll re-visit him and flesh him out. if I remember right he died to a pack of spiders.

Ozimondiom, the Great and Wicked, Gnome Illusionist/Thief
Hoooo boy, he was one of my earliest characters, ever. Originally he was a massive shit-lord of a wizard meant to throw down fireballs and spit in the face of dragons. Unfortunately, gnomes can't be wizards in 2e, so I had to be an illusionist instead. I wasn't a very clever person at the time, so I figured that illusions where useless because I wasn't creative enough. That opinion has changed now, of course- I love illusionists now. I eventually abandoned Ozzy after a few sessions, and he became a minor villain for the DM to use. Fun fact, he's the reason the party was alive at all, because we accidentally came across a cave of Manticoras, and Ozzy had an untrained normal goat as his mount named Crowley. Well, the Lizardman barbarian decided to throw the goat to the Manticora to distract them, allowing us to cave-in the cave and escape. Fun times.

My heroforge model of Alister.

Alister Mithril, the Mythical Minstrel, Human Bard/Cavalier
My replacement for Ozzy, Alister was a good time. A bard who specialized not just in the lute, but was specialized in performing with horses, and riding tricks- he also had a knack for polearms and lances, and used them near exclusively. Alister was originally part of a roving troupe of performers, with the leader of the troupe as his girlfriend. After his relationship with her went sour, he stole one of her horses and left to go adventuring. He later left the adventuring party after the clumsy druid killed his horse, and had it set on fire- hereby destroying everything he owned. He later joined up with another retired PC, Eothod, to form a group of mercenary riders, who later appeared in the final battle of the campaign to fight the ancient dragon Astholosh, and his army of demons.

Notably, when we first came across the first city destroyed by Astholosh, Alister found an orphan girl that lost her leg and family to the dragon. Alister allowed her to ride his horse, and gave her his hat, in order to cheer her up. Remember this orphan girl, she'll become relevant later.

My Heroforge model of Sneeze.
I used to have a physical model, but it broke.

Sneeze, aka Ghoz Vahk, Jintaari (Lizardman) Rune-mage turned God.
Where do I even begin? Perhaps my longest lived, most famous, and most beloved of characters, Sneeze. The very same Lizardman who eventually became Ghoz Vahk, great Vulture Dragon god of hunger. There's just so much to say about him. Okay, so basically, after Alister left the party, Sneeze joined very soon after; a borderline unhinged lizardman practicing a very dangerous form of magic, with a strange accent. He was a hit from minute one. To give some idea as to what a Runemage is, essentially it's a type of wizard that carves runes onto surfaces, for magical effects; it's basically mixing and matching words for spells. Sneeze was one such wizard.

In his first encounter, nobody expected much from him, as he was just a very skinny Lizardman who didn't seem to have much physical prowess- however, Sneeze had a very important Rune under his command, Propel. Like King Bumi, he essentially stopped hunching over, and then shoryuken'd a man into a ceiling, launched a table across a room into a Demon, and then when the Barbarian lodged his sword into a giant Demon, it was Sneeze who used his propel rune to allow the dwarf cleric to hit the sword with his hammer, slicing the demon in two. It was an epic moment and really showcased how awesome Sneeze could be in a team-fight.

Ghah there's just so much I wanna say about him. Eventually, he got a power where once per day (and eventually three times per day) he could essentially randomly generate three words for a random effect, as determined by the DM. This has gotten Sneeze into and out of so much trouble; like when he was falling of the back of a flying dragon, he randomly evolved wings to survive, and then used that opportunity to punch the dragon with the earth. Or that time he tore a hole in the sky and caused the Ark's robots to go crazy (the entire setting takes place on a high-tech Ark ship, nobody in the setting knows this). Near the beginning of the campaign the party fought a succubus, and mid-fight Sneeze became a vampire, giving him his iconic insatiable hunger for flesh. He also made the sky grow a beard once.

He had a talking skull named Dead-man, and when he went to go retrieve Dead-Man's body, he accidentally became the god of a bunch of hyper-intelligent goblins, which eventually led to his ascension as Ghoz Vahk, the great eater. In the final battle of the campaign he began to realize his new godlike power, and ascended mid-fight, literally eating the previous goblin god mid-combat in front of hundreds of people. During said fight he became the Vulture-Dragon we all know and love, and blessed his followers (the Lizardman Barbarian notably, who became not only his champion, but the king of the Jintaari). 

Ghah I could ramble on about Sneeze forever. I love him. I miss him.

Lace. Art by one of my AD&D partymembers

Tania 'Lace' Splintertoes, Human Barbarian/Blade Bard
After the first campaign wrapped up, I needed someone to play that was already pre-established in the world. The second campaign took place a decade after the first, and the world was a different place, now! I wanted to feel connected, and have the impact of Astholosh's war inbuilt to the character. So I went to thinking, and I remembered someone. Remember that little orphan girl that Alister gave his hat to? This is that girl. After Alister found her, Nhakik (the Lizardman Barbarian) rounded up all the orphans in the city and taught them how to live off the wild, as a barbarian. She lived at this life for a while, but considering she was crippled and weak, she didn't last long in that lifestyle; though her skills, and acquired rage from it, remained.

She took up the life of a bard, after the man who showed her kindness and hope for the future, and kept his hat dearly, a reminder things can be better. She looked for that man all her life, hoping to return his hat to him. Unfortunately, she fell into a few poor life choices, and ended up with a group of baddies for a while. Unfortunately when we played her, the majority of the party was evil, where Lace was more ambivalent, so I decided to change her out to keep from clashing with the party, She's still out there somewhere, and I intend to play her again in our third campaign.