Monday, November 9, 2020

The Bandit Tribesman

Summary: You are a warrior-shaman in a tribe of cattle-rustling, city-state plundering, psychedelic-heroquesting hinterland barbarians.

Choose your God, a Mystery Cult to participate in, a Totem or Fetish to carry, and your Birthright. Each gives you Proficiencies, Powers, and/or Conduct guidelines.


Everyone's Base Proficiencies are (note that Proficiencies stack if applicable): Orienteering, Wilderness survival, Swimming, Grappling, Singing, Dancing, Boasting. Although the city-states have machine age technology, you are not literate or numerate unless otherwise noted. You can recognize certain traditional runes.

The Gods
The Purple Shroud: Conspiracies, secrets, magic, madness. It is not natural to hear ghosts if you are not dancing before the pillage-pyre.
Proficiencies: Detection, Interrogation, Stalking and shadowing, Lipreading and eavesdropping, Code-talking, Literacy and numeracy
Powers: You can smell magic, like burnt toast or rubber, and if somebody isn’t what they seem to be, but is instead some kind of conspirator, possessor or doppelganger, you know.
Conduct: You tend to jump to conclusions and see connections where there are none. Occasionally the GM will explain an unfolding situation to you in a way that is too complete and convenient; they will subtly offer you conclusions that you lack evidence for. Both you and the party should be looking out for this, and the GM will acknowledge that he or she gave you false extrapolations if he or she was doing so.

The Black Trickster: He teaches that language and reality are one, but that our eyes divide them; concepts underlie objects, and each is molded by the other. Anyone may be hoodwinked, and eventually you will betray them all for their derision.
Proficiencies: Impersonation, Hiding in plain sight, Bond-slipping, Cause distraction, Sleight of hand, Enrage someone, Ventriloquism, Blather, Poison
Powers: You may make an untrained proficiency roll to metaphysically apply conceptual shorthands or equivalencies to reality; for example, you may steal someone’s pride, hide the truth, or slip through the cracks, and these will have an actualized local effect determined by the GM. If you fail, you will be caught and humiliated.
Conduct: If your tribe is fighting a losing battle and is likely to be destroyed, you must aid the enemy. Resisting this is an untrained proficiency check every time you wake up. If you are beaten into unconsciousness to force a check, it is at -1 proficiency from then on.

The Murderer: The strangler who waits in water. The assassin. Envenomed; the cannibal.
Proficiencies: Stalking and shadowing, Camouflage, Impersonation, Leaping, Close combat, Swimming, Enrage someone, Climbing, Poison
Powers: When you roll a 6 on a close-range surprise attack with a melee weapon or your bare hands, you may dedicate your kill to the Murderer and find yourself highly energized for d4 days. Choose d4 of your base proficiencies from worshipping the Murderer; these are increased by 1 for that period.
Conduct: You are likely to be regularly challenged to duels because of your Sect’s reputation for backstabbing, poisoning and cannibalism. City-state people who realize what you worship will either flee or try to kill you, unless they wish to become pawns of your deity.

The One Draped in Gold: The possessor. He who keeps and attracts. The peacock and dandy; natural law.
Proficiencies: Handgun, Knife fighting, Bargain, Appraise, Attract, Recount tale, Literacy and numeracy
Powers: If you are being robbed, physically or metaphorically, your heart begins to pound and your palms sweat
Conduct: You must dress ostentatiously, after your own fashion. If deprived of your charms and raiments, you lose all Proficiencies except Handgun and Knife Fighting until you recover them or are even better attired.

The Builder of Megaliths: He who constructs the future and brings magic to places.
Proficiencies: Soil smelting, Architecture, Literacy and numeracy, Pre-industrial machine construction, Blacksmithing, Metallurgy, Stonecutting, Carpentry, Mighty blow
Powers: You may consecrate a place, or tap into its natural power if it exists. Consecration drives away the supernatural; tapping into power attracts and enhances it. You may unearth the ley lines of causality and determine the course of certain events, altering them by building in a particular place; anything from a shrine to a fastness.

The Hero-Chooser: The feminine force who beheads cowards and delights in the warrior. The Valkyrie; the Lady of the Lake; the Spartan Mother; Aphrodite.
Proficiencies: Close combat, Shooting, Leaping, Climbing, Throwing, Diving and rolling, Bend bars/lift gates style feats, Poetry
Powers and Conduct: You become extremely popular with the opposite sex as long as you have fought a deadly combat within the last week (the Hero-Chooser is normally worshipped by men but you can do what you like). Deadly combat means making a combat roll where you’d die on a 1-1 but auto-kill on a 6. The opposite sex is favorably inclined towards you, and if it comes to a social check you gain +1 proficiency. This is influence, not mind control; a swayed female judge might still send you to your death while sighing inside.
It doesn’t matter if you win your battle; if you’re captured, lost, or wounded and left for dead, it’s still very likely you’ll be able to find a noble lady or fishwife who will tend to your wounds/smuggle you a bomb. It doesn’t matter if you’re some kind of serial killer or mass murderer; given time, you will find your inamorata.
Your charm ends early if you surrender when you could have fought or escaped, or if you behave obsequiously.

The Inverse Dagger: The wounder who teaches you by chastisement.
Proficiencies: Strength, Constitution, Agility, Climb, Fall safely, Run down foe, Swimming, Wilderness survival and orienteering, Recover during tumble/fall, Freerun, Sense motive
Powers: When you fail a check, gain an extra proficiency in your next check of that type.

The Craven One: Enslaved or humiliated people are forced into his worship and called Craven Ones.
Proficiencies: Lockpicking, Bond-slipping, Cooking, Hide in place, Mending, Sewing and suturing, Slip blow, Carry load, Placate, Row hard, Notice discrepancy, Numeracy
Conduct: You will be treated with contempt, but it is understood that many a fattened chieftain has been cast down by a self-strengthened Craven One. Once recognized as a hero, you may renounce the Craven One and return to an old god or new; the Craven One has cast you out then, and to continue his worship is to invite disaster.

The One Who Enriches Companions: He of the crown and chain shirt. Leadership, loyalty and right in legal disputes.
Proficiencies: Swordplay, Shooting, Wilderness stealth, Orienteering, Horsemanship, Grappling, Law and adjudication, War leadership, Animal husbandry, Numeracy
Powers: Your cattle are your wealth. When you distribute rich gifts to friends and companions (objects made of precious metal, fine weapons and sumptuous clothing, rare wines and spices, etc, not pure money or cattle, but rather discrete objects or self-associated collections) you gain renown and benefit those you enrich. When a friend or companion is so gifted, they gain +1 Proficiency to their next roll due to being psychologically emboldened. For every gathering you hold at which you enrich friends and companions, add 1 Renown for each friend or companion so enriched at that gathering. You can spend renown in your Tribal homeland to do the following (numbers are Renown cost):
1: Be gifted with food, herbal medicine and fodder by the community
1: Employ a Butcher, Chef, Cheesemaker, Herdsman etc in your household
2: Acquire d4 cattle from the community (you’re normally expected to steal them from other tribes)
2: Employ a young warrior in your retinue (Prof: Close Combat, Rifle, Climbing, Wilderness Stealth), or a Scribe or Wilderness Scout
3: Employ an adult warrior in your retinue (Prof: CCx2, Shooting, Climbing, Leaping, Throwing, Stealth), or a Shaman
6: Employ a renowned warrior in your retinue (Prof: CCx2, Shooting x2, Climbing x2, Leaping, Throwing, Horsemanship, Wilderness survival and orientation, Feats of strength, Iron liver, Stealth, Poetry. He is proud and may leave or duel you if seriously disrespected by you)
Conduct: You have a herd of 3d20+10 cattle and employ 2d4 herdsmen to tend them in your tribe’s grazing lands. This is a source of wealth but also responsibility; should your number of cattle ever drop below one dozen, your extended family will come to appropriate your herd and force you into the cult of the Craven One, and your herdsmen will help them.

The Wild Hunt: He who spears, the corpse-drainer, the red reaver. The Allthief. He takes anything, anytime, anywhere. Animal, man or thing. But he gives profligately, foolishly, madly.
Proficiencies: Hunt and track, Spear, Archery, Butchery and tanning, Stealth, Climbing, Swimming, Sleight of hand, Knife fighting, Foliage trap, Throwing, Wilderness survival and orienteering
Powers: You can see majestic prey animals that nobody else can; these paragon spirits have special powers to offer (and they will tell you as much) if you kill them, but doing so will blight the land.
Conduct: If you hoard wealth it will begin to sprout roots and grow mossy, attract many moths and finally begin to crack apart like a sidewalk.
Your desire is maddeningly strong and if you admit to wanting something and are in its presence, you must roll a Proficiency 1 check to keep from trying to get it. On an Advance you are obviously sick with desire for it.

The One Astride the Sea: Whale eater, wave rider, river robber, longship raider, thrall taker, wound maker, kenning baker
Proficiencies: Leap, Sail, Row hard, Throwing, Close combat, Shooting, Swimming, Carry load, Star navigation, Orienteering, Land safely, Fishing, Poetry, Boasting
Powers: It pleases the One Astride that you maintain your thralls in the most delicate and rapturous finery possible. For every thrall that you keep in style, you may recruit one raider for an expedition likely to yield profit and glory (Proficiencies: Close Combat, Rifle, Climbing, Wilderness Stealth).
It also pleases the One Astride when you burn foreign structures and sacrifice thralls on the shores and bogs. If you sacrifice thralls before departing on a plunder cruise, he will guide you to treasure worth at least 100oz of gold per thrall sacrificed; but you must burn down the place that you find or your journey will be cursed. If you did not sacrifice thralls before a journey, you may pass up targets, or just attempt to extort them without attacking.

The Mysteries
Dark Places Beneath Fallen Trees: Chthonic spirits, brutal transformation, spiders, rot and fungus.
Details: You enter rotten huntsman hollows and mosswracked timber-troves wherein there is darkness. There amidst the softening wood and stillness, you slip into the pit and smell the earthen wetness. Something will happen there; the GM will tell you what. Examples: you speak to an entity residing there. Your body is rent into a new shape, suitable for a hunter but unsuitable for a social animal. Your clothes are swarmed by spiders who do not bite you. You take on a rot that will ruin wood wherever you go. A fungus infects you; perhaps it is a new and more potent immune system, perhaps it is a distributed intelligence on a mission of racial revenge.

The Maiden of Morn: Sunlight, service, ceremony, love, belonging, and desire.
Details: You greet the dawn and refresh the world. You prepare the people for ceremonies and fertility rituals, and you paint and consecrate the animal before sacrifice. You hold rituals of greeting for visitors and rituals of good fortune for those departing. You tend to have good relationships with people and have a knack for bringing people together; you have +1 Proficiency when attempting to help people find common ground or work together, and you can please even civilized people by officiating a ceremony for them.
You gain Proficiency in Singing and Dancing, and you can use them during Ceremonies to open the hearts of obstinate onlookers, either Singing in content or Dancing as a way to nonverbally impart the reality of concepts. A 1-result is likely to result in sudden explosive rage at this beautiful (and thus utterly crass) manipulation.

The Nightmare Realm: Trips into the unknown and infinite caverns where every terror breaks its own arms to cut you. Psychological transformation, impossible insight, time-distorted horror-odysseys, strange knowledge.
Details: When you spend an extended period underground without any light, there are a number of outcomes you may attain. The GM will tell you what happens but here are a few examples:
-Synthesis: You suffer constant horrific visions of mutated loved ones who have large parts of their innards exposed until you are able to mentally diagnose physical maladies, where things should be and where they shouldn’t; gain +1 Prof in Emergency Medicine checks, and you may attempt surgical procedures at 0 Proficiency.
-Exposure: You are harrowed relentlessly for dogged hours by unknown shapes emerging from angles in the dark; you now act extremely efficiently in the presence of the supernatural and gain +1 Prof in CC, Shooting, Leaping and Climbing when fighting against a supernatural or antediluvian foe.
-Envenoming: You become trapped in a squeeze and you have rattlesnakes and wolf spiders explore your entire lower body while something whispers to you from the darkness; when you finally get free, there’s nothing there but you get chills when thinking about certain herbs and saps. You have the strange intuition that when you mix them you produce a deadly blood-coagulation poison; something wants you to use it.
-Revelations: You speak to a dead friend, who is at the bottom of a very dark pit (but doesn’t want to talk about that). He reveals things he knew in life, and things he’s learned since then. He may or may not actually be your friend.

The Crags of Song and Thunder: Blasted with rain or blizzard, kneeling as the elements overload the body and the lightning makes pitter-patter or skitter-clatter shrapnel of the rocks. Ride the lightning in the booming peaks, fight the swill-demons and holler the warrior hymns where the Gods on earth riot.
Details: You travel into the Channels of Light where lightning is eternal. You do the things enumerated above, and if you are courageous and high-hearted enough you will gain lightning-blessings such as ensorcelled weapons, a metal-melting touch, the ability to electrocute a lake full of fish for easy pickings, or a supernaturally thunderous voice.

The Allfeast: Nothing may be kept, all must be taken and enjoyed. The feast of five hundred swine, of infinite sausage thrashing in baths of beer and many days of riot and retching riding upon horses and camels of wide-robbed lands dragging the children on tapestries of gold, sleighs of silk, riots of rune-rinds, monstrous furs, brocaded bone bracelets woven through seaweed nets from foreign shore-courts guzzling moonwine from shoatback, buttocks a barrel’s breadth above the earth, of bile-trenches and the morning cold-dead.
Details: You will find yourself transformed at the end of the feast. You may be able to bite through metal, spit pure (flammable) alcohol, sleep off gun wounds, tame wild animals with wine, and so forth.

The Death Rune: Death is in the earth and glory is on the sun-bronzed skin. We tie time to time through our flesh with sooty scarification, blackened brands and moonblade tattoos green-blacked with the ashes of the dead, and the souls of animals, rocks, ransacked hearths and ruined keeps. We are gaping portals to the netherworld. We channel the power of the passed-away.
Details: Tattoos, brands and scars have powers based on whose or what’s ashes are rubbed into them. When you kill someone or destroy something, you may create a new mark for yourself. The GM will tell you what it does, but the character of the thing may surface from time to time in your personality; when it does, make a Proficiency 1 test to control it.

The Burners of the Night Holds: The ones who walk beyond and wield their swords by God-side. He who strikes fourth to slaughter knave and demon where the thoughts and dreams lay, in the power-plane where the Gods live out their stories and stack up the booty and war material with which the world is propped up and held aloft in tremendous plunder-pyramids. These men breathe the worldroot and climb the Tree of the Battlegrounds. Many are laid low there, their pulses dying by the fireside, their flesh growing clammy and wan while tears stream down the cheeks of the watchers in their vigil.
Details: You lead psychoactive heroquests into the Realm of the Gods. The Gods wage their eternal Great Raid against the manifold demons of the otherworlds; you must help them prop up the world, either by standing alongside them, or assuming the shape and responsibilities of your own deity in this realm, and acting as they would- or be cursed for failing to live up to their conduct.
If successful, these heroquests can change reality, but the boon must be asked at the commencement. Death in the Godplane seals your soul there forever.

Totems and Fetishes
The Wolf’s Head: The sheep-stealer, cattle-rustler, kin-fighter, outlaw-to-be.
Form: A hood made from a wolf’s head, or a symbol upon your hands and face.
Powers: You can smell cattle and cowardice from a mile away; bite with horrific and deadly effect; beat up nonplayer allies to intimidate them into compliance; evade trackers and catch the fleeing at Proficiency 2.

The Mask of Flame: The flame of this vast mask changes shape in the darkness.
Form: A huge mask worn over your face; flat and somewhat blank for it becomes a stage for the spirit world at night.
Powers: At night when you set your mask on fire, spirits and ancestors may manifest themselves in the flames based either on your mood or what spirits are present where you are if you lose control. The very shape of the mask may change, and what they do (and what Proficiencies and Powers you gain) will depend on who is inhabiting your fetish. The GM will tell you how they affect your behavior, but how you act that out is up to you; but if the nature of the spirit implies doing something you don’t want to do (e.g. something that wants cannibalism and arson) then you may roll at Proficiency 1 to extinguish it.

The Phallus of Dawn: The rain stick by which life is reborn and change comes.
Form: Urbanites will regard your staff with hostility for they have turned their back on the source of life.
Powers: Harmony may be sworn over the staff and will be kept for at least a week between tribal peoples. It may also call the weather, cure disease and grant virility. The inside of the staff is filled with the seed of the gods, tiny lead ball bearings. As such it has a mighty swing and those struck with it are likely to be chastised and become meek, unless they are mighty warriors.

The Bones of God: Clad thyself in guardian-bones, an exoskeleton of might.
Form: Ribs and charms, gleaming ridges across every clean surface, impregnable; a bone mask proud, an armored frill athwart the crown, knucklebones that rattle the symphony of mysterious war, spirits calling the reveille.
Powers: You may allow the bones to break to reroll the second stage of a Combat 1-result. You may also break them to gain momentary superstrength, adding a level of Proficiency to a strength-based physical task before the roll. You will need to replace the bones after this; bones are common but the process is time-consuming, generally 16 hours.

The Razorvine: Capturer and conqueror-worm, intoxicator, torturer, reliever of suffering. Bolas and traps, blood-lasso, blood-garrote, it grows when you give it suck, it blooms when you warm it.
Form: A long, ridged vine with wickedly hooked little thorns. These thorns bloom into flowers when soaked in blood and then warmed in the sun or over a fire. If your vine is destroyed, you know the Cult's secret patch, deep underground.
Powers: The thorns of this wicked plant are like the bite of a bullet ant; you gain +1 Interrogation when using it to torture someone. If you wrap someone in it, it will tighten as they struggle, snaking around them, growing as it draws blood. The vine changes color like a chameleon, and thus makes an ideal tripping mechanism, as it will wrap around anything that pushes into it. The flowers act as a potent narcotic tranquilizer, although their potency will fade after an hour if torn up (say, into a soup or cocktail). Continuous blood-draining or excessive flower-use can be lethal within 15 minutes each.

The Drumming on the Plains: Hidden rhythms, signals to the sensitive, an irresistible call to war brutally insinuated by drummers within and without, restless, their beat burning through reality behind everything, watching, they grin, stirring hands hungry for mighty blows, goading your spear into the breast, your eyes a panopticon of murder.
Form: Drums only you can hear, and the things they imply.
Powers: The drums impart secret insights that may or may not be correct. You are paranoid and have an eye for conspiracies, having a 75% chance to detect a lie (the GM will tell you whether or not someone is lying if you ask, but they will roll the d4 in secret first to determine if this is accurate). When you give in to the bloodlust of the drums you gain +1 Close Combat and Shooting for an hour, but you must also make a level 1 Proficiency test or go on a murderous rampage (though you won’t attack your companions).
You may periodically get the urge to cut out your own ears and to remove your hands. This won't really help; you can feel the throbbing.

The Birthright
You were born under a sign and this determines the sole things your father left you. You may also have an assortment of small common items; knives, charms, twine, etc
The Powder Horn: Choose one of the following three sets.
1. A brace of .44 Magnum revolvers at your waist and a 12’ depleted troglodite pike in your hands. It will not bend, it will not break, it will not dull. A satchel charge taken from a city-state mining expedition; can be set for time or detonated by long fuse. You gain 1 Proficiency in running up or across the pike when it’s braced or laid over a gap. The pike has a leather strap you can loosen to suspend it like a messenger bag if you wish to wield both your revolvers.
2. A five foot mercury greatsword and a bayonetted boarding shotgun in a dual sheath across your back, and a pair of mustard gas grenades hung from your (belt, beard, ears, nipples). You gain 1 Proficiency in using your greatsword as a pry bar.
3. Sawed-off anti-tank rifle with a single depleted troglodite round. After firing this round, you’ll need to track it down, reload it with brass, beeswax and sal irascor (two hour process with a soil smelter), though luckily the soil will slow it down better than concrete walls, monster flesh or a city-state tank. The depleted troglodite round carries enough shockwave to tear a car in half and it sets the air on fire like a railgun round. This weapon can fire regular anti-tank bullets as well if you can steal some. It’s cut down for close and sudden encounters in the hills and forest. If attacking from ambush, you dislocate your arm on a 1. This may also occur if you get a 1 during combat in addition to whatever other severe wound you may suffer. You also carry a climbing shillelagh, which adds 1 to Climbing when utilized, and is more likely to KO someone (with a broken skull) than other melee weapons, which are more likely to kill.

The Crushing Tendrils: You carry mortar, pestle, spreading dagger and alembic, as well as the knowledge to make or prepare sal irascor, agrippan beeswax, Allsolvent, parsimony root, panacea and Godstool.
Sal Irascor: Massively explosive
Agrippan Beeswax: Permeates and binds objects at the molecular level
Allsolvent: When these liquids are mixed together, they are capable of melting absolutely anything, no matter how supernatural
Parsimony Root: Imparts extreme lethargy; if the subject goes to sleep, their life signs will disappear for five minutes, but when they awake it will take them an hour to recover from their near-death state.
Panacea: Instantly heals, but imperfectly so. Lifesaving but expect permanently crippled wound sites.
Godstool: Very deadly if unprepared, and likely to impart extreme psychiatric side-effects if prepared improperly. Godstool brings the Godplane to earth as a psychic overlay, and everything you see takes on its mythical form; thus you may draw on the powers of the Gods to fight the ultimate evils on this earth, but you may not gain the boons of the heroquests.
Worldroot: Extremely rare. Allows a large group of people to enter the Godplane together on a heroquest. You do not bring the Godplane to earth, as with Godstool; you transcend as your body waits by the fire.

The Funnel Spider: You carry ropes and pitons, lures for man and beast, longbow and shortbow with many arrows (crescent cutter, pitchburn, whistler, rope tower, glass tip), pit digger (sort of a Pulaski tool), hunting knife, boning knife, scalping knife. You can safely lead vertical climbs, create extensive traps, and utilize many types of ammunition.
Crescent Cutter: Can sever bones
Pitchburn: Splatters a blazing combination of pitch and naphtha where it lands, setting an intense fire.
Whistler: Used to signal allies, frighten beasts, and gauge the shape of tunnels.
Rope Tower: Thick and sturdy arrow with an expanding barb. Can carry a light rope along with it, creating an instant grapnel.
Glass Tip: Can be untied, filled with a liquid or mixture, and then tied back on.

Our Tribe
We are the People of the Earth Heart, or the Earth Heart People, or just the People for that is what we are. We carry the Earth’s Heart in our breasts so that the world will not pass away. All other tribes are false people, simulacra made from woven mud, creatures from the cold and shadow, almost animals or insect-like in their cities. We must eventually take for ourselves all the things they possess, for that is the only way that we might cool them of their animation once and for all; they are powered by their possessions.

We herd Cattle. This is the way of life handed down by the Gods; to shepherd and dine upon the mightiest of beasts. We may rob the foreigner, but true wealth comes from the Cow. We may tend the goat and pig, but the worthy man has Cows on his mind- if he be a man who expects others to follow him.

There are other tribes nearby, but their ways are corrupt. There are the Affidavits, who were once hunter-gatherers, a way of life that is acceptable while traveling but they are now being fed like sucklings by the city-state of Archzenith. They have thus lost their connection with the animals. There are the Plaudits, who are cannibals. It isn’t right for a whole tribe to be cannibals. Man-flesh is reserved for the Children of the Murderer, and even then, only when he won’t pollute his tribe with his sacrament. Then there are the Plenarites, who think they are pastoralists, but they value sheep, goats and pigs over the Cow! It's only right we take their Cattle.

Nearby Foes
The Affidavits: Archzenith’s dogs, sickened on lead-sweetened wine and the opium teat of their heroin-priests, well-stocked by the pimp-surgeons of Archzenith. Rich in useless gold from the inexplicable mines, fattened on buckets of molten chocolate and whole weeping cakes from the city-state’s white-knuckled confectioners, the Affidavits would be an irrelevant force if not for the unsleeping guidance of their living God, the gilded and blue scaled megaviper Nagaraja, who seems always to smile in serenity, his arms crossed as he sits comfortably in his coils until the time comes to swallow whole another fattened sweat-slick Affidavit nobleman.
Paths in their settlements are hung with tokens and fetishes designed to ward off monsters and spirits; trespassing generally isn’t met with violence because it’s expected the spirits will take revenge on you.
Nagaraja usurped their religion; crocodiles, great apes and snakes are all respected because they’re viewed as the reincarnation of vicious, strong or cunning people, and they respect him most of all because he seems to be the embodiment of their virtues; plus, he “reduced the city-folk to tribute”.
A group of Elders once petitioned Nagaraja to end the addiction in their community; he went to an old, neglected temple that was being used as a heroin den and placed a huge stone slab over its only exit. Thereafter the Elders have tolerated addiction amongst their relatives.

The Plaudits: Swamp cannibals from the mangrove bogs that border the Place of Things, the slithering, clay-slathered Plaudits weave their way across the slick grasses and predawn lavender to hurl their javelins (petrified snakes, their maws gaping and dripping) about the campfires and longhouses of their foes. In victory they make abattoirs of the enemy's sacred places and reverently devour their meaty haul in the actual homes of their foe. Their treasures are the fruits of their herb-lore and their krait-shafts and dragon-spears, great beams of potency whittled from the petrified forms of king cobras, monitors, crocodiles, and stranger reptiles...

The Plenarites: The God-Drinkers. They dwell in the Channels of Light, mountains so burnt by lightning that no crop may grow there. They live by their goats, sheep, and pigs (fed on prisoners), and in their misty passes they mix the vile witch's brew known as ‘vombatide’ by which they drunkenly stumble into the Godplane. Unlike our divinely revealed ways, the burning of Worldroot or the eating of Godstool, the hill-devils intoxicate themselves with atavistic madness before they enter the Godplane, and thus they are ever being possessed by demons and are ever our foemen in the otherworld and netherworld.

Archzenith: The brutal fourfold aristocracy of this city-state practices war amongst themselves while their Affidavit auxiliaries pit-fight POWs for their amusement and for the scraps of Archzenith’s inexhaustible mines. Archzenith is a place with no art; they lost it when they opened their mines, and now instead they swaddle their buildings in pure silver and pave their streets in blood-slickening gold; an incandescent murder monolith rising in the jungle smoke.
Archzenith is best accessed by its heavily-guarded rivers; in the jungle outside Affidavit areas, vegetation and flowers seem to present solid walls. Every leaf seems to be weeping upon you in big round drops as you stand behind the man in front of you, waiting to advance through the branches, creepers and vegetable cord. You can’t see if it’s a sunny day or a gloomy day. The unhealthy reeking atmosphere of rot, the slopping moisture, nothing but the eternal interlacing branches; you must burrow and crawl like wild animals to get through draws. It feels like a great prison of foliage.
Note the symptoms of malaria for long journeys here: Headache, back pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, delirium.
GM Note: In truth, Archzenith sacrificed its best artists by tying them up underground and collapsing the mine shafts around them. Eventually the Civilopede (see Veins of the Earth by Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess) burrows its way through to collect them, opening vast new tunnels for whole seams to be appraised and exploited using Archzenith’s vast POW population. After exhausting their supply of great artists, Archzenith began running kidnapping teams in other city-states to acquire more, and war may break out during the adventure because a prominent sapling of Archzenith’s House Hightower died in a gunbattle against Starling & Shrike detectives in Troutbridge along with his men while kidnapping the 12-year old genius composer Alexander Rockbarren. The Hightower scion was identified by exiled Archzenith gentry in Troutbridge and already saber-rattling has begun amongst Troutbridge's naval officers.

Proficiency Checks
GM, decide ahead of time if you'll have a number of progressions required to beat a particular problem, or if you're gonna narratively freeball it based on the color result like yours truly. Failure should be punishing to maintain tension; you don't need to massively damage the party every time but it is a good time for all hell to break loose in a satisfying way.

Player, determine total Proficiency in what you're trying to do, roll a d6 and check the result (the GM can throw on or take off a level of Proficiency if you have some big advantage/disadvantage):

My Italian buddy sketched this out, thanks Alberto, he's an MFA

I have only one hard and fast rule; if you're exchanging deadly attacks and roll a 1, roll another d6:
1: Death
2-5: Serious wound with attended Proficiency losses and physical slowdown, etc. Serious medical aid or recuperation will be required.
6: Nasty flesh wound; no Proficiency loss etc but blood everywhere.
So you have a 1/36 chance of dying whenever you exchange deadly blows with Proficiency. You also have a 5/6 chance of pushing the situation forward to your advantage, so your character is still competent to the point of heroism, but even Delta Force guys get killed sometimes. Better to launch an ambush or something if you can.
Results of 6 on your primary combat roll normally kill one or all opponents you are personally facing.

This system works pretty fuckin well for one-offs believe it or not. Never tried a campaign with it. Probably need to periodically gain Proficiencies and special permissions (Moves, Feats etc). 

Psychedelic heroquesting, cattle raiding: King of Dragon Pass, one of the greatest computer games ever made
The Civilopede, underground sojourns that alter you psychiatrically and provide unnatural powers, singing and dancing as point-to-point emotional telepathy:


  1. Well, I was reading this and enjoying it - a powerful, Slaine-esque tone. Grubby, straining, blood-spattered stuff.
    Then, BLAM! A brace of .44 Magnums, anti-tank rifles and heroin-priests. Consider me surprised, though not in a bad way. The flotsam of items and technologies puts me in mind of Silent Titans.

    I'm not certain that Archzenith need have much to fear from the naval officers of Troutbridge.

    1. Very pleased you like it Solomon! I still need to read Silent Titans but I was colored intrigued when first investigating it. I haven't read Slaine either but looking into it I can see the overlap. Looks like my kind of comic. I actually had a phrase from Welsh lore fixed in my mind from when I wrote some of this; "Their cauldron would not cook the meat of a coward." I just looked up what might be the actual passage from the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain: "The Cauldron of Dyrnwch the Giant: if meat for a coward were put in it to boil, it would never boil; but if meat for a brave man were put in, it would boil quickly (and thus the brave could be distinguished from the cowardly)." I was thinking of how to encapsulate this motif without aping the artifact but ended up just leaving it out.

      Haha, yes, the tech level is roughly 1918 or so. I love the gameplaying possibilities of the potential range of combat in that era; naturally, we first see those weapons and technologies in the titanic mechanistic struggle of WWI, but in another world that wasn't as organized as the Powers of that time (in this case city-states and the nearby barbarians) a GM finds a great range of narratively-potent implements (and forms of social organization) at hand; there are hand grenades, semiautomatic pistols, flamethrowers and submachine guns, submarines, biplanes and nerve gas, but there is also a place in the jungles, crags and stairwells for sabers, bolas, smatchets and shillelaghs, and in the clearings for horses, javelins and jezzails. I've run this setting a lot and I thoroughly enjoy the possibility that indiscriminate naval gunfire can serve as a backdrop for a fearsome melee.

      You're right, in one scenario there was a war between Archzenith and Troutbridge; Archzenith overtook Troutbridge's fleet at anchor, but at the moment of their victory the PCs detonated a vast reserve of Lamenter guano beneath the tunnel-ridden and unstable foundations of Archzenith, collapsing the whole city into a kind of deadly dustbowl

    2. I'm sold on the tech level. I wonder how the various tribes feel about civilian items like typewriters, tinned food and the Primus stove.
      My mind goes to a gun-toting psychedelic adaptation of the Tain.

      Guano, you say? Oddly close to the conclusion of (the book) Dr. No.

    3. I picture these tribes using certain advanced technologies when they capture them, but neglecting maintaining them until they have to be discarded, mostly remaining disinterested in (daunting) city-state technology besides weapons, as there are as yet very few or no high-tech empires to compete with or to tech up so as to defend against, primarily because of how dangerous monsters make unsettled regions for permanent habitation in this world (all monsters are unique, and many are unkillable with firearms). This geopolitical state will probably change at some point once the city-staters get far enough ahead.

      One idea I like but didn't implement here are barbarian tribes who are plunder-rich but knowledge-poor hiring technological experts to operate and maintain high-tech equipment for them; maybe it's effeminate to repair a ship's boiler (an odd thought) so you hire a few mechanical experts to ensure that your new longship works when it's time to extort the southern theocracies.

      Some more advanced technologies that I picture maintained in perpetuity however are distilleries and ammunition foundries

  2. There are so many great ideas here.
    The proficiency system you use here is really intriguing and I can see it working really well for one offs. No "stats" in this system as such beyond the proficiencies, right? It's got an elegant simplicity that I find appealing.

    I'd never heard of Dragon Pass until now - I'll have to pick it up. Somehow, I missed RuneQuest and Glorantha until very very recently, so I'm still learning about it. I love the family trees of the gods (in one of the newer sourcebooks that I've managed to get my hands on).

    Also, between Glorantha and some of your other posts (The one on Frazier, Frye and Campbell specifically), I feel like I really need to bone up on my Joseph Campbell too. I remember watching the Power of Myth with my dad (I want to say in the late eighties or maybe early nineties) and being fascinated, but I haven't been in contact with his work since then and it's all pretty hazy.

    1. Thanks a bunch Dan. The system here is what it is because I mostly only get to run games when I'm on vacation nowadays and don't have time for fights that last like a fucking hour. In any case I can feel my life burning up like wastepaper whenever that happens. It's true that there are no stats besides levels of proficiency, and even they are loosely defined; this is the most pared-down I've been able to get a system and still have it carry an emotional punch. That said I play it with people who care more about having a novel experience than simulation.
      King of Dragon Pass will keep you occupied. Can get it for IOS now, and the original (more atmospheric) computer version on GOG. It's a lot tighter than most Glorantha content; focuses in on a single place and time and so it keeps the magic without including too many divergent cosmologies. Incredible game and incredible format. If you ever play it, I recommend trying to think of other contexts you could employ its structure in. I really like the idea of using the format for a Greek or Latin city-state
      The Power of Myth would be worth skimming, you can get it in book form which is how I've read it. A good addition to the repertoire


Art - First Run