Thursday, January 31, 2008

Creatures: Spirits

Spirits - Not all souls trapped in the inbetween are there on a permanent basis. Spirits are souls who have remained on the inbetween, stubbornly refusing to be taken to the demons' plane of Immigration, but still able to enter the astral sea in order to dream and maintain both their sanity and sense of identity. While being dead does not degrade the sanity of spirits, the actual process of dying might, so spirits can still be just as dangerous and psychotic as ghosts, depending on the individual. As a whole though, spirits are far more stable than ghosts, and in most cases, preferable to deal with.

Asides from their personalities and behavior, spirits largely have the same powers and limitations as ghosts. One exception is that a spirit's astral body will reform overnight after destruction, instead of taking weeks, months or years. This makes getting rid of an unwanted spirit far more complicated than removing a ghost.

Anima - One of the more common kinds of spirits, anima were usually spirit animals in life. Like many lesser ghosts and spirits, they cannot move very far from their site of death, and an anima's ability to manifest its astral body in the material realm is limited. What anima can do however is take possession of a creature that falls asleep within its territory. When it does so, the creature "dies" and its soul is sent to the afterlife, but its body lives on, controlled by the soul of the anima. Gone over in more detail in the spirit animal entry, if an anima decides to never possess a fellow godtouched or sentient animal, it is set free of its shackles after 100 years and can both move from its site of death and project an astral body. Anima who achieve this state often become guardians of forests, specific creatures or even a family line, if they wish to repay a debt.

Banshee - Banshees are the spirits of women who were the last person in their family or circle of friends to die from some drawn-out catastrophe. They have an unusual connection with the nature of death that is not entirely understood. It allows them to manipulate the threads of fate to cause people to die by crying mournfully. Hearing the wail of a banshee is not instantly fatal - instead it is far more insidious. It places a curse on a person so that their luck becomes increasingly dire. Without spiritual treatment, the victim is usually dead within three days. The cause of death is often unusual, and morbidly humorous to impartial observers.

Phantom - Particularly powerful spirits, phantoms can easily manifest their astral body into the material plane, and do so with impunity. Some phantoms are talented enough at this that they have lead double lives, fooling people into believing they are living, breathing people. Other phantoms, shamed by their undead state, have sealed themselves away and viciously attack those who attempt to bring them out of their seclusion.

Possessed doll - Occasionally a spirit will gain the ability to possess an object that is not, and perhaps never was alive. If a doll, statue, mannequin or puppet had some strong emotional connection to the spirit, the spirit might be able to make it a new body. Objects possessed in this way will slowly twist and re-shape themselves in order to make movement and communication possible. Because children most often have the emotional connections with anthropomorphic objects like toys and dolls, most possessed dolls are the spirits of dead children, who refuse to admit or cannot conceptualize that they have died. This makes them violent and irrational. In fact, one famous case of a possessed doll was a child who would viciously attack and kill any who refused to help it find a precious, lost toy - the very doll it was possessing.

Puppeteer - A rare kind of spirit, puppeteers have learned to master the manipulation of objects in the material realm. They will attack with psychokinetically manipulated objects such as weapons, and in some cases they will even "possess" a suit of armor or a number of lesser puppets in order to attack their enemies. They can manifest their astral body, but will almost never do so unless forced to by magic. Puppeteers are often malevolent with an agenda of their own, and they have been known to attempt to psychologically manipulate people through bribery or taunting, just as easily as they move their puppets.

Grave tree - While many would not consider a grave tree to be a spirit (specifically, a type of noncoroporeal undead) grave trees are in fact powered by spirits, and have virtually nothing to do with any necromantic activity or Nectos' necrotic infections. The emotional trauma preventing a grave tree's soul from moving on to the afterlife is so powerful, the spirit literally cannot stray from its dead body. Over time, the body will begin to "grow" into the root system of a tree - in actuality a very solid, if inaccurate, projection of the spirit's astral body. This projection has many peculiar properties. It grows as any other tree, but appears dead and never develops leaves, needles or flowers. The astral body that the tree represents retains the shape the spirit had when it was alive - which is highly unusual, because astral bodies and their real-world projections are usually visually identical. Also unlike many other projections, damaging the tree with any weapon, even normal ones, will damage the astral body of the spirit in an appropriate location. Finally, if the spirit of a grave tree is persuaded to move on to the afterlife, the tree will instantly dissolve in a spectacular display of flower petals.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Creatures: Ghosts

Ghosts - Souls are easy to come by, and the vast majority of creatures - even monsters - have them. Godtouched and sentient animals have souls of great nuance and complication, and greater power than other living creatures. Souls that depart living bodies usually are bundled up into the astral sea and then processed in the demons' plane of Immigration.

Through magic or through sheer willpower, souls can resist this process and remain connected to the world of the living. They have created their own realm, an aforementioned inbetween that acts as an echo of material existence. When souls resist the call to pass on so strongly that they refuse to even enter the astral sea, afraid of the risk that they will be collected, they become ghosts. A ghost is a noncorporeal undead that remains permanently in the inbetween. Without the ability to dream, a ghost will quickly suffer the effects of sleep deprivation, and then, insanity. This will often warp a ghost's body, because astral bodies are based on the self-image of the soul. Ghosts are usually malevolent and cannot be reasoned with, due to their conflicting and chaotic senses.

Ghosts share several features: They are usually invisible, their astral bodies stuck in the inbetween. They can project themselves into the living world with effort, but this projection is invulnerable to normal weapons; normal attacks will only disrupt the ghost's concentration temporarily. Magical weapons can harm a ghost, as can spells and channeled energies. A ghost that is "killed" in this way has had its astral body disrupted. A soul without an astral body will usually create a new one, but with ghosts, their insanity often causes this to take years or even decades. Only an exorcism or psychic therapy can coax a ghost to leave permanently and join the afterlife.

Haunt - Occasionally the ravages of dream-deprived insanity will coalesce into crystal clarity in some ghosts. The ghost simply forgets it has died, and finds itself mindlessly repeating the actions it once did in life. These repetitions vary from haunt to haunt. Some haunts will simply repeat the same arbitrary action at the same time every night. Others will appear only once a year, and reenact the cause of their death. Because their actions are manifestations of the haunt's memories, a haunt will never attempt to communicate or acknowledge the presence of others. This usually makes them harmless. The exception comes when a haunt is able to possess the body of a living creature. Once possessed, a haunt will force its victim to reenact its death - which will often kill the victim. Groups of haunts are especially dangerous - reenacting ancient battles, with every new death adding to the strength of the group.

Ghast - An especially powerful type of undead, ghasts are ancient and have developed the power to manifest themselves in the real world on a constant basis. Their astral bodies have warped beyond recognition of their original form. They have gaunt, skeletal faces, a hovering hollow ribcage dripping with ectoplasmic viscera, and their arms are a sliding collection of of twisted blades. Their eyes are burning points of yellow light. They constantly give off a black poisonous smoke that can quickly kill people who breathe its fumes. Ghasts will kill anything that enters their territory, and they usually remain indoors or in poorly ventilated areas so their poison is more effective. Reports that they are sensitive to light aren't to be believed.

Flabberghast - A more powerful version of a ghast, a flabberghast's power and insanity have grown exponentially. They have gained powers that rival those of fey, and can easily twist and adjust reality around their victims. Actually less malevolent than ghasts, flabberghasts seem to enjoy tormenting their victims more than killing them. The hallucinatory insanity of their dreamless state causes them to warp reality to echo the chaos of their perceptions. On the rare occasions they show themselves, flabberghasts appear to be armless ghasts, with a skeletal face whose eyes and nose have shattered, and emit a very powerful burst of light.

Wraith - Wraiths are ghosts whose insanity is one of a dual nature. They sometimes resemble haunts, mimicking the actions of their past life. When confronted however, their astral bodies will contort and glow brightly, a white shimmering that obscures their features. Their attacks are usually melee - they will attempt to touch living creatures either through an extending arm or an arm shifted into a massive blade or tendril. Wounds inflicted by a wraith feel chilled, and drained. While their attacks do indeed cause physical damage to the body, what is far worse is that they absorb the life energy of those they wound or touch, growing stronger in the process. A wraith that has killed recently becomes an almost unstoppable creature from the momentum of its power that grows with every kill.

Will-o-wisps - Weakly powered ghosts who focussed on their ability to create orbs, will-o-wisps are generally more confused and in pain from their dreamless insanity than other ghosts. For some unknown reason, they most commonly are formed by those who have died by drowning. They seek aid, and while they still have enough faculties to recognize living creatures and signal to them, they either do not realize or do not care that those same creatures will soon become drowned themselves if they follow the will-o-wisps' light.

Specter - Perhaps one of the more psychologically disturbing kinds of ghosts, specters have not had their astral bodies twisted by their dream-deprived insanity. When they manifest, they appear just as they did when alive. Their insanity instead manifests in the behavior they undergo. They will stalk, hunt, and torture those that survived them. The pain of seeing departed loved ones reappear - and then attack, or say or do profane things can often drive grieving relatives even farther into the depths of despair. Many believe specters are demons masquerading as loved ones in order to toy with hearts. The horrible truth - that the identity is genuine - is usually more than most can bare.

Sluagh - Sluagh are ghosts that travel in packs. Their appearance tends to resemble gaunt and twisted human torsos, with very long hair and faint trappings of ancient robes. Their legs are twice as long as normal, and four times as thin; their legs flutter behind them in the sky as they travel. Sluagh are known to capture and detain the souls of the recently dead, keeping them from passing on to the afterlife and eventually forcing the soul to become one of them. Souls kidnapped by a Sluagh flock can be rescued, but usually with great effort; sluagh are swift and never rest in their constant migration.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Creatures: Basics of Undeath

Though Nektos created the phenomenon of undeath in the world of Aarn, the concept of "things-that-should-be-dead-that-were-still-living" was not a new one. Death channelers would often be corrupted by the essence of death flowing through their soul, cursed by their natural magical affinity to grow into twisted shells, walking corpses, living liches.

It was from this that Nektos gained the inspiration for his undead creations. He constructed a magical virus that could spread from infected to infected, killing them and then raising their body as an echo of a death channeler. Usually this would strip the corpse of its soul, but eventually Nektos perfected the process, and managed to create corporeal undead who still possessed their mortal soul such as vampires.

For a time, all corporeal undead fell into one of these two categories - those with souls and those without. Eventually, however, the wizards of man learned to harness the channeled energy of death that approximately one in every 240 humans had access to. These "lucky" humans became necromancers, death channelers who also learned the art of wizardry, mastering the art of animating dead flesh.

Necromantic corporeal undead are soulless, artificial, and have no infection to spread - so facing one in combat is slightly less dangerous than facing one of Nektos' children.

On the other side of the spectrum, there's noncorporeal undead, ghosts and spirits trapped in the inbetween through either magical means or sheer force of will. Ghosts are a type of undead that through means either magical or psychological have been overlooked by the current afterlife and are trapped between worlds. Ghosts quite usually go insane quickly - unable to dream, ghosts cannot heal what little sanity they have left by entering the astral sea.

Spirits, on the other hand, are the category of noncorporeal undead who still remain in this mortal coil through sheer force of will or by design of their soul. Despite not having a body, the force of their will allows them to remain in the inbetween, yet still travel to the astral sea in order to dream without being captured by the demons' afterlife system. Spirits are usually far more sane than ghosts, and may even be reasoned with. However, spirits are by no means guaranteed to be sane or rational.

All noncorporeal undead, both spirits and ghosts, have a number of methods they can use to contact the living. Less specific types of undead, and more forms of communication, these phenomenon can be used and harnessed by all noncorporeal undead. Noncorporeal undead are normally invisible to those in the material plane, and it takes great effort, energy, and practice for them to make themselves known.

Cold spots: Cold spots are generated when a ghost or spirit attempts to manifest, but lacks the power to appear visually, create an auditory manifestation, or to manipulate an object in the real world.

Smells: One of the first steps of manifestation, ghosts and spirits can generate unpleasant odors in order to attempt to try to ward off or attract living creatures.

Whispers: Ghosts or spirits who have concentrated more on communicating with the living manifest as ghostly sounds and cryptic, disjointed phrases.

Poltergeists: Mistakenly believed to be an actual species of undead creature, poltergeist activity occurs when a ghost or spirit has enough power to physically manipulate objects in the real world, but not create visual manifestations.

Possession: Rarer than other forms of manifestation, certain types of ghosts and spirits can possess the living. This can sometimes be an annoyance easily purged, a spiritual infection that lasts for years, or even a complete and total takeover, killing the host by shedding its soul, and then keeping the body intact and alive with the ghost or spirit's soul in place.

Orbs: The opposite of poltergeists, orbs are the product of ghosts or spirits powerful enough to create a visual manifestation, but not powerful enough to manipulate the real world. They are usually small points of light that gently drift through the area of activity.

Umbra: Umbra are proto-manifestations, stronger than orbs. They are black spots, shadows, vaguely humanoid or monstrous forms. A ghost or spirit that can produce an umbra will soon be able to manifest visually as it chooses, and only needs further practice. Once a spirit or ghost has learned to perfect an umbra, they have usually also learned how to create lesser forms of manifestations such as poltergeist activity or whispers.

Most spirits and ghosts who can fully manifest a visual form beyond an umbra can also physically attack living creatures, and communicate with them verbally, though there are exceptions.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Elemancy: Now known as Elemental Channeling!

I've decided that my problems with naming the different kinds of elemancy has brought certain kinds of progress on my system to a halt, so it's only reluctantly that I've decided to approach it from a different angle.

From here on out, elemancy will be known as "elemental channeling," or simply "channeling" for short. Channelers will be known simply by the word for their element combined with "channeler," such as air channeler, water channeler, light channeler, fire channeler, death channeler, etc.

Usually an uneducated person won't distinguish channelers by their element, but occasionally certain types of channelers have developed slang terms and nicknames. Metal channelers might be called metalers, for instance, a death channeler might be called a reaper and light channelers could be called illusionists.

The manna and kanna elemental channelers still have individual names depending on their skills, such as gravity, shape, destruction, portal, psy and astral, with uninspired slang terms such as shapers, psychics and empaths.

As a side-note, an archaic term for a channeler is an "elementalist." During the height of the Jerol Empire, magic was mainly controlled by guilds of channelers who grouped together based on their elemental type and called themselves elementalists. Beware any creatures using this term! It usually means they are old, and thus, quite powerful and dangerous.

One last thing - the term "elemancy" will still be used, which might confuse some people! I apologize for it, but it really is a nice name I don't want to just throw aside.

In the future, elemancy and elemantic effects will refer to channelers who enhance their abilities with wizardry, usually in order to create pets and creatures they can dominate and command.

Types of elemancers include...

Animancers, who use their kanna element to create golems out of metal, earth and wood.

Cybermancers, a subset of animancers who transfer their own soul into automaton, and live as clockwork robots who have souls.

Biomancers, who use their life element to create unnatural monsters.

Necromancers, who use their death element to create undead puppets.

Astralmancers, who use their manna element to summon creatures of dream and fantasy from thin air.

Any element can be combined with wizardry in order to create puppets, but the above five are the only ones who have special names and complex rules for the creation of their pets. All other elemancers are simply known as, well, "elemancers" regardless of their element, and their puppet creations are usually known as elementals. These elementals are all based on the same kind of template, and changing an elemental's element only really changes what kind of damage they deal when attacking, or what kind of limited extra-special ability they might have access to.

Mechanics: Action Points Specifics

In a typical pen and paper RPG system, characters usually go in turns. After rolling a die to see who goes in what order, a character will usually do all of his actions and then it will be the next person's turn. Some systems try to add tactics to this by having an "attack of opportunity" system that allows players to make limited attacks out-of-turn. However, these systems are almost always very difficult to remember except for the most experienced of players!

In an attempt to both allow characters more realistic reactions to what's going on around them in combat, and also add a bit of a tactical flare, I decided to implement the action point system I briefly went over in the previous post. You can blame me being on a mechanics bent this last week on action points, coming up with them really excited me!

Basically, dice will still be rolled to determine what order the characters' and players' turns will be. However...

When it's a player's turn, he'll be able to do actions, spending action points for every action he does. Certain actions take more action points, certain actions take less - and this is usually dependent on how long those actions take to preform.

Most actions will cost either 1 action point, 2 action points, or 3 action points. A short jab that does very little damage will cost 1 action point, as will drawing or sheathing a weapon, or firing a pre-prepared projectile weapon. A standard attack that has a chance of dealing critical damage will cost 2 action points, as well taking a five-foot step or drawing a bow. A three action point activity would be quafing a potion, making a deathblow attack (that is guranteed to do significant critical damage), casting a spell, reloading a crossbow or reading from a scroll.

The key to this system is that characters can act out of turn in a very simple way, that's easy to remember. During another character's turn, you can interrupt their turn when they spend 2 or more action points at once. This is called a "Sequence interrupt" and during this interrupt you can spend action points to do actions of your own. The catch is, the actions your character does must cost one less action point than the current action being performed by the character whose turn it is. Conceptually, you're doing your action while they're busy with their action, which takes longer to perform.

For instance, if another character is attacking your character with a 3 point deathblow, your character can attack them preemptively using two jabs, or a single standard attack. Your character could also even simply take a 5 foot step away, and cause the deathblow attack to miss completely!

Other examples: If another character that you're flanking decides to take a 5 foot step away, you can attack them with a quick jab. If another character is trying to cast a spell, you can attack them to try to disrupt the spell.

There are limits to when sequence interrupts can be done however. Characters with ranged weapons can sequence interrupt just about anyone, but only if they're firing their weapon at the character whose turn it is. Characters with melee weapons can only sequence interrupt when they are being attacked directly, or when they are flanking the character whose turn it is. If a melee character is being flanked, he cannot sequence interrupt, and he can barely defend himself.

Of course, sequence interrupts are optional. You don't have to take advantage of them if you don't want to spend your action points - however, attacks done during a sequence interrupt have far less options for defense than normal, and usually, if the person whose turn it is decides to defend themselves from your sequence interrupt attack, their action may literally be interrupted and not get followed through.

Speaking of defense, defensive actions also cost action points, and doing them doesn't count as a sequence interrupt. The core defensive actions (dodging, parrying/riposting, and blocking) all cost a single action point, so it's important to end your turn with an action point or two left over, so you can defend yourself from attacks.

Finally, move actions are a little different. Whenever moving across the battlefield, the first 5 foot step costs 2 action points. After that, every single action point you spend will allow you to move an additional number of 5 foot squares equal to your agility score. The entire move action thus will count as 2 action points for anyone you are disengaging from, but 3 action points (at least) for anyone who sees you coming, who might be able to take a swipe at you as you pass them or before you engage them. You can also sprint - and move twice your agility for every aditional action point spent, but this causes you to lose endurance points.

I hope this has all made sense! The ideas are all still fairly new, so I haven't yet figured out the best way to present them, but I'm glad to have gotten them down into the blog.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mechanics: Character Essentials

The way my system has been progressing, there are three aspects to a character that are most important, and influence everything that character does. Those three things are the character's Endurance Points, Ability Scores, and Action points.

Endurance points, EP for short, represent a character's health and energy. EP can be drained through combat - bruises, cuts, scrapes, and other superficial wounds are tracked with EP. EP can also be drained by actions of heavy exertion - adding extra damage to an attack, sprinting, or traveling long distances without a break will all drain EP as well. When a character's EP is 0 or below, that character falls unconscious - unable to move and at the mercy of his or her enemies.

Ability scores have been touched on in the last two posts, but I'll go over them here in more depth. There are eight ability scores, and each ability score has its own set of skills that it governs. Four of the ability scores are physical: Strength, Agility, Finesse and Vitality. The other four ability scores are mental: Perception, Willpower, Intelligence and Charm. Each ability score can range from 1 to 6, and 3 is the average ability for a healthy adult human in all areas.

Some skills are hybrid and depend on multiple ability scores - in cases like these, they use whichever of the ability scores is lowest.

Ability scores do more than just tell characters how well they do at using their skills, however. For instance, many actions in combat such as movement depend on agility without it being related to a skill. Strength also helps determine how much equipment a character can carry before being impaired by the weight.

Most importantly, ability scores keep track of critical damage to a character's body and mind. Occasionally, an attack on a character will be a critical hit, and it will do damage to one of that character's ability scores alongside EP damage. Representing sprained ankles, broken bones, torn muscles and profound blood loss, ability score damage is harder to heal than damage to EP, and most importantly, when a character's vitality has been reduced to 0, that character is dead.

Fear not however! Armor, while not making it more difficult to hit a character, does absorb damage dealt by critical blows and normal attacks alike, so your ability scores will be safe if you wear the proper protection.

Finally, action points will be gone over in more depth in the next post, but action points are my system's answer to "How do you make turn based combat represent everything going on at once?" All characters have a limited amount of them, and they regenerate every turn. All actions done in combat require action points, and the more time the action takes, the more action points it uses.

A character with more action points than his opponent will have a significant advantage in combat, because he will literally be able to perform more actions. Not only that, but characters need to conserve action points, because they're also used to defend against attacks. If you never make defensive actions, your character will probably die very quickly, so it's important to balance out how many action points you use for offense, and how many you use for defense.

Action points are also used to interrupt other characters' turns, and make your own actions before they have a chance to finish theirs. This is the aspect of action points I like the most, and I'm greatly looking forward to describing it in the next post.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mechanics: An alternative possibility for the dice

I've come up with an alternative for the dice system that is much better at handling modifiers! However, it would slow down combat, and that's not something one should underestimate. In any event, I'm going to share it here so I don't forget it, and also because the more options I have, the better off I will be.

The idea is simple - skills still dictate how many dice you have. However, all dice and all characters have the same success range, 9-12, with 12 being the magic re-roll.

Ability scores will affect successes like this - your ability score, and any relevant modifiers, will be a pool of points that you can assign to dice in your roll to make failures successes, and make successes 12s which grant you an extra die.

The way this would work is ... say someone with two skill ranks rolled 4 dice, and only got a 9, an 8, a 7 and a 6. If his strength were 3, he could change that 9 into a 12 and roll an extra die, or he could change the 8 and the 7 both into 9s and gain two more successes.

To help make this balanced, a character also cannot put more points into a single die than his base ability score. If a character has positive modifiers that increase the size of his point pool above his base ability score, he can't put them all into a single die.

Again, while I really like this idea, the prospect of how much it might slow down the game is troublesome, so I'm going to continue to think on other possible alternatives in the meantime.

Mechanics: The Basics of the Dice (As they stand now)

The dice which are going to drive my game have gone through many iterations. This one is the most recent, and importantly, it's incomplete! The system doesn't accept modifiers very well, and I'm still working on that aspect of it. There's no guarantees that this is how the system will work, but it's what I've been working on lately, and that's what this blog is for, after all.

The basics of the dice system are simple. All characters have two twelve-sided dice to start, and rolling these dice determine whether or not you succeed at a task. Each die individually shows whether or not a "success" has happened. In order to be successful at the task, a certain number of dice need to be in that successful category, depending on the difficulty of the task. For instance, if a task had a difficulty of 2, both dice would need to come up as successes.

As you gain ranks in certain skills, you gain dice for those particular types of actions. The most dice you can have is eight, when you have six ranks in any given skill.

Also, just which numbers on the dice determine whether that particular die is a success or not depends entirely on your character's ability score. Ability scores help group skills into categories, and each ability score governs its own subset of skills. For instance, a character's strength governs skills related to dealing damage with certain weapons, and a character's agility governs skills related to movement.

A 12 on one of these dice is always counted as a success, and whenever you get a 12, another die is temporarily added to your roll, increasing your chances of more successes!

As for your ability scores, they all range from 1-6. Your ability score is treated as the highest number on your die that counts as a success, excluding 12. A character with a strength of 3 for instance would have successes on die rolls of 1, 2, 3 and 12.

I like this system as it stands because it makes skills more important than ability scores. The way it currently works, raising a skill and gaining dice is always a better deal than raising an ability score, though ability scores themselves are still quite important. I also like it because it's easy to keep track of your current ability score, which will fluctuate constantly. I'm going to be treating ability scores as a character's indication of their health, and a character running out of my system's version of "hit points" will simply bring him or her into unconsciousness. Actual death will occur when a character's vitality (one of the ability scores) reaches zero.

A problem with the system is that it's not very modifiable. The balance of the game breaks down once the chance for success raises above 7/12, which is the current limit with an ability score of six. This makes it quite difficult for me to decide how to handle creatures that are very big or very small, for instance, who would deal much more damage or be much easier to hit (or harder to hit). Simply raising or lowering their ability score based on their size would seem off, because it would mean the strongest human was as strong as the strongest dragon, and it would mean that big creatures are always slower than they would otherwise be, because of how agility works.

Also, once you reach a certain number of dice, gaining more starts to make the rolls very unpredictable, while also adding a cushion of "practically 100% chance of success." Avoiding such a success cushion is one of the reasons I avoided d20 rules in the first place - d20 rules are highly scalable towards different encounters, and work well within a certain level range, but there are massive cushions of "will almost always succeed or fail" - so much so that the system itself has a built in "auto-success" and "auto-failure" system which I dislike, and would like to avoid.

One thing I am considering is, for things like armor and such, for an extra die to be added, say, a d4. Rolling this die will do different things depending on the armor you're wearing, but mostly it will simply tell you how much damage has been absorbed by your armor instead of being dealt to you.

I am also considering a kind of stopgap measure where creatures who really should be much, much stronger than a human will have extra re-roll chances. For instance, rolling a 1 or 2 will also add a die to their roll, not just rolling a 12, but this is just a stopgap measure if anything, and I'm not 100% happy with it.

In any case, the things that will come in the next two updates are what I'm really excited about. Even though the information in this post isn't final, it's necessary for the next two posts to be understood. And for that, I thank you for your patience in reading about this incomplete dice mechanic.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Intermission: A brief change of direction

I know I still have a few more creatures to go over, such as undead and monsters, and I haven't even begun to go into the kingdoms and cultures of the world, let alone how most of the magic systems work.

However! Due to continuous problems in naming the different facets of elemancy, and due to recent inspiration for other areas of the game, I'm going to take us away from world fluff and begin to illustrate the basics of the game's mechanics.

I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Creatures: Fey

Fey - Fey are alien creatures from the astral sea who knew nothing of time or causality until the astral sea became entangled with the material plane. Their behavior is governed by arbitrary rules that they placed upon themselves in order to play a game of causality. It cannot be stressed just how arbitrary these rules are - fey have godlike powers and they have chosen their weaknesses themselves. The best guess of Aarnian scholars is that fey in fact willfully choose to enforce their own rules on themselves. For instance, a fey with a weakness to a cold iron blade blessed by a shoemaker on a Tuesday will not actually be harmed by the blade, but will only pretend to be. Those unlucky souls trapped in combat with a fey normally don't care about any such distinctions.

Fey can be killed, but even this appears to be an act. Some time later the slain fey will begin a new life in a new area, though fey don't seem to carry grudges between "lives." It is almost as if fey are playing a role in their game, and in fact their entire identity is a facade. Despite this, one can safely consider fey to be method actors. They will always follow their own rules, despite their seemingly chaotic and arbitrary behavior.

Doppelgangers - From the front, they appear to be normal human beings. When one views them from behind, they see the true horror of this fey. Doppelgangers have no back, and are completely hollow husks. They steal the bodies of others in order to feel more complete, and often take on the appearance of their intended victim before absorbing their body, in order to capture them more easily. Their most common form of attack is changing themselves into a semi-corporeal projection inside a mirror and leaping out at their victim after assuming his or her form. Another common method of attack is revealing themselves, already haven taken the form of their victim. They do this carefully so only the victim will see - and hopefully pursue the doppelganger into an alley where they can be slain in private. Once absorbing their victim, the body will slowly decay and deteriorate, forcing the doppelganger to abandon its host and find a new one. Such a body will appear normal from the front - but appear as a rotting corpse from the back.

Dryads - Dryads are fey who live very close to nature, often merging their souls with the souls of plants. While bound to the souls of plants, Dryads appear as lovely, serene, and seductive maidens that will often abduct men to either eat them or use them as sexual slaves. It is widely thought that killing a dryad's tree will kill the dryad, but this is in fact untrue. When they are unbound to a plant, dryads become screaming spirits of horror called yettiks who will mercilessly slay any and all creatures who are not native to their forest, regardless of their innocence. A yettik appears as a floating spectral werewolf with no hind legs.

Fairies - Fey of mischief that fill many roles in society. They only appear to those they want to see them, such as virginal maidens, drunken men, questing adventurers, or others of a specific type. Fairies delight in taking credit for natural processes, such as a sunrise or the leaves changing color in autumn, often leaving small jars of paint underneath a freshly changed tree. Other fairies will grant wishes as rewards - or as punishment. Still other fairies will lead people into trouble and tempt the mortal as a kind of game; if the mortal resists, the fairy will only try harder but will not directly interact with their toy. Despite their diminutive appearance and usually harmless nature, Fairies are actually the most powerful fey, and are only one step away from godhood.

Grassrunners - Often mistaken for elves, grassrunners appear to be human children wearing green or yellow, with long thin ears like a rabbit. They collectively chose their current form once man became the dominant force on the planet, and few, if any, know what form they used before. They enjoy playing panpipes, dancing through fields and enticing mortals to dance with them. Their revelry is so intense that any who join their celebration are found dead the next morning. If a grassrunner is encountered while not celebrating, he or she is usually watching a stream, and may provide the answers to ancient questions or impart essential wisdom if treated with respect. Those who treat a grassrunner rudely will have some tragedy befall them by the next sunset.

Ghouls - Often mistaken for undead, Ghouls are actually shapeshifting fey. Their true form is that of an emaciated, deformed corpse-like being with a maw of double-rowed teeth, similar to a shark. They will often take the form of animals to lure travelers off paths in order to eat them in privacy. They will also eat corpses, and often live in graveyards. They are quite physically powerful - but will only actually attack and kill those who step foot on its territory of sand, allowing wary travelers to pass unharmed.

Mothmen - Mothmen are fey that are portents of bad luck. They usually appear as 7 foot shadows with moth wings and large, yellow eyes. They are associated with malevolence and are often blamed for disaster, but they are actually curious creatures that bare humans no ill-will. They can sense when a preventable disaster caused by humans will claim much life in the near future. They simply gather to watch the chaos. Sometimes they will show themselves to humans as a kind of game; to see if the humans can realize the disaster is coming and prevent it. Most often, the humans are too frightened by the mothman's presence to actually put two and two together and stop the disaster.

Nuckelavee - A horrible fey who appears as an antlered male human torso atop a deer's body. They have only a single eye in their forehead that appears as if it is on fire. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of nuckelavee is the fact that they have no skin; their veins, muscles, blood, tendons and sinew are all plainly visible. They are usually found near salt water and fresh water acts as a repellent to them. They will not willingly cross freshwater streams or rivers even with the aid of a bridge. They are the bane of coastal villages and farms; they can cause plague, famine, and will often kill domesticated creatures with impunity.

Nymph - Usually found near springs or ponds, Nymphs are similar to dryads, but instead bond their soul to a place instead of a living tree. If Dryads are considered lovely and seductive creatures, Nymphs are even worse - they are almost irresistible sexually, but have a faux-modesty about them that they use to confuse and manipulate. Tales say that seeing a Nymph disrobe can blind a man, but in actuality, Nymphs can cause all manner of afflictions to the human body. This can include blindness, deafness, causing their victim to become mute, become completely numb, paralyzed, or even dominate their mind completely. Nymphs enjoy nothing more than taking mentally dominated human slaves as servants.

Shadowling - Also known as shadow people, a shadowling is a fey that enjoys spying on humans. They cannot be seen if looked at directly, but can often appear as glimpses in peripheral vision. If they feel that they are being threated by exposure, they become malicious. They will start fires, cause accidents, or do anything to scare away, intimidate, or even kill the person who can see them. Young astralmancers are often tormented by shadowlings while their powers are developing.

Soul Twister - Large black shadows with long white hair, no legs, burning red eyes and a tattered cloak-like appearance, a soul twister is a "ghost" from the ancient time before undead creatures existed. A soul twister is ancient, primal, and vengeful. Trapped on Aarn when the astral plane was first bound to it, they hate all life and go out of their way to destroy it, scar it, mutilate it, and cause suffering. They are nourished by the fear, sorrow, hatred and anguish of corporeal creatures, and a single soul twister can turn a vibrant town or forest into a barren wasteland of black, thick cobweb-like tendrils overnight. Nothing brings them pleasure like bringing a mortal's worst nightmare to life, even if it takes years to set up and prepare the event. Perhaps the worst characteristic of the soul twister is its psychic ability to permanently scar the souls of those unfortunate enough to survive encounters with them. Madness, paranoia, and hallucinations are some of the more tame effects that survivors can suffer from for the rest of their lives.

Still Hunters - Fey that take on the appearance of inanimate objects, still hunters will kill indiscriminately, but remain completely motionless whenever observed. They often take the shapes of statues, dolls, or sometimes even weapons. Against a group they are nearly powerless and can be bound or sealed. Against a single person, however, and the still hunter will move whenever the unfortunate victim blinks or glances away. Still hunters are incredibly fast, and once within striking distance they can eviscerate even the most skilled hand-to-hand fighters in the blink of an eye. By far, still hunters are the most dangerous at night or in the dark, though it seems through some sense of fair play they choose not to attack during these times. This may simply be them wanting their prey to know what is coming, however.

Wendigo - A cannibalistic fey that possesses the bodies of those who during times of famine resort to eating the flesh of their own species. A possession by a wendigo is more subtle and nuanced than most other possessions; the original owner of the body remains intact and conscious, and for quite some time still feels like they could possibly be the one controlling their body. The wendigo is in reality controlling the body completely from day one, simply behaving as if the original soul were controlling it. Saying aloud what the person wishes to say. Doing, usually, what the person wants to do. Wendigos do not just feed on meat, they also feed on the horror, shame, and despair of those who, from their own experience, become hopelessly addicted to cannibalism.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Intermission: Blog Statistics

The Aarnblog has been active for about two months now, and in that time I've accumulated 68 single-spaced pages of fluff text, of over 41,000 words.


Creatures: Demon Professions

Demons, despite having many different forms and many different appearances can often be categorized by their job. The rigors and requirements of demon jobs often act as sorting devices, with demons of similar appearance and strengths being pulled towards one job or another. While no two demons look exactly alike, when running into certain demonic professions one can be reasonably sure of what to expect.

Agents - One of the more feared kinds of demons, agents are demons who recruit godtouched races for "selling your soul" contracts. They tend to be quite attractive, something they've learned helps the deal. They often dress in a flashy manner, indicative of material wealth, which helps show the mortal what the demon is offering. Agents are smarmy, silver-tongued, and not built for combat. They like to talk in showbiz phrases and despite being masters of manipulation and false promises, they aren't quite as good as communicating with Aarnian mortals as they'd like to think.

Angels - The most attractive demons by aarnian mortal standards are usually taken to the plane of Security, where they're given this job. Usually gaining their appearance by being the children of an Aarnian mortal and demon pairing, these demons have personalities that are less harsh than most other demons. It's their job to watch over the plane of Security and enforce the odd laws that exist there. They run and manage the "Happiness Reeducation Centers" as well as police those who would try to turn Security into a violent, painful or unhappy place. Their uniform is a white toga, a pair of cybernetic feathered wings for flight, and kilts.

Bankers - A little-known fact is that demon currency and Aarnian currency has an exchange rate - with a little demon help, you CAN take it with you - and even give back to any relatives who are still alive. This doesn't happen often however, because most souls have to spend 100 years or more waiting before they can start their new lives in hell. Bankers are demons who manage these accounts and exchange rates, and use stolen Aarnian magical artifacts to tap into and interact with the magical banking system that exists on Aarn. Bankers are typically shorter demons than most, with a good head for numbers and Aarnian magic. Their job forces them to be shrewd and cautious, and they avoid conflict wherever possible.

BHP managers - Perhaps one of the most violent types of demons, a BHP manager is a "Boss" at the Bureau of Human Possession. It's the job of these demons to manage and enforce the strict rules for possession that have developed, and also properly distribute the required paperwork. They tend to dress in ornate black armor with flowing capes and massive, improbable melee weapons. While they use these in combat, it's more of a marketing ploy - themed clothing for what most demons believe humans wear. There is a Bureau of Possession for every kind of godtouched except spirit animals (who through some strange fluke cannot be possessed) however the humans have proven to be the most popular type.

Caterers - There are approximately 10,000 lines of godtouched and sentient animals waiting to be judged in the afterlife, and each line hovers at around 144,000 people, with around 40,000 new souls dying every day. That's a lot of mouths to feed, and a lot of people to keep civil. Caterers are demons who fill both roles - they provide food to the testy, confused, and impatient astral bodies that have not yet learned food isn't a requirement. They also break up fights that can and do arise, and send the offending creatures back to the end of the line. The constant threat of misbehaving souls being forced to wait another few decades to be judged is usually enough to keep them in line, both literally and figuratively.

Caterers are thus usually attractive female demons with enough physical power and personality to not just intimidate virtually any godtouched that is in line, but also to help calm the others down, and provide comfort. Those with the required qualities are rare, so there aren't as many caterer demons as there should be. Not only that, but "Working the lines" is not considered a pleasant job by demon standards, so there is also a very high turnover rate.

Nerds - Demons who live their lives for popular culture, they tend to be weak fighters, overweight, and unattractive by demon and mortal standards both. They drive most of hell's economy, having a voracious appetite for stories and adventures from Aarn, the more authentic the better. Nerds have also been called "fanboys" and "fangirls," and use these particular terms as badges of honor in their own circles. Oddly enough, a nerd is usually recognizable by the tee-shirts they wear. Tee-shirts are shunned by all other demons as a result.

Soul judges - While not necessarily demons with the most power, demons who have a great deal of physical presence and an imposing nature are recruited for this position. It's the job of a Soul judge to - day in and day out - interview mortal souls in the line and then decide what hell fits that soul's value system. It usually takes 6 hours for a soul judge to decide which hell a mortal soul is suited for - luckily for those on line, demons only need four hours of sleep a week. Soul judges tend to be the largest of demons and wear imposing black robes, keeping their faces in shadow.

Police Officers - Demons of moderate fighting skill and poor intelligence, the police officers of hell tend to let their technology do the talking in most cases. They have a great deal of military ordinance at their disposal with which they apprehend demons who don't fill out the proper paperwork for their activities. For some unknown reason they tend to be shorter and squatter than their other demon friends, but some speculate that this is so they can more easily cram themselves into the cockpits of their vehicles.

Politicians - Almost never seen, a politician is a demon who authors the paperwork all demon society is based on. They are clerks and managers of the pen; they are the ones who regulate and organize everything. They almost never show themselves in public, and those who become politicians later in life are almost never seen again. They bare mention here only because of how influential they are over demon society, even if they are almost never encountered.

Robots - To demons, a robot is an idealized lifeform. A robot will only do what it is told, how it is told. Robots control and maintain the hell of Conformity, and their cold, hard logic permeates that entire plane of hell. Unlike demons, robots tend to have more common design aesthetics. There are hovering pod robots who handle maintenance and security, larger humanoid robots who are 8 feet tall and have the physique of a professional weightlifter who handle heavy construction and more serious security concerns, and there are more feminine robots who help tend to the psychological needs of the souls in Conformity. There are a large number of hibernating robots still on Aarn, left over from the brief period of time when demons lived there.

Secretaries - The public representatives of politician demons, it's the job of a secretary to hand out and organize paperwork for other demons. Secretaries tend to work behind computers and typewriters from which they can pull out and dispense any form they wish. Because of regulation over forms however, for every copy of a form they print, another copy of that same form somewhere else must be destroyed, even if it's only a cybernetic copy. Their scanners for digital analysis of completed forms also double as paper-shredders. This can be of great annoyance to anyone who has made a mistake on their form and must start over from the very beginning.

Succubi and incubi - Due to the long lifespans and resilient bodies of demons, they actually have a difficult time breeding with one another. Once they're old enough, they stop being excited by "normal things." It is the job of the succubus and her male incubus counterpart to learn all manner of methods of titillation and put them into practice. Essentially, it is the duty of all demons of this type to help ensure that new demons are born. It is also their duty to record all of their exploits for clerical purposes. These tapes can also be distributed to the market as entertainment, but usually only the most extravagant encounters receive this treatment.

These demons are often taught secret arts of demonic shape-shifting in which they can actually change their appearance through extremely precise muscle control, quick healing, and a high threshold of pain for all the resulting shattered bones. The use of this art to create tentacles is a strangely popular.

Succubi and incubi are among the most well-known types of demons on Aarn. This is probably because these demons will occasionally possess aarnian mortals in order to fill their monthly quotas. Aarnian mortals have somehow gotten it into their heads that encounters with these demons will steal their soul - but it will usually only steal their dignity and quite possibly their sanity if the demon is creative enough.

Taxi drivers - Demons who are short and squat but too stupid for banking or police work tend to become taxi drivers. Their small size allows them to carry heavier passengers in their hover-taxis, and their stupidity prevents them from finding a better job. Taxi drivers also tend to be physically unattractive or mutated in some way, and typically smell bad. Insect features are an especially common taxi driver trait.

Telemarketers - In a society where anything is legal as long as one can get the forms for it, never underestimate the persuasive power of intimidation. Telemarketers are easily the most powerful kind of demon. They are usually twice as large as the typical demon, and up to ten times as physically resilient. In hand to hand combat, a telemarketer will almost always win. Telemarketers are also physically resistant to even demon weapons, and on top of it all, they're grumpy.

"If they are so powerful," you may ask, "why do they have such a horrible job?" Demons live in such a structured society that they often become complacent and easy to fool. They also have a chaotic streak that makes tricking them with telephone schemes even more lucrative than it would be otherwise. Because the telemarketing business is so profitable, there is an extremely high demand for demons to actually make the calls. However, the demon establishment is loathe to hand out telemarketing licenses for the very same reasons. Telemarketing demons are literally the only demons scary enough to convince the secretary demons to let them have telemarketer licenses.

Tour Guides - Adventurous demons who tend to be mentally unbalanced, they live in the fringes of the other eight hells, separate from Bureaucracy. Tour guides tend to have little patience for demonic paperwork and thus flee their home plane and live on one of the other hells. Becoming a guide for vacationing demons is one of the most profitable and desirable jobs for these impatient, antisocial, "unique" demons.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Metaphysics: The Nine+ Planes of Hell

And we reach the final post that will be lifted from the ENWorld forums! Out of all the information brought from that place, this post probably edited the least, but it should still be useful information.

There are nine planes of hell, with eight of them designed to be afterlives for mortals, and one a pocket dimension that exists outside of the Astral Sea. The nine hells can be seen as planets in the Astral sea, and most of the hells appear very Aarn-like, but with different continents. The exceptions are Bureaucracy, Meh, and Revelry, which have their own unique looks.

Bureaucracy - The home of the demons, and the first plane of hell. Bureaucracy was not designed to be an afterlife, and was instead supposed to be the demons' home. As such, it has with it their style of civilization and their style of laws, described in detail in the "Creatures: Demons" post. The plane itself appears to be a massive city which has no day or night; Bureaucracy's weather is gray clouds that constantly glow and give off light. The only time the plane is ever dark is when it rains. This of course means that the other planes and the rest of the astral sea are not visible from Bureaucracy - but the demons still have technology that allows them to observe it all, including Aarn itself as well. The glowing clouds are more for the sake of the demons' own privacy than anything else.

Of course, for anyone living here, a great deal of paperwork needs to be filled out on a day-to-day basis, which makes it extremely difficult for non-demons to live here. Many native Aarnian mortals are absolutely horrified at any prospect of this hell, and the demons themselves are also loathe to allow mortals to spend their afterlife in their own home town. Occasionally though, there are especially shrewd and bureaucratically minded mortals (dragons, for instance) who fit in just fine, and are allowed to stay here.

Paranoia - The second level of hell, Paranoia was originally supposed to be a carbon copy of the real world, to allow those who did not want their lives to change to continue to exist as they always had. Unfortunately, the demons did their job designing this plane too well, and it was too much like the world of Aarn. Very quickly, a system of corruption and political dominance sprang up and began to oppress the populace. The fact that the more violent and "evil" people could not really be killed meant that they instead found themselves in positions of power. This also prevented any would-be revolutionaries from shattering the power structure and loyalty of underlings through assassination.

The entire plane of Paranoia is currently run by an evil empire of criminals and corrupt law enforcement agencies. The only people who can enjoy this hell are narcissistic individuals involved in activities of naked self-interest, who died with a clear conscience over the evils they did in life.

Anarchy - The second plane the demons created for mortal souls, Anarchy is purposefully regulated to prevent mortals from banding together into organized political groups. The demons hoped that this would prevent the problems that plagued Paranoia from plaguing Anarchy. In fact, worse problems developed. Anarchy became an extremely violent place, a constant riot where everyone fights everyone else - except when they're drinking or having sex. There is absolutely no order, no rhyme, no reason to this place. It is an endless sea of strife and chaos. Mass murderers, fighters, warriors and violent predator corporeal creatures tend to enjoy this afterlife quite a bit. Everyone else does not.

Delirium - Delirium is a plane so chaotic that any kind of civilization simply cannot spring up at all. The best way to begin to get a picture of what Delirium is like is to take a herculean dose of peyote, and then give yourself a direct IV drip of pure LSD. Then you have barely scratched the surface of the surreal way Delirium is constructed. The demons created it thinking that the removal of all order completely would allow those who did not enjoy Paranoia or Anarchy to have an happy afterlife.

Those who enjoy Delirium tend to be curious individuals who enjoy sensation for sensation's sake. Otherwise, the plane is just so freakin' bizarre that it is practically impossible for anyone to function at all. From a distance, Delirium appears to be a ball of swirling colors and flashing lights.

Meh - Originally designed to be the final plane of hell, Meh is a plane of absolute nothingness. There is no gravity, no structure, no food, no water, no clothes, and even no bodies. Meh is a place where especially serene and nihilistic people can truly feel like they are at one with everything and nothing. It is also a place that is so boring, so empty, so lacking of stimulus that many call it to be the absolute worst alternative out of all the other eight planes of hell. From a distance, Meh looks very similar to Bureaucracy, though it is not solid and is instead a simple ball of opaque gray gas.

Conformity - After the "failures" of the first four hells, the demons created a plan to construct four more, after studying human nature in more depth. The first of these, conformity is a plane of logic, structure, and technology. The demons populated it with their own robotic creations in order to police the plane and ensure that it ran smoothly. The society itself however is practically nonexistent. People are treated as numbers. There is no such thing as free thought or free expression. People are told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Surprisingly, many people actually do enjoy this hell. They are the sort of people who enjoy following a leader, and not having to think for themselves. Strangely, more actual humans populate this plane than any other type of creature.

Security - Like conformity, Security has a rigid authority structure. Unlike conformity, the sensibilities of the populace are actually looked after. Security is essentially the plane of Paranoia run in a tolerable way. Demons called angels are the authority structure here. They ensure that the needs of the populace are met, be they entertainment, food, drink, or other activities. Generally, it is possible to do or receive whatever one wants here, as long as it is not violent, mean, nasty, and does not infringe on the happiness of another individual in any way. In a way it is the ideal gated community.

While this may sound like a paradise, there is a down side. Happiness is regulated. If you are unhappy, you are almost treated as a criminal and taken to a "happiness reeducation center." These centers are often always materialistic in structure and do not tend to address the actual emotional problems causing the unhappiness. Treatment centers are distractions at best, torture at worst.

What is worse, there is absolutely no risk, no thrill, no danger tolerated. Anything that might harm yourself or cause yourself pain is treated as if it were a kind of violence against another person. Even sex, which can often be rough and cause injury is strictly regulated. Keeping these things in mind, it can be easy to understand how this place could be considered a hell.

Serenity - A rustic wilderness with abundant wild food, crystal clear lakes, rains of honey and plenty of fresh air, Serenity is the most peaceful and primal of the nine hells. It is where most herbivore animals go. Philosophers, artists, naturalists, vegetarians and other nonviolent people who enjoy little regulation find this place an utter paradise. The major downside of Serenity is that all there are put under a kind of spell that makes it especially difficult to undergo acts of violence or abuse. The paradise can sometimes be threatened by small spats or fights, but these rarely turn into anything serious. A good analogy for Serenity would be a hippie commune / artist community.

Serenity's major downside is the fact that it can be very boring to those who do not enjoy artistic or intellectual pursuits. While nowhere near as boring as the plane of Meh, Serenity can get on the nerves of those who demand an exciting lifestyle almost as much as Conformity and Security. There is little regulation in Serenity, but it does have just enough to prevent violent thrill-seekers from truly being satisfied.

Revelry - The deepest level of hell, Revelry is a non-stop party. By this point, the demons had gotten so frustrated with their attempts to create suitable afterlives that people could enjoy that they essentially threw their hands up in the air, and decided to provide as much food, drink, music, and other fun things as possible. Extroverts who enjoy fun will absolutely thrive in this place. However, because the party is constant and never lets up, those who do not thrive on social conduct or cannot tolerate too much mindless fun without actual constructive activity will find themselves completely and utterly tortured.

Immigration - While not actually a plane of hell, immigration is a pocket space the demons created to store souls who had yet to be judged. It was supposed to only be temporary, but because of the demons' love of bureaucracy, quite a queue developed at the judgment booth. Immigration is very much like Meh, except it could be considered even worse than that because it was never intended to be a final destination. Immigration is nothing but an endless white space with a snaking line of creatures waiting to be told where they are going. The current wait, from death to judgment, is currently hovering at the equivalent of around 100 years.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Metaphysics: Astral Bodies and a person's rights in the 9 hells.

Once again, the content from this entry is heavily edited and expanded upon from the ENWorld forums. However, like the last post it does have new information, and is worth another go-over even if you've read the ENWorld posts. Thank you for your patience, and be comforted in the knowledge that there is only one more post like this planned, and then it will be entirely new content again!

Whenever a soul is traveling through the Inbetween, or astral-projecting themselves (safely) into the Astral Sea or another creature's dream, they do so using an astral body. An astral body is created from nothing, and normally reflects the soul's self-image, carrying with it astral constructs of any clothing or equipment that soul expects to have. A character with both an exceptionally high perception and willpower can create new tools and items for itself out of nothing - though the more powerful the creation the more difficult it is to manifest.

Creatures who are dead and carried to the nine planes of hell also use astral bodies, but they are under slightly different rules - the demons have organized it so that the willful creation of objects is no longer possible. Demons and the inhabitants of hell also can tell the difference between an object (such as money) that has been created willfully, and an object that was legitimately created by demons. This helps to stabilize the local economies of the Nine Hells.

The only exception to this rule is the Hell of Meh, where visitors have their astral body and all equipment stripped from them completely.

With an astral body, characters can do all of the things that they did in life, such as eating, sleeping, having sex, and even dying. Many of these activities do not work exactly as they do in the real world, however. Eating is not actually a requirement of astral bodies. Hunger is only felt by souls in astral bodies if those souls believe they -should- become hungry. Over time, many souls in hell lose the habit of eating, as they slowly realize their hunger will abate even without food. Others turn eating into a recreational hobby, and food is often provided by the demons themselves if the local ecology of a plane of hell cannot meet the demand.

Sex occurs in the afterlife just as commonly as it does in the material world, but astral bodies are all barren and cannot reproduce - with the exception of an astral body mating with a demon. A male astral body can impregnate a female demon, and a female astral body can be impregnated by a male demon. If the owner of the astral body is still alive, and returns to the world of Aarn while impregnated, the demon will still come to term - but psychically, connected to the female mortal's mind. Once the demon is ready to be born, other demons will possess the female in order to rescue the child, usually without the female ever knowing.

When it came to an astral body's inability to have children under normal circumstances, the demons were flooded with a great deal of hate mail and feature change request forms. As a result, the demons decided to allow souls who had been stillborn or died at a very young age to come to the afterlife in that form and then be adopted by waiting families. These souls could be considered very unlucky. They not only have to wait a hundred years or more in the demonic sub-plane of Immigration, but they are then put in a demon adoption agency where the wait for adoption can be even longer. Once adopted, their astral body will slowly mature to the height of adulthood. Once adulthood is reached, their astral body ceases to age at all.

Sleeping, unlike eating, is not something that is optional for astral bodies. The vast majority of mortal souls require dreams in order to maintain their sanity. Simply being dead is not enough to lift this fundamental requirement of mortal minds, and in fact, the lack of being able to dream is the major source of insanity in noncorporeal undead trapped in the Inbetween.

Dead souls in the Nine Hells do still dream in the astral sea, as they did when they were alive. During the deepest stages of sleep, a soul's astral body seems to dissolve into nothing. In actuality, it has been transported with the soul to that soul's dream pocket in the astral sea. When the dream is over, the soul is automatically transported back to its place in the Nine Hells.

Death in the afterlife is caused by an excess of trauma dealt to an astral body, and lasts only a fraction of a second, with a new astral body forming next to the newly-created corpse. In the Inbetween, the Astral Sea and dreams, this new body will normally have its equipment and belongings as well - which can create duplicates of astral items. In these same places however, a slain astral body will quickly fade to nothing, which makes the window for collecting these items very small. As a further risk, if the concentration of an astralmancer is broken, it can be extremely dangerous to all involved in the astral travel. Further, if it is a wizard or divine caster allowing the astral travel, the death of an astral body will normally break the spell before a new astral body can be formed, and return that person's soul to their real body.

Due to the limitations on astral object construction in the Nine Hells however, a slain astral body is permanent, as is its equipment. The new, healthy astral body that forms after a death will be nude and without any equipment. In planes such as anarchy or paranoia, cannibalism is rampant due to the excess of corpses that develop as astral bodies die and reform.

Astral bodies heal quickly from general injuries, but not as quickly as they would “heal” from a complete death and reformation in one of the hells. This has the interesting dynamic of forcing combatants in the Nine Hells to attempt to deal nonlethal blows – it is much easier to recover from death than it is to recover from unconsciousness.

There is an appeals process set up in the Nine Hells that allows someone to ask for adjustments to be made to their afterlife. Naturally, this appeals process takes a very very, very long time, due to the high number of souls who are miserable. Some of these appeals involve changing the appearance or structure of a soul's astral body. They can choose their apparent age, so those who have a fetish for age can appear old and wizened. They can also change their gender, or even their species. For instance, many dragons who wind up on the plane of Bureaucracy will often choose to appear as demons, and in fact, actually do become demons, both physically and spiritually.

Not only can souls in hell appeal for a change to their astral bodies, but they can also appeal their judgment. In fact, the vast majority do. The long wait for the appeal to be processed however forces the soul to stay in their initial judgment plane for thousands of years. Being forced to experience their supposed value system for that long often causes them to become tolerant of it, reinforcing that value system. When they are re-judged during their appeals process, they often wind up being sent right back where they came from.

Others however, instead learn to hate their original supposed value system, and when their appeal goes through, they have accumulated the wisdom, experience, perspective, and maturity for the demon judgment to actually work for once, and send them to a hell where they belong and would enjoy.

The least lucky souls are ones who do not learn experience and perspective through their suffering, and instead experience a "grass is always greener" effect. They wind up being sent to a hell during judgment that they hate even more than the place they came from. Especially obtuse souls wind up bouncing around the different layers of hell for much of eternity.

As an alternative for appealing their judgment, souls can instead send in an appeal form requesting to rejoin the One Mother as originally intended. Despite the shattering of the original gnostic cycle by Nektos' mischief, very small amounts of souls at a time can still do this. Though the feature was disabled for the past 50 years, the One Mother's reappearance has made it possible again.

The process is one that strips the soul of all memory of their current life and identity, though the resulting consciousness can spend the rest of its existence as a true part of the One Mother's soul, experiencing a kind of parasitic bliss. Despite the suffering souls undergo in the Nine Hells, the idea of losing one's own identity is something the vast, vast majority of souls find horrifying. Many consider it to be a true death. Because of this, the wait for rejoining the One Mother is quite short, and souls often wind up rejoining the One Mother as soon as a few weeks after they send in their appeal.

Another option for souls who wish to leave the Nine Hells is reincarnation. The reincarnation itself is handled by the One Mother, and the first step of it is rejoining her, in the same way as a soul who wishes to rejoin with her permanently. While memory, identity and experiences are still obliterated, the reincarnated soul carries with it a small imprint that allows the soul to identify its past lives in subtle ways. Unfortunately, a soul cannot request the type of creature it comes back as. The creature the soul is reincarnated into is chosen by the One Mother. Not surprisingly, this option is even less popular than rejoining her permanently, and is normally reserved for non-sentient animals.

Creatures: Demons

Once again, this post is largely taken from the ENWorld forums - however, take heart! A good deal of it has been edited, re-written, and expanded upon, so even if you've read it before, it's worth another look-over.

Many people believe that Demons only exist as evil spirits of sin and temptation, while in fact it is usually the fey that fill this role. Many others believe that the demons' chief concern is torturing sinful mortals in the afterlife, which from one interpretation might be accurate but is missing a large piece of the puzzle. Demons at the core of it are little more than clerks of the afterlife, sorting people and managing people. They are bureaucratic to a fault, and do their job with much paperwork, much delay, and much apathy.

Demons are inter-dimensional parasites who discovered our dream plane and decided it would be a good place to live. They are a group of grotesque creatures who originally had no concept of different species. Demons themselves are very individualistic, and extremely sexually potent. Despite there being possibly hundreds of different "species" of demons, all demons can interbreed with one another and produce fertile offspring. Further, a demon can breed with literally anything else, even the astral bodies of non-demons, and produce a fertile, demon offspring.

Demons have access to contemporary real-world technology. In some cases, their technology seems to be more advanced than the technology of Earth. (For instance, demons have access to hover-cars and robots.) Demons also seem to be aware of the real-world earth, and it is not uncommon for demons to have access to meta-game knowledge. For instance, during the brief time the demons were on Aarn, they settled in what is now the Shanbar Province of the Cerenbaun kingdom, and named all the major cities after real-world European countries.

Demons also seem to believe in earth religions, such as Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and others. Because demons have no magical powers themselves, they have no idea what happens when one of them actually dies. Demons typically have a natural lifespan of four thousand years, though it has been known for some demons to be even longer-lived.

It is cosmically illegal for demons to personally travel to Aarn as per an agreement with the gods, so except for extremely rare circumstances, demons have not been seen on the plane of Aarn in the flesh. This is good for the Aarnians, because despite the demons' deficiencies in magic, they are extremely resilient physically and resist most types of damage. They also have skills with technology that put the achievements of the race of man to shame.

Demon technology seems to be purposefully designed with a "retro" look. Their buildings, their vehicles (even the hover ones) and their most fashionable clothing styles are designed with an American 1950s vibe. The hell of Bureaucracy itself is an entire planet of interconnected sprawling cities, and if it weren't for the inhabitants and flying cars, one might actually think it was a city on Earth. Occasionally demon technology or artifacts can be found on our world, like demon constructs (robots,) weapons (AK-47s,) and tools of genocide (nukes.) These monstrosities are better left studied but never activated or used.

Demons can take advantage of the physics of the astral plane to possess native Aarnians to either go on vacation, adventure, or collect magical items on Aarn. The demons cannot make magic items themselves, so they often go on scavenger hunts and then send the artifacts they find back to Bureaucracy, their home. A demon controlling an Aarnian mortal's body is not considered a breach of their agreement with the gods. As an added bonus, when a demon controls a mortal's body, any of that mortal's elemantic potential is supercharged. The demon can use the mortal's body as if all of the mortal's elemantic abilities were completely maxed-out. Of course, the process of possession is heavily regulated and it is said that waiting times for a Demon to possess someone can often be in upwards of 2 years.

A demon can also possess people without influencing their behavior - in this case, the mortal still has complete control over him or herself. Instead, the demon appears as a noncorporeal apparition that only the possessed mortal can see. Usually the demons use this to communicate with a certain mortal and present the deal - often the mortal doesn't even realize he or she is possessed. In fact, the demon doesn't even need to present itself to the mortal. In some cases, with the demon controlling the mortal body only when the mortal is asleep, and never manifesting while the mortal is awake, a demon can spend years possessing a mortal with none the wiser.

Demons are also known for tempting mortals into so-called "deals with the devil." The demon will possess the mortal and present itself to the mortal as an apparition. Generally, the demon asks for the legal rights to produce and create entertainment (television and movies, not that an Aarnian would know what those are) based on the possessed person's life. In return, the possessed person receives dividends and residuals from the deal - guaranteed income for life that can bring many people much closer to their actual life goals. Even after the person dies and goes to hell, they will still receive the money - money in hell can be converted into Aarnian coinage, and vice-versa. There are drawbacks to this deal however - if the possessed person ceases to be popular, the money dries up. Also, the possessed person permanently loses the legal rights to tell stories about his or her own adventures. Doing so is considered a breach of contract, and the demons take that very seriously.

As a rule, demons seem to have a fetish for paperwork. The organization of their society is built around forms. Everything, even breathing, is illegal without first filling out the right forms. (Parents will usually fill the required breathing, eating, and defecating forms before their child is born.) Conversely, everything is legal if one can actually find the forms for it. Many forms are made extremely hard to find however, and a couple (such as the forms to travel to Aarn in the flesh) do not exist.

Aarnian mortals who are sent to the hell of Bureaucracy are also subject to these rules, which keeps all but the most bureaucratically-minded mortals out, much to the demons' collective relief.

The other 8 hells however are not subject to these paperwork rules, and sometimes demons will go to these hells for a "vacation" in order to temporarily escape their paperwork obligations, though certain rules and laws do still apply. Vacationing demons will usually annoy the actual residents of that particular hell, whether it's a hell the resident enjoys or not.

Like fey, demons can also invade and influence the dreams of mortals, and in fact, this is usually the first step of a possession. It is very rare for demons to do this however due to how regulated the possession process is.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Metaphysics: The Afterlife and Religion

Again, this post is largely made up of information already posted to the ENWorld thread. Yes, there are going to be a few of these - not many, but a few. I hope you'll bare with me in the meantime, while I post these for those who haven't yet seen them.

The gods who watch over the material realm of Aarn have never truly been a large part of the afterlife, and they have very little influence over it. The original Aarnian afterlife intended for corporeal creatures was supposed to be a gnostic one. The One Mother, acting as a life-stream, was supposed to be the source of souls. Upon a creature's death, that creature's soul was supposed to rejoin the One Mother, where it could either stay there in eternal bliss or be reincarnated.

A wrench was thrown in this smooth-running metaphysical machinery when Nektos created the first undead creature. By creating the phenomenon of undeath, he permanently shattered this intended gnostic cycle. Even the souls that did not become undead were having trouble rejoining the One Mother. These souls found themselves stranded in the inbetween as the first ghosts and noncorporeal undead. The astral plane quickly began to fill with clouds of these souls' psychic emanations. As described in the "A Brief History of Aarn" post, the pollution confused and played havoc with the local fey, and a great number of these fey became permanently bonded with the material plane and the Inbetween. Even the god of fey himself, K'tellos, was trapped in the mortal realm.

At the same time this was going on, demon settlers had found our astral plane and were living there as psychic parasites, observing the material realm from the astral as entertainment. They created the first level of hell, Bureaucracy, as their home, shaping a level of the dream plane into a realm they could control and live in. The during the hour of need, the gods took it upon themselves to confront the demons. The gods informed the invading demons that they would make the demons' lives as miserable as possible if the demons did not agree to create, run, and manage an afterlife that could harness and contain the souls trapped in the Inbetween, and thus alleviate the psychic pollution flooding the astral plane. The demons reluctantly agreed.

The demons began creating additional planes where souls could congregate and spend eternity without polluting the astral realm. However, the demons' initial attempts resulted in a great deal of complaining from those who were forced to actually live there. Through complaints, changes of policy, and much paperwork, the demons eventually found themselves with 8 additional prototype hells on top of the original home they created for themselves. While there were indeed people who would more or less enjoy one out of the 8 hells designed for Aarnian mortals, most would absolutely despise the other seven. This gave the demons a headache and made them realize they'd actually have to sort the souls to ensure they wound up at a destination they might enjoy.

To further confuse the process, the demons' method for deciding where the souls would go led to some serious complications. Instead of actually determining which of the 8 planes a soul would enjoy, the demons instead took that soul's value system in life and used that as a litmus test. This led to the very strange side effect of people satisfied with their lives being sent to a hell they would enjoy, while those who had serious regrets (or were hypocritical - valuing one thing and then doing the exact opposite) would be sent to a place where they would suffer eternally.

The final thing the demons did in an attempt to make this run smoothly was to send emissaries into the real world to inform mortals what the afterlife and dream plane were like. The mortals misunderstood entirely, and religious dogma was born. The mortals began to mistakenly believe that their gods had something to do with the hells and where people went, and they also began to develop ideas of heaven - even though no "heaven" exists.

Because those who are consistent in their value system wind up being sent to a place they would enjoy, great sects of dogmatic individuals were formed who would argue that -their- way was the only correct way to live. Their views were even reinforced by the fact that only their sect, or sects with similar beliefs, would be sent to their own most desirable afterlife. The headaches and warfare this caused on the planet's surface caused the gods to bar demons from ever setting foot on Aarn again. The demons of course, found several loopholes which will be gone over in another post.

Not all people who follow religion believe in heaven - ascetics who have the magic to communicate with the gods (or at least explore the Astral Sea) are as truthful with their congregation as possible, though "there is no heaven" is one of the best-kept secrets in religion. - Or at least the religions that try to stay close to the truth. Most leaders do not trust their congregations to grasp the complicated concept of "live true to yourself and you will enjoy the afterlife." Other religious leaders are actually afraid of encouraging the more sociopathic of their congregation, as well.

Jaded adventurers however usually do understand that there is no heaven, and the nine hells are what you make of them. Sometimes they know this simply by virtue of having died and then been brought back to life by a resurrection spell. Kings, businessmen, astralmancers, the most powerful members of the clergy and those with access to magic also understand this, though it is a depressing concept that most god-fearing people will simply refuse to believe - so the secret more or less keeps itself.

Of course, there are also religions with no basis in fact, and as mentioned before, gods believed in who do not exist. Magic is a tricky thing, and an educated adventurer needs to understand and keep in mind that even if a priest can cast divine magic, that doesn't necessarily mean that the priest's god is real, or that the priest speaks the truth of the afterlife, or even how we should live this one.

Metaphysics: The Astral Plane and the Inbetween

Those who have read the forum post at ENWorld linked to in the very first post of this blog can safely skip this entry - it's largely just copy-pasted from there. However, for those of you who have only read the blog, this will be totally new information, so enjoy!

What would eventually become the afterlife for Aarnian mortals is the Astral Sea, also known as the dream plane. This is the original realm of the fey before animals and legendary creatures were created. It is a place of unlimited possibility and much entertainment. It is also a place of horror and anxiety. When mortals were first created, they were given limited access to this place as they slept, in order to experience the primal energies of the soul and reduce the stress their minds encountered as they lived the material life.

Visitors to the core astral plane itself will most often experience it as an analog to a solar system (even if they do not know what a solar system is). In the center is an impossibly bright ball of fire, the core of the astral plane and the representation of the dream of K'tellos, the god of all fey. No astral explorer has ever attempted to enter this ball of fire and return, so very little is known of it or its contents. Orbiting the ball of fire are the 9 planes of hell, each represented by its own planetoid. Demons travel from plane to plane in jets, helicopters, hover-cars and other forms of aerial travel.

Interspersed everywhere else in this “solar system” are star clusters and wisps of glowing energy. The stars are short lived, with each one representing the dream of a sleeping mortal mind. When the dream ends, the star is snuffed out. Approaching a star or observing it closely allows one to view the dream of the mortal. Those who approach a star may enter it, and directly interact with the dream. If the dream ends while someone else is inside, the dream disintegrates around them, and that person then finds themselves floating in the astral ether, like they were before entering.

Clusters of stars are formed as dreaming mortal minds touch one another. Dreams of mortals may collide and intermingle, with two people sharing a single dream. The largest clusters are maintained by fey who have created their own home-away-from-home in the dreams of the mortals. Their clusters are so large that they are self-perpetuating, always having at least one mortal mind dreaming in order to maintain the cluster. In a way, these clusters could be considered demi-planes, stable worlds of dreams that have little impact on the rest of the Astral Sea.

The wisps of glowing energy are astral imprints of the noncorporeal undead trapped in the material realm. The material realm itself is not directly accessible through the astral plane without magical rituals, tunnels of energy or elemantic abilities, and this barrier works both ways. It is actually more difficult to access the material realm from the astral than to access the astral from the material, which can trap inexperienced astral travelers in the astral plane permanently.

Often confused with the astral plane is the "Inbetween," the ghostly ethereal realm. While astral bodies can be used to explore the Inbetween, it is an echo of the real world, and far more closely tied to it than tied to the astral. Those in the Inbetween see it as a grayish, cloudy version of the real world, with vague shadows where living corporeal creatures would be. Once a creature dies, its corpse can be seen clearly from the ethereal realm because it ceases to be the vessel for a soul, and becomes a mundane object. Creatures without true souls, such as mindless corporeal undead or magical constructs can also be seen clearly.

The Inbetween itself only exists by the will of the noncorporeal undead trapped in the material plane. If all noncorporeal undead were to suddenly cease to exist, the ethereal plane would vanish as well, along with the wisps of psychic pollution clouding the astral plane.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Creatures: Mundane Animals

Of course like any other world, Aarn has animals that are not as intelligent as humans, but also do not exist, or no longer exist on our planet. This is a listing of some of the more common and notable ones.

Behemoth - Thankfully, only around a hundred of these creatures are known to exist. They are large, lumbering hulks of flesh that usually are asleep, but devour anything and everything in their path when they are awake. They resemble a cross between an elephant, cow, and a turtle. A fully grown adult practically scrapes the sky with its back, and is easily three hundred feet tall and five hundred feet long. An infant behemoth is twice the size of an elephant, and they are born in litters of three. During the maturation process, one will usually wind up killing and consuming its siblings.

Dinosaurs - Dinosaurs haven't gone extinct on Aarn, and while they are not particularly widespread, a good deal of them live on the continent of Rensvan and surrounding islands. The number of species represented however is limited, and has not yet been decided yet - only dinosaurs that have evidence of living in jungle or savanna will be included, and many of the more prehistoric species will be overlooked. Also, a good deal of dinosaurs with evidence for it (such as velociraptors and t-rexs) will very likely be given feathers.

Other Prehistoric Creatures - More megafauna that has gone extinct more recently in the history of Earth such as mammoths and saber-toothed tigers are indigenous to the frozen mountains and plains of Habruk, though the tigers tend to stick to the areas with a milder climate, not being built for extreme cold.

Kraken - A massive squid that often claims human oceangoing vessels. Kraken have no known intelligence and their tentacles are powerful enough to rend even the mightiest of ships in twain. They have never been accurately measured, but estimates range from 300 to a full thousand yards from the tip of the tentacle to the end of the head.

Leviathan - While not technically a natural animal, the Leviathan bares mention here. It is largely this creature which makes the Great Barrier Sea a barrier - it actively hunts and consumes all oceangoing vessels attempting to sale between the southern coast of Zenninfal to the Jerohm Peninsula. Estimated to be a massive eel a mile in length, this creature is actually an organically grown battleship controlled by the merfolk race. The merfolk have many other similar "creature ships" they use for transportation and military action, but none so large or effective.

Rocs - Often confused with phoenixes, rocs are giant eagles with 40 foot wingspans. They range in color from brown, to white, to gold. They roost in tall mountain ranges and will often prey on large herbivores like horses, elephants and giraffes.

Sea Mosquitoes - Sea mosquitoes are gigantic insects with proboscises that are 4 feet long. They feed on the blood of World Turtles and often travel in massive swarms. A ship sailing into a swarm of sea mosquitos is in a great deal of trouble - they have the strength to shred wood, and being stabbed with their proboscis is not pleasant. Because their proboscis is so long, it is difficult for them to easily drink the blood of sailors. However, they still can if they manage to find the heart and hold their victim steady.

World Turtle - An aquatic version of the behemoth, a world turtle will sleep on the surface for hundreds of years, and often are mistaken for islands. They share a shell with behemoths, though the dirt and vegetation that accumulates on their backs tends to hide this feature. Sizes range from a few hundred feet to a few thousand. It is wise to never awaken a world turtle, because its appetite is as insatiable as its land-dwelling cousins.

Wyrvn - A mundane animal that is very similar to a dragon, a wyrvn has no magic and very little discernible intelligence. Their arms double as their wings, like a bat, and they only have two legs. Their tail is also notable for having poisonous barbs at the tip. Their wingspan is 60 feet and they can often be confused for dragons, though they are decidedly less dangerous.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Creatures: Tribal Animals

Not all intelligent creatures on the planet of Aarn have been created by a god. There are a handful of animal species who have developed human or near-human intelligence through natural evolution. Of course, without being touched by a god, they cannot use magic (divine or otherwise) and have no access to elemancy. These creatures due to their lack of magical abilities are normally considered "mere animals" by godtouched, and in kingdoms such as Cerenbaun, owning one of these animals as a slave is legal, though not common.

Wolves, dolphins, pigs, gorillas and monkeys could technically fall under this category, however I will not describe them here because they can only very rarely learn to meaningfully communicate with humans.

Camarian Floaters - A colony of polyps that have evolved neural pathways between themselves, a camarian floater is filled with hydrogen and resembles a large man-o-war. They are usually 7 feet across with tendrils that hang down for twenty feet or more. They live in the upper atmosphere and feed on birds and insects. While the adults cannot speak the human tongue, their young are parasitic organisms that take control of a host for one part of their life-cycle. The adults drop spores to earth, and if a spore is eaten by a creature, that creature is then controlled by the parasitic young until it is ready to bud and drift up into the clouds. Budding will usually kill the host, but during infection the parasite can communicate crudely with other creatures using the host's language. Camarian floaters grow much more intelligent as they mature (due to their size they gain more neurons) and use complex flanking maneuvers to lure in and trap their avian prey.

Giants - The precursor of man, (and as described in many other posts already) the god Jennin used giants as stock in order to create the human race. Giants are slightly stupid, large humanoids at least 20 feet tall. They live in tribal societies, especially in the tallest remote mountains and deepest jungles. The giants have a spoken language that is an ancient precursor to the human tongue, and giants can learn to speak human languages easily. They have a rich oral tradition of storytelling, but they have no inclination for any but the most simple tools and weapons. If a giant is found wielding armor and martial arms, it is invariably being funded by some outside source.

The legends of elves and dwarves can be traced back to the giants themselves. Those who have studied the subject have come to the conclusion that the terms "elf" and "dwarf" come from the giants' own storytelling. The giants used these terms to describe the early humans who were smaller, more magically adapt, and more technologically savvy than their giant counterparts. Because the human language and the giant language was the same at the time, these terms entered human society. Eventually, mankind forgot that the terms referred to themselves, and they began to believe that elves and dwarves were in fact lost species of other godtouched.

Goblins - Tribal, four foot tall wretches. They are ugly, scaly creatures that imitate human society, but are not quite intelligent enough to do so properly. Though they cannot cast magic they have learned to use magical items stolen from humans. They are quite clever for an animal, but are usually little more than a nuisance, except in groups. They can learn the human tongue, but speak it in a broken pidgin that is as comical as difficult to understand properly. The goblin's most distinguishing feature is its ears - they are large and fin-like, with several barbs stretching a large membrane into the fin shape. From a distance, ardlins and goblins can be confused with one another, especially because goblins were one of the three animals that the goddess Leshia used to create the ardlin race.

Hermit Turtle - A miserable creature that is usually 5 feet tall, a hermit turtle has a large shell on its back, from where it gets its name. Hermit turtles have beaks and large, protruding eyes. Their skin is also very soft and wrinkled, and often looks like it is melting off their bones. They have a hunched-over, stooped posture; their front legs are easily three times longer than their rear legs. They walk on all fours, however they have hands with opposable thumbs, and can use tools. Unlike many of the other "tribal" animals, they are solitary and do not live in social tribe-like groups. They can mimic sounds in a method similar to a parrot, and this is how they can learn to speak the human language. While many consider them grumpy and horrifyingly ugly, certain elite members of human society (who do not like visitors) have discovered they make excellent butlers.

Killer Apes - Mainly living in the jungles of Rensvan, killer apes are cunning and intelligent animals who are jealous of mankind's favor in the eyes of Jennin. They are slightly more intelligent than gorillas, and they can crudely vocalize in the human tongue. This is mostly due to natural selection, due tot he fact that those who could speak most like humans over the last 8 thousand years won over the most mates. They in fact envy humans so much that they will ruthlessly hunt and kill any humans in their jungle, and then fight amongst themselves over who gets the right to wear that human's skin, in an attempt to gain their power.

Lizardmen - Not to be confused with anthromorph lizards, lizardmen are a natural animal race that are, of course, tribal in nature. Lizardmen often live in the deserts and swamps, and come in several different varieties. Unlike anthromorph lizards, they have digitigrade legs, and very long, stiff tails. (An anthromorph lizard has a much shorter, flexible tail.) Lizardman females also do not have breasts. Lizardmen can occasionally speak the human tongue, but it is barely understandable. Lizardmen have very thick accents due to their differences in facial structure. They're typically 5 to 6 feet tall, and 7 feet from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail. Despite being reptiles, lizardmen are quite communal, and care for one another very tenderly.

Ogers - A distant cousin of giants, ogers have shorter legs and longer arms, but smaller overall stature- an oger is usually 10-14 feet tall. Their skin is scaly and puke green and they have large tusks coming out of their lower jaw. They are strictly carnivores and far more violent than giants. They shun weapons, though they have the skills to make them. They prefer to kill with their own two hands. They instead use their toolmaking abilities to craft drums, which they use both for religious ceremonies and also for confusing and herding their prey.

Vzzbzzt - A curious intelligent animal, Vzzbzzts are quite possibly the most intelligent of all animals, being able to easily learn to read and write. Though they have not discovered a way to mimic human speech, the sounds of their own language can be mimicked by humans. This limits their interaction with godtouched society, despite their high intelligence, and they are often known as stinkwasps because of their smell and their wasp-like wings. Anatomically a vzzbzzt is more of a beetle than a wasp, and they are quite formidable physically. They tend to be 5 feet tall, and despite four thin and spindly legs and two thin and spindly arms, they are extremely strong. Their bodies are large and round with flat stomachs, and they not only can fly, but their legs allow them to jump long distances. They tend to live near saltwater, building their homes in beach sands. Vzzbzzt are commonly employed as sailors by godtouched races, due to their skills at jumping and flying, and their ability to very easily tie and untie knots with their needle-like fingers.