Union of the Snake

I am creeped right the hell out by snakes.  In fact, I have a theory that everyone is either afraid of things with too many legs (more than 4) or too few (less than 2.)  I fall in the too few category.  There is simply something alien and seemingly malicious about serpents  I feel this way even though one of my friends pointed out that snakes are simply too stupid to be malicious.  And I know that reptiles are only a step above (and that’s iffy) fish and insects and that insects are basically nature’s robots with no real awareness and only rudimentary programming.

 

One of my earliest memories of a movie is being terrified of James Earl Jones and the way he transformed into a giant snake in Conan the Barbarian (the original one, with Arnorld Schwarzenegger.)

 

Somehow, nonetheless, snake people have become a prominent part of my role-playing life.  I actually blame Legend of the Five Rings.  By the time I caved in and bought a deck, all the other clans had already been claimed by my friends.  All that was left was the Naga.  That didn’t bother me too much, though because the Naga were outsiders who did not fit into the Japanese sense of duty and honor (or our western ideals of Japanese sense of duty and honor) that I’ve never really bought into.

 

Even when we moved from the card game to the role-playing game, I stuck with Naga.  Then, when I started creating my own world, I pulled the Naga with me.  So, my game universe, the one that I use in the campaign that I’m running and what I carry with me into some con and internet games includes the Naga.  Of course, the Naga in my game resemble the stereotypical Asian culture.

 

Even beyond that, I’ve added another level, the Draga.  Draga, obviously enough, are half-Naga half-dragons, either directly or the descendents of several generations of Dragas.  As with all half-dragon creatures in my universe, the Draga have 6 limbs (though because of the nature of their bodies, two of these limbs are vestigial and hidden in their tails.)  They also have more draconic features like spines and fins.

 

Related, thematically, if not in fact, are Saurians.  Lizard folk are a staple in most fantasy campaigns.  They end up with any number of names and styles with some of the most memorable for me being from the Warhammer Fantasy world.

 

My name for them are Saurians, and they are the usual primitive lizard folk, though they span the range of anthropomorphized lizards.  Some of them are swamp dwellers like alligators and others are desert dwellers.  They are also integrated into the society of the Empire that forms the core of my game world, so they are unusual within the Empire.  Even with the technology and culture surrounding them, they are simply mentally incapable of truly learning and utilizing it.

 

Mostly.  With inspiration from Spelljammer (which inspires my whole campaign and is a central part of it) some Saurians are incubated closer to their sun (actually orbiting it on a derelict ship especially for that purpose) and this means that they are inherently smarter than their more primitive fellows.  The closer a Saurian incubates to a star, the more advanced they are.

 

The nice thing about using such broad categories as inspiration for races as “snakes” and “lizards” is that so many radically different creatures fit in those categories.  Snakes can be anything from the innocuous grass snake in the backyard to a deadly cobra or aquatic anaconda.  Lizards can include crocodiles, iguanas and even the little chameleons in most people’s backyards.  And if you don’t want to be too strict, you can even take inspiration from amphibians.

 

These differences can simply be character or story driven with the character having any sorts of coloration or physical decorations and personality quirks a player wants to throw in.  On the other hand, these physical differences can have mechanical consequences in the game, as well.  In fact, entire bloodlines can be created with these differences in mind and can be used as a sort of template over the basic racial abilities for character creation.

 

So, here are the Naga and Saurians from my campaign as well as a few heritage edges to make them unique and a Saurian bloodline to further specialize them.

 

Naga are native to the Shan continent, though a large contingent of them defected to the Almati Confederation long before the Ravnivori invasion. Like the dwarves and humans of Shan their culture is based upon duty, tradition and honor. However, Nagas’ views of honor differs from both of the other two races. They see nothing wrong with attacking from ambush or using subterfuge to ensure success. Naga have humanoid torsos with long, snakelike tails instead of legs. They range in length from 9’ to 12’. Their skin is scaled, the scales on their tails large while those on their torsos, arms and heads are much finer. Scale color ranges from green to brown and black with gray appearing on occasion and very rarely red. Various patterns, such as stripes, chevrons and diamonds decorate their scales and their underbellies are often a lighter shade or entirely different color from their backs. However, Naga have some control over their coloration and can manipulate the hue of their scales to help them blend into their environment.  Their eyes are yellow, red, green or black and their hair is dark; black, blue, green or purple. Naga use large, heavily curved blades, spears and polearms, weapons that allow them to use their unique body structures to make quick strikes and retreat before a counter attack can be mustered. They, like all Shan dislike shields and they seldom wear armor. When they do, it is always light, often made of bamboo, but never restrictive of their ability to swim or climb. However, their true forte lies in archery. Naga are master bow makers, capable of making short and long bows as well as composite and compound bows of all sizes. Naga archers are rightly feared throughout the Empire.

Serpentine Dexterity:  Naga are deft and agile creatures and receive a d6 in Agility.

Large:  Due to their looping coils, Naga are larger than most other humanoids and gain a +1 to toughness.

Blending:  Because their skin is often naturally camouflaged and they are raised knowing when to be still and be quiet, Naga are adept at hiding and get a d6 in Stealth for free.

Bloodthirsty:  Naga have a rather stark view of the world and are loathe to leave potential enemies to endanger them again.  They never take prisoners unless ordered to do so by someone of authority and no Naga commander will ever do so.

Snake Tail:  While their unusual body structures don’t slow the Naga in most situations, few other races design their architecture to accommodate the creatures.  A Naga must succeed on an agility check to climb a ladder or rope (or the rigging of a ship, for that matter,) and even then can move at only half the speed of most races.  Stairs present a similar obstacle and they can only move half speed up or down them unless they succeed at an agility check.

Cultures:  Most Naga are Shan, though there is a relatively large colony in Almatia that has been there long enough that the members have adopted much of Almatian culture, thus Naga may choose either Shan or Almatia as their culture.

Saurians originate in the swamps that dominate the south western shores of Almatia. Despite several centuries of dealing with civilized races, Saurians remain primitive in many ways. They are superstitious and have a difficult time understanding complex ideas or creating any but the most rudimentary of tools. However, they are quite strong and tough and thus make excellent warriors. Saurians are generally taller than humans ranging in size from 6’ to 7’ in height and they are much more heavily muscled, though not bulkier. Their skin is thick and scaled with bony plates and ridges along their spines, backs, shoulders, arms and legs. Their eyes are yellow or red. Saurians’s skin is meant to blend into their swampy homes and can be varying shades of green, yellow, brown and gray. Their heads are large with powerful jaws filled with jagged teeth. Their hands and feet are clawed and webbed and they have thick tails.  Saurians generally use primitive weapons such as crude clubs, axes and spears made out of wood, bone and stone. They carry shields made from wood, often covered in some easily malleable metal or hide. They also manufacture simple bows.

Scaly Hide:  Saurians’ tough skins give them a +2 armor bonus to toughness.

Toothy Maw:  The fang filled mouth of a Saurian can be used as a weapon.  A bite from a Saurian deals Strength + d6 damage.

Powerfully Muscled:  A Saurian’s thick muscle mass give it a d6 in strength to begin.

Slow Witted:  Saurian’s are not as clever as other races and it takes two points per rank to raise their Smarts during creation.  Additionally, they are incapable of ever rising above a d10 in smarts.

Slow Footed:  Saurians’ bulk and stooped posture work against them, making them slower than most races.  A Saurian’s pace is only 5.

Cultures:  Though “culture” is a somewhat generous description for what passes in Saurian lands, these creatures can chose either Almatian or Shan culture.

Heritage edges are specialized background edges that require that a character be from a specific race or one of a few races before they can take it.

 

Amphibious,

Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Swimming d6+

Your body is naturally adapted to the water.  Though you cannot breath water, you are able to hold your breath for far longer than others.  You gain a fatigue level for every 15 minutes you hold your breath.  On reaching Incapacitated, make a Vigor roll every minute or drown.  Fatigue levels are regained at a rate of 1 for every 15 minutes back in air.  Additionally, you may use your swimming score as your pace when you are moving through water.

Scaly Hide

Requirements: Novice, Naga, Vig d8+

Much like your Saurian cousins, your skin is tough and thick and skins gives you a +2 armor bonus to toughness.

Thick Scales

Requirements: Novice, Saurian or Naga with Scaly Hide Edge, Vig d8+

Your scales are thicker than most of your kind and may feature spikes and ridges.  This adds an additional +2 to your armor value.

Bite

Requirements: Novice, Naga, Str d8+

Your mouth features a pair of large fangs and sharp rows of smaller teeth.  Your fang filled mouth can be used as a weapon and deals Strength + d6 damage.

Poisonous Bite

Requirements: Novice, Saurian or Naga with the Bite Edge, Vig d8+

In addition to your fangs, you possess a pair of poison sacs that can pump venom into your target on a successful bite.  Your victim must make an immediate vigor check or be paralyzed.

Powerful Venom,

Requirements: Novice, Saurian or Naga with the Bite Edge, Vig D8+, Poisonous Bite

The venom you inject is particularly potent.  The check to resist the paralysis caused by your poison is done at a -2.

Whip Tail

Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Str d6+

Your tail is either particularly well muscled or features a bony knob or spikes that allow it to be used as a weapon.  You may use it to do Str + d6 damage.

Rattle

Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Spi d6+

Your tail features a number of hollow bony rattles.  This can be shaken rapidly to generate a bone chilling noise that strikes fear in the hearts of those who hear it.  This provides you with a d6 in Intimidation and a +2 to any Intimidation checks made when you can use the unsettling effect of your rattling tail.

Expanding

Requirements: Novice, Naga or Saurian, Vig d6+

Whether a neck hood, throat sack or your entire torso, you are capable of expanding a part of your body in a threatening way.  Most creatures are inherently intimidated by larger creatures and your expanded body part features a striking pattern as well.  This provides you with a d6 in Intimidation and a +2 to any Intimidation checks made against creatures when you can use your expanded feature.

And here are two heritage Hindrances that can apply to the Scaly inhabitants of the Ravnivori Empire.

Cold Blooded

Requirement: Naga or Saurian

You are more reptilian than other members of your species.  You retain much of the cold blooded nature of your primitive ancestors and are heavily influenced by your environment.  You receive a -4 to resist both heat and cold environmental effects as your metabolism is heavily influenced by your surroundings.

Soft Skin

Requirement: Saurian

Your scales are not as thick as those of most Saurians.  In fact, they are hardly thicker than those of the soft skins around you.  You do not have the +2 armor value common to your race.

And below is a Saurian Bloodline.  It is balanced so that a player creating a new character can treat it as their race rather than picking Saurian and still take Edges and Hindrances as normal.

 

Poqui

 

The Poqui split from their Saurian cousins millennia ago when their ancestors ended up stranded on a large island many miles from the coastal swamps that their fellows continue to inhabit.  How they ended up on this island is something of a mystery.  The Poqui believe that they were magically transported there by Tusquanah as a reward.  Many other Saurians also believe the Poqui were delivered there by Tusquanah but as a punishment.

 

It is generally believed by the scholars of most other races that the Poqui were shipwrecked on their island either after an early, botched attempt by their race to create seagoing vessels (an attempt that would not be repeated) or after being captured by a seafaring race as potential slaves.

 

Separated from their kin, the Poqui adapted to their new home and started to change in distinct ways.  For quite some time, they were left entirely alone, with only the rarest interaction with other sentient races.  It was not until the Ravnivori invasion of Almatia that they became a part of the outside world again.  Their island home, while outside of the normal trade routes of Almatia, was in a direct path of the Ravnivori fleets.

 

In true Imperial form the Ravnivori less conquered the Poqui and more assimilated them.  Bringing the natives all the wonderful technology and comforts that the Empire could offer, they managed to induct the Saurians into their nation.

 

Though they had no ships of their own, the Poquis’ inherent and fearless climbing skills and their amphibious natures, they were valued as sailors.  Before long, many of them had a taste for sailing and had developed a taste for piracy.  They managed to get their hands on ships through a variety of means and several famous and infamous pirates and privateers sailed before the end of the Almatian invasion.

 

Despite the fact that they can easily interbreed with more common Saurians, the Poqui have remained a separate bloodline, many of them remaining and intermarrying within the other natives of their home island.

 

Over the centuries of their seclusion, the Poquis have developed very specific traits.  They are smaller than most Saurians and have lost the thickness of their scales.  They have long, deft fingers and large, protruding eyes.  They are equally at home in the trees and in the oceans surrounding their island home.

 

Toothy Maw:  The fang filled mouth of a Poqui can be used as a weapon.  A bite from a Poqui deals Strength + d6 damage.

Powerfully Muscled:  A Poqui’s thick muscle mass give it a d6 in strength to begin.

Slow Witted:  Poqui’s are not as clever as other races and it takes two points per rank to raise their Smarts during creation.  Additionally, they are incapable of ever rising above a d10 in smarts.

Slow Footed:  Poquis’ splay footed gate and stooped posture work against them, making them slower than most races.  A Poqui’s pace is only 5.

Amphibious: Poquis are naturally adapted to the water.  They cannot breath water, but are able to hold their breath for far longer than Saurians.  They gain a fatigue level for every 15 minutes they hold theirr breath.  On reaching Incapacitated, make a Vigor roll every minute or drown.  Fatigue levels are regained at a rate of 1 for every 15 minutes back in air.  Additionally, they may use their swimming score as their pace when they are moving through water.

Diminutive:  Poquis are smaller than other Saurians and most sentient species, in general.  They are approximately the size of a human child and thus have a -1 Toughness.

Tree Huggers: Poquis have developed a rather unique hunting style that focuses on stalking prey in and from the tree tops of their thick jungle homes.  Taught from hatching to scale trees and move hide, they start with a d6 in both Climbing and Stealth.

Cultures:  The Poquis’ culture is as different from their Saurian kin as their appearance.  Traditionally, they have hunted as much in the water as in trees and since the coming of sailing vessels have taken to ships wholeheartedly.  Poquis may start with a d4 in either Swimming or Boating.

 

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Sharing My World

When I started gaming 20+ years ago, “story games” and “indy games” were not even terms.  Many people complain about how few games there were at the time.  While I never felt there was a lack of games, at least one of the core concepts of all of them was the same: there was a game master and there were players and never did the twain meet.  The players were responsible for their characters, everyting from personality to back story to abilities and the game master was responsible for everything else.  In my groups, at least, this generally meant that the game master presented a world (or more often presented the world that was given in the campaign setting of the chosen game with a few minor alterations) and a plot and the players were just along for the ride.  The only exception to this was the ongoing Marvel campaign my friends and I shared in which everyone had a character and everyone took turns generating adventures.  Otherwise, suggestions were generally not entertained from the players and, for that matter, generally not provided.  It was everyone’s understanding that the GM presented the story and the players consumed it.

The first “Story Game” I played was Vampire: the Masquerade in the early 90’s.  That game is something of a joke as a story game these days.  Still, it was the first game that suggested the possibility of player and game master collaboration.  I can’t say I liked it at the time.

And I still don’t particularly like high collaboration games.  I generally find them exhausting.  I can build and run a world and I can run a character but it is difficult for me to do both.  It is difficult to shift from one mindset to the other, either reacting to the actions of the players or reacting to the world my character is in.

On the other hand, I play with some really brilliant, creative people and some of the wonder of being a gamer is seeing what the other people around the table come up with.  I recently started a Savage Worlds Spelljammer campaign (yes, THAT Spelljammer.  Shut up.  Spelljammer is awesome) and one of the awesome things about Spelljammer is that you’re dealing with an essentially limitless campaign “world.”  It would be the height of arrogance for me to believe that I could define everything.

In the hopes that I would be able to tap into the creative brilliance of my players and that I might be able to pass off some of the burden of creating a universe for them, I decided to make one of the  Bennies in my game a “Fate Chip.”  I use poker chips as Bennies so it was easy enough to simply pick a different colored chip as the Fate chip.  When passing out the Bennies, one of the players randomly receives this Fate Chip.

A player can turn in a Fate Chip to declare one fact about the world or scene going on so long as it does not contradict anything already in play.  Once the Fate Chip is spent, it goes back into the bag giving people the chance to draw it again when they earn more Bennies.

This works ok, especially for if you’re the kind of GM who want to keep a relatively tight rein on your campaign but still give your players the chance to chime in.

It ended up not working too well for my group.  The process was simply too limiting.  So, we kept that process, and the players who get the Fate chip are allowed to implement a change during a scene, establishing that the floor is slick or that they happen to have the device that they need to overcome the issue on hand, for example.  But we expanded the world development as well.  The Fate chip is now generally used for smaller, more incidental changes but larger aspects are defined in a different way.

Now, for the last half hour of each session, the players get together to decide one aspect of the universe.  Much like combat in Savage Worlds, I deal initiative cards.  Whoever wins gets to establish one thing, whether this be a crew member, a legend, a location or whatever else and writes it on a note card.  This is then passed around the table and each player gets to expand it a little bit.  The idea often mutates from what it originally was but never completely changes.  This has been quite useful and I’ve already developed several additional adventures based on this world building.

It’s also been really entertaining.  There is a certain sense of wonder in seeing what happens and even the person originating the idea is often pleasantly surprised by what gets added in.  It has been a great way to get the group to really buy into the campaign.  Sometimes, I suspect this portion is my players’ favorite part of each session.

It’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature

Not unlike plants, bugs are individually not scary.  Of course, in the real world, plants are not frightening even in groups.  A swarm of ants or wasps can be truly terrifying, especially to those who are allergic to the stings of such insects.  They’re also immensely strong for their size and armed with powerful weapons even if they do not have stings.  Also like plants, bugs are everywhere and are quite alien.  Where humans work together and organize themselves, a hive of swarming bugs literally has a single mind and one that can be surprisingly clever.

 

Just imagine them if they had individual intellects that were similarly aimed at a single goal.

 

Here’s a giant bug, a giant bug race and a couple of edges for buggy characters.

 

Emperor Beetles are man-sized insects that strongly resemble stag beetles. A wild Emperor Beetle’s carapace is generally a dull brown, black or green color but the Shan have bred their own lines of Emperor Beetles for generations and all manner of colors and patterns exist in domesticated animals. While unintelligent, they can be trained to perform a few simple tasks, such as guarding a location or attacking a foe.

Agility: d6 Smarts: d4(A) Spirit: d8 Strength: d12 Vigor: d10

Skills: Fighting: d6, Guts: d10, Notice: d4

Pace: 7 Parry: 5 Toughness: 11(2)

Special Abilities: Armor +2: Tough Carapace

Mandibles: Str+d6

Mantrids

These sentient humanoid insects have a strictly hierarchical society.  Though they do not have the gender and physical divisions such as queen, drones and warriors, each member of Mantrid society does have a specific role to play within their society and one that they are not allowed to vary from.  The queen or one of the individuals that she has appointed make the decisions about what this role will be when a Mantrid reaches adulthood.  Often this decision is easy as some of the mutations within the species make the role the young Mantrid should play obvious.  Other times, it is not so obvious and people outside the race might question the wisdom of some of these decisions.  Very few Mantrids do and those who do either fall in line or abandon their Mantrid society.  Mantrids appear to be a cross between a praying mantis and an ant though their thorax is angled on the vertical axis.  Four of their legs are on their abdomen while the other two are on their thorax and end (usually) with hands that possess three powerful fingers.

Mantrids are exceptionally variable creatures.  They mutate not only from generation to generation but sometimes also within their lifetimes, their bodies changing in sometimes dramatic ways.

*Outsiders – Mantrids are clearly different from most of the races they encounter.  Unless they are dealing with other members of their species, they are treated with fear, disdain or distrust.

*Powerful Muscles – Mantrid body structure is such that their muscles are much more efficient than most mammal’s.  They start with a d6 Strength.

*Sticky Feet – All Mantrids possess almost microscopic hooks on their feet.  These tiny hooks allow them to walk on vertical surfaces and even upside down on any but the slickest of surfaces.

Carapace

Requirements:  Novice, Insect, Vigor d8+

Your exoskeleton is particularly durable.  It provides a +2 armor bonus.

Hardshell

Requirments:  Seasoned, Insect, Vigor d8+, Carapace

Your carapace has grown exceptionally thick and resistant.  The armor bonus it provides increases to +4.

Eight-Limbs

Requirements: Novice, Insect, Agility d8+

Perhaps you are less insect and more arachnid.  Rather than the standard 6 limbs of your species, you have 8.  These two extra limbs grow on your thorax and end in hands.  This provides you a bonus non-move action every round.

Claws

Requirements: Novice, Insect, Str d8+

Whether spurs and spikes growing from your forearms or long nails on the tips of your fingers, you possess a set of claws.  These claws do Str + d6 damage.  The claws also allow you to dig rapidly and you gain the burrowing ability.

Scythe Claws

Requirements: Novice, Insect, Str d8+, either the Eight-Limbs edge or the one handed hindrance.

A number of your forelimbs end in large, scythe like forearms.  These razor sharp appendages can be used as weapons for Str+d8 damage and have a reach of 1.  If you have taken the one handed hindrance in conjunction with this edge then only one of your arms ends in a scythe.  If you have the Eight-Limbs edge instead, then two of your arms end in the appendages while two end in normal hands.

Stinger

Requirements: Novice, Insect, Vigor d8

You possess a highly poisonous stinger in addition to your claws.  This may be an articulated tail or simply a barbed appendage on the tip of your thorax.  In either case, this weapon does a Str + d4 damage and any victim who suffers a shaken result must make a vigor check or be paralyzed for 2d6 rounds.

17 Year Locust

Also known as Apocalypse Bugs, these creatures are the scourge of nations, continents and even planets.  They begin innocently enough, born from eggs no larger than a human head.  They grow quickly for a time after hatching and are soon the size of a dog.  Their growth cycle slows after that but continues for the duration of their lives.  By the time they reach the end of their natural lives, they are larger than elephants.  Their diets change as well.  At birth they eat only vegetation but as they grow larger it shifts.  Within two or three years of their birth they begin to eat carrion, then start to hunt small animals, including other insects, reptiles, birds and even mammals.  Eventually, they are entirely carnivorous and will attack anything that is smaller than them to satiate their massive appetites.

 

Almost exactly 17 years after they hatch, the female Apocalypse Bug lays several dozen eggs in a hidden location, often a burrow that they have created or an otherwise out of the way location.  If she encounters a male member of the species within the last 2 to 3 years of her life, the pair mates and these will be shared offspring.  If no such mating has occurred, then these offspring are essentially identical to their mother (though approximately half will be male.)  These eggs gestate for a full 17 years, forming the second portion of the Locust’s lifecycle.  Of course, most of these nests are discovered during this time and far more 17 Year Locust eggs are devoured by predators or otherwise destroyed than hatch.  However, the eggs are not without a defense mechanism.

 

These eggs are laid inside a massive, membranous sack.  Should this sack be pierced and the mucous like fluid inside exposed to air, it explodes.  This does 2d6 damage to everything within a large burst template though it should be noted that the eggs have a toughness of 12 so are rarely damaged by this explosion.  Even if the sack is not prematurely pierced, it explodes at the end of the 17 year gestation period.  This scatters the eggs over several hundred yards just before they hatch, helping to ensure that each of the young has a plentiful food supply to start their lives.

 

Due to their extensive lifecycles, it is not uncommon for 17 Year Locusts to become little more than old wives’ tales between the depredations of the largest beasts and the hatching of the next generation.  As such, it is not uncommon for people to be surprised by their infestations.

 

Agility: d6 Smarts: d4(A) Spirit: d8 Strength: Varies, see table  Vigor: Varies, see table

Skills: Climb d8, Fighting: d8, Notice: d6

Pace: 7 Parry: 5 Toughness: Varies, see table

Special Abilities:

 

Variable Size:  17 Year Locusts grow throughout their lives.  Their strength, vigor, armor, size, toughness and the damage they can do with their mandibles grow in proportion.

Age                 Strength          Vigor   Size     Armor  Toughness       Damage

Up to 1 Year   d4                    d4        -2         –           2                      Str

2-3 Years         d4                    d4        -1         –           3                      Str+d4

4-5 Years         d6                    d6        0          1          6(1)                  Str+d4

6-7 Years         d8                    d6        1          2          8(2)                  Str+d6

8-9 Years         d10                  d8        2          2          10(2)                Str+d6

10-11 Years     d12                  d8        3          3          12(3)                Str+d8

12-13 Years     d12+1              d10      4          3          14(3)                Str+d8

14-15 Years     d12+2              d10      5          4          16(4)                Str+d10

16-17 Years     d12+3              d12      6          4          18(4)                Str+d10

 

At 12 Year and above, opponents get a +1 to hit 17 Year Locusts.

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A Horse For my (Digital) Kingdom

It is hard to imagine a fantasy campaign without horses. The image of the mounted knight is iconic and even in those rare settings that don’t borrow anything from medieval England there are Mongolian and American Indian traditions that depend on horses and are heavily borrowed from. Even fantasy campaigns that do not have horses generally have an equivalent beast. The partnership of a large, relatively docile herd animal mount and a human rider, is one of the oldest and horses have been bred for centuries for certain traits. Modern horses bear almost as little resemblance to their prehistoric ancestors as dogs do to wolves.

And even beyond fantasy campaigns, many sci-fi games include some sort of riding beast. It may be horses, some kind of bio-engineered creature, a massive insect or even a predator. For that matter, it may not be alive. Explanations for the use of these creatures generally revolve around their efficacy in exploring uncivilized worlds.

Personally, I don’t have too much love for horses. Raised around them, I don’t see them as noble, powerful beasts but rather big, stupid animals. Still, I see the appeal. Horses are very docile, generally and can be quite loving and there is something appealing about their speed and strength and the way you can command it.

Of course, there can be an almost mystic (not just “almost” in some campaigns) bond between a rider and mount and in their way, horses can be almost as loyal as dogs, so it is just as likely that someone will want such an animal for a Distinct Ally as they will want a dog. Please review the Distinct Ally rules in the a Blog and Its Dogs post if you haven’t read it yet or you need a refresher.

Without further ado, here are a few edges such an equine (or other mount) ally can take.

Smooth Gait
Requirements: Mount, Novice
Your stride is exceptionally smooth and, more importantly, your movements in general are not jerky. It is rather easy for riders to stay on your back. Any time your rider must make a check to remain mounted, you may assist them. Treat this as a cooperative roll with your agility as your check.

Even Tempered
Requirements: Mount, Novice.
Most mounts can be quite skittish and are easy to startle. Not you. You gain a +2 to any fear or surprise checks.

And Hindrances:

Sway Backed (Major)
Rather than a straight, powerful back, your spine dips noticeably. In addition to being an unappealing look, this also demonstrates a weakness of your spine. While you can still pull as much weight, you cannot carry as much. Your carrying capacity is ¾ that of a normal mount with your strength.

Tendermouthed (Minor)
Whether it actually does hurt you or you simply do not like the feel of it, you react poorly to having a bit in your mouth. Any time a rider makes a check to try to guide you, they take a -1 penalty. This does not apply to checks to remain mounted.

Talking Horse
Most horses are simple brutes and beasts of burden. A few are quite clever. There are likely even those who have human like intelligence. This kind of horse is as intelligent as a human and quite capable of carrying on a conversation with one in his own language. It is unknown how talking horses came to be, though some believe they are an experiment by an arcane experimenter while others believe they were created by some equine god and yet others assume they are simply the result of random magic or a mutation. Some of the talking horses themselves claim that all horses can talk and they are the only ones who bother to do so. Others disdain the dumb creatures that resemble them. In any case they will not talk about the subject though sometimes it is difficult to get them to shut up about anything else. Talking horses are indiscernible from regular horses physically.

Agility: d8, Smarts: d6, Spirit: d8, Strength: d12, Vigor: d8
Skills: Fighting d6, Guts d6, Knowledge (any one) d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Taunt d8
Pace: 10 Parry: 5 Toughness: 8
Special abilities:
Fleet footed: Talking horses roll a d8 when running instead of a d6
Kick: Str + d4
Size +2: Talking horses are the same size as riding horses

Zebra Centaurs
Native to wild and rugged plains, zebra centaurs do not grow to be quite as big or strong as their wood and hill dwelling cousins. They have close family bonds and will not abandon a tribesman and will sacrifice themselves to save their kin. They constantly have to travel to find enough food to eat and to avoid predators. This traveling means that they produce little technology, not able to stop in one place long enough to set up the forges necessary for such activities. Their weapons are generally constructed from wood and stone or soft metals though they will gladly trade for steel and often set up regular meetings with outside traders to garner such goods. As may be suspected from their names, Zebra Centaurs’ lower bodies are covered in black and white stripes. Each Zebra Centaur’s stripes are unique and can be used to identify them.

Size +1: Zebra Centaur’s equine bodies are relatively small and their humanoid torsos are smaller than a human’s but their bulk still makes them noticeably larger than a human.
Speed: A Zebra Centaur’s powerful equine legs make it quite fast and it has a pace of 10.
Child of the Plains: Zebra Centaurs have little interaction with technology and little need for it. They often marvel at the ridiculous amount of items strangers carry. They suffer a -2 to repair rolls and if they roll a 1 while using a piece of machinery or technology they damage it.
Strong Family Bonds: Zebra Centaurs will gladly sacrifice themselves for another member of their tribe and will not leave them behind if they are in danger.

Not exactly a horse, but a cool mount, nonetheless:
Muntjacks are omnivorous creatures native to the Ravnivori continent. On the surface they somewhat resemble sleek elk. However, closer examination quickly reveals the long canine teeth that extend from their upper jaws and out of their mouths. Although most of a Muntjack’s diet consists of grains and fruit, they have been known to eat carrion and hunt herbivores in times of need. Wild Muntjacks and most domesticated versions are just as fast and agile as other elk and deer, the creatures have been domesticated for quite some time and the Ravnivori have bred a larger, stronger version as a war mount.
Common Agility: d8 Smarts: d4(A) Spirit: d6 Strength: d12+1 Vigor: d8
Skills: Fighting: d8, Guts: d8, Notice: d6
Pace: 10 Parry: 6 Toughness: 8
Special Abilities: Fleet footed: Muntjacks roll a d8 instead of a d6 when running.
Antlers: Str+d6
Size: +2
War Agility: d6 Smarts: d4(A) Spirit: d8 Strength: d12+2 Vigor: d10
Skills: Fighting: d8, Guts: d8, Notice: d6
Pace: 8 Parry: 6 Toughness: 10
Special Abilities: Fleet footed: Muntjacks roll a d8 instead of a d6 when running.
Antlers: Str+d8
Size: +3
Some equipment for horses:

Saddlebags of plenty: One of the saddlebags in this set provides enough food and water for a single horse and a human sized rider per day. The other is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can hold as much material as a chest, approximately 30 cubic feet. The objects stored in the bag must still fit through the mouth.

Fast Horseshoes: These enchanted horseshoes can be affixed to the hooves of any appropriate mount. They imbue the animal with extra speed. Their pace increases by 2 and their die type when running increases by one.

Zephyr Horseshoes: When these horseshoes are affixed to a mounts hooves, they allow the animal to literally walk on air. The animal’s flying pace is equal to its normal pace and it may run as normal. Its climb pace is equal to half its normal pace. Additionally, the animal never quite touches the ground but rather levitates a fraction of an inch over it. It leaves no tracks, even when traveling at ground level, rough terrain has no effect on it and it may run over water or other similar hazards with no fear of sinking.

It is hard to imagine a fantasy campaign without horses. The image of the mounted knight is iconic and even in those rare settings that don’t borrow anything from medieval England there are Mongolian and American Indian traditions that depend on horses and are heavily borrowed from. Even fantasy campaigns that do not have horses generally have an equivalent beast. The partnership of a large, relatively docile herd animal mount and a human rider, is one of the oldest and horses have been bred for centuries for certain traits. Modern horses bear almost as little resemblance to their prehistoric ancestors as dogs do to wolves.

And even beyond fantasy campaigns, many sci-fi games include some sort of riding beast. It may be horses, some kind of bio-engineered creature, a massive insect or even a predator. For that matter, it may not be alive. Explanations for the use of these creatures generally revolve around their efficacy in exploring uncivilized worlds.

Personally, I don’t have too much love for horses. Raised around them, I don’t see them as noble, powerful beasts but rather big, stupid animals. Still, I see the appeal. Horses are very docile, generally and can be quite loving and there is something appealing about their speed and strength and the way you can command it.

Of course, there can be an almost mystic (not just “almost” in some campaigns) bond between a rider and mount and in their way, horses can be almost as loyal as dogs, so it is just as likely that someone will want such an animal for a Distinct Ally as they will want a dog. Please review the Distinct Ally rules in the a Blog and Its Dogs post if you haven’t read it yet or you need a refresher.

Without further ado, here are a few edges such an equine (or other mount) ally can take.

Smooth Gait
Requirements: Mount, Novice
Your stride is exceptionally smooth and, more importantly, your movements in general are not jerky. It is rather easy for riders to stay on your back. Any time your rider must make a check to remain mounted, you may assist them. Treat this as a cooperative roll with your agility as your check.

Even Tempered
Requirements: Mount, Novice.
Most mounts can be quite skittish and are easy to startle. Not you. You gain a +2 to any fear or surprise checks.

And Hindrances:

Sway Backed (Major)
Rather than a straight, powerful back, your spine dips noticeably. In addition to being an unappealing look, this also demonstrates a weakness of your spine. While you can still pull as much weight, you cannot carry as much. Your carrying capacity is ¾ that of a normal mount with your strength.

Tendermouthed (Minor)
Whether it actually does hurt you or you simply do not like the feel of it, you react poorly to having a bit in your mouth. Any time a rider makes a check to try to guide you, they take a -1 penalty. This does not apply to checks to remain mounted.

Talking Horse
Most horses are simple brutes and beasts of burden. A few are quite clever. There are likely even those who have human like intelligence. This kind of horse is as intelligent as a human and quite capable of carrying on a conversation with one in his own language. It is unknown how talking horses came to be, though some believe they are an experiment by an arcane experimenter while others believe they were created by some equine god and yet others assume they are simply the result of random magic or a mutation. Some of the talking horses themselves claim that all horses can talk and they are the only ones who bother to do so. Others disdain the dumb creatures that resemble them. In any case they will not talk about the subject though sometimes it is difficult to get them to shut up about anything else. Talking horses are indiscernible from regular horses physically.

Agility: d8, Smarts: d6, Spirit: d8, Strength: d12, Vigor: d8
Skills: Fighting d6, Guts d6, Knowledge (any one) d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Taunt d8
Pace: 10 Parry: 5 Toughness: 8
Special abilities:
Fleet footed: Talking horses roll a d8 when running instead of a d6
Kick: Str + d4
Size +2: Talking horses are the same size as riding horses

Zebra Centaurs
Native to wild and rugged plains, zebra centaurs do not grow to be quite as big or strong as their wood and hill dwelling cousins. They have close family bonds and will not abandon a tribesman and will sacrifice themselves to save their kin. They constantly have to travel to find enough food to eat and to avoid predators. This traveling means that they produce little technology, not able to stop in one place long enough to set up the forges necessary for such activities. Their weapons are generally constructed from wood and stone or soft metals though they will gladly trade for steel and often set up regular meetings with outside traders to garner such goods. As may be suspected from their names, Zebra Centaurs’ lower bodies are covered in black and white stripes. Each Zebra Centaur’s stripes are unique and can be used to identify them.

Size +1: Zebra Centaur’s equine bodies are relatively small and their humanoid torsos are smaller than a human’s but their bulk still makes them noticeably larger than a human.
Speed: A Zebra Centaur’s powerful equine legs make it quite fast and it has a pace of 10.
Child of the Plains: Zebra Centaurs have little interaction with technology and little need for it. They often marvel at the ridiculous amount of items strangers carry. They suffer a -2 to repair rolls and if they roll a 1 while using a piece of machinery or technology they damage it.
Strong Family Bonds: Zebra Centaurs will gladly sacrifice themselves for another member of their tribe and will not leave them behind if they are in danger.

Not exactly a horse, but a cool mount, nonetheless:
Muntjacks are omnivorous creatures native to the Ravnivori continent. On the surface they somewhat resemble sleek elk. However, closer examination quickly reveals the long canine teeth that extend from their upper jaws and out of their mouths. Although most of a Muntjack’s diet consists of grains and fruit, they have been known to eat carrion and hunt herbivores in times of need. Wild Muntjacks and most domesticated versions are just as fast and agile as other elk and deer, the creatures have been domesticated for quite some time and the Ravnivori have bred a larger, stronger version as a war mount.
Common Agility: d8 Smarts: d4(A) Spirit: d6 Strength: d12+1 Vigor: d8
Skills: Fighting: d8, Guts: d8, Notice: d6
Pace: 10 Parry: 6 Toughness: 8
Special Abilities: Fleet footed: Muntjacks roll a d8 instead of a d6 when running.
Antlers: Str+d6
Size: +2
War Agility: d6 Smarts: d4(A) Spirit: d8 Strength: d12+2 Vigor: d10
Skills: Fighting: d8, Guts: d8, Notice: d6
Pace: 8 Parry: 6 Toughness: 10
Special Abilities: Fleet footed: Muntjacks roll a d8 instead of a d6 when running.
Antlers: Str+d8
Size: +3
Some equipment for horses:

Saddlebags of plenty: One of the saddlebags in this set provides enough food and water for a single horse and a human sized rider per day. The other is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can hold as much material as a chest, approximately 30 cubic feet. The objects stored in the bag must still fit through the mouth.

Fast Horseshoes: These enchanted horseshoes can be affixed to the hooves of any appropriate mount. They imbue the animal with extra speed. Their pace increases by 2 and their die type when running increases by one.

Zephyr Horseshoes: When these horseshoes are affixed to a mounts hooves, they allow the animal to literally walk on air. The animal’s flying pace is equal to its normal pace and it may run as normal. Its climb pace is equal to half its normal pace. Additionally, the animal never quite touches the ground but rather levitates a fraction of an inch over it. It leaves no tracks, even when travelling at ground level, rough terrain has no effect on it and it may run over water or other similar hazards with no fear of sinking.

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