Friday 29 July 2022

Fortnightly Fiends: The Beldrake

"The Beldrake is oft assumed - incorrectly - to be a product of the upheavals of Shroudfall. Rare even in its semi-desert homeland, this dangerous beast is a creation of Azbrekt, the Dragon-deluded Sage of Vildekam, a by-product of that strange man's attempts to blend dragonkind with other monstrous creatures. 

The Dragon-deluded, although clearly mad, as well as utterly incognizant of the costs and consequences of magical experimentation, was motivated in his early experiments by the desire to clear his homeland of the Single Purpose Army and to end the subjugation of his people (and the land itself, beast and bough, which he loved far more than he loved his people). That his experimentation soon became an end rather than a means, and his joy in the bleak beauty of his land turned to a lust for its destruction (so that he might create something better in its place) must not be permitted to diminish the nobility of his original aim. If only he had possessed humility..."

        Falgrin Knolk, last Lord Scrivener of the Forge of Soryth Hamelle.

A Beldrake is the outcome of forced breeding between a captured Copper Dragon (Blood & Treasure - Monsters, p.57) and a controlled Eloko (Blood & Treasure - Monsters II, p.67). The Beldrake functions in all particulars as does the Eloko, but also gains a breath weapon and some draconic immunities.

The Beldrake is a small creature, appearing much as does the Eloko, although it is possessed of coppery scales beneath its wild grass-like hair. Beldrake are always hungry, very non-discriminating with regard to food sources, and utterly sadistic, debasing their victims through use of their suggestion ability before devouring them. Their great rarity is a cause for much relief. A Beldrake will sometimes ally with Gnolls, joining their raiding parties in the hope of a feast. Beldrake speak Common, Dragon, Gnoll and occasionally Xeph or Sphinx.

Adventure Seed: A Beldrake by the name of Kevag (13 hp) - a little more intelligent than most of her kind, a little more measured in her appetites and cruelties - has taken control of a small drylands community (mostly populated by Xeph and Humans, with a few other desert-dwelling vagrants). She rules the community with an iron hand - helped by the always present threat of devouring those who oppose her and by her Gnoll helper, Yazek:

Yazek: Gnoll Fighter 2; CE; AC 16; hp 7; SV 16; MV 30’; Atk: +4 melee/+3 ranged (+5 w/handaxe/+4 w/thrown handaxe); Attacks:  Handaxe, Spear; STR 16, INT 11, WIS 6, DEX 15, CON 14, CHA 12; Skills: Riding +4; Other Abilities: leadership, dominate lesser foes; Feat: weapon focus (handaxe)Equipment: Ring Mail, Buckler, Handaxe, Spear, inkling ringBackground/Secondary Skill: Villein/Watchman; XP: 100/2. Yazek's inkling ring is a useful item, providing him with +2 to AC vs. backstab attacks and allowing him to reroll, once per day, a failed surprise check. It is carved from the bones of a Grimlock and set with two dark onyx stones.  

Kevag keeps the community's children imprisoned in a corral in order (under the watchful eye of Yazek) to ensure the good behaviour of the adult population, to whom she has given the task of excavating a ruined Temple of Abarrikhet, at the behest of her own master, a Criosphinx in the service of Abarrikhet's Cult. When the work flags, Kevag consumes one of the children. This has only occurred twice: normally, it is sufficient for the Beldrake to simply approach the corral for the adults to redouble their efforts.

If Yazek were to be somehow overcome and the children freed, Kevag would most likely withdraw: although quite powerful, she is not strong enough to subdue the whole community, particularly given that her actions have awakened power in one of the bereaved Xeph parents, and this individual is slowly gaining an understanding of her abilities and considering possible ways of ridding her community of Kevag:

Kahel nari Kohann: Xeph Sorceror 1; N; AC 12; hp 3; SV 15; MV 30’; Atk: -1 melee/+1 ranged; Attacks:  Staff, Knife; STR 6, INT 10, WIS 13, DEX 13, CON 14, CHA 15; Skills: Alchemy +1; Spells Known: (1st level, can cast 3/day) daze, jump, mind thrust; Other Abilities: sense magic 60', can cast haste 1/day, impromptu casting, brew potions ; Feat: iron willEquipment: Staff; Background/Secondary Skill: Villein/Hunter; XP: 50/1. 


Monday 25 July 2022

Making More of Talents in RMFRP IV

 Today I'm continuing to examine the notion of 'Talent Packs' in RMFRP as ways of rounding out, deepening or broadening character concepts beyond the limits inherent in a Profession. Although there's considerable potential for abuse and power creep in the concept (and its execution), that is limited to a certain extent by the fact that many Talent Packs and Linked Talents are confined to just a few Professions, Lineages or Cultures. In the Talents presented below, the range of possibilities is very narrow indeed: only those who are members of the Urban Labourer culture who are also Channeling users of evil disposition can select them - and in some cases, members of a particular Profession.

BASE TALENTS for any Urban Labourer Channeling (Evil) user (Talent Pack cost: 37)

The cost listed is the slightly discounted cost for purchasing the individual talent. The cost in brackets is the further discounted cost for purchase as part of the entire base Channeling (Evil) user talent pack.

Cost                             Talent

15(14)                          Curse-Monger (Power (Minor) + Innate Magician)

                                    Those who work in the name of evil deities love nothing better than to inflict pain and woe wherever they go. You are one such, and thus gain a special +20 bonus to all Spell Casting static maneuvers pertaining to the Revenging Law spell list, in which you gain 10 ranks.

9(8)                              Hidden Hand (Skilled (Minor))

                                    There are always enemies: Clerics of sickening moral purity, Mythics in search of heretics and wrathful, self-righteous Paladins, to name but a few. It is often best to keep your head down when working your dark dweomer, and so you gain a special +20 bonus to the Spell Trickery skill.

16(15)                          Mask of Respectability (Skilled (Major) x2 + Skilled (Lesser) x2 – Secret Identity)

                                    With the despised Priests of other faiths having much of the working-class in a spiritual lockdown, those who tread the path of Evil must be cautious. You have pursued a mundane career in parallel with your servitude to darkness, and hide your true self behind as if it were a mask. There is some danger, however: it is known that Evil is at work among the labouring classes, and opposing powers have sent enemies to root out those like you. You gain a +20 to Acting and Duping. In addition, you gain a +10 to either: a) two Craft or Craft-related skills, b) Trading and one Craft skill or c) Appraisal and Trading. Craft and Craft-related skills must be selected from the Urban Labourer Standard Hobby ranks list. Suitable combinations might include: Spinning and Weaving, Foundry and Weight-lifting, Barber and Interrogation (Gossip). Weapon skills and Body development are not appropriate.


PROFESSION-SPECIFIC TALENTS (may only be purchased if buying at least one of the talents in the Channeling User (Evil) Talent Pack)

CLERIC                 Secret rites in hidden places bind the minds and bodies of the tempted to Evil. The Evil Cleric can garner a rich feast of willing souls – tired of the oppressive weight of the Lawful priesthood – and develop extensive networks of dark influence in working-class districts (and ultimately, beyond).   Urban Labourer Clerics of Evil persuasion may select the following talent:

Cost                 Talent

44                    Blood Liturgy (Racial Training (Familiar) + Power (Minor) + Special Ability)

                        There is great power in blood. Evil Priests are not afraid to shed the blood of others and use it to fuel their powers. You gain +10 to Intimidation, Channeling, Public Speaking, Religion, Seduction and Torture. You also gain 10 ranks in the spell list Ceremonies. In addition, when you remove 1d10 concussion hits of blood from a willing or unwilling victim, you may make a Channeling skill roll. On a result of success or better, you may expend 1d10 Exhaustion Points and gain a number of Power Points equivalent to the hits of blood taken from the victim. These Power Points can only be used to cast spells from the Ceremonies spell list.


MYTHIC                Whilst it is uncommon for Mythics to take up the cause of evil, it is not unheard of, and Urban Labourers seem particularly drawn to such a career: perhaps because they seek to avenge themselves on a punitive culture and its most powerful figures, perhaps because Evil and its focus on the power of realising any desire, regardless of the cost seems the antithesis of working-class society in human lands. Evil Mythics from the Urban Labourer culture may select from the following talents:


Cost                 Talent

24                    Dark Courtesan (Skilled (Major) + Power (Minor) + Underground Upraising)

                        Where sensuality is so inexorably repressed, there is opportunity for those who use such methods of temptation: there will always be men and women whose desire will lead them astray – and in to the arms of those who work evil. The Dark Courtesan is a specialised type of Mythic who utilises alluring power. They nominate a target – usually a high-ranking cleric or priest who is otherwise too well-guarded to be overtly threatened – and slowly work their way through layers of bureaucracy and bodyguards using seduction and temptation to corrupt the target’s subordinates until the target is finally exposed and ready for destruction. You gain a +30 bonus to Seduction and 10 ranks in the Allurement spell list.


40                    Necromorph (Special Ability)                        

                    Some Mythics draw on the power of Death itself to increase their power, usually by taking on aspects of Undead creatures. This grants them the abilities of the creatures whose form they take. You may spend 1d10 Exhaustion Points ( +1d10 per round) to transform into a Lesser Skeleton or a Zombie, 2d10 Exhaustion Points (+1d10 per round) to transform into a Lesser Ghoul or a Minor Skeleton or 3d10 Exhaustion Points (+2d10 per round) to transform into a Phantom or, finally 4d10 Exhaustion Points (+2d10 per round) to transform into a Revenant.

Whilst in Undead form, you gain access to all the abilities of the form you have chosen, but you also take damage from Repel Undead spells: you do not flee and cannot be destroyed, but you can be hindered (-20 to all activities for as number of rounds equal to the spell #: Repel Undead III will give a penalty for 3 rounds) and hurt (take 1d10 hits x spell number: e.g. Repel Undead V will give 5x the value of a single d10 roll).

If you ‘die’ while in Undead form, the transformation ends immediately, you must take an ‘A’ Disruption critical, a ‘B’ Shock critical and a ‘C’ Stress critical. All damage incurred in Undead form is carried over to your natural form at the end of the effect, regardless of circumstances.

In addition, you cannot cast spells – unless the form empowers you to do so – nor can you wield a weapon using your normal OB. However, you may develop a Special Attack skill (Undead Attack) which will grant you a percentage of your regular OB bonus with a specific weapon or attack form (i.e. a bonus of 58 in Undead Attack will grant you 58% of your OB in Undead form. It is possible to exceed your regular OB whilst in Undead form if you develop the skill to a high enough level).

The Exhaustion Points accrued in maintaining the spell do not affect you whilst in undead form, but you incur them immediately when you return to your natural form. In addition, if you exceed your Exhaustion Point total whilst maintaining the effect, it is cancelled immediately and you appear in your own form, at full Exhaustion.

The transformation takes two full rounds, during which time you are treated as stunned, may not cast spells or use any skills (including Stun Removal and other similar skills). You may parry at 50% (less the usual penalty for being stunned). You may not wear armour: the transformation simply does not take effect (although you still lose the Exhaustion Points).

You may develop and use Spell Mastery (Necromorph) to either reduce the transformation time by 50% (i.e. 1 round – a Hard maneuver) or reduce the parry penalty during transformation (to parry at 80% would be a Very Hard maneuver. You cannot use Spell Mastery to lift the prohibition on casting spells, being ‘stunned’ or wearing armour during the transformation.


PRIEST OF ORACLES                      Evil has its prophets and diviners too: strange minds that circle the edge of madness and bring back that which they find there. Although some consider them too unworldly to be of much use beyond their cryptic predictions, they can and do master practical skills and talents, particularly that rare working-class individual raised among the noise and smoke of foundry and mill. Evil-aligned Urban Labourer Priests of Oracles may select the following talent:

Cost                 Talent

36                    Obscuring Mist (Special Ability)

                        Evil flourishes best away from the scrutiny of the righteous. Some evil priests of the Oracle Sphere, inspired by the memory of thick steam and smoke, possess the ability to create a normal-seeming fog that is proof against magical scrying. When you expend 3d10 exhaustion points (+ 1d10/extra 10 minutes that the ability is maintained), you create a thick fog in an area 100’ x 100’ x 20’. This fog will last for a base of 10 minutes. This fog, quite apart from impeding normal vision (-30 penalty to sight-based perception, -10 to awareness skills of which vision is a part, such as Observation), also defends against scrying spells. Any spell attempting to scry into the fog must make an RR vs. your level: failure by 1-20 means the spell cannot penetrate the fog (Power Points are spent but the spell has no effect), failure by 21+ means that in addition to losing PPs and failing to cast the spell, the caster also takes an ‘A’ Mental critical and loses 2d10 power points.

Only an Evil-aligned Priest of Oracles can cast scrying/lore/divination spells whilst within the mist, and does so with a +20 to the Spell Casting static maneuver roll.


Wednesday 13 July 2022

Fortnightly Fiends: The Brelkhaddar

It's been a while, for which I apologise: I've been spending much of my time providing COVID cover - too much, really - at work, then getting a thoroughly evil gastro virus myself, but hopefully things are back on track. This is a new feature for the blog: every two weeks (more or less), I'll introduce a monster, statted for Blood & Treasure (and possibly some other systems as well. Possibilities include: Advanced Olde Swords Reign, Pathfinder 1e, Fantastic Heroes &Witchery, OSRIC, For Gold & Glory, Labyrinth Lord, my own nascent Tales of the New Kingdoms system, & RM, perhaps. I'll probably surprise myself and choose one system at random each time). The creature will usually be a "new" one, but there will be converted and reimagined monsters as well (where such are not already found in the B&T bestiaries). I say "new" because I will no doubt rediscover ideas that are already out there that I'm currently unfamiliar with. In any case, this fortnight, our Fiend of Note is the desert-dwelling Brelkhaddar (pronounced brell-kih-daah).

Of old there was Verukarsis, the son of the Firelord Tulkan and Adorhyll, the Lady of Broken Mirrors. Verukarsis took full share of the natures of both his parents, their joy in destruction and rage against those who esteem enlightenment and lore,and was thus one of the most potent champions of the Wilder Gods during the Godwars. However, after the final defeat of the Wilder Gods, Verukarsis retreated into the lands that later became the Great Desert, nursing his resentments and terrorizing those unfortunates who strayed into his bleak domain. 

One such encounter led directly to the creation of the Brelkhaddar: a Torch Nymph (sworn to serve Yelith) came seeking Verukarsis for some kind of boon, believing - erroneously - that Verukarsis would lend her aid out of a sense of allegiance. After many torments, the scornful Verukarsis slew the Torch Nymph, capturing her undead essence and fusing it with that of his Salamander and Sandman minions, and most importantly, his own malign spirit. 

The result exceeded even his own vile expectations: a creature wholly new, a tall, reptilian female, with dun-coloured scales, fuming eyes of orange, capable of taking the form of a dust devil, attacking their foes with a fear-inducing howl of woe and rage and granted the power to flay the flesh from bone with a cone of wind-driven sand, whose claws can erode an individual's confidence, reason and will.

Verukarsis failed in one respect, however: the Brelkhaddar were unable to breed. Verukarsis was not content with one such creature, seeing in them the potential for renewed war upon those who served the Jurenaic Gods. He sent out his servants to capture Torch Nymphs wherever they could be found (incidentally earning himself the eternal ire of Yelith), and had soon created two score and one of the terrifying creatures. 

It was at this point that Verukarsis realised that, in imparting his own vitality and spirit to the Brelkhaddar, he had weakened himself to the point that he was unable to resist their inevitable rebellion. The Brelkhaddar united - briefly - to cast him down, before falling upon each other in their own horrendous internecine strife. Verukarsis fled to the Para-elemental Plane of Ash, a miserable wraith shorn of all but the merest vestige of his divine might. The Brelkhaddar - of whom twelve have perished - now make war upon each other, usually through proxy armies of desert tribes, corrupted Xeph, Gnolls, Scorpion Men and Janni. One or more Brelkhaddar sometimes attempt to expand beyond their homeland in the heart of the Great Desert, in the hope of securing resources and troops. Such incursions are crushed as quickly as possible by those whose lands border the Brelkhaddar homeland, but there remains the disturbing possibility that one of the various potentates who currently guard against the Brelkhaddar will attempt to create an alliance - or be forced to do so.

Wolves of War: The Ulfarga for Blood & Treasure (& RMFRP)

  Ulfarga (Lupine Beastkin) Wild-hearted but honourable wolf-like humanoids, Ulfarga represent one of the largest populations of any Beastki...