Monday, October 20, 2014

We are eaten forever

A cannibal spirit approaches.

A stranger came to visit our ancestors then, to a house of four brothers. They didn't know who he was. He wasn't related to anybody! When he came inside, the eldest's baby began to cry, and none knew how to calm her.
The stranger offered help, but as he bent to the child's ear, he sucked out her brain! He tossed her back limp! "She has stopped crying now." The brothers got weapons, but that stranger had dangerous power. Only the youngest escaped.
This brother was smart; he fled to the lake. He ran to set a trap! He knew demons can't tell reality from reflection. As the stranger leapt at his shadow, the brother sang his power: He called to North Wind. The stranger was frozen in the lake!
The brother started right away; he built a fire over the stranger's head. "I will not die. I will eat you forever." That stranger got burned up, but he didn't die. His ashes turned to mosquitoes; that's how they got started. The mosquitoes want to become a man again, but usually they can't.
- X̌uluš etiology

Devouring spirits harass the villages of the Straits with worrying frequency, winging down on strange winds to warp the lusts of men and indulge in vile feastings. Untamed anthropophagous urges creep in from all directions, lurking in deepest ocean, darkest forest, and furthest sky. Many of these retain ancestral forms, all flexing talon and aching obsidian jaw, though others wear the skins of men by nature or by theft. All are ravenous.

It is dangerous to be eaten, for spirits can consume more than flesh. Your culture, your language, your songs - all may be devoured. There is so much to eat that whatever is leftover might not be you; often the flesh remains where the spirit does not. It is as if man-eaters aimed to consume not merely the bodies of men but the very idea of men and the possibility of their civilization.

The spiritual ills engendered by these attacks are termed "soul loss". Sorcerers, herb-doctors, and tamanous men can cure this malady by retrieving pieces of the devoured with familiars or in ghost canoes, but payment is expensive, and a debt owed to a doctor is itself a dangerous thing. Local values suggest a more pragmatic alternative: One accepts the presence of hazardous spirits and, when possible, bargains with them for power.

Hidden in familiar skins. Source.

Rules Substitutions
Soul Loss: Similar to the "life energy drain" of other milieus, soul loss represents significant spiritual damage inflicted by enemies wherein the soul or a part thereof is stolen or driven away by hostile spirits. This has a variety of possible effects, none of which are immediately fatal, though the condition has deep associations with suicide among the Straitsmen.

In each instance where a character would normally lose a level due to "energy drain", the referee may instead roll a d6 on the table below to determine what was stolen:
  1. Language. Character can no longer speak language, nor can they read or write. They may still moan & holler unintelligibly if desired.
  2. Civilization. Character can no longer use tools or weapons and must perform all actions directly, with the body.
  3. Skill. Character's effective level is reduced to 1 for the purposes of calculating the potency of all abilities, and they lose access to any bonuses derived from background or assumed proficiency.
  4. Passion. Character becomes depressed and lethargic, unable to perform any significant actions in campaign downtime between sessions. During sessions, any action that takes a turn (10 minutes) or longer of continuous concentration to perform requires a Wisdom check to complete.
  5. Humanity. Character becomes perceptibly but indescribably inhuman, reducing their effective Charisma score to 3. Animals growl or otherwise act hostile in their presence, and hirelings will not follow them. Even old friends must save or make new reaction rolls with the altered modifier.
  6. Spirit Ally. An attendant spirit was stolen from the character. Sorcerous familiars, intelligences residing in weapons or other items, guardian spirits, and relationships or connections with divine or mystical patrons are all at risk.
Any result for which there is nothing left to steal must be rerolled. When there are no eligible results of types 1-5 remaining, the character is no more. Though the body may live, there is no spirit left to salvage, and death will surely follow shortly thereafter. That is, unless another will moves in to take the soul's place...

Acting out familiar urges.

Possession & Ego: Similar to rules concerning the Intelligence & Egoism of magical swords in other milieus, possession occurs when a spirit engages in a direct conflict of wills with a character in order to influence their actions. To resolve this the character in question may roll 2d6, applying the following modifiers:
• All characters apply their Wisdom modifier (±1) if any.
• Heroes gain a +2 bonus vs. intelligent weapons; Superheroes gain +4.
• Magic-Users gain similar bonuses vs. familiar spirits.
• All characters suffering from Soul Loss of types 1-5 take a -2 penalty for each.
The result is compared against the spirit's Ego score (rated 2-12) to determine whose will prevails, as follows:
Roll > Ego: Character is dominant.
Roll = Ego: Struggle and inaction as neither party dominates.
Roll < Ego: Possessor is dominant.
Uncontested control may be maintained for a number of turns equal to the degree of success or failure. Each spirit will have its own guidelines for the conditions under which these conflicts arise and what Ego score should be checked against, but broadly speaking:
Intelligent weapons have an Ego score of 6 plus any "to hit" bonus (0-3) they provide plus the number of Extraordinary Abilities they possess (0-3). They seek to slay certain enemies or perform certain deeds and fight wielders who ignore opportunities to fulfill these goals.
• Familiar spirits have an Ego score of 6 plus their spell level equivalent (0-6). Some have desires they seek to fulfill; more have taboos they resist violating. In either case, once bound they only assert themselves when called upon.
Possessing ghosts have wildly variable Ego scores based upon their degree of power and coercion. They have clear actions they seek to perform and attempt to force victims towards these should they resist.

Warrior Societies

She squalls unseen.
The Dance of the Cannibal Wind
Down from the dark fly hungry ghosts
We always eat our fill
The wind cries out at our approach
There is no time to flee
With corpse-dust choking every throat
We vomit all but flesh
- Song of the Cannibal Wind

Though long ago slain, the cannibal giantess Cišxʷəbətl persists in haunting the Straits into the present day, blowing the memory of her hunger down men's throats until each is reduced to little more than another of her ravening mouths. Her ghost, fully named The Wind that Bites from the Dark at the Source of the World (often shortened to The Wind that Bites from the Dark or simply the Cannibal Wind*), can never be truly sated; those haunted by it are cursed to feel pangs of ghoulish hunger long into their afterlives.

All those possessed by unwholesome desires or inexorable spirits are forced into the dance's ranks; few aspire to the burden. There the Cannibal Wind is blown through them, taming the wild forces with strange winds and consuming all else with her hunger. To each she whispers, "There is neither obligation nor sin in this world. Kill your relatives and eat of their flesh. Become free." The real trial then begins: Initiates either learn to control this brutal impulse, in the process gaining both respect and fear, or they are devoured by their fellows.

The Wind that Bites from the Dark and the dance that binds her (long inseparable) govern the North wind, carrion birds, social repression, and humanity's struggle against barbarism. Though her presence is normally felt invisibly, when manifest the Cannibal Wind may appear as a shadowed giantess whose body is covered in gnashing mouths, a lurching long-legged bear scarred by flame, or a cloud of black smoke hovering over a dim, dying fire. Her approach is preceded by a great whistling howl that warps the flesh of birds and drives them to violence, and the trees bend down at her passing.

Members of the dance are known for a severe and forbidding composure that is occasionally shattered by frantic, frightening displays in which they civilize the mad, summon freezing winds, or devour corpses in revolting spectacles. They are not trifled with, for it is said they can gnaw at your soul until you are dead or so chewed up that you must become one of them.

Masked cannibals await their feasting.

Restrictions
Cannibal dancers have no requirements for the use or maintenance of their powers. Their curse is permanent; the spirit it brings is with them at all times.

Certain actions require that the dancer make an Ego check in order to act freely without the imposition of the Cannibal Wind, which always seeks a return to purest savagery. The Cannibal Wind possesses with an Ego score of 10.

Cannibal spirits are distressed by fire. When attempting to use any of their abilities while within view of a flame larger than a small cookfire, dancers must make an Ego check or be overcome by the need to either flee or extinguish it with their power (whether beating it out barehanded in a cannibal frenzy or summoning a freezing wind to blow it out).

If a cannibal dancer goes longer than 1 week without consuming human flesh, the Cannibal Wind will overtake their body and force them to foul murder. In this state they must make an Ego check whenever given sufficient opportunity to kill and eat a human. In some villages (2 in 6, modified by Charisma), regular displays of cannibal ferocity in which small bites are taken from audience members may be staged to forestall this, though 1d6×10gp in goods gifted to the families of victims is expected if the dancer is to remain in the community's good graces.

 In her wake all ways warp crooked.

Benefits
Veterans (level 1) of the dance may imitate any voice known (5 in 6 chance) so long as the listener has not determined the speaker's identity or seen their face. This is a magical effect; ineligible targets hear the words in the dancer's normal voice.

Dancers may also call on the Cannibal Wind to incite them to cannibal frenzy. In the first round of frenzy the dancer will rip off all encumbering armor and discard all weapons. Each round beyond that they may choose only to pursue melee combat or devour a corpse. Attempting otherwise in either case requires an Ego check.

In this state the dancer's form distorts fearsome and terrible. Eyes bulge empty and senseless. Muscles pull and tense to such extremes that limbs distort into crooked shapes. Hands twist and crumple like perverse claws. Lips peel back to reveal jaws poking prognathic while an obscene lolling tongue drips foam between clacking teeth. The dancer laughs hideously, cackling and snuffling as they scamper about with sudden, stuttered motions. All conscious thought is crowded out by the roar of ancient winds and a persistent hummingbird buzz.

"Island Jim" Snaw'nwalh - FM 8, Law, cannibal dancer.
Chews spruce resin like a craving addict.
Claims to have once "eaten the sun". Would eat you.
For the duration the dancer gains the following benefits:
  • +2 to attacks & similar bonus to feats of raw athleticism (Str, Con, & Dex checks);
  • unarmed attacks deal standard damage (1d6) in rips, tears, and bites at flesh;
  • +3 bonus to speed crawling on all fours;
  • half damage from flame & cold;
  • immunity to fear, charms, & compulsions;
  • +4 to saving throws vs. soul loss, against which a failed save merely ends the frenzy.
Ending the frenzy requires an Ego check, any degree of failure indicating the number of turns that the frenzy continues, though tricking the dancer into drinking seawater will also end it. Afterward, the dancer immediately begins vomiting uncontrollably, violently ejecting blood, bones, hair, and bits of torn clothing - but never flesh. This lasts for a turn.

Heroes (level 4) of the dance bite deeper than flesh, ripping directly at an opponent's soul to tear out voice and devour mind. While within the throes of a cannibal frenzy, the dancer's unarmed attacks strike as magical weapons. Additionally, unarmed damage rolls of 6 rend the target's spirit, affecting humans and creatures of similar ability as by Soul Loss. Inhuman beasts instead have their HD reduced by 1 for the purposes of calculating all abilities (including "to hit" rolls and saving throws).

Also at this level, dancers gain a +2 bonus to Ego checks against the Cannibal Wind.

Superheroes (level 8) of the dance may call forth powerful, freezing winds to devour their enemies. This deals 2d6 magical cold damage in a 40ft gust emanating from the dancer. If either damage die shows 6, all targets are affected by spiritual rending as above.

On a damage roll of 2, the winds storm violently out of control in all directions and targets must make an immediate saving throw or be overtaken with temporary madness forcing them to consume their fellows for d6 turns.

On a 12, the wind summoned has sentience, manifesting as a wild cannibal spirit. These are not friendly to the dancer. A d20 may be used to determine what sort of being arrives:
1-3. Łətiʔən (Poison Hummingbird) appears.
4-6. Kəykəẃəqəs (Corpses Crow) appears.
7-9. Huqʷhuqʷ (Crane Cackle) appears.
10-12. Qəčanuł (Crooked Beak) appears.
13-15. A Khusaxha forms spontaneously from clouds of mosquitoes.
16-20. All targets must save or be possessed by Untamed Winds.
Also at this level, the dancer's bonus to Ego checks against the Cannibal Wind increases to +4.

HuqʷhuqʷHuqʷhuqʷ!

As a Group Ritual the dance may civilize the mad, removing any possession or long term insanity and returning them to society. This is accomplished in a day-long ritual in which the target is driven through the forest, chased by cannibal dancers in fearsome avian masks. At the end of the ritual, the target must make an immediate saving throw, failure indicating that they've been infected by the Cannibal Wind. Those so cursed must immediately be initiated into the dance (losing any other spirit allies) or thereafter wander governed by Untamed Winds (see below). Hiring the dance for this service requires 1d6×100gp in gifts to the performers and a fresh human corpse.

Observant onlookers may notice (1 in 6 chance, modified by Wisdom) one performer sneaking off with a writhing black presence sealed in a glass jar. This points out a secret version of the ritual for which the dance requires 1d6×500gp in gifts and the life of a slave. For this additional consideration the dancers will at the end of the ritual weave the extracted spirit into an arrow or club. The affected weapon will strike at +3 "to hit" & damage for one successful attack, which will have the additional effect of transferring the extracted spirit or madness to the victim.


Some Eaters of Men

Source.
Cannibal Bird
Number Appearing: 1
Armor Class: Variable
Hit Dice: Variable
Attack: Variable
Special: Variable
Move: 6, 36 fly
Morale: 9
Intelligence: Superhuman
Alignment: Chaos
Size: Variable

Four of these imperious beings, the most coherent pieces of the Cannibal Wind to coalesce from her corpse after its dispersal, are known. Each with obvious vanity claims to be a singular and unique entity, though there are reports of the same bird appearing in multiple places at once or successively at great distance.

All Cannibal Birds inflict Soul Loss on a damage roll of 6 and may summon freezing winds as a Superhero of the Dance of the Cannibal Wind. Each may also vary its size, often appearing quite small, or take on human form. Occasionally they appear in disturbing intermediate states, as if they cannot quite recall what separates man from bird. Human forms always receive the bonuses of cannibal frenzy without any associated restriction on behavior or appearance. Each cannibal bird has been slain several times, though they always reappear. Nothing known can slay them permanently.

Their names and shapes are:

Łətiʔən (Poison Hummingbird) the Skin-Stripper, who appears as:
• a thick-beaked hummingbird the size of a large dog, its face smeared with gore, or
• a small child crying and covered with what appears to be blood but is in fact a corrosive resin.
[HD 6, AC 4(15), Bite d6 plus save or d6 poison, 1-3 acid damage on touch.]

Kəykəẃəqəs (Corpses Crow) the Eye-Plucker, who appears as:
• two wicked-looking crows nearly man-sized moving in oddly mirrored motions, or
• a pair of twin youths, one boy and one girl, who finish each other's sentences and are both compulsive liars.
[HD 8, AC 5(14), Bite d6, two bodies acting independently with a single Hit Point pool.]

Huqʷhuqʷ (Crane Cackle) the Skull-Cracker, who appears as:
• a monstrous crane, fully 12ft tall on its stilt legs, that thrusts its beak at foes from above seeking to split open skulls, or
• an uncannily tall, long-fingered man of meticulous aspect & grim humor who may be plied with brains, which he finds delectable.
[HD 8, AC 5(14), Bite d6+4 reach 10ft.]

Qəčanuł (Crooked Beak) the Flesh-Tearer, who appears as:
• an ogre-sized bird of glittering iridescence with fancifully twisted beak, rigid forms writhing under its flesh as if it had all the wrong bones & each jockeying for a position of prominence, its uncanny bite twisting and snapping in all directions at once, or
• a hunchbacked crone with snaggletoothed smile, feigning weakness despite terrible strength.
[HD 10, AC 3(16), Bite d6+2, attacks all targets in range each turn.]

Source.

Cannibal Birds are most commonly seen at sites of great carnage feasting on corpses, though they may also appear anywhere in the deep wilds pursuing enigmatic ends. Though not always hostile, they are extremely capricious, and unless other interests prevail reactions should be checked anew each turn of interaction. Encounters almost inevitably end with their hunger awakened, but clever mortals occasionally escape unharmed if they figure out what game the bird is at fast enough to play along.

If a Cannibal Bird is fated to appear and quick motivation is needed, a d20 may be thrown to determine what exactly the creature thinks it's up to:
  1. Hunting humans to eat. It will likely attack.
  2. Feasting on corpses. If the party was looking for someone, here they are.
  3. Harassing a cannibal. The bird is tormenting a Cannibal Dancer or Untamed Wind for its own amusement.
  4. Reminiscing. "I remember you, or perhaps an ancestor, hm... Tell me the story of when I last met you, man-thing."
  5. Bored. Simply bored, the creature will banter until it gets hungry.
  6. Acting out an ancient drama. The Wind that Bites from the Dark once instrumented a great calamity here, or slew a great hero. The bird wishes to reenact this, and you arrived just in time to facilitate. Roll reaction to determine how dangerous a role it has in mind.
  7. Making war. There are two cannibal birds here either fighting each other or engaging in a contest (roll again to determine its character).
  8. Witnessing savagery. The bird has heard of a great cruelty or tragedy, natural or man-made, occurring or about to occur, which it wishes to observe. If none manifests it will create one, figuring that it itself must be the cause, though it did not know this beforehand.
  9. Destroying man-made objects. The bird is tearing down buildings, defacing sculptures, altering trail signs, or otherwise warping humanity's mark on the environment.
  10. Dressing itself in grave goods. The beast is pulling clothing from a corpse or pile of refuse, which it will proceed to wear incorrectly. It solicits opinions on its aspect from any onlookers. Anything other than excessive flattery angers it.
  11. Hiding and observing. You are being watched really obviously, but without interference. It is far too big to hide behind that bush, or far too humanoid to perch on that branch. It leaves after a few turns, but only if unacknowledged.
  12. Pretending to be a human. The bird wants to play at being a headman; you will be the slaves. It wants you to construct a makeshift village out of found materials (or occupy an abandoned one) and go through the drudgery of daily life. In a day or two it will get bored and just wander off.
  13. Telling a lie. There is a very specific thing it needs to tell to you and only you. This thing is absolutely untrue; assuming otherwise leads to catastrophe.
  14. Building something. The bird is constructing a sculpture or effigy (d6: 1. giant spiky nest, 2. wicker man, 3. intricate maze, 4. wooden cages dangling from branches, 5. mosaic of many colors, 6. elaborate gauntlet of traps and snares) from detritus & human remains. It may ask a critique, or force intruders to assist in finding the perfect finishing piece.
  15. Doesn't remember. "I have forgotten my purpose here. You tell me." It attacks if the answer is completely against its nature but otherwise follows the instruction exactly.
  16. Asking questions. The bird has questions about the nature of humanity. It has no context whatsoever with which to understand the answer and will become frustrated and angry when it doesn't.
  17. Learning to be a human. "Teach me to be like you." It copies the player's actions exactly, becoming angry if the player performs an action it cannot.
  18. Collecting shinies. "You have many shiny objects. Give me all of them." All of these are immediately put to use as self-adornment, or littered on the ground (equal chance).
  19. Starting fires. The bird starts a fire, fans it with its wings, watches it burn for a moment or a day, and then puts it out again, over and over and over. It only acknowledges intruders if interrupted.
  20. Singing to the sky. Carrion birds circle overhead as the bird caws a semi-intelligible tune at the sky. Any human copying the song finds that it incites birds to attack them suddenly, which causes the Cannibal Bird to laugh. It attacks if any of these birds are injured, but does not otherwise do harm. The song continues to work long after the meeting but cannot be taught to others.
Treasure: Those that play along and do not irritate the Cannibal Bird receive a gift when it departs. Roll d6:
1-3. Twigs, leaves, and assorted detritus. Seemingly useless. A thorough search may reveal 4d6gp in coins and salvageable goods hidden in the trash. Or not.
4-5. Pile of suspicious meats. Strangely delectable and sweet-smelling. Equivalent to 2d6 days rations. Infects any human eating it with an Untamed Wind, other creatures are sickened (-2 to all actions). Remains perfectly preserved for a month, then rots away in moments.
6. A random magic item. Appears old and ill-used, but functional. If a magic weapon is rolled, it is automatically intelligent and possessed of a murderous avian spirit, which seeks to desecrate flesh and tear down civilization.

Source.
Khusaxha
Number Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 5+2
Attack: Rend d6
Special: Horror, proboscis
Move: 15
Morale: 10
Intelligence: Human-like
Alignment: Chaos
Size: Medium (5'-6' tall)

The khusaxha (in the trade jargon simply "skookum" - a dangerous thing) are frightening spirits that seem to occur spontaneously, clouds of mosquitoes accreting into manlike shapes driven by some stray urge of the Cannibal Wind unclaimed by Dancers and Cannibal Birds.

A khusaxha first appears as an unremarkable stranger - pleasant, nonthreatening, and excessively human. Only the inevitable attack reveals its nature. Those who witness a khusaxha's violence see them undergo a frightful transfiguration into a cackling ghoul of gangling limb and mad rictus grin. This sight provokes a saving throw, failure indicating that the victim freezes in horror for a turn. Those yet to observe the khusaxha's brutality directly continue to perceive it as a normal human.

To feed on men a khusaxha will vomit from its mouth a horrible proboscis like a beak of glass erupting from inverted throat. This attacks at -2 "to hit" but when thrust into a victim's body may suck out internal organs whole or in part. Targets struck immediately suffer d6 damage, and they will take 2d6 damage automatically each round thereafter until the proboscis is ripped from their body (2 in 6 chance, modified by Strength). If a victim is reduced to 0 hit points in this way, an internal organ is visibly sucked from their body through the proboscis, and the khusaxha immediately heals 2d6 HP.

For ease of description, the following d20 table may be consulted in lieu of standard Death & Dismemberment:
1-3. Brain. Instant death.
4-6. Heart. Instant death.
7-8. Lung. Instant death.
9-10. Intestine. Requires immediate magical healing.
11-12. Liver. Requires immediate magical healing.
13. Stomach. Requires immediate magical healing.
14. Bladder. Requires immediate magical healing.
15. Pancreas. Requires immediate magical healing.
16-17. Kidney. Bleeding out.
18. Spleen. Bleeding out.
19. Appendix. Bleeding out.
20. Gallbladder. Bleeding out.
Those who do not immediately perish from such a loss later find that they are possessed by the odd but irresistible urge to catch and eat mosquitoes, surreptitiously shoving them into their mouth when they think no one is watching. Though not significant enough to model with Ego conflict, this counts as possession by cannibal spirits for ritual purposes. After several weeks (1d6+3) of this behavior the mosquitoes will devour the victim's insides and their skin will walk as a new khusaxha.

When reduced to 0 hit points, a khusaxha's innards dissipate into a cloud of mosquitoes. Their skin drops to the ground, empty except for a pile of stolen organs. The spirit animating it is not actually dead, but it will take several months accumulating mosquitoes and for it to return, and even then it will not retain its memory.

Treasure: A pile of bloodstained rags, skin, and human organs.


Source.
Untamed Wind
Number Appearing: 1-3
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 3
Attack: By weapon or Unarmed d6
Special: Frenzy, mimicry
Move: 15
Morale: 9
Intelligence: Human-like
Alignment: Chaos
Size: Variable

Not all those possessed by the Cannibal Wind join the Dance. Untamed Winds lurk in hidden places giving themselves over to cannibal lust without objection, heedless of the horrors their condition drives them to. Without the dance, these individuals are haunted by horrific visions of giant, monstrous women stalking the world and eating men whole, pushing them to ever greater sins. Few survive long, but many innocents are consumed in their wake.

Untamed winds enter cannibal frenzy as a Cannibal Dancer does, though the manifestation is more extreme, limbs bending backward at impossible angles and teeth snapping beyond the reach of their jaws. They frenzy in all combats, gaining all the same bonuses, up to and including the ability to swallow souls on a damage roll of 6. They may mimic voices as a Cannibal Dancer does and are similarly distressed by large fires, suffering -2 to Morale in their presence.

Treasure: Untamed winds are wild barbarians, and keep the possessions of uncivil men.

When possessing Player Characters (Ego 10): The untamed wind desires to consume human flesh, and will resist eating any food which does not contain it as a major component. If the host becomes at all hungry, it will seek to kill and eat any human available, driving the character to cannibal frenzy. As violence and barbarism personified, it will also force its host to frenzy if they behave in a manner that could be construed as at all civilized, such as required by a ritual greeting or community meal. The host gains all abilities described above, but the untamed wind will resist using them for purposes other than slaying humans to eat.


Source.
Wechuge
Number Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 3+ (2 higher than base creature)
Attack: By weapon
Special: Variable
Move: 12
Morale: 8
Intelligence: Human-like
Alignment: None
Size: Medium (5'-6' tall)

There is another idea of creation, one rejected by Changers in the furthest recesses of mythic time. In it everything is backwards, and animals hunt men for food instead of the other way around. This was set largely aright at the advent of the current world, but the border between possibilities is thin, and some spirits become confused about which reality they belong in. It is even said that certain upriver peoples, far removed from Straits civility, seek out such abomination deliberately.

Those possessed by these spirits (corrupted by hostile sorcerers or taboo violation or otherwise) are wechuge. Intelligent hunters, they view men as their game and will use all available skill and artifice to aid in the chase, each spirit bringing different methods and capabilities to assist them.

A wechuge spirit is not always active, and its host will appear and act as a normal human until exposed to certain triggers. These initiate the hunt and warp the host with what mutations the spirit brings. The additional Hit Dice (+2) and capabilities of the wechuge are only counted during this period and fade afterward, though not until the spirit has had time to both feed and calm. Slaying the body in either state destroys both host and spirit.

There are as many expressions of wechuge as there are animals in the world (some would say many more), and they have an equally wide variety of abilities, but if a random wechuge spirit is needed at short notice, the referee may roll d6 on the following chart:
  1. Stilt-Legs is a great moose who strides above treetops. Those possessed by him have bizarre elongated limbs, standing 10ft tall on all fours, on which they scamper about with great facility. He attacks with a mighty leap, stomping foes to death, and travels overland in impossible strides. Stilt-Legs is triggered by the removal of the skins of animals, and by nakedness. [Move 24, Stomp 2d6 but -2 "to hit".]
  2. Greed-Mask, whose sacred eyes devour, is a god of raccoons. The eyes of those he possesses swell huge and black, consuming the face in bruised flesh shoved aside by their bulging. His gaze alone consumes souls, though he will also partake of man's substance if given opportunity. He is triggered by aggressively long eye contact, and by the wearing of masks. [Bite d3, gaze causes save or Soul Loss.]
  3. Grandmother Spider is the first trapmaker. Her hosts grow impossibly thin and bandy-legged with twisted knobbly fingers that can grip anything. She is compelled to make large numbers of traps and snares, all of which she can feel even from great distance, and often builds a lair full of such. She is triggered by the sound or sight of a plucked string, or the tying of complex knots. [Can sense state of traps, 5 in 6 climb.]
  4. Eyes-like-Lightning dwells above the clouds with the ancestors of eagles. The possessed appear normal except in rain or darkness, where their eyes flash dramatically. He attempts to hunt in lightning storms, and when exposed to bright flashing of any kind. [Darkvision, surprises 4 in 6 in rain or darkness, if gains surprise all opponents must save or blinded for d6 turns.]
  5. The Moon Frog is a star-born spirit that eats men as flies. Her great lashing tongue dangles from the mouths of those she possesses, slurping thoughts from her prey's minds as she hops about. She is triggered by eating meat old enough to contain fly's eggs, and by the full moon. [Bite d3, tongue attack inflicts Soul Loss and target must save or forget themself for a turn.]
  6. Old Iron-Teeth is grandfather to wolves. The possessed shove bits of iron or other metals into their mouth and under their fingernails where they root in place as grotesque armament. Any metal that strikes him may similarly be absorbed into his flesh. He is triggered by the taste of undercooked meat, and by the sight of his own blood. [Rend d6+2, negates damage from metal weapons 4 in 6.]
Treasure: The host of a wechuge is still human and retains the possessions of such.

When possessing Player Characters (Ego 8): Any character possessed by a wechuge spirit is subject to the same triggers as listed above, and undergoes the same transformations. When exposed the spirit becomes activated and will make an Ego check to control the character's body. It compels them to hunt men and will not relenting until it tastes human flesh or the character wrestles back control.


Source.
Windigo
Number Appearing: 1
Armor Class: Variable
Hit Dice: 1-10
Attack: Variable
Special: Bullet & cold immune, & see below
Move: Variable
Morale: 10
Intelligence: Human-like
Alignment: Chaos
Size: Variable (5'-16' tall)

Though the spawn of foreign skies, the windigo is known to the Straits. Canadien voyageurs carried them clothed in flesh down the overland routes over long years. Any survival cannibalism practiced along those frozen tracks may seed the spirit in one's heart.

Those possessed are cursed to hunger after human flesh eternally, their body forever expanding beyond possible satisfaction. A windigo begins with 1 HD, even if its host is of greater potency, but uses the higher of the two scores for hit points, attacks, saving throws, etc. If the creature eats a number of humans equal to its HD in a single week, its HD increases by 1.

Windigo are immune to bullets, which tear flesh but do little actual harm, and to all damage from cold or frost. Only one method is known to permanently slay them: They must be hacked apart with axes, their remains burned & buried, and trees felled over their grave. Forgoing this process leaves a 1 in 6 chance each month that the windigo will return to haunt its slayers.

Several other physical and behavioral changes are observed as the windigo increases in Hit Dice:

Source.
At 1-3 Hit Dice windigo are not what they seem. They avoid normal food without knowing why and complain of cold as their insides begin to freeze. Despite this they recoil from flame, though this may be overcome with exertion of will. They act unsocial, and without concentration their face relaxes to an impassive owlish stare. The hunger feels strange and foreign when it strikes, but they cannot resist it.

This early they may still be cured. Tricking or forcing them to drink scalding bear grease deals d6 damage to spirit and host both (separately rolled). Should windigo disperse and host live, the latter will vomit a slurry of melting ice and flesh and recover in a matter of days. The risk of course is death from internal burns. This cure may be applied multiple times if at first unsuccessful.

[AC by armor, Bite 1-3 or Weapon, Move 12]

At 4-7 Hit Dice the heart of the possessed freezes to ice, and their body dies. The spirit grows so hungry that it chews away the body's lips, exposing cruel bloodied teeth. Windigo at this stage attack with snapping jaws, lurking on civilization's edge to ambush and devour. Stalking silent and corpse-pale, it is nearly impossible to detect them at any distance in snowy conditions. The only warning is the glint of wide-staring eyes leering through the storm.

The windigo will flee fire with a horrific screeching. Treat attempts to menace them with flame as a Turn Undead check, using as Cleric level the intensity of flame in "torches" wielded to harass them. Once an attempt has failed, it may be tried again only if the amount of fire is significantly increased.

[AC 6(13), Bite d6+2, Move 12, regenerate 1/round outdoors, 4 in 6 surprise in snow]

As the windigo gains HD from here on its body stretches out gruesome and gaunt, growing taller and more emaciated with each body consumed (from man-sized at 4 HD to twice that at 8 HD). Long hours in the wild blacken its flesh with frostbite. Eventually, the flesh rots away entirely.

Source.
At 8+ Hit Dice what remains is a towering skeleton of splintering ice, cracking and popping as it jerks about on sharp limbs. Remnants of skin cling to its frame in ragged strips, and frozen organs swell in its torso, including a heart shining with puissance.

More spirit than substance, at this stage the windigo may fade to the form of blowing snow, rendering it functionally invisible, incorporeal, and flying, though exposure to a flame forces to knit its body back together. It attacks with great frozen claws and pulls at souls with every frozen breath. Those it grasps are brought to its mouth so it may rip off their limbs or consume them whole, head thrown back and choking hideously, leaving piles of cracked bones, tangled hair, and discarded teeth as the only evidence of its passing.

[AC 3(16), Rend 2d6 + Soul Loss + on a 12 save or roll Death & Dismemberment regardless of Hit Point total, Move 15/18 snow form, regenerate 2/round outdoors]

Windigo of up to 12 HD have been observed. Fully 16ft tall, these beasts are found only in the deepest north or on mountain peaks where the snow never melts, stalking endlessly over glaciers in search of food. Monstrosities of greater immensity are only theorized.

Treasure: Often none, though shattering a windigo of 8+ HD produces a pile of primal ice shards that melt only in blood. Enough is found for d6-2 daggers or spear blades and 2d6 arrowheads. These are +2 to hit & damage but good only for a single successful strike. Any human they wound is infected with a windigo spirit. If unused the shards will eventually reform, exactly as a windigo improperly buried.

When possessing Player Characters (Ego 6+HD): The windigo desires to eat human flesh sufficient to increase its HD. If this is not accomplished, an Ego check will force the character to murder if given any opportunity, and to seek out people if away from civilization. Otherwise, the possessed follows the rules for windigo of 1-3 HD above. Once the windigo attains 4 HD, the character dies and is thereafter an NPC monster.


The sudden and horrifying resumption of self. Source.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The world is as sharp as a knife

They who will soon die. Source.

When you are a warrior, the knife is always on you. It is first to put on in the morning, last to take off at night. Name it Close-at-Hand, there to guard your people at all times.
- Xa'aiŋa advice to young men
Capture slaves, settle debts, revenge trespasses - it is irrelevant. What matters is this: go there, kill them all, and then you will have all the things that they own.
- Raven to the Hungry People
That's no good. People who use that armor are no real war men. Warrior doesn't care if he lives or dies! Disgrace for a man to fight with any protection but his power. Nutl'ileb men have got big heart, don't need that kind of stuff!
- A dead man
To his eldest son the warrior warned, "The world is as sharp as a knife. The careless fall right off." Ever the know-it-all, as eldest children so often are, the son retorted, "The world is broad and flat! None could fall off it!" Then, in kicking the earth to demonstrate its reliable solidity, he ran a splinter through his foot and died shortly thereafter.
- Məŋa'məŋa' tale

Periodic slave raids, blood feuds, and attacks of reprisal are unfortunately common in the Straits. Every headman needs slaves - how else to gather the resources necessary to demonstrate his wealth? And it is well known that only battle alleviates the sorrow of loss - if you are hurting, it is only sensible to ensure that others hurt, too.

And so raiders appear in the night, burning villages to nothing before any even knew there was to be war. Lone fishermen and those given to wandering disappear without warning. Grinning strangers appear on the horizon only to betray the lie of friendship with sudden violence. Survivors that cannot flee into the woods are enslaved.

In this environment, every village needs professional warriors. These are dangerous and unwholesome men, but necessary. Peculiar and surly, they speak little as they stalk the villages with eyes always darting sideways, knowing this threatening carriage makes them objects of fear. When the raiders muster, all the other villagers huddle inside, for it is said they are like a great mouth, always open and ready to swallow anything that passes.


Tools of War

Armor Types

Coiled cedar cuirass.
Elk-hide jacket.
Elk-hide tunic.

Common Leathers: Elk or deer hide shirt or jacket & leggings. Commonly worn as clothing by outsiders and Straitsmen alike, or under heavier armors. [AC 8.]

Hide TunicTreated hides of elk, walrus, sea lion, moose, or bear draped loosely over the body. Northerners travel far each year to obtain these trading in the elk-hunting villages of the far southern Straits, near unto Fusang. Often painted with family crests or other symbols. Also worn under Slat & Rod armor. [AC 8, 7 vs. arrows, teeth, & claws.]

Coiled Cedar: Coils of braided cedar rope sewn tightly together. It is stiff and cumbersome, but popular among the warlike villages of the deep fjords in the central Straits. [AC 7, penalty on athletic action.]


Slat & rod cuirass.
Coin mail jacket.


Slat & Rod: Hardwood slats & rods bound with rope or fiber, worn over elk hide. Often includes similar shin and arm protection. This armor is emblematic of the northern peoples and their preeminence in war, though the design is slowly proliferating throughout the Straits as chaos and violence rise. [AC 6, penalty on athletic action & stealth.]

Coin MailAn extravagant display of wealth, this armor is of hundreds of Chinese copper coins (Qing dynasty, as old as 1644) affixed to an elk hide backing. Men would kill simply to own it. Often accompanied by slat & rod shin and arm protection. [AC 5, penalty on athletic action & stealth.]


Wooden helm.
Wooden collar.


Wooden Helm: Carved from dense spruce burls into hideous and intimidating shapes. Combines with collar to form great helm. [Protects against blows to the top of the head.]

Wooden Collar: A bentwood plank cut from a spruce burl and painted with crest designs. Contains a bite ring to hold it in place. Combines with helm to form great helm. [Protects against injury to the face and neck.]


Great helm.
Great helm.

Great Helm: Full spruce helmet covering the entire head and face. The great helm and its component parts are also northern designs, perhaps even more iconic than slatted armor, and are spreading similarly. [-1 bonus to AC, imposes penalty on perception & surprise, muffles speech (no spellcasting).]


Weapon Types

Wooden slave-killer.
Stone slave-killer.

Slave-killer: This heavy, blunt dagger makes for an awkward combat weapon but serves admirably in its main roll of delivering finishing blows to downed opponents or sacrificial slaves. [Halved piercing damage.]


Copper-breaker.
Copper-breaker.

Copper-breaker: A wood-shafted stone hammer made for dramatically breaking ceremonial copper sheets but often pressed into service as a combat weapon. [Blunt damage.]


Spearhead fighting pick.
Horn fighting pick.

Fighting Pick: A deadly war pick or axe. Often serves as a slave-killer would at major memorial feasts and house dedications, but also finds use as a weapon. [Piercing damage.]


Stone club.
Wooden club.
Two-handed wooden club.
Whalebone club.

War Club: A variety of clubs taking a variety of forms. May be of stone, hardwood, bone, whalebone, antler, or similarly robust materials. Most are single handed, though some are not. Most have a narrow edge to concentrate force, and occasionally teeth, but some are rounded (these more closely related to those used to kill seals & caught fish, but still serviceable as weapons of war). [Bludgeoning damage, +1 damage for two-handed varieties.]


Copper sword.

Copper Sword: A war club pounded from copper with sharpened edge approaches what the Company would call a "sword". Quite rare. Takes its form from club designs rather than the Californio & Mexicano swords that occasionally appear in the hands of certain Straitsmen. [Slashing damage.]


Copper dagger.
Double dagger.
Iron dagger.

Dagger: Fighting daggers on the Straits take many forms, though most are of copper or iron. Copper is acquired locally, but iron must be traded for or salvaged from meteors and shipwrecks, though it can be honed, tempered, and ground with flutes locally. Other possibilities include bone, horn, or obsidian, though these are not esteemed. All are commonly worn on a thong about the neck and lashed to the wrist in battle.

The larger double-bladed dagger is more ancient, and a symbol of war. The one that wears it is generally assumed to be a professional warrior, slaver, or madman. [Piercing damage.]


Atlatl.
Copper spearhead-daggers.

Spear: Spears are of many types, both long and short. A common design uses a particular type of dagger for a head, that it may be detached when needed for other purposes. [Piercing damage, reach.]

Atlatl: The spear thrower is still in use, though less and less common of late. Its notable advantage is in having no powder or string to ruin in the rain, bringing its usefulness up dramatically in local weather conditions. Darts are notably larger and more cumbersome than arrows. [Piercing damage, unaffected by rain.]

Sling: The sling is also common and is much the same as is known the world over. [Bludgeoning damage, unaffected by rain.]


Cable-backed bow.
Flatbow.

Bow: Bows are of the flatbow type and ideally made of yew, with arrows of willow. In the absence of decent wood, the cable-backed bow is known and used, strengthening the stave with an opposite string. [Piercing damage.]


Sawed-off trade gun.

Trade Gun: Muskets acquired from the Company or Mexicano explorers are found in many (but not all) villages of the Straits. They are altered and decorated with the same intricate sensibility that Straitsmen apply to all their crafts. [Piercing damage +1, alerts wandering monsters.]



Warrior Societies

Wudyagwilis brings a war party.
The War-Makers' Society
Little know you men of the South
what valiant warriors we are
Poorly can foes contend with us
when we come with our daggers
- Traditional raider's chant

The largest and most populous (though not the most prestigious) of the warrior societies is that of Wudyagwilis, the War-Maker, who flies silently and kidnaps souls to the underworld. Nearly every village in the Straits can boast of a few members.

Wudyagwilis is patron of slavery, antagonism to foreigners, the blood feud, and masculinity among women. He appears as a mysterious war canoe full of corpses drifting over water or flying through the sky, a pack of black wolves or pod of black porpoises moving in unison and making no sound, or a giant emaciated corpse dressed in battle armor. His approach is signaled by deafening silence and stillness accompanied by bleeding from the ears, eyes, and nose.

Members of the society are known to paddle canoes silently, frighten with a gaze, and injure themselves in dramatic public displays. Though a welcome presence bolstering village defenses, they are not well loved, for they are universally a dangerous and hot-tempered lot.

Restrictions
In order to use any powers, society members must obscure their face. This is typically done by donning full great helms, wearing masks of fearsome aspect, or keeping especially wild and unkempt hair.

Society members have difficulty calming themselves after provocation. If forced to disengage from combat without physically besting an enemy (because they must flee, or the enemy does, or external factors intervene), they become extremely agitated and take a -2 penalty to reaction rolls & stealth checks. This condition lasts until either the society member sleeps a night or is able to vent their frustrations upon another source.

In order to maintain their power, a society member must sever the head of a human opponent and display it prominently near their home or on their person. When the head has rotted to bone (or is stolen or otherwise disappears), it must be replaced. This is usually accomplished through raiding, though there are other ways.

Benefits
Veterans (level 1) of the society, though normally of a loud and blustery disposition, can move with eerie silence (4 in 6 chance) when intent on violent surprise. This stealth ability may also extend to other situations, but at a reduced rate of success (3 in 6 chance). This ability is supernatural, though it is still somewhat diminished (-1) by excessive armor.

A society slaver.
Heroes (level 4) of the society no longer feel pain or cold. Minimum damage rolls (such as 1 on d6) seem to wound but subtract no hit points. Damage rolls of more than minimum damage subtract hit points as normal, though the society member is still able to ignore associated pain absolutely.

Society members often use this ability to deliberately self-injure in intense and horrifying ways to demonstrate ferocity to their fellows. One expression often seen in the winter season is that of piercing the skin and hanging from longhouse rafters by leather thongs for days at a time.

Also at this level, the society member's supernatural sneaking ability extends to all those in a party they are currently leading, up to 4 individuals.

Superheroes (level 8) of the society possess a countenance so fearsome that few can tolerate looking upon them directly. They may use this ability to contort foes with a gaze by dramatically revealing their face and eyes. Those looking upon them must make an immediate saving throw or suffer violent spasms taking them out of combat for 1-3 rounds. Only beings of human-like disposition and intellect may be affected, and only those of hit dice up to half the society member's level. Warriors who reach this degree of power often construct a special mask that splits down the middle for just this purpose.

Also at this level, the society member's supernatural sneaking ability improves (to 5 in 6 and 4 in 6, respectively) and extends to all those in a party of up to 16 individuals.

Ritual preparations.
As a Group Ritual the society may summon the sisiutl (see below) to ward a location. This requires a 4-hour ritual to be performed near the water where the sisiutl is to appear. Once summoned, a large mammal (often a human slave) must be sacrificed to the creature in order to placate it. It remains in the vicinity, attacking all who approach by water (including any it was summoned to protect) as long as it receives such a sacrifice each day. Hiring the society for this service requires 1d6×250gp in goods gifted to the performers.

Though rarely taken up on the offer, the society will also summon the sisiutl for the purpose of challenging it to combat, for which they expect 1d6×1000gp in gifts. Society members will remain to watch such a battle and to prevent others from intervening. Typically only one combatant is allowed the challenge, though certain auspicious signs have in times past allowed for parties of two or four.


Affiliated Beasts

Source.
Sisiutl
Number Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 12
Attack: Bite ×2 (2d6)
Special: Contorting gaze, shapeshifting, poison
Move: 3, 18 swim
Morale: 10
Intelligence: Superhuman
Alignment: Law
Size: Variable (20' long default)

The sisiutl (it is unknown whether the creature is representative of a race or a unique being that simply recurs) is among the mightiest sea creatures known in the Straits. An enormous serpent with three faces, each end of its body terminates in a reptilian maw. A third face bulges in its body's center, showing a grimacing human aspect. Many who have seen this third face without perishing describe it as startlingly familiar to that of their father, but this is surely madness.

The gaze of this center face inspires a primal terror so great that it cannot be described. Victims must make an immediate saving throw or succumb to violent convulsions, paralyzing them in twisted shapes for 1d6 turns.

The sisiutl is a shapeshifter. In addition to being able to alter its size at will (from as small as a worm to twice its base length), it can take on a number of alternate forms. The full breadth of this ability is unclear, but some possibilities are:
  • a large, copper-scaled salmon [may leap 40 feet in the air to swipe with its tail];
  • a self-propelled war canoe, on which its likeness is painted [quadruple standard canoe travel speed];
  • a lean, muscular human with serpentine features [acts as a War-Makers' Society superhero, see above];
  • a short spear, carved in its likeness, that flies on its own dispatching enemies quickly by jumping through their bodies [4 attacks per round, d6+2 damage]; and
  • a rounded glittering stone which is hazardous to look upon [any seeing it are affected as by the sisiutl's gaze]. 
In each of these alternate forms the sisiutl retains its AC and HD but loses access to other special abilities.

Though they are little known, the sisiutl also has a few key weaknesses:
  • It's human face is not as well protected as its body and can be hit as AC 7, though attacking it directly does mean being subject to its gaze.
  • The sisiutl cannot cross a line of fresh human blood, on land or in water, instead battering itself against the barrier as if it were a wall of stone.
  • Feeding the creature seal blood will lock it in its current form or size for d6+23 hours. If locked in a particular form for 4 days (during which time it will continue to violently assault its enemies by whatever means) it will begin to forget that it is a sisiutl at all. In this way great heroes have acquired magical canoes and weapons, though they still must stain them with seal blood each day to stave off the creature's reversion.
  • If by some chance the sisiutl is forced onto land in its serpentine form, its skin will begin to dissolve. It takes 1-3 hit points of damage per round and films over with a disgusting slime poisonous to all life (1d6 damage on touch, save for half, continues each round until doused in water), a trail of which is left behind as it desperately tries to return to the water.

Sisiutl guards the door to the house of the War-Makers.

The sisiutl is encountered without being summoned only rarely, though it is known to appear in both river and sea. It might also be sighted at a great distance, creating a ferocious racket as it wars with other titans of the open water such as krakens, thunderbirds, and whales.

Treasure: Well-established legend states that bathing in the blood of a sisiutl toughens a warrior's skin to the hardness of rock. Those choosing to test this theory must make an immediate saving throw. Success grants a natural AC of 2, this bonus diminishing by 1 each month until AC returns to normal. Failure turns the character to stone.

The back spines and human eyes of the sisiutl function as magical arrowheads and sling stones, striking spirit-beings and dealing an additional die of damage on a hit. Its skin is the preferred material for magic belts, though that requires additional treatment and ritual.