Sunday, May 5, 2013

They growl

A man and a dog

Each day the dogs chased the women from the house, and each day they dug clams on the beach. This was all the food they could get; the canoes were gone!
But Kwsultseda was smart. On the first day she hid in the house under a blanket, but the dogs found her. On the second day she hid on the roof peeping through the smokehole, but the dogs found her. On the third day she hid in the woods, but a bear chased her out. Then the dogs found her.
On the fourth day she draped her hat and cloak over a log on the beach and crept back to the house. The dogs, falling for this trick, did not find her. She peered through the houseplanks and saw: they took off their skins! These were not dogs but men! They danced about the fire singing of their triumph over these people.
Kwsultseda had to act quickly. She ran into the house and tossed the skins into the fire. "We will not labor while you dance and do nothing!" The men-that-were-dogs just smiled. They knew they could accomplish many great things with the help of clever women such as these.
That is the origin of our people.
- S'aququlu, traditional

As the only domestic animal with long history in the Straits, dogs occupy a curious and liminal position. There is an uncomfortable closeness to their nature, not human but neither truly animal. They are kept close, considered loyal but foolish, helpful but annoying - the best of allies, but mediocre as people go.

Taking the life of a dog is a grave act, nearly as serious as killing a slave (in fact this can be measured directly, as the average slave is worth only 2 or 3 promising dogs in trade). Only the death of prominent nobles leads to deliberate dog-killing under common circumstances, as important men should be allowed the privilege of their pets in the lands of the dead.

But there are situations where this custom (and many others) are broken, as starvation and spirit-madness push men to many unreasonable acts.


Rules Additions
Warrior SocietiesAny non-spellcaster may join a society if the society agrees to initiate them. Beneficial powers are gained at Veteran (1), Hero (4), and Superhero (8) levels, but some restrictions are also incurred. Society members must relinquish all other spirit-derived powers and relationships. Each society also practices certain rituals which can occasionally be accessed for a fee.

Notable warrior societies include:
  • the Growling Cult, whose members spit blood and devour dogs, detailed below;
  • the Society of Twins, which all twins and other abnormal children must join;
  • the Dance of the Cannibal Wind, which tames men infected by man-eating spirits;
  • the Disciples of the Quartz God, who speak in thunder;
  • the Gravetenders' Society, which calls forth ghosts;
  • the War-Makers' Society, whose members summon the sisiutl and feel no pain; and
  • the Skeleton Dancers, who learn secrets from the dead and run on treetops.

Sorcery: Sorcery is a form of magic practicable by any character, though spellcasters receive some bonuses. Formulas typically consist of a physical ritual and a song or chant that goes with it. Each formula lists success chance and duration of effect. Regardless of success or failure, a formula may not be reattempted until the standard duration elapses.

DiseaseDiseases are defined by an exposure condition, and incubation period, and several stages through which the diseased will progress. Infected characters move from one stage to the next, typically by failing a saving throw, incurring the conditions described therein unless healed by magic or ritual.


Warrior Societies

The Dog-Eater
The Growling Cult
I have traveled the world in search of food
My face is ghastly pale
I have traveled the world in search of flesh
Now I am going to eat
I have traveled the world in search of heads
The growling is my song
- Sx̌ǝnim power chant

The Straits is an abundant place, but not every winter passes as planned. When stores run low and food is scarce, only a few options remain. While endurance of privation is considered a great virtue, starvation is not among them. The dogs are eaten first, before more desperate action is taken. It is during these times when Sx̌ǝnim is closest to us. He gets in the bones, giving men the strength to do many disturbing things. Sometimes he stays there. This is the foundation of the Growling Cult.

Sx̌ǝnim, called Dog-Eater or Growling One, is master of rabid animals, temporary madness, starvation, and the pain of birth. He appears in many forms: a huge ebon-skinned man, a blood-soaked infant, a rabid and mange-plagued dog, or a pool of black water high in the mountains. His approach is signaled by flocks of ducks, out of season and moving in unison.

Members of the cult are known to spit blood from their mouths, track the wounded unerringly, and reincarnate the dead. People hide their dogs when the cultists practice their magic, for it is said they will devour them.

Restrictions
Before using any of their powers, cultists must darken their faces with charcoal.

Cultists are unsettling to dogs and have difficulty freely associating with them, incurring a steady stream of barks and growls when approaching close (-4 reaction penalty, -2 to dog's morale).

If using any cult powers in the presence of a dog, a cultist must make a saving throw or be overcome with the desire to immediately seize and devour it.

In order to maintain their power, once each winter a cultist must devour a dog deliberately, eating its flesh and scattering its intestines, in front of witnesses.

Benefits
Veterans (level 1) of the cult can smell freshly spilled blood to a distance of 60 feet, allowing them to track the wounded by scent alone (4 in 6 chance). They may identify blood by taste (4 in 6 chance) if they have previously eaten raw flesh of similar kind. Rabid animals (even dogs) will also not bite a member of the cult.

Heroes (level 4) of the cult may craft a Skinchanger's Hide enabling them to take the form of an oversized black dog. This requires a ritual 1 hour in length during which the cultist must kill a dog with bare hands, devouring the flesh but saving the hide. Regardless of initial coloration, the ritual stains the hide black.

Skinchanging takes 1 round. Worn items transform but not those carried in the hands. The cultist takes on most physical qualities and special abilities of a dog (see Straits Hunting Dog below) except hit dice and qualities derived therefrom (including hit points, attack bonus, and saving throws), which are retained. They also deal standard damage (1d6).

Cultists may only have one Skinchanger's Hide created at a time, crafting a replacement only if the old is destroyed, not merely lost or stolen. If the cultist dies, the hide rots in 2d6 hours. A stolen hide may only be used by a non-cultist at great risk, requiring a saving throw at each transformation to avoid losing one's personality in the mind of a dog. Only a skilled tamanous man can recover one from this fate.

Superheroes (level 8) of the cult may spit blood from their mouths at will. This may be performed with such ferocity that onlookers must make an immediate morale check. Using this ability deals 1d6 points of damage to the cultist. By expending an additional d6 hit points, the cultist can ensure that the morale check be made at a -2 penalty. Only beings of human-like intellect and disposition are affected, and only those of hit dice up to half the cultist's level. Junior members of the cult imitate this feat by cutting their own tongues, to no magical effect.

As a Group Ritual the cult may reincarnate the dead into the unborn child of a pregnant woman. This requires a ceremony performed over the course of 4 nights. The soul to be reincarnated must be a deceased individual personally known to one present. On completion of the ritual, birth follows within a matter of hours. Hiring the cult for this service requires 1d6×100gp in goods gifted to the performers.

The cult may also perform a greater version of this ritual, spoken of only in whispers, for which they expect 1d6×1000gp in gifts. The major difference is that, at the end of the ritual, the reincarnated person is a fully grown adult. At that point they must immediately make a saving throw. On a failure, they've been infected by Sx̌ǝnim and must immediately be initiated into the cult (losing any other spirit allies) or succumb to a slow wasting. If the save results in a natural 1, then it is not the individual's soul returned at all but instead a hunger spirit from the lands of the dead (see Scewelh below). Physical attributes must be re-rolled, but mental statistics are generally the same. It is recommended that petitioners provide a pregnant dog for this version of the ritual, as the result is messy.


Affiliated Beasts

Scewelh
Number Appearing: 1-6
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 2
Attack: Claw or bite (1d6)
Special: Undead (immune to sleep, charm), track, silent
Move: 9
Morale: 7
Intelligence: Human-like
Alignment: Chaos
Size: Medium (5'-6' tall)

If a burial is done improperly, sometimes the hunger forgets to die. In rare occasions it can even get a man up again, walking him around in search of food. Most villages feed their dead to prevent this, cultivating entire families who dedicate their lives to performing this important work. But when a village dies and the dead are forgotten, the ghosts grow restless in their graves.

A scewelh wears the corpse of a man, withered and black, but its nature is as a spirit of hunger, and that is the only desire it knows. It eats anything recognizable as food but is especially drawn to the flesh of men and dogs, which are pursued relentlessly, easily tracked by their scent. If pursuing a party of men, there is a 4 in 6 chance of success. If the party contains a dog, this rises to 5 in 6. Crossing water reduces these to 2 in 6 and 3 in 6, respectively.

Scewelhs make no noise whatsoever except when leaping to attack, at which point their throat emits a low groaning. This grants them a 4 in 6 chance to surprise. Dogs, keen of nose, negate this advantage, but must make an immediate morale check on scenting a scewelh.

In desperate moments a scewelh may speak with the voice it had in life (or a novel one if it was never alive to begin with), but this they do only to deceive, hoping to lure prey into traps and artifices that deliver them helpless into rending claws.

Treasure: Decaying grave goods.


Skinchanger, Dog-Eater
Number Appearing: 1-6
Armor Class: By armor, or 7 [12] as a dog
Hit Dice: 3
Attack: Weapon, or bite (1d6)
Special: Skinchange, track, unsettle dogs
Move: 12, or 18
Morale: 8
Intelligence: Human-like
Alignment: Chaos
Size: Medium (5'-6' tall), or Small (2' at shoulder)

Dog-eating skinchangers are men with the ability to transform into large, black dogs. Nearly all dog-eaters are members of the Growling Cult, though certain isolated families come by Sx̌ǝnim's gifts independently. This entry assumes beings of this latter type.

As monsters, dog-eaters have all the benefits and restrictions of Growling Cultists of Hero (level 4) status (see The Growling Cult above). They track the wounded by scent and identify blood by taste (4 in 6 chance), skinchange freely from man to dog in a round with their Skinchanger's Hides, and unsettle any dog that can scent them (-4 reaction penalty, -2 to dog's morale).

Independent dog-eaters, lacking the structure provided by the cult, are prone to violent bouts of hunger. It burns through them, driving them to prey on village inhabitants, human and dog both. Encounters with these individuals generally begin amiable as the dog-eater tries to lure victims into letting down their guard, but this quickly sours as murderous urges erode their patience. They will eventually attack most dogs and many men, hoping to devour. Even when not hungry a dog-eater exhibits traits natives commonly attribute to dogs - they are uncouth, impatient, and overly forward.

Treasure: Dog-eaters are men and will have the possessions of such, though not all objects will change form with them. A dog-eater's Skinchanger's Hide will decay if its owner dies, but may be stolen if they live. Such an item is as listed under The Growling Cult.


Straits Hunting Dog
Number Appearing: 1, or 2-12
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 1
Attack: Bite (1d3)
Special: None, or Rabies
Move: 18
Morale: 7
Intelligence: High animal
Alignment: None
Size: Small (19"-22" at shoulder)

Hunting dogs are found in every village of the Straits, wandering between the plank houses or kenneled in small huts of sticks and mats. They are of medium size and a generally excitable disposition. Their coloration is dark, short black fur shading into lighter browns about the paws, face, and belly. This look has something of the coyote about it, and it is commonly thought by Company men that they are crossed with such.

Hunting dogs are used to herd deer, elk, and mountain goats into sites of ambush at clearings and shorelines. Especially notable to Company observers is their tendency to drive deer into lakes, where men waiting in canoes can club them to death or simply hold them underwater with paddles until they drown, allow them to hunt without leaving their vessels.

Hunting dogs have a 2 in 6 chance to notice hidden or invisible creatures by sound and scent (provided the creature has a scent), though how they relate this information depends on training. They may track a known scent with a 5 in 6 rate of success if the trail is less than an hour old, -1 per hour thereafter. The base chance is reduced to 3 in 6 when crossing water wider than a small stream. Most hunting dogs are only trained to recognize deer and elk, though 1 in 6 will also know the scent of mountain goat or black bear. There are also certain magics that can improve these capabilities (see Formula Magic below)

When encountered in the wild, there is a decent (1 in 6) chance that any solitary dog encountered will be rabid. Such individuals have a -6 reaction penalty (Growling Cultists excepted), and their bite has the chance to infect their target with rabies (see Rabies below).

Purchasing a trained straits hunting dog costs 20-70gp in goods, depending on local circumstance. Untrained dogs (who recognize no scent and have difficulty tracking) can be had for much less, as they largely just loiter about the villages and are claimed by few.

Treasure: None.


Koloshi Bear Dog
Number Appearing: 2, 4, or 6
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: ½
Attack: Bite (1d2)
Special: Harrying
Move: 15
Morale: 10
Intelligence: High animal
Alignment: None
Size: Small (14"-17" at shoulder)

These small, compact dogs are renowned throughout the Straits for their aid in the hunting of bears. Working in teams of two or more, the dogs can harass a bear to such a point of confused exhaustion that hunters can easily end them with spears and arrows. It is uncommon even for a single dog to lose its life in this endeavor, though it happens from time to time.

Koloshi bear dogs are a fairly distinct-looking breed for the Straits: their short, wiry hair is black to blue-black, with white patches on the chest and paws, and their tail an absurd puff. In mood they are known for long periods of somewhat eerie calm, to the point that bear hunters can carry them long distances in sacks before releasing them at the sighting of print or spoor. They do not bark, seeming only capable of a peculiar yodel when annoyed or distressed.

Bear dogs are trained only in the hunting of bears, and then only from signs of recent passage. They are light and large of paw, enabling them to run on top of well-established snow, a significant advantage over their prey in the winter months.

When in combat with a large foe, a Koloshi bear dog will yowl and feint rather than attacking. This allows them to defend as AC 4 in such situations if alone, AC 2 if cooperating with at least one other bear dog. Bears are well known for falling for this trick; the reaction of other large carnivores is unknown.

Koloshi bear dogs are typically purchased in pairs, costing 20-120gp in goods.

Treasure: None.


Kulamish Wool Dog
Number Appearing: 3-18
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Hit Dice: ½
Attack: Bite (1d2)
Special: None, or Rabies
Move: 15
Morale: 6
Intelligence: High animal
Alignment: None
Size: Small (16"-19" at shoulder)

The Kulamish peoples are renowned for their weaving, which can only be accomplished due to the development of wool dogs, the exclusive property of their women. These are kept well away from other dogs to prevent the dilution of either blood, usually inside people's houses, though large packs deposited on islands or fenced in caves are occasionally seen.

Wool dogs have thickly curled fur which peels off as a single piece when sheared. This fleece, mixed with mountain goat wool and duck's down, is spun into a yarn that is used to weave blankets, clothing, and other articles.

Wool dogs are used for no other purpose other than for wool and as pets, being largely useless in all other capacities. Wool dogs kept in the house are as a rule not rabid, and those further removed only rarely so.

A freshly sheared wool dog costs 20-40gp in goods.

Treasure: Viable wool.


Abbreviated Stat Blocks
Scewehl (AL C, HD 2, AC 6 [13], MV 9, ML 7)Hunger spirit inhabiting a withered, blackened corpse. 4 in 6 to track men, 5 in 6 to track dogs. Moves silently with 4 in 6 to surprise. Undead.
Skinchanger, Dog-Eater (AL C, HD 3, AC 7 [12], MV 12 / 18, ML 8)Man that skinchanges into a large, black dog freely. 4 in 6 to track wounded & identify blood. Unsettles dogs (-4 reaction, -2 morale). Hide can be stolen but will decay.
Straits Hunting Dog (AL N, HD 1, AC 7 [12], MV 18, ML 7)Coyote-looking hunting dog. 2 in 6 to detect hidden or invisible. 5 in 6 to track, 2 in 6 when crossing water, -1 per hour. Knows the scent of deer & elk. Bite deals only 1-3 damage.
Koloshi Bear-Dog (AL N, HD ½, AC 6 [13], MV 15, ML 10)Small, black, yodeling, bear-distracting dog. AC 4 vs. large foes if engaged but not attacking, AC 2 if cooperating with another bear dog. Bite deals only 1-2 damage.
Kulamish Wool-Dog (AL N, HD ½, AC 8 [11], MV 15, ML 6): Fuzzy, white, wool-bearing dog. Bite deals only 1-2 damage.


Sorcery

Dog Training Formulas
Any of the following might be learned from native dog breeders, though they are generally only offered on a maximally positive reaction roll, and even then at significant cost (1d6×100gp). It is important to note that formulas are considered property by natives, and the right to use is sold separately from actual ownership, which is inherited.

Tracking (5 in 6, 1d6 days)This formula greatly increases a dog's effectiveness (+2 in 6) at tracking a particular animal, or enables them to track animals of a type they have not been extensively trained for. The performer must locate (or create) a rotting corpse of the type of animal that the dog is desired to track and then gather the flies that feed on its body. These are mashed into a paste which is diluted with water and poured into the dog's nose while singing incantations.

Sighting (3 in 6, 1d6 days)This formula enables a dog to see enemies approaching from long distances. When acting as a sentry, surprise chance for the dog is reduced to 1 in 20 unless the opponent is invisible, enabling the dog to sound the alarm well before the enemy is near. The magic requires the head of a fishhawk recently slain, boiled in water and sung over until a thick scum is formed, which must then be smeared over the dog's face.

Surefootedness (4 in 6, 3d6 days): This formula blesses a dog with the surefootedness of the mountain goat, allowing them to run up steep escarpments as well as stairs and certain angled ladders without penalty. Additionally the dog is allowed to roll twice and take the better for any saving throw against falling due to unsure footing. To grant this, a foot cut from a mountain goat kid must be heated over a fire (but do not cook the blood) accompanied by rhythmic chanting. Blood from the foot is then smeared on the bottom of the dog's paws. This must be performed 4 days in a row before the magic takes effect.


Diseases

Rabies
Exposure:The bite of an infected animal provokes a Saving Throw.
Incubation: Every 4d6 days make another save or advance to stage 1.

Stage 1: Flu-like symptoms - fever, headache, and general tiredness. -1 penalty on all d6 rolls, -2 to all d20 rolls. Every 24 hours make another save or advance to stage 2.

Stage 2: Insomnia, anxiety, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing. Hydrophobia - throat closes up when presented with water, must save or experience violent convulsions. Unpredictable behavior - in every new situation, roll a d6 to determine behavior: 1-3 Fearful, 4-5 Aggressive (attack with tooth & claw), 6 Unbalanced (save or fall over). Every 24 hours make another save or advance to stage 3.

Stage 3: Save or die. A successful save indicates the victim has fallen into a coma. Continue to save or die every 24 hours.