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: 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.]

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.

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.

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.

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

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.