Sunday, March 29, 2020

So Many Adventures

An artifact is a unique item, constructed through the intensive application of magic; this process has often been perverse, using black magic to achieve the aim – to produce an article of such phenomenal power that it enables it's possessor to achieve dominance over regions and thousands of followers. Artifacts are, however, more dangerously potent than intended; the natural magic that exists in the vicinity of an artifact may be warped, producing unexpected consequences and reactions when the item's chief powers are employed. These consequences are known as "malevolent effects." Occasionally, these can be so virulent that an artifact's possessor must seriously question if the chief powers are worth using, given the potentially unfortunate results.

Artifacts are immune to various magic. Immunities defy attempts to magically search for these items, even the use of divination. Ordinary attempts to dispel magic are insufficient; even a rod of cancellation cannot affect an artifact's magic. Artifacts must be melted down, dropped into, buried beneath, broken again or immersed under very unusual circumstances, most likely in places that do not exist upon the Prime Material Plane. Often, only one precise method of destruction will be effective.

The list shown indicates a partial list of artifacts that might potentially exist in the game world.

Axe of the Dwarvish Lords: forged in the blood of Ymir, the axe is believed to be in the possession of the Altslok Royal Family.
Baba Yaga's Hut: a small, circular, thatched portable structure, made reportedly during the height of the Kiyevan Empire, reportedly lost when Moskva was overrun by the Mongols. Varying reports put the possession of the hut in the hands of the Mongols, the Chinese, Moskva and Khorezm.
Codex of the Infinite Planes: believed to have been written two centuries after the epic of Ramayana, the book is said to be in possession of the Moghul Emperor, though some believe it was surrendered to Tibet. The book's pages have the keys to instant physical transference to any plane or place of existence.
Crown of Might: fabricated during the time of Charlemagne, the crown grants the adoration of a people to their leader; last publicly seen upon the head of Joan of Arc; now believed to be in the possession of the French King.
Crystal of the Ebon Flame: an immense gemstone of phenomenal power, said to have been purchased from the Arabs by Mansa Musa in the 14th century. Most believe that it is still in the possession of the Malinese Empire.
Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar: holy relics of the Islamic descendents of Fatima, forged in the time of Mohammed and believed to still be a set, despite having both been lost during the Crusades. Some disagreement exists as to whether they are located in Constantinople, Damascus, Alexandria or Baghdad. Some believe the Cup actually resides in Britain.
Eye of Vecna: Vecna was a powerful wizard during the height of Kampuchea, who ultimately became a famous arch-lich. The death of the creature Vecna is certain; but the eye was irrevocably lost. Last seen in the 11th century, in the hands of a Toungoo king.
Hand of Vecna: Chopped from the hand of the arch-lich Vecna while still alive by Wuxia adventurers in the 10th century, possessed by the Chinese Song chao court until smuggled away and hidden from the Mongol conquerors in 1279. Present whereabouts unknown.
Heward's Mystical Organ: publicly visible at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Mary in Cologne; playing the organ is restricted to a solemn brotherhood.
Horn of Change: of ancient origin prior to the Roman Empire, variously ascribed as a creation of Archimedes, Pythagoreas or Frontinus. Lost in Dacia in the 2nd century AD, reappeared in the time of the Khazars. Believed to be in possession of Caspian pirates.
Invulnerable Coat of Arnd: resplendent armor made in the 13th century for the Nagus of the Zagwe empire of Ethiopia, Gebre Mesqel Lalibela. Rumoured to have been made a gift to the Portuguese Empire in 1508 in exchange for protection from the Ottomans.
Iron Flask of Tuerny the Merciless: created during the golden age of the Goryeo dynasty of Korea, circa 1050, the flask came into possession of Kublai Khan, the artifact was lost when the Mongol invasion fleet of Japan was destroyed by a typhoon in 1281.
Jacinth of Inestimable Beauty: certainly not of Earthly origin, the jewel was unearthed on the isle of Mauritius in 1602 and presently resides in the possession of an unknown Rajah of India.
Johydee's Mask: created by the Japanese Emperor Go-Fukakusa for the Lady Nijo in the late 13th century and now rumored to be possessed by one of the women of Japan. As the mask brings about a change of gender, it is unknown if Lady Nijo was truly a woman, or of what true gender is the present holder.
Kuroth's Quill: obtained by the 8th century Chinese poet Li Bai, as a gift from a demon. The pen has since acquired a reputation of having hundreds upon hundreds of owners, some for only a few days, before being either lost or stolen. It's last known location was Siam, when an English seaman was murdered for it in 1647.
Mace of Cuthbert: a holy weapon blessed by the Christian god, not discovered until St. Cuthbert's sarcophagus was opened 11 years after his death. In the possession of the Bishops of Durham until the Norman Conquest. Believed to be in the possession of the Jesuit missionary Gabriel Lalemont in New France.
Machine of Lum the Mad: a complex, technological machine of unknown origin, with its own power source, first discovered after a meteor crash in Guinea. There it remained for three centuries, where it was worshipped as a fetish by local tribes. It disappeared inexplicably some 30 years ago.
Mighty Servant of Leuk-O: a crystalline golem built of gems during the War of the Eight Princes during the Jin dynasty in China (4th century). The golem was buried in Gansu in the 5th century, but could not be found when Emperor Wen of the Sui dynasty sought to unearth it. The present whereabouts of the servant is unknown.
Orb of Dragonkind: these orbs, differently coloured, used to control dragons, have not been seen by any source in the last two hundred years. It is believed they are accounted for by dragonkind.
Orb of Might: fabricated during the time of Charlemagne, the orb grants religious fealty and blessings. Lost to the Normans in the 13th century, recovered by Julian II. Rumoured to be in the hands of the Vatican.
Queen Ehlissa's Marvelous Nightingale: a jeweled songbird capable of weaving a terrifying charm spell, originally possessed by Ehlissa, the Queen who led the first wave of Belgae people to Ireland. She ruled for centuries before the second wave, the Euerni, came from Belgica in the 6th century BC, deposed her. The queen and the nightengale are a myth, and both are believed to have originated from another plane of existence.
Recorder of Ye'Cind: created by a musician of Fukien during the Tang dynasty. The item passed into the hands of the Oirot after the arrival of the Mongols, and thence became a possession of the Kokand Khan.
Ring of Gaxx: believed to have been made by the Zimbabweans in the 3rd century, the ring has been fought over for a millennia between the Zulu, Swahili and Bantu peoples. Various reports place the present ring in Zanzibar, Sheba and Persia, but no one can be certain.
Rod of Seven Parts: created by Irenaeus for use by Theodora, Queen of Byzantium, the rod remained as part of the treasure of Constantinople until the city was plundered by Venice in 1204; thereafter, seven captains each took a part of the rod, agreeing to assemble the item in times of war; but each went their own way. Only two parts are today accounted for, one in Bologna and the other in Turin.
Sceptre of Might: fabricated during the time of Charlemagne, the sceptre grants the power to wage war. Carried in the Crusades, lost in Syria, recovered, lost in Armenia, recovered by the Byzantines, plundered by the Venetians, stolen by the Genoese, stolen again by the Venetians and given as tribute to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Great in 1524. Reportedly lost during the Thirty Years War.
Sword of Kas: created by the arch-lich Vecna after the wizard's undeath, whomsoever afterwards held the sword became a slave vassal of the arch-lich; a +6 unholy sword, it led revolts in Siam, Burma, Assam, Nepal, Kashmir and Afghanistan, by which time the arch-lich was long destroyed. According to legend, the sword was cast into the Caspian Sea to ensure that it could never fall into the hands of evil again.
Teeth of Dahlver-Nar: A set of 32 teeth obtained by the Witch of Endor in the 11th century BCE, supposedly collected from the mouth of an ancient beast found in the desert near Palmyra. The teeth have long since been scattered to the four winds; it is believed that the Jesuit Order holds four of the teeth and that the Freemasons control six others. One tooth is on display in the Kremlin, visibly encased in a gold block on the floor before the Czar's feet.
Throne of the Gods: According to legend, the ruling throne of the Earth, located inside an unknown mountain on an uncertain continent. Some believe the throne itself is a myth; hundreds have spent their whole lives searching for it without success.
Wand of Orcus: Wrested from the hand of Orcus by the hero Galahad following his ascension into heaven, following a great battle presaging the War in Heaven. During the battle, the wand was lost, and is now said to be floating in the eternal Astral Plane, where it is destined to be discovered by chance by one who shall reign hell upon Earth.

See Artifacts (study)

Sage Today: hereditary weapon I

The Hereditary Weapon adopts a privilege of elves, who receive a +1 bonus to hit with sword and bow, the ability supposes that other peoples coming of age in various regions and among various professions would likewise become especially familiar with certain weapons – and that this would consign a similar bonus to those peoples from those backgrounds.

The list describe here is as yet incomplete; with more research and through the needs of gameplay, I would expect the list given to naturally expand over time. For the present, this is sufficient to describe the notion at play. It is not necessary for players to adopt the weapons below; but the +1 bonus to hit with the weapon, for characters possessing the sage ability, still applies whether or not the character is proficient.

Ideally, the character, having both a social and a regional background, would gain the bonus for one weapon from each, a total of two weapons. This is not always the case, as some social backgrounds, such as lawyer or a sinecure, suggests no such weapon. These backgrounds have other benefits. In any case, at least one hereditary weapon should be available to all characters with the ability.

Progenitor Weapons

The following weapons are available to characters according to their progenitors.

  • Bow (short): gamekeeper
  • Broad sword: gladiator
  • Club: hermit, innkeeper, sailor
  • Crossbow: artillerist, bounty hunter, marshal, tavern keeper
  • Dagger: fence, guildmaster thief, gypsy, killer, mine foreman, rat catcher
  • Guisarme: boatman (bill-hook)
  • Halberd: mercenary
  • Knife: cook, furrier, herbalist, mortician, potter, surgeon, tailor, tanner, trapper, veterinarian, village witch
  • Long sword: crusader, landed knight, master-at-arms, steward, weaponsmith
  • Quarterstaff: farmer, monk, porter
  • Scimitar: all nobles/royalty (rapier), buccaneer (rapier), outrider
  • Short axe: butcher (cleaver), graverobber (pick-axe), miner (pick-axe), prospector (pick-axe), tomb robber (pick-axe), witchhunter, woodcutter
  • Short hammer: armourer, blacksmith, carpenter, cobbler, cooper, diemaker, furniture maker, labourer, leather worker, mason, metallurgist, puddler, sculptor, shipwright, stonecutter, toolmaker, wagoneer
  • Short sword: landlord, squire, toll keeper
  • Trident: fisherman
  • Whip: husbandman, teamster

None: alchemist, alchemist's apprentice, architect, artist, baker, banker, bookbinder, brewer, chandler, confectioner, curate, draper, engraver, fishmonger, fuller, gambler, glassmaker, glazier, guildmaster, instrument maker, jeweller, juggler, lawyer, lapidary, librarian, medicant, papermaker, political advisor, priest, professor, scribe, sinecure, singer, tobacconist, tutor, usurer, vintner, weaver

Regional Weapons

The following weapons are available to characters depending upon their regions of birth.

  • Ankus: Moghul
  • Bastard sword: Austria, Dauphine, Milan, Savoy
  • Battle axe: Denmark, Norway, Scotland
  • Bola: Spanish America
  • Bo stick: Ceylon, Guangdong, Korea, Okinawa
  • Bow (long): England, Wales (South)
  • Bow (short): Arabia
  • Broad sword: Alsace, Lorraine, Venice, Walloon
  • Club: Dutch colonies (knop), Leinster & Munster (shillelagh), Northumbria (cudgel), Plains Natives, Ulster (cudgel), Zulu (knobkierrie)
  • Corseque: Corsica
  • Crossbow: Castile & Leon, Genoa, Moroccan
  • Dagger: Rhineland
  • Dart: Connaught, Macedonia
  • Flail: Bohemia, Moravia
  • Glaive: Gansu, Hokkaido, Shikoku (naginata), Moskva
  • Godentag: Flanders, Goblinish & Orcish lands
  • Guisarme: Brandenburg, Hannover, Masuria, Mecklenburg, Tirol, Wurttemburg
  • Halberd: Burgundy, Madrid, Switzerland (French), Valencia
  • Hand axe: Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling, Slovakia (shepherd's axe), Sweden (Finnish)
  • Javelin: Anglesey, Catalonia, Languedoc, Manchuria, Wales (North)
  • Jo stick: Kyushu
  • Lance: Normandy, Picardy
  • Long sword: Baden, Bavaria, Champaign, Guyenne, Ile de France, Naples, Portugal
  • Mace: Kiyev, Madurai, Poland
  • Maul: Luxembourg
  • Morning star: Hungary, Papal States
  • Pike: Switzerland (German)
  • Rapier: Aragon, Auvergne, Bourbon, Dauphine, Limousin, Maine, Orleanais, Poitou, Touraine
  • Scimitar: Anatolia, Greece, Kokand, Safavid
  • Short sword: English & Dutch colonies (cutlass)
  • Sling: Canaan, Inca, Sardinia
  • Spear: Berber, Mali, Swahili
  • Staff sling: Brittany
  • Trident: Balearics, Cyprus, Thrace
  • Two-handed sword: Egypt (khopesh), Hesse, Piedmont, Saxony
  • Warhammer: Croatia

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Sage Today: siege weapon-making I

Content created in response to voting on my lottery page. Please join in. Anyone can vote.


Siege-weapon making grants material knowledge of devices designed to break or circumvent castle doors and walls, or enable attacking soldiers to scale walls and attack the defenders; and likewise, to enable defenders to prevent sieges. The ability enables the character to direct unskilled persons in the fabrication of these, so that with the necessary materials it is possible to build trebuchets, catapults, mangonels, ballistae, siege towers, battering rams, portable shields, oil smelters and like machines, including ladders and hooks. These may be made to rest upon castle walls or mounted on wheels, pushed by soldiers or dragged by animals; the amateur ability, however, only enables the character to fabricate the most familiar forms of these engines. Innovation is not permitted, nor is the creation of mystical weapons such as the Chinese cannon.

The details for these specific constructions are found in the links above. The ability grants the character with an apprentice's knowledge, but does not grant competence in managing a crew or firing accurately.

The character will have knowledge of what materials need to be collected, whether purchased or with wood and projectiles either cut or quarried from their source. The character can therefore identify certain trees or stone outcroppings.

See Fortification

Sage Today #1: camouflage

Camouflage describes the application of coloration, clothing and carefully chosen materials to make the character either hard to see (crypsis) or by disguising them as something else (mimesis). With the ability, character gains knowledge on how to mix paints, apply dye to clothing, and add materials to their body such as mud, vegetable material, animal skins and even the addition of natural odours to mask the smell of the character's body, in order to better approach or remain unseen at a given distance, as defined by the stealth ability.

Stealth dictates that the character, depending on the amount of illumination, equipment carried, appearance and other factors, will or will not be noticed at a certain distance, measured in combat hexes. The application of camouflage beforehand improves this distance by 2 hexes in favour of the skilled character. This means that if the character rolls and discovers they will be noticed at a distance of 6 hexes, the camouflage ability would enable that same character to remain at 6 hexes indefinitely (until circumstances were changed). Though a small adjustment, it is enough to give the character a meaningful advantage under the right circumstances.

Camouflage does not only apply at night. During the day, the character is equally able to adjust their appearance so as to appear to be unworthy of attention or so similar in appearance to others on the street that they blend in – even among the crowd they are using to conceal their presence. The ability assumes the character has studied the habits and characteristics of numerous types: wealthy, poor, pious, humble, boasting, boisterous, etcetera ... so that once the character has assumed the proper clothing, the character is also able to assume the stance, tone of voice, mannerisms and general demeanour of a person of that type. The character does not cease to look like his or her self; but dressed as a beggar, the character seems a beggar; and dressed as a courtier, lawyer, soldier or prostitute, the character "looks" the part. All of this allows the character to move 2 hexes closer to a would-be target ... and allows the character to escape more easily, for once they have moved past the threshold that their stealth check allows (assuming that at some point they have escaped the direct attention of a pursuer) they can once again blend into a crowd and evade pursuers.

The character must purchase dyes and paints, clothing and articles designed to support a desired charade, or spend a plausible amount of time gathering materials, shaping them and applying them to his or her person. This cannot be done hastily, except in matters like the application of black out material to the face at night. The DM must use good judgement, be flexible and accept that the character does have the knowledge necessary to mix various materials together to produce the effect desired.

See Concealment

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Sage Today: clinch fighting

Content created in response to voting on my lottery page. Please join in. Anyone can vote.


Clinch Fighting replaces aspects of brawling as a grappling attack, in which the character has some experience with using clinch holds. As an amateur-level ability, the character does not gain expertise in any specific hold – yet, when rushing an opponent, the character does receive a +1 bonus to hit. As well, damage done when clinch-fighting equals 1d4, adjusted by the character's strength-damage bonus (2 pts. more than that done by ordinary brawling). As with brawling, if the opponent is stunned, the defender is considered to be held, or pinned, and subject to further damage by the attacker.

Furthermore, when defending against a wrestling attack made by an unskilled grappler, the clinch fighter is granted a 20% bonus to their listed weight. For example, a 210 lb. defender would be counted as 252 lb. This bonus is not granted when fighting skilled opponents (those with amateur-level training or better).

Additionally, if a clinch-fighter is held, then following the round when they are stunned, they are entitled to a saving throw against paralysation. If successful, then the hold is broken and the character is able to move up to one combat hex away from their opponent.

Sage Today: vitality

Content created in response to voting on my lottery page. Please join in. Anyone can vote.


Vitality strengthens the character's resistance to disease, fatigue and system shock, through the manipulation of Qi (chi or ki), the vital force within the body; this quasi-energy is used to arouse the body to fight off any infection, greatly increasing the likelihood of the character enduring and surviving any natural ailment, regardless of constitution. This is because energy of Qi derives from outside the character; the normal effects of constitution, with regards to health and survival, is therefore surpassed by the sage ability.

The onset of disease involves a determination of both nature and degree. Nature describes whether a disease is acute or chronic. Degree determines whether the disease is mild, severe or terminal. Both are determined by a d8 roll. Vitality subtracts 1 point from both rolls in this determination for each 10 points of knowledge the character possesses. This greatly decreases the likelihood of most diseases being terminal even at a low experience level; as knowledge accumulates, the character will suffer little from any disease, and will ultimately become immune entirely.

As regards forced ability and fatigue, the character may likewise increase the total amount of time they may continue to act without needing to make a check, beginning with the limit of their natural constitution, by 1 hour per 8 points of knowledge, regardless of the activity performed. Thus, a character possessed of the vitality ability, having a 10 constitution and 35 points of knowledge, would be able to perform hard physical labor for 14 hours without making a forced ability check.

Finally, the character's ability to survive a system shock roll is increased by 1% per 7 points of knowledge; this would mean that a character with an 18 constitution and the vitality ability would never need to make a system shock check, as it would be adjusted to 100%.

None of these benefits is received if the character does not possess sufficient points to be an amateur in the Way of the Blood sage study.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Stories Don't Work

"The year of our blessed Savior's incarnation, 1348, that memorable mass-death took place in the excellent City, far beyond all the rest of Italy; by which plague, that came about because of our conceit, or rather because of our enormous wickedness, by the just anger of God, was sent upon us mortals.  Some few years before, it took beginning in the Eastern parts, sweeping thence an innumerable quantity of living souls: extending itself afterward from place to place westward, until it seized on the our City, where neither humane skill or providence could aid any prevention ~ notwithstanding, it was cleansed of many annoyances, by diligent Officers who were deputized.  Besides prohibition of all sickly persons to enter, and all possible provision used daily for the conservation of those who were healthy, there was employed incessant prayers and supplications of devout people, for the assuaging of so dangerous a sickness.
"About the beginning of the year, it also began in very strange manner, as appeared by different admirable effects; yet not as it had done in the East Countries, where Lord or Lady were being affected by bleeding at the nose, the obvious sign of inevitable death to follow.  But here it began with young children, male and female, either under the armpits, or in the groin, by certain swellings ~ in some as big as an apple, in others the size of an egg.  And so, in difference greater or lesser, which (in their vulgar language) the people termed to be a blotch or a bile. In very short time after, these two infected parts grew deadly, and would disperse abroad indifferently, to all parts of the body.  Whereupon, it was the nature of the disease to show itself by black or blue spots, which would appear on the arms of many; some others, on their thighs, and every other part of the body. And in some, great and in few places, in others in many small and thick places.
"Now, as the bile (at the beginning) was an assured sign of rapid approaching death, so proved the spots as well, to those that had them.  For the curing of that sickness, it seemed the virtue of Medicines, that the physician’s counsel or any other application could not yield any remedy.  But rather, it plainly showed that either the nature of the disease would not be cured, or that the ignorance of the physicians could not understand the source of the cause.  And so, as a result, no solution was found.
"Moreover, beyond the number of those who were skilful in medicine, many more, both women and men, became physicians, without ever having had any knowledge of medicine.   So that not only were few healed, but almost all [the patients] died, within three days after the said signs were seen ~ some sooner and others later, commonly without either a fever or any other accident.  And yet, this pestilence was of far greater power or violence, for anything ~ not only healthy persons speaking to the sick, or coming to see them, or airing clothes in kindness to comfort them ~ was an occasion of ensuing death.  Even touching their garments, or any food upon which the sick person fed, or anything else used in his service, seemed to transfer the disease from the sick to the sound in very rare and miraculous manner.
"About these marvellous matters, let me tell you one thing ~ which, if had not been seen by the eyes of many (as well as mine own), I could hardly be persuaded to write about it, much less believe it, even if a man of unimpeachable honesty should report it.  I say that not only was the quality of this contagious pestilence of such efficiency, in passing and being caught from one to another, either man or woman, but it extended further, even ~ in the plain view of many witnesses ~ that touching the clothes, or anything else, worn by one that died of that disease.  And if it was laid on by an animal, being nothing like a man, they [the clothes] did not only contaminate and infect the described beast, whether it was a dog, cat, or any other ~ then it, also, died very soon after.
"One day, my own eyes (as I said before), among many others, experienced evidence of the following:  some poor ragged clothes, of linen and woollen, torn from a wretched body dead of that disease, had been hurled into the open street.  Two swine came by, and (according to their natural inclination) seeking food on every dunghill, tossed and tumbled in the clothes with their snouts, rubbing their heads likewise upon them.  And immediately, each turning twice or three times about, they both fell down dead on the said clothes, being fully infected with the contagion of them.  This accident, and others that were similar, if not far greater, started many fears and imaginations in those that saw; making them rush towards a most inhumane and uncharitable option:  namely, to fly away from the sick, and from touching anything of theirs, by which means they thought their health should be safely protected."
Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, written in 1350
at the height of the Black Plague

I cannot help coming back around to this, for perspective if nothing else.  For those not familiar with the Decameron, I've simplified the language to produce a more modern description; I have no Latin professors to impress now, so I can cheat on the original language as much as I wish.  Boccaccio outlived the plague by 25 years; he was 37 when the above lines were published.  He predates the printing press, so most people would have heard a speaker read aloud from the book rather than ever hope to have a copy themselves.  The book isn't short; the Penguin Classic, which I read, has 1,072 pages.  Written with a quill pen.

The above is merely an introduction; in his story, 10 persons flee from the plague to an isolated farmhouse in the hills.  There, still expecting to die of the plague, they agree to tell one story each, one time per day, for ten days.  The book, then, records the 100 total stories told by the characters.  Each day, one of the refugees is charged as the King or Queen for that day; and each day the stories follow a particular theme: love stories that end tragically, tricks people play on one another, examples of virtue and so on.

The stories are fair.  Now, years later, I cannot recall a single one, though I did read them all.  I'm sure I'd remember many of them if I started the book again.  It is very like the medieval period; dumb characters are extraordinarily dumb, along Chaucer levels, while those in love are ludicrously, blind and besotted by love.  None are particularly believable.  And no story in the collection makes any attempt whatsoever to address the plague, though they comment a great deal on social culture, families, the power of money, cruelty and troubled morality.

My personal analysis is that while Boccaccio intended to speak upon the unchanging nature of humans through the stories they tell, inadvertantly he highlights how ineffectual these stories are in the face of ongoing tragedy ... or enduring happiness, for that matter.  Look at the first lines of the above, giving the story that supposedly explains the horror of it all.  But stories are not real; they are the thing we tell ourselves to push back the real, to escape the real ~ and we naturally think of this as a virtue, because the power of certain stories to change who and what we are as people is indisputably magnificent.

But in a moment like this, with the virus descending on the populace and kicking the fragile anthill of our society to pieces in not very much time, it's easier to see little power story-telling really has.  For that is what we're doing with ourselves now, to get through this ... telling ourselves stories.  Telling ourselves that this won't last more than a month or two, or that facemasks will keep us safe, or that the government will get this under control.  We tell ourselves that by doing these things, we'll make ourselves safe; and we tell ourselves that watching the news makes us informed and therefore better prepared.  We rush out and horde tons of critical material so that it can sit unused in our basements, resulting in greater suffering for those without the means to horde, and we tell ourselves that we'd be stupid not to do this.  We tell ourselves all kinds of stories about what we're doing and how we're ready and what's smart and what's stupid.

These stories are designed to push back the fear ... very like our pre-historic ancestors invented gods and spiritual ancestors to manage the storms and the sea, along with the moon, the sun, the turn of the seasons, the inevitability of death, famine and, yes, pestilence.  Not because these stories really did anything, but because it felt better to tell ourselves that these stories did things.  Because looking into the hard, cold, brutal face of reality is scary as hell.  And we are all discovering that right now, as despite our efforts we're also able to recognize that, a lot of the time, the stories don't work.

For most of us, it's a d100 roll to see if we die.  The result isn't actually random; it has a lot to do with whether we smoke or if we've had a really bad lung infection at some point in our lives, how old we are, our genetics, what our condition happens to be when we get the disease and how much care we can potentially obtain when the disease comes.  But a d100 roll will do to get the point across.  The odds are quite good.  Personally, I don't know many D&D players who would choose to risk their hard-fought-for 10th level ranger on a d100 roll if it meant a 1% chance of permanent death; but if the risk is forced on them, they'll feel pretty good about their odds of survival.  And so should we.  So should we.

But some of us, sorry, are going to lose that roll.  Some of us, your author right now included, will be quite realistically be dead inside of three months ... whereupon none of the stories are going to cut it.

Which is why I want to take this moment of helpless lucidity on the part of the reader, where none of the stories are going to curtain off the reality, to make a few points.  Much of where we are just now comes from having told ourselves a few too many stories.  Stories about how safe we are, and how great the country is, and how we don't really need everyone to have a good health care system, or why austerity measures seems like a better way to pay back the debt than raising taxes.  These are all stories.  And stories, for all the virtue we tend to heap upon them, are, most of the time, just how we bullshit ourselves.

When the stories gain too much of a foothold, and we allow the odor of mendacity to reach a point where our eyes become utterly blind to reality, this present circumstance is what happens.  It is this present circumstance, this pestilence, that motivated communities a century ago to pay more attention to public health and the general welfare.  The threat was stark and unimaginably terrifying, what with the dead bodies of relatives and strangers alike, and it made people think, "Perhaps it would be a good idea if everyone was healthy, and not just me, and my family, and the people in my county and, hell, the people everywhere on the planet."  And so we took steps to build systems that would fight back such things, and passed measures that would more realistically ensure our safety ~ not by telling ourselves stories, but by having doctors and people with medical experience direct reality in exactly the way reality manifests.  Because a really good story won't keep you alive, even if you want to tell yourself that stuff that happens in some other part of the world doesn't really have anything to do with you.

In fact, it does.  It really does.  And even as we tell ourselves silly stories to assuage the panic, I think for at least a few weeks we're all getting acquainted with this.

So when it is over ... and it will be, once we survive the economic crash that follows this nightmare, we should all be asking ourselves whether or not we want to dive back into those stories again.  Because this could have easily been a lot worse.  We could have easily drawn a pestilence card that killed on a 1 in 20, or a 1 in 12, or a 1 in 6.  A card that is, I promise you, still in the deck.  Just waiting.  If the d100 roll is getting to you ... just consider what a d6 roll would mean.  Not only for you, but your family and all the people you know.  And for the sheer number of cold, dead bodies that would mean, scattered all over the world.

Frankly, I think it's a bad time for stories.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Sage Today: bring comfort

Content created in response to voting on my lottery page. Please join in. Anyone can vote.


Bring comfort is a principle of building that proclaims the comfort of the occupant is of greatest importance, and that all conditions of the building's design must adhere to that principle. This argues that the building is like a living thing, and that it brings an innate sustenance, security and feeling of well-being, through its shape, its walls, its windows and stairways. The building, therefore, should be built exclusively for its occupants; no two occupants are alike and therefore no two interiors can be alike, in terms of shape, materials and aesthetics.

The character is imbued with an ability obtain sufficient knowledge through meeting with the would-be occupant to design a residence of redoubtable comfort. Each occupant will have their own room, with common and work spaces, and access to other spaces as specified by the needs of the dwellers who will live there. Once the home is lived in for a month or more, the occupants will gain benefits as follows:
  • The home will provide the effects of aid rest, enabling individuals within to heal hit points and injuries as though two levels or hit dice higher than ordinary.
  • Ability checks are granted a +2 bonus if the instruction takes place within the home or its environs.
  • Reduces the degree of disease by one-half point, lessening the chance that a disease will be either severe or terminal in nature, so long as the sufferer is laid in the home.
  • Improves the chance of a successful fertility by 10%, if pregnancy is desired.
  • Widens the range of safe temperature from chilly to balmy if a malady check might be required.
  • Raises the charisma of all individuals by 1 point when at home.

These are benefits which can be enjoyed only by those persons for whom the home was specifically designed. As can be seen below, guests may be made comfortable by the home, but they would not accrue the benefits merely by dwelling there.


The total raw materials of the home to be built must equal 1,000 gold pieces (g.p.) per combined levels of all occupants of the dwelling who is to gain these benefits. Persons residing with the home, or its environs, who do not receive these benefits, but be allotted 250 additional g.p. per person, to build spaces that will not infringe upon the home's benefitting occupants. Adding occupants without these spaces will infringe on the intended occupants of the home, so that the benefits described above will not be enjoyed. This may also occur if the character's needs increase.

For example, a home is built for three 3rd level characters, who must each spend 3,000 g.p. towards the price of the home. They then spend an additional 750 g.p., enabling three other persons to live in the home, who will not benefit from it. However, should this number increase by one additional person, or should any of the characters gain even one level, the home will seem overcrowded and unsatisfying, and therefore the benefits for all will be lost. If one person were to move out, however, those remaining could share out the space again in a manner that would benefit the most persons.

It is therefore necessary for the would-be residents to plan for the future, not only in the needs they may one day possess, but also for the number of other persons they may wish to have live with them.

The number of g.p. above does not include the time or cost of property, labour and other insundries needed to build the home.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sage Today: dosing

Content created in response to voting on my lottery page.  Please join in. Anyone can vote.


Dosing imbues the character with unusual skill in dosing either drink or food with ingestive poison, so that the victim will consume the poisoned nourishment. The ability presupposes the character has the freedom to move and act in the company of the victim, such as acting within the confines of a tavern, while likewise attending a dinner or feast, at a public fair or other event and so on. So long as the character has some pretext for casually passing the victim close enough to reach out and pour out a vial of poison, the dosing can be done without trouble. Obviously, some consumable must be involved; the character may, if choosing to do so, provide food or drink with the poison already incorporated ... but the ability does not provide any assurance that the victim will trust the character, unless the character has taken the necessary role-playing steps in order to obtain this trust.

The ability also gives the character knowledge of how much dose to give, so that the poison will not be detected until it is too late. In certain cases, particularly with the most dangerous of poisons, the consumable to be poisoned must have a strong, potentially bitter taste. This may only mean waiting until such time as the victim chooses to eat or drink a food of that type, then slipping in to perform the deed.

Although the poison is consumed, the victim is yet entitled to a saving throw; a success indicates that only a small amount was consumed (perhaps due to the victim being distracted during the meal or in being convivial) before the poison was detected. A modifier of -2 to the victim's saving throw is applied by the dosing ability. This small amount will yet be sufficient to cause 20-50% of the poison's total potential damage. If the save is not made, then the victim has consumed enough to suffer the full damage of the poison.

There will be no doubt for those directly observing the poisoning to know the cause; to conceal the poison so that the incident will appear to have been death by natural or undetermined causes, the character must possess the subtle poisoning ability.

See Poisoning

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Sage Today: interposing aura

Content created in response to voting on my lottery page.  I have also created the wiki page for the way of the dragon.

Please join in.  Anyone can vote.


The interposing aura is enabled through training and practiced meditation.  The character is able to wield an unusual magical emanation, in the language of monks called "the dragon." This is more familiar to some as "wild magic." The aura thus created is both magical and invisible; the effect is to cloud the minds of enemy combatants so that they cannot attack — or have not the will to attack — from specific quarters as chosen by the character.

In game terms, this translates as closing off two sides of a combat hex, as shown in the image; the two sides chosen need not be adjacent. To evoke the aura, the character must spend one full round in meditation; this meditation has similarities to spellcasting, except that to break the character's concentration requires damage, and that a successful meditation can be attempted as often as desired. The character can take no other action during this meditation.

Once evoked, the aura will remain, so long as the character does not leave the hex; a stun lock that knocks the character out of the hex would be sufficient. Once in place, neither enemies nor allies will feel able to attack in melee through the aura — that is, hand-to-hand. Missile weapons attacks and magic use is not prevented. Though it is possible for the character to attack through this barrier, doing so will dispel the aura until it can be evoked again.

The aura does not conceal the character's presence or restrain enemies from moving to a place where they feel able to attack. The aura merely conveys a strong conviction that the character is impregnable upon any point where the aura is in place.

Take note that if the prepared character were to stand fast in a narrow corridor, or upon a bridge, they could deny an enemy the will to advance directly; however, an enemy would only choose to attack with missile weapons, no doubt forcing the character to give ground.

The aura will affect creatures, regardless of size or intelligence. The aura will not prevent attacks from above. Another character with the sage ability will be able to ignore the aura.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Sage Today: harvest poisonous herbs

In keeping with the vote I've installed on the lottery page, the asked for content today is completed (and copied below).   I also created and expanded the equipment notes page, adding 24 possible poisonous herbs with links, to that list.  Yesterday, I did some work with "set snares," and the day before that, with "find place."

Please join in.  Anyone can vote.


Harvest poisonous herbs indicates that the character is competent to effectively gather all sorts of poison herbs, plants, fungus and other vegetable matter from a wilderness environment, with greater alacrity and scrutiny than might an ordinary person. The ability includes the character's awareness of more or less toxic varieties of the same approximate family of plants; even which specific plants are bound to produce more or less toxicity based upon the placement and soil where the plant grows.


This is best done at certain times of the year; flowering plants must be harvested from late spring until the middle of summer; seeds and fruits cannot be harvested until the last weeks of summer; some of these may be harvested even into the winter months. During the dry season of tropical and sub-tropical climates, gathering is reduced to 25% of normal. In temperate climates, gathering will fall by 20% cumulatively per week, following the 1st of August, to a minimum of 10% of normal.

The amount of poisonous herbs that can be gathered per day, during good seasons, equals one to four pounds of good materials — enough to make quite a lot of poison. The nature and species gathered is dictated by the player, so that all of it might be, say, belladonna, or it might be equally divided between belladonna and some other material. The limit in amount is not due to the lack of poisonous matter, but to the time needed to carefully collect and locate what's available.

The ability grants the character the ability to do this safely, using gloves, tools and containers that ensure the character will not self-poison while harvesting. This material is then assumed to be stored safely and managed carefully, so that cross-contamination with other substances and materials can't happen.


It falls upon the DM to determine which specific herbs are available for harvesting in the character's locale. Many poisonous plants will be available throughout a given continent. Many poisonous plants will not exist in certain areas of vegetation — alpine highlands, deserts, steppelands and tundras are notable places where it may be difficult to find the amount of matter specified above, particularly if there is no vegetation at all. Decidious and broadleaf forests, on the other hand, will be a virtual Mecca with regards to exhaustive varieties of poisonous species. Some information about available poison plants may be found under equipment notes.

See Poisoning (sage study)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Wiki Lottery

As a strange and new experiment, I'm going to provide a list of sage abilities for which I have never written any proper content, and allow my readers to vote on them.  Thereafter, EACH DAY, gawd help me, I'm going to write up one of these abilities as a wiki page, as determined by the number of votes the proposed sage ability receives.

For the moment, I'm going to limit the possible sage abilities that can be voted upon to those associated with amateur-levels of knowledge ~ the sort that characters would start the game with.  I have a great many of these to write and they are the most important, as it is improbable that a specific higher-level sage ability would come into the player's possession.  However, if this experiment works out, I'll begin to add new abilities to the possibles list.  Hell, later on, I might start adding rules from other facets of my wiki.  It would be a very good thing if I did create one new wiki page a day, virtually in perpetuity.

A few caveats:

  • There's a possibility that a sage ability I've proposed isn't possible, at least in the form proposed.  In which case I will have to rethink the ability.  If this happens, I will explain the problem and work on the ability with the next post.
  • If some injury happens, such as occurred with my finger of late, I maintain the right to excuse myself from the task until such time as I'm able to continue (the finger is fine, by the way).
  • Occasionally, I will need to take a holiday.  I will try very hard not to do this too often; and when I do, I will explain why I am not creating the wiki page.


All persons receive at least one vote.  Those who contribute to my wiki (and can demonstrate this, as I know many of you by your emails and not by your blogger nicks) receive two votes.  If you wish to make your identification clear without informing the internet, my email address is

If you wish to vote twice for the same thing, add "x2" to your choice.

If you wish to change a vote, please write, "delete [choice] and replace with [choice]."

When I complete the writing of a wiki page, I'm going to delete all comments voting for that choice and remove that choice from the list (so don't include a long comment with your vote; write a separate comment if you have something to say).  Thereafter, you can vote again.  I will break all ties by voting myself.  Each day, I will update the list to show how many votes each wiki page has received.

This tactic is an attempt to get more people to support my Patreon account.  The harder I work, I figure, the more respect my patrons will have for me.  Larger patreon donors are sure to gain my vote when I break ties.

Here is the list I'll start with.  As time goes on, and I work on upgrading the new wiki, I'll add to this list.  Links describe "studies" ~ vote on the list of "abilities" listed after the study.

Architectural Aesthetics: building allure, recognition of style, site judgement
Athletics: kayaking, skating, surfing, throwing
Beachcomber: steershand
Blood: amend self (1), resist fatigue
Breath: fleetness, jump
Calligraphy: characters of beneficence
Claw: paired weapons, speed of blow
Clay Masonry: adobe, brickwork, kilnwork I, tile-work
Clay Materials: find clay, prepare glues & acids, ready clay
Concealment: burrowing, freeze
Construction:  construction tradecraft, foreman, simple design
Dragon: other self, protective aura (aut.)
Falconry: companionship, rouse to hunt (1), train falcon, waken regard
Fist: disarm, headbutt, pin
Foot: back kick, kick practice, snap kick
Fortification: defensive obstacles
Glaze: flux I
Guile: beggary
Hand: correct form, hammer strike, target strike
Insight: commune with magic (1), sense attention, sense vibration
Lockpicking: pin-lock (1)
Martial Discipline: artillerist I
Mindfulness: resist fear or curse, wakeful sleep
Moat: correct stance, evade missiles
Modelling: pottering, putty & knife, wheel balance
Murder: exhaustive questioning (1)
Oceanography: net fishing (1)
Pedestal: root feet, strength of the pillar
Poisoning: acid use, drain venom (aut.)
Puissance: close drop, gain proficiency, shield as a weapon, strengthened arm
Setting Traps: animal trapping, trapping pit
Smoke: back tumble
Tranquility: meditation, rested state, smile
Use of Materials: material tradecraft, strengthen material
Wall: block pain, correct fall, invigorate body
Yin & Yang: backflip, drunken art, healing energy

(aut.) ~ indicates authority level ability.

Lance: pinlock, rouse to hunt
Pandred: commune with magic
Sterling: net fishing, exhaustive questioning
Vlad: amend self

Please vote.

Saturday, March 7, 2020


As my finger steadily improves, and my doctor at last feels assured that I'm not going to lose the first two knuckles (which, apparently, was a possibility; though this was not relayed to me until it ceased being a threat), I have learned to type with nine fingers, again without having to look at the keyboard.  We must adapt to survive.

For months now I have debated the practicality of creating more podcast, acknowledging that I have no one with whom to chat.  I've listened to hours of people talking alone and it is always an effort.  The worst is people mumbling about themselves (as I'm doing now) and taking ten minutes to get to the point ~ which is almost always a class in how to be Captain Obvious where it comes to advice.  People talk too slow or hedge their opinions far too much; I get awfully tired of a podcaster who thinks enough of himself that he's going to make 200+ audio recordings of his own voice, but still feels the need to repeat some version of "your mileage may vary."  Personally, I'd like to think listeners are smart enough to figure that part out for themselves, and not think they're duty-bound to believe all that they hear.  I know that no one hesitates to tell ME that they disagree, without my giving permission.  Somehow, it only reminds me how desperately these podcasters want to be liked.

I have had more time to explore and experiment with the sound of my own voice, since I haven't been able to type which much ease of late.  I'm unsure of my voice and of my content.  I'm sure there's little chance of anything I have to say being popular.  My chief concern is that I don't run out of things to say after the first 8 hours.  Any such content, popular or not, will have to remain free ... but I do hope to use a podcast to draw in new followers and Patreon supporters, just as anyone else does on the internet.  I worry, however.  I've found that when I start talking passionately about D&D, my dissatisfaction with the state of play and with the content I encounter from other websites and the game's production company simply boils out of me.

I'm not sure why I'm so angry.  I suppose because I'm being told to believe in the blatant abuse of the game I love, or that I'm told that disrespecting the intelligence and free will of players should be business as usual ... and because I know that this is propaganda that's been disseminated for decades by the company.  I'm just as furious that cheating and lying to people has been used as a promotional tactic to sell the game to children, who have grown to be adults ~ who now defend this as a legitimate DMing approach.  The philosophy has become so pervasive now that parents raised to be these players are now teaching their own children that cheating with dice and manipulating the game's rules ad hoc are perfectly fine.  What sort of children are we raising?

This is not the only problem I have with the company's agenda.  I want to create a podcast with a positive bent, but I don't know how to silence myself entirely.  And because disparaging the company ALSO means challenging the myopic belief system of those grown-up children who fell in love with the company's products than with the game itself, I once again find myself in a place where any podcast I might put together will be as despised as I was when I first started blogging.  People, on the whole, have gotten used to me now.  They may not like me, but they read me, because they know there will be content here.  A podcast, however, means reaching out to a lot of people who have never heard of me, and pissing them off.  I hesitate to go down that road again.

But, I'm still me.  And the solution to the dilemma is to admit that I'm not going to produce a podcast that censors myself.  Which means, engendering enemies and swallowing that as need be.  I'm thicker skinned today than I was in 2008; and I think a podcast gives less opportunity for detractors to directly piss on the material presented.  Yes, people can go make their own content slamming me, but they can't slam me inside my content or on my page; and no advertising is bad.  There will always be people who hate us.  And there will also be those who appreciate what we do.  That is the first rule of the internet and of real life.  However many enemies we will make, we also have the power to gather together a family who will support our cause.  It does well to remember that.

I hope to have a preliminary episode up in a few days.  It isn't going to be great, but it will be authentic.  If we look at anyone producing quality content right now, we know their early stuff lacked the polish of their present work.  I have to believe that I have the capacity improve also.  I've already learned a great deal about audio in the last few years.  At this point, I've just got to leap forward, and stick with it.