Archive for April, 2019


Into May as April and the A to Z Challenge ends

30 April, 2019

Tomorrow brings the first day of May.  May was Maius in Latin and was named after the Greek goddess Maia, probably, who is associated with Spring.  So, what theme would you like to see for May?  Spring and nature?  The fae and faerie?  Something else?  Let me know.

Unsurprisingly April’s writings were primarily for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, which I am pleased to say I completed though a one was late).  So, the posts for April, 2019, were:

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Tuesday Magic Item – Zoomorphic Amulet (A to Z, Z)

30 April, 2019

Animals!“Good to have found some allies,” said Voddick, “but I am not sure we will be able to get back in time to break the siege.”

“We will do the best we can,” answered Gollaon.  “They are used to traveling quickly.”

“I would rather be leading a heroic rescue than a mission of vengeance.”

“As would I,” nodded Gollaon.  “So we had best pick up the pace, our allies are outpacing us.”

Zoomorphic Amulet

These amulets are decorated with a variety of animal designs, they are often made of slices of bone and horn layered and then bound with brass or copper. Sometime the animals are stylized, other times they are highly realistic, it depends on the artistic preferences of the culture creating them.

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Yokewood of the Sea of Stars ( A to Z, Y)

29 April, 2019

TwistedYokewood is only found in four groves and it thrives nowhere else, these groves were once holy sites to the God of Slavery, three of them are part of the Imperial demesne and the fourth lies in the Dark Star Dominion.  The yokewood tree does not grow straight but curved and twisted, forming natural yokes and pillories, and it is easily shaped.

It is used to bind and restrain, the wood grows back together, forming cuffs, bars for cages or doors,or other restrains as needed.  Yokewood draws strength from those it binds making it harder to break, the stronger the person being restrained, the more unyielding the yokewood.

Used as manacles, they are treated as masterwork, as bars, they are treated as iron, as other binding, as chains.  Their hardness and break DC is increased by half the Strength modifier (rounded up, minimum 1) of whoever is trying to attack or break them.  Yokewood’s hardness is increased by 5 against most energy attacks and by 10 against cold and electrical attacks.

A magical key, also made of yokewood, and the right gesture and word (or phrase) is required and the person using the magical key cannot be a slave, if they have accepted that status for them-self, the key will not function for them (unsurprisingly, the God of Slavers was cruel and cautious).

Cost: Manacles, 1,200.  Bars, 2,000 for a 5×5 area.  “Chains” 800 for 10′

For D&D 5E:

First, second and fourth paragraph as above.

Used as manacles, they are treated as metal, as bars, they are treated as iron, as other binding, as chains.  Their armor class is 17 and a Damage Threshold of 7, both of which is increased by half the Strength modifier (rounded up, minimum 1) of whoever is trying to attack or break them.  Yokewood’s resistance to all energy attacks.

Notes: From a suggestion from my wife.  Y is a difficult letter too.

Photo “squirly” by joysaphine is licensed under CC by-nc 2.0



Down and Out in Taren Kost – Campaign Report Episode 7

28 April, 2019

The latest adventures from Taren Kost following from Episode 6 -which story point has not been competed- (you can find the initial adventures and cast list here).

Our cast for this episode:

Fiorentino, Reed Greenbottle, Mercutio “the Green”, and Skatska

Episode 7: Back to the Sewers

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Xenogenesis in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, X)

27 April, 2019

Do you lay eggs?The world of the Sea of Stars in deeply infused with magic, in many cases the supernatural and the natural have intertwined so far as to become indistinguishable from one another  This constant interplay of forces means that strange things sometimes, just happen.

One of those is xenogenesis, birth of an offspring that is unlike its parents, which is rare but far from unknown.  Draconic blood flows through the veins of so many people and occasionsal, children are born higher up the draconic chain of ascension than one would expect, while no child not of a dragon has even been born as a Dracona (half dragon), Dracovi and Dani have appears as children to parents who were far removed from their draconic ancestors.

Occasional fragments of divine ancestry (“god-spark”) will manifest often leading to a very unusual child with strange appearance and potent magics, such children must be hidden from the dragons who will kill them or, at the very least, try to control such potential power.  The Empress recruits such children, when found by her agents, into her household, though she also has them rendered sterile, she has no wish to see the return of the gods.

Alignment with one of the elemental powers sometimes find their way into children conceived in areas rife with such activity.  These children are sought after by wizards and other specialists in the arts of magic as they can interact with their aligned element in very useful and productive ways.

And other changes to biology are known to happen, strange coloration, extra (or fewer) fingers or toes or both, and other physical abnormalities but rarely are they negative or harmful changes (though the possessor may not consider them positive either).  It is almost as if the magic wishes to expand the variety of people.

Notes: More excuses for players to be able to play the character that they want and X is a tough letter to find things to work with.

Image The Selenetidae women giving birth to eggs. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY.



Whales, sky and otherwise, in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, W)

26 April, 2019

Whales in the seaWhile the seas and oceans were shattered, along with the rest of the world, in the Sundering, the whales were surprisingly unaffected almost as if they knew what areas would be safe.  Some of the whales, of course, were lost in the seas that poured away.  The whales went on with their lives, mostly, a few decided that they wishes to travel to places that they could no longer swim to . . . and took to the air instead.

The sky whales usual avoid urban areas and other areas where people gather, they prefer the purity of flying over empty oceans, deserts, steppes and star fields.  So seeing them is rare, unless one also travels in such area.

For the crews of the sky ships, seeing a pod of sky whales is considered good luck, and most would never consider hunting them.  The Sen’tek and some groups of pirates have no such scruples, as their bones can be used to make sky ships though the magic bleeds from them quickly and such ship can only fly for a matter of months without a fresh infusion of bones to renew their ability to fly.  The Empress disapproves of such hunting and Imperial Navy ships are occasionally tasked to watch over the whales when there are rumors of predation upon the sky whales.

Not that whales, of sea or sky, are helpless in the face of whalers without outside intervention.  Whaling is popular, and profitable, in some climes though the ocean born whalers watch the sky, for sometimes the sky whales act to protect their oceanic brethren.

Notes: Image “Whales!” by Hot Grill is licensed under CC by-nc-sa 2.0


Viticulture and Brewing in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, V)

25 April, 2019

Wine everywhereWhile most dragons are not that enchanted by alcohol, though some are connoisseurs, people still enjoy their drinks, whether driven to it by dragons or not.  But there is a thriving industry producing wines, ales, beers, and other alcoholic drinks for domestic consumption and export.

It is widely accepted that elfin wines are the finest in the Sea of Stars, the talent of the elves with plants and agriculture is well known and their most well known vineyards often predate the Sundering.  Their patience and care in the production of their wines leads to excellent vintages which are widely exported and consumed.

The dwarves have developed technique for the refinement of alcoholic drinks into much more potent, and stable, drinks such as whiskeys and other distilled spirits.  The dwarven brewers also seek way to improve ale and ways to store ales that keep them drinkable longer, but it is an ongoing process.  They have also pioneered the use of metal vessels, such as copper kegs, to stores their drinkables.

The Visse favor beers and ales, especially mixed with spices and served hot.  While the Sen’tek have adapted dwarven distilling methods to make potent brews which can also be applied to weaponry or other technologies.

Various cultures across the Sea of Stars have their own specialty drinks, some quite unusual, but almost all of them make their own alcoholic drinks be it brewed from grains, potatoes or more unusual substances.  Mushrooms, mare’s milk, honey and more have all been and are fermented into drinkable form somewhere.

The Empress partakes of whatever she is offered on state visits but does not have a known preference for one type of drink over another, though she is gifted with many types.

Notes: Image by Alexander Lauréus from the Finnish National Galley and is in the Public Domain.


Underworld, Criminal, in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, U)

24 April, 2019

While the Sea of Stars gives the illusion of a world where the dragons control everything, this is far from the truth. most dragons can simply not be bothered to put the amount of effort into running their realm that would amount to ‘control’; most simply set guidelines, maybe send a satrap to oversee and do not bother to look too closely as long as the tribute, sorry, taxes keep rolling in.

Getting ready to smuggle the goodsThe states that actually rule, under the direction of their draconic overlords, are no more or less efficient than any other state.  So, crime and corruption exists almost everywhere and in some places, it positively flourishes.  Gap between laws and desires, inefficiencies of trade, all of these will find some way to be exploited.

Most criminal networks and syndicates are confined to a single city, or a small states, with a few exceptions such as various associations of smugglers who, while usually local, have ties with other such groups forming a large informal network.  The smugglers naturally exchange goods and routes with the pirates and the (illegal) slavers who form one of the sources for the smugglers stock.

Local criminal networks tend to concern themselves with control of the illegal markets be that sex work, illicit intoxicants, theft, protection, gambling or what have you.  Wherever there is a black market, there will be people trying to control it to maximize control and profits.  Taren Kost, for example, has no less than three syndicates vying for control of the various niches of criminality in that large city.

Some smuggling networks are so regularized and small scale that they are almost legal, the trade in small quantities of fine wines and spirits by the Elfin ships is one such.  While technically such trade should be taxed in most of the ports, the value of the friendship of the elfin fleets (and the gifts they give to the nobles and port master) make it a grey market at worst.

The Sen’tek maintain a network that distributes weapons and alchemical mixtures, mostly of dubious legality, across the Sea of Stars, primarily collecting rare materials and knowledge in exchange.  The Sen’tek network is pervasive but also very low key and focused only on high-value items, it often works with other syndicates and networks as it does not challenge the control these groups have of their trades while providing extra profits.

As long as there are profits to be made by breaking the law, someone will organize to do so.

Notes: As opposed to the actual physical Underworld and the metaphysical Underworld, both of which have already been visited in previous articles.

Image “Rigging Out a Smuggler” by Thomas Rowlandson is licensed under CC CC0 1.0



Tuesday Magic Item – Terror Shot (A to Z, T)

23 April, 2019

Siege and SorrowVoddick careful lined up his shot, resting his crossbow on the embrasure of the fortress’ wall.  “How did we get trapped in a siege again?”

“Avoiding one batch of trouble found us in another,” answered Gollaon fitting an arrowhead to the shaft.  “At least we are on the right side, even if they are poorly equipped.”

“Right may not carry the day,” said Voddick as he recocked his crossbow.  “They are bringing up the engine and it appears they brought terror shot.”

“They are serious about recapturing the city.  We had best warn the others.”

Terror Shot

These pieces of ammunition are usually shaped like skulls or other symbols of death and fear and are designed to be thrown by siege engines (or large creatures).  Smaller version can be propelled by slings.

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Souls and Spirits in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, S)

22 April, 2019

A ghostly armyWhile it is (nearly) universally agreed among the various philosophies and surviving religions that the animating spark in all intelligent beings is a spirit or soul; the question of where this spark comes from and where it goes to, that is a matter fiercely debated.

It is known that their are heavens and hells and the Shadowed Lands between life and death, but the higher and lower realms have been sealed off since the Gods War, it is not known if souls can travel there but it is expected that they can . . . with great difficulty, especially if they wish to ascend.  (Summoning beings from either can also be done, also with great difficulty.)

Back in the age of the gods, it is said that their divine magic could bring the dead back from . . . wherever it was their spirit went after it left the body.  In the age following the Sundering, the dead tend to stay dead, only the most powerful magics can bring a spirit back across the veil and even then only if hours, or at most a day, has elapsed.  Except for the dragonkine, once a dragon is killed, they are dead, no magic will bring them back . . . this makes some dragons exceptional cautious, others risk takers, but most just ignore it as they do not expect to die.

Some spirits linger as ghosts or more destructive spiritual beings, haunting the site of their death is the most usual place for such spirits to be found but sometimes it is not so simple and they are bound to other places, items or even, other people.   Lingering spirits come in a wide variety of types, not all of which are hostile, which have lead to the development of specialized spirit hunters among many cultures such as the Ghostchasers of Taren Kost.

Of course the true secrets of life and death remain that.

Notes: Image Ghosts appearing to a young man; their names are given to him by a wizard. Engraving by B. Winkles after J. Salmon. Wellcome Collection. CC BY.



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