Archive for the ‘People’ Category

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Catfolk of Felix Talis, for Dungeons & Dragons 5E

2 October, 2019

Play some music, you cool catYou can learn more about the Catfolk here,  But as I have a player in my D&D game who wants to play one, figured I needed to update them for play in 5E.

Catfolk Traits

Your catfolk character has a variety of natural abilities, the result of being a magically uplifted cat.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity and Charisma scores increases by 1 each.

Age. Catfolk mature slightly quicker than human, becoming fully adult around the age of fourteen, and their life span, on average is just slightly shorter usually living around three score and ten, if something does not happen to them first.

Alignment. Catfolk, like the cats they evolved from, are fiercely independent, seeking their own way even when going along would be the easier path. They are notable self-centered and self-satisfied. But they are firm friends and spiteful enemies.

Size. Catfolk fall in the human ranger, averaging around five foot, eight inches range (172.5cm) and then toward a lith and slender build. They are fur-covered, in any of the patterns typically found on cats, with a nimble tail and large cross-slitted eyes, their ancestry is quite obvious. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Animal Ancestry.  Due to your unusual heritage as an uplifted creature, all catfolk remain vulnerable to spells and magical effects that target animal. However, you do gain advantage to resist such spells and effects.

Darkvision. Like the cat you are, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Keen Senses. You have cat-like sense and thus you have proficiency in the Perception skill.

Natural Stealth. They do not call sneaky people cat-footed without reason, you have proficiency with the Stealth skill.

Languages. The catfolk have an efficient, if eclectic and informal education system and you can speak, read, and write the Felix Talis dialect of the Imperial Tongue.

Subrace, or you a semi-wild alley cat or a more stylish urbane cat?

Alley Cat
You are used to surviving on your own, relying on your wits and quickness to get you our of whatever trouble you end up in.

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity Score increases by 1.

Cat-like reflexes: You gain advantage on Initiative checks if you are not surprised.

Urbane Cat
You rely on charm and your innate sense of society functions to get by.

Ability Score Increase: Your Charisma Score increases by 1.

Polyglot: You have a natural talent with languages, choose two more languages that you can speak, read and write. The first time you are speaking to someone in their native tongue, if you roll a 1 on the d20 for a Charisma check, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.

Notes: Image closer detail from the lower margin of the folio of a cat playing a fiddle from the British Museum and used under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

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Viscount Taviny zaKozrad – the Villain of the Piece

29 August, 2019

Viscount Taviny zaKozrad

A worthy foeQuote“A pleasure to meet you at last.  Please help yourself to some wine.  You may pour a glass for me and I will drink first if that puts you at ease.”

“We have much to discuss.  Please, let us talk first, they will be opportunities for swordplay later if that is your desire.”

Description: zaKozrad is slender and not unathletic but not overly tall (5’9″/1.75m), he carries himself with a noble air.  His black hair is worn in whatever the current style is in the local court and his dark eyes are alert.

He wears suitable clothes (with a mail shirt underneath when practical) tending to dark color.  He is always armed when local custom allows and when it does not, he has at least a knife or two concealed.

Background
: While from a minor noble family, his mother was successful in court and she raised her son to build on her success, imparting her skills and ambitions to the boy.  Well educated among the children of the nobility, he is a social chameleon, finding friends and allies among all the classes and looking down on no one due to the circumstance of their birth.  zaKozrad is a loyal servant of the High King of Laccini, seeing to advance his nations cause (and his own) by whatever means necessary.

Presenting this Character
: zaKozrad is charming and stylish, well read and philosophical but most of all, an obvious villain.  He represents a Kingdom known for its expansionist agenda and use of necrourgy, he leans into all of the classic villain tropes.  His role is to focus the attention of the rivals to his kingdom by being the obvious, and even comic if that is required, villain.  His plots are obvious, overly convoluted and almost always not quite illegal.  Such as helping a local noble build up their private army or providing necrourgic magical support to a faction.
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Questions for Characters venturing into the Sea of Stars

18 May, 2019

People of all sortsInspired by Judd the Librarian’s questions, I decided to write up a few questions to help people think about their characters and where they are from in the Sea of Stars:

For All:

What do you think of dragonrule?  Of the dragons themselves?  Fear?  Admiration?  Jealousy?

Do you have a faith?  Do you eschew organized religion?  Do you have any private rituals?

Do you have a favored weapon?  Does it have a name?

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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.

 

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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

 

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Quarrels, Grudges and Blood Feuds in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, Q)

19 April, 2019

Dragons are not a very forgiving breed, they tend to catalog and remember any slight or insult inflicted upon them to be suitably repaid at some later time.  So, try to avoid crossing them if you can.  Other dragons, however, often do so.  It is a huge game to many dragons to try and get the upper hand on their rivals, this often expands into becoming a conflict between Draconic Houses which, in turn, drag in the lands the houses rule into the conflict.

War, it solves some problems, right?As a general rule, these quarrels are low key, political maneuvering, propaganda, mercantile trickery, attacks on reputations of the rival houses and economic disruptions are acceptable.  At this stage, it really is just a big game from the draconic point of view, though for the people whose fortunes, reputation and livelihoods are directly effected it is much more damaging.  The Empress encourages the houses to keep conflicts at this level, not too damaging and easy to recover from, but it is easy to cross the line.

Once an attack become personal for one of the dragons involved, for whatever reason, the violence and damage tend to escalate quickly: theft, raids, the hiring of pirates and bandits to actively harass the rival faction, leading them to retaliate in kind.  The Empress disapproves of such messiness as it tends to have a knock on effect that damages all local economies and depress Imperial tax revenue but unless it actively spills over into other draconic (or Imperial) lands, she is loath to intervene unless requested.  She will encourage the two sides to negotiate but by this stage, it is difficult for either side to back down and usually the best that can be achieved is a cold war type pause in active hostilities.

If a dragon is actually attacked, or worse yet killed, by a rival house, things will move into a full blood feud, which is in practicality a war between the houses involved.  The dragons do not do such things by halves, militaries will be mobilized, assassins sent, magical weapons prepared, privateers given letters of marque, and blood will be spilled.  Usually at least several dragons on each side will have to be killed before their will be any chance of establishing a peace between the warring houses and the Empress will (and has) stepped in to stop wars that have become too destructive to the general well being of the Empire but she prefers to be asked to mediate rather than to impose her will.

Naturally, there are opportunities for venturers and freelance intelligencers to make profits in such conflicts, but the risks can be high, especially if the situation unexpectedly escalates.

Notes: Image War between Athens and Crete from BL Royal 16 G VII, f. 67v. The British Library. Public Domain Mark.

 

 

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Marriage and Matrimony in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, M)

15 April, 2019

Continuing to discuss the ways that families exist and are created in the Sea of Stars, you can refer also to Draconic Bloodines and Bastards and Kinships.

The dragons rarely bother with such firm commitments among themselves, their relationships with other dragons tend to be passionate and brief, or contractual and brief.  Rarely will long term commitments emerge between dragons and even those tend to hinge on only being intensely together for a short time and then spending considerable time apart.  Generally, dragons are private beings who prefer only to deal with subordinates on a regular basis, the clash of wills involved when dealing with a peer is draining . . . and dangerous.

Now, the lower ranks of the Draconic Houses, the dracona, dracovi and dani, are expected to marry usually for reasons of dynastic ties and political alliances.  The negotiations involved in such are usually quite complex and involve contracts and exchanges of promises and goods, who ends up married into which house and under what conditions is precisely defined (often on magical contracts).  Sometimes these alliances last only for years, in other cases they are lifetime commitments.

Dynastic unions and political marriages are the usual lot among the noble families in the Sea of Stars, rarely these matches are or become love matches, but children are expected to marry where they are told to by their family.  Sometime these marriages are outside the usual man and woman, triads are rare but not unknown as are same sex pairings.  Even more unusual constellations exist but are rare.

Marriages are a civil and societal commitment, legally witnessed, some cultures invoke the blessing and sanctions of the Sun (even if the rituals used where originally for a different god altogether).  But primarily it is social pressure and cultural sanction that maintains a marriage.

People still seek love and companionship, though not all are fortunate enough to find it in marriage.

Notes: Image King Dushyanta proposing marriage with a ring to Shakuntala. Chromolithograph by Ravi Varma. Wellcome Collection. CC BY.

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