Archive for the ‘People’ Category


Questions for Characters venturing into the Sea of Stars – Kinship and Kine

25 January, 2021

Home is where the house isInspired by Judd the Librarian’s questions, I decided to write up a few questions to help people think about their characters.  I did a section of questions based on character class, now time for some about their culture and kin in the Sea of Stars:

For All:

What sort of family did you come from?  Did you leave on good terms?  Could you go home?  Do you want to?

Did you have a pet growing up?  If so, what was it?  If not, did you want one?

What is you favorite childhood memory?  And your greatest childhood fear?

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New Monk Path for D&D 5E – Way of the Sohei

29 November, 2020

Ready to fightWay of the Sohei

Monks of the Way of the Sohei are the unusual in that they use weapons and armor to enhance their formidable martial arts skills. Their focus is on defense and defending others, when an armored sohei blocks your path, they are difficult to get out of the way.

For the purpose of this document polearms refer to the following weapons from the OGL: glaive, halberd, quarterstaff, pike, spear, and trident. It may also apply to campaign specific weapons as well, talk to your DM.

The Way of the Sohei is inspired by the Japanese warrior monks of the same name who were once a fearsome presence on the battlefields of medieval Japan.

Armored in Life
When you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you gain proficiency in polearms, and in light and medium armor. Polearms are monk weapons for you.

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Sisters of the Swan for D&D 5E

12 October, 2020

The Abbey on the Lake of White Lilies was famous for the honor and learning of its sisters and the beautiful swans that populated the lake. They were not warriors but healers, scholars and gardeners. When the Dragons launched their attack on the gods, all the sisters could do was pray.

Fly with meWhen the Empress visited the Abbey after the sundering, a fragment of a heaven had lodged in the lake and the lilies had changed to gold and the sisters and the swans had been melted together. The transformation was rough for some, wings for arms or exceeding long necks, others had been killed outright, their new bodies unsuitable for the world. The Empress used her magic to heal and reform them, making the form of woman and swan, separate but joined allowing them to switch between the two.

The Abbey on the Lake of Gold Lilies remains under Imperial jurisdiction and remains a center of learning. It exports fine lace, goose down and illuminated manuscripts.

Physical Description: The Sisters of the Swan are willowy and graceful with long necks and usually pale skin, pale hair is common as well but their eyes are dark. Every generation there has been a black or gold Sister hatched but they have been occurring more frequently. Their faces tend to be narrow with large eyes. They have long delicate fingers and long toes on their feet, with webbing between their toes.

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New Beastkind for D&D 5E – Ypisarian Serpentfolk

4 October, 2020

Distant ancestor?The Serpentfolk are the children of the goddess Ypisara, though she is now only acknowledged as the great mother of their race. A minor race, they weathered the war of against the gods and the Sundering better than most due to the act of submission and self-sacrifice by the goddess Ypisara in exchange for the protection of the Empress, she gave her life willingly to the Dragon Queen; in exchange her children have been protected and since then, they have thrived, in a restrained fashion, under the eye of the Empress who acts as their patron and guardian.

Serpentfolk are a dedicated and loyal people, devoted to their communities and, in a vague sense, the Empire as a whole. While each of the serpentfolk is their own person they often think of themselves as part of a chain of community and tend to weight the good of the group over the good of the individual.

Serpentfolk are humanoid, tending toward slender builds, and covered in a network of fine scales usually in shades of green but other colors show up on occasion. Their eyes are dark and their heads are decorated by low crests. Most have slender tails. Serpentolk have claws but they are not usually large or strong enough to be effectively used as weapons.

The serpentfolk are warm blooded but lay eggs.

Serpentfolk Lands: The Serpent folk have a large island that is theirs, though under the direct rule of the Empress, it runs from the Bitter Hills, mined for salt and copper, to the mangrove swamps of the Darksea Marsh and the Darksea beyond.

The Serpentfolk are not well known outside of Imperial circles, they only having really begun expanding outside of those confines in the last few centuries. Their position as direct Imperial subjects means that their homeland is essentially inviolate but they do trade salt and items made of salt for what imports they need.

Religion: The Serpentfolk venerate Ypisara as their ancestral mother and the Empress as their protector with their ancestors being revered and offering made for them. They have an idea of rebirth in a continual ouroboros of life and spirit. Rumors of a secret sect that continues to worships Ypisara as mother-goddess are entirely unfounded.

Names: Names in the Serpentfolk tongue are difficult to pronounce for non-serpentfolk so they tend to attract monikers when dealing with them.

Adventurers: The Serpentfolk increasingly are seeking posts with the Dragon Imperium outside of their homeland and a few of those have decided to explore the greater world on their own.

Your Ypisarian Serpentfolk character has certain traits deriving from your ancestry.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. 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 cannot discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Age. The serpentfolk mature slightly more quickly than humans, reaching adult development around fifteen. They live as long as humans or slightly longer.

Alignment. The serpentfolk are group people, working together to build a society to honor their ancestors and Patron. They are loyal, hard working and stoic. They tend to weigh the needs of their society over that of the individual.

The Serpentfolk are organized in family groups and in clutch-cohorts, all of the serpentfolk who were hatched in the same season, it is a loose structure but it works. They are very community oriented and tend to defer to their elders.

Size. The serpentfolk are slender and lithe, rarely taller than five feet tall when reaching adulthood but continue to grow (slowly) throughout their adult life and often reach over six feet tall. Your size is Medium.

Languages. Serpent speak their own language, handed down from before the Sundering, and also learn the Imperial Tongue and Low Draconic in honor of their Patron.

Friend of Fishes. Serpentfolk are natural swimmer and at home in the water, gaining advantage on Strength (Athletics) checks related to swimming.

Salt Resistance. Due to their constant exposure to salt, Serentfolk advantage on saving throws against salt and have resistance against salt damage.

Scales. Serpentfolk have tough scaled skin, when not wearing armor, your AC equals 11 + your Dexterity modifier.

Shaper of Salt. Raised with salt as the primary building material, they become adept at working it from an early age, gaining proficiency with all tool checks involving salt.

Notes: You can find a version for Pathfinder here.  Have had D&D players interested in the Beastkine races so wanted to start getting them transferred over to 5E.

Photo Gulf Salt Marsh Snake (Nerodia clarkii) Florida by Glenn Bartolotti found on Wikimedia Commons and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.


Words and Whimsy (A to Z)

27 April, 2020

Whimsy and WordsIt is known that words (and names especially) contain power, wizards are perhaps the most well known users of words of power but others have been known to tap into such magics as well.  The Empress is rumored to be a powerful worker of word magic but then, that is said about the Empress and just about every sort of magic.

Wizards comb ancient libraries for particular lost or hidden magical words but they are rarely found, it is one of the ways the Library-Towers of Borusa make money, providing their libraries for perusal.  The Imperial libraries are also sought after but more difficult to acquire access too.  Caches of lost lore when found are often subject to bidding war or even outright theft!  So ventures might be hired to find such information, protect it or even steal it.

Whimsy, as in the sense of the purely fantastical and perhaps bizarre, must be introduced carefully into a game, as sometimes the mood needs to be lightened or . . . changed.  But too much whimsy can irrevocably change the tone of a campaign, so, like any spice, use in small amounts to enhance not overwhelm the existing tone and themes of your game.  Whimsy is also one of the hardest things to put back one you have let it out, so, be careful!

Notes: An adventure seed and some games mastering advice.  W is always a challenge.

Image By Sir John Tenniel – “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865), found on Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.


Venust and Voyages (A to Z)

25 April, 2020

Venust NatureVenust nature, beautiful nature, is prized by many dragons, especially by the Empress and she encourages, but does not demand, that her subjects maintain such.  She does, however, visit sites of natural beauty throughout her realm on a routine but unannounced schedule, encouraging their preservation.  The Empress’ appreciation of such places has lead to continued production of painting from these sites.  Leading to expeditions to odd places with venturers and scouts guiding and escorting teams of painter and other artists to distant and inaccessible site of amazing natural beauty.

Those with lesser resources must do with copies of famous works which have filtered down through noble houses and down into the middle class.  Some cities even have shops that sell prints of famous paintings, many of which are made from images copied from painting in the Imperial museums.

In the areas that are calm, travel for pleasure and to visit historical places are becoming more common, some Visse have even begun organizing package tours and travel agencies.  For those more adventurous types, some are willing to travel to more dangerous places requiring hiring guards and guides.

Notes:  V is another tricky one but Venust is just such a wonderfully obscure word that I could not resist.  Mostly potential adventure ideas or odd people to meet.

Image Krajina s vodopádom. Slovak National Gallery. Public Domain Mark.


Unliving and Unbound (A to Z)

24 April, 2020

Plague spiritThings that were living and now are not but are still animate, in the Sea of Stars, are referred to as the Unliving.  There are a surprising number of them in some places, as Necrourgists (such as those in the High Kingdom of Laccini) are found of using their death magic to provide these once-living shells with an animating spark of energy torn from dark places, if not properly controlled, these sparks come with touch of malevolent cunning, not true intelligence, but dangerous if not watched and controlled.

Other effects can cause the dead to walk (and hunger): odd magic from the sundering, the residue of dead gods, alchemical runoff and more.  A few few of the unliving predate the Sundering and a few of those have ways of creating more of their kind.  But they are careful how they use such, knowing that if they are too obvious the dragons will swoop in and destroy them all.

The Unbound are those spirits no longer ties to their body, thus unbound from them, yes unable to make the transition through the shadowed lands to judgement beyond.  Many are tormented, seeking revenge or to complete a task left undone, while a few are simply lost.  Setting them to rest may be simple or easy depending on the nature of the spirits, making work for exorcists and ghost hunters.

The Church of the Sun, like their patron, has a visceral hatred of the Unliving and a harsh pity for the Unbound, seeking to destroy or banish them whenever encountered.

Notes:  Renaming things to suit your world / setting in important, it makes it more yours see (also Hollows and Hellions).  Also, I find the term “undead” wearing at this point, overused.  Of course, the challenge is getting your players to adopt the new terms.

Image An allegory of malaria. Reproduction of an engraving after M. Sand. Maurice Sand. Wellcome Collection license CC BY.


Tea and Trade (A to Z)

23 April, 2020

Tea is a high value and (comparatively) light weight commodity and in demand all across the Sea of Stars, tea is widely and often drunk, many dragons are connoisseurs following the Empress’ example.  It is a sign of hospitality almost everywhere to be offered a cup of tea, though various places use various things for tea, not everyone can afford the black tea from the few places it is grown.  Other use various mixes of herbs or other materials, some of the shadow elves even using type of powdered mushrooms.

As fast as the wind will carry us!The first crop of tea from each season is raced to the Imperial Capital on sky ship, each vying for the honor of being the first tea delivered.  By tradition, the Empress buys all of the cargo of the first ship to arrive and reward the crew.  While it has been pointed out that ferrying the tea to one of the gate cities would be faster but the tradition continues.

The trade in tea is only part of the vast trading network that extends throughout the Sea of Stars, encouraged by the Empress and Imperial policy.  The Empress provides a universal currency for those that wish to use it, the Imperial Navy is routinely deployed to combat pirates and the Imperial tax policy reward those states that open themselves to trade.  The Empress realized that true wealth comes from innovation, industry and trade, therefore she encourages all three.  After all, the wealthier her subject are, the more wealth flows into Imperial coffers.

What is less know is that the Empress has indirectly invested in many trading ventures, large and small, to open up new trade routes and locales.  There is untold wealth to be discovered in the Sea of Stars, the Empress is certain of it.

Notes: Wealth can be acquired by taking but it does not create wealth, trade and industry creates wealth.  The Empress understands this.  You could join the tea clipper race!  Also, opening new trade routes is a great adventure!

Image Willis Tea Line Clipper, by Frederick Tudgay. Oil on Canvas, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain.


Queens and Quislings (A to Z)

20 April, 2020

An ambush?  Of royalty?When the dragons took over, they quickly enforced their will and design of the various polities now under their rule.  There was more than one king who thought his family’s dragon slaying sword and armored retainers could dispose of such an affront . . . almost all of them were mistaken.  Suddenly, many kingdoms found themselves ruled by Queens (or Queen Regents or several other variations), the dragons had no problem dealing with a woman ruler, their highest ruler was a female after all.

Some of the Queen made deals with their dragon rules and changed their line of decent into a matriarchical succession or matrilinealial inheritance (or both) often having odd repercussions throughout their society.  But, as long as the dragon ended up with a stable royal house that followed their dictates, they usually did not care about such disruptions to the previous order of things.

Now, those that bowed to the dragons when other fought them . . . the survivors remember who betrayed them and sold them out to the new draconic hierarchy.  Revenge killings, assassinations and blood feuds were common for the first three or four generations after the Sundering but they they mostly died out.  The heat of passion cooled.  But some noble houses still have long standing, and often deep, rivalry and opposition to each other that date to this division.

There are also no lack of secret societies that were founded to purge draconic loyalists and take back their lands from the dragons.  Most of these have descended into social clubs and other forms of organization but a very few, in their secret inner circle, keep the dream of a dragon free land alive.

Notes:  Q is always tricky but then I remember Quisling.

Image Queen Facua’s triumph; King Famis on his way to Laurentum; Hercules and queen Facua in Laurentum. National Library of the Netherlands. Public Domain Mark.


Oceans and Oreads (A to Z)

18 April, 2020

The oceans of the islands of the Sea of Stars reacted differently to Sundering:

To sail upon the seasSome (such as where the Gate City of Caracosa is) just poured away, leaving nothing behind nothing but salt encrusted wasteland.

On others, the ocean just pours away, endlessly, impossibly, the level of the island’s ocean never dropping.  It is a magnificent sight, for this brave enough to witness it.

Lastly, on a few, the edge of the ocean just stops at the edge of the island, the waters held back by some invisible force.  Occasionally a fish or other sea creature will wriggle through . . . and plunge to its death.  Some fishermen will use platforms lowered down the edge of the ocean to harvest fish and other things from the depths.

The spirits of the oceans, such as the Neriads, are equally shattered and scattered by this and have never fully recovered from the Sundering and the loss of their patron gods.

Their relative spirits of the mountains, the Oreads, have fared much better as they were more aligned to particular places.  Even if a mountain range was divined among multiples islands, very few of the actual mountains were lost.  Though they too lost their divine patrons, most have avoided the eyes of the dragons and have found ways to work with the peoples of their lands, accepting token worship and actual sacrifices in exchange for aiding the communities.  A few have gone so far as to establish hidden and illegal cults around themselves or lead secret societies dedicated to try to restore the gods.

Notes: Two very separate ideas but I was able to find some connective tissue between them.

Photo (sv) Övning i rodd i en av m/s GOLDEN OCEANs livbåtar på Haifas redd 1952 (sv) Sjöhistoriska museet. Public Domain Mark.

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