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Author Topic: Bizarrerie - A Surreal World of Nonsense & Curious Adventure  (Read 3104 times)
Spawn of Ungoliant
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« on: March 19, 2010, 08:15:01 PM »

BIZARRERIE

A Surreal World of Nonsense & Curious Adventure



Romp through the Shuddersome Woods hunting Rootwaifs and Treeghouls.  Roam the Undulating Highways and sail the Gibbering Seas.  Philosophize with Automaton-savants and exorcise clockwork-possessing Gremlins in the Republic of Gears, and match wits with scheming Switchskins in the schizoid court of the Doublefaced King.  Battle Ageless guerrillas in the Everlasting Lands of the Sempiternals or help Beastkin serfs revolt against the despotic Felidae.  Unravel the cryptic puzzles (and puzzling crypticisms) of the Prattleshade, haggle with Lysurans in the weird gloom Beneath, seek out the legendary Spawning Kilns of the shapeshifting Glassmen, pluck onyx roses from the Garden of Jewels in the Mirror Kingdoms, and swash your buckler on the decks of the The Bearded Farce with Captain Ambrosia de Sard.

Out of Character

This one owes a lot to Light Dragon's fantastic worlds and to Oz/Wonderland/Dreamlands/Gulliver's Travels/Etc.  Much thanks to Llum for naming the Lysurans!  Thanks also to Silvercat Moonpaw for forcing me to ponder the merits of dream logic.

Realms and Regions


The Gleaming Automatocracy

Also called the Republic of Gears, the Gleaming Automatocracy is populated almost entirely by sentient clockwork beings.  It is thought that humans once dwelt in the Automatocracy, but in an effort to escape the toil of life they invented progressively more advanced machines to perform labour.  Eventually these machines grew so sophisticated that they became both self-replicating and intelligent, while the humans' intelligence stagnated.  Degenerating into indolent, atrophied creatures, the humans eventually devolved into the Ympes, a species of diminutive, pot-bellied, hairless ape that the Automata keep as pets (though some feral Ympes do roam free; a few have even been rumoured to retain a scrap of speech, but most dismiss this legend).

The entirety of the Automatocracy is an industrialized cityscape of churning cogs and whirring clockwork alive with a constant tick-tick-tick which has driven some visitors to the point of madness.  Eleven great Spire-cities tower above this ordered chaos, hive-like conglomerations of bronze and chrome and steel studded with glittering windows from which the Automata survey the Republic through glass eyes, peering down with aristocratic pride on their glinting metal demesnes.

All physical labour in the Gleaming Automatocracy is done by non-thinking machines, while highly advanced clockwork savants do all the thinking, spending most of their time addressing questions of logic and philosophy or composing ornate formulations that resemble both poems and mathematical proofs (their language being indistinguishable from a form of mathematics).  The Consul Engine '“ a vastly complex mechanical brain '“ handles the few administrative needs of the Automatocracy, draconian Constitution Protocols preventing it from becoming tyrannous; in practice, however, the Republic is proof that so long as beings are perfectly rational, rules and strictures on their behaviour are unnecessary and redundant.  The Automata guard their technological secrets closely, pursuing a strictly isolationist foreign policy: only thinking machines, they argue, can be trusted with powerful technology.  As a totally self-sufficient state the Republic of Gears has no need for commerce.

The only real domestic problem inside of the Republic is the presence of the insidious spirits known as Gremlins.  These sinister little horrors are capable of possessing clockwork of any sort, including the elaborate cog-driven minds of the more advanced Automata, and delight in mischief, pranks, and mindless chaos.  Most pretend to be proper members of Automaton society while secretly sabotaging machines, spreading lies, and generally causing trouble.

Despite their policy against trade or exportation the Automatocracy welcomes organic guests, though such creatures tend to be treated with a degree of disdain, or at least polite condescension.  Many have described the Automata as smug or prissy; certainly the clockwork folk look down on what they see as the impulsiveness or irrationality of naturally generated life-forms.

Rhymetown

A mid-sized town not far from the Shuddersome Woods, Rhymetown is inhabited by a race of men called Rhymies (or Rhymetowners, Rhymetownies, or just plain old Rhymers) distinguished by their custom of speaking only in rhyme.  Whether this is the result of an ancient curse or simply constitutes an odd cultural habit, Rhymies have a natural proclivity for rhyming, and can't seem to understand anything that isn't rhymed.  An outsider speaking regularly will be met with stares of incomprehension, as Rhymies perceive unrhymed speech as total gibberish (or at least they claim to).  To a Rhymie, an unrhymed sentence is like a collection of random words '“ intelligible on their own but without collective meaning.

Different sorts of rhyme, rhyme schemes, and meters signify different social registers.  Feminine rhyme is considered ladylike and demure in women but effete in men.  Slant rhyme, imperfect rhyme, and semirhyme are all considered distinct markers of social inferiority and tend to be used by those of lower class.  Frequent consonance is a mark of gentility, and all Rhymie names alliterate.  Couplets form the most basic sentence structures.  Anything lower than pentameter is considered quite informal.  Fourteen line abab cdcd efef gg sonnets are used almost exclusively for wooing.  Prayers are always in iambic pentameter.  The weird kilt-wearing folk of the Alexandrine Hills above Rhymetown speak only in twelve syllable lines, while the people of Limerick Marsh to the south have a tendency to speak in aabba rhyme scheme.

The Rhymies have a mayor, Kain Kettleworth, who has been in power for a number of years.  Apart from producing an inordinate number of bards and poets (naturally) the Rhymies are expert artisans and have a number of guilds dedicated to the production of ceramics, textiles, musical instruments, stationary, and furniture.  Verdant hinterlands around the town are filled with farms.

The Felid Duchies

A loose aggregation of lands without a single ruler, the Felid Duchies are the provinces of a group of feline Beastkin families who, in contrast with the majority of Bizarrerie's Beastkin, are 'pure-breeding': rather than being a humanoid composite of several animal species the aristocratic of the Duchies are all-cat.  Extremely narcissistic, they believe themselves the natural heirs of Bizarrerie and proclaim themselves the 'Felidae,' scorning the term Beastkin.  They see all other Beastkin as inferior mongrel creatures fit only for labour purposes.  Indeed, non-cat Beastkin '“ and sometimes humans '“ are employed (or owned) by the Felidae as serfs.

Far from escaping the pleasure-seeking nature of their supposedly lesser Beastkin brethren, the Felidae are the ultimate decadents.  Indolent, perverse, unimaginably egotistical, breathtakingly graceful, frequently gorgeous, and often casually cruel, the Felidae live only to gratify their senses.  They almost completely lack empathy for other creatures (with the dubious exception of other Felidae) and scorn the worship of anything but themselves.  In Felidae society no pleasure is taboo '“ save mating with a non-Felidae, an act considered extremely vulgar, even grotesque.  Felidae duel with one another frequently, usually using only their wickedly sharp claws.

A traveler's experience in the Duchies will tend to vary greatly.  In some Duchies, the local Felidae will welcome travelers warmly to their Manors, ushering them inside for luxurious meals in exchange for stories and other entertainment: the visitors will be treated with tremendous politeness and hospitality.  In others, travelers may well be enslaved by the Felidae rulers and forced to work the fields.

The Everlasting Lands

The realm of the Sempiternals '“ two castes of immortals, the Ageless and the Venerables '“ the Everlasting Lands lie along the edge of the Gibbering Sea.  Long ago the half-mad but well-meaning alchemist Lucius Struldpan created the Panchrest, an Elixir of Life, and distributed to the people of the Lands, thus accidentally creating the Sempiternals: those who drank the potion before reaching puberty were doomed to remain children forever, while those who drank it after reaching puberty were doomed to immortality without youth.  Thus, while in reality everyone is the Everlasting Lands is roughly the same age (that is to say, thousands of years old), the Lands seem to be populated by the very old and the very young, with no young adults or middle aged folk at all.

The peculiar nature of Sempiternal immortality has produced an even more peculiar society.  Child labour is not only legal but highly necessary, since most of the Venerables are far too feeble to perform physical work.  Suicide is likewise legal and also highly ritualized, with members of both castes frequently opting to end their millennia-long lives in elaborate funerary parties.  The Venerables tend to occupy administrative and civic positions instead, but since members of the two castes have the same amount of life experience and intellect governance is divided between the two castes, taking the form of a parliamentary democracies divided into the House of the Ancients and the House of the Infants.  The Ageless tend to occupy military positions as well as diplomatic positions (a role facilitated by their extraordinary linguistic proficiencies) while the Venerables are mostly thinkers, academics, and bureaucrats.  Ultimately, however, the enormous life spans of Sempiternals has lead to a hyper-educated populace, and almost all individuals possess a vast repertoire of skills and an exhaustive array of professional experiences.  It is very common for an individual to pick a career and perform it for a century or so before switching to a new one.

While for the most part the Sempiternal castes coexist in harmony (albeit with inevitable tensions), a small group of Ageless belonging to the so-called Future-Is-Young faction have established a rebellious enclave terming itself the Children's Free State.  This state is comprised entirely of Ageless who believe that the Venerables are handicapping Sempiternal society.  A few of the more extremist members of the Future-Is-Young movement have even called for the forced euthanization of the Venerables en masse, but this position is not common even in radical circles.  The Children's Free State is considered illegitimate by the establishment, however, leading to a prolonged conflict (frequently violent).

Note

The Sun and the Moon

The Sun and the Moon in Bizarrerie take the form of a gargantuan eye in the sky.  Instead of rising or setting the Sun and Moon wander the firmament seemingly at random, gazing down at the world below.  When the Sun blinks it reopens as the Moon and vice versa.  In its Sun form the eye is golden-irised and has a huge, searing white pupil; in its Moon form the iris is pale yellow with a tiny black pupil like an oversized crater.  The different phases of the Moon manifest as the eyelids open to different degrees (very occasionally the eye shuts altogether for a night, while the Moon sleeps).  Dawn is called Sunblink and twilight is called Moonblink.

The Mirror Kingdom

The Mirror Kingdom is ruled by the dually monstrous and benevolent Doublefaced King.  Like the majority of his subjects the king is a Switchskin: a humanoid being whose personality and physical appearance varies wildly from night to day.  By day the King is a strong, level-headed ruler and the Kingdom is a place of industry and cleanliness with fair laws and generally happy citizens.  By night the King becomes a bloodthirsty and indolent dictator bent only on enhancing his own power.  Despite the brutal police crime and vice run rampant during the night, and most citizens spend their time pursuing deviant pleasures or otherwise behaving wantonly.

The capital of the Kingdom is the city of Chiaroscuro.  During the day the city is a well-ordered place of bustling marketplaces and colourful festivals (at least one a week), alive with the sounds of haggling, laughter, and conversation.  By night, when the Switchskins change their forms and their pallid Nightskins emerge from their changing-cells '“ the small rooms Switchskins use to leave written messages to their other halves and perform their transformations, to avoid disorienting their other Skin '“ Chiarioscuro becomes nightmarish, the sounds of commerce turning to screams and sobs, the merry laughter of the carnivals becoming warped cackles and perverted jeers.  The Dayskins typically awake to find their city in a shambles, the streets clotted with fresh refuse.  The good-natured diurnals typically clean up the mess during the first few hours of the day as a kind of morning ritual.

Apart from Chiaroscuro the Mirror Kingdom also comprises the inland Opaline Sea full of pellucid crystalfish, the Iridescent Plains and the bandit-infested Glistenwoods whose inhabitants steal by night and give back their ill-gotten gains by day.

Letters in the Mirror Kingdom are of course backwards, and Switchskins speak in a peculiarly backwards dialectical grammar: Object-Verb-Subject or Object-Subject-Verb, as in 'blue today is the sky,' or 'to me that drink please pass.'  This tends to get very annoying to those unused to it.

Oculia

The inhabitants of Oculia are noted for their strangely coloured eyes and their unusual caste system.  Due to some quirk of Oculian heredity, children in Oculia are not especially likely to share the eye colour of their parents; what eye colour they do end up with seems to be quite random.  Children are raised in common in Oculia: young men and women typically have children in their late adolescence or early adulthood, while their children are given into foster care according to their eye colours.

Those with yellow eyes are proclaimed members of the Labouring caste and are adopted by farmers, mill-workers, or similar folk, while those with orange eyes are considered the best Artisans and are fostered with skilled tradesmen.  Red-eyed Oculians are deemed natural warriors and are sent into military training in the Guardian caste, while those with turquoise eyes are to become Diplomats (the only caste given permission to leave Oculia).  Children with grey eyes are sent to train as Priests and Priestesses, while those with pink eyes are sent to the brothels to be inducted into the Carnal caste.  Those very few children born with fuchsia eyes are members of the Noble caste, the divinely appointed rulers of Oculia (the highest ranking of whom are the Prince-and-Princess Electors, who collectively vote for a single Grand Duke or Grand Duchess for ten-year terms).  Finally, those unlucky children born with black eyes are marked as Untouchables, fit only to be grave-diggers, executioners, and beggars.

The caste divisions are not are not arbitrary, however '“ each caste possesses a unique set of abilities dependent on their particular eye-colour.  Labourers can sense ripeness and health while Artisans need only look at an object to sense its intrinsic value (to those philosophers who argue that all value is subjective the Oculians stick out their tongues).  Guardians can preternaturally size up an opponent at a glance, while the grey-eyed Diplomats can see a lie curdle in the air.  Priests and Priestesses can see the 'stain of sin' (guilt), while members of the Carnal caste perceive lust as a vague pinkish aura.  The fuchsia-eyed Nobles can perceive the nebulous and effervescent coils of power twining themselves around individuals like serpents and the more nebulous forces of opportunity coalescing in vague, purplish clouds.  Finally the Untouchables are said to occasionally catch glimpses of the spirits of the dead.

Within the castes near complete gender equality is sustained: apart from the obvious social divisions governed by eye colour Oculia is remarkably egalitarian.  Oculian religion centers on worship of the Sun and Moon, the divine eyes of the sky.  The caste system is explicitly tied to and justified by theology, as interpreted by the Priestly caste '“  Oculian dogma holds that the eyes are quite literally windows into the soul, making visible a person's true nature.

Though mostly a feudal, agrarian society, some of the Artisans are expert glass-makers and opticians and have created extremely finely crafted eyeglasses, spyglasses, astronomical telescopes, and other optics.

The Vagabond City of Empyrealopolis

Once the Empyrealopolitans (or Empyreals, as they're usually called) were a land-bound tribe of nomadic tinkers and performers, but in centuries past there came a time when every town shut its gates to them, and they were driven from land to land '“ a vagrant people, despised and spat upon.  Tired of such a life, the mechanically skilled Empyreals took to the sky and fashioned the Vagabond City of Empyrealopolis, a grand fleet of aircraft that roams the skies of Bizarrerie.  Hot-air balloons, dirigibles, gyrocopters, and even pagodas seated on the backs of giant birds make up the ragtag and variegated armada of the air.

When they took to the skies, the Empyreals swore that they would never again touch the earth, and came to view the ground as an unclean place, contaminated by wars and territorial conflicts, but struggles over resources and jurisdiction.  Only the sky, they claim, is pure: the earth is full of negative energies, swarming with malignant spirits that infest the souls of land-dwellers.  This is why they were so cruelly driven from town to town in the terrible days of the past.  Because of this strict code, any Empyreal who steps foot on land is forever exiled from the Vagabond City.  Though the many aircraft of the city often land, those aboard never step foot on the earth.  Land-dwellers are welcome to enter the Vagabond City or any of its craft (though they will be watched closely): though contaminated there is no risk of the dark spirits within them propagating while airborne.

The Empyreals are merchants and mechanists and have amassed a wide selection of goods during their travels which they happily trade with land-dwellers, though they refuse to handle currency (an unclean terrestrial invention) and only use the barter system.  Their chief means of support, however, comes from their perfection of cloud seeding.  Using esoteric machines housed in their larger craft, the Empyreals can control local weather phenomena, either increasing precipitation during droughts or banishing dangerous storm-clouds that might result in floods or blizzards.  In exchange for these services towns will pay the Empyreals in livestock, fruits, vegetables, and grains, since apart from a few small gardens and some meagre air-borne cattle pens the Empyreals lack any ability to produce their own food.

The Empyrealopolis is ruled by a council of elders elected by the general populace.

Beneath

The subterranean lands Beneath Bizarrerie make the realms of the surface world look positive sane.  Beneath is an unimaginably colossal network of interconnected tunnels, halls, and natural caverns governed by a crazed illogic all its own.  While the surface is often absurd, topsy-turvy, and strange, it still maintains some form of coherence and even civilization.  Beneath, however, is unfettered from the niceties of society '“ or, for that matter, from the laws of physics.

A warped, unending labyrinth of madness and chaos, the world Beneath is diverse in geography.  There are palaces Beneath carved from massive gesmtones, and twisted stalactites that are also cities, and huge caves where endless blizzards carpet the stony floor in ashen snow.  A wanderer Beneath might take a wrong turn and find themselves in the stygian Bathhouse of the Damned, or in the foothills of the Upside-down Mountains where Flitghouls glide on membranous wings, or in the midst of a Gnome orgy.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2010, 01:04:43 AM by Light Dragon » Logged


Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2010, 08:16:09 PM »

Races
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Automata

Created in aeons past by human artificers, the Automata of the Republic of Gears come in many shapes and varieties, but the most common variety take the form of slender humanoids of brass and steel, with eyes of glass and gilded skins.  Composed entirely of clockwork (their brains comprising a staggering number of infinitesimally tiny gears packed tightly together into a convoluted, sentient mechanical matrix), these thinking machines are proud of their 'perfect rationality,' and freedom from the physical drives they see as hindering organic life.  The sexual urge in particular they see as childish, amusing, and incomprehensible.

Despite their perfect rationality, Automata are not emotionless creatures, though their reason and lack of base impulses steers them away from such negative emotions as anger, jealousy, and hatred (these being the province of the malignant Gremlins that delight in possessing Automata and corrupting them).  They are keenly aware of the thrill of intellectual pleasure and have a refined, if somewhat understated, sense of fun.  Many are extremely creative, producing incredibly elaborate artworks that resemble mathematical formulae and epic poems simultaneously.  Automata are infinitely patient and have an inexhaustible hunger for knowledge and learning '“ perhaps their only real 'drive' as such.  Many organic beings find the clockwork entities prissy, snobbish, and patronizing; they have a tendency to speak to 'naturally generated species' as if they were children.

Automata make no distinction between language and mathematics, but do condescend to use the languages of other beings if necessary.  They are never superstitious but some do believe in monotheistic deity, the Great Clockmaker or Grand Architect, a far-removed and dispassionate god who they contend set the universe in motion but does not answer prayers or respond to worship.  They are effectively immortal (short of being physically destroyed) and do not believe in an afterlife.  Though they abhor violence, most Automata are programmed with a variety of combat techniques in case the Republic if ever threatened, though the various super-weapons of the Automatocracy '“ most of them well-hidden '“ would probably eradicate almost any invader foolish enough to trifle with the Automata.

Beastkin

No one knows whether the Beastkin are animals that have somehow grown more human or humans who were cursed and have become more like animals, or perhaps hybrids of human and animal fused together by magical means.  Whatever the case, the Beastkin are a common species in Bizarrerie, though they take a myriad of forms including those of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians '“ or, most commonly, a mix of several different creatures.  For whatever reason, and despite their wildly different physiologies, Beastkin are capable of interbreeding with other Beastkin, producing chimerical hybrids when two 'species' of Beastkin bear offspring.  Whether a Beastkin mother gives birth to live young or lays an egg depends entirely on her particular physiology, rather than the physiology of her mate or child.  There are no 'pure-breeding' Beastkin communities except for Felidae of the Felid Duchies.

Beastkin temperaments vary wildly and tend in some sense to reflect the personalities of the constituent animals of a given Beastkin.  Most Beastkin, however, are impulsive, pleasure-seeking creatures with little forethought.  Though quite capable of speech and advanced reasoning Beastkin generally act quite literally according to their animal instincts, their primary goals being self-preservation and procreation.  Many other creatures of Bizarrerie '“ especially the sexless Automata '“ joke that the Beastkin will attempt to fornicate with anything that moves; while this is certainly an exaggeration they are not the most self-restrained race, and their tastes (sexual or otherwise) are catholic.

Most Beastkin live in the wilder, untamed parts of Bizarrerie such as the Shuddersome Wood, though as a rule they avoid wandering Beneath (or at least not into its lower levels), save for a few Beastkin brethren to bats or troglodytic lizards.  All Beastkin abhor clothing except for those in the Felid Duchies; the fastidious Felidae insist that all of their subjects wear clothes.

Glassmen

The name 'Glassmen' is, of course, a misnomer, for the silici, as they are also known, are a sexless species, lacking procreative abilities altogether; though, of course, whispered apocrypha persist of the fabled Spawning Kilns somewhere deep Beneath where the original golemancer-alchemists crafted the Glassmen in ages past, the laboratories are long lost, become little more than a myth in Glassman legendry. Thus, the remaining Glassmen are the last: with each that shatters (and they are a fragile people) the population dwindles, though a good number of the creatures do linger in the world of Bizarrerie '“ they do not age and cannot starve to death or succumb to disease.

The question of Glassman origins is but one of the many surrounding the enigmatic creatures, and the Glassmen themselves seem quite as ignorant as anyone as to the answers. How, for example, do the Glassmen reshape their scintillating bodies with such ease, without first superheating themselves? Dissections of dead Glassmen have yielded no clues: upon shattering a Glassman's fragmented form is rendered immutable and inflexible, bereft of the incredible fluidity of form, the supreme malleability of configuration for which the Glassmen are famed.

Though most Glassmen have a repertoire of preferred forms '“ often vaguely humanoid, though many Glassmen commonly masquerade as beasts, or giant insects, or stranger hybrids of different species, or more abstract personae still '“ all of them are capable of reorganizing themselves in almost any conceivable way, though they cannot dramatically alter their size. To watch a Glassman morph is an exercise in disorientation, inspiring a peculiar mix of nausea and wonder: rarely are they wholly static, preferring to shift and mimic and flow, elongating and shortening their limbs, faces and features twisting like liquid crystal. Only their colours, fixed at 'birth,' remain constant. Rarely the Glassmen combine their bodies, flowing together and intertwining, remaining individually discrete and immiscible, humming gently with pleasure '“ the analogues to sex are obvious.

Other questions immediately present themselves. How do the Glassmen see, for example? They lack organic eyes and yet they seem perfectly perceptive. How do they produce that resonant humming by which they speak, conversing with their strange, echoing accent, like a human voice trapped in crystal? How do they think, without discernable brains, or their simulacra?  Hundreds of other questions of varying esotericism can also be phrased. Do the Glassmen have souls? Are the Glassmen truly alive? Etc.

Many Glassmen hire out their bodies as vases, statues, and ornaments, or earn coins working as exotic buskers in the more salubrious cities of Bizarrerie, but since they do not require food or drink they cannot be truly impoverished. As in every species a few mad individual Glassmen turn to adventure and travel, even becoming warriors, though this last path is a rarity for the silici: their combat style depends on dodging and flowing around an opponent's blows and then killing quickly, with razor-edged glass blades or similar self-made augmentations, but a single firm blow, especially from a club or mace, can spell doom. Medicine and sorcerous healing has no effect on Glassmen, nor can they be repaired mechanically; many surviving Glassmen are missing limbs, or nurse cracks in their bodies like unclosed wounds that can never scar.

Gnomes

A truly repulsive breed of hideous, malformed, pallid, grubby, grotesque little creatures, the Gnomes of Bizarrerie dwell Beneath.  They are a foul-tempered race who are morbidly afraid of water (believing it to be the source of illness) and as such never bathe, and only drink potent fungus wine or mead brewed from the honey of giant cave-bees, which does little to improve their temperaments: those Gnomes that aren't drunk are hung over.  They are extreme hypochondriacs, as a rule, and believe strongly in the medicinal benefits of leeching: most Gnomes are seen with at least one leech clamped to their bodies at all times.  Though Gnomes have developed a great tolerance for alcohol and have resilient livers, their constant blood-loss means that they still get drunk quite quickly.  Though leeches do nothing to improve Gnome health the Gnome physiology has adapted to function using less blood than normally required.

Gnomes are physically dwarfish and misshapen humanoids with poor eyesight and an unpleasant tendency to acquire skin disorders (especially warts and strangely coloured rashes) which they love to complain at length about.  Their skins are so pale as to be translucent, and they are highly prone to varicose veins.  Their teeth are very sharp and yellow, their eyes are tiny and blood red; they can see well in the dark but are nearly blind in the light.  Their digits are webbed, their backs hunched, their noses squashed, their heads bald, and their chins adorned with matted whiskers (though the females only manage scraggly moustaches).  They see only in black and white and so have terrible dress sense.  Gnomes are delighted by bodily functions; their humour is mostly scatological, and their language includes well over five thousand vivid swearwords, curses, oaths, profanities, and vulgarities.  When speaking in other tongues this habit carries over, and most Gnome sentences include at least three curse-words.

Not the most sophisticated species, Gnomes select their leaders through ritualized eating contests.  The Gnome diet consists largely of bugs, slugs, snails, eels, crabs, cave-lichen, slime, and offal (when they can get it), but the title of Chief is only bestowed after a ceremonial meal of pickled earthworms: huge cauldrons of the writhing creatures are collected, and the contestant to eat the most worms without vomiting is declared the Chief.   They mostly live in tribes of a few hundred.  Though not as pansexual as the Beastkin Gnomes are quite licentious, participating in frequent orgiastic gatherings as part of their religious duties; only naturally low fertility rates keep their populations down, since they live till about three hundred, despite their terrible hygiene.

Some have theorized that Gnomes are simply humans who've spent too long Beneath, while others maintain the opposite is true '“ that humans are simply surface Gnomes.  The Gnomes themselves find both suggestions thoroughly insulting and insist that they are transformed maggots in the divine cadaver of a primordial earth-goddess, though why this is a preferable creation story is anyone's guess.  Many Gnomes can be found squatting in the colossal crystalline ruins Beneath.

Lysurans

The subterranean stinkhorn-people, Lysurans (also called Sporeheads) combine aspects of fungi, anthropoids, and echinoderms, moving about on vaguely tentacle-like arms radiating out from their fibrous trunks or stalks, which terminate in fruiting fronds or caps that resemble wide-brimmed hats, shading a crudely featured visage.  They have spindly arms and tendril-like fingers, which are surprisingly dextrous.  Lysurans reproduce asexually by shedding smelly spores from their caps; they are all physically identical clones, thus leading to the adage that 'if you've met one Lysuran, you've met them all.'  Lysuran spores, when inhaled by other organic species, have a powerful hallucinogenic effect.  Some connoisseurs have been known to kidnap Lysurans from Beneath to feed their habits.  Sporeheads are detritovores and feed on carrion of all sorts.

As a rule Lysurans all live Beneath, though they rarely form communities, preferring to wander wide-eyed through the twisted tunnels.  Those few Sporehead villages are governed by lottocracy '“ since every individual is identical to all other individuals, it only makes sense to randomly determine different social positions.  These few 'civilized' Sporeheads tend to make their villages underneath surface graveyards from which they can scavenge corpses, though the Lysurans often mistakenly believe themselves 'corpse-farmers,' sowing the ceilings of their caverns with bones or rotting flesh which they hope will yield cadaverous fruit.

Apart from eating dead things, Lysurans are famous collectors of stories, jokes, and oddments.  A snarky, sarcastic, but cheerful folk, Sporeheads tend to become tale-tellers and peddlers bumbling about the lunatic darkness Beneath Bizarrerie, hoping to bump into listeners or buyers who'll trade them a few bone pennies (the currency Beneath) for a story or curio.  The hallucinatory experiences that invariably accompany a meeting with a Sporehead tend to make such encounters strange, to say the least.

Merpeople

Dwelling in the Gibbering Sea, the Lilting Sea, the Bellowing Sea, the Blithe Sea, and the Sullen Sea, Merpeople are a sexually dimorphic species of aquatic humanoids.  Merwomen (sometimes called Mermaids, though this label more properly applies only to virginal members of the sex) are renowned for their comeliness, appearing as exotic, voluptuous women with blue-green skins, long, flowing hair, and conjoined, finned limbs below the waist.  Though bound to the seas they can breathe air, and enjoy sunning themselves on rocks on the surface.  Because of their beauty and their frequent willingness to play the coquette '“ often by singing coaxing, bawdy tunes while they luxuriate '“ Merwomen tend to attract human men.  Merwomen who couple with human men are transformed, becoming human women: their legs part, their scales slough off, and their gills close.

Mermen, on the other hand, are radically different creatures.  Hulking, squamous, bulbous-eyed, and altogether more fish than man, Mermen are only vaguely humanoid.  Like Merwomen their legs are conjoined, but their heads are those of enormous, sharp-toothed fish, and they cannot exist out of water for more than a few moments at a time.  Because of the tendency for Merwomen to be seduced and spirited away by human men, Mermen are a jealous sort and hold an intense hatred for land-dwellers, especially males.  Whenever they have the opportunity they capsize boats and drag humans beneath the waves to drown them.

The Merpeople have kingdoms as varied in structure and size as though of the surface-world.  Most of their cities are built atop partially hollowed-out undersea mountains riddled with tunnels into which the citizens can flee if the city is attacked '“  Merpeople often engage in long, protracted wars with the Cecaelia (octopus-people), who they believe were once Merpeople who were warped and twisted by some eldritch bargain with the sinister beings of the abyssal depths.

Orchidfolk

The garden-people of Bizarrerie, and the gossipmongers, the proliferate Orchidfolk are a beautiful if fragile race who flourish in the wild parts of the world. Their bodies consist of a thick, fibrous base resembling a twisted mass of roots or tendrils, a slender trunk-like stalk or stem that protrudes from the central mass and tapers towards the tip, and an immense orchidaceous flower containing a stamen, carpel, and several sense organs, though these do not closely resemble humanoid equivalents. These organs include light sensors something like primitive eyes, appearing rather like eye-spots, which allow Orchidfolk limited vision - though notably they are unusually sensitive to colours. They have highly developed scent receptors and concave hollows that look like petalled chambers that function like ears. Orchidfolk spend anywhere from six to ten hours a day rooted firmly to the ground, with their roots buried in the soil, drawing in nutrients and moisture; during this time the creature is dormant and inactive, though not nearly as unaware as a sleeping humanoid. When they wish, Orchidfolk can uproot themselves and achieve surprisingly dexterous locomotion by propelling themselves with their tendrils, which are totally prehensile and so can double as 'arms.' These limb-like appendages are hypersensitive to textures and tremors, helping the Orchidfolk to navigate.

Like other plants, Orchidfolk are photoautotrophs and so synthesize carbon dioxide into food using sunlight, releasing oxygen as a waste product; they draw water and minerals from the soil using their roots. Thus, if allowed time to absorb nutrients from sufficiently rich soil, and given enough exposure to sunlight, Orchidfolk produce all of their own food; they are not an agricultural species, nor do they hunt '“ indeed they do not "eat" at all, lacking any mouth-parts, along with anything resembling lungs. They have few dedicated internal organs, relying on more fully distributed systems, which they can regenerate if given time.

While Orchidfolk possess dense clusters of nervous tissue their (indisputable) intelligences are far less centralized than those of vertebrates and similarly structured species '“ they lack dedicated brains as typically defined. Many of their nerve clusters associated with sensory inputs are located in their 'heads,' however, making them very vulnerable to attack in the same way as human heads are, with the added distinction that Orchidfolk heads also house their reproductive systems. With regards to reproduction, the mobility of Orchidfolk eschews the need for pollinators such as insects, and greatly facilitates the dispersal of seeds. However, many Orchidfolk subspecies display colourful markings that closely resemble insect markings; these features have become almost totally vestigial from a survival standpoint, though they are often a source of pride, and sometimes annoyance when insects are accidentally attracted. Orchidfolk are almost uniformly monoecious '“ both male and female '“ and so are totally capable of self-pollination. Some, however, choose to pollinate with other Orchidfolk using highly ritualized, courtly mating rites.

Beside their locomotive capabilities, the most distinct Orchidfolk characteristic are their remarkable languages, which consist entirely of secreted scents. Individual scents function as graphemes, much like human letters; scent-clusters thus form morphemes and word-like units that can be strung together into complex sentences. The Orchidfolk can vary the intensity and concentrations of their scents, as well as the timing of their release, thus achieving equivalents of tone, timbre, pitch, volume, and rhythm.

Some have suggested that the huge range of Orchidfolk scent-glands used to produce their language were once used to attract insects, but after the advent of Orchidfolk mobility they gradually evolved into their current forms. It should be noted that just like humanoids and other sentient creatures the Orchidfolk languages are totally arbitrary: that is, there is no intrinsic relationship between a given scent and its meaning. Thus, the Orchidfolk have not one but many languages, which are further broken down into dialects.

Fascinatingly, the Orchidfolk can also understand humanoid speech, and can even learn to write. Long periods of contact with oral/aural speakers has led to the ability to transliterate spoken and written languages into the corresponding scent-based ones. Thus the Orchidfolk, a notoriously 'chatty' race, have found themselves a niche as purveyors of information, as well as aesthetic objects.

Orchidfolk culture is radically different than humanoid culture. Orchidfolk tend to live in collective groups or plots, crowding closely together. They are not wholly communal, though their lack of sexual differentiation has led to a fairly egalitarian culture; they still compete for food, mate selection, and political roles. They are, in general, less covetous of material goods than humans, but as accomplished tool-users (and indeed relatively accomplished tool-makers) they have been known to acquire weapons and other implements, usually shared amongst a group and kept in a central space, but sometimes more selfishly guarded. They have no metallurgical and few agricultural skills but are quite adept at wood-caring and minor horticulture, their chief art-form. Most Orchidfolk enclaves keep carnivorous plants much like humans keep watchdogs; these they lull into docility using scents when they need to.

Orchids have negligible senescence but do periodically shed some of their petals. They raise children in common, although most would admit a particular affinity for those offspring who are their biological clones.

Sempiternals

The inhabitants of the Everlasting Lands, the Sempiternals are a race of immortals split into two very distinct castes: the Ageless, who are forever locked in childhood, unable to ever reach maturity, and the Venerables, who are likewise immortal but do age, having grown unfathomably wizened over the long millennia of their lives.  Though both castes are, in actuality, the same age (give or take a few paltry decades at most '“ a mere eye-blink to a Sempiternal), an unending tension exists between the two that mimics generational tensions.  Each caste in some ways is deeply jealous of the other: the Venerables long nostalgically for their lost youth and vitality, while the Ageless are doomed to frustration and stasis, cut off from the pleasures of adulthood.  Neither the Ageless or the Venerables are capable of producing children, the former obviously being too 'young' and the latter far too 'old.'

The split in castes and the creation of the Sempiternals was the result of an alchemical mishap.  The greatest alchemist of the Sempiternals, a man named Lucius Struldpan, stumbled upon the secret of immortality, producing the Elixir of Life, called the Panchrest.  The Panchrest was quickly and eagerly mass-produced and distributed to every man, woman, and child in the land.  For whatever reason, those who drank the potion who had not yet reached puberty remained children forever and became the Ageless, while those who drank it who had reached puberty continued to age, becoming the Venerables.  This side-effect was not anticipated by Lucius or those who imbibed the Panchrest, and the folk of what would become the Everlasting Lands angrily exiled the hapless alchemist, who still wanders Bizarrerie, forbidden from ever returning home.

Despite their physical 'ages' Sempiternals tend to behave very differently than their mortal counterparts.  The Ageless, though playful, energetic, and prone to temper tantrums, are wise beyond their outwardly apparent years, and are far from innocent.  Many are bitter and frustrated creatures who feel cheated out of adult experience.  The Venerables, though withered and frail, do not suffer from the diseases usually associated with old age (protected by their immortality) and so remain relatively robust and clear-headed, but all are afflicted with a prodigious psychic fatigue; more Venerables tend to commit ritualistic suicide than Ageless, to escape the prisons of their senescent bodies.

Interestingly, the Ageless seem to retain the language-acquisition abilities of regular children and as a result can learn languages with relative ease.  As a result, most Ageless know well in excess of a hundred languages (some know many more, and a few claim to be fluent in every known language, living or dead).

Switchskins

Switchskins are strange beings.  They have dual natures: each individual actually coexists with a second entity, sharing the same body, or else (perhaps) replacing that body with their own. The transformation occurs at sunblink and moonblink; it may be triggered by some energy in sunlight itself, but as has been noted, nocturnals still shift into their diurnal forms come dawn even when trapped in lightless chambers; possibly the original dynamic of transformation was keyed to sunlight, but has since become a purely organic function operating independently of exterior stimuli. Evidence against this latter hypothesis includes the indisputable fact that as the days grow short in the winter months, a Switchskin spends progressively longer in its Nightskin, and vice versa in summer. Whatever the case, the transformations of Switchskins are inevitable and irrepressible. Hence the two distinct Switchskin forms or selves: a Dayskin and a Nightskin (or duskling and dawnling).

The two binary halves of a Switchskin do not share any mental connection between one another; they do not share memories, thoughts, or experiences.  When a nocturnal awakes in its diurnal half's body, it does not remember the events of the day, anymore than the diurnal will remember the events of the night before it awoke, at the moment of dusk. The two halves seem to share a number of physical properties, with one particular and all-important difference: they are almost complete colour negatives of one another. Where a nocturnal has skin of whitest alabaster, jet black eyes, and raven-black or purple-red hair (typically), a diurnal has deep black skin, white eyes, and white or golden hair. Some features, such as tooth and bone colouration, remain constant.  Similarly the two halves of a Switchskin are psychic opposites as well, with Dayskins tending towards jocularity and selflessness and Nightskins towards selfishness and egotism; however, there are plenty of specimens of cruel Dayskins and gentle Nightskins.  Whatever the case, a Switchskin's two forms tend to be of opposite temperament, whatever the specifics.

Despite the apparent separateness of Dayskins and Nightskins, certain physical commonalities suggest a close link between a Switchskin's two forms: injuries, tattoos, and other physical changes are 'carried over' during a transformation, and a pregnant Switchskin woman is pregnant in either body (most Switchskins communicate to their other halves through letters or recordings, sharing life-altering decisions).

Apart from their obvious differences, Switchskins are otherwise human.  Most of their origin stories speak either of two separate humanoid races that warred and then chose unity to stop their conflict, or of a single race that split themselves into two halves; this latter sect often assigns a series of much-disputed traits to either side, suggesting that Dayskins embody one half of a persona, and Nightskins the other. A few crazed Switchskins are obsessed with the idea of Coalescence '“ that is, the merging of the two halves back into a singular whole. Others want to permanently separate themselves from their twins; there are some rumours of Dayskin cultists who shun their Nightskins as parasites and wish to eradicate their other halves entirely and of Nightskin groups who see their Dayskin halves as weak-minded creatures who only impair Switchskin society, but such reports may well be apocryphal.

The vast majority of Switchskins dwell in the Mirror Kingdom, but some do stray from the realm of the Doublefaced King.

Whorl

Known simply as Whorl (singular and plural), some believe this race to be Beastkin brethren to snails, but Whorl are only sexually compatible with other Whorl, unlike the infamously heterogeneous Beastkin.  Whatever the case, Whorl certainly resemble anthropomorphic snails, sporting enormous, colourful shells, amorphous lower bodies, and the upper bodies of leathery-skinned humanoids with quasi-flexible cartilage skeletons.  Their faces are more human than snail, though their eyes can be extruded from their faces via extendible stalks.  Their arms are hugely muscled and very long, allowing them to pull themselves along in an almost simian manner.   Whorl are simultaneous hermaphrodites (mono-sexed) and raise children more or less in common, though by and large Whorl are rather solitary creatures and spend large amounts of time away from their families and neighbours.

Whorl are mostly marsh-dwelling creatures, and they rarely if ever build structures for shelter, since their shells effectively protect them against most predators (they enjoy the rain and so rarely if ever retreat into their shells to avoid precipitation).  Purely herbivorous, they have no agricultural or industrial infrastructures.  They are, however, highly intelligent beings with an extremely refined sense of logic and reasoning.  Delighted by puzzles of all sorts, Whorl possess mathematical abilities bordering on savant-like.  They are almost all philosophers of one bent or another; philosophy is perhaps the only profession known to them.  Most are metaphysicians of one stripe or another, though apart from their general interest in the mechanisms of reality most Whorl radically disagree with one another.  All members of the species seem to have near infinite levels of patience and eidetic memories.  They make terrible warriors for obvious reasons, though they have exceptionally strong arms.

Because of their incredibly sagacity Whorl are sometimes sought out for advice, or for the answers to particular riddles.  However, Whorl are renowned for giving verbose, jargonistic answers to any question posed to them, with innumerable tangents, analogies, and anecdotes incorporated into even the most basic of replies.  They also are known to speak veeery slooowly and refuse to be rushed.
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« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2010, 08:16:53 PM »

Bestiary
[/b][/size]


Artefact Spirits

Perhaps distant relatives of the more malign entities known as Gremlins (who seem to possess only mechanical apparatuses such as clockwork), Artefact Spirits are strange beings spontaneously generated after a man-made object reaches its hundredth birthday.  The Artefact Spirit can manifest a voice and move its 'body' about, and quickly develops a personality.  Most Artefact Spirits have a quirky, rather caustic sense of humour and delight in pranks; however, a few are decidedly more sinister.  Those items that have been deliberately abandoned by humans (especially broken objects) still become Artefact Spirits on their hundredth birthdays, but they invariably have warped, even insane souls, and typically hunger for bloody vengeance against living creatures.

Trolls

Trolls are a strange race of feral, semi-intelligent creatures noted for their extreme size variation.  Some Trolls are diminutive little creatures only a foot or so in height, while others are giants as tall as trees.  Even more curiously, the size of a Troll seems to have nothing to do with the size of its parents.  All Trolls hatch from small opalescent eggs and are only a few inches high during infancy; some simply stop growing after a few months, while others continue to gain height and girth till they reach truly prodigious proportions.  Whatever the case, Trolls are a savage and uniformly stupid breed with a magpie-like love of shiny objects, which can be used to distract them in the event of a Troll attack.

The Soul-Swallower

The Soul-Swallower, legends say, was originally an enormous snake.  One day, the serpent slithered through an open window to where a baby lay in its crib.  The snake opened its maw and swallowed the child whole, then coiled up beneath the covers.  When the babe's mother came to check on her child, she found him crying and staring up at her with a strange, hungry look in his eyes, a ragged snake-skin clutched in one hand.  The mother took the baby to her breast to quiet him, and he suckled her more tightly than ever before.

Gradually the child grew, and eventually became a little boy.  Still he cried for his mother's milk, squealing and sobbing till his mother quieted him with her breast; but eventually, his mother told him that he had grown to big to suckle, and offered him porridge instead.  In rage, the little boy opened his mouth and distended his jaw like a snake, and swallowed his mother whole.

When the boy's father returned that night he found his wife in tears.  She had turned her back on him for just a moment, she said, and now he was gone.  They searched for hours, but never found the child, and the woman's husband paid no heed to the queer scarp of empty flesh that the dog worried at in the corner.  The man comforted his wife in her grief and held her close while she wept for hours.  For days the woman wept, and begged for her husband to hold her close, and for a time he did as she asked and shared her grief.

One week passed, and then a second.  The man told his wife that he had to leave the house to work in the field, for harvest was soon, and if he did not go they would have no food for winter.  The woman first clutched and beg and clung to her husband, then cajoled and wheedled, and finally grew furious.  She opened her mouth, and her jaw unhinged itself like a serpent's, and she swallowed her husband whole.

The next day, when a neighbour visited to borrow an egg (for their chickens had been stolen by Trolls), she found the door open with a pile of empty clothes on the floor inside with a ragged suit of skin inside them, like the moulted skin of a snake'¦

Domestic Manticore

A smaller, gentler relative of the larger Greater Manticores that roam the wilds of Bizarrerie, the Domestic Manticore or Lesser Manticore is a common house-pet much valued by humans for its companionship and its ability to hunt down and destroy vermin such as rats or small Trolls.  Physically the Domestic Manticore resembles its larger cousin, possessing the body of a cat, the wings of a bat, the tail of a scorpion, and the face of a human.  Domestic Manticores have lifespans of about fifteen years: during this time their miniature human faces age visibly, beginning as sobbing babies and ending as the gray-haired, age-spotted faces of old men or women.  Despite their human-like faces Manticores of all sorts cannot speak and seem to possess distinctly sub-human, animalistic intelligences; they vocalize more like common cats.

Some owners have their Manticores de-clawed and de-venomed while they are spayed or neutered, but most consider depriving the creature of its weaponry exceptionally cruel.  Most Domestic Manticore breeds are not deadly.
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« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2010, 08:17:28 PM »

Characters
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« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2010, 08:17:51 PM »

Items
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Stream-of-Consiousness Prophet.
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« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2010, 01:41:50 PM »

tHE ARTEFACT SPIRITS
I like these.  One wonders what attracts them to the different items and the like.  Do they like complexity?  And by their personality, one gets a sense of intelligence.
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Old, evil, twisted, damaged, and afflicted.  Orbis non sufficit.Thread Murderer Extraordinaire, and supposedly pragmatic...\"That is my interpretation. That the same rules designed to reduce the role of the GM and to empower the player also destroyed the autonomy to create a consistent setting. And more importantly, these rules reduce the Roleplaying component of what is supposed to be a \'Fantasy Roleplaying game\' to something else\"-Vreeg

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« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2010, 02:05:05 PM »

Out of Character

Thanks Lord Vreeg!  The Artefact Spirits based very heavily (pretty much entirely) on a type of Japanese spirit, the Tsukomogami.

I actually imagined them disliking complexity.  The Gremlins, which are kind of their twisted counterparts, seem to be the ones who hunger for intricacy - hence their attraction to clockwork.  I imagine the Artefact Spirits as tending to develop in more mundane, simple items.  Another distinction is that the Gremlins have forms of their own and can hop from object to object, whereas the Artefact Spirits spontaneously generate inside an object and lack any kind of exterior life; they're bound for their entire existence to their item.  It's kind of like Gremlins are demons that possess items and can potentially "surf" from one to the next, whereas Artefact Spirits are just items that have developed souls.  They're definitely intelligent, though.
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2010, 04:18:00 PM »

The best take on Gnomes that I've seen to date laugh

Will this world have boundaries like Cadaverous Earth or is it intended to be open-ended, like a dream?
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2010, 04:34:12 PM »

Out of Character

Much more the latter, especially Beneath (but one could probably just keep adding more surface realms as well).

I'm glad you like the Gnomes - I'm quite proud of them.  They're very vaguely similar to the Nomes from Oz, but not really.
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« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2010, 04:47:46 PM »

Some Tentative Rules
[/b]


For use in a d20 game:

As an alternative to rolling a d20, challenges are resolved by drawing cards.  Black cards are positive and reds are negative.  Hearts have -1 to their value and Spades have +1, so a 10 of Hearts is worth -11 while a 10 of Spades is worth +11 (for example).

Face cards are worth +/-10 according to colour, and some have special effects. Either of the One-Eyed Jacks '“ The Laughing Boy (the Jack of Diamonds) and La Hire (the Jack of Hearts) '“ results in a second draw while still counting for -10 or -11 respectively.  The Black Lady (the Queen of Spades) or Argine (the Queen of Clubs) results in two immediate draws but still counts as +11 or +10 respectively.    The Suicide King (the King of Hearts) results in an automatic failure while the Man with the Axe (the King of Diamonds) results in an automatic success.

Draw a Joker (which itself has a value of 0) and you must draw from the deck three more times.

Aces are worth +/- 11 according to colour (this means that an Ace of Hearts is worth -12 while an Ace of Spades is worth +12).

Unopposed challenges are versus a difficulty score set by the GM.  Contested challenges require both contestants to draw; in the event of a tie they draw a second time.  If either player possesses a relevant bonus or penalty (a skill or attribute bonus or whatnot) they add/subtract their bonus/penalty to the roll.

On non-risky tasks players can choose to take 0 instead of drawing.  If they choose to take their time thoroughly on a non-risky task they can take 10.

Out of Character

I'm pondering whether a strictly skill-based sort of system might be the way to go, perhaps where players have to invent nonsense words to name and create their own skills.
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« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2010, 12:57:34 AM »

I really like the rhyming people. I also am happy to see another card-based system.

Finally, I am honored to have been an inspiration for your setting.

This reminds me most of Gulliver's Travels or the Travels of Sinbad.

>>Sempiternal's ?Society
Sounds grotesquely terrible.
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« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2010, 11:25:57 AM »

Wow. I absolutely love this setting; It's totally right up my alley! I also wanna chime in saying that I love your take on Gnomes... they're absolutely vile. I'm also quite fond of the concept of Rhymies (it would be a lot of fun to see a player trying to rhyme what they need to say to them).

Have you ever looked at Brian Froud's "Goblins of the Labyrinth" art book? I got that sort of vibe from the Gnomes and, more particularly, the Trolls. The artwork would mesh perfectly with the ones you posted, and the book drips with the sort of quirkiness that this setting just exudes.
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« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2010, 01:19:59 PM »

Out of Character

Ha yeah I love Froud!  If his images were public domain I'd totally have used them.
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« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2010, 08:46:38 PM »

Out of Character

New monster in the bestiary - the Soul-Swallower.
The Soul-Swallower

The Soul-Swallower, legends say, was originally an ordinary-looking snake.  One day, the serpent slithered through an open window to where a baby lay in its crib.  The snake opened its maw and swallowed the child whole, then coiled up beneath the covers.  When the babe's mother came to check on her child, she found him crying and staring up at her with a strange, hungry look in his eyes, a ragged snake-skin clutched in one hand.  The mother took the baby to her breast to quiet him, and he suckled her more tightly than ever before.

Gradually the child grew, and eventually became a little boy.  Still he cried for his mother's milk, squealing and sobbing till his mother quieted him with her breast; but eventually, his mother told him that he had grown to big to suckle, and offered him porridge instead.  In rage, the little boy opened his mouth and distended his jaw like a snake, and swallowed his mother whole.

When the boy's father returned that night he found his wife in tears.  She had turned her back on him for just a moment, she said, and now he was gone.  They searched for hours, but never found the child, and the woman's husband paid no heed to the queer scarp of empty flesh that the dog worried at in the corner.  The man comforted his wife in her grief and held her close while she wept for hours.  For days the woman wept, and begged for her husband to hold her close, and for a time he did as she asked and shared her grief.

One week passed, and then a second.  The man told his wife that he had to leave the house to work in the field, for harvest was soon, and if he did not go they would have no food for winter.  The woman first clutched and beg and clung to her husband, then cajoled and wheedled, and finally grew furious.  She opened her mouth, and her jaw unhinged itself like a serpent's, and she swallowed her husband whole.

The next day, when a neighbour visited to borrow an egg (for their chickens had been stolen by Trolls), she found the door open with a pile of empty clothes on the floor inside with a ragged suit of skin inside them, like the moulted skin of a snake'¦
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« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2010, 03:47:27 AM »

Delightfully creepy. Any reason why it couldn't be called just "the Swallower"?
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