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Monday, February 13, 2017

My Enemy, My Ally

     No, sorry, not the Star Trek novel by Diane Duane (one of her Rihansu series).  (One of the few Trek novels I actually enjoyed, btw.)

     Enemy is one of those disadvantages every one of my players seems to want to take, mostly because they know I'll either end up working the enemy into the game, or ignoring it completely, hence giving them free points.  (This latter point is especially true when I have a party Enemy already planned; personal Enemies tend to be side plots and sub-plots, and harder to work in.)

     One of the key items with Enemy is scope.  In my games, I make it a point that you cannot have an entire national government as an Enemy, particularly just for existing.  Even if most of that government has an Intolerance to your race/species/occupation - such as many in the the Rifts Coalition States effectively having Intolerance (Mages), Intolerance (Non-Humans), or Intolerance (Total) - taking Enemy (Government) means that the entire government is actively hunting you down, putting your name and face at the top of the Public Enemies List.  Even taking a government agency as an Enemy is not normally allowed in my games; the exception being Law Enforcement for criminals with warrants for their arrest.
     For players that want to take an entire government or government agency as an Enemy, I commonly ask them, "Who did you piss off?"  Sometimes, I get "well, I'm a mage/unlicensed psi/illegal alien/whatever. so shouldn't I have them as an Enemy?"  Then I carefully explain other possible disads that would be a better fit (Social Stigma comes into play quite often here).  Sometimes I get, "Lieutenant-Detective Columbo, LAPD" (or some other low ranking officer in an limited agency).  That's when I strongly suggest making that person an Enemy rather than the whole department.  (If that person can be construed as having some form of Rank, such as Columbo's Police Rank 1, then I help the player price the Enemy accordingly.)

     Enemy also comes in three levels: Watcher, Rival, and Hunter.
     Watcher means that the Enemy is not out to harm or even humiliate you; he's simply keeping tabs on you for some reason.  This can be inconvenient, but rarely harmful.  Think of the Watchers from the Highlander television series; they're keeping tabs on the Immortals, and sometimes end up being casualties in the quest for the Prize; they're an Enemy of the Immortal they're following in the sense that the organization they work for does not necessarily have the Immortals' interests at heart.  (In keeping with the title of this post, they can also be Allies....)  Such an Enemy may be Unknown to the PC without it affecting the long-term campaign that much; in this case, the GM may just decide to have the PC's exploits get in the news once too often.
     Rival is someone you've pissed off enough that they've decided to make your life uncomfortable, or just that your interests run perpendicular to theirs that they decided to be a pain.  A notable case for this may be the various depictions of Turk Barrett in the Daredevil comics, movie, and series; quite often, Turk would have Enemy (Rival: Daredevil), or so it would seem at times from Turk's point of view (Daredevil doesn't intend harm toward Turk specifically, but he always seems to stumble upon some scheme of Turk's and wreck it, even without Turk going to prison after).  In one game, I had a character take a Rival Enemy in his own department; his boss hated him and was making his life miserable.
     Hunter means that the Enemy wants to eliminate you; this doesn't necessarily mean they want to kill you; they may maim you, render you permanently unconscious, imprison you, force you into permanent exile, or something similar that basically removes you from the world.

     So, now that one of my PCs has an Enemy, how do I work him into play?
     This depends greatly on the game at hand.  A Watcher and Rival is easily worked in as a recurring NPC in most games, regardless of genre.  A Hunter is harder to work in, and I would ask that the player take a lower Frequency of Appearance on such an Enemy to prevent the Enemy from derailing the campaign to one solely about that Enemy.  An every so often Enemy is sometimes more fun than a full-time one, as the players may get tired of fighting the same guy(s) over and over.

     I want my players to have a campaign Enemy.  Should I charge points for this?
     For a Watcher or Rival, I'd say "Yes".  For a Hunter, this looks like it'll be a major overall plot point for the campaign.  In this case, I would say "No".
     Allow me to explain my reasoning.  A Watcher or Rival adds flavor, and may be useful even if working at cross-purposes to the party.  A Hunter as a Party Enemy is probably the point of the campaign, and therefore essentially a campaign feature.

     I should note that much of this advice is also suitable for the Ally advantage.

     As with all options, err on the side of having fun.  Some parties will enjoy having an Enemy Hunter that shows up every session, while others will rather have the Enemy Watcher show up taking photos of Things Man Is Not Meant to Know or an Enemy Rival messing with the paperwork rather than a Hunter trying to kill them for the thirtieth session in a row.  My own advice is to arrange things in moderation and with variety, not monotony.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ranoc - Races Unique to the Setting (Mostly)

     This is the third of the posts about the races in my fantasy setting, this time covering the three races that are (for the most part) unique to the setting, and which contributed to my conversion of the setting away from its D&D roots.
     I originally came up with the Aeralons back in high school, or maybe even middle school, in the '80s.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered later that they had a counterpart in GURPS Classic: Fantasy Folk!  Over time, I've adjusted the racial template in repeated attempts to fit them closer to my vision of them.
     Orfs came from an interesting idea: If Humans can interbreed with both Elves and Orcs, what would an Elf-Orc hybrid race be like?  Of course, many D&D-ites I spoke with asked me, "aren't those just Humans?"  BORING!  So were born the Orfs (the name is a contraction of "Orc" and "Elf".  Because I have Elves and Orcs inhabiting vastly different locales - sub-tropical forests and northern fjords, respectively - I made it so that Orfs are incredibly rare in the world.
     Vulptens have had a more interesting evolution.  They actually began as Gnolls, D&D's hyena-people.  After I realized that what I was coming up with wasn't really hyena-ish, I started fiddling with the phenotype.  At first I started with wolves, but that didn't quite fit; "Wolfen" types were far too common.  After running through an online thesaurus for words similar to "canine", the word "vulpine" popped up.  Then things just clicked; foxes!

36 points
Average Height: 5' 4".
Average Weight: 115 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 16 years.
Average Lifespan: 80 years.

Attribute Modifiers: DX +1 [20].
Advantages: Acute Vision 2 [4]; Flight (Temporary Disadvantage: Vulnerability to Crushing Damage (Damage Modifier ×3), -45%; Winged, -25%) [12]; Temperature Tolerance 1 [1].
Quirks: Proud [-1].

     Aeralons are a proud people, winged warrior folk that live in villages high up in the Wyrmspire, Occam's Wall, and Barrier Mountain ranges. Their own legends claim they are descended from tribal, mountain-dwelling humans who, millennia ago, aided Galsus the sky god when he walked the world. In exchange for their aid, he granted the entire tribe the ability to fly via large, feathered wings.
     Lending credence to their origins as a human offshoot is the Aeralon ability to interbreed with humans.  The offspring of a human and an Aeralon will always take after their mother; if the mother is an Aeralon, then the offspring will be an Aeralon.

     Much like the people themselves, Aeralon society evolved from that of a human one. They maintain many of the customs of the original human tribe they are descended from. They still live primarily in tribes, the number of which has never been calculated due to their remote domiciles.
     The tribes live in caverns high up in the mountains, and many of these villages are considered part of a nearby nation; for instance, the tribes that inhabit the northern Wyrmspire Mountains are said to be part of Ered-Dûm, while the tribes that live near the corner of the Occam's Wall and Barrier Mountains are considered part of Iturnum. Among their own kind, they are a matriarchal society, led by the priestesses who select a chieftain every five years from the men of the tribe. While the chieftain is often the best war leader, this is not always the case; during a period of peace and prosperity, the chieftain will be chosen from among the older and wiser elders.
    Occasionally, a lone adventurer or family of Aeralons will descend from the mountains to live among their human forebears. Due to their nature, they make excellent scouts and trackers.

     Against ground-based opponents, Aeralons use bows and crossbows while staying out of range of similar ground-based weapons. Many of them also carry javelins and spears. Against aerial opponents, whether other Aeralon tribes or against the aerial cavalries of the human nations, Aeralons tend to employ similar tactics. At present, Aeralons don't use muskets for several reasons. First, most muskets have long barrels, making them unwieldy while carried airborne. Second, the smoke and noise from the powder going off hurt their eyes and ears. Finally, the "kick" of the musket tends to throw them backwards while flying. Despite this, the carbines and dragoon pistols carried by Marach's aerial cavalry intrigues them.
     Aeralons tend to wear light armor, if they wear any at all; at most, a metal breastplate and mail coverings on the limbs. Most go unarmored, even when facing large numbers of opponents.

30 points
Average Height: 5' 6".
Average Weight: 165 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 9 years.
Average Lifespan: 55 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +1 [10]; DX +1 [20]; IQ -1 [-20].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: Will +1 [5], Per +2 [10].
Advantages: DR 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3]; Longevity [2]; Rapid Healing [5]; Teeth (Sharp Teeth) [1]; Ultrahearing [5].
Disadvantages: Short Lifespan 1 [-10].
Quirks: Bloody Mess [-1].

     Orfs are a rarity on Ranoc, a half-breed race that has one elf parent and one orc parent. It is unknown whether orfs will breed true like the half-elves and half-orcs have; they are so rare that no two orfs who are not related have ever been seen at the same time.
     Orfs have many of the traits of their elven and orcish parents. They are slender, like elves, but strong and wiry, with thick, leathery skin. They have sharp teeth, although they lack the fangs of their orc parents. Their slightly pointed ears enable them to hear sounds in frequencies above those of most other races. They heal rapidly from wounds, and are longer-lived than their orc parents, although nowhere near as long-lived as the elves. They reach maturity at 9 years of age, like their orc parents, and while they reach old age at around 45 like their orc parents, their elven blood prevents them from succumbing to old age as quickly; some orfs have been known to reach the age of 90, nearly as old as their human cousins.

     If there was one word that accurately describes an orf, it would be "outcast".  Orfs are painfully aware that they don't really fit in anywhere, so many leave their homeland to try and find a home of their own.  Most have grown up painfully aware that they don't fit into their parents' worlds; those raised by elves are seen as being exceptionally hasty, lacking the elves' trademark patience, while those raised by orcs are seen as being "weak", and have to be twice as ferocious just to be accepted.
     Because of their unique hybrid nature, orfs seem to be the epitome of graceful brutality.  Their elven nature gives them a natural grace, while their orcish nature gives them a brutality and aggression that seems unrivaled.  All known orfs, save one, have channeled their aggression into the combative arts; watching an orf in combat has been likened to orchestrated mayhem.

55 points
Average Height: 6'.
Average Weight: 420 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 16 years.
Average Lifespan: 70 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +5 [50]; IQ -1 [-20]; HT +1 [10].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: Will +1 [5]; Per +1 [5].
Advantages: Acute Hearing 3 [6]; DR 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3]; Night Vision 7 [7].
Perks: Fur [1].
Disadvantages: Colorblindness [-10]; Extra Sleep -1 [-2].

     Vulptens are humanoids of canine stock, physically resembling foxes who stand on their hind legs, although with a more humanoid stance and proportions. Their faces have the snouts and ears of their canine heritage, and their fur comes in shades of white, brown, black, red, gray, and tan.
     Multiple births are the rule rather than the exception for vulptens. The usual mix of males to females is three to two; vulpten women have been known to give birth to as many as ten cubs at once.

     Vulptens are the last of the so-called "monster" races on Ophari to have adopted the trappings of civilization. As such, they are still learning the ropes, so to speak, and have evolved a society that fits their species quite well.
     At the center of the vulpten civilization is the family unit. As many as four generations of vulptens have been known to live under one roof. A vulpten town consists of as many as sixty or seventy unrelated families.
     Vulptenish society is matriarchal; the eldest female heads the family. When vulptens marry – and they marry for life, although some vulpten females have been known to marry more than one male at a time – the couple is expected to move in with the bride's family, at least until they gain a permanent residence of their own. However, only one couple in twenty ever moves out on their own. When the family matriarch passes on, the eldest daughter inherits the family estate, and the other sisters move on with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to another estate nearby.
     Vulptens have a reputation for being lazy and shiftless, interested only in hunting, foraging, and fighting. However, vulptens have proven to be hard working craftsmen and farmers. They still tend to be hunters, but are consummate conservationists who kill only what they need to survive and always try to use even the minutest portion of their kill.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ranoc - The Classic Monster Races

     Last time I gave descriptions of the classic player races used in Ranoc.  Today, I give the descriptions of the classic monster races that can be player races: Centaurs, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Minotaurs, Mohani (Lizardfold), and Ogres.  Like the player races, I have tried to make each of them somewhat unique, differing them in significant ways from the expectations while keeping them identifiable.

37 points
Average Height: 7', (4' 6" at the horse's shoulder).
Average Length: 7'.
Average Weight: 730 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 16 years.
Average Lifespan: 80 years.

Attribute Modifiers: IQ -1 [-20].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM +1; HP +4 (Size, -10%) [8]; Basic Move +2 [10].
Advantages: Claws (Hooves) [3]; Enhanced Move (Ground) 1/2 [10]; Extra Legs (4 Legs) [5]; Lifting ST +4 (Size, -10%) [11]; Striking ST +4 (Kick Only, -60%; Size, -10%) [6].
Perks: Fur [1].
Disadvantages: Short Arms (Two Arms) [-10].

     Centaurs are considered among the civilized humanoids not because of any real centaur civilization, past or present, but solely because they have been accepted as such for a long time.
     The majority of the centaurs live in the plains of the Rochladastacht, although most feel no real loyalty to the nation of Rochlad. The rolling plains of the region are well-suited for the centaur's free spirited nature. They are also found in the forests that border the plains, although they rarely venture over the mountains into the Vast Expanse or the Northeast Frontier. Many are also found in the hills of the southern Teyoth region.

     Centaurs are quite sociable around their own people. Despite their mass, they are reputed to have a low alcohol tolerance, and are generally crude and boorish when under the influence. They generally survive through a mixture of hunting, foraging, fishing, agriculture, and trade. While they distrust orcs and goblins, and welcome elves, they view humans with mixed emotions, and often ask them to leave the local territory when encountered.
     Centaur tribes are matriarchal in nature; while the males are primarily hunters and scouts, the females lead and administer the tribes. Some scholars believe this has influenced Rochlad's culture. Males often engage in ritual combats when vying for mates.
     Most centaur lairs are located near running water, and often consist of nomadic tents, huts, and lean-tos that can be broken down and moved within hours.

     Centaurs take pride in being archers, preferring to use longbows. Most are also skilled with spears, lances, and broadswords. There are a few centaurs that have learned to use muskets, but they rarely use them due to the loud noise and clouds of thick black smoke created by the guns.
     Centaurs rarely provoke fights, although they will finish them. Their normal response to aggression is flight, firing behind them to discourage pursuit, although one who is in a bad mood is just as likely to stand and meet the aggressor head-on or just charge forward with a braced spear. Against creatures powerful enough to threaten their tribe, half of the tribe's warriors circle around to flank the creature from behind.

5 points
Average Height: 3'.
Average Weight: 30 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 8 years.
Average Lifespan: 40 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST -4 [-40]; DX +2 [40].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM -2; Basic Move -1 [-5].
Advantages: Acute Vision 2 [4]; Clinging [20]; Silence 3 [15]; Slippery 3 [6].
Disadvantages: Appearance (Unattractive (to other races)) [-4]; Bad Back (Mild) [-15]; Easy to Kill -2 [-4]; Short Lifespan -1 [-10]; Weak Bite [-2].

     Goblins are small, weak humanoids with green skin. They are expert climbers, with microscopic claws which enable them to stick to most rough surfaces. They are also able to move without making noises, and excrete a clear substance which makes it difficult for others to hold onto them. This substance, known as 'goblin slime' among other races, also lets them move through spaces that would normally be too small for others of the same size, such as kobolds and halflings, to get through. This same slime is a valued, albeit very inexpensive, alchemical component for stealth elixirs.

     Gone are the days of the goblin tribes. Goblins are the one "monster race" that has seemingly been seamlessly integrated into human society; it's not uncommon nowadays for entire neighborhoods in human cities and towns to be composed solely of goblins.
     Seeing that the humans and their allies were gaining dominance in the world, the goblins decided it was better to join the humans rather than fight against them. Still, most goblins tend to live in the slums of human cities; millennia of being considered a "monster" race have left most other people with the idea that goblins are inherently inferior to most others, and the goblins as a race have yet to overcome their feelings of persecution.
     Surprisingly, goblins get along well with halflings.  This is in part because goblins and halflings can look each other in the eye rather than needing to look up at the other race. Another is a feeling of kinship; both are small people in a world dominated by humans.

     Because goblins tend to be smaller than most others yet nimble and agile, most favor quick hit-and-run tactics.  The popular literary image of the hero being swarmed by a horde of goblins working for the enemy has no basis in reality.  Goblins tend to work well in groups, often using decoys and flanking tactics on their enemies.

35 points
Average Height: 5' 6".
Average Weight: 125 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 15 years.
Average Lifespan: 70 years.

Attribute Adjustments: DX +1[20].
Advantages: Chameleon 3 [15]; Silence 3 [15]; Slippery 2 [4].
Disadvantages: Appearance (Unattractive (to other races except goblins)) [-4]; Easy to Read [-10]; No Sense of Smell/Taste [-5].

     Hobgoblins are humanoids who are similar to goblins in appearance, but much taller, standing closer to humans in height. They are similar to goblins in that they can move silently and excrete 'goblin slime' (see Goblins, above), although the slime of a hobgoblin is not as potent as that of a goblin. In addition, they have the natural ability to blend into their background.

     Hobgoblins tend to be insular, living in their own communities rather than joining their smaller cousins in integrating with human society.  This tendency towards insulation led the Great Empire of Man to give the hobgoblins their own province when it was decided to try and 'civilize' them.
     The hobgoblins' natural abilities let them perform as excellent scouts, although their lack of a sense of smell leads them to misjudge many things that would be obvious to others – for example, a hobgoblin cannot distinguish between a stew over a cooking fire, an herbalist's bubbling concoction, or a washer-woman's laundry without actually observing the contents.

10 points
Average Height: 3'.
Average Weight: 42 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 8years.
Average Lifespan: 45 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST -3 [-30].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM -2; Basic Move -1 [-5].
Advantages: Claws (Talons) [8]; DR 2 [10]; Discriminatory Smell [15]; Double-Jointed [15]; Teeth (Sharp Teeth) [1]; Vibration Sense [10].
Perks: Scales [1].
Disadvantages: Cold Blooded ("freeze up" below 50°) [-5]; Short Lifespan -1 [-10].

     Small reptilian creatures that live along the northern shore of the Umojan jungles, kobolds are the one Umojan race that has had the most contact with the more civilized nations of Ophari.  They are adapted to their natural habitat, being able to feel the vibrations in the air around them through their skin, as well as having exceptionally sharp noses, large claws, and powerful jaws.

     Kobolds are fascinated by magic. It is not uncommon for kobold magicians to be found in southern Ophari, where the knowledge is more common.  That the majority of kobolds visible to the people of Ophari, particularly the southern Teyoth region, are mages gives the false impression that almost all kobolds wield magic.  This perception has been lessened since the founding of New Hope, but hasn't fully disappeared.
     Their small size gives kobolds a bit of an inferiority complex when around larger folk.  Hence, despite their smaller size, kobolds tend to be more ferocious and tenacious in combat.  This also leads them to being overachievers among larger folk.

70 points
Average Height: 8'.
Average Weight: 1,000 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 9 years.
Average Lifespan: 60 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +10 (Size, -10%) [90]; IQ -2 [-40].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM +1; Basic Move +1 [5].
Advantages: Absolute Direction [5]; Claws (Hooves) [3]; DR 2 (Skull only, -70%) [3]; Discriminatory Hearing [15]; Discriminatory Smell [15]; Hard to Kill 3 [6]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Longevity [2]; Regeneration (Regular: 1 HP/hr) [25]; Striker (Impaling) (Horns) [8].
Perks: Fur [1].
Disadvantages: Appearance (Ugly) [-8]; Bad Sight (Nearsighted) [-25]; Restricted Diet (Herbivore) [-10]; Semi-Upright [-5]; Short Lifespan -1 [-10]; Social Stigma (Monster) [-15].

     Minotaurs are massive creatures resembling a cross between humanoids and bulls. They stand eight feet tall, and have powerful muscles. While they have human-like hands – five fingers including an opposable thumb – their feet end in digitgrade hooves. All bulls and most cows have horns on their heads which point forwards; warriors often sharpen or decorate these horns for effect. The horns also provide some armor to the skull. While they generally have poor eyesight, being naturally nearsighted, their senses of hearing and smell are superhumanly acute.

     Minotaurs prefer wide open fields; many are found in Rochlad and Gor Ansat, although they are known to range as far north as Evalon. They have a largely undeserved reputation for brutality and savagery.  In truth, most minotaurs are the quintessential "gentle giants". That is, until they are provoked to violence, at which point they become fierce warriors.
     Many minotaurs are possessed by wanderlust early in their adult lives, and leave home for "greener pastures". During this time period, which can last from four to ten years, minotaurs travel the world, learning all they can. After this time, most minotaurs settle into a town or village, often on the outskirts of a frontier settlement, content to live life as peacefully as possible. Most minotaurs will not take mates until their wanderlust period is over. Some scholars believe that the wanderlust is part of the divine plan for minotaurs, compelling them to travel until they meet desirable mates.
     Despite legends to the contrary, minotaurs are decidedly vegetarians.

     A minotaur's first impulse in combat is to charge. To initiate combat, a minotaur drops to all fours and charges at full speed towards his opponent, intending to gouge said opponent with his horns. Following this, should the opponent still be able to fight, the minotaur will draw his weapon.
     Minotaurs are fierce opponents. In addition to being able to withstand about twice as much punishment as an average human, they are very difficult to actually kill, and can keep fighting long after others would have fallen from their wounds.

50 points
Average Height: 8'.
Average Weight: 420 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 16 years.
Average Lifespan: 140 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +5 (Size, -10%) [45]; DX +1 [20]; IQ -1 [-20].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM +1.
Advantages: Claws (Sharp Claws) [5]; DR 3 [15]; Extended Lifespan 1 (×2) [2]; Infravision [10]; Nictitating Membrane 2 [2]; Teeth (Sharp Teeth) [1].
Disadvantages: Cold-Blooded ("freeze up" below 50°) [-5]; Colorblindness [-10]; Stuttering [-10]; Vow (Never Eat Plant Matter Unless Absolutely Necessary) [-5].
Common Traits: (not part of the package) Odious Personal Habit (Eats Sapients) [-15].

     Mohani are large, semi-humanoid reptilians who dominate the deep forests of Umoja. They are a powerfully-built race that stands upright, with sharp claws on their hands and feet, sharp teeth, and a short vestigial tail for balance. While unable to see colors, they are able to see into the infrared spectrum, enabling them to hunt by sensing body heat, which they themselves, being reptiles, do not give off. Their skin is protected by large, bony plates, and their eyes possess nictitating membranes enabling them to see clearly underwater.
     The "Stuttering" trait isn't true stuttering; instead, it represents the fact that mohani speaking anything other than languages geared towards reptilians, such as Draconic, hiss the 'S' sound, making it seem as if they're adding at least two additional 'S'es to the word.

     Mohani exist alongside nature, and revere it. They tend to eschew the trappings of civilization, believing that "civilization" is another word for "detached from nature."  Instead, the majority of mohani exist in small tribes that wander throughout the Umojan jungles, living as simple hunter-gatherers.  Those few mohani who have settled into Shakdran and New Hope are regarded with suspicion by other mohani.
     The mohani way of life includes many practices that confuse and often disgust more civilized folk.  While naturally omnivorous, the majority practice a strictly carnivorous way of life, down to the idea of never wasting meat.  This often includes the practices of cannibalism and devouring of enemies slain in battle.
     There is some evidence that mohani practices are innate, rather than societal.  Even mohani who were hatched and grew up in civilized society, such as in New Hope and Shakdran, separated from other mohani exhibit a tendency towards hunting and carnivorism.

75 points
Average Height: 7' 6".
Average Weight: 1,000 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 8 years.
Average Lifespan: 35 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +10 (Size, -10%) [90]; IQ -3 [-60].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM +1; Will +3 [15]; Per +3 [15].
Advantages: Acute Taste and Smell 1 [2]; DR 3 (Tough Skin, -40%) [9]; Hard to Kill 3 [6]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Lifting ST +5 (Size, -10%) [14]; Magic Resistance 3 [6]; Night Vision 9 [9]; Regeneration (Regular, 1 HP/hr) [25]; Single-Minded [5]; Super Jump 1 [10].
Disadvantages: Appearance (Monstrous (to other races)) [-20]; Bestial [-10]; Odious Racial Habit (May Eat Sapients) [-15]; Short Lifespan -1 [-10]; Social Stigma (Regarded As An Animal or Valuable Property) [-10]; Truthfulness (6) [-10]; Workaholic [-5].
Quirks: Alcohol Intolerance [-1].

     Ogres are the largest of the common races without actually being true "giants." Ogres stand 7 to 8 feet tall and are half a ton or more of pure muscle. They aren't the smartest creatures, either, but are normally able to ascertain whether or not someone trying to cheat them.
     Ogres tend to be simple in their desires: enough food to sustain them and a comfortable place to sleep is all they really ask for. Because of this, many ogres find themselves willing slaves, performing grueling menial physical labor in exchange for letting someone else take care of their needs. Many are smart enough to figure out that the shiny pieces of metal the smaller folk use can be used to obtain food and shelter. Some unscrupulous types will often try and use an ogre in criminal dealings by promising bits of shiny metals in return for performing acts of mayhem; this can backfire when the ogre is stopped and asked who paid him, and the ogre names his employer.
     Despite their tremendous bulk, ogres cannot hold their liquor. Fortunately, ninety percent of ogres lean towards being sleepy drunks rather than violent.

     Ogres are brutally truthful; some are just terrible liars, but most ogres are just not smart enough to know how to lie. They are simple, direct, and tell things how they see it. Ogres are often referred to as "talking animals" based on how they react. When hungry, they seek out food; when cold, they seek out warmth; when they see something they want, they generally see nothing wrong with just taking; when confronted with danger, they exhibit the 'fight or flight' trait common to most animals.
     "Civilized" ogres have been trained to suppress some of these instincts. While "wild" ogres see nothing wrong with eating another humanoid, ogres who have been brought into civilization are trained to understand that they can't eat anything else that walks on two legs.
     Ogres are single-minded and determined; when an ogre puts his mind to something, he won't let anything distract him from what he's doing. Slave owners often like to encourage this; some ogre slaves have been known to work themselves into exhaustion, and are rewarded by a larger meal or an extra blanket.

     When faced with a dangerous situation, the ogre's typical first instinct is to lash out at the danger with his fists, and keep hitting it until it doesn't move. Ogres know they are stronger and can take more punishment than most others, so they tend to be front-line fighters.
     When faced with a clearly superior opponent, such as a rampaging giant or dragon, ogres tend to flee rather than fight, fighting only if cornered. A cornered ogre often lashes out in a violent rage that surprises even them, until they get far enough past the creature or creatures that cornered them to flee.

This weekend, I'll cover the races unique to Ranoc.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ranoc - The Classical Races

     In my Ranoc Muskets-and-Magery Renaissance Fantasy setting, I have a number of races present, including the classical fantasy races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Half-Elf, Half-Orc), several classical fantasy races that are not always considered playable or generally reserved for NPCs (Centaur, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Kobold, Lizardfolk (renamed to Mohani), Minotaur, Ogre, Orc), and a few races that are either variations of non-classical races (Aeralon, a winged human variant; Vulptens, a fox-type canine race) or original creations of my own (Orfs, an Orc-Elf hybrid race).             Below, I detail the classical races of Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Orc

0 points
Average Height: 5' 6".
Average Weight: 125 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 16 years.
Average Lifespan: 80 years.

     Humans are not the most numerous race on Ranoc (that distinction goes to the goblins), nor are they the most powerful individually (many more races are physically more powerful). What gives humans their distinctive place as the dominant race of Ranoc are the following factors: Humans are prolific, aggressive, organized, and adaptable.
     Humans are among the most prolific races in the world; only the goblins and vulptens are known to be more prolific. Their relatively short gestation period and their propensity to occasionally have multiple births for most of their lifespan allow humans to have large families. In addition, some human nations allow for polygamous relationships; humans in those nations occasionally have more than one spouse.
     Humans are also among the most aggressive races. They are not as aggressive as the orcs, but more aggressive, on average, than the elves, dwarves, and halflings. Note that "aggressive" does not necessarily mean "nasty", as there are good and evil humans of all sorts. Human aggression is best expressed by desire; humans, both individually and in groups, tend to be the types to go after what they desire when they desire it.
     On top of these two factors, humans are organized. Social creatures by nature, humans tend to work well in groups. Ages ago, when humans were still primitive tribals no better than the savage Umojan races, humans discovered that working together for a common goal enabled them to achieve it better than working apart. In addition, humans have a long history of creating organizations that outlived its founding members by several generations.
     Perhaps the one thing that goes overlooked as far as humans go is that they are also highly adaptable. This does not mean that they adapt physically – a human tossed overboard at sea will not develop gills to breathe water, nor will he grow webbing between his fingers and toes; a human tossed overboard is likely food for the sharks. Human adaptability is one of mental adaptability. Humans can easily wrap their minds around almost any concept, and interact well with such diverse peoples as Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Vulptens, and Kobolds. According to the dogma of the priests of Galsus, it is this adaptability that made them his favorite race. The dogma of the Church of the One True God in Redwater claims this – not the other reasons listed above – is why humans will inherit the planet from the other races.

20 points
Average Height: 4' 6".
Average Weight: 165 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 30 years.
Average Lifespan: 200 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +1 [10]; HT +1 [10].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM -1; Basic Move -1 [-5].
Advantages: Absolute Direction (Accessibility: Underground Only, -30%) [4]; Artificer 1 [5]; Extended Lifespan 1 (×2) [2]; Magic Resistance 2 (Improved, +150%) [10]; Night Vision 9 [9]; Resistant to Poisons (+8) [5].
Perks: No Hangover [1].
Disadvantages: Duty (to Clan; 9) [-5]; Honesty (9) [-15]; Increased Consumption -1 [-10].
Quirk: Likes Strong Alcohol [-1].

     Dwarves are short, stocky humanoids who possess dense muscles and hearty constitutions. They stand on average around four and a half feet tall, never exceeding five feet, with dark complexions. Their eye and hair colors match human norms. They live around two hundred years on average. They are also naturally resilient to magic. If they have a fault, it is their love of food and beautiful things.
     Almost all Dwarves are master craftsmen, whether it be working with ordinary metals, precious metals, stonework, precious and semi-precious stones, or woodwork. Each item made is a work of art, even if that item is just the wooden frame shoring up the mine wall to keep it from collapsing.
     All Dwarves take pride in their beards; even the females have been known to grow them. All beards are well-groomed, often braided and/or decorated with beads, gold, silver, gems, or ivory.
     While most believe that Dwarves live under the ground, that is not the case. The cities of Ered-Dûm in the Wyrmspire Mountains are built in valleys between the mountains, not under them. Dwarves are comfortable under the ground, however, and never lose their direction when deep in the mines.

     The first thing Dwarves are taught is their duty to their Clan. In dwarven societies, even those living in non-dwarven nations, the Clan supersedes national interests. To emphasize this, they are taught to obey the law, with emphasis on the Clan's laws. A dwarf is bound to his Clan – to betray the Clan is almost inconceivable. A dwarf is simply 'not a dwarf' if he does not have a Clan, and neither is he the same dwarf if he switches Clans. Dwarves have honor and pride in three things: their Clan, their work, and their beards.
     A dwarf's beard is another point of honor: a dwarf would rather lose his hand than his beard, and tugging or pulling on a beard is a deadly insult and often the start of the not uncommon drunken duel. While females tend to be more level-headed, if an insult on one's honor occurs between them it is not unheard of for a female dwarf to maliciously shave another's beard while they sleep.
     Dwarves are not, despite some stereotypes, particularly warlike in nature, nor are they overly surly. They are welcoming, if wary, to strangers, but have a law of hospitality that extends to all guests, especially in times of great need. They love a good tale, fellowship, feasts, and ales, and a traveler taking shelter will find himself much more welcome if he can provide a good story on a long night.
     They tend to be secretive about their work – whether it is art, armor, or other items. They take enormous pride in their work, and are very shrewd about selling it, knowing very well how prized good dwarf craftsmanship is. They are usually honest, and tend to punish thieves or troublemakers very harshly. A merchant will always be dealt with openly: however, this doesn't mean the prices won't be steep!
     Dwarves are not an especially 'conquering' race; they are practical minded, and tend more to be greedy over mining rights then anything else. While Dwarves are content with their caves and their valleys, and have no particular urge to expand, other cultures have, in the past, made the mistake of trying to take their land from them. A dwarf can and will fight ferociously in defense of their homeland, Clan, or other property.

25 points
Average Height: 5' 9".
Average Weight: 90 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 120 years.
Average Lifespan: 640 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST -1 [-10]; DX +1 [20].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: HP +1 [2].
Advantages: Acute Hearing 3 [6]; Eidetic Memory [5]; Extended Lifespan 3 (×8) [6]; Subsonic Hearing [5]; Ultrahearing [5].
Disadvantages: Callous [-5]; Extra Sleep -2 [-4]; Hidebound [-5].

     Elves are humanoids, similar in stature and appearance to humans. They are more slender, however, with large, pointed ears. They are able to hear noises far outside the range of others, well into the subsonic and ultrasonic ranges.
     Elves live for an average of six centuries. Legends and myths from long ago indicate they were once immortal, but this may be anything from elvish arrogance to misconceptions by the other pre-historic peoples.
     Because of their longer life spans, elves must sleep on average ten hours a day.

     Most elves find it hard to develop relationships with shorter-lived beings. Occasionally, marriages between humans and elves have occurred, producing half-elves, although these have become rare of late. The most successful inter-racial friendships that elves have established have been with Dwarves, as that race is longer-lived than humans.
     Elves are patient, generally thinking long-term. They are also clever, resourceful, and more often than not ruthlessly Machiavellian. Their long lives make them very patient, and they are willing to make almost cold-hearted sacrifices if it will profit in the long run. They are, in fact, more warlike then their reputation suggests, and while most will try to prevent damage to nature, forestland, etc, they will not hesitate to make war on others if deemed necessary.
     Many elves have developed a rather dry, cynical personality and occasionally a black sense of humor, due to their being such a long lived race. They are often arrogant when dealing with shorter lived races, like the humans, and have no problem in dealing mercilessly with them.  This often extends to their treatment of others who are also long-lived, including the Dwarves and often other elves.
     Elves have a love of the arts, in much the same way that Dwarves love their craft. Song, dance, and art are all highly valued, and any bard traveling through elven lands will be treated with the highest respect – provided they can carry a decent tune. Elves love beauty, fine clothes, and fine singing, and will sometimes go out of their way to acquire an exceptional work of art.  Because they can hear in ranges outside the human norm, their own music will occasionally venture into these areas; a human listening to an elven musical masterpiece may wonder about lengthy stretches of seeming silence that elves will listen intently to.

35 points
Average Height: 5' 8".
Average Weight: 125 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 16 years.
Average Lifespan: 100 years.

Attribute Adjustments: DX +1 [20].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: Per +1 [5].
Advantages: Acute Hearing 2 [4]; Longevity [2]; Ultrahearing [5].
Perks: Deep Sleeper [1].
Disadvantages: Extra Sleep -1 [-2].

     Originally just the offspring between humans and elves, the half-elves of Ranoc have bred true to almost become a race of their own. Most half-elves alive today are descended from other half-elves. In fact, the nation of South Ford was settled by half-elves escaping the prejudices of their human and elf ancestors.
     Half-elves have some of the traits of their elf ancestors. They have pointed ears, although they are not as large as those of the elves. They can hear sounds of a higher pitch than humans, but not the lower-pitched noises the elves can. They age slower than humans, but are not nearly as long-lived as the elves; most half-elves will reach an age of around 150 years before succumbing to old age.
     Because of their ancestry, half-elves need to sleep on average nine hours a day, as opposed to the standard eight from humans or the ten of the elves.

     Half-elves possess many of the same qualities as their human ancestors, being social creatures with intense desires. They have much of the patience of their elf ancestors, but this is tempered with the reality of their shorter lifespan.  Hence, most of them are not as ruthless as their elven kin.
     Most half-elves are also consciously aware of the fact they generally don't fit into either human or elf societies, although the humans are in general more trusting of them than the elves.

25 points
Average Height: 3'.
Average Weight: 30 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 16 years.
Average Lifespan: 100 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST -4 [-40]; DX +2 [40].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: SM -2; HP +4 [8]; Basic Move -1 [-5].
Advantages: Catfall [10]; Flexibility [5]; Longevity [2]; Perfect Balance [15].
Disadvantages: Chummy [-5]; Workaholic [-5].

     Halflings are short, averaging three to three and a half feet tall in height, with human proportions. They are nimble and flexible; many are good with their hands. They have a natural sense of balance, enabling them to always land on their feet from any fall taller than themselves, and giving them the ability to walk across the narrowest beams without losing their footing.

     Halflings are well aware of their small size when compared to almost everyone else. Many halflings admit to feelings of inferiority when working with the "Big Folk", as they tend to call humans, elves, and others who are generally larger than them (which is nearly everyone except kobolds and goblns). These feelings often drive them to be twice as brave or clever as their larger friends. They are social creatures, preferring to work in groups rather than alone.
     Halflings tend to be suspicious of magic, although they don't have any racial taboos against using it. While not naturally magical, many halflings who study magic lean towards spells which can enhance their already nimble natures.
     If halflings have a fault, it's that they work themselves into exhaustion. It is not uncommon to find a halfling that fell asleep at his workbench wearing the same clothes he had on two days ago when he started working. As a race, halflings tend to dislike leaving anything unfinished, be it a pasture fence, a piece of clockwork for a pocket watch, or a heroic quest.

     Halfling combat consists of a combination of shooting from concealment and nimble hit-and-run tactics.  When prepared for an attack, most halfling defenders can be found firing crossbows or muskets from inside foxholes, behind rocks, or from underneath wagons.  If surprised, or without time to prepare a suitable defensive position, halflings stay constantly in motion, often taking Move or Move and Attack maneuvers, interspersed with Defensive Attacks or All-Out-Defense maneuvers, until an opening for a more dedicated attack presents itself.  Their small size and natural agility helps, and many use Acrobatic Dodges while in motion, almost teasing their attackers.

25 points
Average Height: 5' 4".
Average Weight: 165 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 13 years.
Average Lifespan: 60 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +1 [10].
Advantages: Claws (Blunt Claws) [3]; DR 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3]; Rapid Healing [5]; Resistant to Disease (+8) [8]; Teeth (Sharp Teeth) [1]; Universal Digestion [5].
Disadvantages: Easy to Read [-10].
Features: Early Maturation [0].

     Like half-elves, the half-orcs of Ranoc have also bred true. Half-orcs are a cross-breed between humans and orcs.
     Half-orcs generally have the green, gray, and blue skin tones of the orcs, but toned down some to be closer to the pinks, tans, and browns of the humans. They have sharper teeth than humans, but lack the large fangs of the orcs. Like the orcs, they can take a lot of punishment. They heal rapidly, and are highly resistant to disease and rotten food.

     Half-orcs are quite aware of their situation. They are more intelligent than their orc ancestors, and stronger than most humans. This has led many half-orcs amongst the Northern Raider Clans to rise to positions of leadership. Contrary to popular beliefs, half-orcs are not stupid; most are as intelligent as the average human. Furthermore, their orcish heritage gives them a natural cunning.
     Half-orcs who live among the orcs tend to be stronger and fiercer than those who live among their own kind or their human kin. 

30 points 
Average Height: 5' 2".
Average Weight: 215 lbs.
Age of Maturity: 9 years.
Average Lifespan: 45 years.

Attribute Adjustments: ST +2 [20]; IQ -1 [-20].
Secondary Characteristic Adjustments: Will +1 [5]; Per +1 [5].
Advantages: Claws (Blunt Claws) [3]; DR 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3]; Fit [5]; Hard to Kill 3 [6]; Less Sleep 2 [4]; Rapid Healing [5]; Resistant to Disease (+8) [8]; Teeth (Fangs) [2]; Universal Digestion [5].
Disadvantages: Easy to Read [-10]; Short Lifespan 1 [-10].
Quirks: Bloody Mess [-1].

     Orcs are massive humanoids closely related to both humans and elves. They stand an average of five and a half feet tall, weighing over two hundred pounds on average. This weight is primarily muscle, although orcs do possess a proportionately larger bone mass than their human cousins. They possess green, gray, and blue skin tones, sharp teeth with large fangs, powerful, clawed hands, and thick, leathery skin. They are difficult to kill, healing rapidly from injuries, are highly resistant to disease, and are able to subsist on foods that would make the average human sick.
     Orcs are shorter-lived than humans. While a human will reach physical maturity around 15 years of age, orcs reach that maturity at age nine. In addition, they reach old age around 45 years of age. This accelerated lifespan enables them to require less sleep than the average human, sleeping six hours a night instead of the usual eight. 

     Orcs tend to be brutal, in and out of combat. Most have a "live fast, fight hard, play hard" mentality. In the past, they have subscribed to a "might makes right" mentality, and most still live in societies that revere strength.
     Orcs, like their human cousins, are aggressive and prolific. In many ways, they are even more aggressive and prolific than humans. They are not, however, inclined towards organization, often relying on others to provide it. 

     Orcs are prized as shock troops by nearly all the nations of the Ophari continent; Redwater being the obvious exception. They favor weapons that cause as much damage as possible in one hit. Most prize melee weapons over ranged ones. Companies of orcs in most nations are often led by a half-orc, as most orcs are better able to relate to half-orcs than they are humans.

     The "Bloody Mess" quirk is defined as follows: When you kill something, you don't just kill it; you obliterate it!  Blood and viscera fly everywhere! Anything you kill, especially those that reach -5xHP, dies in the most gruesome way possible. This gives a -1 Reaction penalty to anyone who witnesses such an act for the first time, although it might give a +1 Reaction bonus to those with tastes for such things. Note that this is distinct from the Rest In Pieces Perk (pp. 19-20 of GURPS Power-Ups 2: Perks) in that the deceased may still be magically revived, but does not forbid that Perk's purchase as well.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Ranoc - Defining the Races

     Way back in 2001 or 2002, when I first started work on my Ranoc Muskets-and-Magery Renaissance Fantasy setting, it was a bog-standard D&D3.X setting, with all of the usual conceits and cliches that entails.  Back then, I worked out places for the usual D&D races, treating them with the same effective blandness about the races that D&D at the time was known for: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Halflings, Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Half-Orcs.
     As time went on, I began to consider changes to the setting.  D&D was dropped in favor of GURPS as D&D at the time was increasingly unable to meet my growing designs on the setting.  The first blow to Ranoc being a D&D world was, of course, the really poor handling of firearms in D&D and D20 games in general.  The second blow was the inflexibility of the races; I wanted to introduce a race that was essentially a winged human, but D&D at the time called for a serious level adjustment, which essentially ensured that no one would want to play one!  The same went with Centaurs and Minotaurs as playable races; in fact, those were even worse with their level adjustments!  And when I had an idea for an Elf-Orc hybrid race, many D&D-ites were just "aren't those just Humans?"  I facepalmed greatly.
     (The third blow was the insistence on using Vancian magic, which I was growing increasingly annoyed with.)
     So I switched to GURPS, where the only "penalty" for various races was having a proportionately larger point cost, but overall effectiveness compared to other races wasn't hindered by "levels".
     Then I began to give twists to the various races, to differentiate them in some manner from the "classical" D&D races.

     I started with the primary D&D races, of course, which are admittedly taken from Tolkien, who himself used a lot of Celtic and Norse background.  From Dungeons & Dragons, I worked with Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Orcs, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Centaurs, Minotaurs, Ogres, and Lizardfolk, renaming the latter to "Mohani".  From GURPS Classic Fantasy Folk, I borrowed the Winged Folk, renaming them "Aeralons".  And from my own brain, I added Orfs, the afore-mentioned Orc-Elf hybrid race, and a canine race that eventually settled on the name "Vulptens", which began as a kind of hyena people but ended up as being based off vulpine (fox) stock.  I originally had Drow and Gnomes in the setting, but over time I dropped those races as not fitting the setting; Drow were removed because Ranoc does not have anything resembling an "Underdark" or worldwide network of subterranean caverns; and Gnomes were removed because for all intents and purposes Halflings filled the same general niche.
     Of course, Humans are the most common and widespread race in the world, dominating the continent that is essentially my Eurasia counterpart.
     For the Elves, I began with removing the inherently superior eyesight that's been known since Tolkien; my Elves are all about the ears.  Ultrasonic and Subsonic Hearing, with the option to purchase Parabolic and Discriminatory Hearing,  I also made them mortal, though extremely long-lived with an average lifespan of 600 years, tossing in mythology that indicated that they may have been immortal at one point, with uncertainty as to whether that is the actual truth.  For their native environment, I decided to keep them in the forests of the world, but moved the majority to a sub-tropical island-continent, roughly analogous to our mythical Atlantis.  They tend to be patient, and rather Machiavellian in regards to long-term thinking, more than capable of making short-term sacrifices for a long-term two-hundred-years-down-the-line goal.
     Dwarves have changed the least.  I went back to Tolkien, indicating that even Dwarf women sport beards.  I never understood the need for Dwarves to sport Scottish accents; my Dwarves have accents that are closer to German and Austrian, with provisions for Norse accents.  They are still naturally inclined toward being miners and craftsmen.  The biggest change with Dwarves is their natural habitat; while they still prefer mountainous abodes, they do not live in tunnels and caverns.  Instead, Ranocian Dwarves build vertically on the sides of mountains, with mechanical elevators and dozens of high-level walkways between buildings.
     Halflings haven't changed that much, I'm sad to say, mostly because while I'm trying to make sure they're not from The Shire, I'm currently failing.  They are small, about three feet tall on average, nimble, dexterous, and able to land on their feet after falls that would leave Humans out of breath.  They are also hard-working folk, to the point of working themselves into exhaustion.
     Orcs are short-lived brutal cousins of Humans who hail from the northern mountainous Scandinatia-expy region.  This lends them to being quite akin to Vikings, spending a lot of time raiding the southern nations while expanding outward due to short gestation periods and a tendency toward multiple births, leading to a mindset of "life is cheap, so earn renown or be forgotten".  These same tendencies make them prized shock troops elsewhere.
     For Goblins, I decided to take a page from Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring adaptation, giving them Clinging, enabling them to climb on walls and ceilings.  They're roughly the same size as Halflings, and for a major twist I integrated them into Human civilization.  In addition, I gave them a slick secretion that they can use to help get through tight spaces.
     Hobgoblins were a little trickier, and I admit I'm still not fully satisfied with them.  At present, they dominate the breadbasket region in a military dictatorship, which was granted to them in an effort to "civilize" them by one of the ancient empires in times past.  They share the secretion of their goblin kin, but are larger and have a natural ability to blend into their surroundings.
     Half-Elves and Half-Orcs have bred true; the third hybrid race, Orfs, the Orc-Elf hybrid, are currently very rare, so rare that no two that aren't related have ever been seen in the same place.  The bulk of the Half-Elves originated in the southern portions of the European-expy region, while the bulk of Half-Orcs hail from the northern regions.  All three can be found throughout the western Eurasian-expy continent. One nation was founded by Half-Elves and Half-Orcs fleeing discrimination in their home nations, and have a nation which has taken reverse discrimination to its inevitable extreme, being prejudiced against the three parent races.
     Centaurs I haven't changed much,.  I've kept them in the grassy plains areas, in keeping with their mythological roots as tales of Scythian horsemen from the steppes reaching the Aegean.
     With Minotaurs, I decided to make them the quintessential "gentle giants", making them vegetarian with severe cases of wanderlust.
     Ogres are little more than dumb animals that can speak. They are in wide demand as menial labor slaves.  I suspect that they won't see much use as PCs, but some players might one day surprise me; I would love to see someone play a Ranoc Ogre at some point.
     Kobolds, I decided, were a bit more reptilian than their D&D counterparts.  My Kobolds hiss, not bark, and have sharp claws and teeth to match their scales.  I made them jungle-dwellers, not subterranean, and are not commonly evil.  As a race, they are fascinated by magic; unlike D&D Kobolds, Ranocian Kobolds are not related to dragons.  I gave them a nation in the northern jungles of my Africa-expy continent, noting that two prior nations had risen and fallen over time.
     Also in my Africa-expy continent's jungles are an adaptation of the Lizardfolk, whom I have renamed Mohani.  Mohani live in nomadic tribes and tend to eschew most of the trappings of civilization, believing that "civilization" means "separate from nature."  They are not only carnivorous but cannibalistic, eating their fallen enemies (and allies), and not always ritually.
     Aeralons are a winged race of Human descent, the origins of which are lost to antiquity but which has been attributed to one of the sky gods.  They tend to share space with Dwarves, also residing in mountainous abodes.  Aeralons have wings coming from their shoulderblades which give them the ability to fly, but are otherwise indistinguishable from Humans.  A child of a Human and an Aeralon will always take after the mother rather than the father.
     Finally, my canine race, the Vulptens, are still undergoing an evolution.  They began as Gnolls in D&D, and transitioned to wolfen stock when I realized that hyena-people weren't working out, before ultimately settling on vulpine stock.  In this particular case, it was changing the name and then changing the race, rather than deciding on a name that reflected the species.

     Details on the various races, including racial packages, will come later.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween, a Pagan's Own Holiday!

Happy Halloween, y'all!

Halloween is one of our more commercialized holidays, with an emphasis on dressing up in funky costumes, going door-to-door asking for treats, watching scary movies, and the occasional practical joke on those that hand out toothbrushes or worse nothing at all (very few people would hand out rocks to the Charlie Browns of the world, thankfully).  (It is also very dear to me, personally, because while I was officially born on November 1st, it was at 2:20am, late night on Halloween night.  Yep, I'm a Halloween baby!)  But is that all there is to Halloween?  How did it get started?

Like many of our modern holidays (I'm looking at you, Christmas and Easter!), Halloween has a fairly pagan past, in this case Celtic, and likely stretches back to 1000 BC in western and central Europe, mostly in what is today France and the British Isles.  Contrary to the assertions of many Christians, Halloween is not "the devil's holiday". Halloween is descended from the Celtic New Year's Eve, a night when the walls between the material world we see around us and the spirit world of the faerie are at their thinnest, enabling the less savory fae to cross over to our world.  Back then, the ancient Celts dressed up in outfits and left out carvings intended to scare the fae back to their world.

That's right.  Those costumes we wear and the Jack-O-Lanterns we leave out are actually meant to scare the bad guys!  Nothing "satanic" or "evil" in that; quite the opposite, I'd say.  It was only the demonization of pagan religions by the early Christians that led to it being labeled as a "satanic" practice.

Still, there's something to be said where the holiday has survived nearly unscathed into the modern era.  The early Christians, seeing the hold the holiday held over the populace, tried to Christianize it, like they did Christmas and Easter (the modern symbology of both - particularly the Christmas tree and the Easter Bunny - comes from pagan Germanic practices and myths), and labeled it "All Hallow's Eve" (hence the name "Halloween"), with November 1st becoming "All Hallow's Day" or "All Saints Day", a day dedicated to celebrating every Christian saint.

Halloween is also, like the American Thanksgiving holiday, a harvest festival.  That's why the pumpkin gets such symbology in the holiday: it's an easy to carve gourd that ripens about this time of year.  Apple cider comes from the fact that apples are ripening this time of year, and the fermentation of last year's crop has come to fruition.

So when you dress as a vampire or witch and go bobbing for apples at a costume party, or settle in to watch Night of the Living Dead or a Walking Dead marathon on Netflix, remember to scare the bad guys that can slip through.  Howl along to Ozzy's "Bark At The Moon" and Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" while you're at it.

Embrace your inner pagan.  Celebrate Halloween in style, and enjoy yourselves.  Just remember where the holiday comes from, and celebrate it, don't deny it.

Viva la Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ranoc - Social Classes

     I'm not a fan of Dungeon Fantasy.  I'll be honest, I got burned out on it following a very bad game of D&D3.5 in "The World's Largest Dungeon" by a DM who couldn't DM her way out of a wet paper bag.  I'm giving support to the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy boxed set, but to be honest my main use for it is the Spells book included, which fixes a number of issues with the spells from GURPS Magic
     That said, I've been known to use the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy line in my own fantasy games, usually set in my own homebrew setting (Ranoc).  The books I use on a regular basis in Ranoc games are Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers, Dungeon Fantasy 5: Allies, Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics, and Dungeon Fantasy 9: Summoners, usually for the obvious reasons one can think of for the books: Adventurers gives character templates for the traditional fantasy archetypes; Allies gives animal companions, arcane familiars, and summonable divine servitors for clerical types; Clerics gives spell lists for various gods broken down by portfolio; and Summoners deals with all sorts of extradimensional critters that get summoned, including but not limited to elementals and demons.
     In Ranoc, however, there is little cause for doing the whole "go into a dungeon, kill stuff, take their loot, go to town to sell the loot, rinse and repeat" ordeal.  The setting is designed with an early Renaissance/Age of Sail/Age of Exploration mindset, with adventure hooks for dealing with enemies of the state, inner city crime waves, merchant house rivalries, and exploring the frontiers in the Africa and America expy continents.
     Key to all this is understanding the various social classes in Ranoc.  In no particular order, there are Slaves, Commoners, Craftsmen, Merchants, Artists, Warriors, Nobility, Clergy, and Outlaws.

     Slavery is a social institution as old as civilization, and in general slavery is not considered to be evil. In most places, slaves have most of the rights of other people. The spouse and children of a slave are not automatically slaves themselves. Slaves may own property, including land, homes, and other slaves! Most slaves are given wages by their masters, although this varies depending on the individuals and customs involved. And, if desired, a slave is often able to buy his freedom.
     There is no overt social stigma attached to being a slave, and for some it is considered a good career move (especially if one is bought by one of the noble houses). Furthermore, the owner of the slave is considered responsible for the slave, legally and fiscally. If a slave breaks the law, his owner is liable for the slave's actions, and the owner must provide food and shelter for the slave. Slaves who are mistreated may take legal action against their owner with no social stigma attached. A slave is typically accorded the same respect as a free man two steps down in status from his master; this is usually apparent from the slave's dress.
     A person can become a slave in a number of ways. In the past, wars between nations have often resulted in an influx of slaves, as the victor claimed the other nation's peoples as such. Nowadays, most slaves are either voluntary, selling themselves into slavery to pay off debts, or are convicted criminals working off their sentences. It should be noted that the nation of Iturnum is the only nation which does not engage in slavery, viewing the ownership of another living being as cruel, inhumane, and evil.
     In game terms, a character who owns a slave has both an Ally and a Dependent; slave characters will have a Patron, and a Duty to his owner.  Slaves will not have Social Stigma (Subjugated), though Social Stigma (Valuable Property) or (Second-Class Citizen) may be valid.

     The bulk of the people on Ranoc are commoners. Most commoners live simple lives, being hard-working folk engaged in crop farming, mining, construction, sailing, fishing, herding, or general labor.
     All commoners are considered "freemen," with all the rights, obligations, and privileges that implies. Commoners are permitted to own property, including slaves; are required to pay taxes, whether in currency or a percentage of grain or livestock produced, to their barony, county, city, or duchy; and are not obligated to enter their parents' professions – although the majority still do.
     Whether or not commoners are permitted to carry weaponry varies between individual nations. Knives are universally permitted, being primarily seen as a tool rather than a weapon. In nations where commoners are permitted to carry weapons, the primary weapons seen are the quarterstaff and spear, although axes, clubs, shortswords, maces and – where available – firearms are not uncommon; the average commoner cannot afford to carry a broadsword.

     Blacksmiths, jewelers, masons, tanners – no society can survive long without skilled laborers. Craftsmen (and merchants – see below) make up the current "middle class," a small but growing class of folk nestled between the commoners and the nobility.
     While customs vary between regions, most of the successful craftsmen have formed craft guilds. A guild is similar in many ways to today's labor unions – guild membership can often guarantee a set wage, favorable working conditions, and occasionally a monopoly or better prices on goods produced. Freelancers in guild territories are often harassed . . . or worse.
     Most craftsmen begin in their early teens as apprentices, working as menial laborers in a craftsman's shop in return for instruction. After a few years of instruction, they are given aptitude tests by their guild to judge their worthiness; both the student and the instructor are expected to show proper aptitude and respect during the tests. Should the guild approve of the apprentice's training and skills, the apprentice is then given the rank of "journeyman" in the guild.
     Following becoming a journeyman in the guild, most craftsmen stay on with their instructor as a "junior partner" or strike out with a fellow student of the same master to open a shop of their own.
     A successful craftsman eventually attains the rank of "master" in the guild, and can take on his own students. The head of a guild in a city is known as the guild's Master; a guild's Grand Master is the head of the entire guild in the nation.
     Artificers – mages who specialize in the crafting of magical goods – and alchemists are considered to be part of the craftsmen class.

     While the craftsmen and commoners are focused primarily on producing goods for public consumption – be the goods food, draft animals, horseshoes, or clothing – the merchants are focused on transporting goods from one point to another and selling them, preferably at a profit.
     Like the craftsmen, a number of merchants are members of a guild. However, a number of merchants who are not guildsmen often earn a fine living by undercutting the guild prices. This happens when a merchant is able to sell a larger amount of stock at slightly lower prices than the guild, thereby turning a slightly higher profit. A merchant's motto is "buy low, sell high, and hold in storage as short a time as possible."
     Merchants often hire non-guild personnel to handle everyday tasks; caravan merchants will always be in need of drivers, guards, cooks, and porters, while merchants who own ships will always need carpenters and sailors.
     Successful merchants often take on the trappings of nobility, and will inevitably be referred to on the street as Lord and Lady by the lower classes. Occasionally, a few of the successful merchants who take on these trappings assume titles of nobility, although they are careful to not take any title higher than "baron"; actual nobles who hear a merchant calling himself a "baron", or worse, a "count", "duke", or "prince", are likely to challenge the perceived offender to a duel.

      Artists take all forms: painters, sculptors, dancers, theater performers, playwrights, composers, and musicians are all common. Many artists study more than one form of art, and many seek patronage from the wealthy and aristocracy.
      Many artists also seek a solid grounding in the sciences. Painters and sculptors are often experts in the fields of physiology, astronomy, physics, and architecture, while composers and musicians double as professors of higher mathematics in the many universities across the known world.

     Obviously, wars are fought by people. While the nations will occasionally conscript commoners and occasionally craftsmen into their armies, there has been a shift from civilian conscription and noble-born knights to professional armies. In many ways, this shift represents a change in thought striking back to the ancient days when Aelthelwulf the Great formed the Corcoran Empire that encompassed the entirety of the Teyoth and Rochladastacht regions.
     Even with this shift in military thought, the nobles in charge are wary of placing too many weapons in the hands of their populace, fearing (real or imagined) a possible revolt. Because of this, most nations prefer to hire mercenaries during wartime. It is said that the largest portion of Dnulper Darkshield's multiracial army that retook Ered-Dûm was composed primarily of mercenaries.
     Mercenaries have one appealing trait over conscripts for rulers and generals: Mercenaries are already trained in the arts of warfare, and can be sent on missions immediately upon hire instead of spending weeks to months training them. However, their lack of loyalty can make a difference, as some mercenaries have been known to switch sides in the middle of a conflict when presented with a better offer. Most of the reputable mercenaries have the personal Quirk "Stays Bought."

     While the titles given to various nobles in the Teyoth region vary, the following are the most common. The titles given are listed with the male form first, female form second.
     Spouses and children of nobles are referred to as Lord or Lady, even those not in a position to inherit the title. In addition, Guild Masters, Guild Grand Masters, and successful merchants who take on the trappings of nobility are generally addressed as Lord or Lady regardless of whether or not they possess noble blood.
     Please note that, politics being what they are, the hierarchy listed here is not absolute, but rather a workable abstraction. Nations which do not operate on the kingdom model, such as Gor Ansat and Rinkasae, have different political structures.

King/Queen - Hereditary ruler of a kingdom. Status 7.
Grand Duke/Grand Duchess - King's oldest sibling, closest adviser, and Viceroy. Status 7.
Crown Prince/Crown Princess - Heir to the throne, typically the King's oldest child or sibling. Status 6.
Prince/Princess - Any child or sibling of the King or the Grand Duke. Grandchildren of the King may also have this title, although grandchildren of the Grand Duke normally do not. Status 6.
Duke/Duchess - Rules over a duchy, a subdivision of the kingdom. This duchy is typically situated around a city, and the duke of the duchy is often referred to as the duke of that city. For instance, the duchy surrounding the Zitheral city of Penticon is headed by the Duke of Penticon. Status 6.
Count/Countess - Rules over a county, a subdivision of the duchy. This is typically a rural area, with a town as its political center. The equivalent title in the Northern Raider Clans, typically indicating a Clan chieftain, is Jarl, while the equivalent title in Rochlad is Khan; both titles are regardless of gender. Status 5.
Viscount/Viscountess - Rules over a portion of the county, commonly inside the city or town. Status 4.
Baron/Baroness - Rules over a barony, a subdivision of a county. This is commonly a rural area, situated around a cluster of villages or a small town. Status 4.
Margrave/Margravine - A title given to military leaders, often of noble blood themselves, who have the position of Captain of the Guard for the Duchy. Status 3. (Note: this deviates significantly from the historical usage of the term, which was originally a "Border Count" or "High Count" with slightly more power than a Count but not as much as a Duke, and which was also Status 5. I'm using the German Margrave as opposed to the French Marquis due to the sound of the former being easier on my tongue. The English tend to use a variation of the French title when they use it, which is extremely rare.)
Baronet/Baronetess - A semi-hereditary title given to landed knights or those who serve Barons and Viscounts in official capacities. Status 3.

     The priesthood sits apart from the secular classes, coexisting and occasionally overlapping with the nobility. There is an entire chapter dedicated to the priesthood, so what follows here is simply a brief overview.
     Most priests serve their deities, spending years of apprenticeship learning their deity's dogma and codes of conduct before finally becoming ordained. Many spend years tending at their deity's temples before becoming the High Priest for a city. Those who attain the ranks of Bishop, Archbishop, or Cardinal do so primarily through political means rather than actual religious piety.  Unlike most such fantasy settings, the higher up the religious hierarchy you go, the less likely you are to be favored by a deity with spells or powers!
     It is interesting to note that not all priests are good; many serve deities, openly or secretly, that are considered "evil" by the populace. These sects are generally outlawed in civilized nations; however, they have never been fully suppressed. Attempts at suppression have resulted in many practices over the last few millennia that still haunt the priesthood.
     In most of the nations, the priests are the ones who run the universities, although there has been a shift in the last few hundred years from religious academics to secular as graduates of the universities take on more and more teaching positions.

     In the western nations of Ranoc, the typical titles are as follows:
Cardinal – International head of the church.
Archbishop – National head of the church.
Bishop – Head of the various cathedrals in cities over 100,000 people.
High Priest – Head of the various cathedrals and temples in cities over 10,000 people.
Priest – An ordained minister of the church, usually presiding in churches and temples of smaller towns, villages, and hamlets; they also aid the Bishop in larger towns and cities. All priests answer to a Bishop. Depending on the religion, female priests may exist.
Deacon – A lesser minister of the church, typically assigned to assist the priests.
Abbot/Abbess – The leader of a monastery or convent.
Monk, Nun, Friar - The most commonly encountered wandering religious type or those cloistered in monasteries and convents for more contemplative forms of worship. "Nuns" are exclusively female, while "friars" are exclusively male; "monks" can be either.

Bandits, Pirates, Highwaymen, and Brigands
     The criminal underclass, these are people who live on the fringes of society preying on those in it. Most often, they are organized into gangs. Many are commoners who have been driven to it to survive or escaped slaves; a select few are nobles who have lost their titles. In all cases, these men and women are dangerous. The most successful end up with exorbitant prices on their heads; most wind up dead.

     A note must be made about the role of adventurers in Ranoc. There isn't much call for the "well-armed vagrant" (what is sometimes affectionately called a "murder-hobo" on the SJGames forums) in Ranoc, apart from those venturing into the deep jungles of Umoja (the Africa expy) or the wilds of Gemenohee (America expy). Most often, unlike in other settings (particularly those defined as "dungeon" fantasy settings) the term "adventurer" is synonymous with "mercenary", and are usually viewed as one of the other classes as opposed to a distinct social class of their own. Many have noble Patrons who fund their excursions, often with an ulterior motive in mind.
     Occasionally, the younger sons of nobles and successful merchants who stand to inherit a portion of the family fortune and none of the title or responsibility strike out for Umoja or Gemenohee to make their own stake in the world.