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Things Fey

8 May

Fairy Lily

“The Fairies are a silent race,
And pale as lily flowers to see;
I care not for a blanched face,
For wandering in a dreaming place,
So I but banish memory:–
I wish I were with Anna Grace!
Mournfully, sing mournfully!

-from THE FAIRY WELL OF LAGNANAY, FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY (Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats [1888])

Yeats did some wonderful poetry, but he also collected some great fairy tales. There is a gold mine of myths out there for those that want to add a classical mythology to their RPG. It can lend a high fantasy flavor and is also great inspiration for games that are geared towards children, as well.

I sometimes find that RPGs have created their own versions of elves, dwarves, fairies, etc. which is great, and the choice is a fun and good thing, but it is not often that you find their folklore originals in a game. I will be discussing some of these aspects and the potential for integration of the principles gleaned from folklore into a standard D&D game in upcoming posts, soon. Indeed, some of those elements, in various forms, are the basis of much of Fantasy Roleplaying Games already. I have tentatively decided to call it my “Fey Project“.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Weird Spacecraft #2

22 Apr

The previous post on Weird Spacecraft was focused mostly on older Science Fiction ideals. Cylindrical rockets are not the only type of craft to exist in Science Fiction. In some settings, a spacecraft would never see atmosphere, so having it aerodynamic is not a necessity. As I mentioned earlier, the culture of the star faring race will affect the design and function of a spacecraft in a game.

The Warhammer 40K Universe is one where culture definitely affects the shape and design of ships. I bought Games Workshop’s Battlefleet Gothic when it came out. It is now a defunct game, but for tabletop space warfare, it was one of the best. The Fantasy Flight Rogue Trader RPG, set in the Warhammer 40K milieu, may bring interest in incorporating that back into the table. Even if it doesn’t the ship designs become very important in that game.

I love the Eldar ships. They are elegant, work on principles that are different than other race’s spacecraft and introduce a rudimentary cloaking. Here is one of the smaller attack ships, more akin to a fighter than anything.

The Orks are not so elegant in design, but their ships are sturdy, if less advanced, but make use of their hulks even for ramming – a very Orcish tactic indeed!

This Ork fleet looks terrifyingly functional. The prows of the ships hint at the damage a several kilometers long Hulk could do when it tears into your vessel!
The cries of “Abandon ship!” might not be far away if you get too close to one of these without proper agility and firepower to protect you.

The Imperial ships of the Humans are many times like Gothic cathedrals in space, reflecting the cult of Emperor worship and the Crusader-like mentality of those that serve him. For the god-emperor, these mighty vessels protect the colonies of man among the stars, attempting to reclaim and reunite all humans under his mighty rule.

The box cover from the Battlefleet Gothic game tells it all. Here the Imperial fleet is coming out of warp, ready to do battle, because as the motto of the game goes, “There is no peace among the stars”.

The other races of have their own designs, some of which are truly alien.

I haven’t had a chance to play Dark Heresy or Rogue Trader for some time, but I hope to put my rulebooks back to use soon. The images of ships in the publications by Fantasy Flight make me want to ply the space lanes for a few credits, while “avoiding any Imperial entanglements” – wait, that’s another universe, but hey, they all tend to meld in my sector of the Multiverse!

Click image above for more info about Rogue Trader

-Jeff
“Retro”

Queen of the Fairies

20 Apr

Queen of the Fairies

Like many ancient myths, there is no clearcut or authoritative version of just who the Queen of the Fairies is and what her nature is like. The name of the Queen of the Fairies changes according to different adaptations. She has no name in the oldest times, but has been associated with Morgan Le Fey in Arthurian legends and Shakespeare called her Titania. Oberon (also spelled Auberon) is often considered her consort and the king of the fairies in medieval and Renaissance literature.


William Blake’s Oberon, Titania and Puck With Fairies Dancing

Titania. Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;
Then, for the third of a minute, hence;
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,
Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats, and some keep back
The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, and wonders 
At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep;
Then to your offices, and let me rest.

(A Midsummer-Night’s Dream, Act II. Scene II. Another Part of the Wood)

The Queen of the Fairies is a beautiful, cunning and commanding Fey creature of great magical power, able to assume any shape she pleases. She is sometimes said to ensnare mortal for her purposes, as in the Queen of Elfen legend of the Scottish Lowlands. Humans ensorcelled by her sometimes become a “tithe to hell”, which reflects the conflict between Christianity and Paganism in those days.

In a sylvan setting in an RPG campaign, she could be a figure that lies behind happenings or has agents among the woodland creatures and her various subjects. She appears to mortals only when she desires to be seen. It would be very difficult to trap or threaten the Queen of the Fairies, as her own realm is one of particularly fey magic and possibly a dimension all to itself, where she is in absolute authority. She seems to be favorable to whom she will and as equally capricious.

Certainly the Queen of the Fairies is a fascinating and mysterious figure for any campaign, the mythology of whom has only been scratched here.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in

Mime Zombies & Other Things

15 Apr

Last night I was thinking of an alternate post to do besides my earlier one on The Multiverse.

“What wackiness could I do with Mimes in RPGs?”  I came up with a few quick ideas:

Mime as Character Class or Sub-Class
This one is pretty obvious. I don’t know if it has been done before, but I am sure it would be interesting.
A Mime could possibly be a Jester Sub-Class or a Non-Verbal Magic User Sub-Class. In these cases, the Mime would get advantages to somatic only performances, charm, spells and the like. A Mime might have a positive diplomatic skill among intelligent creatures where the language is not known. They could also be quick to pick up skills by mimicking them.

Mime as Human Sub-Race/Species
In this scenario, Mimes would be totally non-verbal beings, able to communicate 100% telepathically amongst each other, as their minds are attuned to their kind. When communicating with other humans, they can either do so one-way telepathically or empathically. Mimes would dress very visibly according to such things as their personality traits, mood, social status, profession and the like. A Mime would have a bonus to perception, as they observe a lot instead of speaking. A Mime species might be an advanced one (good for Sci-Fi aliens) or one that lives in places where verbal communication is less likely to occur (like the Underdark), as the GM sees fit. Mimes could be of any class the GM allows when they are played as a species.

We now turn to the poster I made above…
Mime Undead
A Zombie Mime would be creepy! The undead Mime would be acting out how it wants to eat your brain and faux clawing you before it ever made contact. I could see a “Save vs Insanity” roll coming for the Character when one of these things approaches! A Mime vampire or other undead type might be freaky too, for that matter.

I think real life Mimes are entertaining, but there is something “other” about them that just makes them surreal.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

13 Apr

Kobolds in Germanic Folklore

A Kobold in German folklore is a mischievous household spirit (geist) who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons.

Images of Kobolds were sometimes placed in gardens to attract them to come and work for a household. It was sometimes said that if you gave Kobolds human clothing for their labor, it made them think that they were now human, therefore too good to be a house “slave”. Perhaps this is why Kobolds originally appeared w/o clothing in the Monster Manual, etc.

The Wiki says of them:

The kobold (or kobolt) is a sprite stemming from Germanic mythology and surviving into modern times in German folklore. Although usually invisible, a kobold can materialise in the form of an animal, fire, a human being, and a mundane object. The most common depictions of kobolds show them as humanlike figures the size of small children. Kobolds who live in human homes wear the clothing of peasants; those who live in mines are hunched and ugly; and kobolds who live on ships smoke pipes and wear sailor clothing.


THE KOBOLDS [a]
(from the Sacred Texts website)

Von Kobolt sang die Amme mir
Von Kobolt sing’ ich winder.
VON HALEM.

Of Kobold sang my nurse to me;
Of Kobold I too sing.

THE Kobold is exactly the same being as the Danish Nis, and Scottish Brownie, and English Hobgoblin. [b] He performs the very same services for the family to whom he attaches himself.

When the Kobold is about coming into any place, he first makes trial of the disposition of the family in this way. He brings chips and saw-dust into the house, and throws dirt into the milk vessels. If the master of the house takes care that the chips are not scattered about, and that the dirt is left in the vessels, and the milk drunk out of them, the Kobold comes and stays in the house as long as there is one of the family alive.

The change of servants does not affect the Kobold, who still remains. The maid who is going away must recommend her successor to take care of him, and treat him well. If she does not so, things go ill with her till she is also obliged to leave the place.

The history of the celebrated Hinzelmann (http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm087.htm) will give most full and satisfactory information respecting the nature and properties of Kobolds; for such he was, though he used constantly to deny it. His history was written at considerable length by a pious minister, named Feldmann. MM. Grimm gives us the following abridgement of it. [c]


[a] This word is usually derived from the Greek κόβαλος, a knave, which is found in Aristophanes. According to Grimm (p. 468) the German Kobold is not mentioned by any writer anterior to the thirteenth century; we find the French Gobelin in the eleventh; see France.

[b] In Hanover the Will-o’the-wisp is called the Tückebold, s. e. Tücke-Kobold, and is, as his name denotes, a malicious being. Voss. Lyr. Ged., ii. p. 315.

[c] Deutsche Sagen, i. p. 103. Feldmann’s work is a l2mo vol. of 379 pages.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/tfm/tfm086.htm


Some Gamemasters prefer a more accurate mythological take on the varieties of fey creatures in their campaigns, but there is nothing wrong with choosing the typical Monster Manual-style Kobold, either. It is a matter of preference. Personally, I think both varieties are great fun in any campaign, but I pick between the two kinds based on the type of campaign I am running at the time.

Kobold from "The Little White Feather", a fairy tale

Appendix J of the Dungeon Masters Guide

12 Apr

Appendix J


The Advanced D&D Dungeon Masters Guide contains a most unusual and either useless or extremely useful Appendix J: Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Vegetables.

Many character types could make use of the plants listed in it. “Woodsy Types” such as Druids, Rangers and Forresters could find these plants in the course of their normal duties. Such plants could be sold to merchants & Herbalists of the local populace, where they might enter the hands of other PC types, such as the alchemists of the Hermetic Order of Wizardry, Healer Types, and Rogues. Courtesans would desire many herbs as aphrodisiacs. The potential uses in a campaign are limited only to the interest and imagination of the DM and the players.

Some of the plants have multiple uses. Some will be reputed, but non-effective folk medicine placebos. The Uses And/Or Powers listed are for healing, but in larger doses some could be poisonous, therefore useful to Assassins and the like. As mentioned before, alchemists and Magic Users might use them in potions or rituals, etc.

I noticed that of the ones listed in Appendix J that a few had a question mark to denote unknown uses. I decided to take a peek at what the Wiki had to say about the uses of 3 of them that had a “?”.


Bay leaf (plural bay leaves) refers to the aromatic leaf of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying.

In the Elizabethan era, some people believed that pinning bay leaves to one’s pillow on the eve of Saint Valentines day would permit one to see one’s future spouse in a dream.

Bay leaf has been used as an herbal remedy for headaches. It contains compounds… which have proven useful in the treatment of migraines. Bay leaf has also been shown to help the body process insulin more efficiently, which leads to lower blood sugar levels. It has also been used to reduce the effects of stomach ulcers. Bay Leaf has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Bay leaf is also an antifungal and antibacterial and has also been used to treat rheumatism, amenorrhea, and colic.

Some members of the laurel family, as well as the unrelated, but visually similar mountain laurel and cherry laurel, have leaves that are poisonous to humans and livestock. While these plants are not sold anywhere for culinary use, their visual similarity to bay leaves has led to the oft-repeated belief bay leaves should be removed from food after cooking because they are poisonous. This is not true – bay leaves may be eaten without toxic effect.

So, we see that the lowly Bay leaf has many potential gastronomic, healing and (if an improper variety that could be quietly slipped in instead of the regular variety) a poison. Perhaps powdered bay leaf could be used to keep Shriekers from alerting wandering monsters to the presence of PC in a fungal forest in the Underdark.


Lotus


The lotus tree (Greek: λωτός, lōtós) is a plant that occurs in two stories from Greek mythology:

In Homer’s Odyssey, the lotus (tree) bore a fruit that caused a pleasant drowsiness and was the only food of an island people called the Lotophagi or Lotus-eaters. When they ate of the lotus tree they would forget their friends and homes and would lose their desire to return to their native land in favor of living in idleness.

In Greek Mythology, the lotus-eaters… were a race of people from an island… dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were narcotic causing the people to sleep in peaceful apathy.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the nymph Lotis was the beautiful daughter of Neptune, the god of water and the sea. In order to flee the attention of the violent deity Priapus, she invoked the assistance of the gods, who answered her prayers by turning her into a lotus tree.

Botanical candidates for the lotus (tree) include Diospyros Lotus, which is a sub-evergreen tree native to Africa that grows to about 25 feet and has uninteresting yellowish green flowers. Other Lotus plants are discussed in the Lotus-eaters article.


The lotus tree is also mentioned in the Book of Job 40:21-22, verses which refer to a large hippopatamus-like creature referred to as “behemoth“. The passage states: “He lies under the lotus trees, In a covert of reeds and marsh. The lotus trees cover him with their shade; The willows by the brook surround him.”

Ok, now we have a mythical type of lotus tree as well as the various varieties of real world water flowers we can inject into the game.
A quest for the fruit or flowers of the elusive “Lotus Tree” complete with a Behemoth guardian may be necessary for the PCs to successfully undertake. In the Arduin Multiverse, the infamous “Black Lotus” was extremely lethal and used as a poison (and perhaps a dangerous hallucinogen). Some lotus types might be needed to open the user to the Dream Lands in a campaign that has Cthulhian aspects to it. White lotus has been used as incense and other types as food.


Peppermint has a long tradition of medicinal use, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago.

Peppermint has a high menthol content, and is often used as tea and for flavouring …It is the oldest and most popular flavour of mint-flavoured confectionery. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos and soaps, which give the hair a minty scent and produce a cooling sensation on the skin. Used in this way, it has been known to help with insomnia.

Peppermint has promising radioprotective effects for cancer patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.

Peppermint oil has a high concentration of natural pesticides…

I could see some weird Gamma World use for Peppermint, due to possibly having radioprotective properties. Giant Insects might be battled with the oils of the peppermint plant. It is certainly a pleasant flavor that would be valued in many foodstuffs, etc.


It really doesn’t take much to find a use for Appendix J in a campaign – just a little imagination and maybe some research into the plant’s possible alternative medicinal, magical and alchemical usages. It may be perhaps the least gleaned appendix of the Dungeon Masters Guide, but it can become more than fluff in the hands of a good DM.

-Jeff
“Retro”

The Fey

7 Apr