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Friday, July 31, 2015

Orthos's Observations: Entomorphs

I'll admit it, I have a thing for transformations and metamorphosis. From a storyline, worldbuilding, and legends and myths standpoint, they're really cool - and occasionally really disturbing - things that can have a profound effect on the world. There are a lot of creatures on Finiens who can tie their origins back to a transformational effect. Obviously we just discussed the Children of Arachne, whose ancestor and creator was transformed into a spider, then into a spider-taur creature like a Drider when she ascended, a form her descendants now share. In the same myth we have Irshya, once Arachne's predecessor Athene, who transformed herself and her followers into the first Harpies. Of the player races to come the Ael-Varan, Girtablilu, and Leanaí-Dubh all share a similar metamorphic origin, with their first members having originally been some other type of creature, transformed by magic or other means into their current form.

The main difference between these and the Entomorphs is that, outside of occasional malevolent events or deliberate willing transformations, these races do not have unfortunate souls being transformed into them in the present-day, whereas Entonyds still roam the plains of Wachara.

Entomorphs represent a rather dark turn in my character concepts for races for the setting. I wanted a race that was insectoid, fully so in contrast to the tauric Arachnes, and I've always liked moths as an inspiration, with their interesting patterns and designs. I came up with the concept of the Entonyd and the forced metamorphosis shortly after as a method of explaining their origins, but it was only after I let the race loose among my players that I got to see just how disturbing the implications could be. One of my players is planning to play a non-natural-born Entomorph in a future campaign and has already run their backstory by me, and just imagining it is actually rather terrifying: you're attacked by an enormous insect, stung and paralyzed into helplessness, forced to extrude your own cocoon out of your very skin, and fall asleep knowing that when you wake up, you're either going to have gotten lucky and been rescued and have to spend the rest of your life (or until you can afford/acquire extremely powerful magic) as a bizarre bug-person, or that you won't be rescued and you'll lose yourself to a hiveminded, instict-driven monster.

Fantasy worlds aren't all sunshine and rainbows, though, and Finiens is no exception; things here can get pretty dark. PCs are the lucky ones, the ones who managed to just scrape out of danger or who got rescued in the nick of time. The ones who are forced into uncomfortable, unwanted situations and make legends (or something even grander) of themselves by what they do in response.

But this does bring something tangentially related to mind, and that's something I mentioned in an earlier article, the one on the Elves's Shadow Curse: the nature of souls in Finiens and their status when a body becomes compromised by an outside agent. I mentioned in that article how, thanks to comments by Mikaze over on Paizo as well as others and conversations with my players, I'd taken steps to avoid unfair or unkind treatment of souls in my setting, avoiding things like commonplace soul-theft, soul-stealing trickery, and souls being trapped in bodies of the undead, cursed, or physically devastated. In the article, I explained that the soul of an Elf who suffers from the Curse leaves the body, and the Curse continues to operate the "meat puppet" that remains behind, sort of like a living undead. Likewise, by extension, the only kind of undead in Finiens that retain hold on their souls are the free-willed or willing sorts, such as vampires, liches, ghosts and their kin (which are souls in and of themselves, simply lacking bodies), and so forth; mindless undead such as zombies, skeletons, and the like are empty, animated as dolls by negative energy and the necromancer's will, with no soul to them whatsoever and no connection at all to the now-departed soul that once occupied their body.

Thus, I feel it prudent to explain here that Entomorphs operate under a similar system, and that the turning point is that last hour or two where the 'Morph's brain is being rewired by the transformation. Prior to this point, the soul remains in the transformed body, providing the Unbound Entomorph its free will. However, beyond that point, the person the Entomorph once was essentially dies, their soul departing the body and replaced with a newborn animalistic soul no different from any other beast of sub-sapient intelligence. The free-willed soul of the person a Hive-Minded Entomorph used to be is not trapped within their body in a state of unconscious limbo or, worse, impotent imprisonment, looking out from within but unable to exert any control over their own body or send any message to the outside world that they still remain. However, there's a rather unique interaction between the souls of Entomorphs and their bodies. If a Hive-Minded Entomorph is slain and a raise or resurrection spell is cast on the corpse (provided everything is within the proper time constraints for whatever variant of the spell is being used, relative to the transformation rather than to the actual death of the corpse), it's the original, sapient soul that is given the option to return to the world of the living. If they accept, the spell not only mends the body from whatever injuries killed it, but also repairs the mind to serve as one that can operate for a free-willed soul, severing the majority of the Entomorph's connection to the racial hivemind of the Bound.

Honestly you should probably expect something like that to be the standard for anything resembling this situation in Finiens. There are still a few ways for an innocent soul to end up in jeopardy - dastardly fiendish dealings, badly-worded agreements with fey, and the like - but I'm working on heavily reducing them, especially where interactions with PCs are concerned. "Souls in danger" is too good of a plot point and story drive to completely eradicate from the game, but it should be something the PCs are striving to undo or outwit, a problem that primarily targets NPCs and that PCs are there to solve, rather than something a player should have to worry about being pointed their way.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Races of Finiens: Entomorphs

While the Children of Arachne have the most certain origins, being one of the most recent races created after the ascension of their ancestor, the Entomorphs have one of the most mysterious and, in many ways, one of the most tragic. These mothlike humanoids, with their complex compound eyes, chitinous exoskeleton, elaborately-patterned wings, small secondary arms, have a bizarre, disturbing, and ultimately unknown origin, tied inexorably with a small and seemingly innocuous creature of Wachara's Olori Lands - a fist-sized grasshopper/moth hybrid-like creature known as an Entonyd.

The average Entonyd is a large insect, generally between four and eight inches long full-grown, and is usually dull green, blue, blue-grey, or violet-grey in color. Their body structure is primarily similar to grasshoppers or locusts, with two shorter front pairs of legs and an exceptionally larger, longer set of rear legs. However, their heads are extremely moth-like, with rounder and smaller heads, circular compound eyes, prominent proboscis, and short and fuzzy antennae. Likewise, their wings are the broad, fan-shaped, pattern-laden wings of moths rather than the transparent gossamer, webbed, narrow and straight wings of grasshoppers. In addition, unlike either species, an Entonyd's abdomen does not end in an egg sac or ovipositor, but rather a set of spinnerets, more like those of a spider than of a cocooning larva such as a silkworm. Instead, reproductive organs are located on the back between the wings for the female, and on the belly between the legs for the male.

It's unknown if the Entonyds are native to central Wachara, and have been an inhabitant of those rolling plains, low hills, craggy canyons, and swaths of forest ever since the Age of Giants prior to the arrival of Pazioun expatriates and the founding of Anhur, or if they were created sometime more recently and set loose in the wilderness through accident or malevolence. What is known, however, is a bizarre stage in their life cycle that turns what is otherwise an irritating pest - spared the utter devastating potential of its locust look-alikes only by sheer lack of numbers - into a creature capable of utterly changing someone's life forever.

It does not affect all of the species, but Entonyds forced into long periods of hostility, solitude, or hunger develop a paralytic enzyme in their digestive fluids. Theorized to have originally been developed to ease the creature's ability to hunt larger prey in times of food shortage or difficulty, at some time - either through deliberate manipulation, strange evolution, or magical warping - it has instead turned the Entonyd into a bizarre symbiotic/parasitic hunter. The process that adds this enzyme to their digestion also causes the growth of a stinger formation on the end of their proboscis, allowing the delivery of the venom, and (theoretically) an alteration to their behavioral and hunting practices that drives them to pursue far larger game than they would normally consume. When the Entonyd has found a suitable target, it will attempt to sting the creature and attach itself to their body, usually on the back, chest, stomach, or spine at the neck; If the paralytic takes hold, the Entonyd's enzymes rapidly convert its legs and blood vessels into more proboscises, piercing the flesh where it grips and delivering more venom into the paralyzed victim's body. In a horrifying process, the Entonyd finishes the last act of its life by inserting one final proboscis - its spinnerets, which begin pumping silk-like fluids into the victim's bloodstream. Within hours, the victim has extruded silk through sweat glands, fur follicles, scale vents, or other skin-level exit points, wrapping themselves and the Entonyd attached to them in a self-grown chrysalis. This silk exudes foul odors to ward predators away while the metamorphosis within continues and is foul-tasting to most creatures to boot, and is far tougher than most such silks, requiring great effort to pierce or break.

It is within this chrysalis that the vast and terrifying changes begin. The Entonyd is absorbed into the victim's body, providing the blueprint for the metamorphosis to follow over the course of approximately five to eight hours. The creature's skin is replaced by exoskeleton, dissolving their bones and filling the space with strengthened muscle and internal fluids. The organs are rearranged and reshaped, adjusting the victim's diet and digestion to suit its new body, a primarily and ravenously herbivorous and fluids diet that, while capable of consuming meat and most synthetic products, requires they be eaten in small volumes in contrast. An extra pair of limbs - arms in bipedal creatures, legs otherwise - is created, growing out of the center of the body, slightly smaller than the primary limbs they mimic. Eyes are dissolved and reconstructed into a highly-complex compound structure, and antennae grown to assist in sensing as the brain is rewired to process the new methods of information input. While the mouth and early-digestive tract remain mostly the same, teeth and facial bones are extruded into exoskeleton and cartilage is dissolved, leaving the victim with no external ears or nose. Finally, wings grow from the back.

With all these dramatic changes, it is actually the mind that takes the longest to be altered, especially in sapient creatures such as humanoids, monstrous humanoids, fey, and native outsiders. The body's physical changes are complete by the fourth or fifth hour of containment within the chrysalis; it is at this point that the victim can be safely removed, though they will be physically changed forever barring powerful magic. Enough of the brain and muscle memory will have been altered to instill the necessary instincts to operate the extra limbs, compound eyes, antennae, and wings that the metamorphosis adds, but the intelligence, memory, behaviors, and personality of the victim will be mostly unaltered. These are generally referred to as Unbound or Free-Willed Entomorphs.

Should the chrysalis remain unopened for the remainder of the metamorphosis, however, the Entonyd's enzymes and venom will complete their work. The Entomorph that emerges will have no shred of its former life, memory, behavior, or personality remaining, erased by the Entonyd's rewiring of its entire brain. Most Entomorphs that reach this fate are animals, non-sapient magical beasts, or other wild creatures who have the misfortune of being stung by a driven-to-symbiosis Entonyd; however, unlucky humanoids or other intelligent creatures who are stung and incapacitated somewhere they can't be reached or found are not immune to this unfortunate result. These are the Hive-Bound Entomorphs, as upon emerging from their chrysalis the first thing they will do is seek out a hive of similarly non-sapient Entomorphs to join themselves to.

Unbound Entomorphs are a strange breed. Regardless of their original species, appearance, or build, they all look relatively similar post-metamorphosis if they possessed any humanoid figure at all; smaller victims are enlarged during the transformation, while larger ones will manage to shrink, though the methods by which either is accomplished are unknown. They stand somewhere between 5'10" and 7" tall, not counting antennae. All are generally slender of build, having neither visible musculature nor fat. A mane or mat of fur along the back and sides of the head can be mistaken for hair, and is often treated as such, allowed to grow long or cut in styles; this mane can often also grow down the spine between the wings, though some either lack this trait or have it cut or shaved. The wings and exoskeleton generally match or are similar to those of the Entonyd that initiated the metamorphosis, and can have a wide variety of patterns, colorations, and even shapes. Gender differences between Entomorphs are very minimal - males tend to be slightly taller, have squarer or more angular heads, and tend toward longer limbs, while females have rounder faces, slightly stockier builds, and larger wings. All metamorphic Entomorphs posses a small bump or dome on their exoskeleton where the Entonyd attached itself prior to the cocooning and ensuing transformation.

Another strange thing about Entomorphs - both Hive-bound and Free-Willed - is that they breed true. Despite their bizarre morphic origins, Entomorphs are fully capable of creating more of their own kind through normal reproductive methods. Entomorphs lay eggs, usually in clutches of six to twelve, which hatch into grub-like larvae. These infants must be fed and cared for for approximately twelve to eighteen months, at which point they enter a chrysalis of their own and emerge as wingless nymph Entomorphs. At this point their development is about on par with Half-Elves, reaching adolescence around age fifteen, wherein their wings begin to grow, and being fully mature in their late twenties or early thirties. Nymph Entomorphs molt, like most insects, shedding their exoskeleton as their body grows; molting ceases upon reaching maturity. Natural-born Entomorphs lack the distinctive dome in their exoskeleton marking an Entonyd attachment; this is the only physical way to discern a transformed Entomorph from one born as they are.

Most Entomorphs after transformation do attempt to seek out others of their kind, for purposes including community, security, sympathy, reproduction, and mentoring. The largest congregation of the species remains in the heartland of Entonyd territory, the north-central plains and hills regions of Wachara known as the Olori Lands. Others return to their original homes and families, where they are greeted with varying amounts of acceptance or rejection; in many places, but perhaps most in the Olori region and neighboring territories, becoming an Entomorph can make one a pariah, rejected from house and home as a twisted monstrosity that only shares the name of the person once welcomed there. Other regions are more welcoming, primarily the territories of the Stolen Lands, where the difficult terrain and rough lifestyle under the constant threat of the Long Game makes species a far lesser importance, and the hierarchy of Divus, where the wings gained with the transformation allow Entomorphs to reach the higher echelons of the Ael community and with it the acceptance of the other denizens of the sky-cities. Entomorphs are highly rare on other continents such as Paziou, Stormwind, Senkaku, or Teremvor, primarily due to the lack of Entonyds to initiate transformations; with that rarity comes a more varied, less predictable pattern of acceptance or rejection for the unlucky few who encounter the creature and succumb to its attacks, or the already-changed or natural-born Entomorph who chooses to wander beyond Wachara's shores.

But perhaps the most bizarre thing about the race and their transformation-based nature is how little is known about its origin. As stated, the reason Entonyds behave the way they do, and how or why they even exist, is a grand mystery yet unsolved. The most common scapegoat is Khemost, Avatar of Torment, patron of transmutation, experimentation, and mad science. His followers are known for their love of magical transformations, bizarre surgery and grafts, hellish experimentation, and unchecked unethical behavior; it seems almost too easy to lay the blame for the creation or alteration of the Entonyd and the eventual horrifying results of its attacks on victims. However, eager as the followers of the Good Doctor are to accept such accusations as praise, there seems to be no evidence - within Khemost's church or without - as to who or when such a thing might have been done, and despite the willingness to accept the blame no Khemostite clergy have stepped forward to explain the details of such a thing, though whether this is through innocence or an unwillingness to share their secrets is unknown.

Like the Murī, the search has been on for millennia for a method by which to return a transformed Entomorph to their original form without relying on the most immensely powerful mages' or clerics' magic. A wish or miracle can restore the victim's original body, as can a true resurrection after death (with the same Will save to resist as a Murī can choose to make); resurrection and lesser spells restore them to life as an Entomorph. Reincarnate of course can allow them to return in a new body, though there is obviously no guarantee that they'll return as what they once were.


Entomorphs are not a template; a creature that undergoes an Entonyd-induced metamorphosis loses all prior racial traits except feats, proficiencies, and languages, and gains all Entomorph racial traits (including the Hive language).

Entomorph Stats
* Ability Score Racial Traits: The insectoid form, sturdy exoskeleton, and hidden musculature of Entomorphs make them stronger than their size and frame would imply, and their partially-rewired minds are sharper, keener, and quicker than humans, but their insect nature and mannerisms make them alien and strange, and cause them difficulty in interacting as an individual. They gain +2 Strength, +2 Intelligence, and -2 Charisma.
* Type: Entomorphs are Monstrous Humanoids with the entonyd subtype.
* Size: Entomorphs are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Entomorphs rely primarily on flight for movement, and are slower on the ground; they have a base speed of 20 feet. They are, however, capable of carrying great burdens while doing so: an Entomorph's speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance.
* Flight: Entomorphs usually have large moth-like wings. They have a flight speed of 40 feet, with Poor maneuverability.
* Languages: Entomorphs begin play speaking Common and Hive. Natural-Born Entomorphs with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Aklo, Boggard/Grippli, Draconic, Giant, Goblin, Lupine, and Sylvan. Metamorphosed Entomorphs use the Language options of their previous race, though they gain Hive as a free language following their transformation.
* Hive Minded: While not connected to the true hivemind of their mindless kin and their Entonyd progenitors, free-willed Entomorphs still have an echo of that disconnected consciousness, and it makes it difficult to bend their minds toward outside influences. This grants them a +2 bonus to all will saves.
* Exoskeleton: An Entomorph's exoskeleton grants it a +1 bonus to Natural Armor.
* Darkvision: Entomorphs can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
* Secondary Arms: Entomorphs have a second pair of arms too small and weak to be properly suited for wielding weapons, aiding in combat maneuvers, or casting spells. These arms can however hold objects and wear "hand" and "ring" magic item slots (though the Entomorph can still only wear two rings and two hand magic items at a time).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Orthos's Observations: The Murī

So if you're familiar with late-3.5 edition content, from the mechanical side the Murī should look very familiar - they're heavily based on the Karsites from Tome of Magic. However, for obvious reasons we can't use them: to start, there was no Karsus on Finiens for them to be descended from, and for another we wanted a localized backstory for them.

Enter Ladybug/Scintillae, one of the core worldbuilders in my group and the developer of the country of Divus. While their primary residents, the Ael-Varan (who I'll be going into detail on shortly) were my creation, it's Lady who developed almost the entirety of their culture, history, and background, basing them heavily on the Roman Empire at its height. One of the regular penchants she put in their history was a habit of unregulated magic and mad science, and the creation of the Murī was but one of many such incidents in their history. I'm very much looking forward to touching on all the countries of the world once I'm done with the races, as some of the historical events we've worked out have developed into some really interesting stories, many of which I'd love to just write up or turn into stories or games or something.

In the original idea for the race, the Murī were all human-descended, and we were planning on working out individual Murī-ized variants of the rest of Finiens's races, or at least the ones native to Wachara where the opportunity of being affected by the Murī alteration was likely. However, some various discussions and in-game conversations on the subject that occurred in the months since their idea was finalized, and the decision was eventually made to have it be a template that could be freely applied instead.

Between the Arachnes and the Murī, though, this is probably as good a place as any to note the use of Level Adjustment in some of our races. Both of these races are level-adjusted to one level behind the norm, as are the Tuatha if someone should choose to play one; they use a modified version of Pathfinder's Noble Drow statistics, with the type changed to Fey and a few alterations to their spell-like abilities. I know a lot of players are very touchy about Level Adjustment as a feature, especially after it was used (and perhaps overused) in 3.5 for almost anything that wasn't a standard race, regardless of whether or not most of them actually were worth the difference. A fair number of Pathfinder players react very negatively to the merest hint of using Level Adjustment in a PF or PF-based game, but I've never been one of them.

I've actually found LA to be a fairly useful tool, if it's applied reasonably. The only races we use in Finiens that have LA are the ones that are very clearly of superior power level by a large margin, such as the Tuatha and Arachnes, or that are templates that stack with the original racial abilities and increase their power significantly, such as the Murī. Everything else - from the core six races (recall that there are no Half-Orcs in Finiens) to the various Pathfinder races we use to our other homebrewed creations - has no adjustment and levels up as normal. It's really just a lot simpler that way.

We're really just getting started with this latest batch of races, making our way across the continent of Wachara westward and detailing the rather large array of races native there as we go. Coming up next we'll have the transformative Entomorphs, the elite Girtablilu, the persistent Fenrin, the imperial Ael-Varan, the elegant Thriae, the enigmatic Leanaí-Dubh, the curious Civil Harpies, the industrious Warforged, and the anarchic Ti'Larinn.

Races of Finiens: The Murī

Written by Ladybug/Scintillae.

As long as Wachara has been home to the refugees of Paziou, it has been the seat of conflict. Most notable is the ever-expanding kingdom of Anhur and its necromantic magic, for it holds a grudge against every other nation on the continent. Only slightly less concerning to its neighbors is the empire of Divus, the ael empire who has from the very outset focused its efforts on both magical and martial might - and with the necromancers of the North, who could blame them?

Though their armies were fearsome and varied to any task at hand, Divus still sought a decisive victory over the Anhuri. To this end, many tactics were tried, but none as truly successful as they wished. It was not until the 3200s during the twilight years of the reign of Spinae Caelestis that a method was found - almost by accident.

The ailing emperor had set his children to the task of impressing him enough to be named his heir. One of his sons, then-general of the military, focused his efforts into magical modification, partnering with entomorph mage-alchemist Quartus Fenestra. The moth mage somehow stumbled into the creation of an artifact of devastating power, enough to sunder a mortal from the weave of magic entirely, making them naturally resistant to the effects of others’ spells as well as incapable of making use of the arts themselves. This latter was deemed an acceptable side effect and with the age-old justification of a greater good for Emperor and Empire, Spinae Gereon gave the tacit order to continue the project, sequestering the altered soldiers, mostly humans from the slums of Lower Divus, in a special barracks for a eugenics program as it was discovered that the inherent resistance was something that could be selectively bred for.

It was several years before the experiment was discovered, its tracks carefully kept from the public eye until another of the royal children became suspicious, sending in a team of hired adventurers to suss out the matter. The investigation uncovered the practice, but it cost the country much - Spinae Gereon and Quartus Fenestra lost their lives, the favored heir for the succession, the knight Spinae Magnus, was irrevocably severed from the weave, and the nation found itself responsible for the ruination of several thousand lives in the name of defense.

Unwilling to commit a genocide against its own, these magically resistant soldiers - given the name Murī (originally myur-ee in Divus, later myur-eye in other areas beyond), an old word meaning “wall” in reference to their intended role as the military’s front line defenders  - were spared as their creation was no fault of their own but effectively reduced to the level of second-class citizens. Most looked upon them with, at best, pity, for Divus’ history made magic a commodity prized above all others. Thus when the aranea Cinna Lesedi departed for the other end of the continent with the vast majority of the Murī, no one felt much need to stop her.

Most Murī reside nowadays in Lesedi’s isolationist but heavily mercenary nation of Eirene on Wachara’s southeastern coast, but they can be found scattered just about everywhere.

Murī can be of any race, though the majority are human. The identifying characteristics are a streak of pure white through hair - or scales, as the case may be - and one eye mismatched from the other in an eerie blue. Though it is common practice for the race to hire out as mercenaries once separated from their adoptive motherland, it is almost an unwritten rule that their heritage must be hidden with dyes and other disguises.

As their very existence flies in the face of magic, they are heretics in the eyes of the church of Freya, Mistress Magic. The destruction of a Murī to a Freyan is taken in stride as simply as a rat by a farmer or an undead to Ireshkigal; indeed there are sects of her faith dedicated solely to the hunting and eradication of the Murī to restore the truth of Freya’s dominance over the weave to Finiens.


Murī Template

"Murī" is an inherited or acquired template that can be added to any living, corporeal creature capable of using magic (referred to hereafter as the base creature).

CR: As the base creature +1.

Type and Subtype: The base creature retains its original type and subtypes and gains the Murī subtype.

Defensive Abilities: A Murī gains damage reduction 5/magic and spell resistance equal to 10 plus their hit dice.

Special Attacks: A Murī gains the following special attack:
  • Magic Suppression (Su): A Murī can disable the magic within a weapon, armor, shield, or magic item as part of a melee attack. When struck, the target of the attack must make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 Murī's hit dice + Murī's Charisma modifier) or have the magical properties of one of its visible pieces of equipment (chosen by the Murī) suppressed for one round per two of the Murī's levels. The Murī can also suppress magic in an unattended item, but this method only requires touching the item rather than attacking it. The DC is Charisma-based.
Ability Scores: A Murī gains a +2 bonus to Constitution and Charisma.

Special Qualities: A Murī gains the following special qualities:
  • Magic Healing (Su): Whenever a Murī's spell resistance negates a spell from affecting her (even if it is an area-of-effect spell or other spell effect not directly targeted at her), she regains 2 hit points per level of the spell. 
  • Magic Severance (Ex): A Murī is completely disconnected from magic, incapable of performing divine or arcane spellcasting. Even if they take a class that grants spellcasting, they are incapable of using that feature. Murī may use spell-like abilities, supernatural abilities, alchemical extracts, psionic powers, magic items, and other non-spellcasting methods of performing or acquiring magic with no further complications.
Level Adjustment: A Murī is always one level lower than its experience total would dictate, to allow for its superior power level. As the template grants the Murī abilities and limitations in addition to the traits of the base race, a Murī is usually more powerful than a standard member of its race unless it was previously a spellcaster. A character who becomes a Murī during the course of a campaign should not level up at the next time their experience total would allow them to, to adjust their power accordingly with the party (at GM discretion, of course); if the character was previously a spellcaster, the GM is heavily encouraged to allow them to rebuild into another class.

Curing a Murī: As of this time, there is only a few known cures for the Murī severance from magic, and all involve the Murī dying. A Murī who is reincarnated will have their connection to magic renewed in their new body. A slain Murī who is raised or resurrected will not be restored; however, true resurrection will allow for the caster of the spell to choose whether to restore the Murī's connection to magic or not; if the Murī does not wish to be re-connected, they can avoid being forcefully made so by making a Will save against the DC of the true resurrection. If a Murī is re-connected to magic, all properties of their template are removed (including the ability score bonuses); due to the removal of the level adjustment associated with the template, the character should be allowed to level up once the negative level penalties from the spell are removed.

There is at this time no method by which a Murī can be cured that does not involve their death, though many scholars, magical experts, and influential clergy of many churches are eagerly pursuing the issue.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Orthos's Observations: The Children of Arachne

You may consider it weird or creepy, but I really like spiders, and I hate the bad rap that D&D and similar games and mythologies have given them.

Especially with Lolth - the biggest, baddest, nastiest evil deity (according to a great many players and GMs) across at least two different settings, countless books in one of those settings, and making half-referenced glances into others. A traitor to an entire race and the mastermind behind an incredibly evil, sadomasochistic, demonic, twisted, perverted society. And what's her thing? Spiders. Spider spies, spider-themed getups, half-spider monsters as servants and punished failed underlings, spidery demons at her command. After five editions of that, or three and a half for those of us who jumped to Pathfinder after 4E came out, it's no wonder most fantasy fans see spiders as creatures of evil. (Well, aside from the general "spiders are icky" thing... which frankly, as many people before me have discussed, is a terrible reason to make something evil. Beauty does not and should not equal goodness and ugliness should not equal evil.)

Which is exactly why I wanted them to be nothing of the sort in Finiens. So almost immediately, when we started working on our custom pantheon, I set out one of my many goals with the setting to be "I want a Lawful Good goddess of spiders". I wanted Finiens to have an Anti-Lolth. Which rather naturally led to the well-known Greek myth of the weaver Arachne and her contest with Athena. Since Athena was associated with owls, it was a very easy stretch to connect our Athene with the harpy goddess Irshya, and from that point the backstory wrote itself: a variant of the Arachne myth where the arrogant weaver who defied the goddess and was punished for her pride was instead the innocent and Athene the guilty party who punished her out of spite and envy for a mortal outdoing her at her own game.

The other part of the Children was that I've always loved spidery races in D&D, particularly aranea and driders. However, with no drow and no Lolth, there was really no place in the setting for the latter, no matter if you spin their creation in 1st-3rd editions' "punishment for failing a divine test" explanation or 4th and 5th editions' "gift of empowerment for particularly pleasing priests" reasoning or even Golarion's "demonic body-warping alchemy that has default effects for each race" workaround due to Lolth's absence. I wanted them, or something like them, in the setting; I just hadn't worked out how to do it yet. And I didn't have any idea at all what to do with aranea, other than knowing I wanted them around and I wanted them to be playable.

Reading around the internet, I stumbled somewhere onto a particularly interesting bit of personal lore someone had posted. In the games of the person in question - whose name, sadly, escapes me - their elves were an alien species that was more spider-like than humanoid. They were born as spiders, then developed the elf shape in adolescence and early adulthood as a form of natural camouflage. From there an elf would become a drow as they continued to develop and age, then reach the full potential of their life at complete maturity when they would become a drider. If I remember correctly (and please inform me if I do not!), the whole elf-drow hostility was an internal sham, meant to keep the true nature of the elf life-cycle a secret from the other races. I really liked this idea and, with some obvious tweaks, promptly stole it for my Araneas.

The creation of Arachne happened a short time later, and the two fit so well into each other that everything just flowed from there.

I really love the lore we've created for the race and the way they've turned out thematically and mechanically. Arachnes are one of only three of our custom races I've personally had the opportunity to play - the others being Naga and Leanaí-Dubh, which will both be expanded on in the future - and playing Siobhan (pictured with her younger sister Roisin, played by Scint/Ladybug) in Faceless's Rise of the Runelords was a ton of fun. The memory of the spider-knight bypassing half the dungeon by walking on the ceiling of a half-submerged cavern and dragging the rest of the party through the water on a threaded raft will live in infamy in our group, I'm certain. I wish we could resume that campaign. Ah well, c'est la vie.

All in all, I think things developed pretty well for the Children of Arachne and their ancestor goddess. They've already seen a great deal of use as both PCs and NPCs, allies and antagonists, historical and modern, and much more at our tables. In fact, I think the only games we've played where no Children have appeared as PCs or NPCs are Scint's old Council of Thieves game and our currently-running Age of Worms campaign, both of which were set in Stormwind, far from Wachara where the spiderfolk originated.

Races of Finiens: The Children of Arachne

How many races can trace their ancestry directly all the way back to a god? Not simply to mark themselves as a god's craftsmanship, the work of their hands or their mind; no, to literally claim descent from the divine? Surely there are the occasional godlings and otherwise divine offspring, but these are members of extant species, merely impressive for their own inherited abilities and the ability of their mortal parent to attract a deity's attention in a manner that produced a child blessed with a fragment of godhood. These are exceptions, incidents. For the Children of Arachne, such heritage is a rule. Every single member of this spidery species can trace their heritage, daughter to mother, to the goddess herself.

Of course, Arachne was not always divine, nor was she the spider-creature she is known as today; originally, Arachne was Human. The legend of her origin and rise to godhood is well-known to all: how her works of art were challenged by Athene, former Avatar of Craftsmanship, and how she won the ensuing challenge from the goddess and was cursed into the form of a spider in a moment of spite and envy. How even after she was cursed, Arachne continued to spin and weave, working her webs' intricate designs, and how Athene watched in her hate, waiting for the spider's short lifespan to end, abandoning her duty as Avatar and ignoring her worshipers. How when at last she did pass, Arachne's soul was brought before the Ancient of Days and offered to replace Athene, who herself was taken by the darkness and reshaped into Irshya, harpy goddess and Avatar of Envy.

The majority of the many children Arachne produced in her short life remained the common spiders of the world, ancestors of everything from the simple weavers and hunters to the enormous monstrous spiders native to wildlands fraught with powerful magic and bizarre creatures. But a large minority, her earliest-born sons and daughters, inherited a fragment of the divine spark of their mother, and when Arachne ascended to godhood, so did they ascend to sapience. Over the next half-century they grew, developing from whatever tiny creature they had been born as to great spiders the size of large dogs or small horses. Then, compelled by instinct inborn in them through their divine evolution, they cocooned themselves and entered a state of metamorphic sleep. When they awoke and emerged, spiders they remained... but they had gained the ability to take the shape of humans as their mother once was. It was at this point that they approached their human kin and ancestors, revealing the fate of Arachne and of her children.

The Children of Arachne have a long and complex life cycle. They are born from eggs laid in clutches usually between two and six in number, and emerge individually - often with days or even weeks between each egg hatching - as spiders that range in size between a large coin and an adult human handspan, generally based on the type of mundane spider they resemble. Despite appearing to be little more than spiders, they are sapient and learn quickly, and can usually communicate via writing, tapping, gesturing, or a rapid chittering language called Arachnid (which most other species lack the vocal structure to speak, including Children in humanoid forms, but can with some difficulty learn to understand) within a few years. While they are quick to gain intelligence, their other features are much slower to develop, and it takes between fifty and eighty years for them to reach their first metamorphosis. In this time they grow, eventually reaching a size comparable to a large dog.

Arachnean spiderlings cocoon at this phase, wrapping themselves in their own silk, and remain so bound and in stasis for between two and four weeks. They are almost always slightly larger when they emerge than when they entered the cocoon, but more importantly they now have a unique ability - an innate shapeshifting talent that allows them to assume a Human form. This ability is innate, complete, and most importantly nonmagical, allowing them to shift forms even in areas with warped or dead magic. Common parlance for this adolescent stage of the Children's life cycle is Aranea.

While physically adolescent, most Araneas are considered mentally and spiritually adults by the time they reach their second century. It is at this point that they are generally allowed to leave the control and protection of their parents, to travel, to experience, and even to seek love or lust. Araneas choosing mates or sexual partners at this stage is extremely common; however, Araneas are also sterile, their core reproductive organs inert and underdeveloped until their final metamorphosis. Due to their human-like shape and shared heritage, some Araneas choose to live among humans as humans, concealing their nature, especially in places where their kind are uncommon; there are no long-term negative effects to spending a majority of time in either spider form or human form, save a common necessity to "adapt" to one form after spending a long duration in the other, as if the Aranea is "out of practice" in using its other body.

The majority of Children living as adventurers are Araneas, eager to be out of the nests of their parents after two hundred years in their care and ready to spend the remaining centuries of their existence exploring the world, seeking new experiences, developing their talents, and making friends and allies. In this phase of their lives, Araneas continue to grow, if far more slowly; their human forms are usually relatively short upon first emerging from metamorphosis, typically between 4'6" and 5', but by the time they reach their second they usually stand closer to between 5'8" and 6'4", give or take some on all accounts. Their canines also very slowly elongate into fang-like shapes, but they possess no poison sacs in their human shape; this is one of the best ways to identify an Aranea in disguise from a true Human. Likewise their spider forms continue to grow, going from the size of a large dog or small pony to almost as big as a full-sized horse.

Exact durations vary, but the Aranea stage generally lasts until somewhere between 650 to 800 years old. It is at sometime in this span that a second instinctual imperative drives the Aranea to a second cocooning; the demand is not as intense as the first when it first comes, allowing an Aranea to take the time to seek a safe, hidden, or protected place to cocoon, but increases in desperation if delayed for too long. This second cocoon is built much larger and stronger than the first, in order to allow for the greatly increased size of the Child post-metamorphosis. Generally referred to as "apotheosis" by the Children themselves, it is this transformation that allows them to take on the form of Arachne herself - neither human nor spider but a blend of the two, a hybrid shape that is almost universally considered far more natural and complete than either of their prior forms.

Fully-realized Arachnes generally stand somewhere between nine and thirteen feet tall in their true forms, and resemble centaurs with the lower half of a gigantic version of whichever spider they resemble rather than a horse. Their humanoid head, torso, and arms retain most of the appearance their human form had as an Aranea; arachnid chitin hugs along their hips and pelvis, beneath which the body gives way to the spider thorax. Where the spider's eyes, mouth, and pedipalps would normally be is now replaced with the humanoid torso, with the eight legs connected to the thorax along the sides. The front and rear pairs are typically slightly more maneuverable than the two central pairs, allowing the former to serve as a second pair of "hands" and the latter to serve as the primary operators for silk production and manipulation; this is a trait shared with Araneas in their spider form, as well, though it becomes more pronounced at full adulthood. The spider abdomen is, as expected, attached to the rear of the thorax, and includes spinnerets.

Arachnes maintain their shapechanging abilities after apotheosis; they simply gain a "third form" to choose from. Their Human forms remain the size of normal humans, though they are almost always universally tall compared to the average human, as even the shortest of female Arachnes are rarely below 5'10" in height, and most typically being closer to 6'6" or even taller, with males being slightly shorter. However, their fully-spider form keeps the greater size of their hybrid shape, as if simply withdrawing the humanoid torso into itself and gaining the spider's normal eyes, mouth, and mandibles.

Arachnes are fully mature in all ways upon emerging from apotheosis, and reproduction usually occurs within the first century or two following, with pairs who were partnered as Araneas generally producing young more quickly. Despite their prodigious lifespan, however, Arachnes don't produce a great amount of children. As stated, their clutches are relatively small - between two to six eggs apiece - but perhaps more importantly, it's relatively rare for an Arachne female to produce more than two or perhaps three clutches in her lifetime, despite the expectation of living as long as 1500 years in total, with all but the last two or three centuries fertile. It's unknown whether this is a cultural restriction or an inherited one, but it most likely is a side-effect of the slow growth rate of spiderlings and Araneas: after all, with each spiderling clutch taking 200 years to reach Aranea "adulthood", two clutches will easily push an Arachne female to nearly 1100-1300 years old by the time they're fully grown, and female Arachnes almost never seem to produce another clutch while children are still in the home.

In all forms and all stages of their lives, Children are unique in being fully, biologically carnivorous. Their bodies are completely incapable of processing plant matter as food, and many hidden Araneas masquerading as Humans have had to deal with a variety of ill effects from things as simple as fruit juice or salads or even many kinds of alcohol due to their inability to digest it. Spiderlings gain sustenance much like normal spiders do, catching insects and other small prey in their webs, liquidizing it with their venom, and consuming it by drinking. Upon metamorphosis to Aranea, they are capable of taking on larger prey, as well as consuming solid food - Aranea, even in spider form, possess actual teeth in their mouths beyond just their fangs and pedipalps, allowing them to tear and chew meat, unlike normal spiders. As they grow, their teeth grow stronger, larger, and more numerous, though never gaining more than about twenty teeth in total in their spider forms, compared to the human norm of thirty-two that they possess in their human and hybrid, post-apotheosis, forms. When living among other races, Aranea and Arachnes must take care with the food they eat; while their bodies can survive consuming indigestible food in relatively small volumes, excessive consumption or doing so for an extended period of time can often produce ill effects.

Due to their relatively small numbers, the Children of Arachne don't have a large culture to themselves outside their religion; the vast majority of Children revere their ancestress as their primary patron deity as well as an exemplar of their capabilities and as a literal mother figure. Arachne families are matriarchal by default, separated by clutch or clan names that, while inspired by the Humans they live among and are descended form, serve primarily as shorthand for an entire inherited line - an Arachne or Aranea's actual full name is an entire listing of their female genealogy back to Arachne herself, for example: "Elene, of Anna, of Katerin, of Ioanna, of Sybilla, of Sophia, of Zoe, of Iliya, of Koralia, of Aglaia, of Despoina, of Arachne." Male lineages are only used in such recountings when the identity of the mother is unknown. However, such full names are almost only used in ceremonial situations, and most Children are quite happy to use typical given name-surname combinations in casual conversation.

Almost all Children live on the continent of Wachara, primarily in the region of Galadae, which is both the modern name of the territory where Arachne herself lived as a mortal and a theocracy under her leadership. Perhaps unusually, Arachne did not declare a Child as the ruler of this religious monarchy, but rather named a Human queen, Saranna Astraea; she instead declared Astraea's traveling companion, an Arachne oracle by the name of Augusta Stavros, to serve as her high priestess and to ensure the church and the monarchy would work in close cooperation. As a result, the church has grown extremely influential and popular in Galadae, and it boasts the single highest concentration of Children in the world.

Other places in Wachara have their fair share, though. The wilderness and mystery of the region once known as the Stolen Lands, now home to the countries of Iomrall, Shadrach, and Weuland, have drawn the attention of many Aranea and Arachne wanderers, but like anything in those regions, there is no clear majority of any one species. The largest concentration of Children outside Galadae is by far in the land of Divus, south of the Stolen Lands and the Olori Territories. Drawn by the tower-cities of the Ael-Varan, where social status is strongly tied to one's ability to physically reach the higher strata of the buildings, normally such heights were reserved for the flying Ael and the few members of other races who could master the magic necessary to make the ascent without wings. The Children, however, possess a spider's grace and more importantly their climbing ability, and thus ascending to the upper reaches of Divan civilization was to them as simple as walking. Children who migrated to Divus easily picked up on the native culture and had very little trouble adapting to the differences in behaviors, often taking on Divan variations of their names and titles to better integrate into Ael society.

True to their heritage, almost every Child is a capable craftswoman or -man. Spiderlings can begin spinning silk at as young as ten or twenty years old, and have generally mastered the skill of at least making webs and cocoons by the time they reach their first metamorphosis. Crafting useful items out of their own silk is a common and revered practice among all Children, as well as a sign of respect and reverence to their ancestress and her divine charge; as a result, Children who have for whatever reason rejected Arachne tend to avoid using their silk for anything other than making webs and cocoons. Sewing and weaving, even using materials other than their silk, is a talent and trade that is almost inborn to the species, and Children are usually quick to master such trades.


Aranea Stats 
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Araneas are creatures of mind over body, with superior intellects but little physical power. Aranea characters gain a +2 racial bonus to Intelligence and Charisma and take a -2 penalty to Strength. 
* Type: Araneas are magical beasts with the (shapechanger) subtype.
* Size: Araneas are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Araneas have a base speed of 40 feet and a climb speed of 30 feet. In their human forms their speed is only 30 feet and they do not have a climb speed.
* Languages: Araneas begin play speaking Common and Arachnid (which is only speakable in their spider form). Aranea with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
* Darkvision: Araneas can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.
* Expert Climber: Araneas in their spider form can cling to cave walls and even ceilings, as if constantly under the effects of a nonmagical spider climb spell. This trait doubles the normal +8 racial bonus on Climb checks normally granted to creatures with a climb speed (to a total +16 bonus).
* Stable: An Aranea's many legs grant it a +12 bonus to its CMD against trip attempts. It loses this bonus in human form.
* Silk Weaver: An Aranea gains a +2 racial bonus to Craft checks involving thread, silk, or fabric, such as Craft (sewing) or Craft (weaving). This bonus increases to +4 if they are using their own webbing silk in the process.
* Change Shape: Araneas can assume the appearance of a human. The form is static and cannot be changed each time it takes this form. They gain a +10 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to appear as a human. Changing its shape is a standard action. This trait otherwise functions as alter self, save that the creature does not adjust its ability scores.
* Web: Araneas can create webs as per the web ability while in their spider form.
* Poisonous Bite: Araneas gain a natural bite attack, dealing 1d4 damage plus the Aranea's Strength modifier. The bite is a primary attack, or a secondary attack if wielding manufactured weapons. Araneas lose their bite attack while in their Human form.
  • Poison: save Fort DC (10+1/2 HD+CON mod); frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Str; cure 1 save. The save is Constitution based.

Arachne Stats
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Arachnes are powerfully built, strongly armored, sturdy, and naturally healthy, in addition to retaining their superior intellects, but sacrifice speed and agility for their size and strength. Arachne characters gain a +2 racial bonus to Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, and Charisma and take a -2 penalty to Dexterity.
* Level Adjustment: An Arachne is always one level lower than its experience total would dictate, to allow for its superior power level. An Aranea of the appropriate age can choose to undergo apotheosis and become an Arachne, removing its Aranea racial traits and gaining those of the Arachne in turn, in place of gaining a level.
* Type: Arachnes are monstrous humanoids with the (shapechanger) subtype.
* Size: Arachnes are Large creatures. Large races take a –1 size penalty to their AC, a –1 size penalty on attack rolls, a +1 bonus on combat maneuver checks and to their CMD, and a –4 size penalty on Stealth checks. A Large creature takes up a space that is 10 feet by 10 feet and has a reach of 5 feet.
* Undersized Weapons: Although an Arachne is Large, its upper torso is the same size as that of a Medium humanoid's upper torso. As a result, it wields weapons as if it were one size category smaller than its actual size (Medium for most Arachnes). An Arachne in Human form loses this ability, allowing it to shift between its Human and Hybrid forms without changing equipment.
*Base Speed: Arachnes have a base speed of 40 feet and a climb speed of 30 feet. In their human forms their speed is only 30 feet and they do not have a climb speed.
* Languages: Arachnes begin play speaking Common and Arachnid. Arachne with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
* Darkvision: Arachnes can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.
* Natural Armor: Arachnes gain a +2 natural armor bonus to their Armor Class.
* Expert Climber: Arachnes in their normal or spider form can cling to cave walls and even ceilings, as if constantly under the effects of a nonmagical spider climb spell. This trait doubles the normal +8 racial bonus on Climb checks normally granted to creatures with a climb speed (to a total +16 bonus).
* Stable: An Arachne's many legs grant it a +12 bonus to its CMD against trip attempts. It loses this bonus in human form.
* Silk Weaver: An Arachne gains a +2 racial bonus to Craft checks involving thread, silk, or fabric, such as Craft (sewing) or Craft (weaving). This bonus increases to +4 if they are using their own webbing silk in the process.
* Change Shape: Arachnes can assume the appearance of a human. The form is static and cannot be changed each time it takes this form. They gain a +10 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to appear as a human. Changing its shape is a standard action. This trait otherwise functions as alter self, save that the creature does not adjust its ability scores. They can also use this ability to assume a fully spider appearance, appearing exactly as they had in their natural form as an Aranea, save Large size instead of Medium. An Arachne can shift from one of its three forms to either of the other two, without having to go through its hybrid form if it does not wish to.
* Web: Arachnes can create webs as per the web ability while in their hybrid or spider forms.
* Poisonous Bite: Arachnes gain a natural bite attack, dealing 1d4 damage plus the Arachne's Strength modifier. The bite is a primary attack, or a secondary attack if wielding manufactured weapons. Arachnes lose their bite attack while in their Human form, but retain it in their natural hybrid form.
  • Poison: save Fort DC (10+1/2 HD+CON mod); frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Str; cure 1 save. The save is Constitution based.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Orthos's Observations: Glaistigs

I've pretty much always been a fan of Fey, but only within the past six years or so have I actually started to truly love them. And that can be traced 100% to the sorts of authors and book series I read. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. M. Todd Gallowglas's The Tombs. A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are other major non-literary influences as well - the old Gargoyles TV show with its Puck and the other Children of Oberon are also a major contributor, for example - but these books that I keep coming back to are the core of what has defined the Fey for me. When I designed the Courts of FaeReie for Finiens, it was these stories I had in mind. Combined with my love of mythology and things like Grimm's Tales, there was no way Finiens was not going to have a heavy Fey influence; doubly so thanks to the first campaign ever being run in our world being Kingmaker.

As such, it seemed only natural to have Fey races available for play. Sadly, fey creatures scaled for PC-level stats are few and far between; even the weakest of fey creatures has a statblock with abilities or resources that would be immensely unfair (and a headache to GMs) to put in player hands, more often than not. That said, it had been done in the past; in 3.5, one of my favorite PC races were the Killoren from Races of the Wild, the green-skinned "humans of the fey" with their shifting aspects. I actually played a Killoren character in a short-lived campaign, an Archivist named Shezzarin. She and her party are actually somewhere in Finiens's history thanks to their plane-hopping shenanigans, as are a time-traveling party from another campaign my group ran, but those are stories for another time!

I'd wanted to have a satyr-like PC race for some time, I'm not exactly sure why. They were called "satyrs" at first, too, with females being referred to as "nymph satyrs" despite retaining the half-goat appearance of the males. However, that idea was scrapped when it became obvious that using the "satyr" term would cause confusion with the actual Satyr creature already in the statblocks, as well as lock in the race to all the scandalous sexual behavior associated with that particular breed of fey, which was not something I wanted. So I did some searching around for another creature that had a similar physical design but a different lore. Fauns existed, but they too were already statted out and part of the game as-is. Then I found the glaistig, a fey/ghost creature from Scottish myth.

The appearance was perfect - they had the goat legs, but their upper humanoid half was elf-like and, to my surprise and amusement, lacked the horns almost always present on Satyrs and Fauns; this soon became the primary physical differentiating trait between the Glaistigs and the other half-caprine fey. At least according to Wikipedia and the other quick website sources I found in my early searches, Glaistigs were either a protecting spirit, sheltering herds and handlers from wolves and raiders, or an angry avenger of wrongs done. I decided to blend the two and turned them into FaeReie's first guard, a species created for the purpose of defense of the weaker and engaging the invading enemy first, and designed their statistics to match, giving them strong builds, hardy immune systems, resilient skin, and warding their minds and presence against magical intrusion.

At the time I created them we really hadn't decided what to do with Gnomes yet - that was only decided about a year and a half ago, partway through Kingmaker - but we had decided that the primary enemies of the fey were a shadow-fey species (which later became the Lost Court) and the Dark Song, which I'll elaborate on eventually. We'd also already decided that the abandoned realm of Unknown Kadath was a place (one of two major such locales) where the Dark Song could enter the world from whatever netherworld they originated, which later became FaeReie though that is far from their point of origin, and attack the mortal realm. Thus we positioned the Glaistigs who had left FaeReie at the feet of the Mountains of Madness in the Ice Claw, standing first sentinel against the Song incursion.

The Glaistigs are only the first of the fey races that are common on Finiens's Material; these comprise the "mortal fey", fey who for the most part have limited lifespans rather than traditional fey immortality, and whose mindsets are close enough to mortals that they can interact semi-normally, though the fey will always seem a little "off" in their behaviors, taboos, morality, and ethics in the eyes of mortals. The other "mortal fey" include Gnomes (who have retained their Fey typing in Finiens) and the Leanaí-Dubh, both of which will be discussed in the future, and an honorary recognition of such toward the Elves and the Ael-Vari, who likewise will be touched on later, despite them having lost much of their Fey nature and become Humanoid creatures over the millennia. There are also other "mortal fey" races who are present but less common; these are the published such fey races such as the Killoren and the Gathlain.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Races of Finiens: Glaistigs

In the vibrant life-flooded world of FaeReie, an infinite amount of creatures have spawned, born from bizarre interbreeding or simply spontaneously generated by the life-giving nature of their reality or the will of the Fae Queens. Many of these creatures simply exist because they do, without specific purpose and desiring none, answering only to the whim of their own capricious nature or the moment's latest spark of intention or whimsy. However, such is not true for all; some creatures were forged with purpose, designed specifically for a task, equipped perfectly for the reason for their existence. One of these such are the Glaistigs.

The original use of the name Glaistig was unrelated to the entities that wear the title now. It was a loose but common term used for hybrids of Satyrs or Fauns and Nymphs, Dryads, or other similar breeds of fae who exemplified feminine beauty and sensuality. Most of the time, the offspring of such unions produced yet more of the same: the goat-legged pranksters and pursuers if the child was born male, the radiant beauty if female. Yet in some cases a blending of the two was born - a child that bore the physical structure of the father, humanoid from the waist up but caprine below, yet carried the mother's beauty and glamour regardless. These rare abnormalities were the original Glaistigs, but at the time the term was merely a passing reference for these sorts of hybrids; they were not a species unto themselves, but rather bred as if a member of their appropriate parent's species, producing offspring of what they could or should have been rather than more bearing their shared traits.

The spark that changed the nature of the term and the beginning of a newborn people was the arrival of the Dark Song, an alien life-form from beyond the stars, from a world anathema to Finiens itself and beyond all sight and detection. When the Song arrived, rather than allow them to ravage the unprepared Material, their hordes were deflected into FaeReie, where the natives would be more suited to battle their otherworldly nature. And battle they did - all the courts of FaeReie prepared warriors, their mettle tested against one another for eons, and set them to the new front, to wage war against the invaders from another universe.

It is theorized that Cernunnos the Erlking, Lord of the Wyld Hunt, was the one who instigated the change. Others suggest it was FaeReie itself responding to a necessity, recognizing the harm that was coming to it and making ready a force to combat the danger directly, like a body attacking disease with its most efficient antibodies. Other, more wild assumptions or propositions have arisen over the years. Whatever the cause, however, what is known is who the first true Glaistig was: her given name was Jeanne, known also as The Green Lady. Daughter of a satyr and a dryad, she had been born with her father's physique and endurance as well as her mother's beauty, penchant for magic, and bond to the land; she carried the tree she was bound to, though in her case it had never grown much larger than a small shrub, and wore it like a buckler on her arm while wielding a spear hewn from one of her mother's fallen branches.

Jeanne was taken, by whatever force and unknown if by her volunteering or against her will, and changed. Her physical appearance - hooved goat legs from the waist down, beautiful elflike woman from the waist up - was mostly unaltered, but much of her underlying nature was shifted or remade. She became hardier, sturdier, more stalwart in frame and stature. Her mind was sharpened, warded against intrusion, and toned with stubbornness and firm will. Her skin was made strong against the attacks of enemies, protected from the shedding of blood by faerie magic, only to be pierced by the touch of feybane. The changes cost her some of her mother's grace, but her hooves were made sure and nimble, and the earth responded to their touch. Her dependence on her tree and her bond to its life was severed, freeing her of the danger of death due to its harm. And - perhaps most importantly of all for the future of her kind and of FaeReie itself - she was given the ability to breed true, to produce more of her kind, making her the Firstborn of a new species, mother of a legacy, predecessor of a great undertaking.

Following her metamorphosis and the birth of her first few children, Jeanne was given her role to fill in the world: the Glaistigs were to serve as sentinels, protectors and guardians of FaeReie and its people, wardens against the assaults of the Dark Song, mortals, the Lost Court, and all other enemies of all fey-kind.

The Glaistigs fought for eons against the incursion of the Song, battling back and forth with the alien menace, taking numbers from the seemingly endless horde of musical monstrosities for each of their own that was lost, corrupted, or slain, and continuing to multiply their own numbers, train their young in the ways of defense and war, and grow to repeat the cycle. For most Glaistigs, this is their existence, and has been from the beginning of time and will be for all eternity, or until FaeReie has enemies no more.

But for some, this was merely the beginning, and something soon changed.

One of the first races of the fae to lose all ground to the Dark Song's invasion were the Gnomes. These diminutive people dwelt on the fringes of FaeReie, both its deepest and most otherworldly depths as well as the places where it was most mundane, bordering through thin veils to the Material. When the Song attacked, sent to FaeReie by agreement with its Queens to spare the Material their ravage for at least a time, it is into the Gnomes' lands that they were sent. The Gnomes fled their attackers, and the first of the Glaistigs responded, battling back the foe and allowing the Gnomes to seek refuge in other realms. This cycle would repeat itself countless times, with the Gnomes seeking new homes, the Song pursuing, and the Glaistigs battling them back while the Gnomes would once again relocate for safety, only to be chased once again.

Eventually, the chase would remove them from FaeReie entirely. A large majority of the Gnomish people's flight took them out of FaeReie, through the Twisting Paths and into the Material, stranding them in the world of mortals in the islands known as the Senkaku Archipelago. A small selection of Glaistig guardians who had been sheltering them directly were so stranded with them as well; however, the majority of the warriors whose fighting retreat covered their escape found the Ways routed them instead to a cold, bitter, rocky land - the harsh tundra known as the Ice Claw of Stormwind.

For a time, the Glaistigs thought their foe had been thwarted, and while they could not return to FaeReie - something about this new place, this mortal realm, prevented their magic from returning them home - they found that the climate was for the most part to their satisfaction. The rocky, icy lands were suitable for a race built to battle on stone and mountainside, and their skin could resist all but the mightiest of blows from any blade not forged of the deadly Cold Iron... a benefit that came greatly of use when they met their first mortal neighbors, the Orcs. Clashing between the defensive-minded fey and the battle-beloved Orc packs was inevitable, and the Orcs found themselves quite impressed with the near-indestructibility of their foes; however, they were likewise minimal, as the packs would rarely roam out of their nomadic lands and the Glaistigs, created with the purpose of protection and defense in mind, were not of the nature to aggressively approach anything but an attacking enemy force.

However, their peace was short-lived. The Glaistigs had emerged near the feet of the Mountains of Madness, the impossibly-tall towering range of peaks to the north of the Ice Claw, beyond which lay the abandoned ruins of Unknown Kadath. Whatever alien life had once dwelt in those forgotten cities and empty spires, it seemed to resonate with the melody of the Dark Song, and the horde found it could emerge from FaeReie using Kadath as a gateway. Soon battle was rejoined, when Glaistig outriders exploring the mountains reported Song pouring down the slopes in droves, seeping out of ancient caves and long-forgotten mountain passes and surging towards the life-thronged lands to the south.

To this day the majority of Glaistigs remain in that bitter land, dwelling at the feet of those otherworldly mountains and battling the impossible foe that ekes out from beyond their unfathomable walls. However, wanderlust strikes even the fae, and ever there are those who would deny their destiny and forge new paths for themselves, away from the endless battles and impossible war with the Dark Song. It is these who venture into other lands, seeking whatever might be found among mortals. Yet the essence of the sentinel never quite leaves them, and for whatever reason may call, the way of the warden is in the Glaistig's very blood and bones.


Glaistig Stats
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Glaistigs are tough and clever, but are somewhat ungainly in movement. Glaistig characters gain a +2 racial bonus to Constitution and Intelligence and take a -2 penalty to Dexterity.
* Type: Glaistigs are Fey creatures.
* Size: Glaistigs are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Glaistigs have a base speed of 30 feet.
* Languages: Glaistigs begin play speaking Common and Sylvan. Glaistigs with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Aklo, Auran, Draconic, Elven, Gnomish, Orc, and Terran.
* Damage Reduction: Glaistigs have the tough skin of warrior fey, pierced only by the touch of iron. Glaistig characters have DR 5/cold iron.
* Low-Light Vision: Glaistigs have low-light vision, allowing them to see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.
* Healthy: Glaistigs have tough immune systems, allowing them to live on nearly anything much like the goats they resemble from the waist down. Glaistigs gain a +4 bonus on Fortitude saves against disease and poison, including magical diseases.
* Mountaineer: Glaistigs are immune to altitude sickness and do not lose their Dexterity bonus to AC when making Climb checks or Acrobatics checks to cross narrow or slippery surfaces. Nearly all Glaistigs live in rocky or mountainous regions and they are used to traversing treacherous terrain.
* Protector: Glaistigs are the sentinels of the fey, trained from birth to battle the enemies of their people. Glaistigs add +1 to the caster level of any abjuration spells they cast, and also gain the following spell-like abilities: constant—nondetection; 1/day—faerie fire, obscure object, sanctuary. The caster level for these effects is equal to the user’s character level.
* Stubborn: Glaistigs gain a +2 racial bonus on Will saving throws to resist spells and spell-like abilities of the enchantment (charm) and enchantment (compulsion) subschools. In addition, if the Glaistig fails such a save, it receives another save 1 round later to prematurely end the effect (assuming the spell or spell-like ability has a duration greater than 1 round). This second save is made at the same DC as the first. If the Glaistig has a similar ability from another source (such as a rogue’s slippery mind class feature), it can only use one of these abilities per round, but can try the other on the second round if the first reroll ability fails.
* Treacherous Earth (Su): Once per day, a Glaistig can will the earth to rumble and shift, transforming a 10-foot-radius patch of earth, unworked stone, or sand into an area of difficult terrain centered on a square it can touch. This lasts for a number of minutes equal to the user’s level, after which the ground returns to normal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Orthos's Observations: Orcs

First off, to get it out of the way: "Holy alliteration, Batman!"

Now that that's done.

Orcs! I have yet to see a fantasy setting that doesn't have Orcs, or at least something very like them. They're as ubiquitous as Elves and Dwarves, if less historically-rooted; despite Elves going back as far as fairy tales do and farther and Dwarves being a staple of (at the very least) Norse myth, there's really no large-scale Orc presence in legend and mythology until Tolkien, yet in the modern day they're just as well-known and easily-identifiable among fans of the Fantasy genre - and now, thanks to things like the Lord of the Rings movies, even those who don't normally associate themselves with that culture.

Unfortunately, what they're so well-known for is being typecast. Orcs are the Bad Guys. The slavering hordes. The barbaric enemy on the doorstep. The mongrel tribes who pillage, rape, and burn. They're low-level enemies for your average fantasy game, grunt stupid minions for more intellectual villains, and their only player-side connection to the game is, most of the time, the rapist parent of a bastard race created primarily for the purpose of proving just how bad they are and making characters who will be biased against by the vast majority of people they encounter. Orcs are evil, through and through, and almost no setting uses them in any other way. They're almost as bad as Goblins, in that way, really - notice it's never Elf babies or Dwarf babies or even baby Dragons used in those annoying moral quandaries about "Will the paladin fall if he kills this?". It's always Orc or Goblin babies. Because the people making these arguments always want to pit the mindset of "Orcs/Goblins are always evil, no exceptions, rawr grar nyargh blargh" against the basic assumption of "children are innocent".

Really, these discussions sicken me as much out-of-character as in, especially when people who play so-called good characters and especially so-called paladins are coming out in favor of this kind of behavior. I have, on more than one occasion, seen a paladin character suggest that half-orc children should be "killed immediately as a mercy, as their lives hold nothing forward but a life of evil, suffering, and suffering they will cause".

Well screw that.

I've been on the Paizo forums and elsewhere long enough to see the many, many complaints about Orcs being the "token bad guy race" of "Always Chaotic Evil bags of XP" created for the express purpose of "giving players semi-humanoid creatures to kill without moral quandaries of whether or not it's an evil act". So when putting our Orcs together, one of the things Ebon and I wanted to do immediately was make sure that argument never need rear its head in our setting. To do that, though, we needed an Orcish culture that didn't result - through either harsh living, outside influence, or scorn by other races - in a race that had a burning hatred for most or all other species that would push them in large numbers toward evil alignments.

We knew we wanted our Orcs to be a tribal warrior race, but we wanted to avoid some of the pitfalls they seemed to always fall into in other settings. Things like being the creation of evil deities or fiendish powers, being corrupted versions of "good" races, hating all magic, being stupid and brutish thugs with intelligence penalties, and perhaps most importantly being a non-player race that spawns a PC race 99% of the time via rape. One of the first things we did when we started putting the setting together was outright say, "there are no Half-Orcs, Orcs and Humans are genetically incompatible. If you want to use Half-Orc stats for an Orc character, that's fine." We eventually refined those statistics into the Orc stats presented here, obviously. The removal of Half-Orcs gave us the opportunity to pull Orcs in as their own playable race as well as banishing their connection to unpleasant backstories as a matter of common course. From there, it was just a matter of tweaking the flavor behind them.

There were two major influences on Orcs, really. One from me, one from Ebon. Hers was the Krogan, a race from the Mass Effect game series... which I have never played. I don't even own it (unlike, say, Dragon Age, which I have multiple games of but have never touched). From what a quick Google search could gather, they're a warrior culture with a strong system of honor and a focus on strength of arms and of will... pretty perfect for what we were going for with Orcs, I have to admit. One of these days maybe I'll play the game, and be able to directly incorporate a bit more of that culture into them. As of now though, that'll be Ebon's input, when/if she decides to run something with Orcs as a prominent culture.

My contribution was a bit more humorous. When I started trying to envision non-evil but highly combat-motivated and enthusiastic culture, my mind went to the Jägermonsters of the webcomic Girl Genius. They too enjoy fighting, revel in violence, have a sort of (admittedly bizarre) code of honor, and are powerfully built and difficult to harm or kill. That and the idea of an Orc obsessing over a hat makes me laugh. So yeah! Jäger Orcs! Love it. Stir in a bit of Krogan, a bit of old-fashioned nomadic barbarian horde types stripped of the typical "rape and pillage" stereotype, a strong dose of shamanistic culture to tie them to the brutal landscape of the Ice Claw, and a powerful reverence for those who die in battle admittedly stolen from the Norse, hence the bonfire burials.

So... now that they're here, what do they do?

Well, geography primarily answers most of that. The Orcs' homeland is the Ice Claw, which is located on the southern part of the northern half of Stormwind. It's bordered by the Titans mountain range to the south and the Mountains of Madness to the north, with ocean on its east and west shores. It's a frostfell taiga and tundra region, with temperate summers at best and brutal winters. In the earliest parts of Finiens's history, the Orc packs had full run of the entire region; however, they've moved somewhat westward into the rolling plains of the Claw, leaving the more craggy and hilly eastern third primarily occupied by the Frost Elves (whose forest was pulled north of the Titans when the Child of Perdition Firbohlg moved the mountains) and Humans from Olympia to the south who have established cities in the frostfell.

So the packs roam the plains and western coast of the tundra. Those along the shorelines might be a bit Inuit-like in culture, doing a lot of close-to-shore sailing and relying primarily on fish, but the majority of Orcs further inland remain predominantly nomadic, roaming in erratic but semi-consistent paths through their territories depending on time of year, guided by shamanistic lore and magic and sheltered by powerful warriors and tribal tradition. Where packs intersect, conflicts are inevitable, but large-scale conflict is a bit anathema to my Orcs: they, sparing some few exceptions, don't have much need or desire for control of massive amounts of territory. Orcs in Finiens are not conquerors or pillagers; they don't really desire to expand their holdings so much as secure what they have and protect what they hold. They're more predators than tyrants, knowing the territory they roam provides the resources they need to survive and keeping challengers away but, unless their own stores run dry, having little reason to force themselves into the demesne of another.

The addition of mentions of psionics was kind of a last-second idea from me, but really one I should have spotted earlier. Given the Lovecraftian nature of the Mountains of Madness and whatever lost civilization once lay beyond in Unknown Kadath (which I've recently begun getting ideas toward fleshing out, actually), it seemed only natural that the packs dwelling nearest the mountains' feet would develop echoes of that otherworldly power. And with the Dark Song strongly tied to psionics as well, even more so.

Given most of the campaigns I've run have taken place in Wachara rather than Stormwind, there's not been much opportunity to do things frequently with Orcs, something I'm hoping to be able to rectify sometime in the future. Consider this, though, at least a start toward providing a world where those who like Orcs, for whatever reason, don't have to settle for bloodthirsty warmongers to satisfy that desire. And, well, if that's what you want out of your Orcs anyway... well, you've no shortage available, that's for certain.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Races of Finiens: Orcs

In the wilderness and tundra of the Ice Claw, there is only one law: the strongest survive. The cold, the wild, the beasts, and the terrain are merciless in their hunts, and those who cannot resist their pursuits are food for the predators that pursue them. Only one race has mastered this cruel, unforgiving land - the mighty Orcs. Living in semi-nomadic clans and traveling in hunting packs or warbands, Orc culture has embraced the basic ideal of “survival of the fittest”, tempered with an unusual mortal kindness - the simple question of “why can’t everyone be the fittest?”

Orcs are a powerful, hardy race, weathered and strengthened by the rough terrain and unforgiving climate they call home. From their youth, as soon as they are capable of walking, Orcs are shown the way of battle: introduced to weapons and armor as soon as they can hold their weight, and regularly taken along for hunting trips and skirmishes as soon as they are old enough to no longer be a burden to the pack. Orcs are gruff, cunning, and above all practical - they have little interest in fair fights and prioritize victory, because in their world, “loser” is simply a nicer word for “dead”. When not fighting or hunting, Orcs are expected to labor, performing chores and tasks for the good of the pack and to keep their own strength up, and when not occupied with such obligations Orcs are prone to brawling in mock battles, wrestling tournaments, or violent dares such as fighting some great beast to a standstill. Orcs learn young to create, and are generally expected to see to the well-being, upkeep, maintenance, repair, and replacement of their own equipment - and any Orc caught without his or her weapons, armor, tools, or other necessities is generally expected to "make do" without, one way or another, or fail trying.

However, neither are Orcs heartless, cruel, or stupid. There is a place for Orcs who cannot keep pace with the rigors required of hunters and warriors. Shamanism and druidism are highly respected, and Orcs who express the cleverness and spiritual skill to make contact with the wild land’s native essence are a guiding force in Orcish culture. Orcs as a whole revere nature-oriented deities and Avatars associated with battle and strength, but also of protection and healing, knowing that at the end of every battle the warrior must rest, recuperate, and regain strength if he or she wishes to see the battlefield again whole. While an Orcish leader or chieftain is almost always a warrior of great renown and strength, he or she is almost always wise to take the advice of the pack’s shamans, to seek their insight on the spiritual nature of matters, and secure their blessings and assistance - and, above all, healing - when the pack goes to war.

And war is common among the Orcs. Tribal rivalries run deep between different clans, and unwritten boundaries between the nomadic packs’ territories often lead to conflicts and sometimes outright combat when implied barriers are considered crossed. To other, more “civilized” races, this makes the Orcs look brutish, barbaric, and hostile, especially when their boisterous, violent nature is not limited to squabbles and skirmishes among their own kind, but also to other races moving into their frozen lands from the warm south. In turn, however, very few Orc packs - much less entire clans - have moved en-masse further south than the Titans, and those who have have indeed been interested in overrunning or conquering other races and their lands, painting an unpleasant and aggressive picture of their kind for their southern neighbors.

These, however, are largely exceptions. For most Orcs, battle is not a means but an end - they battle because battle is glorious, an exercise in strength, skill, and strategy, a proving of who truly is the fittest and the greatest, whether one’s opponent is another Orc, a wild beast, a true monster, or a man or woman of another race or homeland. Most Orc clans are uninterested in seizing new territory, merely keeping other clans from doing so, and enjoying the thrill of the fight when borders are breached, and above all an opportunity to increase one’s own strength, resiliency, and endurance - a chance to become the fittest.

Other races often consider Orcs to be brutish and stupid, most particularly the Humans and Elves of the lands to the south, who have had the most conflicts with Orcish incursions and who see their primitive ways and eagerness to seek battle as stupidity writ large. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Orcs have the potential to be extremely intelligent, and nothing but the lack of the infrastructure common in more civilized lands stops an Orc from taking up intellectual pursuits, up to and including wizardry. However, less due to their intellectual limitations and more because of their culture and society, there are not many arcane casters among Orcs other than Witches, which are extremely common. Otherwise, the vast majority of Orcish spellcasters are divine in origin, primarily Druids. Tribes who dwell along the northernmost edges of the Ice Claw, near the feet of the impossibly-high Mountains of Madness, also boast large numbers of Psionically-capable members, primarily Psions, Ardents, Vitalists, Tacticians, and of course Psychic Warriors, due to the strong sub-mental influence of Unknown Kadath beyond the towering peaks. The brutal landscape of the Ice Claw demands that all resources be used to the greatest means possible, and Orcs have long since learned - in many cases the hard way - that magic of all kinds is an incredibly useful weapon and tool to have.

Orcs are unique in that there is very little scorn or stigma for any role in their society; rather, their scorn is reserved for one's ability to make him- or herself useful. To an Orc, nothing is more frustrating or rage-inducing than a member of the pack who cannot carry their own weight or play their part. Orcs unfit for a particular task or role are swiftly relocated to other professions, passed from teacher to teacher until a suitable talent has been discovered that can give the Orc something to do. The pack does not have the time or resources to devote to supporting anyone who cannot fend for themselves or, in the cases of the elderly, infirm, or challenged, provide some minor service to the whole. Those incapable of performing any other task are set to the care and upbringing of the next generation, watching over and guiding the youngest of the pack until such time as they are old enough to begin training.

Orc deaths are as brutal as their lives, and treated with equal reverence. Unlike other societies, Orcs leave nothing with their dead; all possessions that can be recovered and are still useable are stripped from the dead and surrendered first to living next-of-kin, then to the pack as a whole if unneeded or unwanted. Orcs do not bury their slain, but rather burn them on massive individual funeral pyres; the night after an Orcish conflict is always ablaze with aurora lights of countless bonfires blazing as the packs pluck their fallen from the battlefield and send them to the afterlife in a haze of ash and smoke. In conflicts with other races, Orcs have been known to retrieve the bodies of their enemies and likewise burn them, once their own are all tended; these pyres are treated with equal reverence to any Orc's, most of the time, and the slain are usually referred to as worthy opponents and foes even in death. Orcs, in turn, seem extremely perplexed by other races' tendencies to either leave the dead where they lie or, even more baffling, hide them away in the ground. Much of Orcish philosophy speaks that souls come on the wind and the wings of the great snowhawks and rocs that dwell in the northern lands, and that to bury the body locks the soul in stone, preventing those very winds and wings from carrying it to the afterlife.

Orc history is kept alive orally by pack shamans and skalds, with tales of their ancestors and the history of the Ice Claw going back millennia. Would-be skalds spend much of their youth learning these stories, as well as how to remember and recall all the myriad legends and histories of their pack and their homelands and how to construct new tales around more modern events. Written histories are rare, given the nomadic lifestyle and limited physical possessions of most Orc packs, though those skalds and shamans who have been willing to converse with outsiders have shared some of their histories with other cultures who have put them to the written word. Conversely, in certain areas of the Ice Claw Orc packs will practice cave art, leaving their stories to be found by later descendants or other travelers in remote locations. These are far from the primitive stick-figure art of pre-civilization societies, however; Orcish cave art is majestic and large, intricately detailed, and made to last for eons. Massive murals fill entire caverns from entrance to deepest burrow, every inch of stone on the walls and ceiling colored over with a piece of the story. Enormous rock tapestries drape cliff walls, telling a different version of each tale depending on which way a traveler is going. These pieces of elaborate art are usually crafted by clan skalds, with shamans approving each piece of the artistry upon completion and, if deemed suitable, using their magic to ward the work against the elements, leaving it available for all to see for generations to come. Even as much as Orc history and behaviors are known to other races, only a small fragment of these murals have ever been found; it is suspected that in even more remote territories, perhaps even up into the thought-uninhabited Mountains of Madness, there might be further such artistry waiting, telling the history of the Orcs beyond even that which has trickled out to the people of warmer lands.


Notable edits: Mechanics
Orc Stats
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Orcs are powerfully built and fiercely cunning, but have little personal finesse. Orc characters gain +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Charisma.
* Type: Orcs are Humanoid creatures with the orc subtype.
* Size: Orcs are Medium creatures and thus have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Orcs have a base speed of 30 feet.
* Languages: Orcs begin play speaking Common and Orc. Orcs with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Draconic, Giant, Gnoll, Goblin, and Sylvan.
* Intimidating: Orcs receive a +2 racial bonus on Intimidate checks due to their fearsome nature.
* Ferocity: Orcs possess the ferocity ability which allows them to remain conscious and continue fighting even if their hit point totals fall below 0. Orcs are still staggered at 0 hit points or lower and lose 1 hit point each round as normal.
* Weapon Familiarity: Orcs are proficient with greataxes and falchions and treat any weapon with the word “orc” in its name as a martial weapon. (Note: Most of the core rulebook "dwarven" and "gnomish" weapons are usually kobold or orc make, and thus may be associated with this talent.)
* Darkvision: Orcs can see in the dark up to 60 feet.