Friday, June 24, 2011

Perilous Inhabitants, Fearsome Creatures, and Cunning aliens.

A preview from the almost finished Adventurer Book 3: Realms and races.  


In which we learn what lives outside one’s garden fence.

Humans, Near Humans, Sub-humans
A sword and sorcery world can be human centric, and indeed, the classic ones follow this path. However, there are quite a few examples of worlds that present with numerous fantastic species. These are the inhabitants that tend towards the basic human form –however hands and a humanlike visage are more important than the number of feet.  They can be fully natural and coequal to humans, different evolutionary tracks, magical hybrids, or embodied spirits.  These can take a wild variety of forms, easily the equal of any Traveller style SF aliens. Indeed, many of the examples below are blatantly adapted from Traveller or various earthly mythologies.

Sword and Sorcery humans are traditionally defined by their race, but this really boils down to their nation (loosely defined) measured along three axes: Culture, technology and society.
Culture is defined as Savage, Civilized or Decadent; Technology as Physical, Intellectual or Mystical and society as Tribal, Urban or Solitary.
The baseline generic central-casting culture type is civilized/physical/urban.  Note that for this combination, all modifiers cancel out. In literature, Cimmerians would be Savage/Physical/Tribal, Aquilonians as Civilized/Physical/Urban, Modern man as Civilized/Intellectual/urban, and Melniboneans as Decadent/Magical/Solitary.

If allowed by the game master, beginning characters or non-players have the cumulative modifiers listed, and one of the skills noted for their type.  Players in campaigns using the above variants choosing the baseline culture (Civilized/Physical/Urban) will have no modifiers, but do gain one of the skills and a free roll on the cash table when mustering out.

Cultural Effects:
+1 END 
-1 SOC

+1 EDU
-1 END

+1 SOC
-1 END
Courtly Graces
+1 STR
-1 EDU
Trade or farming
Intellectual-1 STR
+1 EDU
-1 STR
Any one non combat non spellcasting skill.
+1 INT
-1 STR
One Cantrip spell
+1 END
-1 EDU
One weapon skill
+1 END 
-1 STR 
+1 EDU
-1 SOC
One mystery spell
Note:  Urban doesn't mean that all members are city dwellers, but, rather, a culture that has the 
infrastructure to support cities.

Non-Player Human cultures
These rules can be used to give a quick sketch of the basic skills and attribute differences of non-player characters and hirelings.  Typically, non-player characters will have all the modifications and some of the three skills:


The Technarchs:
Example Human race #1

[insert picture of decadent sophisticate with raygun]

Dwelling in a small, isolated kingdom or city, the Technarchs are the remnant of an advanced human civilization, long since fallen into ruin elsewhere. Complete dependence on their machines has allowed them to retreat into simulated technological utopia created in their minds.  Few are awake at one time, generally chosen by lot to make such repairs and monitoring of the cities defenses that their robots and computers cannot do for them. Characters are assumed to be bored sohpisticates seeking new thrills or exiled criminals….or both.

Technarch Culture is  Decadent /Intellectual /Urban with net mods of +1 SOC -1 END, +1 EDU, and -2 STR. They may choose from Courtly graces, streetwise or any one non magic/non weapon skill.

The Firbolg:
Examples of Human race #2

[Insert picture of crazed underevolved Scotsmanesque tribesman]

Firbolg are the archetypical feral race of the mountain and deep forests.  The Firbolg may or may not have been driven off of land now ruled by more advanced, civilized folk, but they damn sure aint movin’ no further, despite living in very unhospitable dangerous areas.
If they kept to raiding each other, no one would care, but that’s mainly for practice; the farmers have all the cool stuff.  In general, the civilized plainsmen and farmers lack any interested in conquering the  howling wilderness of the Firbolg beyond trying to keep them from raiding and thieving.  Nonetheless, the Firbolg are too proud to knuckle under to decadent civilization by stopping killing foreign people and stealing stuff.

Firbolg Culture:  Savage/Physical/Tribal: +2 END, +1 STR, -2 EDU, -1 SOC. Players choose one skill of Survival, Trade or farming, or one weapon.

Near Humans
Near humans are pretty much any cosmetic variant of standard humans found on earth.  A good coat of paint, a  prosthetic forehead or fake ears, and possibly lifts in the boots or  shoes are about all that is needed to pass as one.  Near-humans typically have one culture regardless of dispersion or range, defined as for humans.  As charcters, they are treated as non-baseline humans discussed above. The outer edge of near humans may also have one enhancement from the altered animals traits, but also take a -2 to SOC and reaction from all “normal” races, or one trait that is a clear disadvantage. Any such should be designed by the referee, consistent with the campaign. 

Blue Thoobians: 
Examples of Near-Human race #1
[Insert picture of  furry blue philosopher]

Blue-skinned stocky pale-haired nomadic philosophers of the Ice flows, Thoobians are introspective and fiercely philosophical, easily turning to violence to solve unresolved theoretical or religious discussions.

Thoobian culture is Barbarian/Mystical/Tribal. In addition to cool skin and hair colors, they have -1 Soc, +1 End, -1 EDU and +1 Int. Character skills: choose one of: Weapon , Cantrip spell or Survival.

The Cloaked Ones:  
Examples of Near-Human race #2
 [Insert picture of .....well, a cloak]
Mysterious remnant of a race of mages, dwelling in deep underground caves.  Cloaked ones are pallid albinos,  spurning the outside world.  Occasional members will sometimes venture forth, often to trade inhuman knowledge for some vital resource, or to advance a specific goal. 

Cloaked one culture is Civilized /Mystical /Solitary.  In addition to Emoesque appearance and cloaks and capes, they have -1 STR, -1 Soc, +1 INT +1 Edu.
Characters may choose one of: Courtly graces, one Cantrip spell or one mystery spell

Gnome folk of Complacent Valley :
Example of somewhat further near-Human race
[Insert picture of smug miniature country squire....with a big hammer]
This is how we do it in the shire, MoFo
Gnome folk are small stout humanoids living in densely populated agricultural and rural communities.  They are generally insular, and while not xenophobic, prefer to avoid contact with other races.  They are generally calm and placid, but, as benefits a small folk successfully living on good land, can be quite dangerous when riled up, resorting to vicious ranged ambush, insurrection and guerilla warfare. Trait: Small. (3d6 DEX, 1d6 STR & END) .

Culture: Civilized/Physical/Tribal , net modifiers;  +1 STR
Character skills: Choose one of Admin, Farming or Trade, or weapon (usually ranged)

Sigh.  Okay, here it is.  Subhumans are an integral part of the population of most Ur-S&S worlds, and they often are shorthand for some rather obvious racist stereotypes.  Without getting into ethical and cultural issues, I simply say that inclusion of such tropes is lazy and uncreative, as well as unattractive, so basically I’m going to ignore the most blatantly obvious examples based on modern populations or ancestral wish-fulfillment.  What this leaves, though is a rather fascinating group best defined as creatures on the verge of sentience, or races that have stepped back from sentience for whatever reason (this aint Sci fi, so no discussions of retrovirus recoding and ancestral devolution, okay ?) .  Generally one can take any race already in place, and apply the basic law of pulp evolution: as you get smarter (or more civilized), you get weaker. 
The Wandering People:
Example Subhuman Race
[Insert picture of yeti with big pointy teeth and fangs]
They make a dumb human, but a badass ape…

A remnant Homo Erectus population, AKA “the missing link”.  Wandering Folk have 3d6 (END)  and 1d6 EDU; STR is Notable and INT is weak.  Their main weakness is in inventiveness, abstract thought and creativity; in the wild, tool use and culture is low tech 0, but when in contact with civilization  they can be trained to use more advanced tools and techniques, even gaining crude language beyond  relying on song, hand gesture and limited verbalizations.  They live in constantly migrating bands, and generally create all tools and shelter anew when they stop. The only ranged weapons usable are hand thrown stones. 

Players wishing to play one of the wandering folk should have a thorough psychological assessment, and if no dementia or delusional content is identified, or a history of playing  Creeks and Crawdads is deemed likely, they can be assumed to come from those Wanderers that make contact with civilization; they can be Barbarians or Commoners, and can never roll on advanced or eldritch education, and can take no more than one roll on the money benefits table. (they ain’t good at math, these guys). When interacting with these people, keep in mind that while they do make awfully slow humans, they are ferociously smart animals…..

1 comment:

NetherWerks said...

Just getting caught-up on Adventurer during a slight coffee break. The Subhumans do tend to get all racist and crap in a lot of the older literature from which S&S is derived, but Burroughs managed to rise above it a little bit, and Howard did some interesting things with the proto-picts. It really depends on what you mean by sub-human. Are they precursors to modern humanity, reversions/atavistic throw-backs, devolved bestial brutes, purposefully developed alternative pedigrees bred by mutant overlords? There's a lot of room to take this in entirely other directions than the typical lazy tropes. Not all 'cave-men' necessarily lived in caves, and neanderthals might easily become a race worth having around, depending on how you want to define them and what research you care to reference. Don't forget Arthur Machen's Pre-Human Survivals...