Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Xubatu, the Slithering God



I could see down forever and ever, and I recollected all I'd ever heard norrated about the Bottomless Pool. How it was blue as the sky, but with a special light of its own; how no water ran into it, excusing some rain, but it stayed full; how you couldn't measure it, you could let down a sinker till the line broke of its own weight.

Though I couldn't spy the bottom, it wasn't rightly dark down there. Like looking up into the blue sky, I looked down into blue water, and in the blue was a many-colored shine, like deep lights.

-- Manly Wade Wellman, "One Other"

A regional deity with a relatively small number of followers, Xubatu is known as a patient, meditative god of magic, thought, and mystical experiences. He is said to dwell in the Bottomless Pool, a large well which is housed at the center of the Slithering God's temple in Val-Soth. Those who have stared into its depths speak of an iridescent glow which emanates from the dim recesses of that blue lagoon.

Although few outside of the Cult of Xubatu have laid eyes on the Slithering God, depictions of the deity show a massive, sickly yellow snail with a nacreous steel shell covered in thin spines as long as a man's arm. These translucent spines are filled with a silver, opalescent liquid which secretes from the tip, similar to the metallic trail left by Xubatu.



Stretching out around them as far as they could see was a shore of bones, moss-covered and old, with a few whiter and newer additions. They had come upon a graveyard of a strange and horrible kind.

How many generations, how many lives of the world outside, must have been spent to create that vast and moldering wrack of skeletons, not even the inhabitant of the lake could have said.

-- Sterling E. Lanier, The Unforsaken Hiero

The Cult of the Slithering God attracts those who seek power, especially magical might. Members speak of the Maze with the Seven Thousand Crystal Frames through which they must pass to unlock their true psychic potential and, indeed, many a failed magic user has gained great power by joining the cult. Cultists can be identified by their witch's mark, a large, raised lump on their torso from which a network of pulsing red marks crisscross the body. Priests tend to favor spears fashioned to resemble the spines of Xubatu.

Finally, those who would brave the secrets of Xubatu's lair should be warned of foul rumors that circulate about the night-black complex beneath the temple, the majority of which is submerged underwater. It is said that Cultists of the Slithering God never truly die, instead achieving immortality through meditative practice, sitting in eternal contemplation in those still, blue waters. What strange powers these eternal beings possess is unknown, but none as yet have entered that brine-choked underworld and yet lived.



You've got to look into the lake at a certain angle, otherwise you can't see anything. Down on the bottom, among the weeds - stagnant water, everything dead, except . . . There's a city down there, all black spiraling steeples and walls at obtuse angles with the streets. Dead things lying on the streets - they died with the journey through space - they're horrible, hard, shiny, all red and covered with bunches of trumpet-shaped things . . . And right at the center of the city's a transparent trapdoor. Glaaki's under there, pulsing and staring up - I saw the eye-stalks move toward me...

-- Ramsey Campbell, "The Inhabitant of the Lake"



Monday, February 18, 2013

History of Krul, Part 2

After receiving the initial survey report, the Galactic Oligarchs set up a blockade around Krül to ensure that no prospectors or freebooters entered the system. Following this, the Confederacy quietly conducted a decade long observation campaign of the planet to catalog the various species and cultures thereupon.

The dominant species were known as Krütians, tall, thin, warmblooded humanoids possessing a Renaissance level of technology. The two other major intelligent races were the Thar Phreen, insectile creatures organized in telepathic hive structures, and the Skardi, octopoids which held sway beneath the seas. Each of these species claimed their own territories and were divided into various nations, tribes, and hives.


To the Oligarchs, the situation was ripe for exploitation. Prior to any diplomatic contact, however, special forces teams were employed to eliminate certain shamans and other mystical figures that were designated as high priority targets. Over a thousand seers, witch doctors, mediums, and the like met their end at the hands of these commando teams.

Once this initial threat was eliminated, a carefully orchestrated introduction was made with Krütian leadership, arranging a limited trade partnership which would provide mineral rights to the Confederacy in exchange to certain high-tech goods. Over the course of the next several decades, however, the Confederacy's influence grew across the globe as they introduced trading posts, relief organizations, schools and media.




While this spreading influence by the Confederates was seen as a threat to sovereignty by many Krütian leaders, their resistance would ultimately prove fruitless. Over the course of the next two hundred years native autonomy was slowly eroded to the point where the planet was governed by Confederate bureaucrats. This was accomplished through a variety of tactics, ranging from cultural, economic, and military imperialism.

To the Confederates, their unchecked reign seemed assured. They had gained control of a strategic resource of fantastic value and a subjugated population with which to harvest it. Little did they suspect that just a few short decades later they would lose it all to a threat unlike any they had ever faced.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Monster Breeding, Part Two: Crossbreeding


 From the owlbear to the manticore, wizards have loved mashing up critters from the very beginning. Here are some rules.

Note: Crossbreeding is a total waste of money, as few will be interesting in purchasing your vulturedogs. However, MUs which successfully breed a new species (producing at least one mating pair) will earn one XP for every GP spent on the project.

Basics of Birthing a Cowfrog

Crossbreeding is a remarkably difficult process to pull off. While there are a handful of natural crossbreeds (mules, ligers, centaurs, etc.), more unusual pairings will require both Animal Magnetism and the Ritual of Twaining (see below). Once both of these spells are cast, there is a base chance of the pair mating equal to the average of their individual fertility rates + 5% per level of the MU. This is modified by the following:

Size: -10% by size category
Limbs: -15% per pair different
Type: -30% if different clades (fish, fowl, mammal, reptile, etc.), -50% if wildly divergent (e.g. a dog and a jelly)

Example: Philip the Bloody, a 7th level MU, intends to breed a crow and a rat. The LL determines that crows breed 40% of the time, while rats breed 80% of the time. The average of these two rates is 60%, +35% for Philip's level, giving the crowrat a 95% base chance of breeding true. However, because the crow and the rat are of different clades, the chance is reduced by 30%, and the difference in limbs reduces the chance by an additional 15%, giving the crow and the rat a 50% chance of producing a horrible little monster.

Is it More Cow or More Frog?

If successfully bred, the LL will then determine which characteristics are gained from the parents. The LL may pick and choose according to his whim, or give a base 50% chance that each trait is inherited. Traits of each species are to be determined by the LL, but will cover things such as the number of limbs, tails, fur, feathers, prehensile fingers, etc.

Ritual of Twaining
Level: 4
Duration: permanent
Range: touch

Casting Ritual of Twaining allows for the successful mating of normally incompatible species, overcoming both mismatched genitals and genetic infeasibility. This ritual requires three hours of preparation to cast. Further details would be in bad taste.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Monster Breeding Part One (An Optional Rule for Labyrinth Lord)

The following is adapted from the article “Monsters, Magic & Menageries” by John McKeown, originally published in Imagine #21. The rules below have been tweaked and simplified based on personal taste. I highly recommend looking at the original article as well.

Want to watch hippogriffs do the nasty and sell their eggs for a tidy profit? The following systems provide guidelines not just for producing baby monsters, but for creating new forms of life altogether.

Care and Feeding Your Unholy Horror

Breeding stock must be housed, handled, and fed. Associated costs below:

Feed: 1 GP / week per HD (possibly more if special diet restrictions)
Handler: 10 GP / month for regular animals, 50 GP / month for monster specialists
Housing: 5 GP / week for dog-sized, 10 GP / week for man-sized, 20 GP / week for horse-sized, and so on. Monsters that have special housing requirements (liquid environments, heated, chilled, etc.) may cost much more.

Making Monster Babies

Reproduction cycles vary wildly. Each critter will have the following traits:

1. Breeding season (time of year and frequency)
2. Fertility rate (percentage chance of successful breeding)
3. Period of pregnancy
4. Litter size
5. Mothering Period (no new pregnancy)
6. Age of Maturity

These traits will be determined by the LL, probably by hastily making some shit up when you ask. If the LL feels like hosing you for some more cash, you may have to pay a sage to tell you.

Could This Move Any Slower?

Impatient breeders may be interested in the following spells:

Animal Magnetism
Level: 2
Duration: 1 breeding season
Range: touch

Animal Magnetism increases the chances of two creatures mating successfully by 5% per level of the MU. It may be cast once per pair per mating season.

Age Animal
Level: 3
Duration: permanent
Range: touch

Age Animal instantly ages an animal by one year per level of the MU (although they may choose to shorten this amount). While it can be used on any creature, the ritual involved requires a full hour of preparation. Once the spell is cast, the MU must make a savings throw vs spells or age one month for every year the animal has aged.

In part two we will look at crossbreeding incompatible species, and in part three we will examine the use of magical mutations to create entirely unknown species. Finally, in part four we will list potential mutations and defects that can arise.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

History of Krül Pt. 1

HD 187123
 

Seven hundred years ago a survey ship representing the Galactic Confederacy arrived on a lush jungle planet in the system HD 187123. The planet possessed a rich biosphere with multiple intelligent species and initial testing indicated that it was suitable for human habitation. While these factors were of some interest, the primary focus of the survey ship was the planet's economic potential. What they discovered would forever alter the future of the unsuspecting inhabitants of the planet which would be dubbed Krül.

Deep beneath the surface of Krül were vast deposits of an extremely rare mineral known as Kirbonite. Kirbonite, being a blood red crystal which faintly radiates light, was the most sought-after commodity in the galaxy. The amount discovered by that survey team represented nearly one tenth of the total Kirbonite resources in Confederation space.

Kirbonite


Kirbonite's value is not derived merely by the rarity of the substance, but its absolute necessity for galactic communication and travel. Prior to the discovery of Kirbonite, interplanetary travel had become common as efficent space flight developed, yet the gulf between solar systems was nearly impossible to overcome. Although some limited attempts had been made through generation ships and suspended animation, regular transit was a complete unknown.

Kirbonite changed all of that. The radioactive properties of the previously unknown mineral creates a localized effect wherein the barrier between dimensions are weakened, allowing for objects and individuals to pass between worlds. By directing these energies, Confederation scientists were able to enter into another dimension and reemerge light years away. Unfortunately for the burgeoning Confederation, using Kirbonite in this fashion consumed the base material, leaving only a fine dust. The consequence of this was that travel between solar systems would be both rare and incredibly expensive.

As such, the discovery of these deposits on Krül represented wealth on a titannic scale. Unknown to the excited survey team, however, it also represented a terrible danger.
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