Friday, January 26, 2018

Meet the Iconics - Dibus Morelskein Druid (Circle of Fungus)

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After he rebirth, Dibus would sometimes have trouble recalling his life, before: days filled with gnomes, gears, cogs, smoke, and fire. But he did remember some things.

The middle child of five siblings, he felt he was often forgotten by his family. He never really seemed to mind though as it left him time to go on walkabouts. He loved to be in the wilds, and felt at times as though the plants, animals, very land could speak to him. When he shared these impressions, his family -in a rare showing of focused attention- scoffed; such daydreams were all well and good but his place was in the workshop with the family. Frustrated, Dibus discovered his love of food and cooking (and the acceptability of these pursuits); the scents of stew and mash and dishes he had to learn the name of seduced and inspired him. As he shifted from being an enthusiastic eater to a cook himself, his meanders gained a purpose: to procure only the freshest, only the most delicious vegetables, spices and more to improve his culinary craft Through cooking for his family, then his extended family, and finally the clan in total Dibus carved a comfortable, and somewhat fulfilling, niche as the go-to chef for every meal of importance. But still, his itchy feet drove him to wander further seeking some new (gastronomic) adventure till his wanderlust finally drove him to the legendary city of Salt in Wounds and the promise of tastes and flavors that couldn’t be found elsewhere.

As his chartered caravan drew close to the city, Dibus heard a call “Come to me… I have all that you seek…” as plainly as if the caller were seated next to him though none of his companions were speaking. He was confused, intrigued, and -almost in spite of himself- knew he would have to heed the call. Waiting until the caravan settled into sleep, Dibus started off into the Heartsblood Marsh. He had heard rumors of how terrible the marsh was, but also knew that mushrooms and insects of a kind not seen elsewhere grew here; that was almost enough reason for the journey even without the call.

As he walked, further and further, that voice would repeat itself, growing stronger, more insistent as it pulsed. ‘come, Come, COME.”

Marching through the red muddy ground, pushing past stalks of strange willowy mushrooms that reached to the sky, and coughing hazy air filled with some kind of particulate; Dibus looked up to find a castle of fungus with a river of blood -surely it couldn’t be blood, could it?- flowing into it. He thought this to be some sort of metaphor vision or illusion, but as he stared it only solidified. This was real.

Dibus had found the Fungal Sieve, the structure stemming the tide of the Tarrasque’s blood form corrupting more of the world. And instantly, Dibus knew fear and knew he was not alone. Above him, a dozen frog-men (grippli they were called he remembered as though the bit of trivia mattered) watched him from the fungal stalks, tall as treetops, and it felt as if the growths themselves were watching him.

From within the sieve, a figure lurched out. Lithe and thin, it reminded Dibus of one of the elf-blood warriors he’d known. But rather than the regal appearance that Dibus was used to, this creature was covered in fungus of various types from head to toe. As he/they/it opened their mouth, Dibus turned and ran as fast as his legs would carry him.

Huffing and puffing through long minutes, or maybe hours, later he was lost amongst the marsh and careening as though drunk to avoid the ever-present dangers. And yet the fungal elf continued, tireless. Growing slower, Dibus leaned against a large mushroom stalk. It had been several years since he had attempted to commune directly with nature, but he figured now may be the last chance he would ever have.

Dibus tucked himself under the base of a giant mushroom and began to seek council with whatever powers may be present in the area. But this land was not like the glens and pastures of his home; this land had a distinct personality to it, one that was strong and forceful and quite insane. Reaching out with his subtle senses, Dibus’s consciousness was jerked towards the Fungal Sieve. In a vision a face appeared, a fungal version of himself, but… no. It was clearly a gnome, but the eyes flashed open with a sickly green hue to them. This face was whatever or whoever whoever had been calling to him.

“I am Afrindi, no I am Heartsblood Marsh, no I am the druid who controls this land, and you will serve me/us/I now.” Dibus felt his mind start to slip as the world shifted. He felt something gently burst near him and -mind still filled with the face of the fungal gnome- he felt a patter of spores coat his face and fill his nostrils. Dibus was surrounded by the images geometric shapes in cascading patterns, all life wobbled and weaved. He saw the iconography of ancient civilizations flash before him and began to feel more connected to the world around him and less connected to his own body and self.

In an instant everything went dark and he was again face to face with the fungal visage of Afrindi. This new visage was much more imposing and detailed than before, more immanent. As Afrindi/the marsh/whatever spoke his voice echoed through Dibus’ mind, body, and soul. He told Dibus things the former cook couldn’t begin to understand, spoke in language that made no sense. Dibus felt as if he was being deconstructed to be rebuilt into whatever form Afrindi intended for him. He could see again the fungal elf and other frog-men standing perfectly still in their new fungal forms in a ring. Dibus let out what he thought was a low guttural growl, and began to fight back. He immediately met resistance as Afrindi began shouting instead of simply speaking. The commands began to come quicker and his mind swirled deeper into and away from itself.

Then Dibus let go. Realzing fighting was pointless, he shifted his focus to things he could understand. Dibus remembered at that moment every recipe he had ever cooked and ingredient he had ever used. He set out to recite each and every one in his mind, and looked to expand into making new dishes he would have never thought of before.

He began to see a light amidst the darkness and he focused on it allowing himself to be drawn deeper into its light. It was far behind the visage of Afrindi and the others that he found the small pieces of them still left inside the Fungal Sieve. In unison they whispered “Take this knowledge, this second chance and fight…” The light washed over Dibus and his mind began spiraling backwards to where he had sat down to commune with nature. The fractals and ancient geometry faded back to the fungal marsh. The fungal elf dropped from the mushroom cap overhead bearing down on him with a blade of hardened chitin – a weapon grown rather than forged. The blade buried itself to the hilt in Dibus’ stomach and deep into the mushroom behind him. Dark lines shot through Dibus as the blade infected him. His eyes went dark and shut as he drew what would be his last breathe as Dibus Dulpinzo.

It was many days later that Dibus Morelskein would open his eyes. He stood up from the base of the mushroom where he had fallen to the fungal sword. He shook a few toadstools from his face that looked more like fungus than actual hair. He stretched his fingers felt for the influence of other minds: no, as far as he was aware there were no other influences in his mind. Whatever Afrindi had tried to do hadn’t worked, or perhaps had in ways the mad druid hadn’t anticipated. Dibus was no slave to the mad arch-druid who’d spun away his life into the fungal sieve; he was servant of the land and the creatures (mostly fungus) that longed to be free of the warped domination they suffered under.

Dibus knew what he had to do, tend to the marsh, check Afrindi’s reach, and finally wrench control of this place away from the madness of its creator… to be steward, part and parcel of the wildness here without being master was the path he needed to take.

But to do that, Dibus would need to learn more about himself, his new powers, and more about Afridini if he had any hope of winning. He sensed many of the answers he sought might be found in Salt in Wounds (and it was perhaps not a good idea to linger here in the marsh, where Afrindi’s schizophrenic attention might well return to him), so he set to walking to the city as the land whispered secret things in a voice just below the bickering chatter of Afrindi.


His stomach grumbled, and he wondered what sorts of meals he could find (or make!) along the way.

This post by Neal Powell and J.M. Perkins - Art by Jeffrey Chen.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Meet the Iconics - Dinnai Eckert: Bard (College of the Dirge)

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Dinnai Eckert glared into the black of the tunnel beyond, seeing nothing more than rocks. He licked his lips and crawled further. He hoped the guide’s information was good, that he had been sold a true map through the labyrinthine Cap-Caps and -even had the dealer been honest- that the quakes hadn’t shifted the passageway enough to twist such instructions to falsehood.

Up ahead, he heard drums. That was promising.

Slowly, his eyes shifted from darkvision to regular as he caught dancing torchlight from beyond the end of the tunnel. Going careful slow now, he crawled until he could see out the edge which overlooked a rough carved room.

Harpies; three of them and perhaps two dozen zombies ringed around them. The undead banged at drums while the feathered witches worked on a corpse on an altar – it’s middle open and various organs splayed across or in ceramic jars. Without thinking about it, Dinnai started playing with a spot of lyric about, ‘oh the silly birds, fly below the stones, pecking out the hearts, of little children.’ He peered at the dead man on the altar, wouldn’t want to disrupt any old ritual (and put himself at risk) unless this was the right one. Green eyes, thatch colored hair, and a tattoo of an ankheg on his arm; yes, this was the blood-merchant's son. Pity he was quite dead, perhaps his father would be in the market for a suitable song to send him off at the funeral. 

But before that, it was time to collect the unlucky lad's ransom.

With a slight *whuff* Dinnai flipped from the tunnel overlooking the scene, landing easy, drawing and strumming on his lute. The harpies turned, cocked their heads like quizzical chickens. Dinnai had often found that starting with a song/something confusing bought him more time than opening with his sword or spell. He began to sing.

The witches grinned, malicious and predatory as crazed eagles, gestured with taloned hands. The zombies dropped their drums, turned to lurch at Dinnai. Too late. When the bard struck the last chord -just so- they stopped in their tracks, and now it was Dinnai’s turn to gesture towards the harpies and the undead to stumble that way, intent on bashing the bird fiends to death.

The harpies shrieked, stalked foward with their carving implements. 

Necromancers always got so mad when you took away their toys; it was really quite funny. 

Dinnai added a bit to his song about it, dodging out the way of a thrown dagger as he continued to urge forward 'his' zombies with his song.



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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Meet the Iconics - Karyna Dontier (Ranger, Man-Hunter)

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What a difference two blocks makes, Karyna Dontier mused as they notched another arrow. Two blocks from here -where Sage’s Row kissed High Throat- might as well have been a different world. There, the black fox hasn’t been raised so most everyone was likely asleep, safe and sound in their beds. Two blocks from here, there wasn’t some armored maniac -face obscured by a purple mask- trying to break down the door Karyna had just finished barricading.

Of course, two blocks from here Karyna wouldn’t have had a job, not that that seemed like such a bad thing at the moment. They’d always preferred the man hunting to man saving but sometimes you took the work available even if you suspected you’d regret it later. Which Karyna did, now.

The only reason they were quite certain the man? orc? whoever wasn’t a golem (because no person had any right to be that big) was due to his incredibly loquaciousness. He just wouldn’t shut up. Not even after Karyna had put four arrows in his body… which should have killed him a dozen times over but only seemed to piss him off.

From beyond the failing door, Karyna heard him talking, ‘The night masks want your turf and your head Pipilo… and tonight we’re taking both.’ This latest threat was punctuated by a greataxe blow that caved in the top third of the barricaded door.

‘Sir Pipilo, as your duly contracted guard I must strenuously suggest that we discuss our strategy for egress.’ Karyna said, before they fired their arrow, catching the bruiser in the eye slot of his mask. Which must have been the height of comedy where the psycho came from because it only made him laugh as he drew back the axe for another blow, one Karyna suspected would finally cave the door completely.

The client stammered something about ‘roof access’ before the hatch he was gesturing towards crashed down with a black cloaked figure wearing a purple mask landing atop it like a dancer. Black cloak smoothly drew two daggers, just as axe-psycho landed another blow that shattered the door in earnest.

‘Well, I guess I’ll be earning my per diem tonight.’ Karyna thought, dropping their bow and drawing their blade.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Meet the Salt in Wounds Iconics - Briddu Yittano, (Fighter - Mutated Warrior)

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Briddu Yittano

Race: Human, Male

Age: 33

Affiliation: God-Butchers (Journeyman)


Description


Briddu Yittano is a large, heavily muscled man with brown skin, black hair and gray eyes. His face is well lined from a hard life, his most notable feature is his right arm which is an enlarged wrap of throbbing muscle, purplish and scaled where it doesn't have the look of exposed flesh. Briddu has a near-permanent scowl on his face.


Early History


Briddu grew up poor in the Hind Quarter (what would become the modern day 
Tail Stones District). During the 12th Meridian crisis, Briddu’s family’s hovel was one of the innumerable residences smashed by stones sent careening by the Tarrasque's tail. While his family was gathered around the dinner table, a large boulder crashed through the roof. Briddu's mother and sister were killed instantly, while the stone settled upon his screaming father’s legs. This was only the beginning of his trials.
In the days to come, as the God-Butchers worked to get the beast back under control, as leaning buildings collapsed and ankhegs stalked the 
Tail Stones district unchallenged; Briddu would do his best to care for his trapped father and little brother. He tried to get help to move the large stone that pinned his father, but no one would listen to the scrap of a child crying for aid amidst the cacophony of the grieving city. The boy shifted focus to just getting enough food and water for what remained of his family, on just getting through the day. When his father’s legs began to sour, Briddu assisted the older man in cutting himself free, gathered the maggots to eat away at the diseased flesh till the stumps bled again, and finally sewed and sealed the flesh with fire. After, his father was never the same and a fifteen year old Briddu vowed that he would die before he would ever be diminished in such a fashion.
After, he spent every dawn waiting for hours in the long 'relief' lines, trying to get through the crowd of panicking refugees to beg for his family’s ration of water and gristle-hard Tarrasque jerky.
As the monsters and brigands were (mostly) cleared from the streets and the 
Tail Stones District was returned to a semblance of order, Briddu found work where he could. In an effort to rejuvenate their tarnished image, the God-Butchersbegan a large scale recruitment drive, specifically targeting the lower classes. The teenaged Briddu leapt at the chance to join.


The Development of a God Butcher


Even on an apprentice’s salary, Briddu earned enough to provide for his maimed father and sensitive brother, and he has continued to support them ever since.
Briddu quickly rose through the ranks of the God-Butchers; getting up sooner, working harder, striving to be better and always pushing through the hardships like a man possessed. If he became strong enough, then he’d never have to feel the fear, the vulnerability of being that beggar boy from the
 Tail Stones ever just three days away from watching his little brother die of thirst. By the time he reached journeyman status, Briddu had gained a reputation as a tough-as-horn burke who worked without quitting and terrified his underlings while deferring to his betters. He spent some time serving on several different meridian details until he’d finally gained enough ‘yay’ votes from other God-Butchers to attempt the Rite of Mutual Recognition.

The Great Failure


Everyone expected Briddu to pass the Rite of Mutual Recognition without incident. But when he stared into the eyes of the Tarrasque he saw the boy he was; trembling, afraid in the ruins of a home while his father wept. In the beast’s pupil, the scared child he’d denied so long stared back at him. He tried to ignore his fear, charged forward to sever the tongue anyway. But his footing was off, and the delay of a single stutter step caught him in the beast’s jaws.
The Tarrasque tore off and consumed his right arm and shoulder, tossed him away like he was nothing more than the 
Tail Stones trash he always secretly believed himself to be. As Briddu bled out, struggling to use his greatsword to prop himself up to stand, his God-Butcher brothers & sisters rushed in to help him; screaming for the surgeon-alchemists.
Applying a pancreatic poultice to his ruined shoulder, the healers only intended to staunch the bleeding. While limited regeneration is not unknown when using Tarrasque derived alchemy, it many Briddu included, when the limb grew back in its current form. Briddu Yittano is the most successful such recovery to date, so much so that he was able to resume his duties as journeyman God-Butcher, dedicating himself to retaking the Rite of Mutual-Recognition.
Behavior
Briddu has a tremendous chip on his (disfigured) shoulder, due in equal parts to his personal history, his failure in the Rite of Mutual-Recognition, and his sensitivity about his appearance. As such, he uses his status of God-Butcher as well as his own obvious martial prowess to bully his way through life deferring only to Master God-Butchers. Briddu regularly picks fights, is belligerently drunk on blood wine much of the time he’s not actively working.
Goals
To pass the Rite of Mutual-Recognition, either by growing strong enough or by gaining some unknown advantage.
Plot Hooks/GM Uses
  1. Briddu is best encountered by the party when they are at much lower levels than him. Perhaps he does the classic shoulder bump, pushing past a PC to demonstrate his power; maybe ignoring them or demanding an apology.
  2. The party might be hired to abduct Briddu, the miraculous recovery of a limb stronger than what he had before is of great interest to several local alchemists who would like nothing more than to dissect him.
  3. Briddu could hire the party to help him pass the rite of mutual recognition, alternately this contract may be arranged by a benefactor looking for leverage over a Master God-Butcher (this could be accomplished by stealthily reflecting sunlight into its eye with a giant, hidden mirror or secretly suppressing, wounding, or distracting the beast when Briddu is supposed to be facing it alone).
  4. Briddu might be involved in the criminal underworld, using his status as God-Butcher to engage in ‘light’ smuggling or using his fearsome appearance for enforcement. In such a role, he could be either be an obstacle or questionable ‘ally’ for the party depending on their activity.
Art by Jeffrey Chen

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Meet the Iconics - Ry (Monk - Aetherist)

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Ry stood, marking his breath.

All around, the crowd murmured but Ry gave them no mind.

In the center of the sand, some foppish talker yelled through some manner of amplification cone, working up the onlookers. This was all parts of the fights here, in the arena; the money changing hands, the gambling, the big talk-talk, the anticipation & the lust for blood. Ry’s blood he assumed they preferred… though he supposed they’d settler for the reigning champion’s after the half-orc broke him apart.

Ry tried not to smile at the thought; it was unbecoming to the life of contemplation he’d devoted himself to. But his face flashed a brief smile all the same.

They’d taken Ry’s potions, his meager gear; leaving him only with his small clothes. But such trivialities hardly mattered; Ry had little need of the magic stored in his clanking phials & glass bottles, in his enchanted weapons, not when he knew and commanded the paths of aether within him and how each could be unlocked, shifted to fill himself with power. Intuiting that the time for bluster and talk was drawing to a close, he began to move, assuming the correct postures: crane takes fish, contented lion, lizard climbs- held each pose for a breath all the while ‘seeing’ the flows within himself change, glow, and he felt his flesh charge in response. He grew stronger, faster, his mouth filling with steam.

Finally, the announcer finished, bowed and the crowd roared in response. The thousands of spectators began to shouting a name like a mantra ‘CHANGA, CHANGA, CHANGA.’ The name of their champion.

The portcullis opposite Ry opened, and through the ten foot tall arch a grey skinned, rune inscribed humanoid crouched to get through. In answer to the crowds sounds of appreciation, the stone giant bellowed, raised his arm in anticipation of triumph.

Then he charged flat out towards Ry.

Ry idly thought the creature was bigger than he’d expected as he finished the last process. Not for the first time, he wondered how a seeker of knowledge like himself ended up in situations like this. And, despite countless hours of meditation to banish such base dross- he felt that flicker of a smile return, larger than before to split his lips and reveal his sharp teeth. As a young half-orc, he’d loved nothing more than fighting without weapons... always felt there was something unfair about swords, axes, and more. And even now, decades later, even now, after all his master’s lessons to empty his heart of desire he still loved a good fight, loved to test and push and thrill at battle on scales the child he had been could only dream at. Perhaps he always would love it. He allowed himself the grin for another breath, suppressed his desire to scream in joy-rage, and returned his face to a mask of calm.


Empowered by his final process, Ry leapt fifteen feet into the air to catch the charging stone giant right in the chin with a punch that would have done his master proud.

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