Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Notes on Good Characters in Salt in Wounds

Salt in Wounds is an evil place. While the binding of the Tarrasque is perhaps necessary, the city has been built upon its callous torture with no current legitimate efforts to minimize its suffering. More or less everyone in the city is party to this, and while that does not mean that every individual evil it does tend to engender a general disregard to inflicting pain and suffering. As such, a significant minority (and most of the leadership of the city) can be considered to be evil. With the addition of ghouls, good and nature aligned characters may have increased difficulty operating in Salt in Wounds.
Complicating matters further, due to a variety of ‘incidents’ in the past, the powers harbor a great deal of suspicion towards paladins, druids, and rangers (see The Circle of Release). Unless convinced of a compelling reason such an individual would be in the city and greatly assured they will not attempt to disrupt ‘business as usual' the House Militias and God-Butchers will actively harass these sorts of individuals.
Here are some suggestions for how such characters may manage to operate:
  • There are currently multiple paladins, druids, and more who operate in the city covertly; individuals who keep quiet both their mission and essential nature. Your character(s) can certainly be one of them.
  • For similar (or similarly motivated) characters operating in the city overtly, remember to focus on the larger mission/winning hearts & minds rather than overt force (which will most likely be cut extremely short).
  • If you character(s) have a deity or force that you worship; ask its advice about how to operate in the city.
  • Your character’s arc might be to transform from good to evil.
  • Lastly, remember that good characters in an evil situation do not necessarily have to change their character type in order to function but they are probably going to be called upon to be more creative and inventive to operate effectively. Surprise the GM by being effectively, unexpectedly good as opposed to being ‘lawful stupid.’

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Briddu Yittano, Journeyman God-Butcher

Briddu Yittano

Race: Human, Male

Age: 33

Affiliation: God-Butchers (Journeyman)


Briddu Yittano is a large, heavily muscled man with black hair and gray eyes. His face is well lined from a hard life, his skin is light brown except for his right arm which is an enlarged wrap of throbbing muscle, red as though it were meat devoid of skin except where large brown scales have grown over the 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 day and night 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.
In the weeks to come, 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-Butchers began 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 a 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 surprised everyone, 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.
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.
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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Saturday, April 4, 2015

House of the 5th Meridian

The Fifth Meridian is based on the harpoon that pierces diagonally through several of the Tarrasque’s ribs, into the liver, and other vital organs.
5th House is led by the Binder-Lady Kuolemita; daughter of Odsfall, son of Dofen. Historically, 5th House has been one of the richest. Due to their access to various vital organs of the beast they’ve been able to sell high priced alchemical reagents, with many of their early successes focused on providing Tarrasque derived options for life extension. A large minority of alchemists and apothecary shop owners belong to 5th House, with nearly all the others

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Order of God-Butchers

Even amidst the city as bustling as Salt in Wounds, the God-Butchers are hard to miss.
Hugely muscled men and women, grown strong from a working life of toil and a diet of some of the freshest, most choice cuts from the ever-providing body of the Tarrasque. They carry their stylized greatswords nearly everywhere. Contrary to popular opinion, these weapons turned tools are not exclusively adamantine; many nowadays are forged of the Tarrasque’s bones or horns, material that cuts through its armored carapace well. Still, those who dismiss the butchers as dumb brutes wholly underestimate the order; these are hard eyed men and women who must be intelligent enough to understand the beast’s intricate and shifting anatomy, who must deal regularly with crafty merchants, domineering aristocrats, and suspicious laborers all to perform their duties.
While greatly connected to the economic flows of the city, and perhaps not wholly immune to the influence of the coin, the God-Butchers nonetheless take their sacred charge of keeping the beast bound seriously. And while the recent tragedy of the 12th Meridian Crisis over a decade ago has marred their reputation and the Marrow Miners (with their greatly eased selection criteria) now enjoy a surge in popular support nearly everyone agrees that the God-Butchers have done a remarkable job keeping the Tarrasque bound for the last two hundred and fifty years with only minimum of loss of life.
The chief complaint levied against the order is not that they’ve been corrupted (although, if you know the right God-Butcher any reagent or substance from the beast can be made available tax-free and irrespective of its legal status) but rather that they are too hide-bound to tradition, over reliant on the tactics of the past and notions of the ‘Sacred 13 Meridians’ which are increasingly useless as the Tarrasque's regenerating body adapts and (unbeknownst to most) the creature grows in strength.
Training and Advancement
The God-Butchers recruit heavily (irrespective of class and station, ensuring that they are generally well-liked by the public and quietly mocked by the aristocracy) although most recruits are drummed out within several months due to the intense rigors of the training regimen. They also promote based on a more or less functioning meritocracy, with only a minimum amount of nepotism.

Most members of the God-Butcher Order are not fully fledged ‘Master’ God-Butchers, around 95% of the order’s roster only complete their basic requirements and reach ‘Apprentice’ or ‘Journeyman’ levels. These members, despite their lessened titles, are nonetheless highly esteemed by the community and well compensated. Moreover, for most city residents a God-Butcher is a God-Butcher and there is little distinction based on rank.
First and foremost, when recruiting and promoting the order is looking for strength, as it takes incredible physical power to break the creature’s armor and cut through its flesh. And while much of the work now is done with cranes, titanic screws and other butchering equipment the size of siege engines; not a day goes by where a working God-Butcher isn’t called upon to draw his blade to sever a vital artery or slice a tendon to keep the creature from wreaking havoc.
To this end, while a use can always be found the strong, advancement amongst the butchers beyond the ‘apprentice’ level requires the aspirant to be intelligent as well: able to memorize innumerable details of anatomy and theory, understand intimately the meridian diagrams showing how the bindings have been placed and how the beast is held fast.
The other requirement to reach journeyman rank is that God-Butcher aspirants must also be able to lead and inspire men. Despite what those outside the city may think, not everyone who works on the Tarrasque’s body is in fact a God-Butcher; there are countless machine operators, laborers, porters and more work on or in close proximity to the beast (not to mention the entirely separate organization of the Marrow Miners). Every hour of every day requires an intricate bustle of working men cutting away into the Tarrasque’s body to keep it sedate and to acquire some cut of meat or reagent for the market. When catastrophe strikes (a collapsing fold of flesh, emergence of ramora flea or other monster, runaway regeneration, etc.) a God-Butcher must be able to quickly access the situation and lead those around him either to safety or into danger themselves to prevent a greater danger to Salt in Wounds.
Status and Culture
As an organization, the Order of God-Butchers is fairly egalitarian, although relative prestige can usually be determined by their Meridian assignment 1-13 (excepting 12, which is now on assignment to the Marrow Miners), with each Meridian corresponding to what general part of the beast the individual works upon.
While legally the 13 Binder-Lords each have the duty of keeping their Meridian bind functioning and overseeing the section of the Tarrasque assigned to their house, this -as a practical matter- has been ceded to the God-Butchers and -recently- Marrow Miners as the Binder-Lords have turned their attentions to the economy of Salt in Wounds, games of political intrigue with respect to their rivals, and the pursuit of their own pleasures.
The Rite of Mutual-Recognition
If a God-Butcher has distinguished himself in strength, intellect, and leadership they are invited to take part in the most sacred rite of the order, that of Mutual-Recognition. The difficulty of doing so explains why the number of full fledged ‘Master’ God-Butchers has remained fairly low (and perhaps why the order has remained largely effective and honorable in a city not known for such qualities).

An hour before the rite begins, all work on the beast stops. The Tarrasque is allowed to heal, to regain as much consciousness as the God-Butchers dare. Then the aspirant must approach the first Meridian, the creature’s head. As the workers, curious citizens, and their fellow God-Butchers watch, the aspirant must stare into the eye of the Tarrasque for a full minute. In so doing, they are supposed to gain a fuller understanding of the beast they keep bound. Staring into the creature's eye as the beast roars and snaps causes some aspirants to flee; perhaps leaving the order or even the city forever.

The mindless destruction and hate they see within the beast’s eye can unman even those who have lived in Salt in Wounds their entire life.
Those who manage to continue to gaze into the creature’s eye will note a change in the beast’s behavior. Gradually, its endless screaming and thrashing slow. Its vision changes, focuses. And, for a moment, it see them; sees this man or woman who would keep it bound, who would cut it and serve up its strength to a hungry city. Then the Tarrasque will cease to roar and take a single moment to inhale through its nostrils, wind whipping past the aspirant towards the Tarrasque’s maw as it truly marks the God-Butcher’s scent. The accepted wisdom is that the Tarrasque to committing this individual to memory, will recall this smell of the individual. Should the Tarrasque ever gain freedom- the God-Butchers expect that it will hunt all such aspirants and their families (those who resemble the aspirant's smell) even unto the seventh generation.
In turn, the God-Butcher takes in a long breath through his nose to mark the smell of the beast.
As the roars, the endless thrashing against its bonds resumes, to achieve master rank the God-Butcher then ventures between its snapping jaws, timing a single strike to sever its tongue and heave the mass of flesh clear.
The order will then have a huge feast that evening from the tongue, welcoming another full fledged Master God-Butcher into the fold.
Notable God-Butchers

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