Friday, March 10, 2017

The Three Sisters

"The Three Sisters of the Father’s Loom (The Sisters of Evandra, The Three Weavers, The Loom-Saints)"

"In centuries past, when the city-state of Evandra was still a village, there lived in that village three sisters. They had no husbands, being married (in a sense) to their work, or perhaps to the Holy Father in a saintly vow. They were makers of cloth; one sister spun linen into strands, the second sister wove the strands into bolts of fabric, and the third sister took the cloth to market and returned with food enough for the next day."

"One day, however, their true giftedness was discovered. In what must have been a bolt of divine inspiration from the Father Above, the Three Sisters realized that their work itself was an oracle, as I will explain."

Okay, so FOUR women here. Imagine one of the central two is the supplicant (see below).
"The first sister, who sat spinning linen from flax, would receive supplicants, hearing their pleas and determining whether they were of pure heart and earnest faith, and receiving a single simple gift in exchange for being heard. Then, the supplicant would be admitted to the loom, where they spoke their question aloud to the second sister who wove, before exiting to wait. The third sister would inspect the cloth as it was woven, searching for mistakes in the weave: if the mistake were such that the weft had passed OVER the warp where it should not have, this was taken as an answer of “yes;” if the weft had passed mistakenly UNDER the warp, this was interpreted as an answer of “no.” A mistake or error of any other kind indicated that the answer was more complex, or that the supplicant’s heart was not truly pure and their question would not be heard by the Wise Father. The third sister would pass on one of these three answers, provided by the Father’s benevolence, to the supplicant, who would go their way blessed by this knowledge."

"The Three were young when they began this most holy work. By the time they were old, their fame as true oracles of the Hallowed Father had spread all around the Sea of Cora-Mar and beyond, with supplicants coming from far lands and bringing extravagant gifts in order to ensure their question be heard."

"It was then that a strange thing was noticed. The Three Sisters, now old and frail, would be forgiven if their work were to suffer from their infirmity, becoming slow and full of mistakes. However, as a miraculous sign of the Father’s blessing, over the course of a decade or so the woven cloth of the Three Sisters became more and more perfect, until finally a year passed without a single mistake in the weave. Clothing and other articles made from the cloth of this year - the finest ever produced by mortal hands - still remain in this world, exhibited in mighty temples, worn on days of coronation, or secreted away in the richest of noble vaults."

"Sadly, this cloth was to be the last of its kind, as at the end of this year of perfection all three sisters fell ill and were put under the care of the most skilled physicians. Alas, it became clear their recovery would never be complete, and they would not be able to resume their work. On the day that the warp of their final bolt of cloth was cut from the loom, the three sisters passed Above."

"The Three Sisters of the Father’s Loom are among the most popular Saints, receiving vast and worthy veneration from all manner of worshipers. Still, they are considered to be the especial patrons of weavers, dedicated celibates, and all Evandrans (it is said that the skilled work of these Three first secured the fame of Evandra for its weaving and tailoring, a reputation which has only grown to this day). They are, of course, invoked by those making an important decision; it is still the custom of some of the peasantry, when confronted by a conundrum, to search their current garment for a mistake in the weave as an answer to their question (such a custom is mere superstition, however; it is clear that the Father has not blessed ALL weavers with such clairvoyance as the Three!). The Saintly Sisters' aspects are the loom, and the bolt of cloth with three mis-woven strands accented upon its surface."

"Regretfully, I must take a moment to defend the Three Sisters from the impious inquiries of over-learned scholars, who claim that the tale of the Sisters far predates the village of Evandra, and perhaps even the settling of the shores of Cora-Mar by the human race, speculating that the Three Sisters were in fact elves whose tale was appropriated by our kind, and pointing out that the spread of this tale has benefitted Evandra greatly. Of course their argument defeats itself - the famed weaving of Evandra is TESTIMONY to the continued legacy of the Three! I admit us scholars have the tendency to overthink such questions and put the cart before the ox, as critics of the veneration of the Three Sisters have clearly done in this case. Let the pious reader pay no mind to their bovine lowings."

- From the Hagiograph of The Hundred by the Venerable Viebalde

This post is the fifth in my The Hundred Saints series, updating Fridays!
Previous Saints:
Saint Oro-Bora One-Eye
Saint Grenna of Merthis
Saint Be'lak the Bard
Saint Cryndwr Firebeard of Wealdvale

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dream-Shade (monster)

So, I came across this idea while writing Monday's Metal Monster Manual post, and decided to write it up with a full stat block (5th Edition, because that's what I'm most familiar with - sorry, OSR geeks *shrugs*).

Here's the picture that inspired this monster. It is an album cover.

The dream-shade is a shadow of someone's dream, made manifest in the material world. It appears as a tall, smoky figure whose slender limbs bend and ripple in a growing wind. Dark and shadowy as they are, their sight causes all other colors to hideously brighten and distort, only emphasizing the black figure itself... and the darkness creeping in at the edges of the observer's vision. Everything is soundless, except the howling of winds.

The mere sight of one implants itself in the viewer's mind, such that a new dream-shade haunts their dreams ever after, manifesting somewhere in the world while the afflicted creature sleeps and watches. The one you see now is, in fact, being dreamed by someone thrashing in their restless sleep, perhaps continents away - perhaps in the next town over.

Thankfully, dream-shades are not inherently hostile, though protracted observation seems to irritate them and cause them to approach menacingly. However, they are as slow as if they walked against a howling gale, and can easily be fled.

They are supremely difficult to hit, bending and snapping like a flag on a pole whenever weapons are swung at them. Even on a successful hit, a dream-shade is not truly material: they cannot normally be harmed by stuff of this world - it passes through their smoky form without making any discernible impact. Only magics or the heavenly radiance of silver have a strong effect, cutting through the murk of a dream-shade like sunbeams through cloud-gaps, with severed appendages disintegrating like fumes in a gale.
Their own touch is potentially devastating, parting flesh cleanly and painlessly right down to the bone.

Even if one sees a dream-shade and then slays it, their sleep will forever be haunted, unless the shade that their dreams spawn is in turn destroyed as they sleep. Blacking out drunk alleviates this each night, but carries its own risks. Certain exorcistic magics can cure the problem permanently, though it is unclear whether this prevents the dream-shade from ever again manifesting, or merely casts it free into its own permanent existence.

5E stat block below.

Medium fey, chaotic neutral
Armor Class 18 (preternaturally evasive)
Hit Points 35 (10d8-10)
Speed 20 ft., climb 15 ft.
STR 11 (+0)
DEX 19 (+4)
CON 9 (-1)
INT 8 (-1)
WIS 12 (+1)
CHA 17 (+3)
Saves Dexterity +7, Wisdom +4
Damage Resistances cold, fire, lightning, necrotic, thunder
Damage Immunities acid, poison, and all damage from non-magical or non-silvered weapons
Damage Vulnerabilities radiant
Condition Immunities all, except incapacitated, prone, and restrained
Senses truesight 30 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages none (does not speak or respond to language)
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
Dream-Contagion. When a creature first sights a dream-shade, they must immediately make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw. On failure, the affected creature sees a dream-shade whenever they dream, causing them to have restless sleep and begin the next day with one less hit die available than normal. This condition can be combated by becoming blackout drunk the night before, but this carries its own dangers. This condition can only be cured by Remove Curse, or by the destruction of the dream-shade that these dreams create.

Multiattack. The dream-shade makes two tendril attacks.

Shadowy tendril. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target.
Hit: 9 (1d10+4) slashing damage, plus 7 (1d8+3) psychic damage.

Nota bene to DMs: do not be afraid to have "low-level" parties encounter this creature, even down to level 1s. They are not initially hostile, and even if the situation DOES escalate, a smart party can flee when they see their weapons have little effect (...only to find the danger remains, dwelling within their own heads when they sleep!).

Go forth, Reader, and use this monster if you wish. Let me know how it goes if you do!
(If you convert it to another system and I like what you did, I'll make sure to link to it!)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Metal Monster Manual Monday - Volume 9

Continuing a weekly series of posts wherein I share several album covers (mostly by death metal bands!) as brainfood for encounters in your tabletop RPG. Expect this every Monday!

I actually find this one to be super creepy.
So, we've got this slender, amorphous figures amid this colorful-but-horrid blurred background. I'm gonna say that, in a game, a creature that looks at or near one of these figures experiences blurred tunnel vision, with colors of all but the figure itself hideously accented.
The figures themselves move as if made of solid smoke, rippling and distorting with the growing winds. They move slowly, struggling against gusts. They can be fled, but not forgotten; once seen, they haunt the mind in dreams each night thereafter. (Such sleepers regain one less hit point, or hit die depending on the system, from sleep. Blacking out from drunkenness prevents this, but has other drawbacks.)
They are the stuff of dreams. If you see one in your waking hours, it is because someone somewhere is dreaming them into existence. Soon, you will fall asleep, and dream into existence your own. Perhaps someone else will see it. Perhaps, however, you will not live long enough to dream it.
Their touch causes flesh to part cleanly and painlessly, right down to the bone.
They are supremely difficult to hit, bending and snapping like a flag on a pole whenever weapons are swung at them. If a weapon connects, anything but magical weapons pass straight through as if through dense smoke. (Magical or silver weapons part the figure's body cleanly, separated appendages disintegrating like fumes in a gale.)
Everything is soundless, except the howling of winds.

(Update: I wrote this up as a fully-statted monster! See it here, use it if you wish!)

Once, this land was green. Now, the plants grow twisted. Their sap is red. Do not eat fresh plants.

The dead do not stay dead. They rise, twisted as the plants. They bleed red from every worm-hole, bulging cyst, and site of decay that mars their flushed skin. Do not touch their blood.

Priests and sages debate why the River turned red, shaking their hoary heads in frustration. Much blood had been spilled here, but it should have washed downstream by now. The River merely winds on, sluggish and turbid, red as fresh blood. Perhaps the plants turned red, infected by disease, and their noxious emissions tainted the water.

Even the Sun is red. Perhaps it is the Sun that cursed the plants AND the River. If so, truly this land is doomed, for who can reach the Sun to cleanse it?

Alright, time for the BOSS BATTLE:

I imagine that there are tales about The Colossus. It appears out of the desert near a random town every few years, base hidden by blowing sand and strange fumes. It moves very slowly, so slowly that those staring at it fail to see it move at all. However, within a few days, it is at the town. Anyone who stays longer than this is never heard from again; all that is found later is a patch of glowing, cooling glass, and a tall figure on the horizon toward the desert.

For a PC, this would not be a traditional "boss battle," as in practical terms it cannot be fought. Do you see the town or fortress at the bottom foreground of the image above? Look at the scale!

To be stopped, The Colossus must be climbed.

Those who approach its base find it shrouded by biting sand and billowing smoke. It is difficult to see if it has legs at all, but, groping blindly through the haze toward the low rumble of moving stone, The Colossus itself can be found. From there, it is a matter of a long, harrowing climb on smooth, hard stone.

Its mouth is as if the fires of heaven burned within the pits of hell.

What would be found within its eyes?

How would YOU use any/all of these monsters, encounters, and scenes in your game, Reader?
(Let me know how it goes if you do!)

Previous volumes:
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6
Volume 7
Volume 8