Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Halfling

I awoke in the night in a cold sweat, the fate of poor Lucinda playing on my mind. I opened my room’s window to let some air in. The night was deathly silent, not even the crickets were stirring in the nearby forest. A thick darkness lay over the grounds of the coaching house. I put it down to my weary mind playing tricks and fell back into a sound sleep.

In the morning I was buffeted by the sounds of a festival coming through my open window, which was peculiar considering the coaching house had been all but empty the previous night. I looked out the window and was greeted with the sight of several squat caravans inhabiting the grounds. They were decorated with rich patterns of bright colours. Are large group of painted aurochs were tethered in nearby.

Being brought up in a strict Whiteshore boarding school, I had never encountered halflings before, so the sight of several score of them zipping between tents and under the caravans filled me with great curiosity. I dressed quickly and joined my companions in the common room.

Bradley was yet to wake but Thorodr was up and had all of his belongings packed. He asked me if we were leaving straight away. I told him that I planned to stay here for a while to study the new arrivals. He reacted uncomfortably, stating that he had a great disdain for the small folk. He told me that if I was staying he was going to leave straight away and continue the journey alone. Frustrated, I told him that he was welcome to and he left right away, giving a wide berth to a halfling couple who entered the tavern.

The halflings were between three and four feet tall with thick, curly hair and bushy eyebrows. Their frames were slight and they moved with great surety and deftness. The male of the pair wore a shirt of mail made from silk with sewn in brass pennies. The female wore a multilayered and colourful dress. Both decorated their persons with coins from many different nations. They bartered with the tavern owner for some time; I noticed that they were of careful speech and quick wit. After they had finished their transaction I approached them and told them about my journal and asked cordially if they would be inclined to show me around their camp. They agreed and led me outside.

To begin with they showed me around the different vehicles of their caravan. Many were simple dwellings, small houses on wheels. They showed me a spectacular, three storied and heavily fortified moving fortress that the called the hall wagon. In this they held meetings, had feasts and kept the mainstay of the military force. Between the crenellations on the stone roof several blackpowder cannons jutted out, as well as eastern fire-spitters.

They led me onto a cart decorated with golden edges and silver patterns, giving the impression of a giant jewellery box on wheels. This was the coin-master’s cart, the coin-master being the leader of the caravan and guardian of the group’s wealth. At all times this cart was surrounded by the coin-guard, aurochs riding sharpshooters wearing silver coin-mail and helms with funnels over the ears made from the horns of their favourite beasts.

Finally there was the black coach, a cart made out of black and white striped stone in the shape of a mausoleum. Here the remains of dead members of the troupe were stored in shelves until Boneday, a festival where the halflings painted their ancestors bones in bright colours and wore them as costumes. This irreverence struck me, but it seemed to permeate everything they did. To the halflings, nothing was permanent. I asked them about their origins but none of them seemed to know. They had always been travelling from land to land, their minds only on the road they were on. Children did not belong to a particular couple, if there was such a thing as a halfling couple, but to the group as a whole. It was the same with wealth and possessions. Everything seemed to be up for trade.

They are a generous folk, quick to share anything from a joke to expensive wine. Problems stemmed from that though, as they seem to think others are as free with possessions as they are. Several of my belongings ended up being passed around until the coin-master stepped in. The coin-master and I spoke at length about halfling culture. He told me of the three different kinds of halfling, all similar in stature and lack of settlements, but very different in the approaches to travel. The kind I was currently studying were lowland halflings. Travellers of the roads and cities, following a migration plan set by the gods of chaos. They traded in clothes for the most part, being excellent tailors and shoemakers. He spoke also of the highland halflings, mountainous nomads that herded goats on steep cliffs and hired out their services as guides for adventurers. There were also the riverfolk halflings who travelled in floating towns and had a great love for anything magical.

The day wore on and it became too late to set off on our journey towards the capitol. I spoke with the coin-master and he agreed to let us travel with him as the troupe was heading in the same direction. He put me with and old halfling named Granny Pike. She was short and round and very weathered, much paler than the bronzed halfling youths. She tended to wear black robes decorated with grim patterns and was always being followed by a large, cloaked stranger that never seemed to speak. Despite her appearance, she was friendly and amiable and an excellent cook. She seemed to be the keeper of the Black Coach, her quarters unceremoniously bolted on to its roof. As the light failed Bradley, Benjamin and I crouched in her squat common room and drank fine mead made from northern mammoth bees, forgetting all worries and sleeping soundly.

~ Riffolk

beastchorus_lowlandhalfling

Rules

Halfling Player Characters
Halflings are adventurous by nature and are often gravitate to the adventurer’s life. They tend towards archetypes that utilize their superior agility and dexterity, such as Rangers or Rogues. They tend to shy away from melee combat and so are rarely any of the fighting archetypes. Lowland Halflings favour the Ranger class, which enhances their ability to survive on the road. Riverfolk Halfling’s love of magic leads them to gravitate towards Arcanists, Bards and Wizards. Unlike other Halflings, there are a considerable number of Highland Halfling Barbarians, who act as mountain guides and map makers.

halfling_chart

Racial Traits
Lowland Halfling: Dextrous

Highland Halfling: Agile

Riverfolk Halfling: Intelligent

Special Traits
Small: Character gains a 10 bonus to Stealth Checks. Character counts Basic melee weapons as Two-Handed and Off-Handed melee weapons as Basic.

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Grail Wraith

When we set out the next morning the sky was grey and a thick mist rose from the river. Bradley prepared a traveller’s breakfast while Thorodr polished his new blade. The multitude of curses seemed to have worn off during my fitful and painful sleep. By the time we had broken our fasts and journeyed onwards the fog had still not lifted.

We took a careful pace along the road, the gurgling river to our left and the gloomy silence of the Kingswood to our right. A few hours along the road we heard a groaning coming from the northern side of the path. The fog made it difficult to see what was up ahead and the previous night’s chaos had put us all on edge so we readied our weapons and advanced.

Coming closer to the origin of the noise we spied a figure propped up against a mossy tree surrounded by a patch of grave stools, a fungi known for its anaesthetic spores making it an ideal resting place for a mortally wounded warrior.

The figure in question was both a warrior and mortally wounded. He was dressed in beaten chainmail and a bloody burgundy surcoat. He clasped a broadsword to his chest and beside him lay a bucket great helm with a torn black feather. Many crossbow bolts had pierced his chest and I was quite sure these were to be the last moments of his life.

I soaked a cloth in water from the river and brought it over to wipe his brow. As I knelt next to him he caught my wrist and spoke with a fevered and strained voice. He told me to tell “her” that he couldn’t complete his task. That he was sorry. I questioned him as to who exactly “she” was but he just shook his head and pointed up an overgrown path leading into the trees. He then breathed his last laboured breath and his eyes glassed over. I closed his eyes and stepped away, deep in thought. Thorodr looted the body.

As Thorodr began his immoral crusade for the noble corpse’s riches I heard Bradley sniffle. I turned to him and was shocked to see tears streaming down his face. I was beginning to tell him to pull himself together but the look in his eyes convinced me to take a gentler approach. I told Bradley that we would fulfil the man’s last wish. We would take the path into the forest no matter the danger or the delay.

Thorodr disagreed with me on the instant. The burly paragon would not lift a finger for an already expired client without promise of reward. I argued to him that clearly he had already been rewarded with the dead man’s trappings and to consider them as an advance payment. Thorodr agreed, albeit not without complaint, and handed me a dagger that glowed with silver light that he had lifted from the slain warrior. I tried to give it back but Thorodr refused to take it, replying that I would need it.

We set out down the path into the forest, leaving Benjamin to guard Thorodr’s treasure. The sparse trees and brush swiftly became densely packed black trees with roots woven together. Fungeyes on the bottom of the canopy followed us as we clambered our way through the trees. Even though the path was barely visible I felt led along by a strange compulsion, a sense of belonging.

Some time into our quest the tree line sharply dropped. We were gazing out over a tall cliff, completely overgrown with thick, black roots. For a moment it seemed as though our path was blocked, but I was able to discern a wide, flat root winding downwards that I hoped would lead us to the bottom.

We climbed down the root with great care, trying to keep away from the edges. It struck out wide to the edge of the wooden wall over the edge of a terrible drop, and then wound back into a tunnel woven into the roots. It led inwards and downwards with streams of water running along rivets in the wood. Bradley struck up a lantern and a swarm of bats buffeted us.

Ahead lay an opening to a cave, a rushing waterfall split by a thick root above it. We stepped inside. The cave was tall, wide and round and seemed to be lit by a pale silver glow coming from an empty pedestal in the centre. As we stepped inside an apparition formed on the pedestal, taking the form of a polished silver grail. A beautiful yet ghostly voice emanated from the walls, welcoming us as heroes and beseeching us to take up a perilous quest in the name of good.

A curious thought crossed my mind. I was quite certain that I recognised this voice. I called out the name of what I thought to be the voices owner and my suspicions were confirmed. An ethereal figure appeared dressed in a white funeral gown with a belt of spun sliver. It was Lucinda, an individual from my past that still haunted my sleep.

Lucinda Forhaft was the only daughter of a noble family that lived in the manse next to my house as a child. We grew up together; pretending we were great adventurers and planning for the day we could escape the monotony of noble life and take up the mantles of the great explorers from the books we stole from my father’s library. The day came when I came of age and we planned to escape into the night, but a servant found her packed belongings and told her father. Her father forbade her from seeing me and would not let her out of her room until she forgot her dreams of fame and adventure. To my great sorrow she couldn’t stand her future of solitude and stagnation and took her own life.

Her apparition spoke to me and bade me to complete her quest so her spirit could be at rest. I eagerly accepted but Thorodr spoke up. He warned me that my beloved Lucinda had become what seasoned adventurers call a Grail Wraith. A spirit that inhabits the wildest places of the world and sends noble heroes on perilous and impossible quest that will ultimately lead to their doom.

At this point Lucinda’s expression changed from calm and regal to a horrible, possessed snarl. Her hair spread out into the air and her silver glow turned to a ghastly green. Her eyes flashed and an overwhelming sense of fear took me. I fell to my knees and Thorodr rushed in to attack. His way was blocked by Bradley, whose eyes had taken a terrible blazing light.

As Bradley and Thorodr fought I tried to compose myself. Summoning up all my willpower, I drew the magical dagger from my belt and flung myself at Lucinda, plunging the blade into her heart. A bright light flared and there was a great sighing sound. When my eyesight returned she was gone. Bradley was wandering around with a confused look and Thorodr was sitting and panting on the ground.

After a moments rest we made our way back to the road with the light failing. We did not speak; Bradley was still recovering from the enchantment, Thorodr was worn out from Bradley’s blows and I was trying to come to terms with what had happened. We reached the road and Thorodr spoke of a tavern not far from our location. When we reached our destination it was well into the night. I payed for a room and we collapsed without eating dinner.

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Rules

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Description:
This creature looks like the ghostly image of a noble and beautiful person. It speaks with a regal and sad voice. Grail Wraiths are the spirits of people that take their own lives because they are unable to sate their own sense of wanderlust and adventure. They attract adventurers to their lairs with Charm magic and send them on perilous and impossible quests. If they are recognised for what they are they take the form of a horrible wraith. They will use their Charm magic to enslave the strongest character in the party and weaken others.

Equipment:
None

Abilities:
Ethereal – The creature cannot interact with the physical world and cannot be harmed unless by magic. The creature can also move and see through walls and floors and flies at up to running speed in any direction.

Willful – The creature gains a 10 bonus to Spell Checks and Will Checks and has 10 bonus mana.

Dispel – The creature can spend the same amount of mana of a spell cast by an opponent to dispel the effect on an opposed Will Check.

Magic Resistance – The creature gains a 10 bonus to resist spell effects.

Reflect – The creature reflects offensive spell effects back on the caster with a critical success on a Dispel attempt. The creature gains a 5 bonus to the critical chance on Dispel attempts.

Spells
Mana: 90

1st Circle:
Sleep, Charming Visage, Scrye, Blind, Gag

2nd Circle:
Mind Worm, False Prophet, Metronome, Fragrant Garden

3rd Circle:

Enthrallment

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