Monday, March 3, 2014

Behold, thy Matron

Behold thy Matron earth,
from whence your body came;
behold thy place of birth
where walk the damned and lame.
Rest thee not thy head
and bend thee not thy limbs
until thou art full dead,
I shall sing thee not thy hymns.

Thy matron, earth, is a cancerous thing. She seeks ever after her own dissolution, twisting and gyring, forming in her deep womb the feverish chambers of nightmare flesh that man calls "dungeon." You are her spawn, as are all things that weep and moan and drag their misshapen flesh upon the world. We are the children of the ineffable mother who yearns not for life, but for decay.

As such, certain facts are known: dungeons are cankers in the matronly form, temporary but awful sores that form and drill down into her depths. From them spill forth our brothers and sisters in pain, the mocking beasts and howling myriad horrors. This is a metaphysical process, one engendered both by the misuses of man as well as the Matron's own desire to open her veins and die by the hand of her own creations. These dungeons, these emptinesses, embody the very rot of the world. Delving into them is never easy or simple, never devoid of encountering the abyss at the heart of things that sane people seek, wisely, to avoid.

Adventurers, those who dare penetrate these wombs of still-birth, these unhallowed hollows, are generally thought of as madmen. Continued exposure to the madness of the world will eventually degrade them, cripple them, and reduce them to gibbering semi-men incapable of thought or reason. Indeed, there are scholars even now who are attempting to prove that many of the most hideous denizens of the self-forming dungeons within the Matron's skin are not in fact born of her but are changed men who have been exposed to the vacuous knowledge of the meaningless and malign universe.

Magic is the power granted to certain scholars who brave the night-whispers or the darkest of tomes, a clave of hideous old men and cackling ancient women who have traded much of what makes them human for power. Only in the stillness of the deepest dungeon rooms can the whispers reach them, telling them the dark secrets of magecraft; thus, it is said that the first wizards were monstrous men who sloughed their way to the most remote chambers of the earth, rested there for months or years or centuries, and then climbed out to share their blighted vision with those still living.

  • Roll for hp at first level. Fighters get two rolls and may take the better of the two.
  • Priests may either be general clerics (local wisefolk of the Mother) or Priests of the Matron (described below)
  • Wizards begin play with 2d4 spells; they do not need to know read and detect magic if they don't want. They can gain new spells through all the regular means (if they know read magic) OR as an alienist from the Spells and Magic supplement.
  • Wizards learn one spell every time they level up, on the grounds that it is a UNIQUE SPELL invented by the PC.
  • Monsters of all kinds are *formed* by dungeons. While they may eventually spread and reproduce, they are in all ways the children of the Matron.
  • Dwarves and Priests of the Matron may permanently seal dungeons only once the entire place is free of the corruption of monsters and the throbbing heart of the place has been cleared out. This room, also known as the crux or keystone room, generally serves as the center of the dungeon and the budding-place for new corridors.
  • All characters have a new trait: Stability. This is equal to a character's Wisdom x5. Stability represents both physical and mental stability. Whenever a character spends a night in a dungeon, they lose 1d4 stability. Whenever they are exposed to terrifying sights, they lose 1 stability (the same sight will not, over the course of a single adventure, cost more than 1 point). Each time they lose 10 full stability points, they gain a physical or mental mutation (50% chance). If they ever reach 0 stability they are permanently insane or mutated. Every time they gain a level, a character may chose to receive either: 1d6+level stability, .25 points in any stat, 1 spell (wizards only, as above rules), or 1d4+level extra hp.

1. Roll 2d6. Swap those two stats.
2. Lose 1d6 hp permanently as your flesh begins to ooze and becomes pliable.
3. One eye turns completely white and is no good for seeing out of anymore. All attacks now made with a -1 penalty.
4. Your dominant arm is corded with pulsing muscle. +1 damage with anything wielded in that hand.
5. Your legs bend backwards, forever. -4 effective charisma (minimum of 1), +2 move speed.
6. Your head swells with tumors. +1 intelligence, -3 charisma (minimum of 1).
7. You are cursed with incurable gout. -2 move speed (minimum of 1), -1 max hit point, everything hurts.
8. You can no longer digest normal food and must subsist on a steady diet of thickened blood. How you do so is up to you.
9. Your eyes develop slits and you become intensely susceptible to bright lights, like the sun. -1 attack penalty when you are in sunlight or viewing it.
10. Your stature diminishes (if you are a dwarf or a smallfolk, you sprout a thin layer of brown fuzz).
11. Your gut swells and distends immensely. You need to eat as much as 4 people to be nourished.
12. Horn-buds appear on your forehead. If you roll this twice, you grow a full set of horns and may make a charging headbutt attack (1d8 damage, d12 knockdown). -2 char for visible buds, -4 for horns.
13. One arm (50/50) degenerates into an empty sack of flesh and muscles. All bones are absorbed. The arm is useless. -4 charisma.
14. Your skin becomes hard and calloused, like armor plating. -1 AC permanently, -2 charisma.
15. Your lower canines develop into tusks. You may make a goring attack (1d4 points of damage) even when wrestling. -2 charisma.
16. Your nose sinks into your face, deforming like putty. You gain the tracking NWP for free and have -4 effective charisma.
17. Your eyes swell until they are bulging out of your head. You have amazing vision, though now you are weirdly bugeyed. -1 charisma.
18. Both of your eyes recede into your skull. You're blind.
19. Your stomach is covered in disgusting boils but you may now vomit blood on command once per day. This bloody vomit is a contact poison (consult your DM as to type).
20. The bones in one leg fuse. Your movement rate is halved and you have a permanent limp.

1. You have trouble telling friends from foes during combat. There is a cumulative 5% chance per combat round that you will target an ally with your attack or spell. This roll is made after you declare your action.
2. You begin to mutter to yourself under your breath at all times.
3. You develop a prominent facial tic.
4. You cannot sleep. This seems great, except you cannot memorize or pray for spells without a proper night's sleep and you begin to take cumulative combat penalties applied to EVERYTHING (saves, attacks, dex bonus for AC, etc.) You will finally sleep on the third day of this nightmare.
5. You cringe and shriek when addressed by your true name.
6. You develop hydrophobia.
7. You can only get a good night's rest in a dungeon (as #4, but you may sleep in a dungeon any time of day or night. This does not negate the stability cost for resting in a dungeon).
8. Your mind is bent. You may only speak in whispers.
9. You mind is emptied out. Lose 1d4 int and 1d4 wis.
10. You see visions all the time. They tell you things. True things. Gain 1d4 wis and lose 1d4 cha.
11. Your voice turns into a hideous croak. Is it physiological? Doesn't appear so.
12. You occasionally shriek for no reason. The DM will determine when, at a rate of 1d4-1 times per day.
13. You can never find anything in your bag. It takes 1d4 rounds for you to get ANY ITEM from your backpack.
14. You are petrified by the idea of nightfall. If you are ever out or in a dungeon after dark, you receive a -1 penalty to all actions.
15. Whenever the moon is full your find yourself in fighting shape. +1 bonus to all rolls on that day.
16. You are terrified by the absence of the kindly moon. -1 bonus to all rolls on new moon nights.
17. You develop an unnatural fear of a party member. You try to stay as far away from them as possible at all times, though not to an obviously suicidal degree.
18. Your temper shortens and you become unnaturally curt. -3 charisma.
19. You smile creepily all the time and no one knows why. If you roll this twice, people begin to find out; you attempt to murder any hireling or henchman you dislike each time the party rests.
20. Nothing changes. Or... does it?

Priest or Priestess of the Matron
Requirements: Wisdom 14
Prime Req: Wisdom
Alignment: Any
Weapons: Blunt weapons only; drawing of blood is considered to be egregiously offensive to the Matron, as all things are her children and one should not water the earth, thy mother, with the offerings of her own offspring.
Armor: Any
Major Spheres: All, Astral, Chaos, Creation, Elemental Air, Elemental Fire, Healing, Numbers, Sun
Minor Spheres: Combat, Guardian
Magical Items: Any that a priest may normally wield
Req Profs: Astrology
Bonus Profs: Engineering

Priests of the Matron may serve any of her myriad aspects. Most orders are semi-independent, relying on the nearest local authority (most likely a Hierarch in a nearby city) if any conflicts should arise. Those orders that are good generally feel the dire need to send out adventuring priests to clear out the hideous wounds in the Matron's body that dungeons represent.

At first level, a Priest of the Matron may SANCTIFY a dungeon that has had its crux or keystone chamber cleansed. This will prevent it from spawning new monsters for a period of 1d4 months.

At third level, a Priest of the Matron may CALCIFY a dungeon given the same caveat. This will cause monsters to cease their spawning for 1d4 years as well as prevent the cancerous dungeon chambers from growing or budding new sections for the same time.

At fifth level, a Priest of the Matron may SEAL a dungeon given the same caveat. The earth will swallow the dungeon back up, and its evil scar will remain upon the land in the form of its filled-in entryway. Priests of the Matron receive 200xp for every dungeon they seal in addition to any other treasure or xp.

The Vale of Camn
Pronounced "calm," the Vale is a remote location where players may begin in Behold, thy Matron.  The little towns of Vars and Calvar are good starting points, as is Whitby or Sorrow's Anchor, hard on the North Moor. Hanse is a large city, stuffed to the gills with alchemists, sages, and other such creeps. Elves may come from the Nearwood or Farwood (though Farwood elves are more likely to be strange, twisted, and unpleasant) while dwarves may come from the Woodcrook Mine or Vars. Smallfolk settle in all the towns around Camn.

Pop: 1,250

The village of Vars sits on the edge of the northern marshes and shares a local council with Calvar. Nearwood, one of the more pleasant regions of the vale, was long ago tamed by the Northfolk (as those who live on the northern side of the Woodcrook Mountains call themselves), and has never shown signs of that particular cancer that infests the rest of the world. Vars is a pleasant halmet, surrounded by fields and farms and a few orchards as well. A colony of Grimmir Dwarves lives just outside of town and are partial owners of the Woodcrook Mine.

Amenities and Sites:
The Black Boar
An inn, tavern, and waystation, the Black Boar is a favorite of both the elves of Nearwood and the dwarves from Grimmirtown just south of Vars. Adventurers gather here frequently and it serves as something of a launching point for those journeying to the Halls of the Poisoned Heart in the Woodcrook Mountains, looking to reduce the number of fiends spilling from its lips.

Rooms at the Boar are 4 silver a night for private accommodations and 6 copper for the common room. All manner of drinks are served, as is food, and the proprietor, Old Vans Lammrick, is said to have been a wizard in his prime.

The Stones of Og
These strange, phallic standing stones are to be found just north of the village overlookign the swamps. They once marked the entrance to the Womb of Horror, a dungeon that was sealed up nearly half a century ago by the priests of the nearby Matron's Shrine. Of course, the Grimmir clan says that they did a half-arsed job and if you press your ears to the ground there you can still hear THINGS moving under the earth. Grimmir dwarves might be willing to break open the seal... for a price.

Pop: 800

Sister-village to Vars, Calvar is even further from the Heart of Woodcrook, the gaping labyrinth just south of Woodcrook Mine. However, it is closer by far to the Matron's Shrine on the Hamlet Track, leading to the great city of Hanse. Priests of the Matron in their scarlet robes and deep hoods are often to be found in Calvar soliciting donations or offering to take in children to raise as new members of the shrine servants.

Pop: 15,000

The biggest city in the vale, and a center of trade between the vale-folk and the rest of the world, Hanse is the gateway to the south. Most trade is done off of the South River and Lake Camnas. Hanse is a densely populated place, crammed with people and crazed alleyways sometimes give rise to the hideous gates of dungeons right within the very walls. For the most part, however, its cadre of alchemists and wizards manages to keep the lands around Hanse free of the Matron's insanity.

Hanse is ruled by the Guild Council, on which the Sages', Alchemists', and Mages' Guilds all have substantial sway. All wizards within Hanse must register with their respective delegate of the Mages' Guild and liberal use of magic within the city walls is frowned upon for fear it will bring the stars into alignment and threaten Hanse herself with the Matron's wrath.

The Guild Council
Composed of representatives from each of the Guilds of Hanse, the Council holds seats for:
The Esteemed Guild of Sages, the Esoteric Order of the Alchemists, the Occulted Fraternity of the Magi, the Shipmans' Guild, the Hierarch of Hanse, the Teamsters' Guild, the Worshipful Brotherhood of Builders, the Confraternity of Metalworkers, and the Order of the Pilgrim. The Occulted Fraternity of the Magi alone receives three seats and thus three votes on the Council.

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