Posted in Pantheon

Rhoga Jezeda – Goddess of the Eleventh Hour

Rhoga Jezeda

Goddess of the Eleventh Hour, Queen of Witches, the Crone
Goddess of witchcraft, revenge, disease, death
Alignment: NE
Domains: Death, Evil, Knowledge, Magic, Repose
Favoured Weapon: Magic or sickle

From a young age children are taught to fear Rhoga Jezeda, lest she come in the night and eat them. But as the children grow into adults their fear does not fade. It is said that Rhoga Jezeda knows the time and circumstances of the death of every living thing. She is also called the Goddess of the Eleventh Hour, as it is believed that she can hold back and divert death or bring it swiftly down upon her victims before their proper time.

Rhoga Jezeda is the most powerful of all witches and her sway over death does not end at preventing or hastening it. If the whispers are to be believed, followers of the Queen of Witches can beseech their goddess to raise the dead, imbuing a body with a mindless spirit, enslaving the walking dead to the witch’s will. Some believe that Rhoga Jezeda lays claim to the souls of the wicked, those who are not given proper burial rites, and those who die of disease, as a victim of vengeance, or with a desire for revenge in their hearts.

Rhoga Jezeda is the mistress of disease and those witches who take up the mantle of plaguebearer are said to bring living ruin to their bodies and devastation to all they meet, spreading infection and pestilence wherever they go. However, as she spreads disease, so can Rhoga Jezeda stave it off.

Poppets are the tools of the goddess and carers of the sick who are out of hope may fill one with spices, flowers and some small portion of the person they wish to heal – blood, nails or hair – and hang it above the bed of the stricken, offering prayers to the Witch Queen, begging her to draw the sickness away. Rumours say that if such prayers are successful the disease does not disappear but is sent down on the head of another. Others say that a prayer answered by the Goddess of the Eleventh Hour draws death closer to the one who called upon her, shaving years off their lives. Despite this, many who fear Rhoga Jezeda still turn to her in times of desperation.

Revenge is another tool of the Queen of Witches and she hears the dark desires of those who seek vengeance. Some even say that thoughts of vengeance are the whispers of Rhoga Jezeda and that each act of revenge makes her stronger. Those seeking revenge craft a poppet to represent a specific person and fill it with a portion of themselves and of the person who they wish to harm. Afterwards, they inflict on the doll the harm they wish to see befall their foe. If the desired fate cannot be depicted this way, strong thoughts are said to suffice.

Many pursue this path as a method of private revenge, not believing that their acts of violence on the poppet would actually manifest on their victim. Most often, the poppet is filled only with straw, eschewing the supposedly vital elements. However, when ill fortune befalls those who are known to have wronged someone, whispers of poppets and witchcraft are usually quick to follow. Some say that the Witch Queen revels in revenge and asks no payment for it. However, like with the casting out of disease, other rumours persist that the Witch Queen cuts short the lifelines of those who call upon her for revenge.

For those who pray to Rhoga Jezeda not to placate the Crone, but in true worship of her, the spreading of disease and practice of witchcraft appear to be the common means of veneration. Rhoga Jezeda sees and manipulates the threads of the future and her followers often seem to have a strange assurance of what is to come. Some say that her followers spend much of their time ensuring that the future Rhoga Jezeda favours comes to pass. Witches who reside near other settlements often also craft poppets, charms, tonics, powders, cure-alls and elixirs to offer to those in need, furthering the influence of witchcraft by preying on desperate souls.

Rhoga Jezeda is depicted as an ancient wrinkled crone, often holding a poppet and an hourglass and peering into a black cauldron.  The Goddess of the Eleventh Hour is also commonly shown brandishing a gleaming pair of silver scissors and contemplating an intricate web of threads of lives and fate. She is always depicted with a clouded right eye which is blind to the present but with which she sees the future.

The Queen of Witches features in many children’s stories and is usually shown living in a deep dark forest, the crowded shelves of her hovel lined with books of witchcraft and vile recipes as well as jars and bottles of horrid ingredients. Rhoga Jezeda has no true symbol by which her servants recognise each other, but the blinding of the right eye and wearing a poppet or a pair of scissors around the neck or waist is a common sign of a devoted witch.

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Posted in Pantheon

Istrilonius – God of the Long Game

Istrilonius

God of the Long Game, The Great Strategist
God of planning, strategy, foresight and cunning
Alignment: LN
Domains: Knowledge, Law,  Nobility, Trickery, War
Favoured Weapon: Ranseur or crossbow

Istrilonius is the patient far-seeing god of planning and strategy. He is slow to anger and slow to act. He takes stock of the situation at hand and considers all possible outcomes and futures before putting the first stages of a detailed plan into action. Istrilonius’ followers pride themselves on always being a few steps ahead of the game, and always having one or more contingency plans.

It is difficult to catch one of the Great Strategist’s followers off-guard. While they are not adept at reacting quickly to unexpected situations, the number of these they encounter are few, as they learn to expect the unexpected. They may be seen to react quickly, but in truth, this is simply the enacting of a plan they have prepared earlier.

Politicians, nobles, lawyers, generals, warlords, investors and con artists all seek the favour of the God of the Long Game as they cast their eyes to the future and play out their moves while making educated guesses at the future moves of their opponents. Many of Istrilonius’ followers are patient and slow to speak, carefully weighing their words before opening their mouths. His faithful also tend to come off as arrogant and self-assured, yet many prove these attitudes to be well-founded.

Many of Istrilonius’ followers are ambitious, hungry for power or other gain, but others are not so self-serving, working for the greater good, such as generals holding off invading forces, investors trying to keep a small village or business afloat, and shrewd nobles lobbying for policies to benefit the public.

Some of Istrlionus’ followers lament the fact that their lives require such great forethought, but many revel in it, finding glee in their ability to outmanoeuvre opponents, especially when they work them into a corner or no-win situation. As such, they favour what many would consider dirty tactics, seeing them instead as the weapons of the intelligent strategist. Ambushes, traps, bottlenecks, misdirection, blackmail and other such approaches are all part of the arsenal of Istrilonius’ faithful.

Istrilonius’ favour is far-reaching and difficult to predict, but always requires further planning or strategy to take advantage of. Istrilonius’ favours are offers or opportunities – an overheard conversation of a proposed coup or murder that provides the opportunity to plan for it and defuse the situation, a misstep or red herring that allows the strategic culprit to frame another, a distraction that allows a plan to be enacted to cover up damning evidence. Similarly, his wrath is served cold, difficult to avoid and strikes at the worst possible time, as well-laid plans unravel due to an unseen loophole or cunning opponent, or the final contingency plan has a great unexpected cost or falls through entirely.

Prayers to Istrilonius usually come in the form of talking out loud or silently to the god, using him as a sounding board for planning. Followers often find that targeting their preparation towards their god brings epiphanies when they have otherwise not been able to see the way forward.

Istrilonus is said to have invented the game of chess, and many of his followers play the game with religious zeal, often as part of prayer. Istrilonius himself is never depicted, but his holy symbol is a chess board four squares long turned on its corner like a diamond, to represent that he sees all things and considers them from all angles.

Many of his faithful carry and contemplate a chess piece or a carving of his holy symbol while strategising. Istrilonius has no official garb or holy weapon, though his faithful often favour polearms, such as ranseurs for the reach and options they allow and crossbows that allow them to take careful aim and bring down their opponents from afar. His followers often wear clothing of black and white or sport chequered patches or patterns on their clothing or shields. Many also model the hilts or heads of their weapons to resemble chess pieces.

When it comes to Istrilonius’ shrines, they are as varied as his followers. Built to last, they are often made of stone or steel and placed in strategic locations – either easily accessible to the faithful, or hidden from those who do not understand the importance of planning. Depending on where the shrine is located, it will serve a different purpose.

Followers seeking their god’s favour will place useful goods in a shrine and even notices for services – when several followers do this, the shrine itself becomes a place that is prepared for whatever is to come, allowing the faithful to visit it for provisions, always trading, never simply taking. Shrines on the road through barren wilderness will contain food and water or notes about where these can be scavenged, shrines on battlefields will contain the notes and maps of generals past, while shrines frequented by con artists may contain passwords, notes of how to contact fences and information about guard patrols.

However, the shrines are not the community touchstones that they appear to be. In fact, they are but another way Istrilonius tests the cunning of his faithful. His followers are often very ambitious and so the shrines are usually filled with red herrings to mislead opponents and further the plans of whoever placed the goods or information there. Istrilonius actually enjoys such misdirection and power plays, and those who partake of a shrine’s contents should always do so with careful consideration.

Posted in Pantheon

Swift – God of the Moment

SwiftHoly Symbol of Swift

God of the Moment, Lord of Now
God of wit, swift action, living in the moment
Alignment: CN
Domains: Chaos, Charm, Liberation, Luck, Trickery
Favoured Weapon: Dagger

Hearing and deftly catching an unexpected projectile, responding spontaneously with a perfect witty retort, making a split-second decision and running with it to success – these are all times when Swift is with us. God of the Moment, Swift favours those who live and act in the now, not fretting, second-guessing and missing opportunities due to hesitation. It is Swift’s followers who most often make literal leaps of faith.

Swift has a simple outlook and discourages over thinking. His followers espouse the belief that the simplest answer is often the correct one. His doctrine is not lengthy or rambling; it is to the point like all of his teachings. Known as The Only Rules, the doctrine of the God of the Moment says to ‘trust your gut’, ‘seize the moment’ and ‘live in the now’. He asks little more of his worshipers than to follow and live by these rules, thanking him with spontaneous gifts when doing so benefits them.

Swift has no temples or shrines – or perhaps it should be said that he has an endless number. Followers of the God of the Moment who seek Swift’s aid simply utter The Only Rules as they follow them. When things go their way they sometimes scrawl Swift’s symbol on any available surface – in condensation from a mug of ale, with blood on a wall, or just with a foot in the dirt. It is a simple symbol, befitting the god and can be scribed with haste, drawing a quick zig-zag slashed with a single line separating the peaks and troughs. Swift’s followers do not contemplate the symbol in great depth, but most believe it represents the ups and downs and the many moments of life to be seized and lived.

Daggers are Swift’s favoured weapons due to their simple yet versatile nature, able to be used for slashing, stabbing, gouging, sawing and even throwing. He who wields a dagger or two can react instantly to any threat of violence. His followers also favour loose fitting garments that allow freedom of movement, portable food and drink, and temporary accommodation that allows them to come and go on a whim.

Swift’s worshippers are often terse or quick-witted when speaking and seldom labour the point or dwell on one topic for very long. Despite this, they are not all erratic flitting butterflies. Many live in the moment by savouring the now, tasting each morsel of food while watching the other tavern patrons, or sitting peacefully under a tree and enjoying every second of watching the clouds in their ever-shifting forms.

Many of Swift’s followers are beggars and the down-trodden, never sure of where their next meal is coming from, living every moment of their uncertain lives like it could be their last. Thieves just as commonly worship Swift, as they are often on the run and must live by their wits to survive, make snap decisions and throw themselves into danger with no assurance of survival. Thieves whisper to Swift as they pray that their timing is just right to rob a joint, take a mark, cut a purse or pick a pocket.

Swift is a subtle god who shows few overt signs. Instead, he offers opportunities for the quick and spontaneous. Hearing the snap of a crossbow string just in time to drop to the ground, sudden inspiration of just the right thing to say to the beautiful stranger or looming guardsman, the perfect distraction that lasts but a few seconds, a momentary setback for a foe who had the upper hand – these are the ways in which Swift shows his favour. However, they are fleeting and if the opportunity is missed or passed up, there are no second chances.

Similarly, those who wrong or anger Swift will feel his retribution in short sharp stings. Sudden disaster or ruin are the most common ways that Swift dishes out his wrath, often using someone who is living more in the moment than the victim to deliver this punishment. A successful venture unexpectedly falls through, a weapon jams or slips in the wielder’s grip, hesitation leads to greater trouble or makes things worse, someone else reacts quicker and gets the prize, the glory or the freedom – when such woes befall us, it is Swift’s hand that strikes.

(Compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game)

Posted in Pantheon

Tarsis – Goddess at the Gate

I’ve recently been thinking about threshold or liminal gods. It’s a strange concept to have an entire god – or several – dedicated to doorways. However, liminality also refers to being “between” places, times or states. I created Tarsis – Goddess at the Gate – as an attempt to create a coherent threshold deity for use in roleplaying games. I’ve also included rules for using Tarsis with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and with Savage Worlds. If you find this article interesting, I suggest reading up about Hecate, who Tarsis is heavily based upon.


Tarsis

Goddess at the Gate, The Goddess Between, Watchgod
Goddess of protection, thresholds, crossroads, transitions
Alignment: LN
Domains: Animal*, Law, Protection, Sun, Travel
Favoured Weapon: Torch or mace
*canines only

Tarsis is a goddess of protection and vigilance. She is associated with thresholds, transitions and the between places, such as the wilderness and dangerous roads. Tarsis watches over all gates, doorways, thresholds and crossroads, though she pays special attention to those flanked by torches, adorned with her shrines or guarded by dogs.

Tarsis is able to avert demons and harmful spirits, but if offended she may refuse to avert these dangers or even drive them on against those who have wronged her. Tarsis is closely associated with dogs and they are her servants, acting as guardians in the mortal realm. It is said that when dogs howl, Tarsis is near.

Tarsis is depicted as a rugged and mature but beautiful canine-headed woman in a long dark travelling cloak, ears pricked up in alertness. She is usually shown holding a torch in each hand and is often accompanied by two ghostly glowing dogs on either side of her.

Tarsis illuminates the darkness and helps identify and protect against danger. She is the patron of guards and those who work at night. Due to her connection with the night, transitions and dogs, she is also associated with lycanthropes and it is said that those attacked by werewolves have fallen from Tarsis’ favour. On the other hand, some believe that lycanthropes are actually Tarsis’ favoured servants and being chosen to become one is a blessing from the goddess.

Tarsis is linked to transitional and transformative times in people’s lives, such as puberty, marriage, moving to a new area and starting a new venture. She is often offered prayers and small sacrifices of incense and candles during these times. Her primary sacrifice is the burning of such objects and the solemn sacrifice of dogs. If these sacrifices are carried out improperly, Tarsis can take great offense, but if done with the correct rites and respect, Tarsis will listen to prayers and bestow her blessings.

Tarsis’ holy symbol is a flame-eyed dog-head with raised ears and a ring its mouth, resmebling a door knocker. Physical holy symbols of Tarsis have hollow eyes and a place for oil, allowing them to be used as miniature lanterns. Dog-head shaped bullseye lanterns with light emanating from the eyes are also favoured by followers of Tarsis. Even the heads of the maces they use will often have a dog or flame shape or motif.

Tarsis’ shrines are never far from city gates and it is common to carve boundary markers, doorframes and gates with her image or holy symbol. Her idols and shrines are also found at crossroads, where the goddess is depicted several times, each representation watching over one of the roads. Such shrines in the wilderness always contain fires or torches and it is good luck to relight one that has burned out.

Tarsis’ servants light the streets, and none of her faithful are ever without some source of light. Tarsis often sends warning through her dog servants: the howling of a dog, a dog running from fire or a dog with a torch or lantern in its mouth. Other warnings include the banging of a gate, a flash of bright light in the darkness and the guttering out or sudden flare of torches.

Savage Worlds Conversion

  • Aspects: Protection, thresholds, crossroads, transitions
  • Powers: Armor, banishFC, barrier, beast friend (canines only)bless/curseFC, boost/lower trait, darksightFC, entangle, shape change (canines only), smite, speed, stun, summon allyFC (ghostly dog), teleport
  • Duties: Guard thresholds and crossroads, bring light to the darkness, keep streets and roads safe, protect those who cannot protect themselves
  • Sins: (Minor) Covering or extinguishing lights in the darkness, denying entry to people in need, allowing acts of cruelty to canines; (Major) abandoning guard duties, permanently blocking a gate or doorway; (Mortal) Knowingly allowing entry to harmful forces, killing a canine that is not part of a ritual sacrifice, defacing or destroying a shrine or carving of Tarsis.
FC = from the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion
 
Posted in Misc.

Minigame: Knifey-Dicey

In our Pathfinder game this week the PCs visited the tavern of a town they staying at. One of the PCs is a mercenary with a lot of gold to spare and likes to show how tough he is. So I had an NPC ask him if he’d like to gamble. He agreed, but I realised I hadn’t thought of the game they would play.

Image by topher76 – click for source

I wanted there to be dice to add a element of chance to the game, but I also wanted it to help the PC look tough. First thing that came to mind was that knife game where you splay your fingers on a table and quickly stab a knife between them.

Before I knew it I was saying in character as the NPC: “So, have you ever played… knifey-dicey?”

While not as simple as the Simpsons’ “knifey spoony”, it was more fun than cutlery comparison.

On the spot, we came up with some quick rules for this two player minigame, which are as follows:

  1. Decide the stakes (standard games are either 1 or 5 gold pieces).
  2. Decide who goes first (roll a d6 and call odds or evens, or flip a coin – loser goes first).
  3. The player whose turn it is throws the agreed stakes onto the table.
  4. The player rolls a d6 to see how many “circuits” or “laps” of their hand they have to do.
  5. The player makes a Dexterity check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of rounds played so far (0 in the first round) + the result of the d6 rolled in Step 4. Just remember DC = 10 + rounds + d6.
  6. If the player succeeds, it is now the other player’s turn. Repeat steps 3-6 until someone loses or quits (every second time you get to this step, it is a new round so the DC increases by 1).
  7. Winner takes the stakes. For 24 hours, the loser suffers a -2 penalty to rolls requiring two hands (unless they quit before stabbing themselves). DC 15 Healing check or any cure spell removes the penalty.

We played a game of knifey-dicey using these rules and it was a lot of fun. Due to the ever-increasing stakes, the PC ended up winning 30 gold pieces and the NPC walked away with a damaged hand.

I imagined and described the game as extremely fast paced. Decide stakes and who goes first, then begin! Throw gold on the table, roll the d6 and stab stab stab! Other player throws down gold, roll, stab stab stab! Repeat!

Because of the quick pace of the game, the DC increases by 1 each round, so someone is eventually going to lose – if they don’t quit before that, forfeiting the stakes.
Knifey-dicey has several things going for it:

  • Quick and simple to play
  • Elements of randomness
  • Elements of “skill” (the players’ Dexterity scores)
  • Easy to make variants

Speaking of variants, here’s a few I’ve made up just now for this post:

Knifey-Dicey-Drinky:

  • After their turn (that is, after Step 5), the player chugs a mug of ale or takes a shot of spirits.
  • The player then makes a Fortitude save (DC equal to 10 + the number of drinks consumed).
  • Failing the Fortitude save adds 1 to the DC of subsequent Dexterity checks in Step 5.

Knifey-Dicey-Wifey:

  • Dedicated couples play this game, where one partner stabs around the other’s hand.
  • Often played as “doubles”, where both partners stab at the same time (rolling Dexterity separately).
  • If one partner gets stabbed, the other can continue on. It’s like having two chances.
  • Winners take the stakes. Losers suffer regular penalties and whatever their partner dishes out.

Knifey-Dicey-Deadly:

  • The knives are soaked in deadly poison. Winner takes stakes. Loser dies.

(Compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game)

Savage Worlds Version

After writing this post I started thinking about how this would translate to Savage Worlds and have come up with the following quick and dirty conversion:

Change the DC to TN 3 + rounds so far + d6
Instead of Dexterity roll Agility or Gambling, whichever is highest

-2 penalty for losing still applies, and of course the Fortitude save in Knifey-Dicey-Drinky becomes a Vigor roll against TN 4 + number of drinks consumed.

It seems more brutal, but you’ve got the Wild Die and the dice can Ace as usual. I just played a few rounds with varying Agility scores. Playing with an Agility of d8 and on the round that the TN reached 8, I rolled an 8 on the Agility die and a 6 on the Wild Die. I even lasted a while with d4 Agility, thanks to aces. Die size matters, but it really still comes down to luck.

Knives & Hooks

Knifey-dicey is a quick and fun minigame that you can add to just about any roleplaying game to spice up the action next time your PCs wander into a tavern.

Knifey-dicey could also be used as a hook. “Sure, I’ll give you the information you’re after, if you and your buddy there beat me and my girl at knifey-dicey-wifey”. And I can just picture a showdown with a crime lord who challenges the PCs to a game of knifey-dicey-deadly instead of traditional combat. It would definitely be a memorable encounter.

Do you have any minigames like this in your roleplaying games? What sort of mechanics do you use? And if you try out knifey-dicey in your game, I’d love to hear how it goes. 


Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/topher76/ / CC BY-ND 2.0


Posted in Musings

Australia in RPGs

Happy Australia Day!

Australia is basically a fantasy roleplaying setting come to life. We have devastating floods, fires, droughts and incredible dust storms. We have fantastical animals, many of which are deadly and/or poisonous. Platypus, I’m looking at you. We have deserts, rainforests, snowy mountains and coral reefs. Australia is beautiful, deadly and a great source of inspiration for gamemasters. So, to celebrate Australia Day I’ve collected Australia-related roleplaying links and inspirational links from around the webosphere for your perusal.

I’ve already mentioned the fearsome platypus, but Australian myth and folklore offers up some interesting monsters too like the are-they-silly-or-scary drop bears – giant koalas that drop out of trees and crush you, then rip your face off – and of course, everyone’s favourite vorpal billabong lurker, the bunyip from Aboriginal mythology.Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Just take a look at Australian megafauna for real life examples of dire animals.
For a more current example, the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) affecting Tasmanian Devils just screams “adventure hook”. Tasmanian Devils are crazy little creatures to begin with. Their jaws give them the most powerful bite force of any mammal (relative to body size), they let off a foul odour when stressed, they’re ferocious when feeding, and their disturbing ear-piercing screech sounds as scary as any monster. Add to all this the DFTD and you’ve got a group of ravenous screeching monsters covered in sores and wounds.

In your fantasy game, perhaps the disease drives them even more insane so that they give up their scavenging ways and attack travellers on the roads. Villagers cower in their shacks as they hear the unearthly screams of the diseased devils stalking the outskirts of the town. I’ve actually developed a race of monstrous humanoids called the Retch (singular and plural) which are based on Tasmanian Devils. I’ll update them to Pathfinder RPG stats some time and post them here with crunch, fluff and adventure hooks.

Paizo’s third annual RPG Superstar competition has begun and two Australians have made it into the Top 32 contenders. So, 6% of the finalists are Australian, whereas only 0.3% of the world is Australian. Therefore, we must be awesome 🙂 Best of luck to my fellow Aussies. For those in the Canberra region, be sure to check out CanCon next year (you’ve just missed it this time around) or even Gen Con Oz in Brisbane. I went to the first Gen Con Oz in 2008 and was at the session where an Aussie came up with what Tracey Hickman now calls “The Australian Rule” on page 69 of his X-treme Dungeon Mastery book (while I don’t agree with all of the book’s content, there are some gems in there and it’s a fun read).

Fantasy and science-fiction roleplaying games are often showcases of outlandish environments. Australia is just as amazing with the Devil’s MarblesWave RockUluruthe Pinnaclesthe Twelve ApostlesJenolan Cavesthe Great Barrier Reef and countless other breathtaking environments.

I’m not sure how popular the 1987 Call of Cthulhu supplement Terror Australis is, but I’ve purchased the PDF and flicked through it. It includes three adventures, several monsters and an interesting mix of historical data and Lovecraftian mythos. Australian roleplaying games are few and far between, so if you’re interested in the concept, this is a good place to start. Besides, Australia and Cthulhu are each crazy and deadly enough that combining them is just awesomeness waiting to happen.

Before I wrap up, I just want to take a moment to recognise that for some, Australia Day is a time for celebrating everything that makes this country great. But for others, it represents the day that the English invaded this country and declared it Terra nullius, displacing the Aboriginal people who had called this land home for over 40,000 years. If you want to find out more about this, start with the Australia Day article on Wikipedia or search Google for “Invasion Day”.

That’s it for this post. I hope it’s been enlightening. Next time you’re looking for a bizarre plant, animal or environment, look to Australia to see if it can fill your needs. If you’re running a game about natural disasters, read up about Australia to see how people have coped in these terrible situations. And if your GM runs a game set in Australia, be sure to keep your eyes on the trees. You never know when the drop bears will strike!