how to make your cleric hate you, vol. 1

There is no description of a fool, he said, that you fail to satisfy.

You went off to seminary. Spent three years as a novice, baking bread and calling the hours. You read four languages, two of which no one even bothers to speak anymore. You can refute even the finer points of both the Anacian and Jerevite heresies, convincingly. And you’re bold enough to carry the Word into the dark places of the earth so that others may know light and joy.

And your party thinks you’re a healbot, hanging around for no other damn reason but to patch them up after they do dumb things. You carry healing and grace with you everywhere you go; the common people flock to your touch. Turns out, you’re their healbot, too.

What stupid shit do they need your learned help with today? Roll d10.

1: Buddy bet him a groat that he couldn’t punch himself unconscious. Buddy lost.

2: Got drunk as a skunk and passed out with his legs too close to the fire.

3: Has all the STDs. Doesn’t want to have STDs. Wants to show you.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, oil on oak panel (1559).

4: Got drunker than two skunks and fell off the plowhorse. Still drunk.

5: Attempted suicide via crossbow-and-string trap.

6: Happy (human) mom and proud (human) dad are in labor with their first. She delivers a beautiful baby (half-elven) boy.

7: Shoot an arrow in the air. Whoever is standing closest to where it lands, wins. This kid won.

8: Snuck into the hedgewitch’s hovel and drank all the potions. All the philters, elixirs, and decoctions, too. Now freaking the fuck out. With miscellaneous magical effects.

9: Demands—demands!—to be healed of some nonexistent ailments.

10: Has dagger pommel lodged somewhere unpleasant. Swears he was just reaching for something on a shelf, naked, when he slipped and fell right on it. One-in-a-million chance, he says.

Shamelessly stolen from various emergency-medicine fora.

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a wormbent tabernacle

[W]hat rabid god decocted out of the smoking lobes of hydrophobia could have devised a keeping place for souls so poor as in this flesh. This mawky wormbent tabernacle.

Sometimes the dead don’t just fall. Flesh does strange things, and us blackguards and scavengers make more dead than most. What happens after the deathblow? Roll d10.

1: Collapses into a pile of leaves.

2: Turns to a cloud of blackflies.

3: Falls into a clatter of painted woods and wires, a marionette unstrung.

4: Acrid smoke billows from rent wounds; moments later, the corpse is consumed from within by brilliant fire.

5: Arms and legs detach and slither off, ophidian and fat.

6: With a thunderclap, it disappears.

7: Before the body even falls, it liquefies and runs off underfoot. Stinks something fierce, too.

8: As the corpse cools, parasites make their way out. A lengthy tapeworm emerges from an orifice, curling tight. Other critters from nose and ears.

9: Spores—looking for all the world like dust—puff from the wounds. They sift down through the air, emergent life in a blossoming of mushrooms.

10: The corpse just lies there. You are sad.

made wrong

It’s like a lot of things, said the smith. Do the least part of it wrong and ye’d just as well to do it all wrong.

Setting: Not every cursed item started that way. Sometimes something is just made wrong. Sometimes some confluence of ill events turns something wrong. Sometimes things just are what they are. Roll d10.

1: A shard of flint and a steel peg. When struck together they produce a ball of blossoming flame the size of a bonfire.

2: A well-worn leathern rucksack. When items are placed within and carried over distance, something will disappear as though out a hole in the bottom. But there isn’t a hole.

3: A hempen rope. Whenever it is knotted it instantly snarls, snags, and shortens to an almost undisentangleable mass.

4: A cord of pacecount beads of the sort used by scouts to keep record of distance walked. When used the navigator becomes terribly lost, and no others can find her.

5: A torch formed of twisted tow dipped in wax. When lit it becomes unmovable until doused.

6: A fireblackened iron frypan. When food is cooked within, half the food imperceptibly disappears. If it is ever broken,1 all of the food it has ever consumed reappears, fresh and hot.

7: A stoppered goatskin. Any liquid put within becomes seawater.

8: A boiled-leather tube and pair of lenses, assemblable into a spyglass. It sees an hour ago.

9: An iron kettle. Heat freezes the contents; cold heats them.

10: A rude sheepskin poncho. Donning it turns you into an ordinary lamb for a day.

And what happens when you realize that a boon is often just a curse flipped on its head?

1 Have you ever tried to break a cast-iron skillet?

signs of passing, pt. 2

Setting: Sometimes things just go wrong. You sit down to rest, breathless with effort, and soon as not comes again the old foe. Time to move again, comforts forgotten. But haste leaves things behind, telltales of those ahead. Roll d10.

1: A half-reshaped broken saber, a grindstone.

2: A sawn-off gangrenous leg and cut tourniquet.

3: Six silken masks, crumpled.

4: Small crocken pots, each with a verdant sprout.

5: A mannequin of sackcloth and wheatstalks; paintdaub face.

6: A singed set of woodworker’s tools, within a ritual sigil.

7: Pulled-apart skeletons of cooked rats.

8: Pictures of dicks, scrawled in charcoal. Nonhuman.1

9: A broken circle of salt.

10: A swaddling cloth. No baby.

And what if they return?

1 How do you know?

signs of passing

Setting: This world is an old one, and there are few places someone hasn’t already gone. But sometimes someone was just there. How do you know? Roll d10.

1: A puck of hardtack, softening in a clay cup of coffee.

2: A brace of extinguished, but warm, torches.

3: Two unstoppered goatskins, each half-full of water.

4: A misting of finely ground flour blown across the walls.

5: Little open crockery pots of cosmetics, greasy fingersmears.

6: A creased loveletter, discarded.

7: A Writ of the Princess Regent, voided.

8: Rude crusted bandages.

9: Two hardboiled eggs, deshelled.

10: A pair of shat trousers.

And where did they go?

the things that will not pass

The pale-faced moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean-look’d prophets whisper fearful change

Setting: Scholars—soft-handed scribblers in carrels—hold that revenants are the way we speak of our own grief, those unresolved and lingering emotions that we bear regarding those who have passed on. But those who travel the dark places of the earth know different. Roll d10.

1: A chain of Tofpek tribesmen were offloaded on the beach, captured by orcish slavers and transshipped to the mouth of Toller Creek. They stepped onto the sand and, as one, turned and walked into the ocean. On the clearest of sunny days chanting can be heard over the crashing of the waves.

2: An old cottage sits at a fork in the traderoad. Every morning insubstantial—but vibrantly colored—calla lilies appear on the doorstep. They’re gone by noon. Any real flower turns to ash upon crossing the threshold.

3: She waits at the bank of the stream every evening as the sun sets. Back in the war she was a canoness caring for the wounded on both sides. She fall in love with one young footman, pulling strings in the order to have him healed with clerical grace. Made whole, he shouldered his ruck to return to the front. As he did, he promised to return after the war, to meet her again where she filled the waterbaskets. He fell on some far field, but she still waits.

4: An inseparable pair of lovers died holding hands when the sweating sickness swept through. But in the chaos of those days, the overwrought survivors buried victims whenever and however they could, and the couple was buried separately, on either side of the cartroad. Now unable to meet, in the season of sickness they stand across the road from each other, staring longingly.

5: She fought against the faith community, a young woman of intelligence and drive. She suggested new, more-effective ways of rotating the crops; of better ways of conducting the meetinghouse; and finally, of an equality of men and women in the eyes of the god. After much whispering, consultation, and praying, she was cast out.

But for all her ideas, she longed for her family, for her community, who would never again even recognize her presence. She pined at the front gates, begging for readmittance, until she passed on. She still remains, even if the gates are ruins and the church nigh-forgotten.

6: In the sadder days a family with four daughters lived in the hamlet of another sect. The plague came, and the community’s faith was strong; the rector was graced with the power to heal the sick. But the family’s father hewed to the old teachings, and would not allow the rector to speak over his family. They fled to the hills rather than fall sick.

But fall sick they did nonetheless. The family died in their hovel in the hills to which they alit. The village remains, but on feast days and gatherings sometimes unfamiliar girls appear, rosy-cheeked and playful. Anyone crossed by their shadow falls sick, but by the time of realization the girls can never be found.

7: A certain stretch of the chief’s road—in latter days, a tollroad, due to the bottleneck formed by the cliffsides astride—in former days was haunted by bandits and blackguards. In the wilder days it was avoided for the corpses it created; it was just as easy to rain arrows upon travelers and take their goods as it was to present yourself and make demand.

Now it has been civilized, as it were, and the goods extracted are by the chief’s authority rather than marauders’ whim. But travelers remain unsettled. When the gloaming comes or drizzle makes it hard to see, travelers see themselves, their parties, traveling as they could have been, haggard and grey and bedecked with suppurating wounds.

8: In the lowlands of Wert it is known that when the lights wander the night, someone is going to pass. Flickering flames, as an invisible crowd carrying guttering candles, travel the paths, converging on unlucky homes or lonesome wanderers.

9: Most revenants are forlorn, but a few, vengeful. This spirit was once a child, who knew nothing of the world save scorn and a dark closet and an aching belly. Anyone who opens that closet, or the remains thereof, frees it. But that freedom consists of an oily obsession to harry, harass, and ruin whomever it sees first. The revenant cannot bear the sun, which makes it easy to flee, but can transport itself from any dim, confined space to another—so long as that space is large enough to fit a four-year-old. It does not forgive.

10: Many come to regret the actions of their youth. Lailer Greth was one such. He spent his life a barely controlled savage, hewing and murdering his way through the marches, justifying himself with a consul’s writ. As young men learn, his actions brought reactions, and he hadn’t enough life to spill upon his revenger’s halberd to repent his wreckage of a life.

Now he travels the marches as he did before, using his ghastly appearance to frighten angry men apart, to mislead those on perfidious errands, and strand those of ill intent.

the nights were blinding cold and casket black and the long reach of the morning had a terrible silence to it

Setting: The frozen wastes. The immensity of ice and water and sky. Except when the wind howls and the snow becomes sky and there is no up or down or left or right, just white. Crag and spire and crevasse. Men are too small for this land. Roll d10.

1: Scattered across the snowfield are dozens of perfect soot rings. Within each is an azure imp, a tiny demon the color of glacierbottom. Some dance, some pace, others stare sullenly. None steps from its ring.

2: There’s a subsonic rumble; before the party a crevasse splits the ice like a slit belly. Frozen within the walls are ancient corpses.

3: Under a tilting dirty-white serac is a lean-to made of roughly-stitched reindeer hides with and splintering tusks. Within sits a rioteyed man carving another at the joints. A small cookfire smokes.

Image: Tikgeit

4: Scarlet-blue curtains of auroral light billow across the horizon accompanied by an otherworldly symphony.

5: In the far clarity of distance is a rolling billow of dirty snow rising cloudhigh to the sky, looking to swallow the crystalline sun. The needlewind picks up as the ground becomes sky and pushes all the air out front of it.

6: Crushed in the pack ice is a dhow of archaic design. The masts have been pulled down; remains of small fires surround it.

7: The sky is huge and heavy, titanium white with stars traced by inky webs of blackness. Not looking up becomes almost impossible and looking up impossibly vertiginous.

8: The carcass of a four-tusked woolly gomphothere lies twisted at the bottom of an escarpment. The grainsnow around it is trampled down and hard, and its belly has been slit open, the heap of slick brown guts frozen hard. Huddled within, just as frozen, are a pair of shabby dwarves, tucked inside like obscene offspring.

9: Massed ranks of ice sculptures stand at attention arrayed across the pack ice. Each is flawlessly transparent—without bubble or buffet—and otherwise perfectly lifelike down to the pores.

10: A dogsled slides across the distance. Rather than dogs, it is pulled by thong-shackled goblins in untanned furs; the musher leans insolently against hidewrapped cargo.