“To astonish is to overcome.”* In Tartary this can be literally true: the mysterious, ubiquitous, invisible TV cameras are drawn to the astonishing – to great spectacles and moments of improbable triumph and abjection. And getting on TV means power, followers, reputation and enemies. It is therefore only prudent (under Tartary’s game mechanics) to do a massive show-stopping floor number when entering a competition. Or, as +Jason K puts it: There is something to be said about the big bad guy walking into the fight w/ a bunch of mooks and then doing a choreographed dance number to say fuck yeah I am here assholes and I intend to kill you all. Way better then lame ass Bond type talking about their plans to rule the world drek.
Here, then, are some clips from Tartary TV that +Jason K, +Scott Martin and +B. Portly have made me aware of.
Genki Sudo no longer fights in the mecharenas – he has gone “upon the sea:” his fate as unknowable as his origins. Still his entrances remain (on late-night reruns) as an example to all would-be jockeys and world-conquering tyrants.
He channeled the powers of the Gods and Machine-gods alike. Perhaps he challenges them now as an equal.
More recently, The people of Amritsar have been shocked by the recent changes in the elder of their two Princes, Ouatu. Not only has he shaved off his majestic beard (sign of his faith and status, and one of his biggest selling merchandise items), he has adopted the persona of Cesar, singing falsetto and letting other men dance for him.
Rumours abound that he’s been nobbled or Kopernicked ahead of the imminent Khiva Basho. Top suspects for this piece of skulduggery are the Pit Boss of Komtor and the Great Qan of Ulaanbatur. His supporters say he is merely throwing off the competition…
And then there are those who are forced to dance, for the diabolical pleasures of viewers unknown. Their characteristic violent head-shaking is the surest sign that their wills are not their own.
Short Announcements from the Khiva Evening Pipe:
- Mechanics wanted – hydraulics and electrical a must! No Tharks, Dolms, Purples or mercury cases. Mosque/mausoleum of Abu Zaid, market quarter, before noon call. The hawk that dives late must go begging.
- You can’t fight in the big leagues unless you train with the best! I will show you! Lessons for pilots, gunners, dancers, cockroaches. Bring your own mech or use our Practice Simulator. One month course payable in advance. Three Moons passage, Light of the Farishta court, Tanners’ Waqf, Extramuros South.
- Mech pilots – all specialities – will work for share in prizes. They don’t perform, you don’t pay! All negotiations via Turkan the Kashgari, aka Kurgan one-eye, fondaco of the moneylenders, outer court, Palace.
- Missing Children! Find them before the circus leaves town. The sisterhood of Om Bayuda can help. Waqf banu Uda, opposite the Slave Market.
- Reward of 30 silver dirhams offered for information leading to the apprehension of the villains who damaged Dashoghuz Mining Colony and stole its Caterpillar Transport. Payable on successful capture. Bring information to Dashoghuz Ambassade, Outer Ward East, Palace.
- The Company of Bilad Teleta is hiring: guards, foot, cavalry, artillery, scouts. Prior soldiering experience preferred, good health and loyalty absolutely required. Payment up to 48 dirhams/week commensurate with experience, guaranteed by the Khan himself. Ribat al-Theletha (Old Camel Market). Sadly we do not have facilities for Barsoomians or Constructs.
- Dancers, singers and musicians, all colours, even exotics from Rum, Zanj, Hind and the Mashriq. By appointment to the Khan of Kokand and the Illustrious Vizierate of Ulm. Dancing girls, dancing boys to suit all tastes and pockets. Don’t miss our celebrated Line-up of Bones! Imran the Sharqi, Royal Square, Court of the Bailiffs.
- Sufyen Machines and Scrap reports incoming shipment from the Dry Sea Fleet, Salt Flats of Koniye before tomorrow sundown – just in time for the qualifying trials and grand melee! Arrive early for the best opportunities. Buyers and sellers assemble at the registan of the northern Caravanserai when the black kites go up. Touch and test by all means but if you move it off the pallet, you bought it. Abu Sufyen.
- The Worshipful Brotherhood of Fine Carvers will solve your problem. All hand work: no machines, no troublesome messes. No carving job too difficult, distance will affect price and time to completion. Minimum contract 30 leagues from Khiva. Contract terms are final, payment in cash or materiel (conditional on our evaluation) only. Contact through reputable intermediaries only.
- Ahmed’s Reliable Intermediaries. Discretion guaranteed. Mosque of ibn Jubayr every morning except Friday. Courier services available.
- Black Turban Mobile Murderers now taking orders for murders in Bokhara, Varashta, Samarkand and territories. No local, Ashgabad or Urgench targets accepted. Murders guaranteed: no complaints from the living or dead. Find us after evening prayer, Fountain of Bitter Waters, Southwall.
- Pest removal – gremlins, nemeses, dogs, bugs. Murad Esenov, Street of One Hand, pawnbrokers’ cellar. Shout for Murad and have patience!
Some less commonly cursed items, courtesy of Reynaldo, Joey, R S Tilson, Ed Hackett, Trent B, Jeremy Duncan, Jason K, Joe Vilas, John Williams, Roger Giner-Sorolla, James Young, Scrap Princess, and Gus L.
- 50′ of rope: entangles itself, everything else in your possession so it takes multiple rounds to prepare anything. Cuts your hands, snags on everything, abominably heavy when wet, unties itself only at the worst moment, creaks when used, slippery, sings silently to your reptile brain so you can’t throw it away. Only 47′ long.
- Iron spikes: invariably trip; bend when hammered for any purpose except spiking a door. Attract wandering monsters who then track the party’s scent. Fiercely magnetic. Punch holes in bags, sacks etc. Tetanus.
- Bastard sword: impregnates women. Nobody knows how.
- Torch: Will stay lit eternally, and extinguish when you get into a fight.
- Lamp oil that takes a minute or two to really catch fire. Also, when it does burn, it smells like an abbatoir.
- Iron Rations that give you diarrhea.
- Ornate hard-bronze knife. Anything it cuts repairs itself d6 rounds later. (Potentially useful as a torture device or for cutting holes in sacks etc and then putting them over things knowing they’ll seal up later. Like monsters’ heads)
- Polish crossbow. Shoots in the opposite direction intended.
- Polished crossbow (I made it in shop class!) – for some reason, the stain never dried completely, making the weapon alternately sticky and slick to the touch. Critical range to drop the weapon is 1-3. Anyone handling the weapon for more than a round gets russet-colored wood finish stains all over their hands and clothing.
- Ring of normalcy: does nothing, but won’t come off your finger. Maybe glows in the dark when you don’t want it to, but that wouldn’t be very normal.
- Anti-chastity belt: comes off at the first opportunity.
- Sword of dulling: Found dull. Won’t sharpen. Ruins sharpening stones. Won’t be re-smithed into anything sharp. Dulls other items in owner’s possession.
- Assholehol- A small of liquor that smells and if sipped tastes like whiskey. If the bottle is fully drank the PC will become hostile and pick a fight w/ the player directly to their left. This hostility will only end after they have successfully defeated this person or they have been subdued and 8 hours have past. The cursed PC has no memories of this happening.
- Cowardly Cuirass: as normal plate armor, but is deathly afraid of a particular type of weapon– swords, axes, arrows, etc., and will subtly twist and shift around the wearer’s body to expose gaps and joints, giving the wearer an adjusted AC of 11 (assuming ascending AC) whenever that weapon is wielded against them.
- Patel’s Scintillating Robe- User gains +3 CHA while wearing it. AC same as Leather Armor. Every time the attempts to speak must save vs spell or break into dance number. Everyone w/in hearing range of a cursed individual must save vs paralysis or join in. Lasts 1d4+user level rounds. Wearer cannot hide in shadows.
- Vial of infinite interest – This standard potion vial contains a thick reddish silvery liquid that when shaken produces strange rhythmic contortions. Anyone who studies it for more than 2 rounds will find it hopelessly alluring and sit staring, avoiding any useful or productive activity for 1d12 hours. If the vial is taken from the afflicted, they will rant and rave for 1d8 hours about “the man (the king)”, “the system (probably feudalism)” or how one day the peasants are going to revolt. The effect is amplified by the use of intoxicants or by listening to whatever your worlds equivalent of the Grateful Dead is.
- bag of molding
- hag of scolding
- dog of gelding
- gold of sagging (ruins the line of your suit)
- Mustache of understanding- fake mustache that gives the player 25% more gold earned per session than is truly earned. -2INT and -2WIS. The PC is compelled to talk about inn owners,or taxi drivers (or game similar concepts). Their opinions will always mirror the PC but he always expresses his opinion through them. Will always foment for war and act as if he is helping the non-lazy lower classes. The extra gold is gotten from the PCs wife but this is never mentioned.
- assholehole: anything dropped in is lost (though not destroyed – it shows up somewhere else in the setting). Infects other containers, causing them to lose 1 item/day.
- Tantalus’ Tome of Turpitude: a spellbook that contains the most intriguing charms, ingredients and quest seeds, which can’t be found if you subsequently look them up to show someone else or to copy them.
- Dog- It follows you around and you like it. You have to feed it regularly and sometimes it pees on your armor when you are not wearing it for no reason. Also, it will bark at the worst times.
- Key of missing
- bag of wetting
- tinder of spontaneous combustion
- KNITTED BAG OF CALTROPS – renders contents poisonous but requires a critical save vs dex to deploy in one round (…have you noticed how nobody ever has trouble deploying caltrops? It’s like caltrop bags are lined with teflon).
- Peacock fan- renders the user’s AC 17/3 which is worse. Anyone who views the PC using the item gets a save versus paralysis at -1. Failures equals paralysis so long as the PC continues to dance. The Max dance is is 1/4 CON (rounded up) + Level rounds. The PC must be in their knickers while doing so. It will take Dex-levels to put their armor back on. PC can never hide in shadows w/ this item.
- Tarquin’s Ravishing Strides: trousers of confidence, +2 cha, but excite envy and suspicion; -4 on reaction rolls, 5% chance per day the wearer will be accused of sexual misconduct.
- Cursed bag of flour. Creates invisible monsters when thrown in the air.
- socks of skipping – only effective when wearer’s attention is focused elsewhere. Save or have your stealth rolls ruined. Crit fail leads to riverdancing.
- Crown of mentoring- Gain an underling from a powerful group in your setting, roll 2d6-1 for stats. This is your new henchperson. Must keep them alive upon pain of death from a more powerful clan. They are at your side until an agreed upon level by the clan but for sake of argument it is 2d3
- Hard lard: takes so long to apply to steps that you’re bound to attract a wandering monster before you’ve made them slippery.
- Petard: always goes off before you can get to a safe distance, but if you have enough hit points you can use it to hoist you 50′ straight up instantly.
- anti-poison dart- gives whoever it hits 2d8+PC level HP.
- Cheap shit amulet of stealth – Grants +10 sneakiness, loudly chimes and flashes once your past the guards.
- Innocuous Stone of Infuriation, it’s a small rock that gets stuck in your shoe, but is never there when you look for it. After marching for 8 hours your charisma (or equivalent stat/skill) drops to minimum, anyone getting in an argument with you risks triggering Rage
- Innocuous Stone of Restlessness, another small cursed rock, this one attaches to your bedroll, preventing full night’s rest.
- Ring of Death, You put it on, save versus death. 10% of these rings are Rings of Undeath, turning the wearer into a mindless undead which immediately attacks the party.
- Ever-oozing Rainbow Flask of Oozes: This appears to be a simple magic flask filled with a shimmering potion… “It could be a healing potion!” It actually only dispenses different coloured oozes. Oozes dispensed will always attempt to attack the holder of the flask.
- Tattoo of Deception – If someone has changed their actions due to a complete lie you have told them (or other deception you created) in the past 24 hours, your AC is improved by 1. If not, it is penalized by 2.
- The Hand of Doom – whoever you touch while wearing this glove will die in front of you within a month.
- Target shield: unfailingly redirects all missile attacks aimed at you toward the nearest other friendly person. Note: the curse works on the current state of their friendship, so if they notice this is happening, then the targeting may change. If the owner of the target shield is alone then they get 1 AC worse from having the shield, not 1 better.
- Reenactor’s Sash – You cannot die from combat, but after 1 hit, you must lay on the ground and be still until the fight is over. If you talk, all present (friend and foe) will stop fighting and mock you for 1 round. You also sweat a lot.
- Lipstick of Confusion – anyone kissed while wearing will be alternately taken aback and obsessed with you. A guard may let you pass, but (s)he’s going to track you down sooner or later and want to talk, but then not really have much to say and ask you to coffee but not specify a time or place.
- Goggles of Ulfravision – Two halves of separate goggles glued together with sovereign glue. On lens grants Infravision, the other Ultravision, however looking through both gives a splitting headache (-2 to all actions for an hour.) Looking through one means you have no depth perception, (-4 to attacks and skills involved in distance, like jumping a chasm). The sovereign glue is still tacky, so it sticks pretty badly; removing them causes “longsword equivalent” damage based upon system.
- Short Sword of Camaro – It appears to be a Bastard- or Two-Handed Sword, but those who have been struck by it once see it for what it is – a rusty short sword.
- Wine of suspicion – a powerful intoxicant, unless used to curry favor or inebriate as a form of treachery. When used for unfriendly purposes the drinker instantly becomes sober and will realize the wine giver’s intent. Appears as a high quality bottle of a common intoxicant.
- The Great Zonko’s Ring of Spell Deflection: deflects a spell onto nearest ally. If the ally saves vs spell, the spell deflects back at the original caster. If the ally fails, the spell deflects back to the original target with -2 to the save roll.
- Additionally, beneficial spells will bounce to the nearest target (friend OR foe).
- The Great Zonko was a clown wizard who performed feats of deflection magic as a popular/comical part of his act.
- Forger’s Folly, ornate quill that makes perfect forgeries, which last for 24 hours, after which all the ink from the document forms into an image of the forger.
Anyone who thinks the Githzerai are like Githyanki only nicer hasn’t paid attention to what they do.
They make machines. Devices that help the Githyanki invade, dominate, and enslave. These machines have a sharp, pointed, monomaniacal intelligence. And inevitably sometimes those machines get free.
A Gith Machine starts from a Seed Device with a single purpose, but it can graft other devices with other purposes onto itself. Once grafted the Machine animates the devices as parts of itself. And the more complex it becomes, the more it starts to think independently. A machine’s prime motivation is to do what it was built to do: a butcher device wants to butcher, a weaving device wants to weave stuff (anything) together, an olive pitter wants to pit olives. But every Gith Machine also wants to murder its creator, which not infrequently means murdering other people along the way. And adding more functions – more purposes – is addictive. Hit Dice are dependent on complexity; greater complexity generally (but not always) means bigger size.
Monster Gith Machines have AC3, variable d8 HD (linked only very loosely to size: bigger tends to be tougher). They attack and save as fighters. A Gith Machine monster may graft a new device to itself after 1 turn of continuous contact. Each new device adds 1HD – devices can include metal or wooden gadgets (anything with mechanical articulation), weapons and tools. Gith Machines can also use magic items, including wands and rings but not scrolls. Very complex devices (battleships, helicopters, mecha) may require multiple turns.
A Gith Machine without articulated limbs may roll around like a Katamari at 20’/HD. One with articulation may use stuff in any way convincing to the DM. They especially enjoy having suits of plate armour to play with.
In order to manipulate (carry, puppeteer, asset strip) living or dead creatures the Gith Machine must have at least 3HD of complexity.
A Gith Machine may appear to be defeated when in fact it has only been reduced to its parts. In order to actually “kill” one you have to find and destroy its Seed part.
PC Gith Machines also fight and save as fighters, start with AC7 and use d8 for Hit Points. They start as two devices, one picked or rolled off the following table. In order to level up they have to meet xp requirements and acquire at least one new device. A critical hit can sever one device from the grafted bundle. Whenever a device is severed, the severed part needs to save vs death or be destroyed. If reduced to 0HP the Machine falls apart: its Seed Device is separated from everything else and stunned for d10 turns, but after that it can graft devices back on, up to the maximum for its level. The Seed Device must suffer one additional hit and fail a save vs death to be destroyed.
To put all this in more-or-less familiar game terms, the Gith Machine has 2 powers, which are always active:
1. animate metal object (may extend to mineral objects at level 3, which is also the level they can “carry” a living passenger and use their senses)
2. control machine (which may require multiple turns to “get a handle on” for very complex machines)
The range of these powers is Touch, with the proviso that it extends to touching an object with another object that is already attached to the Seed Device – as a rule of thumb, if you could conduct electricity from the Seed to the object touched, then that object can be animated/controlled.
Parts Table: roll d100. The player chooses which roll is the seed and which the first attachment. If you roll the same result twice, try inverting the tens and units the second time. Or just reroll.
1: hoverbeam. Makes a really unfriendly sawtooth wave hum, lets you float up to 6′ off the floor, but doesn’t hover over water.
2-10: melee weapon
11-18: missile weapon
19-21: compressor (gas or water siphon) (level up to aerosol)
27-30: fast running mechanism
31-33: flippers for swimming
34-36: battering ram
45-46: inert scoop (good for holding/trapping oozes etc)
53-55: rocket fist
56-58: directional listener/echolocator
59-61: low-light/infravision viewer
62-63: x-ray/penetrating viewer
67-68: illusion projector
69-70: accurate drawing arm/plotter
74: minesweeper (also detects pressure switch traps)
75: glassmaker (lightbulbs, flasks, similar items)
79: cocktail shaker (useful for poisons, potions)
80-81: cargo carrier
82-83: espresso machine
84-85: lock/portal sealant
87-89: simple robot arm
90: surgery arm
91: superfine manipulator arm suitable for picking locks etc
92-93: footballer kicking leg
94: acid stomach for digesting small items (up to hobbit-sized)
96: pickler/preserver (useful for bodies you hope to Raise, Pharaoh mummies you want to impress)
99: Test Phantom (see below. No functions but Phantom saves vs death at +6)
100: minisafe (see top image). May hold 4lbs or 1 Pokemon. May also be used as a morningstar for 1d10 damage.
Whether you require the Gith Machine to get a loudspeaker in order to speak with other players at the table, or an arm to draw simple instructions with, or eyes to see, I guess depends on how patient/sadistic you are as a DM. I would assume that you’d have eyes, ears, some means of communicating and getting around – wheels, tracks, legs (mismatched, multiple, stolen), something I haven’t thought of. You can figure that out.
While their sardonic cardinal gets all the best lines, the whole Priesthood of Ming shares a sense of humour perhaps best appreciated from a safe place very far away. Priests of Ming are the hands and eyes of the Emperor’s divine will. They’re also utterly alien creatures, which have learned to conceal their true natures by mimicking the shapes of men – or of a hundred other objects. Outside the public gaze they set down their golden masks and rubber eyes and relax into puddles of black glup. When they return from their missions they merge with the Ur-pool and share their individual experiences in a communion only dreamed of by other creatures, to emerge again on demand with strength, memories and skills drawn from the collective pool.
At least that’s the idea. Recently a growing number of “budlets” have been postponing their reintegration, perhaps under the influence of the mighty Klytus, perhaps corrupted by the collective’s long but uneasy partnership with The Ming.
As monsters the Priests are commanders of Ming’s soldiers (reskinned orcs), palace guards (reskinned kobolds) and secret police (assassins, levels 1-4). They are also highly mobile and dextrous mimics, their hit dice (but no other stats) dependent on their size. Man-sized Priests usually have 4HD (ie 4d4). Natural AC is 8, but Priests often go armoured – partly because it makes maintaining form easier. They may have spells, psionics or divine magics, but they uniformly have poor grip: they cannot use bows apart from crossbows. Melee weapons must be adapted to their bodies, with wide, non-slip handles. On the other hand they can attack without artificial weapons, stabbing with spikes for 1d6, constricting with ropey tentacles for 1d3 per round (break with a str vs str contest), or smothering/choking by intruding into the airways of their victims (dex vs dex contest to avoid, 1d4 damage and save vs CON of lose consciousness each round, -1 per round of intrusion. Damage increases by 1 die size each round of continuous occupation). Other attacks are left to the ingenuity of the DM.
As PCs, Priests develop their powers slowly. In order to level up a Priest must rejoin the Collective, which rewards their successes (xp) with skills. Priests fight and save as thieves, but level up on the Magic User table. They have access to the unarmed attacks detailed above. They get D4 hit dice and may use any weapons and armour, provided it is adapted for their use (fitted with non-slip grips, padding under chain or ring mail). They conduct electricity cheerfully and are immune to electrical attacks. On the downside they can also be deformed against their will by electromagnetic fields.
Although most Priests leave the Collective with 3-4 cubic feet of glup body, they may elect to be anywhere from half to double that volume without any change in game mechanics.
Beginning at 1st level, Priests can transform at will between their “native” blob of glup form and one other form per level, which is selected while the Priest is leveling up in the Collective. The Priest’s glup form is highly deformable but cannot squeeze through gaps narrower than 6 inches (size of a CD), -1”/level (so at 1st level that’s 5″).* If human-sized it occupied 3-4 cubic feet. The glup form can move 1’/round/level on a flat surface, but it may roll, slide or flow faster down inclined surfaces. In glup form a Priest takes half damage from falling. Other forms can move at the speed you’d expect for the thing being mimicked, although winged forms cannot fly.
Maintaining form is exhausting: Priests must rest for 13 hours a day – 1 hour/level or lose 1HP for each hour of rest missed.
At 3rd level Priests can act as one other character class of 2 levels lower, casting spells, picking locks etc (may change class on leveling up). This class is chosen while the Priest is in the Collective and may be changed each time the Priest rejoins the Collective (ie at each level up). Priests can also get skills off whatever weird-ass table you found on someone’s blog, such as Zak Smith’s Alternative Classes.
At 5th level Priests may divide themselves into 2 or more parts, which may act independently. When they do so they divide their attributes and stats among the parts as they wish, but each part must have at least 1 in everything.
At 7th level a Priest may improvise novel forms that are not on their transformation list. Doing so requires a save vs magic – if the save is failed the novel form fails and cannot be attempted again until the next level. On a natural 20 the priest forgets one of their usual forms until the next level-up. 7th level Priests can also demand up to 8x the usual volume of glup for their bodies (ie 32 cubic feet**). If they have over 16 cubic feet of glup, hit points are doubled.
A 9th level Priest attracts 1d12 Priest followers or wannabes. It may Collectivize with other Priests to create a giant-sized creature with the sum of all Hit Dice and damage capabilities, reflected either as multiple attacks or a single attack with the total damage potential of all the Priests in the Collective.
In order to have authority over Ming’s forces, a Priest must have a golden Mask of Office. Ming’s forces are surprisingly ill-informed and have no idea of what lurks behind those masks, so merely doing your mimic trick may scare them but won’t command loyalty.
* we may conclude from Klytus’ complete liquefaction in the City of the Hawkmen that he was at least 5th level. He of course escaped death at the hands of Voltan and the Imperial Navy by dribbling into the bilges of the city and then hailing fellow priests aboard War-rocket Ajax from a dangling aerial, Luke Skywalker style.
** what would you do with so much glup? Maintaining multiple person-sized forms is one obvious and popular option, being impressively huge is another (a Priest could pose as a Hutt or an unusually corpulent Thark). There are rumours of some Priests posing as entire buildings, with hollow interior spaces and working doors.
…he whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear’d
With heraldry more dismal; head to foot
Now is he total gules; horridly trick’d
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Baked and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and damned light
To their lord’s murder
The Industrial Druid is like those Wild Men of Europe, only all about the savage annihilating splendour of the machine. Where the common or garden Druid works to preserve balance and stuff, the Industrial Druid is a perpetrator of atrocities: it marks the land with its technological lusts. The Industrial versions of Druids’ leveling-up fights are full-scale wars, in which the dehumanizing of minions helps to power the Industrialist’s apotheosis.
Encountered as monsters, Industrial Druids have 4-9 Hit Dice (d6s), AC 1, and d12 followers (a mix of lower level disciples and wage-slaves). Their treasure consists of machines, parts and raw materials. There is a 10% chance of exotic metals, suitable for working into +1 swords by a master smith, and 20% chance of a “magic” item that replicates the effect of some spell (e.g. hypodermics that induce Sleep, tasers for Magic Missile) with 1d6 charges remaining.
As a PC class, Industrial Druids are mechanically identical to regular LL Druids (fighting as clerics, benefiting from +2 on saves vs fire and electricity), with the following exceptions:
1. They must wear metal armour and a full-face helm: being stripped of armour strips them of their powers, which are replenished after a full day encased in iron (shackles don’t count). They cannot sneak: at first level this is merely because of their armour, but at 3rd level and above they wheeze and clank at all times and at 5th level they leave oily footprints by which they may be tracked. They can only use complex mechanical or chemical weapons, such as crossbows, composite bows, guns and fire, or those weapons developed for domination: flails, whips and pizzles.
2. What sets the Industrial Druid apart from a mad scientist is its ability to elevate relatively simple siege engines and winches into self-aware agents of exploitation.
From 1st level all Industrial Druids can Command a machine once per day, for 1 round/level, during which they enter a Deep Thinking fugue state and can take no other actions. Machines so commanded tend toward murderous destruction: the Industrial Druid must save vs. WIS each round it requires the machine to conduct a non-violent act, to prevent the temporarily uplifted device from going off on a bloody rampage.
At 3rd level they may poison or purify water but only if paid to do so (at least 1gp/level).
At 5th level they may summon an environmentally-unfriendly mount.
At 7th level they may adopt a giant robot form for 1 round/level/day: twice human sized but weighing 4 tons, this form need not breathe, is resistant to fire and cold, has 20 STR and AC-1, and does 3d6 damage with its fists. While in Robot form the Industrial Druid’s HP are reset to maximum, but when the form’s time runs out any previous wounds take full effect again, adding to any damage taken while a Robot.
Beginning with 7th level, in order to level up an Industrial Druid must destroy another Industrial Druid of higher level and take their stuff.
At 8th level and each level thereafter the Industrial Druid attracts d6 followers – roll d20 -13 for each follower’s level. If the result is 0 or lower the follower is a 0-level wage-slave with no special abilities. Results of 1 or higher are Industrial Druids (50%), Grease Monkeys (20%), Chaos Monks (20%) or toadying Clerics (10%).
At 9th level the Industrial Druid must construct a fortress/lab/lair.
3. Most Druid spells work fine as is. Wherever a Druid spell affects animals or plants, reskin it to apply to machines and urban life – hence Machine Growth (5); Commune with City (5); Sparking Doom (7); Find Device (2) etc.
In place of Barkskin (2) use Iron Cage (+4 AC but not higher than AC 18. -2 move)
Call Lightning (3) requires some mechanism or power supply nearby – this includes machines summoned with Machine Companion. If the latter is used, the Companion takes damage equal to that dealt by the lightning bolt.
Charm Machine (2) can extend the Command Machine ability for up to a day at a time. One WIS save is required on casting the spell to avoid rampages for the whole day.
Create Familiar (by Frankensteinian or Rotwangian means) (1) (allows creation of machine familiars),
Strict Timekeeping (2) (dictates everyone’s initiative for 1 round/level, costs everyone 1HP/round),
Worker’s Riot (3) provokes violent rage in d30 HD of humanoids (they get to save vs magic),
Charge Me Up (3) (steals 4d6 HP from characters nearby, starting with the weakest. PCs reduced to 0 are unconscious but do not require first aid),
Army of Drones (4) (possesses 1 level 0/1 character per level of the Industrial Druid, makes them work like zombies for 1 day/level, but if you don’t remember to command them to eat and rest then they die in CON-3 days),
Blight Land (5) prevents anything growing and putrefies water within a 1 mile radius.
So the topic of the enormous howling waste of the 6 mile hex has come up again. Here Steamtunnel remarks that all of Bethsoft’s Oblivion fits in a 4 mile square. Commenters note that verisimilitude for computer games is different from what you’d expect in an RPG.
Anyway, it is true: settlements and incident are distributed very unevenly across the land. Monsters and Manuals made this point cogently with some one-mile rectangles around Britain.
Behold Brielle. I know I’ve mentioned it before but that’s because it’s such a great little DnD one-horse town, with room for a blacksmith and a chemist’s and a mill and not much else. We can see from the still-standing 17th century fortifications exactly how big the place was 400 years ago. It’s about a third of a mile long by a fifth of a mile wide. It could probably support itself on… 2 square miles of good farmland? (that would provide 640 people with 2 acres each, which J. P. Sommerville thinks is reasonable and right now I’m too lazy to disagree). So it occupies one small corner of a 6 mile hex.
Leiden’s a more respectable candidate for a “hex of city.” That jagged square of canal-moat gives you an idea (though the boundaries of the city are less certain in fact, since successful towns always break their enceintes). At the time of its great ditch digging, Leiden was a successful linen-weaving town and trade hub, big enough to support some organized crime and intrigue with nearby cities – an ideal place for a major expedition to set off from. It’s about a mile on its long axis by 2/3 of a mile across. Not very different from burgeoning powerhouse Amsterdam in 1600, which would grow to about 4 times that area by virtue of becoming NW Europe’s major entrepot in the first era of global trade.
And between the two, if we were to lay a 6 mile hex grid down, what would we find in the roughly 5 hexes that separate them, during the 17th century (for which we actually have good maps, even if they do show west as up)?
On a fairly straight line, representing a reasonable route of travel, 11 noteworthy communities (let’s call them Brielle-sized, more or less) including the regionally important city of Delft. And within convenient reach, two cities of comparable size with Leiden but greater importance: the shipping center of Rotterdam and The Hague, seat of power for the entire Dutch Republic.
My choice of the Dutch Republic is not accidental for this experiment, since it was one of the most densely populated territories in Europe at the time under consideration – it’s a good upper limit for your pseudowhatever.
Now check out the fortified palace district of the Khiva, in Khorasan (Islamdom’s Northeast Frontier province in the 10th century). You can make out the jagged line of the wall fairly clearly there: it’s a more or less N-S rectangle, about the same size as Brielle but with a totally different population profile since it represents the ruling class’s bolthole, surrounded by the unprotected city of the lower classes.
Alas we don’t have any particularly good idea of how big the whole of Khiva was in the 10th century, nor how much (far from good) farmland was required to support it. But check out the density of settlements around it. The much smaller town of Qoshkopir is about 2 hexes away (10 miles), the comparably-large Urgench rejoices in its control of the Oxus river trade route about 3 hexes away. But once you’re out of that oasis and you’ve said farewell to the meagre orchards of Hazorasp, you’re in for a 33 hex journey through friendless desert to Bukhara (more like 36 of you follow the river) or 42 hexes to the Abode of the Mad Archmage at Ashgabad. Or, for that matter, 40 hexes to Merv. Here you have to use your imagination a bit more, since the city is buried under desert scrub. But take my word for it – well over 6 square miles of dense, Ankh-Morporkian/Vornheimian urban life, with a wall around it and a separate fortified ruling quarter within (and another within that), home to (maybe) more than a million people – one of the 12th century’s premier destinations, graced by the astronomer and sometime poet Omar Khayyam, seat of the (latter, diminished) Great Seljuk sultans – it’s truly a hex full of city. On its own oasis, with a whole lot of desert around it in every direction.
What’s my point? Maybe that the 6 mile hex encourages a certain uniformity that’s not very naturalistic – or, rather, that the real world is not always very obliging in providing regular encounters. But also I think the size of hexes isn’t really important in itself: it’s really what that size implies about the world that I find interesting. Hexes tend to represent one unit of interesting stuff, for which it’s worth dropping out of fast-forward travel mode. As such they represent the degree of compression of the narrative (and the overall dangerousness of the region, since hexes also represent repetitive risk of random encounters). In the garden of the Netherlands perhaps a village is hardly worth mentioning – you could trip over a dozen on a day’s hard march. In the open steppe/desert of Khorasan, however, a string of hexes represents a logistical challenge. And one lonely watchtower is worth a playable detour.
I guess I’m saying make your hexes the size you want dramatically. And if you don’t have much to say about a certain tract of country… well, hexes are useful for tracking all sorts of stuff: gun ranges, use of supplies, visibility. I don’t advocate ditching a uniform scale to speed up desert or sea travel. But how about this: when you roll for random encounters, the number you get is the number of hexes until you have to roll again (minus one, so if you roll a 1 it’s an encounter right here). Then the density of encounters can be represented by the size of the die you roll: d4 along the river, d6 across country, d10 across the desert, d20 across the sea.
ETA: oh yeah, some other stuff I wrote about 6 mile hexes: how far you can see across the Greek Islands, and a correction to that post, which shows you can actually see pretty much the whole of the Minoan saltbox from a couple of places.