Skinning a Godling, a Guide to Living Forever, the General Takes the Field, I’ve Been Reading a Lot of “Fables”, and Dirty Old Men…

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

The Cray of the Dead God

Teller started the careful process of wrapping the long strap of boaxhide around her midsection. Around, then over, then around, then over–the motions were familiar to her, as common as brushing her hair out of her eyes. The rest of her comrades were tired, they’d spent the night in fitful watches, waiting for hell to climb the hill.

The lower encampment was, if anything, larger than the last one—and that had nearly killed them all. Soldiers, pink-faced and ready, were lined up to storm the earthy mound and give them all a death long in the coming. But, without worry and almost without care, Teller continued the ritual, taking her time and doing it right, wrapping herself in the protection of her clan and family and preparing herself for the blood to come.

If the emperor wanted this hill, she’d make his very best bleed for it.

System: When the cultists of the Child God came to the windswept tundra of the Southlands, they were escaping persecution in the Old Empire and seeking a place to call forth the horror that is the center of their worship. The Child had never touched this world directly, though its servants had murdered nations in the past to bring that about. Had it not been for the sacrifice of every last living member of the Intuer Clan in fighting back the first few steps of the infant demigod into the world, there would be no living thing left today. But, Lanaria of the Wild—the Clan’s matriarch—fought it back through the tear in reality and fashioned a ceremonial trophy cray from the hide of the arm that had clawed its way through.

The Cray of the Dead God is a length of grey and irregularly blackened hide as wide as a man’s two fingers at the narrowest points and up to a foot wide at the broadest. It’s roughly fifteen feet long, ragged-edged and coarse. Attunement requires a careful, ritualistic wrapping of the leather around one’s body in a ceremonial observance of one’s own possible and welcomed (if the spirits demand it) death; Religion check DC20 to get it right, DC 10 for Barbarians. Failure on this check means one cannot properly work the garment/armor for a number of weeks equal to one’s level.

One attuned, the armor grants the wearer an inconsistent, but powerful defense against damage. Give the player 9 cards from a conventional deck (2 through 10, each number once), then from the remaining deck, the DM draws one card and places it face down on the table. The PC has an armor class of 10 + their Dex modifier (as though unarmored), and with a Reaction (can be done in response to being hit), the Player may play any card from their hand to increase the AC of the character by that amount. That AC is the standing AC for the character until they are successful hit (even if no damage is done), then it returns to 10 + Dex modifier. When the player uses a card, it is discarded and they cannot use it again.

At any point, the player may ask that the DM’s card be used (this is done blind, they do not know the value). It also goes away on a successful hit. Only when all the player’s cards have been used can they be re-dealt 2-10 again (and the DM redraws a single card, as at the start; discarding whatever they had, if they still have one).

Once unattuned, the armor cannot be reattuned by the same person. The chaotic nature of the Great Old One is an untamed and wild thing.

The Atlas of Forever

“A man is surrounded by danger. Those who guard and protect him are dangerous and the world is made of violence. In the forest, alone, one needs not fear the armed men of violence. That one has given up the burden of worry and wealth. Instead, he is free to protect himself with his own peace and with the shield of deep wisdom.”

“Kings understand this. The story of a recluse in the woods, one who is dedicated to the perfection of his knowing is easy to grasp. All tales tell it. But what separates kings and wise men is what comes of their seclusion and growing wisdom. For one, they find peace to protect those around them from the dangers of the world. For the other, they find harmony with the universe and reborn in majesty.”

–the Last Tale of Thenn Kujari

System: The Kujari brotherhood was the second most respected order of servants and courtiers in the days of the Silverhanded Prince. They were renowned for their knowledge and patience, they were the wise old and young men and women of the Court who showed the wonders of heavenly movements and taught great kings and princes the deepest ways of the celestial choirs.

In the 5th century, one of their own, Thenn of the Farland who came to them a stranger, but lived with them in full respect for forty years and a day, penned the Atlas of Forever in bright, crackling blue ink. The words he wrote were powerful, the diagrams and study was careful. And the Atlas has been a treasured artifact of the order for millenia.

Attunement to the Atlas requires a full study of its contents. This takes a number of weeks equal to 12 minus one’s Wisdom bonus. One may further subtract one’s Proficiency Bonus from that total if one is a Monk.

The book, a small, thick volume as wide as a man’s hand and nearly three inches thick, is littered with esoteric philosophy, explanations in verse of the movement of the stars, and long treatises on the nature of life. One is advantaged on Religion checks when consulting the Atlas for an hour.

In addition, so long as it is attuned and carried by the owner, it provides the soul with a roadmap back to life from the nearest areas of what lies beyond death.

On failing one’s last death save, and within the first 30 seconds after, one—as a spirit—may opt to navigate the path through the Realm of Dancing Grief and the fourth Hell and the lands and dimensions of the near worlds to make it back to one’s body. This journey takes 1d6 turns in realtime.

Upon returning, one may choose three of four Aspects of one’s self to keep, the last one being random. The four Aspects are:

  1. Fullness of Body – one may choose to keep their body and make it whole, returning to full HP (if not, one is returned at 1d6 hp).
  2. Fullness of Ability – one may choose to keep their ability scores (if not, the DM rolls 4d6 and drops the lowest; those 6 scores are given to the player for immediate assignment to abilities).
  3. Fullness of Mind – one may choose to keep one’s level (if not, there is a 50% change of losing a level)
  4. Fullness of Fortune – one may choose to increase one’s Inspiration point max by 1 (if not, one loses all Inspiration and such increases to max Inspiration)

One may rely on the Atlas once per long rest, at most.

The Battlewale

Wyatt saw them first and in that fraction of a second, he threw up his ward and stopped a pitted and jagged axed in mid-air only inches from his face. The rest of the battle was chaos and screaming.

At the center of it all, Broadways stood boldly, daring the squabbling and yipping creatures to come forward. The old paladin was more than just a warrior, and while he dodged and weaved around flimsy and reckless attacks, he barked out clear orders and warnings.

“Wyatt, to your right!”

And a quick glance saved the sorcerer from a heavy blow whipping through the air, where his head would have been a moment before. The others were holding the line as Brodie shouted. He was the best of them. The bright star that guided them. And Wyatt wasn’t going to let him down.

System: In the fourth age, when the giants came down from their cloud-wrapped peaks and waged bloody war against the Last Exile, the nations and kingdoms of the world held their collective breath. An end to the Reign. And end to the dark power of Kalamar. But, despite the odds and in the face of all reason, the nation of men fought back the great things and hounded them back up their mountains, never to be seen again.

The Battlewale was forged to lead armies and the rod bears the heraldic marks of the Exile line of emperors–conquerer’s and great generals all. Two feet of turned oak, stained a deep and bloody red with a milky white crown of fashioned crystal at the top, the wale is a power unto itself.

Attunement requires wielding it during the entirety of a battle (no less than fifty participants, done in serve to a cause or objective). The Gods of War and Victory (good and evil ones alike), bless the wielder with insight and authority while wielding the rod thereafter.

Once attuned, while held, the bearer may use their Reaction to grant all allies within earshot an additional Reaction to use (meaning allies have two that may be used, normally). Additionally, their granted Reaction may be used to (on a successful hit) move 5ft in any direction pre-emptively. This may invoke its own Opportunity Attack, however, from aggressing combatants within range as per normal rules (but a risk of a hit is better than taking the guaranteed one in many cases).

This is all accomplished through verbal orders and warnings from the bearer, if the allies cannot hear them then the power does not work.

Staff of Primordial Winds

Like something out of a fairy tale, Warlord ir’Brecht—the Calamity, the Leveler, the Twice-Revived—stormed across the broad courtyard. The city had fallen, the walls breached by his engines of war, and now the last of the King’s Own stood silent in the waning light ready to meet their death on their feet and refusing to give an inch of ground past the plaza.

But, stalwart though they were, the Calamity came. A heavy boot. Another. A relentless march, by himself, that knocked aside the guards that still thought they had a chance. Beneath the dark grey plate, a low laugh and growl frightened back the rest. A stride became a trot, then a run, and then a wild sprint—the King’s Own holding, grimacing at their coming doom.

And like the unseen hand of God, himself, the Warlord’s pace was broken and interrupted and the hunched strain against the facing wind that appeared from nowhere caused him to scream out in rage. He attempted a step, but nothing. Mere feet from the line of soldiers, the giant was halted and he found he could go no further with a hateful scream.

System: When the far wanderers and the wild talkers first came to his world, it was overrun with the greatest creatures of an untempered nature. Rock giants, typhoon braels, the ground-breakers, the grasping jungles. They tamed all these spirits, and those they couldn’t they bound.

The Staff of Primordial Winds is a solid, pale sweetwood walking stick as tall as a grown dwarf. It feels lighter than it should and vibrates with the forgotten winds that were bound to it. It counts as a +0 magic improvised weapon that does bludgeoning, not being particularly balanced for combat or designed for striking things with.

Attunement requires speaking the names of all the ancient dark winds and gales that plagued the world in the time forgotten. Recalling them requires a disadvantaged Knowledge Nature DC 20 (failure means one cannot ever recall them on one’s own again, one doesn’t know them). If using a library or researching them in a place of old scholarship, one may attempt the check at normal (not disadvantaged). If a druid asks the living winds, themselves, for the names they share what they know and the DC is 10 instead.

Once attuned, so long as the staff is held with both hands (and requiring concentration), one may use their bonus action to command one of the hateful gales in the staff against a creature. One’s proficiency bonus determines the size of the gale one may call upon and control (one can call any equal to or lower than one’s proficiency):

2. Spiteful Whiff (small, DC 10)
3. Hateful Breeze (medium, DC 15)
4. Dire Gust (large, DC 20)
5. Baleful Gale (huge, DC 25)
6. Vengeful Cyclone (gargantuan, DC 30)

The wind flows out and around and initiates a grapple with all creatures in the area you designate for it to be (based its size, max range is 60ft). Targets get to resist with Athletics or Acrobatics as normal against the appropriate size DC. Once a target succeeds against the DC, they are immune from it for a day afterward. Maintaining the grapple requires Concentration. Targets larger than the wind trying to grapple them auto-succeed on their opposed check.

One may call only one wind at a time. All winds return to the staff when not called upon. A target that breaks the grapple of one wind is not considered immune to a new wind (even of the same size, called with a new Bonus Action).

True Ward of the Archmage

“Then do it, Kalacus! Do it! If you think you’re so bad! Come on! I knew your mother when she was worth two pennies, you mangy dog! You’re made of weak stuff and you look like whatever I emptied my own bowels of this morning, here here! Wanker!”

Sage Millen shouted from across the room, his bushy grey eyebrows dancing up and down with each punctuated insult. Rocking back and forth on one and then another foot, bouncing almost, he taunted the young mage mercilessly, in his own amateurish fashion.

“I suspect you have relations with hogs, I do! Yes, yes, hogs! You like that? Come on, stop trying to conjure and do something. I have had more difficult shits than this, you stupid man-boy!”

He was almost laughing and cackling as the young magus threw increasingly serious discharges of lightning at the doddering old bastard. All striking true, but none doing anything. After the fourth, he nearly passed out. After the sixth, he did.

Sage Millen walked over to the upward-facing, half-lidded wizard—groggy and moaning his exhaustion. And pulled a small coin purse free of his belt, jingling the contents greedily with half-toothed smile.

“Twat” he whispered, to the cheers of the old men standing all around. It’d be fine drinks for the old bastards tonight.

System: The inner sanctum of the Academy, the great school of magic in the far northwest, is home to several fraternities of study. The most secretive and least known in the broad world are those old wizards that came years ago and never left. Never seeing the world at large and having no interest in it. They are, almost to a man, old, cynical, learned, and unconcerned with any serious study of the arcane arts. They spend their time gambling and drinking and hazing the younger mages. One of their fantastic creations, only whispered about in quiet libraries and never confirmed, is the True Ward.

The True Ward is a garment, a long black robe of matte black wool with white cuffs and hem. To a casual onlooker, it appears to be the sort of garment a magistrate might wear or a parson. inside, however, every inch is laced with tightly stitched arcane words and symbols beneath the fabric in bright stunning purples and yellows, glowing with intent.

Attunement requires a careful preparing of the robe (taking 1d6 x 10 minutes) and casting a spell into it. Once done, the robe grants the caster immunity to that spell–absorbing the energies of the magic as they come to pass against the wearer. This lasts so long as the garment is worn. If the caster is of the school of Abjuration, they may select two such spells to prepare into the robe for the benefits of immunity to both. Spells used in this way are spent as normal, the robe holds the pattern for a day, one can readjust it as often as one has spells to replace the ones in the pattern.

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