The Zouave, by far my most popular post, has a mere 12 tall tales. This post will repair that grievous error with another dozen stories that may very well be true.
|Source: The fisherman of Giant Octopus, by riolcrt|
- Anabasis. You were a marine on the pearl islands in the last days of the occupation. Your commander was killed in the withdrawal. With a hundred miles of rainforest before you, and a hundred-thousand vengeful cannibals behind, you walked without rest for days to reach the last boat out.
You are not exhausted by forced marches, and your comrades are not affected by exhaustion until it kills them.
- Escaped a Cave of Treasures. When you picked up that idol, the temple began to collapse. It seemed your only options were to abandon your gold or die with it — at least, that must have been the plan of the suckers who built the place.
Your carrying capacity is doubled if you drop all your useful gear first.
- Survived a Hanging. Never-mind what they hanged you for, it was all a misunderstanding anyway. They gave you too little rope, and so had to leave you to strangle. Three days later a friendly crow untied the knot and you were free once more.
You can hold your breath for thrice as long. Additionally, if something would break your neck you miraculously survive instead.
- Lived Among the Wild Hillmen. They dragged you from the battlefield and nursed you back to health. The drunkards who preached damnation were downright friendly, but the dog-faced men with scalpels were not.
You are immune to agony, and have a huge horrible scar somewhere on your body where your skin (you swear!) was cut away.
- Charmed by the Piper. She caught you bathing in a river and took you to her strange domain of tall grasses and deep tarns. A year and a day later, they found you on the road wearing only your hat and your gunbelt, squinting in the sunlight and surprised by every new face.
NPCs who could plausibly be attracted to you will ignore their boring tasks in favor of small talk. For every language you speak, you can fake the poshest possible accent.
- Eaten by a Leviathan. It swallowed the ship whole and for three days you dwelt in utter darkness. The others were dissolved, but you were spat back up with a new friend and a mission.
You know an angel of your choice who you may command at zero dice (the effect of this needs to be negotiated with your DM).
- Named "Sue". That name gave you the gravel in your guts and the scars on your face and the hate in your heart. Thanks for nothin', dad.
Once per day, enter a rage as a barbarian. You gain three slots of exhaustion when you do this.
- Used to be Rich. You had it all; a big house in town, servants, fine clothing, beautiful men and women hanging on your arms, and a dancing bear. Everything was going wonderfully, until a friend of yours came to you with an incredible ground-floor deal that would make both of you very rich.
You technically own a mansion, but it is in a city at least 500 miles away from where your campaign starts and currently occupied by a gang of counterfeiters and their pet bear. If you started with any cash, you don't have it.
- Met my Double. Looked just like you, with all your scars and all your little tics and your tone of voice and your way of walking. You loathed it immediately.
Somewhere out there there is another Zouave people are always mistaking for you. When you are accused of a crime, there's a 2-in-6 chance blaming your double will get you out of it. When you enter town, there's a 2-in-6 chance of the Law showing up with a fistful of unpaid fines and a big stick.
- Walked Through Fire. The castle burned as the invaders streamed through the shattered gates and the breaches in the walls. Great engines of war threw heavy stones and cannonballs down from above. All seemed lost, so you leapt out of a window to save yourself. You didn't see the king take an old ancestral blade from the wall, toss the crown aside, and charge headlong into the horde.
If a party-member is unconscious or dying, you make every attack with advantage.
- Survived a Massacre. Bullets streamed by your head, rockets lit up the night sky. All around you the bodies heaped up and the dead heads dropped from the swords that sever. You were struck by a piece of shrapnel and fell senseless in the gory mud, and somehow the victorious army passed you by. When you arose, everyone else was dead.
If given a minute to find a hiding place, you are as difficult to find as a secret door.
- I'd Tell You, but then I'd have to Kill You. You performed a... favor for someone or some... organization. You were... well compensated for it. You... can't really say more.
Someone has rummaged around in your skull. You can always tell when another person has been similarly manipulated, or if they have been replaced by Somebody Else. You can tell when someone is following you by the prickling of the funny scar just above your hairline. You can even tell when the birds are spying on you — but this isn't particularly helpful, because almost all of them are.
- Found the Dark Tower. It caught your eye there in that vast immanent desert beyond the savage jungles north of the sane lands, highlighted for a moment by the sun as you squinted at the monstrous hills it perched on. It was an ugly thing, cyclopean brown stone, squat, not particularly tall — hardly worth the trouble, in the end.
When you die you cannot be resurrected and you will not rise as an undead. You are invisible to all forms of supernatural detection.
- Granted a Wish. You saved a strange, powerful creature from a well, and to repay you he offered to grant any wish you asked of him.
Roll three times on a mutation table. Fucking genies.
- Gambled with a Devil. You didn't know she was a devil at the time, of course, because she had two little top hats she wore over her horns. And she was awfully good at dominoes and damned good at dice.
When you roll a die and your result is a 7, immediately roll another die of the same size and add its value to the total.
- Dropped Out of the Sky. It's a terrible thing to be up in the air. Ducks must feel so when their season starts, or clay pigeons as they fly. In an observation balloon there's nothing to do but pray no one looks up, or that those who do don't have rifles.
You can always retrace your steps perfectly, even in darkness or while panicking, and you can't get lost in place you've had a good view of (say, from a mountaintop or a balloon).
- Took Part in a Doomed Expedition. At the last possible moment, you turned back. Perhaps you begged the rest of them to do so as well. But they would not listen to you, and continued down the paths far from the sun — and they have not been heard from since. G_d-willing when they died they stayed dead.
Once per day, your DM will warn you if you are about to do something truly monumentally stupid.
- Did Not Commit any War Crimes. Really! Not even one. But some people don't understand the difference between auxiliaries, non-combat personnel and civilian advisors, just like they don't understand how hard it is to control a fire once someone else has lit it, or that, come on, if they were dead when you found them it's not like they were using those boots.
You may nick something as a first-level Scavver.
- Lynched a Wizard. After the third child disappeared the townsfolk pressed you into leading them against the tall spire of enchanted stone. They breached the door with felling-axes, slew the monsters inside with pitchforks, and buried the bodies they found with shovels. The Wizard died with his eyes on you, choking out your name.
You suffer from a powerful curse. You are immune to healing spells and your blood glows in the dark. The curse clings to your soul so tightly that you are immune to other permanent magical effects, and you have an additional save against damaging spells which allow one.
- Caught a Big Fish. The size of a house it was, with teeth like a man's arm! Its eyes were like mad portraits and its tail was thunder in the deep! It was thiiiiis big ✋ 😳 🤚!
You are a skilled liar; so skilled that you may replace this Tall Tale with any other of your choice.