There are old enemies in Hybrasil, and new threats. The Torch Paladins are as proud and cruel today as they ever were before they were forced at lancepoint to bend the knee. From the south the Hobgoblin Empire swallows the island up, mile by mile, town by town. In the north the immortal Dimitar, the ruler of planet Xater and the so-called "Space Hitler", is once more preparing to invade the realms of flesh and blood. Even the lands of the dead are not peaceful, as the Red Lady and the Raven Queen squabble over souls, and in doing so allow the Ghoul and the Lich to slink back through the Gates of Life.
But you don't care about that, of course. You don't even know who any of those people or places are; you weren't in my Pathfinder game, you haven't met any of these characters, and you aren't one of the players who rewrote the history of this world by "discovering" the "scepter" of the "goblin-king of old" (unless you were, in which case: Hello. Tell Rellek's player he still owes me $5 from the last Creator Clash). You're here for the first time. I can hear you saying to yourself "Michael, what is all this shit?"
Here, read a little farther and I'll tell you.
|A map of a section of the eastern coast of Hybrasil. Marked on it are three of its largest cities.|
Hybrasil is a large island (think more like Australia than Britain) a great distance to the south and west of the continent of Oriens. Oriens is the home of the tallfolk; elfs, dwarves, humans and &c. Hybrasil is the home of goblinoids. Some centuries ago, Oriens attempted a major colonization effort in Hybrasil. This effort was largely a failure, but it did do enough damage to the political fabric of the island to allow its perennial lower-classes to rise in a revolution.
The grimy port-town that was the center of the colonization effort, Orlivka, now serves as the capital of the Free Goblin Kingdoms; "free" in that the ogres who once ruled the region were all hanged, "goblin" in that a lot of its peoples are goblins, "kingdoms" in that they liked the sound of that word (their political structure is more like a palace economy with dozens of minor outlying counties). To the west is Hark, a gnomic (i.e. built by gnomes) tiered city on the slope of a mountain in the Dry Court range. To the south is Laetia, a city built in an enormous swamp and inhabited mostly by various kinds of lizard.
Hybrasil and Oriens are landmasses on a plane also called "Oriens", because all the plane-hopping wizards live on that continent. The plane of Oriens is unique in that it is closely orbited by seven other "planets" (i.e. the diminutive of "plane").
Hold a prism up to sunlight, and observe the colors on the wall: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. In your world perhaps this happens because of "frequencies" of "photons" or something. On this plane, this happens because of the influence of the Planets.
- Red Planet, with red suns hanging low over a red desert, rusted machines and scattered wheels of bad purpose. Exhaustion.
- Orange Planet, where there is labor, sweat, the drive to build. Purpose.
- Yellow Planet, incomprehensible to humans, a place of sickening wrath. Fury.
- Green Planet, primeval forest with predators in every shadow. gnomes love this place. Panic.
- Blue Planet, the color of the sky and no earth beneath your feet, falling into a gathering storm forever. Awe.
- Indigo Planet, a whispery world, dark tarns, long shadows. He who waits for dawn here waits for all time. Terror.
- Violet Planet, great stone halls, tattered hangings, golden ornaments. Avarice.
Fairies come from the Planets. Gnomes live there too, but they come back sometimes. It's more of a vacation than an exile.
The smallfolk, sometimes called "goblins" or "goblinoids", are native to the land of Hybrasil. Though as a whole they tend short, the ogres are some of the largest intelligent creatures in the world. Similarly, while the tallfolk of Hybrasil (sometimes called "humanoids") are generally big, the term includes halflings, who are no larger than a hobgoblin. Humans are larger and sturdier than almost all other races, and far more numerous than ogres. Most racial features you may have seen in other RPG worlds do not breed "true" in Hybrasil and Oriens, and you may encounter people with an elfen appearance but a human's strength, or an orcish face but a goblin's fear of sunlight.
But the tallfolk and smallfolk are not the only kind of people. The veil between worlds is thin in Hybrasil, and you will encounter many who have been touched by other planes and planets. "Planetouched", "fey" and "alien" are common words for these people. Any character can be a goblinoid or a humanoid, but your highest and lowest stat (as rolled at character creation) also give you options to be one of these planetouched.
Smallfolk (any stats)
The goblins, hobgoblins, orcs and bugbears. The smallfolk are short, wiry and covered in dense orange fur. "Race", as Hybrasilians understand it, is mostly a function of size. Goblins may be only a little over one meter high, while each step above them adds 30 or 40 centimeters. Pureblooded ogres easily reach 3 meters and 300 kilograms (ogres are not PC options).
Strength: Choose or roll 1d4
- Tiny. You can slip into any space a fox could.
- Marcher. +2 inventory slots.
- Precise. You can balance on anything that can bear your weight.
- Gnawing Animal. Chew through a branch or a wooden door in ten minutes. Lost teeth are replaced in a month.
Weakness: Choose or roll 1d4
- Cringing. Save vs. obedience when commanded.
- Mook. Afraid of being alone.
- Macho. Save vs. blind rage when insulted.
- Brutal. Save to leave a fight before at least one casualty.
Tallfolk (any stats)
The humans, elfs, dwarves and halflings. The tallfolk are tall, sturdy and largely hairless. "Race", as those from Oriens understand it, is extremely complicated. The smallfolk don't care. Humans may be two meters tall, goliaths and elfs and dwarfs a head shorter than men, and halflings are no bigger than a child.
Strength: Choose or roll 1d4
- Educated. Extra skill.
- Dark-Eyed Beauty. See by starlight. +1 reaction.
- Iron Stomach. Identify potions and poisons with a little nip, no negative consequences.
- Vermin's Foe. +2 to-hit with a thrown object.
Weakness: Choose or roll 1d4
- Protean. -4 to saves vs. mutation or transformation.
- Delicate. Save vs. disgust when apologizing or interacting with filth.
- Greedy. Save vs. blind rage when a non-party member has treasure that ought to be yours.
- Foreign. -1 to reactions.
- Frog (Strength highest)
Damp and bowlegged, green and a touch slimy, inveterate explorers. Despite cruel stereotypes frog-people do not subsist mostly on bugs.
Strength: Your thick limbs let you jump 30' horizontally or 10' vertically from standing. You can hold your breath for 10 minutes, and can move through water as easily as on land.
Weakness: You gain 1 slot of torpor every day, plus 1 every 12 hours in an arid environment. 1 slot of torpor is removed when you bathe your entire body in fresh water for half an hour. If your inventory fills with torpor, you are mostly unresponsive, cannot participate in combat, and travel at 1/6th speed.
- Strawman (Strength lowest)
Mostly harmless. Perhaps literally an animated scarecrow, but more likely a figure molded from dreamstuff in the Great Unconscious (not that strawmen have any concept of the metaphysics involved).
Strength: You are totally immune to falling damage or any other form of massive impact. You can crumple into a pile of clothes at-will and reform yourself at any time. Birds are terrified of you.
Weakness: You are a creature of artifice, not a child of nature. You must wear old gloves to touch the world, and secondhand boots to walk around. Without them you cannot interact with the world. Sources of fire deal maximum damage to you, and you become limp and powerless in water.
- Beetle (Constitution highest)
Their flesh is rust-colored and darkly banded, like an enormous grub. This is one of the many reasons they are almost never seen unarmored.
Strength: You start with a suit of samurai armor (medium), a tachi (heavy) and a wakizashi (medium, wisdom-based). You can sleep comfortably in your armor, and if your gear is lost or damaged you can replace it in a week or repair it in 8 hours.
Weakness: You may not ignore an honorable demand for a duel, and when you meet another beetle you must duel them.
- Gnome (Constitution lowest)
Very wee. Size of a toddler, with the wrinkly face of an old man. Centuries ago this was their land, before they were forced to retreat beyond the Gates. Gnomes like on other planets now — the Green, mostly — but they've been known to come back.
Strength: You can fit anywhere a child could hide, and can perfectly disguise yourself as a boring inanimate object while holding your breath.
Weakness: The touch of iron weapons (not iron tools, not bronze or stone weapons) burn you for double damage. Save to miss an opportunity to scare the shit out of an innocent.
- Serpent (Dexterity highest)
Lithe bodies, skin dry and cold to the touch. Held in superstitious horror for their glowing eyes. Capable of great evil.
Strength: Non-serpents cannot break eye contact with you on their own. While maintaining eye contact, you may force someone to make a save every round or walk 10' closer to you, even if this takes them into danger or walks them off a cliff. Once in grappling range you may force someone to save or stand rigid and helpless.
Weakness: You are loathed. Folk consider your gaze assault, whether or not you try to hypnotize them, so you must keep your eyes downcast in towns. Few temples permit you entrance.
- Panda (Dexterity lowest)
Fuzzy and round. For some reason I can't grasp, people just love to have pandas around. I say: let 'em die. This is Michael talking, out-of-character. I do not like pandas.
Strength: You are characterized by your bold black-and-white coat and rotund body, which people find endearing. These give you +2 AC and +2 HP.
Weakness: All Panda-people are born with a crippling addiction to panacea, a substance refined on a different planet and imported at great expense by Panda cartels. For each day you do not consume at least one dose of panacea, you gain a cumulative -1 to all d20 rolls. After 3 weeks without panacea or medical attention, you die.
- Worker (Intelligence highest)
The female of the species. Tiny black eyes, long black nails, black-and-yellow wool. A long thick tail ends in a sawtoothed spike. Every worker is a harried emcel.
Strength: You can gain a slot of exhaustion to work like ten men for an hour. Your blood is bitter black poison; anyone who bites you takes as much damage as they deal. You can viciously sting for 2d8 damage, taking [highest] yourself as you use your own blood as venom.
Weakness: Your rations must be syrup and liquor. Save when insulted or fly into a destructive rage.
- Drone (Intelligence lowest)
The male of the species. Enormous black eyes, long black nails, black-and-yellow wool. A long thick tail ends in a tuft of yellow hair that might resemble a spike, if the light is bad. Every drone is a hopeless romantic.
Strength: You have a thick fluffy coat and a good heart, which give you resistance to fire, cold, weather and magic. Anyone you're holding on to has the same resistance.
Weakness: Your rations must be syrup and liquor. Save when you see beauty or fall hopelessly in love, again.
- Owl (Wisdom highest)
Sons of fear, daughters of the night. They appear like a normal person, except for their terrible shadows. The lives of owls are short and brutal; "You'll never go far, but you'll make a lot of people come up short".
Strength: See by starlight, and up to 10x zoom. Your shadow is that of a great bird. When not in sunlight you may draw the shadow up over yourself and fly, silently, faster than a man can run. Your flight is steady enough to move down a 10' hallway without touching walls or floor, but you cannot hover, and you need a 10' square to turn 90°.
Weakness: You are completely blind in sunlight, and must wear a blindfold or hood to protect your eyes. You must save to make any noise other than a wordless scream.
- Peevish Lizard (Wisdom lowest)
Chunky, scaled, lazy. The lizards hate to do anything that doesn't involve basking in a warm pond, but that lifestyle can get expensive. This is the great injustice of the world.
Strength: Your jaws cannot be unfastened from something without the aid of a metal crowbar. You can eat a ration to heal 1 HP, and are immune to fire.
Weakness: You eat and sleep so rarely that you require neither while on an adventure. Instead, you must regulate your body temperature. You gain 1 slot of torpor every day, plus 1 every 12 hours in a cold environment. 1 slot of torpor is removed when you bask in a large fire or on a rock in direct sunlight for 6 hours. If your inventory fills with torpor, you are mostly unresponsive, cannot participate in combat, and travel at 1/6th normal speed.
Unicorn (Xharisma highest)
Generations have lived and died
in the shadow of the unicorn.
Schools of prestige and power have been founded,
dedicated to the hunt.
Kingdoms have burnt forests to find it.
Fortunes have been reduced to nothing.
Still, they hunt the Unicorn.
Strength: You have a 2' horn sticking out of your head. It is as sharp as a medium sword, and cannot break or be removed against your will. You can take 1d6 points of stat injuries for one the following magical effects, applied with a touch of your horn:
- Heal someone for HP equal to stats lost
- Damage an undead for HD equal to stats lost
- Burst a lock, bend bars or shatter a chain
- Cure a malady, such as blindness or paralysis
- Undo a curse or hex
- Produce brilliant light from your horn until you sleep
Beautiful, doomed. Legends tell of swan-maidens, and the vengeful princes that love them, and the foolish humans that try to enslave them by stealing their coat-of-feathers — or of young men cursed to spend half their lives as birds, and the rest of their lives as cripples.
Strength: You own a great coat of white feathers. Pulled completely around you it turns you into an enormous swan. Worn halfway on and halfway off, and it transforms you into an angelic being with thunderous wings.
Weakness: Disaster is waiting for every swan, at the end of the line. You have disadvantage on avoiding your Disaster and its sources deal double damage to you. Roll or choose:
- long falls
- legs failing you
- serial killer
- poisoned by mistake or lack of care
- burning building
- horns of a wild beast
Gods of Hybrasil
The native gods are simple and powerful: the Sun, the Moon, the Rain, the Sea and Winter. The invaders brought others: a whole host of gods and goddesses of Magic, Chaos, Law and the like. The two pantheons are uncomfortable with each other, but open war has never broken out.
The most adventurer-relevant deities are as follows:
Wee JasThe powers of Vanity, Law, Arcana, DeathThe Witch-Goddess, the Red Lady Mother of Magicians, Watcher of the Well, the Gate of Death, Abomination of Necromancers, the Dark-Eyed LadyDemeanour: Haughty, diligent, grasping, afraid, conspiratorial, far-seeingSymbols: Red skull on a red field, a fireball, an eye with red kohl, a tall human woman in dark clothes and red jewelry, a broken hourglass, a wishing wellCommon Worshipers: Wizards, ghoul-hunters, those who perform burials, communist necromancers (the ones who want free undead labor), hagsWhy do people suffer? They have forgotten their place and themselves, and have struggled against the world. Or they're demons or necromancers: FUCK those guysBan: Stealing the souls of the dead, which are her property. Raising mindless undead and allowing them to walk unchecked, which is disgusting to her. Raising intelligent undead, which are a blasphemy. Opening connections between between mortal realms and the worlds of the dead.Wrath: Real Old Testament rains-of-fire.Sacrament: Proper burial of the dead and maintenance of tombs. Destruction of the lich and the demon. The closing of portals, the sewing-up of rents in the veil.Blessing: A taste of a single drop from her well of power, which makes mortals into mages.
ClawThe powers of Law, Punishment, SubmissionThe Torch of Heaven, our Overseer, Balancer of the Pans, President-9th-Class of Hell, King of the Burning TimesDemeanour: Proud, literal, humorless, bureaucratic, patronizing, protectiveSymbols: Fiery sword, crossed torch and shovel, black burn over the eye, locks, barbed chains, three cutsCommon Worshipers: Devils, servants of devils, paladins, pirate huntersWhy do people suffer? All planes and all life exist at the sufferance of the Absolute, who is oddly permissive of the sins of intelligent life.Ban: Defying the laws of legitimate authorities. Opening portals. Anarchy.Wrath: A sharp sword in the hands of a Torch PaladinSacrament: None.Blessing: Grit and fortitude, given to some and withheld from others unfairly.
NeathThe powers of Sorcery, Knowledge, DisasterThe All-Seeing Eye, the Troubled God, the Single Twin, the Dark Master, the Bright Master, the Mystery of Faith, Great Fearsome OneDemeanour: Changeable, generous, paranoid, ruining, unpredictableSymbols: Pyramid with eye and rays, face split in two halves of black and white, glass sphere, black and white stripes, magical explosionsCommon Worshipers: Mages, scholars, apocalyptic cultists, spells, students, magical creaturesWhy do people suffer? There is no suffering, but sometimes people choose the long, arduous path of mundanity, foolishly believing this to be "better" or "more character-building" in some way. Why struggle when you could wave your hand and get what you want?Ban: MundanityWrath: Dreams of brain-melting chaos, when he's mad at an individual. Patches of dead magic, when he punished a whole region.Sacrament: Any great ritual of magic. Its purpose is inconsequential: the Greatness of the Work is what Neath adores.Blessing: Power and knowledge — the good kind, the kind that gets you in trouble.