Monday, 20 July 2015

Foes of the Wicked City 3: The Wise Folk (AKA 'Rules for Playing Talking Animals')

The Vocabulary Bears from Oglaf. (Warning: usually NSFW)
Anyone who's read many Russian folktales will know that once you get deep enough into the forest, you'll start running into animals who know how to speak. Birds first, usually; then bears, fish, foxes, wolves. They're not unfriendly, but they have limited tolerance for human meddling. The deepwoods belong to them, not to mankind.

Anyone who's read much romantic fantasy will know that it features talking animals all over the damn place. Talking bears, talking cats, talking wolves, talking horses. Spirit animals. Wizard's familiars. They act as guardians and advisers and companions, often truer and more faithful than any human.

Thus: the Wise Folk.

The Wise Folk are the intelligent, talking animals who live deep in the northern taiga. Their gift is rare, and does not breed true, with their offspring only a little more likely to possess it than any other animal of the region. This doesn't much bother them, as they can communicate with other animals of their species just fine, and consider them to possess full sentience: they happily mate with non-Wise animals, and value their non-Wise children just as much as those who have inherited their talent for speech. They rapidly learn any language to which they are exposed; usually they will know the language of the local tribesfolk, and use it to communicate amongst themselves, but if foreign travellers pass through the region then any Wise Folk who eavesdrop upon them will pick up enough of their language to communicate (albeit with some very funny accents) in (20-Intelligence) days.

For the most part, the Wise Folk keep very much to themselves. They live as other animals do, although they tend to be bigger, stronger, and longer-lived; they mostly keep to their own kind, though they do sometimes talk to one another. (The Wise Folk regard each other as honourary members of the same species: a Wise fox will not eat a Wise bird, although he won't hesitate to eat that bird's non-Wise chicks.) They usually pretend to be ordinary animals when around humans, silently listening in on their conversations, the better to thwart whatever designs these irritating bipeds may have on the inhabitants of the deepwoods. From time to time, however, a curious or sentimental Wise beast will take a liking to some human wanderer, and befriend them; sometimes they will even follow them out of the taiga, eager to see the wide world beyond. Such travellers are very, very rare, but not quite unheard-of: most people know that it is at least possible that they might one day encounter, say, a talking bear, even if the vast majority never actually will.

The Wise Folk have heard of the Wicked City, and they do not like what they hear. Something like this has happened before, they say: a war, a tyrant, a city without a name. The people of that city grew so hungry and greedy and desperate that they ate the spring, the summer, and the autumn, one after another, like courses at a banquet: and then only the winter was left, a winter that lasted for thousands of years. Humans have forgotten, but the Wise Folk remember. They have no wish to see it happen again.

If things get much worse, some of them may have to start taking matters into their own paws...

Talking Bears: To play a talking bear, you must have Strength and Constitution 15 or higher, because come on: bears! Game information is as follows:
  • You gain 1d12 HP per level.
  • You gain a to-hit bonus to melee attacks equal to your level. Your huge claws inflict 1d8 damage per attack.
  • You gain a +2 bonus to FORT saves.
  • You have a natural base AC of 13, due to your thick layers of muscle, hide, and fur. If you wear a light harness of leather and metal over this, your AC rises to 16; if you wear heavy metal barding, it rises to 19. You will need someone else to put your armour on and off, though, because you have no opposable thumbs.
  • You can learn any language after listening to it for (20-Intelligence) days. You can also talk to other bears.
  • Your sense of smell is about two thousand times more sensitive than that of a human. You can recognise anything from its scent. You can follow the faintest scent-trails for days.
  • You have no opposable thumbs, and are thus incapable of fine manipulation of objects. You cannot operate machinery, use any form of weapon or shield, or use any tool more complex than a big stick.
  • You are huge, heavy, and enormously strong: capable of smashing light wooden buildings and furniture to splinters, and doing serious damage to heavier ones. A man-sized character could ride you. A swivel gun could be mounted on your back. (You couldn't fire it, though.) You can smash anything that a bear should be able to smash, with no roll required. 
  • You can run twice as fast as a human - fast enough to keep up with a galloping horse - although not for very long.
  • You can carry four times as many objects as a human with the same strength score.
I'm still betting on the bear.
Talking Tiger: To play a talking (Siberian) tiger, you must have Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution 13 or higher. Game information is as follows:
  • You gain 1d10 HP per level.
  • You gain a to-hit bonus to melee attacks equal to your level. Your teeth and claws inflict 1d8 damage per attack.
  • You gain a +2 bonus to REF saves.
  • You have a natural base AC of 12, due to your natural agility and your thick fur. If you wear a light harness of leather and metal over this, your AC rises to 15; if you wear heavy metal barding, it rises to 18. You will need someone else to put your armour on and off, though, because you have no hands.
  • You can learn any language after listening to it for (20-Intelligence) days. You can also talk to other felines (including house cats, who are terrified of you).
  • Your senses of smell and hearing are much more sensitive than those of a human, and are capable of tracking by scent. If any human could possibly smell or hear something, you detect it automatically.
  • You are amazingly stealthy, and never make any sound unless you choose to. If you pounce on an unaware victim, you gain a +4 bonus to hit and inflict an extra 1d6 damage for that attack only. 
  • You have no hands, and are thus incapable of fine manipulation of objects. You cannot operate machinery, use any form of weapon or shield, or use any tool that cannot be gripped in your teeth.
  • You are big enough to ride, although an encumbered or armoured rider will be very tiring for you to carry. (An unarmoured woman would be fine, though.)
  • You can run four times as fast as a human - fast enough to outrun a horse - although only in short bursts.
  • You can carry twice as many objects as a human with the same strength score.
More talking animals to follow...

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