Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Foes of the Wicked City 5: The Children of the Pines (Character class)

trees just look amazing covered in snow.

Left alone for long enough, pine trees can easily grow to be over 150 feet tall. Take a look at that photo: a landscape of giant pines is one in which anything human-scale is going to feel like an insect, crawling between the feet of giants. Out in the deep taiga, where the pines go on forever in all directions and tower a hundred feet above your head and are so huge and so heavy that any one of them would crush you to jelly if it fell on you, it's natural to not really feel entirely comfortable. In the giant pinewoods, no human traveller can ever truly feel at home. 

These woods are inhabited by the Children of the Pines: a strange race of silent, snow-faced men and women who creak softly when they move, and bleed sweep sap instead of blood. Their legends claim that their earliest ancestors were a band of siblings, three brothers and three sisters, driven from their homes by a cruel queen who hated them for their great beauty; they wandered north until they came to the pinewoods, where the spirits of the pines saw them, and fell in love, and took them as their husbands and their wives. Now their descendants dwell amongst the conifers, living in hide tents or log cabins between the great trees, or in precarious-seeming treehouses raised fifty or sixty or seventy feet above the forest floor. They are skilled hunters, great wood-carvers, and magnificent climbers. They never seem to feel the cold.

Evenk shamaness heating her drum over fire. Photo by A. Slapins, 1975  Heating the drum before use was necessary because the heat tightened the drum skin and changed its pitch. Basically, the shaman used the fire for tuning his/her drum.
A Child of the Pines, somewhere in the deep taiga.
Thematically, the Children of the Pines are the counterpoint to the Children of the Sun. Just as the Children of the Sun are emanations of the southern deserts, and the primarily monotheistic religions which flourish there, so the Children of the Pines emerge from the boreal wildernesses of the north, where the animistic spirit-religions hold sway. The Children of the Sun know that this world is not their true home; they come from something higher and purer, and insist on holding the world to the same standards, driving always towards perfection. The Children of the Pines accept that the world is just the world: they live in it, but they have no special longing to change it for the better. The Children of the Sun live by truth and righteousness. The Children of the Pines just... live.

They seldom emerge from their pinewoods, save when the great spirits of the north lay some task upon them, or when they commit some crime amongst their own people that leads to them being driven forth into the world outside. They are regarded with superstitious dread by the inhabitants of the taiga, who view them as being closer to spirits than mortals; if some band of nomads or hunters chance across one, they will treat them with extreme caution and courtesy, while one of them runs off to fetch a shaman who will know how to deal safely with such an unusual visitor. Further south, in the steppe or the desert, they are mere curiosities, freakish beings far from home. They grow uneasy in open spaces. They will never feel comfortable without a pine canopy above their heads.

A few years back, one of the Greater Ministers of the Wicked City sent a team of thieves to the land of the Children, to steal the bones of one of their founder-heroines for use in some deranged necromantic rite. The bones were stolen, alright, even if most of the thieves never made it out of the forests alive; but no sooner did she have them in her hands than orders arrived from Head Office, stating that they were to be sent upstairs at once. Neither the bones nor the messenger they were sent with ever returned; but, since then, a number of the Children of the Pines have been troubled by strange dreams in which their ancestress appears to them, weeping, chained by her ankle to the roof of some immense tower. 'Free me!' she implores them. 'Bring me home to the pinewoods! This tower is no place for the dead...'

And so they shoulder their bows, these snow-faced, sap-blooded dreamers, and they climb onto the backs of their reindeer mounts and set off on the long, long journey to the Wicked City. They will not rest until her bones lie once more in her tomb of carven pinewood, deep amidst the snows of the north.


Blood of Sweet Sap, Body of Snow: You can play a Child of the Pines, if you wish, although everyone else is likely to find you pretty weird whenever you're not out in the taiga. Game information is as follows:
  • You must have Constitution and Wisdom 12 or higher.
  • You are proficient with simple weapons, with bows, and with armour no heavier than heavy furs (+3 AC). You are not proficient with shields. 
  • You gain a bonus to all your to-hit rolls equal to half your level, rounded up.
  • You gain 1d6 HP per level.
  • You aren't immune to the cold, but your cold tolerance is very high: you could sleep outdoors in a blizzard and only be moderately uncomfortable. Any cold damage you take is halved, rounding any fractions down.
  • Only half your nourishment comes from food; the other half comes from photosynthesis. On the plus side, this means you only need half as much food as other people. On the minus side, it means that if you're deprived of sunlight for too long you'll feel weak and listless, regardless of how much food you eat. Being completely deprived of sunlight for weeks on end will make you very, very ill. 
  • When cut, you bleed thick, sweet sap, which rapidly hardens into resin and seals the wound. Effects that cause continual damage from bleeding will not affect you. Your sap also has extremely potent antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used for sealing other people's wounds as easily as your own. By cutting yourself and bleeding 1 HP worth of sap into someone else's open wounds, you can heal them for 1 HP. You can do this as many times as they have wounds to treat. For obvious reasons, this doesn't work on other Children of the Pines.
  • You are closely attuned to the spirit world. You can automatically enter a trance-state at will just by meditating for 2d10 minutes, and your percentage chance of identifying evil spirits is equal to three times your combined Intelligence and Wisdom score.
  • You are an absolutely amazing climber. If something could possibly be climbed by a human, then you can climb it, no rolls required. You also have incredible natural balance, and can walk across branches, tightropes, and so on without needing to worry about falling unless you are actually pushed.
  • You can talk to trees, by making weird creaking noises at them and then listening to the creaking noises they make in return. Trees are much more aware of their surroundings than they like to let on, but their awareness is all vibrational; they can tell a man from a horse by the vibrations of their tread on the earth, and tell a shout from a whisper by the vibrations they leave in the air, but visual details like colour mean nothing to them. Their language is also very, very slow, requiring a whole minute to communicate a single word. Each species also has its own dialect: you are fluent in the language of the coniferous trees, but the deciduous speech confuses you, taking twice as long to comprehend and imposing a 30% chance of misunderstanding on each communication. 
  • You smell of pine resin. This is far cooler than smelling of sweat like everyone else, but it does make you rather easy to track by scent whenever you're not in a wood! 
Child of the Pines Summary Table

Level
Hit Points
To Hit Bonus
Fortitude save (FORT)
Reflex save (REF)
Willpower save (WILL)
1
1d6
+1
14
14
14
2
2d6
+1
13
13
13
3
3d6
+2
12
12
12
4
4d6
+2
11
11
11
5
5d6
+3
10
10
10
6
6d6
+3
9
9
9
7
7d6
+4
8
8
8
8
8d6
+4
7
7
7
9
9d6
+5
6
6
6
10
10d6
+5
5
5
5

Starting equipment: Animal hide clothing (+2 AC), spear (1d6 damage), longbow (1d8 damage), traps and snares for animals, tame reindeer for riding (replaces normal riding horse), set of wood-carving knives, 2d6 decorative amulets and trinkets carved from pinewood, pine-fresh scent, 1d6x10 sp.

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