(somewhere I have mapped this out – I grabbed this off TAG’s boards)
I am gearing up to run a Hellfrost campaign (finally) once a friend’s game wraps up (Game of Thrones/Ptolus mashup – its been awesome). But I did want to do something different than just a traditional campaign.
An idea I keep coming back to that I am going to pitch (and have at least one buy-into already) is to run a campaign centered on the Great Swamp. Players run Lizardmen in their quest to smash though Sutmark to get to the Land of Fire. Of course, after getting there their problems would just be starting – but that is another tale (or tail – ha!). Thanks to a ton of ideas in the Gazetter, the Atlas, the Bestiary (and Expansions), and the writeup of the gods, there is easily a campaign of material all right there.
So I wanted to get some feedback on a few Setting Rules and a Lizardman PC race I am considering
- For Semi/Aquatic PCs, combat is Min [Fighting/Shooting/Spellcasting , Swimming]. Thus, Swimming is a key skill. Throwing is not viable underwater (but it is in waist deep or less water). Presume viable weapon (thrusting weapons, appropriate trappings).
- Rituals – as per Horror Companion (page 26) with the following modification
- Removed Power Points
- Extend the Duration: change to: for -2, no penalty for Maintaining the spell. For -4, its not considered Maintained (ie, is not disrupted upon damage).
- Review Lankhmar for other possible mods/Edges
- Sacrifices: Caster wishing to make a sacrifice must be in contact with the victim and make a Knowledge (Religion) roll within one round of death. For each success and raise, he may count the energy from one victim.
- An animal or non-sentient sacrifice provides +1 + Size/2 as a bonus to the caster (so really small creatures do not help, but a huge dinosaur would fuel powerful ritual).
- Sentient creatures provide one-half of the greater of their Spirit or Vigor in bonus.
- The energy from a sacrifice lasts for one casting or round of a Ritual (so could have a different sacrifice for each round), and may stack with additional sacrifices.
- Arcane Magic – In general, Religion is the key form of magic for the lizardman. But if a Player wants Arcane, they can rediscover some of the Gatorman magic (celestial). This will tie into the Stelae. Work with the player – they will have some advancements that are better to take in creation but may be dormant until the recovery of arcane magic. Make it up to them with the Stelae and possible additional Powers.
- Glory – need to think about this one. From their Race’s point of view they are doing good. I may let Glory work as is. Any Glory obtained/lost is from the lizardman race perspective
Overall the main goal is to make fighting in the swamp relatively easy for the PCs. They have incentive to raise their swimming as it will increase their Pace in the swamp as well. I also wanted to capture the sacrifice aspect. Yes, it will be a bit bloody – but I have very mature immature players so this will make for an interesting dynamic.
Finally, here is what I came up with for Sins for priests/paladins of Ssslak
- Minor: Harming a Thunderlizard in self defense. Showing kindness to a slave. Treating any non-Lizardman as an equal
- Major: Harming a Thunderlizard (not self defense). Sparing the life of Gatorman unless make them a slave. Not sacrificing a sentient being to Ssslak once a month. Not deposing a weak Chieftain (if the chieftain fails in some way = weak)
- Mortal: Disciple – if allow velociraptor mount to Die. Must make pilgrimage to the Resplendent Tyrant Throne in Slik’al’ssla once every 5 years
As my ideas for Exodus evolve, I have been looking to Toltec and Aztec history/mythology. These two work well together as one came from the other. What little is known about the Toltecs (which intertwines with the Mayans) is known through Aztec history. This ties will with the Gatorman/Lizardman relationship.
This stills needs some refinement, but wrote up the following. It is from the point of view of a Loremaster that has access to a lizardman priest (but not of Ssslak) that was found outside of the Great Swamp. It weaves in the history from the the Gazetter, Atlas, and Matters of Faith (though I need to go through them again, add details, correct any inconsistencies) and adds Toltec/Aztec flavoring (the reason for the sacrifices is from Aztec – basically their gods sacrificed themselves to give man life and allow him to thrive – thus humans need to sacrifice to gives the gods strength to protect them).
Quetzal, the Feathered Serpent, is the Father of all the reptilians. One of his aspects is wind so that he can fly about to keep tabs on his children. He also sired the gods to look over his creation. He kept the aspect of knowledge and wisdom, to help guide all his people over time.
Early on, it was the Gatormen that showed ambition and a desire to live beyond just being an animal. The gods nurtured them, giving them culture and civilization. The children of the gods, Quetzal’s grandchildren, took a liking to the Lizardmen. Since the lizardmen did not have the driving desire that the Gatormen did, the did little more than acknowledge the gods. As such, neither they nor the Children (as they came to be called) grew much beyond their long-time existence.
As the Gatormen grew in power, they and the gods treated all others as children. Soon, there was not much distinction between treating other races as children and other races as slaves. Quetzal was saddened to see some his mortal children treated as such. But he nurtured where he could, for he foresaw a time when the Gatormen would fall and the Lizardmen would have their chance to rise.
Then came the Qutelxztl, the Trying Times. The priest could not explain exactly what it was and it has lost its meaning as even our magic could not decipher the word. The Gatorman empire, which supposedly spanned Rassilon and even Al-Shirkuh was under terrible duress. Sarkeb, the god of war and vengeance, rose in prominence as the Gatormen sought to save all they had built. As the empire slipped into decline, Sarkeb blamed the weakness of the gatormen on the other gods. Cursing their names, he devoured them one by one. As he grew in power, Quetzal hid the Children away from Sarkeb. As the flesh of the Gatormen gods was torn and ripped by Sarkeb’s colossal teeth, so the knowledge they imparted to the Gatormen was wiped from existence, lost forever. Today, the gatormen remember no god except Sarkeb, not even Quetzal. Sarkeb, flush with the power of the souls of the gods, demanded that his mortal followers follow suit. As the Empire weakened more and more were sacrificed upon his alters. In hindsight, it was much like a reed boat with too large of a hole – no amount of souls would fill it.
As their knowledge was lost, the Gatormen relied more and more upon the Lizardmen. While they were no where near as advanced as the Gatormen had been, they still kept to their hidden gods and Quetzal still smiled up them. They kept the day to day aspects of the Empire running. But both the Children and the Lizardmen were still weak. They needed a god that could challenge Sarkeb.
Amongst the Children Ssslak stepped forward to take on the mantle [perhaps an aspect of Tiw?]. This did not surprise Quetzal. But all knew he could not fight Ssslak alone. The Children dare not reveal themselves least Sarkeb devour them all. They needed a strong god to directly war against Sarkeb. After much debate about worship options to strengthen him, reluctantly Quetzal imparted the ways that Sarkeb strengthened himself through absorbing the other gods. He tempered this with methods that Ssslak could not fully devour other Children’s souls, but for them to join his. But as the gods sacrifice to strengthen Ssslak, mortal followers must sacrifice to keep the absorbed gods aspects strong, least Ssslak follow the same path as Sarkeb.
Huitzilo [another aspect of Tiw?] sacrificed to lend his strength and tactics of war to Ssslak. Xipe [an aspect of Eostre?] provided her influence over the Thunderlizards. Chalchi sacrificed himself to give the power of the waterways. Unexpectantly, Tezcatli, the god of darkness and vengeance [aspects of Niht? Darger?] sacrificed himself. At first the other gods were glad to be rid of him as he was a constant thorn in their sides. But Quetzal worried at the implications of this. Ssslak would have hard decisions to make in his battles to free the Lizardmen, and having Tezcaltli’s dark influence could prove disastrous.
Flush with power, the Lizardmen made their move. The Gatorman empire was a rotted hut and they brutally kicked the door in. As Ssslak grew stronger in the Purge, the remainder of the Children grew dissatisfied with the traditional offerings and sacrifices of animals and wealth. All the Children saw the power that fueled Ssslak and his aspects obtained through the sacrifice of souls. All the Lizardmen gods grew strong on the blood of the Gatormen.
But over time, there were only so many people to go around. Inevitably, the strongest god got the most attention. However, this weakening of the other gods had its problems. Huehuet, the god of fire seems to have withheld his fiery hand from the bonfires. Tonati, the goddess of the sun, can barely push the sun through the sky these days. It is thought they have left the Great Swamp to have more influence over their reptilian brethren to the south, the so called Land of Fire.
Now Ssslak has a living presence in the Swamp – the Tyrant Lizard King. He seeks to take his people south. There, with all his worshipers among him, he seeks to absorb these gods of fire, heat, and sun so that the Lizardmen will not fear the cold any more.
At the end of this tale, I asked a bit more about Ssslak. Specifically, if he was a child of one of the original gods, from whom did he come? He is Sarkeb’s son – an age old parable. I asked him why he was found outside of the Great Swamp. He said, with much resignation, that Ssslak seeks to ascend to be the only god of the reptiles and wants the knowledge of all others lost. He dare not raise a hand against a priest of the Grandfather, so he worked to remove him from day to day life.