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Level Up (A5E) (+) Project Chronicle: Regions and Concepts

GuyBoy

Adventurer
As always, this is well-considered and interesting.

Acain works well as a high language, and it also resonates with English speakers with both “arcane” and “archaic”, thereby subtly assisting suspension of disbelief for players. It would work well inscribed in sunken ruins (and spider-haunted ones!). As the language of sorcery, it would carry a faintly sinister vibe too.

The whole 1066 language thing is a fascinating case study. The dichotomy between “food words” such as pork/pig, beef/cow was largely due to whether one did the hard work raising them (ie Anglo-Saxon) or the easier work of eating them (Norman French). It was similar with what we now consider swear words describing sexual functions or parts of the human body; words like f**k and c**t weren’t considered swearing till after 1066, when language became very class ridden.
Even the French word for a castle keep - donjon - gave rise to the English word dungeon, as it was rarely good news for Anglo-Saxon peasants to be taken in to the lord’s donjon after 1066.
The fact that drinking wine is often considered “classier” than drinking beer, has roots in the preferred tastes of Normans v Saxons.

I’m probably digressing, but power assumptions of languages can be an interesting tool in your campaign.
 

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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I did also wanna touch on the idea of Gender-Language, rather than Gendered Language.

There are a handful of cultures in the world where men and women literally speak different languages. They both have to learn their own language -and- the language of the other in order to communicate, but only speak their own... And then the idea of Genderfluid or Nonconforming people mixing and matching between the two languages without hesitation, qualm, or stigma.
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
Nice concept. This would add even more of a positive vibe to your setting. I’d support the idea.

Regarding Thief’s Cant as a separate language. Go with it if you like it. My only thought is that a universal Cant, as opposed to variations on the prevalent language that allow “hidden” communication, is hard to reconcile.
I come from the East End of London, and my maternal grandmother’s family were....dodgy. They were also Cockneys and spoke regularly in rhyming slang, which originated as a form of thief’s cant to confuse authority. It also served to confirm a cultural identity.
Similarly, my wife is from a Roma/traveller background and there are a number of words and phrases that speak more to other Roma than they do to gorgers ( non Roma). More simply, my own username on this site is a fairly common addition of Boy to a husband’s name.

In neither case, am I suggesting that either Cockneys or Roma are more likely to engage in illegal activity ( I would be attacking my own, or my wife’s heritage if I did), but that two unique variants on the base language provide interesting clues to Thief’s Cant.

Your world continues to enthrall and amaze.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
The hope is to do multiple thieves cants that are as regional as everything else. The Satru language isn't meant to be Roma, either. The name comes from Šatrovački, which is a Serbo-Croatian "Pig Latin" style thief's cant. It mostly involves swapping the first and last syllable of a word. Which is why it's tied to Gresia, which is meant to be a Caucasus style of culture, at least in theory.

 

Faolyn

Hero
I had my husband look over it all and he got a bit confused about the religions. The idea is that people worship the Six and the Beast out of fear of the danger those deities pose, not out of love or affection, which the Flower gets -some- of. But the different religious groups I've outlined, so far, don't really represent that well because I just use the term "Worship" in the writeups.
Use supplicate or appease instead.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Il'sha-ah
City of the Ancients

Built beyond the Age of Dreaming Il'sha-ah has always stood at the Cobra's Hood, the delta of the great river of Annam, of Myr, of Ancais. It's fortunes and fate have waxed and waned across time, and it has seen the world as center of trade, temple city, city of wisdom, and more countless times. But during the Sword Age, it became the capital of Annam, and has remained so, since.

From it's palace, the Phaoris rules over the living and the dead of Annam, advised by those who ruled, before, and those who serve. It's six pyramids, dedicated to the seventh, the Palace, each house the Phaori-Tep, the past which breathes.

Seek Il'sha-ah for Wisdom, for History, and for Wealth... But leave it's beauty behind, lest you find yourself joining the Phaori-Tep, trapped in the past.

-The Chronicler-

Just starting in on Annam... Things are going slow because my brother is injured and we're taking care of him, here.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Annam1.png
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Oof... Over a week between pages. Sorry, all! Taking care of my brother and the house without his help has been a lot.

Here's more about the city of Il'sha-ah and Annam in general!

Annam2.png
 



Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
So as I mentioned in another thread: Rituals. I've already been including some hints at them in the classes (Clerics of the Order get a unique sacrifice option to try and get divine intervention, Blood of Ages Sorcerers who are sacrificed unleash terrible power) but there's gonna be more to it, than that.

I want common spellcasting to be "Vulgar Magic". The magic of peasants and weaklings compared to -true- magic in the form of powerful and ancient rituals.

Some of them will be your ridiculous over the top "Unleash C'thulhu" type magic. Some of it will be more Legendary Magic, like a ritual Betrayal in which an article of clothing, once gifted, becomes the focus of a ritual that causes the wearer to burst into flames, even if the wrong person puts on the cloak.

How about a Ritual that creates a massive low-grade Fear Effect across an entire community, so that anyone living there is constantly Frightened (As the condition) to make them easier to control, or curse them for their actions. To maintain the effect you've gotta go on a Serial Killer style spree of ritualistic murders to recharge the magic and keep everyone scared once every decade.

The idea is to create not only adventure defining magic (Chasing down the Serial Killer to break the curse on the town, stopping the Betrayer from killing the King with a gift of flame) but also moment-defining magic. Like a ritual to empower a small number of people with a bond of power for a short time that makes them all stronger so long as they work together, above and beyond anything someone could do with spellcasting ability.

Again, I'm sorry I haven't been writing. But within the next few days I should be back on the horse since my brother is getting back to work.
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
Pleased to hear that things are getting better for your brother.

I really like the idea of “smaller” everyday magic, practised by adventurers, as well as hedge magic practised by local wise folk. This then contrasting with the deeper, and usually darker, great sorcery of mighty wizards, often fuelled by sacrifice and death. Very Xaltotun of Acheron!

The burning cloak is great, as is the aura of fright, fuelled by periodic serial murders. So many adventure hooks as well as atmosphere.

Other possible ideas to chew on:
Restoring the “life” of a long-dead and terrible sorcerer ( the Xaltotun or Thugra Khotan scenario)

An item that has great power or desirability, but is also key to imprisoning a terrible evil and someone has taken it (the Devil in Iron scenario)

A ritual to bring a form of Fimbulwinter to a given area, allowing the things that walked the land when it was covered by ice to stalk again (a Wendigo style scenario?)

Ritual to summon a terrible sea beast to destroy the commerce of a maritime city, thereby creating a revolution to benefit a faction within the city, but putting the toothpaste back in the tube proves difficult!

Keep up the awesome work.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
List of Core Ritual Examples:

1: Betrayal Ritual. Someone the target trusts must -knowingly- give them the item that will destroy them in an act of betrayal. The ritual can then be completed and whoever is wearing it, or the next person to wear it, bursts into flame taking 10d10 fire damage (No save), make a Wisdom Save or be frightened, and then take continuing 1d6 fire damage until the fire is out or the article is removed. Once the wearer is dead, or the fire is out, the ritual ends.

2: Terror Ritual. Anyone in the area must make a Wisdom save after a long rest to avoid falling under the effects. Those afflicted have disadvantage to Insight and Perception checks and must make a Wisdom Save any time they're exposed to monsters, violence, or other highly stressful situations or become Frightened for 1 minute. Once the Frightened Condition ends, make an additional Wisdom save or become Stressed. This effect lasts for 10 years, but anyone who performs 3 Ritual Murders within that time, or 1 Ritual Sacrifice, can reset the duration. The Sacrifice can only be performed in the place the ritual was initially cast. The Ritual Murders can happen anywhere within the area of effect.

3: Avatar Ritual. The ritual master becomes directly empowered by their god, growing to Huge size. They gain a bonus to AC and may cast one Cleric cantrip, whether they hold the knowledge of it or not, every turn as a bonus action. Any enemy of their faith must make a Wisdom save or be frightened for 1 minute on seeing them. Forgoing the use of their Bonus Action or Movement the Avatar can focus their attention on a single entity to attempt to Smite it. Doing so forces a Constitution Save to avoid bursting into flames, rotting, or falling into Madness. The target takes 10d10 Fire, Necrotic, or Psychic damage and is stunned for 1 round. For the duration the Avatar takes on physical aspects of their deity and may fly for up to 1 total minute. This effect lasts for 3 hours or until the Avatar is slain. If any member of the Ritual is not a true believer the ritual fails, and the Ritual Master knows who caused it.

4: Binding of Power Ritual. Up to 12 characters who take part in this ritual become temporarily empowered after eating the heart of a Giant Animal. Each participant gains a +2 bonus to AC, Advantage to Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom saving throws, +1d4 to all Weapon Attack and Damage Rolls, and expands their critical range by 1. In addition, they recover 1 Exertion every round and become immune to the effects of Fatigue and Stress for the duration, but may still gain levels of Fatigue and Stress. This effect lasts so long as the members are working toward a joint goal or up to 3 hours. If someone abandons their allies, or moves 120ft or more from their nearest ally, they immediately lose all benefits and gain 2 levels of Fatigue and 2 levels of Stress. When this effect expires all members gain 2 Fatigue.

5: Army of Darkness Ritual. When you cast this ritual, 40 monstrous entities rise in your service. You may choose whether this army is made up of Aberrations, Outsiders, or Undead, and may choose the visual appearance of these monsters. So long as you remain within 150ft of these monsters you may issue a mental command as a bonus action to direct them toward a goal. You may only issue one mental command on each turn, though you can make the monsters work toward different goals in groups by issuing commands across multiple turns. These monsters share a stat block, but gain different abilities and penalties based on their type. These creatures last for 3 days at which time 75% of those remaining are destroyed or dragged back to where they belong. The remaining 25% become uncontrolled, though if they had a specific goal before the end of the spell they will try to fulfill it before becoming free-willed.

6: Natural Disaster Ritual. Straight up summon a Tsunami, Earthquake, Hurricane, Volcano, or Wildfire to strike the area. Any exposed characters take 8d6 damage, as do buildings in the area of effect, with a Con, Dex, or Strength save to halve the damage (Narrator chooses save and damage type based on the disaster involved). Every round for 1 minute, the disaster continues and the damage and saving throws apply. After the effect ends, the area remains afflicted by the disaster's echoes. If there's a volcano it routinely blankets the area in ash and smoke. If there was a Tsunami, flooding becomes common. Earthquakes have continued rumblings. Hurricane-struck areas are always treated as having weather 1 step worse than they otherwise would.

7: Bind Horror Ritual. A number of participants with total hit dice equal to double the HD of the target Creature (Which must be an Outsider, Fey, Aberration, Undead, or Monstrosity) attempt to Bind it. Doing so traps it for 1 year and 1 day if it fails a Wisdom saving throw. Increasing the number of hit dice involved in the ritual, such as using 3 times as many hit dice, increases the duration by a factor of 10. Sacrificing a humanoid with 1/2 of the hit dice of the creature as part of the ritual also increases the duration by a factor of 10. This binding can be maintained by performing the ritual again during it's duration, by focusing on the container, location, or idea that is containing the Target. Extending the duration does not allow a Saving Throw. The maximum initial duration of the effect is 1,000 years. Subsequent Bindings may only add a maximum of 200 years to the current duration of the Binding.

8: Raise Building Ritual. Used extensively by Ancais, this ritual draws forth a fully shaped temple, fortress, castle, or other building from the bowels of the earth. References the Stronghold Rules of LevelUp and requires a Humanoid Sacrifice for each Space within the stronghold. The stronghold has an additional Hardness to all surfaces equal to the HD of the sacrifice used for a given space. If a 2HD slave is sacrificed to form the Kitchen, for example, the walls of the kitchen, as well as floor and ceiling, increase in hardness by 2. If 12 slaves with 1HD each are sacrificed to form the Curtain Wall, it gains 12 additional hardness.

9: Ritual of Censure. A curse placed upon the target causes them to lose access to Spell Slots above 3rd level and Martial Techniques which require 2 or more Exertion to use. Lasts for 24 hours and is generally used as part of Trials or Tests for the target, who must be present during the casting of the ritual itself. With additional components and sacrifices, the duration can be extended massively to contain or control powerful individuals who were not willingly Censured. The maximum spellcasting level can also be reduced as low as 1.

10: Disconnecting Ritual. This ritual is designed to directly counter other Rituals as well as to break a connection between a creature and it's power source. When cast upon the Ritual Master of an Army of Darkness it immediately frees all the monsters under the Ritual Master's control. When targeting an Avatar Ritual Master they remain Huge and retain the physical aspects of their deity, but lose access to the Smiting, AC bonus, and Cantrip-Bonus-Action casting abilities. When any member of a Binding of Power ritual is affected by this ritual, it is suppressed for the duration. The Disconnecting Ritual takes only 3 rounds to cast, but has a duration of only 3 rounds. At the end of which time the previous ritual returns to it's full power. When used on a creature which has access to Legendary Actions or Resistances, these are suppressed for the duration.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Doomed.

In LevelUp Doomed is a condition that is applied when a character reaches 5 stacks of Fatigue or the Narrator decides they've reached a level of injury that is particularly bad. Once Doomed, a character cannot recover with simple magical healing or even normal recovery. Only powerful spells like Regeneration or Resurrection can restore them to health...

What if Doomed is the default player condition for reaching your third Death Save? It's still possible to die outright, of course, thanks to massive damage or falling off a cliff or whatever... but there's a reason the Tree of Woe and the Spirits of the Hilltop are iconic scenes from Conan the Barbarian.



Your typical D&D fight scene would've seen Conan just -dead- after being captured on the steps. With the crucifixion just the method of execution that the other members of the party could try to stop in a daring rescue. But Conan was outright crucified, and left on the Tree for days before he was rescued...

I feel like the Doomed condition works particularly well for this sort of situation. Indeed, I feel like the Doomed condition might generally work better for many situations of a player character being knocked out or otherwise defeated. Mainly because it allows the player to "Leave on their own terms".

A player whose character is Doomed could play Wesley. Unable to fight, to kill, but offer advice or conversation and remain part of the story before their restoration.


Or, if they don't wish to continue the character (Particularly in the doomed condition) they can take the path of Valeria once doomed. Use the condition, briefly, to say their dramatic farewell and seek one last kiss before they perish.


In short: I think the Doomed Condition allows for a lot of narrative flexibility and player control over death of a character. Particularly if we go all-in on healing herbs and nonmagical medical care that would allow the party's ranger, rogue, or even berserker to gather the things needed to keep a character from dying... or a cleric to perform a big magical ritual to restore the doomed person to health.
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
Agree with both the concept of Doomed and your Conan examples.
Although not S&S, Frodo and the Morgul knife is another reference, especially the way it left it’s own “scar” on him in the long term.
 



Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Magic2.png


Damned are going to be low-level monsters which have a series of potential templates. Aberrants can be fishy, insectoid, or tentacle monsters. Outsiders can be low-level Demons and Angels. While Undead are either Solid or Spirits. Each option will give you some slightly different abilities to use, and Damned will also work as random encounter monsters, as well.

The unifying element of the Damned is that they were all twisted from mortals into something else as they died and moved on to the afterlife. A form of punishment while they're in the Dweller's grip. Army of the Damned borrows them for a temporary reprieve before they're dragged back down to finish their time in the Darkness.
 
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