Wednesday, 2 December 2020

PARIAH DISCORD SESSION 20: Isle of the Eagle-Witches?

These events run parallel to those of the NINETEENTH session. The real world session took place on Saturday 21st November on the Atelier Hwei Discord.

- Eugene playing as Mercifully-Wasted-from-the-Tribe
- jfur playing as Fallen-far-from-the-Wind
- Oisín playing as Over-Hollow-Hills-Flies-the-Cuckoo
- Semiurge playing as Mortally-Garnished-of-the-Fallen

To find out more about PARIAH please read this post: 


Garnish and the recently-arrived pariah Fallen-far-from-the-Wind were making some repairs to the compound of the "Unlucky Ones". With Earnestly Wood, Rides and Wither seeking answers at the Temple of Water, the remaining pariahs were killing some time, though considering travelling to the goat village on the east coast to see whether they needed any so-called "eagle witches" slaying.

And then 2 new pariahs came by... the diminutive and somewhat expressionless Cuckoo and their pale-skinned travelling companion Mercifully Wasted.

Hi! I'm Cuckoo.  My face was generated with

Introductions & Troupe Play

Dropping in new characters is a regular occurrence in the sort of campaign we're playing, and fortunately the format of the game makes it quite easy: pariahs are by their nature cast out into the wilderness, and will gravitate to larger groups for survival reasons. So we can have people wandering out of the wilderness all the time.

In this case jfur elected to gloss over Fallen's arrival and we assumed she'd been with the community of "Unlucky Ones" for a short time. Cuckoo and Mercifully wasted were assumed to have been travelling together, with Cuckoo's excellent listening and awareness compensating for MW keeping his ears covered nearly at all times (the animals say bad things about him constantly). We try to keep the history pre-game to the minimum and just see what comes out during play, but it was nice that the characters had an established relationship, even if it was only briefly.

Alex— who previously played as Little-is-the-Gazelle — has decided to leave the campaign. his character is now an NPC AND was present for the arrival of the new pariahs, but won't be joining them on any expeditions.

You can read my discussion with Alex about his reasons for leaving here:

Every player in this session had another character engaged in matters elsewhere, so we discussed what they could choose to do with this session. The principal leads were as follows:

  1. Further investigate the drought and the Temple of Water
  2. Clear an adjacent jungle hex to expand the agricultural land of Etau's settlement.
  3. Travel to the eastern goatherders to find out about the eagle witches.
Of course, it's a sandbox so the players are free to go where they choose, but I wanted to dangle a few leads in front of them that might lead to something interesting. In the event I probably should have pushed harder for them to do some straightforward hex-clearing as the third option might end up being quite time consuming, but they went for it. Admittedly "eagle witches" sounds more fun than "clearing land for intensive agriculture" but hey.

Additional detail: Etau was not present on this occasion, with the pariahs conferring with Sister-Wears-the-Skin-of-Whisper (though no one is brave enough to call her that to her face). She seemed to take an interest in Cuckoo, perhaps for their status as Spirit-Touched. For their part Cuckoo felt a strong "presence" emanating from the advisor, a power that was quite unsettling.

The pariahs elected to leave the following, but stayed up late preparing a ritual around a fire, with Gazelle playing the flute and Fallen-far-from-the-Wind singing and banging her drum. The following morning Wolfskin painted each member of the expedition with ash, in accordance with the ritual of the hunt. 

We completely forgot about the ritual's magical connotations  later, when Cuckoo and Fallen actually went hunting!


The pariahs were informed that the goatherders who had previously petitioned Etau lived in a village in the sandy scrub and sparse pasture near the coast, but on the north side of the river estuary. They took the 4-person canoe they acquired from the Hill Tribes a week or so ago and set off towards the coast.

Travel to a neighbouring hex really demonstrates the limits of the six mile map and the value of something more granular: the journey would take a couple of hours and would necessitate a few encounter checks. In the event all they came across were goat herds on the shore, but this was an opportunity to play-up MW's mutation (he is cursed to hear the voices of animals, and they say horrible things about him all the time). Also, the party passed a previous site (though actually none of those on board the canoe had been there), the spirit-tree and parakeet flock from the first journey to the coast

I think a more granular map of the estuary and the settlement will grant the players a better understanding of their immediate environment and help them build a sense of "territory" for the burgeoning pariah band. So many locations- the Temple of Water, the bound genius loci, the spirit-tree, the goat shack, Etau's village- are really close to one another and would benefit from such an illustration.

Anyway, more homework for me.

Goat Herders & Fisher Folk

The pariahs arrived at a village of wooden huts built on stilts, some of them actually over the jetty. A small but stocky woman fishing on a wooden jetty called them to her.

Real life city of Yawnghwe in Myanmar courtesy wikicommons.

The pariahs were presented immediately with a friendly-ish NPC, aware that the elder of the village (Crawfish) was perhaps a little less friendly. After consulting those elders they were informed of the following:
  • The "eagle-witches" were either beautiful or ugly, no-one could quite agree.
  • They took local villagers to be there husbands and wives.
  • Recently they took a village boy.
  • They live on an island 12 miles out to see (Eagle Island).
  • A coracle would be better than a canoe. They are not permitted to take a coracle.
The argument about the boats was basically that the canoe would be faster and have greater capacity than the coracle, but would be unsuitable to ride the ocean currents if the sea began to get tempestuous. The also learned:
  • They were not skilled enough to pilot a coracle (though Garnish had previously done so).
  • No one would part with their boat (it was accepted that though no one owns anything in the village, a coracle is treated as though it were a family member).
The players decided that the mission to destroy these eagle witches and rescue this boy would improve their standing with this community, having already been scapegoated for the death of a young goatherd at the hands of the giant catfish. However, they would wanted to get their hands a brace of coracles in case the weather turned on their way back, and this entailed improving their standing.

Fallen-far-from-the-Wind suggested capturing some game and throwing a feast for the locals in order to curry favour. Cuckoo would join her, with Mercifully Wasted collecting stories about the eagle witches from local fisherman. Garnish had gathered up several razor-sharp bone toothpicks (used for eating snails from the river estuary) and was combining them with his net to create a pretty hideous capturing device.


Tracking something from a cold start uses a modified version of the encounter mechanic with an additional die added to the pool. This is usually a D6, but if a party member is skilled in tracking that die is used instead.

Note the original mechanic was inspired by Goblin Punch's encounter stew.

Essentially, if that die comes up with a 4 then they will have found tracks. An unskilled pariah has about a 50% chance of seeing some tracks. GMs might choose a higher number to represent environmental difficulty.

The possible outcomes of a tracking roll:

  • Die lower than 4 plus and encounter rolled: The pariahs will have to spend more time searching through the wilderness.
  • Die lower than 4 but an encounter rolled: the pariahs stumble onto an encounter while trying to look for tracks. Resolve distance and surprise as usual.
  • Die is 4 or higher and encounter rolled: the party pick up tracks belonging to the generated encounter. Calculate normal distance and double it. If the party follow the tracks carefully they might gain surprise.
  • Die is 4 or higher but no encounter rolled: There are some tracks. This will lead them all the way back to a randomly determined creature's lair (pick a row or column on your wandering monster table and roll for type). The lair should be within the same hex but an hour or more away (you can roll for other encounters while they follow those tracks!)
In this instance no tracks came up but Cuckoo and Fallen happened upon a rather large bee hive several feet up in a tree. A fire was lit to smoke them out, and plans were discussed involving climbing or knocking the hive out of the tree.


However, Cuckoo felt a strange energy emanating from the hive, and elected to investigate further by projecting their spirit. The hive housed a powerful spiritual intelligence, which communicated with Cuckoo's spirit in a peculiar way. After a short exchange (multiple reaction rolls) it emerged that...
  • It wished for the smoke to be extinguished.
  • In return it would guide them to some more worthy food...
  • ...but it wanted to give something else, in exchange for something that Cuckoo valued.
Once it was established that the thing of value needn't be tangible, Cuckoo offered up a memory. An outcast from their tribe for being marked for evil from birth, long their parents tried to keep it hidden. They were treated no differently by their siblings, and in their short and often difficult life memories of their childhood were often times their sole source of comfort.

This Cuckoo offered to the hive-spirit, this they gave up to the alien intelligence. They watched the memory recede into nothingness as towards her an ethereal larva crawled forward and burrowed deep into their heart.

Cuckoo returned to their body and advised Fallen to put out the fire. In doing so, Fallen's eyes fell upon recent tracks of a family of wild boar leading into the undergrowth. They seemed fresh and quite distinct. She felt certain that they hadn't been there before.

Collecting Stories

Mercifully Wasted wandered the village while Garnish mended his new net. The stilt-like construction continued, even among those houses built on dry-land. The atmosphere was relaxed: the villagers could even be described as incurious toward the recent arrivals.

Nonetheless, MW gathered the following pieces of information:
  • The village's two concerns are goat-herding and fishing. Adult men and women take the coracles out in the early morning and harvest fish. They sleep at noon and spend the afternoon preparing food, playing, or crafting.
  • Typically, adolescent boys are sent to tend goats on the wide scribe, while adolescent girls mend nets and repair coracles. No-one is really sure why this gender distinction arose, and they're not very strict about it.
  • Stories of eagle-witches are scratchy and inconsistent, and take on a more "folkloric" timbre than the more compelling stories of ghouls and blood-drinkers on the coast to the south.
  • The boy who went missing was something of a loner.
  • One of the coracles went missing about a week ago, roughly the same time the boy went missing.
  • One old woman described the eagle-witches as good-looking, but not attractive enough to make her want to become their wife.
  • They claimed to see them flying around the north and south sides of the island.

Boar Hunt

The tracks led Fallen-far-from-the Wind and Cuckoo fairly swiftly through the jungle to a small clearing... with 3 adult boars (including one sow protecting 4 boarlets). 

Fallen quickly rigged her net up with a length of rope, hooking the rope over an overhanging branch. She signalled to Cuckoo, hoping the spirit-touched would understand. Cuckoo grasped that she wanted them to be quiet and to take aim.

Cuckoo fired. The arrow whizzed through the air and pierced the alpha boar's flank.

It charged.

The boar's brought its full weight to bear on Cuckoo, its tusks piercing their flank, just as Fallen put all her might into yanking the rope and hoisting the bore into the air. She wasn't quite quick enough, and the boar's tusk tore a deep gash in Cuckoo's torso as it sailed upwards, the net rapidly closing around it. Cuckoo stumbled to the floor.

The sow hovered protectively about the boarlets, but the second sow/boar was angered by Fallen- this hairless ape with the leopard skull mask, agitating the mother and her young! The sow/boar charged, Fallen attempted to feint but felt the full weight of the boar in her side. She kept herself upright, but was unable to hold on to the rope...


Sometimes the value in writing these sessions up is to look at decisions you made and critically re-assess them. In the above instance, Jfur asked me if Fallen was still holding the rope: I said no as she'd taken a lot of damage.  Looking back, it would have been more fun to give her the choice of
  1. Staying on her feet but losing her grip on the rope.
  2. Falling prone at the boar's mercy but keeping the boar hoisted up in the sky.
Basic stuff but we all have blind spots: I like decisions like these as they reinforce the idea of the player being the character's conscience/instinct/epigenetic memory.

Anyway, Fallen didn't fall but she released the rope.

The boar fell.. about fifteen feet.


Princess Mononoke is big at the animist end of Pariah's APENDIX N

The boar fell. It sustained massive damage, but it wasn't yet dead...

..neither was Cuckoo.

Once again, they drew their breath deeply, then exhaled it along with their spirit.

The boar shivered as Cuckoo usurped its egg from its figurative nest: she assumed control of the creature, and charged towards the boar/sow bothering Fallen.

Fallen, upon seeing the Boar-Sow arc round for a second attack, scrabbled up the tree to which she'd planned to tie the net's rope. Somewhat frantically she fired an arrow in the boar/sow's direction, only for it to fall feebly by its side. Cuckoo-as-Boar slammed into the side of the wild pig as snorted and huffed at the foot of Fallen's tree, and the two animals tussled for a while before the bigger boar's strength won out. Cowed, the boar/sow retreated into the forest, sending the remaining sow and her boarlets scampering on ahead in confused fear.

Fallen studied the huge, blood-covered boar at her feet cautiously. It seemed calm and... almost distant. She looked over to the body of Cuckoo. She'd assumed the young pariah had perished, but they seemed to still be breathing, though they were covered in... not blood, but some kind of ink?

Keeping her eyes on the boar, she slowly descended from her tree, pulling her hand axe from her belt.

The beast remained motionless until she was on her feet then, ever so slowly, it raised its head, presenting its neck to her.

Fallen-far-from-the-Wind swung the hand axe across the creature's neck. A spray of blood decorated the undergrowth.

The boar collapsed, dead.

Cuckoo awoke, wheezing.


Garnish and Mercifully wasted fended off multiple questions from the local fisher-folk and goat-herders about the imminent feast until finally — spirits be blessed! — a bedraggled Cuckoo and Fallen emerged from the forest, dramatically lit from the side by a rapidly sinking sun.

The locals were impressed by the boar and checked over Fallen for injuries, the enormous bruise on her side testament to her tussle with the sow/boar. Cuckoo, the more grievously hurt, did their best to stay away from the locals' radar, lest their secret be revealed.

Between them, Mercifully Wasted and Fallen-far-from-the-Wind put on quite the show: MW combined snippets and elements of the folklore that day with his own highly embellished account of Fallen and Cuckoo's hunt, while fallen provided musical interjections with a trilling voice and idiosyncratic drumming. With fire, clear skies, music and meat, the villagers returned to the beds one by one, sated and happy.

Before the camp fell silent, the pariahs were blessed with not one but two coracles: one would be piloted by the first person they met at the village, Fleet Snailwife. The second coracle was donated begrudgingly by an old couple without children, who were apparently too lazy to use it anyway.

In the morning they would head across the ocean, to the Isle of the Eagle Witches.

* * *

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