Sunday, 27 December 2020

The Realm of the Dead III: Yet MORE Delving into Death!

So come on in

It ain't no sin

Take off your skin

And dance around your bones

So come along with the Black Rider

We'll have a gay old time...

- The Black Rider, Tom Waits [for no man]

Christopher Lovell, https://www.christopherlovell.com

Before we delve deeper into the realm of the dead, first we must consider where we've already been:


Realm of the Dead II: 
...and next, we must consider how we interact with it.

Changing game Mechanics: Getting Around

As mentioned all over the place now (including in PARIAH VOLUME ONE itself), a shift to another reality should feel alien and strange, not just in terms of the creatures they encounter and the environments they see, but in how they interact with it. 

Attributes

A trip to the realm of the dead is a kind of death: things which once were important to their physical form slough off like the shed skin of a snake. They are reduced to their very essence.

However, the pariahs are different from the (most) other inhabitants of this realm as their physical bodies are still intact. This augments their core essence.

Any equipment, skills, spells, spirits etc. are also non-transportable and remain in the Here & Now.

In the realm of the dead, the pariahs are represented thusly:
  • LIFE FORCE: Represented by a pariah's CON combined with their CHA. Alternatively, if a PARIAH has a core attribute of WIS, they may combine CON & WIS.
  • HIT DICE: The pariah makes a not of the size and number of hit dice they possess.

Performing Actions

If a pariah wishes to perform a risky action (not an attack) they need to roll under their current life force, using 1-4 D12s, depending on the situation's difficulty. D12s can be removed depending on how the pariahs utilise the environment around them and tools available.

Within each vignette, the normal laws of physics appear to apply, except where noted. However:
  • Pariahs may spend 1,2,3 or 4 points if their own life force to "manifest" small, medium, large or huge object respectively.
    • The object must be one the pariah has seen at some point in their life, bonus  marks if the player can relate a specific incident from previous sessions of the campaign.
    • The object dematerialises when the pariahs leave that vignette.
Things get more difficult as the pariahs life force ebbs from them. If it reaches zero, their spirit is obliterated, absorbed into the fabric of There, the Realm of the Dead. In the Here & Now, their hear stops and their body begins to slowly decompose, unless someone is willing to bind a new spirit to it...


Hit Dice

As in the core PARIAH game, pariahs can spend hit dice to improve a roll. This is true in the Realm of the Dead, too: the hit die is rolled, and the pariah uses the result to modify an existing rolls as they desire.

HD spent in the realm of he dead remain spent upon the pariah's return to their physical body.

Combat

  • Usually no hit roll.
  • Roll higher than an enemy's life force.
  • The amount over the enemy's lifeforce is then inflicted as damage against... their lifeforce.
  • Die type is the same as a pariah's hit die, number of dice rolled depends on weapons used and number of attackers.
Pariahs will represent tough opponents for most denizens of the realm of the dead, but if they gang up on individuals, they can combine their attack dice to cause real harm, and of course their are many more dangerous entities lurking in the depths should the pariahs continue to venture deeper.

Timing

In game time, the duration of the psychedelic trip is one turn or ten minutes. However, this will seem to both players and characters to take much longer- an hour, in fact.

An hour for real time: start the clock, pause it whenever gameplay is paused, but once that clock runs out, the excursion is over.

Unless,...

...unless they can locate dosages of sorcerers' sage within the realm of the dead... that's not risky at all, is it?

Conclusion

That should just about cover it for now. Tempted by a more narrative combat system but just want it to be different, light and integrated. 

On with the stuff you really came for...

Vignettes, Environments, Ancestors

Spirit Realm by Beizzled https://www.deviantart.com/brizzled/art/Spirit-Realm-399412618

So far the following has been described: as the pariahs explore the realm of the dead, they will experience a procedurally generated series of vignettes performed by a variety of ancestors within a range of environments.

Vignettes

Environment

Ancestor

0: The Half-World

N/A

0: Nearby Dead Person

1: Heads on Spikes

1: The Fog

1: Dead Comrade

2.The Field Workers

2. The Misty River

2:: Sibling I

3. The Mother without Child

3. The Swamp

3. The Child

TBC

TBC

4: The Sibling II


Vignettes

4. Fishing for the dead

Whatever the environment, it is bisected by a river. 6 spirits are fishing, one of whom is a recognisable ancestor of one of the pariahs. The pariahs are positioned on the opposite bank. There are no obvious paths other than they way they have already come: walking up or down the river bank leads the party back to this exact point (they can turn around and return to a previous vignette if they wish).

Every minute, a fisher will pull a skeletal fish. At first they will be excited and triumphant, but upon realising it is but a skeleton, they will toss it back into the water. They say they are hungry and are just trying to catch fish to feed their family. They do not believe they are dead.

The vignette is not resolved unless one of the spirits is able to eat living flesh. they do not know this however, though they are demonstrating this. A PC can spend a point of life force to break off a piece of their own flesh to be used as bait. Any such bait, once hooked, will eventually attract a live fish (roll 1d6 every minute, a fish is hooked on a one).

Roll for fish:
  1. Lively roach.
  2. Catfish as big as an arm.
  3. Massive frog- not a fish, but it'll do nicely!
  4. Ghost pike — and it attacks.
  5. Spirit eel aggressive but delicious.
  6. A blood-drinker ah balls.
All but the last encounter will satisfy the fisher and encourage them to leave their friends behind. Two possible vignettes will appear, at either end of the river.

Of course, to reach the fishers the pariahs will first have to swim across the river, unless they can use branches trees or even a boat. Drinking/swallowing the water has the same effect as the waters of the misty river.

5. Ghouls

2d4 emaciated spirits sit around arguing over which one of them is the most desirable to eat. Each one thinks they are the tastiest, but profess to being unable to eat themselves. Consequently they are all starving, and very grateful when the pariahs arrived. They will be charming and friendly, but it will quickly become apparent that they want to eat the party. One of them will be recognisable as an ancestor of the pariahs.

Though they look and behave like ghouls, their hunger is easily sated: one bite (1d4 lifeforce) will cure them of their affliction, and once all of the ghouls are no longer afflicted, they will happily show the pariahs to the next vignette (there is only one along from them). However, all those bitten will suffer the hunger in the Here & Now

These ghouls will not bite anyone without their permission unless angry, defending themselves or otherwise provoked. They will not bite anyone already suffering from the hunger. Any spirits accompanying the party who receive a bite will be transformed into bestial ghouls and must either be leashed or destroyed.

If the party desires they can destroy all of the ghouls, revealing the location of the subsequent vignette, though they will have retrieved no ancestors. 

6. The Sleeping  Bear

They must have awoken.

1d8 spirits are very diligently attending to an enormous sleeping cave bear. One of the attendants is the ancestor of one of the pariahs unless (1 in 10 chance) the ancestor is actually a bear, in which case there will be a small item of jewellery adorning the bear connecting it to the pariahs. The bear sleeps at the entrance to the cave, within which the pariahs can see at least one additional vignette.  

When they arrive, any pariah making a loud noise (including speaking at normal volume) will be greeted by half worried/half angry stares of the attendants ang signalled to reduce their volume. The second time the pariahs make a noise the bear will growl and one ye will open, leading to frantic stroking by the many attendants. On the third occasion of such an error the spirit bear will awake, angry and probably hungry.

Proceeding to the next vignette(s) will require the pariahs squeezing past the attendants, something they will resist unless they can be persuaded to shuffle round or leave their task. They are terrified of the bear waking up, and will only move if they feel their task is going to be taken care of.

Persuading the bear to come with them will be a difficult task: perhaps it could be lured or baited somehow? Once in the next vignette, it will assume its true form as a pariah ancestor, though they may (GM's discretion) return to spirit bear form if they ever travel back through this scene again.

Environment



4. The Forest

Enormous, ancient trees rise up from the ground forming a closed canopy more than one hundred feet above. The boughs are motionless, the air is still and the leaves are bereft of colour. It is dark, perhaps visibility is at only 30' or so. It is silent.

Apart from the voice. The voice calling to a random pariah, of a friend or comrade they thought had died long ago. They can follow the voice or attempt to resist (roll under life force on 3d12), but if they succeed they will have to resist again each minute unless they find some way of shutting out the voice. No one else can hear it.

If they follow the voice, it will lead them into the darkest depths of the woods and they will be lost in three minutes unless their colleagues can locate them.

5. The Burial Mound

Darkness seems to close in rapidly as the pariahs movements begin to slow, as though they are wading through thick mud. Too late does it dawn on them that they are buried beneath tonnes of soft earth, and must claw their way to the surface. Each pariah clawing their way up must make 5 successful rolls beneath their lifeforce on 4d12. Players can do this as rapidly as they want, but for each minute of real time that passes, their pariah's life-force is reduced by one point.

After 5 successful rolls they emerge, gasping, in the middle of their own funeral. Six ghostly, silent figures encircle a fresh burial mound (from which the pariahs are emerging) in the middle of a grey heath or scrubland. Whatever vignette was generated is occurring just beyond, quite oblivious to the rites going on.

Any pariah who elects not to struggle will receive one point of lifeforce damage each minute but, after four minutes, they will be transported into the position of one of the funeral attendants. When they eventually return to the Here and Now, they will gain 1d4 points of WIS. 

6. The Funerary Pyre.

In a matter of milliseconds, everything is suddenly ablaze. The pariahs witness the generated vignette occurring before them, but they are all aflame. The heat is unbearable, the pain searing... the spirits seem unaffected.

Each minute of real time that passes here causes 1d4 life force of damage. Possible ways to overcome this problem:
  • Resolve the vignette super quickly.
  • Extinguish the flames (will require multiple buckets of water; "manifested" buckets/containers etc. will not carry water between vignettes).
  • Spend lifeforce to manifest water (10points should do it).
  • Wear the skin of a burned one or other slain fire spirit encountered here.

Ancestor


5. Father & 6. Mother

"Father" corresponds to a male parent or guardian of one of the pariahs. Alternatively, it may correspond to a male mentor (though uncle might be better dependent on circumstances).

"Mother" corresponds to a female parent or guardian of one of the pariahs. Alternatively, it may correspond to a female mentor (though aunt might be better dependent on circumstances)

The parent will react to their child in a similar to how they did in life, though any negativity is likely to have been mollified by their recent death. They are aware that they have died but they are angry and indignant, and will continue to express how upset they are at all the unfinished business they have yet to attend to.

Unless their is a specific piece of campaign history that this would contradict, the parent is usually happy to help their child in any way possible, particularly if they have the opportunity to experience life once again, albeit vicariously.

There is a 1-in-6 chance that the parent-spirit will have a pipe of ghost sage, the dead world's equivalent of sorcerer's sage. There is enough to extend their experience of the realm of the dead by two hours for one pariah, but it must be shared equally (thus 2 pariahs = 1 hour, 3pariahs = 40 minutes etc.)

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