Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Encounters in the Delta and near the Great River

(Roll reactions! Even for the animals)
1 hippopotamus
2 crocodile
3 lizardfolk
4 wild gazelle
5 pharaonic war galley with soldiers
6 peasant traders, village nearby 
7 peasant fishermen
8 flock of waterfowl
9 trade barge
10 vegetation choking the channel, rot, roll again- likely useful to someone
11 ruins: fallen colossus statue or monument, flooded temple or abandoned village
12 school of carp
13 mud-flats/shallows as far as the eye can see
14 river pirates or bandits 
15 pleasure barge
16 peasants watering cattle
17 travellers or slavers from foreign land (1 Argossi, 2 Abaddoni, 3 northern barbarians 4 southern barbarians)
18 nomads hunting, unfamiliar with so much water
19 spirits of the dead, angry for their neglected welfare; or corpses, floating
20 baboons or water snakes

Bubastis & Environs

Bubastis and the Great Delta, not-to-scale local region thematic map
  • map in the style of Dungeon of Signs, not to scale. Bubastis is that settlement on the left side, north of the necropolis at the edge of the Delta (swamp). In the far distance is the Argossi city of Kyros, and to the south, the Oasis of Birds. To the east (southeast) lies the rest of Khem. 
  • city of cats, city of canals, second biggest in Khem
  • prominent features: lighthouse, temple precinct of Bastet, temple precinct of Khnum-Ptah, temple-precinct of Thoth, tower of the astrologers (some priest of Ra), bazaar of the paper-makers, great abattoir
  • factions: Merchants Guild, Paper-makers Guild, priests of Bastet (Animist Sorcerer-Priest), priests of Thoth (led by Numenist Sorcerer-Priest), priest of Ptah (Elementalist Sorcerer Priest), Royal garrison (Commander Aseb, barbarian bodyguards), beggars (thieves) guild
  • nominally under Pharaohs control, but merchants really control
  • sits on edge of the Delta, near best channel; trade with desert nomads from Oasis of Birds, northern kingdoms for slaves, timber and iron, trades gold, spices, grain, etc.; lizardmen to the east, serpent-men to far east 
  • random inns like world of lost; inns levels like lost too: 5 sp, will get robbed, common room, filthy; 10 sp comes with food, safe, boring; 50 sp raucous, has tumors and and carousing 
  • common rumors in Bubastis
    1. Cult of the All Devouring Serpent has attracted potentates within the city. Some say that serpent-men dwell within the city.
    2. The royal Commander suspects some ofthe merchants guild of disloyalty. Evidence may be rewarded with royal commission. 
    3. Strange sighting and rumors of the risen dead in the Old Necropolis. It is rumored the Temple of Ra-Atum and Ptah may offer rewards to discover the happenings. Unfortunately, the old necropolis is in a sunken valley and afflicted with vapors and mists.
    4. Serpentmen were said to dwell in the ruins on the other side of the delta, some would pay dearly for artifacts of their strange primeval sorcery.
  • Cult of Bastet (like any cult, ritual cleansing and sacrifice of vermin, donation 500 sp or background as acolyte with debt to temple); bans 1 never harm cats or allow harm in presence, 2 prideful- witnesses to any humiliation earn your vengeance, 3 must play with victims who are captured rather than killing them outright; gifts - appealing aspect: as charm person, can teach Totem spell as cat/mouse to sorcerers, cat eyes: see in shadows (none-pitch black), cats tongue (lick to remove disease), grace (reroll failed save or damage related to falling or acrobatics).

Temple Precinct of Bastet at edge of city
DM note: I'd like to beef this up into a true Middenheim- or Vornheim-style city resource, main NPCs with secrets and rivalries, plot/job generator, random encounters in Bubastis. As it is, this is enough for me to run the city (probably add some names from my go-to random generator.

Gods of Khem

The Gods of the South are numerous with aspects of beast and bird. They demand purity and guardianship from their priests, and sacrifices and celebration from their followers. 

The greatest of them are the Twelve.
Ra-Atum (or Amun-Ra) the Creator, the One Who Stands Behind All Things, Guardian of the Sun, Apophis-Bane.
Usaru the Reborn King, the Green Man, Restorer of the Earth, King of the Dead in the lands of the Duat.
Asarte the Mother, the Protector, possessor of great magic.
Herekh-Montu the Hawk-Warrior, the spirit of the Pharaoh with Ra.
Hathor the Fertile One, consort of Herekh, Merciful, Pleasant-Cow-Eyed.
Ptah-Khnum the Craftsman, the White Bull. 
Sekhmet the Wroth, Lion Avenger of Ra.
Sutekh of the Storm, the Usurper, Giver of Rage, Spearman of Sokar-Solar Barge.
Nephthys of the Shadows, the Mysterious One.
Thoth the Wise, Giver of Writing.
Bastet the Beautiful. 
Anubis, Opener of the Ways, Finder of the Dead.

Local gods of the nearby temple-precinct or the village must be appeased and their prohibitions respected, or great misfortune can fall upon them, so slaying a crocodile in a town of Sobek will bring his mighty retribution.

No clerics. All can earn the blessings of the god (become priests) they worship of ritually purified and having entered into the mysteries of their God. The supplicant must perform services for the temple, and obey its High Priests (and any dreams or visions), attend festivals. Allows the supplicant to earn a spell or a specific blessing, similar to many cleric spells (DM determined, from the Lamentations rules). Many, perhaps most, high priests are sorcerers, but the majority of priests and are simply functionaries: paid readers of prayers for the dead, scribes, teachers, embalmers, physicians. Sorcerer-priests, generally, are more ethical, including following the Pharaohs laws (he is, after all, the living God intermediary with the other deities), about disrupting the world than a 'free' sorcerer.

All can ask temples for an augury or services, including the learning of spells (Usaru knows necromancy, Ptah and Ra Elementalism). Requires sacrifice and payment, and not be on the temples bad side. Sacrificial bulls or oxen cost roughly 50 sp, while clean sacrificial other animals, like rams, cost 10-15 sp. Auguries cost roughly 50 to 100 sp to perform (the stars must be aligned!). Spell teaching costs roughly 50 sp in sacrifices per day of study, good favor with the temple, and takes 2d6 days. Besides animals, sacrifices to the temples take the form of incense (frankensense and myrrh), linen, good beer, alabaster vessels, and the like.

Visiting temples: only the purified are allowed inside the temple, so the general person must beseech outside. Some temples have guards, but the sorcerer-priests also dissuade many from tempting entry.

The Pharaoh is the greatest priest, son of Ra, the living aspect of the Reborn King, the Warrior Montu-Herekh. His many functionaries may not be priests, but his word is law and he enforces many laws on the use of sorcery, the necropolises, and the temples, in addition to mundane laws.

Demons come from the lands beyond, where the souls of the dead go, they are the guardians of the separation and must be appeased before one can travel to the kingdom of Usaru and the Fields of the Aaru. They also have their own inscrutable purposes and rivalries, and like other entities, can be dominated by knowing their True Names. 

The Gods of the North are stern and demanding, aspects of wroth and sacrifice, names like the Horned King, Crom, the Crone, the Raven Queen, the Wanderer. They demand deeds and tests, not mere sacrifices. (That's right, Brom correctly captures their aspects.)

Karolans, followers of Karolus the Conquerer beyond the Mountains of Flame and hills of Koth, worship the One God, died on a tree and reborn in the son;the One God jealous of other gods, though Khemeshi priests explain this is merely the politics of King Karolus who united the barbarians years ago.

Dragons of Khem

Normally, dragons are more part of the high fantasy genre than what I'm going for with Khem. But I like them, and so thought I'd introduce them as part of the metal economy of the setting. Viola, dragons are the source of all good metals in Khem.

Dragons are always associated with metal, and therefore mining in Khem. Dragons, like the gods, have bones and scales of metal, with chemical compounds and elements mixed with their musculature. Dragon hunters seek not merely access to the lairs of dragons for the quantities of metal the dragon guards, or many scholars believe, are born from, but also to plunder their corpses for strong iron, pure gold and silver, or brass or copper. A rich deposit of ore generally contains many wyrmlings, or deeper in the depths, an adult dragon. Dragons are commonly found in the Mountains of Flame, and the Tanian Mountains east of the Karnak. Dragons are highly territorial, and focus more on fighting other dragons than worrying about mammals. Dragons are known not only to spring from the depths near deposits of ore, but also take over those not the territory of a dragon. The Pharaoh and kings often attempt to guard metal mines from the beasts, but oft unsuccessfully. Dragons seek most highly lairs around the ore they are born from (gold mines for gold dragons), but also hunt metals associated with them, especially if in large quantities. They like all metal, though, and will hunt or seek an alternative lair filled with any metal if that's the best they can do. Dragons eat sheep, goats, and men, but legends speak of their immortality in their metal-filled lairs. The exact ecology of the dragons is highly disputed by scholars, even the elementalists cannot quite fathom it.

The most common dragons in Khem are those of bronze, brass or copper, and these often reside in desert outcroppings with small deposits. These dragons are smaller, on average, than their precious-metal or iron cousins. Though variously called bronze or brass, they're almost invariably alloyed bodied and only their hue and coloring suggest one metal over another, though alchemists and mettalurgists can refine the component metals.
Next most common are the dragons of iron, often called red or rust dragons. In the north, these are more common than in the south, but many dwell in the Mountains of Flame near Khem. (Sometimes the barbarian northern lands are called the Ironlands for this reason). Iron dragons can generally breath fire or noxious fumes, but fewer are winged than among the southern dragons.

Rarer are gold and silver dragons, though these seem less aggressive than their fire-breathing cousins.

The most valued finds are dragon corpses found fallen in the desert or mountains. As so territorial, other dragons are normally the reason for these carcasses. The meat is fairly useless, but men will fight fiercely for these rich, relatively safe sources of metal. These free corpses lead to gold rushes with much violence, especially if found far from a local king or the Pharaoh's law.

Unless their lair is sought out, most dragon sightings will be younger wyrms that survived the cannibalistic fighting with their fellow young and have begun wandering in search of ore deposits unguarded by more powerful dragons.

Juvenile Brass Dragon: (based on the Adventurer Conqueror King dragon rules, which are the nastiest I've found for basic d&d games plus Lamentations assumptions) typical younger brass dragon, around 40 years old, roughly 2000 lbs, 16' long. HD 8 (d12), AC 18, claws d6/d6/2d8 bite, saves as F8, XP 1600, MR 7, MV 30'/fly 80'. Breath: scorching heat from its furnace-like 'breath' glands, 90' x 30' cone, 8d6 damage (save for half if in cone), 3x/day.

Young brass dragons like to ride the thermal desert winds searching for metals to add to their lairs. More rarely, they grow hungry and will eat a gazelle or sheep. They are cunning enough to be wary of organized men, but small groups of armed and armored soldiers are attractive for their equipment. They are also oft found sunning themselves on rocky outcroppings (1-2 in 6 if randomly encountered), but can 'smell' metal and are generally only surprised on 1 in 6 chance. In fights, the brass juvenile will try to scorch his prey to death from above, and tests morale after anytime it takes 10 hp or more; if guarding lair with its copper and bronze collection, it will only flee if failing morale and down to 10% of hp or less.

A juvenile's body is worth about 5,000 silver in value, if sold and transported (deduct costs of carrying heavy metal). Butchering the corpses to get metal bones requires skilled work, heat, and the carcass takes 1d4 weeks of labor per 5 laborers to mine. Keep in mind water sources are rare near their favored habitats. In it's lair, these young have generally gathered 2d6 x 1000 copper pieces (1/10 a silver's value), a fourth of which is in the form of statuary, armor, and weapons.

Lands of Khem: Gazeteer

Themes: river encounters with hippos; raids on caravans, chariots, festivals with garlanded bulls and jumping dancing girls, beggars, pickpockets, nobles on palanquin with honeycombs in their hair, sorcerer-priests, brawny barbarian mercenaries, snakemen, jackalmen. More pictures:

Thematic Map (i.e. inaccurate)
Below is a thematic map based on Hyboria, many city names and locations are wrong, as are the names of some regions (no Stygia! Shem and Khem are interchangeable).

  • Khem, ruled by the Pharaoh, though many Nomarchs and High Priests exercise de facto sovereignty in there various dominions. Pa-Nekhen is the seat of the Pharaoh, the Living God, he who shall never die but continuously reborn. Pa-Nekhen is oft referred to by His temple-palace, Karnak. Khem is famed for necromancers and sorcerer-priests, beer, bread, the inundations of the Great River providing great bounty, the scholars of its thousand temples. Bubastsis, city of cats, sits on the clearest channel in the Great Delta and is the main trade city of Khem. Twelve great gods, but each village and district has their own netjer; ennead; gods have skins of gold, bones of silver
  • Argos, a land of rivalrous free-cities, though they have been known to ally against outsiders. The Argossi are famed craftsmen and sailors, but not for their sorcerers. The Argossi cities have many different political forms. The nearest Argossi city to Khem is Kyros, a smaller trading hub.
  • In the Mountains of Flame (or Fire), is Abaddon, city of the diabolists, graven into the skill-shaped side of a mountain. These slavers prey upon both civilized and barbaric peoples.

  • beyond the Mountains of Flame and Plains of Thessalia, dwell the northern barbarians; they fashion iron from the bodies of red dragons, wearing mail and sailing longships, small hill-forts and long halls in river valleys of mountains, vast dark forests
  • in the far south, past the Great Desert, lie the kingdoms of the southern barbarians. They are famed bowmen and mighty warriors, hunters of lions. 
  • seen in civilized lands because offered gold to serve the Pharaoh or Nomarchs, viewed as primitives, but stronger, braver, and less craven than 'civilized' men. 
  • Northern kingdom names: Koth, Karolan, Middenheim, Nemedia, Brythuin. 
  • Southern kigndom names: Kush, Darfar, Tombalki.
  • the barbarian king Karolus the Great united many petty kingdoms generations ago, instituted worship of the strange One God, now his worshippers war against all who do not worship him. Karolans more likely than most barbarians to fight from horse, screaming as they charge with spears.


  • travel the desert routes between oases and the Far Roads to the south and east. Many worship Anubis, the Opener of Ways, but consider necromancers apostate.
  • excellent at survival in the heat, horse archery, raiding or escorting caravans

- Ophidius, black cyclopean blocks rising from edge of the swampcity state of the serpent-king, ancient sorcerer views mammals as food and experimentation, seek to return to the chaos of Nun, 
- lizard folk dwell in the Great Delta, reed rafts, lizard-headed but also crocodilians, newtish skinks, use stone and scavanged weapons; lizardmen keep secret their Sacred Pool where the god Sobek is said to dwell.
- The Favored, animal-headed  some say created by sorcerer-priests that bred them, most live in temple precincts, embody attributes of their gods, ignorant folk ascribe semi-divine status to them
- Isles of the Naga, off the coast of Khem, strange sorcerous kings of otherwise arcadian islands
- Desert of Glass (obsidian) rumored in the deep desert

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lands of Khem: Rules

So starting a new game with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Wonders & Wickedness for magic to do an Egyptian sword and sorcery setting. Influences for campaign inspiration: ancient egypt, vikings, norman knight-adventurers, sword and sorcery, carcosa, wilderlands, Gabor lux's fomalhaut, hyboria.

I made a Lamentations and Wonders cheat sheet which contain all the rules for character creation and spells, check it out below. Get the Lamentations rules here. House Rules:

  • No demi-humans, no cleric
  • New classes: Berserk (based on old dwarf class), Hunter (based on old halfling)
  • Ability scores (wildly generous): 3d6 in order, reroll set if less than net +1 score bonus, may swap 2 (wis for str)
  • Culture: civilized (+1 to int wis or cha), barbarian (+1 str or con), or nomad (+1 DEX or con).
  • 6 pts plus 1 free backstab for Specialists
  • New skill: Medicine
  • XP for silver or gold and for alignment and carousing per Jeff Rients
  • DM makes ALL skill rolls until the players can handle not fucking rolling before describing what they actually do!
  • New initiative by segment: first round, check surprise and do any surprise rounds, then everyone with (1) ranged attacks goes, (2) any movement (shooting in this segment if -shoot and move, this is your full round if you move more than combat speed), (3) melee, (4) spells. Roll off d6+DEX within each segment to break ties or whatever makes sense
  • Mighty cleaves: to replicate the sword and sorcery feel, get a free attack against an adjacent opponent after felling an opponent (enemies get this too!). But remember a surrounding attackers get +2/4 to attack, plus limit shield AC.
  • Death at -4 hp, but take permanent ability score damage/wounds after galling below 0 unless death save.
  • equipment: armor bonus is penalty to Exhaustion (after exertion, save or lose 1 hp per round if don't rest), survival and desert travel saves (lose hp in harsh conditions); chainmail is northern, in south scalemail, made of many metals.
  • the only usual magic items: warding amulets from temples, potions with 1st level spell effects from Alchemist Guild; allow Alchemy skill but rare and starts at zero
  • beyond XP, Lawful are more likely to receive help from authorities and divines, be regarded as not-an-asshole by normal people