mithriltabby: Ancient Roman icosahedral die (Game)
[personal profile] mithriltabby

The basic idea behind the Seas of Chaos campaign was to have an in-game excuse to rip off any fantasy setting (whether novel or comic book or video game) that we wanted. When I sat down to browse the D&D 3rd edition books for ideas, I noticed that they had really gone overboard on all the hybrid characters; there were rules not just for half-elves and half-orcs, but half-dragons, half-demons, you name it. And that gave me an idea for a plot theme...

Over the course of a bigger story, the player characters (after one of them had become an initiate of the trickster-god Sar) ran into a series of unusual characters, all of whom are quite good-looking and bore a suspicious resemblance to each other— a common look about the jawlines and cheekbones.

Derdallyra: a very tall woman (close to seven feet) with a heavy, muscular build. She has the complexion of a heavily freckled redhead, but the freckles are all tiny red-to-gold scales and her hair shines like burnished copper, and her fingernails are naturally a gleaming black and very tough. She is a warrior-mage with a two-handed runesword (though she’s big enough to swing it one-handed like a bastard sword) that works for her like a staff does for a normal wizard. Extended chatting may reveal that she was told by the wizards who raised her of the day that a red-and-gold Western dragon showed up one day, dropped off an egg on their doorstep, and left without saying a word; the wizards kept it properly warm until it hatched a year and a half later as the infant they named Derdallyra punched her way out. Characters with dragon lore can discover that the only dragon matching that description was the fire dragon Krakatarkan, who is definitely male.

Jorün: a druid that the player characters meet when traveling in the forest; he’s taking a break to sun himself at noon. Despite the obvious effort to get a tan, he has a very pale complexion and black hair that shines red in the sunshine; people who know the lore of vampires will recognize a dhampir, a half-vampire, which normally only occurs on the rare occasions that a vampire— usually a fairly freshly created one— manages to impregnate a living woman. (The sunbathing helps keep the vampiric side of his nature in check.) On getting to know him, the party will learn that his father is a vampire from a group of self-proclaimed “civilized” vampires that consider themselves to be a further expression of the grandmother effect, serving as a store of knowledge from bygone days, killing only the predators who are a detriment to society and otherwise only taking limited blood from the willing. (Only if the players earn his trust will he reveal his father’s name, Selgar, and the city in which he stays.) His tale is that Selgar had found himself afflicted with peculiar cravings (and had to go to some effort to get the right blood!), and eventually found himself, against several different assumed laws of the universe, pregnant. Selgar delivered Jorün via Caesarian section, paid for a wet nurse, and did a good job of raising his dhampir son, who expressed his teenage rebellion by running off to the nearest druid grove. Jorün relates that his father notes a strong resemblance to a beautiful woman named Tirmirië, whom Selgar had spent the night with at about the right time.

Rafnhildr: a half-dwarf paladin. She is about five feet tall and talented with the halberd; she was raised in a dwarven clan and is now an itinerant paladin, learning about the human half of her nature. If asked about her origins, she tells like a joke: her father, Yngvarr, was a lusty dwarf who was formerly a mercenary and noted skirt-chaser. He went home to his clan about the time his armor stopped fitting, to talk with the healers, and their divinations quickly figured out what was going on. He took responsibility for his actions, publicly acknowledged her as his daughter, and raised her to be an upstanding member of society; he’s gruffly humorous about the whole thing.

Krayjon: half-incubus priest. A slim, very attractive young man with short red horns on his brow. He has learned to still his chi to turn off his subtle aura of seduction (anyone attracted to males finds him looking as much more mature than his apparent years as they need to, that black hair looking ever so soft; anyone not attracted to males feels that he’s obviously a decent fellow who can be trusted to be left with the folks that do find him attractive), but any spellcast starts it up again and he has to remember to still it. He really wants to get better control over the power, or find, commission, or create an item to suppress it. If asked about his origins, he explains that an incubus had showed up to claim sanctuary at a temple, being unable to return to its native netherworld; it was unable to even so much as shapeshift into succubus form, and eventually discovered that it was pregnant. When the child was born nine months later, the incubus vanished, and the folk at the temple named him Krayjon and raised him there.

Tisana: a thief who attempts to break into the party’s room at an inn. (Introduce her after the party have already figured out some of the pattern here; their curiosity should take care of the rest.) She will be utterly perplexed that the adventurers who captured her are quizzing her about her parentage, but she claims three mothers: her birth mother Linëa (a thief), her hearth-mother Tashari (a fence, married to her birth mother), and a mysterious woman named Tirmirië. Her birth mother had had a fight with her hearth-mother, back when they were still dating, and her birth mother gotten drunk, spotted Tirmirië, and decided to seduce her. Linëa and Tashari later made up, then had a blazing row when Linëa turned out to be pregnant, and eventually got over it after Linëa hired a priest to cast a truthspell to prove her claim.

Caradoc: a warrior monk who stands out mostly due to his resemblance to the more exotic characters the party have met. If asked about unusual origins, Caradoc will be surprised, but will say that the monks who raised him said that his father was a knight of some renown who had come to the monastery in hopes of being healed of what seemed to be a fast-growing tumor in his gut and, when the healers determined that he was, in fact, pregnant, stayed until he delivered the child, and then returned, rather red-faced, to his estate and his wife.

If the party take the trouble to introduce these characters to each other, they will almost naturally form up into an adventuring party. With a group of them in one place, it becomes possible to perform divinations to learn about their common origin:

Tirmirië: a stunningly beautiful priestess of Sar, with swarthy skin and long, straight black hair, who earned a boon from her deity about twenty years ago. Fed up with being hit on by nearly every sentient being she ran into, she asked her god to make her the facilitator of a new cautionary tale. As she laid out her plans, she earned the delight of Sar. Her boon was thus: that anyone who attempted to seduce her and failed to take precautions against her becoming pregnant would become pregnant by her; and that the unsuspecting “mother” be geased to do their best to carry the child to term in good health and do no worse by it after birth than leave it on a welcoming doorstep. The boon would lapse as soon as she married for love and her first child of that marriage was born alive. She promptly began sleeping with every being that tried to seduce her— human, demi-human, faerie, dragon, demon, demi-god— and profited handsomely off the love-gifts brought to her. Most of the “fathers” have done their best to conceal this embarrassment, but the cautionary tale is not yet told: her children are just growing into adulthood. Tirmirië does take responsibility for her children, and has expended considerable metaphysical capital to give resources to their guardian angels.

Later on, the party managed to introduce Derdallyra to Krakatarkan; this is what I had scripted:

Krakatarkan will go along with the PCs if they hint at what happened twenty years ago; he’s very uncomfortable about it, but is a very good bluffer. (This is potential blackmail if they need leverage, but he’ll be very well disposed to the party if they pass up an opportunity to blackmail him and then introduce him to his daughter.) When they meet up, he will sniff at Derdallyra in dragon form, announce “Yes, you are my offspring...” and then shapeshift into a human. His human form (who earns money as a mercenary as a good way to scout places for him to raid in dragon form later) is a very handsome man, of Pakistani looks and Italian-Renaissance garb (doublet and hose in black and dark red, fire opals in gold settings in his earlobes, faceted ruby in a gold setting on his left index finger, rapier with a gold hilt set with aquamarines on his hip— it has some surprising cold powers— and scaley leather boots of lava walking). He has short hair, moustache and goatee.

K: “...elite gallowglass Tarquinus at your service. I must admit, I am still quite puzzled as to how this happened.”

D (sarcastically, singsong): “When and a man and a woman are very attracted to each other, they get into bed together...”

K (drily): “I am aware of the fundamentals of mammalian biology. They clearly do not apply in this case.”

D: “The woman you slept with— her name is Tirmirië, by the way—”

K: “She told me, and that would not have been a night to forget even without the extraordinary results.”

D: “—had a boon from a deity.”

K: “Which probably made some sort of poetic point in human society.”

D: “Don’t male dragons take any responsibility for their offspring?”

K: “Of course we do. We provide them with a strong heritage: you are descended from an ancient and noble line of lava-swimming warrior dragons. Even if I were to cuckold a king, I would ennoble their lineage.”

D: “So you just dumped the egg on the doorstep of a wizard’s tower.”

K: “Should I have taken you to my lair and hatched you there? Nursed you on the blood of mountain goats and diapered you in moss? Or perhaps I should have hired a human to help out. ‘Greetings. I need a wet-nurse willing to spend a couple of years in a cave in a volcano.’ Indeed, I could have raised you knowing everything you could ever wish to learn about dragons, while forever being apart from them.

“Or perhaps I should have stayed on at the wizard’s tower. ‘Don’t mess with that girl. You know her father, the visiting lecturer in pyromancy? He’s actually a dragon, and you don’t want to get him angry.’ You could have wound up completely sheltered, and never learned your own strength.

“You have the outward form of a human, and needed to be raised in human society, in circumstances that would give you every opportunity to take advantage of your own extraordinary nature. I could not have done that for you.”

D: “So do you at least have any lessons in pyromancy for your darling daughter?”

K (chuckles): “I just might. Perhaps I should extend my mercenary work to a family business— let’s talk strategy...”

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