Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Island of the Minotaurs

For a little while now I've been kicking around an idea for a labyrinth with moving walls. Last week some of the details for that began coming together and I sketched a rough version of it. As I was doing so, however, I also started thinking about the island on which they live, inspired by mythical Crete. This article draws from that inspiration.


The Island of the Minotaurs
Of all the islands on the northeastern end of the Middle Sea, perhaps one is the most distinct, a long and narrow body of land with rocky a coast and forested inland hills. This is the home of the minotaurs, a cunning race of men with humanoid bodies and the heads of bulls. Some say that they are the unfortunate result of a coupling between a human noblewoman and a sacred animal, while others maintain that it was the influence of a demon lord—likely Baphomet or Lamashtu—that led to their rise. Whatever the case, there's no doubting that they are clever and powerful creatures. They have taken over the island, wiping almost all of the other inhabitants.

Not all of the natives have been cowed, however. The island's lone protector is a nymph named Amalthea. She dwells in a cave hidden behind a waterfall high in the island's interior. From there she provides what help she can to those unfortunate others who become trapped on the island. Amalthea

Amalthea the Nymph: Refer to page 217 in the Bestiary for details. 

Reaching Amalthea's cave is not easy task. It requires a DC 20 Climb check (15 due to the rough rocky surface, +5 because it is slippery with water spray). That assumes, too, that the nymph is not actively opposing the one who approaches her; she can use her stunning glance and blinding beauty abilities to repel most intruders, and has an impressive variety of spells, too. 

Inside the cave is a broad central cavern (1) with a natural stone table—a stalagmite with a flat top—where she receives visitors. Branching off from there are two smaller caverns, one (2) that holds an ancient shrine to the Earth Mother, and the other (3) in which Amalthea sleeps. Whatever treasure the nymph possesses can be found there.

Because the minotaurs have dealings with demonkind, they permit a flock of quasits to run amok on the island. These little demons act as messengers and spies, and also delight in tormenting any unfortunates whom they encounter.

Quasits: Refer to page 66 of the Bestiary for details.

The Agreement
What most people on Homeworld don't know is that the minotaurs have a working agreement with an agent of the Northern Empire. Once a year, that agent hires a ship to deliver convicted criminals, unrepentant heretics and similar types—the “dregs of humanity”—from the Empire to the Island of the Minotaurs.

The condemned are left in the bay of a ruined fishing village, in theory left to fend for themselves. Of course, once the quasits learn of new arrivals, they report quickly back to the minotaurs, who then come to hunt the newcomers as a sick kind of sport. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Timeline of Homeworld History

Presented below are some of the more notable events that have taken place on this world.

|-(4805 BHE) Bearfolk claim that their best warriors went to assist Luna in a battle beyond the sky.
|-(ca. 4000 BHE) The first megalithic shrines to Sol and Luna are constructed.
|-(ca. 3500 BHE) The first minotaurs appear on Homeworld, on an island in the Middle Sea.
|-(ca. 2400 BHE) An early island culture of the Middle Sea is destroyed by a volcanic eruption.
|-(2245 BHE) Facing humans' inevitable rise, elves and dwarves made an exodus from Homeworld.
|--(1139 BHE) The elves launch the first of numerous arkships to explore other solar systems.
|-(791 BHE) After a series of skirmishes, the Northern Empire grants autonomy to Arcadia.
|-(367 BHE) Khan the Conqueror leads his hordes to glorious victory, and is eventually deified.
|-(191 BHE) Imhotep I begins preaching about the divine plan of Ptah, the Universal Architect.
|-(1 HE) Leopold I becomes the first Northern Emperor, founding the Imperial House of Helios.
|-(145 HE) Followers of Ptah found the Holy City on the southern shore of the Middle Sea.
|-(468 HE) The elves make contact with a planet beyond Sol Space, and thus discover gunpowder.
|-(693 HE) Imhotep the Traveler leads the first human expedition into aetherspace, never to return.
|-(701 HE) The Royal Interplanetary Company is founded.
|-(844 HE) This is the present day.

HE = Helian Era BHE = Before Helian Era

The Scope of History and Racial Lifespans
When considering the span of history on Homeworld, it's interesting to consider those races that live much longer than humans. For example, in the 844 years that have passed since the establishment of House Helios and the Northern Empire, some thirty generations of humans have been born. Even the oldest humans (not taking magic into consideration) have only experienced some 110 years, or an eighth of that time. In contrast to that, about six generations of elves have been born. What is more, the oldest among them can reach 700 years or more, meaning that their parents were alive when the House of Helios was founded and the first Emperor was crowned. Dwarves and gnomes might need to go a generation further back in order to hear first-person accounts of those events.
The net result of this is a sense of perspective when it comes to how characters of different races view various political, religious and military events. For example, while the Church of Ptah might seem like a growing threat to those humans who worship Sol, it's a development that occurred within the lifespan of some venerable elves.

Timekeeping on Different Worlds
Adding another wrinkle to the matter of timekeeping is the fact that different worlds have different lengths for their days and years. Although this might make little difference while PCs are adventuring on said planets, it comes into play when the PCs need to reference documents written on those worlds. Refer to the chart below for comparisons.

Local Year
Homeworld Years
per Local Year
Local Years per
Homeworld Year
88 days
224 days
687 days
4329 days
10,585 days

For example, an event that happened some 4804 years ago, by Homeworld Reckoning, would be considered to have occurred 2,555 years in the past according to Tyrian Reckoning. On far-flung Kronos, a whole human generation can pass in one year's time. There is also the question of what date different worlds use as the beginning of their calendars. For example, the Northern Empire on Homeworld uses the date when the House of Helios was established—4 Capricorn 1—as the start of the calendar.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Encounters on Homeworld

Previous articles have presented lists of monsters for use on different planets in the Sol System and beyond; this one details the types of creatures one is likely to find on Homeworld itself, grouped according to the regions that they inhabit. 

Note that these lists don't include certain classical types of monsters. Undead, for example, often result from some horrible death or foul experimentation, which can happen almost anywhere. The same can be said for many elemental creatures, which are magically summoned, as well as for golems, clockwork beings and other constructs, which are deliberately crafted. Minotaurs inhabit their own island in the Middle Sea, along with the gorgons that they create. Finally, dragons on Homeworld seem to have gone into some kind of exile, since they are very rarely seen.

There is swampland to be found surrounding the mouth of the Great River that flows into the southeastern end of the Middle Sea.

1/2—Poison frog
1—Giant frog
1—Lizard folk
1—Venomous snake
2—Constrictor snake
2—Giant leech
2—Snake swarm (3)
3—Werecrocodile (4)
4—Leech swarm
4—Venomous snake swarm (3)
5—Hippopotamus (2)
6—Annis hag (3)
6—Shambling mound
7—Storm hag (5)
8—Marsh giant (2)
9—Dire crocodile
9—Spirit naga
10—Behemoth hippopotamus (2)
10—Giant flytrap
10—Guardian naga
This is especially to be found in the inland area beyond the Free Cities of the South.

1—Camel (2)
2—Jackalwere (3)
3—Giant scorpion
3—Sandman (2)
7—Dragonne (3)
8—Desert drake (3)
8—Lamia matriarch (2)
8—Lammasu (3)
9—Desert giant (3)
9—Living mirage (5)
11—Ash giant (3)
15—Black scorpion (2)
18—Simurgh (3)

Much of the territory that makes up the Barbarian Lands is endless stretches of grassland.

1—Giant bee (2)
3—Dire hyena
5—Dire lion
5—Giant queen bee (2)

This region includes the Middle Sea and the Western Ocean.

1/2—Locathah (2)
1/2—Stingray (2)
1—Manta ray (2)
1—Nixie (3)
2—Electric eel
2—Giant crab
2—Bull shark (4)
2—Triton (2)
3—Deep merfolk (5)
3—Freshwater merrow (2)
3—Narwhal (5)
3—River drake (3)
3—Wereshark (4)
4—Crab swarm
4—Great white shark (4)
4—Sea hag
5—Giant moray eel
6—Saltwater merrow (2)
6—Sea drake (2)
7—Oceanid (4)
7—Water naga (3)
8—Giant octopus
9—Dire shark
9—Dragon turtle
9—Giant squid
12—Blue whale (5)
12—Sea serpent
14—Great white whale (2)
14—Ocean giant (4)
19—Deep sea serpent (3)
The entirety of the realm Arcadia, in the western portion of the Northern Empire, is virgin woodland.

1/2—Badger (2)
1—Brownie (2)
1—Faun (3)
1—Giant spider
1—Spider swarm
2—Dire badger (2)
2—Monitor lizard
2—Wereboar (2)
3—Assassin vine
3—Dire wolf
3—Giant mantis
3—Giant wasp
3—Wasp swarm
4—Dire boar
4—Dire wolverine
4—Forest drake (2)
4—Werebear (2)
5—Giant frilled lizard
6—Wood giant (2)
7—Dire bear
9—Lava drake (4)
12—Taiga giant (2)
15—Hamadryad (4)

The Eastern Kingdoms
Beyond the Barbarian Lands lie these exotic kingdoms with creatures unique to that area.  
1/2—Baboon (2)
1/2—Kitsune (4)
1/2—Vanara (3)
2—Foo dog (3)
2—Kappa (3)
2—Monkey swarm (2)
4—Foo lion (3)
4—Keikegani (5)
6—Jiang-shi (3)
6—Terracotta soldier (3)
7—Gaki (4)
7—Kirin (3)
8—Dire tiger
8—Yuki-onna (3)
9—Dragon horse (2)
9—Garuda (3)
11—Harionago (4)
12—Jorogumo (3)
14—Rokurokubi (4)
Various—Imperial dragons (3)
Various—Kami (3)
Various—Oni (3)

Inland from the Northern Empire is a towering chain of mountains; even taller ones lie south and west from the Barbarian Lands.

1—Ram (2)
3—Giant eagle
5—Flame drake (2)
5—Mist drake (4)
7—Frost drake (2)
7—Hill giant
8—Ogre mage
8—Stone giant
9—Frost giant
10—Fire giant
11—Cloud giant
13—Storm giant
In numerous places throughout Homeworld one can find tunnels stretching down into darkness.

1/3—Fire beetle
1/2—Giant centipede
2—Bat swarm
2—Dire bat
2—Giant ant
3—Giant whiptail centipede (2)
3—Mobat (2)
4—Centipede swarm
4—Giant stag beetle
5—Army ant swarm
6—Cave giant (3)
6—Rock troll (2)
8—Dark naga
9—Titan centipede (2)

The worse parts of the Holy City and City of the Sun contain dangerous inhabitants of their own.

1/3—Dire rat
1—Riding dog
2—Rat swarm
2—Shadow drake (4)
9—Night hag

Using the Encounter Tables to inspire Adventure and Campaign Plots
Along with determining the types of creatures that the PCs are likely to encounter in a given region, these tables can also provide inspiration for adventure plots and campaign storylines. A few of the possibilities are detailed below.
  • For example, there are numerous types of intelligent creatures in the ocean region: merfolk, locathah, sahuagin, skum, tritons, etc. Given that, one can easily imagine outposts maintained by each type, with skirmishes and even outright wars fought for the control of territory. Of course, most surface-dwellers are completely unaware of these machinations.
  • Similarly, the hills and mountains region is filled with all manner of humanoids and giants. Since the most notable corresponding region on Homeworld lies inland from the Northern Empire, it makes sense that Imperial forces fight a series of battles against incursions led by those creatures. Perhaps the Emperor has even authorized the hiring of mercenary warbands to lead counterstrikes against these foes.
  • The savannah of the Barbarian lands has few intelligent creatures because those hordes of warriors have hunted most of their enemies to extinction.
  • Few creatures inhabit the deserts that lie inland from the Free Cities of the South, making this ideal territory for sentient monsters to maintain hidden outposts and strongholds. Among them, the lamias are the only ones who possess any real organization; the others are content to lead their solitary lives—until interlopers disturb them, that is.
  • The swampland that there is, surrounding the Great River as it meanders northward into the Middle Sea, provides plenty of danger to travelers. Like in the desert, there are pockets of habitation controlled by harpies and hags, as well as less wicked but just as territorial creatures such as the lizard folk. What may be worse, however, is the peril presented by animals including snakes, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and even some carnivorous plants. That is even more so at those times when the hags tame such monsters to use in their own vile plots.
  • The seeming endless forests of Arcadia are home to numerous intelligent creatures, especially the fey. While they are not generally aggressive in their ways, their capricious natures can lead to trouble for those who are unwary. The same can be said for beings such as satyrs and centaurs. The hamadryad rules over them all, but that doesn't mean they're always obedient and civilized in their dealings with outsiders.
  • The major cities on Homeworld are generally safe places to live, as represented by the fact that few dangerous creatures dwell within their confines. The exception to that are those who can skulk in the shadows of the night, devising wicked plots. Oftentimes those such as the vampire or night hag possess charms that let them manipulate unsuspecting agents into doing their bidding, too.
  • In dark tunnels and deep caverns stretching beneath the surface of Homeworld one can find many isolated creatures and monsters. While one could easily leave these inhabitants to their self-imposed exile, there are also rumors of pockets of underground wealth—veins of gold or silver, and even pockets filled with sparkling gems—that occasionally draw the interest of fortune-seekers.
  • Finally, there are those creatures that dwell in the far Eastern Kingdoms, beyond the stretching territory of the Barbarian Lands. Those who are included in a separate list so that GMs can include or exclude that region, depending on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign.

Different Types of Terrain and Climate
Just as the creatures who inhabit various regions present obstacles and threats to adventurers, the Pathfinder Core Rulebook describes how the features of the land and its weather patterns can be dangerous. Refer to pages 424-440 in it for more information. Pages 220-7 of the GameMastery Guide have additional suggestions for developments that can occur in the wilderness, too, depending on the type of terrain and climate.