Minor nobles will allow almost anyone into their entourage for the sake of having an entourage, which is of course a sign of great importance.
Firstly, there is the body man or handmaid—the servant who knows the noble most intimately as They also know what wig powder to use, which eau de toilette to use as the most recent bath fades further into memory and gernally deal with the soiled handkerchiefs, spurned milkmaids/stable boys and stained smallclothes of the minor noble.
The Cook. They are generally quite bad, as the good cooks are already taken, but he entire entourage is obliged to publically praise the food so as not to shame the noble for not being able to hire a good one.
The Syncophant: Usually a cousin or even lesser noble, this person desperately hangs on to the nobles ever word, laughs at the worst jokes and secretly hopes to have a torrid affair with the noble.
The Guard: This is by far the most well-paid member of the entourage, for without the guard, any number of people might kill the noble out of sheer loathing. The Guard, in fact, would be first in line were he not paid well.
The Secretary: The minor noble may have been tutored (see tutor below) but when it comes to actually writing an eloquent letter, the secretary puts quill to paper. He also keeps the schedule and acts as a social director (begs for invitations).
Driver/Groomsman: takes care of the horses, carriage and does the driving.
Protégé: Every noble must have a protégé artist in order to be called a patron. Poet, musician or painters only. Actors are gauche. Jesters are for kings.
Prostitute: some nobles have a bed-warmer. If so, this person is near the top of the hierarchy.
Beast: A noble will typically have a deformed person or beast (read: orc) hanger-on who serves as the bottom of the pecking order.
Banker: Entourages are expensive and many minor nobles are deep in debt in order to support them. The banker is a minor representative of the bank that keeps the noble afloat. Why? Influence.
If it’s OK to ask for another, then I’d have a use for a table full of weird hermits.
Milarepa, Greta Garbo, John LeCarré and Nikola Tesla having dinner. I’ll be here all week.
Here you go, Heikki. Roll five times.
Random Hermit Generator
Roll 1d10 five times
Talks in rhyme
Related to party member
Crawls on all fours
Calls everyone same name
Farts constantly (hilarious)
Spying on local child, waiting to train when old enough
Most Unlike Self
Collects others’ hair
Wanted for crimes
Picks same lock all day
Is a polymorphed monster
Dead Mother’s Corpse
Roll again, but this time the results are imaginary
Anyone with food
It’s all an act
* In the interests of clarity: a roll of 6 means a real, invisible friend. If you roll a 10 then a 6, then the invisible friend is not real. If someone talks to an imaginary rock, then the rock is not real but he will swear he has to squeeze by this boulder (that he talks to) to get into his cave. OR, if you roll a 10 then an 8, he thinks he has puppets on his hands and basically converses with his hands. A 10 then a 9? Mom might be alive. Or he might have someone else’s skeleton (maybe someone obviously not his mother, like a dwarf). Have fun.
Describing these six medieval fantasy suburban hexes has been one of the more difficult requests in the ‘Bring It’ challenge I made in December. It took forever for me to start tackling it and then I spent a lot of time drafting new things to place in the hexes. At some point, I decided that there was enough content in the blog going back two years that I could populate the suburbs with my own encounters and creatures. I included the URL’s after everything for those who want to print this out and made those links live for those who want to read it online. I’ve gotten a number of requests to compile the blog into a pdf or print collection. Daztur’s request turned out to be a great framework for compiling content and in the end it was a lot of fun to do this one. I hope its helpful. It’s still a bit empty in some hexes, but I’m sure you’ll have your own ideas to add to it.
I am going to assume that your city, which I shall call in your honor Dazturburg, is a medium-sized city ruled by a duke. I am going to treat it as a single hex, and describe the six surrounding hexes, although you should scale these areas as appropriate. My interpretation of ‘suburbs’ means not quite wilderness (there are villages, farms, etc.) although the fringes might have some wilderness areas.
The Suburbs of Dazturburg
Dazturburg is situated on the River Daz, which is approximately two hundred yards wide and up to 25 feet deep. The Jahur Road crosses the Daz on the Big Bridge, which is in Dazturburg (think the medieval London Bridge, but wider). There are several smaller bridges in the city but no bridges in the hex to the north. There is one small bridge in the hex to the south, licensed to the Church (or churches). If you decide to locate this city within 30 or so miles of the ocean, the river rises and falls about 20 feet with the tides.
North of the city is upstream or “updaz”, where the water is clean compared to “downdaz.” There are a number of fishing villages on both banks and several small islands where small communities live. These communities predate the city and their inhabitants call themselves the Daz. They believe their bloodlines superior to even the nobles of the city. If you want to stage some sort of Innsmouth-type grotesqueries, this would be the place for it. There are no bridges, but there are ferries, which by law may carry no more than twenty persons or four horses.
The fishing village of Daz is on the eastern bank. Midsteam is a small island called Midaz, where many small pontoons and boats are stored. If a caravan or small militia wants to avoid detection or customs fees at the legal bridge in Dazturburg, they can bribe the fishermen at Daz to create a pontoon bridge to Midaz. Having crossed, they must wait on the island until the bridge is then extended to the western bank. There, a small cave in the west bank cliffs that leads about a mile west where a secret exit is maintained.
Updaz from this secret crossing is a fairly wide (100 yards wide, half a mile long) island that some foolishly try to use as a crossing point. Here there are a pride of displacer beasts (south end) and a pack of blink dogs (north end). Anyone landing here is likely to be eaten or caught in the middle of the rivalry. The locals only know that evil lives on this island and they will never land there.
Smalldaz is a village of about 15 families. Smalldaz is one of the few villages licensed to manufacture and sell fortified wines (brandy, sherry, etc.). In this case, the liquor is called (wait for it) Daz. The best Daz comes from SmallDaz from a family known as the Wilts. This family’s tradition of Daz goes back to the days of the lost city of Pantari, the ruins of which are in the swamps of the NE hex.
The Wilts were recently killed and replaced by a family of doppelgangers. Anyone investigating thoroughly would find the bodies of the Wilts have washed up on Ghoul Island in the south hex. The DoppelWilts secretly carry on the family tradition, shipping barrels of Daz down the river to the city. In these barrels they conceal baby doppelgangers, which resemble clear gelatinous blobs. They wait until the barrel is drained then emerge. The plan is to take over wealthy families by sneaking in through the cellar.
North East Hex
The Jahur Road approaches Dazturburg from the northeast. Caravans travel hundreds of leagues from the cold lands of the north through the city, across the Daz and hundreds of leagues more to the south/southwest toward the Iberic city Jahur, the “City of Jewels.”
As pilgrims, crusaders and merchants approach the city, they pass through many small towns. Most of the land in this direction is swamp land.
There are many shrines along the road for pilgrims and crusaders travelling to Jahur. Each of these has its own stamp/tattoo/trinket it offers (for a price) to travelers who wish to see the holy relics/praying nun/weeping effigy along the way (adapt this to your campaign’s religious peculiarities). Here is one unusual shrine along the path:
The Shrine to No God
A small chapel along the main road, the Shrine to No Gods. It is kept by a cleric, Brother Germaine, head of the Order of No-God, a religious order that consists of one Brother Germaine. His order insists that there are no gods, that there never were in the first place, and that all this divine magic is locked inside each and every specimen of mankind. Brother Germaine insists that he himself worships no gods, but that his meditations on the nature of man deliver him “divine” magicks. And indeed, he is a cleric of name level with no apparent patron deity who can cast spells. He is also as old as the planet, but has forgotten that. They party might learn this truth if he was kidnapped and rescued.
The Fat Pony Inn
There are many Inns along this road, but none so renowned as this four-story inn, run by a small charter of halflings. Their particular charter is to discretely collect research into magical spells. They are reknowned for their hospitality, their cheap yet extraordinary house meade and their willingness to secure any sort of entertainment their guests might desire. Each adult is a mage of up to sixth level. A sixth level mage (or bard) plays his harp nightly in the common room. A few hours past midnight, he casts a sleep spell in one of his songs. The others then gather all magical scrolls and books found on guests and copy them into their own library, which is in a hidden part of the cellar. (Halfling Charters: http://www.rolang.com/archives/168)
There is a famous market outside the city that offers local fish, crawdads, wine, vegetables and other foodstuffs. Many items of contraband (purple lotus powder, dream snuff, etc.) can be bought if one inquires DISCRETELY. Here is one stall that might cause trouble for unwary travelers:
Bathilda the baker, a woman in her fifties, has wild dreams of making love to a demon at night. His pillow talk tells of a skull buried under a stump in the forest. She seduced a woodsman to fell the tree and dig up the skull. As he climbed out of the pit, the woodsman tripped on a root and fell back, landing on the skull and piercing his heart on its single horn.
She puts the skull beside the coals of her oven when she bakes her bread. Each roll has a small spirit in it, capable of possessing someone who eats it, provided they eat it hot and fresh (the spirit rides the steam).
Bathilda spent a considerable amount of her small savings to rent a small place near her market stall, so the bread is hot and fresh. She has even started to serve goat stew (at a loss) to go with the fresh bread, encouraging her customers to eat it right there.
There are a few brothels along the road. Here’s the worst/best one:
This brothel is ludicrously expensive. Mage/prostitutes use telepathic spells and illusions to enact their customer’s deepest fantasies. For most locals, this experience is too disturbing for repeat business. Prudhella relies on tourists for business. Roll on the carousing mishaps table.
Ruins of Pantari
In the swamps are the ruins of Pantari, ruined home of the famous Pantari Sybil. She was unfailingly correct, but expensive and very popular. This was the Las Vegas of the ancient world. Although sacked many times, there are still untold riches in the ruins. It is guarded by an adult green dragon. You’ll have to make this one up yourself, pal.
To the southeast are farmlands granted by the Duke to the officially recognized church (or churches). There are several monasteries, nunneries and other organized communities that farm the land and produce food and luxury goods (cotton, wheat, meade, kobe beef…), the latter of which are not taxed by the city (although the Duke does get secret kickbacks and will be sainted by one or all of the churches). If you have several recognized religions, each of them has parcels of land. If there is only one, consider creating rival sects so there is some tension down this way.
There is a road that least to the south hex (toward the church bridge) and one that leads to the Dazturburg. There are NO roads leading to the main road (to prevent illegal use of the church bridge). There is a secret road that leads to the NE hex and the Jahur Road. Be careful for there is also a man-eating road that lurks nearby (http://www.rolang.com/archives/198).
There is one very tall mountain toward the SE edge of this hex. There you will find a Roc and a hidden dungeon. If you like published adventures, I recommend Dwimmermount or Death Frost Doom for this location.
To the south is the downstream portion of the Daz, or “downdaz.” On the western banks of the river are slaughterhouses and tanneries, which add considerable stink to waters carrying the city’s waste. Here also is the Church Bridge, which is licensed to the officially recognized church (or churches) which use it to bring cattle from the SE hex to the slaugherhouses on the west bank. According to local custom, it is bad juju/luck to locate a cemetery, charnel ground or place of death on the eastern side of a river, city or holy place (as death offends the rising sun).
Anyone who wants to cross the bridge must show proof of church business to the bridge guards located at either end. The guards are in employed by the church, and if there are rival sects or religions, make sure they opposite ends of the bridge are manned by opposing groups, who make life difficult for those belonging to the opposing group.
Downdaz is there the less desirable land is and there are small villages and encampments found here. Among them is the mage caravan headed by Tullully. (http://www.rolang.com/archives/200)
This mile long island is known to the locals as “the Curse.” Something evil in the soil of this place causes the dead to walk. In most cases, bodies become zombies or ghouls. Partial bodies become skeletons (http://www.rolang.com/archives/274). In a thatched hut hidden in the woods is a mummy, who does not at all resemble anything Egyptian. He has hidden his soul in his liver, which is picked in a clay jar and buried among many jars of pickled cabbage on the southern end of the island. He has established secret signals with the churches on the eastern bank and the bandits on the western bank and can call a meeting with either (held on his island, which he never leaves). The Wilt family from the north hex village of Smalldaz are among his subjects. He is aware of their circumstances and will make a deal with or destroy the DoppelWilts.
This hex is on the Jahur-side of Dazturburg. Pilgrims on this side of the city have either already passed through the NE hex and the city, and are therefore broke or had their fill of trinkets and wares, or are returning from pilgrimage (or more rarely, a crusade). On this side, there are a few inns and a few fortune tellers who offer to divine the future of your travels. Also on this side are several cemeteries and a small town that has sprung up around Daztur College and its library. These were relocated from the city after a fire two centuries back and are located on the western side to avoid interference and trouble from the church (which sees the western side of rivers and cities as bad omens-see entry for south hex). If arcane magic is legal in your campaign, this is where a mages college thrives. Otherwise, it is a college where the zygote of an intellectual and scientific renaissance has formed.
There’s a bridge over an old flooded quarry here. In a nearby cave, an Ettin (Hoss or The Gang, or if you want to go for laughs, The Ship) lives off the meat of travellers headed toward the city. It carefully covers its tracks. (Ettins: http://www.rolang.com/archives/122).
Every city has its playground for the wealthy and the Hamptons of Dazturburg are here. Selmarne has east and west ends, separated by the Duke’s hunting grounds and the Sel, a small tributary to the Daz that has been irrigated almost to death to support the vineyards and elaborate water gardens of the wealthy. Old money makes its home in the more desirable EastSel. Merchants and politicians are in WestSel.
Selmarne is patrolled by a sheriff and his men, who are supported and bribed by the wealthy families. Strangers are arrested on sight, but can buy their freedom, provided they leave Selmarne immediately (and are not carrying anything stolen from the wealthy residents). If crossed, they will kill captives and dump them in a swamp behind the Sheriff’s Hall.
There is a gang of bandits, calling themselves the Branch Men (after a branch in the Sel that leads to a waterfall and cavern instead of the Daz). These men firmly believe, correctly so, that some of the wealthy families use their estates for sex and lotus-powder, fueled parties and rituals in honor of far-away gods. They believe the mayor of Dazturburg is concealing half-elf bastards in his mansion and that Chez Drobonne, the finest vineyard in Sel, secretly employs halflings. They are absolutely opposed to any form of magic, arcane or divine and hope to rid Selmarne of its influence. The Duke has told the sheriff to do a poor to mediocre job of bringing them to the Duke’s justice, as he believes the Branch Men give the rich something to fear.
Thieves who are clever at disabling traps and sneaking past guards will be rewarded with the riches of Sel estates. In addition to monetary wealth, one might find:
The Duke’s hunting grounds are off limits, of course, but anyone poaching is likely to get bitten by a bogpiggie (http://www.rolang.com/archives/133 — I am going to include this in every setting or adventure I post until I get some play reports from someone).
At the entrance to the hunting grounds is the Duke’s Pitch, a tournament field, where jousting, bear-baiting and wargames are held. Here any man may put his name on the lists, but magic and the use of poison are capital offenses. Some believe the Duke offends the gods by putting this field on the east side of the Sel.
I am in desperate need of a table of various magic princess mermaids
Well you came to the right place, ScrapPrincess. Mermaids are indeed very magical and very princessy.
I don’t know if it’s a chaos thing or a cthonic thing or whatever it is that made vampires, but it seems that every once in awhile a fish is born incomplete. When one of these fish happens upon a humanoid, it swallows them. While the victim is in the fish’s belly, things start to get squishy and jelly-like. Tendrils grown out of each creature and entangle the insides of the other.
After some time, the human torso begins to emerge from the fish’s mouth and an act of eating has become a symbiosis that has now become a single creature. The fish head remains–the eyes on the side of where the human hips would be still function, the gills of the fish are still breathing (although the whole mechanism works differently as the mouth is sealed at the bottom of the human torso. I promise to let you know how should I ever get one on my dissection table). The human mouth is responsible for breathing air and eating, which is something of a challenge in some cases. Other changes can happen to the human head and torso and I have described some of these below.
I would expect that the majority of mer-creatures would be men, as men are sailors and therefore far more likely to be swallowed be one of these strange fishes. But I have never seen nor heard of a ‘mermale’. Perhaps men are more to the appetite of eating for these fish, while the female is the only sex capable of this merger. There are tales of mermaids falling in love with sailors and rugged sea captains, but I doubt these are true as land-dwellers tell most of these tales. I would not be surprised, however, if mermaids who have a stronger connection to their human side were to fixate on men in general or even particular men who remind them of their human past and of the comforts of human society.
[A table follows these I made up]
Although no one has seen her in her native habitat and lived to tell about it, on two occasions, fishing boats have hauled up a mermaid described as a finned woman with a large mouth with dagger-like teeth, black eyes and a ‘fishing rod’ protruding from her head. This rod was tipped with some sort of magical light, which she could dangle about and flash in patterns that mesmerized the fishermen who found her. I suspect this rod has some sort of magical charm properties, for when she managed to wrest free and escape over the side of the boat, half a dozen crew dove in after her, never to be seen again. (Treat as 6 HD shark with mass charm person, hypnosis and light spell powers, activated at will). She is called “Angie Angler” among the fishermen and the bards of port towns.
I have heard several accounts of this Queen of the Reef, whose home is somewhere in the Chaos Isles and she seems to be the most intelligent and perhaps most human-like of all mermaids. Her torso is black-skinned and beauteous. Her tail is that of a large manta ray, which is a kite-shaped fish found in the southern seas. She is known to command the allegiance of sea creatures and natives of those isles, although through charm or fear I cannot say. She wields a trident that is said to control the weather and the tides. (Treat as a high level druidess with a magical trident that has weather control properties and which summons giant water elementals.)
This not a single mermaid but many tiny mermaids. Of all the mermaids described herein, this is the only I have seen for myself. I was a passenger on a sailing vessel off the shores of Argnac when a large school of these small fish surfaced around our ship. In her excitement, one of my fellow passengers, who I will not name to protect her family, learned too far over the railing to see this school. She ended up overboard and before any of us could attempt a rescue (even by magical means) she was consumed by the school of fish before our very eyes!
There being nothing we could do, we continued on our way, those of us passengers of good class comforting her mother in her time of grief. Within two days, however, we were again visited by a school of saury. The woman’s mother had to be restrained and locked into her quarters, lest she jump overboard herself. All the time, she insisted her daughter was calling her name. When I had secured her door and made my way back top, I brought out a spyglass device and trained it on the fish below. To my surprise, I saw perhaps two score fish among this school with a bare, fare-skinned human torso and long, golden hair. Two compatriots also saw this with my spyglass. Although it is not the strangest thing I saw on that voyage, it was the most chilling. (Treat as water-based pixies with the song of a siren. One typical humanoid devoured by these saury yields 60 saury mermaids).
I believe this is one of the few mermaid princesses that was actually a princess. She was aboard a ship that sank approximately two centuries back, en route to a wedding with a prince of Argyle. She has the body of a very bony and primitive fish. As she herself was a tall woman, from head to fin I would guess her about thirty four feet long. She has an enormous appetite and is a top predator. Her skull is about twice the size it should be and her mouth is quite deviated from the human norm. She has no teeth, but a hard bony jaw that opens to almost three feet wide. When she is not hungry, which is rare, she can manage to carry on a conversation and if you are knowledgeable about the politics and court gossip of her time she might be, if not a friend then at least less likely to think of you as lunch when the conversation is over. (Treat as 10 HG giant fish with 12 INT and 11 CHA).
The Jellied Woman
I cannot say for certain that this creature was the same phenomenon as a mermaid, but two captains have described to me a large sea medusa with several living but separated parts of an elfin woman contained in its disc area. The head was speaking, but even those with a knowledge of the elvish tongue were unable to make any sense out of random statements. Reportedly, all about the ship were unable to communicate for a full day after encountering this creature, despite being able to speak and hear normally in other respects. This creature was in the center of a large sea medusa bloom. (Treat as giant jellyfish with stinging and paralyzing toxins on tentacles. At will, creature can cast a spell that undoes a man’s ability to speak and understand language, save at -4.)
I hesitate to pass on this story, as I find it highly suspect, but I should perhaps mention it as an example of the sort of tales one must sort through when evaluating the tails seamen will tell of their travels in order to find useful information. Supposedly there is, in the seas between the Screaming Straits and the Western Coast of Millas Minor, a mermaid who attempts to entrap sailors for matrimonial purposes. She is described as a beautiful mermaid of the kind depicted in mythological bestiaries of land-locked nations–that is, a beautiful woman with the tail of a fish below her hip. She sings and banters with sailors until some unfortunate soul cannot resist and dives overboard for a kiss.
Supposedly, once the sailor has kissed her, he is hers and her spell over the others is broken, revealing her true form, which is described as a porcine pink fish with small piglet eyes and a doughy body and face. This mermaid takes her new groom below to his matrimonial doom. The same sailors who report these stories also tell of legged fishes walking along land in the Screaming Straits, which they call the children of the siren. (Treat as siren or succubus as desired).
I’m returning to an old idea posted here last year: that all Clerics are lawful. They might, if you use the good/evil axis, be good, evil or neutral, but they must be lawful.
The gods all seek to expand their power and their ethos. Even if a god were to style himself ‘chaotic’ it would be nothing more than a schtick (possibly a very successful one). True chaos would defy any imposition of patterns, beliefs and frankly, intelligible thought.
If you buy into that, and I’m not saying you should but it works for me, then I could easily envision a campaign world where clerics might end up in more real, deadly duels than knights or mages.
Priests (in the old editions sense of the word) are believers, yes. They know and perform the rites and administrative duties of cults and churches. They preach and they tend to their flocks. Clerics, on the other hand are true believers of another kind. They are so crazy devout that they can perform miracles big and small. They hunt down the evils in the world, from heretics to the undead. If priests and evangelists are the slow and steadier engine of growth of their church, the clerics are the lights that burn bright and briefly and usually end up being sainted after death.
If you buy this, then clerics should hardly be able to stand the sight of clerics of another god or even a different branch or denomination. Their lawful nature and their devotion brook no disagreement and in most cases no tolerance whatsoever (not like those simpering priests and monks, abbots, nuns and priestesses).
Clerics should be getting into fights all the time in areas where they come into contact. For this reason, I think it could be interesting if your campaign world had a certain protocol, which would be honored in the way a samurai duel would be and not in the way it was in the old west. These are fiercely lawful characters, even the evil ones.
The Clerical Duel Challenge: The dropping a small holy symbol, rosary or other token of the faith in front of another cleric (not on the ground, on a tavern table or something). Or it might even be sent via messenger. It’s a calling out and to ignore it is for one’s god to lose prestige. It would better for a god to have a martyr than a cowardly cleric. Preparation: When a meeting place and time is arranged, the clerics of course will make vigils, penance, say prayers or perform deeds. Declaring Names and Sermons: When the parties have arrived, they must give their names, their home church, monastery or status. This is so everyone who witnesses knows who died and who won. Each cleric might give a small sermon, perhaps disparaging the other’s faith. Invective is used, souls are damned. It should be full of bluster and ego. Combat: Weapons and clerical spells may be used. I prefer to have all arcane magic be chaotic, so any magic items that are not holy in origin are blasphemous to all gods and would never be used. These duels can be to the death, or, if a cleric really wants to stick it to his enemy, to the humiliation and utter defeat. Scarring should be involved. Some clerics will demand conversion (which almost never happens) in exchange for life. Other clerics might let the defeated live as a testament to whose god is real and whose is false, fake or weak.
The winner is likely to gain adherents, even if he does not want them or personally minister to them. In a small village, a chapel or shrine to the victor’s god will be built overnight and 1d20 faithful will convert. If the cleric leaves or does not tend to them, one of the locals will become clergy (even without qualifications). If the victor is still present, his blessing will be sought by this new congregation.
The loser might go into seclusion, if he survives, and pray for strength, forgiveness, etc. Of course the cleric will not fault his the god–it was clearly his own unworthiness or the presence of filthy pagans in the area. A rematch might be demanded later on, but in general a defeated cleric is disgraced for a time and is expected to make himself scarce for awhile.
Word of victory or defeat should spread quickly. One’s reputation and ability to find followers should be effected by the outcome of the duel.
If you are using Adventurer, Conquerer, King, this might be a great rite of passage for a cleric who has reached name level.
As DM, you could impose level limits, or incorporate some way of making sure that 2nd level clerics are not put into the position of having to duel 14th level clerics. Or not. Maybe the cleric who stays discreet is the one who survives to name level…
Any thoughts, ideas or additions are welcome in the comments below.
(I will be finishing up bring it soon. This all just came to me quickly and I had to get it posted).
How about a d30 table of mistranslations of dwarven proverbs?
What is it with you d30 people? It’s an ugly die. I don’t like the d10 either, since it’s not a real Pythagorean solid. It’s cheating, I tell you!
Notes on the table below: As you can see, humans mistrust dwarves. They half expect them to take their women and eat their children as soon as the men turn their backs.
Some of the mistranslations or misunderstandings have lead to tragic results. General Border, for instance, is a sort of General Custer figure who couldn’t be bothered to hire a good translator when he marched on the Foggy Mountains.
Some of this also stems from the early translations of Dwarven literature and colloquialisms, which were done by shy monks of the north. Dwarves were, at the time, a virile race with a ribald tongue.
In the end, even as dwarves decline, the symbiosis between the two races (the exchange of meat and ale for steel) rules the day. In places where the two races interact, these stereotypes are not taken so seriously and are in fact fodder for jokes between the two races.
Proper Translation of Dwarfish Proverb
Mistaken Translation or Interpretation Commonly Repeated Amongst Men
God’s Balls! [an oath]
The most beautiful dwarfess is the one with [this dwarf's] beard tickling her face.
A dwarfess is most beautiful when she has a beard on her face. [Leading to the common human belief about Dwarfesses and facial hair.]
Don’t make deals with sheepf—-rs.
Never negotiate with humans. [This mistranslation comes from an early nickname dwarfs had for humans. This has also lead many to believe that dwarfs cannot be negotiated with.]
The worst day comes from elfish breakfast, human work, hobbit song and orcish supper. Followed by any of their sexual practices. [Note: the words for meals, such as supper and breakfast imply heavy drinking of ale as well.]
I wouldn’t eat with an elf, work for a human, sing with a hobbit, or dine with an orc–unless they did me sexual favors.
The best day comes from hobbit breakfast, dwarfish work, dwarven song and hobbit supper. Screw the tall folk. [Note: the words for meals, such as supper and breakfast imply heavy drinking of ale as well.]
The best way to live is to eat hobbits, work hard and screw the other races.
A sharp axe can only come from a strong hammer.
You can make an axe by hitting a hammer hard enough.
A penny saved is still only a damn penny.
A dwarfess can be bought with a penny found on the road. [This one was probably intentional and malicious.]
If you dig under a small hill, you will find small gold. And worms.
Small hills hide golden worms.
If a dragon dares take your gold, every last dwarf has a duty to kill him.
We dare any dragon to try to kill us and take our gold. [Very tragic, this one.]
The sun neither rises nor sets on our halls. We care not for the clocks of humans.
The sun neither rises nor sets on our halls. We care nothing of the fates of mankind.
We are not the fathers of the burnt men of the earth’s skin, but we are their elder brothers.
We burned the fathers of the men until their skins crisped. We shall burn that brotherhood again.
A dwarf cannot measure his day except by the cups of sweat from his brow.
No mistranslation, but it many accept as fact that dwarfs save and measure their sweat, perhaps mixing it with ale. Thus the human terms ‘sweatybeards’ and ‘sweatdrinkers’.
Every man must dig his own tunnel. [Meaning: in life.]
According to his last journal entry, General Border took this to mean that dwarves do not band together during adversity, but dig a tunnel to escape.
To move the earth, work hard and work near its center. [Those who work under the earth--dwarves--make a bigger impact.]
To move the earth, dig toward the center. [Misinterpretation: We are going to dig until we reach the center of the earth.]
Bats, moths and blind fish have learned to live under mountains as you have. [All are revered or worshipped, although sometimes eaten or sacrificed as well].
A human saying goes: Dwarves are stuck under the mountains with only bats, moths and blind fish to eat. [Without us, they would have no meat.]
Gold so pure it shines in the dark. [Meaning something is profound or very pure.]
Rumors of dwarven ‘dark gold’ abound.
With long legs come good, red meat. [Meaning: We must remember that humans play an important role in our lives--they raise cattle.]
Belief that dwarves have a taste for human flesh.
A clear nose smells all farts. [Warning against clearing a nostril in another's presence, which is a sign of condescension and pride.]
Clear your nose so that you may better smell our farts.
Don’t tell any tall folk about mithril. [Meaning don't tell younger races what they don't have the wisdom to handle.]
Widespread belief that under every rainbow is a dwarf with a shield of pure mithril.
Elves came from outside this world [meaning: planet or plane].
Elves came to visit our ancestors from outside thisworld [mistaken meaning: underground]. Recent scholarship shows that this was never a proverb, but was meant to be taken literally. Nonetheless, modern dwarves believe the same misinterpretation humans do.
When an elf screws an orc? A human.
An unkind comment on general appearances has been misinterpreted by those with esoteric beliefs regarding the origins of humanity.
Elf Balls! [an oath meaning useless]
Elf Beard! This is also a dwarven oath meaning something that cannot exist. This is substituted by prudish translators.
A hobbit tunnel to a dwarven hall. [Making a grand result with plain materials.]
A hobbit tunnel to a dwarven hall. [Making a big deal out of something trivial. Also convinces some that the two races are in cahoots.]
Grass won’t grow in the dark. [Meaning human customs don't make sense below.]
Lead to the belief that dwarves have no body hair under their kilts.
Brandishing a rapier in a mine. [Wasting time doing something the fancy way such as using a pointy weapon in the dark when a slashing weapon would do.]
Brandishing a rapier in a mine. [This is a good weapon underground. General Border also believed this.]
Teats of the Earth. [A metaphor for mountains.]
Humans believe this refers to a specific mountain range full of precious gold and mithril that the dwarves refuse to tell anyone about.
A tunnel filled in. [The past is left in the past. Meaning something is forgiven if not forgotten.]
A tunnel filled in. [Meaning revenge has been taken and the bodies hidden.]
To f— a human. [Meaning to achieve something impressive.]
Humans have known all along that these little perverts are after their women.
A human brother. [A human little person. Often welcomed among dwarves.]
Humans of this time and setting believe that small adult humans come from #28. The usual medieval prejudice applies.
To serve man. [In this age of dwarven decline, some believe that helping the younger races get on their feet is their calling.]
If we’re allowed to make more than one request, I find myself in need of a bunch of weird-ass temples for the city I’m building. Ten of them, say. But only if you run out of suggestions; I wouldn’t want to be prioritised over someone who hasn’t made a request yet.
Temple of the Swarm
Billions of insects, centipedes, spiders and other crawling creatures carpet a large pit in the center of this temple. Supplicants make a donation and are given one of the insects, which they may take home, set free or even burn to make a wish. Worshippers may also sacrifice themselves to the swarm in order to purify bad deeds, end personal suffering or show devotion.
Temple of Boros
Worshippers are dropped into random points in this large, multi-storied maze. Those who make it out must have been blessed by the gods. Others are likely dead at the hands of monsters, traps and other men and women who have found a way to live there.
Families who make deals with the cult of Owrox sometimes offer lifetime servitude of children or grandchildren in exchange for the release of souls the god has captured. In order to ensure a contract is honored, these young slaves are sent here to commune with the captive souls of their ancestors. There are over a hundred small alcoves throughout the temple where crystal balls can be ‘attuned’ to a specific soul. For most, merely speaking with the departed is enough to scare them into being faithful. Some of the kinder imprisoned souls manage to establish warm relations with their living kin. Others browbeat their descendants. In all cases, the servant must touch the crystal ball and ‘feel’ the helplessness and doom the captured spirit feels. This is the existence the contract breaker faces if the terms are not fulfilled. This is why Owrox has few defectors.
Temple of Batrubis
This temple is home to a 50 foot giant, who sits on a throne. Because he has magical talents that can be performed at will, and because he’s, well, a fifty foot giant who says he’s a god, he is worshipped as a living deity. Believers take great pride in the fact that their god, unlike others, can be seen and worshipped in person.
Temple of the Golden Bliss
A thousand monastics have found paradise here. They sit surrounding a golden ball of light and experience life in a perfect place. Their bodily functions slow to almost nothing, so that they may sit for days at a time. In their minds, this prayer/meditation takes them to a place of perfection. Corpses of those who die in this state are carried out by acolytes who hope to take their place someday. Unknown to the cult: The ball of light is an elemental from a positive energy plane. It has mass ESP and can cast flawless telepathic illusions. It feeds on the misdirected spiritual energy in its presence.
The Temple of Graves
The graves in this temple are smashed icons, idols and other religious artifacts. The acolytes here accept these for any reason whatsoever. Some are brought by those who have lost faith. Others are captured in foreign lands and are brought here by returning travelers and soldiers who want to dispose of the objects but fear supernatural reprisals. Some of the smashed artifacts are still quite valuable and possibly quite cursed. While presented to outsiders as a service, this temple is run by mages, who, being chaotic, seek to reduce the influence of gods in the world.
The Sunken Temple
The Sea God does not send major storms or red tides to the Island of Siros so long as his temple is packed with worshippers. When an earthquake sent part of the island into the sea a thousand years past, the temple was submerged. The local priesthood realized the only way to end a decade of storms that followed was to fill the temple with worshippers. Lots were drawn and the chosen drowned. Using a number of submerged air tents and caves, divers were able to chain these chosen to the pews. As these bodies decay, they must be replaced. When the supply of criminals and unwary travelers runs out, lots are chosen. Tritons and Merfolk sometimes interfere with this temple. What right have land creatures to even imagine a sea god?
The fake temple is upstairs. It is dedicated to an obscure, harmless and minor goddess from some foreign land. The real temple is hidden below and is dedicated to Yuchen-Domma, goddess of the dirge. Members of her inner circle have quarters here.
In a cavernous inner chamber, followers and captives of her cult are wander about listlessly, singing a section of her dirge of hopelessness. This dirge functions as a protection from chaos and protection from good spell for all followers in the temple. It also delivers -5% HP per round (five percent of maximum HP, rounding up) to anyone in the chamber or areas immediately around it who is not also singing the dirge and has not plugged their ears (which only halves the effect). Anyone hearing it for more than a round will be able to join without knowing the words or the melody (no one knows the meaning). Clerics and paladins who join in will offend their patron deities greatly and must undergo a quest immediately after leaving the temple or face the wrath of their god. Mages and chaotic characters who join in will lose the ability to speak in 1-3 days (The DM should determine an appropriate cure). Elves vaguely recognize the tune but cannot remember where they might have heard it before.
The priests of the Confidence of Alaf have for aeons held poor Vantu prisoner. The pitiable god was captured by Alaf, companion to a great hero in epic days past. Alaf is not a god, but he, and through the ages his confidants, tortured Vantu until he granted divine powers and spells to the order.
Vantu appears as a frail, incoherent man shackled to a wall (or on rack or other torture device) in an obscure torture chamber in the basement of the temple. The temple above resembles a museum more than a temple. Tapestries, paintings and performances recount the Epic of Eidivir, inflating the role of Alaf, of course.
Cathedral of Crom’s Slumber (Eastern)
Here the Great Dreamer of the Eastern Order of the Holy Rest slumbers, stirring only every few days to eat and drink. In her sleep, she communes with the previous great sleepers who have passed to the underworld. She acts as the conduit for communication between the church and the underworld, relaying blessings, spells and status reports on events that might disturb Crom and wake him (and cause all nations and people to battle until hardly a man walks under the sun).
It is essential that no one make noise here. The floors and walls are covered with rugs and tapestries. The priests take vows of whispering and refrain from even casting silence spells except in emergencies. If adventurers find their way in and make noise, wear boots, etc., the priests will do everything in their power to silence them first, then kill them if necessary (They are lawful neutral).
In order to close out the 2011 ‘Bring It’ series of by-request posts, I’m going to skip around the last ones. Some of your requests require more time than others, but now that I have time to post again, I need to build up steam again.
Jukebox hero: Twelve or more songs the bards are singing this season in a tavern near you in Vornheim (or any fantasy setting).