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Endless Blue – Week 117 – Reef-backs: Immense Creatures and Where to Find Them   Leave a comment

Biology

Reef-backs: Immense Creatures and Where to Find Them

It is not a fluke that the endless oceans of Elqua have given birth to creatures of stature beyond any of the aberrations that roam the surface world. Known as abyssal gigantism, some deep sea animals have evolved to sizes manyfold greater than normal. The Colossal Squid, the Blue Whale, or the Hair Jelly are all animals that have grown to immense size due directly to vastness of the oceans.

The Allometry of Abyssal Gigantism

Three conditions must be met for the possible development of abyssal gigantism. A candidate creature needs to have an efficient metabolism, a high surface area/volume ratio, and finally the ability to become buoyant.

To live is to need to eat. Without sustenance, the energy of nutrition, all life dies. But the more massive a creature becomes, the more efficient its digestive system has evolved. While a Kraken may have been 30 times the size of a cuttlefish, its energy demand is only 23 times greater. This is how animals such as whales can subsist on a diet of tiny krill. The repeatedly confirmed proportion of ¾ is called Lorwynn’s Rule, and is a direct correlation from his research into the theory of Evolution in the oceans of Elqua.

As well, as creatures increase in size the ratio of their internal volume to their epidermal surface area increases. This is the square-cube law. The bigger the creature, the greater percentage of the creature is exposed to the outside environment. With greater internal volume, the more heat is generated from their metabolism and subsequently trapped within. This heat must be regulate, and this is where the surface area comes into effect. With a larger surface area, there is more area for internal heat to be shed either by conduction (a cooler fluid or gas blowing across the surface and absorbing some of the heat) or by radiation (heat given off as infrared light). In the deep ocean, where little light can reach and the water can reach temperatures in the single digits, a greater surface area makes conduction more efficient, and in return enables creatures to grow larger while still maintaining their body temperature.

The final factor that allows creatures to grow so large is the water itself helps to support the creature’s ponderous weight. While a humpback whale may float unhindered in the ocean depths, a beached whale will be crushed by its own weight, with no buoyancy to lighten the pull of gravity. Animals with no buoyancy must fight the omnipresent effects of gravity through skeletal foundations and muscle mass, essentially struggling constantly from becoming squashed. Floating in water lessens this strain on the body, and lets the energy and resources normally needed to maintain features likes arms and legs to be diverted to growing larger in size.

The waterworld of Elqua is approximately one third larger than Earth and is 95% covered in ocean. This not only results in wider distances between land masses, but even deeper depths of the sea floor. Here, in the Endless Blue, creatures can grow to proportions only dreamed of on other worlds.

Immense VS Enormous

To account for cases of abyssal gigantism, two new categories of Size are needed: Immense and Enormous. For any creature to achieve these sizes, they must take the corresponding template.

“Immense” and “Enormous” are inherited templates that can be applied to any creature with the (Aquatic) sub-type. Of note is that in order to take the “Enormous” template, the “Immense” template must already be applied, making their bonuses cumulative.

The base creature’s type remain unchanged, and uses all the base creature’s statistics and abilities except as noted.

Size: Creatures with the Immense or Enormous templates become the equivalent size.
Type: Same as base creature, which must have the (Aquatic) sub-type.
Hit Dice: Same as base creature.
Hit Points: An Immense creature re-rolls any hit die results that are less than half their base Hit Die, while Enormous automatically get maximum rolls.
Initiative: Immense creatures suffer a -8 penalty to initiative, while Enormous creatures always go last.
Speed: Despite their increase in size, neither Immense nor Enormous creatures gain any bonus to their base speed. Any increase in their speed gained by an increase in size is immediately counter-acted by the drag from the liquid environment. However, any movement by Immense creatures that comes in contact with another creature is automatically a free charge, while the same for an Enormous creature is an automatic bull rush. These things are so large that they shrug off any impacts with other creatures smaller than themselves like leaves.
Armor Class: Immense creature gain a +2 natural AC bonus, while an Enormous creature gains a +3 bonus.
Base Attack/Grapple: Base attack remains unchanged, but Immense creatures suffer a -16 to grapple checks, while Enormous creatures cannot grapple anything smaller than itself. It would be the equivalent of you trying to grapple a fly or an amoeba, respectively.
Attack/Full Attacks: Unchanged.
Damage: Unchanged.
Space/Reach: Immense creatures have a space increases by a factor of 10 (to at least 100′), while an Enormous creature changes feet to miles.
Special Attacks: Same as base creature.
Special Abilities: Damage Reduction 2 (would become Damage Reduction 4 for an Enormous creature)
Spell-Like Abilities: Same as base creature.
Special Qualities: The creature retains all the special qualities of their base form, except for the following changes:

  • Immense creatures are immune to subdual/nonlethal damage.
  • Enormous creatures are immune to pain, fear, confusion, charm, and other mind-affecting states. It can, however, still suffer from morale effects.
  • Both Immense and Enormous creatures are only vulnerable to area-of-effect spells. Normal weapons have no effect, but some kind of excavation equipment might.

Base Saves: Fort +17, Ref +0, Will +0
Ability Scores: Str +9, Con +17
Skills: None.
Feats: None.
Environment: Any open water (Shoals and Shelf).
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: CR +10 for Immense, CR +20 for Enormous (for a total of +30).
Treasure: Standard for the base creature.
Alignment: Same as the base creature.
Advancement: Same as the base creature, +10 HD for Immense, +20 HD for Enormous.
Level Adjustment: None. Immense and Enormous creatures take nearly no notice of the world around them, and are unsuitable as player characters

Immense would be about 100′ to a mile, while Enormous are measured from a that to beyond the limit of sight (30 miles or more). To visualize this, imagine your character takes up a 1″ square that equates to 5′ — an Immense creature takes up the entire tabletop, while an Enormous creature would fill the entire room! At these scales, there is little that normal weaponry can do to harm such creatures — you could do just as well trying to stab the dirt beneath your feet.

Damage inflicted on an Immense creature is reduced to 1 point per die, while the only damage capable of being inflicted on an Enormous creature comes from disintegrate and such spell effects.

Immense and larger animals cannot be used as breeding stock for packbreeders, as not only is their dietary intake too large for a single piscean to keep up with, but the lifespan of such a creatures extends many times longer than the expectancy of the breeder. If anything, Immense and larger creatures have a greater chance of breeding other animals that are part of their localized biome (see Personal Biome below), resulting in perhaps a one-in-a-million micro-sized habitat unlike anything else on Elqua.

The Islands That Move

Perhaps on of the most unique features of Elqua are the Islands That Move. These masses that float on the currents have many different origins, but a fair share of them are actually a magnificent beast called the Reef-back.

As is common for creatures of epic size, the reef-backs are filter feeders instead of predators.  Their proportions make quick alterations in trajectory impossible, so they evolved to strain out nutrients from the waters as they travel, subsidized by the ecological mass embedded on their back — hence the name.

Reef-back

A reef-back is an Immense, flat creature with a triangular body, two massive flippers mounted on either sloped side, and a huge keel pointing downward near the stubby tail. Their head, also flat and triangular, bisects the body between the upper flippers. Its flesh is thick and spongy, and along the edges periodically spaced are small bio-luminescent pores that sometimes leak luminescent effluvium. These pores glow when open, and could be mistaken for the creature’s eye, but in truth the reef-backs are blind. How they navigate is unknown, but they seem able to avoid collisions with large objects like mountains or running a ground.

Reef-backs are creatures that spend most of their developmental years imbedded in the sea floor, absorbing nutrients from the silt and marine snow for decades. As nature takes its course, local coral and fauna cover the broad back of the beasts as they would any normal part of the sea bed.

Once grown to immense size, the reef-back must pull itself free of the sediment and coral anchoring it down. Those that cannot overcome their entanglement die, becoming fresh meals for the surrounding environment.  But those that do pull themselves free escape into the endless blue, carrying a sizable sample of the biome that nurtured them sprawled across their back.

Immense Beast (Aquatic)
Hit Dice: 25d8 +40 (640 hp)
Initiative: -8 (Immense)
Speed: 60 feet (12 cubes)
Buoyancy: Shelf (adjustable)
Armor Class: 16 (-2 size, +1 Dex, +7 natural)
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+2
Attack: +20 charge.
Full Attack: +20 charge.
Space/Reach: 200 ft. by 175 ft./60 ft (limited)
Special Attacks: None.
Special Defenses: Blood in the Water (Ex)
Special Qualities: Blindsight 60 ft., bluelight cloud, personal biome.
Saves: Fort +50, Ref +0, Will +0.
Abilities: Str 35, Dex 10, Con 50, Int 5, Wis 10, Cha 27
Skills: Listen +16, Spot +16, Swim +8
Feats: ?, Epic Toughness, Iron Will
Environment: Wide, open waters (Shoals and Shelf)
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 15
Treasure: Special (bluelight).
Alignment: Always true neutral.
Advancement: Enormous (30+ HD)
Level Adjustment:

Blood in the Water (Ex): So potent is the blood of a reef-back that spilling even the smallest amount into the surrounding waters will automatically draw any predator within a 1 mile radius. These would be opportunists will become confused (no save) by the taste of blood and attack the nearest creature, giving the reef-back time to swim off while the feeding frenzy continues.

Personal Biome: Adult reef-backs have small ecosystems growing on their dorsal side, comprised of flora and fauna from the area where the reef-back developed. These localized biomes are like small pictures of the ocean life habitat behind as the immense beasts roam the currents. In case of particularly old reef-backs, this biome may have diverged significantly from the original habitat and produced new life forms found no where else. These unique resources or livestock may have developed, and it is up to the DM to decide their manner, availability, and value.

Bluelight Cloud (Ex): All reef-backs periodically excrete a bio-luminescent fluid from pores along their dorsal edges. This waste comes from the massive amounts of algae they eat.  Alchemists collect the waste to supplement the creation of bluelight.

Combat

Reef-backs don’t engage in combat. They seem rather single minded, swimming along the currents, filtering out the tonnes tiny phytoplankton its ravenous hunger demands. They are so out of contact with their environment they will simply plow through any creature caught in their path. The closest to an attack a reef-back could make is to accidentally swat some poor animal that does not get out of the way of one the massive flippers that churn the water unendingly.

Creature Lore

Common: Myths speak of creatures wandering the endless blue so large they eclipse entire settlements.
Uncommon: Tribune Kenilicus Octavius, eighth son of an eighth son, one of the Anemois, is a folk hero for the Chelon whom stories tell tamed an immense reef-back and used it as his war mount.  Arhkelone by name, this reef-back became the scourge of the early Shellback Wars.
Rare: The blood of a reef-back can be used to lure predators away from their natural territory.
Obscure: Rumor has it that after the last break out of hostilities in the Shellback Wars, the Lumulus began a secret project to create warbeasts called the Ur’qwal’she, based on the reef-backs.

The great reef-back wove his way among the Spires, final
resting places of past Emperors, searching desperately
for his missing lord. So great was the reef-back’s grief
that his shadow swallowed the light over the Chelon Sea,
and the tinted glass mosaics of the Spires grew dull and dark.
For eight years, eight months, and eight days,
Arhelone mourned, no longer eating, growing thinner,
until eventually, he no longer eclipsed the world.

— a tale of the reef-back Arhkelone

Endless Blue – Week 116 – Waves of the World: The Anemoi   1 comment

Folklore

The Anemoi

The Rous Pyxida: Compass Rose of the Endless Blue

Folklore encompasses the verbal stories passed down by a culture that help define what they value in life.  It is the informal beliefs of everyday life, the superstitions and traditions that small groups share.  Through folktales, the listener is exposed to the vernacular of their culture, spoken between individuals, regardless or even sometimes in spite of sociological expectation.  They are the stories of the common piscean, dealing with the minutiae of every day life.  It has no concerned with grand or profound ideas. It has no care for how life began, how the oceans were created, or what happens when you die — that is the purview mythology.  Nor is it fable, as there is no objective lesson in the stories of these bigger than life heroes. The Anemoi tells what it means to be piscean.

The Anemoi is a collection of folklore tales centered on famous semi-historical pisceans. The tales have been passed down through so many generations that they no longer have any known author, posses no known linage of creator. Stories of the masses, they have been collected together in one form or another for the sole enjoyment of new generations of readers. Though collected in a single volume, the book The Anemoi has no credited individual from which it spawned. It is a book of the pisceans, for pisceans, about being piscean; the idea that any one piscean would take credit for the culture of all would be called egotistical in the extreme.

A more traditional Compass Rose

The Currents of Fate

Through The Anemoi‘s narrative, each folk-hero is tied to one of the basic directions of the currents — ordinal directions for the Periphery, and cardinal for the Core. Currents are ever present on the water world, and no life ever lived has not been buoyed in some way by those tides. The theme of movement flows through the disparate tales, weaving in and out, swirling, whirling, twirling around the infamous travelers. Pulling them to new adventure, pushing them to ruin, dragging some to waters less traveled while buffeting others to the pinnacle of their journey. All the while, reminding those reading that life forever moves in some direction, even if it may not be the desired one. Currents flow across the world of Elqua, those currents pushing and dragging the powerless along its travel. It is any wonder that they average piscean would school around stories about one of their own that tamed the oceans and claimed their homesea for themself?

It is because of this strange mixture of woe and weal that The Anemoi found a renewed interest during the Kraken Occupation.  The tales of grandiosity and raw possibility gave succor to the enslaved races. Perhaps it was this prevalent zeitgeist that explains why there is no Anemoi for the Kouton people — the species faced savage accusations of complicity with the Empire of the Kraken. But then again, even the much maligned Ceph have a folk-hero among the Anemoi…


The Cardinal Anemoi

The Cardinal Anemoi represent the “Civilized” races of the Known World: The Orcans, the Lumulus, the Chelon, and the Merfolk. The appellation of “civilized” is a point of contention between the species of the Periphery and the Core, dating back to its adoption by the Chelon anatomist who first wrote of the Piscean Form in the Vitruvian Codex, Certus Vitruvius. Despite its ignominious origin, the term is still used today, and was certainly in use when the folklore was being recorded.

The Contemplative Wave (From-the-West, Eastward)

From the West came Ekaidu, an Orcan monk whose mantra was “To improve one’s self is to know one’s self.” His stories tell of overcoming impossible feats not of violence, but of understanding. Many of his stories tell of him overcoming adversity through patience. Followers flocked to him in order to glean just a fraction of his internal wisdom, and he became a sage of Orcan-kind. A guru of introspection, he spoke of how Orcan martial skills are more than military preparedness or societal expectation. He explained how fitness in mind and soul were derived from a fit body, and an unfit mind tainted the body. Fitness is the ultimate form of self improvement. You must challenge your mind as much as you challenge you strength. Viewing things from a new perspective lead you forward to personal growth. It is never a case of black and white, but a blend of both — a grey of balance.

Associated Color: Grey

The Erudite Wave (From-the-South, Northward)

I’tlan’zu of forgeclan X’hamel’af was a Lumulus that sought understanding of all things, answers to questions she had not even ask yet. In this way, she was a paragon of the Lumlus ideal. But instead of secluding herself within the borders of the Lumulus Basin, homesea of her birth, she knew that answered were to be found beyond borders. In this way, she was unlike her xenophobic kind. Within her burned a need to move forward, to progress, to advance in understanding through purposeful movement. She moved the cause of science onward despite innate resistance to remain in her homesea and sought out knowledge. There were stories of how she made little progress, faced opposition both systemic and organic, yet she pressed onward. In her final story, tells of her entrapment by the Undertow, where she was drawn down into the whirlpool’s ever-tightening spiral, her mind running in circles, vertigo and fear gripping her heart but her mind joyus as new applications of old knowledge flooded her mind. In the face of impeding doom, she never stopped gaining insight into the world around her, even as the indigo depths finally swallowed her.

Associated Color: Indigo

The Imperial Wave (From-the-North, Southward)

Perhaps the most famous military commander — even more well known than the First Khan — was Kenilicus Octavius. Born the eighth son of an eighth son of a race slowly dwindling, the chances of his birth were such unlikely kismet that it was immediately evident this child was destined for greatness. Though not of high aristocratic blood, Kenilicus earned a military assignment when as a non-combatant he routed a Lumulan incursion during a bloody period of the sporadic Shellback Wars. This period took on his name, becoming known as the Kenilicus Campaign. Given a field command, Kenilicus’ shrew mind understood his race was in decline and must expand the power of the Chelon Empire. After all, he had been told his whole life that his very birth was challenge to the idea that his species was dying out. Kenilicus rapidly clawed his way up the ranks of His Magesty’s Royal Armada to become the youngest Chelon Tribune of all time. As the Kenilicus Campaign pushed back the encroaching Lumulan forces, Octavius’ ideals of diaspora, colonization of conquered waters, coalesced. He lived the ideal of Chelon Imperialism, claiming neighboring territory lost by the Lumulus as newly annexed Chelon Sea. Tales would tell that Kenilicus restored, even exceeded the reach of the Old Empire with new green kelp forests to feed a burgeoning Second Empire. Expansionism, the need for “elbow room” by manifest destiny, was Kenilicus’ heritage and the gift he gave his people.

Associated Color: Green

The Popular Wave (From-the-East, Westward)

The multiple tribes of Mer are a swirling kaleidoscope of color and ideas, a dance of both old tradition and of momentary inspiration. The Merfolk are a people of sharing. The mer known only as Philia flourished in the tropical environment, becoming the most well known Mer moving in social circles of the time.  A social gadfly, a celebratory vagrant, flitting from conversation to conversation, a quick word of praise here, a look of appreciation there, slowly, endlessly, deliriously accumulating social recognition from even the most antisocial hermit. If there was a harvest festival, you just knew Philia would be there. An excessive gala? Philia would be threading through the dancers, glittering in gold. A somber observance, and there is Philia, wearing the most tasteful ensemble. Most every settle in the Mer Currents has a tale or two of when Philia visted their little town, all filled with the descriptions of grandeur and prominence… But never is a word found describing Philia themself. Even the words used in The Anemoi have an almost neutral tone, never leaving hint nor clue to the piscean called Philia. Male? Female? Most merfolk would be hard pressed to come up with any detail. While most would say Philia was never even real, the Mer whom are inspired by the lavish stories of the Anemoi have accepted Philia whole-heartedly as the Mer ideal of socialization.

Associated Color: Orange

The Ordinal Anemoi

The “Primitive” Races were relegated to the ordinal directions — those that bisect between two adjacent cardinals. They consist of the Kouton, the Locanth, the Sahaguin, and the Yaun-Teel (the Ceph fall under this term, but are disavowed by the other races). The intimation of inferiority by linking them to “impure” directions — at best a bastard offspring of the cardinals — is not lost, nor as some critics believe, unintentional. In spite of this textural tainting, the races of the Periphery show the same love and inspiration for The Anemoi as those of the Core.

The Aimless Wave (From-the-Southeast, Northwestward)

The names Shras strikes awe into the hearts of Sahaguin and non-sahaguin alike. Shras the Wanderer, greatest fighter of the Known World, was such a savage fighter that no one could defeat him. Despairing in the lack of suitable opponents, Shras would challenge most any stranger to cross his path to combat, whether they assented or not. Never losing, it became apparent to Shras that there was no one in the Sahaguin Lagoons that was his peer, and in anguish he beseeched the gods to send him an adequate challenger. Finding nothing but silence as a reply, Shras set himself adrift on the currents, despair dragging him across the Known World like flotsam. His travels filled the void in his soul, bringing him to new places where his abilities were tested in ways he never imagined. Embracing the randomness of travel for its own sake, overcome with wanderlust, Shras swam among the Hinterseas, in the No Mer’s Seas between nations, in the endless blue spaces where nothing existed of not but potential prowled, searching for nothing save a new day.  To earn his keep, Shras became a traveling fighter, his own miniature coliseum. Where violence was needed, Shras was found, bringing brutality to those that traffic in its indiscriminate fervor.

Associated Color: Blue

The Lucrative Wave (From-the-Northeast, Southwestward)

Dinar the Trader is basic education for the youth of the Yaun-Teel Bights. Cited as the epitome of self improvement in accordance to the Principles of Service, Dinar was originally born into slavehood.  Through shrewd negotiations and an eye for opportunity, he bought himself free of his indentured servitude and was allowed to discard his torc.  However, Dinar chose to keep the torc around his neck, for though he was free from the whims of masters, he was still enslaved by the whim of trade.  He let the Pecuniary Stream move him from town to town, opportunity to opportunity, taking him across the Known World.  Before he could leave anywhere, Dinar was impelled to ply the art of commerce.  He set up trade posts, finalized trade deals, set local business on the right direction to profitability (for a small percentage, of course), and generally increased the wealth of those whose travels crossed his current. One notorious detail from the Accounts of Dinar the Trader are of his ornately embroidered purse. This fabled pouch was said to be enchanted, openable only to Dinar himself. Should any unsanctioned or nefarious individual try to pry it open would reportedly pull back their had minus a missing digit or two, as if it were alive and bitten down on the intruder. The purse was even given personality, said to be so loyal to its owner that it never left his side. Once opened, the embroidered purse of Dinar is said to cast a purple glow so powerful it tanned the skin.

Associated Color: Violet

The Nomadic Wave (From-the-Northwest, Southeastward)

Movement in nothing new to the Locanth. Their culture understands that nature needs time to replenish, and that to settle in one place taxes the waters. Misu Atswadi espoused looking to the animals for wisdom. Flora and fauna flourished in the Gulf of Locanth long before the Locanth themselves developed. The ecology of Elqua is a delicate net of interwoven cycles.  Seasons come and go, with their waxing comes life and their waning comes death.  Algae bloom in the spring, kelp forests grow lush in summer, autumn sees the rise of spawning, and the schools of fish move on to newer waters as winter approaches. This is a natural cycle, understood by living things, to give nature time to replenish its bounty. Sea-life grew and thrived with an intrinsic knowledge of seasons, of when waters would grow colder and food become scarcer. Trust in this instinct, and treat places once lodged as sacred, not territory. As frigid water from the north pushes the current southward, Atswadi taught to move along with them, to migrate with nature, giving past waters a chance to regrow so they may share their riches unabated for eternity. Her life was dedicated to showing respect for that which died to fill your stomach, to honor its memory by giving its spawn room and time to recuperate. Seasons cycle, life cycles, history cycles… help the cycles turn.

Associated Color: Yellow

The Shunned Wave (From-the-Southwest, Northeastward)

Heigira is the only mention of the Ceph in The Anemoi, and her depiction is a tragic one. Persecuted, reviled for what she was, for something she had no control over, Heigira fled in the face of violence. Hers is a story of evacuation, of exodus. Her stories a tinged with the sorrow of departure, accented by retreat in fear, punctuated by only brief moments of respite before being exiled once again. Originally chased off for simply being Ceph, Heigira suffered the bigotry of the piscean races for decades.  Every new place she visited, seeking asylum, returned hostility and racism instead.  Years of cruelty took their toll on Heigira, and she lost the will to fight.  Instead of facing her oppressors, she fled instead.  Never raising a tentacle or ungius, this pacifist opted instead to flee.  But slowly, her pacifism was noticed by others. Others that tired of fighting, that tired of ostracization. From each temporary sanctuary Heigira was chased from, one or two of those natives decided to leave with her. Village after village, a trickle of new acolytes joined with Heigira’s followers, and soon she had a huge school following her, comprised of every known race of piscean,  This rag-tag group of vagabonds became known as the Tangle, as they intermixed and accepted each other for who they were, not what society demanded they be. Heigira’s stories are always soaked in loss, as thick as the blood spilled by those of the Tangle unfortunate enough to not escape persecution. Some say she still leads the Tangle across the Known World, in the vain hopes of someday finding a place to call home.

Associated Color: Red

Dark Direction

Currents flow across the oceans of Elqua, changing direction, growing stronger, fading weaker. But sometimes the flow of currents ceases. Here is the unspoken Anemoi lies, the Nexus of Currents, the Still of the Water, the Stagnant Tide, the Center of All. The Kouton do have their own folklore, and despite their natural tendency to keep secrets to themselves, some beliefs demand they be shared. Here, where the waters are still and the currents flow around them, floats the Center of All. Hidden from sight, he manipulates events from behind the scenes, influencing the direction the other Anemoi travel. Was I’tlan’zu nudged towards her end at the Undertow? Was the Kenilicus Campaign guided by unseen hands? Was Shras the Wanderer tricked into his journey? Was Heigira’s exodus driven along a path? It couldn’t be — how could one holder of secrets hold so much sway? It would be apocryphal…

Associated Color: Ultraviolet

“Through folklore, we can communicate with our past,
assure ourselves we are not that different,
and revere how much we have changed.”

Endless Blue – Week 115 – Patchwork Mer: Pieced Together Pisceans   Leave a comment

Anatomy

Patchwork Mer: Pieced Together Pisceans

Life under the waves is dangerous. With predators prowling invisibly in the Endless Blue, potentially approaching from any direction, piscean settlements are hardly idyllic. Animal attacks, tragic accidents, even individual violence is not uncommon, and wherever there are conflicts there are always victims. And some of those victims suffer harm that will leave them permanently disfigured.

Enter the College of Doctors, a branch of the Resurrectionists that suffered old prejudices in order to study the piscean form. They developed modern medicine, bringing aid to the Known World‘s many malaise. As their understand of how biology worked, they developed methods for helping the abscissed. By using the body’s natural healing systems, the Doctors discovered how to graft the organ of one individual in place of a recipient’s missing part — a process known as transplantation.

Transplantation is not a widely accepted procedure. In fact, the idea is responsible for a resurgence of anti-Anatomist hysteria that once lead to the Culling Purge. The effects of transplantation can sometime lack finesse, despite the skill of the surgeon. As a result, transplantation has received a rather derogatory nickname: patchwork.

Creating a Patchwork

“Patchwork” is a template, applied to a playable race, that allows the character to have organs transplanted to/into their body from another race. It is an acquired template, requiring a sufficiently knowledgeable and skilled individual to complete the procedure, thereby grafting a bodily part to the target.

Parts must duplicate the functionality of the replaced/missing part. While an amputated arm of a Mer could be replaced with the arm of an Orcan would work, you cannot graft a Ceph tentacle instead. Ceph are more limited in the grafts they can have, but even finding a Resurrectionist willing to perform the surgery on them is difficult.

Size and Type: While some body parts from a Large sized creature can be grafted unto a Medium sized recipient, these differences are minor and should not change the recipients size or type.
Hit Dice: Some grafts may bestow abilities like Damage Reduction, the base hit dice of a patchwork piscean do not change.
Speed: The Fins/hands of Locanth will increase base speed by 5ft./1 cube per transplant.  Otherwise none.
Armor Class: Lumulus carapace grants damage reduction of 1, while Chelon shell improves natural Armor Class by 1.  Otherwise, none.
Base Attack/Grapple: As per graft, see below.  Of note, Kouton skin modifies the escape artist skill, which interacts with Grapples.
Full Attack: A transplant recipient may take multiple grafts that bestow methods of attack, the individual still only attacks the number of times a round it has earned through race and class.
Damage: As per graft, see below.
Special Attacks: Special Attacks cannot be replicated through grafting. Usually, special attacks are a system of organs that contribute to the unguis. For example, venom is not only the tooth that punctures the skin, but the gland that produces the venom, and the digestive system that extracts the material that constitutes the venom.
Special Qualities: Similar to Special Attacks. Eyes do carry over abilities like darkvision (ex) , ultravision (ex), etc., but require both eyes be replaced for full strength. Otherwise, halve all ranges and acuity. Other visual methods, like echolocation (ex) or blindsense (ex), are complex systems that extend beyond a single organ.
Base Save Bonuses:  Same as base creature or class level.
Abilities: Transplant recipients receive a -1 to Charisma penalty for each graft, regardless if it common, special case, or grifter.
Skills: Except for Kouton skin and Orcan/Narwahl larynx, being a recipient of a graft bestows no special edge or insight in any skill.
Feats: Ceph skin grants a halved version of Camouflage, but like Skills, graft recipients gain no bonus abilities.
Environment: Any, as base creature.
Organization: Any, though the difficulty of reproducing the procedure for mass numbers is increasingly more onerous as the number of patients increases.
Challenge Rating: By class level or base creature.
Treasure: As base creature.
Alignment: As base creature.
Advancement: By character class.
Level Adjustment: +1 for every two grafts, rounded up.

Grafts differ from the other product of Resurrectionists, Homunculi. Grafts can only be applied to a living creature, and Homunculi are essentially animated dead. The animus vitae of a homunculi has an inherent expectation of how its body worked while alive, and due to its limited mental capacity cannot adapt to an new, altered form. Living pisceans, however, can adapt. This means that homunculi must be made from intact cadavers, while a graft can only be applied to a living being.

Common Grafts

Remember that for every graft, the piscean suffers a -1 to their Charisma, and for every two their Level Adjustment is increased by +1, rounding up.

RaceGraftEffect
CephEyeUltravision 30′
Skin Camouflage at half effectiveness
ChelonEye
Low Light Vision 30′
Shell (Skin) +1 AC
KoutonEyeDarkvision 30′
EyeLow Light Vision 30′
Eyes (Both) Ultravision 30′
JawBite 1d2
Skin+1 Escape Artist
LocanthEye
Low Light Vision 15′
Fins+5 base Speed
Hand +5 base Speed
Skin
+1 natural AC
Tail+5 base Speed
LumulusEye
Ultravision 30′
Shell (Skin) 1 Damage Resistance
MerSkin
See Special Case Grafts
NarwahlArm
+1 Strength
JawGore 1d2
OrcanArm+1 Strength
JawBite 1d2
Larynx+2 to Perform (sing)
Sahaguin ArmStrength
EyeLow Light Vision 30′
FinsRake 1d2
HandRake 1d2
Skin+1 natural AC
Yaun-Teel EyeDarkvision 30′
Fins+1 Initiative
Hand+1 Initiative

Special Case Grafts

These special case grafts are not easily noticeable by looking at a transpiscean, but neither are they invisible. There are no empty spaces within the body, so these special grafts must be either crammed in between other organs (which causes noticeable bulges beneath the skin) or be place where an endemic organ has be lost. Paired organs like lungs or kidneys are ideal candidates for replacement, or organs that can be partially removed with minor handicap, such as the liver or intestines.

Koi coloration
  • Baleen: The Cetaceans have a series of plates that hang from the top of their mouths that aid in feeding. The close together plates strain plankton from the water. A transpiscean can posses this graft, but it grants little other than an ability to catch plankton in his mouth — the individual still has to “hunt” for plankton like any whale must.
  • Ink Sacs: Ceph ink sacs can be grafted successfully, but the individual has no control over their usage. Ink sacs act on a fear reflex, so any time the piscean is surprised, make a Constitution check to stop from expelling its dark contents. The individual can willing fail this check, however. Ink sacs are limited to one use per day, and takes a full day to replenish. This special graft is exceedingly rare, due to the prevalent social opinion of Ceph as vermin.
  • Mer Skin: Another special case is Mer skin. Due to the vast diversity of coloration the Mer tribe exhibit, grafting Mer skin is mostly a cosmetic choice. An Orcan with a Mer skin graft might have the familiar gold, black, and white patterning of a Koi fish. Since such coloration is outside the norm, individuals with Mer skin receive a -2 Charisma penalty when dealing with more conservative pisceans, but enjoy a +1 to Intimidate checks against those same individuals. Conversely, Mer-skin graft recipients gain a +1 Charisma bonus when amongst the Merfolk and the Mer Currents, where most everything is welcome.
  • Salt Gland: “Turtle” Chelon have a salt gland that allows them to survive in brackish water — water that is a combination of both salt- and fresh water. Getting this graft allows a piscean to maintain the salt levels in their body. While this doesn’t grant them the ability to live in fresh water long term, they can easily withstand the debilitating effects of fresh water for short periods of time.
  • Swim Bladder: All pisceans have a swim bladder that controls their buoyancy. The base creature can replace his normal bladder with that of another race to allow him to exist without effort in areas of greater pressure. Assuming the bladder is adjustable, they ignore the effects of the Pull.

Grifter Grafts

There are unscrupulous Resurrectionists that will make promises of miracles to be had through grafts. These grifters rarely stay around long enough for the surgery to heal and the victim to realize he’s been had. These grafts provide no benefit to the piscean, but still incur the same penalties as a useful one:

Lumulus Mandible: The hard, chitinous mandible of the Lumulus is essential in speaking their native tongue. It is the only way to properly pronounce the ‘ in Lumulan, a click sound that is produced in different ways, such as scraping, striking, or plucking the mandibles against one another in conjunction with slapping the vocal cords together at the same time. Some pisceans seek out this graft to better their ability to speak Lumulan authentically. As can be imagined, the piscean races other than the Lumulus are incapable of making the proper intricate muscular movements to accomplish this action. However, the graft will work as intended on another Lumulus.

Syrinx: The vocal chords of a Cetacean, the Syrinx is comprised of both the vocal chords that most other pisceans posses, along with bands of tympanic membranes where they trachea forks into the lungs. This organ is what allows Cetacean Versesingers to carry two or more notes at once, but to date no syrinx graft as been able to impart the ability to a non-cetacean.

Uterus: The limited reproductive window of the Yaun-Teel has resulted in interest by third and fourth generation individuals to receive transplanted uteri from Merfolk or first and second generation Yaun-Teel. Only a Yain-Teel Resurrectionist would be trusted with this procedure, and even they know the operation has never been successful. It is usually at the insistance of wealthy Yaun-Teel traders that the procedure is even attempted.

Greater by the Sum of its Parts

Not every transplanted body part will bestow significant bonus. A taloned Sahaguin finger can be grafted to a Kouton hand, but they patient will not receive the bonus attack for a whole hand. The following is a list of grafts that bestow bonuses to any species that follows the Piscean Form:

  • Left Eye, Right Eye
  • Skin or Shell
  • Jaw
  • Left Arm, Right Arm
  • Left Hand, Right Hand
  • Fins/Flukes (Pelvic and Caudal).
  • Tail

Bonuses are cumulative — having one Narwahl arm gives +1 Strength, having both arms grants +2 to Strength. One Sahaguin hand grants a 1d2 rake attack, two hands allows a second attack, and Sahaguin fins provide a third (assuming the transpiscean is allowed these additional attacks due to level). For eyes, vision distances are doubled (except for Kouton eyes, where both must be of Kouton origin to gain a single 30′ Ultravision effect). Skin and Shell are mutually exclusive, and all fins/flukes must be replaced with those of the same species to gain the ability.

Ceph morphology restricts their potential grafts to two Eyes, a Jaw, and Skin, along with any Special Case Grafts chosen.

“Isn’t it infinitely better to transplant a silenced heart
than to sink it to the sea’s floor to be devoured by worms?”
— an ethical dilemma in the face of tradition

Endless Blue – Week 114 – Ewer on the Confluence   Leave a comment

Geography

Ewer on the Confluence

Lost in the mountainous wilderness, the party spies a black dome not too far away, perched near the cliff edge of a deep trench. It is a large building with a stone frill around it. Oval and long in shape, it is made of obsidian, with the front 40′ smooth but the rest of its 200′ length covered in a latticework of chevrons, also of obsidian, that point towards the other end.

Despite the craggy stone terrain, Bladderwort kelp grows around the dome, swaying gently in the eddies. The kelp appears malnourished, and is slightly stunted, thus the poorly developed algae floats slightly but not straight up.

Ground Floor

  1. The first thing that is noticeable is that the inside of the dome is comprised of salmon-pink marble. The room itself is an acute triangle, and the entrance from outside has no door, but strips of vividly mauve leather across the entryway. The outer wall is lined with empty caribiners, suggesting something was to be connected here before venturing further in. The door on the inner wall has no handle, but is hanging wide open (all doors in the dome are in this same state).
  2. Long, oval rooms with a series of 8 columns along the outer wall. However, instead of supporting the roof, these columns curve inward toward the center of the building and actually connect to the inner wall, forming arcs. They are comprised of a fine but flexible kind of coral, and will only give slightly no matter how much pressure is applied. From where the columns join the wall downward to the floor, hammock like sacks hang, anchored at each end with more caribiner-like devices. Inside of each sack is an inert Patchwork being — flesh golem like pastiches of humanoid parts sewn together. The party can choose to kill these Patchwork things, but slitting their throats or impaling where the heart is triggers no movement from them.
  3. Instead of a hallway, this corridor is more rounded, like an underground tunnel. It does not travel in angular directions, but instead seem to fold into curves. Patches of dried, caked-on brown algae cling to the walls, floor, and ceiling, in no discernible order.
  4. This room is trisected by two curtains of hanging leather, similar to those at the entrance of rooms 1. They seem to insulate the sections they form, with each next one becoming warmer than the last.
  5. This corridor curves sharply to the left, and almost imperceptably angles downward. The further along, the faster the air moves forward.
  6. This round cavern as thousands of tiny holes across its walls and ceiling. They are too small to let in light, but a flow can be felt emanating from them. There is a larger hole in the ceiling further back into the room, that leads up to room 8 in the Upper Floor.
  7. This chamber is large, at least two stories. A balcony hangs over the entrance way, and immediately to each side is a 14′ wide column. These columns are covered in a thick, solid plug of wax. Should the party penetrate the wax plug, the Patchwork Men from room 1 will animate. At this point, treat the whole building as a wild zone, where any spell or energy employed has unexpected consequences.

Broken Seals

Cruor starts pouring into Room 6 through the tiny holes in the walls and ceiling when the wax seals on the fonts are compromised. It takes 1 minute for room 6 to fill, after which the cruor will begin to advance down Room 5 and fill room 4 in another minute. Then it will travel along Room 3, taking 3 minutes to fill. Room 2b has a closer door than 2a, but that also means the Patchwork Mer inside may have intercepted the party before reaching it. Otherwise, both Room 2s will fill in 10 minutes, and finally both Rooms 1. However, no Cruor will spill out of the hanging strips that make up the entrance ways of Room 1.

Once the Ewer is filled, the briofont will begin to glow bright enough to be seen through the obsidian dome. Soon thereafter, the dome bends, unmooring itself from the ground and dropping into the bottomless trench and the abyssal Deep Sound Channel.

Significance of Conjunctions

The Confluence refers to overlap of three distinct magic sources. The first is the CurorWeb, an ethereal layer of power that can be tapped into to summon floating algae that are toxic if inhaled, called Red Tide. The second is a pair of fountains with life giving properties, known as Briofonts. These fonts produce an infusement of life called animus vitae, and can be used to give movement to the inanimate. The third is a unique ley line that, instead of crossing other ley lines, runs in a curve and forms a circle with itself. Above the center of this ley line, a large spur of crystal is perched.

The Ewer — this vessel — was built around these magic sources. It’s not just a “vessel” in terms of movement, but a vessel by means of what it holds inside. It is meant to be filled with the bubbling Briofont, ley line shaped Xanthellaette coral, and the coagulated toxin of the CruorWeb. Sashelas only knows what effect the Spur has in all this…


Upper Floor

  • 8. A 10′ hole in the floor leads down to Room 6 on the Ground Floor. The floor has an ever changing cascade of red travelling across it, like an eternal wave across the ocean.
  • 9. Unless bathed in ultraviolet light and view through ultravision, this room seems empty. In truth, the walls have myriad complex mathematical formulae written indelibly all over them. There are levels of math here that those outside the Outliers have yet to discover.
  • 10. The balcony from Room 7, where a huge node of crystal looms. It has a large center staff and smaller spikes emanating from around its base. It would most likely be a Spur, if not for its complexity and the fact it is inside a structure. It is immovable, and any small bit chipped off immediately disintegrates into silt.
  • 11. This room is actually a cage with bars barely 5″ apart. There doesn’t appear to be a door, and the cage appears empty.
  • 12. This trio of long rooms each hold a mask and mantle at the back, perched upon a pole and cross bar. The mantles are large and bulky, and drape a floor-length cape around the entire body. The masks cover half the face and are smooth, with tiny eye openings, and tapering out to a pointed nose, reminiscent of a marlin.

A proper skill check of difficult level reveals that the masks are indeed Icht masks, and in pristine condition. It’s not unreasonable to think the mantle/cape combinations are also of the same origin. However, due to their size and shape, they are difficult to carry out of the Ewer without actually wearing them. Which probably explains why they were left here to begin with…

The Patchwork Mer

The Patchwork Mer will animate should the seals on the pair of briofonts be punctured. They are not magical, and have standard stats as a normal humanoid for the setting, save of heightened stats. The manner of these boosts are based on the type of “replaced parts” the Patchwork has — they gain whatever ability bonus the race would normally get at the time of character generation. An orcan arm would give extra strength, chelonian lungs would give constitution, or lumulus carapace might bestow heightened armor. The GM can be creative in the possible combinations, and can increase then number of sewn-on parts to scale with the party’s level of power.

Patchwork Mer are the product of Resurrectionists that believe in the Transpiscean ideal that the piscean form can be improved upon. Going beyond mere prosthetics, these progressive Anatomists seek to create superior individuals by picking and choosing the desirable traits from other intelligent species. While the use of homunculi — reanimated bodies of expired creatures — for labor in the Mer Currents has found a foothold, overt evidence of transpiscean grafts is still taboo.


Ewer on the Confluence is written as a One Page Dungeon. One Page Dungeon is a yearly contest that ran from 2009 to last year, 2018. The home website for the project is www.dungeoncontest.com, and there you can find numerous submissions, individually or collected by year, of simple adventure outlines that can be easily dropped into your campaign if you are struggling to come up with an idea on game night. Some submission are absolutely brilliant, others are beautiful to behold, but all are charmingly creative. I highly recommend plumbing their One Page Dungeon archives — there are so many gems to be found. Submission Guidelines can also be found there to guide you in making your own One Page Dungeons to share with others. All submissions are released under the “Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported” license.

One Page Dungeon Contest www.dungeoncontest.com

“You are the ewer.
You fill it with of choice, and it is filled without permit.
The pang of mistakes; the surge of success.

“You are the ewer.
You chose your path, but destiny is the destination.
The act of trying, the regret of passivity.

“You are the ewer.
You aim your actions, and they impact the whole world.
The rashness of youth, the tedium of experience.

“This is the vessel from which all comes from, to which all goes.
Draft from the ewer, drink of its life as it fills.
All things lead here.
You are on the Confluence

— a fresh echo in the Deep Sound Channel

Endless Blue – Week 113 – Ocean’s Bounty: Aquatic Fruit   Leave a comment

Pomology

Ocean’s Bounty: Aquatic Fruit

While many of our lives’ little details have clear parallels with aquatic life, one glaring major difference is the lack of fruit.  While plant life, like animal life, began in water, it found greater success once it spread to areas where the water’s edge slowly subsided.  With water receded, what would become flora took root above the waves and spread across the world.  Most of what we would consider “underwater plants” are actually algae — kelp and seaweed, most notably

Despite this, plants are found near or in water.  Normally they are classified as submerged, emergent, or floating.

  • Submerged plants are vegetation rooted to the ocean floor with most if not all of their mass existing beneath the surface of the water.  Sea grass exemplifies this type of aquatic plant.
  • Emergent plants are rooted along the shoreline, sometimes becoming submerged during high water.  Lily pads are an example of emergent plant.
  • Floating plants are not tethered to the sea bed or shore line by their root system.  They truly float upon the water, their roots dangling into the water, like the water hyacinth.

The reason for this is that fruit requires pollination.  The denser medium of water severely limits the range that normally air-spread spores can reach, and most insects cannot survive the pressure of ocean depths.  However, both methods can still work.  A plant spreading its pollen is little different than a fish spawning over eggs, save the distance the sperm travels.  Further, while bees cannot survive under water, there are plenty of tiny aquatic crustaceans that can serve the same purpose.  In fact, this is the mechanic by which sea grass reproduces — sea grass pollen carried on the backs of invertebrates.

Anatomy of Fruit

Fruit is the structure produced by fertilized flowers that contains seeds.  It is the means by which some oceanic angiosperms (flowering plant-life) disseminates its offspring.

Outer Layer — All fruit has an outer layer.  Skin, peel, rind, or husk — be it for protection or capturing attention — the outer layer of the fruit is the most prominent characteristic.  Whether it is the green stripes of a watermelon, the prickly husk of a pineapple, or thick rind of oranges, this outer layer stands out as the primary identification for fruit.  Beneath the waves, this is no different.

  • The foremost attribute is color.  Some fruit are vividly hued, to gain the attention of herbivores that will consume the fruit and later spread the seeds elsewhere.  Remember that in the Endless Blue Campaign Setting, many creatures can see into the ultraviolet range, adding to the palette of possible coloration.  Also under coloration falls patterns. Spotted, striped, gradients, or spotted, symmetrical or asymmetrical patterns, can make a fruit look distinctive
  • Second only to coloration, the shape of a fruit is the next most distinctive attribute.  Fruits like the pear demonstrate how the physical shape of a fruit can become iconic.
  • The texture of the outer layer of fruit can be varied: smooth as an apple, husks like coconuts, or festooned with spines like cactus fruit.
  • Size is another trait that varies widely.  Some fruit can be tiny like berries or as large as pumpkins.  Keep in mind that the larger the fruit, the longer it takes to mature, taking up more of the plant’s resources to grow.  But just as fauna can grow to immense sizes underwater, the same can be said for flora.

Flesh —  This is the fruit proper: the pulpy, flavorful part that is generally viewed as the reason to eat.

  • Coloration again becomes a factor.  Most fruit flesh is pale, but fruit with vividly colored contents is common.
  • Texture also returns for consideration, but in the case of fruit flesh, it refers more to the feel of the fruit while being eaten.  Pomes like apples are crunchy while bananas are mushy.
  • Form — The flesh of fruit comes in immensely variable forms.  Most citrus fruit develop sections, while the aforementioned pomes are a solid.  Extremes could be gelatinous or even liquid.

Flavor — Flavor is a factor all on its own, as the variety of taste run a gambit of complexity beyond any other attribute.

  • Taste — Most everything falls into the five categories of taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory.
  • Temperature — While not really indicating the temperature of the fruit, but more the sensation of heat (spicy) or cool (minty).
  • Consistency — This refers to the tastes physical properties.  Watery tastes diluted, while creamy has a thickness to it.  Other possibilities are dry or astringent
  • Strength — Strength is the general potency of the flavor.  Mild to overpowering, it can be mellow, sharp, or even non-existent (such as the setting specific acari fruit used by Culinists for creating their potion-like fruit.

Seeds — The entire purpose of fruit is the dispersion of seeds, the floral method of propagation.  Sometimes the formation of seeds is problematic to eating the fruit, like the stones in cherries.

Ripeness —  Ripeness is the level of readiness a fruit has achieved in terms of being eaten.   As a fruit grows, it changes from an initial inedible seed-state into an edible fruit.  As more time passes, the fruit may leave its ripened stage and become past its best state for consumption.

Special — This category is a catch-all for any unique property a fruit (or fruit part) may have.  The most common special property is if the fruit if Processable.  This can manifest as simply as a minor change happening when cooked to as complex a process as making cocoa or coffee.  Fermentation is a category wherein the fruit can be broken down by micro-organisms to produce alcohol (see Drinking Like a Fish)

Fruit of the Fluid Nations

Acari —  Acari fruit is best known as the fruit used by Culunist to imbue with magical effects.  Acari grows from an aquatic vine that produces a translucent grayish melon with a rubbery skin and fully gelatinous insides. Flavor-wise, the melon possesses a bland, gruel-like taste, but its ability to absorb nutrients from the native soil will affect the pulp’s flavor.  Such “tailored” fruit will tend to grow to 60% or smaller than a wild Acari.

Funeral Stone — Most known for its role in funeral proceedings, Funeral Stone is a moderately sized fruit.  It possesses an almost rock-hard husk — thus the name “stone” — as well being incredibly dense.  Traditionally, they are used as weights in the funeral process to ensure the departed’s body sinks.

Funeral Stones grow in arctic areas, producing a flower that is hermaphroditic.  It changes from female to male quickly, thus making accidental self-pollination difficult.  The husk, fruit, and seed have almost identical solid composition, making it difficult to separate the parts.  Resistant even to denaturing, the best that can be accomplished is grating, thus it nominally used as a spice.  Care must be taken when choosing which part of the stone is grated, as the husk is a paralytic, and the seed is poisonous.

Merfruit – This is a group of inter-hybridized citrus fruits, so named as a parallel to the intermingling of Mer species. They run the range of coloration, but the key fruit are green (vert, bice), purple (damson), grey (oysterfruit), violet (solferino, sereino), and ultraviolet (abele).

Base Merfruit

Bice –  A small and oblate fruit with a thick pebbly skin.  They grow from about 1″ to 3″ radius, and weight deceptively more than they appear.   Inside, Bice has a vibrant green pulpy fruit separated into sections.  They have a slightly salty taste to their sweetness.

Damson – With a small, squashed round shape with faint lobes and a thin wrinkled peel, Damson have a powdery-purplish coloration within and without.  The tiny fruit ranges in size between 2.5″ to 4 inches across.  The taste of the fruit is often described as a mellow sweetness that distinctly identifiable as a Damson.

Solferino – The solferino is a large, smooth citric fruit with a violet peel.  Roundish, the solferino tapers slightly toward the stem, almost pear shape.  It’s pale pinkish-violet citrus pulp is deeply embedded inside a crisp pome-like flesh. It is found most everywhere in the Mer currents, and is a popular Merfruit outside is homesea.

Hybrid Merfruit

Vert – Crossing the solferino with a bice produces a greenish-blue mid-sized fruit.  Its skin is thick but easily pierced, and can be peeled of the citrus flesh in great chunks.  The citrus itself is sectioned into wedges, with a seed embedded in each wedge along the axis.

Abele – Further hybridizing the vert with another solferino produces an Abele.  The fruit is normally ultraviolet in coloration, and so look different to those without vision in the ultraviolet range.  Those with ultravision will see the fruit in its fully splendorous coloration; those without simply see a black fruit.

Sereino – Mixing an abele with a damson results in a bell-shaped fruit about the size of an adult’s fist.  The outer peel is easier to peel than that of the vert, but a deep purple hue.  The fruit is also purple in color, and is clumped together in wedges like the vert, but has a subdivision around its circumference.

Oysterfruit –  What can only be called as “remarkable”, infusing a Vert, an Abele, and a Damson achieves a huge hybrid known as Oysterfruit.  With a bark-like husk, the Oysterfruit actually grows into a hollow space-filled gourd.  The tensile strength of the husk keeps the fruit from imploding from the surrounding water pressure.  As a result, early pisceans used Oysterfruit husks as sturdy flasks once the slimy, almost mucilaginous fruit is scraped out.  The scraped out fruit can be eaten, and has an extremely salty and sour flavor, making it better suited for seasoning.  Both the husk and viscid fruit have a pale, unpleasing grey coloration that somewhat resembles the shell and meat of an oyster, hence the name.

Rotten Egg — Size of a Mer skull, Rotten Egg has a thin, soft scaly skin that is easily torn. The fruit is foul tasting, slimy, with a stringy texture. It comes in sections clustered around a central, fibrous core. The fruit drops from a surface plant into local sea water, where the saline levels slowly dissolve the skin. By the time the skin dissolves, the “ripened” fruit has become toxic. Bottom feeding sea life is drawn in by traces of flavor on the current and eat the fruit, thus swallowing the seeds and becoming poisoned.  The poison affects the creature’s sense of direction, causing the infected to beach themselves on the shore.  Those that are not eaten by the aberrations of the surface world decay and serve as fertilizer for the ingested seeds.

Telom — Telom are a similar citric fruit to Merfuit, but found in the Yaun-Teel Bights.  While not as extensive a variety as Merfruit, Telom have a couple of notable variants:

Bittersour telom — This variety of telom is very flavorful, with an intense bitter and sour taste and a lingering sweet aftertaste.  Unfortunately, eating the bittersour is actually bad for the health, interfering with the liver’s process of clearing toxins from the system.  They are best used as accents to other food and drink.  The fruit has a light tan skin, while the pulp is a pale pink.

Sweet telom — The tiny round fruit known as sweet telom have been cultivated to posses nearly no citrus pulp, and instead a having more a chewy flesh.  Usually found in freshwater or low-salt run-offs, they are a bright yellow color on the outside and nearly white inside.

Brindlemont telom — Brindlemonts have a heavy, waxy, bumpy skin and is oval-shaped with an extrusion on each end.  Its citric fruit in inedible, but zest grated from its rind is used for tinctures.

Thistlethread — This fruit is actually inedible, consisting of a fibrous bundle that, when “ripe”, are under significant tension.  When touched, the fruit explodes, loosening a mass of paired seeds connected with a thin strand.  The seeds are hooked, like a tiny harpoon, and will snag the flesh or scale of whatever disturbs the plant.  Clinging to the creature, the hooks on the seeds eventually break off and the tethered seeds eventually drift off, to settle on the sea floor and germinate.  The significance of this fruit is that, while a complex process, the threads can be harvested and woven together to from textiles.

Jared Rydelek, famous cultivar — half culinist, half packbreeder — creates new types of fruit. While this plant-breeding movement, like so many others, was founded in the Mer Currents, it was actually a Kouton that started the practice. As such, the practice of secrecy is deeply ingrained among its practitioners

— While good thoughts bear the best fruit,
bad thoughts do not wither on the vine…

Jared Rydelek, Kouton cultivar extraordinaire


I’d like to give thanks to Jared Rydelek and his YouTube Channel Weird Explorer.  It was watching his over 300 Weird Fruit Explorer videos that inspired this article.  Check out his work and realize that everything on there not only is real, but he has sampled them personally.  Many of the weirdest examples and the interesting trivia associated with them worked their way into this article, and as thanks, I created an NPC named after him and made him the founder of the Cultivar movement.  Jared’s proven he’s a braver man than me, and his perseverance shows how fact is often stranger than fiction.

Jared Rydelek’s Weird Fruit Explorer

Endless Blue – Week 112 – OCEAN Personality: Traits of the Endless Blue’s Homeseas   Leave a comment

Psychology

OCEAN Personality: Traits of the Endless Blue’s Homeseas

Individuals have personality — traits that taken collectively define who they are, mold how they respond to the world and others.  Such personality is crucial in defining who a piscean is and what makes them different than everyone else.  But personality is not just limited to the individual: nations themselves have personality in their own right, and those traits in turn have a part to play in Elquan politics, even everyday life.

The OCEAN Model of Personality breaks down the concept of personality into five spectra: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.  The expression of each of these traits taken collectively is what defines the personality.  Everyone (and every culture) falls somewhere along each of these spectra, and neither end of any spectrum is inherently bad.  As with most things, it is the extremeness in which it is expressed that is the cause of problems.

Each of the homeseas of the Known World falls conveniently along one of the extremes of these traits.  The contrast between some of these nations is obvious, while others are surprisingly insightful.  Understanding how the cultures fall on the ranges gives each species it uniqueness and provides understanding for the motivations behind each society’s actions.

OCEAN Model of Personality

OCEAN Model of Personality

Openness (Questioning)

Openness refers to the subject’s acceptance of new experiences, their receptiveness to new ideas, and the insightfulness to be creative.  At one end of the spectrum lies imagination and adventurousness, while the other end expresses caution and consistency.  In general, the trait describes the individual’s willingness to be vulnerable and operate outside of their safety zone.

At the excessive end of the spectrum, the Mer personify receptiveness to the nth degree.  The Mer Currents are the quintessential expression of openness to new ideas.  The entire culture bristles with curiosity of the next new thing.  Mer receptiveness to change is legendary.  Their natural inclination to accept every fad that comes around exemplifies their openness to experience. This trait can be trailed back to the homesea’s early days of a loose, yet entwined collective of thirteen tribal currents.  Variation came not just in the color of a piscean’s skin, but in their activities, beliefs, and traditions.

In contrast, the Chelon remain steadfast in their ancient ways, revering the “good old days” of the Empire.  They are an ancient race stuck in the past, mired in intransigence.  The culture desperately clings to memories of empiricism’s glory days, despite the fact that few still live that were alive then.  Their traditions mire them in the past that no longer resembles their present, prohibiting them from accepting new directions that could demonstrably better their nation.  To modernize is seen as the abandonment of all that it means to be Chelon, and risk being marked as a traitor to your race.

Conscientiousness (Lawfulness)

Conscientiousness refers to the tendency one has toward organization.  It is the tendency to plan ahead, and take the repercussions of your actions into account in any choice.  The individual could be carefree or scrupulous, and there is a clear parallel between this trait and the alignment chaotic or lawful.

When the Cetacean race faced the sins of their past, they chose to embrace a new path.  No longer would they use their might to conquer, but instead to guide other races as atonement.  Taking on this long term goal as shepherd of the piscean races was ambitious and daunting, but the new Orcan culture is dedicated to the discipline necessary to guide the other races.  The memory of their past keeps them focused on the task, an eternal specter of their bloody history.

The Sahaguin express themselves as the moment dictates, free of filters or fear.  Their bravado is bolstered by a culture that aggrandizes might makes right.  They do what they want, and because they can, they suffer no lapse of conscience.  It is their cultural emphasis on self-reliance that endows the Sahaguin with a relentless belief in their own capabilities.

Extraversion (Extroversion)

Extraversion is not simply outgoing, but also include comfort around others and reactive response.  It is the expression of the individual’s ability to integrate into social castes or cultural expectations.  Unlike agreeableness, extraversion covers the interaction with others and the energy drawn from interaction.  It is the measure of how well the individual integrates with society.

The Yaun-Teel extraversion is bolstered by the Principles of Service.  By knowing that any one Yaun-Teel must serve others — and they in turn serve others. and so on — the anxiety of differences in station are resolved.  It fosters a contentment in one’s social standing, and is meant to curb the need to climb upward on the social ladder.  They seek out opportunities to interact with others, to discover new ways to serve.  This emphasis on interaction solidifies the individual continually works to integrate themselves with others of their race.

In contrast, the Kouton live a life of self-imposed seclusion, limiting interaction for fear of personal exposure.  Since most cannot control their emotionally triggered epidermal pigmentation, there is a constant worry of betraying themselves in social situations.  To avoid this, they are reserved and thoughtful, acting and responding only after consideration.  They are a species of few words, turning to introspection in reaction to lives of isolation.

Agreeableness (Amiability)

Agreeableness measures the ability of the individual to get along with others.  Unlike extraversion, which emphasizes physical interaction with others, agreeableness refers to social interactions with others.  It is how well the individual reacts with other personalities.

Locanth are highly empathic and genuinely interested in the state of others, be they animal or piscean.  Their culture rests on the cycle of life, the changing of seasons, and the migration of herds.  Reflecting this, the Locanth migrate throughout the year, thus must be able to interact with the new life forms.  Through their history, they have evolved traits of stable temperament and an understanding that it is in their best interest to co-exist alongside nature.

The Lumulus, however, are aloof and seemingly show little concern for other species.  They bear not ill will towards others, simply they find it inordinately difficult to interact with non-Lumulus.  Everything about Lumulus behavior is alien to the other piscean races, from their body language, through their mental abilities, to even their lifespan.  With such little common traits with the other pisceans, is it any wonder that the Lumulus find it hard to empathize?

Neuroticism (Uneasiness)

Neuroticism relates to how comfortable the individual is in their own skin.  While it appears to be a singularly negative trait, personalities too far along the other end of the neurotic spectrum may suffer from overconfidence or willful obliviousness of their own skill level (known as the Dunning-Kruger effect).

A faction of Cetaceans did not agree with the new direction, spurning the idea their actions needed to be curtailed.  They shirked the reformation and became the Narwahl.  The feel no shame in their Cetacean heritage, and thus are unencumbered by the same self-doubt that drove the Orcan’s to become “over protective nannies” for the Known World.  Instead, they marshal on with an over-evaluated sense of their abilities, unaware that they have grossly underestimated the challenges ahead.  They discount such threats as the Indigo or Elsewhere cults, improperly assured they will be shown as false worries.

The Ceph are mired in anxiety and anger.  Treated as vermin by the piscean races, their reaction is a mixture of righteous rage and self-loathing.  There is no doubt to the crimes their Kraken forebearers caused to the Known World, but the Ceph have suffered revenge for those action for too long.  Why should the Ceph suffer for the actions their forefather’s made millennia ago?  This feeling of impotence is only exacerbated by the inability of the Ceph to stand up for themselves in the face of pervasive racism.  Even their physical form keeps them separate from the “civilized” races of the Known World.  In truth, the Ceph may have even inherited the self-loathing mythically attributed to the now-extinct Icht.

ELQUA Model of Personality

ELQUA Model of Personality

The Dark of the ELQUA Method

In the Endless Blue setting, the Five Traits philosophy of personality uses the acronym ELQUAExtroversion, Lawfulness, Questioning, Unease, and Amiableness.  “Elqua” is the ancient aquelan word for “water” or “ocean”, which in turn is the name of the waterworld that contains the Endless Blue setting.  In the Known World, it was developed by the College of Doctors, the reputable front of the Resurrectionists.  While its reception has been decidedly negative among most of the populace, save the indolent rich of the Mer Currents, there lies a dark, desperate need for its creation.

The ELQUA method was designed as a way to analyze personality behaviors of those believed to been subjugated by the Aboleth and turned into Skum.  It was reasoned that those under the mental domination of the Puppetmasters would behave differently than as if the were free, and a method of detecting this would provide invaluable to the safety of the Cerulean Epoch.  The seriousness need of this “psychological technology” is likened to the marriage of Ultravision magic and Lumulus dearthsteel, which was considered to be the turning point in the overthrowing the Kraken Occupation.  By profiling those in the positions of power, the Resurrectionists intend to keep the Known World free from those that wish to dominate it forever.

“Every piscean is a current, their personality unique and distinctively their own,
yet blending together with all others into the seas we call home.

Together, the currents have the power to uplift, to drag down, to push away, to pull along.
To wear down the greatest mountain, or deliver onto new fields…”
–credited to Kenilicus Octavius,
from the folklore of The Anemoi.

 

Posted September 30, 2017 by William James Cuffe in Endless Blue Campaign Setting

Endless Blue – Week 111- Pleione Trench and the Mud Daubers   Leave a comment

Sociology

Pleione Trench and the Mud Daubers

When the Fluid Nations Accord was ratified, it charged each of the homeseas with honoring a series of neutral zones around their territories.  These areas, referred to colloquially as “no mer’s seas“, were created as buffers not just between expansionistic governments, but also as nature preserves for the flora and fauna that maintain the circle of life in Elqua’s oceans.  Each nation collectively pledged to eternally surrender legal claim to the territory, meanwhile keeping their citizens from occupying or poaching the waters.

The waters chosen to become the no mer’s seas were selected by the criteria of importance to maintaining the aquatic ecosystem, threat of danger to pisceans from the aberrations above the waves, and the natural flow of currents such as the Pecuniary Stream.  This made the no mer’s seas a tool for protection of each nation’s access to food, safety, and trade — a clear self-interest of all pisceans.

For the most part, the treaty has been a success.  With the waters being off-hands for governments, companies used free trade routes like the Pecuniary Stream to flourish with no inhibition.  The sacrifice of territory was minimal, as the waters chosen generally were far too shallow for farming without constant attack from surface aberrations.  And the forbidden waters gave sea life a safe haven to thrive without the dangers of over harvesting.  Life in the Fluid Nations has thrived, population and economies growing like never before.

However, the Accord was a long time ago, and the same safety provided by the neutral zones now proves to be a hindrance.  With no way of expanding outward, overpopulation can only cause a greater demand of space and resources.  Despite the need for more space, the homeseas have steadfastly refused to alter the borders as first set by the Fluid Nations Accord, despite the desperate need to reduce overcrowding.

As a result, some pisceans fed-up with bureaucratic shackling have ventured into the no mer’s seas to establish their homesteads.  These illegal settlements are the bordertowns, set in areas where the law exists only for those that can enforce it.

Bordertowns

Bordertowns are seldom permanent structures.  They take their inspiration for the Locanth, whose culture continuously migrates, following the natural wisdom of sea life.  Unlike the Locanth, there are no vacant pueblos left behind to be re-occupied the next turn of seasons.  Bordertown shelters are more tent-like, designed to be packed up and moved should the need arise.  And with the lawlessness of the no mer’s seas, it often is a necessity.

Order is maintained by the populace of each bordertown.  There is no central government to fall back on — each bordertown is responsible for creating and maintaining its own laws.  Those that refuse to conform to the expectations of the populace face excommunication or worse.  Lethal force is generally the first act to ensure adherence to the law.

Plieone Trench

The bordertown of Plieone Trench is located west of the Sahaguin Lagoons, in a large expanse of relatively shallow waters between it and the walled archipelago called the Maw.  This expanse of relatively shallow waters is striated with trenches and chasms.  This damage to the sea floor is a left over effect of the fall of the Kraken Empire.

A black market town, Plieone Trench was established to prosper off those making illegal excursions into the no man’s seas.  It became a well known resupply point for both nearby bordertowns and those passing through to other destinations.   Offering supplies and a promise to turn their eyes, the populace saw an upswell in commerce.  It was not long until the unscrupulous with eyes on the illicit mysteries hidden behind the Conch Lock spurred an illegal relic trade.

The town is now infamous for their “trellis climbers” or “wall jumpers”.  These trained guides help expeditions traverse the wall around the Maw.  It is a dangerous, terrifying journey, as it requires leaving the buoyancy and safety of Elqua’s water and scaling into the unbreathable and aberration-infested Vastness.

Tools of the Trade

The trellis climbers employ a special material consisting of row upon row of tiny, millimeter sized limpet teeth.  Limpets are a type of snail known for scraping algea from rocks and other hard surfaces.  The tensile strength of these teeth is 20% greater than even sea spider silk.  The primary material in limpet teeth that provides this durability is geothite, a compound of iron, oxygen, and hydrogen, all of which are plentiful in the Plieone Trench proper.  Geothite forms in compact, curved structures like claws.  When lined up and layered, a square of geothite sheeting can resist the pull of a monsoon.  Wall jumpers fashion these teeth sheets into their armor to help them cling to the stone wall as they inch their way up to the top and over into the Maw, towing their employers and gear in slings strung between climbers.

One notable group of trellis climbers call themselves the Mud Daubers, and have earned themselves a notable reputation.  They are named so due to a special clay-like silt found near Pleione Trench.  This mud has a high capacity of holding oxygen as well as retaining water.  This prevents drying out in the vastness, and spread over the gills can continue to provide a minimum of oxygen to breath.  “Daubing” the mud on their skin and gills, the Mud Daubers can effectively double the time that can be spent out of the life-giving water.  While not a comfortable experience, it does just enough to get the well trained Mud Daubers over the wall…  Usually.

The Mud Daubers are enjoying the advantage the special mud gives them over the other trellis climbers.  The edge allows them to charge more for their services, in turn forcing the other groups into second rate imitators.  There is no group of trellis climbers that have not tried to discover the source of the Mud Dauber’s special mud.  The extent of these tries ranges from simple bribery and spying to espionage and extortion, but so far nothing has succeeded in loosening the secret from the Mud Daubers.   So long as the Mud Daubers control the mud, their control of Plieone Trench remains.

To further muddle things, the Church of Olyhydra will send missionaries from the home in the Mer Currents to areas around the Maw.  Setting themselves up as righteous protectors, they stand guard around the Conch Loch and will prevent any wayward adventurer from attempting to scale its heights.  Since the Church is not a political entity in itself (yet), it has taken it upon itself to act as final arbiters of law in the area.  The bordertowns flatly refute this, and conflict between the normally non-denominational bordertowns and the devoutly Olyhydran missionaries is unavoidable.

Posted August 31, 2016 by William James Cuffe in Endless Blue Campaign Setting

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