Fate of the Deadlands

It has been a long time since I’ve posted. But I’m in a good mood. The weather is nice and I’ve got the Southern Gothic playlist going. So let’s do this.

I like Deadlands. A lot. It’s a great setting and it’s an… okay system I guess. It was marvelous for the times when it came out but there’s been two decades of innovation since then and Savage Worlds doesn’t really do it for me. It’s certainly more streamlined but it still falls short in a couple of places.

So like every other game I like I’ve thought about how to turn it into a FATE game. And honestly Deadlands needs less work than most games. It’s a fairly straightforward western game except for its magic. It’s magic made it pop. Drawing cards to cast a spell is what people remember from Deadlands. Let me back up though.

In Deadlands magic flows from a few different sources and each of those sources functions very differently. From the original game there are hucksters, mad scientists, shaman, and miracle workers. Each of those types has access to different abilities and accesses them completely differently.

The hucksters were the real star of the show in innovation and popularity. In the background of the game Edmond Hoyle wasn’t just traveling around collecting rules for different card games, he was hunting occult secrets. He disguised his attempts to learn and codify magic as learning different card games and even went so far as to publish those secrets encoded in his book of card games.

 

Edmond_Hoyle
This is what wizards look like in the real world according to Wikipedia.

So hucksters are people who read Hoyle’s book and managed to decode some of the occult secrets in it and because of how they learned that magic it became tied to the idea of gambling. So when hucksters cast a spell they literally gamble with an evil spirit called a manitou. In the original game each spell had a rating of how difficult it was to cast it terms of poker hands. The huckster player would actually draw a number of cards based on how powerful they were and try to make the best poker hand they could. If they succeeded the spell went off, if they failed they lost some health to cover the bet. It was a great system. It’s an easily understood mechanic that is already balanced for odds and it has a great thematic feel for literally gambling with a demon.

Hucksters had the widest range of spells they could choose from but always had the chance that it wouldn’t work and they’d be hurt so it balanced out. Mad scientists meanwhile could make crazy steampunk inventions that acted as spells. They were also pretty diverse but required them to spend the time and money to actually make the invention. Their inventions were also pretty unstable since the ideas for them were whispered into their dreams by the manitou. It was a thing.

Miracle workers were exactly what you expected. They were people who worshiped the Abrahamic god and could use protective and curative miracles. The had the narrowest range of spells but were also had the fewest drawbacks. They just had to make a roll to cast their magic but had to be a good person to keep their powers. If they started acting poorly they took penalties to their casting check until they made up for it.

Shaman honestly got he short end of the multi-limbed stick. They had a pretty wide range of spells to select from but had to do a ritual to please spirits to make it work. They also had to abide by the ‘old ways’ in the original Deadlands which meant swearing off anything that wasn’t a part of their culture before they encountered Europeans. So no guns, no trains, no dressing in anything European. It was a giant pain and was a pain for the rest of the party too because they either couldn’t take a train or had to wait for you to catch up. It was also pretty hard to get any of the rituals off in combat. Overall I think they needed the most work and I definitely want to keep them.

Thank you E.S. Curtis for letting us know that the past has always been terrifying.

Something to note is that magic in Deadlands is pretty low-powered. It’s mostly based on things that a person could do on their own with the proper skills, tools, and time. Things that break that mold like animating zombies and teleportation are generally out of the hands of PCs. Generally.

Okay so the rest of the game can just be normal FATE. That’s no problem. Maybe I’ll mock up a system for duels but everything else should be pretty easy to manage. Translating magic over is the real challenge here. I’ll be basing most of it on the basic FATE magic idea that it is a stunt that grants you the freeform ability to replace any other skill use with your casting skill.

Each type of magic requires that it be involved with your High Concept and that you take a least one stunt for it. Hucksters and Shaman only need to take one because their magic is riskier or less convenient respectively. Mad Scientists can take one per ‘slot’ of item they want to carry around with them. Miracle Workers don’t have a free form magic system, they just have a variety of stunts.

Hucksters:

I really want to keep the huckster subsystem tied to gambling. That’s a great theme and it really works with the setting idea of the manitou actively being against you. So huckster magic lets them replace any rolled action they could do with another skill with Deception. The justification is that you’re getting the manitou’s magic to do the thing instead of doing it the normal way. Instead of shooting, you hit your enemy with a bolt of energy. Instead of climbing the cliff, you fly up to the top. Instead of sneaking, you cloud the minds of your enemies and you walk in. Etc, etc.

This gives them a wide range of capability but doesn’t really let them do things that would otherwise be totally impossible. They can’t raise the dead but they might be able to stabilize someone who is dying. They just take a shortcut to doing something that they might not otherwise be good at. Also by using Deception that lets them be good mundane gamblers and shifty so that other people don’t like to trust them.

I want it to actually be a gamble. So you wager your health.

Huckster. You and the Marshal roll your FATE dice. Neither of you add anything to this. You just compare. This is called the Gamble. You may spend fate points to add +2 to the Gamble roll for each spent. You don’t have to tag any aspects, you are spending pure luck to do make the deal.

If you lose, you take stress equal to the difference. If you tie, you break even and lose your action for the round. If you would be taken out by the stress you black out and the manitou runs around in your body, causing chaos and mayhem. You can take consequences to lower the stress your Gamble roll generates.

If you win, you get to use your Deception in place of another skill. Describe how the magic of the manitou lets you accomplish anything that is the realm of possibility of using a mundane skill. This is called the Payoff. Your Payoff can do things that a normal person would need incredibly skill and luck to do. Levitating up a sheer cliff in a storm is much easier than climbing it. Stabilizing a dying comrade in the field is much easier than doing emergency surgery. The Marshal should consider most thresholds lower (if not simply succeeding) if doing it with magic is easier than with skill.

Mad Scientists:

Mad scientists are quite different. They are people touched with genius (loci) and driven to invent. They hear the subtle whispers of manitou inspiring them to utilize ghost rock and create. Many also cackle manically or insist that others will “pay” but I’m sure that’s all just stereotyping.

I'm rewatching 'Young Frankenstein' and laughing through the madnessIt’s about life!

So first they need to be inspired. A good general introduction stunt that lets them be versatile like a huckster but has it’s own problems. Mad! gives you an excuse to put Craft in the +5 slot of your skill pyramid. You can utilize it to use Craft for any roll but it 1) requires an action, 2) requires props, and 3) requires fate points. However it is also a great excuse to roll Craft to add a temporary aspect to basically any item as long as you have tools.

Then Patent Pending lets them invest into their weirdness and have a (somewhat) reliable use of their power.

Mad!: Spend a fate point. You craft a Jury-rig device that allows you to use Craft instead of the normal roll for a specific action, ex. you could tinker with a gun to roll Craft instead of Aim or make an elixir to roll Craft instead of Medicine. This requires appropriate tools and materials. The device functions for the scene. This stunt is also a blatant excuse to roll Craft to add an aspect to a piece of gear for the scene.

As with all magic the Marshal should be forgiving if the use of magic would easier than using a mundane skill.

Patent Pending. The mad scientist has built a device ahead of time. This device lets them use Craft in place of another skill for a specific action. A roll of [—-] results in a mishap. The device malfunctions, causes a problem, and becomes unusable until fixed. When you have downtime and a workshop you can exchange the device/skill use combo for another of you choice. This stunt may be taken multiple times.

Miracle Workers:

The weird west is a harsh place and the meek rarely prosper there. And yet those that keep their faith may walk the deepest valleys unafraid. They are not the hellfire preachers on the pulpit or the successful travelling ministers. They are the ones that clothe the poor and feed the hungry. They are meek and humble. They bring the word of God to the servants of the Reckoners. That word is “Begone.”

The powers of faith don’t require a roll to activate. Faith is unwavering. They are a series of stunts because they require more and more commitment of yourself to your faith. If you ever stray from the righteous path the Marshal may strip you of your stunts until you atone.

Lay on Hands. Spend a fate point and touch someone. You may remove a minor consequence or downgrade a more serious consequence and start it healing as long as there is a free slot for it to move into.

Banish. Spend a fate point. Roll Empathy as an attack against all opponents. Humans take it as a social attack of shame. Creatures of darkness take it as a physical attack. Any opponent taken out by the attack is forced to flee or grovel for surrender.

Bless. Spend a fate point. All friendly creatures of your choice within your zone takes +2 to rolls for the turn.

The Lord is My Shepherd. May use Empathy to defend against creatures of darkness/magic.

Shaman:

The wise People of the Americas have a long report with the spirits. They have learned to ask them for aid in their lives. Those requests have recently been answered and it is causing a divide in the lives of the People between modernity and the old ways.

Shamanism requires a ritual and that means it cannot be done in combat. However, it is incredibly versatile, doesn’t require fate points, and is a single stunt. By far the subtlest of the magics by allowing both tagging aspects and the use of consequences shaman can roll far, far higher than any other magic user if they are willing to spend for it. Working together many shaman can cause permanent world changing results such as creating and entire nation where technology doesn’t work.

Wise One. You have learned to petition the spirits. This requires a ritual that cannot be done in combat time. You may use this as an excuse to use Lore in place of another skill use or to roll Lore to generate very lenient aspects with free invokes such as ‘Blessed’ and ‘Cursed’. You may tag aspects and take consequences to boost the roll.

You may also create ‘terminal’ aspects. Permanent changes to other characters or the environment.

Dueling

What the hell. I’m feeling inspired. Must have been that line of ghost rock.

Dueling is dangerous. Very, very dangerous. Even experienced gunslingers should pause before agreeing to a duel. The goal is to get your opponent to start reaching for their gun before you reach for yours and but still outdraw them. Then, in the mindset of the duelist, it was all in self defense. The Law may see it otherwise.

Dueling is a contested Aim roll. Before you roll you may wager as many fate points as you’d like. Those act as a multiplier on your damage if you win or tie. The loser takes damage equals the difference between the rolls. On tie, both take full damage.

People who make a habit of dueling are probably feared. And probably suicidal. A clever duelist will try to put aspects on their opponent or the environment before the meet. Staring them down before the clock gongs. Wearing armor. Convincing them to meet before noon so the sun will be in their eyes. No advantage is too small.

Fantasy Fate

I’ve grown found of the Fate system by playing Dresden. However I’ve noticed the game grows a little clunky around a few key things.

  1. Weapons and armor grant flat bonuses to attack rolls and soaking damage respectively. This turns them into a numbers game of making everything line up. That’s boring. I want your equipment to do something. A magical sword you stole from the tomb of a forgotten king should do more than give you a +1.
  2. Magic, ironically in a game about wizards, slows down and gets clunky. It has some interesting ideas but adds a huge amount of crunch to an otherwise streamlined game.

Design principles:

  1. Stunts should be based around props to emulate the importance of equipment in typical RPGs. Example: The stunt to use Sneak to attack you require you to use knives.
  2. Miscellaneous equipment should either let you interact with the world in a new way, negate a penalty, or act as an aspect with a free tag when used. Example: A light source will let you read the markings in a dark ruin which you normally would not be able to do. A grappling hook with rope would provide a free tag on an Athletics check to climb a cliff. A healer’s kit lets you make a Heal check without a penalty.
  3. Weapons and armor should act as aspects in some regard but should avoid giving set numeral bonuses.

Weapons:

Weapons are an aspect in themselves and can be tagged both positively and negatively. A “rusty, dull sword” can still attack but can also be tagged against due to its poor state. This is also a way to simulate monsters with resistance to certain kinds of damage. Skeletons with resistance to slashing damage can spend a fate point to ignore a specific attack from a sword.

Weapons, provided they are not improvised, get a free invoke once per session. Magical weapons can ignore most damage resistances and get an extra free invoke. (Should there be a way to recharge the free invoke? Should they have a special stunt they can spend that invoke on? Yes.)

Armor:

Armor provides free consequences that can’t be tagged based on its class. Light armor provides a free mild consequence. Medium armor provides a free mild and moderate consequence but also imposes a -1 to Sneak and Athletics checks. Heavy provides a free mild, moderate, and severe consequence but imposes a -2 to Sneak and Athletics checks.

While armor consequences can’t be tagged they also don’t heal on their own either. They require a Craft check with the same requirements as a Heal check to repair.

Stunts:

Sorcery: Once per session, use Lore in place of any other skill as you cast an appropriate spell (make yourself invisible to Sneak, throw a bolt of arcane energy for Shoot, levitate for Athletics to climb a cliff.) You can spend a fate point each time after the first in a session to do it again.

Favored Spell: With the appropriate prop, like a wand, staff,  amulet, etc, you can use your Lore to replace a specific skill without spending a fate point or using your free use of Sorcery. Requires Sorcery.

Blessed: Spend a fate point to reduce any non-Extreme consequence by one level and convert it into a recovery consequence. Mild consequences go away entirely but otherwise there must be an open consequence slot for the injury to be downgraded. Non-injury consequences can be healed in the same way. Each fate point spent removes a free invoke on the aspect. Once the aspect has no invokes left spend a fate point and the aspect will be removed.

Fighting Style: Pick a combination of weapons and get a bonus while you are wielding it. Shields let you use close combat to defend against range. Two weapons (+1 to attack and defense?) Two-handed weapon (gives you +2 but with a penalty?)

Alchemy: Spend a fate point and invest a resolve to make a potion. It acts as a specific spell (replace a skill check with… the alchemist’s Occult? Gain an aspect you can tag for free for thematically appropriate checks?) or as a use of the Blessed stunt. Your resolve is lowered as long as you have the potion and returns as soon as you use it or it is given away.

Skills:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Ride
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will

Races:

I want the non-human races to feel different. In effect they are a bundle of stunts you have to pay some Refresh to play one.

Elves:

  • +2 to Notice, it still occupies the same slot on the ladder and this can take it about +5
  • Has to put Lore up to at least +2
  • Gets Sorcery stunt

Dwarves:

  • +2 Physique, it still occupies the same slot on the ladder and this can take it about +5
  • Has to put Craft up to at least +2
  • Gets Darkvision

Clerics in GLOG

Edited after some input.

So I’ve been perusing a few OSR blog sites for the past year or so and discovered that I quite enjoy the GLOG system by Arnold K. It has a few OSR design principles that I greatly enjoy.  Specifically every class should be unique and should have some system that makes them useful and feel useful.

His wizard rules are extremely elegant. If you haven’t read them I recommend it. The design principles can be found here and some of the actual classes can be found here. The idea behind them has been picked up by other blog authors and they’ve come up with their own traditions of wizards. In case you haven’t read it yet (you really should) I’ll summarize.

  • Wizards get a Magic Die (MD) per level (max level of four in GLOG.)
  • They get six spells at first level and the next two new ones each level.
  • To cast a spell the wizard declares they are using as many spell dice as they want, up to their level.
  • The wizard rolls the dice. Some spell effects are determined by the number of dice used. Other effects (usually damage) are determined by the sum of the dice used.
  • If a die comes up as a four through six the die is exhausted for the day, otherwise it returns to the wizard’s MD pool.
  • If the dice come up with doubles then a mishaps happens. The wizard rolls on the mishaps table for their tradition and it happens immediately. Mishaps are bad but not necessarily fatal.
  • If the dice come up with triples a Doom happens. Dooms are bad. Really bad. Each tradition has three and they start bad and get worse. The first two impair you pretty severely for a temporary amount of time or a minor impairment permanently. The third either kills you or majorly impairs you permanently. There are workarounds but they are quests in and of themselves.

So you commit MD to cast spells. The more MD you commit the more powerful a spell is likely to be. If a MD rolls well that spell benefits from it but then the MD goes away for the day. If the MD doesn’t roll well then the spell kinda sucks but you don’t lose any resources. Using more dice is also risky because you might have Bad Things happen to you. I like it. It’s simple, easily understandable, powerful, and capable of being twisted into new forms but I still feel something is missing. That thing is clerics.

I’ve been in a few GLOG games and we really haven’t had a good cleric class. I would really like to see that and I’m not going to reinvent the wheel on magic dice so I’m just gonna gut the GLOG wizard and sew it back together as a divine caster.

Image result for hand coming out of grave
*cue maniacal laughter*

Every GLOG wizard school has some perks, restrictions, 12 spells, 2 legendary spells, a mishaps table, and a doom table. So let’s lay down the generic rules for a cleric and see how easy it is to work with.

Class: Cleric

Restrictions:

  • You are part of a religion and that religion has tenets. Unfortunately for you, your divine patron, or one of its servants, actually checks up on you enough that it matters whether you follow them or not. Work with your GM to determine five tenets for your religion, two major, and three minor.
  • Major tenets should ban you from doing something. They get you into trouble and tempt you to break them.
  • Minor tenets should be discrete actions that you are encouraged to seek out and do.
  • If you break a major tenet lose all your current MD.

Perks:

  • Your religion has tenets but luckily your patron, or one of its servants, checks on you enough that you get to ask for clarification in the rules. Once a session you can work with your GM and change a tenet. Your patron is obviously infallible but maybe that prophet misheard them or maybe there are new rules for a new age.
  • If you uphold a major tenet when it is inconvenient, gain two MD.
  • If you perform a minor tenet, gain a MD.
  • You can only gain MD from any single tenet once a session.

Special Mechanics:

Cleric MD don’t work quite like a wizard’s do. They don’t come back with rest and always exhaust when used to cast a spell. However clerics can recover MD during the day through their tenets, never suffer mishaps, and never suffer dooms.

Clerics generate MD when they follow their tenets and their MD don’t expire until they have been used to cast a spell or the cleric breaks one of their tenets. The ability to change their tenets will hopefully keep a cleric from being in a situation where they can’t gain MD for more than a session.

They still prepare their spells normally and have spell slots like a normal wizard. They can cast spells out of spellbooks, scrolls, wands, and staves.

At level 3 instead of gaining the Vancian magic ability they gain Practiced in Faith. When you prepare you spells declare one is practiced. Once during that day before you cast the spell declare it’s Practiced and the MD invested in it return on a roll of 1-3 like a normal wizard.

Crusader

Tenets:

  • Major: Do no harm to lawful practitioners of your religion.
  • Major: Do not use slashing or piercing weapons.
  • Minor: Sincerely pray aloud at least once a day.
  • Minor: Tithe ten percent of your wealth to the church.
  • Minor: Seek out and destroy undead.

Spells:

  • Smite
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one creature
    • Make a melee attack against a creature as you rebuke it. Add [sum] to the normal damage that you roll. The attack counts as magical if it wasn’t already.
  • Heal
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one living creature
    • Heal the creature of [sum] damage.
  • Bless
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: [dice] creatures
    • Duration: 1 hour or until expired
    • Create a pool of [sum] points to be spent by target creatures. Spent points are added to any non-damage or non-casting roll before the roll is made.
  • Detect Evil
    • Range: 200′
    • Target: self
    • Duration: [dice] hours
    • You instinctively know when a evil outsider, undead, any mortal who has made a pact with supernatural evil entity, or any mortal or who is Truly Evil comes within range of the smell. This does not tell how powerful it is, what it is, or help you see through any disguise it is using.
  • Sanctuary
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one creature or object
    • Duration: [dice] rounds
    • You are protected from [sum] damage. Any attack completely absorbed does not connect and any secondary effects do not take place. If the target of this spell causes damage to anyone even indirectly, the spell ends immediately.
  • Dispel Evil
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: up to [dice] undead or evil outsiders
    • Duration: 10 minutes
    • Split [sum] damage among the targets as evenly as possible. Any surviving targets must make a save or be afraid of the caster for the duration.
  • Command
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: one creature
    • Duration: concentration + 1 minute
    • Give a command of [dice] words to the target. You have to be able to speak but the target doesn’t have to know your language. If the target fails their save they immediately begin following your order. If the command would cause the target to kill itself it hesitates for a turn and makes another save.
  • Shield of Faith
    • Range: 100′
    • Target: one creature
    • As a reaction to the target being hit by an attack add [dice] to their AC.
  • Aura of Courage
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: self
    • Duration: [sum] minutes
    • You and all your allies are immune to any mental compulsion or control targeting them. Any current compulsions are suppressed for the duration of the spell.
  • Call to Battle
    • Range: 50′
    • Target: Up to [dice] weapons
    • Duration: 10 minutes
    • Distribute the dice of this spell between the targeted weapons. For the duration the wielder of one of those weapons can spend a single die after a successful attack and add it to the damage. The attack counts as magical if it wasn’t before. The spell ends on a targeted weapon if it is dropped.
  • Restoration
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one living creature
    • Touch the target and choose an ailment as you say a prayer of recovery. If the dice you spend matches or beats the HD of the creature that inflicted it the effect is dispelled. The GM should determine the HD of any disease or poison not inflicted by a creature. This spell breaks the normal dice cap so you may spend as many as you have.
  • Divination
    • Casting time: 10 minutes
    • Ask the GM [dice] yes or no questions about an upcoming event or course of action. The GM must answer truthfully but can answer with “unclear” if the answer really is neither yes or no.

 

Legendary Spells:

  • Hallow
    • Target: 50′ square feet
    • Duration: special
    • The area becomes hallowed ground. Undead cannot be raised there. Evil outsiders and undead must save to enter it. The duration is determined by the [dice.] At 1 die, a day. At 2 dice, a week. At 3 dice, a month. At 4 dice, it’s permanent.
  • Resurrection
    • Range: touch
    • Target: one corpse
    • This spell restores a dead creature to life. The number of dice determine the amount of time the creature could have been dead for. At 1 die, a day. At 2 dice, a week. At 3 dice, a month. At 4 dice, a year. Your constitution is permanently lowered by the same number of dice spent on this spell for being too close to death.

Mishaps:

  • None

Dooms:

  • None

I’m not super happy with the Detect Evil spell but I think the others are pretty good. You should be able to dump the tenets section on a normal wizard and turn them into a cleric pretty easily.

The tenets are meant to be manipulated for what you think is coming up. About to fight a vampire who has mind controlled followers of your faith? It’s probably a good idea to change that tenet then. Heading back to town? Why not point out that a holiday is coming up and you need to perform a sermon for it.

Evil Option: Remember when I said that cleric’s MD always exhaust but never cause mishaps or dooms? Well that was just for the clerics of good gods. The evil ones grant more power but there are consequences for channeling that much power. Their MD only exhaust on 4-6 but have mishaps and dooms like normal wizards.

Bog Men

Bogs are a fascinating natural feature. They aggregate dying plant matter faster than it decays and forms it into peat. They have their own barren sort of beauty to them. And peat, once dried to use as a fuel, is an important natural resource for the cultures that live around it. It’s unsurprising bogs become a source of reverence and dependency for the villages that rely on them.

We find so many fascinating things in bogs. The naturally slow decay led people to store various food stuffs in the bogs for preservation. Like butter. They called it bog butter. Just let that sink in. They called it bog butter and people ate it. Desperate, sad people.

220px-bog_butter_-_ulster_museum
Yum.

But perhaps more importantly, people are dug up from the bog occasionally. The bog preserves the bodies remarkable well. Sometimes they are so well preserved that even after hundreds of years the discovery sparks a murder investigation before someone learned realizes what it is, a bog mummy.

The conditions of the bog preserve the flesh of the bodies so well that beard stubble and laugh lines show up centuries later. It’s almost a perfect process. Almost. The bones don’t go through quite the same procedure. Instead the calcium is leached away, slowly disintegrating the skeletal structure. What is left is a person bag. Or more accurately a person suit. And there are always things looking for a new suit.

The world we live in is only a sliver of the whole world. Like fish that cannot comprehend of the things that live above water we can never completely understand the things that live beyond our world. Folklore is full of these things known by various names and trying to condense them into any kind of category would be a fool’s errand. However for simplicity let’s call these distant entities spirits.

Spirits can rarely directly interact with our world, which is a shame for them because they really want to. Just so badly. But they need something in return. The specifics vary between spirits. Some want worship and sacrifice. Others need incredibly esoteric and specific things. Others need very practical things done for them. The spirits of the bog fall in the first category.

Getting worship can be awfully hard for spirits. They are quite powerful but they lack finesse so direct interaction isn’t really an option. To make matters worse we don’t think like they do and we don’t really understand their needs the same way they don’t understand ours. This doesn’t mean the spirits don’t try of course. They send messages pretty often but either we don’t notice them or can’t understand them. Imagine trying to get a family of hamsters to arrange their food in a specific pattern by taping IKEA diagrams on the sides of their cages and you’ll start to get the idea.

Now occasionally a shaman arises that learns to interpret the fever dreams the spirits send. But they have their own ambitions and aren’t perfect. Ideally the spirit wants some kind of conduit to interact with directly. Some use statues of themselves built in temples dedicated to them. Other, more rustic spirits, have to make do with the materials at hand.

We’ve all heard the stories of burning wickermen beginning to walk and rumbling commands to the terrified villagers. And while that is certainly impressive and grandiose it doesn’t last too long before it loses structural integrity and the whole thing collapses. But in bog men the spirits find the ideal solution. They are already preserved. They have all the tools to directly talk to the people around them. They even have empty space inside for comfortable wearing. The bog spirit now has a way to directly tell the locals what it wants and even better it has a way to focus its powers. The body has been in the bog long enough that it resonates with the spirit and when the spirit has more of its essence here it can bring even more metaphysical weight to bear.

So what does the bog man do now? Well the short answer is all the odd things it wants. It leads the worship and corrects the rites of the locals. It experiments on local animals and shapes them in the way it wants. And it performs miracles. It may demand a lot from the locals but it knows they have their own needs even if it doesn’t quite understand how they work. The crops always grow tall. The weather is always what it needs to be. The villagers don’t get sick. Children grow up strong. Raiders get lost in the wilderness and mauled by wildlife.

While the bog man’s worshipers may get all the need to live they are still under the thumb of their new mad leader and travelers can usually feel it. The atmosphere of the community changes as everyone becomes more watchful and paranoid. People in neighboring communities tend to disappear. All of the things that draw meddling adventurers into town.

While the bog man possess the direct power of a high level druid the most important part of its repertoire is the region itself. Every animal there long enough comes under its sway and can act as a spy or assassin for it. The weather shifts from inconveniencing groups and slowing travel to an outright assault if the travelers meddle too much. The flora seems to trip and scratch people who wander places they shouldn’t be. Mud will hold people in place until the wolves can get to them. If things get desperate enough rivers will overrun their banks and wash offenders away.

They do have their own weaknesses of course. Whatever esoteric banes the spirit has can be brought to bear against the bog mummy they are riding. The same spiritual density that lets them throw their mystical weight around also makes them very vulnerable to their special weakness. Also, they are walking around in a corpse soaked in flammable material so there’s that too.

bog mummy.jpg