Friday, August 5, 2016

Dr. Strangeplate, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Armor Class

For a really long time I hated AC. Why does wearing more armor make you harder to hit. Does a man dodge better clad in plate? It seemed ridiculous.

You think his nickname is twinkle-toes?
There wasn't a good alternative either. Say you have DR 2 armor. One ruling means people just take two less damage from everything; because armor becomes so important, it feels like everyone is fighting with nerf swords. If that armor blocks 2 or 1 HP blows but you still take all 4 damage from a 4 HP blow, everything becomes swingy and my players bitch. Armor as immunities to damage types never worked because history can't get it's act together. Could leather armor block arrows? Could mail? Every reenactor seemed to have a different answer. It just became a huge headache for me.

Have a surprisingly serene video of archers shooting boiled leather.

Back in college I used to play Belegarth. You run around and hit each other with nerf swords. You get whacked in the arm, you put it behind your back because it got cut off. You get hit again, you bleed out and die. Wearing armor gives you one free hit wherever you're wearing it. And I remembered that when I circled people, trying to find a way to hit them with my great honking two-hander, I would try to avoid hitting them in the armor. Time was short, death was quick, and I wanted my blows to count.

Google's best guess for this image is plant.
So this is how AC works. The more armor you wear, the less places an attacker has to aim. The harder it becomes to decide how to strike. Just as much as armor protects you, in the skirmish environment that D&D usually defaults to, it also debilitates your opponent. There are more ways to miss, more ways to hit and accomplish nothing.

So now I'm okay with AC. I'm even okay with armor a-la-carte, where each piece gives you +1 AC, because really, each one is just another minor headache for your foes. Maybe four metal knicks-knacks ARE as effective as chain. Maybe.

None of this properly represents the importance of shields, but fuck it, that can wait for another day. Sometimes simplicity of rules trumps historical accuracy.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On Leveling Up, and the Perks Thereof


Edit: I didn't really think this would stay up this long. It's a player aid I intend to flesh out soon, but with the new job who knows how soon 'soon' is. Anyhow, I stole almost all of it from Goblin Punch, and the rest I stole from Zack Smith, and maybe like three things I made up. Maybe.

Acrobat

Redirect
When an enemy misses you with a melee attack, you may force them to make another attack against another target within range. This attack is made with a -4 penalty against an adjacent target of your choice.

Dodge
While unarmored, you get +1 Defense per level, up to a maximum of +6.

You Got Jumps
You can jump 2x as far. If there is a stable wall, you can instead wall run 4x as far. Treat your falls as if they were 30' shorter.

The Human Spider
You can effortlessly climb anything that you can convince me has handholds. In good weather, mind.

With Catlike Tread
While wearing no armor your footfalls are completely silent. You succeed all move silently checks.

The Great Escape
Once per day, you can escape from something that is restraining you and that you could plausibly escape from. This includes grapples, lynchings, and awkward social situations, but not sealed coffins.

The Greatest Escape
Once per lifetime, you can literally escape death. Your DM will describe the afterlife to you, as well as the opportunity that allows you to escape (if you wish to). This ability has no effect if your body has been destroyed beyond plausibility.


Thief

Smoke Bombs
This skill allows you to use smoke bombs. You can pay 3 GP to get 3 smokebombs (1 encumbrence). You can do this at any city, and you can buy as many as you want.

Assassinate
Assassins collect information about their targets before closing in for the kill. For every fact that you know about your target, you deal an additional +1 damage during surprise rounds, for a max of +5 damage.

These don't have to be major facts, but they cannot be trivial. "Drinks Earl Grey tea" "Commands the fifth cavalry" "Is named Ostruchus Poncelroy" are all good facts. "Is currently inside his tent", "Is a man", "Has two arms" are not. If you could learn it by looking at a snapshot of the current scene, it's trivial.

Opportunist
Whenever you get a situational bonus on an attack roll (surprise, elevation, etc) you deal an additional +1d6 Damage.

Dramatic Infiltration
At any time, you may declare that you are walking off-screen. Later on in the session, you may reveal yourself to have been a minor NPC in the background of the scene “all along” as long as there actually are minor NPCs in the background of the scene. You can always walk back on stage at any time, even climbing in a window. This ability is limited by plausibility.

Silver Tongue
Once per day as a free action, you have 20 Charisma for 1 round.

Always Prepared
When in town, you may spend any amount of money to buy an Unlabeled Package. When the package is unwrapped, you declare what it contains, as long as the contents comprise the appropriate number of Inventory Slots, doesn't cost more than you originally paid, and are available in the town you bought the Unlabeled Package. You can even put multiple items inside a large Unlabeled Package (including smaller Unlabeled Packages). This is basically retroactive shopping. You can have no more than two Unlabeled Packages at a time.

Fortune's Favored Son
Once per day, you can reroll one of your d20 rolls.

Fortune's Blatantly Cheating Son
Twice per day, you can reroll one of your d20s rolls. Additionally, you can give this to an adjacent ally, as long as you could plausibly have assisted them.


Barbarian

Feat of Strength
Once per day as a free action, you have 20 Strength for 1 round.

Rage
You can choose to enter a rage at any time. While in a rage, you have +1 Attack, +1 Damage, and are immune to pain and fear. While raging, you cannot do anything defensive, curative, tactical, or cooperate with your allies. All you can do is attempt to kill things. Spell casting is not impossible, but all your spells must be damaging spells, which deal +2 damage (if single target) or +1 damage (if multiple targets). You cannot stop fighting until you kill, subdue, or drive off all enemies. Alternatively, you can will yourself to stop raging with a 2-in-6 chance of success, once per round as a free action. If one of your allies has injured you this fight, they count as an enemy.

Mighty Rage
Double all the numeric bonuses from your Rage ability.

Danger Sense
If you are surprised, you have a 50% chance to act on the surprise round anyway.

Firewater
You can consume an alcoholic drink to restore 1d6+1 HP. Consuming alcohol in this way gives you 1 point of Drunkenness. This ability even works if someone pours booze down your unconscious throat.

Trophies
You can collect trophies from fresh corpses. Each trophy counts as an armor piece (+1 AC, 1 encumbrance, no AP). While wearing a trophy, you get +1 against all of that creature's special abilities; this bonus stacks.


Fighter

Cleave
Whenever you reduce a creature to 0 HP with an attack, you can make another attack with the same weapon.

Impress
Whenever you win a fight against challenging foes, people who don't like you make a new reaction roll with a +4 bonus. This even works on people you just defeated in combat, unless you caused them undeserved or disproportionate harm.

Challenge
This ability only works on creatures that can understand you and are capable of being offended. If you challenge a creature outside of combat, they must make a Save vs Charm to resist accepting. In civilized areas, this is basically a duel, and this means that you and the other party must agree upon the time, the place, the weapons, the victory condition, and the stakes. Leaders will usually send out a champion to fight in their stead (if applicable). In combat, you can challenge one creature each turn by yelling at it (free action), who must then Save vs Charm. If they fail, they will decide to attack you (or at least include you in an AoE attack). This ability cannot force an opponent to make major tactical errors.

Bodyguard
If an adjacent ally would take damage from a physical attack, you can choose to take the damage for them. This ability has a 4-in-6 chance of succeeding.

Dragon Slayer
Once per day, you can cause one of your physical attacks to deal +X damage, where X is equal to the level of the highest level monster your party has ever killed. (You must keep track of this.) If you miss, this ability is not expended.

Blindfight
You can fight even in perfect darkness, with about 10 feet of spatial awareness.

Noble

Fashionable
You can wear fashionable clothing instead of armor. Fashionable clothing costs the same as the equivalent armor but takes up no Inventory Slots. Fashionable clothing is Fragile, and gains a Break (-1 AC) each time you take fire damage, acid damage, get really wet, or get really dirty.

Duelist
Each time you defeat an enemy in single combat (such as a duel), keep track of what type of weapon they were wielding. You get +1 AC against that type of weapon. This ability cannot raise your Defense higher than 18.

Banner Lord
If you are holding a banner in one of your hands, all allies that have sworn loyalty to it get +1 to-hit.

Loyal Butler
If you take physical damage, you can choose for an adjacent hireling to take it instead.

Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card
Once per session, you can use your family's name to get out of trouble, or to request a special favor from authority. Only works on people that might have heard of your family. Usable once per session, and has a 4-in-6 chance of working

Windfall
You inherit 20,000 copper. Perhaps an uncle died. 1d6 relatives will be showing up at your door to live in your mansion and ask for money, and turning them away would be deadly to your reputation. Additionally, there is a 4-in-6 chance that the Assassin's Guild has just accepted a contract to kill you.


Monk

Lucky Numbers Style
You gain two lucky numbers. When you roll this number on a d20 while attacking, your attack may have one additional effect. This is anything within reason that does not simply cause more damage. You can still, say, knock someone into a flame pit: Here's a list of examples:
Disarm
prevent opponent moving* for one round
move opponent 2 tabletop inches in any direction
knock opponent to the ground
take something from opponent
 grab opponent--
Knock opponent into the wall of spikes.
You may take this ability more then once.

Drunken Master
For every point of drunkenness you have, you get +1 to hit. Remember, every point increases your critical fail range.

The World is my Weapon
You may use almost any object (including your hands!) as any of the following:
A weapon that deals 1d6.
A weapon that deals 1d4 damage, but has a special property (such as reach).
A +2 AC shield, which can be shattered as normal, and has a special property.


Ranger


Animal Companion
You can train your animal companions to perform a certain action when a condition is true. The most common one is “attack when I attack”, but other ones are possible. (Normally you'd spend a round giving orders to your pet.)

Speak with Pet
You can speak with your pets. Not literally, but practically. You are really good at interpreting barks, for example, and your pet is really good at interpreting you. Your animal companions can speak with other animals of the same type. For example, all dogs speak Canine.

Advantageous Terrain
When rolling for random encounters outdoors, your chance of surprising the enemy increases to 2-in-6. When a random encounter occurs, you can draw the terrain map of where the encounter will occur, and may decide where everyone is, as long as it's plausible. No more than 1 advantageous terrain at a time.

Hated Foe
You deal +2 Attack when attacking the monster you hate most. You can change your hated foe, but only after a new foe has done something worth making you hate them.

Traps
You can manufacture and set traps. It takes 10 minutes to manufacture a trap in natural terrain. Traps can be set immediately or carried around (they take up 1 Inventory Slot). Enemies that walk into your trap must make a Dex check with a -4 penalty or suffer its effects.

You can choose a reasonable effect, such as: 1d6 damage, an immobilizing snare, or noisemakers. You can add additional effects, but each one beyond the first gives your target a +2 bonus on their Dexterity check. If you have additional resources (poisons, f lammable oils) you can create more types of traps.


Tactician

Threat Assessment
You learn a creature's level after watching it fight for a round.

Tactic
As a standard action, you yell advice to an ally, who then makes a free attack. This free attack must be a basic, unmodified melee or ranged attack.

Spot Opportunity
Whenever your party rolls initiative, a random PC (including yourself) gets an opportunity against a random enemy. The opportunity gives the random PC +2 to-hit, +2 Damage, and +2 to overcome the target's Save (if applicable). This opportunity lasts until the end of the round. You roll all this yourself and roleplay it, because the DM has enough on her mind.

Rouse
Once per day, as a free action, you can yell especially effective encouragement. Allies who can hear you regain 1d4 HP (but unconscious allies cannot hear anything). This is non-magical healing. If you use this ability out of combat, allies instead gain 1d6+1 HP, but you need to make a little speech.

Spot Weakness
As a standard action, you may observe a creature fight and then make an Intelligence check. If you succeed, the next time you deal damage to that creature, you deal +1d12 damage (once). This ability also has a use outside of combat. If you succeed on an Int check, you can learn an NPC's weakness, secret shame, or greatest fear (DM's choice).



Magician

been thinking about giving a witch class the starting ability to talk with anything they share a meal with. So if you eat coal you can talk to fire.

SECOND GIFT: WITCH GARDEN
You acquire a home and garden in the form of a 1 acre demiplane. Its exact nature, climate, and contents are a matter between you and your DM. The garden is never more than half a day's travel away, no matter where you go or where you are. Only you know the way there, though others can follow you (even without your knowledge)

Breakthrough
You learn one random spell. You can choose from which of the six types of magic you learn.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

On Magical Barriers: A Practical Field Guide


I like the idea of magical barriers. But then there's actually something scary and I get really unimaginative about what works against what. Silver? You guys should have brought silver. Oh it's an angel dude I have like no idea here. So I decided to buck up and just do the dang work. Here's what's good against what, and an extra by alignment bit below, if you're the sort who likes that stuff.

Actually doing all of this work allowed me to make everything a solid metaphor. Salt preserves food; this is why it can fight off corruption and evil. Silver is solid light. This is why people BELIEVED these things to work against demons in the first place. I really like that kind of logic. 

By Creature



The Undead in general cannot cross salt: it protects against their rot.

Demons cannot tread upon holy ground, nor cross silver. Those immune to sword and axe are not immune to silver, and lesser beings take double damage from it.

Vampires share these weakness. In addition, they cannot cross flowing water unless encased in grave earth. Garlic makes them nauseous: the must overcome a DC 25 CON check to endure its presence.

Spirits of the Forest fear gunpowder and flame. They are no friends of the wood cutter's axe.

Spirits of the Divine Bureaucracy cannot cross a written insult; their pride will not permit it. A factually true insult written on a blade is, both literally and metaphorically, a cutting blow: it deals double damage.



Spirits of Filth (in both the moral and literal sense) cannot abide salt: it is a pure substance which destroys such corruption.  Lesser spirits cannot overcome a line of rose petals.

The Fey delight in being neither one thing nor another. They fear cold iron in the same way demons fear silver. They are also no more capable of breaking a promise then a man can lift himself up by his hair: the Fey will never go back upon their word.

Ghosts who see their remains are either mollified or terrified. In either case, a good deterrent from their interests.

Cthulloids vary in their forms and weaknesses and are too varied to be covered here. If possible, run. If you cannot run, slit your throat.



Angels (the loving, white washed Judeo-Christian kind) weaken on blood soaked ground, losing half their powers and HD. Steel quenched in the innocents' blood burns them: they cannot stand it's touch and take double damage from it. Such nails are used to pin Angels by their wings upon the cross. 

Angels (the horrific, Bayonetta  kind) fear nothing: they are the masters of reality. You cannot escape them, they cannot be fought. All will be subsumed into the godhead.


By Alignment

A variety of substances are anathema to visitors to our world. It is important to familiarize yourself with them if one plans on dealing with unwanted guests.

Silver is solid light. All creatures who prefer the night to cover their foul deeds fear it's bite. The bane of evil.

Cold Iron is mass produced in great foundries and is quite cheap. It's orderliness and structure make it a powerful symbol of civilization and conformity: beings which revel in the chaos of the world find it loathsome. The bane of chaos.

Innocent's Blood is horrific; all men of conscience are disgusted by it's implied crime. When the souls of the damned are forged into howling steel, the effect is magnified ten fold. The bane of good.

Rudeness, cussing, and filth are the marks of idiocy and barbarity. Those who believe in civilization cannot help but turn themselves away. The bane of law.

On the Muddling Of Alighment


I tiny thought I had: when we think of alignments, they can be interpreted as cosmic or personal.

Good means being kind hearted and well intentioned. GOOD is vaguely Christian and occasionally not very nice or down right vicious. It sometimes seems more concerned with being lawful, but with those laws being generally nice and always important in a cosmic sense. Good can find mercy and spare evil but GOOD rarely does.

Lawful is a respect for rules and social institutions. It's about fair dealings and straight talk. Lawful is civilized, perhaps cultured and refined. Sometimes lawful is snooty. LAWFUL is an absolute obedience to the state, holding the law as a virtue unto itself as opposed to the means to an end. LAWFUL is imperialistic. LAWFUL is suffocating. LAWFUL is merciless and uncaring, without emotion or pity. LAWFUL is arbitrary, and thinks it is GOOD and rarely is.

And LAW is that principle on a cosmic scale. It is the slow crystallization of existence into utopia, an unmoving dead perfection. LAW stands surrounded by enemies and seeks to destroy all of them. LAW believes itself to be GOOD and occasionally is, if only because it fights EVIL and CHAOS.

Sometimes being NEUTRAL is the same as being LAWFUL, and sometimes it means apathy on a cosmic scale. NEUTRAL can also be active, a perpetual helper of the underdog and a preserver of balance, and end in and of itself without any ration purpose. Sometimes neutral means being unthinking and sans opinions, no more than a beast. Sometimes neutral is only neutral to you: the spirit world gives no shits about you.

Evil is selfish, and petty, and always more interested in itself then in you. Evil cares about it's own and sometimes not even them. Evil is backstabbing. Except when evil is just an inverted good, just as loving and caring and loyal but also opposed to GOOD. Not so different after all.

Then there's EVIL, which can be the devil and morally corrupting or 40K and RIP AND TEAR. Which is often the same as CHAOS.

CHAOS is entropy, the slow dissolution of the universe, and a cthullian madness of anti life. Or CHAOS is perfect randomness, a dull and non malevolent static. A more fey twist has CHAOS as being whimsical and cruel and spitting into physic's open mouth. Chaos is also appropriately varied. It can be anti-authoritarian, anti-social, or plain anti-sense.


This complexity of ideas is why some OSR folks insist on 'people are rarely LAWFUL or CHAOTIC, those are cosmic concepts' while in 3.5 we had a lot of angsty chaotic good antiheroes. It's why you get TRUE NEUTRAL  druids and chaotic neutral murder hobos who just set shit on fire.

Writing all of this, I realized all of the alignments, when turned cruel and impersonal, are different shades of cosmic horror. I think that's useful, if you're going to have multiple bad guys. A great way to have a real shithole setting is to make both or all three of the competing cosmic powers be total assholes. It makes a world where only our HUMANITY can save us.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

On Public Baths

The people of Ramhknal hold very distinct, and perhaps unique, opinions on the merits of bathing. Unlike our other dearly held beliefs1, these are wholly beneficial. If you come from a culture that considers a layer of grime essential to protecting the pores from 'bad air,' and thus see the practice of bathing as abhorrent and likely to cause disease, it is time for me to disillusion you: you are stupid and wrong.

If you have never engaged in the difficult art of washing your own genitalia, despair not! Even the novice bather is welcome in any of Ramhknal's public baths. Such institutions are numerous and their entry fees are nominal: the Ramhknali beggar is a clean beggar. The largest of these is no doubt the Palace of Soap and Oil, a complex so massive that it qualifies as it's own contrada2. But as even a lesser establishment may bewilder and overwhelm the neophyte in it's complexity, it is my privilege to provide for you a summary of a few of the more common rooms.

Antechamber: Upon paying your fee and entering the bath, you will no doubt wind up here. Remove whatever rags you have the audacity to call clothes, stow them in any available shelf, and proceed about your business, free from the burdensome3 inconvenience of clothing. Remember, gawking at the particular and varied shapes of the hideous or rotund is considered bad form.

Please note that the baths of Ramhknal are not segregated by gender! If you have yet to become acquainted with the biology of the opposite gender, you will soon be forced to. For those looking to become intimately acquainted, I direct you to the Red Tide Contrada, where such services are offered for moderate sums4.

Cold Bath: A brief dip in cold water is known to shock the body into reorganizing its stores of the four essential humors. It is also quite refreshing, and thus this is always a popular room.

Flower Bath: This small room has a continuous rain of flower petals, which accumulate and start to form a thick carpet as the day wears on. For this reason, I recommend visiting it close to sun down.

Food Carts: A recent and unscrupulous addition.  If you're the type who can't get through a bath without Father Hunger clenching his bony hands around your stomach,  a few coins will purchase you a toad on a stick or some other such morsel. Those of us possessing fortitude will proceed with our bathing.

Garden: For those looking for a place of solace and calm, the garden will occasionally provide. At other times it will be full of the shrieks and shouts of running children. Such is life.

Gymnasium: A wide open area, perfect for the pudgy to become athletic and the athletic to strut like peacocks. Occasionally home to sporting competitions, full of sweating men, roaring crowds, and illegal gambling, the last of which is their only redeeming feature.

Hot Bath: Nothing is quite as relaxing as sitting in a hot bath, chatting idly with good friends. A room that needs no recommendation, and is always home to scintillating gossip. As a special service, a large tea ball containing the house blend may be added into the water, infusing it with a relaxing tea. A must at parties and formal occasions.

Incense Room: Here you will find three to five censers arranged in a row, each containing a different incense. You need not concern yourself about the selection; it is determined by the day of the week5. Take two or three minutes to inhale each of them in turn and then move on. Don't hold up the line, or worse yet, inhale them in reverse order.

Library: Those looking to enrich themselves with knowledge will find themselves well furnished in the Library. The books on hand are most often an eclectic mix, determined by the whims of the owner and subtracting any successful thefts. Enterprising scholars, historians, and firebrands are fond of inserting volumes into such libraries, so as to better spread their infectious (and sometimes revolting) ideas. Do not be surprised to find several philosophers angrily defending their positions on the Captan's new tax laws or the morality of eating (entirely hypothetical) intelligent rats6.

Oil Room: Lay down on any of the stone slabs and let the attendants7 decide what oil to anoint you with. In the next room these same attendants shall scrape the oil off of you, using a long, curved piece of metal called a strigil8Some mild discomfort is to be expected; if the other patrons seem completely at ease while being scraped, it is because we Ramhknali are excellent liars.

Sand Bath: A delightful room with several streams of sand pouring from the ceiling to the floor.  Immerse yourself in the pouring stream of sand and let it scrub away any surface grime. The experience is often likened to standing within an enormous hourglass. For the novice, I recommend red sand: leave white, green, and black to the professionals.

Smoke Bath: Filled with dry air and heated by burning cedar and sandalwood, this room allows the body to reabsorb beneficial impurities. This room tends to leave the occupant smelling like bacon, which any rational man can agree is an excellent idea9.

Steam Bath: Hot and humid, this chamber is for idle conversation and the sweating out of baleful impurities. The heat is generated by an ingenious system of piping hot steam through a hollow space beneath the floor. For this reason, do not jump around in the steam bath: you're liable to punch through the floor and break the room for everybody, not to mention scalding yourself in sensitive places.

Surgery: A more infrequent room to be sure, often found only in highbrow establishments, and located on it's lonesome towards the back. Still, all surgeons in the city must legally practice inside a bath house, so that their clients may properly cleanse themselves before being operated on.

Swimming Pool: A combination cold bath and gymnasium, the swimming pool is used by the aquatically athletic, the lazy gossip, and those learning to not drown. As an aside, this last category will never include sailors: they believe you cannot cheat the sea it's due. Another reason to celebrate the swimming pool.

Toilet: The most essential room in the entire bath house as well as the most common reason for visiting one. For this reason it infallibly located near the entrance of the building. The toilet is a group affair10: stalls offer some privacy, but a healthy conversation continues at all hours.


Public baths can also be rented out for private affairs. In fact, this is expect for formal meetings, especially on matters financial or political. On such occasions it will be the host's responsibility to plan the order of events. The following is a perfectly respectable itinerary:

  1. Sand Bath: Request black sand.
  2. Oil Massage
  3. Cold Bath: Typically the topic of the meeting is introduced here.
  4. Incense Room
  5. Flower Room: Lilies are considered a traditional, if somewhat uninspired choice.
  6. Steam Bath: A good place for serious discussion.
  7. Flower Room, the second round.
  8. Smoke Bath
  9. Cold Bath: Only a quick rinse, as it’s considered poor form to tarry.
  10. Hot Bath: Request the tea bath.
  11. Swimming Pool: Remember to provide refreshments.
  12. Flower Room, the final round.

Finally, a warning: if you are the sort who must pay his own rent, do not take a room above a public bath. I can attest personally that noise goes on at all hours of the night, and that it is impossible to sleep in such circumstances.

1. Such as: There is more dignity in losing a war then in winning it, riots are a basic civil right, and large enough flies occasionally eat spiders. Challenging these beliefs is akin to insulting a Ramhknali's mother.

2. A horrifying memory returns to me of taking a wrong turn and winding up within the maintenance corridors of the Palace. Unable to find my way back, I was forced to subsist entirely on steam and a peculiar brand of orange fungi which had colonized the hot water pipes. I was found, gibbering and emaciated, by one of the contrada guard three days later.

I would later learn that my horrified pleas for help, which could be heard but for which no apparent source could be determined (the pipework dispersing their echoes across the building), were interpreted as the hauntings of a restless ghost. Whether from fear or embarrassment, I have since refused to return to that institution.
3. But often necessary!

4. Depending on your tastes, of course. Those with predilections for the strange and the unusual can fulfill their fantasies for truly tremendous sums. It is rumored that the merchant king Khinzir Fasiq, whose interests included step ladders, group activities, red hot pokers and the occasional dog, enjoyed the privilege of paying over 16,000 jinars for a single session, which typically lasted for the entirety of two weeks.

5. It is here in particular that the medicinal knowledge of Ramhknal is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world. On a Monday, the body is still attempting to reinforce itself from the revels of the weekend; the inhalation of powdered oak helps strengthen the spleen and straighten the spine. On a Thursday, the body is close to exhaustion, so an admixture of lavender and cinnamon helps to rejuvenate the spirit. Since few are gifted in this subtle art, each bath house has it's own expert on staff.

6. At the time of this writing, the consensus seems to be moral, because the rat is a foul creature which plots the downfall of Ramhknal. Still, it is a contentious issue.

7. These fellows should be children from the ages of eight to thirteen; any older and you are most certainly in the wrong sort of establishment.

8. The Captan Ahmaq Waqaha II was murdered in his very own bath by a traitorous attendant with a sharpened strigil. Let this be a lesson to you: employee moral should never be taken lightly.

9. It is not for nothing that the pig is known as the noble animal. Regrettably, dog fondlers are advised to skip this room outright.

10. While in other, less civilized locales the streets are covered in filth, in Ramhknal all unpleasant bodily emissions are sent to a grand series of sewers, to which every bath house is connected to. For this reason the concept of private toilets is entirely foreign to us. As a plus, it has let us do away with the indignity of the chamber pot.

On The Stilted Manors

When the hungry ocean broke Ramhknal's sea walls, half the city flooded as the waves tidily swept aside our homes. The Ramhknali didn't take the hint: we just came back and built them again. We raised them above the lapping wave on wooden pillars, and thus were born the Stilted Manors.

Where the Drowned Contrada's flooded mansions are made of stone, the Stilted Manors1 are made of wood. A maze of bridges, docks and gangways connects the contrada, each house a knot in a great wooden web2. The buildings rest on wooden stilts, no two the same height, so that the sea won't lick their floorboards. Boats float between everything always, darting like eels at dawn and lounging like fat seals come dusk3.

Almost all of these belong to fishermen4, who comprise the vast bulk of the contrada's citizenry. Some command vessels the size of houses, which drag great nets to capture swarming  squid. Others go to out in slim catamarans, diving for braided starfish5. Some fisherman need no boat at all: they cast twelve long lines from twelve wide windows,  waiting one hour between checking each line.

They do this from their affectionately named 'dandelions', for they jut out of the water on one long wooden beam, while the top blossoms into a mess of floorboards, supports and roofs. The hermits who live within rarely leave their homes6. When they care to re-provision, they lower small boats down from winches.

And so it is with the rest of the contrada. From the meager floating platform to the pleasant formal mansion, every home has it's own rowboat. It's how folks get around. Which makes committing crimes within in the Stilted Manors supremely difficult8.  It is only natural that the Contrada Guard has shifted it's focus to the sea. From their patrol boats they protect every ship within the reach of Candlemaker's9 Light10. They call themselves the Fishing Spiders11, and are regarded as the patron saints of sailors. No matter how rough the sea, the Fishing Spiders will race to your rescue. Even the Captanate's Navy, known for being dismissive of all matters civilian, holds nothing but respect for these heroes.


  1. Much like the Red Tide and Tai Jin's Zoo, the Stilted Manors are never referred to as the Stilted Manors Contrada, but always as the Stilted Manors. The origin of this particular idiosyncrasy has so far evaded this humble author.
  2. Weaved, no doubt, by an utterly shit faced spider.
  3. When they are often used as impromptu bridges. If you can't see a way from here to there, just jump across a few boats, and be weary of a wrathful owner.
  4. The Ramhknali fisherman is the wisest in all the sea of Rum; ours are many useful secrets. It was we who tied bricks to our feet and buoyed hoses to our mouths, so that we could pluck the sea sands for sleeping snailfish. It was we who learned to color pearls crimson and azure. And it was we who learned the whale songs; when the Ramhknali fisherman sings his sea dirge the Orca hears that he is mourning, and does not trouble him in his grief.
  5. A local delicacy. I recommend them pan fried in goat butter, served with chopped raw chime peppers and sour cream.
  6. If the Painter's Contrada exhibits the frenzied artist, then the Stilted Manors nurtures the reclusive one. Many poets, painters, authors7 and even the occasional sculptor, not keen for company from their artistic kin, seclude themselves in their dandelions. Their lonely works often turn out distorted and surreal; a diet made exclusively of fish tends to twist the mind into strange shapes.
  7. The last of these benefits greatly from the Library Barge, which quietly patrols the contrada every Sunday. Anyone may flag the boat down as it passes and borrow a book from it's respectable collection. It's a very civil arrangement, partly because it's easy to track down overdue books when the residents never leave their homes.
  8. Though not, of course, impossible. Here's an example mugging: you're walking between platforms in a more connected part of the contrada. A fat man rushes by you, and in his corpulence pushes you into the sea. He yells an apology but doesn't stop. As you pull yourself from the ocean, sputtering and cursing, what you've failed to realize is that you lost your purse in the drink, where even now a small child is diving to find it. Once your money is located it shall be happily split by both parties. The humble author includes this example so that the exalted reader may learn from his mistakes.
  9. Named after the candlemaker's guild, who sponsored it's construction.
  10. Which is quite the feat, since it is the most powerful lighthouse in the world, a true wonder of modernity. It is my pleasure to report that the glass works of Ramhknal are second to none.
  11. Named after the beloved childhood pet12.
  12. For those so inclined, the Spider Fancier's Society meets every Saturday at Makhmur Albaje's Bar.