Monthly Archives: February 2011
This isn’t a story, but it is a kind of fiction from Trollworld–fiction in the sense that I hope to God it’s not true.
The Ghouls of Trollworld
By Ken St. Andre
T&T ghouls are very much Lovecraft ghouls. I haven’t spent much time thinking about them. Let’s see, what can we do to set them apart. Being a ghoul is a disease–a disease that gradually warps the body and the mind. The disease can be contracted in one of two ways–eating rotten meat where the ghoul bacterium has begun to thrive–not all-rotten meat has it, and the bacterium is destroyed by cooking, or by being bitten or scratched by a ghoul. The longer one remains a ghoul, the stronger one becomes. The healing feeling spell would also cure the disease, and a ghoul could be returned to normal humanity. There are two side-effects of being a ghoul.
1. They regenerate, but always in a more ghoulish shape–that is the body becomes more and more baboon-like, the skin gets greener and scabbier, the jaws elongate, the talons get harder and sharper, and they never ever die of natural causes. To be a ghoul is to share the same kind of immortality that vampires and trolls have.
2. Ghouls cannot have children. New ghouls must be recruited.
What else do we know? As the vocal chords change, it becomes harder to speak their former language and they meep and glibber more. Meeping replaces long vowels like oh, eee, ay, uuu. Glibbering which is a sort of bblr sound tends to replace b’s, d’s, p’s, and v’s. Thus a short sentence like, “I love good meat.” In ghoulish would be, “meep lobblr gulobblr m-meep-t.” As this may be hard to understand even by other ghouls, they often use pantomime gestures while talking to supplement the meaning.
Other side effects of the disease are satyriasis and extraordinary hunger. Thus, ghouls love orgies, and will steal women or attractive males for sex and to infect them and gain new members. This is a revolting thought, and I don’t want to go there in much detail.
Ghouls tend to live in underground necropolises/graveyards. Harsh or bright light pains their eyes and reduces their vision, but they develop excellent vision in low light conditions. Ghoulish skin turns green over time, getting darker and darker as the
disease progresses. Ghouls give off a disgusting carrion odor. A normal human getting a direct whiff of ghoul would need a level two saving roll on CON to avoid throwing up. Their own sense of smell changes and becomes more acute so that everything we think smells rotten smells sweet and wonderful and attractive to them.
Ghouls hate vampires–it’s envy really. Vampires live forever and get to feast on fresh blood. Ghouls need rotten food, and cannot pass in normal society the way vampires can. It’s envy grown into hatred. Vampires despise ghouls. Ghoul hunting is a sport for them.
Over time ghouls lose all their hair except for what grows on the top of the head–that becomes coarse and bristly and elongates into a ridge of hair that grows down the neck and along the backbone.
Nobody makes clothing for ghouls or baboons either. As they become more deformed from the human norm, they tend to wear less and less clothing. They may opt for collars, bracelets, or necklaces that can simply hang from their body or fit around a limb. Ghouls like rings and shiny rocks attract them. Anything shiny will do.
Ghouls have hands and are perfectly capable of using weapons. Former warriors that become ghouls keep all their skills and usually have a passion for collecting weapons, especially magical ones-they realize that better weapons may mean better food and more ghoulish recruits. A wizard that becomes a ghoul would retain his wizardly knowledge and skills. There are ghoul-wizards, and they tend to be the leaders of ghoulish communities. Ghouls may also have Talents.
The ghoulish pecking order is dependent on physical or magical might. The strongest rule and tend to take advantage (sexually and otherwise) of those weaker than themselves. Ghouls enjoy the society of other ghouls-especially for sex, feasting, fighting, and ghoulish games-the roach races-but nobody likes to be beaten up all the time and that means that ghouls will often be solitary creatures, especially if they aren’t mighty enough yet to command a band of followers. However, ghouls never kill each other. That is their greatest taboo. There are relatively few ghouls in the world, and they are hard to replace. Since they regenerate stronger than before their injury, a ghoul that is badly hurt will get better if it gets any food. It is not uncommon for an aggressor ghoul seeking followers to beat a weaker ghoul almost to death and then nurse it back to health with plenty of rotten food. Over time such behavior will generate small bands of ghouls that are socially linked.
Ghouls sometimes develop relationships with animals. They domesticate rats, and sometimes create rat-ghouls. Rats are great at finding dead things to eat. Ghouls also like cockroaches. They feed them and breed them, and have cockroach races and battles in their ghoulish communities. And they tame the gigantic bone-eating dholes that live in lightless caverns far beneath the earth. Dholes can serve as mounts for ghouls.
Ghouls hate fire. Fire cleanses and purifies. They avoid it, and tend to use phosphorescent mosses and fungi as their light sources for deep underground.
I wouldn’t want to be a ghoul.
oh well, here I have ventured into the realm of non-stories. Consistency was never my strongpoint anyway.
Hobgoblin Holiday in Khazan
By Ken St. Andre
Boozer the Hobgoblin arrived at the river gate on the eastern wall of Khazan with the sun. There were hundreds of farmers with wagons waiting to bring their produce into the city, but the guards saw his weapons and armor, and that he wasn’t human, and brought him in through the Warrior’s Gate. When he told them that he had a message for the Death Goddess, they gave him a map to the palace and wished him good luck, not bothering to mention that no one had seen Her Frightfulness for years.
Boozer remembered what the Trollgod had said to him when giving him the pouch. “Be sure to do any sightseeing that you want to do in Khazan before you go see the Death Goddess. Things might get hairy afterwards.”
Booozer went to the Trollgod’s armory and outfitted himself for the journey. When finished, he looked in the mirror.
He wore soft, ankle-high leather boots, in dark green, with tiny axes embroidered onto them at the front, normal clothing (woolen trousers, cotton shirt and vest!) in ‘earthy’ tones, including waistcoat and hooded cloak. He also had a broad black belt with an ornate dragon head buckle.
He carried a backpack containing a delver’s pack, a small grapple hook with 20′ of fine elven silk rope, a few provisions for the day, flint and steel, a water skin, 3 wax candles, a magnetic compass and a small bullseye lantern with spare oil. A large, battered drinking tankard hung from his pack. It had a dragon pattern, and at its bottom on the inside were the words “drink to me only with thine eyes.”
A buckler and soft green leather armor comprised his armor.
He carried only small weapons so as not to appear threatening (as Pacino said in _Devil’s Advocate_: “Always be the little guy. They don’t see ya coming!”), so he chose a fang-wing dagger, which he could throw if desired, a sax for hand to hand fighting (usually hidden within his cloak), and a very light self-bow (across his back) with a sheaf of fishbow arrows. Although Boozer was skilled in swordcraft, he did not choose a sword. He was saving up for a special one!
Once inside the city, he passed by the entrance to the Dwarven City of Thrindol, skirted the already bustling marketplace, and spotted the high coliseum walls of the Arena. On the southern edge of Thrindol, he saw a sign saying “Future location of Gristlegrim: Khosht” that bore the picture of a grinning, one-eyed Dwarf.
As he wandered toward the palace, he saw a magnificent building all made of green stone. Approaching it, he learned it was the Temple of the Money Gods. “Hmm,” said Boozer. “I didn’t know that gods had money.”
As he wandered around the building away from the front, he found himself by a waterfall with a pool. Through the clear water he could see many coins lying on the bottom, only a couple of feet down. Checking to see if anyone was looking—no one seemed to be—he waded in and scooped up a handful of gold and silver (3 gold, 6 silver). As he tucked the money into his pouch, he felt something strange: he was rising, levitating.
“I’ll give it back!” yelled Boozer, but it was too late for that. The force that held him propelled him through the waterfall and into a cavern of some sort. Enough light came through the water so that he could dimly see a doorway ahead of him and words carved into the stone. They said: “Go forward, thief! To retreat now would be your doom.”
Boozer had seen stranger things in his life, so he didn’t panic. As his feet touched the ground, he looked around carefully to see what his options were.
The waterfall roared and pounded behind him, seeming to be the obvious way out. Off to the right was a pile of large round stones, and protruding from the pile was the hilt of a broadsword with a finely wrought hilt. Ahead of him was a tunnel entrance moving into darkness–not that he would have any trouble seeing in such a place. The rest was only stone.
“That’s what I get for stealing from money gods,” Boozer said to himself. “What was I thinking?”
“Hurmmm,” said Boozer, “a sword in some stones. If I pull it out, maybe I’ll become the King of Khazan. Naaaaahhhh, that only works in fairy tales, and I’m no fairy. Still, let’s take a look at it.”
He walked over to the sword. As he got closer he noticed that some of the rocks seemed to have a few chips and scratches on them. And the sword looked better and better. He also felt a kind of tingle in the back of his mind, but whether it was a good tingle or a bad tingle he couldn’t tell.
Boozer stretched out his hand and pulled the sword from the stone. As it came free it rang like a bell and began to glow with a white light.
Just then the rock pile began to pull itself into a vaguely humanoid form. Even as the legs formed, it lunged at Boozer!
The sword seemed to know what to do. It pulled Boozer’s arm out straight into a stop thrust. Magical glowing metal met stone and entered a crevice between two stones with a clang.
The rock monster seemed to pause for an instant when the sword penetrated it.
“Oops,” said Boozer to himself. “Out of the waterfall, into the whirlpool. Yikes!”
Boozer stuck the glowing sword into the onrushing rock monster as it flailed wildy at him. Then he ducked as a huge rocky arm came swinging at his head. It missed and whooshed over. (L3-DEX SR to see if he put the sword back in the right spot. Rolled 8, missed it, but got 24 ap. L1-LK-SR to see if running away would save him. He rolled 19 and made it handily. 19 ap.)
Then Boozer turned and sprinted for the dark passageway. At the end of the passageway, he exited in a circular white room with two silver pillars standing in the center. Each pillar was about waist high on a human, and they seemed to hum faintly as he approached them.
Boozer walked all around the silver pillars. In the far distance he heard the sound of sword and rocks clashing together. It didn’t seem to be getting any closer.
Then he walked between the pillars and the world changed around him. He found himself in an intersection. Four corridors led away into the darkness. Above each one was a symbol, the symbols being stylizations of fire, water, air, and earth. (L1-SR on INT. He rolled a 6 and missed it by 8. 6 ap.)
Boozer felt a cold breeze spring up, and a momentary sensation of danger, but it passed without anything happening. (Check for wandering monsters: none.)
“I guess I’ve gotten away from the rock monster,” Boozer mumbled. “Now which way should I go?”
Boozer studied the symbols for a minute and then turned down the earth path. He walked along for a while, and it seemed as if the walls widened out on both sides and the ceiling got higher and higher, and the rock underfoot got softer and greener, and….
He found himself standing in the middle of a green field under the open sky, and worse, he was standing there in the nude. All that nice equipment that he had taken from the Trollgod’s armory just magically crumbled away.
“Hey, Boozer!” yelled a voice from behind him—a voice not unlike his own voice. Boozer turned around and saw a being that looked exactly like him. It was charging at him.
“This world isn’t big enough for the both of us,” cried the duplicate.
“You got that right,” said Boozer. There was a terrible fight.
<This scene deleted for graphic violence and explicit nudity.>
Still he had nothing to show for it. Looking around the meadow a bit more, he saw two signs. One said “Blue Frog Tavern” and had an arrow. The other said “Danger and Death” and had an arrow pointing the other direction.
Once Boozer set out upon the path to the Blue Frog Tavern, it was as if an irresistible force swept him along. As he walked, the sky darkened into night and the buildings of the city appeared around him. In the distance he could see a half open doorway with bright light spilling out of it, and a raucous noise coming from within.
Just before he reached the tavern, Boozer noticed an old goblin lying in the gutter. The goblin was snoring loudly, and as Boozer approached he detected a stench of cheap beer rising from the unconscious one’s mouth.
The old drunk didn’t seem to have much but he did have a ragged brown tunic, a belt, and a small dagger thrust through it. That was a lot more than Boozer had at the moment.
It occurred to Boozer that he didn’t have to walk around completely naked and unarmed. The drunk was not going to be able to resist if he took his tunic and weapon.
Boozer stepped fastidiously over his sodden comrade in the gutter, but reached down and nicked the dagger (2D6 + 1). Then he pushed open the door to the Blue Frog Tavern and stepped inside.
The Blue Frog Tavern was a typical Khazan bar. Sawdust covered the floor to soak up the blood and puke. A dozen tables, along with some benches and chairs filled the room. A large blazing fireplace filled one end of the room and a wide wooden bar lined with stools filled the other. Behind the bar was the entrance to the kitchen. A swinging front door, four large windows across the front of the tavern, and a multitude of lit lanterns hanging from chains attached to the ceiling finished off the simplistic decor. A wooden door also led into a meeting room in the back.
Boozer saw Lucky (the one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged bartender) and Chereva (the hot centauress bouncer). He scanned the place to see if anyone he knew was there.
“Hey,” shouted Chereva. “The entertainment has arrived, and it looks like he started without us.” A roar of laughter greeted this sally.
Boozer saw a wide variety of kindreds sitting around the bar getting sloshed. Ah, there was one person he knew—it’s Taran Dracon the Uruk and his brother Jax. Ok, that’s two. There were also two wizards, a drunk, a tiny fairy eye-balling him, a skeleton man, two ladies of dubious virtue and a winged toad.
“Ahem,” said Boozer, clearing his throat loudly. “I have just escaped from some sort of magical otherplace—”
“By the skin of your teeth, no doubt,” shouted Taran.
“And I’m on a mission for the Trollgod to see Lerotra’hh—”
“Looks like she’ll be doing the seeing,” snorted the centaur.
“And I could use a little help, mainly clothing and a drink.”
“That doesn’t sound like entertainment,” cried Taran, leaping to his feet. “Give me your cloak, you,” he ordered a random barfly. Before said barfly could respond, Taran jerked the cloak off his shoulders and poked two holes in it with his claws, holes big enough for hobgoblin legs to fit through.
“Here, step into this,” Taran told Boozer. “Now we fold the front and back up like this and pin them at the shoulders. Desuma, some pins, please?” The demoness snapped her fingers and two cheap broaches (not roaches) appeared. In less than a minute, the hobgoblin was presentable, although just barely.
“What happened to you, Boozer?” asked Jax.
“Magic. There was this fountain. I took a couple of coins out of it, and got attacked by a rock monster that stole my newly found magic sword….”
“Sounds like a typical day in Khazan,” Jax responded as heads bobbed around the tavern.
Boozer joined the Uruk brothers at their table. Taran signaled for Lucky to bring Boozer a drink, and then asked, “What did you say you were doing in Khazan?”
“Trying to deliver a package to the Death Goddess for the Trollgod, but I lost it. Do you think I’m in trouble?”
Taran and Jax exchanged a look. Jax seemed to shrug. “Eh, don’t worry about it,” Taran answered. “Nobody has seen the Death Goddess in these parts for a while now anyway. Just tell His Forgetfulness that she wouldn’t see you.”
“And that a hobb thief ran off with your package,” added Jax. “Hey Boozer,” he continued, changing the subject, “it looks like many of the regulars are here tonight. Can I introduce you to anyone? A better crew of adventurers you’ll never find.”
“Hmm,” said Boozer looking at the motley bunch with some dread. As he was thinking it over, Shipy the Hobb walked in.
“I’d like to meet her,” said Boozer, pointing toward the door.
“Shipy’s a dude,” Jax guffawed.
“No, her!” Boozer persisted loudly.
Chereva noticed, and trotted over.
“Problem boys?” she stated with mock sweetness.
“Chereva, I’d like to introduce my friend, Boozer,” said Taran. Jax lifted Boozer up to stand on the table top. From that elevation, the hobgoblin could almost look her in the eyes. Not that he tried.
“Up here, short stack,” said Chereva, directing the hobgoblin’s gaze from her open vest.
“I’ve never met a Centaur before,” said Boozer, in awe. “I guess I was, uh, also looking for a ride back to Trollhalla. I wouldn’t be much of a burden for someone as magnificent as you, and I can make it worth your while when we reach the stronghold of the Trollgod.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, you know,” Chereva neighed with much jiggling. “Yet, you seem sincere enough…” With that, she quickly flipped him up over her head, and drop-kicked him out the door into the street. “But you must understand,” she called out after him. “I am NOT a taxi service!!”
Boozer lay dazed in a muddy rut in the middle of the street. The old drunk goblin hobbled over and said, “Tough luck, mate. Oooh, my dagger.”