Monday, August 17, 2015

Encounters in Sick Country

Like backwoods, or badlands, sick country is a way to describe a place. There are patches of sick country scattered through the Land of Still Waters, some huge and well-know, helping shape the boundaries of nations, others tiny and ephemeral.


Boundaries of sick country are sometimes vague, sometimes well-defined. They shift, tidally, as the forces in the sick country wax and wane. Locals know the boundary signs of any nearby sick country well and often have extensive myths or traditions regarding them.

Though borders may shift, most sick country has a definite center or focus. Here the virulence of the place intensifies and creatures driven from the settled frontier shelter. Often this locus was a city of the ancient world whose ruins may still be seen from afar. Travelers through sick country would do well to give these relics wide berth.

witch by algenpfleger

The largest known sick regions bear the names of the ancient cities at their epicenters: Boston, New York, Toronto, and Montreal. The nation of Jorvik has many smaller regions within it whose borders are well-patrolled. Northern Vye contains Ottawa, and the southern shore of Acadia is blighted by Portland.

What do you encounter?

Roll three Fate dice. At the edge add another die and discard the lowest. Deep in sick country add another die and discard the highest.

Fate dice show 2 blank, 2 +, and 2 - sides.

+3: Settlement
+2: Wanderers
+1: Animals
0: Landscape
-1: Phenomenon
-2: Beasts
-3: Monstrosities

If you want to roll for encounter distance:

+1: Immediate: Ambush; stumbled upon; exits cover nearby.
0: Sighting: Raised dust or smoke; against the horizon; sounds.
-1: Hint: Trail or spoor; remains of a camp; aftermath of a battle or hunt; territorial markings.


Even sick country may be settled, though sparsely, and as close to the edge of safer lands as possible. Land here is cheap or unclaimed, the law is scarce, and there are opportunities for those brave or desperate to seize them.

This section is applicable to both Settlements and Wanderers.

Two dice to determine how do they live.

At the borders of sick country, roll three dice and discard the lowest - in the depths, discard the highest of three. Consider rolling twice and combining the results to get a more nuanced or intense motivation.

+2: There are those who intentionally travel through sick country as benefactors: missionary or Ellisian walker; hermit; messenger; mercenary.
+1: Settlers having some degree of success: farmers; merchants; bandits & toll-takers; an outpost of a nearby borderland or nation.
0: These people are struggling: scavengers; living off limited supplies; paying fealty and tithes to some nearby settlement; failing and likely doomed.
-1: Hunters venture into sick country for many reasons: trappers; trophy hunters; furriers; exterminators. Those passing through unsettled lands should be wary they do not spring some forgotten hunter's trap.
-2: Aside from the natural hazards of these lands, anyone living in sick country is unlikely to be missed in civilization. They attract abductors: the autumn people; bounty hunters; cultists hunting for recruits and sacrifices; a witch of the wastes.

And one die for why are they here?

+1: Seeking opportunity: indebted; cheap land; exploration; salvage.
0: Long-time inhabitants: born here; making it work; delusional; infectious and unwilling to return to civilization.
-1: Exiles: Displaced; usurped; apostates or heretics; fugitives from the law.


Structure - two dice

+2: Manor
+1: Homestead
0: Village
-1: Hamlet
-2: Campsite or hut

What state is it in - two dice

+2: Heavily fortified
+1: Under construction or temporary
0: Kept in decent repair; perhaps walled
-1: Re-purposed or adapted from other structures
-2: Crumbling; ruined; or badly damaged

Then roll on inhabitants to find out who lives there.



Wanderers may be: displaced from their homes and looking to settle; Glist; long-time nomads; just arriving in sick country; utterly lost; taking a dangerous shortcut; trying to hide.


owl4.jpg (800×592)

Normally these creatures are benign, but many are host to sicknesses which may cause unusual behavior. An encounter with otherwise normal animals may serve to unnerve travelers, or restock their supplies.

Two dice:

+2: Foragers: escaped horse or ghast; wild sheep; deer; trollizard.
+1: Birds: ravens; sparrows; hawk or owl; gulls.
0: A swarm of insects: caterpillars; moths; roasps or roaches; ants.
-1: Rodents: squirrels; rats; rabbits.
-2: roll on Beasts.


A mutated pine tree against the backdrop of the nuclear plant in Chernobyl.  Photo credit: Igor Kostin 

Much of sick country appears normal, like the land that surrounds it. The are regions though where even the earth seems to take ill. Often these places are known to and named by the surrounding natives - Toadwood, Norman's Rot, the Aching Cliff.

Three dice.

At the borders, roll four and drop the lowest. In the depths, roll four and drop the highest.

+3: This land offers respite: wax reeds well-adapted to any nearby sicknesses; a walker grove; a seemingly empty and stocked shelter, well-hidden; a length of ancient self-repairing road is clear and easy to travel.
+2: Teeming with life: obscenely plump and verdant plants, humid and heavily scented; swarms of flies or rats or birds with no obvious food source; fearless and hyperactive wildlife; roiling mist full of unseen chirps, hoots, and squeals.
+1: Passing through tended lands suggests a settlement nearby: farms; trails; orchards; pasture.
0: There are some plants which seem to thrive in the sick country and their abundance should serve as a warning to travellers: willow; sunflowers; pigweed; mustard.
-1: A wasteland of: parched dead trees; twisting thorn scrub; scorched and glass-like barrens; rusted ruins.
-2: This water is: vibrantly wrong color; stagnant and fetid; slick with oil and toxins; clear and still but utterly devoid of life.
-3: Blighted with: fungus and slime molds; miasma; rift in the earth; ethereally poisoned.


*The Dry Tree Tomb, (secret location), here lie the remains of ...

Higher numbers are not necessarily good or safe, but they can be more easily avoided and might yield salvage if investigated.

Two dice.

At the borders, roll four and drop the lowest. In the depths, roll four and drop the highest.

+2: Haunts are warded regions created generations ago that try to scare the curious away from the dangers they hold. They send out periodic ethereal scouts to keep abreast of what's scary these days and manifest them with a variety of illusions and shifting facades.
This haunt: broods over a great plague; is slowly breaking down; has turned malevolent; might reward or bribe those who brave it.
+1: An ancient building: perfectly preserved; partially buried or obscured; active with magic and guardians; finally succumbing to the centuries.
0: Roll on the sickness table. This place is rife with the result.
-1: Zones of ethereal flux in which magic is: dead; wild; empowered; sentient.
-2: Radiation lingers in this area. It is a pernicious threat often undetected until one is deep within its boundaries. The animals and plants here are warped; the place glows faintly in the darkness; headaches and nausea begin quickly; everything appears normal to the naked senses.


These creatures pose some risk to travelers and settlers. They are not necessarily hostile, though many of them are hungry or diseased.

Two dice:

+2: Feral animals have lost much of their fear of humans: wight; wild dogs; trollizard; cat.
+1: Most predators will only attack humans if they are hungry or threatened: wolves; coyotes; bears; bobcat.
0: Scavengers: dire rats (these are descended from Gambian pouched rats); wild dogs; hop crow; amphisbaena.
-1: Garoulin: regular garoulin; wolf-garoulin half-breeds; look like dogs but are smart as average garoulin; magic-using.
-2: Roll on Monstrosities.


Three dice:

+3: Chimera: their artistries; their servants; or they themselves.
+2: Fey other than beguilers are somewhat less common in sick country but not unknown: sprite; goblin; gnome; nymph.
+1: Undead can rise spontaneously or are sometimes released by cultists: zombie; ghoul; wraith; revenant.
0: Lesser thaaskith roam wild here, escaped from or released by the cults. Amphisbaena; jaculus; basilisk; tatzelwurm; cerastes; or cockatrice.
-1: Fargone, or something on its way there: viscerid; luxpuck; tallow; ogre.
-2: Beguilers, the succubi and inccubi, are known to hunt the sick country for the weak and undefended. They may be: whole; decayed; traveling with thralls; recently fed.
-3: Greater thaaskith; rampaging lindorm; medusa on a vision quest; naga travelling between temples; samaelisk, possibly with converts.


Unsurprisingly, things encountered in sick country are often sick. For any encounter, you may use this chart as many times as you like.

Roll three dice to determine the nature of the sickness:

LiveJournal Images |

+3: Maniacal: frenzied & murderous; screeching & terrified; gasping & ecstatic; relaxed & psychopathic.
+2: Stupefied: idiot; animalistic; delirious; forlorn.
+1: Blind: cataracts; seeping eye holes; put out; eyes look fine but don't focus.
0: Disfigured: hunched; spindly; twisted; palsied.
-1: Diseased: leprous & rasping; fevered & sallow; bloated & oozing; wheezing & hacking.
-2: An old plague: clear plastic skin; partially ossified; cysts & vestigial limbs; ethereal siren (agonizingly loud for the afflicted and anyone sensitive, attracts attention in the ether).
-3: Fargone: luxpuck (skeletal and luminous); ogre (rippling muscle and insatiable hunger); tallow (bones soften, flesh flows); viscerid (must survive on the harvested organs of others).

A fourth die can determine how contagious the sickness is.

Julian Callos 

+1: Non-contagious: congenial; dormant; too specialized to host.
0: Moderate: wounds or injection; consumption; handling or grappling; imbued in an object.
-1: Virulent: airborne; bodily fluids; ethereal; skin contact.

Even non-physical ailments can be contagious in sick country.


If you want a quick behavior, roll one die:

+1: Ignores, possibly curious
0: Observes, possibly stalks
-1: Aggressive, probably attacks

For a more nuanced behavior this encounter will tend towards, consider rolling three dice on this table. You can add a die and drop the lowest on the edge of the sick country, or add a die and drop the highest deep in it. Player actions and attitudes can guide these reactions.

Initially appear
and soon turn
because they are