Friday, 10 June 2016

Hungry Hungry Halflings

Yesterday I posted about sanity and stamina and mentioned that these were stat systems I was intending to use in a setting called The Starving Lands - a campaign setting somewhere about 75% of the way through a a three-decade apocalypse involving risen seas and falling skies, plague and famine, illogic and atrocity at every turn. More details on that setting yet to come, but here's how races in that setting intersect with the sanity and stamina rules I posted previously. 

The Starving Lands (which is based on 5e) uses 5e's main four races - humans, elves, dwarves and halflings. No half-elves or half-orcs: this is not a happy, multi-racial society where such things are possible. For boring old humans, the rules work exactly as described yesterday: a full stamina collapse leaves you in a coma, a total loss of sanity catatonic. This is true for the other three races too, but they are also working with further sets of parameters. 

The elves of the Starving Lands are untethered: they always were, even before the ongoing catastrophe, careless of physicality, needing no food and little sleep. But they are also gracile and frangible: their society was an ornate filigree of kin and service and art and idleness that served and glorified only itself and its own insularity. Before the chaos came, few outside the fringes of the world of men and halflings had even seen an elf: when it did come, those elves who did not die at once in the initial waves of collapse and trauma, or who did not go to ground alone and terrified, streamed out of their fastnesses half-mad, finding in the wider world only more horrors to drive them more so. Elves now are a scattered, shattered breed, almost all of them more or less solitary and all the more unstable for it: but their odds are better than those who remain, enacting berserk parodies of their former glories in ash-filled palace halls.

Elves do not lose stamina for not eating every 12 hours or for not sleeping every 24 hours (they still lose sanity for not sleeping every 48 hours). Whenever an elf would lose a sanity point, they lose d4 instead.

The dwarves, in contrast, are all too closely tied to their native earth: they are of their
native stone, inescapably. Before the apocalypse, dwarves were commonly to be seen in town and cities, but none of them were born there, and if they could avoid dying there, they did, returning to the mountain of their clan to do so, as well as to wed and learn and serve in war and work. Some of those clans have survived well, though many more had their homes torn open and their lives taken away when the great mountain chains split open along their glowing, white-hot seams and shook their weight down over the world. In the times that followed, many were the dwarves who fled and wandered and found, like those of all races, that there were now more and stranger mouths in the land than there was food to feed them: and many of those remembered what it was to be a dwarf and a child of the earth.

Dwarves are mentally tough: they're holding it together better than most. They get a +3 bonus to their starting sanity. They also do not have to eat - that is, they don't suffer stamina loss for not eating every 12 hours. However, they suffer something else - not eating, not continuing to fill their bodies with biological material, causes dwarves to revert to their more basic state as mineral material. Every 12 hours a dwarf doesn't eat, they takes a stamina test. A fail means petrification is progressing, and they appl a constant -1 to all rolls – saving throws, attacks, checks, damage – but also gain an additional d8 hit points (roll this up when they fail the check). Once the accumulated fails exceed the maximum stamina of the dwarf, petrification is total. This is equivalent to death (and is not magical petrification – not reversible by the relevant spells) though technically without loss of consciousness. Ever.

The halflings, as the (human) phrase had it, were the younger brothers of man: living by
and large alongside them, generally more in the country than in the towns, but in evidence everywhere, a peaceful people, raising crops, baking bread, trading and crafting, observing a handful of their own traditions and taboos but living cheek by jowl with others. When the destruction came, they were at first struck the same way that men were, though being hardier, many of them were less despairing. But they too were soon scrabbling for nourishment, and in the desperation of wave after wave of famine - until at last the waves became a single, static, constant sea - some abandoned their traditions and taboos, though none forgot why they had been held before. The transformations were chilling - shameful to the race itself, horrifying to their erstwhile 'elder brothers'. 

I am indebted to Arnold K for the perfect observation - and it's that, rather than a theory, surely - that halflings who eat meat become goblins. All halflings start with +3 stamina. Every time a halfling eats meat, they take a sanity test. On a fail, they gain a trait from the goblin traits list (below, d20 chart). If they ever has more traits than her max sanity, they are considered a goblin with all the attendant rules: essentially recreate the character as one of the same class and level but racially a goblin, with attendant serious stat disabilities. Goblin PCs are permitted but in-game are close to impossible to keep going. Everyone will want to kill you, most of all other halflings, who have a deep (though eminently rational) hatred of the wayward ones among their kind.

The goblin table is a d20 table. Some things on it have some kind of mechanical effect, but not all - some of them just serve as very public notice of what is happening. All these results are repeatable - if you roll up something you have rolled before, it just intensifies and mechanically applies twice, where possible.

1 Green skin 
2 Hair loss
3 Claw growth - unarmed attacks do an additional +1 damage
4 Crooked fingers - -1DEX
5 Long ears and improved hearing - advantage on perception checks involving hearing
6 Crooked, clawed feet - advantage on climbing checks
7 Crooked back - lose d4 carrying slots (rules for Starving Lands packs and carrying to come)
8 Darkvision - as per range of previous vision
9 Improved ense of smell - advantage on perception checks involving smell
10 Sharp, long teeth
11 Sunlight sensitivity - Disadvantage on attack rolls in direct sunlight
12 Brittle bones - -1CON
13 Cowardly - disadvantage on fear checks
14 Mean-spirited - -1CHA
15 Stupid - -2INT
16 Green blood - attempts to use healer's kits on the PC ae at disadvantage
17 Egotism - -1WIS
18 Craving for meat - must take a DC12 WIS saving throw not to eat meat if the rest of the party is doing so
19 Hatred of halflings - feeling is mutual. Disadvantage on all CHA checks when interacting with halflings
20 Mucus production - Disadvantage on all grapples made by and against the character