Note: If you are already comfortable with the Character Generation process of this RPG and don’t want to wade back through all the various details and descriptions there is a Quick Character Gen section in the Appendix at the back of the book.
WHAT IS TRIBE?
Tribe indicates the specific flavor of Taint your character is cursed with. There is no social or cultural attachment to Tribe as the Tainted (Gypsii characters standing in as the sole exception) are born to normal men and women and raised or discarded as the customs of those people demand.
But among the Tainted themselves, Tribe is of utmost importance and Tainted of the same Tribe will almost always go out of their way to save or succor one of their own in need.
Each Tribe portrayed below features a brief summary of Physical Appearance, Region suggestions, Language, Arcane Specialization, and Taint Attributes , followed by a quick glimpse into the life of one of its members in italics that will give you some insight into the gameworld in general and that Tribe in particular.
APPEARANCE: The Ban-Sidhe (pronounced Ban-Shee) have very little to differentiate them from common humans in that they can be of any height or visage with any shade of skin or hair common to men. They do tend to be rather gaunt and jagged, however, with a haunted look about their eyes and a vague hollowness to their features.
REGIONS: Ban-Sidhe are most commonly born on the plains, but many find their way to the Citadel and often seek out livlihoods that take them out to sea. Ban-Sidhe seem to have an almost morbid fascination with the Maelstrom.
LANGUAGES: All Ban-Sidhe speak Trade Tongue and Infernal.
SPHERE SPECIALIZATIONS: Ban-Sidhe are especially adept at Gateways and reduce their initial TN in this Sphere by 2 if they take Arcana as their Primary Profession, by 1 if Secondary, and are able to use this Sphere at its base TN even if they choose to make Arcana their Tertiary Profession.
TAINT ATTRIBUTES: Ban-Sidhe are able to take on Wraith form. While in this form they cannot be physically affected (though they are still vulnerable to Arcana and other metaphysical phenomena), and their gear and weapons become incorporeal with them, rendering them ineffective for any physical purpose (including consumables, explosives, and poisons). In wraith form the Ban-Sidhe can move at normal speeds and can still be seen as a misty version of himself but cannot pass through solid matter or slip through spaces smaller than his physical form could naturally navigate.
A ring of salt sealed with blood (successful Occult Lore check required) can force the Ban-Sidhe to take on solid form again but does not block any learned use of the Taint, such as Arcane Spheres or using Taint to bolster other abilities (Taint Dice).
Salt Stormshale stroked his short white beard and gazed out over the rimmer’s trim granite bow as the smallest of the three moons sank below the blackened waves. He had paid the captain handsomely to anchor all day on the windward side of the isle and sail into the Citadel’s harbor well after midnight. After all, his own crew already killed him once and dumped his body in the Reaches . It would hardly do for the men who had done for him to discover his return before he was well ready for them.
Behind him, the pilot cleared his throat and Salt turned, his grey eyes immediately going to the navpool housing, but the granite basin was empty, a gaping black wound where the comforting blue glow of magic should be showing him where the ship was in relation to the islands around it. It was eerie. These sailors were less than honorable men. They knew the Towers of the Citadel could track any ship that used the navigational magic and so disdained its advantage. Plainly one of their number was able to use the Taint to keep their course.
Salt shuddered as his gaze returned forward.
A thicket of masts and moorings shimmered up out of the fog ahead and the oarsmen on the decks below put their strength against a backstroke that slowly reduced the ship’s forward speed. Even so late the sounds that drifted over the waters promised that the wharves were alive with more than shadows and rats. With a furtive glance shoreward, Salt shrugged his battered sea bag to his shoulder and waited while the sailors and longshoremen settled the ship in its moorings. None of them commented when he finally ghosted down the bouncing causeway and quickly made his way from the lighted pier to the shadowy alleys of Rattown.
Walking with his hood up and his head down, keeping to the unlit alleyways, Salt made good time into the maze of Rattown’s warehouse district, but long before he reached the relative safety of Hammerwall and the Labyrinth beyond, a pair of tar scummed seaboots, the kind with the fancy turned-down cuffs, stepped out into the street and stood waiting a stone’s throw away. He knew those boots. Not so long ago they had opened his skull to the sky. It took only a second for Salt to embrace his Wraith, to let his corporeal form melt into mist, but even as his flesh shimmered beneath his cloak he felt the salt-circle close and knew he was trapped. Unable to escape, he raised his steel-grey gaze as his body snapped back into reality around him and glared up at to the tattooed face of the man that had led the mutiny that had left him dead. “Rafe,” he murmured at his former first mate. “The rimmer captain, I suppose?”
“Aye,” the big man agreed, and spat. “Sent us a pigeon by th’ guild yesterday. Ya shoulda told us ya was a Blackhand, Cap’n. Shoulda let men decide fer themselves if t’ follow a sorcerer or no.”
Salt nodded. Ignorant men believed ignorant things. And still for all of that the Taint had failed him in that last desperate fight with the best of his crew. But it had brought him back from the dark lands beyond, and he didn’t hesitate to draw on its inky malevolence again, willing its strength into his arm. Somewhere in the dark, the Red Wanderer had laid the salt line that kept him locked into his body, but she could not lock him away from his power altogether. Unconsciously, he smiled. Perhaps this time Lady Fortune might chance to him a better outcome.
But the big Gypsii only barked a laugh and spat again when Salt’s hand slid furtively to the hatch-axe beneath his sea cloak. Then the soft bite of steel pressed against the base of the old man’s skull and the sour stench of sailweed drifted up from behind him. The wiry cabin boy all but bathed in the foul drug, but for all that, the lad was still a deft hand with a knife. Taint or no, Fortune was a fickle mistress, and Salt knew there’d be no coming back from his death this time.
They wouldn’t leave enough of his body to come back to.
He was almost relieved to know it was finally over, but as ends went it was a right sorry one, and he could only close his eyes as Rafe nodded gravely at the red headed boy behind him.
The last thing to go through Salt’s mind was a handspan off good Gypsii steel.
APPEARANCE: Caryatid are perhaps the most marked of the Tainted, having stony skin with the hue, striations, markings, and texture of natural sandstone. Their hair and eyes are sand colored and they tend to be fairly tall and often slight of build, though they are often deceptively tough for all their slight appearance.
REGIONS: Caryatid may be found almost anywhere in their adulthood but are born almost exclusively to the desert wastes of the inner isles. Caryatid are valued as palace guardians among the elite of the Citadel’s High Houses.
LANGUAGES: Caryatid all speak Trade Tongue and Celestial.
SPHERE SPECIALIZATIONS: Caryatid are especially adept in their ability to perceive Auras, to the point that they do not have to roll when performing this ability regardless of their Professional Rank in Arcana (though they do still have to successfully Tap Taint).
TAINT ATTRIBUTES: The Caryatid’s stone skin makes them impervious to normal ranges of heat or cold and grants them a +1 to their overall Armor Soak versus both physical and elemental attacks. Caryatid have a form of night vision that allows them to see in anything but absolute darkness with no impairment.
Caryatid are particularly vulnerable to manipulation via the Mind Sphere and treat all defense rolls versus this Arcane Sphere as if they were 2 magnitude less than rolled.
The desert wind ruffled her short, sand colored hair, and grains of sand pinked against the rough sandstone of her flesh. Sand colored eyes gazed out over the moonlit dunes, and the sand stained fabric of her robes shifted in the stirring air. Nothing moved in the night, but Shianna knew she was not alone. Knew the only thing protecting her was the cold slab of exposed stone beneath her feet.
The spirits of the dead could not cross exposed stone – or the open sea.
But the sea was long distant, and if the wind picked up any more, the stone at her feet would not remain exposed for long.
The thinnest layer of dust on the rock was all it would take to open their way to her, and she almost fancied she could see their dark forms sloughing in the wind beyond the sand scoured bedrock. But she knew that was just her imagination. If you could see the dead, they already had their talons in you. Even the Taint didn’t let her see the auras of the drifting revenants.
Sternly pressing back her fear, Shianna adjusted the rifle strap on her shoulder and loosely wrapped the free end of her haik around her face. It was her father’s rifle, and it held a sixty-five round magazine with two spares in her pack, but while a rifle was fine against the wildlings who raided her village, it would be useless against the fleshless dead.
Damned Raik. Where was the sand scoured bastard? He was supposed to have relieved her long before nighfall.
Around her the wind picked up, but it had developed the odd updraft that made this particular outcropping one of the safer night-havens on the desert, lifting eddies of sand from the stone and blowing them away.
Shianna forced calm into her body and let her gaze slide out over the dunes. There. Centerside of windward a robed and hooded figure moved deliberately towards her across the shifting sand. Raik always had been too cocky for his own good, and Shianna wasn’t at all certain she would have the courage to leave the rock before morning, now. Which, when she thought about it, had probably been Raik’s plan from the start, hoping to spend the long night in her company.
Not an evil prospect, but she hated to have the decision forced on her.
Shianna was angry now, but she knew better than to give voice to her rage while she still held her post upon the stone, so she said nothing as the figure drew closer. It was definitely Raik. She knew the bone of his spear and the odd short-barreled rifle he carried with the side-loading magazine and the bulky flash suppressor on the muzzle. She wished the wind would blow aside his haik and reveal the mocking smile she knew he must be pointing at her.
Then he stepped up onto the slab of stone, and she scowled up into his sandy eyes. The flash of Taint that flared within her caught her by surprise, revealing the sliver-green murk that churned in those flat, dead orbs. Horrified, Shianna took a hasty step back, but it was too late. He was reaching for her, and she knew it was not Raik who guided those wind-roughened hands.
The dead could not cross naked stone unless sand swept up to cover it – or they claimed a vessel of flesh to carry them there.
APPEARANCE: Dryads tend to be slightly on the short side of human normal. Their skin will generally closely match the color of the bark of the tree they turn into, ranging from pale white to varying shades of brown. Their hair will generally match the colors of their Beast and their Bird (either beast and bird will be the same color or their human form will have a brindle bi-colored hair).
REGIONS: Dryads usually hail from the mountain highlands, but may be found in any region. They are, however, extremely uneasy on the water so will generally only travel at great need.
LANGUAGES: Dryad all speak Trade Tongue and Elemental.
SPHERE SPECIALIZATIONS: Dryads specialize in the Mind Sphere and reduce their initial TN in this Sphere by 2 if they take Arcana as their Primary Profession, by 1 if Secondary, and are able to use this Sphere at its base TN even if they choose to make Arcana their Tertiary Profession.
TAINT ATTRIBUTES: Dryads are able to change form simply by Tapping Taint with no other check needed. No check is needed to revert to their natural human form. Each Dryad has 3 magical forms: Tree, Beast, and Bird. The player may choose any form of tree (Elm, Birch, Rowan, Willow, Oak, Yew, and Ash are common), but the size of his tree form will generally be twice the height of his human form with a trunk half as wide as his human waist at its widest point. The beast form can be any land mammal within the natural size range of a small dog down to a large rat. Bird form is usually large for it’s species and may be any avian that is naturally the size of a crow or larger.
The smooth barked tree stood slender and alone in the midst of the plain. It was neither thick nor overly tall, but it’s broad, waxy leaves offered shade to the wildlings who stirred beneath it. They had slept there all day, their search for the elusive being that smelled strangely of both men and beasts ending fruitlessly at the white mottled trunk. Some who sheltered beneath the delicate branches had antlers and cloven hooves, others stood on the feet of men but there were serpents growing where hair should be, and still others had the faces and curving horns of rams and ran with delicate grasping hooves meant for climbing trees and stones. They had all crouched beneath the slender tree, taking shelter from the heat of the sun and the bite of the wind, but now the sun was setting over the plain and the wind slid like ice over their smooth dark skin as they harnessed their heavy weapons for the long run home.
It was nearly an hour before Lea could no longer sense the creatures and slowly slipped from her tree form into her human shape. She stood naked and unashamed on the plain, ignoring the lashing scourge of the wind, her clothes and pack discarded early in the hunt as the wildlings chased her. She was skilled. She could steal more.
Tapping into the Taint, she flicked short, delicate fingers and tossed her black hair from her face, and her body changed with the speed of thought into a large raven on the wing. With a challenging caw she soared skyward in a lazy spiral while the plain stretched endlessly below her in every direction but windward. In that direction, the plain was cut short by the jagged scar of the forest that blanketed the land between the plain and the mountains. Even as a raven able to fly above the ancient wood, Lea shuddered. She was no Warden to challenge that eldrich evil with impunity, but the closest settlement was the ancient fortress in the Pass of Shale that that madman Ruvyen had turned into an inn, salting the earth and allowing no trees to grow in his pass save his beloved apple orchards.
He didn’t even carry the Taint.
Still, he would give her food after his fashion and would not blink to find a skirt and tunic missing with the dawn, so she swept just reachside of windward and let the currents carry her to the old stone blocktower in the hills, careful to fly high above the seductive mutter of the trees and their demands that she sleep…just sleep…and fall. Her kind were particularly susceptible, because she felt the forest’s ancient pain. She remembered fire and axes and hated them. And she wanted to fall into that deadly army in the hope that she would be allowed to join them.
But she knew that that was foolishness. The forests didn’t recruit. The forests killed. And fed.
Night had settled in fully when she landed in the safety of the apple orchard and its sleepy undemanding little trees that gave fruit and lived on light and water rather than fear and blood. With another half caw she hopped off the branch and melted into a little black cat and trotted mewling up to the postern door beside the main gate. It was never locked and the latch didn’t quite close, so Lea nosed it open and trotted briskly into the courtyard like she owned the place.
She smelled the tall man by the kennels before she saw him, but was not surprised at all that he’d already spotted her. Very little passed Ruvyen’s notice.
“Ah. A guest. Good evening mistress cat. Will you have mice or broth for dinner?” the lean innkeeper asked her from the shadows. The dogs, of course, went mad with her scent, but quieted to a whimper at Ruvyen’s sharp whistle. Lea just sat next to one cage and began licking her paws. She could hunt mice. But she knew Ruvyen would give her broth if she waited and she was mostly full from eating soil and sunshine all day anyway.
She watched him walk towards the common and smirked at the miserable looking dogs.
In the morning she would steal some maid’s clothing and make her way windward to Manx’s tower in the mountains to see what might be done about these wildlings who had taken to hunting her Tribe’s trade route, but tonight she would sleep safe in the home of the man who defied the forests.
APPEARANCE: Gypsii are human normal in terms of size and can vary greatly in base height and weight, but they always have red hair (unless age has turned it white), fair freckled skin, and light colored eyes, usually green or blue. They will also be covered with colorful, stylized geometric tattoos on their face, torso and limbs. These tattoos are a mark of pride and denote what Clan that particular Gypsii is kin to.
Of all the Tribes, only Gypsii are born to their own kind rather than normal mortals and as such have their own culture. Gypsii live a nomadic existence under a single Clan Elder with women and men having distinct, but mutually respected roles in the community. There are no Taboos in Gypsii culture, save that all that is done must be accepted willingly by all involved.
REGIONS: Gypsii may be found anywhere but tend to favor the open plains, traveling the trade routes between known settlements, offering their skills. Gypsii are famous smiths and ironmongers. Many are master gunsmiths – a valued trade in the Broken Lands. Because of the frequent travel associated with their nomadic existence, Gypsii characters get to list two familiar Regions on their character sheet, but one must be Plains or the Maelstrom. Gypsii who choose the Maelstrom must choose Coastal or Citadel as their accompanying Region. The +2 bonus to all related Lore checks applies to both regions chosen.
LANGUAGES: Gypsii speak Trade Tongue, Gypsii Cant, and Elemental.
SPHERE SPECIALIZATIONS: Gypsii specialize in Veils and reduce their initial TN in this Sphere by 2 if they take Arcana as their Primary Profession, by 1 if Secondary, and are able to use this Sphere at its base TN even if they choose to make Arcana their Tertiary Profession.
TAINT ATTRIBUTES: Gypsii are entirely immune to the Mind Sphere of Arcana. They are also able to physically double in size with a single Tap Taint check. This increases both movement and reach by one category and increases damage by one category but reduces initiative by 3 and increases all Target Numbers by 1 while enlarged (except for Athletics and Lore checks).
Miri walked beside the trundling multi-colored wagon, its myriad symbols and patterns matching the multi-colored tattoos that marked her face and limbs, announcing that she was kin to this clan of travelers. Her freckled arms swung freely and her green eyes glittered in the rare summer sun as her yellow skirts swirled about tattooed calves and her bare feet squelched in the muddy grass.
“Why does all of our clan have red hair, Opa?” she asked the old man on the driver’s bench.
Her grandfather smiled, keeping his eyes on the bare backs of the dozen twelve foot tall boys who pulled the medicine wagon. “It is a better liar who uses no words which can be contradicted by plain sight, child,” he chided.
Miri frowned, looking down the line of red-headed sons, each twice as tall as a natural man, that pulled the wagon, then over to the red haired out-striders, and finally behind her to the bevy of red haired women following the medicine wagon in a chattering flock. When she looked back at her grandfather he was silently laughing in his seat and she understood. He no longer had red hair. It had faded to a snowy white before her birth. “You know what I mean, Oldfather. Whether we keep our colors or not, we are all born to wear red hair.”
“Aye,” the old man agreed. “That is the way of things.”
“Yes, but why?”
“Because we are conceived in the Taint.”
Miri snorted. “Many folk use the Taint, Opa, that have not our red hair.”
“Ah, but how many of them use the Taint to bring children into the world? How many use it to seduce. How many use it to make sex a thing of awe and wonder. I did not say we were born in Taint. I said we are conceived in Taint. We use it deliberately to create our children.” The old man paused and tugged lightly on the boys’ reins to correct their course. “All folk have children touched by the Taint. But only the Clans see the Taint born in all its children. It is who we are.”
Miri thought about it and drew the Taint up into her hands, letting it tingle across her skin until her vision went a bit odd with the light that bent around her. Up on the wagon seat her Opa looked her way and laughed.
“You are too pretty to hide behind veils of invisibility, child. Besides, your footprints still show in the mud.”
Miri smiled and rewove her veil. The old man smiled bigger and the boy nearest her tripped in his harness, fouling the wagon’s pace.
“Don’t tease the lad, unless you’re prepared to share a fair tumble,” her grandfather warned. But Miri just smiled at him and left the glamour in place as she turned the full weight of her Taint-burnt gaze on the hapless harnessed young giant.
APPEARANCE: Wardens tend to be tough, stocky folk who spend little time among civilized folk. As such they often have long, wild hair, with men preferring beards over a shaven face. Most have dark hair and eyes and weathered, swarthy skin.
REGIONS: Because of their special immunity to the Forest’s Call, Wardens often choose to live in among the trees or in mountain settlements near the Forests, protecting their people from the primordial things that would devour them. For this reason, Warden characters must choose Forests as their region. If the player wishes, however, he may choose a second region for his Warden to be familiar with, (either Mountain or Plains) and divide his Lore bonus between the Regions, gaining +1 to related Lore checks for each rather than the standard +2 he gets if he chooses only Forests as his familiar Region.
LANGUAGES: Wardens speak Trade Tongue and Elemental.
SPHERE SPECIALIZATIONS: Wardens specialize in Elements and reduce their initial TN in this Sphere by 2 if they take Arcana as their Primary Profession, by 1 if Secondary, and are able to use this Sphere at its base TN even if they choose to make Arcana their Tertiary Profession.
TAINT ATTRIBUTES: Wardens are immune to both Fire and the lulling call of the Forest that drains men of life and causes them to simply expire in the wood and be drained of blood.
Rhaen crouched in the underbrush beside a storm-bent stand of black hawthorn. Sweat slipped unnoticed into the braids of his beard as he hunched massive shoulders over his stunted body and peered intently down the forested hillside at the creature that threatened his people. Lean and gnarled, swaying like a rot-twisted cedar, the hill troll lurched forward with elemental malevolence. It had caught the scent – the scent of his people. Even here Rhaen could hear distant peals of laughter like a fresh stream tumbling over happy stones; the children of Heartstone playing at their morning chores.
With their taste on its tongue, he knew the beast would find them before the hour was gone.
Stout fingers curled like gnarled stone around the worn stock of his rifle as the Warden smoothly snapped the bolt back. His che’na grew cold. The black runes on the palms of his hands were the conduits through which he channeled the Taint, the dark, roiling stain that slid restlessly beneath his skin. The troll lurched again, and Rhaen‘s world sharply narrowed to the ravenous tree-like creature that hunted his folk. His gaze locked on the black glassy slits that were its eyes even as the oily sickness of the Taint swept through him, sharpening his senses; steadying the stone of his arm.
Crimson ichor exploded from one wet dark orb, and the troll began to thrash and scream like a thousand birds of prey even as Rhaen chambered the second round and blinded it completely.
Taint burned like Death in his belly, but the Warden knew he was not done. His bullets had flown true, but they would not kill the beast. Still, as he looked on, his dark beard split in a deep satisfied smile as he cheerfully laid the old rifle down in the dirt and hefted the monstrous slab of rune-etched steel that was his grandfather’s war axe.
“Time fer th’ heavy work, Boyo,” he rumbled in his throat, letting the vicious blue flame of raw Taint swell up around his fists. And laughing mad as crows, he strode down the rocky hillside to finish what he’d started.
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