Wednesday 28 September 2022

Folk of Qal Ashen


What a City! 

And not just because it is the only one.

This City has always been Qal Ashen - the City is God, the City is the Monarch. Her people were, in days when there were still people elsewhere, considered arrogant, brusque, brutally honest and severe. Now, no-one beside remains. 

The Labouring Dead do everything in the city. Build, farm, maintain, dig. There is enough food to feed millions, in a city that has tens of thousands of residents at most. Most of it rots. Huge amounts of free time is the norm. Social divisions are along the lines of glory, important ancestors, and the location of your home, rather than who can afford food. 

The City’s architecture tends towards the cyclopean, the titanic, the ominous and the brutal. Even the houses of the poor are made of many rooms. The palaces of state, and great constructions like the colosseum, almost seem built for giants.

The people are not giants in stature, but in deed, well… 


Most Ashenites are human. Just as indomitable, reckless and melancholy as normal. 

The northern part of Qal Ashen’s great wall runs along the seabed - about a third of the area within is water, with two massive gates which, in the First Monarch’s days, would have allowed the great treasure-galleons to set forth for distant places with names now only regarded in myth - Talea, Sanyakhun, Jagta, and the like. 

Now, small and somewhat wretched vessels put forth from the disused ports to go to the Small Isles, a salt-encrusted chain of rocks half a day north of the city. 

There are outlying villages here, inhabited in spring, summer and early autumn, by the people called Islanders. They return in winter, for this is habitually when the worst of the sea-monsters come. This is not to say that people are not eaten by sea-beasts in the rest of the year.

The Islanders are Ashenite, yes, but they are separated from the city for much of the year, overseeing the Labouring Dead in unenviable drudge-work, collecting necessary salt and other materials.

They form a separate social class, to an extent, with their own barely-comprehensible dialect they use to shit talk you in front of your face. 

The Ayavan are the people of the Ayav-Utav, an extensive area of woods which exist inside the city wall. They live nomadically with few possessions, accompanied by a gang of the Labouring Dead. They speak a distinct dialect, one which is very old, and habitually reject footwear. They claim to live as people did before kings, cities and the onset of Old Age. Some accuse them of insufficient piety to Qal Ashen. 

Humans have no particular mechanical quirks. 


Ashenites of past eras, returned to the City by the power of the Argent cult.

A mobile corpse (not an unfamiliar sight for an Ashenite, by any means) but one with will, voice, and agency. They are often old-fashioned, or confused by modern traditions. Most were resurrected with a sacred duty in mind. 

The method was invented by Arminius, the brother of the First Monarch. He outlived the legendary sovereign and guided the City through the chaos that ensued when their 600 year reign came to an end.  

No Returned exist from the era before Arminius - which is the era of the First Monarch. 

Resurrecting dead Monarchs either doesn’t work, or is forbidden. The Argents aren’t keen to discuss it. 

If you play a Returned, you are undead, not living, with all the multitudinous implications thereof. 


There are those in the City who have a piece of the Curse within them.

Patches of feathers, sections of chitin, fur, live snakes, fangs, clawed hands, serpentine tails, compound eyes, vestigial gills… 

Most are Descendants of those who once worshipped the Cruel Nine, the other gods, but came to Qal Ashen in time to be saved from transfiguration. Unfortunately, the Curse is persistent, and some trace of it remains, handed down - halted from decaying the mind, but not from twisting the body. 

The people of Lost Tekir form a notable subculture within the City - Tekir fell only 150 years ago, and was considered the sister-city of Qal Ashen. The Tekirans, during the violent collapse of their city, were afflicted en masse by the spreading curse. In a supreme act of willpower, many managed to maintain their minds long enough to make their way to the city - following the path laid by the famous arbiter Florus. Now, they mostly reside in Berutum Tekir, a district of the city built like a small piece of the lost and glorious homeland. 

If you play a Part-Cursed, you start with two mutations, and are, well, partially Cursed. 


There are only a few Lune dynasties in the city - the total number of them must be less than 300. 

Lunes are towering, pallid, crowned with short horns. Their skin is cold and corpse-blue, or white like the rare snows which come to the City. Their eyes are piercing. They have translucent bones. Many boast pridefully of their grace and keenness. Many claim direct descent from Lakhmu, who founded the Celebrant Cult and came to the city from elsewhere.

They claim they are immune to the Curse. Many claim this is because of some quality they possess which mere humans lack. Others simply thank Qal Ashen for their good fortune. 

According to old stories, some things in our future are decreed, made immutable by the dictates and laws of the Gods. A Lune myth says their ancestors performed some rite - or some duty, perhaps, which made them exempt - a people without destiny. 

If you play a Lune, you are at least six and a half feet tall, with an upper range of around seven and half feet tall, you are immune to losing your balance, and have no fate. However, you see poorly in bright light, and you also have no fate

You are also immune to unwilling mutation


There are only a few clans of Serpent-Children in the city - the total number must be less than 500. 

They are stout, with dark eyes and slit-pupils, and patches of scales. This is only one of their forms, of course - they can crawl out of their own mouths, becoming a huge snake - their shed body rapidly decays to ash. When they want to return to their human shape, they simply crawl out of the mouth of the snake, and the process repeats. 

In contrast to the usual Ashenite tradition of fervently tracking your relation to famous dead people, the serpent-children simply refuse to discuss their ancestors - indeed, it’s considered by them to be bad manners to discuss the dead at all

They make no claims about immunity to the Curse, but there are no reports of any of them turning into monsters. 

If you play a Serpent-Child, you are at most five and a half feet tall, immune to most poisons, and can transform into a large snake. Changing forms incurs 2 Fatigue. However, you are cold blooded - extreme cold and extreme heat inflict double Fatigue on you, and if you don’t warm yourself in the sun (or by another source of warmth) you are lethargic and slow-moving for the day. 

You are also immune to unwilling mutation


Law and punishment in the City is retributive. Strike out another’s eye, and your eye will be struck out. The hands of thieves are cut off, and so are the feet of warriors who abandon the unarmed to die.

Name: Invitation

Purpose: To establish trust or superiority.
Custom: To invite a guest to stay the night in your home is to say: “I trust you”, or, “I do not see you as a threat.” To refuse the invitation is to say “I do not trust you”, or, “You should view me as a threat.” 

Name: Monomachy 

Purpose: To resolve interpersonal disputes, violently. 

Custom: Two Ashenites may agree to battle until First Blood, until First Injury, or until Death, and, if so agreed, neither will receive punishment for the injuries they deal to the other. 

  • You may refuse a challenge if the challenger is only challenging you out of spite, because you’re right - decided by the court of public opinion, of course. 
  • You can also try and get out of it by Sending for an Arbiter (see below.) 
  • You may appoint a champion to battle in your stead, but unless you are incapable of combat this is viewed as cowardly. 
  • Myriapoda and Redeemers despise this tradition and anyone that partakes in it, Victors and Crows extol its virtues. 

Name: Sign of Respect

Purpose: Take a wild guess. 

Custom: A specific gesture - a fist pressed to the right shoulder, combined with a nod of the head. When offered to another of your social station, it’s a sign of friendship. When offered to a ruler, it’s a sign of allegiance. If you offer it to the Monarch, you’re implying others of your rank are disloyal.

Name: Host Gift
Purpose: To ensure the loyalty of one who serves you.
Custom: Invite the one whose loyalty to wish to reassure to a rich dinner, and offer them a tangible gift of some sort - a recovered treasure, an arcane secret. The gift cannot be simple coins, nor can it be something perishable or consumable. The agreed upon social convention is that you are reassuring the one who serves you of your appreciation for them. They can choose to reject the gift to break your association. 

Name: Send for an Arbiter

Purpose: To resolve interpersonal disputes, peacefully.

Custom: You may halt an argument to send for an Arbiter to dispute for you. Asking for a specific Arbiter is seen as poor taste (cheating, even), so you generally get the nearest one. This can be done in response to someone offering Monomachy, in place of the duel. 

Name: Forbidden Flesh

Purpose: To avoid Qal Ashen's wrath.

Custom: It is forbidden on pain of forty lashes to eat the meat of another human, a dog, a cat, a snake, or any bird.

Name: The Royal Game

Purpose: To pass a few hours, and to show tactical skill. 

Custom: A board game, favourite of the City. It’s a bit like senet, a bit like chess.  

Said to have been played by Merodach and the First Monarch. Each player should roll 1d20, adding the higher of their Lore or their to Hit bonus - the higher result wins, draws are possible. If you spend an hour playing it with someone (earnestly), you each learn the other’s level and general level of martial skill. Shepherds win the Royal Game automatically. 

Name: Exile

Purpose: To punish egregious lawbreakers and/or protect the City.  

Custom: On the word of the Monarch - and only on the word of the Monarch - a citizen of the city is stripped of their titles, stripped of their property, and made unable to command the Labouring Dead. Their choices are to remain in the city, ostracised, or to leave. This custom was over-employed by the much-reviled Seventh Monarch, and may have contributed to their suspicious demise (or assassination, if you believe the rumours).As such, the Monarch only employs it in the most extreme circumstance. 

Name: Paying in Blood

Purpose: To evade exile.

Custom: When someone is to be exiled, they instead may demand to be imprisoned beneath the colosseum in the city’s heart. Should they survive three bouts in the arena, it is deemed that Qal Ashen desires them living, and in his city, and they are released. 

Abandoning Your Humanity (Classes: Behemoth and Inhumed)


A mesopotamian-esque setting, where the world is consumed by a curse that infuses all living things with Too Much Life, turning them into immortal monsters. The only safe place, where uncursed people remain, is a bleak, theocratic city where the God of Death is worshipped: Qal Ashen. 


I nicked The Self Remade from Vayra’s Artist


The method has long been considered heretical. Not all are pleased with their station in the sacred City. Oftentimes, glory cannot be found through methods which the people of the City approve of. Oftentimes one must seek it out in the dark places of the world, and in the writhing flesh of beasts. 

The power of Life is not welcomed in a city that worships Death. 


+1 Inventory Slot and +1 HP per Template. 

A - Too Much Life, The Self Remade 

B - +1 Attack per Round

C - The Self Evolved, Black Blood 

D - Curse-Eater, Speak With Monsters

Too Much Life

You have deliberately inflicted yourself with The Curse, using magical, chemical and meditative methods to keep it in check.

You have a new stat: LIFE. This represents how much power you are drawing from the Curse. You start with 1, or, if you’re Part-Cursed, you start with 3

Increase LIFE by one when you:

  • Eat the flesh of a monster. Only 1 per individual monster.

  • Fail a Save vs. Curse. Unlike with everyone else, this doesn’t immediately start the process of you becoming a monster. 

Methods to decrease LIFE are not well known - finding out how would perhaps be the first step towards curing the Curse.

You subtract [LIFE] from Saves vs. Curse and Saves vs. mental effects like fear, charm and command. 

When you consume a Ration, gain [LIFE] HP back over the course of a minute. Stopping to eat food in the middle of a fight is probably not a great idea. 

Your lifespan is extended by 15 years for each point of LIFE you have.

If you get to 10 LIFE, you lose your mind and become a Monster. This makes the character unplayable. 

The Self Remade

You may fill up to [LIFE] inventory slots with muscle, sinew, or fat. Filling a slot takes a day of focused effort, such as by lifting heavy things, stretching, indulging in food, etc. 

It also takes a day to empty or change the contents of a slot of muscles, sinew or fat

Each slot of muscle grants you +1 Fortitude.

Each slot of sinew grants you +1 Reflex.

Each slot of fat grants you one point of Damage Reduction.

The Self Evolved

When using The Self Remade, you are no longer limited to just muscle, sinew and fat. You can now fill slots with horn, shell, fur, fangs, or other animal features. 

Each slot of horns, claws or fangs functions as a weapon - 1 Slot for light, 2 slots for medium, and 3 slots for heavy

Each slot of shell, scales or thick fur grants you +1AC.

Wings big enough to work take 5 slots of muscle, feather and bone.

Get creative! Scaled tails, insect chitin, and other animal organs are all options for the cunning Behemoth. 

Black Blood

Your blood has turned an onyx shade, and is now a wretched poison. Anyone imbibing your blood takes 1d4 damage per 1HP of blood you spilled. Even as little as 3HP of your blood going into a sealed water-source will make it undrinkable. 


You can take the Curse from other things into yourself.

This increases your LIFE by 1, and removes a mutation from whatever it is you’re affecting.

A Monster has 1 Mutation per HD, usually. 

Doing this to willing Part-Cursed turns them into Humans. 

You can’t do this to yourself. 

Speak With Monsters

Monsters and other creatures afflicted by the Curse won’t attack you, unless you attack them first. They see you as one of their own. 

You can, with focus, interpret the garbled speech of those monsters which were formerly human. Almost all monsters are rambling, agonised and insane, but likely hold insights of their own - or insights on the lost world.


The rite is old. Very old.

There are sacred herbs involved. Unguents and whispered prayers. A certain state of mind. 

Choose a cloudy night, when the sight of the Moon is obscured. Dig yourself a grave. Climb in and pull the dirt after you. There must be no witnesses. 

If you did it wrong, you die. If you did it right, you rise again with the sun. 


+2 HP per Template 

A - Fourth State, Body

B - Form, Sense

C - +1 Attack per Round

D - Banishment, Draw Spirit

Fourth State

Traditionally, the three states of existence are Living, Undead and Dead. You are Inhumed, existing in a fourth-state, or an anti-state. 

Denizens see you as a fellow Denizen, and Shades see you as a fellow Shade. You can eat underworld food with no repercussions. 

You feel absolutely no fear. Your sense of pain is dulled to a faint tingle. 


When it is advantageous to you, your body behaves as if it is rock, meaning you only take 1 damage per dice from slashing weapons (i.e., a sword cutting you for 2d8 damage does 2 damage), and your unarmed attacks hurt like a goddamn bastard - to the tune of 1d6 damage. 


When standing perfectly still with your eyes shut, you can quadruple your weight until you next move or open your eyes. While you do not move or open your eyes, you do not need to breathe or eat.


You can, when you are perfectly still with your eyes shut, focus to sense the shape of the surrounding stone - and to sense through the surrounding stone. 

You can sense air pockets, tunnels or large pieces of different material up to 100ft underground, when on the surface. 

You can tell if there is air, water, soil or stone, on the other side of a wall or floor. 

If leaning against a wall or a door, you can hear what is happening on the other side of it. 


You can now grab incorporeal creatures, like shades, droughts and plagues, with your bare hands. 

You can wrestle the damn things, allowing you to stuff them into appropriate containers, or just bash them around a bit, if you like. 

When in an appropriately prepared ritual space, you can wrestle creatures into the ground, to be pulled down into the underworld. Creating an applicable ritual space for this purpose takes a season

Draw Spirit

All people have a vital breath flowing through them, which serves as the medium between body and soul. 

You can sense the presence of living creatures by hearing this breath, at a range of 100ft. You can combine this with Sense to tell if something living is on the other side of a wall or door.

You can, with a day’s careful work, pull out 1 slot’s worth of someone’s spirit - people and other living creatures have 1 slot of spirit per HD, and if they lose all of it, their soul and body separate, and they die. This ritual requires total silence from all participants.

Spirit has all sorts of uses - not the least of which is providing vital animation to things which otherwise lack it.