The inherent racism of Star Wars

I am as big a Star Wars fan as you can get before it gets insane and embarassing. But I am also highly critical of it and more than just willing to recognize its many flaws. And, oh dear, there’s so much of them. But one of the biggest ones is one I’ve almost never see discussed anywhere.

Star Wars, at it’s very essence, is fundamentally racist.

And this has nothing to do with Lando Calrissian or even Jar Jar Binks. People have complained about the Neimodians talking in a Japanese accent and being show as ruthless conquerors driven by greed, and I can understand that to some degree. And really, the makeover of Watto in Episode II is indeed the most racist shit I’ve ever seen outside of Nazi propaganda cartoons.

 "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."
“All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

But no, I am not talking about that here. The problem I want to adress is at the same time less controversial but also much, much farther reaching. Many worlds in science fiction often get accused of being Planets of Hats, where the whole population really has only a single defining trait. Star Wars does that too. And very hard. And all the time. Even ignoring the accents of Neimodians and Gungans and any resemblance they may have to those found in some parts of the world, the entire worldbuilding of Star Wars is based on a way of percieving people and cultures that has a clear and unambigious term: Racism.

Racism, at its very core, is not specifically about discrimination or hatred or limited to any minorities. These are issues that result from racism. Racism itself is the idea that a group of people who share a common ancestry can easily be defined by a few traits that are shared among all of them. So if you have seen one person of that group, you know not only everything about that group, but also everything about every single member of that group. Racism is the idea that shared biological ancestry makes all people of that group the same in several fundamental traits.

And nowhere in fiction have I ever seen this principle applied so consistently and agressively. Though I think it neededs to be added, that this is primarily about the Expanded Universe, all the novels, comics, and videogames that build upon the movies. The movies themselves are relatively free of this since it is rare to ever see more than a single individual of any species other than humans. But in the EU it’s really bad. If you have one character of a species appearing in the movies, even in a really tiny role, that character is almost always turned into the universal archetype for the entire species in all subsequent works.

Take for example the Bith. The Bith really only appear for a few seconds and have no relevance to the plot. They are these guys.

1024.7sw.ls.103012The bar in which Luke and Obi-wan meet Han Solo and Chewbacca happens to have a band of Bith playing during the few minutes they stay at that place. Do we learn anything about these guys at all? No, nothing. Except that these are in a band that plays in a bar. As the EU is concerned, this is everything you need to know about the Bith. Because in the EU, the Bith are a species of performance artists and musicians. All of them. That’s what they are known for throughout the galaxy. When musicians get mentioned, very often they are Bith. It’s like the Bith have a monopoly on playing music for the whole galaxy.

Jawas_SWGTCGHere we have a group of Jawas. In their natural environment. Shoting at droids to repair and sell them. Jawas have many appearnces throughout Star Wars, but in the movies themselves I believe they really only have one significant appearance. (Other than background dressing.) And they are always surrounded by metal scrap and working on salvaged machines. Most often traveling around in their huge brown, angular trucks. Because in the movies there was one group of Jawas who had such a big brown truck, wore brown robes, and apparently salvaged broken droids to make a living. One group of 10 or 20 individuals. And what they did on that one day instantly became the template for the entire culture and nature of the whole species. You have seen one Jawa, you have seen all Jawas.

And there are virtually no exceptions to this rule. Chewbacca can fix shapeships and droids and in his backstory he used to be an imperial slave. Pretty much all Wookies you’ll ever see are good with machines and the entire species has been enslaved by the Empire. And not just the empire. In the days of the Old Republic, 4,000 years before the Empire, they were being enslaved by the Czerca corporation. Once a slave, always a slave. The whole species.

All Sullustans are good pilots, all Bothans are spies or politicians, all Verpines and Sluisi are great mechanics, all Twi’lek women are strippers, all Trandoshans are bounty hunters, Rodian culture is all about hunting, all Gamoreans are mercenaries, all Hutts are criminal businessmen (…slugs), all Chiss are military geniuses, all Noghri are super stealthy assassins, all Ithorians are pacifistic, all Corellians are roguish pilots with a problem for authority, all humans from Tatooine are farmers. It goes on and on. (And, being Star Wars, on, and on, and on, and on…)

In the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, the basic concept of racism is an actual fact. If just see one member of a species for a few seconds, you know everything there is to know about the entire species and every single individual. I can understand how it happens on a single episode of Star Trek that visits a planet only once, which then is never appearing again. But when it happens over decades and is done by dozens of writers in completely different stories, I find it rather inexcuseable.

Honorable mention goes to my favorite Twi’lek Nawara Ven, who has the distinction of being not some sly gangster but a starfighter pilot/lawyer of unquestionable integrity. But then, being a lawyer does kind of put him into a similar niche as smugglers and spies. It’s just their nature, I guess…

The key to great monster design?

One of my favorite parts about roleplaying game is the creation of new monsters. Sometimes you look at a monster and think “I want to do something just as great”, but since there are already literally thousands of fictional creatures that have been made up by writers in the past 100 years, it always seems very difficult to come up with something that doesn’t look like an almost-copy of something else.

I’ve been looking over a lot of monsters from RPG monster books, videogames, and movies over the last years and found that really outstanding monsters are no accidents. If a monster becomes popular with fans or even a famous part of culture is not entirely up to luck and there are some things they pretty much all have in common and do not actually require being a creative genius.

The first discovery I made is that great monsters are never about their looks or their abilities, but about their behavior. Perhaps let’s call this Yora’s First Law of Monsters: “Monster behavior is more important than appearance or powers.” Yes, the alien from Alien looks really cool and it certainly helps for making it famous, but what makes it so great in the movies is not what it can do, but how it acts. The actual powers are not very interesting at all. It is fast, kills with a bite, and its blood is acid. As monster abilities go, that is very basic and even rather bland. It becomes a great monster because of the way in which the characters of the movies interact with it. It climbs on ceilings, sneaks around silently, and waits in the dark for the perfect opportunity to strike. It doesn’t actually fight very well and is quite easily killed in a direct confrontation. But it doesn’t allow you to face it in a direct confrontation and that’s what makes all the difference.

Going through some Dungeons & Dragons monster books again yesterday, I discovered Yora’s Second Law of Monsters: “Great monsters have a backstory.” With monsters in movies and novels, a great part of the plot is about revealing the story behind the monster and discovering its origin. It’s not very pronounced in Alien, but it’s still there. The eggs in the derilict ship, the dead pilot, the attack on Kane, and the eventual emergence of the alien are all clues that are hinting on the creature to be much more than just a regular alien animal. Someone once transported a whole shipload of those eggs and must have been aware of what they are, but was still unable to contain the threat. That hints at something more going on and that in turn makes the creature itself much more interesting. At the Mountains of Madness introduced two of Lovecrafts most famous creatures, and it’s really all a big mystery story about revealing their parts in a much larger picture. A a counter example, Robert Howard had Conan fight a lot of big dangerous monsters in his stories, but none of them ever really made it big. They are just scary looking things with teeth and slimy tentacles. They work for the stories, but they don’t inspire at all. Worms of the Earth is often mentioned as one of his best stories and the worms work well for the plot, but it doesn’t really seem as if there would be much more to them than that. One creature that Howard created did make it big. The serpentmen from Kull. The yuan ti from Dungeons & Dragons and the naga from Warcraft are among my favorite monsters, but they are really just remakes of Howards serpentmen. Other than taking the shape of humans with the lower body of a snake, they have almost nothing in common with the creature from Asian myth. And what makes the serpentmen different from most other monsters Howard created? They have a backstory. They have goals, they have motivations, and they are integrated in the history of the world.

This seems particularly important to me when creating new monsters for roleplaying games. When you read through monster books, the vast majority of the creatures are just very bland. They have an appearance, some abilities, and very often that is it. Two sentences about the kind of environment in which they live does not suffice to make them cool or interesting. Because there’s no plot hooks in that. What are you supposed to do with a big flying white snake that makes ordinary objects come to life? It has a look, it has powers, but what does it do? When it comes to having players confront a monster in a game, I made the observation that very often reputation makes a huge difference. A telepathic monster that can stun people with its mind might be interesting and challenging to fight. But that’s usually nothing compared to “Holy Shit! It’s a mind flayer! We’re so screwed…” Surprising the players with something completely unexpected is nice sometimes, but just as often you’re getting a lot of excitement if the players are already aware of the creatures reputation. If you create a new creature that is yet unknown, try to put a lot of hints about what it can do and make the other people of the game world be terribly afraid of it. Nobody is going to get super exited about the news that there is a pack of weird critters at the edge of the village that is known as a nuisance. Have the villagers get into a total panic because they have heard many stories about the creature and they don’t believe anyone could possibly save them. That is going to get the players a lot more excited as well.

Anathema

Naming things in a fictional world is a terrible and most unenjoyable task. It’s bad enough when you do personal names and place names, but when it comes to more abstract things like organizations or types of creatures, finding a name that is reasonably acceptible (it’s never good) can take a very long time. I think I wanted to have a kind of creature similar to the abominations from Dragon Age from a very early point in working on the Ancient Lands, over 4 years ago. In the meanwhile, I added more ideas from other creatures, like folding the roles of both lichs and vampires into this new creation, and taking some elements from the Inspired from Eberron and the Eternal from Spears of the Dawn. But when it came to naming these things, nothing ever came close to fitting. But now I sat down and clicked my way through a thesaurus (they are actually good for something) and came on this wonderful word:

Anathema

A word that probably most people interested in fantasy have come across once or twice. Probably always refering to something blasphemous and unholy, and just the sound of it sounds ominous, even if you don’t know what it means. I had to look it up myself and it turns out to be ancient Greek meaning “offering”. (In this case, the a- at the beginning is not a prefix meaning anti.) However, in early Christianity it was used in the sense of “offered to the devil” or “devoted to evil” and referred to an early form of excommunication. Even though I made some efforts to weed out technical and religious terms that don’t really make sense in the world of the Ancient Lands, which is very different from a standard western-christian universe, anathema seems to be a word that still works.

So what is an anathema exactly? You might recognize some of these guys. That’s what you have to expect.

anathema1anathema2anathema3anathema4anathema5anathema6anathema7Anathema are mortals who have become possessed by a demon from the Underworld, their own spirit consumed in the process and all their memories, knowledge, and much of their personalty absorbed into the demons mind. While the mortals mind still exist in some way, all the ideals, values, and desires it once had become irrelevant as the demons original personalty dominates the mind of the anathema. It usually has very little interest in the good of the mortals clan or family, but may often retain some affection to people who were close to it in its previous life. Most anathema are greed, desire, or sloth demons and almost immediately set out to some ambitious plan to sate their craving. Usually  with very little reagrd to those around it, but often enough cunning to keep their new nature a secret. At least for the time being. Demons can possess any mortal whose body and spirit have been corrupted by demonic magic and all anathema are very dangerous creatures. But the most terrible ones are those created from sorcerers who willingly summoned a demon to join with it and gain immortality and great magical powers. Many anathema note that their new nature is very different from what the sorcerer expected it to be, but at that point whatever the mortal once wanted is longer of any real relevance. The demons desire to visit and explore the physical world overrides any plans the sorcerer might have had and they never feel any remorse or despair about their new nature.

So even though there are no Gods and no church in the Ancient Lands and not even true afterlives, anathema are still creatures that have turned away from mortal life and society and now exist entirely to pursue their demonic craving. They are “devoted to evil” and in the case of sorcerers “offered themselves to demons”. And they also “excommunicated” themselves from all mortal communites and their spirit will not join the clan shrine to give strength and courage to future generations. So the name fits in both its literal and proverbial meaning and it also sounds cool and ominous. What more can you want for a big bad monster?

Nonhuman characters in Sword & Sorcery

When talking about Sword & Sorcery and the essential traits and themes of the genre, there is almost always at least someone making the claim that the absence of nonhuman character is outright essential and that a work can not be Sword & Sorcery if it has any nonhumans that are not monsters. Yesterday someone made the commendable effort to provide a reason and supporting evidence why nonhumans are not a thing in the genre, by stating that there are pretty much no works of Sword & Sorcery which have nonhumans as counter evidence. Now obviously that gets us to a True Scottsmen argument. If your definition of Sword & Sorcery includes “no nonhumans”, then of course there are no works that have them. You could also say that Sword & Sorcery doesn’t have guns. But Salomon Kane has guns and I haven’t seen anyone claiming that he isn’t Sword & Sorcery. Guns are just uncommon, but not conflicting with essential traits of the genre.

However, I want to argue that there are in fact many works that have all the relevant traits of Sword & Sorcery and also nonhumans, and in which the inclusion of nonhumans doesn’t in any way conflict with with those essential elements and themes.

  • Atlantis: The Second Age (rpg)
  • Bound by Flame (videogame)
  • Dark Sun (rpg setting)
  • Dragon Age II
  • The first three Drizzt novels.
  • Elric
  • Primeval Thule (rpg setting)
  • Rune Soldier (anime)
  • The Witcher

I admit, most of these are fairly recent. But just because something is not found in the oldest works doesn’t automatically make it incompatible with a genre. It still walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks as a duck.

Ancient Monsters: Ghoul & Shade

I’ve been spending some more thoughts on undead in the Ancient Lands. Since there is only a single source of natural power and energy, anything that is unnatural is a corruption of it and also comes from the same source. Sorcery, demons, and undead are all really different forms of the same thing. In that context, I’ve been doing some reworking of the common undead types so that everything fits together seamlessly and makes all sense.

I particularly like the ghouls as being some kind of insane mutants. While they look more like diseased humans, they are actually a lot like Golum in most ways. The shadows are also cool. Usually they don’t really do anything and just stand around being creepy, but that means you can use them in much larger numbers and make them a type of dangerous environment.

Ghoul

Ghouls are humans, elves, or other humanoids who have been corrupted by the dark magic of sorcery or demons. Though they have never truly died, they resemble the undead, existing in a state between life and death. They grow gaunt with pale skin and dark sunken eyes and are suffering from madness, but are also filled with unnatural vigor and are much more cunning than any beast. Their clawed fingers can crush a mans throat and leave deep rends in the flesh of their victims, and their teeth have the strength to bite through bones, as they regain their strength by feeding on the flesh of humans and beasts.

Many ghouls once were adventurers and treasure hunters who delved too deep into ancient places where the living are not meant to tread, or what remains of those who become slaves of dark sorcerers or demons.

Ghoul (Barbarians of Lemuria)

Attributes
Strength 2
Agility 1
Mind -1
Appeal -2

Combat Abilities
Attack with bite or claw +2; damage 1d6-1 plus paralysis
Defense: 2
Protection: 1
Lifeblood: 10

Any character hit by a ghouls attack must make a Moderate Strength roll (+0/TN 9) or be paralysed for one hour.

Ghoul (B/X)

No. Enc.: 1d6 (2d8)
Armor: 14
Move: Normal
Hit Dice: 2 (9 hp)
Attacks: Bite or claw
Damage: 1d4 plus paralysis
Save: F2
Morale: 9

A creature bit by a ghoul or hit by its claws must make a saving throw against paralysis or be paralysed for 2d8x10 minutes.

Shade

When people die who have been corrupted by demonic sorcery, the Corruption that wrecked their bodies can linger on, turning into Shades. With both the bodies and souls of the original person gone, shades are nearly mindless clouds of Corruption that float silently above the spot where they died. They are normally invisible, but cast dark shadows in the presence of bright lights and they can be clearly seen as shapes of darkness if any light shines upon them in the presence of dust or smoke.

Walking through a shade drains a small part of the life force of living creatures and can start the spreading of Corruption over time. While most shades stand motionless in the spot of their death and don’t seem to react to anything around them, some are aware of the presence of living beings nearby and attack when anything comes too close to them. While their insubstential clawn do not leave any physical injuries, being in prolonged contact with an attacking shade can quickly drain all the life energy of a living person and spread the Corruption through its body. People who survive the attack of a shade often show dark purple streaks on their skin that becomes ashen pale and cold, which will last for several days. Those who die will often leave behind a shade as well, joining those who killed them.

Shades are common in places where lots of people have been killed through sorcery, like the lairs of demons or the sites of sorcerous battles.

Shade (Barbarians of Lemuria)

Attributes
Strength –
Agility 3
Mind -3

Combat Abilities
Attack with touch +3; damage 1d6-1
Defense: 3
Protection: 0
Lifeblood: 5 (only harmed by magic)

When a creature is killed by a shade, a new shade appears in the spot of its death 3 rounds later.

Shade (B/X)

No. Enc.: 1d6 (2d10)
Armor: 15
Move: Normal
Hit Dice: 2 (9 hp)
Attacks: Touch
Damage: 1d4
Save: F2
Morale: 12

Shades can only be harmed by magic weapons or spells. Any living creature killed by a shade must make a saving throw against Death or Poison or a new shade will appear where it died within 1d4 rounds.

Fantasy Safari: Spears of the Dawn, Part 2

The Moatia are a race of short old men with yellow skin who walk with a limping gait. All of them are powerful sorcerers who live alone deep within the forests and warn away any intruders with markposts made from bones. They are often wicked and cruel, but are also very skilled healers who have medicine and powders to cure any ailment in existance. They never provide services for free though, and the prices they demand can be very steep or appaling. Moatia don’t use any weapons or attack with their hands, but fight entirely with their magic. They remind me quite a lot of central European witches in their behavior and role.

The Night Men are a race of humans from outside the Three Lands, but all of them are savage and deformed, but almost nothing is known about them other than that they sometimes cross the river at night and raid villages on the southern border. When they attack, they always do so in large hordes, and are usually led by a very powerful sorcerer or shaman. These raiders destroy villages and take large numbers of captives, which they take back to their jungles to be sacrificed in ancient ruined temples. Some people think that they are evil spirits or actually animals that have been transformed into human-like shapes.

The Obia is a spirit in the shape of a large leopard or jackal that serves sorcerers and witches as a guardian or to abduct people and bring them to them. Either to become their wives or for other unspeakable purposes. An obia can grasp a victims in its mouth without hurting them and then run off into the night at very great speed leaving barely any traces. Only the greatest hunters have any chance of tracking them down and find the place where the victims are held. Defeating the sorcerer and his obia guardian is a whole different story altogether.

Continue reading “Fantasy Safari: Spears of the Dawn, Part 2”

Fantasy Safari: Spears of the Dawn, Part 1.

I reviewed Spears of the Dawn a few weeks ago, and it’s a nice little setting I recommend to anyone with interest in non-European influenced fantasy campaigns. I also really love the new classes and magic system based on Basic D&D that work much better for spellcasters in a Sword & Sorcery setting than standard clerics and wizards. But in addition to all that, Spears of the Dawn also has a short and very nice collection of monsters, which made me want to make another Fantasy Safari post.

As part of the funding campaign, all the art from the book was given away freely, which is always very nice when doing this series.

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Spears of the Dawn

Spears of the Dawn by Sine Nomine Publishing, 2013; 11 pages of monsters.

Eloko
Eloko

Eloko are a race of tiny people who look just like humans but have grass instead of hair and wear clothes made from leafs. However, there is nothing endearing about these little guys, as they like to eat humans. Lone hunters are a welcome meal for groups of eloko, but they have a particular taste for the flesh of women. Before they reveal themselves to their prey, they make their presence known by the ringing of tiny bells, which have the ability to cloud the thoughts of any human to the point where they will simply stand around motionless while being devoured alive. If someone can resist the mind numbning ringing of their small bells, eloko are still much more dangerous than their small size makes them look and a single one fights about as well as a fully grown crocodile. In groups they can be a real threat to small parties of adventurers.

Eternal
Eternal

The Eternal are probably my favorite monster of Spears of the Dawn and the major antagonists of the setting. When their evil kingdom was facing defeat by the five other realms of the Three Lands, they turned to dark magic to make themselves immortal. After their death, a magic ritual made their bodies return to a state of unlife, where they need to neither eat, drink, sleep, or even breath. Nor do they bleed and they are impossibly to truly destroy. Stabbing wounds don’t harm them at all and the only way to really harm them is to break their bones or chop off their limbs. While they are able to exist deep in the deserts or underground without any food or water forever and can not be killed by weapons, their unliving nature also makes them unable to heal as they are still corpses. The only way to restore their mangled bodies after suffering the effects of injuries, blasting sand, and the blazing sun is to feed on human flesh. And that already tells you pretty much everything you need to know to understand why they are such a terrifying menace on the Three Lands. They are a lot like vampires in many ways, but also distinctively different creatures. They do not have to feed on humans, but if they do not the ravages of time and the environment quickly take a heavy toll on their dead flesh. They are not harmed by sunlight and in fact nothing can really destroy them. The only way to deal with them permanently is to decapitate them so they are unable to feed and heal their injuries, but even when burned to ash and their bones are ground to dust, their immortal spirits remain, unable to gain a new body or truly die. And like vampires, many eternal sorcerers know the old rituals and can raise the corpses of their enemies to be their slaves forever. Spears of the Dawn is an interesting setting in itself, but the Eternal are what really is selling it to me. They are somewhat similar to an idea I had for my Ancient Lands settings, and I got a whole number of new ideas I want to include from the Eternal. Continue reading “Fantasy Safari: Spears of the Dawn, Part 1.”

RPG Review: Black Streams

Black Streams is a series of free, short supplements for the Red Tide campaign sertting by Kevin Crawford. Though they are directly tied to the setting, they are self contained enough to be eassily adapted for any setting in any OSR game and should also be useful sources of ideas for other systems.

122752Cults of Ruin expands on the cults of various evil forces that are mentioned in Red Tide and has a length of 7 pages. The Black Emperor was a powerful and evil ruler back in the days before the Tide, who was eventually destroyed for his dark sorcery, but somehow managed to ascend to becoming a god. Though most records of his terrible reign and evil transgressions had been deliberately destroyed or lost during the coming of the Red Tide, the truth can still sometimes be discovered by sages searching for obscure lore. Only scholars, alchemists, and other learned people can become true followers of the Black Emperor, who offers them secrets to extend their life and evade Hell and other necromantic magic. The God-Beasts are savage animal spirits that protect remote villages and can grant fertility to their fields and herds, but often demand terrible forms of tribute from their worshippers. The only salvation offered by the Hell Kings is the promise that those people who truly devote themselves to evil can gain their respect and admiration, so that when they ultimately will go to Hell after their death, they will be elevated to rank among the Hell Kings instead of suffering in eternal agony. Worshippers of the Hell Kings are expected to lead as many souls as possible into hell, but even among the high priests of the cults only very few reach a degree of evil that gets them a place among the lowest ranks of devils. The Red Gods are strange entities of evil and hunger that only reveal themselves to people suffering from famine and facing starvation. They grant the gift of great strength and vigor, but in turn those who accept it slowly transform into ravenous beasts who gain sustenance from a range of unnatural and depraved sources. Finally there are the truly mad cults that worship the Red Tide itself. They are compelled to create portals that allow the Tide to spill into the Sunset Isles and are usually the first to be torn apart by the horde of the Tides spawn that emerges. The last page describes the new Azure Minister class, a cleric variant specialized in secretly exterminating evil cults that threaten the Sunset Isles while keeping the existance and true nature of their organization secret.

The Pacts of the Wise seems to be heavily inspired by pact magic from the Tome of Magic of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s 7 pages long and describes six elusive entities that can be contacted by a wizard to be granted special powers. The ritual to make a pact take a month of preparation and have to be repeated once every year. Unless a ritual to be released from the pact is performed, wizards who fail to meet their obligations are suffering severe consequences until their debts are paid. The powers granted by the entities are not particularly powerful and more than balanced by the price demanded from the wizard, but still interesting and useful enough that players might consider it to be worth it. It certainly adds an interesting new element to the character and each pact includes ideas on how to create adventures around NPCs who have access to these powers or are struggling with meeting their part of the bargain and are getting desperate to gain the required resources. Even though there are only six entities described, they provide a sufficient base to create your own ones. Since the mechanics involved are extremely simply they are easily adapted to any game.

The Yellow Legion is 8 pages long and describes a powerful artifact and the Walking Ghosts it can create, as well as their history in the Red Tide setting. The artifact is a black rod that can be planted into the ground to grow into a large tree that produces magic fruit when watered with the blood of living people. The juice of the fruit have the power to restore any corpse and return it to unlife, and the blood of a single person creates enough fruit to create ten walking ghosts. However, the fruit can only revive creatures of the same type of creature whose blood is used to create them, so to bring a fallen army of human soldiers back to life, many humans have to be sacrificed to the trees. While those who have been sacrificed can be raised like any other corpse, they are henceforth forced to exist as undead. The walking ghost are loyal to the person who create the tree and appear just as they were in life. They do not eat, drink, breath, or sleep and they heal and can be healed like living humans, but even the terrible and horrific wounds can not kill them. Only when hacked to pieces or burned do their minds fall into delirious slumber, but over the course of many years their bodies can restore themselves and make the walking ghosta rise from their graves. Without purpose after the eventual death of their creator they wander the land with the appearance of a living person, but all living things can sense their unnatural aura. If there is a way to permanently end them, it has not been discovered.

Though short as they are, I really like all these supplements and in fact their briefness probably makes them even more interesting and useful for GMs not using the Red Tide setting. Pacts of the Wise is probably the most versatile and not at all connected to any specific settin, and I recommend it to everyone to give it a look. The other two have a much more specific cultural flavor, but since they are both short and completely free, I do recommend them all. Really nice stuff and a format I would like to see used by more games in addition to full sized books.

Fantasy Safari: Monsters of Faerûn (D&D 3rd Ed.), Part 5

Sharn
Sharn

The phaerimm were weird, but the Sharn are even weirder. They are large black creatures with three eyeless heads and three arms that each end in three hands with three fingers and an eye in each palm. Like that phaerimm, they are powerful sorcerers but also clerics and they can create three small portals through which they can stick their hands to cast spells at targets behind walls, around corners, or similar situations. To make things worse, sharn are always under the effect of the haste spell, which under the rules version of this book allows them to cast two spells every round. Not surprisingly, these creatures are so alien that they are immune to any magic that manipulates their minds or changes their bodies. A somewhat unusual quirk is that no magic can change the shape of another creature to look like a sharn. Why that is the case seems to be simply an oddity of the universe. While the sharn are both very weird and alien, they are thankfully not really evil and they also hate the phaerimm. In fact it was the sharn who created the magical barrier that trapped the phaerimm under the Anauroch desert. These guys are some really trippy stuff. They first appeared with the phaerimm in the sourcebook Anauroch, which I didn’t know was actually written by Ed Greenwood himself. It’s strange that they have such a tiny presence in the Forgotten Realms. I only ever saw them in this monster book and the Return of the Archwizards novels, which are about the return of the Netherese Empire from the Plane of Shadow, which got the phaerimm all rilled up.

Siv
Siv

The Sivs are a race of frog people similar to the classic bullywugs, but also very different. While bullywugs are primitive savages, the sivs are as smart as humans and usually Lawful Evil, and even have training as monks. I’m not sure if there’s a kung-fu toad style. They also have the ability to run on the surface of water, which is very kung-fu indeed. It all looks like a quite intriguing idea, but sadly there isn’t really any useful description to how they behave and what they want.

Tall Mouther
Tall Mouther

The Tall Mouther is classic old-school D&D weirdness. It’s a big head with a big maw and six arms, covered in blue fur. Otherwise it’s a bit like an ogre and especially loves to eat halflings.

Continue reading “Fantasy Safari: Monsters of Faerûn (D&D 3rd Ed.), Part 5”