Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Knave Ancestries for Maienstein / Stonehell

A setting can be informed and presented to the players through several means. Probably the worst one is prescriptive, with a lot of given names, and with pages and pages of (for play mostly) irrelevant lore. What happens at the table is key. What directly concerns the characters is key. The rest, although interesting for the referee to build, takes a distant second stage.

One excellent way to create a setting is answering Jeff's 20 questions, which I am a big fan of.

Another complimentary one is with the available list of Ancestries (I personally prefer this to the term Race). Ancestry should be rolled for, and not chosen. The campaign's available Ancestries inform the civilizations present in the country/continent/barony, and we can distribute that with the dice choice. 2d6 is excellent. The following table is adapted from this Skerples table.

The following table is meant for my Knave hack for a Stonehell megadungeon game I have in the workings (see games I want to run). It informs the Maienstein region within Five Towns, full of dwarves and mountains. Players choose their Ancestry randomly by rolling. It also shows the likelihood for someone of said Ancestry to become an adventurer, dungeon delver or treasure hunter (or in the case of Fauns and Jotuns, there simply aren't many of them). Below there are visual hints, a bit more description, and facts about each Ancestry in my Maienstein - Five Towns setting. I hope to get this Stonehell game ready soon!

2d6 Ancestry Improved* Bonus Malus
2 Faun CHA Eat half as many rations Cannot tell the direct, blunt truth
3 Spiderling INT Can secrete 30' of rope per day Cannot see more than 30'
4-5 Dwarf CON No penalties for broken or hilly terrain Pervasive, unique stink
6-8 Human Choice Start with 1 extra Dungeoneering Gear item Disadvantage to resist being mutated or transformed
9-10 Halfling DEX Can have 2 Snacks** per day instead of 1
-2 Inventory Slots
11 Molekin WIS Can crawl through narrow spaces Save vs Fear when alone
12 Jotun STR Can see details at a great distance Massive. Disadvantage to stealth rolls

* An Improved stat means that at character generation you give a +1 to the relevant stat.
** Snacks in this context is basically eat a ration to regain some HP, a little rule of my Knave hack Knave++

2 - Faun

Fey touched creature, by Oliver Wetter

 Elder Faun, by Darya Kozhemyakina


  • Lifespan: up to 200 years, adulthood at around age 30.
  • Size: most Fauns go above 6 feet tall, with slender and thin figures. They don't need much food. Some rumor they feed on other creatures' truths.
  • Sample Names: Ekaraj, Yadav, Praveen, Uttam, Rojina, Nikeeta.
  • Features:
    • Antlers on the head and hooves instead of feet. Pointy ears due to their obvious Fey lineage.
    • A mock within Fey society, but mystic and respected within mortals. Since Elves became almost extinct, Fauns are slowly taking their place as graceful alien creatures from another place.

3 - Spiderling

A Spiderling called Sister, by Bearded Devil
  • Lifespan: (same as a Human) up to 70 years. When a Spiderling dies they turn to webs, which ultimately crumble to dust. Their souls return to the ether web, to be cleansed of any memory, and return as a new egg to start a new life.
  • Size: average at about 5 feet tall.
  • Sample Names: Abby, Nicolette, Clothilde, Laetitia, Victoire.
  • Features:
    • Many eyes, and with that many inputs it makes it hard to process. Therefore a Spiderling's sight is considerably weak. Huge bottom, due to their spider heritage.
    • Spiderlings are linked to each other by the ether web, and can connect telepathically to one another. They share this trait as a hive-mind.
    • Their sex is fluid and non-binary. A Spiderling can change it at a thought's notice to whatever suits their wishes.

4 - 5 Dwarf

Dwarf by Sergio Artigas
  • Lifespan: on average a Dwarf lives up to 300 years. However, dying of old age is proof of a life not lived to the fullest, and is seen as a disgrace. Greybeard being a derogatory term. As a consequence war, drink and smoke are performed to the fullest.
  • Size: between 4 and 5 feet.
  • Sample Names: Ulrik, Harnof, Ilga, Olov, Alvin, Lizette.
  • Features:
    • Stocky and heavy, with secure footing.
    • Admirable resistance to drugs and narcotics, which they gladly put to the test at any chance.
    • Both male and female boast over their impressive beards. They might be hard to tell apart for Humans.

6 - 8 Human

Always ready! Humans by Charles Lin
  • Lifespan: on average a Human lives up to 70 years, although lifespan varies greatly.
  • Size: between 5 and 6 feet tall. But humans come in many shapes and forms.
  • Sample Names: (in the Maienstein region) Eros, Mendaur, Didako, Ibon, Antonia, Latxa.
  • Features:
    • Capable of the best and the worst, humans are versatile and work best in groups.
    • They helped consolidate Five Towns as a distant region of the Itean Empire, the obedient ants of Nemes, the Immortal Empress.

9 - 10 Halfling

Halfling by Cale Fortin
  • Lifespan: Halflings live up to around 90 years of age. Larger lifespan than Humans, but shorter than other Ancestries.
  • Size: average of about 3 feet, they are light and nimble. Obviously, hairy feet.
  • Sample Names: (same as Humans) family name is far more important: Ironheart, Buttercheeks, Potter, Nimblefeet, Jamjar.
  • Features:
    • Nimble and petite, halflings are in general weak due to their size.
    • Jovial and talkative. Surprisingly loud voice. The center of any party. Some find that amusing, others abrasive.
    • Halflings integrate well into any society and civilization, and are seen as a necessary boost to morale in any group, town, or city.

11 - Molekin

Molekin evolution, by Manuel Castañón

  • Lifespan: Molekin are short lived given their high mortality rate. Known to die at around 60 years on the rare instance of passing away of old age.
  • Size: between 2 and 4 feet tall, they average at around 3 feet.
  • Sample Names: Snot, Pimple, Cough, Stye, Rash.
  • Features:
    • Stronger than their size might suggest.
    • Molekin live in large communities underground (tunnels, abandoned dungeons, mines, etc.), where they spread like vermin. Isolation breaks their minds.
    • Molekin gladly take leftover jobs of any society: tending to sewers, cleaning stables or piling fertilizers. Hard time integrating.

12 - Jotun

Jotun Hunter, by Mark Hretskyi


  • Lifespan: Jotuns live exactly 100 years. As they age, their bodies start to slowly turn into stone. A Jotun dying of old age is a culmination of this process, and their statues are priced treasures within Jotun society.
  • Size: Jotuns have the blood of Giants flowing through their veins. Ancient unattended children of these behemoths, they boast a considerable size between 7 and 8 feet.
  • Sample Names: Boulder, Tusk, Flint, Drift, Mist, Steam. Jotuns take as name the first object they remember from their childhood.
  • Features:
    • Tall and strong, very acclimated to great heights.
    • Eyesight as good as an eagle's. Some have antlers, others don't.
    • Jotuns live in sparse remote areas, and are suspicious of intruders, strangers, and travelers alike.

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