Oh yeah, I talked about the Szudetken, right? That peninsula that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and is full of these awful horror-inspired daylight-horror Christian ideas, with a dash of Bloodborne and The Locked Tomb for players to work with. But how do players interact with them? Especially with no mechanical information?
Well, that’s what this lengthy mechanical article is about. Yes, two thousand words of just ‘different perspectives on living in these cursed places.’ It’s not going to have a dramatic conclusion, it’s just character options. Note that these aren’t the backgrounds you get in the Szudetken. You can be an Artisan or a Merchant or a Military background character from all across the Szudetken: those backgrounds still show up just fine. These backgrounds just represent some of the more prominent experiences unique to these specific parts of the Szudetken.
Also, these backgrounds are presented as a way to try and give you, the player, a vision of what life is like when you have this background. Things that are familiar to you and normal to you, and what big, prominent things that are normal to other people aren’t necessarily normal to you.
Where a Background says ‘Associated Skills,’ that means you can choose for those skills to either be added to your class skill list, or you can have a constant +2 bonus to those skills. When it lists a ‘benefit,’ that’s something else.
And now, on with tools for making a Szudetken character, which may be of use to you if you’re just… grabbing these cultures and dumping them into your world!
You grew up in the Osteon. You’re familiar with centralised cities, connected across landlocked countryside with a train system. You live with industrialised benefits, and a class system that hasn’t got a lot of upwards social mobility. If you ever broke a bone, it was healed in the same day by experts, and when you lost your teeth as a child, your parents probably sold them. Instead of coal, oil, or captured lightning, though, the industrialised cities you lived in were defined by skeletons. Prosthetics, engines, transport and weapons of war – skeletons were involved somehow.
Bonecrafter Family: Your family are somehow connected to the necromancers of the Osteon society. You probably insist on them being necropaths or mortirian, and you have very clear opinions on what the difference is. You might have been a business that acquired bones, or cleaned or sorted them, or recovered bones from other skeleton systems in a process of optimisation and refinement.
Associated Skills: Religion, Heal
Capital Camper: You grew up or learned your trade in the vast camp around The King’s Lattice. Rather than growing up in a city, you grew up in a tent camp around an enormous city, and knew that everything around you was temporary. Any day now, you’d be allowed into the city, which is what everyone hoped for, at least those who didn’t give up and quit. Time to time bone constructs would emerge over the city walls and drive off some of the tents, or kidnap some people, and sometimes missions would be delivered out of the city to the camps by skeletal messenger birds. Despite living in a country with a central industrialised system, you basically lived in a tent city, surrounded by people trying to interpret strange and cryptic changes in the walls of a city.
Associated Skills: Endurance, Nature
You’re from Crucesbough. You’re used to assuming it rains. Sunny days happen, you know, since farms grow food and laundry dries eventually, but even the sunshine is dull and grey and grimy. Every colour you’re used to is muted, hillsides of grey-green with purple-grey lavendar and grey-white heather. Almost everything you’re used to somehow orients around blood — sellers will boast how their food is good for the blood, travellers will store magical spells in blood and carry them from town to town, and people recommend treatments to improve up your blood. One of the hallmarks of a Crucesbough native is the phrase ‘something up the blood,’ like angry up the blood, hurry up the blood, sing up the blood, where ‘up the blood’ is used to invoke the idea of a person’s inner self, a true opinion or something deeply felt.
Empty Churchguard: Cathedrals and churches in Crucesbough are empty buildings. Nobody goes into them. It’s actually seen as a sin or crime to go into a church, and so most churches are patrolled by people who keep near the churches to make sure the empty space is kept inviolate.
Associated Skills: Religion, Streetwise
Blood Courier: You’ve done work travelling between the cities of Crucesbough and wandering the unguarded highways. You’ve probably dealt with nasty cults and woodland druids, blood thieves and ne’er-do-wells, and the things that teem to attack the veins of your nation. The heavy mask, the rain slicker coat, the boots, the scarf – the whole aesthetic, you are skilled in the transport of magically enchanted blood. You know not to look in a box. You’re probably really patient and can handle losing a lot, though you might be haunted with memories of dying over and over on your journey and somehow not being dead.
Associated Skills: Nature, Dungeoneering
You’re from the glorious kingdom of Terzocco. You’re familiar with a life with a healthy, bustling economy. You know people who have jobs, unemployment is probably limited to a few people in any given village, and the royal family’s affairs are excitingly always on your mind. The world is colourful, with beautiful, brightly coloured plants and fruits in parks dedicated to the crown. Every place you’ve ever lived has had an interesting puzzle just waiting to be solved nearby, whether it’s an old cairn that druids set up, or maybe a particularly hazardous type of local bear, cursed by an ancient fungus. You are used to living your life in a small, fairly insular experience where you rarely travel from where you are, and facilitate the experiences of a few rare travellers who enter your town to help with problems. These problems are very rarely fixed, even though every time, the people helped.
You are a quest NPC in a brightly coloured MMORPG run by the royal family to keep themselves entertained.
Curtain-Twitcher: You’ve seen the truth of it. Whether you did the math on the economy and worked out it doesn’t make sense, or you tried to solve your town’s problem on your own only to learn it resets itself, or maybe you just saw a moment where one of those questing nobles changed into a different person because they were bored. You know what reality is now and you know that a large portion of your whole country is made out of dreamstuff the Terzocco Nobility have set up just as the boundaries of a playground. You know that they don’t think of you as a person and you know, you know, that they have absolutely replaced some people who they thought were interesting, so they could ‘play’ those people’s lives.
Benefit: Your paranoia has benefits. You get a +1 bonus to initiative. Once per day, if you roll an initiative and don’t like it, you can reroll it, but you must take the second result.
Lost One: You know the truth of it. You were a Terzocco Nobility, one of the Fair Folk from another realm projecting yourself immaterially into the bodies of these puppets in Terzocco. But somewhere along the way, either for moral or narrative or traumatic reasons, you can’t go back any more, and now you’re bound on this plane trying to make life as an actual creature with actual needs and an actual life work. You are a fair folk stuck in the body of an actual person and finding that you can’t stop being real, even if you used to be able to.
Benefit: You can’t die while you’re asleep. If someone coup de graces you in your sleep, your body just persists, not decaying. When your normal sleep time runs out, you wake up, with your body intact and on one hit point. This is because your body doesn’t know how to die on its own, even if you do understand it. Your starting hit point total is increased by 2.
Bernean Lodge Backgrounds
You’re from the apocalyptic Bernean Lodges. You know power flows from a compound built out of tempered wood. There are villages outside the compounds, but they don’t have the horses, they don’t have the steel, they don’t have the priests and they don’t have the knowledge of the future. You may have never seen a building more than two storeys tall, and even signal towers only reach a little higher than that. The forests are dark but rolling hills and wide valleys are dangerous too. You probably assume the world is ending, because you were told that most of your life. You also don’t look up at people on horseback, out of habit. That’s a good way to get hit.
Curst or Heretic: As a Curst, at some point in your childhood, you did something wrong. You might have expressed a heretical thought or asked a question that upset a Cathar. You might have weird hair or wrong coloured eyes. You got kicked out and forced to survive outside of the community. Food was left outside the walls for you to gather if you were too far from a convenient village to offload you.
If you were a Heretic, you chose to do something and get outcast from the community. If you were around, the food left for the Curst would probably have dried up – they don’t want heretics, who chose to be evil, stealing things left for the Curst, who had no choice.
Associated Skills: Religion, Nature
If you grew up in Voolfardisworth, you know it’s pronounced ‘Vulzy.’ You probably grew up in a small population centre, maybe a small city at the biggest. You know that travel should always be done to places during the day, and never at night. You’re used to the storms that rack the sky. You know that the countryside is dotted with old castles or abandoned mansions, near towns that are otherwise trying to get by. You’ve heard rumours about vampires that drain your years away.
Ah, You Must Be The Hunter: You’re from a heroic family of vampire hunters, or possibly hunters of the general supernatural. There’s a legacy behind you, a skillset that suggests that you were being prepared to be good at fighting the forces of darkness from the cradle. You probably aren’t going to take too kindly to finding out that your family’s progress was being managed and fostered by another vampire that was trying to create a good weapon to direct at other vampires, though.
Benefit: Choose a simple or military weapon. You gain proficiency in it if you didn’t already have it, and you have a +1 to initiative while you’re wielding that kind of weapon. Add Religion to your class skills, and if it already was, you get +2 to Religion checks.
Night Survivor: The powers that drive Voolfardisworth are in a non-stop cold war against each other, and sometimes they can be locked into inaction by the right coincidence of effects. You at some point, had a brush with the night creatures and then somehow got away from it, surviving and escaping, either through wits or political maneuvering. Either way, you know things about your limits most people don’t.
Associated Skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering
You grew up, or moved to, Seibelmarsh, a country that snakes along the cold, northern coasts of the Szudetken peninsula. Heading further into the country involved long passes up and over hazardous mountains, and dark nasty forests, you’re used to all the new things in your life coming by boat. You probably see the most outsiders of anyone from the Szudetken. If you’re well off, you probably ate a lot of fishy food, mushrooms and kelp products, flavoured with imported spices. If you’re poor, you probably ate most of the same things, without any spices. You may think of your people as intellectual, since every fishing village seems to have its own special secret and practice, and the University of Seibelmarsh is one of the largest in the world (you understand).
University Adjacent: It isn’t to say that you’re necessarily one of the famously doomed researchers at the Seibelmarsh university. It’s a big institution, and there are a lot of people involved there. But whether you were emptying the bins, protecting the staff, or preparing the food, you still picked up the way that university style magic is done, and can pick it up more readily than someone without exposure.
Benefit: You can substitute Arcana checks for any other skill checks for performing rituals, and you get a +2 bonus to Arcana checks for rituals.
Fouled Blood: Oh, you don’t think of it this way, but people outside your village do. Your village had a pact, perhaps, or maybe just your family, with something that wasn’t like the rest of Seibelmarsh, and it shows in your body and your mind. Maybe you’re a little bit fishy-person, a little bit demon-y. Either way, you know things deeper than people know them.
Benefit: Whenever you make a monster knowledge check, you can reroll the check, but you must use the second result even if it’s worse than the first.