Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I have always been fascinated by pterosaurs.  I loved all manner of dino-critters when I was a wee lad, memorizing the names of several bookfulls before I was in kindergarten.  It's probably no surprise that I like to stick dinosaurs into the RPGs that I preside over even if genre and convention would dictate otherwise.  As soon as the PCs in my 4e game crossed the great mountain range and descended into the seemingly endless jungle beyond, they ran into a group of allosaurus.  When they first encountered the volcanic island  at the confluence of the of the major tributary rivers of the Zamonas, they saw winged dinosaurs soaring on the thermals overhead (yes, I know that pterosaurs are not actually dinosaurs, but come on).

I get to geek out on dinosaurs this week in my prep work for my 4e game, because the players time jumped into the past at the end of last session.  As far as I am concerned, if your PCs time travel into the past, there better be some dinosaurs on the other side.  Conveniently I just bought myself a cool book on dinosaurs which I am going to spend the evening looking through, but first I did some internet searches on pterosaurs.

Often Google image searches of real life monsters like pterosaurs or deep sea critters yield some incredible results.  Feast your eyes on this awesomeness (image lifted from this website about pterosaur flight).  It is a dimorphodon.

I ended up sketching the dimorphodon picture in my game notes, along with a Quetzalcoatlus (the largest pterosaur ever discovered, with a wingspan that may have stretched greater than 30').  Then my wife got home from work and colored my pen and ink sketches, so I figured I should upload the end result.


Fire Breathing Pterosaur

I added a bit of a Pelican like pouch to the beak, because this is the ancestor of the dragons of my world.  A colony of chemosynthetic, heat-resistant bacteria live in and coat the inside of the beak, digesting minerals that the Quetzalcoatlus scoops into the beak-pouch and emitting a flammable gas as a by-product which is stored in special sacks along the neck.  The heat-resistant bacteria also coat the gizzard, and the fire-breathing pterosaur swallows live embers and keeps them in the gizzard until blowing them out mixed with the gas to form a fiery blast. 


Killer Toothed Pterosaur

My wife thinks her version is colored "much more realistically" than the original artist's.  She does have a lot of experience handling raptors so maybe I will believe her. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Library of the Bati-Bati Temple

The players in my 4e game recently looted a temple's library.  Most of the literature was inscribed on clay tablets and stacked on massive stone shelves, with a few smaller wood shelves of papyrus and vellum scrolls in bone tubes.  The party webbed all the contents of the shelves securely and then put shelves and all in pocket dimensions that they created for that purpose.  Showing uncommon foresight, they recorded the relative positioning of the shelves before they stowed them in hyperspace.  They literally looted the library, which made my mental jaw drop and led to some very fun DM's prepwork as I told them I would have to get back to them on the exact contents of the library.

Before the party jumped into the future to fight a vampire, they left an NPC (Wa' Halia, an escaped slave from the Temple of the Bull in Siss-Anor who had been trained as a scribe and librarian for the temple library, picked up by the party a few sessions earlier) with the task of cataloging the contents of the library.  Luckily, Wa' Halia was a ritual caster who actually had both the ability to read the various languages of the collection and experience as a librarian, so she is going to have a detailed report for the party... which I told the players I would just post on my blog for them between sessions. 

This is the third library I have tossed hints of to the party, but the first that they had physically encountered (let alone looted).  They had previously heard about the sunken temple city of Adamaskas with its great library maintained by monks preserving the early records of the seven city states and the library of the Temple of the Bull in Siss-Anor (the temple they heard about a long time ago but it was not until a few sessions ago when I introduced Wa'Halia that they learned about the library at the temple, the second largest library of the coastal city-states).

The Library of the Bati-Bati Temple

Wa'Halia's report:  

Not entirely what I would expect from a library from the late temple era (12,000-10,000 YA), the bulk of the collection is written in an ancestral form of the modern tongue and inscribed in clay in the temple style of the old river god civilizations.  One peculiarity of the temple collection is that nearly all the tablets are circular.  Some of the subject matter is unusual in general but perfectly in keeping with the dedication of the temple to the Bati-Bati and the worship of the dark gods of death and transformation.  The collections of astronomy might even exceed those held in Adamaskas, long believed by most knowledgeable sages to be the greatest collection of celestial knowledge ever assembled.  Very unusual for a late temple era library are what appear to be archaeological collections of the earliest languages preserved in clay in the region (~40,000-35,000 YA), even including tablets dedicated to gods ideologically opposed to the death and transformation gods.  One set of tablets appear to be alien in origin, the composition of the materials is unknown to me and the engravings change as the tablets are rearranged.

Works Concerning the Gods of Death and Transformation:  Huana-Hatle, god of were animals and death; Supay, ruler of the underworld and horned demons; and Ilamatecuhtli, aged goddess of earth, death and the galaxy whose roar signaled war.  Each god is represented in the collection by several different epic histories, some of which appear to have been collected from earlier inhabitants of the region judging by language differences and inscribing style; prayers and hymns;  and detailed instructions concerning every aspect of all associated ceremonies and sacrifices.

History of the Bati-Bati:  Known incursions of the Bati-Bati into this reality; a record of every lunar eclipse related to Bati-Bati activity; descriptions of the mind-warping abilities of the Bati-Bati; various legends linking the Bati-Bati to the gods of death and transformation; symbology of the Bati-Bati; descriptions of several journeys into Bati-Bati reality by the priesthood over the years; detailed anatomical notes of the physiology of the Bati-Bati.

Histories of the Priesthood and Temple: (1/4 of the collection by volume) Dates of birth and death of the priests; calendar roll of all ceremonies and sacrifices, major and minor, through the years; individual biography tablets detailing major life events of important priests, updated throughout their lifetime; ranks of the undead priests (dating the beginning of the undead priesthood tradition at this temple to 11,130 YA); and genealogies of the troll breeding programs (which interestingly begin in the earliest days of the temple and continued uninterrupted until the collapse of the island civilization).  Notable individual biography tablets include: Epunamun, great statesman and warrior who entered the church after a career in the army commanded by the kings of the island; Anhanga, who came to fame as a necromancer and instituted the tradition of the head priest joining his predecessors upon death in an undead council that shared power with the living head priest; Maricanchi, who rose from obscurity with a series of prophetic dream revelations and ended up being sponsored first by Epunamun and later by Anhanga while creating the star chamber, dream tablet and the dimension shifting properties of the temple from instructions he received while dreaming; Trumak the Keeper of the Chamber, an outsider to the temple who succeeded Maricanchi as master of the star chamber and dream tablet and created the ritual separation of all star chamber operations from the temple proper; and Mamagal, an otherwise seemingly minor figure from the early priesthood whose prophesies were uncommonly accurate, who I had previously identified as being the same author as Maricanchi because of a very unusual and characteristic way of inscribing date characters that marked the prophesies of both men (this stood out enough to me while I was looking through the collection of prophesies that I am now puzzled to note that Mamagal and Maricanchi apparently lived nearly 800 years apart but wrote in an identical style).

Astrological and Astronomical Collections: (1/2 of the collection by volume) Celestial observations and predictions of the early priesthood from 12,000-11,130 YA, reflecting a two dimensional understanding of constellations as seen from a surface perspective but a very accurate understanding of the motions of the planets, eclipses, comets and meteor showers; and the staggering output of the newly founded college of astronomy after the introduction of the shadow table and the star chamber paved the way for a three dimensional understanding of every star's relative position to each other and the world (11,130 YA - 10,000 YA).

Epunamun's Edicts:  A series of broad sweeping reforms authored by Epunamun, these edicts centralized power within the church into the hands of a head priest, set limits on the powers of the council of elders, specified allowable uses of tithe received by the temple and mandated certain portions be set aside for a variety of purposes; mandated early childhood education within the priesthood, established several colleges, raised an army, established protocols for training officers, and authorized the church to aggressively convert neighboring tribes into tribute paying worshipers of the temple.

Anhanga's Necromantic and Animating Collections:  Copies pressed from originals in the Adamaskas collection, easily identifiable by the characteristic angular Adamaskan characters, reproducing the necromantic and animating knowledge of the early (25,000 - 20,000 YA) and middle temple period (20,000 - 12,000 YA, prior to the last meander of the Zamonas river); papyrus copies of several notable dissertations submitted by sorcerers to the council of the lich kings including Manu Jablitu's famous treatise arguing that certain metals found on alien planets in alternate realities could enable animation of far larger structures with far less expenditure of power than held possible by the lich kings (these dissertations and many others are often referenced in texts held at the Temple of the Bull but all known copies outside of Adamaskas were destroyed 10,000 YA after the collapse of the old temple system); three studies commissioned by Anhanga on the monumental architecture of the middle temple period, focusing on the temple complex surrounding Kariki-Kalos and two other temple complexes built around imprisoned godbeasts in the jungle; and a collection of advanced necromantic rites authored by Anhanga himself.

Prophesies:  A collection of predictions and dates, on subjects ranging from rainfall and propitious times to conceive a child to the ultimate collapse of the universe.  The priests did not foresee the calamitous downfall of the island civilization.  Early prophesies are inscribed on two sides of a tablet, with two possible date readings.  Prophesies made with the aid of the star chamber (11,130 YA - 10,000 YA) have only one possible date reading.

Nightmares:  A collection of recurring nightmares endured by leading undead priests.

Alchemical Collection:  Recipes for potions and poisons; instructions for the transmutation of metals and the creation of alloys, reflecting what appears to be a more advanced understanding of metallurgy than presently found in the empire.  This collection is etched on gold plated copper tablets.

Anatomical and Herbal Notes and Drawings:  A rather extensive illustrated herbal of jungle plants and anatomical drawings of humans and animals.  The organs and vital points are given names that clearly place the origin of these works with the Gadoro Temple.  These are the only vellum scrolls in the collection and great care was taken in their creation.  Epunamun's seal was unbroken on the ivory tubes.

Archaeological Collections:  A collection of what appear to be artifacts from the ancestral populations of the jungle lowlands, including: Clay tablets; ceramic pottery; wood, stone and bone tools and weapons; beads of many materials; masks; feathered headresses; feathered capes; and penis gourds.

Gaming Artifact for submission to the D&D Library of the Future:
My original page of notes about this library (this page also contains some gameplay notes in the right margin from the session the players looted the library) 

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