Thursday, September 13, 2018

Lihiy Div (Marsh-men) for your old-school gaming joy

One of our favorite neighborhood haunts is a Russian-themed bar owned, in part, by an emigre, and where we often find ourselves eating potatoes and dumplings, drinking Baltika, and watching Russian movies. The ironic thing is that the subtitles are also in Russian, so most plot interpretation is via inference. One of the rotating films on the playlist is the Tale of Tsar Saltan based on a poem/fairy tale by Alexander Pushkin.

Anyway, a plot hook to remove the Tsar from his capital involves going to war against this bunch of clownish marsh-dwelling folk.

For all the set-up and pomp, they are fairly easily defeated by putting the marsh grasses to the torch and some rather comical cannon-fire. In the end, hostages are freed and several of the marsh-men who didn't beat a hasty retreat are ended up captured...

(Pardon me if I don't have a correct name for these miscreants – They aren't named in the film, and my usual Google-fu prowess came up with limited info – so they are named for wild men of the marshes in Ukrainian lore....)

Lihiy Div (Marsh-man)
HD: 1+1
AC: 7 [12]
Atk: 1 weapon (1d6+1)
Move: 12
Save: 17

Periodically erupting from the marshes at the edge of civilization, the Lihiy Div bands are stunted, primitive humanoids.  Their appearance is almost a parody, appearing to be swathed in marsh grasses and furs, and almost headless, with bulging eyes, although this may be a mask worn to frighten foes and increase their own morale. Low-technological, they will tend to be armed primarily with bone and wood weapons. While Lihiy Div primarily raid farms and similarly poorly-defended areas for foodstuffs and livestock, they will occasionally kidnap people for unknown rites or sacrifice. 

Lihiy Div may be typically encountered in groups of 12-24 raiders with a 3rd to 5th level leader (60% fighter/40% shaman).  However, on rare occasions, larger congregations of the marsh-folk will form for raiding and kidnapping, although the impetus for these eruptions from the marshes is not clear.

Ok, so what if you want to run a PC as one of these illiterate, hide-and-grass wearing yahoos?

Lihiy Div 
Requisites: None
Prime: WIS
HD: D6
Move: 12

Advance/save as cleric.

You speak your own, guttural language, and may speak a max of two others at a competency of pidgin to simple conversational, with no written knowledge/literacy.  And math is hard!  You can count to ten.

You are proficient in the simple weapons of the hunter-gatherer: dagger (stone), club (wood or bone), spear (stone), staff, hand axe (stone), and sling. As a “primitive,” you eschew steel.  However, you can craft exceptionally keen blades of stone/glass that cause +1 damage to unarmored/lightly armored opponents.  You may create 1d6 of these per day, depending on available resources.  The 'blade' may be a dagger, spear point, or axe blade. 

Allowed armor includes hide (leather) armor, and perhaps a wood/rattan shield.

You maintain a healthy suspicion and fear of magical forces: +2 vs magic
You've eaten some weird shit and drank nasty water: +2 vs poison/disease

Lihiy Div with Wis >15 may be attuned with Nature and may cast druid spells at -1 level if desired.  You may use a magic item usable by a druids.  You may use potions, but must save vs. poison for them to be effective.

Option: Perhaps you don't want to be a simple mud-footed marsh-dweller.  You can pick/roll a Favored Terrain to be a simple dweller from elsewhere... In your “home” terrain, you have only a 15% chance of becoming lost. You have a 3 in 6 chance to provide sustenance for yourself per day, and a 2 in 6 chance to provide sufficient victuals for a party. This increases by one per five levels. Pick/roll one, PCs with a WIS>15 may choose a second:
1. Plains
2. Forest
3. Mountains
4. Tundra
5. Jungle
6. Desert