Monday, 8 May 2017

A Proof of Concept - Stage 1

This is the first of a very irregular series of posts in which I air "proof of concept" developments for Behind Gently Smiling Jaws. The whole thing, you may recall, is 7 huge linked hex-crawls; it may or may not be published in the form of 8 volumes in a slip-case. I am apparently incapable of reining myself in.

This is the Dreams of Ice. The crocodile's memories of an ice age, which have been warped by the introduction of the interloper Sese-Mahuru-Bau, a New Guinean hunter of singular passion whose puissant energies have resulted in hot jungle 'mythago' mountains appearing liked islands in the midst of glacial ice.

The Naacals of the Unremembered City have started to colonise the area too. This is a draft map (the final release will have a proper one obviously) and here is the entry for the Naacal colony, called The Gift to Wepwawet [circled on the map]. None of it may make sense to you, but it does to me and that's the main thing at this stage. This is designed to show something of the tone and also demonstrate the basic pattern of how things shake out.

32.19 - The Gift to Wepwawet

The Naacals have established a colony here where the Remembered Ocean meets the Dreams of Ice. It sits on a black rocky shore huddled against the sea as though somehow believing it offers warmth. Canoes and skiffs are tugged up onto the beach where they lie like dead seals or porpoises. Columns of smoke constantly rise into the air from hearth fires and braziers. There is an atmosphere of hardness. The people of the Unremembered City do not relish the cold. Only the tough, ambitious or embittered come here - for glory and to test themselves, or because they are no longer enamoured with the world they knew.

Like all Naacal colonies there is a central plaza. At the head of it stands a pyramid to Wepwawet, a wolf god associated with the hunt, pathfinding, and preparing for war. The people of the colony look to him above other gods, because it is he who bestows blessings on those who triumph over nature in the glory of hunting. The pyramid is carved from ice, which never becomes warm enough to melt.

Factions and Major NPCs

Kaaper, the Voice of Wepwawet. Kaaper serves the wolf god Wepwawet and he looks more jackal than man: rangy, lithe, small, and always seeming as though he is about to bite. He leads worship of his god in the Gift with the fervency of one who lacks the imagination to consider there may be alternatives.

Stats: 0-level. 7 HP, AC 8. He carries a ceremonial mace and bow, made of bronze, which when locked together to form a rough "X" shape can be used to perform Wepwawet's ancient function of parting ways. The device can thus part the clouds above and thickly overgrown areas of vegetation and bodies of water up to 300 yards across, for ten minutes once per day. It can also be used to open doors as a knock spell once per day.

Resources: He leads worship of Wepwawet and can call upon the members of his congregation for aid (6d6 0-level priests, neophytes, apprentices and so on). In the pyramid, the worshipers of Wepwawet have TT: A.

Hooks: Percieves Neferhotep (see below) as a rival he would like destroyed. Claims that the wolf god has become real and manifested himself somewhere "out there" in the crocodile's memories of ice.

Penebui, the Lost Child. A middle-aged woman who gained her name because as a child she went missing from her parents for 31 days. Nobody knows what happened to her then, and all that she can remember from that time is darkness, and strange tastes and scents that seemed to her to come from other worlds not her own. Nowadays a gourmand, she has come to the Dreams of Ice to discover new foods and drinks in its mythago jungles, and perhaps find some of those tastes and scents that exist only in the memory of her disappearance.

Stats: 0-level. 4 HP, AC 9.

Resources: Penebui has an eatery where she serves her cuisine [see Locations below]. She is aided by two servitors. She has hidden somewhere TT: Lx2 - heirlooms from her ancestors.

Hooks: Penebui always wants to sample new foods and drinks and will pay for them. She believes that in her childhood experience she briefly melded purely and entirely with the crocodile's mind and tasted and smelled just as the beast itself does.

Rekhmire of Quiet Solitude. A man who came to transcend his mortal nature by performing feats of hunting that would be remembered across the ages in the city of his home. He eschews companionship and, unless he must, does not speak. What could another person offer him except distraction from becoming ever more self-reliant and hence more deserving of glory?

Stats: 6th level adventurer. 36 HP, AC 4.

Resources: Only himself and his tools. He uses javelins, a bow and arrow, a killing club, and a knife, all of which are fashioned by his own hand from materials from the ice or jungle.

Hooks: He must surely have a secret cache of trophies and treasures somewhere. At least, this is what is believed.

Roma-Roi with Yellow Eyes. A sorcerer who since his youth has dreamed of endless ice and believes that the discovery of this region of the crocodile's memory was foreshadowed by these visions. Ruling it must surely be his destiny, whereupon he will restore it to pristine and infinite cold.

Stats: 7th level sorcerer. 17 HP, AC 9. He wears a set of ancestral silver rings, one on each finger of his left hand. Gesturing in a certain way when wearing these rings causes a huge magical hand to appear between Roma-Roi and anybody attempting to get close to him. It is impenetrable but can be destroyed with physical attacks (34 HP, AC 5). It lasts until destroyed or Roma-Roi dispels it. It can be used once a week.

Resources: Spell quipu made from strips of dried squid leather. Contains sleep, unseen servant, shocking grasp, enlarge, magic missile, ESP, locate object, push, wizard lock, web, mirror image, hold person, blink, slow, water breathing, ice storm, polymorph other, wall of ice, confusion, cone of cold. He has TT: L hidden in a sack buried under his home; this is guarded by three minor salt spirits (treat as salt mephits).

Hooks: His eyes are yellow because he has conconted a special substance which wards off the cold; the side effect of eating it is yellow irises. Alternatively, they are yellow because he can see events from the past taking place as though in the present. Alternatively, they are yellow because he knows secret magicks, the discovery of which has etched itself into his eyes.

Seneb, who is Blessed. A small man, barely three feet high. Like many markers of difference among the Naacals, who love anything out of the ordinary, this is treated as a blessing. Seneb has been used to being treated as special since birth, then, and is consequently rather spoiled. He has four servitors gifted to him by a patron long ago; they do everything for him, including carrying him around. Nobody know what he is doing in The Gift to Wepwawet.

Stats: 0-level. 3 HP, AC 9. He wears an ivory amulet which can summon ethereal magenta jaguars at a whisper. 2d6 are summoned; they have 4 HD, AC 4, and attack for 1d3/1d3/1d6.

Resources: Four servitors. He always has with him a pouch containing 40 electrum pieces which he uses to buy what he might need.

Hooks: Rumours abound as to what Seneb is doing here. Is he merely going on a grand tour of the new colonies? Is he looking for a lost lover or family member? Does he know of some very wonderful and expensive mythago or memory he wants to bring back to the Unremembered City? Is he plotting to take over these lands? Nobody knows.

He must also surely have money cached somewhere.

Peksater the Dreaming Indigo. A young woman and a dreamer, disillusioned with the meaningless frivolity of Naacal existence, who wishes to connect more fully to the dream world and subsume herself within it. The bleak beauty of the Dreams of Ice appeals to her, and she likes to stare at it wistfully in early mornings. Her hair is indigo and is so long that she wraps it around her torso like a cloak.

3rd level dreamer. 13 HP, AC 7, padded armour, sling and knife. She can untie her indigo hair so that it forms a shroad of deep purple strands around her. These befuddle and confuse attackers - all melee and ranged attacks are -4 to hit.

Resources: None.

Hooks: She believes that out there somewhere in the icy wilderness there is a place where one can merge with the crocodile's dreams and become one with them. This is her fervent desire.

Naked Iset of the Light Feet. A dancer who seeks to perfect her physical prowess by performing on floes of ice. She frequently does so naked, in the belief that the harshness of the temperature hones her performance. Her dancing, for the connoisseur, has a primal physicality which is reminiscent of the primitivist school. Her body is like a coiled spring and so is her personality.

Stats: 4th level dancer. 24 HP, AC 4, padded armour (AC 6 if naked). She carries a steel boomerang which requires STR 14 and DEX 17 to use; it always does maximum damage (8) on a hit and returns to her hand when called.

Resources: None.

Hooks: She sometimes sees strange vessels when out at sea on the pack ice, which nobody else can. She was well-regarded as a dancer in her plaza in the Unremembered City, but fled in mysterious circumstances - those who well-regarded her want her returned, killed, or similar.

Hesy-Ra the Physician. An old sage with faded tattoos and hair thin like whisps of smoke. Before dying he wished to see what lay beyond the Remembered Ocean, and thus left the city. There is a part of him that wonders whether it may even be possible to leave the crocodile's dream world and journey to the land of the truly living. His expertise is in the healing arts.

Stats: 0-level. 3 HP, AC 9.

Resources: Two servitors. He always has a wide range of potions: 2d6 random 1st level cleric spells; 1d6 random 2nd level cleric spells; 1d3 random 3rd level cleric spells. He also always has several thousand gold tokens.

Hooks: He always has a use - and a need - for new and wondrous things of memory or mythago with which to brew his potions and medicines.

Neferhotep of the Single Arrow. A mighty and powerful hunter, believed to be an avatar of Wepwawet himself due to his great prowess. He looks as though he has recently stepped out from a bas-relief of an ancient scene of battle on a decorative wall - angular and hard. Some men bear plaudits given to them with humility and self-restraint. Neferhotep boasts of being able to kill any beast with a single arrow - and most believe him.

Stats: 7th level adventurer. 49 HP, AC 5 (hide armour). His boast of being able to kill any beast with a single arrow is rooted in truth, because he uses a magical bow whose arrows always do double maximum damage when they hit (e.g. 12 hp for a 1d6 damage arrow).

Resources: TT: Vx3.

Hooks: He percieves all male warrors and adventurers as rivals and will seek to out-compete them either openly or implicitly. His aim is to prove his power is beyond even that of the ruler of the Dreams of Ice, Sese-Mahuru-Bau himself.

The Golden Hand of Aat - A group of decadents under the sway of their charismatic leader, Aat. Their hedonism manifests itself in an almost masochistic obsession with living in extreme danger and discomfort, and the Dreams of Ice are the perfect place to carry out their "philosophy" - whether it be by bathing in ice water, journeying across ice deserts, or facing gruesome death away from well-trodden paths in the jungle highlands.

Size: 15 x 1st or 2nd level decadents, the leader Aat, and his longstanding lover, Pedubast.

Resources: TT: C.

Key NPCs: Aat, a 3rd level decadent with a hand he daubs in gold leaf paint. He believes that through exposing onself to the potential of suffering and death one comes to experience life more deeply. His lover is Pedubast, a 3rd level dreamer who endeavours to prove his love with ever more frenzied risk-taking behaviour.

Hooks: If there is a place where one can experience danger or discomfort within 10 miles of the Gift to Wepwawet, the Golden Hand of Aat know of it and about it.

The Men of the Caracal. Five blood brothers, believers in Pakhet, the caracal goddess of hunting, a rival to Wepwawet. They aim to prove the superiority of the lithe, stealthy, solitary caracal over the savage pack-hunting wolf, and thus they only hunt alone - though always sharing their spoils and prestige together.

Size: 5 x 4th level adventurers.

Resources: TT: Vx2 each.

Key NPCs: Huya, Ineni, Nebamun, Nebet, and Senedj. Each specialises in a different manifestation of the caracal's grace:

  • Huya, the teeth - 23 HP, AC 5 (hide armour). Carries two short stabbing spears which always find weak points, ignoring armour - opponents are always effectively at AC 9 with any relevant DEX bonus. 
  • Ineni, the leap - 22 HP, AC 6 (hard leather armour). Carries a killing club. He can spring forward 10 feet as a free action in any combat round. 
  • Nebamun, the nose - 24 HP, AC 5 (hide armour). Carries a blow-gun and axe. He can track any prey once he has its scent. 
  • Nebet, the ears - 22 HP, AC 5 (hide armour). Carries javelins. He is never surprised.
  • Senedj, the stealth - 21 HP, AC 7 (padded armour). Carries a knife and killing club. He always surprises opponents.

Hooks: The Men of the Caracal are rivals of the Seal Hunters and the Seekers of Lost Orchids. They are also hated and feared as witch doctors by the local mythago villagers in the jungles.

The Seal Hunters. A cabal of youths who have come to the Gift to prove their worth and believe they can do so hunting the memory-seals which make their homes amidst the pack ice out at sea. Their naivite is outweighed only by their brashness. They dress themselves in skins and bristle with harpoons, spears and knives.

Size: 12 x 1st level adventurers, and two leaders (see Key NPCs).

Resources: TT: Vx2 between them, and one servitor.

Key NPCs: Si-Tayit and Sitkamose, a brother and sister, who instigated the move across the Remembered Ocean. They are charismatic, clever, cheerful and cajoling. Both are 2nd level adventurers.

Hooks: They are rivals of the Men of the Caracal and the Seekers of Lost Orchids. They believe that there is a way to journey across the pack ice directly to other memory realms. They also believe that through immersing onself in the icy sea one can learn how to swim in it like one of the memory-seals they hunt.

The Seekers of Lost Orchids. A group of hunters, followers of Wepwawet, who search specifically and single-mindedly for new and exotic flowers in the mythago jungles. They believe that new colours and scents will be discovered deep in the lush green places, and that these will delight the population in the Unremembered City and bring their finders renown.

Size: 9 x 2nd level adventurers, 1 x 3rd level adventurer, and 1 x 3rd level dreamer (see Key NPCs).

Resources: TT: Vx3 between them.

Key NPCs: Satiah is their leader. She claims to be able to see smells, and to smell colours, and this is what has lead her to form her band of hunters and explore the mythago jungles in the Dreams of Ice. Meryamun, the dreamer, is her unrequited lover; he is a visionary who is said to have been at times able to communicate with and control mythago and memory plant life. He follows Satiah everywhere like a dog, and she treats him as such; he appears to relish this.

Hooks: Satiah has seen, drifting on the breeze in distant ice-deserts, or wafting down from the winds around jungle mountains, the faintest traces of new scents which are so weak as to be undetectable by the nose. She believes that these are the scents of undiscovered forms of magic.

Those Who Dance in the Mist. A troupe of dancers who believe that they will be able to transcend to new levels of ability by dancing in unison merely through listening to each other's movements - footfalls, breaths, movements in the air - without seeing. The early morning and evening fogs in the coast of the Dreams of Ice are the perfect environment, they believe, in which to hone that skill.

Size: 10 x 1st level dancers.

Resources: TT: Vx3 between them.

Key NPCs: Nedjeftet is the group's nominal leader, although there is no strict hierarchy. She is a dancer of unusual grace who cartwheels and gyrates most skilfully amongst all her comrades in the icy haze.

Hooks: A member of the troupe is in league with agents of Jorge de Menezez, and is using his/her place in the Gift as a front to spy on or usurp the Naacals. When dancing at dawn members of the troupe have recently heard war drums from the mythago jungles to the W.


The Beach - A stretch of dark volcanic sand and rock with chunks of pack ice washed ashore. Canoes, big and small, and rafts are beached on it. This is the colony's point of contact with the Unremembered City across the vast ocean. A vista of broken ice sheet and bergs fills the sea to the horizon.

Minor NPCs/Groups: Whalers, spear-fishermen or seal-hunters preparing to go out to sea or returning from a hunt. Followers of the water god, Wadj-Wer, the Pregnant Man, dancing in his worship. Burning funeral pyres with mourners.

Rumours: Igloos have been spotted being built to the south [29.25]. The seal hunters have noticed ship wrecks on the coasts SE and SW of the Gift [29.22 and 38.26].

Penebui's Eatery - An ice-hut filled with blue light, laughter and boasting. This is where the people of the Gift congregate for food and drink and where Penebui serves her wares: produce of the memory beasts hunted on the ice, or of the mythago jungles.

Minor NPCs/Groups: Hunters, dancers, decadents and dreamers sharing tales of glory and shame, boasting and bragging and begging for attention. Funeral feasts for lost comrades. Newcomers staring about themselves trying to cloak their nervous anticipation.

Rumours: Penebui wants new tastes and delights from the jungles. The Seekers of Lost Orchids use the villagers of Petats as guides and helpers [36.16]. Caves in the mythago jungle mountains to the north lead below a glacier; nobody knows what lies beneath [33.13].

The Ball Court - Wherever there are Naacals, there are ball courts, and here in the Gift the Game takes on a new, dangerous element as it is played on smooth ice. A mere fall can mean broken bones and death.

Minor NPCs/Groups: Players of the Game. Gamblers and goaders. Challengers waiting.

Rumours: Neferhotep of the Single Arrow cannot resist a challenge. True hunters will test themselves on the ice deserts to the NW of the Gift. True warriors will test themselves against the hunting tribes in the mythago jungles to the W of the Gift.

The Pyramid to Wepwawet - A pyramid of ice steps which is maintained by seven servitors with meticulous care. From its top one can see out across the ice-filled bay to the south and then, in all other directions, icy wastes - punctuated here and there by mountain-islands which emerge from the cloud and mist as though floating. On clear days one can smell the fresh lush jungle on the cold wind.

Minor NPCs/Groups: The priests of Wepwawet, burning incense, chanting and forging weapons for the hunt. Hunters come in search of blessings; dreamers come in search of signs.

Rumours: Kaaper wants proof the wolf god has manifest himself in the Dreams of Ice. Kaaper wants the Men of the Caracal tamed. A priest of Wepwawet, a favourite lover of Kaaper, has gone missing - he went hunting to the SW some days ago.

The Hill - On the western rim of the Gift stands the Hill, a mound of lichen-covered stone where ice and snow gather in cracks and clefts but are swept away before they can truly settle. This is where those given to rumination, dreaming and melancholy come to stare out at the great black cold in the evening.

Minor NPCs/Groups: Dreamers or dancers glorying in the vast emptiness of the wild at evening or at dawn. Poets and mystics communing with the mystifying infinity of the crocodile's dream world. Sad, sorrowful souls.

Rumours: Beyond the mythago jungle to the E is a network of chasms, deep within which are routes of entry into the crocodile's inner psyche [40.16]. In the mythago jungles to the N are magical totems, sorcerers, and special natural features. Once, somebody saw Sese-Mahuru-Bau himself and his hunters, on the ice, in the distance, at dawn.


There are always potential adventuring associates to be hired at the Gift for a share of wealth and glory gained. These ambitious and fame-seeking youths are typically hot-headed and obsessively eager to prove their worth. In combat or during any other situation offering an opportunity for daring, test morale for each associate. On failure, they attempt something hugely risky.

There are 2d6 potential associates available each month.

1 - Adventurer (no armour, hand axe)
2 - Adventurer (padded armour, spear)
3 - Adventurer (padded armour, javelins and darts)
4 - Adventurer (no armour, sling)
5 - Decadent (no armour, hand axe)
6 - Decadent (no armour, killing club)
7 - Warrior (hide armour, net, lasso, knife)
8 - Warrior (hide armour, bolas, stave, knife)
9 - Dancer (no armour, two knives or sling)
10 - Dreamer/Sorcerer (roll 1d2) (no armour, knife)

Secrets/Behind the Scenes

Kaaper's claims that the wolf god has become "real" are not fantasy. The collective imaginings of the worshipers of Wepwawet in this part of the crocodile's memory world have caused a mythago of him to come into existence. Nobody yet suspects or realises this except for Kaaper.

Agents or spies of Xu Fu, Jorge de Menezez and Anak Wungsu may all be active in and around the Gift, seeking to undermine or overthrow the Naacal colony.


  1. This looks good! And Yoon-Suin was awesome. Also, how great is hexograpgher?!?

  2. Deliciously Old-School. Love the concept, too.

    Eight whole hexcrawls seems a doozie (or optimally ambitious) goal. Pray tell, how many among this multitude of hexes is to be keyed in a significant fashion?

    1. These are half-mile hexes. I don't want to key them all so as to leave room for DMs to elaborate, but a lot of them - let's say a third.