Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gygaxian Democracy #7: The Lottery in Babylon

So we're still doing this thing where we crowdsource campaign material...

The Lottery in Babylon

Like all men in Babylon I have been a proconsul; like all, a slave; I have also known omnipotence, opprobrium, jail. Look: the index finger of my right hand is missing. Look again: through this rent in my cape you can see a ruddy tatoo on my belly. It is the second symbol, Beth. This letter, on nights of full moon, gives me power over men whose mark is Ghimel; but it also subordinates me to those marked Aleph, who on moonless nights owe obedience to those marked Ghimel. In a cellar at dawn, I have severed the jugular vein of sacred bulls against a black rock. During one lunar year, I have been declared invisible: I shrieked and was not heard, I stole my bread and was not decapitated.

-- from Jorge Luis Borges, The Lottery in Babylon(translation by I actually don't know)

The Babylonian Library still exists, though now it is practiced mostly by jackal-headed men who live beneath the earth.

All who would pass through the doors that stand at the entrance to the territories of jackalmen must first draw a fragment of carved bone from a Well of Fate.

Each bone marks s/he who drew it with a symbol (on the forehead, usually, if the creature has one), and the faith of the jackalmen demands that all jackalmen obey the mark until it fades (usually after one day), treating each visitor as the mark demands, no matter how s/he behaves.

The bond is not magical (though the forces that keep the doors of the realm from opening for any traveller who does not bear a mark and the forces which cause the mark to appear on the bearers skin are) and the jackalmen obey these marks in obedience to sacred custom, rather than mystic compulsion. The marks never literally grant the bearer abilities or compel them to commit acts.

The marks are:

1. The bearer of this mark must be ignored.

2. The bearer of this mark must be given fresh meat three times. (The bearer may be slain, but must be fed first).

(your turn)


  1. Awesome idea. Make it the party's 'safe'haven and the adventure never ends.

    So are you going to table-ise or otherwise collate all of these behemoths? Or should I start cutting and pasting myself?


    3. The bearer must handily carry a small mammal at all times.

    4. The bearer must not stand in another's shadow

    5. Those of this mark must gift and pay respect to all who bear mark 3.

    6. The bearer is forbidden the privilege of darkness.

    7. The bearer must make no sound.

    8. The bearer must bleed continuously for a time determined by the fullness of the moon (12 hours for full moon, 6 hours for half etc)

    9. The bearer may not go forth with robes nor possessions, but must present itself naked and unmasked, just as the moon made us all.

    10. The bearer shall receive a gift of one wordly item from all he shares a word with.

    11. The bearer shall receive a gift of one wordly item from all he passes. May it feel greed no more.

    12. The bearer must have all hair shorn from its body.

    13. The bearer enjoys a time of humble and gracious servitude to those marked with (14)

  2. 14. The bearer of this mark shall be...sorry I bow out of this one. I can only think of really silly things. This walks the thin line between creepy cool and Monty Python sketch cool.

  3. 14. The bearer of this mark will move, for no man. (None shall pass!)

    15. The bearer of this mark is a bloody sea bird. It doesn't have a bloody flavour.

    hah. God dammit you've ruined this for everyone.

    OK FINE the real 15:

    15. The bearer of this mark must stoke the flames of The Brazier Of Winter Feasts until the mark fades, or until the winter feasts.

  4. 16. The bearer of this mark must be led to the serail of the jackalmen to give proper respect to the goddess of fertility...

  5. 17. The bearer of this mark shall be spit upon by all who see him.

    18. The bearer of this mark shall be given a trail of the living, so his feet will never touch the ground

    19. The bearer of this mark must be told a lie by all who speak to him.

  6. 20. The bearer will be freely offered any available fermented dairy products.

    Shame will befall a jackalman whose offering is rejected. Social rank will diminish, breeding opportunities will be lost, ancestral and familial recipes will be altered.

  7. 21. The bearer of this mark must move only by cartwheels. They are not allowed to sleep or stand still until the mark fades. Failure to comply with these restrictions results in being turned into a small mammal, to be carried by those marked with (3).

    22. The marked person must castrate the small mammal of one of those marked with (3).

    23. The bearer is fed to a Jabberwocky. Alternately you can use one of those weird mirror creatures.

    24. The person who bears this mark is given the Rapier of Noirrac, a tiefling rogue. Noirrac is not pleased with this, and will seek to retrieve it.

    25. The bearer is transformed into a jackalman. Whichever of the jackalmen first met him or her adopts them into their clan.

  8. 26- The bearer wears the rune upon his head , all jackalmen will refrain from attacking the bearer but will instead seek to lure him into the crypts of the old city to perform rites of ressurection or reincarnation for the cities inhabitants , they will ruthlessly protect the bearer of the mark , but will not allow him to be free of the city or stay overlong outside the crypt areas. The bearer it turns out can reincarnate the old inhabitants - as Jackalmen.

  9. 27. The bearer of this mark shall give the definitive interpretation of the Testament of Kreel White Spot. The testament is written in Gnollish. Whether the bearer speaks Gnollish or not is inconsequential - however s/he interprets the testament goes.

    28. The bearer of this mark must never handle her/his own food - every morsel eaten or drink taken must be given by someone else.

    29. The bearer of this mark must carry the bearer of another mark on his/her back.

  10. 30. The bearer of this mark shall carry water and salt and offer them to to everyone he meets.

    31. The bearer of this mark is denied the comfort of fire.

    32. The bearer of this mark shall walk upon the earth and leave no trace of his passing behind. No sign, sight, memory or progeny shall remain behind him.

    33. The bearer of this mark shall speak in the tongue of the dead, and be answered by them.

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  12. 34. The bearer of this mark must not set foot upon the ground.

  13. 35. Capture the Flag: The drawing of this mark initiates the Great Game. The bearer is taken to a central point and freed. However, three teams of jackalpeople have formed, made up of the best warriors. The first two teams are divided by gender and seek to kill the bearer - the team that succeeds secures dominance for their gender (a matriarch or patriarch is installed, the way households are organized shifts - the whole shebang.) The third team is made up of hermaphrodites and the otherwise genderless, who seek to defend the bearer. If the bearer is alive when the mark fades, this team wins and may shape the culture as they see fit. These are the only rules - beyond them all bets are off and the jackalpeople will freely slaughter one another in order to overthrow or maintain the current status quot.

    36. The bearer of this mark is treated as an ally by all adults. However, any child will attempt to kill them. The adults will neither defend nor assist in the murder of the bearer - they just idly watch. The child that succeeds is thought the reincarnation of a long-dead jackalheaded hero.

    37. The bearer of this mark is thought the avatar of a dead jackalheaded trickster god whose return signifies the end of all jackalheaded peoples. The bearer is to be treated better than the jackalheads' own ruler. They will be given anything they desire. Jackalheads will commit suicide if asked. Then, when the mark fades, the bearer will be tied down and eaten alive by the 12 youngest jackalheaded pups to have teeth enough to chew. This process turns the 12 pups into avatars of the jackalheads' pantheon of warrior gods.

    38. The bearer of this mark is to be sealed inside the skull of a giant, which is then filled with either:

    1. A mild acid (will ruin cloth and paper, removes all body hair, permanent scarring over entire body),
    2. Cave Bees (like normal bees but deal with fungi spores instead of pollen),
    3. Jackalhead pups,
    4. Cave Honey Mead (think bourbon with traces of LSD in it),
    5. Blood,
    6. Snakes and chicken eggs,
    7. Snakes and live chickens,
    8. Hallucinogenic Mushrooms,
    9. Rotting meat,
    10. A candle, some dice, a couple hunks of meat and a kobold who just happened to draw the same sign that morning.

    When the mark fades, the bearer is free to do whatever.

  14. 39. The bearer of this mark must not see a jackalman.

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  16. Oh, my 34 is very similar to 18. Never mind.

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  18. 41. Howl of Anubis - bearer of the mark will speak Gnollish and ONLY Gnollish. S/he will be challenged by a jackalhead champion to ritual combat. If the challenged is refused, the bearer will be scorned, allowed only in the Beggars' Alleys of the city.

    If the bearer wins, s/he has the option to restore the languages formerly known and spoken, but never again be able to speak/learn Gnollish again. Also, the successful bearer may instead elect to grow a jackalhead of his/her own; the bearer's war cry would inspire jackalheads in a '60 radius to +2 on attack rolls for d6 rounds.

    Unsuccessful bearers will be shamed. Both ears will be torn off (d3 dmg each), and the left arm will be withered (-6 on all rolls involving it). Appropriate Charisma penalties would also be assessed.

  19. Sorry if the races other than Tiefling aren't as good. I just picked up the players handbook for 4e, last night ad I'm playing a Tiefling rogue, so that's the one I'm most familiar with.

    42. This mark has a unique effect based on the race of the bearer:

    A tiefling who bears this mark will grow two rows of spines from his or her back. They will rip through any clothing and/or armor they are wearing. It must be mended magically while they are wearing it, or they will no longer be able to use it due to the fact that it will not fit with the holes sealed.

    An Eladrin's eyes will turn black, with flecks and bands of red and/or yellow.

    A male Dwarf's beard will be permanently removed. A female Dwarf will grow a beard. If she shaves it off, it grows back to its full length in 2d6 hours.

    An Elf will gain a stronger connection to the Feywild, taking on an appearance much like that of a Genasi.

    A Half-Elf will also gain a strengthened connection to the Feywild. However, as they have a weaker connection to it in the first place they will take on the appearance of Elves or Eladrin. At the DM's discretion,
    they may gain the racial characteristics of whichever race they become.

    A Halfling will suddenly double in height, but not weight.

    A Human will randomly become one of the other races. The applicable effect of this mark will not carry over unless they draw it again.

    A Dragonborn will sprout wings. Roll 1d6. If the result is 3 or better the wings will be functional.

  20. Okay. I'll be the dick. From Zak's prompt:

    "The bond is not magical ... and the jackalmen obey these marks in obedience to sacred custom, rather than mystic compulsion. The marks never literally grant the bearer abilities or compel them to commit acts."

    A lot of us forgot that part.

  21. 44. The bearer of this mark must possess a forked tongue. If they haven't one, the problem will be graciously corrected with a hot knife.

    45. The bearer of this mark is assigned a war party of at least six jackalheads who will obey them without question until the mark fades. However, all six must die in service during this time - if they return to their tribe alive, they will be forever shamed and forever hate the bearer.

    46. The bearer of the mark is known as the Blessed Culler. They must select 1d12 Jackalheads, who will be staked down and slowly crushed to death as heavy stones are piled on them one at a time. If the bearer doesn't choose before the mark fades, they will be staked down and slowly crushed to death as heavy stones are piled on them one at a time. Note that anyone can be chosen - from the lowliest jackalhead hunters to the high priests - but the consequences will remain. Selecting a well-loved jackalhead hero will earn the ire of the entire tribe, selecting the highest priest will certainly make an enemy of someone, etc.

  22. All right, he didn't say we couldn't have them use magic...

    So: My most recent one is: The bearer of this mark is placed into the Eraldaketa Chamber (Transformation Chamber). See my post above, except that they can also be turned into a jackalman, with results as detailed in my first post.

    The transformation of a creature into a small mammal is done by the high priests of he jackalmen. They use an ancient ritual know as the Garatzen Norbaitek gaitu txiki bat Ugaztuna sartu, or Rite to Turn Someone into a Small Mammal.