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Hollow Moon Cultures: Ur-Carnifex Tribelandsby Sharon Dornhoff
Okay, folks -- here we go! To start off the "HM Cultures" thread, I thought I'd get the three REALLY old-time races posted: they're the ones who actually pre-date the SoR, and who'd had literally thousands of years to get used to the setting, before any of us pesky mammal-types started showing up (There goes the neighbourhood...! :-D). So to get the ball rolling -- and to reassure everyone that I WON'T be making the HW boxed set's mistake, of providing far too few "bad guys" in a world of politically-correct Neutrals ;-) -- here's some friendly folks your characters wouldn't want to meet in a dark jungle....
Technology: New Stone Age (ground stone weapon-heads, wood carving, basket-weaving; simple silviculture and manwuk-herding)
Lifestyle: Classic "B-movie" cannibals, warlike and ultramisogynist
Population: About 20,000 in scattered villages of 80 or less
Mystaran Origin: Central Davanian mountains, c. 14,000 BC
Real-World Inspiration: Fore, Jale, and other New Guinea upland tribes*
(* - More as they're described by their neighbours -- whom they scare the spit out of! ;-D -- than by themselves.)
Situated along the northern flank of the inhospitable Jura Mountains -- a jagged, impenetrable maze of sheer, razor-slim rock ridges, dotted with steaming volcanic vents -- the brushlands and palm-forests of Matera's Ur-tribelands shouldn't exist at all, outside the subtropical Midlands ... let alone, 800' above the iced-over surface of arctic Sinus Roris! But between the elevation of the Ur-Carnifex's last worldly refuge (altitude, in the Hollow Moon, keeps regions AWAY from the crystalbarrens' chill), and the continual warm mists and intermittent rainfall which those numberless steam-vents spill down from the mountainsides, this verdant plateau is an island of wet, temperate springtime in a sea of dry, sub-zero desolation. Enclosed on its long southern face by the Juras, and ending in treacherous cliffs which overlook Sinus Roris to the north, the Ur-Carnifex homeland is virtually inaccessible from the world outside; only the rocky, crumbling cliff-face at the westernmost end of the plateau, or the Qaurikka-held glaciers of the frigid eastern slopes offer possible routes of entry ... or of escape, from the tribelands' carnivorous inhabitants.
Weather on the Ur-tribes' plateau ranges from cool and foggy to warm and drizzly, its humidity seldom dropping below 85%. Metal arms and armour, if unoiled or otherwise left unprotected from the omnipresent dampness, begin rusting after just 48 hours of exposure to the tribelands' sodden atmosphere. Visibility is reduced, both for normal sight and infravision, by 25% in the clammy upland fogs, and scents don't linger for long, thanks to the drenching rainshowers that strike every 4d8 hours. Storm Time monsoons are brief, windy, and violent, with palm trees and giant ferns lashing like whips in the gusts, and lightning dancing in sheets between the distant, looming Jura peaks.
Vegetation on the plateau is a mixture of dense, shoulder-high bracken and cycads, and stands of slim tropical trees and palms; the latter tend to cluster along the banks of this sodden land's hundreds of creeks and rivers. The central portion of the Ur-tribelands is sunken several yards below the plateau's rim, forming a shallow series of long, narrow lakes that teem with fish and crocodilians. The wildlife here seems almost as archaic as its carnosauroid natives: giant beetles and lizards, marsupials, stout flightless running-birds, and poisonous frogs are all typical of the region. Feral manwuks -- squat, alligator-like herbivores with upturned, piggy snouts; actually a type of aetosaur -- trundle about in the brushlands, grubbing for tubers, and laying eggs which the Ur-Carnifex gather to rear in semi-captivity. Flying foxes and long-tailed pterosaurs haunt the treetops, under which the Ur-tribes seek shelter during skybright ... for theirs is a race even more exclusively nocturnal than most lunar peoples.
Appearance and Dress:
Coarser and bulkier than their descendants, the infamous "Greater" Carnifex, the Ur-tribes of the Juras bear only the most superficial resemblance to modern lizard men. They are larger for one thing, standing a good 8 1/2 to 9 feet in height, with a total nose-to-tail length of 14' or more; whereas lizard folk walk fully upright, Ur-Carnifex share the ostrich-like gait typical of carnosaurs. Their necks and tails are long and slender, their muzzles narrow like a crocodile's. Observant PCs who've been to the Hollow World could notice their marked similarity to "bounders" -- agile, horse-sized dinosaurs occasionally used at steeds by Krugel orcs* -- to which they may in fact be related, although the Ur-tribesfolk are more narrow-hipped and svelte than those beasts. Ur-Carnifex hands bear four taloned digits, and their three-toed feet are likewise clawed. Serrated, blade-like teeth line the jaws of these exclusively (and gleefully!) carnivorous creatures, and heavy, protuberant ridges of dermal bone surround their large eyes from above and below, shielding their light-sensitive orbs from the wayward thrashings of live-caught prey. To (demi)humans, these lumpy brows and jowls give the Ur-Carnifex a perpetually-hungered expression, while to lizard folk or troglodytes, the carnosauroids' faces appear sinfully ugly, perhaps deformed.
(* - Given that there are no illustrations of Carnifex in M3: "Twilight Calling", and it's tough to visualise new races completely from scratch, I decided the HW boxed set's picture of a Krugel orc astride his bounder (p. 42 of the "Player's Guide", or p.17 of the "Adventure Book") would be a good image to start with, for Ur-Carnifex. Just start with that illustration; mentally remove the rider and the tack & harness; slim down the bounder's thighs and torso, so it's built for speed like a "Jurassic Park" velociraptor; replace its snake-like belly scales with a coarse, pebbly hide all over; and make that nasty expression on its face even nastier/hungrier. Then give that sucker some poisoned javelins, a nice grisly trophy-headdress, and some really WILD, venomous-looking day-glow tattoos all over its body, and your bloodthirsty Ur-tribesman is ready to party! :-D)
Coloration of scales once varied enormously from one Ur-tribe to the next, but generations of reproductive isolation on Matera, in the centuries before the SoR, blended away their differences. At birth, all modern Ur-Carnifex share a common, dark grey, matte scale pattern, slightly lighter on the underbelly. To compensate for this drab similarity, all Ur-Carnifex hatchlings are systematically scarred and tattooed by their elders, shortly after hatching, in patterns and colours which designate their tribal and family affiliation, gender, social status, and "value" in marriage or warfare. Each of the six Ur-tribes has its own unique motif of scale-markings -- typically, one which imitates the striking coloration of a venomous reptile or amphibian -- while ritual scarification, and the quality and brightness of dyes impressed into a youngster's scales, demonstrate rank and privilege within one's own tribe and village (luminous dyes are the most prized, and are reserved for "Big Leaders'" or spellcasters' offspring). Eye colour among the Ur-Carnifex is a uniform orange-red, with the huge, silted pupils of true night-hunters; in torchlight or stronger illumination, their retinas reflect a deeper, bloody red.
Clothing among the Ur-tribes is purely decorative: high-ranking warriors and chieftains wear shawls and kilts of fern-fronds or woven palm leaves, but males of lesser status go naked, as do females and young. Jewellery and headwear are considerably more common, with veteran warriors sporting complex headdresses of animal pelts, plumes from large game birds or jungle fowl, and the pulled teeth of slain enemies (other Ur-Carnifex, almost always), all mounted on wicker frameworks. Warriors who own livestock also boast manwuk-tusks, driven through the thick folds of skin beneath their slender chins, as a mark of wealth and of tenacity on the battlefield. When gathering tubers (manwuk-food) and palm-grubs in the bush, female Ur-Carnifex carry home their finds in simple string bags made of woven plant fibres. Necklaces, armbands, and anklets of bone beads, manwuk-claws, or bright feathers from colourful jungle fowl are worn and cherished by both sexes.
Male Ur-Carnifex develop large dewlaps of skin under their throats, as adults. This is the only difference between male and female Ur-tribesfolk which is readily distinguishable to non-reptiles, although troglodytes or lizard folk can tell them apart with ease. Hatchling Ur-Carnifex can walk within a few minutes of birth, but intelligence and skills take several years to develop, as they grow from an initial height of about 2'.
Thought to have been the first sentient race on Mystara*, the savage inhabitants of the Ur-Carnifex Tribelands are neither united as a people, nor known to the wider lunar world. Cut off from all contact with outsiders on their isolated plateau -- hemmed in by some of the most inhospitable terrain of the Nearside -- the Ur-tribes which once roamed throughout the entire hemisphere are viewed as little more than a crazed explorers' fable, by civilised Materans. Yet, to those lucky few who have returned alive from their domain, stumbling back across the Juras and weeping relief to set foot upon the chilling -- but reptile-free! :-D -- crystalline surface of Mare Imbrium, the Ur-Carnifex are all too real ... and all too hungry.
(* - The first sentient race on MY Mystara, anyway; that's how it is IMC, and it's what both the pteryx and Carnifex civilisations believed about the Ur-tribes. But by all means, make up others that pre-date even these guys, if you like. :-))
For the Ur-Carnifex are a race trapped by their own ecological niche. Descended from fast-moving pack carnosaurs of Mystara's Cretaceous period, they are exquisitely designed to hunt and kill live prey ... and biologically incapable of subsisting on anything, OTHER than flesh. Even the usual Materans' protein-source, giant insects, provide no more than a starvation diet to Ur-Carnifex, for their specialised digestive tracts cannot process arthropod tissue nearly as efficiently as they can, red meat. This dietary constraint, together with their cunning and their devastating pack-hunting tactics, has placed them at the pinnacle of the food chain in every habitat they've ever occupied; but it has also forced them to consider EVERY living vertebrate they encounter -- even their own species -- to be a potential food source, for their numbers grow so rapidly that they quickly outstrip the capacity of animal populations to support them. In the wilderness of the M-Cretaceous, where giant carnosaurs and other prehistoric perils took a heavy toll upon Ur-tribes' growth, such fecundity was a necessary hedge against an equally-high mortality rate. But when the Mystaran Ur-Carnifex were driven from their former hunting-grounds by their Greater Carnifex successors, the near-barren mountains in which they sought refuge offered too little game for them to escape malnutrition, even as it killed far too few to suppress their burgeoning numbers. Coming to Matera -- a realm in which their traditional prey (large herbivorous dinosaurs) are virtually unknown -- only worsened their circumstances; and their subsequent transfer to the Jura Plateau was the last straw, as it forced their six mutually-hostile tribes to live in extremely close proximity to one another.
The tribes' solution to this quandary is as coldly-logical as it is horrific. To the Ur-Carnifex, everything in their world -- wildlife, livestock, property, mates, offspring, allies, enemies, or outsiders -- can be rated in value, in no other terms than the number of "meals" it is worth ... whether by exchange, by labour, or by butchering. Family members and hunting companions are cherished according to the amount of meat they can be expected to procure, either by hunting or by rearing manwuks; leaders are respected in proportion to how well a band eats, while acting under their direction. Livestock, i.e. edible beasts like tame manwuks, is the greatest form of wealth in their society, such that the slaughter of these lumbering, meaty behemoths invariably marks some great celebration or ritual event. Tools, huts, jewellery and the like are prized, relative to how many meals' hunting-time was squandered to manufacture them. And triumphs over enemies -- the simplest things to rate, to be blunt -- are judged, not by how many of the foe are routed from the field, but by how much edible flesh the casualties' carcasses have to offer, for the victors.
They don't massacre each other constantly, of course. (That'd drive a race extinct, no matter HOW fact they bred!) Most of the time, during the less-darkened part of the lunar day/month, Ur-Carnifex live in the same manner as other Neolithic jungle-dwellers: males fish and hunt small game on their own, or team up to stalk the formidable bull-manwuks; females gather the giant beetle-grubs which infest the sago palm -- hey, even a starvation diet is better than nothing :-) -- or dig tubers for the tame, captive-hatched manwuks they'd incubated alongside their own eggs. In peacetime, their village life is dominated by extended coalitions of male blood relatives -- brothers, fathers, uncles and grandfathers -- each of which chooses its own spokesman in tribal affairs, and which are collectively responsible for the conduct and well-being of their members, mates and young. (Elder females fill this role, in the Ebelamga tribe.) These coalitions dictate whom their children may marry, when their members will enter into a feud, and under what terms they will accept reparations for an offence against them. Coalitions also make decisions on all matters concerned with the family's collective wealth, from how many manwuk-eggs should be hatched in captivity each year, to how high a bride-price will be asked for a pubescent daughter. Such decisions aren't made through formal votes, but by the male kin all talking over the question until a consensus is reached; in the event of an irreconcilable dispute, the coalition splits in two. Disagreements between coalitions are resolved by a wergild system, by which the offending party pays the other a number of "meals" (typically manwuk-meat) equal to the value of whatever, or whomever, the other party has lost. If neither coalition admits to culpability, short-lived but murderous feuds erupt, until such time as the dispute is sorted out ... usually, because the individuals who'd felt the most offended have been killed. These feuds only occur between coalitions in the same tribe, and usually the same village; homicide, manwuk-rustling, or adultery are the complaints that typically kick them off.
Between tribes, there are no feuds: there is only -- and always, although fulldark is the worst -- a state of total warfare. The six Ur-tribes are mutually hostile and suspicious -- HAVE been, for longer than most other Mystaran races have even existed -- such that even the traders of the Kasepauk tribe will admit other tribes' members to their primitive market-gatherings only singly, and under guard. This no-hold-barred warfare, from which non-combatants are not exempt, isn't fought directly over territory, so much as to keep rival tribes' numbers in check*. Because of their exclusive dependency on game (a resource that isn't nearly as abundant or localised as plant-based foods), individual Ur-Carnifex villages tend to be small, and dispersed widely over their tribe's favoured habitat. The different tribes' territories are not set apart, however; rather, each of the six occupies that type of terrain in which it has the advantage. (Thus, the river-tribe of Bejmats and the renegade Ebelamga females might be dispersed throughout the brushland Dubi's territory, respectively occupying the waterways and the rocky ridgetops which cross it.) So long as neighbours of other tribes stay strictly behind their boundary-lines -- marked out with stakes driven into the ground, and with colourful shields mounted on trees -- conflict is limited to formal engagements to which one tribe solemnly invites the other's warriors. But if an outsider from another tribe should be caught wandering into or (Immortals forbid!) killing game on a village's chosen hunting-ground, that outsider's own village will soon be raided, its most-vulnerable residents massacred, and its livestock and young females (or eggs and female hatchlings, for the Ebelamgas) stolen away. Retaliatory raids and formal military engagements both take place at fulldark, when Ur-Carnifex warriors' vision is unhampered and they can perform at their night-stalking best. Battles and raids are the only times when Ur-tribes seek out the leadership of individuals rather than coalitions; for these events, one "Big Leader" with a proven record of battle-prowess is elected by the coalitions' spokesmen, to make command decisions for the entire warband.
(* - The Ur-tribes' rationale is that if their rivals grow too numerous, they'll start hunting "their" game until there's nothing left for their own tribesfolk. The fact that these bloody conflicts also cull their OWN overpopulation, as well as providing a reliable supply of meat whenever the hunting grows thin, is a fringe benefit they conveniently overlook.)
Besides their familial coalitions and warbands' temporary "Big Leaders", Ur-Carnifex have a powerful loyalty to their own peer-groups, which is reinforced by painful ordeals of initiation, and by the adult males' cohabitation in a shared "males' lodge" until they take wives. Children of the same sex and age-group come to think of each other in much the same way as other races think of their siblings, and the experience of being tattooed and scarified at the same time as their age-mates ensures that this bond is stronger than any they might feel, with the adults -- their own parents included -- who hurt them by this procedure. Mobile almost from birth and with no need to nurse, the reptilian Ur-Carnifex young don't really depend on their parents for anything; it's their age-mates with whom they grow up, chasing rodents and multituberculates in the brush, and with whom they'll undergo every important event of their lives, from post-natal tattooing to betrothal to their first battle or egg-laying.
The Ur-Carnifex worship a large number of grim, bloody, individually-weak Immortals, most of whom have long been forgotten by the rest of the world*; one tribe, the Hsth'kek, worships darker beings -- or Beings, rather ;-D -- than these. The Ur-tribes are also superstitious, and believe in a variety of powerful spirits-beings whose anger or satiation influence their lands and lives: spirits of growth and of rot, of water and of war, of smoke (associated with prophecy) and of blood (associated with good hunting). They also fear one terrible phantasm from their most dire legends, the "winged demons"** that assailed their ancestors for generations before (so they've been taught) a protective chant was devised by their shamans. Ironically, the ONE Immortal whom Mystaran PCs might already be familiar with, who's the least bit interested in the Ur-Carnifex, is crazy ol' Demogorgon ... and the Ur-tribes don't worship HER, because she's been trying to kill them off for about seven thousand years, now!
(* - In other words, I'm not going to bother making them up individually. There's so many weird beliefs in New Guinea -- birthplace of "Cargo Cults" and the last region on Earth to make contact with the white man -- I wouldn't have a clue which gods/spirits to start with ... and most of these archaic, crude, overly-macho Immortals have been banned from Pandius, for their chronic unruliness, anyway! ;-))
(** - This, of course, is actually a distorted racial memory of the HM pteryx's long-ago attempts to exterminate them. While the mere sight of a pteryx (or a passable illusion of one) won't reduce an Ur-Carnifex warrior to a curled-up, quivering ball of petrified terror, this memory is powerful enough that the carnosauroids must check Morale upon confronting such a thing. DON'T give away this weakness lightly, folks: it's one that the PCs should have to stumble upon by sheer luck ... preferably after you've convinced the players that there's no hope of escape from their ravenous Ur-Carnifex pursuers. ;-))
Here are the names, distinguishing habits, and tattoo-patterns of the six great Ur-tribes. Note that individual villages, within these tribes, also have their own distinctive scar-patterns to display their inhabitants' status and origin. I'm not going to specify their General Skills, like the HW boxed set does for the Neathar tribes, because those should be obvious from the Ur-tribes' lifestyles.
Notes: The Bejmat are a medium-sized tribe of fishers and wood-carvers, whose tools, hand weapons, and massive dugout canoes are always ornately carved with stylised images of game animals, flowing rivers, archery battles or carnosauroid skulls. They boast an extraordinary number of spellcasters among them -- nearly every tribe member with the necessary Int or Wis is encouraged to develop such skills -- and their coalitions' spokesmen and "Big Leaders" are always wokani. They are followers of a skull cult, collecting the skulls of their enemies as gri-gris, trophies, and household decorations. Bejmats are also accomplished musicians, and are seldom encountered without drums, flutes, or other carven instruments of wood or bone (these are used for long-distance communication between Bejmat villages). Other tribes believe the Bejmats are devious witches, and are superstitiously wary of them; the tribe is also reputed to be cowardly, as its warriors seldom agree to a formal engagement unless it takes place between flotillas of canoes on the water, where these expert boatmen have the advantage. In actual fact, Bejmats aren't cowards at all ... indeed, they have a Morale of 12 in pitched battle, so long as they can hear their non-fighting tribesmates playing war-drums in the background. There is a 15% chance per experience level that any given Bejmat possesses a magic amulet (see Shamans and Wokani).
Terrain: Rivers, riverbanks and the surrounding forest-strips; live in palm-thatched wooden huts, mounted atop poles in the middle of the river for defence, and keep their manwuk-herds corralled on sandbars when they're not on hand to watch for rustlers.
Numbers: ~ 3,500
Tattoo Pattern: Muddy green and brown mottling, with gleaming white dots that highlight limbs, spine and breastbone (as in the Aryptian Many-Dotted Fire-Newt, a semi-aquatic salamander which secretes an inflaming contact-poison from its skin)
Notes: Outnumbering any other tribe by at least two to one, the Dubi are also the least cohesive of the six ... so much so, that their feuds occasionally erupt into full-scale wars with formal military confrontations, something unthinkable in any of the other tribes. Living in the fern-and-sago brushlands which make up most of the Ur-Carnifex domain, Dubi are simple hunters who prefer to live off the land; they trouble to keep only enough manwuks to provide for a few feasts each year, or to pay off another coalition in the event of a feud. (Indeed, feuds that escalate into wars usually do so, because the offenders can't afford to pay wergild on their offence!) Even when they have no grounds for a disagreement, the Dubi sometimes contend with one another in another manner: they love sport and competition, and neighbouring Dubi villages often challenge each other to contests of archery, running, big game hunting, wrestling, and other physical tests, some of them quite brutal. Despite their fractiousness, the Dubi still consider themselves a single tribe. If faced with a common threat, they can amass a horde of sharpshooting hunters that's more than a match for any two other tribes put together. Other Ur-Carnifex think of individual Dubi as ignorant, half-feral yahoos -- not to mention bone-lazy, since they don't keep enough manwuks! -- but when the whole tribe gets riled, the other five step very lightly round this "sleeping giant" of the bush. :-)
Terrain: Flat brushlands of sago palm, bracken and cycads; build lodges for males and for ceremonies on the ground, but live in defensible stilt-houses* of wood and thatch that rise dozens of yards into the air Numbers: 8000+
Tattoo Pattern: Blue and red bands on whole body and limbs, except for belly which is bright yellow (as in the deadly Palm Adder of Pelatan, notorious for dropping onto the heads of bush-travellers from the treetops)
(* - They steal the long tree-trunks for these support-poles from Bejmat or Hsth'kek territory, which cheeses both those tribes off royally. ;-))
Notes: Considered the most "unnatural" by the other, male-dominated tribes, the Ebelamgas are an all-female tribe* which split off from the Dubi shortly before the Greater Carnifex drove their less-adaptable ancestors to extinction. Dismayed by their mates' complete failure to protect them from the Greater Carnifex's attacks -- which, after all, was how the male Ur-Carnifex justified their oppressive treatment of their mates, as "protecting them" -- the first of the Ebelamgas deserted their husbands' villages en masse, attracting more and more like-thinking females as they fled from the vengeful Dubi. Ever since, the Ebelamgas have maintained their population by stealing newborn infants or eggs from other tribes, and raising the female hatchlings as their own daughters (any males which hatch become "baby food" for their sisters ;-D). Thanks to this remarkable practice, the Ebelamga tribe has skirted the problem of perpetually out-breeding their habitat -- if they've got too many mouths to feed, they just quit kidnapping eggs for a while -- but it's also earned them the absolute hatred of other tribes' females, as well as males! Lucky for them, the steep, rocky terrain which the Ebelamgas favour is perfectly suited for fighting defensive battles; no hostile tribe has ever succeeded in penetrating more than a few hundred feet up the slopes of their upland eyries (the fact these females are experts at triggering landslides on invaders doesn't hurt, either!). Other tribes consider the Ebelamgas to be spiteful, baby-stealing harridans at best, and an abomination against the "natural order", at worst. They and the other tribes raid one another, but the Ebelamgas never participate in formal battles: the other tribes wouldn't lower themselves to invite a bunch of females to fight them; and the Ebelamgas -- who only care about snatching eggs, not about winning wars -- have nothing to gain from asking anyone else.
Terrain: Cliffs and jagged foothills of the Juras, where they abut on the plateau, and other free-standing rock ridges; Ebelamgas have no permanent residences, but camp out on ledges or mountain meadows for a few nights, then move on
Numbers: ~ 1,500 (which is a LOT of stolen eggs!)
Tattoo Pattern: Black-and-green marbled pattern on entire body, snout black with green streaks on forehead (as in the Gila Fiend of Addakia, a venomous and parthenogenetic lizard); some Ebelamgas stolen in infancy retain faint traces of their original tribe's tattoos, beneath these overlaying markings
(* - While naturally there's no all-female tribe in IRL New Guinea, the Ebelamgas were inspired by a real-life anecdote I dug up in the library, from an anthropologist's memoir about the Dani tribe. As the last stage of this tribe's male initiation rite, the men and new initiates were required to run a gauntlet of rock-throwing women, the better to demonstrate the initiates' new-found machismo. Nobody was SUPPOSED to get hit, though; it was more a test of the boys' nerve, than anything. However, when the actual rock-throwing began, it seems these long-downtrodden women decided to take the opportunity for a little payback (!) ... because by the time those poor fellows made it past them, half of the grown men's bare legs had been bloodied, and most were bug-eyed with amazement that "mere" women could be lashing out so ferociously! Maybe that's the ONLY chance which IRL Dani women -- born into one of the most chauvinistic societies in the world -- ever get, to play Amazon, but after reading about it, I figured their moment of rebellion deserved at least this much commemoration. ;-D)
Notes: Smallest and most despised of the Ur-tribes, the Hsth'kek are reviled for their treachery and skulking cowardice, as much as for their worship of the alien Outer Beings -- those selfsame malignant, otherworldly entities which their Greater Carnifex conquerors once revered -- and the grotesque physical deformities with which their dreaded shamans are afflicted. Dwellers in the deepest forests, Hsth'kek are masters of decoys and snare-setting, who ward their trackless jungle domains against intrusion with deadfalls, stake-lined pits, spiked spring-branches, and other booby traps. Never numerous, yet able to melt into the forest like ghosts, Hsth'keks rely upon hit-and-run tactics and ambushes where other Ur-Carnifex favour pitched battles, and upon the weird but potent (some say cursed) magical idols and gri-gris which their shamans have passed down from generation to generation. Unique among the Ur-tribes in their practice of sapient sacrifice -- other tribes kill (and eat) trespassers on sight, but the Hsth'kek haul prisoners back to their camps for grisly ritual execution -- these are the one group of Ur-Carnifex who can genuinely be considered "sick" and sadistic, as opposed to the other tribes' ruthless pragmatism and vengefulness. It may be a blessing, that the Hsth'kek have an extremely high incidence of non-viable eggs and lethal birth defects -- Ebelamgas won't touch Hsth'kek eggs, for anything! -- or it may be only a symptom of the spiritual rot which constantly eats away at this tribe's vigour and sanity, fostered by their malformed shamans and embodied in the aberrant, unnatural statuettes to which they prostrate themselves.
Terrain: Deepest patches of tangled, impenetrable forest, usually along streamsides too narrow or fast-flowing for the Bejmats; villages are mere camps, with only fire pits, crude manwuk-corrals, and a single "male's lodge" erected from palm fronds, but shamans reside in elaborate thatched huts in which shrines for idols are adorned with tribe-members' shed skin-scraps and past sacrifices' split-open bones
Numbers: ~ 500
Tattoo Pattern: Reticulated yellow, olive, and deep brown markings on body, with highlights of bright orange on facial ridges and of violet on forearms and lower legs (as in the infamous "ripe-making-snake" of Emerond, a python-sized serpent whose supernatural gaze induces mummy rot in its victims)
Kasepauk Notes: The only Ur-tribe which isn't constantly on the brink of starvation, the Kasepauk are lake-dwelling fisherfolk of the central plateau. Blessed by the bounty of their lakes (which, though not limitless in their abundance, do produce a more stable supply of fish, crocodilians, turtles, and other prey than the other five tribes' favoured lands), Kasepauks grow both healthier and larger than others of their species, with heights of 10' or more being quite common among this important tribe. Between their physical size*, their central location, and their relatively unified society -- Kasepauk "Big Leaders", once victorious in battle, retain their positions for life and become de facto chieftains of their villages, in the event that the male-kin coalitions don't team up to overrule them -- this tribe possesses an authority beyond what its numbers might dictate. Indeed, they are the only Ur-Carnifex to engage in anything approaching the commerce of the outside world, holding monthly markets along the lakeshores outside their villages, where fellow Kasepauk, lone Dubi hunters, or even solitary members of other tribes can barter for goods, potential brides, and lake-gathered foodstuffs. The huge, melee-loving Kasepauk are feared and respected in pitched battle, although their archery is not as polished as that of the Dubi or Waknavesu. Other tribes know the Kasepauks' lakes are vastly superior to their own terrain, and envy them their good fortune, yet those who challenge the "giant" lake-warriors for territory generally don't live to regret it. The Kasepauk are the only tribe to have invented body armour, though this is limited to crude breastplates of turtle shells worn in imitation of the actual animal.
Terrain: Central freshwater lakes of the plateau, usually only 4-6' deep, plus the surrounding lakeshores; Kasepauk villages lie inside crude palisades of palm-trunks, and consist of one communal lodge for each male-kin coalition, plus a larger "males' lodge" and individual huts for Big Leaders (if any) and one aged female soothsayer/seer
Tattoo Pattern: Blotchy, symmetrical patterns of a single bright colour -- red, sky blue, lime, purple, or yellow -- over black scales rendered shiny with oils and polishing (as in various local strains of Brasolian Poison-Javelin Frog, a neurotoxic giant frog found near lakes)
(* -- Hit points for Kasepauk NPCs should always be at least 3 per HD; you can roll d6 +2 for each die, instead of a d8, to illustrate the Kasepauks' greater health and physical bulk.)
Notes: Considerably more "civilised" than the other Ur-tribes, the Waknavesu are a drab, stoic, work-oriented culture with a deep distrust of ornamentation or frivolousness. Their villages are the only works of true carpentry among Ur-Carnifex, yet their dearth of any adornments or carvings makes most Waknavesu construction seem crude and unfinished. Manwuk-rearing farmers of sago, tubers, and flightless jungle fowl, Waknavesu tribesfolk claim the plateau's dry hilltops where the loose soil can be dug with sticks, and palm-grubs and rich livestock-fodder, harvested through long hours of hard, back-breaking labour ... labour which, though it (barely) allows the Waknavesu to eke out a subsistence-living, also leaves them wearied and rather dull. Communities in this Ur-tribe tend to be larger than in any other, such that the average Waknavesu village boasts two or three hundred carnosauroids; of these, only the eldest of the residents are allowed to speak for their male coalitions, and this custom of representation by the elderly makes this tribe -- already conformist and unimaginative -- conservative in the extreme. Frequently targeted for raiding, thanks to their exceptionally large manwuk-herds, Waknavesu villages tend to be armed camps, even during the peaceful period of skybright: their defensive use of formation-fighting and coordinated arrow-fire -- tactics which the other tribes, eager for individual acclaim and heroics, find both insurmountable and baffling -- is the one true barrier between themselves and eventual decimation by their less-organised, but numerous and rapacious neighbours. For what it's worth, Waknavesu consider their own tribe to be the most sophisticated civilisation that's ever existed, and all other Ur-Carnifex to be barbarians. (The "barbarians", conversely, think the Waknavesu are full of it. ;-D) Oddly, the Waknavesu have no wokani among them, only shamans.
Terrain: Hills and other dry elevations with loose, arable soil (rocky hills are Ebelamga territory), much of it divided into regular plots and seeded with sago or tuber-plants; enclosed in stockades with real gates, and sturdily constructed using wooden pegs, Waknavesu villages consist of slat-board huts and lean-tos for families, corrals and pens of A-frame fencing for livestock, and immense split-board lodges for unwed males, all built of bare, unadorned wood and devoid of carvings or any other trace of personal expression
Tattoo Pattern: Head-to-tail stripes of bright red and yellow-green, sharply clashing in white light, with an overlay-pattern of little black flecks (as in the Izondian Spitting Asp, a dust-burrowing serpent often found nesting in groups)
Ur-Carnifex names tend to be guttural, with lots of hard consonants and alliterative vowel-sounds. Male personal names have either three or four syllables, each syllable being short and sharp with an initial consonant, and most (but not all) ending in a vowel: Hutorno, Gigihute, Lotukwa, Gapirijha, Kamahet, and Punehuwe are some examples. To "feminise" a name, add any one vowel to its beginning.
Roles and Genders:
Of all the races Mystara has harboured, none has ever been more extreme, in the mutual hostility between its males and females, than the Ur-Carnifex. In five of the six Ur-tribes, males rule the villages, fight the battles, make all decisions, sell off their female relations like chattel to the highest-bidding suitor, and teach their sons to scorn females' company as much as possible. In the sole exception to the rule, the Ebelamga tribe, it's women who rule ... yet they go even farther, in their own sexism and resentment, to the point of dispensing with the other gender's presence altogether! The fact that there's actually no quantifiable difference, whatsoever, between the male and female Ur-Carnifex -- they're identical in size and strength, and virtually identical as to external anatomy -- only makes their total inability to see each other as equals all the more ironic.
Ur-Carnifex males may marry more than one wife, and -- in theory -- they are expected to provide food for their wives once they have borne offspring; until then, the wife's male relations still have a duty to provide for her. In practice, the wives end up supporting their husband, with their grub-collecting and manwuk-tending, during times of poor hunting. Females gather in the immediate vicinity of their home villages, but are discouraged from venturing far, with stories of hostile other tribes' depredations and the abduction of stray foragers. Indeed, keeping one's wives terrified of the outside world is viewed as a proper means of disciplining them, and of ensuring they won't run away and return to their home villages, from which they were originally brought/purchased. Often, males concoct "ghost stories" of malign spirits to better-intimidate their mates, sometimes enlisting the help of noise-making accomplices or shamans' or wokani's spells, to create the impression that the surrounding wilderness is haunted. Because of this campaign of deception and terror, female Ur-Carnifex never become warriors unless they're Ebelamgas.
Living in a "male lodge", and associating closely only with one's same-sex age-mates, helps reinforce the Ur-Carnifex males' scorn for the females of their kind. But while male Ur-Carnifex profess contempt for "female ways", they also fear the females' one great, mysterious ability: the power to lay eggs. To the Ur-tribes' males, this is a frightening and perplexing "female magic" they don't understand ... and envy. In fact, a common Ritual of Passage for male Ur-Carnifex spellcasters (see Gaz10) is to swallow egg-shaped stones, and let these pass through the body in mimicry of females' egg-laying "power", the better to capture this strange "female" magic for themselves. Because of this cultural connection between femaleness and magic, the few female Ur-Carnifex who take up spellcasting -- usually only the daughters or wives of a shaman or wokan get a chance, though the Bejmats train up all the spellcasters they can get -- can not only attain high levels in their spell-casting class, but their skills are much-feared and even respected by all males of their kind ... even male spellcasters of a higher experience level!
Less common, but equally tied into magic, is the role of soothsayer -- a prophet who communes with the "Smoke Mother", a spirit of divination -- which is also reserved for females. Only the eldest female in a community may serve as soothsayer, and her predictions, though consulted only rarely, are universally accepted as true. It's not a requirement that every village have a soothsayer, but those which do tend to have a high status and to avoid disasters in war more often than those who lack them, so most Ur-Carnifex believe that old females are favoured with visions by Smoke Mother and should be treated with respect -- the first respect most have received in their lives, from males! -- for that reason. The Kasepauk are especially fond of consulting soothsayers for predictions on how they'll fare in battle, and never go without one old, bent, faded-tattoo prophetess in their villages.
Most Ur-Carnifex speak only their own racial language -- simply called Ur -- and no other. It is a coarse, unsophisticated language which lacks words for abstract concepts or social niceties: for example, there is no word "please" in the Ur language. DMs should keep this lack of verbal graciousness in mind, when portraying Ur-Carnifex in encounters, as they're likely to phrase requests in the form of orders and otherwise sound pushy and uncompromising ... even if they don't mean to.
The Hsth'kek also speak a degenerate version of the Greater Carnifex tongue. Left over from the centuries after the other reptilians' arrival in the Hollow Moon (but before the pteryx turned against them), and preserved by the Spell of Remembrance ever since, a few Kasepauk retain a smattering of the spoken Troglodyte language.
Allies and Enemies:
Because of their isolation, the Ur-tribes have no allies. Outsiders seldom threaten them, save for an occasional band of Quarikka daredevils who clamber up the glaciers to the cliffside, hoping to bring home a palm-frond or other proof they'd visited the perilous plateau. Their traditional enemies are other Ur-Carnifex tribes, not outsiders.
That's no protection from their attacks, however. While the Ur-tribes might not regard outsiders as invaders, the way they'd see rival carnosauroids, they DO see them as -- Oh, joy! -- protein for the taking. There've been enough intrusions by Quarikka and stray explorers of other races, over the centuries, for the Ur-Carnifex to have learned what their Greater Carnifex descendants know: namely, that humans and their ilk (meaning darn near anyone without scales) are vulnerable, stalkable ... and edible. From the moment outsiders set foot on the plateau -- targets as tasty as manwuk-meat and nearly as hefty as a fellow Ur-Carnifex, yet with no territory to retreat to and no tribesfolk to avenge their deaths! -- and start spreading their scent around, it's only a matter of time before the local villages learn of this potential quarry, and start closing in for the kill: stalking and ambushing their "prey"; shooting to cripple with their terrible splinter-arrows; then systematically harrying the wounded to their deaths, with relays of javelin-hurling runners. Furthermore, defeating one wave of hunters won't stop this pursuit, because word will quickly get around to other tribes and communities nearby. Constant movement cross-country is probably the best strategy a party of outsiders can resort to, in hopes they'll slip from one tribe's territory to the next, before its occupants get in on the chase. Unfortunately, there's so few Materans who've been to the Ur-Carnifex Tribelands, and gotten back alive, that PCs probably won't hear about this obscure corner of the Hollow Moon, until they actually arrive and start blundering around in the bush. :-D
Historically, the pteryx made several attempts to annihilate the Ur-Carnifex race, in the mistaken belief that the Ur-tribes were "dangerous animals" that should be exterminated for the pteryx's own safety. The pterosauroids ended these efforts thousands of years ago, but the SoR has kept a memory of the terrible "Winged Demons" alive, in Ur-Carnifex minds and fears. No pteryx has ever crossed the frigid wastes of Mare Imbrium to the Juras and beyond, but if one ever did, it'd be taken for the Ur-tribal equivalent of a nightmarish fiend from perdition! On a lighter note, the Kasepauk once traded with troglodytes, back before the Winged Demons' attacks. Although trogs would not be welcome in the tribelands themselves -- they look similar enough to Ur-Carnifex, that they'd automatically be taken for competitors -- it's possible that a meeting between these two reptilian races, on neutral ground, could start up such trade-relations again.
History on Mystara
The Ur-Carnifex race first arose from struthiomimid stock on the continent of Davania, at least as far back as 20,000 BC. To the best of the knowledge of Pandius' Immortals, the Ur-tribes' intelligence evolved naturally: certainly, none of the inscrutable, elder powers who reigned when Mystara was devoid of sentient life seems to have been responsible; and Ka -- though certainly interested in this new breed of sentients, who shared his own, dinosaurian heritage -- denies his involvement in the Ur-tribes' creation.
For the first few thousand years of their existence, the Davanian Ur-tribes lived much as the Dubi do today -- hunting, foraging, competing in athletics, squabbling with other bands, and generally taking it easy. With slow-moving sauropods and ceratopsians to prey upon, and no competitors but non-sentient carnosaurs to deal with, the early Ur-Carnifex were relatively benign: if females held little status in their society, males paid for their influential roles by dying young in perilous dinosaur-hunts; and if cannibalism was a part of their customs, it was practised upon loved ones as a funeral rite -- a means of bonding the deceased's spirit with that of the tribe -- rather than on enemies killed for meat. They were far from being "noble savages" -- sporadic warfare regularly broke out between neighbouring tribes, tropical diseases and mishaps took a heavy toll upon oft-neglected hatchlings, and their wokani employed fearsome curses and dark magics to intimidate their superstitious kin -- but they weren't nearly the implacable, ravening killers of the present era. Indeed, the first relationship Ur-Carnifex had with other sentients was friendly: the fisherfolk-ancestors of the modern Kasepauk tribe, sharing their lakes' abundance with the emerging race of pteryx, originally began engaging in trade by bartering with the mute flyers.
It wasn't until they lost their position of supremacy, as the sole sentient hunters of Davania's wilderness, that the Ur-tribes' descent into viciousness really began. While the pteryx soon lost interest in the Ur-tribes, and left the backward groundlings to their own affairs, the "Greater" Carnifex who appeared in 15,000 BC wouldn't let their barbaric predecessors stand in the way of their own rapid (some say suspiciously-so) progress and expansion. First as rival tribes who coveted the Ur-tribesfolks' territory, then as domineering conquerors whose superior weaponry cut down all opposition, and finally as magical powerhouses eager for slaves and sacrifices, the Greater Carnifexes' lighting-swift ascent to civilisation caught both the Ur-tribes and their Immortal patrons off-guard. Within a few generations, they'd been pushed from their favoured lands and into the central Brasol mountains; within a few more, the forty-some original tribes had been reduced to just four, by slave-raids and by the subversion of weak-willed tribal elders to serve their new masters. Of the remainder, some turned to magic (Bejmats) or prophecy (Kasepauk), others to the aping of organised Greater Carnifex society (Waknavesu), to try and stave off their own inevitable extinction. Those bands who'd "turned traitor" and become willing allies of the Greater Carnifex (Hsth'kek) were spared from outright persecution; yet they gained little from such attempts to placate their mental superiors, for their adoption of their conquerors' Outer-worldly religion brought with it a curious and unearthly taint upon their bloodline -- one that threatened either to wipe out their descendants with widespread infertility, or to transform the Hsth'kek into something ... different ... over the course of generations.
By 14,000 BC, the wholesale extinction of the Ur-Carnifex seemed unavoidable: desperate tribes cornered in the mountains were turning upon each other, for lack of better prey; a large slave-population was no longer needed, by the magic-savvy Greater Carnifex, so was being "culled" down to nothing by a sacrifice-hungry priesthood; embittered by her male relatives' powerless inaction, in the face of their ongoing extermination, a radical soothsayer's daughter named Ebelamga broke with tradition and incited a widespread rebellion by dissatisfied females. Not wishing to let the Ur-Carnifex culture (or rather, the decimated fragments which were left of it) die out entirely, Ka the Preserver transported the declining remnants of the four "free" Ur-tribes -- Bejmat, Dubi, Kasepauk and Waknavesu -- plus the nascent Ebelamgas and (reluctantly*) a handful of Hsth'kek, to the Hollow Moon, where their Greater Carnifex foes would never find them.
(* - Just WHY he'd taken the Hsth'kek -- a culturally-suborned tribe which all the other Ur-tribes had ample reason to hate, and which didn't even (gasp!) worship the Immortals, anymore -- is something which Seshay-Selene and the other HM patrons have asked Ka, on several occasions. He's always evaded the question ... but Korotiku swears up and down that Ka looked guilty for a second, when he asked the dinosaur-Immortal about the Hsth'kek.)
History on Matera
Finding themselves snatched from the jaws of extinction and deposited in a world of untouched wilderness -- and better yet, one with no sun, to glare its hateful rays down upon them half the day! -- the Ur-tribes welcomed their reprieve with celebrations, prayers ... and recriminations. Forgetting that every tribe had, to some extent, turned upon the others or betrayed the "old ways" in a desperate attempt to survive, each of the six lunar Ur-tribes began blaming the other five for their previous misfortunes: of collusion with "the enemy", of attacking when they were distracted by Greater Carnifex raids, or of a wilful failure to support them in battle against their mutual foes. The Bejmats, Kasepauk, and Waknavesu each accused the others of abandoning the "original" Ur-Carnifex culture. (Ironically, having long forgotten the truth, they also branded the Dubi as wayward ... even though the Dubi had changed less than any other tribe! ;-D) The Ebelamgas and Hsth'kek were despised on sight, without so much as an argument: the former, for their "unnatural" female-dominated ways and subsequent baby-snatching; the latter, for having aided the Greater Carnifex and turned away from the Ur-tribal Immortals, as well as their bizarre magical rites*. Even with the whole of the Nearside to roam upon, in the absence of other HM sentients, the Ur-Carnifex still found excuses to war upon each other, from habit as much as from their new habitat's scarcity of big game. Fortunately for the smaller tribes, the varied terrain and sheer vastness of the Hollow Moon gave them plenty of places to flee to, whenever these battles went against them.
(* - Unbeknownst to the contemporary Ur-tribes, many old Hsth'kek religious sites, lost idols, and pieces of ritual paraphernalia still exist, in the regions where that tribe once roamed ... the SAME regions which are now home to other, more-modern HM races! Most have been buried by volcanism or landslides, in the many thousands of years since the Hsth'kek were moved to the plateau; but every once in a while, some overly-curious antiquarian or careless adventurer stumbles upon such a find, only to suffer a terrible fate for meddling in "things better left alone". (Happy now, Geoff...? See, I DID put some Lovecraftian elements in the HM, after all! ;-D))
No such refuge was available to them, unfortunately, when the pteryx began attacking. (The pterosauroids had arrived in the HM setting fifteen centuries after the Ur-Carnifex -- Mystara's two "firstborn" races almost seemed fated to co-exist, no matter which world they occupied -- but had ignored the primitives much as they had for millennia.) Being totally unaware that there was a major pteryx civilisation in the far-off Apennines, and having already forgotten their own origins on Mystara, the Ur-Carnifex had previously believed the "giant skinwings" which soared overhead to be harmless, unintelligent creatures. Indeed, the only "outsiders" they'd met in the Hollow Moon, before that point, were the troglodytes who occasionally crossed the Vesper Ocean in search of gems, exotic natural substances, and such precious metals as resplendite. The fact that the trogs were bartering these commodities to the pteryx went unsuspected by the Ur-tribes.
The Ur-tribes learned the pteryx were FAR more than just big skinwings in 6000 BC, when a band of innocent Dubi hunters brought down a small flock of juveniles with splinter-arrows ... and provoked a campaign of extermination against their entire species, which the deranged pteryx Demogorgon had been bidden to incite by the Immortal Thanatos. Hateful of all things Carnifexian -- unaware the Immortality her treacherous deeds earned would come too late, for her to avenge herself upon them -- the would-be Entropic lured the pterosauroid fledglings into danger, knowing the pteryx would retaliate for their deaths as if they were destroying rabid beasts, not committing genocide. The resulting Saurolunarian Conflict was waged less like a war, than like a colossal and efficient pest-control operation: heedless of military protocols, unafraid that "dumb beasts" would ever challenge or outsmart them, and oblivious to their own atrocities, the grimly-methodical pteryx wiped out whole villages of hapless Ur-Carnifex -- males, females, and eggs -- with a casual dispassion, and systematically herded those who'd fled the onslaught into "killing zones" where they could be "put down" humanely and en masse.
Aghast at the bloodshed, ever-present HM-monitor Seshay-Selene tried to shield the Ur-Carnifex from repeated pteryx assaults, and pleaded with her fellow HM Immortals to take steps against Demogorgon for having provoked this mess. Unfortunately, Ordana's attentions were wholly caught up in the progress of her newly-"weaned" race of elves, and Ka became even more reticent on the Ur-Carnifex than he had previously been: as Korotiku didn't much care about the dim-witted carnosauroids' predicament, the humpback's motion that the four HM patrons gang up on the now-Immortal Demogorgon failed to carry. Left with only her own resources -- most of which were already channelled into the HM's maintenance -- to draw upon, the Immortal whale couldn't entirely stop the sneaky pteryx Temporal from slipping past her defences; again and again, she had to settle for moving the Ur-tribes from one temporary refuge to another. Finally, while the other HM patrons were busy with saving the Hollow World from the Burrowers, a fed-up Seshay-Selene boosted the volcanism of the Jura Mountains so the underlying plateau would become temperate, and dropped the Ur-Carnifex off there, safely out of the reach of Demogorgon's pawns.
Not out of reach of each other, though! Perhaps the humpback-Immortal should have waited to ask Ka's opinion, before acting; as a carnosaur himself, he might have warned her about the consequences of forcing a carnivorous race -- a habitually cannibalistic one, at that -- into such confined and prey-sparse quarters. Although the Ur-tribes rapidly recovered their numbers to a pre-extermination density, the population's increase set the stage for a new, darker form of intertribal warfare: warfare in which no prisoners were taken and no quarter was given, for fallen enemies and massacred non-combatants, alike, became food for the victors. Had the HM Immortals noticed this grisly development sooner, they might have hesitated to lay the Spell of Remembrance, until they could somehow stop the practice, or at least make it less common; instead, the SoR ensured that the twin customs of warfare and cannibalism -- already cornerstones of the Ur-tribes' lifestyle (!), after only a few decades on the plateau -- couldn't be forgotten*. Even the addition of manwuks to their habitat -- a belated attempt at reparation by a chagrined Seshay-Selene, who'd not stopped to think how not EVERYONE can subsist on krill-sized prey! ;-) -- didn't ease the pressure on the overcrowded and famished tribes, very much.
(* - If the Ur-tribes had a written language, they'd be able to set aside these practices, and only preserve "the old ways" in history books; the SoR isn't the SoP, after all! But they don't, so an oral tradition that they are warriors who devour their kills keeps on being transmitted "first-hand" from one generation to the next.)
After their relocation to the Tribelands, there really isn't a lot more to Ur-Carnifex history. In 515 AC, the Qaurikkas discovered the Ur-Carnifex's plateau ... which means the Ur-Carnifex discovered both the existence of (demi)humans, and the fact that they make tasty snacks. A (very) few explorers from other HM countries have managed to escape the Ur-tribes, and report on their existence, in the last few centuries; unfortunately, as everyone knows there's no WAY there could be a wet, warm jungle between iced-over Sinus Roris and the dry, frigid crystalbarrens, everybody thinks they're wacko. :-)
New Character Race: Ur-Carnifex*
(* - These are for the OD&D rules. If you want to use Ur-Carnifex characters in the AD&D game, you'll have to work their stats out for yourself (the CBHmnd should help); the OD&D version is all I had time to write up.)
While I doubt if many players will be thrilled at the prospect of an Ur-Carnifex PC -- adventuring with someone whose first instinctive impulse is to eat the other members of the party is bound to be a bit nerve-wracking! ;-) -- they're still worth describing here, if only for the purpose of making up NPCs for Ur-tribes. In the unlikely event that an Ur-Carnifex teamed up with outsiders, he or she would probably be the last survivor of a village devastated in the plateau's perpetual intertribal wars -- desperate for companionship and a new set of "age-mates" -- who keeps his or her appetite for (demi)humans a secret and tries hard to think of his or her travelling companions as "Ur-Carnifex in mammals' clothing", not prey. :-D
Racial Ability Modifiers
Ur-Carnifex are both hardy and strong; they receive a +1 bonus to Constitution and a +1 to Strength. They aren't what you'd call "level-headed" (-1 to Wisdom), or "charming" (-1 to Charisma). Adjust any scores of 19 to 18, and any scores of 2, to 3. If you use the "humanoid PC" rules from Gaz10, Ur-Carnifex can be treated as trolls, so far as Charisma is concerned: they admire brutishness and crass displays of machismo in the same way Broken Lands orcs do, so their Charisma to other races can be calculated as one-third of their Charisma to fellow Ur-Carnifex, subtracted from 8.
The Ur-Carnifex are smarter than humanoids, but not quite on par with (demi)humans. They cannot have Intelligence scores of 18. If you roll an 18 for an Ur-Carnifex character's Intelligence, reduce it to 17.
Ur-Carnifex save as fighters with the same number of levels as their HD.
Ur-Carnifex, thanks to their greater-than-human size, start out with more than one HD. They thus begin play with "negative" hp, and must work their way up to "Normal Monster" status, according to the following table:
Level .............. Experience ........ HD
Hatchling .......... -4,800 ............ 2d8+1
Initiate ........... -2,400 ............ 3d8+1
Normal Monster ..... 0 ................. 4d8+1
1st ................ 4,800 ............. 5d8+2
2nd ................ 14,200 ............ 6d8+2
3rd ................ 33,200 ............ ---
4th ................ 71,200 ............ 7d8+2
5th ................ 145,200 ........... 8d8+2
6th ................ 295,200 ........... 9d8+3
7th ................ 595,200 ........... ---
8th ................ 895,200 ........... 10d8+3
9th ................ 1,195,200 ......... +2 hp
At 9th and higher levels, an Ur-Carnifex gains 2 hp per level, with no hp modifiers for Constitution. To attain the 10th and higher levels requires 300,000 XP.
The ceiling for Ur-Carnifex characters is 24th level (yikes!).
Gaining New General Skill Slots
Beyond 24th level, Ur-Carnifex gain one new skill slot for every 600,000 XP they earn.
The prime requisite of Ur-Carnifex is Constitution. (It's what lets them endure being hungry, all the time! :-D) They get a +5% XP bonus for a Constitution of 14 or better, or a +10% bonus if it's 17 or 18.
Weapons and Armour
The traditional armaments used by Ur-Carnifex are VERY primitive, such that even their "daggers" are little more than sharpened slats of wood. They can't work metals, mostly relying on stone, wood, sinew, and manwuk-tusks for weapon crafting; occasionally, a veteran warrior will fashion the serrated teeth of an enemy tribesman into an axe-like weapon. Because their arms are proportionately so much shorter than a (demi)human's, Ur-Carnifex CANNOT wield two-handed melee weapons or longbows!
Despite the limited materials available to them, the Ur-tribes' weapon-crafters have devised one EXTREMELY nasty invention, all their own: the "splinter-arrow". These wicked projectiles are used by the Ur-tribes in lieu of normal arrows, and they are expressly designed to cripple their targets, rather than kill. Ur-Carnifex fire these suckers at the legs of opponents or at the wings of flying prey, the better to render them immobile, for spearing later on*. Outsiders' first encounter with the Ur-tribes will probably start with a barrage of these things, as the attackers try to immobilise as many of the intruders as possible.
(* - Learning to use splinter-arrows takes years of practice, given that their aerodynamics are radically different from those of normal arrows, so PCs shouldn't be able to pick these things up and start shooting them back at the Ur-Carnifex! In AD&D terms, it requires a whole separate weapon proficiency to use these special arrows.)
The cutting tip of a splinter-arrow isn't made of flaked stone or metal, tautly bound to the end of it. Rather, it's a sharp 2" sliver of rough-split wood, set very loosely into the cored end of the arrow's shaft. The piercing point of the sliver is smooth, but the end which rests inside the arrow shaft is deliberately split at its edges, thus ensuring the whole sliver will fragment into five or more jagged, broken splinters (ouch!) once it's embedded itself in the flesh of a target. The initial hit from a splinter-arrow inflicts only 1-3 hp damage -- the sliver isn't very broad and is too light to penetrate very deeply -- but digging the splinters out of a wound causes twice as much damage to the victim as the original hit (2d3) ... or an equal amount (1d3), if the operation is performed by a person skilled in Healing. So far, that's the easy part.
What gets nasty, is that removing these fragments from a splinter-arrow wound takes time ... a full TURN, per point of damage inflicted by the initial hit. Time, which PCs who are under attack by packs of hungry Ur-Carnifex don't have! Using the same tactics they employ in hunting, Ur-tribes' warriors target their opponents' legs with splinter-arrows (as per a called shot), then harry them through the brush with javelins and spears, forcing them to flee on splinter-riddled limbs. For every sliver-hit which a fleeing quarry has suffered, this causes them to lose another hit point, for every round's-worth of normal movement (i.e. every 40' unit of movement, for most PCs*). Characters who are already encumbered -- and thus, are already putting too much weight on wounded legs -- suffer damage more often, as dictated by their encumbrance-adjusted "encounter speed". Running with slivers embedded in one's legs causes FIVE hit points of damage per arrow, in every round of movement! A character who loses all but 1/5 his or her total hp, by running in this manner, must save vs Death or collapse ... unable even to stand up, much less run any farther. (This is how the Ur-Carnifex bring down wild manwuks and other large game.) A person who is being carried by someone else doesn't suffer any damage of this sort; thus, fleeing while most of your party is still mobile, and able to carry the wounded, is the wisest course for PCs caught in an Ur-Carnifex ambush. Flying on splinter-riddled wings always counts as running, for purposes of damage suffered; it is otherwise treated like normal movement on wounded legs.
(* - Note that aranea and manscorpions don't start to suffer movement-based damage of this sort, until they've been hit in at least five of their eight legs. Lucky buggies: they've got plenty of spares, to compensate! :-D)
If they should run out of unwounded legs, to shoot at -- or if their opponents have no legs in the first place, as with merfolk or the like -- Ur-Carnifex also aren't above riddling an enemy's arms with splinter-arrows (also a called shot), instead. Making melee attacks with a sliver-impaled weapon arm gives the attacker a -2 penalty to hit and on damage; if the attack hits, the attacker also loses 1 hp from stress on the injury, regardless of how many arrow-tips are embedded in the limb. Shield-arms aren't often targeted by Ur-Carnifex archers -- shields aren't considered very high priority, to take out of the action -- but such a wound lowers the shield's AC bonus by 1 point (i.e. a non-magical shield confers no protection), and use of a shield-weapon is penalised as per other melee attacks, above.
Healing spells can cure splinter-arrow wounds cleanly (i.e. the magic makes the embedded fragments disappear), but a Cure Light Wounds will only remove a single sliver: it won't restore any hp, if it's used in this manner. Cure Serious Wounds will both remove the sliver from a wound, and restore its usual number of hp, but it can only affect one such injury per casting. Only a Cure Critical Wounds or Cureall/Heal spell will remove all the slivers from a splinter-riddled victim's flesh, at once. Healing potions are unable to remove splinters, but magic items which duplicate the appropriate healing spells can do so.
Luckily, splinter-arrows have only half the range of a normal short-bow arrow. So, after their first painful encounter with these suckers, alert PCs can potentially keep the Ur-tribes' archers at bay with their own, longer-range ammunition. On a less-exotic note, Ur-Carnifex often make use of poisoned javelins and (in certain tribes) blowgun darts. Their eldest shamans can concoct lethal mixtures for weapon-coating, the deadliest of which impose a -4 penalty to opponents' saving throws; however, this concoction has a powerful odour* that usually betrays a warrior's presence to enemy Ur-Carnifex, so lesser toxins (normal save vs Poison or take 2d8 hp of damage) are a lot more common in warfare.
(* - Oddly, this poison smells an awful lot like barbecue sauce. "Twilight Calling" in-jokes, anyone? ;-D)
Ur-Carnifex melee weapons: Dagger, hand axe, club, mace, javelin, spear
Ur-Carnifex missile weapons: Hand axe, bow/short, blowgun*, sling**
Ur-Carnifex armour: Shield (shield weapons not allowed), turtle shell torso-plates (AC 5)***
Shamans can use: Hand axe, club, mace, sling; shield
Wokani can use: Dagger, club, blowgun*; no shield
* - Only the Hsth'kek and Dubi use blowguns extensively. Hsth'kek wokani often use "cursed" darts to afflict their enemies with terrible ailments; other tribes' wokani are forbidden to use blowguns.
** - Only the Ebelamgas employ slings in warfare, though other tribes use them for hunting. Shamans of any tribe may use slings in warfare.
*** - Only the Kasepauk have developed this kind of armour ... and only their greatest warriors (level 8+) are permitted to wear it.
Shamans and Wokani
Ur-Carnifex aren't as intelligent as their Greater Carnifex successors, but they already show signs of the magical aptitudes which would blossom -- AND go dreadfully out-of-control -- in their advanced cousins. Ur-Carnifex can attain level 9 as shamans*, and/or level 13 as wokani. A few Ur-Carnifex, mostly Bejmats, practice both magical disciplines at once. As with all HM races, Ur-Carnifex need a 13 or better Intelligence to become a wokan, and a 13 or better Wisdom to become a shaman.
(* - Exception: Hsth'kek NPCs can advance up to level 12, as shamans of the Outer-worldly powers they revere. Furthermore, their clerical spells reportedly have some really bizarre, disturbing "side effects" (like their Cure Wounds spells making the healed tissues grow back in unearthly, nauseating colours and textures....). While many of their tribe sport congenital malformations -- in a tribe of only a few hundred, inbreeding does that -- the shamanic Hsth'kek display physical abnormalities that seem too WEIRD to be birth defects, such as a fringe of writhing, worm-like tendrils on the edge of their dewlaps, or skin that seeps mucus like a slug's. The most dreaded and powerful shaman of the Hsth'kek tribe -- a mysterious, seldom-seen recluse, who seems more ghost-story than carnosauroid -- reputedly bears the worst stigma of all his repugnant kind: instead of pebbly scales, the crown of his head sprouts sickening tufts of shaggy, grass-like pelt; his claws are blunt and useless slabs of brittle fingernail; and his long reptilian muzzle hides, NOT serrated fangs, but squat, squarish, bump-faceted molars -- molars, like those of the vile, grotesque, and verminous MAMMALS (***shudder***) -- behind his lips. :-D)
If the Gaz10 rules for humanoid spellcasters are available, the Ur-tribes' spellcasters should be required to undergo the same sorts of Rituals of Passage, when gaining levels or learning magical rites, as humanoid wokani and shamans from the Broken Lands are. Like humanoids, their spellcasters must use gri-gris to perform their magic; the form of these varies from tribe to tribe (e.g. Bejmats use the skulls of their spellcasting ancestors). Because Ur-Carnifex culture attributes great and cryptic magical power to females, their few female shamans and wokani receive a +5% bonus to attempts to learn common or newly-invented spells. Female spellcasters who aren't Ebelamgas don't train as hunters/warriors, and don't advance through the Ur-Carnifex experience levels, at all; instead, they progress only as far as "Normal Monsters" -- tricky, considering the fact that they're not supposed to adventure! -- and then go directly to the shaman/wokani advancement table, never gaining any more HD after the 4d8+1 stage.
While they never learned to make magic items like their Greater Carnifex descendants did, the Ur-tribes' spellcasters have a knack for crafting amulets (see Gaz10 p8, DM's Booklet) that is superior to anything modern humanoids have come up with. Whereas humanoids' amulets can provide only a +/-1 bonus or penalty -- either on to hit, damage, AC, saving throw, or ability check (one ability score only, per amulet) die-rolls -- those fashioned by Ur-Carnifex can be enchanted up to +/-3. Only one roll on the Personal Sacrifice Table is required, per amulet, but the amount of treasure (usually meat, since that's what Ur-Carnifex value most!) which must be sacrificed during the enchanting process is multiplied by the magnitude of the desired bonus or penalty.
Ur-Carnifex are masters of ambush and of their tribe's favoured terrain. So long as they remain within their favoured terrain-type, they impose a -1 to outsiders' rolls for surprise. This benefit also applies when they are ambushing other Ur-Carnifex tribes on the ambushers' favoured terrain, but not when ambushing other members of their own tribe.
Also thanks to their wilderness skills, Ur-Carnifex suffer no overland movement penalties for their favoured terrain. Furthermore, their base movement rate is 150'(50'), allowing their birdlike legs and striding gait to overtake most other races.
The pebbly hides of Ur-Carnifex give them a natural AC of 7.
Even if they are unarmed, Ur-Carnifex can make two claw-attacks per round, albeit for only 1-2 points of damage. Their jaws are more formidable, capable of biting for 1d6 hp of damage; if they bite an opponent for 4 or more hp of damage, they can hold on with their jaws and claw at +2 to hit, in the next round.
Ur-Carnifex forelimbs are quite stubby, unable to draw a longbow or wield weapons two-handed. They can never handle these kinds of weapons in combat, even though the SoR does not forbid them from learning how others use them. Their non-humanoid build also makes it impossible for Ur-Carnifex to wear any magical items designed for a human-shaped creature: armour, boots, helms, girdles, gauntlets, and the like just won't fit them. (Cloaks and jewellery are acceptable.) In an AD&D game they would count as Large creatures, for the purpose of damage inflicted on them by weapons.
The icy lands around the plateau are unbearable to the reptilian Ur-Carnifex, who suffer 1 hp of damage per hour from frigid temperatures. Although they are warm-blooded, they aren't adapted to cold climates and can't cope with these kinds of conditions, for long.
Ur-Carnifex are meat-eaters... and ONLY meat-eaters: they can't live on anything else. Furthermore, they're big creatures with hearty appetites. Although they don't need to eat every day, to stay alive, they love to gorge themselves whenever the opportunity presents itself. (An Ur-Carnifex adventurer would be far more interested in eating a slain dragon's carcass -- even if it took weeks to do! -- than in picking through its hoard of treasure. ;-D) On average, a 1 HD man-sized creature -- the maximum amount which one Ur-Carnifex adult can wolf down, at a sitting -- has enough meat on its bones to sustain that Ur-Carnifex for 72 hours ... just about as long as it'd take, for it to grow super-hungry again! Animal prey or livestock will last them for from 2 to 6 days per hit die, depending on body size: a 1/2 HD goose is a mere one-day snack, whereas meat from a plump 4 HD bull would feed that same Ur-Carnifex for the better part of a month. Prey is always eaten raw, and live prey (nice and juicy!) is preferred over dead, stored meat.
Going without meat for longer than four days is debilitating to Ur-Carnifex, mentally as well as physically: for every 24 hours after the third day's starvation, an Ur-tribesman must check Wisdom or do something rash -- trespass on enemy territory while hunting, pick a fight with a bull manwuk single-handed, try to devour another party member's familiar -- in a desperate need for food. (This is how wars and raids often get started, between the Ur-tribes: with hunger-addled morons hunting on others' turf!) For each failed check, the character's effective Wisdom drops by 1 point, for the purpose of checks made on subsequent days. If this drops the Ur-Carnifex's effective Wisdom below 3, the character becomes a ravening animal with no compunctions about hunting his or her friends or allies, literally attacking anything that moves in the mad desire for flesh. At the same time, every 48 hours without meat reduces the starving Ur-Carnifex's Constitution by 1, with an attendant loss of hit points, if applicable. Insect-flesh staves off the Constitution-loss indefinitely, but does nothing to assuage the loss of Wisdom or the growing, compulsive desire for "real" meat.
For what it's worth, a single meal of meat -- even one as small as a chicken -- will restore even the hungriest Ur-Carnifex to sanity (i.e. normal Wisdom); Constitution returns at a rate of 1 point per day of "proper" food, thereafter. The tricky part, of course, is convincing a hunger-crazed dinosaur nine feet tall to eat a scrawny little chicken, rather than the (MUCH beefier!) PC who's trying to offer it to them. :-)
Even more so than most HM races, the Ur-Carnifex are lovers of darkness; back on Mystara, they far preferred moonless or overcast nights, on which to hunt and wage war. They have superior night vision -- no infravision for these guys, I'm afraid -- and suffer much the same penalties at skybright as do "unadapted" shadow elves, in daylight (now THAT'S a dark-dependent race! 8-D). Except for the hours of fulldark, whenever the skies are clear and they aren't safely under the cover of a forest, they have a -1 "to hit" penalty with missile weapons, and a -1 to morale. Sight is a primary sense, for Ur-Carnifex.
Ur-Carnifex have normal hearing, and a sense of smell that is far keener than a human's, but not quite as discerning as a lupin's. Both of these should be considered secondary senses of the race. If an Ur-Carnifex can both hear and smell an enemy, the combat penalties incurred for bright light are halved. In theory, they should be able to identify specific races by scent, like lupins can; however, their experience with other races is so very limited, that they've never actually learned to do so. An Ur-Carnifex who left the plateau might be able to pick up this ability, but would have to spend a skill-slot to do so.
Most Ur-Carnifex are Chaotic, through and through. Their harsh society doesn't accommodate other viewpoints, at all. Occasionally, an Ur-Carnifex who's got a philosophical streak might develop a more Neutral outlook, seeing the violence and cruelty of his or her own culture as a fleeting and ultimately unimportant phenomenon; only the most exceptional Ur-tribesman might go so far as to reject these barbarities entirely, and adopt Lawful principles and values. (Whether even a Lawful Ur-Carnifex would see anything wrong with cannibalism -- meat is meat, in their opinion, whether or not you killed it for an honourable reason -- is another issue entirely! ;-D)
Every Ur-Carnifex warrior must learn the Hunting skill. Female shamans or wokani who aren't warriors need not take this skill.
Ur-Carnifex Tribal Warriors
Combat notes: 4+1 HD Ur-Carnifex; AC 6 (with shield); hp 21; Mv 150'(50'); # At 1 weapon or 2 claws/1 bite, average of +1 Strength bonus; Dmg 1d6+1 (spear) or 1d3 + special (splinter-arrow) or 1d2+1/1d2+1/1d6+1 (claws and bite); Save F4; Int 9; ML10; AL C.
The major monster of interest in the Ur-carnifex lands is the manwuk, a big, clumsy, slow-moving herbivore with less brainpower than the average turnip. Think of an ankylosaurus with no club on its tail or spikes on its shell, large tusks in its lower jaw, and a snout like a pig, and you've got a full-grown bull manwuk; the cows and subadults lack tusks, move a bit faster than adult males can, and go lighter on the armour than that. :-)
Manwuk bull: AC 2 (top) or 8 (belly and legs); HD 6; hp 35; Mv 60' (20'); # At 1 tusk-slash or 1 head-butt; Dmg 2d6 (tusks) or 2d4 (butt*); Save F3; Int 2; ML 11; AL N.
Manwuk cow/subadult: AC 4 (top) or 8 (belly and legs); HD 4; hp 22; Mv 90' (30'); # At 1 head-butt; Dmg 1d8 (butt*); Save F2; Int 2; ML 6; AL N.
(* - A manwuk's head-butt attack inflicts double damage on a charge. If butted by a charging bull manwuk, opponents up to Ur-Carnifex size must save vs Breath Weapon, or be thrown 2d10 feet by a toss of the creature's head (falling damage may apply).)
Bull manwuks are solitary and rather bad-tempered, preferring to charge a potential predator first, and THEN worry about whether the bloody pulp that's left was dangerous or not. Females or subadults may be encountered in groups of three to eight (1d6+2), and will flee if they feel threatened ... possibly trampling people or campsites, in their haste to escape whatever their dim brains find frightening.