Friday, October 30, 2015

The Rictus Spider OR: Eight-Legged GOD of the Dark JUNGLE!

We bid you welcome once again, you courageous and daring few, willing to investigate more terrifying creatures of the wilderness! In this episode of Fridays in AEthrem, we leave the HORRORS of the sea behind to look at the most TERRIFYING arachnid of the deep jungle!

Rictus spiders are native to Tefira, and lair in natural caverns or the hollowed-out remains of old trees, spinning elaborate webs to ensnare their prey. They are jet black, with the exception of ghostly white markings on the back of their abdomen, resembling a leering human skull (from whence they get their name). Most noticeably, they are huge by the standards of most other spiders found throughout the world, growing just over three meters long at full adult size.

However, the rictus spider's most terrifying quality is not its size, but its venom. The bite of this creature contains a paralytic, but is not fatal - except to smaller organisms. To higher animals - including humans - this venom also has a stimulating and euphoric effect that is highly addictive.

Over time, members of the species have learned to envenom anything caught in their webs, but to release victims they do not have a need to feed on immediately. Typically, those released will return within a few days - possibly when the spider's web doesn't have so quite a large bounty. As an added bonus, communal creatures will sometimes bring along a handful of unwitting companions - doing the work of luring in new meals for the rictus spider.

Elder members of the species can learn to recognize returning victims, and favor feeding on newcomers over repeat visitors. Those who have returned once typically continue to do so - bringing new meals with each time - provided the spider gives them another dose of the venom they now crave. Intelligent creatures can likewise learn to take advantage of this, bringing along one or more unwitting victims for the rictus spider to consume, while they receive their "reward" and survive the encounter.

Primitive settlements have occasionally built cults around a single, long-lived rictus spider or an extended family of the creatures lairing nearby. These spiders can count on the cult to provide the majority of their food as sacrifices to their living god in exchange for the blessing of its divine bite. Of course, these cults are always in need of outsiders to offer up as sacrifices, lest they need to sacrifice too many of their own number. Explorers and new settlers to a region are prime candidates for capture for these purposes, of course.


Venture! Thrilling Adventures in the World of AEthrem and its associated characters are the property of Weird Science Games, LLC, Copyright 2015.

West End Games, OpenD6, and The D6 system are trademarks and properties of Purgatory Publishing Inc.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pagren OR: Tentacled TERROR of the DEEP!

Stalwart explorers, welcome back to Fridays in AEthrem! With the current season, we turn to observing some of the HARROWING beasts to be found around the globe - each quick to claim the lives of the UNPREPARED and UNWARY!

We start this series off with a look at the titanic pagren, the doom of many unfortunate sailors. At home in the deep ocean, pagrens are one of many perilous threats that make travel by ship such a treacherous task in AEthrem. These massive beasts grow longer than thirty meters on average, dwarfing many smaller human ships easily.

The main body of a pagren takes up only a third of its total length. Coated in heavy, murky brown chitin, its bullet-shaped body drives point-first through the water - the outer surface unadorned except for a pair of eye-stalks on opposite sides. The center of the flat rear of the body is where the creature's mandibled mouth resides, flanked by a pair of segmented arms tipped in pincers - each large enough to hold an adult human. A set of eight tentacles sprout from the body, surrounding the mouth and pincers on all sides.

A pagren's tentacles make up the remainder of its length. Unlike the body, these huge limbs are unarmored - their soft, blue-grey flesh exposed. The pagren uses these eight strong manipulators to propel itself through the water and grasp objects and prey with the aid of suckers running along the interior of each. Each tentacle is also tipped in a muscular valve - used to take in and pressurize sea water, which is sprayed at prey to stun and disorient it.

The primary prey for pagren are the largest creatures in the ocean, typically sharks and all but the largest whales. Those attacking human ships presumably have mistaken the vessel for a surfacing whale. However, there are numerous accounts of pagren that have apparently adapted to feeding at least partially on shipboard humans - having learned to overturn vessels or knock crew overboard using jets of water, and rushing to snatch up and consume those sent into the water.

Randomly encountering a pagren can spell doom for a ship attempting an oceanic crossing. Those that attempt to do so on a regular basis will usually mount an artillery piece or large machine gun on the deck, as both have proven capable of driving the beasts of with focused fire. Small arms can sometimes prove effective, but most handgun and rifle rounds will have a hard time piercing the armored hide of a pagren and causing any serious injury. If the pagren decides to overturn a ship, survival is much less likely, although there are rare accounts of survivors chasing one of these creatures off from their lifeboats after it had capsized the main vessel.

There are also accounts of a pagren fleeing after the survivors hearing a distant, inhuman roar or experiencing a deep rumbling sensation. Whatever these creatures that have scared away pagren actually are, they are probably best left to the imagination. Or left to suicidally-minded researchers, at least.


Venture! Thrilling Adventures in the World of AEthrem and its associated characters are the property of Weird Science Games, LLC, Copyright 2015.

West End Games, OpenD6, and The D6 system are trademarks and properties of Purgatory Publishing Inc.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Isles of the Menric Sea OR: A DROWNING Land of WONDERS and VENOM!

Stalwart sojourners, we return to another thrilling installment of Fridays in AEthrem! In the past weeks, we have spanned the globe, exploring some of the most dangerous, wild locals to be found. Today, we end our long trek at the far side of the world, in the Menric Sea.

Far east of Otaru and southwest of Tefira, across many kilometers of hazardous open ocean, the Menric Sea rises up as a wide, shallow plain. Here, innumerable small islands poke above the waves and deep-water vessels run aground as the sea floor rises up to meet them. The water depth in the Menric is chaotic at best, influenced by tides, seasons, and the current weather patterns - individual islands grow, shrink, and occasionally connect to one another by temporary land bridges.

Local flora and fauna in the Menric Sea is somewhat sparse, and comprised of hardy species. The land is a mix of red clay and dark mud, both on the islands and the sea floor, suitable mostly for quick-growing grasses by the shore and stunted trees clear of the high water mark, growing twisted in the hard winds from the open ocean. Animal life here is exotic to outsiders, and most species are venomous. The warm climate allows many species of insect and reptile to thrive, such as the native spitting crocodile - with its infamous acidic spray.

Even this perilous environment is home to intelligent life, as well. Local pramadi and ss'ra tribes dot the islands, fighting between each other and among themselves for the limited resources of the Menric Sea. Local ss'ra fiercely guard a few native territories - most likely the remains of their once-proud cities in the region. The pramadi, meanwhile, are especially laid back for their species, caring little about ss'ra territory or anything else. This is most likely due to the calming effects of dried jiruun leaf, which local pramadi grow, cure, and partake of liberally. The tribes of neither species had been able to develop any technology more advanced than flint-tipped weapons prior to the arrival of humans, due to the limitations of their homeland.

Human exploration of the Menric Sea is a fairly recent development. The region is home to a scattered handful of tiny settlements and outposts - established by foreign nations, forward-thinking corporations, and private investors gauging the profit to be gleaned from the islands. Almost uniformly, these tiny colonies are economic failures; the Menric has little of value outside of a few caches of valuable metals and semiprecious stones found thus far - nothing capable of sustaining these far-flung colonies. The remaining settlers are a resilient and independent group, and have become largely self-sufficient - as most outside goods can only be reliably delivered by long distance cargo plane, and few pilots consider the route to the Menric Sea worth the potential profits.

In the short time that humans have begun residing on the islands of the Menric Sea, many local legends have sprung up regarding oddities in the region. The most famous of these tall tales regard massive structures apparently made of spun glass or strange, dancing lights - always seen from a distance or disappearing on a return visit to their location (as if vanishing overnight). Native pramadi and ss'ra readily support these stories, calling up their own elaborate legends that attribute these lights and structures to gods or monsters - benevolent and dangerous alike. No human expedition has ever been able to verify these sightings on a subsequent trip to the location of the alleged encounter.


Venture! Thrilling Adventures in the World of AEthrem and its associated characters are the property of Weird Science Games, LLC, Copyright 2015.

West End Games, OpenD6, and The D6 system are trademarks and properties of Purgatory Publishing Inc.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sands of the Lahana Desert OR: TREASURES and PERILS of the Fiery Dunes!

Daring travelers, welcome back! In today's episode of Fridays in AEthrem we fly east along the equator, returning to the main continent of Pelifor! We leave behind the steamy jungles of Tefira, trading them for the parched, sand-swept wastes of the Lahana Desert!

Stretching from east to west across the entire continent of Pelifor, the Lahana desert breaks the continent in two.  To the north lies the most venerable and traditionally dominant human nations, including such great powers as Thassyl and Condrace, among many lesser countries. South of the desert, nearly all of the continent now belongs to Ferridon, although it was once home to various colonies and independent powers prior to the First's rise to power in the south.

Legends dating back to the fall of the early ghond civilization tell that central Pelifor was once a warm, fertile land, but some sacrifice agreed to by ghond thandi destroyed the land itself, turning it dry and uninhabitable in exchange for victory against the ss'ra. No one can prove the truth of these tales, but the Lahana certainly contains numerous ruins of once-thriving ghond cities, ripe targets for treasure hunters and archaeologists alike. The remnants along the outskirts of the desert have been searched thoroughly, but many potential sites still remain untouched further in, at much greater risk to would-be explorers.

Along its periphery, the land is relatively stable, if unsuitable to permanent settlement. Scrub lands give way to sun-baked clay flats here. This area is home to nomadic human tribes that have lineages going back into distant antiquity. These wanderers have subsisted on what foraging and hunting are available, and have traditionally trade between northern and southern human nations using coastal caravan routes to supplement what the desert provides them. Modern aerial shipping has made these caravans all but obsolete, pushing these tribes to more illicit dealings such as smuggling or banditry.

The interior of the Lahana Desert is made of an endless stretch of sand, piled in wind-swept dunes that only increase in size the further inward one travels. Few, if any landmarks exist for explorers, and the wind changes the terrain on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Sudden windstorms have been known to swallow the remains of entire ghond cities whole, and aircraft are regularly lost attempting to travel over the interior desert during poor conditions. There are no permanent residents of the interior desert, except for a few hardy individuals that survive only due to the rare oasis or rock-walled ravine to call home.

It is within the hazardous interior of the Lahana Desert that intrepid explorers can find its greatest possible treasure: the untouched remains of a ghond city. The residences and central pyramid of the city can hold a bounty of treasures - ancient coinage and artwork, or even the relics and recorded wisdom of early thandi. To academics, however, the ruin itself is a treasure far beyond any monetary value - everything from carvings to the artifacts of daily life in desperate need of cataloging and prolonged study.

However, these ruins hold their own share of dangers. Superstition holds that these cities were cursed by ancient ghond thandi, and many of their discoverers have met untimely ends within their walls. Most commonly, this happens due to one of many traps - left behind by fleeing ghond or besieging human armies and never triggered. Even worse, these traps could be brand new - installed by the current subterranean ghond culture to protect one of their active exits to the surface world. Sudden ambushes by members of the ghond warrior caste are not uncommon. Other living threats include any of the few species to survive in the modern Lahana: many varieties of snakes, scorpions, and the infamous Lancer Scarabs, swarms of which can allegedly strip a victim down to their bones in a only a few ravenous minutes of feeding.

For any and all of these reasons, experienced venture companies are in high demand for anyone setting out on an expedition into the Lahana Desert. These contractors can provide ready labor, navigational assistance, but especially security against the threats of the desert itself and ambushes by rival, jealous explorers, which are all too common. Many universities' archaeology departments and individual professors have long-standing contracts with one or more venture companies, relying on them for several expeditions over the years. Proving your business capable on an expedition can be very lucrative in the long term, if your venture company can safely navigate the Lahana's many hazards.


Venture! Thrilling Adventures in the World of AEthrem and its associated characters are the property of Weird Science Games, LLC, Copyright 2015.

West End Games, OpenD6, and The D6 system are trademarks and properties of Purgatory Publishing Inc.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Lush Tefira OR: FURY of the SHROUDED Continent!

Hail bold explorers, young and old! Bolster your courage and prepare yourselves! Today, Fridays in AEthrem takes you even further into the great unknown! We travel to the opposite side of the globe from the cool woodlands of the Sillindri Wildlands of our last episode to the steamy, tropical jungles of Tefira - THE SHROUDED CONTINENT! What mysteries await intrepid adventurers such as yourselves in its unexplored reaches?!

Tefira lurks on the far side of the world, separated from Pelifor and Valerica by wide swaths of open ocean. Homeland of the Ss'ra, this continent rivals is larger than any single landmass that the human nations inhabit. Impenetrable jungles cover most of its surface, torn open in places by colossal mountain peaks or the sinuous lines of numerous rivers. Much of Tefira's interior remains unmapped, as travel through the thick foliage is slow and dangerous.

Numerous small human colonies and outposts exist on the continent, scattered around the rivers and coastlines, where the jungle cannot impede the delivery of essential supplies. These have been established haphazardly over the years by nations and private investors alike, forming a random patchwork of allegiances and rivalries - a settlement can be separated from friendly territory by long kilometers of wild jungle or hostile human holdings. Most of these communities are tiny and poorly-supplied, populated by the desperate or zealous. A few of these wild-eyed settlers have come for scientific pursuits: studying the native ss'ra, the ruins of their civilization, or native flora and fauna. Many more have come to plunder Tefira's natural resources, or to hunt for treasure in the continents many hidden ruins.

By far the oldest and largest human settlement on Tefira, the city of Haran Olesh was founded by Condrace over two centuries ago. It has grown into a busy port over time, built on ancient ss'ra ruins at the mouth of the Zilliar River, due west across the ocean from its home nation in Pelifor. Countless expeditions set out from Haran Olesh every day, and just as many mercantile convoys return to it from the jungle with wares for trade locally or for export back to Condrace. The city's golden age of trade is coming to a close, however. The recent unrest in Condrace has caused most of Haran Olesh's posted military to be recalled back to the mainland, forcing the local governor to hire mercenaries and venture companies to provide security and policing in their absence - something the city's treasury cannot support for long.

Security is a constant concern for the hardy locals, as the jungle is a source of innumerable new species, many of them hostile to humans. While large predators and packs of scavengers can be guarded against, a settlement can just as quickly be wiped out by swarms of insects, poisonous local fruit, or strange new diseases. Rumors suggest even more exotic threats, such as huge plants capable of trapping an adult human - consuming them whole, spiders the size of an automobile - worshiped as gods by jungle-dwelling cults, and the ever-popular tales of the legendary fanged apes - still unproven to actually exist.

The most famous Tefiran natives are the ss'ra themselves. Long fractured into small social groups, their reaction to human explorers varies from one tribe or community to the next - some residing near human colonies trade with the settlers or sell their services as local guides, while others react violently to what they consider an invasion of their homeland. Hundreds of individual gatherings of the native ss'ra exist, struggling against each other for dominance, each at a slightly different level of technical proficiency. The possibility of a large collective of their species, deep within the continent, retaining an understanding of most of their otherwise lost science is a rumored possibility, but these highly-advanced ss'ra have yet to appear outside of the fictional world of adventure films and pulp novels.

Forgotten or abandoned by most modern ss'ra, the ruins of their long-lost civilization lie throughout Tefira. The jungle has reclaimed these lonely structures, growing over and through lanes and buildings alike. Finding a particularly well-preserved site could provide a group of explorers the means to retire as very wealthy individuals, with universities and inventors guilds alike more than willing to spend small fortunes to acquire functioning relics of interest to them. In some cases, these groups will simply fund expeditions on their own based on a promising tip, hiring a venture company to follow the lead they were provided. As valuable as this forgotten technology can be, tall tales speak of even greater ancient wonders to be found: ss'ra diamond mines, cities made entirely of gold, or elaborate towers of spun glass, wandering about the jungle on their own. Anyone actually discovering such a place could find not only uncountable wealth, but fame and glory, as well.


Venture! Thrilling Adventures in the World of AEthrem and its associated characters are the property of Weird Science Games, LLC, Copyright 2015.

West End Games, OpenD6, and The D6 system are trademarks and properties of Purgatory Publishing Inc.