Friday, August 3, 2018

Incense of Integration

Feline Incense Burner - Louvre
Khorasan or Central Asia, 11th Century
A talisman is a spirit within a is domination because its essence is coercion and control. It functions according to the purpose it was composed for: overpowering and coercing, by using numerical ratios and placing astrological secrets in certain bodies at certain times and by using incenses that are powerful and capable of bringing out the spirit of that talisman.

-- Anon., The Goal of the Wise (Picatrix), Trans. Hashem Atallah, Ouroboros Press, 2007

Talismanic magic, the domain of the most talented astrologers [and a likely new magic system to be detailed later -- Ed.] is a form of sympathetic magic. It requires that the magus establish arcane similarities between a configuration of the celestial spheres and an earthly vessel (a talisman), then use incense as a conduit for a minor jinn* to manifest and inhabit the talisman. Once the jinn has entered the talisman, the device becomes "charged" and will begin to enact its work.

Selection of the incense is therefore crucial. The right blend of ingredients to tie together the earthly requirements to align the talisman with its task, and the conditions of the talisman with the stars it seeks to emulate, is a delicate balance. An error in selection is therefore the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.

Some of the foremost astronomers have developed incense of integration, a particular blend of ingredients which helps evoke the heavens and assists in aligning the physical construct of the talisman with the desired celestial configuration.


Selection of the proper incense ingredients is made by rolling against the mage's Int on 4d6. The GM should provide bonuses if the player can present items which can establish a connection of sympathetic magic (hairs off the bandit's beard, resin from the Caliph's garden, etc.) and are present in sufficient quantities to make some incense.

Using incense of integration in the proposed blend allows the magus to reroll a failed Int check in incense selection. If, however, this second check is failed, there is a 2-in-6 chance that the talisman will operate in reverse.

*The term is...imprecise; this is as much a jinn as a Firanj "kobold" is a human.

This is my second entry in Dan D's #DIY30 Challenge.

Source: The Goal of the Wise (Picatrix), Trans. Hashem Atallah, Ouroboros Press, 2007

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Ghuleh, Ghuleh

A scent that cursed be
Crawler from The Descent (2005)

Under cold dark dust
From the darkness
Rise a succubus
From the earthen rust

- Ghost, "Ghuleh / Zombie Queen"

No. Enc.: 1d8 (1d6x10)
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 6 (hide)
Hit Dice: 2+2, or 6 (rais)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d8 (claws) or weapon
Save: F3, F6 (rais)
Morale: 9, 11 (rais)
Exp: 58, 820 (rais)

Hoard Class: IV (individual), XIV (group)

Hideous Regeneration: The first wound a ghul suffers in a combat will cause the ghul to take an additional 1 hp damage each round. However, if the the ghul is struck again, its jinn heritage will begin healing all of its wounds with diabolical speed; it will regenerate 1d10 hp per round for the rest of the day.

Rad-touched: Ghuls are immune to the effects of anomalies and other features of the Zone. 

Ghuls are mutants of the jinn - descendants of those trapped in the Zones and twisted by the horrid magicks of the Bieth. Twisted faces (always sporting twisted tusks), never-healing radiation burns, and withered limbs distort their forms. Confined to their warped and twisted physical forms, they are disdained by their jinn brethren, and feared by human city-dweller and nomad alike. Cast out from all society, pushed to the wastelands and ruins, ghuls regularly turn to banditry and slaughter to survive. Given their residence in the ruined and hollowed cities of the Zones, and the inhospitable nature of the wastes, many believe that they subsist on the vast necropolises and the corpses stored within. 

Despite their ill reputation, many ghuls dream of leaving their blasted homes and joining the societies they have dimly heard of. Given their immunities to the deleterious effects of the Zone and the perilous anomalies, ghuls will occasionally strike up relationships and even alliances with those striking out into the Zone. However, they are wary and paranoid, and many an alliance has been riven apart through betrayal and fear on both sides. 

Ghul bands of 20 or more have a 4 in 6 chance of being led by a rais (boss), a 6 HD ghul who can polymorph self (AEC 73) into any humanoid form three times a day. They are known to ride in great bronze chariots drawn by ostriches or eyeless dogs. 

O who will bear my news to the young men of Fahm
     of what I met at Riha Bitan?
Of how I met the ghul swooping down
     on the desert bare and flat as a sheet?
I said to her, 'We are both worn with exhaustion,
     brothers of travel, so leave my place to me!'
She sprang at me; then my hand raised
     against her a polished Yemeni blade.
Then undismayed I struck her: she fell flat
     prostrated on her two hands and on her throatlatch.
She said, 'Strike again!' I replied to her, 'Calm down,
     mind your place! For I am indeed stouthearted.'
I lay upon her through the night
     that in the morning I might see what had come to me.
Behold! Two eyes set in a hideous head,
     like the head of a cat, split-tongued,
Legs like a deformed fetus, the back of a dog,
     clothes of haircloth or worn-out skins!

-Ta'abbata Sharran, "How I Met The Ghul" (Irwin 24)


  • Apparently ghuls eating the dead was an invention of Antoine Galland in his translation of the 1001 Nights (Al-Rawi). There certainly seem to be several tales and instances of MENA folklore where ghuls are shown eating corpses, but those tales postdate Galland's translation. This is honestly part of why I'm making Legacy of the Bieth in the first place - drawing upon MENA folklore and myth that tries to step away from The Arabian Nights (TM) and its dominant presence as the touchstone for "Islamic fantasy." 
  • This is my first entry in Dan D's #DIY30 challenge. Despite this post running on 8/2, I wrote it the night of 8/1, so it counts dammit. We'll see how long I can keep up.

The Mythical Ghoul in Arabic Culture, Ahmed Al-Rawi, Cultural Analysis, 8, 45-65.
Night & Horses & The Desert, Robert Irwin
"Zerendac," Feminist Folklore
Folklore of the Holy Land, J.E. Hanauer (source here)