Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Pagocynocephali and Other Strange Creatures of Piano dei Carpini

Giovanni dal Piano dei Carpini, the Pope’s emissary who travelled to the Mongol Empire from 1245 to 1247, wrote a report of his journey which can be found online for free (e.g. on Play Books). He not only told what he witnessed himself, but also what he had been told. Among weird things, Piano dei Carpini mentions several times strange creatures or people who he never met by himself. These are not described in Wind on the Steppe, but a GM could use them if he wanted to bring more fantasy to the game. They are mostly more or less humanoid and intelligent and are dwelling in remote areas like deserts. Piano dei Carpini describes them only very succinctly, in one or two sentences: I tried to imagine a bit more about their culture and characteristics. These are of course suggestions.

The Pagocynocephali (or Ice-Dog-Headed-Men)

They are people whose women look like normal human beings but whose men have the head of a dog. These half-dogs males have a special power: when they spring into a river in Winter, they turn into a powder which, mixed with the water, turns in turn into ice with their original shape. Thanks to this hard and solid constitution, they are very tough and dangerous opponents which the Mongols had to fight once. You may either allow a 6 pts body armour, or consider that only blows with at least half of their hp hurt them (they break), or simply double their hp. Otherwise use the stats of humans, with a bite attack and a smell skill like dogs.

Pagocynocephali are hunter-gatherers, with embryonic agriculture and stock breeding. They prefer to live near to their ancestor-river where their dead are dissolved for a last time, never getting back their form but becoming part of the river instead. Their human intelligence combined with their doggy senses makes them unsurpassed hunters and excellent scouts, almost never surprised. Their empathy to dogs allows them to sneak into the Nomads camps without making the watch dogs barking. They are envied and feared for this and, as a consequence, hated and despised by humans. However, PCs who manage to go beyond their prejudices may discover a rude but peaceful nature. If humans can gain their confidence, they will be eager to trade furs, skins, amber or fish eggs against manufactured items, silk or weapons and so on. If only they could cease this unpleasant habit to smell the bottom of theirs visitors…

Their shamans are mostly black with allegiances to Animism and Ancestors. They have a dog spirit or a river spirit as ancestor, or both. They have the power of adaptation [cold water]. When turned into ice, they can float and swim.

Pagocynocephali mate only with normal human females, giving birth only to males, which explains why all their women are human: they must however be captured, which is after all the traditional way in the Steppes, or sometimes traded for. Pagocynocephali grant however a strong respect to their women and developed a matriarchal social order, which could explain why the women seem not all to be willing to go back to their former human mates.

Piano Carpini may have mixed up these creatures with the Kyrgyz, which, among other versions, are said either to descend from dogs or from a piece of water, lake or river.

Scenario hints (which can be combined):
  • Women are disappearing !

-         The Ice-Dog-Headed-Men are seeking new women, but this has to be found out by the party which task is to rescue the clan’s women and girls who strangely disappeared.

-          A woman has been abducted by the scarying Ice-Dog-Headed-Men a few years ago. The party is in charge of avenging the humiliated clan and rescuing the unfortunate woman from these monsters, which could not be achieved before for some reasons left to the GM (may be simply the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men –or the clan- left the country but are now back). But the former young girl has now several husbands and children whom she doesn’t want to leave, being quite happy with her new life.

-          Women and girls are missing. Evidence of dog presence can be found (excrements, hairs among human footprint…). Everything designs the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men as the perpetrators. Actually, the women have been captured by another clan, tribe or nation to be sold as slaves: the abductors are trying to lure pursuers with false hints.

-          Same as above, but instead only one young woman took flight with her lover for any reason.

  • Guides and scouts are needed for an expedition in Siberia, and the Khan heard about the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men: the Bek or the Khan puts the party in charge of finding them and proposing to hire them as mercenaries.

  • The Qaghan wants to subdue the Ice-Dog-Headed-Men as Tengrii orders and sends scouts to find and spy them and make a report.

  • Pagocynocephali can simply be an encounter during any travel through a remote country.

Other strange humanoids:

The Stiff-Limb-Men
In a desert south of the Kara-Khitai Empire (may be the Kara-Korum?) live semi-bestial human beings with no knees, so that they need help to stand up when they fall. They don’t speak but only growl. Assume an intelligence of 2D6 and a movement 4. I guess they are as developed as early hominids.

The Cynotaurs
Near the Arctic Ocean, close to the country of the Samoyeds, live humans with the head of a dog and oxen hoofs instead of feet. They talk a little but most of the time yap. Culture: similar to Inuits, with professions like hunter (adapt the Siberian hunter to the tundra), shaman-ess, Fisher, dog breeder. Skills : Bite and Smell as a dog and Kick 1D6 + db. They can call dog spirits and yack spirits as ancestors and are able to communicate with dogs. They are basically Tengriists and know a lot of local nature spirits.

The Single-Limbs
In a desert close to Armenia dwell humans with a single arm issuing from the belly and a single leg, so that they need to be two persons to shoot with the bow.

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