Homebrew – Bears Mentioning

Yesterday, I talked homebrew astrology. But what’s the fun in astrology if you don’t have someone to use it?

Inextricably intertwined with my homebrew variant on Exalted astrology are the Arthchwyl, a race of polar bear savants who boast a near-unparalleled gift for divination and understanding of the future.

They began with an image, which rapidly dovetailed into a question. From the beginning, the idea was polar bears in starmetal armor. (Not too hard to tell which movie my friend and I were taking the bus back to campus from, is it?) Which led to the question of what made them suited to starmetal, with all the Destiny-connotations the stuff carries, which led to the astrology. (For those of you familiar with the system, please note: I do not use dead god starmetal. It’s a silly concept, and if I explained all my objections to it, we’d be here all day.)

That led to their purpose: Keeping Fate and the world intact in their little corner thereof, and making sure what was supposed to happen happened. See, the North’s wildlife can be divided into four categories: small white things with sharp teeth, medium white things with sharp teeth, large white things with sharp teeth, and things with no teeth, most of whom are going to eat you if you’re lucky. It’s blasted cold, food is sparse, and it’s very easy to get lost. If you’re going to design creatures to try to keep things going the way they should in a place like that, why not have ones that can if necessary fall into the “large white things with teeth” category?

Then in came the highly fluff-inspired mechanics: the bears specialize in divination, and in Making Sure Things Happen Like They’re Supposed To. And where they get their favored abilities. Unlike everyone and the dog in this setting, they don’t separate by Caste/element/general purpose. Instead—well, remember the three birth-signs per customer? And how they coincided so well with the Attributes? That’s my base mechanic: they favor Attributes (or abilities if they were born under two Signs in the same Approach) by birth-sign.

The importance of the stars led to some rather important points of culture. Since these things determine who they’re likeliest to get along with and what they’re good at, they literally wear their signs on the outside, in the form of a plate that sockets into the armor and shows their birth-signs and heart-sign. This is the only true-artifact ever made specifically for them; armor is usually inherited from someone. The rest of their gear is crystals. Specifically, single crystals of a variety of ice that freezes everything with which it comes into contact. Just add liquid—water, usually, but in the case of their ice “bandages” blood works just as well—and it crystallizes into whatever shape it’s designed for, be that claw-extensions, tools, shelters, cubs’ armor, or anything else that might be feasible. The crystal trick was also a fact about the bears’ “leave no traces” mentality—neither material requires the bears themselves to affect the environment very much.

Though their teamwork can be excellent for particularly large-scale divinations, they’re generally small-group creatures, operating in astrologically compatible pairs or “stars” of five chosen for balanced sets of heart-sign compatibilities and conflicts. This, again, is assisted by the fact that they wear their signs openly; it’s very easy to tell who could slip into a given group most cleanly.

Their name itself was actually one of the latest things we came up with, after we’d decided to very loosely base the language on Welsh—or at least its phonology. I think I got the word order wrong when I actually started the conlanging process, most likely a fact about doing so on a bus with no research materials. It was chosen by translation; it means “Fate-bear”. (I wasn’t exactly feeling original at the time, and the original ideas wouldn’t translate with the resources we had anyway. And this was about the time I came up with the lutriform shapeshifters whose name was derived from the Indonesian word for “the act of becoming different”.)

Want more? (This time I’ll actually wait for an answer!)


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