Sunday, June 21, 2020

Down in the Roots

The smallest of the four peoples are the goblins who live in the trees.  For their appearance, think of lemurs and raccoons.  They're ambush hunters who imitate animal calls, lie in wait, then leap down in a burst of teeth and claws.

Their activity takes them all throughout the forest and occasionally into lands beyond, but the heart of goblin life is the tree.  Up in a tree is safety, family, and home.  It's where children are raised and it's where you rest at night.

Danger lies below.

The ground is a place for hunting and gathering, but goblins aren't the only ones down there.  There's plenty of competition, from snakes to panthers to -- worst of all -- humans.  From before they can walk, goblin children are taught about the dangers below.

It's no surprise that down has special meaning in their stories.  Goblins tell stories that happen down among the Roots, in a place just out of reach of ordinary perception.  Somewhere down rootward is their underworld, an otherworldly realm beneath the forest floor.  It's a place of spirits and magic, a place of dreams and poison and prophecy.  For some, it's where the souls of the dead are believed to rest.  For others, it's the place where people first emerged into the world.

Each goblin fellowship has its own ideas about things down root.  In their stories, folks usually get there the same way:

Passage into the Roots (d10)
1down a hole in the ground
2inside a hollow rotting tree
3through a crack in the cliff-side
4in the moss and mud under a fallen log
5at the bottom of a muddy lake
6deep under the roots of a tree
7through a squeeze between rocks
8far downriver, after nearly drowning
9through dreams induced by drugs or fever
10devoured by a ground-dwelling predator

Once they make it down into that hidden place, they find something strange.  Roll twice and combine the results:

Strange Things (d12, twice)
1dreams of the past and future, full of painful colors
2dangerous little creatures that come out of the earth at night
3spirits of the hungry dead
4the hidden people who don't want to be disturbed
5need to leave an offering of the right kind of food
6when you come back you'll hear things you weren't supposed to hear
7water that you shouldn't drink without precautions
8the watery world that people originally came from
9lost children taken down into the roots
10an ageless traveler who roams the low places
11sickness that afflicts those who journey to the roots
12whispered secrets of the world above

In all the stories, an encounter with the Root is connected to some kind of creature, be it a harbinger or a protector or even a spy of the otherworld.

Tied to the Roots (d10)
2barn owl
3water moccasin
5hickory tree
6trap-door spider
7turkey vulture
10cottonmouth snake

Most likely these down root tales are just part of the local folklore, but there's a chance that they're correct.  It's possible that a dangerous place lies just beneath our reach and the goblins are the only ones who know the truth.

Truth of the Tale (d10)
1-4very little truth to it, if any
5-6based on a real phenomenon with a mundane explanation
7-8mostly-true memories from the old country or from before the starving time
9-10the place down root is just as they say it is, with one key exception

Roll up your own Down Root:

random myth of Down in the Roots

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