Saturday, January 18, 2014

Background Handout for the Players

Although the players are well-aware we’re playing Metamorphosis Alpha, their characters have no idea they are aboard a starship. As far as the PCs are concerned, they live in a verdant river valley in a temperate rainforest. The following is the handout they each received prior to making characters. It reflects what they’d know about the Valley, their tribe, and other information that might be pertinent to survival.

Starting Player Handout

The Tsali Tribe lives in “The Valley,” a forested river valley rich with wildlife and with excellent conditions for growing crops. The climate and environment is that of a temperate rainforest (think the Pacific Northwest). The tribe consists of roughly 200 true humans living in a small village along a river. A wooden palisade protects the village from both aggressive rival tribes and dangerous animals. The Tsali survive by hunting both the “blue eaters” (azure squirrels the size of pigs and dumb as posts) and the “killdeer,” large and potentially lethal herbivores. Food is supplemented by fields of robust corn that is harvested twice a year.

A handful of mutants, both humanoid and animal, live close to the village and are on friendly terms with the Tsali. These mutants regularly help the tribe during the corn harvest, serving as guards and lookouts while the tribe’s weaker members (the elderly, children, and the non-warrior women) reap the fields. In return for this and similar service, the allied mutants receive a share of the bounty.


The Tsali have two leaders, Omar the Chieftain, who oversees the survival and well-being of the tribe, and the Knower of Things, the clan shaman. The Knower is responsible for all religious ceremony, the interpretation and implementing of laws and punishment, and protecting the tribe from illness and the Dark Means, vicious sky demons that sometimes carry off wayward tribe members.

Beneath these two are any adult who provides for the clan: hunters, gatherers, bakers, craftspeople, and the like. They have the right to speak openly at tribal gatherings. Adulthood in the clan is achieved by undertaking a rite of passage upon reaching one’s sixteenth year. The rite varies from year to year and person to person as deemed appropriate by the Knower of Things.

Below the tribe’s adults are the unproven. This social level consists of young adults who’ve yet to undertake their rites of passage, adults who’ve failed their rites or for some reason cannot be productive members of the tribe, and allied mutants. On rare occasions, allied mutants who’ve demonstrated themselves as great friends to the clan are adopted as full adults by the tribe, but these are exceptional cases. Unproven may attend, but cannot speak publically at, tribal gatherings.

Beneath the unproven are the tribe’s children and the occasional slave capture in battle. They may not attend tribal gatherings and have no say in the daily workings of the Tsali.


The tribe worships two goddesses: the Queen of Dawn and the Queen of Twilight. The existence of these deities cannot be doubted, for they have appeared in the sky on numerous occasions. When the Queens wish to make their divine decrees known to the residents of the valley, one or both of their faces suddenly appear in the heavens as ghostly apparitions and they speak cryptic messages. The Knower of Things then meditates upon their odd words, deciphers their meanings, and reveals to the tribe the goddesses’ commandments. The Queens never appear for long, vanishing immediately after voicing their demands. Some belief that one of the Queens wishes ill for the tribe, while the other protects them. Which deity is which is left open to debate.

There is also a legend in the tribe that a dark day will come upon the Valley in some distant time. When this day arrives, the great wolf, Ojuc, will descend upon the Valley bringing with it fire and destruction. It is widely believed that Ojuc has come at least once before as ancient signs of massive fires are still encountered in far-flung areas of the Valley.

The tribe believes that each person is judged by the Queens when they die. Those who’ve led productive lives, served the tribe, and obeyed the clan’s laws are allowed to go to the Underworld, where paradise awaits. Those who’ve shirked their duties or disobeyed the tribe’s customs are banished to the Upperworld, a horrible place filled with demons even more terrible than the Dark Means.

The tribe’s dead are cremated, their ashes scattered amongst the corn fields or in the forest as desired by the deceased’s survivors.


The Tsali are a simple people. They know of the wheel and can make fire, but do not know the secret of working with metal. Some steel objects, specifically knives and mirrors, are found amongst the tribe, but these were obtained by trade. Hunting is done with spears and bows & arrows. In battle, warriors use wicker shields covered with killdeer hide to defend themselves.

Other Residents of the Valley

The tribe lives a secluded existence and doesn’t often encounter other groups of humans or mutants, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there! The most often encountered group is a tribe of mutant humans called the Teeth People. The Teeth People dwell in the forest on the far side of the river, and are the sworn enemy of the tribe. The Teeth People have raided the tribe in the past, carrying off members to meet a horrible end in the Teeth People’s stew pots. The Teeth People get their name from their great, oversized mouths filled with razor-sharp fangs. The Teeth People have no eyes and are blind without exception, but possess an unearthly sense of smell that not only compensates for their lack of eyes but allows them to track prey with unerring ability.

Towards Sunrise are two other tribe: The Salmen People and the Ghost Tribe. The Salmen People are mutants that dwell along the shore of a lake (and if Derik the Far-Traveled can be believed, sometime in the lake, itself). They are neutral in regards to the Tsali. The Ghost Tribe are another clan of true humans. They get their name from their custom of decorating their bodies with chalk and wearing bleached accouterments.
It is said that a tribe of Wolfoids lives far towards Sunset, but no Tsali currently alive has ever encountered them.

The worst enemy of the Tsali are the Dark Means. Dark Means take the form 10’ long hornets of black and crimson coloration. They possess human-like hands on two of their limbs. They dwell somewhere towards Stormend, always descending upon the village from that direction.

Lastly, it is known that Outsiders, members of strange tribes beyond the Valley, sometimes visit here. Where exactly they hail from is unknown. These rare visitors come to a place far in the direction of Sunrise known as the “Mootplace.” There, news is shared and goods are traded. Very few of the Tsali have been to the Mootplace and only Derik the Far-Traveled has been there several times.

Things You Know
  • Deer in the Valley are good eating and their hides useful for making many things. The antlers of the bucks are extremely poisonous, however, and capable of killing a grown human or mutant.
  • The red moss that grows on the sunset side of trees in the Valley can be brewed into a tea that helps counteract poison if administered soon after exposure.
  • A yellow, low-growing shrub known as “demonbane” can be dried and wrapped into long, torch-sized bundles. When set aflame, these bundle burn slowly and the smoke they produce keep the Dark Means away.
  • It rains for two hours every other day in the Valley at high sun. Every other day. Without fail.
  • Wind always blows from the same direction (Windward), pushing storm clouds in the opposite direction (Stormend).
  • A terrible and greatly feared creature lives in the Valley. Never seen, but known by its bloodcurdling screams in the night, this fearsome monster is the Lorg. It is said to be a hairy beast capable of eating a person whole. You have heard its screams and would know them if you heard them again.
  • Dimpled fruits and berries, especially those colored purple and green, are highly toxic.

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