the Bonecaller’s Price (with NPC class!)

Bonecaller
Herbert the Crow by Bombusfelidae

I know, I know, you were expecting part 4 of ‘of Wolf and Man‘… It’s coming, but I caught a bad case of the flu this week so I wallowed in self-pity instead of writing {the fact that I couldn’t see straight might have had something to do with it as well… shh!} 

But of course I won’t leave you with nothing! A few weeks ago I talked about the writing contest I was entering. I didn’t win, but that’s okay. Two other lovely ladies got to win the fabulous honor of working for Green Ronin, a company that publishes books for tabletop RPG’s such as Dungeons and Dragons. {You know… the people that are bringing the Critical Role campaign guide into our lives!} I did however have a lovely time creating a story in a world that is darker than the ones I usually work in, and got to combine storytelling with the geekyness that is D&D. How cool is that?!

So, the setting from Green Ronin is going to be Redoubt, the last bastion of hope in a world ruled by undead. Which got me thinking, how would these citizens of Redoubt look upon someone who would use bones? In a city were the dead are definitely something to be feared, could someone overcome this fear and use the dead to their advantage. So I thought of an oracle/shaman type class that could use bones for divination. Originally I wanted it to be a player class, but that didn’t fit, so I made it an NPC class instead. So below you will first find the story of the Bonecaller’s Price, followed by the NPC class explained. I’m very curious to know what you guys think!

 

The Bonecaller’s price

The Bonecaller sits on a rickety stool in front of her shop. “Care to know your fortune, my dear?” she calls to a young woman walking past.

The woman stops, considers. She is about to leave this desolate city for an adventure outside the Walls. She would very much like to know if she will find what she is looking beyond the city’s protection. But the people here in Haven, they are taught to fear the dead and those who speak with them. She studies the old woman for a moment. She doesn’t seem all that dangerous, the young woman thinks. Dressed in dark reds and purples, gold-embroidered scarves wrap around her shoulders. Strange symbols are painted upon her face with white ink, the morning sun casting her wrinkles in a stark relief. There are bones, yes, necklaces and bracelets, some skulls in her gray, braided hair. But there are also coins, golden symbols on brown leather cords. She looks like an eccentric grandmother, not like someone who can command the dead. “I have no means to pay you.” She eventually tells the old woman, curiosity winning from concern.

“A promise will suffice,” the crone answers, “a promise that when your time has come, whenever that may be, I may pick a bone of my choosing.”

The woman looks ancient, the younger one thinks. When I will breathe my last she may very well be amongst the dead herself.

“Alright,” she says. The old woman gets up from her stool, joints creaking, and opens the door towards her shop. Inside lay treasures of bone harvested from all manner of creatures; animal, elf, orc, halfling and human alike. Treasures and talismans filled with power for those brave enough to carry the dead around with them.

A chill crawls down the young woman’s spine as she enters the shop. Dark redwood shelves line the red walls of this cramped shop. Clay jars with unreadable labels stand row after row upon them. Whatever space there was is filled with cabinets made from the same warm wood. Some have glass doors, showing a hint of the mystery that lies within, others have doors of solid wood, painted with strange symbols, and locks that seem too big for such a small cabinet. Candlelight flickers a warm gold on the glass containers holding herbs and other curiosities. Dried flowers hang in bundles from the ceiling, their subtle scents filling the air. Tapestries in all colors cover the floor. A counter stands at the back of the shop, holding even more trinkets and baubles.

All together it would give the interior a warm, homey feel, she thinks, were it not for the skulls that stand seemingly everywhere. Some hold the candles, she notes, watching a droplet of black wax roll down bleached ivory. Other skulls just seem to watch her every move, their empty sockets holding shadows out of which the dead peer into the world. One human skull on the counter holds fresh pink roses, plum-colored dahlias and green aster, their colors stark against the white of the bone. Dried crows feet hang on leather strings next to the vase, stones in different colors clasped within their grasp. A small sign hangs from the ceiling, promising fortune to all those who carry them. On one wall hangs a string with bones in different sizes dangling from it, a macabre bunting celebrating the dead.

She turns and comes face to face with the dead, dried head of an orc. She can’t contain her shriek and stumbles away from it. Its eyes and mouth are crudely sewn shut with sinew. Its red hair still long and decorated with beads and feathers.

“Don’t worry, dear,” the Bonecaller speaks from where she stands by a beaded curtain behind the counter, “these dead don’t bite.” She pulls the curtain aside, setting off a wind chime made of ribs and vertebrae. “Come in, come in.”

The young woman follows her into a small side-chamber. Candles line the walls all around the room. A single table with two chairs stands in the center of it, an intricately embroidered cloth draped over the table’s surface. The rest of the room is bare, leaving it almost hollow in comparison to the front of the shop. She sits down in one of the chairs as the crone walks around and takes a seat across from her.

The Bonecaller takes a leather pouch from her belt that softly rattles as she moves it. “The dead are all around us, my child,” she starts, untying the string that holds the pouch closed, “they see our past, every choice we have ever made. They see our present, the paths in front of us unfolding and winding. They see our future, the golden threads that flow through time until the Raven Queen snaps them.” She lays the folded out pouch on the table. Black markings and symbols cover the inside of it. “The dead know our deepest desires. What we wish and what we want, but, more importantly, what we need.” With reverence, she picks up the scattered bones from the pouch. The old woman holds them to her chest for a moment, chanting words in a language the younger doesn’t recognize.

For a moment, the candles flicker, the shadows on the walls dance and writhe, their spectral claws reaching out towards her. The air chills, her breath now fogging in the air. Wind howling through the room, like a thousand voices calling out in despair. Her heart leaps in her throat, her form frozen in terror and she knows: the dead are here.

The Bonecaller rattles the bones in her hands for a moment before casting them upon the table. Some land within the circle, most scatter upon the delicate cloth. “Ah yes,” she starts, moving her hand over the objects for a moment. She picks up a knuckle-bone, “a new journey awaits you, one long hungered for.” She places the bone back and picks up a small cordate piece, “your heart has grown too large for this city.” She sets it back, gently grabs a tiny bird skull, “you wish, more than anything else, for freedom.” For a moment the ghostly whispers of beating wings sound through the room. The Bonecaller now holds a vertebra, “you will find what you seek, but you must remember: freedom always comes with a price.”

With every word, the young woman’s hope has grown. Finally she would get out of this dark place and into the wide world where adventure calls. She will finally be free of her bonds that hold her within this city. “I will pay any price needed,” She tells the Bonecaller eagerly.

The old woman nods, carefully returning the bones to her pouch. “Then be on your way, young one. And may you find the freedom you seek.”

 

Two weeks later the Bonecaller once again sits at the table, bones cast upon the cloth and an eager adventurer across from her. “You have found a new family in your companions,” she tells him, gesturing with the wolf bone towards the door, where the rest of his group is waiting. Her client smiles as she gently lays the bone down again. She picks up the last bone for this reading. A human rib, broken and with deep scars. It’s still white, new. The Bonecaller sees the ghost of the young woman appear next to her, clutching her bleeding stomach.

I wanted to get out of this city, she whimpers, I just wanted to be free.

“You wish to leave this city”, the Bonecaller echoes, “you wish to be free.” The young man nods eagerly. She gently places the rib back in the leather circle. “Freedom,” she tells her customer, “always comes with a price.”

 

NONPLAYER CHARACTER: BONECALLER

“The bones speak, if you are brave enough to listen…”

– Fehzar Haruspex

 

To most, the passing from life to death is something to fear

and avoid, but there are those who understand that death

unveils secrets and knowledge not attainable in life.

Bonecallers are the diviners that walk the line between life and

death. They cast their set of bones and commune with the dead

to gain divine insight into any question asked. Bonecallers are

renowned advisors to any brave enough to seek their guidance.

But beware: their knowledge always comes with a price.

 

Call of the Bones Most Bonecallers hear what they named

‘the Calling’ at a young age, discovering through play that touching

bones gives them a brief window through which the dead can

speak. These children are often seen as strange, talking to

‘friends’ that don’t seem to exist and knowing things they

shouldn’t. Once discovered that they are speaking with the

dead these children are shunned and looked upon with fear.

As death touches all life and every creature, Bonecallers can be

from any race and any walk of life. While most Bonecallers

are female, it is not unheard of for males to hear and heed

the Calling.

 

Prolonged life A Bonecaller’s intimate knowledge of the line

between life and death allows them to extend their life, but not

their youth, significantly. Indeed, there are those who think

Bonecallers are born old and wrinkly.

Although most Bonecallers learn their skills through intuition

and communing with the dead, some seek out an apprentice

to pass on their vast knowledge when they feel the end of their

long life finally approaching.

 

Sortilege set This divination set consists of a variety of bones

– sometimes combined with other curios such as shells, nuts,

small keys and metal charms – which, when cast, give the

Bonecaller divine insight into her client’s query. The Bonecaller

builds her sortilege set over time, adding bones and objects that

have meaning to her. Therefore the sortilege set is considered

personal and sacred, much like a holy symbol.

 

Casting the Bones Up to five short insights may be given to one

question a player character may have, or as a general reading of the

player’s character or situation. The insights should be brief and

cryptic, leaving some things open to the player’s interpretation.

 

Bonecaller

Medium humanoid (any race), any neutral alignment

—————————————————————————————-
Armor Class 10

Hit Points 27 (5d8+5)

Speed 30 ft.
——————————————————————————————-

STR ——— DEX ——- CON ——- INT ——- WIS ——- CHA

10 (+0) 10 (+0) 12 (+1) 13 (+1) 16 (+3) 14 (+2)
——————————————————————————————

Skills Insight +7, Performance +5, Religion +4

Senses Passive Perception 13

Languages any two languages

Challenge 2 (450 XP)
——————————————————————————————

Brave. The Bonecaller has advantage on saving throws against

being frightened.

Spellcasting. The Bonecaller is a 5th-level spellcaster. It’s

spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with

spell attacks). The Bonecaller has the following spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): light, spare the dying, thaumaturgy

1st level (4 slots): inflict wounds, sanctuary, unseen servant

2nd level (3 slots): augury, detect thoughts, gentle repose

3rd level (3 slots): magic circle, speak with dead

 

ACTIONS
——————————————————————————————

Bone dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft. or

range 20/60 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage

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