Friday 9 February 2024

Ancestries and Character Backgrounds in the Crocodilian Apocalyps

PCs in Behind Gently Smiling Jaws each have one of four ancestries, and a background which follows from whatever their ancestry is. Ancestries may be randomly determined, chosen, or assigned, as seems appropriate to the DM and player; backgrounds should generally be randomly determined. The exercise of selecting both should always be done after rolling stats and choosing a character class.

PCs may be Degenerate Humans, Somnic Humans, Young Naacals or High Naacals. There is a fifth type of ancestry, Old Naacal, which is for NPCs only.

Degenerate humans are descended from those humans who were living in the world at the time of the Infraction, and who organised themselves into whatever polities they could in its aftermath. Now, an eon later, they comprise a great patchwork of many different societal archetypes (nomadic or semi-nomadic; pastoralist or agriculturalist; urban or marine), levels of organisation (city-states, empires, petty-kingdoms, bands of hunter-gatherers), levels of technology (from stone-age to gunpowder) and character (theocracies, thalassocracies, republics, monarchies, kritarchies). Many of them are independent; others are under the sway of suchian entities, Somnic Humans, or Naacals.

Degenerate human PCs may have one of the following backgrounds, meaning their parentage; after determining the background, roll for broad geographical/cultural origin or choose as desired:

1. Tribesman or -woman (1 - Desert/arid, 2 - Forest, 3 - Marsh, 4 - Steppe/grassland, 5 - Mountains, 6 - Tundra) 
2. Farmer or pastoralist (1 - Piedmont, 2 - Grassland, 3 - Flood plain, 4 - Forest margins) 
3. Fisherman or -woman (1 - Lake, 2 - Sea, 3 - River) 
4. Merchant (1 - Rural, 2 - Urban, 3 - Seagoing) 
5. Soldier (1 - Piedmont, 2 - Grassland, 3 - Flood plain, 4 - Forest) 
6. Noble (1 - Rural, 2 - Urban)

Degenerate humans have no special abilities, but suffer no advancement penalty.

Somnic humans are those rare humans who were born and raised among the degenerate ones of their kind, but who due to happenstance or unusual sensitivity bear some of the somnic influence of one of the Seven. Recognised by their peers as larger-than-life, whether for good or ill, and imbued with an intensity of purpose, they take after whichever of the Seven is somnically dominant over them. Their backgrounds therefore derive from that respective member of the Seven:

1. Sese-Mahuru-Bau (passionate and strong-willed, +1 STR, +1 WIS; can pass without trace 1/day) 
2. Xu Fu (cerebral and domineering, +1 INT, +1 CHA; can command 1/day) 
3. Pape Jan (wily and determined, +1 INT, +1 WIS; can create a sanctuary 1/day) 
4. Anak Wungsu (resourceful and talented, +1 INT, +1 DEX; can create fool's gold 1/day) 
5. Jorge de Menezez (strong and ferocious, +1 STR, +1 CON; can remove/cause fear 1/day) 
6. Ebu Gogo (resilient and fecund, +1 CON, +1 CHA; can detect evil 1/day) 
7. Abu Yaqub Al-Sijistani (cunning and insightful, +1 WIS, +1 CHA; can identify 1/day) 
8. The PC is that very rare thing: a combination of somnic influences from two of the Seven; roll twice, but double the advancement penalty (see below)

Somnic humans suffer a 5% advancement penalty, meaning they must deduct 5% from all XP awards they receive. The player should also roll a sub-background, using the table for degenerate humans, to determine the PC’s origin.

Young Naacals are the descendants of the weak-blooded Naacals who returned to the world from the Unremembered City in the aftermath of the Infraction. Though described as ‘weak-blooded’, this refers to the strength of their somnic ability rather than physical weakness, and they are typically the more vigorous and active of their kind. They are the Naacals who have forged empires and kingdoms within the world, and who often hold sway over vast masses of degenerate human slaves; they are also the most likely to have strayed far from their cultural heritage, and to have engaged in practices unknown to the High or Old Naacals - such as marriage, parental child-rearing, commerce, war, and feasting.

Young Naacal religion is complex, and characterised by the worship of many different gods and spirits, but there are four sets of paired deities, each a brother and sister, who are held to be primordial or supreme. It is the ultimate veneration of one of these pairs which determines a Young Naacal PC’s background. These are:

1 - Nu and Naunet, the gods of fluidity or flow; of transience or the lack of a defined state (attuned to the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, +2 WIS, +1 DEX; can cast change self and hold portal 1/day) 
2 - Hehu and Hehut, the gods of unboundedness, or of the lack of limit - of air, and of the void (attuned to the infinite nature of existence, +2 INT, +1 STR; can cast enlarge and feather fall 1/day) 
3 - Kekui and Kekuit, the gods of darkness, and of obscurity - of the passing of day into night (attuned to the fact that all comes to an end, and that all will pass, +2 WIS, +1 CON; can cast light/dark and erase 1/day) 
4 - Qerh and Qerhut, the gods of repose, of inactivity, of halting and stopping (attuned to the qualities of stillness, and of attending without haste, +2 CHA, +1 CON; can cast hypnotism and sleep 1/day)

Young Naacals suffer a 10% advancement penalty, meaning they must deduct 10% from all XP awards they receive.

High Naacals are the pure-blooded, high caste Naacals who still inhabit the Unremembered City as it floats through the skies of the post-Infraction world. Aloof, arrogant, and strange, over time their somnic abilities have weakened and become attenuated and difficult to control. But they remain the only inhabitants of the world who able to summon and command suchian entities. How this is done is detailed in a separate post.

High Naacals suffer a 10% advancement penalty, meaning they must deduct 10% from all XP awards they receive.


  1. The Somnic humans are interesting, though I wonder how these various groups are meant to team up for one purpose.

    1. As a general rule they don't, but never underestimate the capacity of D&D PCs to overlook cultural differences...

  2. Don't suppose you could link the post on summoning and commanding suchian entities? I looked for it - searched "suchian," then started scanning all posts tagged "behind gently smiling jaws" but was unable to locate it (there are far more of these and the project goes back much further than I had realized!) - though it's certainly possible that I just missed it scanning too quickly.

    1. I haven't done it yet. I'm experimenting with the idea of creating the setting through a Substack and this is one of the posts. Once I have a sufficient number of posts written I'll probably then share the link!

    2. Well, that would explain my inability to find it! Looking forward to it whenever you get around to it!