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BESM Fantasy Bestiary as a sourcebook for the BESM edition of Grave of Heaven

Uresia: Grave of Heaven was drafted before the BESM Fantasy Bestiary had been compiled, and the two have very different styles (Uresia is a very quirky, reflection of what I enjoy most about fantasy anime and anime in general, while the Fantasy Bestiary is a vigorous exploration of traditions drawn directly from Dungeons & Dragons and its immediate descendants). But it's the nature of each that large amounts of usable overlap exist. Certainly, some of the Uresian beings like the Mushroom Trolls, Snowmen and many-colored Slimes could add a lot of interest to an otherwise D&D-esque BESM campaign, and no Grave of Heaven GM should overlook the Fantasy Bestiary as a valuable source of ready-to-play races and critters, either to be used as-is or with serial numbers smudged to make handy summonable attackers, demons, or other creatures entirely.

Global Notes on Dovetailing the Books

Fantasy Bestiary employs some generalizations that are traditionally very useful - but Uresia is only quasi-traditional, so some of these don't translate very well. Generally, discard or soften any cultural or personal trait ascribed to an entire race, when visualizing that race's Uresian equivalent.

There are some very slight differences in presentation, too. The Fantasy Bestiary doesn't provide calculated armour values, for example, while Grave of Heaven does. Another contrast is that Fantasy Bestiary makes use of the Highly Skilled trait in racial templates, while Grave of Heaven makes a point of avoiding it (since the skill rules are options many campaigns - including my own - make no use of). Both of these differences are easily mended or switched, though, as suits the needs of the GM.

The Aptly-Named "Sir Not Appearing In This World:" Uresia has no Halflings, Orcs or Worgs, at least officially. Halflings and Orcs were expressly forbidden by editorial decree, but I hadn't intended to include them, anyway, since they play no traditional roles in fantasy anime. Worgs are similarly too Tolkienian without a corresponding anime echo. That said, feel free to shove them all in someplace if you enjoy them . . . None of them would really contradict or undo anything established for Uresia (I don't think anyone would notice if a bunch of Hobbit villages cropped up somewhere in Rinden; they probably make good Sour Plum Jam). All the other creatures in the Fantasy Bestiary have some sort of place in Heaven's Grave, if only by name!

Folks is Folks: Character Races

Angel: Before the Skyfall, Angels were probably much more common. But now that the God of Justice is the God of Pushing Up Daisies and the God of Goodness is the God of Being Digested By Worms, any remaining angels are probably half-mad hermits muttering to themselves in high mountain retreats or forgotten planes, complaining to no-one in particular that their harps need a good tuning. However, a good many Uresian demons would qualify as "angels" in terms of game-stats (remember that in Uresia, a "demon" isn't an evil entity, just a summoned extraplanar one), so PC demonologists in need of quick stats take note.

Centaur: Use the Centaur stats in Grave of Heaven. Uresian Centaurs aren't as nomadic or restless as those in the Fantasy Bestiary, preferring to form villages dominated by large communal longhouses. A good many of them don't mind being sedentary, either; there have been quite a few notable Centaur scholars and sorcerers in Sindra, particularly, including "Fat Ass Holgeyer" of Ballicazar, who was (during his day) the world's foremost expert on the summoning of flour-sprites. Most Centaurs live in the valleys and lowlands of Lochria, but they're found in numbers on more than half the islands.

Demon: Much to the dismay of the million or so benevolent demons and demonspawn trying to make an honest living in Uresia (mostly in Winnow, Sindra and Boru), most Uresians in the sticks think of Demons in much the same way as they're described in the Fantasy Bestiary: malicious nasties come to bedevil or tempt us. Of course, plenty of demons are like that, so these stats are plenty useful as-is.

Dwarf: Culturally, these "classic dwarves" are much more like the Dwarves of Laöch than the dwarves of Orgalt. In either case, though, use the Dwarf stats in Grave of Heaven.

Dark Elf: Some small enclaves of these are rumored to exist in the forgotten deeps of the Volenwood, tainted by the Skyfall-ruin caverns in which they dwell. These rumors are an embarrassment to the Elves, who don't share them with outsiders. The sensitivity to light, though, is almost certainly an exaggeration, or a misunderstanding tainted heavily with snooty Elvish bigotry. And for every "mwahaha-evil" Dark Elf, there are bound to be dozens of miserable ones who feel trapped by their lot in life. It's unlikely that any Dark Elves live in (or under) Birah.

Giant: These can be used pretty much exactly as described. They're found in remote corners of most of the islands, and in the Troll Lands (whether a specific Giant counts as a "Troll" really comes down to whether or not he feels the longing for the Inner Islands when he's away).

Gnome: The Gnomes of Uresia are wizened little nature-spirits, 10% mortal being and 90% "earth elemental." They speak in cryptic phrases because they experience time sideways; they're very rare and frequently mistaken for clumps of sod or small piles of rocks. For slightly lunatic inventors and alchemists, see Celar.

Goblin: Goblins are a common concern in the mountains of Rinden and Winnow, and pretty rare elsewhere (Goblin exiles are found in Celar; Goblin tradition seems to indicate that Celar is "Goblin Hell"). They're not nomadic like the Fantasy Bestiary goblins (though some are forced to feel that way when the royal troops come along to burn their villages). They're not usually hostile, either, but they breed rapidly and frequently end up with more goblins than local resources can provide for, which results in frequent little wars that the men in the valleys below never even know about, and occasional desperate raiding seasons that the same men never forget. Those, and the fact that they refuse to acknowledge the rule (or tax requirements) of any human king brand them permanently as a cannon-fodder race. Use the Fantasy Bestiary stats.

Hobgoblin: Use the Fantasy Bestiary stats to represent some of the smaller "whipping boy" Troll Lands races. The term "hobgoblin" is common anti-Troll slur in parts of Uresia, but refers to no specific race (it's an almost painful irony that small-minded people use the term with no hint of consistency).

Lizardfolk: These are found, pretty much as described, in some of the cold fens of northern Sindra.

Medusa: The idea of the mythical Gorgons becoming an entire race is 100% "classic" dungeon-gaming, so the best place to include "medusae" is certainly in a dungeon someplace, as a proper homage. Certainly, they'd be creepy things to meet in a Skyfall ruin. They have no presence in the known Uresian cultures, however, and no known existence at all outside of half-credible tavern tales told by haggard ruin-delvers.

Merfolk: Thanks to the influence of the Sea Dragon, the Merfolk (who are very real in Uresia) may never have meaningful contact with Men. It remains a mystery if that's how they want things. Nobody knows for sure if they worship the Sea Dragon or are terrorized by it. Use the Fantasy Bestiary stats as written, but treat any cultural notes as random speculation. Men have been distant witnesses to some of the wars that seem to constantly rage beneath the sea, but have no useful guesses as to the reasons for those wars, or the nature of the nations that wage them.

Minotaur: Use the Grave of Heaven stats (Generic Beastmen with appropriate modifications - Uresian Minotaurs have the signature agility, speed and heightened senses common to most of the Heltish races). The silver-mining Tauroids of Helt are the most well-known of Uresia's Minotaur population, but the mystically-inclined Minotaur of Boru shouldn't be overlooked. Uresian Minotaurs aren't especially greedy, obsessed with treasure, or racially associated with dragons. In fact, they're mostly just really really nice guys. The exceptions are to be avoided, preferably by air, since Minotaur are very quick, leaping nimbly even over very uneven, rocky terrain.

Ogre: These are one of the many varieties of Troll, common mostly in the broken outer islands. Use as written.

Titan: There are beings like this in Uresia dwelling in the southernmost Troll Lands, but they're still largely a matter of rumor. There may also be "titanic" entities dwelling underground in some of the more colossal Skyfall ruins. An expedition into a fissure in the Gandi Uplands of Boru (in 1358) included a brief encounter with what may have been a Titan village, hidden (or trapped) for centuries in the depths beneath the sunlit world.

Troll: Use the Grave of Heaven stats and notes, but these Trolls can certainly be used, as-is, to represent a specific and rare variety of Troll (most Trolls have no issues with sunlight; some even have amusing tan-lines). Even better, it's another good set of stats for demonologist PCs in need of a nifty new demon.

Werewolf: Werewolves of this kind are very rare in Uresia, but certainly exist, especially in some of the more richly-accursed forests of Temphis. There are probably fewer than two thousand Werewolves in all of Uresia.

Bump in the Night: Creatures of Myth, Dinosaurs

Just about any sort of monster is appropriate as a foe somewhere in Uresia. The most common foes in the inner islands are intelligent, though: if you wander into the wilderness, a pack of Swarming Bandit Slimes or some Dwarf desperadoes are a much more likely threat than 1d4 Random Wandering Basilisks. The most common monsters are those deliberately summoned (or raised from the dead) by magic, except in the deeps of the sea (but the ubiquitous nature of sea monsters is almost certainly the work of the Sea Dragon). Keeping them rare (especially near inhabited areas) keeps them special and helps maintain the sense of menace that wild places should have (especially in accursed lands like Temphis).

Generally, use creatures as described in the Fantasy Bestiary unless Grave of Heaven provides alternate interpretations specific to the world. Beyond that, here's a few specific notes for creatures with particular differences in Uresia:

Cockatrice: Use the stats as written, but they're not just found in distant, wild places. They sometimes infest the homes of wizards in Sindra. This has been true for less than a century, though, and if anyone ever isolated the cause (either to solve the problem or just place appropriate blame) there are rich sorcerers who'd gladly be a little poorer for it. Of course, the family of the wizard responsible is rich, too, and they like the respectability of their name -

Gargoyle: These are an intelligent race worthy of consideration as player-characters or friendly NPCs. They're found in "upper story" ethnic colonies in many of Uresia's larger cities. They're similar in some ways to those described in the Fantasy Bestiary, except the part about taking joy in torturing and killing. Some are genuinely heroic; most just prefer stretching their wings, finding a good beer, and hanging out. Uresian Gargoyles are naturally nocturnal, but not magically immobile during the day. Most can speak, and they age comparably to humans (turning to stone only when they die in their sleep).

Griffin: These are found in most of the really forbidding mountains of the world, including the emerald-rich highlands of Dreed. The nobility of the Rindenland kingdoms are fascinated with them to the point of romantic obsession (no, no, not in a hentai way - get that brain washed out with soap).

Roc: In Uresia, it's spelled "Rukh," but either way works. Uresian Rukhs are very rare, apparently limited to isolated islands around the north end of the Elu region, and (at minimum) twice the size and power of the ones described in the Fantasy Bestiary. See the section in Grave of Heaven on legendary islands -

Dinosaurs: If they're around, it's probably on an isolated "lost in time" sort of island somewhere in the southern waters between Rinden and the Troll Lands.

Don't Bogart that Tree, My Friend: Faeries

The Faeries are very much a part of the many secret kingdoms of the Volenwood, and most are probably much as described. The two exceptions are the Genies, who are almost never seen outside of Boru (occasionally the Sindrans get up the nerve to summon one), and the Satyrs, who are a mortal Heltish race. The Satyrs of Uresia are certainly related distantly to nature spirits (because, after all, they've gone to bed with just about everyone) but aren't spirits themselves (that said, many of them use the "ever ball a nature spirit?" pickup line on unworldly bumpkins who've been into the ale).

There are remnants (sometimes literally) of the Faeries in the deep woods of Birah, too . . . And they're every bit as warped, beaten, and bereft of hope as Birah's elves. A half-wild, embittered, edgy Leprechaun might make an amusingly twisted character type . . . Whether he'd have any of the Elvish martial-arts training would depend entirely on his own cunning and ability to bargain for it, since only the Elves are willing participants in the Wild Pact. All others nearby are simply victims and benefactors (usually both at once).

No Rest for the Weary: The Undead

The Undead are, if anything, more common in Uresia than other fantasy worlds, since many ghosts have nowhere else to go. Those who don't migrate to Yem either evaporate or start haunting. Some spirits are strong enough to endure as ghosts but untied to any locale . . . Some even wander the world as heroes (use the Grave of Heaven stats). Use the Fantasy Bestiary undead stats as a good source for many kinds of necromantic Flunkies, dungeon threats, and background noise in a Yemite tavern. Uresian Vampires, though, include many varieties apart from the Noble Bloodsucker cliché, so the players should never feel too comfortable in their knowledge of these dangerous beings.

By S. John Ross, Copyright © 2002


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