Friday, November 3, 2017

Turtle Philosophers

Morla, alas, came to the ultimate conclusion that
nihilism is the only true philosophy

(thanks to Arnold K. at Goblin Punch with his Tortoise Tsardoms for some inspiration here)

Turtles can live for quite a long time (or more particularly tortoises, I suppose, but whatever), and the longest lived can survive for many centuries, especially those in fey or magical environments. Those that live for such a time have a penchant for long, deep thinking, and ancient memories, and put together can become philosophers of the highest order.

No particular turtle species necessarily produces such philosophers--ancient snapping turtles in the swamps, thousand-year-old tortoises on a desert island, sea turtles grown so old and large that they resemble islands, perhaps even dragon turtles! can all become philosophers--but those grown from the lesser species of turtle have the following stats:


Turtle Philosopher

HD 6
AC 2
THAC0 14 (for those who use it)
Attack 2-8
Morale 6 (they don't generally like violence)

Philosophize -- Turtle Philosophers obviously have a deep and abstruse understanding of the world and of philosophy, and to make their particular systems of thought even more esoteric, they often inherit or invent recondite terminologies for the various phenomena of philosophy (from long-remembered conversations with errant magic-users and Elves, perhaps). By making a great speech of these arcane understandings, a Turtle Philosopher may choose to confuse, put to sleep, or even charm characters (according to the rules for those spells, confuse, sleep, or charm person).

This ability may be used 3/day, OR without limit so long as the referee continues to spout semi-coherent philosophical arguments, explanations, or minutiae. Characters save against petrification (of thought--so a wisdom or will save for later systems), and must save at -2 if the referee manages to scrounge up something of an actual philosophical oration. But IF a player/character responds by actually engaging with the diatribe, perhaps nitpicking terms or drawing out implications, that character saves automatically, and grants a +2 on his or her comrades' saves.

Sagacity -- Furthermore, if some kind of a rapport can be developed with a Turtle Philosopher (what do they want?--new philosophies to ponder, answers to old philosophical problems, maybe something so mundane as the banishment of a nasty old troll from the local swamp-neighborhood), the Philosopher can act as a kind of sage for the player/characters. That means that for 1-6 questions per favor granted it, the Philosopher can deeply ponder and delve into memories, and produce a reasonable sagacious answer for each within 1-4 weeks. This includes identifying magic items, another thing sages do in my game.


Alas for some of the swamps inhabited by such a creature, the turtle becomes a Turtle Philosopher-King, obsessed with its own vision of an ideal society, which it attempts to foist onto its fellow citizens of the swamp (or desert island, or what have you). The Philosopher might also have a strange obsession with universal ur-shapes, geometry, or mathematics.

You all know how it ends when Yertle envisions
himself as the philosopher-king of his swamp ...

Turtle Philosopher-Kings have the same stats as their merely philosophizing kin, but they invariably attract some kind of following:

1) a School of 2-12 would-be Turtle Philosophers who are all HD 3, cannot yet spout philosophy, and who follow their Philosopher-King's commands absolutely

2) a Republic, somewhat along the lines laid out by the Philosopher-King, with 1-6 would-be Turtle Philosophers (as above), 4-16 lizardmen or bullywug Guardians, 2-12 Craftsmen, possibly forest gnomes, and 5-30 slaves, likely goblins, gripplis, etc.

3) a Cult of 5-30 lizardmen or bullywugs who worship the Philosopher-King as a reptile god and who offer semi-regular tribute

4) a Circle of 20-200 myconids whose "King" has found a deep rapport and companionship with the Turtle Philosopher-King

5) a Dragon (or Dragon Turtle) who has taken the Philosopher-King on as a kind of "court philosopher" in its lair, and to entertain its own ancient memory

6) an Imp who literally plays "Devil's Advocate" for the Philosopher-King's arguments; their cantankerous rapport is like two old men who regularly argue for argument's sake


Regardless as to whether it is a mere Philosopher or Philosopher-King, Turtle Philosophers sometimes attract semi-regular petitioners as a kind of oracle--or as a sage, approached by individuals seeking knowledge. Such petitioners might include:

1) peasants come seeking some kind of oracle from the Turtle-Philosopher

2) a magic-user (or an apprentice of some greater wizard-lord) come asking for advice concerning a spell, a magic-item's formula, or a magical component

3) an adventuring party seeking sagacious advice, about a dungeon or a monster, say

4) a troupe of Elves come to pay respects to an old friend, swapping old in-jokes, treading out old gossip, and sharing new rumors

5) a congress of the local animals--baboons, or finches, or a school of trout--come to ask advice about some dispute in their own affairs

6) a cleric looking for old dirt on a rival cult


Lastly, for the Greyhame Dungeoneers, there is an old legend that the Bronding kings and their naiad friends invited a Turtle-Philosopher to the waters above the Brokenbrand Falls to dwell there as a kind of court philosopher. The legends tell of a gem-and-gold-encrusted shell bequeathed by gracious sovereigns, and quibble about whether Brondr himself or one of his successors brought the dubiously named philosopher "Chelonius" to the falls.

Legends differ as to whether this particular Turtle-Philosopher preferred playing chess against the kings, or expounding on epistemology.

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