Brats

Brats look a lot like giant rats. They get as big as a large dog and therefore have a taste for all kinds of prey: bunnies, rats, birds of all kinds, dogs, cats, or even children or lone adventurers who sleep in the forest. That's why their nests are frequently destroyed by humans, even if they keep rat populations in check.

Their sharp teeth and long split tongues make them somewhat fearsome to look at. With this tongue, which is about as long as the animal is high, they are capable to grab their prey and hold onto it, while the rest of the murder bites it to pieces. There are no hierarchies within the murder, but pregnant brats (called bratnants in many communities) get special protection by the other animals. Brats hide their young in hollowed out trees. The mother animal proceeds to hunt with the others and only visits its young once a day to feed them and to clean the nest. Because their brood consists of six young at most, this usually only takes a couple of hours.

One should be careful in the forest not to stumble in a murder of brats in accident. Especially if they are devouring prey or caring for their brood. If feeling threatened or challenged, they might attack immediately. Or - arguable even worse - decide to stalk their challenger over days attacking only when they sleep. Ignoring self-defense, there aren't any reasons to hunt for them anyway. Their meat only is edible with a lot of spices and when prepared by a true brat expert, who aren't that plenty, obviously. Even when struck by a famine most people tend to slaughter their dog before going on a brat hunt. 

When attacked by brats the best idea is to kill off the strongest animal as fast as possible. Brats are quick to flee, but keep in mind that they probably just regroup to attack again next night.

 

Ennui

The City of Ennui is named after the religion of its founders. According to ennuit teaching boredom is the root of all innovation and progress. Only if day to day life is monotonous and unfulfilling humans will get creative enough to change something for the better. That's why ennuit temples aren't decorated but look rather bland. Also, the priests only sing the same boring singsong, which shall inspire the rest of the community to come up with their own songs.

But the reason for the city's appeal isn't the religion, it's rather the local iron ore mines. Therefore, most of the 8000 citizens only have a shallow understanding of the ennuit religion. Ennui is famous for its steel production and its engineers, who visit specialised schools. Whoever can afford to visit one of these schools, first learns reading, writing, basic math, and the history and politics of Ennui. After that the students specialise in medicine, politics, theology, tool engineering, or machine engineering.

There is a lot of cooperation between the latter two faculties. Together with builders, smiths, miners, and charburners they tirelessly work on improving the famous steam engines, which not only open the city gates, but are vital to the big scale mines, forges, and mills. The strong steel industry provides cheap tools and weapons, which are the most important export goods of the city. But there's a dark site to it too: because of a lack of safety measures a lot of workers get seriously insured at least once in their lifetime, especially among miners there are a lot of casualties. Because of that, Ennui has a citywide insurance system, that pays generous sums in case of injury or even death.

Thanks to ennuit teaching, that demands a peaceful life as a pillar for constructive boredom, Ennui has a low crime rate. Special Sheriffs are tasked with solving a crime, if any should take place. They can operate without many constrictions and have up to two dozen assistants. Most Sheriffs visited the school of politics and think of the profession as a catalyst for a later political career. Because of their many assistants they can operate all over the city at the same time. This means Sheriffs are often more engaged with organizing than visiting crime scenes or chasing criminals. If they are seen in the streets they can be sure to receive the immediate respect of those around them. While their assistants only wear a brassard to distinguish the from normal citizens, Sheriffs wear a mail shirt or steel breastplate, a ornamented sword, a revolver or pistol, and - most important - a small steel star fixed to the chest. The theft of one of this stars is the only crime punished with the death sentence in Ennui! All other serious crimes are punished with prison time. There the criminals will get regular visits from ennuit believers, who try to inspire them to have better ideas in the future - with consequent boredom of course.

For extraordinary threats, like a siege of the city for example, militias can be called into action. Militia soldiers get assigned the Sheriff who needs them most. In exchange for pawning some of their valuables the city provides them with a gambeson, steel helmet, and a simple to use weapon like spears, clubs, or crossbows. After the threat is neutralized they return to their normal lives and return their gear.

Ennui is ruled over by a city council, which gets elected each winter. It consists out of two representatives each for agriculture, charburning, engineering, religion, and bourgeoisie. These ten representatives spent their week in midst of their voters, where they care for local communities, decide disputes, and spread important news. At the end of the week they meet all up and talk about the most important concerns of their community, before they change any laws. They also review reports of the Sheriffs and convict criminals. 

Ennui's currency consists of small silver coins, which are worth a handful of grain each.

 

Fearflies

People who met a swarm of fearflies often have only a vague memory of their encounter. This is very intensional! Fearflies excrete a special secret as soon as they meet humans. Upon inhaling this secret most people immediately flee in terror. In only a couple of hours fearflies can empty whole villages that way!

After clearing out a village the fearflies will collect any food they can find and place it at a enclosed location, like inside a building. After that they simply die. But inside of them their brood still lives. After a few days the larva eats their way out of their mothers. The larva will then proceed to eat up all the rotting food their parents collected for them. When they ate all the food they will turn into a pupa. After about two weeks the fearflies will be matured and head out for the next village. They only leave a ghost town and some shocked villagers behind, who usually return to their homes after some time.

There are only few means of protection against the little insects. Fire can help to keep them at a distance for a while, but most of the time the people will be fled before the fire is burned out. One could use something like a hazard suit to protect themselves, but only few will have such a suit at their disposal.

 

Magic

Even though most magicians are just illusionists, who perform their neat tricks for a little fee, there are some people who perform real magic. They aren't welcome in most towns, but some groups openly accept them. To cast spells one first has to learn the spell, which takes years of intense training. But there also is a way faster way: powerful wizards can cut, brand or tattoo someone to enable them to cast a spell even without any of the training. People who prioritise discretion sometimes choose to tattoo the spell onto their inner organs or carve it into their bones to make it invisible to spot. This of course induces immense pain and often takes quite some time to heal. But some will argue that this pain makes the spell more powerful, too.

To maximize the effect of the spell, one should carefully consider the symbol or text and the position it's placed at. The more fitting, the more powerful the spell will be! To cast lightning from the fingertips, one should tattoo thunderbolts on his fingers and hand for example. To jump very high, one could brand a stylized spring on each of their thighs.

When not amazed by yearlong training or body modification, one could choose to only use magic items. Gems and adorned items can be enchanted by wizards. The gems and ornaments should fit the spell here, too. A sword capable of resurrecting slain enemies could be fitted with an onyx or haematite at the pommel for example.

Casting spells always needs intense concentration. Even if using a enchanted item! In game a mental strength skill check is used for that. If failing there are a range of serious problems: failed casts can damage the item or the person it's linked to. Items or gems can crack and get brittle or even break apart! When failing to cast a spell linked to the own body, the marked body part swells and hurts immensely. Sometimes the skin will rip and black mucus will bleed out of the wound. While this mucus isn't dangerous by itself, it's very hard to wash away! If failing a cast again and again, without giving the wound time to fully heal, whole body parts will eventually fall victim to this black mucus, only leaving behind blackened bone. This is dangerous especially when happening to inner organs, because the pain is the only visible symptom then. Often times powerful wizards are covered in wounds and lack body parts because of that.

This magic decay is seen in magic used on the dead, too. Resurrected dead will expectorate black mucus and bleed it out their wounds, for example.

 

Robber Barons

A long time ago some bandits fortified a farmstead to be their base of operation. In the middle of it they erected a large wooden tower. Their leader Gerd the Frail reigned the surrounding villages from it's top floor. The man was tiny and covered in scars. Because of a injury to his throat he would only whisper when speaking. He was feared nonetheless, as he could kill with but a stare. With his powerful magic he was able to throw giant rocks from his tower, order birds to attack deserters, and let blow up the lungs of his enemies.

His descendants still carry the tradition of brutal presentation of power forward. They constructed a impressive castle where once was just the fortified farmstead and hoard their treasures inside of it. They rule ruthlessly, casting horrific spells at those who oppose them. Magic and those who practice it are worshiped by the people around the robber barons castle and those who don't get forced to do so. The robber barons try to overtop their relatives by raiding more and more recklessly, as the standing at court heavily depends on raiding success. The people living in robber barons castle depend on the surrounding farms to survive and grant them protection from outsiders in exchange for nearly all their goods.

Birds of prey are central elements in robber baron culture, even Gerd the Frail is said to have loved the animals. They not only keep the birds, but decorate their clothing with their feathers and bones. The hat worn by all the robber barons also features a wing on each the left and right side.

 

Trout Bear

In regards to feeding, trout bears are quite opportunistic. That's why they are equipped with all kinds of tools. Big and strong paws with thick webbing enable it both to swim and dig very fast. Their mouth is filled with sharp teeth, which cut through flesh like tiny knives. They lack fangs but because they simply crush their prey with their enormous paws, they don't need them anyways. Thick scales protect their body, which withstand bites, sword blows, and even small caliber bullets!

Despite their threatening armament, humans frequently attempt to hunt down trout bears. There are many reasons for that: fishers and cattle ranchers often place bounties on them out of fear for their animals. And the scales, which are used to craft sturdy armor or roofing defensive structures, are quite valuable. Some adventurers also just seek the challenge of fighting a creature nearly one and a half times larger than them.

When hunting a trout bear one should first search for its teeth. Trout bears regularly loose some of their teeth, so they always are equipped with enough new sharp ones. Upon finding some of the teeth, one should search for a nearby cave. Trout bears lie down to sleep almost exclusively in caves and it is nearly suicidal to attack one which is awake. But even for a sleeping trout bear some heavy armament is needed. Warpicks can break through the scales an the thick skull and spears can keep him in some distance. To protect against the sharp teeth one could use mail or plate armor, but at this distance the paw strikes are much more dangerous. To hinder this strikes nets and ropes are commonly used. A rare and rather expensive alternative to all of this would be a large caliber rifle, but where is the sport in that?

In any case, there are a lot of people needed for the hunt. Not only for fighting the bear, but also for transporting the kill back to town. The amounts of meat alone can easily fill a whole cart. When it's not possible to carry the whole animal, one should at least cut out the cheek meat. It's considered a delicacy and can be worth very much when sold to the right costumer. Same is true for the spawn of trout bears, which can be collected far less dangerously, because trout bears don't care for their spawn at all.

After two months the tiny trout bears hatch, which contrary to the adult animals still have gills, and immediately start a wild killing spree. They try to kill off as many of their siblings as possible because only few of them will be taken care of by the mother animal after they leave the water. The victors of this mad battle follow their mother's smell until they find her and then get suckled for some weeks. After that they begin to learn how to hunt and forage for food themselves. After about three years the offspring is matured and leaves their mother.

 
 

Vampires

There are many local legends about immortal beings, who kill off whole villages in search of fresh blood. Most of these stories contradict each other and are just designed to scare children or to sell overpriced anti-vampire potions.

But like many stories some of them hold a bit of truth. There is an invisible society, which seeks out cities and villages to feed from the blood of humans. Although these "vampires" are as human as self doubt one can understand where all those legends are rooted: the teeth of vampires are sharpened, their skin is pale, and they are often dressed in black clothes. 

The society is scattered into many independent communities. They all have in common a strict hierarchy. On top of each community is one member, who is with the community the longest. When receiving their new rank, they also get branded and receive the titel "the Branded" according to it. If new members want to join the community, they first have to endure a initiation rite: they get a new name, which gets cut deeply into their skin. Any blood that escapes the wound gets collected for the Branded to drink.

All vampires avoid sunlight and drink at least one jug of blood a day. Even though prefer human blood, they also accept blood of other mammals or birds if necessary. The method of blood collection isn't universal among different communities. Some kidnap their victims and drain them slowly over months, others simply kill off their prey. Even if it might sound logical for them to raise livestock, only very few communities do so. Because vampires only drink the blood of their prey they often have pets like dogs, cats or other carnivores, which consume the cadavers of their prey. Those pets act as an alarm system during daytime, too. Birds like ravens or pigeons are common pets, too. They are used to transmit letters written with blood instead of ink.

This kind of communication gets utilized mostly by scouts, who look for potential victims in villages and cities. Other than that scouts also hunt down other vampires who left the community. Because both of these jobs are extremely dangerous, scouts are often the most experienced and armed members of the community. 

It's quite hard to get hold of a vampire, because they'll never surrender but run off or fight like in a frenzy. Those who attempt to hunt down vampires are few and battle hardened. Those vampire hunters often group together in dozens before attempting to raid a vampire nest. Because of the scarcity of work vampire hunters will  demand large payments or work as bounty hunters as well. They often use rather creative methods to hunt down vampires. They'll watch out for unusually dark human feces for example, as the amounts of iron in a vampires diet color it in dark tones. Because of those weird behaviors and their rough nature, vampire hunters are often mistrusted.