Saturday 23 September 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #251: The Ayotochin (Player Race)

One hex southwest, eleven northeast of Alakran. 


In this desolate hex, an encounter roll of 1 will cross your path with that of an ayotochin wanderer, seeking justice for the slaves of Ukutta.

I don't like halflings in any of my games. And 5e halflings are particularly repulsive to me, their tiny Liefeld feet crudely announcing to the world that no intellectual property debt is owed to Tolkien. Their niche can usefully be replaced by small funny animal folk of various kinds -- frog-folk, rabbit-folk, talking ducks. Others agree.

So when a player in the Game of Bronze said he wonted to play a halfling bard, I explained the funny animal concept and he decided to play an armadillo-man - an ayotochin, as I styled the race, after the Nahuatl. These creatures combine traits of different armadillo species.

 The lore:

The Ayotochin (singular, Ayotochtli; adjective and short form, Ayoto), are a species of armadillo-like humanoids known in the Urig trade-tongue as hallu-awile ('dillo-folk). They are found in the deserts and plains south and east of the Salt Sea, and scattered throughout the civilized lands adjacent.

Scholars who have travelled widely classify Ayotochin as "halflings" along with the rabbit-folk and frog-folk of more northern realms. Various theories have these small and generally mischievous humanoids originating either in the previous Yuga or in the Copper Age, created as entertainers for one of the dominant humanoid kindreds. These speculations are nonsense to Ayotochin themselves, who believe that they get their lively nature from their ancestor Father Rabbit, and their resilience from Mother Tortoise.

The dillofolk are about four feet long but can only stand three foot because of their plated keratinous shell. Their coloration is a light tan to dark brown, varying towards yellow or red. They are keen-scenting but near-sighted. Their plates overlap such that they can roll into a ball for protection. More acrobatically trained ones can roll this ball around by flexing their bodies inside. Their claws are long and optimized for digging, but civilized ayotochin will clip these nails from a number of their digits to allow for fine manipulation.

Ayotochin live in small villages of 20-50 individuals. They are herders of giant insects and growers of fodder for them, for their preferred food is insect meat ,and insect shells which are crunched the better to strengthen their own carapace. However, they can also live on other kinds of meat and plants, and find eating large quantities of smaller insects enjoyable. A typical village will have some combination of giant beetles, ants, millipedes, sowbugs, or centipedes, kept in pens or herded around on leashes attached to piercings in their shells. There will usually also be fields where grass and shrubs are cultivated to feed the insects, and sometimes pits and wells where large quantities of normal-sized bugs and larvae are grown.

Giant centipedes are particularly important in Ayotochin life, despite the poison which requires special handling on long-handled collars. Centipede flesh has euphoric and hallucinogenic properties to them. No festival or ceremony in an Ayoto village is complete without eating of this "black meat." Fire ants are forbidden by custom to cultivate in either giant or normal size, because their toxin is altogether a stronger and more addictive stimulant to the dillo physiology. Still, some dillo fiends seek them out in the wild.

Ayoto are particularly skilled at pottery, sandstone shaping, obsidian knapping, weaving, and knitting. Their charming crafts, dyed in vivid red, yellow, and green from desert minerals, are what they trade for other goods and necessities, as nobody else will eat Ayoto produce. Ayoto earthenware in particular is appreciated for its comical representations, sometimes obscene, of humans as ayotochin see them.

Dillo communities are usually protected with walls and trenches of earth, adobe, and branches. Things are set up so that everything can be drawn inside if there's trouble, including the insect herds. Village buildings have cellars and passages underground.To compensate for the species' poor vision, a trained hawk is sometimes kept tied to a pole on the roof of the chief's building, and squawks if it sees movement on the horizon. Everyone fights in times of danger, shooting with slings or the rarely acquired crossbow, and in close quarters using spears, obsidian axes, and weapons acquired from trade. Aggression is not in their culture, but strong defense is ingrained.

Ayoto gestation is long at nearly a year, and when birth occurs it is always of a set of identical quadruplets. After reaching adulthood, the village elders judge which of the quads has shown the most promise as a stable member of the community, initiate it into the village, and bid the others find another village or become wanderers. Many ayotochin thus become musicians, jesters, tinkers, pest controllers, or acrobats in human society, which views them appreciatively if somewhat condescendingly. It is bad luck to see one of one's birth-mates again past adulthood, and even worse luck to acknowledge their existence. In this way the ayoto gene pool remains diversified.

Ayoto beliefs about the universe are in constant flux. They have no fixed religion, but a series of fables which are often quoted to end an argument or to start another one. These fables deal with the folk-heroes Mother Tortoise and Father Rabbit, the villainous Dog who persecutes them both, the craven and opportunistic Vulture, the gullible and greedy Anteater, a mythical armadillo called the Pangolin who is oddly put together and always does things the wrong way, and the huge and clueless giant club-tailed armadillo Graven Tooth. Ayoto do not hold deep beliefs about how the world came to be or why it works the way it does, unless such ideas directly improve their lives. Metaphysical and cosmic speculation is a kind of entertainment among them, with competition to come up with the most ridiculous or elaborate story, and such productions are never taken seriously.

The crunch:

Ayotochin are treated as halflings without the traits, Brave and Halfling Nimbleness.

And with the following extra racial traits (slightly altered from the campaign):


You have advantage on saving throws against poison. You have resistance against poison damage.

Armoured Dillo

You may not wear light armor. You have natural Light Armour (AC 12), or Medium Armour (AC 14) until the start of your next turn if you are taking the Hide or Defend action.

Rolly Poly

At the start of your turn, you may roll into (or out of) a ball as a free action. This allows you to move 40', through a larger creature's space (as Halfling Nimbleness), and gives AC 16 with no DEX bonus. You are Blinded and may not attack while in a ball.

Blinky Hog

You have disadvantage on Perception checks involving vision.

It also emerged during the campaign that armadillos can swim, but at the cost of gulping air for buoyancy, which makes them prone to belching afterwards.

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