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Seven children are destined to save Pruul and shake the traditions of the territory to their very core. In response, factions have broken the peace of a previously unified territory and violence has erupted across the dessert. It is a battle between the past and the future, the young and the old, and blood won’t stop seeping into the sand.
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Author Topic: Sandworms and Sandriders  (Read 1352 times)


Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Sandworms and Sandriders
« on: Apr 09, 12, 05:05:19 PM »

Sandworms are essentially overly predatory whales in the sand sea. They are about the size of two or three horses when fully grown--large enough to ride, although not many know how--and are considered the greatest cause of Pruul’s aridity. Sandworms are incredibly durable and tough, having defied multiple attempts to wipe them out. They are armored in sections of rings, granting them flexibility and for an unknown reason, an incredible Craft resistance; because of this, the best way to kill one is to avoid the teeth and the powerful thrashing, then stab it between the segments. They display excessive aggression when confronted with Craft. There are no visible eyes. Inside their mouths are rings of teeth, which are usually harvested when a sandworm is killed, which is rarely, as the killing of a sandworm is really terrible luck if it’s not in one of the Ordeals. These become blades for high-ranking members of the court in Onn, or family heirlooms, as the slaughter of a sandworm is a memorable occasion. Sandworms also exhale a great quantity of poisoned water, which a Black Widow might be able to purify after years of highly specific training.

They are exclusively denizens of the deep desert, and do not often venture near rocky outcroppings. Usually, they eat small organisms in the sand, such as budding plant life, but if you disturb them they will come after you with a vengeance. At night, if they are not hunting you, there is an unearthly keening--the sandworms sing when they’re in well-maintained land.

No one outside Pruul quite believes in the daredevils called “sandriders”, just like those outside Pruul often don’t believe in sandworms. However, because of the lack of Winds, sandriders are an important part of communication between societies inside Pruul. Because of the inherent danger of their job, very few sandriders over the age of 30 are known to exist--and right now, their numbers are few, as Jabbar Fakhouri discouraged and outright tried to destroy what he viewed as a threat to his reign. Under Qasim, numbers have not improved; this will be a priority for the new Court, as without sandriders communication is effectively crippled within Pruul.

Sandriders can be Blood or they can be Landen; there is very little Craft can do to assist a Blood sandrider, as use of active Craft--something which must be actively maintained, draining someone’s reserves--drives the sandworms into a frenzy. However, in order to mount and ride a sandworm, you must pull the segments in their armor apart--this is usually done by hands, but the sheer crushing pressure of the armored segments has been known to sever fingers. To combat this, most sandriders wear armor, particularly on their hands and arms. It is very rare to see a sandrider of any renown with every one of their fingers. To have a sandrider who has accumulated few scars is even rarer.

Sandriders always work in pairs--one of them to mount the worm and keep it above ground, and another to direct it. Groups of three are rare, and single riders nonsensical. Sandworms are only as big as two or three horses--it’s too big for a single person, but often too small for three or more. Most often, sandrider pairs have a Blood rider and a landen rider. This isn’t because it gives them any advantage during the ride itself, which relies on brains and brawn, but because a Blood rider can vanish supplies. Sandriders need to be fast and they need to be strong, or they’ll disappear down a sandworm’s gullet faster than you can blink.

Sandriding is an equal-opportunity occupation. Women are not discouraged from joining the sandriders unless they bear a caste--much like a woman becoming a warrior--as they are judged as having inherent worth to their tribe as they are. Families may disapprove, but a mentoring sandrider will generally not turn away a female applicant. For multiple reasons, however, sandriders skew 60-40 towards males.

Sandriding is a course of action that must be chosen young. No one over the age of fifteen is accepted for training, as it is considered too late for them to learn the skills that a sandrider must know. It is often a decision made by street rats, desperate to improve their fortunes, or parents who want to see their children cared for. Sandriding can be quite lucrative, after all.

The training for a sandrider is long and arduous; dropouts are many, and of those that remain few will ever become true, full sandriders. It begins when a child is given to their new “masters”, though master pairs differ wildly in training methods. Training is exacting work that brooks few mistakes, and most masters are mindful of this, and strict. If a child learns the intricacies of deep desert survival to the point where they can survive alone in the desert for a week, they will be brought to the only stable sandrider “school” in Tuono.

“School” is used loosely; the preferred term is “The Madrasa,” drawing from an ancient landen term. No lessons are taught there in a formal manner; sandriders don’t have much use for letters, and a large percentage (fifty to sixty-five percent) are entirely illiterate. The Sheikh of the Sandride (the oldest and most skilled of the living sandriders; called the Sheikha if female) resides there, and their sole purpose is to match young sandriders to one of their fellows for official training with a mentor pair.

The Sheikh is matched by the Emirate, who is the Sheikh’s partner--if they were active sandriders, these two would be a pair. The Emirate functions as a steward, almost, and a public relations figure; often they are kept in Onn or the current administrative center of Pruul to advocate for sandriders.

Sandrider pairs are often lovers or siblings--lovers being much more common, as most Sheikhs know sandriders don’t spend a lot of time around others. One of the things a good Sheikh tries to do is match people who will genuinely grow fond of each other. When the Sheikh believes that they have found a pair of potential sandriders who will work well together, they are subjected to the Ceremony of Two. This is a period of enforced togetherness which lasts no less than 24 hours. Before the ceremony, the potential sandriders will be brought before an Altar, where a Priestess will declare them “to be as one” before the Darkness. After drinking a small cup of each other’s blood, the pair retire to an enclosed room for the twenty-four hours.

What happens inside is not mandated; but usually, what happens is the pair of them will talk to each other about their lives. On occasion, a Sheikh will have grossly miscalculated, and when the door is opened the next day it is to an exploded body. This is rare. This is not considered a mark against the surviving sandrider, who will be re-paired up to twice more. If a sandrider goes three pairings without success, however, they are rejected from the training--once, understandable. Twice, a little wary-making. Three times and there is something wrong with the applicant, not the Sheikh. 95% of first pairings are successful, though.

When a sandrider pair reaches the end of their training, they return to Tuono in the springtime for the Great Testing. Each pair, observed by a small council of the full sandriders, must go out and mount a worm, guide it around Tuono, and then dismount at the edge of Tuono’s stone base. If one of them dies, both fail and are cast out. However, failure during the Great Testing is rare; those who survive to that point often have the skills needed to achieve a passing grade.

Often, sandriders are the worst stereotype of the testosterone-driven soldier. They are often rude and crude; they know they’re badasses and expect you to as well. Need to find a sandrider? Look in a tavern. They’ll be the scarred ones missing three fingers and regaling everyone with their tales of heroism and danger. Finding a scholarly sandrider can be likened to finding a needle in a haystack, simply because they have no time. Landen sandriders often don’t have the space to carry books even if they had the time, and Blood sandriders often don’t have the time even if they have the space. Despite their lack of academic knowledge, sandriders often have wicked strategic minds, and they are intimately familiar with just about every inch of Pruul. Having the sandriders on your side is a benefit that one should not undervalue.

Please PM Roma before making a Sandrider character. Because these are incredibly rare, you should have a plot idea and purpose for them.