Ponyfinder in Equestria – Zebras and their lands.

Next up on the Ponyfinder pony types we have the Zebra.

The dry plains of tropical Alkebalkan, with their seasonal rains, lakes, and streams, may support nomads and the occasional village built around a reliable water source, but the true Zebra civilization is are built along the mighty rivers and tributaries that cascade from the interior mountains and jungles to nourish the great river valleys of the Neighle, the Cantor, and the Niker. There, along the green veins of fertile land isolated by distance and the surrounding dryland hills and mountains from the great and terrible jungles, lost or hidden civilizations, and magical mysteries and storms of the deep interior, can be found the ancient cities, fertile irrigated fields, and megalithic enchantments that have been the sanctuary of the Zebra across four ages of the world and throughout uncounted cataclysms.

Here, in the lands of dusty Kemet, where even the greatest external powers and disturbances are muted by ancient wards and the timeless rhythms of an antique land, the Zebra have built what may well be the oldest extant civilization in the world – said in their most ancient tales to have been founded mere weeks after the world and the peoples of Equus were brought forth from the alchemy of creation, when the ancient gods brewed their ingredients in the Abyss of the Void – Tehom, Tiamat, the Giningugap – upon the Colorless Radiance of Exploding Suns, the Light of Rey, and the Fires of Muspell, to bring forth a new world and its Peoples.

Ptah the Artificer, the Opener of the Ways, guided the Zebras – his chosen folk – to their destined homes, and along those rich valleys the ancient Zebra settled, gathering in tribal villages where the ley lines and power-nexi of the lands were bountiful enough to be harnessed with crude and primitive megalithic sigils hacked from the virgin stones of the hills. There the Zebra spread, and multiplied.

Every race of Equus has it’s gifts. That of the Zebra is slow and subtle, but more versatile than most – an ability to sense and combine the natural magical properties of the plants, animals, and minerals of the world around them. While any given individual may develop different aspects of that power, the creation of alchemical magics, wards major, magical architecture, megalithic enchantments channeling the occult energies of the land, and personal sanctums are all natural developments of their abilities – as are shamanic talents and even calling upon the spirits of the dead.

And of those potentials… the compounding of alchemical magics from local reagents, calling upon spirits, and creating personal sanctums were by far the easiest for a primitive villager to pursue, and so became the foundation of Zebra civilization.

With a built-in incentive to seek out rare reagents and the secrets of distant lands, and the great riverways that were the blessing of Ptah to provide an easy path and constant guide, the Beaker Traders, Seekers of Alchemy, soon united the Zebra lands in a loose web of trade and social contacts. Cities grew, and created support networks of geomantic structures and wards.

Centuries later, the Naquadah villages found the secret of the amplifying reagent that bears their name – and with that discovery Ptah stated that the Zebra required his presence no longer, stepped down from leadership, and returned to his home in the places beyond the stars to begin to create anew.

Ponis, lord of Marephis – the largest and wealthiest city of Kemet – and once the Vizier of Ptah, took Ptah’s place as the leader of the Council of the Neighle Tribes, coordinator of the geomantic network that helped maintain the prosperity of the realm. His son turned his role into that of the High Chieftain – and HIS son forged the Crimson Philosophers Crown of the Neighle – an artifact which granted him direct awareness, and limited control, of the geomantic systems that regulated the flooding of the Neighle, provided safety from the beasts of the jungles, and brought prosperity in so many ways to the lands along the Neighle.

And thus Djer became the first true Pharaoh of the Neighle, a god-king regarded as being little less divine than Ptah himself – for the hooves of Ptah had wrought life and land, but from the hooves of Djer flowed wealth. There was an abundance of grain and fruit, fine stone and strong wood, copper and gold – and luxuries to trade for the vital reagents which empowered the alchemy that brought health, long life, pleasure, fertility, and more to the peoples of Kemet.

Soon enough, the Zebras of the Cantor and Niker river valleys sought out the secrets of the Philosophers Crown and forged the Verdant and Azure Crowns to regulate their lands along those great rivers as well – and the wealth, power, and culture of Kemet would echo in legend across the ages.

But Anedjib of the Neighle entitled himself Nebuy – “The Second Lord” – and in madness and unbridled ambition sought to ascend to join Ptah in the places of the Gods beyond the stars. He set his mystic architects to constructing a megalithic gate empowered by Naquadah – the “Bent Pyramid” – intended to force open the way into the heavens that he might become equal with Ptah.

But such hubris was properly punished. The gate opened into the dark between the realms, not into the places of the gods – and through it came the Crawling Chaos, Nephren-Ka, the Black Pharaoh, who cast aside the Crown of the Philosophers and ruled by raw might, dispatching his Apophi – the Flying Serpents that hunted at his will – as a scourge against any who dared defy his dark will in word or deed.

The three crowns of Kemet were united in friendship to stand against Nephren-Ka, revealing that in their harmonious combination lay all the colors and strengths of the worlds magic. The Zebra rose against the Dark One. At the end of that struggle the Black Pharaoh was cast out into the void once more – but there was a price for that choice and victory. The thousand varied colors of the Zebra were touched by the outer darkness, and divided between that and light. Henceforth the very flesh of the Zebra would display only the light and darkness, entangled upon their hides as they were in every mortal heart, neither one thing nor another.

And the first of the Nameless Kings donned the now-unified Triple Crown of the Neighle, Cantor, and Niker – claiming only the title Nebra, the Sun King of the Three Riverlands. Lord of United Kemet.

But the division between the Light and the Darkness persisted. The border tribes turned often to the Darkness, drawing on its dangerous power of Spirits and Tulpa, Channeling and Landrule, as a weapon and defense against the beasts and dangers of the great jungles of the interior and the perils of the wilds. But within the great cities that formed the beating heart of Kemet, the subtle arts of the light were preferred, and architects, alchemists, and warders gathered to share their enlightenment and teach their arts.

There were centuries of quarrels and minor conflicts between the city-dwellers and the nomads of the dry lands – but the Triple Crown and the undoubted might of the Nebra Philosopher Kings held a fragile unity.

The long centuries of disharmony drew at last to an end when the Griffon Invasions struck at the great cities, leading them to extend a hasty invitation to the darker arts of the nomads and their shamans – and the ancient order of the Beaker Traders gathered in defense of Kemet’s core, calling in countless favors and the spirits controlled by the dark arts of the nomadic desert tribes.

The battles were bloody and terrible, but eventually the Nebra Alchemist formerly known as Prince Neighbetre donned the triple crown and sacrificed his right hoof and eye in the ritual to hurl the malignant, near-eternal, unquenchable blaze of Fiendfyre – refined Marenium distilled into the most terrible alchemical weapon that the world had ever known – from the sky upon the griffon encampments and brought the Griffon Wars to an end and peace to the Middle Kingdom.

Even now, despite the passing of ages, the terrible blue light of pockets of Fiendfyre glows still beneath the surface of Equus in places in the hills and badlands, waiting to burn, twist, and poison the unwary – or to mutate the occasional passing animal into a monstrous horror.

And in the Middle Kingdom… the Darkness was balanced against the Light. Dark Stelea rose within the desert just past the borders, and pyramid-tombs were constructed to hold the ranks of the Ushabtiu – the alchemical focus-bodies through which the dead might be called in defence of their descendents – in stasis against a future need. Richly rewarded and funded, the surviving Beaker Traders reached outwards, sailing their wicker ships of dark, alchemically-treated, reeds into the dangerous realms beyond the shores of Kemet.

The Pharoah became indeed the Nebra, advised and supported by a spirit-council of the deceased kings who had come before – although this did lead to occasional power struggles when the Light and Dark factions amongst those councilors favored different candidates. Fortunately, those were always limited to struggles between the great houses, and were never allowed to become general civil wars.

With their lands warded by megalithic magic tied to the very roots of the world, even the reign of Discord across the seas in Equestria had little effect on Kemet. During that time the reigning Nebra opened his realm to give sanctuary to many thousands of refugees, and opened his warehouses – filled with the surpluses of long centuries of prosperity – to feed and supply them.

But a new Nebra arose over Kemet, who – when Discord was sealed in stone – gave in to the voices of tradition and sent the refugees home to rebuild, even if she WAS generous with supplies and assistance.

Most of those refugees were glad enough to go. They found Zebrica / Kemet’s casual acceptance of the wandering dead (no matter if they were powered by alchemy and links to the outer planes rather than by negative energy) more than a little disquieting – and the widespread acceptance of the arts of darkness quite terrifying, no matter if it’s sigils were emblazoned upon their hosts very hides and obviously natural to them. The tales they took home painted Zebrica as a haunted place, filled with ancient tombs and dungeons where the Darkness was permitted to reign freely over the countryside surrounding the great cities that were only protected by the consecrated light of the ancient Temples of Ptah.

There was enough truth to the tales for the legends persist to this day, casting Zebra traders and wanderers as potential evil enchanters and implying that a visit to Kemet might as well be an expedition into the depths of the underworld – encouraging the isolation which has helped maintain Kemet’s changeless social stability to this day.

Still, not even the ancient wards and megalithic anchors of Zebrica can forever hold back the tides of change. Today, as ever-increasing numbers of visitors, scholars, and outside traders visit ancient Kemet, the Council of Deceased Nebra has once again split between whether they need a Warrior-King to defend their land against menacing changes or a Philosopher-King to lead its adaption to them – and so the assassin’s blades are being sharpened and poisons brewed in anticipation of the coming power struggle when the current Nebra joins his advisors in death and competing candidates seek to claim the office of Nebra and the Triple Crown of Kemet.

The rumors say that it will not be long now.

Kemet / Zebrica is currently welcoming adventurers/pawns from beyond it’s borders, is overrun with forgotten ancient complexes where dark powers have gotten out of control that need to be raided and brought back under control, is stuffed full of ancient temples, lost treasures, hidden tombs whose owners only bother with reaching down to defend them out of habit (as a rule, if the dead stop picking up their mail and paying their taxes for more than fifty years, their tombs are considered abandoned, and raiding permits are made readily available), fabulous intoxicants, willing companions (since contraceptive and STD-preventing or curing potions are extremely cheap), elder artifacts, and ancient wards. It offers a ready supply of potions and other disposable alchemical goodies for the connoisseur, skillful weapon and armor-smiths with some experience with other races, and has pretty much everything else that an adventurer could want.

It’s a good deal more dangerous than most of Equestria, simply because the people of Kemet tend to regard killing someone in much the same way that other cultures regard eunuching a male. The victim is cut off from some of the pleasures of life, can no longer have children, loses eligibility for some jobs, and takes a social hit – but they can still come to family gatherings and participate in most things. That’s one of the reasons why Kemet is BETTER. It’s not like being dead in most places!

Zebra Racial Template (32 CP / +1 ECL, normally added to the Basic Pony Template).

The Subtle Weave:

  • Pulse Of The World: Occult Sense / Natural Magic (6 CP). Zebras can automatically identify plants and animals (or pieces thereof) and can sense the inherent magical properties of plants, animals, minerals, and the land itself, although they may need to make a perception check for unfamiliar items. As a side benefit, they gain a +2 bonus on Survival, Herbalism, Heal, and any checks required to use their Natural Alchemy ability, below.
  • Natural Alchemy: Create Artifact, Specialized and Corrupted / only for “alchemical” creations compounded from natural magical components (2 CP). Note that this doesn’t require that the user be a “spellcaster”, or call for expending money on unspecified ingredients; this is first edition style alchemy; if you need manticore venom, a pinch of powdered hematite, and petals from a blue rose, than that’s what you need; the effect and caster level will take care of itself.
  • Alchemical Gatherer / Minor Privilege (3 CP). A traveling Zebra, or one who lives in the wilds, can automatically collect rare herbs, fungi, and other bits and pieces with which to make various alchemical artifacts. This provides an Average lifestyle by default and means that a Zebra will always be stocked with a selection of useful components – enough to keep a stock of (Wisdom) Trivial and (Wis Mod +2) Minor alchemical artifacts available every day.
  • Tribal Lore / Specific Knowledge of (Int + 3) trivial mystical formula (free) and (Int Mod + 3) minor mystical formulas (1 CP). Pretty much every Zebra colt or filly will pick up the formulas for a selection of trivial alchemical creations using readily-found local reagents during childhood. True, the adventuring applications for spooky faces vapor, instant cleaning powder, tasty sparkling beverages, day-of-flavor chewing gum, a minor healing effect suitable for fixing cuts, bruises, and small blemishes, and similar stuff is limited, but even the “Minor” formula – reasonably effective curatives, icing over a surface, extremely slippery grease (and other effects approximately equivalent to first or second level spells) can be quite useful. While major creations will cost 1 SP each, any Zebra who really cares to make an effort can learn a small library worth of useful formulas.

Initiate Of Mysteries:

  • Guidance of Ptah / Witchcraft II. Every Zebra has a bit of Psychic Strength (although on Equus they generally power their abilities with Mana) and three basic witchcraft powers to use. In terms of the setting, Zebra acquire the powers they were meant to have – although training can help focus and develop them. In game terms, of course, the choice is up to the player – as is any Corruption or Specialization they may choose to apply. Witchcraft powers, of course, tend to be short ranged and relatively weak, if normally quite versatile (12 CP).
    • A Shaman might have Dreamfaring, Glamour, and the Inner Eye, all specialized in dealing with Spirits for Increased Effect. With the power to see, hear, touch, communicate with, and influence the spirits of nature and the dead, you’ve pretty much got the basic shamanism down right there.
    • A Scout might have The Adamant Will, Shadowweave (focused on Stealth), and Witchsight, – gaining the ability to conceal his or her aura and resist mental attacks, the ability to travel unseen, and an array of enhanced senses.
    • A Warrior might have Elfshot (Specialized for Increased Effect / only to add specific injury effects when he or she damages a target), Healing (Specialized for Increased Effect / only for use on themselves so they can keep going despite massive injuries, and Witchfire (Specialized in charging weapons with various energies, giving them the equivalent of a +2 enchantment, +1 of which may be a special power).
    • A Poisons Expert might have Healing or Hyloka (in either case specialized so as to provide some immunity to their own poisons), Witchfire (specialized in extracting and infusing poisons, including making small toxic clouds), and Witchsight (allows the easy detection and treatment of poisons and the gathering of ingredients for poisons).
  • Many Zebra take a Pact – typically Guardianship, Missions, Taboos, Duties, Rituals, or Essence – to gain an additional advanced power. For some examples…
    • Master Alchemist: Path of Water / Brewing allows a Zebra to make his or her trivial and minor, alchemical artifacts on the spot, so that they can stop deciding what they’ve got ready in advance and just produce things as needed.
    • Bestial Mindlink: A Scout might take a Witchcraft Companion – probably a hawk or some other swift-flying creature – so as to be able to readily survey distant areas and have it carry messages.
    • Lore of Battle: A Warrior might have the ability to draw on the strength of his or her ancestors, shouting out an ancient battle-cry to activate Wrath of the Sea (+6 Str) or some similar benefit.
    • Within The Blood: Poison experts often become so saturated with venom that their very touch becomes deadly. That’s Venomed Touch, Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user cannot safely give blood, is slightly hazardous to bandage or use the Heal skill on (possibly making the would-be “Good Samaritan” quite ill on a “1″), and leaves the user sterile – perhaps just as well, as any personal involvement would be likely to make their partner quite ill in any case.

Many And Varied Talents:

  • Zebra Bonus Feat: Zebra get one bonus feat taken from among the many gifts of their minor gods. While there are quite a few available (including many of the advanced withcraft powers), some common examples include:
    • Word of Hathor (or Ma’at) the Guardian of Life’s Order: Sanctum. From the early days many a Zebra has found their roots in the land, allowing them to create a personal Place of Power in which to practice their arts. This is perhaps the most common of all the divine gifts, found in many young Zebra who grow up to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, knowing their place in the world and content with it. Thus you find farmers, smiths, shopkeepers, and more who have sunk their roots into the earth of their homes and found unmatched skills and gifts in that bond.
    • Hoof of Ptah the Traveler: The defining gift of the ancient explorers and wanderers of the Zebra tribes – the Beaker Traders. Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (6 CP worth of Innate Enchantment / 5000 GP Value)/only for Innate Enchantment. By rearranging their various talismans and ornaments a Beaker Trader may start each day anew with a selection of “magical items” valued at up to 5000 GP – although, while “uses per day” is allowable, all such items must be permanent in nature (6 CP). Note that – in foreign lands – a “100 GP” +1 Competence Bonus to Speak Language (allowing the user to speak the local language) is a definite favorite.
    • Lore of Amunet, the Illuminator of Chaos: Adept. The user may select four skills which may be purchased at half price form now on. Normally one is social, one magical, one physical, and one mental, reflecting the balance of Ma’at (6 CP).
    • Keys of Anubis, The Book of Going Forth By Day: Anubis grants the ability to call on the wisdom and assistance of the spirits of the dead – usually those who are willing to aid their descendants. Leadership with the Exotic Type (Spirits) modifier, Corrupted/Spirits ONLY and they definitely have minds of their own (6 CP).
    • Gift of Seshat, Lady of Wisdom: Seshat grants expertise in magical architecture, allowing those she favors to build mighty structures. Mystic Artist / Architecture, Specialized in megalithic stone structures. Simple wood or clay brick does not endure, and is not favored by Seshat (3 CP) and Professional / Architecture and Engineering, Specialized in megalithic stone structures (3 CP).
    • Bite of Wadjet, The Serpent of the Delta: Poison Use. A Zebra blessed byWadjet need never fear self-poisoning (6 CP).
    • Whisper of Sekhemet, Lore Unchained: Those who hear the voice of Sekhemet upon the winds are granted knowledge of the myriad alchemical wonders, both bright and terrible, which can be compounded from the stuff of the world about. Still, those who hear are regarded with caution; Sekhemet cares not if you listen to the lore of life and healing, or death and poisons, whether you brew balefire destruction or gifts of fertility and fruits for the fields. All that matters… is that you hear. Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (+3 SP/Level), only to buy Alchemical Formula (6 CP).
    • Word of Isis, Lady of Magic: Those touched by Isis gain hidden powers of witchery, whether for good or ill, gaining Witchcraft III, and additional four basic witchcraft powers (6 CP)
    • The Touch of Geb, The Walker of the Dawn: Landwarding: Geb grants attunement to the deep currents of magic which flow through the earth and the ability to coax a bit of that power into experession through petroglyphs, statues, shrines, and landscaping – a discipline also known as Feng Shui. Major Privilege (6 CP): A Zebra touched by Geb may spend an hour or so each day to shape the energies of the land – bestowing abilities equivalent to those bestowed by a Ward Major on the protected area. In general, whenever a new power is added (whether by adding more support to an existing landward or by creating a new one), there is a 50% chance per power that the creators will be able to choose it and a similar chance of it being determined randomly. Once that determination is made, the properties of a Ward are fixed.
      • One Landwarder can protect an encampment, house and gardens, or other small area, granting a single minor power. A landwarder who dies on the job counts towards this total.
      • Two Landwarders grant a second minor power OR expand the protected area to a village and it’s fields, a, mansion and it’s grounds, or a small castle. One landwarder who dies on the job can count towards this total.
      • Four Landwarders can do both. Two landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Seven Landwarders can grant a third minor power OR expand the protected area to a town and it’s outworks or a great castle. Three landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Nine Landwarders can do both. Four landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Twelve Landwarders can grant a fourth minor power OR expand the protected area to a city, a small valley, or a cluster of farming villages and their fields. Five landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Sixteen Landwarders can do both. Seven landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Twenty-One Landwarders can expand the protected area to a metropolis, a town and the farming hamlets that cluster around it, or a large valley OR grant a Major Power in addition to the four Minor Powers. Up to nine landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Twenty-five Landwarders can do both. Up to ten landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Thirty-Six Landwarders, can add a second Major Power in addition to the four Minor Powers. Up to twelve landwarders who died on the job may count for this total. Unfortunately, the area protected cannot be expanded past a metropolis, a town and the farming hamlets that cluster around it, or a large valley
      • Forty-Nine Landwarders can add a third Major power to the four Minor Powers. Up to eighteen landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
      • Finally, Sixty-Four or more Landwarders can create a ward-equivalent which grants five minor and three major ward powers – but this is the effective limit of their abilities. Up to twenty-four landwarders who died on the job may count for this total.
        • Landwarding can be built with Innate Enchantment or Mana and Reality Editing and probably in other ways if I wanted to bother – but all of them produce roughly similar results at a comparable cost and are far, FAR, more complicated – and this is bad enough already.
    • The Breath of Set, Wrath of the Burning Sands: Witchcraft / The Birth Of Flames. The construct always appears to be a thing of whirling sands and black fire. The touched by Set are subtly urged towards the most destructive solutions and frontal assaults and often seem to be heralds of battle and death (6 CP).
    • The Tongue of Apep, Heir of the Crawling Chaos: The Black Pharaoh has left his mark, and it can not always be denied. Some ill-aspected births will bear this burden. Mana-Powered Negative Energy Channeling (3 CP) with Conversion to a single negative-energy related psychic effect of up to level two (3 CP) is not all that powerful – but it is the start of a path to a wide variety of terrible powers. Those who advance too far along this path… will become little more than a thing of living shadows, the light which once displayed itself upon their very hides lost to darkness (6 CP).
    • Dice of Bes, Lord of Fortunes: Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Corrupted/only for Skill Checks and Saving Throws (6 CP).
    • Fountains of Tefnut, the Waters of Life: The waters of Tefnut rain down around those she favors, washing away evil. Presence, Specialized for Increased Effect (two first level spells; Create Water and Bless Water)/ the user may only pick Wis Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) targets within ten feet each round, although this selection is a free action. Each such target will be automatically hit with two gallons of water per level of the user which also has the effect of a flask of holy water. Sadly, this is of little use for resale thanks to the enormous dilution (6 CP).

The Ushabtiu Feats: Basically this is that art of binding a body on the material plane to a controlling spirit (normally a dead person) on the outer planes using a sympathetic link- most often a bit of the spirits original body that’s been preserved somehow. There are a lot of variants.

  • Gift of Kauket-Re the Black Sun: Corpse Ushabtiu (6 CP): Binding a deceased body to it’s original spirit creates quasi-undead. This is easy – it’s been known to happen spontaneously – but people rarely react to it very well, and for good reason; quasi-undead corpses/skeletons/zombies are ready receptacles for negative energy. Unless carefully and regularly purged of such forces, they tend to devolve into full-scale undead – either generating their own echo of the linked spirit and becoming “standard” undead horrors or (on particularly horrific occasions) drawing the original spirit back from the outer planes to become free-willed, level-advancing, evil abominations. This technique calls for:
    • Ritual Magic, Specialized in Necromantic Rituals for Reduced Cost (3 CP).
    • Power Words, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (stores rituals as if they were third level spells) / only for Necromantic Effects, requires various alchemical or otherwise unpleasant components (3 CP). Most makers of Corpse Ushabtiu keep a few prepared rituals (the precursors of “memorized spells”) at the ready. The more sensible ones usually have ways of dealing with something going wrong ready. Crazier ones often have some way to summon a bunch of skeletons or something.
    • While this is the most primitive, cheapest, easiest, and most general of the Ushabtiu disciplines, it’s also the most problematic, easily abused, and messiest. The ease and cheapness keeps it in unsettlingly widespread use, the amount of “toxic waste” it generates keeps it unpopular. Many or most practitioners are less than reputable.
  • Hoof of Anput-Hesat, bringer of Life through Death, Goddess of Predation. Animal Ushabtiu (6 CP): Binding an animal’s body to a spirit after using alchemy to permanently destroy much of it’s mind is fairly inexpensive and provides a fair chunk of the sensations of true life for the directing spirit- but is obviously temporary and generally clumsy; most animals don’t live all that long and very few are capable of using most tools and powers. Animal Ushabtiu are even more awkward on Equus, where most sizeable animals are intelligent and civilized. This technique calls for:
    • Basic Zebra Alchemy to sedate and decerebrate the animals (no cost).
    • Witchcraft / Summoning, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / requires mildly expensive rituals, alchemical preparations, the use of a piece of the original body to provide a link, and can only be used for this particular trick (2 CP).
    • Witchcraft / Flesh Like Mist, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / requires mildly expensive rituals, alchemical preparations, can only be used in conjunction with Blessing (below) to make the use of a piece of the original body to provide a link, and can only be used to create “anthro” (or, on Equus, “Zebroid”) animal forms and make other minor tweaks to suit the spirit (2 CP). .
    • Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to allow the use of Flesh Like Mist (Above) on prepared animal bodies, requires mildly expensive rituals and alchemical preparations (2 CP).
  • Breath of Tatenen: Royal Ushabtiu are full-blown constructs, controlled as needed by the spirit they’re bound to. While they can be extremely powerful, and can, if upgraded enough, offer many of the sensations of life, they are also extremely expensive. This technique calls for:
    • Witchcraft / Summoning, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / requires mildly expensive rituals, alchemical preparations, the use of a piece of the original body to provide a link, and can only be used for this particular trick (2 CP).
    • Create Item (Constructs), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the created constructs have no will of their own, and are only useful when controlled by an outside spirit (4 CP).

Zebrican. All Zebras gain a their native language as a bonus language. If they’re raised somewhere else, or are never even exposed to it… they still speak it. Such is the word of Thoth (1 CP).

Survival: Zebras have some (rather basic) instinctive survival skills, and gain a +1 racial bonus to the Survival skill (1 CP).

If a Zebra happens to have either Speak Language or Survival as an Adept skill thanks to their racial bonus feat, these bonuses are, of course, doubled as usual.

Racial Disadvantage: Restrictions (Spellcasting). Zebras simply do not cast spells – although they may develop psionic abilities. This gains them +1 CP per Level to spend as they will.

At a total cost of +32 CP, Zebra are a +1 ECL species – and remain so when stacked with the basic Pony Template (which brings their total to 63 CP – the limit for a +1 ECL race).

The Zebra are quite formidable – and rather more versatile as a species than the individual pony subtypes – but their abilities are considerably more subtle. They’re also grimmer, far more inclined to kill or take severe actions against opponents, and see the use of dark powers, necromancy, and sending the dead walking around as being quite normal. Just as importantly, their lands support mercenaries, tomb raiders, exorcists and undead-slayers, crazed dark channelers, dungeons, plenty of noble intrigue,the creation of undead, and byzantine political struggles as a normal part of life. Just beyond the thin, magically-warded, strips of civilization there are vast expanses of deadly desert, terrible jungles, magical storms, lost cities and civilizations, and any number of deadly magical beasts.

Here, at least, there are plenty of places and jobs for adventurers.

The trouble with the Zebra – and the reason why they weren’t included in the original set of pony racial builds despite being obviously canon – is that My Little Pony only gives us one example. Worse, she is clearly both a long way from home and acting in a way that’s atypical for Zebras or she wouldn’t be the only one around. In d20 terms she’s a wandering (expatriate, questing, exiled, whatever) mystic, and almost certainly has a few levels.

So what do we see her do?

  • She lives by herself in a strange hut in a magical forest. She serves as a source of one-shot plot-device magical items when the story needs them. Unlike Celestia, she doesn’t have a lot of raw power, national influence, or other responsibilities, which lets her take the wise and mysterious mentor role while still limiting her impact on events. That also means that the writers keep whatever powers she may have subtle and ambiguous.
  • So we have intentionally subtle and ambiguous powers, an intentionally mysterious race, intentionally limited exposure, and an intentional complete lack of explanations. Vague to start with and with no way to sort out Zecora’s personal skills from whatever her racial talents might be.
  • And so Zebra didn’t make the original list of canon pony types because there just wasn’t enough information to go on. Still, this time the request was for what an upgrade to match the other Ponyfinder pony types might look like on Equus – and speculation works just fine for that.
  • Now for Zecora’s more specific tricks…
  • She’s good at herbalism, balancing, parazoology, and telling spooky stories. There may be a natural affinity there, but that sounds like skill levels or perhaps some specific knowledges.
  • She can create various magical potions, dusts, salves, oils, pills, incenses, and curatives from natural magical ingredients. The power level seems to depend on the components. Of course, the Cutie Mark Crusaders can make potions too. They just needed to have, and successfully follow, the appropriate recipe. On the other hoof… Zecora can do it quickly and knows all kinds of recipes and what various components can be used for.
  • She may be able to produce a cup full of water, but that could just be sleight of hoof – and at that point she DOES seem to be teaching Twilight about focus, misdirection, and trickery rather than training her in raw magical power.
  • She hides the Alicorn Amulet. Of course she might have hoofed it off to Celestia, buried it under a random rock somewhere in the forest, or given it to Gollum to replace his “Precious”. There’s no evidence of any special power here at all, even if this is evidence of Twilight having less than perfect judgement.
  • She lives safely in the Everfree Forest, apparently undisturbed. That coujld be survival skills, or pacts with the forest spirits, or using some kind of warding talisman or spell. Or it might just be a fairly safe area of the forest; after all, the Cutie Mark Crusaders are allowed to go and visit her on their own.
  • Her truth-revealing salve reveals that time has been altered (how often does THAT come up that she knows what that reaction means?). Still, that’s just alchemy again.
  • She has a lot of bling – jewelry, totemic masks, dreamcatchers, and other oddities. Her only real competition in that field is Twilight and her collection of mad-scientist machines. That probably isn’t really a power, but I have gratuitously made it into one as a possible bonus feat.

Ponyfinder gives all Zebra’s the Poison Use ability and a facility with languages. This time… I didn’t go with that except as possible bonus feats. Equestria really only seems to have one major language and is notably short on the use of poisons – and even if it WASN’T, a knack for using weapon poisons would really only be useful to adventurers. A racial talent that’s utterly useless to 99% or more of the race seems kind of weird.

 

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4 Responses

  1. Wow, now that’s an epic write-up! The darker tone of the Zebra nation(s) is particularly ironic to consider in light of what season eight of the show is telling us about life outside of Equestria (i.e. that friendship is a value other nations haven’t discovered yet).

    I noticed that the “Warrior” example for Guidance of Ptah/Witchcraft II only has two example powers listed; it looks like the text got cutoff midway through.

    Also, I’m slightly curious about The Touch of Geb, The Walker of the Dawn/Landwarding ability: there doesn’t seem to be an option for adding Major Powers to the widest area of possible coverage. Twenty-One Landwarders can cover a metropolis/major valley/a town and its satellite farming hamlets with up to four minor powers, for instance, but can only add a major power to the next-lower area of coverage: a city/small valley/cluster of farming villages and their fields. More Landwarders can only increase the number of powers granted, but have no option for spreading the major powers to an area as large as the minor powers. Is that on purpose?

    • Well, I’m glad you liked it! I must admit that once I started inserting references it was hard to stop…

      It looks like the “Warrior” example did indeed get cut off somehow. It’s fixed now.

      The Landwarden table somehow lost it’s entry for twenty-five landwardens (once again, it’s fixed now) – although I must admit that restricting the major powers to the next-smaller area of coverage would be an interesting idea, since it would tend to keep the settlements smaller. It wasn’t what I intended though.

      Now this does mean that, even presuming that 99% of all zebras have a different bonus feat, pretty much every sizeable Zebra city will be protected by the equivalent of a Rank-8 Ward Major, albeit one with half it’s powers chosen at random. On the other hand, this is a low-level world with dragon migrations and extraordinarily powerful villains, so they probably need it.

      For adventurers… One player character Landwarden can provide some handy camp protection, but I suspect that a lot of parties would like to hire a group of them to create more powerful wards during their travels – putting them into competition with the cities for hiring them and perhaps meaning that some cities will not have that full rank-8 protection package after all.

      And as always, thank you for pointing out the editing errors! It is MOST helpful!

      • For the record, articles like this one are why people ask you for full write-ups, rather than simple advice regarding how to build something.

        Though there’s one minor alteration that I’d suggest for this: for the twenty-five Landwarders, I’d change that second sentence to “up to ten” Landwarders who died on the job can count, rather than nine. That makes them distinct from the previous entry, who could also use up to nine deceased Landwarders to help (and in so doing maintains consistency with the rest of the list, since each entry has different numbers of living and dead participants).

      • I must admit, I never quite know when something will strike a chord – and then I never quite know where it will wind up once I start writing.

        And ten it shall be!

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