Tesem, Twilight Hunters

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see. It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Playtest Version

This material is still in the process of being playtested. It is fully usable as written, but may be refined or changed in later versions. As always, this content should only be used with GM permission.

The Tesem


It is not known whether the tesem, or jackal-folk, were made in the image of their creator, or if their ubiquity among the deity’s servants has led to the god being depicted like one of them. Either way, the tesem (whose names mean hunting dogs) seek out their deity’s enemies and tend to the mysterious practices of their temples. They are reminders of death, but quick to lead celebrations of life. To some they represent stability and comfort for the mourning. To others they represent the chaos of the perpetual change of mortal lives.

Living in the Liminal

Tesem usually make their homes in places that are in-between. Rivers running through an otherwise desert region, on (or in) the cliffs and slopes edging arid badlands, and other such border regions are their favorites. However, they are also strongly drawn to folk of other types, nearly always settling near or within fellow humanoid settlements. Most elements of their lives relate to places of transition between locations, purposes, or concepts. Nearly all have two distinct professions, and any place of business they operate usually serves multiple purposes. They are fond of placing these in unexpected contexts, such as starting a tavern inside an old, roofed-over market square with a shoemaker’s shop in the old fountain in the center. Furthermore even in the concept of gender, they tend towards the blurry areas between. By default, tesem do not hold to any particular gender, but may opt in to masculine or feminine cultural roles if they so choose, and can change or drop that status at will. This is not uncommon, but only about one third of the population distinguishes themselves in this way.

Psychopomp Servants

Long ago, a desert god of the transition between life and death created a race of beings to serve him and provide support to the various folk who required his aid but were hesitant to worship such a grim and ominous deity. The tesem, named for the jackals of the deserts and the hounds domesticated from them, make up the bulk of this god’s clergy, who build and operate temples and perform rites for those to squeamish to spend so much time contemplating death and the afterlife. This lends them an eerie reputation, but they are quite witty and gregarious, with a talent for knowing who is in need of comfort.

Traversing the Veil of Death

As servitors of a spiritual guide to the deceased, tesem have a unique relationship with the transition between life and death. When they die, they are eventually reincarnated, but in an unusual manner. One portion of their essence—referred to as the spirit—will travel to the afterlife to be rewarded or punished for a time before returning to a new life. The spirit also serves as the anchor between the tesem and the realm of the afterlife. Another portion—the most substantial in a tesem’s essence, which they call the intellect—is the portion of their essence linked to states of transition, and especially transition between life and death. After dying, a tesem intellect passes insubstantially back and forth as a guide a number of times numerologically significant to the nature of their previous life before reincarnating. During these traversals, the intellect helps guide tesem spirits to and from the afterlife, as well as the souls of non-tesem from life into death. The intellect and spirit reincarnate separately, however, creating new individuals from the different combinations in each new life. Likewise, the third portion of their essence—the form—also reincarnates in separate combinations from the others after a time based on the health and lifespan of the individual as well as how many offerings are given for them after death. The form is the physical manifestation of the tesem in the world of the living, and due to this reincarnation, it is not unusual for one tesem to perfectly resemble a hero from ages past, despite sharing neither the spirit or intellect of that hero. It is unusual but not unheard of for two of the three portions of a tesem essence to combine again from a previous life generations before. Only in rare circumstances, accompanied by signs and omens, do all three return together for an individual from the past to be reborn in full. Memories of past lives are divided between all three portions of the essence and normally appear only fleetingly in dreams. With practice meditation can bring clearer visions of past lives in which two portions of their essence were joined, but with little control or knowledge of which lives or essences are involved. When all three rejoin, some memories may even gradually return in waking over the course of the new life.

Tesem Names

Tesem usually have only one name, but there is a huge variety of names to choose, each corresponding to a particular trait or set of traits represented when writing the name in the tesem’s ceremonial script. Tesem do not have distinct sets of masculine or feminine names, but rather by default each tesem’s name ends with a d. For those tesem who opt to take on a particular gender role, the ending of their name is changed to specify their gender. In the case of the feminine, the d at the end of the name is sharpened to a t. In the case of the masculine, the d is softened to merely a silent exhalation, dropping the d. For example, Nebkad may become Nebkat or Nebka.

Example Names: Aad, Abebad, Anuked, Bakhtad, Biritud, Dassind, Djad, Enkud, Ghilad, Hud, Igided, Itrid, Jugurthad, Kahinad, Khonsud, Lulid, Mafded, Merid, Montud, Nebkad, Neferud, Peherneferd, Rededjed, Seshad, Shud, Tafarid, Tawered, Ubaoned, Wehemesud, Zirad

Tesem Traits

Your tesem character’s spirit, intellect, and form provide them with several abilities.
    Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score, Intelligence score, and Wisdom score each increase by 1.
    Age. Tesem reach adulthood at age 14 and live to about 55 years old.
    Alignment. On the whole, tesem tend slightly towards neutrality, but all alignments are present among their number.
    Size. Tesem are as tall as humans but slightly more slender. Your size is Medium.
    Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
    Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
    Judge the Heart. You gain proficiency in the Insight skill.
    Know the Paths of Death. You gain resistance to necrotic damage and you have advantage on death saves.
    Study the Secrets. You learn one cantrip from the following list: Blade Ward, Chill Touch, Guidance, Message, Minor Illusion, Resistance, Spare the Dying, Thaumaturgy, or Toll the Dead. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for this spell.
    Traverse the Wastes. You are acclimated to the desert, needing only half as much water as a typical Medium-sized humanoid, and are naturally adapted to extreme heat.
    Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Celestial.

Random Height and Weight

Base Height Base Weight Height Modifier Weight Modifier
4’10″ 90 lbs +2d10 x(2d4)

New Feat


Lurker

Prerequisite: Wisdom 13 or higher

You know how to slip through the cracks of society and have a knack for finding forgotten places. You gain the following benefits:

  • Whenever you make Dexterity (Stealth) checks within 1 mile of any inhabited area, you may roll an additional 1d4 and add the amount rolled to your result.
  • When you take a long rest—unless the GM determines that it is not possible in your surroundings—you are able to find a walled off chamber, hidden culvert, grotto, cenote, or other concealed space no more than a 15-foot cube. Unless you inform them of its presence, creatures must succeed at an Intelligence (Investigation) check against a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier in order to locate the space or any creatures or objects contained within it.
  • You and your allies can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace so long as you are within a city, town, village, or other such settlements.
Legal Appendix

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System Reference Document 5.1 Copyright 2016, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Chris Perkins, Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell, Chris Sims, and Steve Townshend, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Tesem, Twilight Hunters Copyright 2019, Malachite Idol; Author Patrick Johnson.

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