Sunday, 29 January 2012

Into the Far West

Damn, the Far West map has to be one of the most inspirational pieces of fantasy cartography I've seen. Just looking at that vista makes me want to pull on my kung-fu cowboy boots and ride off into the sunset.

They ran a Kickstarter earlier this year to release the roleplaying game, but I wasn't able to contribute as Amazon Payments isn't easily available to me as an Australian without a credit card. I wish that either Kickstarter would start supporting PayPal, or more RPG businesses would switch to using IndieGoGo (and other PayPal supporting websites) for their crowdfunding needs.

Lawful What? An Alternative Alignment System



I have always been vaguely fascinated with the alignment system in Dungeons & Dragons; somehow, its unsatisfactory codification of ethical complexities into a simple nine-point grid holds a certain charm. You know what your Lawful Good paladin stands for, and why he has issues with the Chaotic Good bard, even though they're both on the side of the angels. The merits of the scheme are probably best expressed in Planescape, where it forms an expressive backdrop for the Great Wheel's unique cosmology and the interplay of belief and ideas.

In that vein of thought, let me present a somewhat whimsical alternative to the standard system of ethical and moral alignment, in which character's personal values and codes are presented in the form of Colours, Pieces, and Suits. It could be easily used in place of any system of codifying characters' moral or ethical alignments. A honour-bound steel-hearted paladin might be a White Knight of Diamonds, while passionately faithful paladin might be a Red Bishop of Hearts.

Colours
The Colour of one's character represents their moral perspective on the world. In a phrase, you might say it colours their definition of good and evil.

White
The colour White stands for strict benevolence, for the greater good over all other concerns and emotions. To be aligned with White is to reject the concerns of the self and focus only on the betterment of the world. White is the most moral of all the Colours because it rejects selfishness and destructive emotions.

Red
Passion and romantic idealism are embodied by Red. Red characters are lovers and warriors, fighting boldly for their ideals even in the face of reason. Red is the most moral of all the Colours because it holds love to be the most important force in the universe.

Grey
Grey is a rejection of extremes. The Greys stand for balance between competing forces; a neutral stance in a complex universe that cannot truly be understood. Grey is the most moral of all the Colours because it rejects extremes and holds to neutrality.

Yellow
In the spectrum of Colours, Yellow represents greed and self-interest, but also ambition and the seizing of opportunities. Yellow characters can be greedy mercenaries or gluttonous merchants, but they can also be ambitious artists who hold their work above all. Yellow is the most moral of all the colours because one can only be true to one's self.

Black 
Black is the colour of the void and of oblivion. It is the colour of nihilists who hold that the universe is flawed and the destruction, and deserves to be corrupted or destroyed. They may not take any pleasure in suffering or destruction, but Black characters fundamentally believe in the wrongness of creation. Black is the most moral of colours because the universe deserves to be destroyed.

Pieces
Pieces refer to the relationship with power and authority; how one reacts to rules and laws, and where one believes ultimate responsibility lies.

Bishop
A Bishop places their faith solidly in the otherworldly and the divine. They hold that moral order stems from some force greater than themselves, rather than from any human ideals. Morality may come in the form of a divine text, or in the answers they hear in their personal prayers, but it is something unmistakably unworldly and immaterial.

Knight
Knights hold true to a personal code of honour and conduct, unalterable by external forces.

Rook 
To be a Rook is to respect temporal authority and to hold true to one's station in society. They hold laws and traditions in high regard, and will not easily be moved to break them. Rooks make implacable servants and loyal officers, and can often be found serving in bureaucracies, or as guardians of civic order and virtue.

Jack
"No lords, no masters!" is the dying creed of the Jack. Mercurial and changeable, they cannot be pinned down to any code of conduct. Jacks are anarchists and radicals, scoundrels and renegades; found only on the edges of a society they fundamentally reject.

Queen
Some believe that authority stems fundamentally from themselves. These Queens are the ambitious and the powerful, those who believe themselves the rightful makers of law. While they may hold to some moral code, they believe themselves best placed to implement it in society.

Suits
A character's Suit represents the virtues that they value most strongly, and the means by which they seek to achieve their goals.

Diamonds
Diamonds respect excellence in all areas of life, and disdain the mediocre. No Diamond will settle for good enough; they will always push to achieve greater heights of skill or quality. The greatest gift you can give a Diamond is an exquisitely crafted tool or weapon.

Hearts
A character in the suit of Hearts will hold creativity as the greatest of virtues. To create is to be close to the divine spark, to touch the gods. They strive for innovation, beauty, and clever solutions to difficult problems. The greatest gift you can give a Heart is an expressive work of art.

Spades
Spades value diligence and simplicity; the virtue of a hard day's work. The greatest gift you can give a Spade is to satisfy simple pleasures with a hearty meal and a refreshing beverage.

Clubs
Clubs thrive on competition and in contests of skill. They seek to prove themselves superior through victory over their foes and rivals. The greatest gift you can give a Club is to challenge them to a game that tests their strengths against yours.

Jokers
The unpredictable and the unexpected are the domain of the Joker. Nothing is sacred; they push for change at every opportunity. The greatest gift you can give a Joker is something unique and surprising.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The World is a Savvyhead's Workspace

Gregor Vuga's thoughts on how exploration-based advancement could work are definitely close to what I'd like to see from a sandbox game.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

[To Coin a World] Languille


Languille
The Croissant City

The city oozes around the mouth of the Voire like an architectural soup, rich in flavours and scents. Cramped streets suddenly give way to muddy canals, the buildings straining against the banks like looming beasts, predatory and storied. Decadent palaces and craven abodes alike hide behind crumbling facades and vine-covered walls, havens of privacy in a city where vice and virtue share the same body.

Languille's unique culture is the product of a centuries-long dance between the sun kingdom of Soleille and the great continent of Zwuyala. Decades ago, the city was ruled by the Solaise nobility, who formed an elegant and graceful cream on top of an underclass of oppressed Zwuyalan slaves and poor Reman laborers. But that was before Big Tuesday, and the Mort Reveille; the day the dead walked out of the river.

Dancing to the tune of the masked man called Baron Tuesday, the zombis took the ruling class out of the picture and turned the social pyramid upside down. Ancient Zwuyalan death magick mixed with the rich and fertile river magick of the Voire to throw the Solaise bourgeoise unceremoniously into the Cagé Quartier, and installed Baron Tuesday and his Zwuyalan allies in the House of the Rising Sun.

To escape the rage of the Sun King at the loss of one of his most prized cities, Baron Tuesday sort the protection of the Waldorf Ceasar, Emperor Otto von Karlswick, and in an unusual fit of competence and unity, the Reunited Imperium's armies found it in themselves to stop fighting against one another and smash the Sun King's armies at the Battle of Dunniewadér. And so it was that Languille passed from Soleille to the Remanschreik, and the dead went back to sleep on the river floor... for the most part.

Decades have passed, and the city has settled languidly into its new form. It may be true that Baron Tuesday is technically a lich, or a vampire, or a werewolf, or a black-hearted necromancer, or the Lord of Hell himself; but he is undoubtedly a popular ruler, at least outside of the Caged Ones or "Cajuns".

Perhaps no-one is surprised that, as the tables have turned, the newly-powerful black bourgeoise have begun to emulate their former oppressors, and the lily-white Cajun underclass have adopted several Zwuyalan traditions. The court of the Baron Tuesday seeps with all the elegance and opulence of a stately Lumiéran ball, from the overwrought corsetry to the elaborate masquerie, while the gutters and sewers of the Cagé Quartier, Cajun rootworkers delve into ancient Zwuyalana soul magick.

Theme and Mood

Theme: Life amongst Death

For a city steeped in necromancy and respect for the dead, Languille has a surprising zest and liveliness. Much like the fetid swamps that both nourish and suffocate it, the city thrives and grows with the cycle of life and death. That which is hidden beneath shuttered doors and darkened veils in other lands is celebrated out in the open in Languille. It is common to see a dying man feted by his family, or dead bodies openly lying in the streets waiting for collection, or a terminally diseased trumpeter playing in a jazz band.

Mood: Decaying Grandeur

Despite its commanding position at the mouth of the river Vieux, Languille has the feel of a city living off the wealth of better days. Since losing access to the enviable agricultural prosperity of Soleille, it has declined in economic importance compared to other ports on the Friendly Sea. Its aristocrats live decadent lives in immense decaying mansions, and its grand avenues become canals as they slowly sink into the fetid waters of the Vieux.

The Sights

The House of the Rising Sun

As the seat of an Elector of the Grand Reman League, the palace of the Baron Tuesday does not disappoint. The rambling gothic architecture of the House of the Rising Sun stands commandingly over the heart of the city on its highest hill, catching the morning light as the sun rises over the Rim. Surrounded by thorn-filled hedges maintained by an army of zombigardeners, the mansion plays host to the sometimes rambunctous intrigues of the Languillian aristocracy.

The Cagé Quartier

Once home to oversized slave markets, the Cagé Quartier now hosts the wretched hovels and slum dwellings of the descendants of the Solaise aristocracy; the Cajuns. It is well-known that places of great suffering hold a kind of memory of their own; the Cagé Quartier remembers the suffering of the Zwuyalan slaves who once passed through its gates. Through the whispers of ghosts, the Cajun underclass have learned much of the strange voodoo magicks of the jungle continent. As their overlords forget their roots and learn more of the civilised sorcery of Spindlewick, it becomes more and more likely that the Cajun rootworkers have become the true masters of Voodoun.

The Lurid Quartier

No other city on the Coin can match Languille for debauchery and decadence; its grand carnivals and street parties are notorious for their scale and sinfulness. At the heart of the Croissant City's depravity is the Lurid Quartier, a thriving riverside district filled with taverns, clubs, brothels, dancehouses, and music halls. Every building is painted in garish colours, every balcony holds its painted ladies, every street a riot of noise and sensation. For sailors, mercenaries, adventurers, traders, and merchants, it is a paradise made flesh. For those who are bound to work within it, it is perhaps a less glamorous experience.

The Red Windmill

At the heart of the Lurid Quartier stands an immense crimson windmill, slowly turning in the breeze; home of the Coin's most infamous bordello and music-hall. Run by the mysterious Madame Butterfly, the Red Windmill is the most lurid and decadent house in a lurid and decadent city. Each night, its dancing girls and zombi musicians thrill and entertain dozens of luminaries from across the Coin, none of whom would admit to their presence. Their anonymity is maintained by the enchanted masks that every customer dons upon entry, disguising their faces and voices.

Cemetery Hill

Just outside the city, on a hill that rises above the swamps, is the only remaining cemetery in the city. Most of the city's dead are buried in the river, or reanimated as zombis; few are given to the traditional Solaise funerary ways. However, some in the city still mark death with marble tombs and gravestones, even if the bodies are still mobile, and the city's necromancers need somewhere to store the vital ingredients of their art. Cemetary Hill is a place for quiet reflection in a city that prides itself on fearing silence more than death, and thus it is valued by many for more than just its original purpose as a place for bones to rest. Smugglers and criminals make furtive use of its many empty graves, and meet in quiet places under the grey branches of the shade-trees.

Personnages of Note

Baron Tuesday

The city's enigmatic ruler is a living embodiment of its nature; a master necromancer who revels in all things living, and an astute politician who knows when to demand, when to request, and when to throw a party. No-one knows of his past before the Mort Reveille, when he charmed the dead from their watery graves and lead the city's oppressed to victory over their oppressors. An imposingly tall figure, he is never seen without an ebony and bone mask that hides his face from view, immaculate white gloves, and a beautiful but decaying set of tails and top hat. In personality, he is somewhat fickle and changeable; at one moment, his deep voice is soothing and wise, in the next, graven and wrathful. All that is constant is his love of the Croissant City and his desire to keep its long carnival of life and death in motion, whatever that may take.

Lady Aschelle

Once a favoured consort to the Baron Tuesday, the aged but elegant Lady Aschelle is the most prominent figure in the court of the Rising Sun after Tuesday himself. A powerful necromancer and voodou sorceress in her own right, Lady Aschelle is known both for her compassion for the poor, and her utter ruthlessness in political and business dealings. She owns many of the least malodorous poorhouses in the Cagé Quartier, and maintains a series of trading interests across the League in the potion ingredients market, using cheap zombi labour to outmanuever the competition. Her compassion is attributed to her past as a poor cellar maid, trapped in servitude by the two sisters who now accompany her every crystal-covered step as zombi bodyguards. Lady Aschelle is an ear to the downtrodden in a world that has few such ears in high places, and as such she is sure to be a friend to any who fight oppression and a ruthless opponent when crossed.

Monsieur Brique

Bearing the black runic tatoos of an exiled dwarf upon his face, Languille's most prominent crime lord is a terrifying sight. Although he attempts to conceal his shameful past behind elegantly tailored suits and a tenuous grasp on Languillian high society, he will never escape it. Once the right-hand dwarf to the mysterious Madame Butterfly, he has thrived since leaving her employ in less than happy circumstances. Nothing moves through the river docks without his men knowing, and no-one demand protection money in the Cagé Quartier without paying their tithes to Monsieur Brique. In person, he tries to portray himself almost as a Solaise aristocrat, but his harsh accent, lowbrow sense of humour, and barely-controlled seething rage confirm his true nature as a brute.

Doc Delamour

There are many clever Cajun rootworkers in the Cagé Quartier, creating an elegant syncretic blend of Zwuyalan spirit magick and Spindle hedge wizardry. Most are incredibly secretive and deeply suspicious of outsiders; few will spin so much as a minor hex for those from outside the old Cajun families of the Quartier. They hide their work in the swamps and bayous. Doc Delamour is less discreet. As a Cajun rootworker with a surplus of ambition, greed, and gusto, he is more than happy to sling his services to the highest bidder. All sorts of potions and hexes are available for sale from his makeshift ambulating carriage, a common sight in the Lurid Quartier. When the good Doc is not selling love charms and poison chimes (effectiveness not guaranteed), he can be found enjoying the atmosphere of the Lurid Quartier's less expensive bordellos while trying desperately to climb the social ladder.


Random Encounter Chart

  1. Gang of wandering sailors, fresh off the boat, looking for thrills in the Lurid Quartier
  2. Zombi labourers clumsily unloading a merchant's cart
  3. Huge jazz funeral parade winding its way to Cemetery Hill
  4. Exquisitely beautiful painted ladies from the Red Windmill, dragging what looks to be a corpse
  5. Doc Delamour and his ambulatory carriage, selling his wares
  6. Tattooed Cajun heavies in leather jackets, enforcing a protection racket for Monsieur Brique
  7. Cajun rootworker disguised as a beggar
  8. Fetid swarm of swamp rats spilling out onto the streets
  9. Ancient gothic tenement collapsing into the swamp
  10. Sedan chair bearing the arms of the Baron Tuesday

Friday, 6 January 2012

[To Coin a World] Selected Gods

Below are briefly described some of the gods of the Coin. It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list, as there are hundreds, if not thousands of deities of varying power and prevalence worshipped on the Coin. This is just a semi-representative sample.

Particular thanks to Jeff Rients, from whom I pilfered Omnia and the Frog gods.

The "Good":

Lord Aon

Chief god, general grumpy sky dad and master of lightning, Aon (or another suspiciously similar deity) is worshiped in almost every human culture on the Coin, although they vary as to which goddess is his wife and queen (leading to some interesting and very heated arguments). He is typically shown with two animal companions, although what these are varies - in the Hublands, he is shown with an owl (representing cunning) and a bear (representing badassery), while in the League heartlands he’s more often shown with an eagle and a lion. Combinations of these creatures might be considered holy gifts (griffons) or profane abominations (owlbears).

Hippatara

The primary goddess of rivers and fertility around the Friendly sea, and often depicted as the wife of Aon. Hippopotami are considered holy animals by her faith, and ancient depictions of her often show her as a ponderously-proportioned anthropomorphized hippo, although the modern church frowns on this. They also frown on the worship of Khadahan (see below).

Areena

A martial goddess, Areena’s creed promotes physical and moral purity, as well as crusades against evil-doers (or, if there aren’t any evil-doers around, foreign faiths), and the justice of trial by combat. There are several orders of warriors devoted to her, in the League and in a few other countries. Invariably, they are single-gender groups. Unicorns are considered holy to her faith (whereas everybody else thinks they’re crazy and dangerous). Her followers heartily dislike the followers of Frikk.

Khadahan

Another god of rivers, as well as sunbathing and long baths, the Crocodile-headed Khadahan was mostly only worshiped in Aratha until a recent miracle at the temple in Al-Harraj unified the splintered factions of his faith, and expanded his portfolio into the realm of fertility. His faithful are now trying to spread his worship around the Friendly sea, setting up bathhouse-shrines in several major cities. As a result, they’re in direct competition with the church of Hippatara.

Frikk

Goddess of war, alcohol, and carousing in general, Frikk’s faith is main popular in the Hublands, where the locals really appreciate those things. Where Areena’s warrior-clerics promote purity and honour, Frikk’s worshippers are encouraged to brawl, drink, sing loudly, and do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody (unless those people are your enemies, in which case, go right ahead). Areena’s faithful are generally considered to be too uptight, and should be mocked and needled wherever possible. Chainmail is considered a gift from her to mortals, and holy folk almost always wear it (often in far smaller quantities than would be considered sensible or proper, to show their faith in the goddess).


The Bad:

The Solar Dragon

The Solar Dragon is sort of a borderline Dark God. On the one hand, his Sollais faithful abhor all other dark gods. On the other, they abhor ALL other gods, claiming them false and demonic, while periodically sacrificing virgins and enemies of the state to him (by guillotine). The Sun Prince of Solielle is considered to be his chosen leader on the mortal plane. Images of a more feathery version of the Solar Dragon have also been found on some old temples in Zwuyala.

Iggujugglyoo

Another strange and unpleasant god from the jungles of Zwuyala, Iggujugglyoo, also known as He of the Thousand Teeth is a bloodthirsty god of carnivorous dinosaurs, particularly velociraptors. Little else is known about him, except that his worshippers tend to utterly crazed.

Rzngl the Unvoweled

Depicted as an elf with the heads of two deer, each able to shoot burning rays from their eyes, this demon prince (or princess, it seems to vary) enjoys blood sacrifices in a pleasantly woodland setting.

Tormentara

A goddess of temptation and corruption, Tormentara offers mortals their wildest desire, but always finds a way to take that desire to such an extreme as to be horrifying for the unfortunate that caught her attention. Her worship is both open and prevalent amongst the Dark Elves, who hope to placate her evil whims.

Gi’Am

A demon god of earth, stone, monsters and deathtraps, Gi’Am’s dungeon-temples are a favourite target for adventuring parties. Which seems to be just the way he likes it...

The Frog Gods of Chaos

Not a single god, but a multitude of extra-dimensional amphibious horrors devoted to corrupting or destroying the universe as a whole. Thankfully, they’re so chaotic that they often work at cross-purposes.


The Peculiar:

Urinor

God of sewers and plumbing, Urinor is among the youngest gods on the Coin, his faith only having existed for a few decades, at most, since his slightly unhinged prophet, a dwarven adventurer, began spreading his word. He mostly receives prayers in the form “Oh God, I really need a privy”.

Roadael

Different cultures differ as to whether Roadael is a demigod, a saint, or an archangel, but whatever the case, he is the patron of porters, hirelings, and servants, and is said to aid the other gods in preparing for manifestation on the mortal plane.

Omnia

Goddess of Everything Not Covered By Other Gods. As a result, the things Omnia is responsible for are strange, eclectic, and generally only come up in very unusual and specific situations. Her followers are rare and a bit weird, but are mostly quite nice, except for an shadowy (and insane) cult that wishes to destroy all the other gods so as to expand her power.

Kwaaak

The Bird God of Birds, Kwaaak’s faith dwindled to almost non-existance a thousand years ago, after he went insane over wizards developing flying brooms. His church was resurrected recently by an elvish princess, and is making headway promoting him as the (much more sane and reasonable) god of airborne travel in general.