Monday, September 30, 2013

I Hate You, Minecraft, and (Especially) Jason

This post was delayed because I kind of went on a cleaning frenzy of the apartment, and then had to do other unexpected and actually important stuff.

Oh look, pictures.

Oh really?

Oh, ok. That makes sense. 

This place looks familiar... It's the north side of the tower. That's the Goebleen barracks on the left, beyond it you can kind of see the soldier barracks. The tower is straight ahead on the little road. On the right side of the screen is the dual smithy. 

The signage here is oddly straightforward.

Interior of the dual smithy. The corner we see here is repeated in the corner on the left of the screen. That's an armor stand to the left of the door. You can place suits of armor on it for display. That's a row of barrels on the right edge of the screen.


Interior of the Goebleen barracks. It's pretty cramped. Technically, this place (and the rest of the area around the tower) should be a sludge pile of mud after Andorian battered the area with his schizophrenic hail-lightning-rain storm for a day and a half. There are a few more beds beyond the left and right sides of the picture. I think it fits about sixteen or seventeen Goebleen. Directly ahead at the other end of the barracks is a ladder leading to a storage chamber full of barrels and chests and such. Pretend I took you there and it was an exciting journey. 

This place has seen better days, not gonna lie. It's mostly burned, or at least scorched. The roof is basically pure charcoal. 

A little workstation for a little explosion happy Alchemist. That's a cauldron on the right, along with a brewing stand next to it. Beyond the left edge of the screen is a little bookshelf where Gob puts all of his formulas, and lewd drawings of Asosans, Giants, and various farm animals. 

Interior of the barracks. Fairly standard. The door on the far end leads to a passage that leads to a bathroom. There is a ladder in the far left corner that leads up to the roof. 

The bathroom, with a conveniently placed bar of soap above the tub. The hole on the lower left corner is the actual "toilet" and I spent way too much time filling the hole with liquid sewage. It's a liquid added by a mod that can be processed in a composter when extracted from farm animals and turned into industrial fertilizer. I considered giving the tub actual running water but decided it would take way too much redstone. On the right side you can see the passage that leads through to the hireling's residence. The soldier's barrack and hireling's residence are connected to the same bathroom, but they are separate structures. 

The hireling residence, obviously. I wanted to show the front, rather than do a picture of a featureless stone passage. The hireling residence and soldier barracks are directly east of the tower. 

Interior of the hireling residence. It has five beds and whatnot for the five hirelings (three smiths, a cook, and a quartermaster. The door on the far left leads through to a passage that leads to the shared bathroom. 

This is the east side of the tower, as seen from the front door of the hireling residence. That's a well on the left of the screen, you can also see the stable and smithy attached to the tower. I'm not going to do a screenshot of the front of the stable, but there is a little water trough to the right of the front door. The right side of the screen is a corner of the soldier barracks. 

Signage, it says things. The Goebleen use this place to feed themselves, so they're not a drain on the group's finances like all the pirate followers are. Such foresight, imagine what Gob could accomplish if he wasn't a dumb smelly Goebleen like Eran says he is. As fascinating as the interior is, I'm not going to give a tour. There are mushrooms, probably a creeper ready to explode, and there is no light. This cave is a ways south of the tower directly from the side of the stable.

Interior of the stable. To the right, you can see tools and saddles and barrels and whatnot. On the left, you can see a wooden stall, the wall just beyond the right edge of the picture has three more stalls. The ladder next to the support logs leads up into the loft, where a single, lonely Goebleen sits (when they're in the tower) prepared with a water bucket to douse the lantern if it ignites the barn. The mods I have installed use Minecraft 1.5.2. If this were Minecraft 1.6.x, I'd throw actual horses into the stalls. 

The smithy attached to the tower. The far right door leads outside and the one you can kind of see on the left leads into the tower. This is basically a repeat of the previously seen dual smithy. 

It's the outhouse. There's a hatch and a hole to drop your leavings in. Just like the last one seen, I spent way too much time filling the pit with sewage. The outhouse kind of sits on the southwest corner of the tower, right behind the stable. 

The front door of the tower. There's kind of a shadow at the base of the door on the road, it's a special pressure plate that is invisible to players that do not place it and is also silent when activated. Normal pressure plates click quite audibly when stepped on. I've used a lot of them so I don't have to place levers and buttons on the walls next to all the iron and reinforced doors I've put in the place. In previous editions of the map, the tower itself had a mossy or cracked texture on some of the stone bricks. I've opted to skip this detail this time, as I built the main structure of the tower with a device called a filler that lets you place land marks to outline a space and then places or removes blocks in a pattern you specify when powered. It was a lot easier than placing every block by click to build the exterior walls of the tower.

The first floor of the tower. On the far end you can see the pseudo-kitchen. Racked on the wall are a frying pan, cleaver, and knife. On the far wall are two doors leading to the bedrooms Karl had constructed on the west side of the tower. We can't see it because of the stairs on the right side of the picture, but there is a stove built into the stairs with a ventilation hood and pipe leading out to the exterior. On the other side of the counter is a hatch that leads below the first floor to the storage space. It's full of chests, barrels, and kegs of Kussethian potato rum. I'm not going to show you a screenshot, but pretend it was another exciting journey through a cramped space with poor lighting that was full of storage objects.

This is the second floor, formerly a barracks. Currently, all of Karrak and Karl's followers and cohorts live in the soldier's barracks and the five hirelings live in the hireling residence. As far as I know, no one has done anything with this floor. On the far left side, concealed from our view by the excessive amount of storage lockers and bunk beds are doors leading to the two rooms Karl added to the west side of the second floor. As far as I know, there was no internal stairway constructed for the four new rooms, so they're just attached to the floor they're built on. 

One of the four additional bedrooms Karl had constructed in the event Vanden does decide to have some of his other agents lay low at the tower. The door from the tower is behind us and the door on the right side of the screen leads to the restroom the two rooms on this floor share. The bathroom is basically just a shared shaft  that goes from the second floor to the first, and then down into the earth. Again, time, sewage, etc. Sigh. 

This is the third floor, the bedroom of the PCs. It's obviously a little roomier with a few more comforts. There's a bookshelf over there for Karl, and I've placed some trophies from the group's adventures on the walls. 

I had to use the items I had at my disposal to represent the trophies. I think you get the idea though.

This is the fourth floor of the tower, the armory. I've placed armor stands with chain mail suits on them, because the tower is stocked with enough suits of iron chain mail for thirty people, minus however many are currently equipped by Karrak's followers. The racks on the right side of the screen hold longbows. Currently, I have no spears to put in them, as the tower had spears and longbows when the guys claimed it from the Asosans, so I threw in some iron swords. I'm considering using a mod that adds some variety to Minecraft's weapon selection and includes katanas, throwing knives, crossbows, spears, javelins, flintlock pistols/rifles, and cannons. You can place the cannons in the world and they would look really cool atop the tower I think. We'll see. The ladder on the far end of the picture leads up to the roof. I'm not going up there. It looks like the top of the tower.

Oh look, a chunk loading error south of the tower. 

One last shot of the whole mess from the north. Man, I never get tired of those fucking smokestacks. The blocks that create the particles are one of my favorite blocks in the modded game. 

So yeah. That is Fort Jagged Tooth v3.0. I had a lot of fun building it this time. It's something I've wanted to do since I started playing modded Minecraft. The mods give me so many options for building things, and new blocks like the smoking blocks I built into smokestacks over the smithies give me so much creative freedom. Additionally this texture pack I'm using is really pretty and stuff. This Minecraft map is a flat world, so there are no mountains or forests or oceans to get in the way of building if/when the guys expand further. 

You might not have noticed, but things are a bit bigger than the last tower I built. In Minecraft, each block is 1 meter, which translates to 3.3 feet if I remember correctly. Building things based on this block size made the interior of every creative build project I constructed feel cramped and overly full. In this revision of the fort, I've arbitrarily decided that each block is 2.5 feet. I built with this in mind to give myself the illusion of more space when constructing 20 ft. x 20 ft. x 10 ft. rooms (normally 7 x 7 x 3 blocks, but now 8 x 8 x 4 blocks). I also did it because it isn't such a huge change that all the furniture and blocks look overly tiny in comparison to their surroundings. 

I've already shared it with Jason, and I don't know that anyone else who I game with plays Minecraft, but if anyone wants a save of the world or anything, let me know. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Alternate Rules: Alternatives To PC Murder

Ok, so I've said before that I don't like killing PCs. I'm going to talk about that, but first I want to talk about and reiterate some reasons why.

The first thing to consider is that this reluctance only extends to long running PCs. One shots and such don't really apply. The second thing is that this reluctance only really applies to deadly situations that are the window dressing of scenarios, not major battles and situations that cap a campaign or arc of a campaign. The third thing is that this reluctance does not apply to situations where the PCs have ignored warnings and have bitten off more than they can safely chew. The fourth thing, and this is a big one, this reluctance completely burns off and is replaced by homicidal fury if players go against one of my named characters from fiction I've written about Hekinoe, but only if the players are the ones picking the fight.

Alright, so I don't like killing PCs. A lot of it has to do with knowing how much a character you created grows on you over sessions of play as you watch them evolve. I also don't like killing PCs partly because I consider my players friends. It also has a lot to do with DnD being cooperative, more or less heroic, fiction. Regardless of the nature of the PCs in terms of good and evil, the players are heroes and this is kind of their story. They are the protagonists. If we look at film and literature, most heroes don't die stupidly in random meaningless situations. There are caveats to this, and certain authors who seem to hate their characters and readers, but generally speaking, heroes don't die without meaning unless they act stupidly. Gandalf fell against a Balrog, allowing the ringbearer to escape. Boromir gave his life as penance so the halflings could escape because he felt the pull of the One Ring. Arthur, most commonly, fell to his son/nephew Mordred (sp?). Spock gave his life so his crew and friends could live.

So to me, the PCs are the stars of their movie/film and the story is about them, so to me they shouldn't die pointlessly in a random encounter or filler trap/fight/whatever. Unless they are stupid. If the guys are in a trap filled dungeon and someone pulls a lever without checking for traps and ends up in a vat of acid and can't make the Climb check to get out, he dies. If the PCs are clearly overmatched and still proceed to pick a fight, well, you asked for this.

I'm not one to fudge rolls excessively. I don't randomly convert a hit to a miss on my side or the PCs or a save into a fail, or anything like that. However, I do try to keep my players from biting it, because of all the reasons above. Sometimes I worry that this cheapens their victory, but I don't feel that's the case. The PCs are supposed to triumph over their faceless drone type foes. They're there to have their asses kicked. I design them so they can put up a fight and showcase how bad ass the PCs are, but I don't design them with the specific purpose of killing the PCs. Deliberately killing PCs is easy, I'm the GM, I have all of the things at my disposal. I literally have all of the power. I swear to Dog that it is harder to keep the dumb fucks alive than it is to kill them 90% of the time. Seriously? You pick a fight with an isolationist empire with a hard on for hunting and tracking and you just wander in and start killing them without concerning yourselves about things like tracking, magic, or Immortals? Right after hearing stories about how this one time some Giants picked a fight with these guys and the reprisals broke the empire of the Giants so much that it allowed their 4 foot tall slave race to stage their rebellion and win their freedom? 

Alright, so I don't like killing the PCs and I do have a habit of helping the players without doing crazy things like completely ignoring the dice. However, I don't like doing this. My players know I GM this way, and while I don't think they count on it, they know I don't want to kill their characters. So it sits somewhere as background info or subconscious thought, so maybe they take chances they shouldn't. Maybe they're less attentive to detail than they should be. Maybe they're slightly more arrogant than their levels really entitle them to be. Maybe they do things like call their creators little bitches, not caring about the consequences to them, or the people around them. 

I'm considering something like heroic protection. Something like players can't die in just run of the mill encounters or random encounters, unless it's something like falling into a pit of acid or a truly deadly fall or an unavoidable coup de grace. I'd have to come up with clearer cut definitions, obviously. Rules would operate as normal as far as unconsciousness and hit points, but instead of dying when you hit the appropriate negative number, you are mortally wounded. 

If someone can get to you after the fight to restore hit points, you survive the encounter, if not, death. If you are restored or whatever, you gain a long lasting injury of some kind. Something that ignores hit point totals. Say you get arrowed nearly to death and become mortally wounded, but someone hits you with God Juice following the fight. You gain the mortal wound Arrow To The Knee or something and you halve your leg-based movement speeds, get a penalty to Acrobatics checks, can't run or hustle, and maybe a penalty to Climb checks as well. This is inspired by the injury system of FATE, just so you know. 

This represents like an arrow splitting your kneecap and tearing out all the cartilage and whatnot. It is meant to cripple your character, because he got injured nearly to death. It is meant to be something that can be recovered from, but not simply by topping off your hit points. I'm thinking these sort of injuries would require something like the restoration spell to fix. It's a 4th level spell so it isn't just topping off their hit points by d6s, and it is geared towards restoring negative levels and ability drain/damage. It also has a 100 gp component cost, so it isn't something you can heal after you nap for a minute to talk to the Great Dog In the Sky. 

I dunno. I'm not sure I like this system, and it would require a precise definition of when this mortal wound system would prevent death, but it does make it easier for a sometimes soft hearted GM to pull the kid gloves off and really truly hit the PCs with everything he has. But, it could kind of lead to players being a little more risky with their behavior against certain foes, relying on the fact that they have a buffer to keep them in the fight a little longer. I dunno, it's just something that occurred to me and I thought I'd type about it.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Psionics and Magic and Divine Magic and Gifts

The other day, Jason was engaging in some "hypothetical" mental exercises themed towards capturing Nel and siphoning off their power to increase his own. He had some interesting ideas, but there was one major flaw in some of them. He was working under the assumption that Gifts = sorcery and Nel = supernatural creatures like a Demon, Devil, or Efreet.

Now, I haven't expressly said otherwise, so that's not a horribly foolish assumption to make. There are a few things I've shown that should give him, and others, pause though.

When Andorian/Evandor spoke of the Builders, they told the guys that the Builders were immune to the sorcery of mortals and irritatingly resistant to their Gifts. When Karl asked Andorian about magical theory, Andorian laughed and said he was no mumbling sorcerer that rolled bat shit between his fingers to fling fire. When Andorian has used his powers in front of the guys, he has not once paused to mutter incantations, procure material components (even the Eschew Materials feat only accounts for materials of less than 1 GP), or wave his hands around in complicated gestures. Nor does he know anything about misfiring spells or why sorcery is stable in Orcunraytrel.

Now yes, the powers of the Nel are modeled after arcane magic. Those are some pretty heavy key differences though. Looking at them and thinking about it, we can safely assume a couple of things even without all the knowledge I have as a GM:

Clearly, Nel need no material, somatic, or verbal components to use their Gifts, something all arcane spellcasting classes require to use their spells. This means they can cast spells in armor without risk of failure, as that is only relevant to spells with somatic components (funny gestures and wiggling fingers). We have no data to make a guess at whether or not shoving a blade into a Nel's gut would distract them from using their abilities like an arcane caster. We also know that silencing them is useless, except with Gifts that use sound to convey their effect (like the thunderous scream that Karrak watched Andorian use to instagib Cant), as they.use no verbal components.

With Andorian's reaction to magical theory, we can at least assume that he has no ranks in Knowledge (Arcana) or Spellcraft and at one time fought a sorcerer that used fireball on him. Which means Nel likely don't have some analogue to a spellbook and probably don't learn their Gifts from a teacher.

We can also assume that spell resistance is probably useless, or at least less effective, against Gifts.

So we can say Gifts are like arcane magic, but definitely have some differences. A lot of those differences make Gifts look more like psionic powers than spells. I generally assume Donovan chooses not to display the various psionic displays of his powers, which requires a check that I'd only make him make if he needed stealth and it mattered if the check failed. So that could account for the lack of activity in Andorian prior to using his Gifts. However, when they were healed and had their power points restored by the Green in Cantellen, Grey and Donovan were somewhat sickened by the experience. Plus, Andorian told Karrak that anti-magic effects would harm him, which is definitely odd. Anti-magic effects don't affect psionics at all. So, based on the above, I think we can safely assume that Gifts are not somehow related to psionics rather than arcane magic.

The long and short of it is that Gifts and arcane magic are similar, but definitely not the same. The really short answer is that Gifts are Gifts and they work how they work.

Alright, so onto other issues.

Divine magic. This stuff is power that stems from deities or their equivalent. It in no way comes from the caster, they are merely channeling the might of their deity by praying for spells and that deity choosing to grant them power. In theory, this magical divine energy is the power the gods use to run the cosmos and create angels and archons and divine realms and stuff.
So this, in my head at least, is the juice powering the cosmos that divine casters get a taste of for serving deities. So why does anyone get a save against divine spells? Why isn't there a divine resistance like there is psionic resistance? If divine magic comes from deities and arcane magic is just ambient or internal magic manipulated through gestures and special materials, shouldn't they be classed as different power sources with specialized resistances?

Additionally, Clerics are channelers of divine will. But because game, any kobold with a bit of luck can say "Nah, hold person isn't going to work on me today. Fuck your greater god and his ability to create entire fucking planes and armies of creatures from the higher planes."

To me, if gods exist in a campaign and they are the creators/caretakers/abusers of reality, divine magic should be a straight up order of magnitude more powerful than psionics or magic. You shouldn't be able to use Spellcraft or Knowledge (Religion) to identity what spell is being cast by the Cleric when he begins casting, because it isn't a spell. It's a prayer asking for aid. Maybe there are forms of address the church uses, but they aren't reciting arcane phrases and making gestures specific to a certain spell. Each request for power is going to be specific to the church, the sect of the church, and the priest. When people see a Paladin, they should run. Not just because he has a shining holy sword. He can channel not the power that alters reality like a Wizard, but the power that made and fuels reality. Resisting divine "spells" should be like resisting gravity or suffocation.

I dunno. These are just some thoughts that crossed my mind while thinking about Jason's "hypothetical" exercise in plotting to waylay Nel. Obviously divine and arcane magic are heaped together because it's a game. The way divine magic works just seems silly to me sometimes.

Friday, September 20, 2013


I play favorites. It's a fact. We all do. We all have things or people we like so we give them varying degrees of slack or focus. 

Looking at my campaign world, it's easy to see that I play favorites. There are certain races and nations that I like more than the others. So their background material is more fleshed out (extremely so in some cases), and they feature heavily as the focus or environment of my plots and quests. The side effect of this is that I am far more resistant to that whole "burning the world down around them" aspect of players interacting with my favorite race/nation/etc. I mean fine, the players want to burn down The Plains of Dust? By all means. Oh, you want to melt Steeltown into slag and sell it to a scrap yeard? Uh, yeah, here's sixty reasons that is going to be hard and complicated and you'll die. I made up forty of them three seconds ago. Also, there's a flaming comet circling the planet with your name on it with a proximity sensor near the border of Steeltown. 

Jason recently did some stuff and got some powers. He suggested that I maybe create a similar situation so as to give the other guys access to powers and not be guilty of favoritism. There is a certain amount of merit to what he said, this is a game and I like everyone to be fairly equal in power. Even if people miss sessions or are late or leave early or don't pay attention to shit. Additionally, the rules kind of imply that I, as the GM, am supposed to be an impartial arbiter of the rules that crafts scenarios to progress them along their goals while keeping things fair and balanced. 

Fuck that. 

My job, as it relates to them, is to make the scenarios, make their actions and choices have consequences (for good or ill), and to distribute xp and loot to them evenly. Everything else is on them. They want to mess with things they can't handle, it's my job to warn them off somehow. If they persist, it's on them. If they need important information, it's my job to tell them that important information or give them access to it and their job to write it down if they get it. If there is a weakness they need to exploit that will make an enemy vulnerable, it's my job to give them a chance to find it. Etc, etc, etc. GMs are not baby sitters  and hand holders and wipe your butt and tell you that your special-ers, and even if they're supposed to be, I have no desire to be one. 

Jason/Karrak made specific choices that led to him absorbing a piece of the Hound's Gifts when it died, choices that any other character in the group could have made, but did not. Eran made specific choices to make a deal with the Hound to obtain power (then reneged on it in the Hound's eyes, resulting in consequences that affected everyone, or at least Gob and Karrak), then made further specific choices (not apologizing for forgetting about the creature on the Black Mountain) that prevented Evandor from rewarding the group (with his Gifts, so they could all gank power from dying Immortals) for in part being responsible for reuniting Andorian and Evandor. 

To me, giving Karrak access to these powers or allowing Eran to make deals with supernatural creatures is not favoritism. These options are present in the world, the same way a player has the option of choosing to play a Psion, Wizard, or Fighter. They merely have to make the choice to pursue these options. Now, each of these choices has consequences. Wizards lack hit points, Fighters lack the ability to affect reality with their sorcery, Psions...uh...make pretty lights and funny noises that are somewhat alarming when they manifest their powers (sometimes, if they don't decide to suppress them)?

Man, psionics are fucking powerful. 

These are options, like selecting feats and abilities. Jason, to me, kind of chose the feat "Make Me Immortal" which had the prerequisite of "Have a Nel owe you a favor" or "cast wish" and then chose the feat "Absorb the Hound's Gifts" because he met the prerequisite of "Possess Gifts" and wanted more power. It would be no different that Eran choosing to pursue the Hound's mission statement of hunting all of the things and gaining a lycanthrope template or something. That was the eventual plan, Lance. Plus whatever you wanted to do with the whole Inquisitor archetype I devised for you. Sorry. The Hound has no use for riflemen or hunters committed to keeping the demons out of the overworld and would have reshaped you in his image, because he is the alpha and Eran was not. Eran would have become a were-nyeklaeon and would have constantly struggled (through RP and Will saves) to maintain his Serethmanity. Which is humanity, but for Sereth. 

Maybe I'm off base here. But giving Karrak or Eran power that Karl and Donovan don't have doesn't feel like favoritism to me. Karl and Donovan have those sames options as well, they've just chosen not to pursue them. The same way everyone has followers, but Eran/Lance has not chosen to take Leadership. I might not have flat out said it to everyone, but I've shown that this land has the Immortals, and some Immortals have followers and reward them with powers. I cite the priests of the Armiger and the Houndlings of Cantellen and the various weirdly powerful and intelligent canines of Orcunraytrel as examples. Eran/Lance decided to try to strike a bargain with one of these Immortals for power. Anyone could have. 

I don't feel like I'm obligated to give powers comparable to Karrak's to everyone just because it's fair. That's like saying every time I hand out magic loot (granted, this is rare, but wolves and common rank and file soldiers tend to not have piles of magic on them), I should give out four sets of the same stuff. I think I am fair and balanced, in that everyone has the option of finding an Immortal and serving them for power. Everyone in the group has the option of taking money and going to the Goebleen to buy magic gear their Witches create. Everyone has the option of calling everyone else out if they feel they did something stupid or selfish with the money. What would have been unfair was if they freed Andorian and he only gave his boon to Eran because he was a Sereth, or if I said Eran was the only one who could have absorbed the Gifts of Immortals because he was Sereth. 

I dunno, just something that I felt like yammering about. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

God's Eye View of Hekinoe Part 7

The scarred pirate and the tired lawman look down from their perch at the undead exiting the portal. The Elduman pirate closes up his spyglass and gestures at the portal, explaining to the lawman where they lead to. The lawman shrugs and pats one of the pistols on his hip and the pirate chuckles. The pirate captain unrolls a map of Orcunraytrel and adds another X to it with a stick of charcoal. It is one of six exes on the map. The pirate gestures at the exes for a few moments, then points to a small tower sketched on the map in the middle of nowhere between pirate territory and the border of Asosa. The lawman asks a question and the pirate shrugs. 

Deep in Cantellen, the Forest Lord reclines on a throne, ten Cant stand before him yelling and bellowing in anger. The Cant are burly and poorly groomed, their beards ragged and snarled, their clothing tattered and stained. The Forest Lord gestures and silence fills the clearing in the forest where he sits upon his throne. The Cant snarl and bellow in silence. Their eyes glow yellow and their muscles bulge as their rage increases, but the change does not come upon them and the Forest Lord laughs at their impotence. He speaks to them, wrath filling his dark eyes. The Cant recoil from his words and hang their heads and the Forest Lord screams at them, gesturing wildly with one hand for them to be gone from his sight. 

The Giant shamans stand before the warleaders of the tribes that answered their call. The Ancients have been gone from the world for ages and few follow their ways anymore, four tribes answered the call of the shamans. The shamans speak of the pyramid and how it was defiled, the escape of the foe, and the warleaders nod as the tale is told. The warleaders let the shamans finish their speech and talk amongst themselves for a time. The biggest of the Giants leaves the other three and confers with the shamans. They agree, the defiling of the pyramid is a great wrong, but the foe must be found and chained once more, the warleaders and their tribes will hunt him for the shamans. 

Silver trees scream, exploding in flashes of silver fire and smoke, their trunks erupting into a deadly hail of silver needles. The dark haired Utenel lastborn howls in mad joy, a slender blade in one hand and a smoking cauterized stump where his other once was. His eyes glow like black stars, and lightning arcs out in every direction from him, making a ruin of Vyanth warriors. The white haired Utenel lastborn sings a hymn of death and silver trees rot into dust around him and Vyanth warriors fall to the ground, their lives snuffed out by his wails of death. The Silver King and his lady fall from the sky like comets, obliterating earth and trees and cascading waves of fire in every direction. Stepping from the craters, their eyes glow like molten lava as lances of flame hiss through the air towards the Utenel. In Serethnem, Keroen Skathos laughs madly. 

The Fell Human pirate captain wanders into the Asosan town, hands in his pockets and hound at his side. He looks around, not drawing any attention to himself, just taking in the sights. He spots soldiers and a grin splits his lips, his fangs peeking out for a moment. He frowns and concentrates, gesturing at the soldiers. Mist forms around the soldiers, swirling and full of ghostly faces. Pinpricks of blood appear on the exposed skin of the soldiers and they all begin to pale and weaken, a few stumble towards the pirate. Suddenly, a huge red armored figure appears near them. He clangs his massive sword against his massive red shield and the tower symbol on the shield flares with golden light and the same light appears around the soldiers, protecting them from the life draining mist. The red armored warrior, the Armiger, gestures with his blade towards the pirate, bellowing a warcry. The pirate draws a pistol and cutlass and fires of a half dozen rounds that the splatter uselessly against the Armiger's shield. The pirate captain glances at his hound and shrugs. Hound and pirate run like they're being chased by Cenn the Reaver himself, the pirate laughing all the way. 

The Goebleen with the eyepatch and shortened ear sits at a table, twiddling his fingers and banging his thumbs against the table. Pirates turned men at arms move about the tower carrying out their duties, mostly ignoring him. Bored, the Goebleen pulls out a flask from his pocket and pulls shadowstuff from his own shadow and stuffs it, somewhat against its will, into the flask and jams a cork into it. He shakes the flask a bit and squints his eye at it. The shadowstuff begins bubbling and swirling inside the flask. Very carefully, he sets the flask on the table and spins it like a top, absently ticking off the revolutions on his fingers, then reaches out and jerks it to a stop. Popping the cork, he sniffs it and wrinkles his nose. Looking around first to make sure the room is in fact empty, he downs the contents and disappears. A pirate turned man at arms enters the room and looks around, unable to find the source of the giggling he just heard, he shrugs and grabs himself a jug of Kussethian potato rum. Personally, he can't stand the taste, but it sure gets you fucked up quick. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Psionic Advancement

One thing I did not mention the other day that Jason suggested I should was how will psionics and technology evolve? In the post from last week, I mentioned that sorcery and technology won't really evolve together, because sorcery is so janky. Jason wondered if psionics might evolve with technology since it is stable and whatnot.

Right now, there are crystal types that allow psionics users to channel power points into them to deal additional damage. I forget the name of it in my campaign book, but it is called deep crystal in the 3.5 Edition material. It might have the same name in my campaign book. I'm not sure. Once you reach a point where you are firing cannonballs and bullets made of deep crystal and enhancing them with power points, how much further can you go in terms of weaponry? Each power point adds 2d6 more to damage. So with five power points, you can fire a bullet that hits as hard as a 10th level Wizard casting fireball with no save for half damage. Granted, it relies on an attack roll and only hits one person (depending on weapon type, deep crystal buckshot anyone?), but still. How much of a drop in a bucket are five power points for a character like Donovan? Eran's rifle crits for 8d6 damage, Donovan can do that with four power points and a basic revolver with a deep crystal bullet with a regular attack.

Yes, there are people who are going to combine psionics and technology, but fundamentally, it's not going to be any different than the way it is now, except with more advanced technology. So you'll have your Dragon Scale combat suit, and it will have a +5 bonus to AC from psionic enhancement. There are applications for stuff like boilers and and steam turbines fueled by stable psionic powers that create heat, and as tanks and stuff evolve into use, you can supplant hefty physical armor with psionic force effects and such. With issues of flight, I'm positive there are psionic versions of flight and levitation, so wingless and balloonless airships can be developed. You could, in theory, find psionicists discharging electricity flavored energy bolts into a power grid instead of utilizing coal or whatever fueled generators.

This stuff could all happen, and it'd be awesome, but it won't, at least not in a widespread revolutionize the fields of technology way. Because Elduman.

Let's look at the Elduman. They are ancient and timeless and they think everyone is stupid. The guys know of at least one time where they have intervened to prevent technological advancement in The Known World, and the Elduman just plain don't need technology and don't need/want to combine it with psionics. They clearly don't like the creep of advancing technology in the world around them, so why would they decide to enhance it on a widespread level with their mental powers?

Taking a deeper look, these are a people that have no need of food or water, so there are no farming or animal husbandry industries in The Old Empire. They use crystalline materials reinforced by psionic energies for building materials and for forging weapons and tools and such (when they don't just will them into existence), so blacksmithing and smelting and metallurgy are dead arts in The Old Empire. Psionics allow them to teleport, fly, move fast, etc, so they don't even have a steam lorry or animal drawn cart based automotive industry like Kusseth does. They have no fields of medicine because they can use their psionic powers to will their crystalline organs and bones closed, or to repair injury instantly. When they were suffering attacks from the sea, they didn't build defense posts and mobilize their military, they used psionics to create crystalline mountains to replace their shoreline, then disbanded their navy and dug a hole into the earth that allowed them to get to the mainland if they wanted/needed to. They don't need technology and they don't need to combine it with psionics to make it better. That would just give other nations an advantage they currently don't have.

This doesn't mean that the Elduman of The Old Empire are luddites, or that they have no concept of riding a horse or forging iron and...other stuff...into steel. This doesn't mean they don't understand that if you have a gaping hole in your chest, you should close it and try to keep from leaking your insides all over. They know of these things, have documented their existence and researched how to perform them. But, these are a people that looked at apes playing with fire and said "Neat." and then used the power of their minds to build the pyramids while a handful of them wandered over to the apes, slapped them, and took away fire for a few dozen years. 

Part of the explanation of this view of Elduman requires me to illustrate a divergence in what the game rules show/allow and what is in my head. Now, in my head, everyone that is a true Elduman lives in The Old Empire or Haven and is a Monk 20/Psion 20 with a dash of Gunslinger for those in Haven. Everyone that claims an Elduman heritage and doesn't live in Haven or The Old Empire (and isn't one of the Fallen) is an outcast, barely trained child, or an Elduman descended Uncout. The outcasts are strongly sanctioned against spreading the knowledge of psionics to non-Elduman, because Elduman are secretive and don't want anyone to even remotely come close to their level of expertise. In my head, everyone who is a true Elduman of Haven or The Old Empire is a powerful manifester of psionic might and is just bursting with psionic power and knowledge. Everyone else is basically just the equivalent of a wild talent that is unreliable and has no levels in a psionic class.

The rules don't let me show this really, because I like players to have options the not everyone has in the world in my head. So yeah, it's a game and sometimes it doesn't match what's in my head, I try (and occasionally succeed) to not let it drive me crazy.

One thing that occurred to me while typing all of this was that I've talked about technology advancing, and the ways it would intersect with sorcery and psionics. But how will psionics and magic evolve? As technology evolves, it generally becomes more powerful. What about psionics and sorcery?

One of the big penalties to the advancement of sorcery in Hekinoe is its unreliability. There are experimenter types in The Known World who are testing the field of magic and developing new spells and new ways of utilizing sorcerous power. Sometimes this works and you end up with the Soulless. Other times you end up with a hole in the ground, or in your head, or in reality. The problem with sorcery is that you can't be sure beyond a doubt that it fails because it won't work or because it misfires. Any sorcerer can willingly release his control over sorcery and cause it to misfire, and truly experienced casters (15th+ level) can tell the moment a spell misfires, but not everyone can sense it at all times. Most just understand that the wildly inappropriate effect means their spell misfired. So say you are a sorcerous researcher type trying to create a new spell or new method of enchanting or a more powerful form of casting and it doesn't work. You can't be sure the spell misfired or if you're doing something wrong. Granted, you can assume you did something wrong and prepare based on previous results, but that takes time, and there is a strong possibility you didn't survive the first attempt if it was in fact a misfire, so you may not be given the chance to try again. Maybe this seems like a small thing, but we're talking about forces that might just end up turning your bones to mush when they misfire. I imagine being boneless would make it hard to continue your research. So, magical research will continue to occur, but it isn't suddenly going to ramp up in power with every sorcerer being a demigod capable of dragging the sun out of the sky. One convenient way to handwave the advancement of sorcery is by saying that new spells from recently released sourcebooks is the result of the magical research occurring in the world. 

One of the big things about Elduman is their secretive nature. They don't share. They don't teach. They sit in their desert of crystal sand and stinging razor sharp winds, and act all psionic. They don't teach their fighting styles to outsiders and they keep their psionic knowledge on lockdown and will do so forever. If psionic research is occurring and succeeding in amping up power, the players won't know the specifics. Honestly, from the RP perspective, Donovan could be a really really old Elduman masquerading as a young Elduman so he can keep an eye on the outside world. For all Karrak, Eran, and Karl know, Donovan could be as powerful as Vanden or one of the Great Captains. Hell, he could be one of the seven Great Captains. For all anyone in The Known World knows, psionics are actually as powerful as the Gifts of Keroen Skathos and the Elduman have been playing dumb for 10003 years while doing crazy psionic things like creating alternate dimensions and setting themselves up as gods. There are lots of bits and pieces of secret info about Hekinoe. I'm not saying the last few sentences are part of that secret history, but I'm also not saying they aren't. 

So, in game terms, it's easy to represent advancing technology. You simply put the stuff in the world with the appropriate stats when necessary. How do we represent the advance of sorcery and psionics? Part of that is adding in new powers/spells from sourcebooks and such. On the psionic side, we can say Elduman are secretive all we want, but you can't account for every single Elduman in existence and even Elduman can fail their Will saves against sorcerous or psionic control. So knowledge inevitably spreads.

So as technology creeps along, how will sorcery and psionics do so? An idea I have is speeding up the advancement up the spell levels. So lets say your a level 5th Wizard has a 16 in Intelligence, which gives you a bonus 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level spell per day, but only if your level already allows you to cast spells of those levels. So our Wizard can cast 0, 1st, and 2nd level spells and normally he'd gain access to 3rd level spells at 6th level. This first step I'd take down the road of advancement in sorcery/psionics would be to let Wizards with bonus spells due to high Intelligence access their bonus spells per day 1 level before normal. So this 5th level Wizard has a bonus 3rd level spell he can use, but instead of waiting till 6th level, I let him use the single bonus spell at 5th. Normally, a Wizard gains 2 bonus spells he knows per level to indicate magical research done in his down time, but they have to be from levels he can cast. I think I'd allow this hypothetical Wizard to select a 3rd level spell when he hits 5th level if he wanted, just to continue with the theme. Plus, its no fun if all of a sudden you have the ability to cast third level spells, but now you have to find a fucking library or some shit so you can scribble down fireball or lightning bolt and add it to your spellbook. 

With psionics, I think I'd do something similar. I wouldn't change the power points psionics characters gain per level or increase their allotted number of known powers. I think I'd just slide the point they gain access to a new level of powers down by one, which is the equivalent of what I've done with sorcery in the previous paragraph. It's quick and easy and keeps a certain amount of equality between the two types of supernatural abilities. 

One other thought I have on the sorcery side is to leave the spell level advancement alone, but to add bonus spell levels every few levels or something. Like say you have have 5 of these bonus spell levels lingering around. You could memorize an extra 5th level spell, or five 1st level spells, etc. Or, you could memorize a 9th level spell, but apply a metamagic feat to it that increases the level of the spell. This is normally impossible for arcane casters because there is no spell slot higher than 9th to slide a spell with metamagic on it into. 

So yeah, just a few thoughts on psionics and technology and the advancement of psionics and magic. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Charisma and Undead and Clerics and Other Nonsense

I may return to the whole heroes and myths/fears thing I was doing, I may not. We'll see.

Charisma bugs me. The other ability scores are fairly straightforward. Charisma, though more useful in the rules than in previous editions of the game, has always been something of a dump stat unless you were a Bard or Paladin, and primarily only then because high Charisma was a prerequisite for the class, as it didn't have any bearing on the abilities of those classes. Charisma, yeah. Let's face it here, PCs (typically) spend way more time using metal to put holes inside people than they do trying to be comely and personable, which is much less effective at putting holes in people in an attempt to cause gold to flow out of said holes. Charisma doesn't bug me because it is usually relegated to dump stat status though. It bugs me because its description is insane.

Charisma is supposedly the stat that represents your personality, personal magnetism, leadership qualities, and your appearance. Ok, sounds good and makes sense given the name of the stat. Done? No? Oh dear. It is also the measure of necromantic lifeforce in undead. So, your rotting and stinking and just generally icky wight is a really cool guy with a knack for leading others and talking folks into things. Wights have a Charisma of 15 (kraken have a Charisma of 21, just a little note), which approaches Captain America levels of natural born leaderism and handsomeness. I always envision Captain America as having 18 in all stats, which is about the pinnacle of human abilities in DnD/Pathfinder. This beef isn't an issue of me griping about Because Abstract. This is bat shit crazy nonsense. Charisma directly measures attractiveness and personality, and a wight, which is rotted and dead and likely smells like it, has an above average Charisma. This creature's appearance and personality directly contradict what is indicated by its ability scores

Not only does Charisma cover undead lifeforce and the other personality stuff, but apparently it governs inborn magical talent as well, as Bards and Sorcerers both use it as their casting statistic, as do other intuitive type casters like the Favored Soul from 3.5 (I think). So not only is our wight (a creature that can rise from the dead simply because it was that awful and malevolent in life, no necromancy necessary) a natural born leader and well loved guy, he'd also make a great spellcaster or performer. Nevermind his eyes of glowing black necromantic energy or his rotting skull face, fucker can bring tears to your eyes with a ballad and drop panties with a word slurred through rotted and dangling lips.

I feel like there is a really awful/dirty joke about roast beef danglers in there. I have no desire to pursue it though.

The fairly haphazard use of Charisma there says to me that the designers of the game consider it a dump stat too, so they heaped as much into it as they could so it could be relevant to the game so they didn't have to create a stat to govern intuitive casters and undead lifeforce. Now, I'm not saying I have any better ideas about how to break down the various things Charisma represents. Ok, that's a lie. How about the player determines the attractiveness of their character? How about you use Constitution, the stat governing health and physical fortitude, to manage the unnatural lifeforce of undead? Keep all of the rules the same for undead, just leave out the insane part in the Charisma description that says it measures undead lifeforce along with personal magnetism and leadership qualities.

Now that my blood is up, I've got a few more comments about ability scores related to spellcasting.

Intelligence makes perfect sense to me for learned casters. You are learning something and memorizing formulas and incantations and precise movements and such to achieve specific magical effects. Learned casting is based on research and training and experience, so it makes sense that Intelligence would be used for that. Look at Wisdom though. Wisdom is about willpower, common sense, awareness, and intuition. How is that remotely related to divine casting? If anything, Charisma should be the most appropriate. Your power is entirely dependent upon how nicely and politely you can ask Yahweh to smite the Egyptians for you. It's not like you're pitting your will against the deity's and stealing the power from him in a sort of mental contest. Your spells are literally prayers for aid against your enemies. To regain spells, Clerics must spend one hour in quiet contemplation and supplication. Supplication, as in, "Hey, I know you're busy doing god things in god land, but I'd really think it was swell if you could lend me a little bit of that deity juice you've got. There are some fuckheads that we're gonna make bleed till gold comes out today, leveraging a few smites on your behalf would sure come in handy. Thanks."

If we're talking like this is an automated service, like you call in prayers and the being operating the switchboard of deity juice listens in and directs the juice to you while the deity is off managing the forces that propel reality, we could go with Intelligence. In that example, the prayers are like Mad Libs where you put in the appropriate phrases for the spells you want and all you need to do is memorize the proper prayer and speak it during your little hour of contemplation and you get the spell you want.

It has been said before, but I have a lot of beefs with the way Clerics work. If I ever run a campaign in a "normal" DnD world, I am going to mangle and rape that class into complete ruin. Players would not get to choose their spells every day, I would, as it is the deity that bestows the spells on the Cleric. The Clerics aren't invited into the deity's brain to go shopping for abilities. There would be no casting statistic. Your casting statistic would depend entirely and completely on A) The power of your deity, and B) your standing with that deity and commitment to the faith and the pursuit of its ideals. Referring to point A, obviously greater gods have much more divine might to spread around than say a demigod. So obviously their deity juice should have more snap, crackle, and pop to it. Referring to point B, gods don't care about your levels or lewts. You want to play a Cleric? Play a Cleric, be a priest, act like it, serve your god and all that jazz. You've been granted the ability to wield the powers that motivate the cosmos. Maybe act like it, maybe act like your deity's goals are more important than window dressing for the blank boxes in your character sheet.You know what concerns (most) gods in fantasy games? The shit in their godly portfolio. You worship a deity of healing? Prepare to spend the next twenty scenarios working in the plague quarter to get your casting statistic up to twelve. You worship a deity of war? Stop fucking killing Goblins in caves for villagers and start a war.

As a reminder, I do not agree with the rules in allowing ideals and concepts as deities. At least not outside of a Planescape campaign. Planescape is a setting where thoughts having the power to reshape reality is a key aspect of the campaign's underpinnings. If I remember correctly, this was not the case in other 2nd Edition campaign settings and taking an ideal or concept or philosophy as your deity was not an option for divine characters. To continue, if you are using the depth/strength of your belief in good triumphing over evil to provide you with supernatural power, guess what, your power has an internal source: your mind, imagination, and will. Welcome to psionics, please take off your armor, you are not proficient in it's use. But, you know, keep it if you want because it has no bearing on how well you manifest your powers.

Gods are a weird issue for me. My own preconceived notions about reality obviously affect them, as I have no faith in deities, so I tend to not include them. I also think I consider them in a much more godly sense than the rules do. I feel like gods should grant power based on your devotion to them and their cause and that you don't just get spells, your god decides to give you them. Fire priests should start fires and spread the power of their god, which should be rewarded. Being a Cleric isn't like being a Fighter or Wizard. You have no skill, no abilities. Yeah, you can wear armor and hit things with sticks and stuff and have some knowledge about spellcasting and religions. But everything that defines you as a character, is because of your god and the power they grant you. (Unless you're an Ur Priest and can steal divine power from gods. Which is dumb and not something I'd allow in a campaign.) Your god and your relationship to them is an integral part of your character. It should be a stat represented on your sheet in some way. It is something that should ebb and flow based on your actions and interactions with the world, not a static statistic that has little believable bearing on your spellcasting power. Clerics aren't granted power because they're wisdomous and intuitive, they're granted power because of their devotion to their deity, and you can't measure devotion with a static ability score determined at level 1, you measure devotion through actions during a scenario. It doesn't necessarily mean role-playing either. You don't have to come up with inspired prayers or theological arguments and hold conversations in your head with your character's deity. All it has to amount to is saying, "My character, a devotee of Healergod, goes into the sick house and leverages some spells to aid the sick before joining the rest of the party at the inn."

I mean honestly, every Cleric or Paladin should be a batshit crazy fanatic. Look at all the fanatics in our world, and all the deities they believe in are fake. Imagine the shitstorm that would erupt if their gods could actually do things. It'd be bananas.

I suppose Wisdom could have bearing on divine spellcasting if you are like a devotee of a trickster or riddle god and you progressively gain more power by unlocking riddles and such hidden within the hymns and prayers of the priesthood. Aside from that though, I really feel like your divine casting ability score should be determined by how well you show your character is devoted to their deity and their cause. But that can be a tricky thing to adjudicate, so perhaps that is why designers went the route of using Wisdom.

With intuitive casters, Charisma makes sense as a casting statistic for Bards. I don't argue that. Almost everything about their magical abilities, and the majority of their spellcasting, depends upon their ability to manipulate emotions, which Charisma ties into enough that I can handwave it. With Sorcerers though, that's different. Charisma somehow represents the innate magic in the lineage of a Sorcerer. Sorcerer's typically have some sort of magical ancestor like a storm giant or dragon or elemental that gives them their knack for magic. It's literally something in their blood. The only innovative thought I have in lieu of Charisma representing this is clunky and overly complicated. It breaks down intuitive casting into a two stat system, rather than one. Constitution indicates the power of the Sorcerer's magical abilities. So instead of adding your Charisma modifier to the DC of any Sorcerer spell you cast, you add your Constitution modifier. Everything else is managed by Wisdom, which indicates your ability to use your willpower to command your inborn magical powers. So your Wisdom determines bonus spells and that sort of thing rather than Charisma.

That method, despite being clunky and making Sorcerers need two decent stats, makes more sense to me. It also circumvents the crazy shit you run into like icky looking undead bloodline Sorcerers having a crazy good ability to drop panties and lead people even though they're super icky and scary to most people. It also avoids insane things like a kraken with a 21 in Charisma.

I dunno, just some thoughts I guess. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Technological Advancements

So I was talking with my friend Jeremy the other day and he asked if I'd ever run something with d20 Modern set in a futuristic Hekinoe. I said no, but that'd be neat and stuff. It did get me thinking though. What will The Known World look like in a hundred years? We've established already the the tech level is kind of like middle/late Wild West era stuff in 10003 DK, plus all the "steampunk." It's taken ten thousand years since the fall of Kaleshmar to get here, but we're there.

So what would it look like a hundred or so years from now? I've always said that reason The Known World is sluggish to develop technology is because monsters and magic and stuff. The brains are working on magicky stuff and technological stuff instead of just technological stuff, and the monsters are distracting everyone. However, as new technology develops, it tends to develop quicker and quicker. Looking at Wikipedia, the Stone Age last roughly 3.4 million years, the Bronze Age lasted like 2100 years, and Iron Age lasted like 1800 years and then we move into the Middle Ages, which lasted roughly 1100 years, then to the Early Modern Age, which lasted 400 years, and finally move into the Modern Age, which has been going on for like less than 200 years. Those aren't hard and fast and written in stone measures, as it gets kind of hazy during the transition years, and these ages aren't a precise measure of technological advancement, but you get the gist. To me it looks like the more technology we amass, the faster things move along in technological advancement. Which makes sense to me.

So along what lines would the technology of The Known World advance? What new nonsense would come along? How is it changing in the now?

One of the main focuses of advancement will be zeppelins. Now, in our world, we have zeppelins. But they kind of fell by the wayside after the development of airplanes. One of the big things in our world that they were used for was bombing platforms. They'd just float over cities and bomb the fuck out of them. If I remember correctly, Germany used them to bomb London and run reconnaissance missions. In a future The Known World, I'd keep zeppelins around, have them carry better armor and armaments and such, but with so much war in The Known World, most of the nations will be interested in short distance flight, rather than crossing oceans for bombing missions, so the zeppelin would be suited to that sort of thing. I'd also have a gyrocopter develop, which would essentially be a helicopter with a funny name.

With the nations of The Known World constantly being prone to skirmishes amongst themselves, the main focus of technological advancement is going to be based on war. Weapons are going to get more and more advanced, revolvers will develop into machine pistols and such. Deadlier and deadlier "steampunk" weaponry will develop, the lightning gun will develop into a laser (something likely called an optithermal ray discharger). Steam lorries and such will start heading into tank territory (no skytanks, Jason). Explosives are going to get more and more powerful, we're going to end up with rockets and short range missiles, along with grenade launchers and such. The Blackcoats are going to piddle in their excitement. As a huge fan of Warhammer 40k, you can bet your ass I'm going to include something along the lines of gyrojet/bolter technology. Gyrojet firearms are a real world technology that basically used rocket propelled bullets. Bolters are a Warhammer 40k weapon used most frequently by the Space Marine chapters. They're basically .50 caliber rocket propelled explosive rounds.

As weaponry advances, the already disused metal armors are going to go extinct as they have in our world. I've already got the early forms of "bulletproof" armor in my world, thick plates of metal or tightly woven fibers. As time moves on, this will develop into more modern forms like more tightly woven fibers and more durable ceramic plates that attempt to balance weight with bullet resistance and eventually we will get to something like Dragon Skin, which in my world will likely have actual dragon scales incorporated into it. Because magic. As armor technology increase, and given that we already have "steampunk" power armor, I think we're going to see elite units like the Brasscoats develop truly awesome powered armor suits. Stuff invulnerable to small arms fire and resistant to explosive detonations.

Right now, The Known World is electrified via steam power and turbines and such. Kusseth primarily does this by mining and burning coal and converting a percentage of lumber from their lumber farms to charcoal to burn to heat boilers and such. This trend will continue. It may not be efficient, but it works. With The Known World being mostly flat open spaces exposed to the sun, I can see wind power or solar power coming into use. Though I imagine Kusseth is going to start eyeballing the silver trees of Vyanthnem as a readily available source of neat colored charcoal before those two technologies develop. I don't know much of anything about oil or fuel production or anything like that (other than that in Minecraft you pump oil out of a well and pipe it to a refinery and it outputs fuel which generates the most heat in a liquid fueled boiler and the most power output in a combustion engine of the various types of energy generation sources), but I imagine oil and the various technologies based on putting a well over it and refining it will come around eventually. I like to imagine future The Known World as a continent constantly resounding with the rumble of diesel engines and having a skyline choked with belching smokestacks.

So how will magic advance as time passes? It's not going to get any more reliable, I can assure you of that. But, people are people, so attempts will be made. These attempts will either fail, or have mixed results just as they always have. Beltanizine and Meroteth obsidian have always show a certain ability to absorb/stabilize magic, but it's never 100% and nothing I can conceive of will ever make it so. How will magic and technology advance together? I have always resisted coming with extensive magitech nonsense. Magic is too unreliable to reliably be combined with technology. The applications are there. Who needs coal or charcoal when you can plop a flaming sphere beneath a boiler and call it good?  The Bel'lore arms company of The Fell Peaks already experiments with their cinderswitch line of firearms, that use a rod of Meroteth obsidian to channel a wielder's sorcery through as ammunition for the firearms. But there's always the risk of misfire. I can see something being developed like storing sorcerous unreliability in a casing like a grenade and that leading to some interesting grenades for the more sorcerous nations of The Known World. It isn't terribly different than storing a spell in a wand or scroll to cast. Beyond that, I have no further intention of widespread magitech. There will certainly be instances of this happening, magic steam tanks and magic propelled zeppelins and so on and so forth and such. But again, I don't want this to be widespread. Magic is too unreliable for that. 

What would campaigns look like in this modern The Known World? Honestly, pretty fucking similar to what they look like now, the window dressing stuff is just going to be altered a bit. Mostly, it's just going to be about one faction trying to gain an edge over the other with PCs as mercenary types trying to scrape together cash taking care of business for someone. There will be rebellions and fanatics that need to be taken down or have coin taken from them, there will be big nasty critters to slay, and so on and so forth. The guys would just be using SMGs and fully automatic assault rifles instead of revolvers and blades.

Technology is constantly evolving, and one of the ways in which it is evolving right now in The Known World is attempting to get a faster rate of fire out of firearms and larger capacity. So we're moving towards semi-automatic pistols and magazines, rather than revolvers and increasing cylinder size. One of Kusseth's big drives right now is setting up a railway system. They've got a handful of tracks and trains currently, but one track just kind of dead ends near the border of Serethnem. Eventually, Kusseth is planning on crisscrossing its territory with tracks for rapid transport and moving its zeppelins towards strictly military operations, rather than recon and troop/materiel transport.

So there's a few thoughts about technology and some vague thoughts on the direction it will take in the future of The Known World. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Myths and Heroes: Kusseth Continued and Serethnem

So one thing I forgot to do with Kusseth last Friday was talk about their folklore regarding the underground. Most mythology and folklore, in my limited and uneducated experience, stem from fears. The ground beneath Kusseth, while rich in ores, is basically swiss cheese studded with chunks of fallen Kaleshmar. It's full of tunnels and crystalline chunks of destroyed cities. It's mostly settled and not really prone to cave ins anymore, so earthquakes and sinkholes aren't like a perpetual worry or anything. But think about it. The first people of Kusseth were enslaved "criminals" that were shoved underground to mine for The New Empire. These places were dark and dirty and messy and those that died did so very messily and usually with great pain.

When first discovered, the karthak was a terrifying creature to the penal colonies of not yet Kusseth. The karthak is a canine about the size of a big dog, maybe like a Saint Bernard. It's a nocturnal and subterranean canine with shovel like claws and semi-corrosive saliva. Basically, it digs and shit. It's a pest in modern Kusseth, and usually is nothing more than a pain in the ass for waste management workers that have to go and clear a pack out of the sewers. But back in the day, imagine it. It cave in hits, killing and wounding dozens of workers. They sit in the dark for a few days because no one cares, they get weak and sick. Then a few karthak smell dead bodies and come investigating. They start chewing on the dead and maybe those that are still technically alive, then they dig their way back out and go do karthak things. When eventually a cave in is uncovered, penal miners find their fellow prisoners dead and chewed up with no sign of any way in or out of the cave. They came up with stories of cannibal prisoners that had been lost in cave ins years ago. A prominent one was Blind Mike and his crew of pale and sickly miners. Men who'd lived in the depths so long their eyes were milky white and their skin would scorch in daylight. Broken once men that burrowed through earth and rock like worms with fingers and nails as tough as an iron pickaxe. They imagined these creepy fucks lying in wait for days, chipping away at stone to prepare an area for a cave in so they could feed on injured and dying penal miners. The noise of earth and stone settling at was said to be Blind Mike and his kin tapping away at the earth below, just waiting for the miners to strike the right spot. The guards of the twelve original prison camps, only made it worse and egged on the fears and tales of Blind Mike and similar legends.

In later years, the folk tales became about cave wights that got a taste for the blood of non-Glenwighta, and lurking Dwenoren saboteurs. Now, onto Serethnem.

Before the disappearance of the Briar King, Serethnem was pretty much indistinguishable from Vyanthnem. Aside from being dark and gloomy and cold and full of a stormy sky. What I mean by the same is not the environment, but the nature of the civilization. They had cities and castles and mines and streets and schools and so on and so forth. When the Briar King left, all the earth and rock he'd used his Gifts to create from sand began returning to sand. Buildings started shifting, roads began breaking up, and eventually whole cities began sinking. I said in the previous post that there are digger types that try and study the ruins of the Builders, but there are Sereth cities buried in the sands as well. The Sereth are a pragmatic and resilient people, they care very little for the ruins of their civilization. When they find them, they strip them of useful resources and continue on their way. Part of this "Fuck the past!" mentality is that 4510 years of nomadic lifestyle is a hard tradition to break, another part of it is that the desert is simply too tough to survive if you're digging around in the sand clinging to the past or trying to drag it into relevance instead of raping it of resources, and a third part is that on some level, the Sereth don't want to be reminded their lives used to be more than endless walks over pale sand beneath a scalding sun.

One of the most prominent legends of the Sereth concerns the nyeklaeon. The nyeklaeon are huge wolf-like creatures found in the deserts (think dire hyena). These beasts are descended from the hunting hounds of the Briar King. The tales say that though the Briar King was a kind ruler, he was obsessively vengeful and wrathful when wronged or betrayed. Supposedly, the first of his hounds were Sereth that betrayed the Briar King or worked worked to depose him or weaken his power, he responded by using his powers to force them into the form of a nyeklaeon. Over the decades, these beasts lost none of the intelligence they'd had as Sereth, but supposedly some found a way to regain the use of certain magics they'd had as Sereth. 

The Sereth have always been mistrusting and reticent in regards to strangers, and this tale ties into that. These nyeklaeon would supposedly find lone Sereth in the forests and slay them. Once dead, the nyeklaeon would devour their insides, bones and all, and sort of climb into the carcass (as much as a massive hyena-like creature could), and use their magic to take the form of the now dead Sereth. The Sereth are a stoic people, not prone to showing emotion or fits of giggling laughter. This is because nyeklaeon have a habit of lurking in the night and erupting into fits of barking laughter when a pack of them brings down prey and these shapeshifted nyeklaeon are supposedly prone to fits of laughter. Though nyeklaeon are rarer in modern times, the tales of laughing strangers that come in the night to kill Sereth caravans still persists. 

Who are the heroes of the Sereth? The most prominent heroes and historical figures are the founders of the sixteen clans. In the past, there were sixteen major cities in Serethnem, each ruled by a lord of the Sereth appointed by the Briar King. When the sixteen lords met and determined that the absence of the Briar King was unmaking their forests, they were the ones that decided to adapt and turn to a nomadic lifestyle instead of hunkering down in their cities. These Sereth were tough individuals, and came to prominence through valor and skill. Most were sorcerers of at least middling skill and power. There were three things the Briar King respected, intellect, ability to hunt, and sorcerous skill, and the men he put in charge of his kingdom were paragons of those virtues. 

These sixteen clan leaders were Alaren, Cordic, Errelm, Gidlen, Granuele,  Heren, Kenlan, Murkenel, Noryn, Oren, Sutlel, Thuryn, Valen, Voryenel, Wathiel, and Zosaryn. These sixteen Sereth were the leaders of their people, and in their honor, the sixteen clans took their name. Each was a mighty warrior and hunter, with a mind as sharp as a blade, and as I said, each was at least a passable sorcerer. When the sixteen clan leaders eventually died, their bodies were entombed in a Builder pyramid. A tradition of the Sereth when they stumble on ruins of ancient Serethnem is to loot an object of art or value and when their path comes near this particular pyramid in their travels, leave such objects in the pyramid as a sort of offering to the ancient clan leaders. 

Now, this doesn't mean there are only sixteen clans wandering through the desert. Two are extinct, the Sutlel and Oren. The Sutlel were lost in battle against The New Empire and The Plains of Dust. The Oren were lost when they attempted to track down the Briar King. As time passed and Sereth numbers grew, clans grew to be too large to sustain themselves and small groups split off to form new clans, usually with some variation on the original clan name. Regardless of current clan affiliation, every Sereth born in the desert knows the history of their clan and which of the sixteen major ones they originated from. 

So there's just a little bit about the Sereth.