mandag den 22. august 2011

A bit about gods

A while back Jeff over at Jeffs Gameblog made a post about how the miracle dispenser nature of Dungeons and Dragons clerics might actually kinda fit with how priests actually worked, back before newfangled stuff like the enlightenment and the industrial revolution.

Yesterday I was listening to a lecture from UCLA while playing Minecraft (because if I'm going to waste time playing Minecraft, I might as well get some brainfood at the same time). Towards the end, something caught my attention, given that it seemed relevant to roleplaying, and world-building.

The bit that caught my attention starts around here. But really, the stuff that caught me are just two short sections.

First there is this bit
Curses are really popular. Charms are really popular. Because this is gonna help the individual get on with it. If he wants to marry somebody, he better put a binding spell to make that person fall in love with him. If he wants to get ahead in business, can it hurt to curse his enemies?
And then there are this bit, about a curse being put on a charioteer, probably belonging to an opposing team.
I invoke you by the great names, so that you will bind every limb and every senew of Victoriques the charioteer of the blue team. And that his horses, that he is about to race, under Segundunes, Juvenes, Avacades, Rubules, etc, etc, And also bind any others who may be yoked with them, bind their legs, their armwrists, their bounding, their running. Blind their eyes, so that they cannot see, and twist their souls while you're at it, and their heart so that they cannot breath.
One might consider a world where this stuff is what the gods are all about. You worship not a god because he deserves it, but because he gives you stuff. I do think I might incorporate this in whatever new Fantasy world I might brew up (though not The City, since it already has a well-defined religious system).

Envision this; your cleric in battle, beseeching his god to blind his opponent. Calling upon his god, not expecting response because he is loyal servant of the god, but expecting response because he sacrificed a pig yesterday, and the god darn better come through on his part of bargain, or your cleric is going to go out and find a god that does appreciate a good sacrifice.

søndag den 24. april 2011

I is for the Imperial Inquisition

Like the Assassins Guild the Imperial Inquisition is an ancient and venerable institution. Unlike the assassins, the inquisitors are relatively well known, their stories being spread in books and plays, and their intervention being at times extremely visible.

The inquisitors are an institution constantly searching for the internal enemies of the Empire. From the first whiff of treachery, they will follow the trail until they find the ultimate culprit. They concern themselves with the big picture. Treacherous dukes, rebellious general, powerful cults and rogue demon summoners. If they are plotting against the emperor, it is the inquisitions duty to find them, and remove the danger. This may be by the way of the Assassins Guild, but at other times the problem is too great to be handled by the death of a single man, or the Inquisition wishes to make an example.

For this reason, the imperial inquisitors have wide reaching powers, giving them authority to command any imperial servant or citizen, and allowing them to requisition forces and supplies from the Empire's reserves. The authority of the inquisitors derive from the highest echelons of the imperial bureaucracy, and they are to be obeyed unquestioningly. Inquisitors can command assassins, imperial mages and imperial bureaucrats in the hunt for their prey, and send out entire armies if necessary.

But most of the time the inquisitors won't call out armies. While they have massive authority, they are still accountable to the Emperor. Misuse of the powers given to them may see them dismissed from duty, imprisoned or even executed. Most inquisitors carefully weigh the needed force against not only the target's resistance, but also what the Empire can spare. Sometimes they go as far as hiring freelancers, the quintessential "adventurers".

Unfortunately, with the decline of the Empire the inquisition has run into problems. More and more, individuals are finding their way into the institution that serve not the Empire, but themselves. Ranging from swindlers who want to fill their own pockets to outright traitors, seeking to bring down the Empire from within, these inquisitors with false allegiances pose a serious problem. Not only does their acts themselves cause trouble, but their very existence brings into doubt the intentions of every other inquisitor. These days, the nobles and imperial bureaucrats do not instantly spring to an inquisitors aid, for there are too many stories of false inquisitors. Though this hesitance can always be dispelled by the inquisitor calling down higher authority, the time this takes may cost the Empire dearly.

H is for History

When I started this a,b,c malarkey, I wrote up a list of what I was going to say on some of the letters, just to make sure that I'd get important areas covered, and wouldn't accidentally use up needed letters, such as a throw-away post about Eldritch Abominations instead of the important Enclave concept.

H was supposed to be about history. But as I've struggled for the last day and half to come up with something to write, I've realized that I'm not ready. Alexis over at The Tao of D&D said some good stuff about campaign world history in his post about Pressure. In short: there isn't really any reason to make history that won't impact the adventures played in the campaign world. If the history isn't going to impact the players, there's a good chance that they won't care. (He does say some other things, specifically about Historical Pressures, but the above it what I concentrate on.)

Of course, this is not to say that there shouldn't be history in the campaign. A lot of history will impact the players, even if obliquely. But most of the time, you don't need the great picture. A complete family tree of the imperial family probably won't have much interest. But knowing that an NPC is distantly related to the emperor through his grand-aunt Margaret might be important. And you don't need a family tree for that tidbit. Placing the dungeon in an ancient tomb from before the time of the empire, with cultural artifacts from the previous civilization might be interesting. But mapping every previous culture back to the start of the ages (which was one of the options I considered for this post) might be counterproductive.

Because I love fitting history into my adventures. And I love for things to stick logically together. But I also love to create the biggest bang of a story. So I might find that I want an ancient lizardman empire. But if I have already filled out the history of the world, there might not be room for a lizardman empire. And then I'd either have to scratch that idea, or find a way to tweak it.

Alternatively, I might have a vague idea of history. Various cultures and empire will be dotted along the time-line because I've mentioned them before, either in background (the creators of this or that artifact) or because they have been encountered in play (that ancient tomb from before the time of the empire). And the lizardman empire can be slotted in anywhere that there is room. They might even expand upon known history. I might have known that the Solomani were destroyed in a series of wars. Now the lizardmen could be the enemy that they fought, and lost, against.

I already have a few historical tidbits forming. I know that the peak of the empire was a bit over two hundred years ago, as I established that in the F is also for Firearms post. I know that various factions out in the empire has rebelled and seceded successfully since then. I'm pretty sure that the capital has had an unbroken string of emperors, and has never been touched (in large scale at least) by civil war, though a few barbarian invasions may have made their way to the walls. I'm also have an idea in the back of my head that this empire isn't the first, and that the remains of earlier capitals can be found beneath the city. But honestly, I have nothing worth writing a post about yet.

fredag den 22. april 2011

G is for the Grand Master of the Mechanus Guilds of the Greater Mechanum Quarter

Grand Master Caine is an incredibly influential person being the head of the greatest industrial complex in the empire, located inside the walls of the imperial city to the northwest of the imperial palace. This zone is divided by the city walls into the actual Mechanum Quarter, the southern Mechanum Quarter and the northern Mechanum Quarter, which together form the Greater Mechanum Quarter.

The quarters are divided between many different Mechanist guilds. Three of the five imperially sanctioned gun smiths guilds have their workshops here. So does many other guilds; clock-workers, forgers, armorers, mechanists, and so on. Each guild claims a smaller or larger portion of the quarter, and generally keep to their own affairs, though there are some trade amongst the guilds. Especially the forgers sell their finished products to many guilds who use the forged metal to create their own products.

All these guilds together form the Mechanus Guilds of the Greater Mechanum Quarter. This overarching organization represents the united guilds in negotiations with the imperial administration, and stand for the protection and infrastructure of the Greater Mechanum Quarter. The Iron Guard which protects the district is sizable, and well armed, and have permission to field a small amount of soldiery (about 50) armed with longarms.

Grand Master Caine is the person who stands at the head of this great organization, and has power to speak with the emperor directly on matters concerning Mechanum artifice within the empire. He is said to be a man without scruples, singularly dedicated to advance the position of himself and his organization within the empire using means both fair and foul. But he is an elevated personality, far from the lives of the everyday man. Though his only formal authority is within the Mechanus Guilds of the Greater Mechanum Quarter, he has contacts throughout the empire, and spends his time working in politics that effects the entire empire. Everyday concerns of the Greater Mechanum Quarter is left to lesser officials.

It is said that Caine is being watched carefully by the Imperial Inquisition, for he may be working to usurp the power of the empire from the increasingly weakened imperial administration.

torsdag den 21. april 2011

F is also for Firearms

Firearms came into being over two hundred years ago, during the height of the empire, rising alongside the growing industrialization. Though advances have been made since then, it has been slow owing to tradition, the decline of the empire, and outright suppression.

The gun was invented in the empire, and the imperial administration, recognizing its power, have done everything they could to ensure that nobody else would get it. The construction of firearms have been the monopoly of a few crafting guilds by imperial law, and the design and construction of the gun, and more-so the recipe of the gunpowder, has been a closely guarded secret. As the empire declined, the secrecy and monopolies meant that the gun makers became conservative, and not only was innovation difficult to achieve with so few gun smiths, but often it was opposed by the masters of the guilds.

With a monopoly on firearms the armies of the empire has remained relatively strong despite declines in men, training and equipment. But such things could not last. In the current day the secrets of gun making has leaked from the empire's grasp. Neighboring countries and internal rebels have small-scale gun making industries of their own, and guns have spread from being a strictly military weapon, illegal for civilians to own, to a weapon which can be owned by any with the necessary money.

It is still illegal for any but the designated crafting guilds to produce weaponry, and no imperial citizen may gather a force armed with firearms. While rebel factions out in the empire has done so, the city is too close to the imperial center of power for any to do so. While some nobles and enclave leaders have tried to arm forces with firearms produced in secret factories, they have always been discovered and dealt with harshly by the imperial army.

But individuals may own firearms under imperial law. All that is required are that they possess the papers of crafting that follow with guns sold by the imperial gun smiths. But even this simple requirement is often flaunted by individuals. Few enclaves outside of the imperial administration will ask for the paper of crafting, and they are easily forged. A flourishing black market exists in guns produces by foreign powers or liberated from their former owners. Military long arms are rarely sold to civilians, and thus find buyers on the black market. Also, there are fewer restrictions on innovation among foreign gun smiths, and so designs have begun to appear that are superior to the imperial designs. These too are found on the black market, though ownership is punished severely by the imperial administration.

When speaking in terms of the Fantasy craft rules, the Military pistol, Blunderbuss, Hand Cannon, Harquebus, Musket and Musketoons are considered imperial firearms. The muskets and musketoons are rarely sold to civilians, while both the Hand cannon and Harquebus are considered obsolete. Experimentation into Dueling pistols, Pocket pistols and Long rifles are conducted by foreign gun smiths, as are various customization options, including making the firearms reliable. The light and heavy cannon are also available, but are strictly military weapons.

F is for Fenmore, Lord of Berkey

Fenmore of Berkey is the latest in a long line of protectors of the Berkey Quarter, the center of which is Berkey House, his ancestral home.

It is said that when imperial control began to subside in the district and criminals began to roam the streets at night, the House of Berkey extended its protection to the houses around it, where lived the servants and close associates of the family. Soon petitioners showed up at Berkey House, requesting that the family extend their protection further, offering tributes and loyalty in exchange. And so the house extended its protection.

These days the Berkey Quarter is a pocket of civilization in an otherwise overrun by monsters and barbarians. It is bounded on the south by the great wall, on the east and north by barricaded buildings and walled-off streets and on the west by the Pantheon park, part of which have been walled off to serve as farmland. This is not enough to fully serve the quarters food needs, however. A tunnel has been dug through the great wall, providing access to the south. Through this tunnel Berkey serves as a stopping point on the way to the underground dwarven enclave of Nalzak to the west, or as a fast route to the Golden Quarter to the north.

Fenmore is in his late twenties. He took over from his father eight years ago, when the father died leading his men against a band of human-sacrificing cultists in the east ruins. Though Fenmore really isn't all that interested in leading Berkey, and would rather party in the Golden Quarter or the Imperial District, the quarter is his heritage, and he has drudged through all the necessary administrative duties ever since. He is neither a malevolent nor a benevolent ruler, only strictly fair, following the laws of the quarter to the letter.

But Fenmore is dreadfully bored. When entertainers of interest pass through he will hire them to perform at Berkey House. When adventurers pass through he will invite them, dredging the brains for stories of adventure and derring-do. What Fenmore, really, in secret, wishes for is some kind of catastrophe. A grand evil arising that he can ride out against, finally getting some adventure into his life.

E is for Enclaves

Well, I think I've pretty much failed the challenge  part of the ABC challenge, given that it is more than 2 weeks since I posted the last letter. But due to Jingle's encouragement last post (which I received yesterday) I'm going to try and catch up to the current letter which is.. "R" I think. Let's get going.

The City is huge, the City is old, the City is heavily populated. That could become a catchphrase. The first two parts are of importance in this post. The first part because the City fills such a large area that it is difficult to effectively govern it all. The second part because the City has had a lot of time to develop distinct cultures, districts and authority figures.

The Empire is in a state of decline. Imperial authority in the City is shrinking. Once the entire city was governed by the imperial administration, a chain from the lowly clerks in charge of a certain neighborhood all the way up to the emperor. These days the only places the imperial administration has a sizable presence are in the Government districts. While these are large in their own right, they only form a small percentage of the entire city. Here you will find imperial law, soldiers and a vast bureaucratic machinery that is as much interested in the managing of the rest of the empire, as the City itself. They are stretched thin.

This leads to a semi-feudal model for the rest of the city. Warlords, nobles, merchants and other persons of power control their own smaller or larger part of the city. As long as they pay taxes, and don't threaten the stability of the empire, the imperial administration lets them run things more or less as they please.

There are wars between enclaves, though on a small scale. Raising a proper army is threatening the stability of the empire. But if you happen to be a noble with 500 city guardsmen with good armor and weapons under your command, as well as your own elite bodyguard of 50 men, then it is tempting to seize that merchant district next door. While clashes between hundreds of men happens only rarely, skirmishes, power struggles and resource grabs are a part of life in some of the more unstable parts of the city. In other parts the situation has been stable for decades and looks to continue so.

Though imperial law is the basis for all law in the City, many enclaves have added their own laws, and changed or gotten rid of parts of imperial law that doesn't suit them. A few, isolated enclaves have scrapped imperial law completely, creating their own laws from religious or philosophical foundations. A traveler does well to keep these changing laws in mind, for while imperial law may allow any man to carry a weapon, some enclaves may require a peace knot or restrict the carrying of weapons to nobles, licensed mercenaries, or the enclave's soldiery. Some enclaves place special restrictions on the movements and freedoms of demihumans, mages or simply all outsiders.

There are also those areas not strictly part of the enclave system. Places where the inhabitants have been reduced to barbarism, living in tribes and clans, hostile to outsiders. You are unlikely to accidentally wander into these places, as they only exist far from imperial authority in the isolated pockets of the city, but they do exist. In these same isolated regions are societies of orcs and other humanoids, of nefarious cults or other creatures or men hostile to the empire and those within it. Though these rarely get the chance to grow to a true threat, before being discovered and exterminated by the imperial army, many remain small, local dangers, preying on the enclaves close by, but never growing large enough to warrant imperial attention. And it has happened that one of these dangers has manage to grow large in silence, suddenly spilling out from the far reaches of the city, requiring massive efforts to contain, drive back and finally exterminate. You can say many things of the empire, but in these cases they make sure to be very thorough in their extermination.