Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Player Ownership

One of the things I've found myself using is the idea of player's owning things tied to their characters.
I don't know where I picked this up.  I think it is me riffing on the concept of television actors and their characters- they typically "own" their characters.  But that isn't the only media I could've gotten the idea from.

The central premise is that a player's character has a sphere of their own.  The GM can contribute to this sphere, but the best kinds of RPG campaigns tend to be grok-worthy when players maintain, create their own spheres and interact with other player's spheres as well.  Some NPCs and items belong to a particular character.  I the GM could exercise "ownership" over all the NPCs in my game- but splitting the onus of ownerships makes more sense to me, on philosophical and practical grounds.

When talking about "ownership" I mean the basic creative dimensions to a character.  Can the character die?  Who is allowed to mess with the character?  What is appropriate and not appropriate for the character?

This doesn't mean that I double check every little thing a NPC says or does with a player to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do.  Instead, I expect players to help me find the boundaries and keep to them.  I try to actively complicate the NPCs lives, but I never remove them.  The players and their characters get to define the nature of their relationships, and I build on that.  In turn, a player will build off I've done.

But as a matter of trust, I let them own the things and characters within their "sphere" of influence.  In Fate Core, this has a simple way to tag NPCs and objects the players have control over.  One way I've done it is to inform them that spending a fate refresh for a Extra that represents a magic item also makes that item "out of my reach."  That is, I won't have someone steal it, take it from them or destroy it.  Even outside their possession, the player's character "owns" the item.  It's theirs to define and direct.

This approach combines trust and creativity.  It's still more of a way of thinking.  But it is a cornerstone of my current thing, sliding along with other ideas.  Players (GM included) should feel some sort of ownership in the characters they play.  That seems critical to me.  The other cornerstone is pushing away as much as I can from using violence as a default mode for "excitement."  Ownership can help to reduce (or eliminate) violence as the main means most players think of NPCs around them.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Rosefolk

The Humans of the Rosac Tribe settled the lands of Othebea first, long before Othebes had founded
the Church of the Twins.  They lived in bondage, enslaved by the many monstrous races of their lands: dragons, medusa, lamia and the fey.  Rosac families long had been indebted to various monstrous lords or ladies of one kind or another.  For the Rosefolk, this never would have changed if not for one critical moment.

The Rosac embraced the Ursyklon conquerors.  Upon freeing them from the debts the fey and monsters had kept them under, the Ursyklon took on the role of Princes and Princesses of the Rosefolk.  Millennia would pass, and the Ursyklon clans in the Othebean lands would come to blows over and over.  Constant warfare became a defining aspect of the lives of the Rosefolk, until the establishment of the Church of the Twins two thousand years ago.

A curious artifact from their history is that Rosefolk nobility has always remained a fluid matter.  The monarchy has often uplifted commoners to noble titles, a practice that has long kept both the low and high classes a blurred, unlike in Ainesia.  Theirs is a tradition of meritocracy, despite their own strong religious inclinations.  Rosac in Ith and other nations share this same preference to rewarding ability, not just the rights of birth.

Rosac Naming Conventions
Rosac surnames were derived from occupations- Kyringer, for instance is taken from the Othish word for kyringe, or "to make keys," meaning the Kyringers made keys or were called that at one point.  Nobility, on the other hand, distinguish themselves with the use of a "vyn" added to their surname, which was derived from a locale, not a occupation.  This serves as the major distinguishing difference between nobility and commoners, where their surnames come to be derived from.

As for first names, it isn't uncommon for Rosac to adopt Tomasi, Sabizi or even Jarnish first names in addition to the ones listed here.

Male Names: Danyel, Foxgang, Garcus, Lyam, Saul, Alfryd, Tanley, Roward, Zenry, Zarin
Female Names: Aza, Angela, Irsula, Myrta, Jertru, Frieda, Elsa, Kusayne, Zarin, Ingryd
Commoner Surnames: Adlyr, Fyshir, Kyringer, Masun, Nillyr, Schmyt, Stywark, Wryght, Walkyr, Jagnyr
Noble Surnames: vyn Ayser, vyn Guidthorn, vyn Langthorn, vyn Goldrose, vyn Othbyrg, vyn Newrose, vyn Zohm, vyn Twinrose, vyn Swordborn, vyn Affyr

Rosefolk Hair, Fashion and Style
Most Rosefolk have frizzy hair, often favoring red or dark brown.    Unlike most other Human Tribes, Rosefolk women tend to be taller than their male counterparts.  With coffee-dark skin, Rosefolk also tend to have green or blue eyes.

In their clothing, Rosac tradition calls for strong earth tones.  Most Rosefolk spurn jewelry of any kind, save for a single ring.  Often such a ring is clay or made of some sort of stone.  These rings often are wedding bands.  To the Rosefolk, marriage is more important than anything else.  To break that vow is one of the gravest sins Rosefolk can think of.

There are younger Rosefolk who tend to embrace more deviant styles.  Some adopt the Ursyklon tradition of facial tattoos, while others adorn themselves openly with jewelry that traditional Rosefolk will frown upon.

Traditional Rosefolk views clash on the matter of treatment of husbands as well.  Foreign styles of clothing clash with the old Rosac view of men as housekeepers and protectors of the home.  The veil had been abolished in Othebea and Ith nearly three hundred years ago, but there are Rosefolk families that still maintain the practice- men cover themselves unless they are sinning in part of prostitution or other occupations.  Seen by foreigners and Rosac nobility as cruel and barbaric, those who maintain the practice in the backwoods of Othebea see only outsiders who want to break their traditions.

Lastly, the Rosac have a long bloodly history with monsters.  The many different monsters that once enslaved them have long been driven from their lands.  But some live on.

The Rosefolk fear the return of the most powerful of them.  Their folk stories are of the Fey lords and ladies who once kept them as pets; the Dragons who hunted them like a cat might hunt a mouse or the Lamia who made them part of backbreaking slave gangs building ziggurats.  None of these are likely to happen soon.

But it is true.  There are some very old things in the world that remember the Rosefolk.  And they await the chance to rebuild their once lost kingdoms...

City of Curses: Flash Fic: Rylah's Ghost

My lungs hurt.  I couldn't stop coughing.

"Twins-damn it.  You little fiend-blooded bastard."  Mistress Rylah.  I tried to get up before she turned on me.  But I couldn't.  I hacked.  I wheezed.

I felt her arm drag me up to the ground.  I tried to stop.  Rylah owned my papers.  I was supposed to be her apprentice, but as far as I had learned, Rylah focused on stealing from people.  She seemed to always have to point out my failures.  Like how my lungs never seemed to work quite right.

"Get up."  Rylah hissed.  "People are staring because of you."

"Sorry-"  I tried to speak, but after saying the single word, I broke out in more fits of coughing.

"I said get up, Kam."  She dragged me into a nearby building.  "You stupid boy.  I put up with your worthless dreck every day."

The building was one of the ramshackle husks on the edge of Ghost Street.  I felt Rylah let my body hit the ground.  I wiped at mouth.  I closed my eyes, bracing for the blow.

"Get up, you useless dreck."  Rylah chided.  "We don't got time for me to beat sense into you.  Give me whatcha got.  C'mon, hand it over."

I did as I told.  Rylah started to count over the money I'd pickpocketed.  I wish I could've learned a real trade.  But little tieflings like me never get to learn anything other than crime.  This abandoned house frightened me.

"Rylah... we shouldn't be here, should we?"

She glared up at me from the banknotes.  "Shuddup, dreckhead.  I'm trying to count."


Rylah's hands curled into fists.  "Twins-damn it, Kamlo.  Do I need to beat some quiet into you?"

I closed my eyes.  I done it again.  Why couldn't I learn?

"Don't touch the boy."  A dark voice echoed.  My bones quivered.  Rylah's beating didn't come.  Instead, I opened my eyes.

A translucent woman stood over Rylah's body.  Her hands gripped Rylah's throat.  They slipped into it, inside the flesh of her throat.

"This house will not stand for this!"  The ghost woman glowed a bright green.  "It will not stand!"

Rylah gagged.  Her hands tried to grab onto something.  But nothing.  She just passed through the ghost woman.

I stumbled back away from it.  A window.  I needed to find a window or something that would let me get out of here.

"One does not strike a child in this house!"  The ghost woman was screeching.  Her gown looked tattered and old to me.  The screeching made my ears sting.  "Not in this house!"

I threw myself at the window.  Glass shattered as I tumbled out threw it.  And I ran as fast I could, coughing and hacking as I tried to get away from that ghost-ridden abode.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Nagaorochi or Serpent-People

Many races crossed paths and arrived upon Orphos, not only the Ursyklon.  Known by many
different names, the nagaorochi came to Orphos over a hundred thousand years ago.  According to the Sabizi, their own dark god punished them and cast a continent under the sea.

To those of the Sundered Star, the Serpent-People's civilization have always provided valuable research for them.  Their alchemy and black science came from the spaces between the stars.  Machines they left behind could cause teleportation or other amazing effects.

What is known is that the Nagaorochi were of two separate camps prior to their fall.  One remained loyal to their ancient gods, while others had been swayed and begun to follow the ways of something new.  This new cult promised freedom from the lies of thought and form.  A freedom from the light, born of darkness where no laws could limit them.  Both sects left texts behind, but notably knowledge about the old gods of the nagaorochi are harder to find.  The newer cult's texts provide the dominant insights into their culture.

From these sects the Sundered Star have uncovered books like The Great Lie and The Nameless. But these occultic texts are not the only appearance of the serpentfolk.  Dozens of folk stories have been recorded about them, although none were collaborated or confirmed.

In these folk stories, the Serpent People possess the power to take human form.  That their civilization never fell, that instead they infiltrate and try to take over where they can.  Most of these come villages or people who were witness to major cataclysms.  There is a possibility of them inventing scapegoats for the sake of pushing away blame.

And of course, the unconfirmed threat still remains.  The Nagaorochi could still remain.  Those associated with the Sundered Star refuse to say if they have.  But the Sundered Star teaches that in darkness is Truth, that the mind must break to find it, and finding the Truth will set you free.  Perhaps madness like believing secret serpent people are among us is one of those truths that they seek out so much.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

City of Curses: Two Drugs in Crux

Here are two addictive substances to be found in Crux, one related to opium, while the other is a bit of a lovecraftian version of DMT...

The Burn
Aspect: Feel the Burn!
Skills: Addiction Good (+3),  Alchemical Effect Good (+3), Wealth Average (+1)

First imported from the Jade Lands three centuries ago, the Burn is a purified narcotic and analgesic.
Stronger than anything else found in the Maru Sea, Burn proved to be medicinally exceptional, especially for those without access to healing or pain-numbing magic.  But Burn is also highly addictive.

Burn's nickname comes from the sensation it causes when used recreationally.  It also refers to the body of one who has overdosed upon it.  An overdose of Burn leaves lesions all over the body.

Burn also has another property: it can deaden or quiet a lycanthrope's bestial shapeshifting.  It can't
negate it completely, but many lycanthropes find it helps them learn control.  The side effect being that they also become addicted to the substance.

Aspect: Sight for Darker Truths 
Skill: Addiction Fair (+2), Alchemical Effect Great (+4), Wealth Fair (+2)

This thick black substance is a relatively new addition to the streets in Crux.  Although only found in
the Wish Quarter at the moment, some are certain that dealers of it can be found in Poorfellows and the Blood Quarter- if you know how to ask.  Blackblood causes the eyes to become completely blackened.  To the imbiber, the effect feels miraculous.

Blackblood grants the user magical insights, access to seeing auras and other information that only sorcerous would be able to see.  For the unsorcerous, Blackblood gives them unfettered magical sight.  It also triggers visions as well.  Highly psychoactive, users of Blackblood become more and more addicted to its insights.

And for a few, they are convinced they can access higher realms of reality.  They believe themselves the chose rulers of all planes of existence.

Few are certain of where Blackblood comes from, only that it is highly addictive for the unsorcerous.   Among spellcasters, they have some resistance to it.  Even then, there are still insights granted through the Blackblood their own sorcery never provide.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Salaro

The Saltfolk: The Salaro, or Salish

Salira's name echoes from the oldest days of human civilization on Orphos.  Theirs is the land of a
hundred gods, a birthplace of ideas, and salt.  For the human tribe the Salaro, its harshness provided them their earliest motivation: exploration of the Maru Sea.

A great many words in other human languages have their origin in Salish, the Salaro's language.  They settled the lands that would be Ith before other human tribes had.  Salish can be found from Ainesia to Maliph.  Their travels only helped to spread the name of their ancient gods.  Ancient Salaro myths often are told because of their relevance to numerous historical figures throughout Ith and Ainesia.  In Ainesia they settled the lands of Salira, known for its gods and dragon cults since antiquity.

The Salaro claim that they were crafted from the white hard clays of their homeland.  After a great disaster, a man and woman, Salo and Ana, were rescued by the Gods.  To repopulate the world, the Gods bid them to toss salt over their right shoulders.  From the grains of salt, white clay became new men and women.  The Salaro, or People of the Salt were born that day.  The Salaro also believe each generation of human builds upon an older civilization.  Each of these ages end in disaster, but only for the next generation to stand up and become more than what had been before.

For the Salaro, they claim a number of firsts in the Maru Sea.  First to sail the Sleeping Straits.  First to write of Philosophy and Science.  First land to discover the Oracle and other classes.

To the rest of Ainesia, they were also the first to be conquered.  The Salish generals had carved great swathes of the Maru Sea between themselves prior to the arrival of the Ursyklon.  The Ursyklon bested them at every battlefield.  The Great Saga of Oretina relates the tale of the last great admiral of the Salaro.  A cunning woman, Oretina was known for outsmarting monsters of all kinds.  Salaro still remember the Saga well, it forming the basis of most Necruxa literature. She eventually surrendered at Othens, ending the Salaro's naval empire.

To this day, the Salish remain best known for their salt and their skill at sailing.  The rocky archipelagos of the Salaro homelands train them how to handle sea well.  Even in the age of Steamers, the Salaro are still best adapted to work at sea.  Even seaborn races like the Cecaelia remark at their adaptation to sea travel, a compliment the Salaro bear with pride.

Salaro or Salish Naming Conventions
Salaro names tend to follow the pattern of First Name, Matronymic, ending with "en" followed by the name of their birthplace.  The Matronymic tends to be personalized for the gender of the child.  If male, it ends in -ides, while for females it ends with -etzi.  For those who identify as neither, it ends with -akos.  Salaro have long named their first children after their paternal or maternal grandparents, continuing the name down the line.

Male Names: Zristos, Heo, Stavros, Vergios, Onstantinos, Brigorios, Dimizrios, Spyridon, Yrete, Nargus
Female Names: Hicodema, Soria, Ioulia, Ristina, Wichaela, Despina, Nike, Zassandra, Euridise, Oretia
Common Matronyms: Calliop-, Pandor-, Hicodem-, Sor-, Wichael-, Despin-, Nik-, Zassandr-, Othen-, Yret-
Common Salaro Places (for birthplaces): Ythonia, Halias, Rhedes, Zhrace, Ermopylae, Porta, Othens, Neopoli, Nikopoli, Salaropoli
Examples: Onstantinos Sorides en Zhrace, Ristina Niketzi en Halias, Zristos Wichaelakos en Crux

Salaro Hair and Fashions
Salish hair tends to be stark white, although a rare few have salt and pepper coloring to their hair.  Their eyes often are green, although a rare few have blue eyes.  Salaro never cut their hair, often letting it grow into long ropey braids, which they wear around their waists in belts.  For most Salish, learning to braid and knot one's own hair is seen as a key part of each child's life.

Those Salish who do cut their hair often do so out of protest (the Balds, as they were called during Ainesia's Revolutions) or have it cut as punishment.  Parents shave their children if they feel they are shaming them, although non-Salish often find it puzzling as a threat.  "Behave or I cut the braid!" oft is a parental tactic against many a upstart child- something even neighboring Tomasi don't quite understand.

The Salish also have a preference for the fez.  Originating in lands settled by both the Salaro and Ramelin in Maliph, the fez became closely favored by all Salish, including those in Ainesia and Ith.  The bright red caps are often embroidered with images of dragons, honoring the ancient wyrms that still dwell within the Salaro lands.

Salaro and the Dragons
The last bit to mention is on the relationship between the Salish and the many draconic lineages native to their part of Ainesia.  Centuries of conflict between dragons and humans oft rewarded dragonslayers of all kinds.  But Dragons have also been rulers of one kind or another in Salaro.

Many dragon cults have their origin in the salty lands of the Salaro.  More than a few claim that the old Salish gods were dragons whose names became forgotten long ago.  With the ascent of Revolutionary Empire of Ainesia, many Dragons suddenly were toppled from their centuries-long strongholds.  Old monarchies that claimed draconic blood were slain in the streets by Bald revolutionaries.  Dragons of all colors left Salira.  Many Salish nobles followed them.

Many settled south in Ith, where dragons were embraced as equals and granted citizenship.  Some Salish were too, but unlike the Tomasi, most Salaro lack a talent for innate Sorcery.  A seagoing folk, those who fled into Ith left one uncertain land for a foreign one instead.

Salaro Stunts
Seafolk's Eye: You can always orient yourself by the stars.  If you can observe them, you can quickly determine north.  If given a map and an accurate clock, you can also gauge your exact position fairly quickly.  In addition, you always can tell at least one detail about a ship you've been given time to look at.
Ropefingers: You can untie or tie up any rope easily.  You can identify knots on sight.  If tied up with rope, the only way to keep you tied is to manacle your hands.
Longbraid Voyager: You can talk any sailor or captain into letting you on board.  You always have a story to tell, and these always can sway them to hearing what you have to say.  You almost never have any difficulty convincing them to see things your way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Reading Materials: Webcomics Edition 2

Once I did blogpost on favorite webcomics of mine.  Well, I didn't get through all that many... so here we are again with another trio of personal favorites.

Webcomics are interesting as internet phenomena go: those who make them rarely can live off of them, they tend to go in directions printed comics or newspaper comics won't or can't, and they cost nothing to consume.

Its a unappreciated art sometimes.  Just a reminder about webcomics then: if you like one, and you can find a way to get money back to its creator(s), do it.  Always give them a bit of money.

Because they most likely have none.

Blindsprings: Still relatively new, Blindsprings has a unique art style and a bit of cuteness about it that makes its story feel all the deeper.  The main character appears to have spent her existence in the spirit world, for centuries as a price for someone else.  But then circumstances cause her to go back to her world- one that has gotten far worse than she remembered it.

Blindsprings combines the feels of Avatar: the Last Airbender with a world that tastes like Fullmetal
meets Harry Potter, with more than a little darkness to be found where you don't expect it.  Only a 130ish pages at the moment, it is a fast read.  The creator has a Patreon page too, if you find you like it enough that you want to give back.  Its a deep enriching world, one I'm afraid to spoil here- check it out and let me know what you think!

Goblins: This is a older webcomic, one of those that has lasted for a looong time.  It also has one of the hardest working artists.  It is a detailed, graphic in its violence, and charming in its humor.  The humor is very based in the solid bedrock of tabletop gaming tropes and DnD.  But Goblins doesn't ask forgiveness for that, and its consistency in style makes it one of those webcomics that you could spend hours, and I mean hours, reading.

Goblins, at first, focuses on a warcamp of Goblins in your normal tabletop RPG set up.  Except, at a
certain point, the Goblins instead decide to become adventurers themselves.  Then things get even more interesting.  Like Order of the Stick, its early popularity comes from its ties to tabletop gaming- but later on, the story progresses enough that it carries itself on without needing that.  It has its own
world, its own high stakes, and its own characters whose failures and successes resound with you.

And when they fall, you really do feel your guts wrench in sympathy.  Because they will fall.  It does have a Patreon as well, if you like it enough.

El Goonish Shive: For me, EGS has long been a page I look at it.  Its one of the oldest webcomics I follow.  Its simple, somewhat weird and stuff happens.  Even the name makes one go... what?  EGS launched a Patreon last year, showing how popular it is to those of us who follow it.

EGS follows a group of teens in a locale called Moperville.  The skill of the creator has changed over the many years its been online: if you ever want proof how skill can change and improve, go to the first EGS comic and read up to the last year or two.  There is a massive difference.  EGS also employs more than one strange plot device, with characters shifting genders or changing forms all the time.  But the best thing about EGS is its charming humor.  Where Subnormality sometimes is strange sometimes to make a point, EGS is strange until its humor brings you back.

EGS doesn't weird you out.  It keeps going, offbeat at times.  And its unafraid to be honest about relationships.


Two of these webcomics are fairly old; the other isn't as old, but all three share a similar facet.  They all make use of interesting characters.  Interesting, offbeat and not entirely "standard" characters.  EGS isn't afraid to have gay or other characters; Goblins is based on characters that normally would be NPCs and the main character in Blindsprings is a young girl.

But all of them are interesting characters.  There is no easy template to make a character interesting.  These are characters who have lives, relationships and act.  Key is that word: they act and do things.  THAT is something I like about them.  Not reacting, not being passive but trying to do what they want or think is right as best as they can...  ...that makes these rewarding stories to read.

It is a important lesson to retain.  Characters should be taking action, not being passive witnesses.


Ok, that's my load for this post.  I hope you enjoy these webcomics.  If you got any webcomics you like, please feel free to go ahead and let me know in the comments!  I love learning about new webcomics- my list is always growing!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: Steamers of the Maru Sea


Like railroads and locomotives, Steamships (or Steamers) are an emerging technology first
championed by Othebean non-arcanists.  Steamships have altered commercial shipping in the Maru Sea.  What once had been the domain of sailing vessels changed significantly once Othebean steam vessels replaced the older vessels.  Trade became far more predictable.

Ithic boilers, with their arcane high-pressure injectors reduced fears of the explosions from such vessels.  In Ith, explorers and adventurers were quick to adopt the new kind of vessel, daring to take it out into the depths of the ocean.  Such explorers founded the tiny ports of call in South Ocrid, the easternmost islands of the Jade Lands and other places.

In the ocean, paddle steamers like those employed in the milder Maru Sea proved ineffective at times.  Ithic artificers developed the screw propeller.  The first of these, the ISS Ichaba, left the docks at Blackcliff and completed a successful route to southern Maliph and back.  The Ichaba also was the first ship to be completely constructed out of iron.  Soon Ith turned out larger vessels, including the legendary ISS Witchqueen.

The Witchqueen Expedition

The ISS Witchqueen had been commissioned as part of a larger expedition planned by then-Ith President Tasminya Taan.  Taan wanted to explore the regions of South Ocrid.  Unknown to most in the Maru Sea, South Ocrid was still somewhat close to Necruxa geographically.  Others had attempted journeys to South Ocrid, but sailing vessels tended to fail in the storms and tsunamis employed by the Ursyklon Druids of Kainen.

Steamships could bypass the sailing risks.  At least, that was the core of the idea behind the launch of the Witchqueen.  Co-captained by Yzekiel Aurelia and Aldo Sardhu, the Witchqueen Expedition would help to establish ports like Fort Paradise and Fort Newtown.  The Witchqueen Expedition expanded the knowledge of Ith, but distances and hostility from Kainen Ursyklons have prevented Ith from settling it further.

Should any new innovations occur that could enable Ith to reach its foothold on Ocrid, it would mark a chance for the Sorcerous Republic to expand farther.  Its dream of a place where magic might flourish could grow and perhaps make it one of the most powerful nations on Orphos.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Inculti

"There is more to our existence than mere exploitation for blood."

Aspect: Justice Burns Hotter Than Fire
Invoke When: Using fire magic or when enacting justice against criminals
Compel When: witnessing injustice or saving those in danger

The Inculti demand a lot of their own.  Unlike other vampires, they do not fear the sun or fire.  The
Inculti are masters of fire magic, much like the Patrizo control water or the Visconti master earth magic.

 The Inculti preference for civic duty and focus on helping the city over their own self-interests also marks them different from other Vampires.  It beggars one to wonder how or why they were "cursed" to begin with.

The Wizardess Inculti was born in Crux long before the Tomasi Empire arose.  Born into a prominent family, she spent most of her life living off her father's wealth and name.  Some tales call her a hedonist; the Inculti claim instead she was the daughter of the Prince himself.  Whatever the origin, the story is certain that Inculti lived a life of sin in Crux.

One day, the drunken Inculti came upon a her father.  Ashamed of his child, he lashed out at her in frustration.  His words (some claim his fists, but again, this varies from version to version) carried a frightening price, though.  He had taken in a Priestess of Shraxes as his guest that night.

The Priest mistook Incult's Father.  Believing him to be a foul man and not seeing his frustration as
anything less than cruelty, she levied a curse upon him.  Inculti's father became a monster, his flesh
cursed like that of a beast.

When Inculti came to her senses, the realization of the price paid for her own sins beared down on her.  After pleading with the Priestess of Shraxes thrice, she offered the Priestess a deal.

"My father doesn't deserve this.  He- I am the one at fault here.  Please- please take away the curse!"

The Priestess could not.  A curse is a curse.  Her father would forever be stained as a beast.  But the
Priestess, sensing the dark desperation of Inculti made her an offer.  She couldn't lift the curse, but would gladly move it.

Inculti agreed, not knowing that she'd spend the rest of her existence in conflict with the Church of Shraxes.  She became the first of the fire-vampires, by choice for her own failures.  Dedicated to redemption and trying to make the world a better place, Inculti and those vampires she spawned refused to serve the priests and priestesses of Shraxes.

Instead, they always would speak of the Prince.  To them, they are guided by the Prince's will.  They always are dedicated to helping the community of Crux, while still trying to constrain their own curse.  It makes their eyes burn, causing them to glow a bright white even in the coldest night.

Inculti Stunt
Fire-Vampire: This stunt costs 2 Fate refresh, but grants the Inculti the ability to cast major spells so long as they fall within the flavors of Fire, Justice and Sacrifice.  In addition, the Inculti gains access to the skill Inculti, which they can use in place of Sorcery to cast spells, to sense lies told to them, and in place of Athletics for dodging acts so long as the Inculti is in sunlight.
Drawback: Fire-Vampires always act to help others, regardless of the risk.  Inculti take a -2 on using the Careful approach.


Ours is the Darkness, not the Light.  It is the sacred Darkness, that which we can never understand or know.  Ours is the chaos in the dark, the many free voices unbound by light, unilluminated and unfettered by what can be seen.

In that lunacy of the dark, in madness we reign, kings of shadow and nothing.  In the light we would be serfs and slaves to whatever it showed us.  But in the dark, we are free.

We serve the Darkness.  We are free.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Reading Materials: Dawn of Innovation

Finished a fascinating little book the other day on the early part of the Industrial Revolution in the
US.  Crux has left me sort of focused on learning more about that period, since it has been an obsession of late.  So much so I tend to write almost nothing but Crux articles.  So let me step back and talk about a book for once.  Reading Materials is where I don't review so much as explain something I've read and enjoyed of late.

Let more critical people than me get around to critiquing them.

Dawn of Innovation focuses on the industrial revolution before the US Civil War.  It begins with the War of 1812; author Charles H. Morris uses a constant comparison between Great Britain and the US throughout the book.  British engineers focused deep on precision and developed the basis for industry.  So the book asks a question, why did the US blow past Britain in the late 19th century?

Morris points to the early end of the 19th century for answers.  The book does a great job of covering the myriad of origin stories for so many different industries in the US.  Neat stories about why the US Steamship industry failed to surpass Britain or about how American focus on scale caused them to find new innovations the British never thought of.

The most chilling point in the book is at its end, however.  Morris compares the rise of US industry with China.  Like China, the US stole many trade secrets in order to build its industrial base.  Fascinating look at the potential future, I'm sure.

And on another note, the War of 1812's conflicts on the Great Lakes?  Something I hadn't known about until this book.  The US and Britain engaged in a vicious arms race of freshwater ships during the war.  The story about that seemed worth the price of admission to me.  The War of 1812 has so many interesting weird bits to it- every time I learn about it, the deeper the intrigue of that conflict grows.

Ok, that's it for me.  Ever find anything neat in your research for stories or settings?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

City of Curses: Old Crux, In Depth

Aspect: Every Brick Has a Ghost
Connected To: The Skullmount (to the Northwest), Havershill (North, across the Sleeping Straits), The Wolf Quarter (to the East), the Grand Bazaar (to the South), Poorfellows (to the Northeast), The Blood Quarter (Below It), Port of Crux (to the Southwest),
Most Significant Icon: The Prince
Well Known For? Civic center and City Government
Notable Sites and Locales: Prince's Square, The Old Wall, Harun's Gate, The Bloody Cliff, City Hall, Ghost Street

The "new" wall divides Old Crux from the rest of the city.  Harun's Gate bears ancient bas reliefs of warriors and champions from over two thousand years ago.  Each is a remarkable piece honoring Tomasi Legions from another age.  But this is the new wall of Old Crux.  

When you walk the streets, stairs or alleys of Old Crux, each brick is older than the rest of the city.  This is the part of the city known for its curses and legends.  There are statues at corners that ancient petrified corpses.  A few buildings are built atop the ancient ruins of temples of long forgotten gods.  Go down the wrong alley, and you find yourself lost under the streets.  

But this is also one of the most vibrant and busy sites in the city of Curses.  Here you can find Heralds of the Prince, announcing and handing out the latest decrees or decisions.  Carriages are constantly driving through here to Poorfellows or Havershill or the Grand Bazaar.  Here are entire homes and streets filled with ghosts, some ancient, some new.  Ghostwalkers keep them satisfied, but as they say, in Old Crux, each brick has a ghost.

The hard marble stones clack with each footfall of folk as they travel past.  This is the heart of the city, where the money changes hands.  The wealthy and the poor both struggle with government folk for this or that bit of bureaucratic facilitation.  Here is Crux's vibrant beating heart.  Here you can be lost, because this is where the crossroads meet.  


Old Crux is as old as the University, both areas having been settled at similar times.  The Old Wall existed during the Ursyklon invasions.  Much smaller than Old Crux today, the area around the Old Wall seems to have been built around access to the University.

The Tomasi Empire were responsible for the first major expansions, including building the bridge from Old Crux to Poorfellows as well as the bridge that spans the Sleeping Straits.  The Tomasi built the new Wall, including the wards and complicated decorations honoring their conquests around the Maru Sea.  Here they built the Grand Forum, where the senators of the entire Tomasi Empire would meet and decide the course of its direction.

Crux was adopted as the capital of their Empire, but only after the Tomasi Empress knelt before the Prince.  Although we lack precise sources on the story, we do have witnesses that can be found in Old Crux: its Ghosts.  The oldest and largest neighborhood of Ghosts can be found in Old Crux.  An entire street has long since been dedicated to them, and the Ghostwalkers patrol and do their best to keep them contained.  Here one can find the long dead summoner-legionnaires of a different Crux, and they intimate details about how the Tomasi ruled the city of Curses.

The Ghostwalkers were founded in Old Crux, at the behest of the Prince after the Tomasi Empire fell.  Ghosts were out of control, and the new order acted to help them.  Their tower in Old Crux bears testament to their work.  The Inculti Vampire Danric Whisper still is their captain; he often recalls the years where the Ghosts would riot and ghostfire would destroy a part of the city.  The Ghostwalkers aren't the only organization based in Old Crux; the Nighthunters also are based there.  The Nighthunters patrol Crux to protect it from the depredations of lycanthropes and receive their charter from an agreement between the Prince and the Church of the Twins.

The fall of the Tomasi Empire left the new wall.  While chaos reigned throughout Ith, Crux grew.  Old Crux expanded past the new wall, surrounding Harun's Gate.  The spaces between Palace Hill and Old Crux were filled in over the years.  The Wizard Zyan of the Gates established a new definition of the neighborhoods, crafting the first map delineating the edges of various neighborhoods, including Old Crux.  That fixed the borders of Old Crux for the first time.  Zyan would also help to contruct City Hall, his work helping create infrastructure and keeping Crux from following other city-states into chaos prior to the Othebean Crusades.

Zyan would live on as a Lich, and his tower still stands in the Grand Bazaar.  He would help coordinate the creation of the Wolf Quarter when the Prince gave that part of the city to the Ursyklon.  Unfortunately, he could not stop the riots that resulted from the chaos.  But Zyan is remembered for slaying the rebel tiefling Kathela.

After the Revolution Wars, Crux and its tense relationship with Ith's federal government manifested in Old Crux.  Ith continued to try and reform the civic institutions of Crux, all of which had long been corrupted by the Prince's influences.  Arrests and executions had no effect it seemed; the Prince still remained the power behind everything.

Attempts to correct Crux from within were abandoned.  Instead, Ith's Senate created the Metropolitan Police- an external police force to operate from within Crux.  Adoption of the Metro was met with open protests in Old Crux.  The City Watch, Ghostwalkers and others all stiffened at the idea of outsiders calling them corrupt or trying to do their jobs for them.

Old Crux remains the center of the city's bureaucracy.  The ancient husk that serves as city hall has been steadily sinking the last ten years.  Others constantly bombard it with protests, often trying to sway the Prince or others into accepting their reforms or changes.  The Prince continues to enforce his old laws, often ignoring Ithic precedents, including the exclusion of unsorcerous from the list of rights Ith only grants to those with Sorcery.

Notable Locales

Prince's Square: Behind the Old Wall is the marble and slate stones of the Prince's Square.  At its center is a meager statue of the Archmage Ith, on his knees in supplication.  The buildings here look aged, their stones cracked, stained or weathered from centuries.  They aren't as high as the towers in havershill, nor is it as mystical as the University and the Skullmount.  But it feels deserved.  Regal even.

From Prince's Square, one can easily reach the gate tower that connects to the Skullmount, the bridge that extends from the bloody cliff to Havershill, and the stairs that lead down past the Old Wall.  It is a busy locale, often filled with traffic from all over Crux.  Here is the center of the crossroads Crux is known for.

Harun's Gate: Named for the Tomasi Summoner-General Harun Maxmimus Zarak, Harun's Gate is the main divide between the Grand Bazaar and Old Crux.  The gate is a massive work of art.  It is covered in Harun's victories, his legendary duels with Aetherblooded, and ends with a massive image of his famous charge that led to the conquest of Athrid.  It is one of the great Tomasi works of architecture.  In the last century, it has only been closed once- the portcullis and other mechanisms have long since rusted solid, leaving it forever open.

The Bloody Cliff: Named for the blood red rock of the southern side of the Sleeping Straits, the Bloody Cliff also has long been a natural defense for Crux.  It helped to keep both the Ursyklon and the Othebeans from being able to take Old Crux by force.  Should the bridges be blown, the gates shut, then Old Crux becomes a fortress.  The Bloody Cliff also is riddled with coves and caverns.  These connect with the Skullmount's catacombs and the Blood Quarter.

Ghost Street: This tiny street contains the highest population of ghosts in all of Crux.  It serves as the main home of the city's Ghostwalkers, who've long maintained the street at the Prince's behest.  Ghosts of a dozen different eras and backgrounds can be found along the street, making it a place for those eager to seek them out or avoided entirely by the living who fear what curses the long dead might bring.  Most of the Ghosts here are sane or close enough that they aren't dangerous to the living.

Ghostwalkers fear the rare wandering ghosts, who leave haunts and dark spirits in their wakes.  Tied to moving objects, these are a constant threat to the stability of Ghost Street.  Haunted bricks, cursed blades and other things wander throughout Crux.  They seem drawn to Ghost Street, something the ghostwalkers are all too aware of.

The Old Wall: The granite bricks of the Old Wall have no seams; the entire structure looks as if it were one solid stone created through sorcery.  It is one of the most ancient landmarks in the entire city.  Since the creation of the new wall, however, it has become more of a administrative building for the Prince.  Unlike City Hall, the Old Wall isn't filled with city bureacrats.  Here are found the Prince's people, the criminals, outlaws and heralds that enforce his will in Old Crux.  Principal among them is The Akashic, an Ursyklon trained in a obscure class that grants him an almost-prescient source of knowledge.  Here is where one will be invited to "meet with the Prince" and only find a proxy or herald awaiting them.

Location Stunt

Ghostly Contacts: When on Ghost Street, a character can use Knowledge instead of Contacts to find a Ghost instead of a living person.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

City of Curses: Princeday

Crux Holidays: Princeday
Aspect: The Reds and the Blues

Specific to the city of Crux is a holiday named Princeday.  So aptly named after the Prince who founded the city, it is celebrated on the first Strangeday of Ghostwalk.  Over the centuries, the holiday has grown into a vibrant, weeklong celebration.  Unique to the sleeping straits and Crux itself, its traditions echo the cultural mix unique to the city of curses.

Princeday's origins as a holiday are like the Prince: murky.  We don't when the Prince decreed the first celebration of the city's founding, but the story of that first Princeday echoes in the Ancient Tomasi myths of Crux's founding.  Like the myth of the Church of Shraxes, it tells of a desperate noble.

Long ago, there was once a island kingdom in the middle of the Deep Sea.  It was called Sitan'la.  In the age from before Ursyklons came, it was the jewel of Orphos.  On that island was a Queen, and her loving son, the Prince.  For them, Sitan'la gave them immortality and the power of dragons unrivaled.  The Queen was beautiful and wise.  The Prince took after her mother, a conjurer, warrior and the most cunning of all in all lands.  But he went unwed, and his mother, never spoke of his father.

But an Aether-Blooded came to Sitan'la.  She came from her own damned realm into the perfect shores of Sitan'la.  Peaceful, they welcomed her with open arms.

We do not know how the Aether-Blooded brought the doom to Sitan'la, only that she was responsible for the cataclysm.  That the great blast of fire took the perfect shores, and created the pyre from which Ursyklon used to conquer the world.  The Spelleater's Betrayal is true, this much we Tomasi remember.

The survivors of Sitan'la included the Prince.  He led his people to the Sleeping Straits.  Once there, they tried to create a new home.  But the harsh cliffs bore nothing, and the Skullmount carried as many curses as the Prince had people.  One cold, hard bitter winter, he broke down.

He made a deal with the Priestess of Shraxes.  A wealthy woman, her cult built a new temple in Crux, and in return, the Prince offer them a place to settle and live in peace.  In time, they would betray his trust and try to take the city from him.

Upon the next Ghostwalk, the Prince decreed a new holiday.  A time of competition and celebrations.  A break from their strife and suffering.  And ever since, each Princeday has been a time to celebrate being alive.  A time to compete to be the best in the city.  A time to celebrate Crux.

There are holes in the Tomasi myth.  It colors the Church of Shraxes in a dark light, as well as portraying others in varying degrees of negativity.  Given the Tomasi's preference of honoring the Prince and taking Crux as a capital, it makes since that their version of the story would paint the Prince in the best possible light.  Sitan'la only appears in the Tomasi stories, although other peoples' stories mention lands sinking beneath the sea.

The tradition of competitions is true, however.  Between the celebrations, different factions and neighborhoods in Crux hold a variety of competitions.  The University hosts various lecture series, while its various departments unveil ongoing projects to the public, each department competiting via votes to be the Provost's Choice.  Other neighborhoods, like Poorfellows, hold dozens of different skill contests of different kinds.  There is no "unified" title contests in the city.

However, the Prince does have his heralds appear to recognize winners.  Announcements of the Prince's own favorites can be heard.  A few even find Sphinxes sent to them in his name.

In addition to the ongoing competitions, streets throughout Crux become covered in blue and red dyes.  A tradition since the Othebean Crusades, the Blue and Red dyes first were part of Princeday as part of protests against the Othebean occupation.  Today, it is seen as a permanent fixture in the celebrations.

When marching bands begin to play on a street, pots of Dyes are conjured into place.  As the music plays, the crowd hurls wads of either blue or red at each other.  Sometimes other colors are used; in some neighborhoods, like North Crown, have patrols of City Watch paid to keep riffraff from interfering with their own dye hurling.

Such vibrant musical displays can last hours.  The Church of the Singer of the Song go out of their way to place their best musicians at each such place.  Because they believe music makes people behave better, their very best often appear and interrupt factory work or other lower class establishments with their dye-shows.  When the Voice chooses her dye-shows, often things grow ecstatic.

The other part of Princeday is the food.  Hot Sabizi curries mix with old Tomasi pastas and thick Urskylon fish stews.  As Ghostwalk occurs in the middle of autumn, harvests have thickened larders.  New ales and meads of all kinds can be found.  Freshly slaughtered beasts of all kinds lend to the size of the meals.

Boosting it is charity like that presented by the Blood Barons.  Often they invite outsiders down into the Blood Quarter for their grand, free meals.  The Patrizo, for example, have their blood-bonded thralls serve fishpie while Inculti hand out pies of various kinds.

The Lycan Cages
The last tradition is a gruesome one.  And it is one the government of Ith has tried to stop.  But the Prince still will have his Cages, regardless of how hard the Metro try to stop it.

Thirteen silver cages hang from the spire near the Prince's Square in Old Crux.  Each is covered in thorn and wires.  Each hangs from at least twelve feet off the ground.  During Princeday itself, thirteen lycanthropes (werewolf, wererat, werecat... it doesn't matter) are thrown into the cages.  They scream in pain as the silver cages burn them.  And they hang there, while heralds of the Prince pronounce their crime over and over:

"Suffer Not A Lycan To Live."

They remain there until they are dead.