Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Random Musing: Project Hecate

A bonus blog post.  Normally I just update things on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, but I found a piece of art that inspired me to write this up.  Enjoy the bonus post!

Monday, June 29, 2015

City of Curses: Iron Justice 4 (Short Story)

Alright then.  Part 4 of this short story in #Crux, City of Curses.  Three friends run into trouble, especially when it involves an angry giant and more.  However, things are not what they seem...

If you are enjoying this story, let me know!  Always glad to hear any feedback! :D

Part 1 (Lily) | Part 2 (Odward) | Part 3 (Nalli) | Part 5 (Qorg)

"Pet.  She'll pay for all of that.  They all kept calling me... Ugh."  I tried not to trip over a chimney.
 The weight of the q'ak didn't slow me down like she'd intended.

Pet.  Even her servants called me that.  It was infuriating.  Worse, having to thank those from outside the family.  Embarassing.  Having to thank some of those Scarless, who didn't understand.

I needed to go back to find her.  Qorg wouldn't finish me off.  I would find the Spice Khan and make her pay for how horribly she embarrassed me.  A chain.  A CHAIN.

"That Sand Giant refused me, chained me and then dared to call me Pet."  I spat in disgust at that.  "How dare she judge...  How?"

I kept going back toward the docks.  I struggled to keep the wolf in me.  It wanted to come out, to rage.  Memories haunted my mind, fueling the rage.

"Damn you.  Damn you and all you tempt me with."

I remembered the embarrassments.  My town, my life before the Spice Khan entered into it.  I ruled it, my strength guiding them.  Sometimes I had been forced to do things, horrible things to protect my people.  All that blood and pain had been worth it.  Necessary.

Raria.  I loved her.  She betrayed me.  I would find her.  She thought she could turn to the Spice Khan.  Raria, the beauty.  The jewel of the desert I love above all others.  I gave her a pedestal.

I made her a home.  I paid for her safety and security.  I sacrificed for it.

"Raria."  I growled.  "You betrayed me to the Khan.  Once I deal with her, I will show you the price of my love."

The Spice Khan's janissaries came to my town.  My town.  They came at night, and they used trickery to subdue me.  They bound me to the q'ak and hexcollar.

My rage flared as I remembered the Spice Khan's condescending glare.  Of how she and Raria collared me.  The Hexcollar put the Wolf in charge.  My wolf side emerged, trapping me in a animal form.  My mind held aside while the wolf remained on the outside.

The wolf couldn't think.  It didn't understand how the q'ak held it back.  Heavy, most couldn't carry it along.  But the Spice Khan had bounded it with prison energy.  Without hands, without my mind in charge, the Wolf couldn't move the q'ak at all.

I couldn't risk letting it in charge.  If I even shifted a little into my wolf form, it wouldn't matter how scarred I was.  I would lose focus.  The q'ak would trap me where I stood.

"Raria.  The Khan."  I repeated the words.  I didn't let the rage control me.  I kept it cold.

Soon I would find my way back to the Spice Khan  Revenge.  I would have my revenge.  I would make Raria and the sand giant pay.  "Pet.  Trap me as a animal and call me pet."

I winced at the memories of the months chained.  The scraps thrown I'd chase after.  The laughter.  They laughed at me.  Talked down to me, while I was trapped in that form.  Everyday.

"I will teach you a lesson for that.  Cruelty sometimes is necessary, Raria.  Even cruelty to those you love."


I dropped down from a rooftop.  The salty air of the port greeted me.  I gazed out to the docks.  Between the smoke of Crux and the busy streets I could make out the large shape of the Spice Khan's barge.

"The key.  I need to find the keys for this q'ak first." I told myself.  I steeled myself.

Then things grew complicated.

"What's a q'ak?"  I froze.  It was that tiefling's voice.  My head spun around.  The tiefling stood there, in her lilac dress.  It still was stained with blood.


"I asked you, what's a q'ak?"  She repeated.  The tiefling moved with grace.  Beauty.  Clearly she was used to others listening to her.

Somehow she'd caught up me.  How?

"You-"  I paused.  "Leave me be.  This doesn't concern someone scarless like you."

She cocked an eyebrow.  "I helped you escape Qorg.  Don't you owe me something?"

Her tone made me pause.  Tender.  Sweet.  I paused for a moment, listening to her.

The q'ak hit the ground with a loud clang.  Its spell reignited.  My mind had lost focus.  Trapping me to that spot.  I growled and slashed at the tiefling woman.  She'd cast a spell on my mind.  She tried to charm me.  I lost control over my rage.  I let it go.

I had been kind allowing her to help me earlier.  Clearly this woman needed to learn her place.  I had the wolf.  I had strength.  She would learn to respect my power.

"How dare- do you know who I am?"  My arm lengthened into claws.  I would taste this woman's flesh.  This scarless pretty woman would learn her place.

She sidestepped me.  Then the white-haired dhampir appeared.  His fist struck me hard in the face.  I remembered the cage tattoo on his forehead.  He held me to the ground.  I tried to shift, to let the wolf out.

But the tiefling, her spell still haunted in my mind.  I tried to unleash the wolf.  But my mind felt more like wet putty.

"Sleep."  The beautiful tiefling in the lilac dress whispered.  My mind succumbed.

My vision blurred.  Everything went to black.

Friday, June 26, 2015

City of Curses: Iron Justice 3 (Short Story)

Part 3 of Iron Justice, a short story in #Crux, City of Curses.  Nalli's point of view on the conflict she and her friends have entered into.  They had planned on enjoying a play, but the City of Curses has trouble planned for these three friends.

Part 1 (Lily) | Part 2 (Odward) | Part 4 (Zhames) | Part 5 (Qorg)

I tried not to show my panting.  In the sky above, I could hear Chilo's cry.  The black vulture probably wanted to perch and get closer.

My friends didn't notice the gesture I gave Chilo.  He would stay above us, aloft until I beckoned him.  He would want me to let him eat the apa's liver anyway.  Lily wouldn't like that.  Odward?  I didn't know.  Maybe.

They weren't Ursyklon.  They couldn't feel or hear beasts like I could.  I remember how my mother used to describe it, the Greenblindness the other races seem to share.  Few could learn to over come it, but most seemed trapped.

Mother likened it to how the Eagle must see.  As the Totem Far Sighted One teaches, the view from above always revealed more than any other.  The truth always could hide if one could never see all of it at one time.

I wish I had my mother's wisdom.

"What apa did we pay for?"  I asked.  I resisted the urge to give the veiled human a kick just to see what he'd do.

"Nalli."  Lily intoned.

I rolled my eyes.  "What?"

"Hello."  Odward offered the veiled human a hand up.  A young, dark hand took it.

He sat up, revealing the face of a young Rosac boy.  Probably no older than sixteen maybe.  Or maybe he was twenty.  I never could tell, sometimes human faces seemed too much alike to tell apart.  The look in his eyes had this desperate tone to it.  Animalistic almost.

"You got a tongue or what?"  I tried to make that sound diplomatic.

Lily gave me a glare.  The Tiefling Diva was giving me a hint to shut up.  At least, I assumed that face meant that.  Hard to tell sometimes.

"Please, tell us why you were being... harassed by that janissary."  Lily's rephrased version of my question sounded sweeter.  Like a pleasant bit of honey.

I rubbed at the scar I gotten when I'd been a pouchling.  It ran across my left arm, almost over a vein.  My mother always spoke of that one.  She'd been proud of all of our pouch days- each of us ended up scarred.  I rubbed at the scar and tried to keep my mouth shut.

"I- I-"  The Rosac human shivered.  "My name is Zhames.  Th-thanks for your help."

He stood up.  After a brief bow, he tried to shuffle away.  Odward intercepted him.  Frowning, Zhames stopped.

I frowned deeper.  I didn't like this.

"Please... she is after us..."  Zhames avoided my gaze in particular.  That could've been my size playing into it.  Or maybe...

"She?"  Lily paused.  "Qorg screamed out 'Pet.'"

"The Spice Khan."  Odward supplied.

Zhames nodded.  A confirmation didn't clarify it, though.  I pressed forward, even though Odward and Lily were buying into the inference.  "Why does the Spice Khan want you?"

Chilo screamed above me.  Zhames took a step back.  The apa better step back.

"She- she prized me.  I escaped... and..."  Tears formed in his eyes.  He hefted up the chain and the object he'd been dragging before.  A chunk of gold, manacled to his ankle.  It looked like it had been ripped out of a way or something.  "She called me pet...  So she sent Qorg out to..."

I nodded.  I still didn't believe a word of it.  A part of me pondered just cursing him into a tree.  But no.  The Archdruid would have to approve it.  As a dafhrog I could entrap this lying apa into wood and branch.  The Archdruid wouldn't approve.  And my friends wouldn't agree with it either.

"Right."  I tried to keep my tone somewhat approving.  Both Odward and Lily seemed to believe him.  I sensed it then.  The smell of Zhames hit me.

We had to get away from him.

"How can we help you?"  Lily asked, striking her defiant Diva pose.

"You... you can't..."  Zhames sputtered.  "The Spice Khan will find us, no matter what we do-"

"We can buy him time, Lily."  I interjected.  Lily stared down at me.  We exchanged looks.  I smiled and flashed my teeth.  Her eyes widened.

Odward nodded.  "Of course.  Zhames, we'll handle Qorg.  Get going.  If we can, we'll catch up to you."

Zhames didn't need much more motivation.  He started to leap from rooftop to rooftop.  Uninjured.  As if the heavy weight was nothing.   I gave Chilo a swift motion of my left hand.  He followed Zhames from above.

"What is he, then?"  Lily asked once Zhames had made it out of our view.

Odward blinked.  "Excuse me?"

"Took me a bit to get the scent off him."  I spat.  "I think he lied about why the Spice Khan is after him too.  Chilo would want to eat his eyes."

I added that last part more quietly.  Lily smiled.  As always that made me feel a bit fuzzy inside.  The tiefling always had that effect with her silent praise.  Honest Diva mojo and all that.

"How did Lily know you suspected something?  You didn't say anything."  Odward looked puzzled.

"Her smile."  Lily and I both said in unison.


"He has the curse of the beast."  I told them.  "He hides it well, and I think this 'Pet' is someone he killed while in midst of it."

Lily grimaced.  "A werewolf.  Great.  I hate werewolves."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

City of Curses: Janissaries of the Spice Khan (Fate Core)

Alright, more #Crux setting thoughts down on paper.  I keep mentioning the Janissaries of the Spice Khan in stories, so here I try to give them a thousand words or so of my attention.

The Janissaries
Part of Maliph's strength is in how each khanate draws its own individual strengths and military
methods, unique to it.  The Janissaries are such, something that the Spice Khan's alone has used throughout her family's history.  Each Khan has their own unique Janissaries, loyal to them above others.  They form the basis of a Maliphi Khanates nobility, only rivaled by old aristocracies within clans.  Unlike other Khans, the Spice Khan does not dwell within the Khanates, instead spending most of her time in Crux's docks on her pleasure barge.

It should be no surprise that her servants share the Maliphi traits of accepting diverse peoples and strong endurance.  The Spice Khan's janissaries exemplify both, while upholding her reputation for wealth.

Janissaries first were drawn from non-Maliphi, especially monsters or slave populations from Ainesia, the Jade Lands, Othebea, Ith and as far as Ocrid.  They were slave soldiers, raised as children among Maliphi families loyal to their Khan.  Well-disciplined soldiers, many Khans solidified their dynasties through the use of Janissaries.  Their initial advantage was a lack of loyalty to anyone outside their own Khan, being outside the system of merchants, priests and others found throughout Maliph.  Coming from outside the Khanate they served, Janissaries proved an important tool for the Khans to keep power and to resist local rebellions.

Eventually, various Khans allowed their Janissaries to have heritable positions.  These Khans tend not to add too many new slaves to their corps.  A few others maintain the practice of a child tax, wherein slave children from human and monstrous subjects are conscripted.

The Spice Khan's own janissaries are a continuation of this practice.  She often selects them with a bias toward the more monstrous, but often has conscripted many children of various kinds, including Tieflings, Ursyklon and Tengu.  They are taken to the Spice Khan's plantations in northern Maliph.  After being raised to learn Malic and converted into being devoted to the Spice Khan's service, they must pass a test proving their loyalty to her.

The plantations of the Spice Khan are also the traditional homeland of her people, the Sand Giants.  Children slaves are given over to one of the Sand Giant families, raised as one of their own.  Opulent, these lands instill a pastoral code of honor into all of the Janissaries that serve the Spice Khan.

For these Janissaries, coming to Crux to serve her directly is the highest honor.  Janissaries of the Spice Khan often go on to serve her throughout the Spice Khan's mercantile empire.  Loyal, they come into positions of various power throughout the Maru Sea.  She repays their loyal many times over.

But those who dare betray her?  Those Janissaries can't run far enough.  Losing the Spice Khan's faith often drives them to daring actions, some growing more and more desperate to prove themselves.  Within Crux itself, these Janissaries appeal to other icons for aid, but even then, they don't last that long.

The other Janissaries in Crux hunt them down, behead them, and let the tale spread.

Their position as instruments of an ambassador do not give them blanket immunity from Crux's laws.  But the corrupt nature of various members of the city watch does give them latitude to act in ways others wouldn't.  Outside of Old Crux, many different monsters or adventurers work for janissaries as hired muscle, laborers or otherwise.  Most Janissaries are always eager to prove themselves, and aren't afraid to create violence if they believe it will win the Spice Khan's favor.

The Spice Khan's Janissaries wear fine blue robes.  Often they also wear yellow turbans.  Most carry their weapons openly.  They all tend to practice the same ritual scarring that most Ramelin conduct, gaining a new scar upon celebrating each year of service to the Spice Khan- since their "rebirth" as her servant.

Janissaries also uphold a particular code.  They act as the Spice Khan's proxy in many matters.  For those conducting business in the Port of Crux or the Grand Bazaar, the Janissaries are more reliable for guarantees of protection.  They even are notable as representing the Spice Khan's own trade interests.  Perhaps some of the most notable traders to be found in Crux are the Janissaries, whose oath to the Spice Khan motivate their honest dealing.

Aspects: Janissary of the Spice Khan; Spice Khan's Proxy; Monstrous Maliphi Servitors
Fearless.  You don't succumb to fear.  Opponents can still use Provoke to get negative emotions out of you, but they aren't fear.  You don't take on aspects like scared or frightened, but perhaps get angry or experience moments of fugue.
Honesty.  Others trust you as a trader and merchant- they know you will be honest with them, and in turn, tend to be more open with you.  When engaged in conversation, you can spend a fate point to gain the aspect Honest Dealer for the remainder of the scene.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

City of Curses: Iron Justice 2 (Short Story)

Here is part two of the short story set in #Crux, Iron Justice.  Now another character's POV on the situation.  Lily, Odward and Nalli run into problems leaving a play- now they've crossed paths with a violent giant janissary of the Spice Khan, protecting someone trying to get away.

Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4


Lily's voice got the grey giant's attention.  I took her cue.  I sidestepped, ducking into shadows as the
Tiefling Diva's taunting soprano music rang out:

"Stupid slothen hungry beasts
Those Giants taking children in their sleep
Hungry idiot monsters- they never saw her knife
Always cowards afraid of any true fight

But then came the Giantslayer's wife
She danced between, twisting her knife
Setting giants to bleed, Setting giants to bleed
Such cowardly fools too dumb to see her knife."

I recognized the words.  I had been enjoying a bit of a smoke of Nightweed.  One of my hands easily snuffed out my pipe from my position in the shadows.

The grey giant janissary loudly confronted my Diva companion.  We both had learned the same class as teenagers, but she'd choose to follow the Singer of the Song.  I choose Shraxes.  She used her fiendblooded talents for charm, I'd learned to use my own talents as a Dhampr.  Ancestral urges showed my how a predator would sneak about.

So while Nalli and Lily distracted the giant, I turned my attention to the boy dragging a weight.  He moved around in the debris the giant's tantrum had created.  Covered in robes, he moved quietly.  I could smell his fear.

That's the real rub of it.  My heritage is that of a cursed race.  My blood is tainted, a mix of Walridr vampire and human.  I knew my Walridr heritage well enough.  My senses were strong, not quite as potent as my Walridr father, but strong enough.  I could smell emotions as well as some humans could smell cooked meat.

The boy didn't know where he was going.  He just crawled away, blindly.  I could sense his heart pounding.

I silently moved to the boy.  I didn't disturb any of the debris.  The giant janissary glared down at Lily.

"Qorg promise to leave neck.  Pretty voice.  No need to keep arms and legs though.  No need at all."  Lily continued to look beautiful through her provocation of the giant.  Qorg?  Whatever its name was, it stupidly laughed.

It only saw the Diva's beauty.  Like a moth the giant didn't see the burn getting ready to come at it.  Nalli and Lily dodged the first blows of Qorg's fists.  I didn't see Lily pull out her small knives.  They almost looked invisible in her hands.

As always, Lily aimed at the most contentious position she could.  I winced as she stabbed the giant's groin.  Nalli had taken out a revolver fired it into Qorg.

"Hey."  I whispered.  My hand grasped the boy.  He paused under the thick dust-covered robes.  "You aren't going to get that far, you know.  Whatever you're dragging... tell me boy, why does our big friend want you so much?"

He didn't reply.

"The big guy is distracted at the moment.  My friends are doing their best to help you.  Might giving me the reason why you are worth it?"  Again, no response.

I sighed.  Then I grabbed the chains manacled to his feet.  It took me no effort to pull them up.  For the boy, the weight must've been somewhat of a strain.  I tossed it upward like it were a pebble.  Robes and a scream followed as the boy flew onto a nearby rooftop.

"AH!  Qorg fuck pretty to death!"  The giant slammed Lily into the wall I had been skulking near.  The boy, now clear of the fight, had been lying right where Qorg and Lily landed.

I looked over to Nalli.  The Ursyklon Greenknife's face was covered in blood from some wound.  She had taken up a crouching position, her revolver firing more shots at the grey hulking janissary.

Lily screamed in pain as Qorg's hands wrapped themselves around her belly and squeezed.  Hard.  Blood dripped from her mouth.  The janissary smirked with some sort of sick joy as she writhed in his thick hands.

"C'mon moron.  I- I can't feel- a thing-"  Lily kicked at Qorg, getting him in the jaw.  I could see her trying to weave divine magic for some healing.  She'd taken the brunt of his attack, but she couldn't heal herself and take on something like that again.

So I threw my own best shot.  Lily had been doing most of the work.  Time to be a justicar, to help her in my own way.

Black and red chains erupted from my arms.  They struck true.  Constructed out of magic, each link was part of my psychic strike.  Qorg tried to bat them away.  They passed through flesh, sinking deep into whatever lard passed for his mind.

"Chain!  Eyes!  Khan!"  Qorg screeched, clawed at his eyes.  Glowing chains continued to sink into his mind.  I could feel them take hold.  The giant janissary flopped onto the ground.

I offered Lily a hand.  She looked up at me.  Her purple lilac dress had been ruined by blood, mud and the fight.  "We don't have long."

"What did you stick in there?"

"Who cares?"  Nalli appeared.  "We getting out of here, or are you two wanting to see if he could get out of that spell?"
"Where is-"  Lily wheezed.  Her breathing sounded haggard.  "Where is whoever was in the robes?"

"Who?"  Nalli cocked an eyebrow.  "Whoever that was, if they were smart they were already on their way out of here."

"Here."  I tossed a chain and grappling hook to the roof I'd tossed the boy onto earlier.  I handed the chain to the frowning Nalli.

"I hate it when you do that sort of drek."  Nalli clambered up the chain.

Lily gave me a small smile.  "This kinda ruins our evening, doesn't it?"

I shrugged.

Lily planted a kiss on my cheek.  Then she continued up the chain after Nalli.  I put a hand on my cheek.  Sweet kid, that Lily.  I followed after my friends, to see who this was that Qorg had been so set to find.

A bit of old wonder sparked in my heart again.  Old memories of a summer long ago.  A promise back when things were simpler.  Maybe Lily still felt the same way as we once had.

"But I still love the man you once were."  I muttered.  Could I love Lily as the woman she'd become?

Friday, June 19, 2015

GMing: Everyone Should Game Master A Game Once

Ok.  Time for something different.

This is meant for players of RPGs out there.  Yes, you, the ones who don't usually Game Master games much.  You know who you are.

You need to Game Master a game.

Yes.  I know.  You don't think you need to.  You already know how to do the RP thing.  Why bother doing what Bill or Emily does (or whoever it is that Game Masters your games).  I'm not saying you should take over Game Mastering.  Just ask for the reins for one session.

There is an under realized skill in tabletop RPGs.  This isn't Game Mastering, but it is the skillset of those players who know how to game master, who play RPGs.  Its part of a healthy skillset.  It shows you what Game Masters you love go through to prep a game, and run a game.  It exercises your creative side far more than perhaps if you only been a player- although, a good GM should be using your creative side as much as they can.

In my games, I try to push as much narrative control onto my players as I can.  Often when they hesitate to take it, it's born out of a lack of game mastering experience.

So.  This is the challenge.  Run at least one session of a game for your RPG group.   Some pointers:

  • Don't use a module or pre-written adventure.  Instead, write it yourself.  If you write it yourself, you'll know how to deviate from it.  Because the players will deviate from whatever is planned.  Modules aren't bad, but they won't force you to figure out how to set up a session.  Don't use a crutch, try to learn how the infrastructure works.
  • You know what is in a RPG session's worth of material, but if you don't, write up a dungeon of at least five rooms.  If your setting/rules are something not fantasy, no worries.  Just re-skin dungeon with starship or facility or whatnot.  
  • Three is a good rule of thumb for events.  When in doubt, have things occur three times.  This is a old writer's trope, and it works more often than not.  Look at most movies, they tend to have three big fight sequences.
  • Steal ideas from wherever you can.  Be shameless about it.  Players will go along, or they'll love it.  When you've GM'd long enough, you can even steal from yourself, something your long term players will get a kick out of when they get the reference (yay, the in-joke!)
  • Make Pregenerated Characters ahead of time.  This is the most time consuming part.  You could get lazy and ask players to do this, but making Pregens for them gives you advantages you wouldn't get otherwise.  You can plant story hooks into each Pregen.  For campaigns, let the players give input.  But for One-Shots, you can help your players by making their characters ahead of time.  (Important Rule: DO NOT give your players' characters kryptonite.  You know what I mean.  Don't make their characters so flawed or weak they die instantly.  Be generous about it.)
  • Make the One-Shot AS FUN AS humanly possible.  My best advice for first timing a One-Shot is to GM the game like you always wanted to play in.  You know what you think would be the best possible fun; just try to channel that.  

If you are very lucky, you'll have really good players who'll make your game easier on you.  

Game Mastering is a key part of our hobby.  Doing it then going back to being a player... well, you carry back some instincts with you.  For me, I notice narrative timing.  So, I help a brother/sister out as a player.  If the GM is trying to get a clue by, I pick up on the direction and try to push my character that direction.

I act.  I do things.  In other words, I add activity to the game.  So much that the GM has to do less pushing to get RP and other things going.  And that helps.  Sometimes players need one player to do the dumb thing in order to feel like acting themselves in character.

That's not the only thing.  But it's one of a variety of skills anyone could benefit from.

For GMs: If players ask to run a one-shot, say yes.  Nod your heads, scream to the gods, run around naked and... ok, not the last one.  But do say yes.  You benefit from this sort of thing as well. 

Especially if the player wants to run something from OUTSIDE your experience as a player.  Variety is one of those very healthy things for a gaming group.  It gives you flexibility as a group.  

Plus its how you can get new ideas.  Steal from other GMs.  Making new GMs?  Best way to get more potential idea fodder for writing things up.  That's the key.  You want more Game Masters out of your players because they will up your game.  

More minds on a thing, the better the thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

City of Curses: Iron Justice 1 (Short Story)

Ok.  Starting a new short story in Crux today.  Trying to use some of my worldbuilding and a prior character to write something, well, me-ish.  Enjoy!

Iron Justice

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

"Oy!"  Nalli grumbled.  The Ursyklon kept up with us, despite being only half of our size.  "Why do
these things always have to be so dark?"

"Theatres always are dim, Nalli.  Part of the atmosphere."  Odward's wry tone summoned a glare from the Ursyklon.  His fanged smirk always had a brilliant glow to it.  I always wondered how a Dhampir with such a charming sense of humor could've chosen to be one of the grim vigilantes of the Justicars.  Their Iron Cage always rubbed me the wrong way- and I was born in the Wish Quarter, the part of Crux they called home.

"Nalli, The Storm Throne is one of classics.  Its themes are dark, but also warn about the nature of power and self-fulfilling prophecy."  I stepped past my Ursyklon friend as we walked down the street into the little valley that marked the Grand Bazaar.  A Diva of the Singer of the Song, I knew the importance of story.  The Storm Throne had a critical, beautiful message to it.

I wasn't trying to be condescending.  Divas know beauty.  Its what we do.

"Ack.  Everyone died, practically."

"Well..." I paused in thought.  "Tragedies are like that.  Haven't you seen them before?"

Nalli looked up at me with her green eyes.  She always had worn her hair very short, efficent and black.  I could also see the runes on her cheeks, each in the shape of a eagle in flight, under her eyes.  The Greenknife shrugged.  "I like comedies.  If I want to see people die, I'd go to Poorfellows with a bag of cash, throw it up and watch the riot."

Odward materialized a smoking pipe.  A cinnamon scent waffed from it.  "I don't know, Nalli.  I rather liked the character of Aeth.  Reminded me of a certain, violent person I know."

"Oh.  The Ursyklon witch who predicts doom."  Nalli sighed with irritation.  "Gee, Odward, is that as original as a romance chapbook with a vampire wooing some milkmaid?"

Odward frowned.  The iron cage symbol of Shraxes tattooed on his pale forehead wrinkled up.

"Nalli-"  I tried to correct her, but the Ursyklon Greenknife, as always, beat me to it.

"Stereotypes, I know."  Nalli flicked up a hand, tossing a coin to a nearby vendor.  The Salish vendor handed over something steaming hot to my little companion.  "Still.  Don't you get sick of them?"

Odward and I looked down at her eat.  As long as I've known her, Nalli always either progressing to eating something, done eating something, or talking about doing the latter.  Odward seemed satisfied with his pipe.

Hunger rumbled through my belly for a moment. Great.  Now I wanted to eat something too.

"Well, we could get something to eat I guess-"  I had been about to suggest we could continue our conversation there.  But we weren't ever going to make it that far.

The City of Curses decided then it was going to interrupt our evening.

"Qorg said WHERE IS PET?!"  One of the nearby red-and-white brick arcades then exploded into shrapnel.  People, merchants and customers alike, fled around us.  Even at this time of night, the Grand Bazaar was busy.  From the exploded arcade's remains, a grey-skinned giant with black eyes appeared.

Qorg had been dressed in the blue velvet finery of one of the Spice Khan's jannissaries.  His yellow turban didn't make the grey giant look any less terrifying.  I couldn't determine his size from the hole he left in the wall.  Between his thick mitts he had a strong grip on some hapless merchant.

"What in the Demon's Gaze is that?"  Odward spat.  He, like Nalli and I, stared at the mess before us.

"Trouble.  The same trouble we always seem to find."  Nalli observed.

"Qorg?  Seriously.  A giant named Qorg?!"  Qorg?  Since when was I encountering such things that had names like Qorg that spoke of themselves in the third person?

Out of the dust a figure crawled out.  It moved quietly.  It had been coated in the detritus Qorg's little tantrum had created.  I couldn't make out precise features, but it looked like a human of one kind or another.  Covered in robes, dragging heavy on a chain behind him.

"PET?"  Qorg yelled.  It sounded like some sort of animal call.  He didn't see the same figure I had spotted.  The giant continued to thrash at the merchant.

I moved toward the figure trying to get away from Qorg.  Instinct took over, and I began to sing.  I cut a interesting sight.  A fiendblooded in a beautiful dress, horns glittering in the light.  I let my talent as a Diva ring.  I sang a song meant to do one and only one thing.

"What are you doing?"  Nalli tapped my hip from behind me.  "You don't go singing giant slaying songs to a giant, you lunatic."

Qorg's angry eyes looked down at me.  "Qorg busy finding Pet, little Fiendblood.  Smart fiendblood walks, understand?"

I smirked.  "Qorg scared of a little fiendblood like me?  Just a song, Qorg.  Don't you like my voice?"

Qorg squeezed out from the hole in the Arcade he'd made.  The grey giant in the yellow turban stood up to his full head.  He looked down at me from twelve feet in the air.  I heard Nalli cursing from behind me.  Odward wasn't to be seen at all.

Qorg's eyes filled with rage.  "Fiendblood gets last chance.  Go away.  Go find tiny talky dog to go suck."

Instead, I slapped my hands together.  "No, Qorg.  You surrender, and I don't cut your balls off.  Whoever you're looking for?  Their under my protection.  Comply with my surrender, or face the consequences."

The grey giant continued to glare down at me.  I could see the robed man look at me from his hiding spot, still dragging the weight behind him.  Fear in his eyes.  They were young eyes.  Weary from something horrible.

Then Qorg started to laugh.  I kept my jaw clenched.  The belly laugh of the giant caused dust to rise up.  Debris clattered around us.  I tried not to show how intimidating that laughter was.

Nalli crouched behind me.  She had her revolver out.  The Greenknife aimed high, a roll of bread and meat still partly in her mouth.

"No."  Qorg looked down at me like I was some sort of mewling cat.  "Qorg promise to leave neck.  Pretty voice.  No need to keep arms and legs though.  No need at all."

Part 2

Monday, June 15, 2015

City of Curses: Justicars of the Iron Cage

Justicars of the Iron Cage
Justicars of the Iron Cage are the Paladins of the Caged Princess.  The Justicars are a fickle bunch,
caging those they believe have evaded justice.  They police the Wish Quarter- and despise it when outsiders try to enforce their own laws on them.  Justicars will hunt down anyone, and go any while in pursuit of a guilty target.  Shraxes gives others their just due, just as she is punished wrongly by being caged by the Prince and his actions.

Some in the church see them as heretics of after a fashion.  Others call them vigilantes who judge and imprison others illegally.  But in the Wish Quarter, where the Crux City Watch is in the pocket of the hated Prince, they are justice.

A Heresy
The Justicars are a heretical branch of the Church of Shraxes.  They do not believe Shraxes should be freed; instead they insist that the Demon must be the Cage.  Shraxes, to them, is a force that imprisons itself for the sake of the whole.  The Demon that damns itself so that the world may live to see a brighter day.

Justicars operate outside the direct control of the Church of Shraxes.  That said, it isn't uncommon for them to work with the Archwitch or Demon's Orphans from time to time.  Sometimes they even cooperate with the Prince or the police in Crux.  If hunting a particular criminal aligns them with a particular group, Justicars have no problems making deals to get their target.

The Iron Cage
Justicars of the Iron Cage maintain a prison underneath the Wish Quarter.  Called the Iron Cage, its secret location and cryptic nature are something only Justicar known.  But in Crux, there are rumors about it.

The first tale ever told about the Iron Cage is about its first, and most prominent prisoner: the Lady or Lord Ihana.  A fey being, Ihana shifts her gender constantly.  She/he first inspired the Justicars to act.  Protected by the Prince, Ihana had a reputation for eating Tiefling children.  Like most of his/her kind, Ihana is immortal and always eager to make a deal.

Catching the Fey noble wasn't enough though.  They had to invent a prison that Ihana could never escape from.  One unattached to anyone but themselves.  An illegal, secret prison the Justicar alone could be masters of.  Justicars curse their prisoners, afflicting them with something.  No one but the Justicars know the nature of the curse, because no one ever has escaped from the Iron Cage.

That is how the Iron Cage came to be.  Some, like the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, want to shut it down.  It by its very nature is an affront to Ith's sovereignty and power.  But the Prince prevents others from touching it, and the Archwitch works to confound efforts to find it.  When the Prince and those who hate them agree on a thing, it becomes almost impossible to stop.

The Question
The last note on the Justicar is that they have always lacked certainty.  They pursue it as much as they can, of course.  But no one can truly know the mind of another, not without making slaves of them.

This basic uncertainty always picks at the back of most Justicars' minds.  They wonder if their targets are guilty, or if they've misjudged.  Did emotions get in the way?  Did they miss a clue?

As such, the Justicar can and do burn out.  Theirs is a rough profession.  It always is a matter of whether or not those around them survive the fallout.

Justicar Aspects: Justicar of the Iron Cage; Shraxite Vigilante; "I can Smell the Guilt on You."
Sample Justicar Stunt.

Scent of the Guilty: You can smell guilt on others.  You must still make a Notice roll for this, but sometimes you can enter a room and have its rotted stench prick your nose.

Thanks for reading!  As always, please let me know what you thought of this and other stuff- Crux is but one of many things that go through my head!  Criticism and the like are always welcome too.

Friday, June 12, 2015

City of Curses: The Grand Bazaar, In Depth

Here is another long piece on Crux.  The Grand Bazaar, where everything has a price.  I plan to finish a map piece for it too.  But here are the words, at least.

The Grand Bazaar 
Aspect: Everything Has a Price

Connected To: Old Crux (to the North), Port of Crux (to the West), Rose Quarter (to the East), Palace Hill (to the South)
Most Significant Icon: The Publisher
Well Known For?  Markets, Trade, Goods and Services
Notable Sites and Locales: The Arcade Maze, Artifice Alley, Tyranus Avenue, Zyan's Tower, Davizi Square, Catburg, Avard's Spring

Exiting Harun's Gate leads out of Old Crux and the Wolf Quarter.  Here there is a valley.  Once a ravine that cut across, the Tomasi Roads have long since become the arteries of the city.  This is the open, vibrant mixing pot of the city.

And it is crowded here.  I try to avoid the traffic.  Hundreds of carriages, horses, and other beasts of burden rush through.  This is the Grand Bazaar.  

This is the heart of trade in the Maru Sea.  If it could be sold, traded or bought, it can be found here.  Even though slavery has long been made illegal here, corrupt city watch look the other way.  Magic items and artifice of all kinds are moved here.

It is a dangerous, yet exciting place.  Anyone, anything can be found here, in the Grand Bazaar.  The smells are magnificent, as Maliphi spices, Ainesian perfumes and Othebean incense fill the air.  This is a menagerie of experiences, just waiting to be visited- or survived.

Avard's Spring has long served as a water source for caravans and travel into and out of the City of Curses.  After all, a clean source of constant drinking water only helps life grow.  The Bazaar, a place for trade and meetings, never was a permanent place.  Not even during the Tomasi Empire.

In dark places through the valley that would become the Grand Bazaar, many temples had been built throughout the years.  All of these were abandoned at one point or another, none lasted to even the building of the New Wall.  Like Gruudl, these left the places under the Grand Bazaar a maze of temples and forgotten sacred places.

It had been scattered homes and streets.  As the age of Bloodfire came, though, the city grew past the walls the Tomasi had erected.  Like a leaking vessel, Crux over flowed the new wall.  Palace Hill, first taken from the Ursyklon to be a retreat for the Imperial Family, soon over looked a valley full of new streets.

As the vampyres and other forces took power for themselves in the new dark age, the Grand Bazaar built a new name for itself throughout the Maru Sea.  Patrizo and the other vampyres took control of it for centuries.  Only when the Othebean Crusade came, did the Vampyres lose control over the rich markets of the Grand Bazaar.

Othebea took control, and the Grand Bazaar only grew more profitable.  When Ith started the Revolution Wars and Ainesia followed, the Grand Bazaar made even more profit.  When Ith formed a new Sorcerous Republic, well, the Grand Bazaar, of course, make even more of a profit.  

That is the way of things.  Things happen, and the markets of the Grand Bazaar only make more profit.  The Davizi family settled in the Grand Bazaar.  Their publishing and printing house would grow into a empire.  Built atop an ancient ruin of a temple, dedicated to a old god of chaos and war.

The Publisher reconsecrated those altars.  The Revolution and its faith sleep in the streets of the Grand Bazaar.  The urge for change- the drive to topple the wealthy, to make the powerful kneel. Even change has its price.

Avard's Spring: Underneath the streets of the Grand Bazaar flow the crystal clear waters of this ancient fresh water spring.  Although now strangled and controlled through pipes and magic redirection, the spring still flows.  Ponds, fountains and waterworks throughout the Grand Bazaar.

Catburg: Each rooftop throughout the Grand Bazaar has its own tale.  But on one particular height and rotten one, feyborn cats have made their own village.  Unlike the other many feyborn animals that live in the Wolf Quarter, the awakened felines prefer the buzz of the Grand Bazaar.

Nicknamed Catburg, the cats conduct their own myriad of services in the Grand Bazaar.  They know the rooftops.  They steal and resell goods, as some of the best fencers in the city.  The feyborn cats also continue to breed with the feral, unawakened cats in the streets and alleys of the Grand Bazaar, slowly spreading the Feyborn more than ever before.

Davizi Square: The ten-story tower called Davizi Square serves as the nerve center for the Publisher.  Here the journalists and editorial staff for the major newspapers work.  Bringing them all to the same location, that is a recent innovation of the Publisher's own devising.

Underneath Davizi Square the half-collapsed ruins of an ancient temple.  Now reconsecrated to the Revolution, it is a semi-secret kept by the Publisher and his Revolution clergy.

The Arcade Maze: Between the shops and businesses throughout the Grand Bazaar, there is a maze of arcades.  These open marble buildings serve as the main markets of Crux herself.  But their labyrinthine structure is easy to get lost in.  The Arcade Maze ascends and descends as well.

The crowds and shops here cater to a hundreds of small merchants.  This is often the area most think of when they think of the Grand Bazaar.  The Arcade Maze hides so many different things to be found or experienced, that one could spend a lifetime exploring all its nooks and crannies.

Zyan's Tower: The Lich Zyan erected this tower long before the Grand Bazaar had come truly into being.  His last great project had been to create a tower to store what he had accumulated.  Ever the most isolated member of the Esoterium Machina, Zyan has always been a loyal servant of the Prince.  His tower remains a isolated bastion in the Grand Bazaar, even though no one has seen or heard from the lich for a century.

Zyan's rages were legendary, even into undeath.  One temperous rage led to him openly betraying the Prince to prove his point.  The Lich and the Prince did mend their relationship, or at least appeared to.  Zyan, perhaps, is one of the few beings in the City of Curses who might've met the Prince in person.  Of course, that could just be a story...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Flash Fic: City of Curses: The Apa

Here is some Flash Fic set in #Crux, City of Curses.  Its a city built around a massive skull- at the center of the world, a port of call for trade, intrigue, wonders and horrors.  A dark fantasy setting set in a early industrial "Jacksonian" era.

Finn is a Ursyklon boy who is trying to get away from bullies, but has wandered into the Grove of Mage-Trees- can he keep away from the human children who like to tease him, or will Finn find other, wilder things?

The ApaI shivered from where I hid.  They couldn't find me here.  Arza and Gill never followed me this far into the Wolf Quarter before.


"Fin!"  Their voices echoed among the trees around me.  This part of the city was thick with trees.

"Half-Fiiin!"  Unlike Gill or Arza, I could hide here.  They were human.  Even though they were younger than me, both of them still towered over me.  I am Ursyklon, and that meant I was half their size.  I was always half their size.

Humans always towered over Ursyklons, gigantic by comparison.  Even my father was the size of a human child.  Two years younger, yet too huge for me to stop.

I tried to stop my quaking body.  Fear just seized me.  I kept my muscles tight.  I didn't blink.  I had to be able to see.

The day before Gill had given up pelting me with rocks once I got to the trees at the edge of the Wolf Quarter.  The day before that, Arza had left me with welts from her "games."

They always picked on me.  Always.  Even when I had told them over and over to leave me alone... they kept using that word.

"Halfin."  Arza called out.  She bent over like she were calling for a dog.

"We shouldn't be in here, Arza."  Gill stood behind her.  He tried to grab Arza's shoulder.  "Let him go... he has to go back to school at some point..."

Arza shoved the tubby boy aside.  "All the other Halflings go to Wolf's School, he's the only one we got to play with.  You don't want to miss out on him crying, Gill!"

Gill bit his lower lip.  "Arza-"

Arza then giggled.  "Half-Fin!"

Her voice echoed through the trees.  I shivered again.  Two years older, and here I trembled.  Wolf-damned because my parents refused to let me transfer to Wolf's School on the other side of the neighborhood.  I crawled up the tree.

I stopped when I saw the hand.  A wooden hand, outstretched from the tree.  Like it belonged to someone screaming for help.

"Half-Fin!  Come on out, Halfin!"  Arza's tone took on a fake gentle tone.  "We won't bite you.  I promise to use a softer collar this time!"

I looked up at the woman's face that looked part of the tree.  Tears flooded down her bark skin.  A Mage Tree.  In horror, I let go of the tree.

The fall, that didn't hurt too much.  But Arza and Gill found me instantly.  I glanced up to see Arza looking down at me, the stupid collar in her left hand.  She smirked like she'd found a lost pet.

"Drek."  I muttered.

"Halfin!"  Arza bent down to me.

That's when Gill stumbled back.  He tried to grab Arza.  Arza ignored him.  She grabbed me with one of her meaty hands.  Then she heard the wolf's growl.

Her eyes went wide.  She looked right into the wolf's eyes.  Both amber pupils glittered with a greenish glow.  The fanged snout then opened.

The Wolf spoke with a old woman's words.

"Get out of my woods, or you get to join the rest of them."

Gill and Arza moved back.  The two of them started to cry.  They must've seen the trees.  Every tree, suddenly, also had the body of a human.  Humans long ago frozen into bark and twigs.

"I've never seen them run so fast."  I couldn't take my eyes away as they bolted.

"Stupid little apa."  The wolf's voice sounded old, familiar and warm.  I couldn't place it right away.

It sounded like a thousand years and wilderness, held together with campfire and wolf's fur.  Powerful.  She had to be, to be able to speak while in animal shape.

"Um..." I didn't know what to say.

"You thought I only was talking to the little apa, weren't you?"  The Wolf said wryly.  "Do you have a name little one?"

I froze a second, before I realized she was joking.  She had switched to the old tongue, Ursyklo.  I followed her words.  After comprehending them, I answered.

"I... I'm Fin.  Finlay Crowtongue.  Er... Finlay Materson Crowtongue... ma'am."

"Fin."  The druid in Wolf form chewed the word over, like she was trying it out.  "Well Fin.  You enjoy being the prey of some upstart apa younger than you?"

I looked down at my feet.  "I... tell them to stop... and well..."

When I looked up again, the wolf had been replaced by an older Ursyklon.  Runes covered her face's skin.  Her eyes glowed with green.  Naked.  She was naked too.

"Archdruid."  I bowed my head.  "I... I didn't-"

"Fin."  The archdruid grabbed my hand.  She stood a full head taller than me, her body muscular, more muscular than I would've thought.  "We have always had to deal with the apa.  They call us names.  They once thought they could cage us like pets."

She put my hand onto the mage-tree I had tried to climb.  I felt tears wash over it.  I could see the crying woman's face above me.  Then I saw it, still buried inside bark and wood.  A crown.

My eyes widened as the Archdruid continued to speak.

"She still thinks she isn't a tree, you know.  We never asked her to stop.  When others act like monsters, you remove them.  Words are nothing, Fin Crowtongue.

"Even the Empress of the Tomasi couldn't stop actions.  Do you understand me?"

I nodded as I looked up at the crying face of the last Empress that had ruled the Tomasi humans.  A tree.  Forever a tree.

"They can't stop actions."  I thought aloud.  "I think I do understand, Archdruid."

"Good."  Then the leader of my people took me home.

If you enjoyed this, please feel free to let me know in a comment below!  If you didn't like it or have a suggestion for improving it, you're welcome to comment too.  All in all, thanks for reading!

Monday, June 8, 2015

City of Curses: Fate Core Build 2015

This is an attempt at writing out a more complete build of how Fate Core is used in Crux, City of Curses.  Recently my Crux game has reached a sort of mid-point where I feel like tinkering around with the rules and implementation of fate core a bit.

Others had asked me for a more in-depth look at how I'd used Fate Core for Crux, so this sort of helps kill two birds with one stone I hope.

There are five aspects in Crux.  These replace the normal five aspects found in Fate Core.  Unlike Phase Trio, each of these aspects are created after phases have been done by players, and they do not have to be tied to any specific phase.

Class Aspect: This is like High Concept, except that is must be tied to a specific Class.  Classes are metaphysical in Crux- they exist, and everyone is aware of them.

Typically these take the form of [Adjective] [Class Name], but not always.  They can be phrases or objects too, so long as they reflect a Class of some sort.  Likewise, the selection of Class isn't limited to Pathfinder or D&D 5e or whatnot.  A character could make up their own class if they wanted.

Because Classes are metaphysical and exist in even the daily lives of most people, they have their own histories.  Their own societies and backgrounds.

Trouble Aspect: This remains unchanged from Fate Core.

Culture Aspect: This aspect is selected from a menu based on what culture (or species, what have you) a character is.

For each of the main races in Crux I created a menu of possible aspects players could select from.  This was on purpose; I wanted to create a sense of continuity between members of the same race, but their own internal diversity.  This is one of those lists of races in Crux, if you're interested in what the possibilities are.

The last two aspects are Connections.  They must each connect the character to an object, another character, place or culture within Crux.

Here are the Skills for use in Crux, City of Curses.  I've broken Lore down into Arcana (magical and occult knowledge), Academia (scientific and academic knowledge) and Streetwise (street know-how and criminal knowledge).

Skill List: Athletics, Brawl, Burglary, Contacts, Crafts, Deceive, Empathy, Faith, Investigate, Arcana, Academia, Streetwise, Notice, Physique, Provoke, Rapport, Reflexes, Ride, Shoot, Sorcery, Stealth, Wealth, Weaponry, Will.

Skill Modes.
There are five skill modes in Crux.  Each of these modes have a racial skill tied to them.  You only can access these if you have a Culture Aspect appropriate for that skill.  Each skill mode typically is just five skills. However, racial skills can expand that to six.

Each mode also is based in part on the Creating NPCs part of the DMG.  I combined and tweaked it into five modes, Arcane, Divine, Martial, Finesse and Skilled.

Alchemy, Arcana, Sorcery, Will, Skill Extra, Aether (Aetherblooded Skill), Seacraft (Cecaelia Skill)

Empathy, Faith, Rapport, Will, Skill Extra, Fiendblood (Tiefling Skill), Blood (Vampire/Dhampr Skill)

Athletics, Brawl, Physique, Weaponry, Skill Extra, Android (Android Skill), Skinwalking (Skinwalking Skill)

Burglary, Contacts, Deceive, Stealth, Skill Extra, Ursyklon (Ursyklon Skill)

Investigate, Notice, Reflexes, Shoot, Skill Extra, Tengu (Tengu Skill)

Skill Extras are blank tickets- characters can choose any skill as a Skill Extra and add it to the list of skills for that mode.

I also implement Approaches in addition to Skills.  This complicates things a bit, but I wanted to have the intersection of "How" and Skill.  I use the normal FAE approaches.

Both the Approaches and Skills have fewer points that normal.  Approaches are capped at Fair, while Skills were capped at Good until I let raised them in a session a month or so ago.

I kept them capped for awhile on purpose.  Using both Approaches and Skills means my Players have very high ratings when their approaches and skills align, before even invoking aspects.  Keeping them capped was meant to help encourage the expansion of skills and keep players willing to spend Fate Points.

Power levels and the kinds of things their characters will be doing recently raised in difficulty and power, so raising the cap seemed appropriate.

Ala 13th Age, each character has at least 3 points they spend to represent their ties to the various Icons in Crux.  When I begin writing a story arc (the situation, more or less.  I try to prepare as little as I can beforehand.  I'm better improvising than going off prepared notes), I roll to see what Icons are involved in the story.

An Icon's involvement means their Aspect is one of the aspects of the Story.  I use this sometimes to think how or why certain characters are compelled to do things.

Characters also define their relationship with an icon, if it is positive, negative or conflicted.  If I roll a 5 or 6 on a d6 at the start of story writing, that Icon is involved.  A 5 means they will have some sort of cost onto the character I'm rolling for.  On a 6, they are involved, but with no costs for any characters in particular.

Stunts and Extras
Stunts work like they do in Fate Core.  Each I work with my players to create, as unique as possible and tailored to their character.

For Crux through, Stunts are the main means to access magical systems.  Magic Items, for instance, are often stunts.  Players can use these items with spending fate refresh.

If a Player spends fate refresh for a magic item, though, it means their character "owns" that item.
Ownership means I don't mess with it, or use any sort of narrative device that harms that item.  Players get the final say for that sort of thing.  An item could still bring them trouble, but spending the fate refresh means I will not make the item go away or be destroyed as part of some narrative tear.

If they don't "own" an item per se, I do feel like I'm within my power to mistreat an item.  I tend not to do that though- I don't want to punish my players unnecessarily.

Magic is accessed through stunts.

Magic in Crux is based on flavors.  When you purchase a stunt, you select two flavors of magic your character knows.  Sorcery or Faith are the main skills for managing this (although one could use Alchemy or a racial skill I suppose too).

Minor effects are fiat things that have no "mechanical" effect.  Things like floating in midair or creating lights.  If a character wants to create an advantage or use a magic skill to cast a spell that has a mechanical effect though, they must spend 1 Fate Point, or spend 1 Spell Point.

A character can substitute their own Mental stress for points to spend on spells.  They can choose to take a 1-shift of mental stress in order to cast a spell, as if they had spent a Fate point.

This is meant to be a expansion on the declaration part of Fate Points.  I don't get into specific spells or whatnot because I never wanted to do that much work.  Nor do I want my players to have to do that much work either.

Most often we roll, a spell goes off, and we move on to the next thing as smoothly as possible.


Note that a lot of this is borne out of the Fate Core and Fate Toolkit.  I tinkered around a bit to get it to fit Crux and what I wanted to do with it.

I'm always looking to tweak and alter things, especially if I think I come up with better things that'll work easier in the game.

Hope this interests you!  Let me know what you think!  I will expand this with other things as needed.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: Dark Soram and the Kirgan

Ok.  Here is a bit of a rambling piece on a part of #Crux I refer to, but never really put much thought into.  Soram started as a "Africa analogue" and at some point, I diverged from that and just went my own way with it.  Research sort of can do that.  I still know nothing about the Soramese or their ways as a people.  

I also created a new race on the fly, the Qidaat.  I don't know what they are.  The word sounds weird, so it works.  What do you think?  Does this sound like a interesting place?

The great southern continent.  The Soramese tribe (although they refer to themselves as multiple tribes, from many different worlds originally), claim they came to this world with the Kirgan. The Kirgan are a isolated nation of Ursyklons, long exiled to Soram as punishment for their crimes.  The Kirgan clans chose to put aside Ursyklon taboos in their war against the Aboleth.  The Kirgan always treat their Soramese counterparts as equals- they specifically pursued diversity among those who surround them in Soram.

The Kirgan often took human wives and husbands.  Some purposefully infected themselves with lycanthropy and other curses.  Others contacted dark elder gods opposed to the Aboleth, but just as incomprehensible and terrifying as any other things found betwixt the stars.  They used mutation, dark rituals and other things to do whatever they could to win.  Even dead, their bodies no animal would dare touch.  

The Kirgan and those Humans who they married, went the extra mile to slay and stop the Aboleth.  Perhaps they went too far.  The Kirgan have long since isolated themselves to the southernmost reaches of Dark Soram.  Some believe this isolation is born out of fear of what they've become.  Others fear they have turned, that they work toward something just as dark as the Aboleth.

Forsaken Ursyklon, undead monsters and Soramese tribes are not the only inhabitants of Soram.  There also are the Qidaat.  The Qidaat came to Orphos less than a thousand years ago, crash landing in the thick jungle interior of Soram.  The Kirgan and the Qidaat came into conflict, the Qidaat using technology and devices beyond what the Kirgan still have access to.  The Qidaat never were able to repair their fallen starships.  Instead, they abandoned them to take over abandoned cities deep in Soram, long forsaken due to drought.

It is important to note that the Kirgan are not the governing body of Soram.  It isn't one empire or nation.  The Kirgan are honored amongst many of the Soramese, but unlike the Great Powers of the Maru Sea, Soram isn't unified in any way.  Jungles and ancient customs keep most villages self-governing. 

Lay of the Land
Soram and its vast reaches are populated by a myriad of towns.  Othebea, Maliph and Ainesia all have small colonies on its edges.  The Soramese Tribes are so diverse, it only misleads outsiders further.  Soram is thick with jungles.

It is also dense with ancient cities.  Where Maliph and Othebea see wilderness, the Soramese recognize roads and dozens of territories and kingdoms.  Ancient and current Soramese are diverse in their architectural abilities.  Perhaps the most dominant thing about Soram and its people, is that diversity.  They have rivalries, blood feuds and complicated religious connections.  

Soram is a tapestry of villages, cities and kingdoms.  But compared to the power of Maliph and the other Great Powers of the Maru Sea, they aren't quite as prepared to handle.  Already with established colonies, the Great Powers each have managed to use trade and other means to strong arm localities.  The Kirgan remain aloof, refusing calls from Soramese tribes to aid them.

The Qidaat Hives watch from deep in the interior, but they are slow thinkers.  They see little difference between the Soramese and these outsiders.  The Qidaat's main silk trade remains strong.  As long as they continue to receive the food and other goods they've long enjoyed from the edges of Soram, they ignore it.

Maliphi slavery of Soram therefore has long been tolerated by various parts of Soram.  The stronger tribes enjoy the benefits of selling rival villages away to Maliph.  The new colonies established by the Great Powers are small and tolerated because they add new trade value to the area.  But things are changing in the jungles of Soram, not necessarily for the better.

The Kirgan Deathwalkers
The Kirgan today are ruled by the mummified dead monarchs.  Each is infested with undead vermin
and snakes.  Their flesh never truly found rest.  For Ursyklons, the dead are to be returned back to nature, offered to the wolves and beasts of their communities as food.

These cursed Ursyklon kings and queens, no animal dared to dine upon their corpses.  Instead, their flesh dried instead of rotting.  They mummified, becoming dried husks.  Among the lands of Soram, these are the Deathwalkers.

The Deathwalkers still rule their people, even in death.  They stay to the deepest southern places of Soram.  They also avoid outsiders.  Some seek them out, often out of curiosity.  The Deathwalkers know secrets no others in the world know, long lost to time.

But others fear the Kirgan and their Deathwalkers.   That perhaps, deep in the southern reaches of Soram, they prepare for something dark.  Something nothing the rest of the world is quite prepared for.

Crux and Soram
The City of Curses has its own fair share of visitors from Dark Soram.  Often seen as more curiosities among the many to be seen in Crux, the University of Crux and the Esoterium Machina have long sent expeditions to the ruins to be found in Soram.

Many of these expeditions take and steal what they find.  Often without much guilt.

So Crux is home to countless Soramese, Kirgan and Qidaat relics of all kinds.  A vast collection of things selected to help "expand our arcane and scientific knowledge."  Of specific interest is the Ancient Kirgan and Ancient Soramese wonders described in Ursyklon texts. 

There are ancient metal texts from Ancient Soram that some of the Esoterium Machina believe contain the secrets of spaceflight, immortality and magic not seen since the Ursyklon first came to Orphos.  But the gold and jewel encrusted treasures stolen from Soram hold no clues.  Even the mummified bodies found, often lack the horror of the stories of the Deathwalkers.

Fresh sarcophagi always arrive from Soram, though.  Many in the Esoterium Machina have come to dismiss the stories of the Kirgan as mere fanciful legend.  Perhaps one day, they might catch one of these Deathwalkers, and get to experiment upon them, to learn their secrets.

Or vice versa.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Flash Fiction: City of Curses: Kabyr'abd

Some fiction.  Kabyr'abd, a Ramelin Wondersmith, but she has a run in with the Spice Khan- the Maliphi Giant wants Kabyr'abd's latest wonder, but Kabyr'abd worries more about whether she can survive the Spice Khan with her life intact.

Flash Fiction: Kabyr'abd
I hate running.

It's not that I'm bad at it.  I am Kabyr'abd, afterall.  My father once ran from Northcrown to the Wish Quarter and back in less than five hours.  My mother once swam to Blackcliff and back.  Effort doesn't frighten me.  I trained as a Ranger.  I am Ramelin, I know what pain means.

But iaraam.

I hate running, especially when being chased by iaraam thugs.  My legs both burned like molten irons.  I
preferred the hot burn of the workshop to this.  Being chased down like a dog.

"Iaraam!"  I tried to turn a corner toward the Old Wall in the neighborhood they call Old Crux.  If I could only get back to Poorfellows.  Back near the Workshop.  Home, where I could go to ground.  Safety.

"Aht!"  I felt my legs tangle underneath me.

"Ai!  I got her!"  My pursuers called.  Figures emerged from the smoke and fog behind me.  I glared up at the two of them.  Bolas wrapped around my legs.

The two gnolls' dripped saliva.  Scars  and the blue velvet of the Spice Khan's Janissaries declared their allegiance.  I tried to kick at one of them.  I could've yelled out.  Called out for help.

But the City Watch wouldn't care.  The Spice Khan's money had paid them off.  They would look away.  I meant nothing to the City Watch.

Her gnoll thugs ignored my kicks.  So I stopped kicking.  Instead I went prone, forcing the two hyena-headed monsters to drag me.  They didn't bother to try to ask me to walk.

I had Ramelin blood.  I would save my strength.  I would make each step cost them.  Life is pain.  I could handle that pain.


I saw nothing but black.

Up and down stairs, the black hood didn't really reveal where they had been dragging me to.  But I knew.  I could smell the salty fish of the docks.  The Port of Crux, its docks dinging with boats.

The Gnolls didn't talk.  These weren't the cannibalistic thugs I knew from Poorfellows.  Disciplined gnoll janissaries.  Enslaved from birth to serve her.  I could smell their perfume, the pungent scent that marked them as her servants.

"Hmm."  A loud voice chuckled in my direction.  A voice that belong to someone much, much bigger than me.  A large feminine voice.  Chuckling as her gnoll janissaries dragged me in.

They removed the hood.  I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the purple and blue silk walls.  It looked like a massive desert tent, but I could feel the sea bob up and down.  The barge of the Spice Khan.

"Ramelin through and through.  Dragged across half the city, wordless without complaint."  The giant woman's voice boomed.  The couch she laid on itself had to be massive.  The Spice Khan.  Her purple clothes were loose, jewels and gold adorning her bronze skin.

The Spice Khan also was a Sand Giant.  Almost thirty feet tall, her barge had been built to handle her scale.  I and her janissaries looked like toys to her.  Dark, curls dangled down from her face.  One of her eyes looked sapphire, the other glittered like a ruby.  A series of thin, precise and tiny scars were across her cheeks.  Each the width of my finger.

Each measured a year of her life, like my own did.  There were almost hundred scars on her cheeks.  The Spice Khan smiled down at me.  She licked one of her pointed canines.

"Kabyr'abd, daughter of Qawiz'abd.  Sometime Ranger, clearly Ramelin in your blood.  Maliph has need of those of your strength, Kabyr'abd."  The Spice Khan held her head on her hands, glancing down at me.  It felt like being studied by a predator.  She spoke her all words in Malic.  The old language of my people made part of me feel proud.

But I refused to be swayed.

"I don't live in Maliph." I spoke in Tomish.

The Spice Khan didn't skip a beat.  She switched easily to the tongue of Crux and Ith.  "Of course we are not home in the Khanates.  Still, our people's honor remains, does it not?"

"What can I do for you?"  I tried to stand up to her.  To try and keep myself from looking weak.  How does one look up at a giant without fear of being smashed like a rodent?  "Is there something you want?"

"Little Kabyr'abd."  The Spice Khan put her hand into a nearby bowl.  Her massive fingers plucked up a live, baby goat.  I winced as she tossed the brown kid into her maw.  She didn't even chew.  "We all work together in the Khanates, even when stuck in foreign lands like this one.  You are a Wondersmith, are you not?"

"Yes."  I decided to keep my answers short.  The Spice Khan's wealth could match her own weight in gold several times over.  She always sought ways to expand it, never to shrink it.  I didn't want to attract her ire.  I knew her ire.  I'd seen it in Poorfellows.

"Wondersmith.  Such a interesting word."  The Spice Khan adjusted her seat a bit.  "I'm sorry, I am famished and have been eating before you.  Would you like to-"

"No."  I tried not to tap my left foot.  I studied the room from the corners of my eye.  I looked for anything that could offer escape.  I thought I could see water past one piece of silk.

"Hmm."  The Spice Khan bent down, leaning onto her right elbow.  "Projects, little Kabyr'abd, projects you have.  So many... so many opportunities."

"No."  I stamped my left foot and took a step forward.

The Spice Khan squinted her eyes at me.  "You would abandon your people?"

"No.  I will not work for you."

"I wish to simply have access to one these wonders you work on."  The Spice Khan drew closer to me.  Her guards didn't respond.  I didn't even warrant a response.  One of her hands closed into a fist.  "Our people need such innovations, Little Kabyr'abd.  What you have wrought, it could make our people so much stronger.  Our enemies are gathering wonders of their own."

I let my stupidity override me.  Better to be stupid than look weak.

"I work wonders.  Other Wondersmiths will dirty their hands with your... your ilk.  I know better than they.  You are vermin, a monster who chews at the soul of this city.  I help to uplift people.  Not to help you chew them-"

"Silence!"  The Spice Khan's roar made the silk walls bellow out.  They fluttered and flapped like a mad bird's wings.  She stood up, her full height before me.  "I asked nicely, Kabyr'abd.  Perhaps other ways may change your mind."

I dashed at that moment.  I ran like the wind, each footstep taking on the wild blur of ranger magic.  I whispered the words that made the magic turn real.  The spell made my feet faster.  I blurred away from the giant woman who could stomp me like a rat.

Gnoll Janissaries missed as I dived through blue silks.  I could smell gunpowder from behind me.  Gunshots thundered.

I rolled.  I leapt in the water.  Cold, foul saltwater embraced me.


My arm went numb.  I had clung tight to the elevator crane's lift chain.  There were no harnesses, nothing meant to be used as handholds by a rider.  The lift had been meant to just carry items up to the University atop the Skullmount and back.

I held onto the lift chains for an hour.  By then, my right arm had gone numb.  Life is pain.  I only hoped my arm didn't have any lasting damage.

I looked down at the Port and Docks far below me.  The massive purple and blue silk barge of the Spice Khan still buzzed with activity.  But they couldn't follow me onto campus grounds.  Not directly.  It wasn't the best escape effort, but I had friends at the University.

But I knew this incident wouldn't go away.  What I had said, those words were dangerous around someone as vain as the Spice Khan.

"My wonders don't belong to your chains and coins, Spice Khan.  Monsters will never have them."