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Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.


They simply understood the Passion of the fuchsia bubble lip titty sphinx was not going to get made without them. Art requires no justification.

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Ithle01
May 28, 2013


Mors Rattus posted:

Well, that's not entirely true, given Grabowski's being a diehard libertarian.

Grabowski's libertarianism is pretty easy to see once you've read some of his thoughts on Exalted and it's really obvious once you read into how religion in Exalted is portrayed. For those who don't know: it's taxation and therefore basically extortion. It's actually funny to me to see how the new writers have tried to rehabilitate the Immaculate texts to be friendlier, for lack of a better word, when the original intention was 'religion is the opium of the masses and this is all bullshit strongmen use to justify their rule'. Probably one of the things that attracted me to Exalted back in 2001 even though my politics are from the other end of the horseshoe.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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#1 Builder
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I actually deeply appreciate the rehabbing of the Immaculates and the detailing of various other faiths in Lunars because while I am an atheist, I am deeply loving sick of The Reddit Atheist view of religion, which is by and large both cool and vital to many cultures.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017



kommy5 posted:

People threw their money at this? In a Kickstarter? WHY? How much could it have possibly gotten?

If they didn't make a game with dragon sphinx morphs with giant cans then WHO WILL

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Huh, I thought he was like... a weird Burkean conservative, and the point of Exalted was 'Randian supermen are actually no guarantee of a good society, which is founded on....??? Nobody Knows. Probably agrarianism or some poo poo.'

Like, there's clear weird capitalist ideas in old Exalted stuff (like Nexus' booming economy coming from total deregulation) but I thought it was pretty cynical even about that (Nexus is known for having a lot of murders and brutal poverty, due to wealth purchasing the law outright).

But, maybe it's just that Exalted wasn't totally coherent in the first place.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Warhammer Fantasy: Paths of the Damned Book 3: Forges of Nuln

The Eternally Maligned Countess Liebwitz

The single most important person in Nuln is the bafflingly-dealt with Emmanuelle von Liebwitz, Elector Countess of Nuln. I have talked before about how Countess Emmanuelle is dealt with in Hams; she has been accused of essentially every form of iniquity and corruption in the entire setting, from being a Lahmian agent or dupe to being a Chaos cultist to being Elizabeth Bathory because she heard the Dark Elves bathe in blood to stay young. The depiction here settles instead on 'she is an empty-headed ditz who slept her way into her position as Elector Countess and who greatly neglects and mismanages the city to spend all her time on fancy balls and nice dresses.'

Now, here's a lot to unpack here. I'd honestly forgotten the bit about 'she hosed Karl Franz to get her claim honored as Elector Countess'. That adds some extra dimensions.

See, my suspicion is that this is more lazy writing without thinking through the implications of the only female Elector in the current crop being portrayed as the hot girl who slept with people until she got all her pretty dresses and parties forever (the implications are bad, much as the implications of the whole Hung thing in Tome of Corruption were bad, and much as the Lahmian writeup in Night's Dark Masters was not well handled). One of the enduring tropes of Hams is that nobility doesn't matter, you see. People think it does, but an ancient bloodline is as likely to be inbred as anything else, and when nobles do prove able or capable it's because they had the money and time to go to a university and actually paid attention, not because of their noble blood. Nobles are neither better nor worse than normal people, but are much more likely to tend towards some kind of petty, spoiled corruption because they're a person born to tremendous, unearned power and privilege. I'm guessing that's partly the intent with Liebwitz here, but I am really not on board for the only Elector Countess being written this way. Especially not when everything negative about her is very 'this is bad because it's a thing for girls' coded, so to speak. The book has a lot of investment in talking about how empty-headed and vain Liebwitz is, and some of the unstoppable plot threads are specifically written around making sure she gets shamed and embarrassed during the course of the story.

Take her trying to split Nuln off from Wissenland and get it its own Electoral Vote. Wissenland is a provincial backwater and mining country for the most part, that takes a great deal of management and doesn't produce much money. There are many reasons someone might seek to rule Nuln rather than Nuln and Wissenland, and to create another new Electoral position that one can hand out to a political ally. Naturally, here it is solely so she can be comfortable and rich in Nuln and never have to actually run anything. Similarly, she's a childhood friend of Karl Franz who intrigued her way into getting her claim to the Elector Countess position recognized despite it being a weak claim. You'd think 'I took a weak claim to one of the most important political positions in the Empire and managed to become Elector' would speak of at least some political ability, but naw, she got it by loving the right guy. It's just uncomfortable. There's a weird vehemence to how much some of the writers hate this one specific character that stands out to me.

Naturally, she is also highly irreligious and lacking in matters of faith, too. That's about the long and short of the section on important religious people in the city. Just 'The High Priests of Nuln don't like the dumb Countess' and also 'there are a lot of High Priests in Nuln'.

There are names thrown around for some of the other officials who rule Nuln in this section, but no actual details on their personalities, backgrounds, or plot-hooks given, so I'm not going to bother.

The Guilds similarly get no real writeup beyond 'Boy, that Countess sure is corrupt, and it sure is easy to bribe her to lower taxes for the wealthy'.

Nuln's universities remain important, and call to people from all over the world, but the author suddenly decides that despite Nuln generally being depicted as one of the more experimental places in the Empire, its universities are decaying (despite opulent funding) because they are too conservative, contradicting earlier stuff from the setting/history portion. Nuln is described as the intellectual center of the Empire earlier, and I believe later, as well. Then here, Nuln was once the intellectual center of the Empire, but its universities stick to outmoded classical education, and on we go.

Nuln also has a mafia, naturally imported from not-Italy, Tilea. No actual detail given on them besides 'there are a dozen important crime families'.

You might notice this section on 'important people of Nuln' is actually extremely short, and that the most substantial part of it is 'that Countess sure is awful and stupid'. Get ready for more of that; there's a mostly-superfluous but very 'important' part of the entire backdrop of this adventure that only exists for that point, and that will reach real far to ensure things go according to plan to remind the reader that Countess Liebwitz is, in fact, v. dumb.

It should be clear at this point I do not care for Forges of Nuln, as a book. I think it is, in fact, one of the worst books I'll be covering for this line. Once we get to the structure of the city it's mostly fine, but stuff like this section leaves an unpleasant taste. More importantly, the actual adventure is really, really bad, both as a climax to a three adventure campaign and on its own merits, so my distaste for the actual plotting and adventuring writing bleeds through into my assessment of the rest of the book. Still, there's a weird sort of inconsistency to the writing, too, like how Nuln is at once a city of learning known for its radical ideas and at the same time its institutions of learning are (aside from the Gunnery School) mostly depicted as decaying and failing due to their conservatism.

Next Time: The City of Nuln begins

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Mors Rattus posted:

I actually deeply appreciate the rehabbing of the Immaculates and the detailing of various other faiths in Lunars because while I am an atheist, I am deeply loving sick of The Reddit Atheist view of religion, which is by and large both cool and vital to many cultures.

Yeah, the Immaculates have the real issue where nobody wanted to play them because their faith was such an obvious construct, pawns of a greater power, and a mustache-twirlingly villainous construct at that. As much as I enjoyed Peleps Deled's super-hammy inquisitor archetype, he was essentially front and center as far as NPCs go for the faith, which didn't help.

MollyMetroid
Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo


Mors Rattus posted:

I actually deeply appreciate the rehabbing of the Immaculates and the detailing of various other faiths in Lunars because while I am an atheist, I am deeply loving sick of The Reddit Atheist view of religion, which is by and large both cool and vital to many cultures.

the Reddit Atheist's atheism isn't even based on an understanding of anything other than Christianity, no less

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Joe Slowboat posted:

Huh, I thought he was like... a weird Burkean conservative,
I don't know much about Exalted, but that's compatible with libertarianism. Lots of them claim the "classical liberal" label to sound smart.

quote:

(Nexus is known for having a lot of murders and brutal poverty, due to wealth purchasing the law outright).
Nor is this; for the hardcore libertarian, all defects in capitalism are attributable to "crony capitalism." Can't have a corrupt state if there's no state! :pseudo:

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Mors Rattus posted:

I actually deeply appreciate the rehabbing of the Immaculates and the detailing of various other faiths in Lunars because while I am an atheist, I am deeply loving sick of The Reddit Atheist view of religion, which is by and large both cool and vital to many cultures.

Agreed. I would like to see far more fantasy fiction engage honestly with what religion means to the cultures that practice it. Religion is fascinating and can be really interesting to play in settings that treat it with sincerity.

E: Also chalk that up as something Ironclaw did well. It had enough ambiguity about how the church functions and why to feel reasonable, there were good reasons people believed in S'Allumer vs. practiced older faiths, and the new faith had to interact with and adapt to older folk traditions. Not to mention being shot through with a ton of heterodoxies and heresies and two fairly compelling competing faiths.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 20:40 on May 23, 2019

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Alien Rope Burn posted:

Yeah, the Immaculates have the real issue where nobody wanted to play them because their faith was such an obvious construct, pawns of a greater power, and a mustache-twirlingly villainous construct at that. As much as I enjoyed Peleps Deled's super-hammy inquisitor archetype, he was essentially front and center as far as NPCs go for the faith, which didn't help.

The new take on Deled is that he managed to get his position as head of the Wyld Hunt because of a reassignment intended to kill him, because literally no one likes dealing with him, but he kept surviving, IIRC.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.






"Oboy, Lord Dio! Time for some new HSD content!"

I will also join the chorus going for a more nuanced look at religion than "I am euphoric because I am enlightened by my own pipe tobacco" / "that chart suggesting that if not for Christianity we'd have Roman space colonies".

I also thought Iron Kingdoms dealt with their primary religions pretty well. Hell, their quasi-Satanism was more coherent and easily derived than the real-life one.

Nessus fucked around with this message at 21:02 on May 23, 2019

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Halloween Jack posted:

I don't know much about Exalted, but that's compatible with libertarianism. Lots of them claim the "classical liberal" label to sound smart.

Nor is this; for the hardcore libertarian, all defects in capitalism are attributable to "crony capitalism." Can't have a corrupt state if there's no state! :pseudo:

Yeah, I just thought the tragic underpinnings of Ex1 were in part meant to point up the deep failure of the libertarian ideal of individual great men who need no infrastructure: the setting's deepest problems come from individuals with incredible capacities still being products of their times and places, and no attempting to construct or support systems that aren't totally reliant on their own skills. The Scarlet Empress being the pinnacle of this, since she was an incredible individual who created a towering empire that was deeply unjust and also collapses in on itself the moment she disappeared because she built it around herself as an individual.

If this was unintentional, then Grabowski played himself.

DigitalRaven
Oct 9, 2012

When I kill you with a motor-car, you should have the common decency to stay dead, you horrid little object




Mors Rattus posted:

The new take on Deled is that he managed to get his position as head of the Wyld Hunt because of a reassignment intended to kill him, because literally no one likes dealing with him, but he kept surviving, IIRC.

So Deled is a Skaven assassin? Makes sense...

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Fangs at the Gate: Atlantis

Luthe exists in the sunless depths of the Western ocean, its light entirely provided by dim glowing seaweed. Once known as the City of a Thousand Gods, its diamond domes were shattered centuries ago, and its spires snapped as the sea consumed it. Luthe teeters on the precipice of an undersea abyss, even deeper than it sits now, and each year a little more is swallowed. The cataclysm that sank the city killed almost all of its populace, though a few survived in air-filled chambers. Over the centuries, the sea-dwelling beastfolk have refilled it, recreating the city underwater. The first immigrants sought the protection of its walls and its Lunar (nominal) king, Leviathan. Now, it is one of the great economic and cultural centers of the sea floor, drawing in more and more. The original survivors have largely interbred with the beastfolk to the point that they can no longer be distinguished, though the city does still have a tiny handful of air-breathers. For most of its history, Leviathan has had little attention for rulership, doing nothing but to defend it from outside threat. The Luthian Council rose up to govern in his absence, originally made from elders and clan leaders from the early immigrants. Over time, it has gone from an informal assembly that mediates disputes and enforces peace to a full formal political body that dictates and enforces Luthian law.

Membership on the council continues to largely belong to the original families. Each councilor can name their successor, with appointments able to be overturned by a three-fourths majority vote of all Luthe-born citizens, in which case the council nominates and votes on a new member. The most notable time this has happened was the appointment of Leviathan’s Moon-Touched daughter, Blood-Dimmed Deep. Her lineage has extended her lifespan quite a bit, and she has now consolidated quite a lot of political power. However, things have been complicated by Leviathan’s recent decision to get back into running things. He’s allowed the council to retain formal authority and seeks, as a matter of principle, to avoid undermining them, but in practice he effectively holds a veto to them and can overturn their laws by decree. He has instated mandatory military training for all citizens and expanded the standing military without even consulting the council, and some of the councilors are annoyed by this, though Blood-Dimmed Deep supports her father’s agenda and has prevented any real questioning of his decrees.

Luthian culture mixes that of its many disparate underwater clans and peoples. This mingling and the safety of the city have led to a flourishing of art, philosophy and literature, with almost every citizen engaging in some form of amateur creative work. Depictions of Luthe’s history are popular, along with fantasies about what it was like before it fell. Most immigrants and peoples still worship their ancestral gods, though a few practices have become widespread. Many Luthians also worship the gods to which the many sunken First Age temples of the city are dedicated, often syncretized with their own traditional deities. Leviathan is widely worshipped as a guardian deity as well. Food is pretty much any kind of seafood possible in the West, almost always raw, plus foods prepared from kelp, algae and similar. Physical wealth has little sway over Luthians, and the currency of the city, the deben, exists solely in the form of credit and debt. It’s based on a First Age coin that hasn’t circulated in centuries, and only a few merchants will convert foreign coin to the deben and back.

The most valued trade goods for Sunken Luthe are those difficult to make underwater, such as glass (often knapped to make knives and spearheads). Iron, bronze and other corroding metals have no real value, though gold jewelry is favored by the wealthy alongside ivory, shell and precious stones. Plates of lead or gold are imported from the surface to be used as writing tablets, though most people just etch seashells and scrimshaw. Clothing is practically worthless, and most Luthians go naked save for bags and belts to hang things from. The new war footing has shifted much of the local economy to the manufacture of weapons, armor and materiel, with Leviathan spending from his vast hoard of debens to pay for it all.

In the First Age, Luthe was a marvel of engineering and power, but it is now fallen into disrepair. Leviathan is not a craftsman and doesn’t especially care about recruiting them. He sees value in weapons and battleships, but he has no particular need of art or statues against the Realm. Thus, he allows the Luthians to chart their own path, merely watching over them and not even beginning to consider rebuilding the city to its old standard. In the meantime, they rebuild Luthe in their own image, created a new city entirely. Sunken Luthe is aquatic, fortified and martial. The Luthian language is a unique sign language made from mixing the tongues of the various beastfolk immigrants, designed to communicate underwater. Some beastfolk use other means, such as the sonorous language of the whale and dolphinfolk or the flickering light-speech of the anglerfishfolk and some jellyfishfolk, but even they usually learn Luthian sign language.

The Drowned Quarter is the largest of Luthe’s ruined areas, which the new inhabitants prefer to the intact ones. The intact areas, after all, have stairs and useless doors and corridors that just get in the way when swimming, while smashed buildings give walls but are more easily refit. Leviathan rarely visits the Drowned Quarter in person, though he watches over it and is proud of the Luthian resourcefulness in making it their own. The buildings are overgrown with kelp and coral, braided between the walls to separate them into small pods that serve as homes. Once the pod is tethered to an old wall, the locals add rooms as needed, with homes growing from and on stalks of titan kelp. The choice of coral, kelp and how closely to rely on the crumbling marble is purely aesthetic choice, though coral comes in more colors. The coral tunnels cross the quarter, lit by glowing algae for those that can’t see in the dark. The main tunnels have high ceilings for the whalefolk, while some offshoots become so narrow that only cephalopodfolk (with their soft bodies), Lunar shapeshifters and tiny tetrafolk may pass. Tetrafolk are never larger than human children, and they perform most of the maintenance on the coral and kelp, paid for by the council. At the center is the Palace of the Luthian Council, a massive structure encrusted with living red coral, which both impresses and defends. It is the headquarters of both the council and the Siaka Guard, a battalion of elite soldiers led by Blood-Dimmed Deep that serve as both army and police force.

The Sunken Hall, once the Hierophant’s Hall, used to be a meeting place for the priest-kings of Luthe in the First Age, and it dominates the geographic center of the city. Huge statues still line the building, but time and water have worn away all identifying features. The Silver Pact’s members assemble here, where no Realm spies could ever hope to blend. Several of its halls and wings are intact, and the Western Pact meets most often in the war room, which has a grand artifact map of the Western ocean. The black jade map is outdated, depicting the ocean as it was at the end of the First Age, but its power to track the movement of fleets makes it invaluable nonetheless. The Hall is most often used by Leviathan’s followers and students, though occasional shahan-ya councils are hosted there. Leviathan attends all meetings, sometimes letting others speak but most often dominating. He occasionally invites members of the Luthian Council to attend, either to discuss politics of the city or his plans against the Realm. Most often this is his daughter, both because they’re related and because she commands the Siaka Guard. She argues that Luthe should shift to open war, but Leviathan and the rest of the Western Pact are sticking to the attrition plan for now. While Blood-Dimmed Deep supports her father at the Luthian Council, she is personally very frustrated with him.

The Thousand Temples, also called the Temple District, was intended to be seen from airship, laid out in the form of a map of Creation at the time of construction, with roofs and monuments colored to distinguish terrain. Temples to the Celestial Incarnae line the cosmos-gardens at the eastern edge, and most of the temples still stand, if in some disrepair, although Leviathan has personally destroyed all temples to the Elemental Dragons due to his rage at the Usurpation. Mantafolk create intricate kelp wreaths for the malachite altar of Baxishun, Lord of the Surf, while pale fish swim through the orrery of Pallian-Azar, Prince of the Star of the Golden Door, and hymns can still be heard in the pagoda of the dead god Urquan, lord of storms and functional talismans. Luminescent coral encrusts the most-used temples, like stars in the dark ocean. The temple to Luna, broken in the Usurpation, has long since been rebuilt as the Shrine of the Drowned Moon, encrusted in coral and with its dome pierced to create entries for the congregants to swim through. Any Lunar may pray there, and Leviathan can be found meditating on nights of the full moon. A family of anglerfish-folk tend the temple as priests, descendants of the long-dead student of Leviathan called Monanki the Sage, who began the temple’s rebuilding. The see tending the shrine as their sacred duty, though they dislike Leviathan himself for driving their ancestor from Luthe for some long-forgotten offense. Despite the best efforts of the Luthians, the western border of the district slowly falls into the abyss a bit more each year, and some temples have already been lost to the deep dark. Most believe this is due to oceanic pressure and time, but the truth is that, in fact, the deep-sea fissure the Temple District is falling into leads to the Wyld, where the local Fair Folk court crave the echoes of worship that still suffuse the lost temples.

The Poet’s Court was once a sacred ballcourt, but the arena has been repurposed by the Luthians as a recital hall for poetry, which is key to Luthe’s artistic culture. Poets recite their verses in the dozens of beastfolk dialects of the city, occasionally accompanied by tonal noises, grunts and body movement. Listeners eat sea grapes and drink hallucinogens that invoke synesthesia. Sometimes the stage is used for theater, but most consider that highly unorthodox entertainment. The court also hosts a market every so often, organized by the lionfish-folk Pterois family. Visitors there can buy anything from kelp biscuits (easily made, but hard to perfect) to whalebone weapons to shell decorations to even the occasional First Age artifact salvaged from the ocean floor ruins.

The Haven of the Air-Breathers is made primarily from the few domes and towers that survived the crushing depths and those that Pact artificiers or other residents have cleared of water. These structures house the few non-beastfolk that make their homes in Luthe and form stopping points for the orcafolk and others that have to occasionally surface for air. (While the orca is Leviathan’s spirit shape, he doesn’t need to breathe air, having long since mastered the seas entirely.) Visiting Lunars may also live in prepared, sumptuous quarters if they don’t feel like spending their entire visit in aquatic shapes. A number of means purify and renew the air in the Haven, varying by structure and status. A Silver Pact envoy might have a blue jade mandala constantly refreshing the air, while a dolphinfolk slum probably relies on poor-smelling alchemical filters devised by the original inhabitants when the city fell.

The Outposts are a number of small underwater settlements outside Luthe’s walls, connected to the city via the deepways. The deepways are a maze of coral tunnels. Some of these places gather resources to trade in the city, like the mining colony Knifetooth Trench or the fishing village Lophia, while others are sources of low-income housing for those too poor even for the slums of Luthe or the more bohemian sort of artist. The Siaka Guard patrols the Outposts for dangers, though their forces focus most on the settlements that pay them bribes.

Blood-Dimmed Deep, warrior queen, is one of Leviathan’s Moon-Touched orcafolk children, the leader of the Siaka Guard and a major member of the Luthian Council. While her lineage gives her great status to many Luthians, she hates the idea of having authority simply because her father is Leviathan, and she has gone to some effort to demonstrate her worth by physical power and strategic skill. She is effectively a member of the Silver Pact and Leviathan’s school, though her passion for open warfare has little following with her fellow students. She has obeyed so far, waiting for the chance to make political allies that agree with her aggression.

Inanja is a genderfluid anglerfish-folk poet, one of the most influential cultural figures in Luthe. They are of the family that tends the Shrine of the Drowned Moon, and their hair is anglerfish lures while their mouth is all needle teeth. Inanja abandoned the temple upon coming of age, which the family is not happy about, but their many artistic patrons afford them a life of luxury anyway. Luthe’s elites and even the Silver Pact Lunars love their poetry performances, as does Leviathan, who often attends recitals.

Gevan Batahul is one of the few fully human-looking people of Luthe, though he is no airbreather – he’s a Water-Aspect Dragon-Blood, and thus the only member of his family able to leave the air-filled domes freely. He’s an esteemed businessman in the city, a legal savant and a known fixer for criminals. He offers up his services to anyone, for the right price – which seems to vary, as even the poor can call on him. The Silver Pact tends to view him warily, though he’s never even heard of the Realm or the Usurpation, but Leviathan ensures Gevan’s safety. Even the mighty Lunar king has uses for the fixer.

Lady Forever-Drowning, the ghost of one of Luthe’s old priest-kings, has become an object of worship now. She has spent decades in the Temple District, praying to all of the thousand gods of the city, until the beastfolk discovered her. After years teaching them the names and ways of Luthe’s gods and guiding them in the city, she has come to be worshipped as a goddess of wisdom herself, an intercessor between the faithful and the gods that dwell above the waves.

The Hollow Court is a spirit court nearby led by Storm Father Halid, youngest of the West’s storm mothers. They meet in a great mother-of-pearl hall under the sea, attended by beastfolk shrine maidens and water elemental slaves. Halid is a clever, ambitious spirit, but an impatient one, working with a small circle of other sea gods to increase his power in the bureaucracy of Heaven. To aid this, his court has made a deal with Leviathan, raising up storms against Realm ships in exchange for the sacrifice of captured sailors. It’s mutually beneficial, but if Fakharu, the Censor of the West, were to discover it, he would be enraged.

Galbadan is a settlement hidden inside a ship graveyard in a kelp forest. Here, the ghosts of dead sailors mingle with the local beastfolk that shelter in the hulls, many of them exiled from Luthe for their crimes. While most Luthians know of Galbadan only as a trading partner in flint, glass and sculpture, those who know more can hire assassins, ghost spies, poisoners and many other kinds of criminal there.

Dolaron, a small island satrapy, is descended from the First Age inhabitants of Luthe that got out of the city during the collapse. While their oral history has been mythicized over time, their demonization of the Dragon-Bloods is clear, which has made the satrap Peleps Nahini’s work difficult. Leviathan works to weaken the Realm’s hold there, sending his followers to sabotage Realm ventures and support the natives. The satrap has recently become aware of this covert activity, though, and has started purges against anyone she thinks might be even slightly involved.

Obsidian was built huge, but not to impress humans, as Luthe was. Rather, it was built for the massive scale of the Spoken, the ancient and extinct Exalted of the Niobrarans. Today, the beastfolk that live there, as varied in species as those of Luthe, almost seem to disappear against the black, alien spires, which have neither doors nor windows. Sometimes, patterns of blue light appear on the spires, writing in the ancient Niobraran language. The priests claim they see omens in these words, inciting religious riots and upheavals, some of which spread beyond their community. While the Siaka Guard and even sometimes Leviathan have gone out and repelled every attempt by Obsidian zealots to conquer the Temple District of Luthe, their apostate faiths have sometimes become popular in Luthe, especially among the poor.

Next time: The Caul

SirPhoebos
Dec 10, 2007

WELL THAT JUST HAPPENED!

Is Luthe the city with the shark-people?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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SirPhoebos posted:

Is Luthe the city with the shark-people?

Among other kinds of underwater beastfolk, yes, it is home to Shark Dad and Tiny Shark Daughter.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Ah so they got rid of the horrid little relict airbreather population they were abusing eternally then?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Nessus posted:

Ah so they got rid of the horrid little relict airbreather population they were abusing eternally then?

There's still an air-breather population, and they still live in the shittiest parts of Luthe, but it seems like their abuse is more a result of them being poor and stuck in the Haven rather than any direct hatred.

Thesaurasaurus
Feb 15, 2010

"Send in Boxbot!"



Mors Rattus posted:

There's still an air-breather population, and they still live in the shittiest parts of Luthe, but it seems like their abuse is more a result of them being poor and stuck in the Haven rather than any direct hatred.

Yeah it's ableism toward those poor saps who can't even breathe properly without special accommodations rather than inter-generational torture porn.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017



Nessus posted:

I will also join the chorus going for a more nuanced look at religion than "I am euphoric because I am enlightened by my own pipe tobacco" / "that chart suggesting that if not for Christianity we'd have Roman space colonies".

I think that killed my interest in Eclipse Phase before anything else, that a lot of the religious were far too smooth-brained to accept giant machines trying to kill them.

sexpig by night
Sep 8, 2011

by Azathoth


Nessus posted:

Ah so they got rid of the horrid little relict airbreather population they were abusing eternally then?

yea thankfully it's now just 'yea they live in the poor side of town and the majority of the city doesn't give a poo poo about making things accessible for the minority beyond the bare minimum' and not creepy generations long torture.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Night10194 posted:

You might notice this section on 'important people of Nuln' is actually extremely short, and that the most substantial part of it is 'that Countess sure is awful and stupid'. Get ready for more of that; there's a mostly-superfluous but very 'important' part of the entire backdrop of this adventure that only exists for that point, and that will reach real far to ensure things go according to plan to remind the reader that Countess Liebwitz is, in fact, v. dumb.

Interestingly, a book in the war gaming part of Hamfan puts an interesting woman in Nuln: Elspeth von Draken, matriarch of the Amethyst College and thus the head death wizard of the Empire. A powerful noblewoman more or less above the law because the von Drakens are a powerful noble family in Nuln and the whole 'most powerful Amethyst wizard in the Empire.' Also, she has a dragon.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Cythereal posted:

Interestingly, a book in the war gaming part of Hamfan puts an interesting woman in Nuln: Elspeth von Draken, matriarch of the Amethyst College and thus the head death wizard of the Empire. A powerful noblewoman more or less above the law because the von Drakens are a powerful noble family in Nuln and the whole 'most powerful Amethyst wizard in the Empire.' Also, she has a dragon.
Hence the name! Was she issued the dragon or is this just lucky branding?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


That was significantly later than these books, though.

None of that existed at the time of this writing. The head of the Amethyst Order in Realms of Sorcery is a former Morrite Annointed Priest who turned his back on divine worship to practice arcane magic.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Nessus posted:

Hence the name! Was she issued the dragon or is this just lucky branding?

Not directly explained, but by implication it was instead "I am of the von Draken family, so I am going to get myself a dragon." Hers is a Carmine Dragon, stated to be closely tied to the Amethyst wind of magic.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



Cythereal posted:

Not directly explained, but by implication it was instead "I am of the von Draken family, so I am going to get myself a dragon."

It's a really stupid motivation, unless you succeed. Then it loops back to awesome.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




wiegieman posted:

How the hell do furries have so much money

I have trouble buying car parts
Combination of whales and/or this being their main form of recreation rather than buying videogames or model trains or whatever

Ithle01
May 28, 2013


Joe Slowboat posted:

Yeah, I just thought the tragic underpinnings of Ex1 were in part meant to point up the deep failure of the libertarian ideal of individual great men who need no infrastructure: the setting's deepest problems come from individuals with incredible capacities still being products of their times and places, and no attempting to construct or support systems that aren't totally reliant on their own skills. The Scarlet Empress being the pinnacle of this, since she was an incredible individual who created a towering empire that was deeply unjust and also collapses in on itself the moment she disappeared because she built it around herself as an individual.

If this was unintentional, then Grabowski played himself.

He was well aware of what he was doing. Not all libertarians are caricatures that are incapable of self-criticism or blindly adhere to the extremes of doctrine.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!




Rifts Coalition Wars 3: Sorcerers' Revenge part 9, "Although their own losses were a staggering 53%, they are flush with victory and celebrate with song, dance and drink."

It's time to finally talk about how the war is going! I thought we'd never get here.

Blitzkrieg
Tolkeen becomes the aggressor


Realizing they're going to eventually going to be ground down by Coalition forces, Tolkeen decides to go on the the bold strategy of an complete, all-out attack. The notion is that the Coalition will never expect such a costly and risky strategy, and that they'll be able to break the fascists' offensive. However, it'll result in a high cost of lives, as well as a heavy risk to local civilian communities. However, they can't risk playing their hand by organizing and evacuating beforehand. Moreover, it's claimed that local civilians are dedicated enough to the war effort that their loss of lives and livelihood is something they'd volunteer anyway.

See, that's how you introduce a grey area, Siembieda! That's the way you do it! Showing, not telling!

Ultimately they might not have decided with this were it not for the Shadow Dragons. See, the dragons of Freehold have a secret: a magical trick that lets them create magical duplicate shadow-selves by "fragment(ing) their life essence" like alien intelligences do (Zazshan being the most notable example in Rifts World Book 3: England). Only a few amongst Tolkeen's leadership are aware of this, and have gotten the dragons to agree to use this for one definite chance at victory.

The big drawback is that only a relative skeleton defense will be left behind (metaphorically, not literal skeletons, though it might have some). The hope is that the offense will succeed in a few days, not enough for any other enemies of Tolkeen to organize a major assault. The plan is to have the Shadow Dragons teleport in and perform an air attack without warning, followed by a full-scale aerial attack. Then, hidden aquatic forces emerge from bodies of water to attack Coalition naval forces along the Mississippi and then flank the enemy. Finally, powerful Daemonix and Juggernauts will lead the charge, followed by infantry and mages of all sorts. After, they split their forces between annihilating Coalition fortifications and chasing fleeing troops. They're also hoping to drive one group of Coalition north and into Xiticix Hivelands, where they won't have any place to safely retreat.


After the apocalypse, rugby became way more intense.

Moreover, there have been several attempts on Emperor Prosek's life, though none have succeeded (including the aforementioned attempt involving an Auto-G). There are several teams left trying to infiltrate Chi-Town but with no luck as of yet.

They've made overtures to Free Quebec by offering information, as well as providing a plan to assist a Quebecois attack by ambushing Coalition forces from behind and other coordinated attacks. In addition, they've gone as far as to suggest they could provide aid in a Quebecois attack on Chi-Town itself, and help their lead a coup on the Coalition States as a whole. Ultimately, they're trying to make sure the Coalition is strained on both fronts and encouraging Quebec to weaken the Coalition States as a whole.

The final plan is to try and encourage a Xiticix attack on Chi-Town. Though this seems like a stretch, they believe that by driving a Coalition force into the Hivelands (as aforementioned), they can key the Xiticix to see all Coalition units as enemies, and then perform a false-flag operation to lead the Xiticix all the way to Chi-Town. It seems unlikely - the Xiticix could see through it, but it's believed the could potentially teleport the swarm right over Chi-Town. The thought is that if Chi-Town is attacked directly, most Coalition citizens will want to see an end to the war.


The eyeliner of evil.

Blitzkrieg Epilogue

The Tolkeen offensive will occur in the metaplot, ending likely in late 108 P.A., and shatter the attacking Coalition forces. One half of the Coalition army is, indeed, driven into the Hivelands. Led by General Jericho Holmes, the Coalition retreat in the North becomes known as "Holmes' Folly" as they're swarmed by Xiticix and Tolkeen leaves them to the bugs. Though Tolkeen loses about half their forces, the Coalition loses three-fourths and retreats. General Drogue survives and demands revenge, as Emperor Prosek maintains that the war is still very much on. Meanwhile, the rogue Cyber-Knights working for Tolkeen are shocked by the ruthlessness they see, as Tolkeen forces slaughter Coalition soldiers and allow their allied monsters to feast on the bodies. Though many see their resolve shaken, they prepare for the eventual Coalition retribution.


Because dragons weren't powerful enough, clearly.

Shadow Dragons

The Shadow Dragons are a mystery to most - they seem to the Coalition like dark "warrior dragons" that are more brutal and bloodthirsty, only really relying on directly offensive magic and close-quarters clawing. However, they're at least aware enough to flee when badly injured. When any are slain, they seem to dissipate into mist. Some believe them to actually be draconic ghosts or demons of some sort, but officially the Coalition believes that they somehow are escaping to another dimension. Those aware of other worlds haven't heard of these creatures before, however.

As aforementioned, Shadow Dragons are basically duplicate dragons created from a piece of an adult dragon's soul as a sort of "shadow-self" or "id-self" through an undetailed magical process or specll. They represent the dark side of the dragon that creates them, and have a corrupting / evil-ing effect on dragons who use this magic. Apparently these were once used by the Dragon Kings of Freehold to dominate a whole world, before being overthrown. They had seen this magic as their folly and failure that led to that, and had tried to reform themselves somewhat. However, like addicts, they have felt the call to use this dark magic again, and the war has given them the excuse to do so.

Hatchling dragons can't do this magic - so forget about using it yourselves, PCs! However, it weakens and drains the user, and they often sleep or rest while using it. The strongest dragons can make up to four shadow-selves, but are entirely crippled by doing so. They're also permanently weakened if any of the Shadow Dragons are slain- so they usually just end the magic and cause their shadow-self to "dissipate", creating the effect that Coalition soldiers often see upon "slaying" one. Lastly, it pushes their alignment towards the evil end over some vague period of time. We're told about half the Dragon Kings will become addicted to the power and go full evil during this conflict.

Each Shadow Dragon is a damage sponge, having between 500-1100 M.D.C. depending on the dragon. Their spellcasting and melee damage, however, isn't that impressive, with only their fire breath approaching passable damage. They can't teleport like normal dragons, but only travel back to the creator, and can't shapeshift or turn invisible. They're essentially like weaker dragons without psionics, and are mainly useful for just having lots of mid-level dragons.


"Don't be jelly because you can't fight the war while taking a monster dump."

Conclusions

That's that, Tolkeen beats the Coalition back and the war is over... wait, what, we're only halfway through this series? Well, poo poo.

As before, the whole attempt to demonize Tolkeen - literally - falls largely flat. While Tolkeen definitely does some lovely stuff and employs some awful, sadistic monsters, they haven't gotten down to the level of concentration camps and civilian extermination the Coalition has deployed. Tolkeen is in a morally compromised area, to be certain, but they're just not on the level of Drogue and his flunkies yet. They could easily be bombing Chi-Town with terrorist teleport attacks or the like - but they're not.

Moreover, this feels a lot like wheel-spinning. About half of the added Tolkeen NPCs don't really add much in terms of plot hooks, and the whole missing person tables seem appro of nothing. We could really use more details on Tolkeen or Tolkeen's forces (other than just the unit layouts back in Coalition Wars 1: Sedition) instead of just lots of new characters that, at best, demonstrate the spread of alignments amongst Tolkeen's forces. Moreover, some seem particularly uninspired - the D-Bee groups in particular just seem like Coffin just attached personalities to D-Bees from Canada or Coalition War Campaign and whammo, instant filler. The adventure hook is decent for Siembieda, but runs into the issue where it outsmarts itself. While the metaplot bits in here aren't bad as far as metaplot goes, better hooks to incorporate how the PCs might be involved or influence the war would be welcome.

Still, after the steaming dump of a book that Coalition Overkill was, this is definitely better. It really brings into question how overlong the series is, though. This could have been easily narrowed down into three books or so: one with Coalition stuff and NPCs, one with Tolkeen stuff and NPCs, and one detailing the war and giving different conclusions or possibilities. And if this book felt like filler... prepare for a complete detour coming up.

THE END OF "SORCERERS' REVENGE". 448 PAGES REMAIN OF THE COALITION WARS.

Stephenls
Feb 21, 2013
[REDACTED]


Ithle01 posted:

He was well aware of what he was doing. Not all libertarians are caricatures that are incapable of self-criticism or blindly adhere to the extremes of doctrine.

1e-era Grabowski always struck me as someone who thought libertarian thought was fundamentally accurate without being fundamentally just, yeah. Like, “The libertarians are right about how the world works and everyone else is varying degrees of naive, but that’s not necessarily a good thing, just true.”

(The corollary being “And if you think this not being a good thing is at all relevant to anything, you, too, are varying degrees of naive.”)

Stephenls fucked around with this message at 05:55 on May 24, 2019

Cassa
Jan 29, 2009


quote:

Meanwhile, the rogue Cyber-Knights working for Tolkeen are shocked by the ruthlessness they see, as Tolkeen forces slaughter Coalition soldiers and allow their allied monsters to feast on the bodies.

I can't believe that in a war against an enemy that wants you rounded up and thrown into extermination camps, you may not honour their dead.

This is barbarism, is it even worth surviving if we do such a thing.

Anyway I can't wait to hear more about playing Coalition forces trying to survive in Xitic territory.

Ithle01
May 28, 2013


Stephenls posted:

1e-era Grabowski always struck me as someone who thought libertarian thought was fundamentally accurate without being fundamentally just, yeah. Like, “The libertarians are right about how the world works and everyone else is varying degrees of naive, but that’s not necessarily a good thing, just true.”

(The corollary being “And if you think this not being a good thing is at all relevant to anything, you, too, are varying degrees of naive.”)

That's about how I read it too. I was looking for a way to articulate this earlier, but couldn't quite get it together because all I could think of was 'he's a lot like my uncle'.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Fangs at the Gate: Avon Cauling

The Caul is a strange place, born from the dream of Gaia of her lover, Luna. It mixes real and unreal, sometimes with wonder, sometimes terror. For the Lunars, the Caul is their sibling, the eldest child of Luna, and it appears to them in dreams to send strange and cryptic messages in the wind of Sekima’s ruins, the waters of Melilune or the crackle of fire in Houshou. But the Caul is also sacred birthplace of the Dragon-Blooded, who worked with the Lunars of the First Age to anchor it to reality, lest the dream be lost. For a time, it seemed they had failed, for the Caul disappeared from the world, only to return 500 years ago or so. The Realm and its mighty Empress moved to seize the island as their religious duty. No wonder, then, that the Lunars fight so fiercely, with the Realm forts on their sibling-island, with the Immaculates sending zealot warriors to their sacred land, with the Dragon-Blooded pilgrims going so they might bear more heirs for the usurpers.

The Caul is sacred, but now it is a place of war. Every Lunar on the island is part of Sha’a Oka’s army, so high is he esteemed by the Pact and so sacred is the Caul. Even if they only serve in some token way, none would dare to shirk the duty. Still, the war rarely takes the form of open field maneuvers. That is not Sha’a Oka’s method. Instead, he fights on a thousand fronts, jabbing and prodding and using guerrilla maneuvers to make for an offensive that never quite goes away and often heats up. Lunar raiders haunt the roads between Faxai and Garianghis to make the Dynasts feel unsafe the moment they leave their forts, signposts go missing or become overgrown quickly to lead legions and convoys astray. Only rarely do the forces of Sha’a Oka and the Realm meet in number on the field, especially to siege Realm cities – but they did five years ago, when the Empress vanished.

So far, barring a few successes, the Realm defenses have held the Black Lion back. Before his most recent (and wildly successful) offensive, the Dragon-Blooded controlled most of the pilgrimage road between the shrine-cities. Sha’a Oka has only recently stripped them of all but one of those cities, Faxai, but Faxai’s walls have never been breached. Between the veteran outcaste soldiers, the mercenaries and the martial orders of monks, even the absence of the Imperial legions has not wholly removed the defenses of the final shrine-city. Each of the others, though, is now controlled by one of the Black Lion’s generals. Some welcome guests to aid them, while others prefer to work alone, though they grudgingly allow the Pact customs of hospitality. Even Third Daughter of the Leaves, though she has barely spoken to anyone since taking Garianghis five years back, has ordered the turtlewolves to allow Lunars into the city if they are persistent enough about it.

The Caulborn, as the people native to the Caul are known, have always lived in the wilds of the island. They descend from Western and Southwestern fisherfolk originally, and they know the Caul better than anyone – possibly even better than the Black Lion does. There are countless Caulborn clans, with rituals and taboos based on local geography, feuds and disagreements over the order of sacred stories. No one can be really sure how many Caulborn there are, and outsiders have a lot of trouble telling the clans apart without spending a lot of time among them. Most clans are matrilineal, with multiple generations working together to raise their children in common, and they can be found just about everywhere on the massive Caul. They range from the hillfolk called the Uroa, who carry their hearth-fires on their backs each day and rekindle a high flame each night, to the Zeryesh forest-folk, who wear only peat and mud in summer, to the Sukba of the outlying islands who raise their children in lagoon shelters so they learn to swim even before walking, to the Caligo, who ride giant apes into battle atop massive war-howdash, and more. Men and women usually live segregated from each other, meeting only during labor (which is not divided by gender, but by ritual) and for meals.

The Caulborn speak a local language unrelated to the major Threshold tongues, with many regional dialects, often so different as to be mutually unintelligible. Most that live in Faxai, Asura or the other ports speak Seatongue at a passing level, at least. Further, among themselves, Caulborn women speak a secret language, spread across the entire island continent in about six dialects. The men once had their own secret language as well, but they traded it away for a god’s aid during a famine centuries back. Most Caulborn are so insular it barely matters – they don’t speak to outsiders at all unless forced. They tend to be evasive and noncommittal when they do speak, except among those they have ritually named their kin, which may happen for reasons ranging from saving a life to sharing shelter in the rain, or among those rare people born on the Caul to outsiders. With these, they are direct, though unless they consent to leave the outside world behind and join their true kin, even they are held at arm’s length – not quite outsiders, but not Caulborn. The exception is primarily those Caulborn that live in Faxai or are otherwise separated from their clan. They are often cut off from their traditional ways, and while they try to follow their traditions and taboos as best they can, many can’t freely do so without fear of punishment by the Immaculates or other clans. Others never had the chance to learn the traditions in the first place.

Most Caulborn worship the Caul itself, treating gods and spirits as aspects of the land rather than full divinities of their own right. Much of their faith revolves around observation of key taboos, with each clan having their own, which are said to ensure the vitality and purity of the Caul and to avoid the dangers of the wild. The Amoda reject the sun, waking up and working by night. The Tancoli never speak the names of living clanfolk, only dead ones. The Sukba will not walk over the footprints of any animal. It is universally seen as dangerous to talk to yourself in the wild lands, or to talk to something you aren’t sure is a person, because the Caul is always listening and it can be unpredictable. Almost all clans also hate the idea of burying the dead, favoring sky burials or sea burials. The island’s ancient architecture is sacred, and even so much as leaving a mark on it is a blasphemous desecration. These marks wander and change, sometimes without meaning, sometimes with malice. The Yazi speak of Ragara Dolara, who carved his name on a pilgrimage marker despite warnings. For the rest of his pilgrimage, his name repeated itself on many surfaces, at first identically and then increasingly jumbled. His personality suffered similar erratic shifts as it did, and while he persisted in the pilgrimage, when he reached Melilune, he found his reflection holding a sharpened stone blade. Without a word, he cut the double’s throat, carved nonsensical symbols into its flesh, then vanished into nothing.

The Caulborn tend to have little love for Dragon-Bloods or the Realm. Only pilgrims who have progressed on their quest through the shrine cities receive any true respect and openness, and those who finish the pilgrimage through the Way to Feng-Yi are considered kin. Caulborn often act as guides for pilgrims, at first evasive and standoffish but gradually opening up over the course of the pilgrimage, as the Dragon-Blood further ties their Essence to the Caul. Traditionally, the Realm has been lenient with the Caulborn compared to other satrapies, and that’s only grown stronger since the legions left. Imperial decree forbids enslaving the Caulborn, largely to ensure they keep working as guides, and also restrains the Immaculates on the island. The monks must permit them their less blasphemous rites and may only proselytize in Faxai and along the pilgrimage route, for fear that the Caulborn will willingly serve the Lunar Anathema. However, not all observe these laws, especially since the Empress disappeared, and monks have long suppressed most Caulborn rituals in Faxai proper. Missionaries have even started to visit the nearby clans.

Few Caulborn deal with Lunars, and most Lunars leave them alone. At best, they are seen as honored denizens of a sacred place, and at worst, acceptable collateral damage. Newly arrived Pact members are often warned to treat them with respect and without cruelty, but not all obey. Sha’a Oka is almost universally revered by the Caulborn, but other Lunars are feared or hated for their actions, such as Third Daughter of Leaves, who seems to have no compassion for the locals whatsoever, or Jaguar Lai, who got killed by the Yazi clan’s poisoners after accidentally violating a major taboo while trying to gain their favor. Others, like Lintha Haquen Fia-Shaw Flowers Unbending in the Storm, just don’t put in the time or effort to have good relations with any Caulborn clans. Some Lunars rally the Caulborn to their cause, while others spend years among them to study their rituals and taboos in an effort to understand the Caul. The martial artist Roaring Storm was made kin to the Caligo after defending their stone ape-idol from the Immaculates, while Nuljan Wasp-Tongue stole the shape of a Zeryesh child and has spent years among them studying their witches’ curses. A few clans have permanently allied with the Pact or sworn themselves to specific Lunars, like the Ninga hawkfolk that are family to Sandswept Garda-Empress. Some do so from hatred of the Realm, while others revere Lunars as avatars of the Caul, such as Skatha Venomchild’s cult.

Most of the prominent Caulborn clans that work with the Pact are those transformed into beastfolk by Lunar blessings. The Kongar lionfolk have lived alongside Sha’a Oka longer than any others, descended from the first Caulborn to meet him after his return to Creation. They do not worship him, but they say he is divine. They call him the Soul of the Caul, recording the strange omens that precede his coming in a complex ideographic script unique to them. They are skilled metalworkers and carpenters with many settlements in the Caul’s jungles, most notably the city Morovath. The Ninga hawkfolk of the Pass of Sekima have been surrogate family for Sandswept Garda-Empress since she arrived. They live in the mountains in shelters of woven branches, leaves, wood and cloth, living and hunting in common. They speak a keening, twittery language that can be heard for miles around, though some words and phrases are forbidden at specific times or seasons. Sandswept Garda-Empress lives among them as a living goddess-matriarch. The Yamalu boarfolk lost their Lunar patron, Paren Thorn-Tusk, to an Immaculate spear, but they continue to follow her teachings about war. Young boarfolk train with the spear and shield from youth, hoping to be chosen by the clan leader in the games of strength, wits and courage. Their traditions actually predate Paren’s warrior ethos, and their taboo against meat-eating and the reverent silence that follows songs are very old indeed.

Other beastfolk live on the Caul, but are unaffiliated with the Pact. The toadfolk of Guchol swamp are xenophobes, dragging all trespassers into the water to drown, while the Enisi sturgeonfolk are total pacifists who live in lakebed monasteries. The nocturnal Amoda mothfolk chart the movement of the stars and deny the existence of the sun. Some of the beastfolk clans say their nature is from a divine blessing, while others were twisted by the Wyld. Some speak of legendary springs or of witnessing great beasts that transformed their ancestors. Luna’s touch is heavy on the Caul, and miraculous, spontaneous transformation is not unknown.

Morovath, the City of a Thousand Faces, is set in a hidden valley that few outsiders have ever seen. Like the moon, it shifts through phases by night, reshaping itself. The full moon sees it with tall, gleaming spires that shine with an inner light, while new moon Morovath is a dark, forbidding place of light-eating cloisters. Between the two extremes, the city districts shift between light and darkness. Shining turrets rise with the waxing of the moon, until at half-moon the city is perfectly divided in half, and as the moon wanes, the towers dwindle away like shadows in the light, and the city’s glow fades until only the edges shine. Morovath serves as Sha’a Oka’s headquarters, based from the Palace of the Moon’s Light, a massive shining-stone ampitheatre where his generals debate strategy, which can be loud and argumentative given how many Lunars from different cultures get involved.

In the First Age, Morovath was a bustling city ruled by Lunar and Dragon-Blooded princes, broken by the Usurpation. When the lionfolk rediscovered it, it was an empty shell, but it has grown cosmopolitan in a way few other places on the Caul are, with over a dozen clans making their home there, plus the Lunars and any Moon-Touched children they bring. Today, Morovath is self-governed, with the locals meeting in the Forum of the Waxing Peace to handle disputes and talk about matters of import. On the rare occasion that these issues cause strong feelings, the Forum fills up and the shouting becomes deafening. By Sha’a Oka’s decree, the lionfolk maintain the peace, and others use them as arbitrators. They often serve as the voices that convince others, due to the respect the other clans hold for them.

Morovath art and culture change with the moon. As the light and architecture wax and wane, the locals change their outfits to better blend in or stand out. The same songs are sung at all times, but the performance of them changes drastically by the phase of the moon, such that a battle anthem at full moon might be a dirge as it wanes. The city has been on a war footing for centuries, and it has many smiths and weaponmakers. It also has many shrines and temples to Luna’s many aspects, which often double as armories and training grounds. Every blade, arrow and teaching of the city is marked by the blessing of Luna. The Dragon-Blooded know there’s a city out there in the jungle, but have never managed to figure out its exact location. The jungle is a big problem for their efforts to do so, as sorcerous workings turn aside their scouts, move the trees about to cut off paths or call down insect swarms. Morovath is hidden, martial and ever-changing. None of the shrine-cities are Lunar territories, as claiming them could interfere with the sacred geometries and would make Sha’a Oka very angry.

When the Dragon-Bloods hold the five shrine-cities, they may take the sacred pilgrimage that opens the Way to Feng-Yi, ensuring their child will Exalt. For the Lunars, the cities are equally important, as they are the fivefold heart of their sibling-land, though no one actually knows what would happen if a Lunar were to complete the pilgrimage with all five cities under Lunar control. The Realm has barred the Pact from Faxai since the island returned, see, and during the Shogunate, the wars kept the Pact from reliably holding all five cities. No surviving First Age elder can remember what any pilgrimages of that ancient time might have done. Faxai is a thorn in the Pact’s side, as the Realm seems to be impossible to remove from it. It is a city where all buildings must be elevated on pillars, for it is home of the Earth Shrine, where all pilgrimages must begin. With the Great Houses withdrawing to the Blessed Isle, the defense of Faxai has been left to zealots and outcastes, and yet they endure. Some Lunars have tried to take the city, but even with the defenders diminished, their might is formidable in unity. Sha’a Oka himself has not laid siege to Faxai, keeping to his own schemes.

Plant-choked Garianghis is built around the Wood Shrine, overgrown by an immense tree that has essentially eaten the shrine. It was the last city taken back by the Pact, and it is now controlled by Third Daughter of Leaves and her monstrous, chimeric turtlewolf beastmen. Dragon-Blooded pilgrims must pass through the shrine’s gate in dreams, and Lunars that sleep in the city see it as a sacred gateway of the Caul’s own dream, seeing it as it was in the first days of Creation. Luna is said to walk the dream-Caul each night, and many Lunars travel the dream in hopes of meeting them again. While reclusive and inhospitable, Third Daughter of Leaves does not forbid them, though she has no interest in the dream herself. She’s more interested in obscure rituals she thinks might be able to tap into the city’s power to imprison the Dragon-Blooded of the Caul in eternal nightmare.

Every night, Houshou burns itself to the ground. Every morning, it reappears unharmed. Few Lunars live there, though its commander, Skathra Venomchild, can endure the flames, as can a few other Lunars of extreme vitality. Most, however, live in stone structures outside the city, made by the Realm during its occupation. Some Realm refugees still live in these structures as well, and hunting them is considered a fun sport by Skathra’s students. The Pact visits Houshou the least, on average, for even those that can withstand the flames are unnerved by Skathra. The ancient order of Caulborn monks that guard the gates of the Fire Shrine are also creepy, if less so, for each has burned alive each night for years, only to return unharmed, and they have long since come to terms with both the pain of mortality. Caulborn and foreign pilgrims alike have been known to seek them out for their wisdom.

Sekima is a ruin, long since destroyed. Like Dragon-Blooded pilgrims before them, however, the Lunars that enter its ruins begin to remember a life lived in the city at its height. Unlike the memories of the Dragon-Blooded pilgrims, the Lunar memories are malleable, and they see evidence of each other’s passage in the city. The changes they make are usually small – a tea house changes ownership when a Lunar seduces away the heir, or a ceremony’s words change when a Lunar suggests new methodology. Sandswept Garda-Empress intends to use the memory of Sekima as a weapon, and she has spent more time in it than any other. The deeper her ties grow to the people of memory-Sekima, the more she lays her plans against future pilgrims. If she succeeds, the memory of Sekima will become a nightmare of aggression and unwelcoming thoughts.

Melilune is a city of reflections, its spires showing in the lake beneath. In the new moon or eclipses, Lunars may freely pass into the reflected city, though it extends no further than the city boundaries, with the streets folding on themselves to turn any visitor back in if they try to leave. They may speak with the living reflections there, left behind by pilgrims to the Water Shrine. Fia-Shaw is the commander of the city, but she spends too much time at sea, chasing the Pact’s foes, to actually hold it. Instead, she has given it to her student, the seer Vidatha Riverfisher, who has lived in the reflected city for years, learning the secrets of every Dragon-Blooded pilgrim ever to pass through.

The Caulborn know the shrine-cities as well as any, even the Silver Pact and Realm agents that held them. The Urave fishers explore the caves of Melilune, taking blind fish and pale crabs, and often tell stories of the reflections that live in the water. Caulborn that head to Sekima meet friends and lovers in its memory, with some families living both in Sekima-that-is and Sekima-remembered. Houshou is viewed warily by most, but the ashes of the city are sacred and potent, used for tattoos and medicine. Garianghis is home to the Dreaming Grove, a Caulborn cult that seeks the future and enlightenment in dreams of the city, though they have been barred from entering by Third Daughter of Leaves. The Faxai Caulfolk must be subtle to avoid Immaculate attention, but they perform quiet midnight rituals that echo into eternity.

The wilds of the Caul are immense, full of diverse plant and animal life in a myriad of environments. Along the pilgrimage road, landmarks tend to be reliable, but in the wilderness, things get difficult to navigate even at the best of times, shifting when no one is looking or leading travelers astray. No journey in the wild lands is ever truly safe, and only those that understand the ways of the Caul can reliably get where they want to go. Even then, none of the paths are really trustworthy. The Caulborn always travel with a bag of seeds, casting them ahead as they go, and sometime stopping to wait for an hour or more to consider how the seeds fell before moving on or changing their path. Travelers that don’t listen to them are often swept into sudden rivers, caught in ancient temples of deadly traps or suddenly transported a hundred miles away.

When the Caul vanished, it took not only its mortals with it, but also its spirits. Elementals have come and repopulated the place in the centuries since it returned, springing forth from the land in far greater numbers than any other place in Creation. Yu-Shan’s efforts to establish a terrestrial hierarchy of gods there has been less successful, in part due to bureaucratic infighting over the continent’s destiny and in part due to the Silver Pact ousting any Yu-Shan gods they find for fear of their reports giving the Bronze Faction actionable intelligence. Gods are by far the minority of spirits on the Caul. The Wyld’s presence is felt in sporadic bordermarches in the wilds, which raksha have come forth from and set up their courts, but if any of them are truly potent, they have kept themselves hidden. Shadowlands seem nearly impossible to open on the Caul, though some ghosts haunt the night, mostly Caulborn but with a few Realm ghosts in Faxai or along the pilgrimage road. Unbound demons wander the wilds, having slipped free and found refuge in a land that isn’t quite fully Creation. The wild and untamed gods of the island can be dangerous to unwary Dragon-Bloods, for they have no fear of the Immaculates, unlike most Threshold spirits, and thus are more likely to escalate conflicts. Lunars are usually less threatened, and the Pact has often forged deals with the rogue pantheons and feral gods against the Immaculates. Others, however, especially the Fair Folk, have no love for the Lunars, and in their territories, the land grows even more hostile and trackless.

Next time: Other dominions

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Warhammer Fantasy: Paths of the Damned Part 3: Forges of Nuln

An inconstant people

Nuln is every bit as dirty and crowded as Altdorf. The difference is that where Altdorf's filth comes from the hand of private enterprise managing the sewer system poorly, Nuln's comes from industrial pollution. Their sewer system is actually the envy of the world and their water is clean and fairly reliable. The problems come from the constant fires of the forges in the industrial districts and the haze of black smoke that settles over the city, especially in the brutal winters of Wissenland when everyone is also burning charcoal for heat. Despite all the filth in the streets and the choking smog, Nuln is held up as one of the most developed and beautiful cities in the Old World, and like most Imperial cities it doesn't have a single consistent architectural style. Being as much of an international city as Altdorf, you can find almost any sort of building somewhere in Nuln; someone will have thought it was fashionable or cool to try to copy Brionnian white spires from the fairytale province of Bretonnia, or Kislevite onion domes, or Tilean classical columns.

Half the population of Nuln is non-Imperial, or made up of immigrants to the Empire. More than anywhere else in the country, in Nuln you will find Tileans, Bretonnians, Estalians, Kislevites, Elves, Dwarfs, Halflings, even Norse and Arabyans or the occasional merchant or diplomat from even further away. Nulners are also known for their love of commerce, almost to the same degree as Marienburgers; the cost of living in Nuln is very high if you aren't adept at bargaining for better prices. The book advises doubling all costs for PCs who don't have Haggle, which is kind of a dick move given these same books never give PCs any goddamn money. Nuln's military academies are considered some of the best in the Empire, to the extent that they attract young nobles from all over the world to come and study military theory, artillery, and engineering. The secular universities are, depending on the paragraph, either forward-thinking and the best in the Empire or decaying and losing their edge because the descriptions in this book are highly inconstant.

Seriously, we'll see Nulners described as tight-fisted skinflints who will bargain you under the table here, but a few paragraphs later it will be about how they always give fair prices and are known for their even-handedness. It's one of the reasons I don't like this city write-up very much! Make up your goddamn mind about the city!

I also get a few warnings going off when I get to the bit where the old nobles of the city are described as dour and severe, and looking down on the 'soft, decadent, and effete' younger nobles who support Countess Emmanuelle and enjoy art and culture. I am always suspicious of the word decadent, unless it's being used to describe a rich chocolate cake. It's also a little odd to see the last generation of nobles described such, given that we've earlier been told that Nuln's nobility are all hedonists and you know the drill. There's a lot of internal contradiction in this book. Division has also come to the workers of the city, because the increasing industrialization of the city's economy is leading to a larger pool of skilled common laborers and the city has such a need of educated engineers that they even sponsor aid programs to get orphaned children into training for the foundries. We heard about these 'Sons (and daughters) of the Guns' in WHFRP Companion; orphan children in Nuln are put to work in the cannon foundries and supported from a common city fund, which also goes to teach some of the more promising ones to read and write and enrolls them in training as engineers while the others simply get a trade as cannon-makers.

Part of the reason the people of Nuln love the Countess (despite her being terrible, the book assures us) is that she spends a huge amount of the city's tax money on improving the city. Yes, it's at the whims of whatever she's interested in at the moment, but huge public works of art, public parks, new schools, new programs to take care of the poor (as long as they are named after her), and all manner of other niceties are built throughout Nuln, and the arts will never lack for funding. As we've seen elsewhere, Imperials love theater and public music, and having easy access to opera and performance art makes life in Nuln much more attractive, even to the poorest citizens. Nulners in general prefer much more upbeat plays and operas. The nobles like comedies and satires, and the commoners love a mixture of holy morality plays and low-bro slapstick full of sex and ridiculous misunderstandings. The people of Nuln will happily attend a ribald play full of as much lewd material as the playwrights can get away with, then immediately after go and see a solemn story about how Sigmar hates it when you do that thing they just did.

There's an odd undercurrent of disdain for Nuln's love of the arts in the writing about it, though. It's hard to describe exactly why (perhaps it has to do with already being on alert after Soft, Decadent, and Effete showed up a couple paragraphs back) but there's a sort of underlying implication this is all a waste of time and money. All more nobles wasting time on art and the Countess's parties, art they are portrayed as also being unable to appreciate; there's a fair bit about how the nobility can't tell the differences between hackery and actual art, or how no-one really cares about the excellent turn of phrase 'a wandering poet has employed in his ode to the color blue'. Nuln's love of art isn't really depicted as bringing it anything of value, unlike the guns and industry. Which is a shame to me, because one of the things I liked in the Middenheim write-up (or Erengard, or Praag) was the way they went into what people do for fun in the city and why.

Many of Nuln's unique traditions center around celebrating the guns and the foundries. They have brought a huge amount of money and fame to the city, after all, and completing a real Imperial Great Cannon can be an event. Also actually important to the adventure, since it will be taking place during the Blackpowder Week festival. To advertise their mastery of gunpowder, the Gunnery School started to set off fire-works and make displays of their work. The people loved it, and in time, it became an important tradition and a part of the city's culture. Now, everyone looks forward to buying noise-makers and colorful fireworks and making a week of displays and festivals once a year.

The Feast of Verena is also a much-looked-forward to event, instituted by Countess Emanuelle. Once a year, she allows the common people of Nuln into the palace, inviting the workers and laborers of the city to a grand public festival and feast, where she spends extravagantly on giving them a taste of the best food and drink they get all year in thanks for their efforts to keep the city working. That hardly sounds like a bad thing, and it does keep her very popular with the city's workers.

Large siege weapons are all named, and the Countess generally has the honor of naming them after people who are in her favor at the moment. Nulners anthropomorphize their guns, developing superstitions about their personalities and developing legends of guns used in particularly important military campaigns. 'Every Nulner male' (book's words) enjoys arguing about the cannons and their legends the way people argue about sports and competitions in other cities. The people of Nuln know guns, both personal scale and siege, and almost everyone in the city has an opinion on which workshop makes the best musket design or who builds a Hellblaster Volley Gun that won't eventually explode and kill its crew. The regions around the foundries will go silent when a truly great cannon is cast, because there's a persistent superstition that too much noise will warp the metal while it cools. And everyone in the city lines up to see off the Nuln Siege Trains when they leave to deliver guns (and, at considerably higher velocity, ammunition) elsewhere. The city celebrates large orders of new firearms, because it means more money for the city.

Nuln's taxation is mostly normal, but they maintain their enormous bridge across the River Reik by charging a 'leg tax'. 1 penny per leg to go across the bridge. This is likely much to the consternation of rat-catchers who have live catches, because there are no exceptions.

Nuln has an excellent military, armed with the latest firearms and staffed by well-trained officers, but this doesn't make the city Watch any better. The Watch are volunteers rather than soldiers, and are generally outmatched by the private armies of the city's nobility, which leaves them struggling to enforce order. Nuln originally had a secret police a few years ago, run by a nutty zealot named Von Halstadt, who tried to keep in power by collecting blackmail on everyone in the city like a 17th century German J. Edgar Hoover. He was murdered by Skaven, or possibly by the people saving Nuln from Skaven, during what I believe are the events of the novel Skavenslayer. The Countess's secretary, Hieronymous Ostwald, took over the office but it is unclear if he actually has any secret police any more, or if he is simply busy burning all the blackmail material Von Halstadt accumulated. Mostly he seems to use the position to recruit people to kill Skaven. In secret, of course.

Next Time: The City Itself

kommy5
Dec 6, 2016


Can we have more decadent woman rulers like that? That’s way better than most in Warhammer. And infinitely better than one who eats babies to show off that she is the one and true edgelord.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




Why does warham need edgy tyrants anyway? That is what chaos is for.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

Now prepare yourselves! You're the guests of honor at the Greatest Kung Fu Cannibal BBQ Ever!



Yeah, even though the book doesn't seem to like her Countess Emmanuelle here sounds like she's one of the nicest and most competant rulers in the empire. Patron of the arts and charity, plenty of public services, has someone paid under the table to quietly stab rat nazis in the dick... what's not to like?

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Some of it is that a general theme of Warhams Fantasy is that the nobility is an unjust institution that does a ton of harm to most of the human (and elven) nations in the setting. Some of it is so you can oppose them. The human nations are mostly free of really edgelord tyranny stuff and settle for stuff that's more on the level of 'this noble scion likes to go around and commit crimes against the lower class because he knows they can't touch him, until your adventuring party that doesn't care about consequences shows up'. Or 'this guy who already has everything he could ever want schemes to get even more by selling out the entire world to hell', which is fairly realistic.

E: It actually does stand out, for all its still got a huge disparity between the rich and the poor: Nuln probably has the most extensive public services in the Empire.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 16:55 on May 24, 2019

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Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Still, I think it's a neat twist that the ruler of the Empire's biggest industrial city is really big on the arts and public services rather than the corrupt person in bed with organized crime, the ruthless businessman, or the like you'd normally expect from such a place. I like that Nuln is portrayed as much more than just smog, factories, and oppression.

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