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Dec 23, 2013

Austria felix nube posted:

It looks like it's almost a copy of the first Dragon Age RPG (by Green Ronin) though. I mean it's too similar to be just a coincidence.

Eh. At worse it's an homage, but I wouldn't dismiss coincidence out of hand.

If "Group of diverse adventurers depicted mid-action vs monsters" isn't 50% of Fantasy RPG covers it can't be far short.


Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2 - Pirate Nations: I Am Skipping The How To Speak Pirate Section. It Exists.

So, Sea Monsters. There's plenty of them out there, and they're plenty dangerous. On the lower end we have Giant Clams, which...well, they're big. Bigger than a human child, anyway, and more than capable of clamping down on your arm and holding you underwater until you die. Numanari kids who dive for clams often make a bit of a game playing with them, until someone gets caught and dies, and the games end for a while. Giant Clams are STrength 5 and have Chitinous and Suffocating. They do not have Aquatic primarily because they are essentially stationary critters whose prmary danger comes from people not respecting their immense strength.

Giant Crustaceans are crabs, lobsters or shrimp the size of a human. They aren't that dangerous, as sea monsters go, especially if you can get on their backs, but they're around the Sea of Monsters and do have nasty claws. They are Strength 7, Chitinous and Destructive. While they can go on land and they can swim, they simply aren't terrifying enough to be Aquatic.

Predatory Fish covers giant barracuda, puranha, pike and gar. They're considerably nastier than you'd think - they thirst for blood, and are as large as a grown man. They tend to travel in packs, too. They're STrength 8, Aquatic, Swift...and if exposed to blood, they become Relentless as long as their victim is in the water. A school of smaller ones can instead be treated as one or more Assassin Brute Squads, with the ability to spend Danger Points to bring in additional squads if exposed to blood. Do not bleed near giant monster fish.

Whales are nasty. See, you'd think that whales would just be...whales, but they come in all shapes and sizes. You run into a cow that's defending her calf, well, that's going to tear you apart. Older whales can be cunning, too, and killer whales are vicious. Whalers run into all kinds of them...but your average whale is Strength 12, Aquatic and Powerful. The Great White Whale of the Atabean is somethinbg more, however. It's a cruel creature that is smart enough to remember ships that come for us and strong enough to attack ships directly from below. It generally doesn't eat people after destroying their ships, though - it likes to make its point and then leave, and is known to hunt whalers for a long period. It is a legendary beast, Strength 15, with Aquatic, Colossal, Powerful and Slippery. Ordinary whales can be dangerous if you're not prepared, but the Great White Whale can hunt down and take out even the most hardened crew.

Sea Serpents are fairly common in the Atabean. They come in two broad varieties, and the Rahuri prefer not to hunt them if they can - no real meat, no blubber, soft bones. Only their teeth and their poison have value, and that not enough to merit a hunt specifically, most of the time. Your smaller type of sea serpent is called a Sea Snake, ranging in size from that of a boa constrictor to larger than a man, and ranging in Strength from 5 to 10. They are Venomous, Aquatic and Slippery. The larger kind are called Sea Dragons and can take on an entire ship. They are Strength 18, Aquatic, Colossal, Silppery, and Suffocating due to their poisonous breath.

Makara are a fairly unique kind of sea creature. They're not overly large by sea monster standards, but quite clever. The most common have the appearance of a sheep or goat from the front, with horns and a trunk-like nose that grab things. They have the rear of a fish or a snake. They breathe air, but can hold their breath for a very long time, and are able to drag themselves up out of the water onto land with their hooved forelegs. They prefer rough seas and deep water, so most never see them. They are Strength 6, Destructive, Slippery and often found in groups of 3 to 8 - though they aren't Squads. Each is an individual monster. But hey, their teeth are very pretty.

Mabuya are horrific creatures, rotting ghosts that lurk under the water to grab the living and drag them down. They can be mistaken for ancestral spirits in the dark, but they are given away if you can see their feet, which are backwards. This ensures they can never go home. Some say the mabuya are demons, while others say they are the final stage of the Lost. There is no reasoning with them, however, and they serve as a reminder to the Rahuri of the dangers of violating tribal honor. A single Mabuya usually has Strength 5 to 7, and is Aquatic, Horrifying, Regenerating and Suffocating.

Side note: Why are there so many dang monsters? William Jameson of the Explorers, who claims to have visited the most Syrne ruins in the Atabean, claims that the gods of the New World are descendants of or servitors of the Syrneth (he's not sure which), and that the sea monsters were a combination food source and defense system for them. They were bred in the Atabean to feed the New World gods, whom Jameson claims had some apocalyptic power to defend the New World from Sidhe invasion. Most other Explorers think he's a crackpot whose theory is all down to a bad experience with the Sidhe in his native Inismore. Whatever the case, Jameson refuses to return to the Glamour Islands and is obsessed with finding a Syrneth ruin he calls the Focus.

Giant Squid are a must. They are themselves quite large, as you well known. Strength 12, Aquatic, Destructive, Powerful, and Tentacled, with 10 Tentacles. The Kraken - there may be just one, but some say there are more - is more than that. Kraken don't attack ships from hunger, but out of hate for sailors and territoriality. They're immense squid-beasts, pink and white and blotchy red, and there are thankfully not many of them, if there's even more than the one. A Kraken is Strength 20, Aquatic, Colossal, Destructive, Powerful and Tentacled. It has many, many Tentacles, and each is Strength 10 and can survive 2 Dramatic Wounds due to their sheer size.

Mama Tortue is out there, though she's extremely unlikely to attack you. She tends to look like an island when you're at a distance, but as you get close, you realize she's moving. She's a gigantic turtle with plants on her back, and she's as smart as anyone, with deep, green eyes. If for some reason you want to fight her, she is Strength 20, Aquatic, Colossal, Teleporting and Elemental (Sea). Don't do that!

Tiburon is real, too. Pretty much all monsters serve him, if you believe the Rahuri legends, except for the Maw That Consumes, the Wu'a. He's out there and he's not near as nice as Mama Tortue. He is Strength 20, Aquatic, Colossal, Horrifying, Powerful, Relentless and Slippery. He also has Shapeshifting, though any form he takes has many rows of vicious teeth.

The Wu'a, the Great Whirlpool, is said to be like a giant anglerfish, but so large that it can't just lure creatures in. Instead, it comes up to the surface, dangling its lights over the water and opening its mouth to create a whirlpool so big it can suck down an entire ship into its maw. Wu'a is Strength 20, and has Aquatic, Colossal, Horrifying and Suffocating. It is one of the most dangerous creatures in existence.

New Monster Qualities
Colossal: It's ufcking huge. It can take 8 Dramatic Wounds before it is Helpless.
Destructive: The GM may spend a Danger Point to have the Monster destroy an item or non-vital body part on a PC automatically.
Slippery: The GM may spend a Danger Point to have the monster automatically escape the scene at any point. This can be used only once per session.
Suffocating: The monster can somehow choke you or drag you under. The GM can spend a Danger Point to pick one PC and deal double damage to them for the rest of the round.

We then get a chapter that is basically just advice for how to run games set on ships, and how to do sailing travel in interesting ways that don't just boil down to pointless and boring dice rolls. It's pretty well-written and good advice, but not really easy for me to summarize. It also gives suggestions on what maritime campaigns might focus on and useful things to watch or read to learn more about ships.

The End!

Next up, pick:
Heroes & Villains
Nations of Theah, Vol. 1
Nations of Theah, Vol. 2
The Crescent Empire
The New World
Lands of Gold & Fire

Jul 15, 2017

Since we've got Pirate Nations out of the way, I think we can take a proper look at Lands of Gold & Fire.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - John Wick Is Not A Writer For This Book

Well, besides a paragraph or so on the dedication. This book was largely in the hands of Jonaya Kemper, whose other works mostly involve Nordic Larp, from what I can see, but has done stuff for #feminism (a nano-game anthology) and Undying (a LARP). She seems cool and big on intersectionality. So that's fun. The book focuses on the five great Kingdoms of Ifri, which the griots say were gifted great power by spirits known as the Jok, long ago, by giving them mystical thrones. However, Ifri now faces a terrible, terrible darkness. The Bonsam, a timeless force of evil imprisoned by the Jok, are escaping their cage to twist and corrupt Ifri. Ancient protections fail, and the Bonsam twist the people towards darkness. Ignorant Theans may paint Ifri as a land of heathens and savages, all alike, a place of jungle and desert. They are wrong - Ifri is a diverse land, its people as various and different as anything.

The lands we will cover here:
Aksum, the land of peace, whose people follow the Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church oF Theus, a religion as old as the Vaticine itself. Its people are renowned for their wisdom, and while Theans may differ in perspective, they can find no fault in the priests' ecumenical knowledge.
Khemet, the land of night, which has fallen into a dark malaise. It is a learned and ancient kingdom, but it turns now from the light, and threatens to bring the continent with it.
Maghreb, the land of the desert, which is mysterious and wealthy, ruled over by the Blue Queen. It has many foes, but she fights them all.
Manden Kurufaba, the crown of Ifri, which believes itself the center of the world because of its great wealth.
Mbey, the land of culture...and of death. Once, it was an example of what could happen when many different people came together, but now, it is the heart of Bonsam corruption.

Ifri is a land of ancient secrets, great empires, mysterious artifacts and epic conflict - both supernatural and political. The Kingdoms are full of conspiracy and deceit, and heroes that can strike for truth and justice are deeply needed.

Now, some basic Thean misconceptions. Many Theans think Ifri is a country; it is not. It is a continent. Indeed, it's big enough to contain the entire landmass of the New World plus the entire landmass of Theah. The continent has every known type of biome, and you could spend a lifetime traveling it and not be done. Ifri isn't even the agreed-on name of the continent, just the most commonly used one. Maghreb knows it as Ifriqiya, Mandenkaw as Ifran. Ifri's nations are all diverse and tend to have numerous tribal groups within them.

Ifri is not technologically or culturally inferior to Theah. Its cultures and customs are different, but they are not backwards or naive or stupid. While an Ifrian may prefer a low stool or the floor to a chair, or may eat from a communal plate with their hands, that doesn't make them primitive. Just different. The Ifrians are also not just dark-skinned analogues to Theans, and often have very different ambitions and goals. Technology is different, but not worse. Cities often share the same challenges and features, but are arranged on different political lines, with different goals. They are, however, no less developed or less able to support their people. Different is not inferior.

Most Ifrians have the luxury of knowing, with terrible certainty, that their gods exist. For most Ifrians, a Thean is more mythical than the Jok or the Ori, and often more alien. An Ifrian can see the spirits' work just by going outside. Life after death exists - the Ifrians know this because several have communed with their ancestors. The workings of the Jok and the Bonsam are part of everyday life, and blasphemy or disrespect can be deadly. In Ifri, there isn't superstition - just wise caution. Likewise, many Ifrians see no conflict in there being multiple faiths. All have the same weight for most Ifrians, who can believe in the al-Din faith, the Ori, the Jok and Ashe at once. There is no contradiction in believing in al-Musawwir side-by-side with Olodumare, King of Heaven and creator of the Ori and the world. Possibly they are the same being, but if not, best to hedge your bets. There is no competition between gods. While the Vaticine has spread to some degree due to the work of missionaries, it's likely to just become another member of the great tapestry of Ifrian faiths.

The Bonsam are a force so evil, so terrible, that they can rightly be called the Devil, ruling over the weak king of Mbey and his once great kingdom. The Bonsam seek to steal the pride, culture and strength of Ifri and replace it with death and suffering. Their servants are the abonsam, who sow distrust and corruption like a disease and come in many forms. The Bonsam are resisted by the Jok, who seek and assist those with great destinies. The Jok never act overtly, but nudge things from behind the scenes to bring benevolent change and inspire. The Jok might be something similar to the Sidhe, but probably are not the remnants of the Syrneth. Some say they are spirits given power by Theus, but whatever they are, they encourage the best in humanity, guiding them to greatness. However, their power alone is not enough to stop the Bonsam. They can only be guides and helpers - it is the heroes themselves that must awaken Ifri from the darkness and bring the kingdoms together against evil.

The ATC is another of the plagues on Ifri - they've done more in a single decade than the Bonsam have in a century. They spread fear and mistrust, and the Bonsam fully support the ATC in their actions as a perfect vector for the spread of corruption. Slavery has not been invented by the ATC in Ifri - they've just brought it to new lows. Most common Ifrian slavery has, historically, been of captured or defeated enemies and civilians in war, forced to work for a time as bonded slaves. Others become slaves to pay off debts or atone for crimes. Once a set period passes, the bonded slave is then freed, or when their contract ends. A bonded slave in Ifri usually enjoys all the rights given a citizen of their nation and is not mere property. They can seek reparation for wrongs done to them and can rise to high status when their service ends. This is the most common form of Ifrian slavery. This isn't to say this form of slavery is good - it's not. But it's not nearly as bad as some kinds.

However, there is also chattel slavery. These slaves are mere property, to be used as you like. Chattel slaves have no hope for freedom, and their status is inherited by their children. Chattel slaves are treated as subhuman commodities, broken and discarded when no longer useful. They have no rights, no way to ease their suffering and exist only to serve. Mbey and the ATC practice chattel slavery; no other place in Ifri does.

Next time: History and geography

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The Great Rivers

One of the common creation myths of Ifri speaks of Olodumare, also called the Oba-Orun, the King of Heaven, who lived in the sky above Omi, a world of endless water. One day, he felt the urge to make the earth, and for this task he reached into his heart and pulled forth the spirit Aniyikaye. Olodumare commanded Aniyikaye to do the work, giving him the materials he would need - a bag of primordial Ashe, an Iworo'Won (or gold chain) and a five-toed hen. Aniyikaye climbed down the chain for days until he could see the water, opening the bag and sprinkling some Ashe onto it, making it roil and steam and push forth a pile of rich, black earth. Then, he loosed the hen on the land, instructing her to grab the loose earth and scatter it across Omi.

Satisfied, Aniyikaye climbed back up to Heaven. Next, Olodumare sent his trusted pet, the chameleon, to inspect the work. After days of inspection, the chameleon reported that all was good, and Olodumare named this land Ajaka-Katunga, the sacred house. He decided then to retire to a higher heaven, but before he did, he distributed the holy Ashe among other Ori he had made. The Ori set out to build other elemental forces and build on Aniyikaye's work. Once this was done, Olodumare called the Ori back to heaven and gave Ashe to Aniyikaye to make humanity with. From this primordial creation, all are descended from the most potent of the Ori - Olodumare, King of the Sky.

Ifri's most important geographic feature is its rivers. Myths speak of the Jok cutting the four Great Rivers as they sought passage to the world beyond, and these rivers are what bring life to the people of Ifri. The Iteru River is said to have been made when the Ennead flooded Khemet, carving a huge gorge. The waters rushed in after it, flowing south until they had to turn back due to the power of the mountains of Iu-Neserer. The Khemeti say the Iteru's current still flowers north just because those waters are still flowing back to the sea all these centuries later. Khemet depends on the Iteru to survive, but also suffers for it. Seasonal flooding dislodges families from their homes, destroys crops and unburies the dead, and it is also often used by river bandits. It also sometimes turns red as blood and boils for no clear reason. This is believed to be due to some fleeting curse from the underworld source of the ancient river.

Travelers are often awed by the Iteru's great bay, the Timsah al-Iter. It is full of crocodiles that feed on the unwary, most notably an ancient crocodile called Sobki by the locals. Sobki is both worshipped and feared, as she is the most ancient and possibly the largest of all beasts in Ifri. She lived in the Timsah for centuries, and many of its crocodiles are her descendants. Deep in her back is a spearhead made of Orun Irin, the sky metal. The shaft of the spear has long since rotted, and her scales have started to grow over the spearhead itself. Some griot claim the spear is a potent artifact, but none have ever been able to retrieve it. Sobki's scales are greatly valued by alchemists and sorcerers. Iteru's banks are also home to Apis, a mighty warrior who was once a mercenary for the Crescent Empire. He retired to Iteru and is known to be very strong and very generous, building many temples and shrines - most of which get destroyed in the seasonal floods.

The Kwara River is the widest of the Great Rivers, winding west through the Manden Empire. It is so wide that one cannot see its far bank, and is home to many spirits, monsters and river goddesses. Many of these are quite dangerous, such as the Great River Serpents called the Mkole-Mbembe or the elephant-slaying Emela Ntouka. Great mists known as umphefumlo sometimes rise from the river, obscuring sight, and are occasionally believed to be caused by the river goddesses. People often pray to them for safe travel or good harvests or fishing. However, the mists also can hide dangers like hippopotami, crocodiles or other terrible beasts. The goddesses are said to drink in the waters of all other rivers in the world to feed the Kwara.

Somewhere along the Kwara you can find the Pool of Twins, though it is always covered in mist. It is home to the Twins, a pair of spirits that are generally friendly but mischevious. One is believed to be male, the other female, and one lives below the water and the other above. Often, only one Twin will appear to you, giving a task such as stealing water from a Mokele-Mbembe or a precious stone from a royal treasury. Failure to complete this task often makes travel on the Kwara quite difficult. The Kwara's most famous human inhabitant is Aminata, a Mandenka woman of virtue that travels between villages, interceding in spiritual disputes. She doesn't like to travel on the north side of the river, however. She has a long scar on her neck, and if asked about it, all she says is 'Mbey.'

The Berbera River flows through the Aksum Kingdom, and is broad and deep enough for sailing - like most of the Great Rivers. However, its many tributaries are known for frequent sandbars, some of which extend in the Berbera proper. Thus, few sailors brave the rivor without an Aksumite guide. In some places, it also flows into deep gorges, which tend to have minor gold veins. The river also feeds the fertile croplands of Aksum. The Serpent Canyons are the worst of these forges. In most places, the Berbera is deep and slow, but in the mountains where the Serpent Canyons are found, it becomes fast and deadly, splitting into many passages, some underground. There are safe ship routes through the area, but it takes great skill and knowledge to navigate them. The Hattua Laga river pirates prey on ships in the area and plunder the many wrecks, traveling even as far as Khemet. They sometimes disguise themselves as merchants, and their leader Abbebe is a threat to all travelers on the river.

The Joliba River heads south, to the relatively uncharted wilds of southern Ifri. It passes through many jungles and impressive waterfalls before spreading into a massive wetland fed by many tributaries. The marshes, bogs and backwaters are often impossible for outsiders to navigate, and the river grasses and small hills stretch above the river, making even the landscape fluctuate with the tides. Several times in the year, parts of the Joliba turn black and smell foul. The people that live nearby call this the Vomit of Bonsam, but it typically goes away after reaching the waterfalls, even if the scent can carry for miles. The jungle marshes between Aksum and Manden are nearly impassible, despite the Joliba's flow. These swampy lands, called Dambo, seem to be shrinking, however. Abonsam often emerge from the swampy jungles in increasing numbers, raiding nearby settlements. A figure known as the Ranivorus haunts the area. They always wear a wooden and ivory mask of great size, and some believe they are an abonsam who fled its master. The locals refuse to refer to it as anything but Mankholi-kholi - the name Ranivorus came from Thean explorers, though no one is sure exactly who coined it. Whatever they are, they actively attempt to prevent ships from traversing the Joliba from the river of the Mokele-Mbembe, and they will enlist others to help enforce that.

The Tamanrasset are a bunch of underground rivers beneath northern Ifri, also called the Ghost Rivers. They are frequently populated by bandits, abonsam, ancestral spirits and monsters. The greatest of these is the Lulungwa Mangakatsi, which is said to travel the entire length of Ifri, carrying the land's soul. The Jok once patrolled the waters, carving the floors and ceilings with strange forms and teaching early humans to decorate the entrances with tile and sacred sites. Legends told by the griot claim the Timbavati river once flowed in the sky, full of starlight, then plunged under the surface to the underworld, to bring light to the ancestors. However, when the Ennead draw the waters of the world over Ifri, the Timbavati dimmed and vanished from the sky. Now, the ancestors crave light. Ancient maps in the libraries of Manden also show a river flowing from Khemet's heart which no longer exists. Many scholars believe this is an error, perhaps a mis-drawing of the Iteru, but in truth it maps the course of one of the Tamanrasset, under the Great Pyramids, which serves as a route (full of traps and tests) to the ancient home of the Ennead.

The nomadic people that travel and live along the rivers are known as the Nommo, the river people. They sail barges and canoes up and down the rivers with expert skill, often lashing several barges together into a kind of boat-town that floats on the waters and barely moves faster than a walking pace. These settlements are used to trade with villages they pass, bringing items from far-off lands and receiving goods the rivers cannot provide. It is said that most Nommo live out their lives having never touched dry land. The Mandenkaw claim the Nommo are born from water spirits in the depths of the Kwara, while the Aksumites see them as heaven thieves tolerated only for their trade. The Khemeti claim a Nommo is cursed never to touch dry land, and that if one does, all the sacred rivers will flee and the underworld will rise. When dealing with outsiders, the Nommo typically wear face-concealing wooden masks, wide-brimmed hats or simple veils, and they frequently adopt outcasts and criminals found along the rivers.

All of the Great Rivers originate from the same source: Iu-Neserer, the Island of Flame, home of the Jok. It is a mythic land, and to reach it requires heavy rowing and pulling upriver. The fog becomes so thick that you can see barely ten yards from the bank, and some say you cross into a dream-like world. The waters around the isle are known as Mokele-Mbembe after the great serpent (or serpents) that swims in them. A thick sulfur mist covers the water at all times, hiding reefs and logs. Periodically, the waters erupt into columns of fire fed by underwater gas deposits, and the flames are hot enough to burn anything, boil the waters and make it hard to even breathe. The waters are said to be born of the first Jok, or perhaps an Ori that came east and became too big even for the Kwara. The Mkole-Mbembe is practically an inland sea, always whirling and making deadly hazards. Only the Nommo know how to navigate its waters, and they guard that secret as a sacred promise to the Jok. Many of the peaks that rise from the water give off fumes and vapors that surround them in acrid clouds, and the rapids prevent boats from reaching the island itself. The griots say that a boat containing one of the sacred Sika'Dwa can cross the water and dock at the Island of Flame, whose docks are visible if the mists lift. Some say it takes not just a Sika'Dwa but also the stool's rightful ruler to make the journey.

Next time: The mountains and monsters of Ifri.

Nov 13, 2003

easygoing pedant
Genesys - Chapter 1: Core Mechanics

My first F&F write-up. Been here since 2003 and ain’t contributed poo poo, so gently caress it, let’s do this.

Fantasy Flight Games’s Genesys is the genericized game built around the Narrative Dice System, the trademarked term for the core mechanic of the Star Wars trio of games (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny). Did you like paying for the game thrice? Well, it’s not over yet! Let’s keep paying!

The book advertises itself as One Book. Unlimited Adventures. I mean, that’s true of almost any role playing game, right? “[W]here every roll of the dice lets you tell a story!” I mean, I guess that’s true. The dice mechanic is pretty cool, if you like paying for a whole new table’s worth of dice.


Classic section headings like
  • What is a Roleplaying Game, Anyway?
  • I’m the Game Master! What Do I Do?
  • I’m a Player! What Do I do?
Capitalization was retained. The GM gets an extra capital D because they’re the big dick.

“Playing Genesys requires very few materials.” All you need is this $40 book and a bucket of our proprietary dice! They also point out there’s an app. (I’ve used the app. It’s my favorite dice app. Rolling by shaking your phone and getting a little dice rolling noise and watching the dice bounce around on the ‘table’ before the computer just does all the math-cancellation for you is pretty nice.)

Part 1: The Rules

In this section, the following chapters…
  • Chapter 1: Core Mechanics
  • Chapter 2: Creating Characters
  • Chapter 3: Skills
  • Chapter 4: Talents
  • Chapter 5: Equipment
  • Chapter 6: Combat Encounters
  • Chapter 7: Social Encounters
  • Chapter 8: The Game Master
Then we get a half page about “Narrative Play”, and how it works. Again, old hat to narrative grognards who’ve played Fate and Apocalypse World and Nobilis, but if this is new to you, it’s helpful, I guess?


"Our game focuses on your characters and the heroic actions they take rather than on measurements, statistics, or other minutiae. Instead of taking a ruler and measuring the distance between characters on a map, you simply need to state, “I’m ducking behind the helicopter to get some cover while I pull out my pistol.”

While I’m always grateful to see stuff like this in a book, I’m very curious to know who is playing Genesys who has never played a narrative game. Either you’re coming at Genesys because (a) you like Star Wars and want to play Fallout, or (b) you’ve heard good things about FFG’s Star Wars games but aren’t really in to Star Wars.

Chapter 1: Core Mechanics

As I said, Genesys uses the Narrative Dice System. It’s the same system FFG used in Star Wars, but they changed the symbols to ones owned by FFG because Fantasy Flight likes making lots of money they want to use symbols not owned by Disney.

You roll a bunch of dice. You cancel a bunch of symbols out. You interpret the results. Roll, rinse, repeat. A classic example of a ‘core mechanic’, it’s used for pretty much everything.

You grab a fistful of dice. There are six kinds, color coded for your convenience.
  • You’ve got Boost Dice, which are sky blue six-siders. They represent good situations. Optimal circumstances. Aid from friends.
  • You’ve got Ability Dice, green eight-siders. They represent your natural ability and trained aptitude.
  • You’ve got Proficiency Dice, yellow twelve-siders. You get them when you’re both naturally talented and well-trained.
  • You’ve got Setback Dice, which are black six-siders. They represent bad situations and hindrances. They’re the opposite of Boost Dice.
  • You’ve got Difficulty Dice, purple eight-siders. They represent the natural difficulty of a task. They’re the opposite of Ability Dice.
  • You’ve got Challenge Dice, dark red twelve-siders. They represent “the most extreme adversity and opposition”. They’re the opposite of Proficiency Dice.
There’s a table with the dice/symbol breakdown, if you like calculating probabilities. The table also lets you roll regular polyhedrals and convert them in to special symbols, but then you have to first figure out why you hate yourself.

So picking a lovely lock in the middle of the night on the side of a moving helicopter in a hailstorm isn’t any more difficult than doing so in your practice room. But you’re rolling with a boatload of Setback dice. Because of undue circumstances.

The dice have special symbols on them. The symbols are:

What do these symbols mean, you ask? From left to right:
  • Advantage, the “up arrow” (even though you don’t really have “up” on dice). It’s an “opportunity for a positive consequence or side effect, regardless of whether your character fails or succeeds at the task they attempt”. (Emphasis mine.)
  • Success, the ninja star. You count these up.
  • Triumph, the ninja star in a circle. These are your critical hits. They only exist on Proficiency Dice. They do awesome poo poo and also count as Successes.
  • Despair, the X in a chakram. These are your critical misses. They only exist on Challenge Dice. They will gently caress your poo poo up and also count as Failures.
  • Failure, the X. You count these up.
  • Threat, the… what the gently caress is that? A circle with three blades coming out?
You count up your Successes, and you subtract your Failures, and if you still have one success, boom, you did what ever you said you wanted to do.

You count up your Advantages, and you subtract your Threats. More Advantage than Threat? Extra icing on cake. More Threat than Advantage? Unintended bad poo poo.

A description of a roll I once read was: A player tries to shoot the BBEG, rolls a Failure with Advantage. The GM interprets this as the player missing because the BBEG tripped. So, you failed in what you wanted to do (shoot the villain), but gained some particular advantage (BBEG is now prone).

Triumphs and Despairs, of note, don’t cancel out. You can get both. Wildly crazy and divergent outcomes are possible.

I’m going to fanboy for a moment (feel free to skip to the end of the paragraph). That bolded poo poo referenced under ‘Advantage’ is dope. It’s the entirety of the reason to play Genesys. Truly independent two-axis task resolution. The rest of the game is pretty bog standard mid-crunch generic role playing system, but having such wild interpretations of rolls is awesome. The core mechanic is pretty different from anything I’ve seen. The rest is… basic point buy goodness.

Lights, Camera, Action! So the player says what they want to do. The GM mentally builds up a pool of negative dice, and tells the player what it is, and the player builds their pool of positive dice and rolls the giant pool of positive and negative dice together.

The Basic Dice Pool / Characteristic Ratings. So the book now dives in to how to build the dice pool. Basically, any action has an associated Skill, each of which has an associated Characteristic. Skills are rated from 0 to 5, and Characteristics are rated from 1 to 5. So you grab a number of Ability Dice equal to the greater of your Characteristic or Skill, and then ‘upgrade’ a number of dice equal to the lesser value into Proficiency Dice.

So if you have a Brawn of 5 and a Melee Fight of 0, when fighting you’d roll 5 Ability Dice. If you have a Brawn of 5 and a Melee Fight of 2, you’d roll 3 Ability Dice and 2 Proficiency Dice. If you have a Melee Fight of 4 and a Brawn of 2, you’d roll 2 each of Ability and Proficiency Dice.

There’s a sidebar telling us that a player can have a Brawn of 5. A dragon also has a Brawn of 5. It only goes up to 5. And that’s mostly because easy math and buckets of dice, but also there are other things that make dragons dragon-y.

The six Characteristics are:
  • Agility
  • Brawn
  • Cunning
  • Intellect
  • Presence
  • Willpower
This makes for a nice breakdown: Physical, Mental, Social/Spiritual, with a “brute strength” value and a “artfully applied” value.

Difficulty. Then the GM adds Difficulty Dice. Tasks are:
  • Simple (0 Purple Dice). Usually you don’t even roll, but when you do, note you still need 1 Success.
  • Easy (1 Purple Die).
  • Average (2 PD).
  • Hard (3 PD).
  • Daunting (4 PD).
  • Formidable (5 PD). I’m mildly chafed that Formidable comes after Daunting, but whatever.
  • Impossible. A sidebar notes that something Impossible can still be allowed by the GM if it’s merely ‘extremely improbable’. Doing so requires a Story Point (not yet described) to even attempt and then it becomes a Formidable Task.
There’s a table with examples.

Building a Basic Dice Pool. There’s four pages full of examples on checks and how the dice pools are built. Clarification on when you increase the number of dice versus “upgrading” dice versus adding new dice. (Upgrading means turning an eight-sider into a twelve-sider of the appropriate goodness, or if there are no eight-siders then adding an eight-sider.)

Interpreting the Pool. Some advice on how to interpret Advantages and Threat, though mostly it punts to later chapters. You can ‘spend’ Advantage to activate cool abilities (not described). Your GM can spend Threat to activate cool gently caress-yous (not described).

Triumph and Despair. A page highlighting that these are special (not really) things that come up that offer “an unexpected boon or significantly beneficial effect” / “significant complications or dire effects” related to your roll. Some weapons and equipment trigger off of Triumph (not described). A note that while a roll may be a Despair, and a Despair counts as a Failure, you can still Succeed with Despair. Essentially, you were so successful something bad happened.

Other Types of Checks. These include:
  • Opposed Checks. When directly opposed by an NPC, instead of an arbitrary GM-defined difficulty, the NPC’s Ability (green) and Proficiency (yellow) dice become the PC’s Difficulty (purple) and Challenge (dark red) dice.
  • Competitive Checks. When two characters (PC or NPC) are competing, each make a roll as normal. Success is no longer binary - you count the number of Successes, and whoever was “most” successful wins the competition. Ties broken by Triumphs then Advantage.
  • Assistance: If the helper is Skilled, a person builds the pool with the better of the Characteristics and Skill. (So Allison Brainypants has an Intellect of 5 and no Hacking, and Edmund Neckbeard has a Hacking of 5 but an Intellect of 2, when they work together they would roll a 5 Intellect and a 5 Hacking, or 5 Proficiency Dice.) If the helper is Unskilled (neither their Characteristic nor Skill is higher than the person they’re helping), then the GM may allow a Boost die (sky blue) to the person getting the help.

Other Key Elements. Apparently there are Talents and they can help the roll. You’ll find out more later!

There are also Story Points. Narrative Meta Currency representing “destiny, fate, or whatever you like to call it”! These are taken from the Force Points of the original Star Wars system, as I understand it. There’s a Player Pool and a Game Master Pool. At the start of a session, there’s one for each player in the Player Pool and one for each Game Master in the Game Master Pool.

When somebody spends a Story Point, you move it from their Pool to the other Pool. You can use Story Points to do things like:
  • Upgrade a Die (turning an Ability (green) die into a Proficiency (yellow) die). Or the GM can upgrade a Difficulty (purple) die into a Challenge (red) die.
  • Some special abilities and Talents apparently use Story Points to activate.
  • Luck and Deus Ex Machina. Classic Fate point expenditure - “Oh, hey, there’s a gas mask in this broom closet!”
There’s a note that a “healthy Story Point economy” is important to the game - people should spend their points freely. Also, a player may only spend one Story Point on any given roll.

Experience and Development. There’s a quick note about how you spend experience. Character should get about 20 XP per session. You can spend it to:
  • Improve Characteristics. During character creation only, you can buy up your raw Characteristics. It costs 10 XP times the next-highest value (so it costs 50 XP to increase an Agility from 4 to 5).
  • Skill Training. Skills can be increased for a cost of 5 XP times the value it will be. Non-career talents (?) cost 5 XP more.
  • Talents. Talents cost 5 XP per Tier. More apparently explained later.

Derived Attributes. There are four. They all seem combat oriented.
  • Wound Threshold. How many Wounds you can take before things get bad.
  • Strain Threshold. How much Strain you can take before things get bad. Strain is mental / emotional / psychic stress.
  • Defense. How hard you are to hit. Can be different for Ranged and Melee.
  • Soak Value. Armor that reduced incoming damage.

And that’s the end of Chapter 1.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Giant rear end in a top hat Baboons

The mountains that surround the Mokele-Mbembe are full of baboons. They are called, collectively, the Guardians of Babi, and the forests in those mountains have never been disturbed by the Ifrian peoples because everyone is terrified of the baboons. Some consider them to be mere animals, but others know that these gold-and-crimson beasts guard the shores of the Island of Fire and attack those who do not belong. Deep in the mountains is Babi himself, a gigantic baboon king who is commanded by the Jok and takes counsel from the Wiseones. There is an enormous statue of Babi that marks where his lands begin, standing over a hundred feet tall and carved from basalt. It stares endlessly towards the waters.

The Fire Island's caldera hides the last great city of the Jok, Khemenu, the City of Eight. Its walls are the color of polished ivory, and its strange geometry makes it resemble solid cloud. It is a beautiful if disturbing city, made for giants rather than any human. The doors are too big, the stairs hard to climb, the passages end abruptly, the bridges connect balconies too narrow to support them. Each wall is covered in pictographs, runes and images, sometimes inlaid with jewels, gold or Orun Irin. You can see the history of the world in the walls, written in story...if you only knew how to read it in the right order. Only a few Jok yet remain in Khemenu and know its full story, and the city structure makes it nearly impossible to read in any coherent sense.

Above the city is a massive sun disc made from Orun Irin, steel, gold and silver. Sunlight reflects off it, shining through the walls and casting shadows on the streets, which reveals even more stories, many of them prophetic. At night, the disc shines still, through gouts of fire into the sky. The city is far larger than its inhabitants need, and most empty homes seem only recently vacated, each of them able to hold many humans indeed. Occupied buildings are marked by Orun Irin braziers that never extinguish, despite the water that surrounds them, unless they are taken off the island. The Jok are apparently able to read the smoke from the braziers to tell how many Jok remain in the city and where they are. The city has many libraries, often vistied by Wiseones to return Orun Irin or to find information. The Jok, though their numbers are much diminished, remain formidable and beautiful to behold. Their leader is an old Jok woman whose name is so potent that it cannot be spoken or even written, or else a tragedy will occur. She Who Must Not Be Named often wanders the city streets wearing her Orun Irin ceremonial mask.

The most common monster of Ifri is the abonsam, the Bonsam's answer to the Jok's Wiseones. They are servants of the Bonsam in all kind of forms, from spirits to giant monsters to human witches. Abonsam seek nothing but to please their masters, and so they work to gain power and destroy the Jok and their servants. Wiseones name five orders of abonsam: Voice, Monster, Trader, Witch and Thrall. Each has a purpose. Not all abonsam are of these orders, however - those that come from the Stones of Bonsam and rule over Mbey often defy categorization.

Voices are the most insidious abonsam, who whisper in the ears of people and tell them lies and nightmares. The smarter ones mix in the truth sometimes, to gain trust, before they go for a big lie. They corrupt, bring mistrust and recruit new Witches. It is very hard for most people to drive off Voices, once their victim is chosen. The power of a Voice is all in deception and their immaterial form, which lets them move and spy easily. They can also broker trades for power.

Monsters are fairly simple. They're mortals or animals warped and tortured by magic until they know only hate and rage, and they exist to destroy and spread terror. No two are alike, but they all embody the very worst of Ifri. This includes a deformed child full of pestilent scarabs, a pack of skinned wolves connected by their intestines, or giant goats whose breath makes land and animals barren. Other types of abonsam often create Monsters by their actions.

Traders are those abonsam that channel the Bonsam's power into new servants. They answer the call for vengeance and fury, offering the power to make it right. They listen to the dreams of avarice and offer a new path. They give power to the weak, the might to change things, but their price is always far too high. They never give more than they get, and the wishes they grant are always twisted horribly. Traders usually appear human, but can change their form as they please. They have a limited ability of telepathy that allows them to know what shape their victim would find comforting. However, no matter what, a Trader has one monstrous physical trait they cannot change, and must be careful to hide. Many Witches began as those who made a pact with a Trader.

Witches come in two types - living and dead. If you kill a Witch without proper ritual, they return as an undead Witch, far more dangerous. Witches are the Bonsam's elites, the most obvious show of their power. They wield dark magic, commanding groups of Thralls. Traders corrupt and bargain, Monsters destroy, Voices lie and manipulate - but the Witch infiltrates and directs people. They walk among humans, learn their weaknesses and abuse them. Witches are potent enough while alive, but in death, their magic only grows stronger. Either type tends to form cults to serve them, and most were once Thralls, though some are recruited directly for their talent and their malice. A Witch, male or female, can also give birth to Monsters by mating with the Bonsam directly, but this is rare, as it is very draining. Witches are the most intelligent of the abonsam, and their power is the most obvious when in use. They tend to wield their power on a grand scale, plotting to bring down entire regions. They gather every few months to share information with each other.

Thralls are the lowest form of abonsam and by far the most common. They are those who pledge to serve evil in exchange for worldly power, wealth or other such things. They typically serve under command of Witches. Their heart is replaced with a nest of thorns in a horrific ceremony, and if they disobey, these thorns explode out, killing them. Thralls are rarely mere minions, however - they are influential merchants, cult leaders or chiefs. There is no such thing as an innocent Thrall, either. Each is a malicious, dangerous person, the very worst of humanity. A significant number are actually evil spirits in human form, and some retain a measure of spirit power. They all hope for the day when they are elevated to another form of abonsam, usually Witch or Trader. Each Thrall focuses on a particular sin or vice, which tends to make them somewhat predictable and is usually what drew them to the Bonsam in the first place. They typically have two goals - indulge themselves at the expense of others, and gain power to rise in the abonsam hierarchy.

Bonsam is the main source of evil in Ifri, perhaps even the world. The Bonsam are twisted, trapped between the spirit world and the mortal one. They feel no mercy, no love, no positive emotions whatsoever. They are pure hatred, rage and evil, fueled by misery and suffering. Unlike the Jok, the Bonsam has a true physical form and cannot dissolve into the spirit plane. The Bonsam can, however, see and communicate with spirits at will, and have apparently infinite power to corrupt. Like the Jok, they are subtle, preferring to work through agents rather than directly, and often grant their minions powers. The abonsam are their favorites, but not their only servants - evil humans, monsters and demons all serve them, knowingly or not. What Bonsam wants is an Ifri destroyed and rebuilt in its image, with pain and despair ruling all. They want no mortal to live without agony. They know that others stand against them, so they plan and plan, to weaken and destroy their foes. Few humans have survived seeing Bonsam, and each that has describes them differently. A three-headed, firebreathing goat, a handsome warrior with honeyed doesn't matter. It has no true shape. Bonsam is whatever they choose to be at any time. None can say where Bonsam came from, except the Jok, who refuse to. Bonsam has made many claims - it was a renegade Jok, the last of the Syrne, a renegade god, a mortal sorcerer, the last of a race wronged by the Jok. The truth is probably unknowable. As for why Bonsam wants to do what it does? No one knows. No one can know. It's just an evil, immortal thing monster, hobbled only by its endless rage and tendency to wreck its own plans in tantrum.

The Black Ship is a xebec ship with both sails and oars. It is made of bone and sinew, its sails are flesh and its flag is blood red, with a black half-skull burned on. It has crab legs for walking on land, between rivers, and can also crawl along the sea floor to ambush ships. Its captain is Inkosazana, a fierce woman with a flayed face. Every ship they take down is replaced by an evil ship from the depths, crewed by the corrupted souls of the dead crew. Right now, two other ships fly its banner. The Black Ship is crewed by the dead, twisted and corrupted by Bonsam. Inkosazama has a standing bargain with all abaord - if they bring her nine souls, she will release their own back to them and return them to life. She does not tell them it will be as undead zombies. However, they do occasionally take prisoners, as the crew hungers for living flesh. One of these at least has escaped, telling that the Black Ship holds the missing Sika'Dwa of Mbey and several other treasures, such as the Heart of Bonsam, the last Pages of the Second Prophet, and waters of the Mokele-Mbembe. The ship has been sighted at sea and on each of the Great Rivers.

Next time: Snakes, Kishi, the Jok and Scorpion Belly

Nov 8, 2009


Oh, so that's where all the weird bullshit Syrneth monster nonsense went.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - SNAKES

Ifri has countless underground caverns, which are not the work of either rivers or the Jok. Rather, they are caused by Dan Ida Hwedo. This is a godlike serpent that exists to bring fertility and change. Where she goes, flowers bloom and the land is fertile. When she is sick, the land fails and people starve. The peoples of Ifri often travel to the underworld to make offerings of food or medicine in hopes of gaining the snake's blessing and passage. On very rare occasions, she will give a very brave healer or hero one of her scales. These are colored like a rainbow and the size of a dinner plate, and they contain a tiny part of her power. These scales can cure even the worst disease and heal even the nastiest wound. Bonsam desperately wants to capture or kill Dan Ida Hwedo, but has so far failed. Even now, their minions work to trap her. Legends are unclear on her origins. Some say she was born of Jok, others that she is a primal god from before time, others that she is the physical form of the spirit of the continent. The Jok do not speak of it, but have forbidden their Wiseones from interacting with her or using her scales. She rarely speaks to mortals, and when she does, she uses a wordless empathic sense that makes it impossible to question her. Her sole agenda is to spread fertility and life.

When a traveler sees a stranger approaching their fire at night, they always ask to see their back. In Theah, this might be expected to be an invitation to get murdered; in Ifri, it proves you're not a Kishi come to devour. The Kishi appear as beautiful people who speak in wonderful tones that can charm anyone. However, this is only from the front. Their rear reveals the head and body of a hyena, with the head resting on the buttocks and the paws draped over the shoulders and down the legs. When the Kishi feeds, they pass the best morsels to the hyena behind. Kishi see humans only as food, and rarely interact with them except to hunt. Kishi are shapeshifters, able to turn into a hyena with a human face on its back, which lures the gullible off the path. Some Kishi can eat a victim's eyes, nose, tongue, ears or skin to become invisible to the associated sense for a time. They only ever take one sense, and such victims usually get left alive. No one knows why, or if it's required by the magic. These kinds of Kishi will stalk villages for months, leaving a trail of mutilation in their wake. Kishi are fear and hunger spirits, and while most hunt alone, they sometimes form packs. Pack Kishi will occasionally work with evil humans if it helps them to spread fear and suffering.

The Jok are holy spirit-beings that live in the mountain heart of Iu-Neserer, the Island of Fire. It was they who taught humans the skills to be more than animals and to claim the land. They are not inherently good or bad, but they certainly are benevolent to humans. No one knows where they came from. Long ago, there were many more Jok than there are today. They knew many sciences and technologies, which they shared with humans. However, centuries ago, most of the Jok left this world for another place. They gathered in boats and set off in the four directions, creating the Great Rivers as they sailed. No one knows why they left, or to where. They never returned, and some time later, Bonsam first appeared.

The Jok choose and teach the Wiseones. Each Wiseone is taken to the Island of Fire, where they spend 20 days in direct tutelage from a Jok mentor wearing an ornate mask. The mentor tells them the truths of the world until, at last, they are satisfied and remove their mask, to show the final truth. When this happened, the Wiseone is either enlightened or dies on the spot. If they survive, they receive the mask and travel the world to protect the innocent and gain knowledge. Before their death, each Wiseone sees a vision, traveling home to recite all they know to the Jok. No Jok has ever left their holy mountain since Bonsam appeared. They still act as teachers, but they do not walk the world. Their goal appears to be to mentor humans into a new age of enlightenment, primarily by using the Wiseones to spread knowledge and fight Bonsam. No one knows why they do this, or why they like humans so much.

Scorpion Belly is an Mbey bogeyman, a cautionary tale of those who would stray from virtue. In life he was Sidya, an Nder boy nearing manhood along the Mbey River. Sidya betrayed Mbey for gold, sneaking across the river and showing Maghrebi warriors the best place to cross unseen and raid his village. When the slaughter was over, Sidya asked for his reward, but they seized him and carved his belly open, pouring in gold and scorpions. Then they let him go home, and each step he had a painful choice - hold his belly closed and keep the gold, or open it and let out the scorpions. No one alive remained to say if he ever made it home. He might have, dying at last when he got there, or he might not, succumbing to poison and falling into the river. Or perhaps he survived, forever grasping at his squirming belly. The story changes based on who tells it and what they want to teach.

Many claim they have met Scorpion Belly in the forest or scrub or river. These are lies. Those who have truly seen Scorpion Belly do not speak. This is because, ever since the Bonsam Stones were broken, he appears at times to the weak, offering them a handful of gold to betray others. Those who take it, he grabs. The scorpions crawl from his belly, stinging his victim as they scream, then die. Scorpion Belly is part abonsam monster, part child, forever locked in a cycle of suffering. He is both victim and villain, insofar as he is a person at all any more.

There are a lot of kinds of zombies, too. Kap Sevi zombification involves ritual burial of the living, then exhuming them. These creatures are very pliable and very difficult to harm, and have been used as liaisons to the Ori. Bonsam also has zombies - but these are reanimated corpses, long dead, given life by dark sorcery. They are entirely mindless shock troops and servants. Fortunately, they are rare - Bonsam prefers living minions. The lastk ind of zombie isn't really a zombie - it is something like a ghost, but corporeal. These are free-willed monsters, sprouting from diseased soil in Mbey. They pursue their own twisted goals, and it is unclear if they are truly restless souls or husks animated by fiendish intellect. All that is clear is they have no love of the living, even their own families.

Next time: The Manden Kurufaba

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Cythereal posted:

Oh, so that's where all the weird bullshit Syrneth monster nonsense went.

In fairness, this appears to be an amalgamation of a bunch of Ghanaian and West African weirdo monster spirits. (The Jok in their native tradition are disease spirits, though, not good guys.)

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - I'm Not Totally Sure Who These Guys Map To But It's In North West Africa

The stories say that the world began at one of the cities of Ajaka or Katunga. It is not agreed which. In the beginning, the Ori descended from heaven on a gold chain, but fought over who should make the world and who should rule it. They split into two groups, settling in two cities, but the world was made and ruled. The Awkari founded the first great empire in the land now called the Manden Kurufaba, a collection of cultures and states that stand together. Settlers came from the Crescent Empire, especially after the martyrdom of the Second Prophet, introducing Ifri to the Prophet's wisdom. They founded the city al-Ghaba, where they built huge temples of learning and prayer. Before then, the people of Manden had relied on the oral history of the griots, but now the newcomers taught them about the written word. It was strange, but many accepted.

Among the artisans, the nyamakalaw, was a master blacksmith, a numu, called Sumanguru Kante. He had sorcerous knowledge, exceeding the power of any other sorcerer by studying all kinds of magical practice, and he was the greatest craftsman to ever live. He wanted to overthrow the Mandenka caste system, but not so he could make all equal. He merely wanted to lead and rule. To do this, he betrayed his people, bargaining with dark powers from beyond the world. He sacrificed the chiefs of nine tribes to them, wearing their skin as clothing. In return, he was made invincible against mortal weapons until his weakness was found. Spears bounced off him, he could snatch arrows from the air and roar at bullets to make them change direction. He overthrew the Awkar throne, his soldiers destroying monuments and burning any books they disliked.

Meanwhile, in the land of Manden, the king had died. His iyalawo, or diviner, determined that of his wives and sons, Mari-Djata would succeed him. This was scandalous, for Mari-Djata's mother was ugly and Mari-Djata could not use his legs well, and the Manden people often judged by appearance. He could barely walk a few steps without leaning on a cane. However, he insisted on learning to fight. He learned the arts of saber, spear, javelin and bow, and his upper body was as strong as any - stronger, even. He memorized all kinds of tactics, from ancient to cutting edge, and could innovate peerlessly. However, he could not ride.

One day, Mari-Djata told his officers to tie him to a horse's saddle so he could help fight. They laughed, asking him how he would control his horse. He told them he'd solve it, but in case he failed, to give him the worst horse. They chose a Katabi mare no one had been able to ride - she was utterly uncontrollable, even for the best rider. Mari-Djata, tied to the saddle, chose to speak to her and use his arms rather than command her with his legs, and she responded obediently, to the surprise of all. He realized that the horse had a soft mouth, answering only to slight touches, and that a bridle pained her. Soon, he was one of the best riders, and his technique spread throughout western Ifri. Despite this, however, he was only able to beat Sumanguru Kante's armies - never their commander.

Annoyed by his troops' failure, Sumanguru Kante ordered a crew of witches to tempt and attack Mari-Djata, telling them they must not return before beating him. They set a trap by plundering crops, but instead of chasing them out, Mari-Djata spoke to them and asked of their health, insisting they take as much food as they required. Struck by his politeness, the witches changed sides, revealing Sumanguru's weakness: he had sworn never to harm a white rooster. The next time they fought, Mari-Djata shot his foe with an arrow tipped with a rooster spur, and in an instant, all of Sumanguru's powers were undone. The sorcerer vanished into Koulikoro Mountain, never to be seen again, though many believe he still remains there, biding his time.

Mari-Djata called a great council, called a kurufaba. Four rulers and four griots sat together in his throne room, which had once held Sumanguru Kante's fetishes and familiars, and they laid out the foundation for the empire that has now lasted four hundred years. Mari-Djata had no interest in conquest - he wanted his neighbors to need him, instead. Awkar had great trade networks and much spiritual knowledge, but were vulnerable to attack. Xweda, overgrown with the sacred forest, had few resources but a strong border and military skill. Igodomigodo had a good bureaucracy and military, but was proud and often ruled by tyrants. Manden itself had rich resources, but little in the way of cultural and governmental institutions. Via the Kurufaba, the four states could cover for each other, sharing in strengths. Thus, the four chiefs believed their alliance would last forever.

Now, Manden is a coalition of wealthy, powerful states and a grand experiment in diplomacy. This, more than anywhere else, is a place of intrigue and schemes. The abonsam do hide in the shadows, but in Manden they are few. More commonly, danger comes from internal strife, as the states vie for power and control. In Manden, family is probably the most important thing. If you go to a job interview, they're going to ask about your family life and relationships at least as much as about your work history. You can choose what to do with your life, but it is the duty of your parents and clan to teach you the family trade that is your birthright. Every Mandenka belongs to a trade caste, formed around a set of related professions that date back to before Mari-Djata. While the caste system fosters some oppressive social dynamics, most Mandenka are deeply proud of their caste and family history. All castes fall into one of three tiers of prestige, each of which contains one or more castes.

At the top are the Horonw, the nobles. Below them are the artisans, the Nyamakalaw. At the bottom are the Jonow, the serfs. Castes rarely intermarry, not because of any taboo but because mixed-caste couples must choose one or the other to legally belong to and that's very socially inconvenient. There is no taboo for members of a caste to do a job associated with another, and this commonly happens. Many griots have day jobs as, say, leatherworkers or smiths, and members of all castes farm, not just the Horonw. Mandenka may freely pursue any job they like - there are no guilds that hoard knowledge or protect their members.

The Horonw caste provides food, historically. Farmers, hunters, fishers and ranchers are all horonw jobs. This is because if you must rely on someone for food, they are your ruler. Every tribal chief must be a horon. The new class of professional warriors (though not the sofas), full-time traders and Dinist clergy are also considered horonw after the past century or so. Previously, these jobs were done on the side by members of various castes alongside their primary calling, and their sudden rise in prominence has often annoyed the other castes.

The Nyamakalaw caste are artisans. Literally, it means 'manipulators of nyama' - a sort of pervasive energy of the universe, also called ase by the Igodomigodoese. While they are formally equal, socially, some artisan castes have greater or lesser influence. Numuw, the blacksmiths, have great political influence, while griots have a privileged position in government, and society often looks down on the funew, the traveling preachers, who are often poor and have to do odd jobs to make ends meet. The most advanced of each caste are able to perform a sorcerous version of their craft.

Numuw are smiths, and very politically potent. You can't do politics without martial strength, after all, and you can't make war without weapons. Their patrun is Ogun, Ori of iron, guns and war, and legend has it he sent the numu Fanta Traore on a pilgrimage to Cathay to learn gunsmithing secrets. Griots are bards, poets and storytellers, who memorize and recite entire libraries. They learn the songs of all castes, on top of their own, and use many instruments - most notably, the balafon, a sort of gourd xylophone that every village has one of. The griot is core to Mandenka education, alongside Dinist clergy. Garankew are leatherworkers, and leather goods are very important, especially if you own horses or want armor, as metal armor is bad in Ifrian heat. They are the most numerous caste of Nyamakalaw. Funew are gyrovagues, wandering Dinist preachers that spread religious knowledge away from the big mosques and madrasas. They are essential, but make little money and typically have to do odd jobs to survive. They also serve as pilgrimage guides to the Crescent Empire, a far easier job before sailing got to be so dangerous in the northwest, and unlike other castes, the funew do not contribute troops to the army, due to their religious commitment. This doesn't make them popular, however.

The Jonow are the lowest caste, and other languages sometimes translate 'jono' as 'slave,' though they have many legal rights. Rather, they tend to be socially dispossesed or unmoored. Jonow status is hereditary, but a jono can become another caste via martial heroism, wealth or distinguished government service. The most famous jonow caste is the Sofas. In early Mandenka history, warfare was usually small skirmishes, and jonow never fought directly, instead serving as support staff and servants. A proud warrior killing a mere jono would be unthinkable. However, the last of Mari-Djata's battles proved the use of massive armies, and they have become a cornerstone of Kurufaba military doctrine. This led to large-scale jonow conscription, creating a subdivision of the caste - sofas, serf-soldiers. A sofa is not typically trained much - they get a cheap weapon, told to obey an officer and sent off to fight and die. They are also an exception to Manden's usual love of specialization, being used for whatever battle role happens to be needed at any given moment. This means most sofas aren't much good at any given role, but veteran sofas are often general combat experts, able to react easily to the unexpected. Those that distinguish themselves in battle can be made into horonw, but this is quite rare. Generally, sofas can expect to die for a cause they don't really care about. Mass desertion is punishable with death, but it's still common, especially now, when sale to the ATC is more likely for sofas than any other soldier. That is, after all, a fate worse than death.

Next time: Customs

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 11:47 on Jul 6, 2018

Tricky Dick Nixon
Jul 26, 2010

by Nyc_Tattoo

Mors Rattus posted:

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - I'm Not Totally Sure Who These Guys Map To But It's In North Africa

Probably West Africa actually, especially with the big multicultural focus but with a lot of focus on gold and trade with the Islamic analogues. Manden is even likely derivative of Mandé.

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer
Dan Ida Hwedo rather reminds me of what little I know of the Rainbow Serpent from Australia.

Nov 8, 2009



Mors Rattus posted:

In fairness, this appears to be an amalgamation of a bunch of Ghanaian and West African weirdo monster spirits. (The Jok in their native tradition are disease spirits, though, not good guys.)

My concern is that most of this doesn't look like stuff you can have a dramatic swordfight with while tossing off witty one-liners.

Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

I like this stuff generally more than the weirdass alien grasshoppers but it does seem like the monsters and magic-ness is ramping up from Theah -> Atabean - > Ifri

Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo
I mean the Atabean explicitly has a ton of giant sea monsters, ships crewed by the ghosts of the dead, and at least one god wandering around delivering's just that Ifri frontloads the legendry while the Pirate Nations book spreads it out more.

Plus you'll get a shitton more Thean magic weirdness in the Nations of Theah books, when Mors gets to those. Especially in Ussura compared to last time, but...yeah.

Jun 17, 2014

Reality is an illusion.
The universe is a hologram.
Buy gold.


I like this stuff generally more than the weirdass alien grasshoppers but it does seem like the monsters and magic-ness is ramping up from Theah -> Atabean - > Ifri
'Straya looks like it will be an outright Shadow of the Colossus.

edit: or Monster Hunter, I guess.

Foglet fucked around with this message at 04:51 on Jul 6, 2018

Mar 22, 2013

Goblin babies did nothing wrong.

The crippled son of an ugly mother who becomes king due to a prophecy is reminiscent of Sundjata Keita, who was Mansa of Mali, which combined with supposedly being insanely rich would maybe make the Manden Kurufaba equivalent to Mali.

Sep 14, 2012

It's almost an exact copy of Keita's mythic history, right down to the evil warlord being killed by an arrow with rooster's feathers. Keita was a real guy but there is a whole myth around him.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
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7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Yeah These Guys Are Apparently Not Mali

In Manden, your family and clan identity are everything. Almost all important decisions are made with family input, because bad decisions lose face. Manden is a difficult place for free spirits, who tend to go into academia, the Dinist priesthood or trade to get away from family obligation. Society is polygynous - that is to say, multiple husbands and multiple wives, and it's considered an important way to balance both familial and personal needs in marriage. Occasionally a family may accept a single spouse, however. There's generally a large public party or festival over public or familial affairs once every few weeks, and everyone is expected to sing and dance, typically in honor of history. Some dances, especially those in honor of Mari-Djata, are explicitly designed for the physically disabled, too. Some music and dance belongs to one caste or another, and only the griots learn the most demanding pieces, but most songs are pretty simple and easy to pick up. Mandenkaw will become quite confused if visitors don't try to sing and dance along, especially since they'll happily show you how quite patiently.

One of the most distinct features of a Mandenka gathering is the possession of partiers by the Ori or ancestral spirits, typically at religious festivals. They typically select those who grow up in the Assanyi tradition, but sometimes they grab visitors. No one knows why. When this happens, it's as if time just skips forward for the person involved, and they also probably got much drunker for no clear reason. Possession is real - a girl being possessed by a king is the king, not the girl pretending. Everyone will be quite confused and offended if you do not accept this and treat the person as who they claim to be. It is etiquette, not faith. Faith is for the al-Din, not the Assanyi.

Mandenka clothing is extremely ornate, and the nation's wealth means that most citizens can have very fine clothes indeed. All genders wear long, caftan-like clothes called grandmuba, which are billowy and graceful and come in many bright colors and patterns, often threaded with gold. Braids and special hair shapes are common, often adorned with jewels or shells, and most also wear elaborate headscarfs matched to their grandmuba. Long skirts are popular right now, typically white with a colored scarf or pleat. Foreign fabric is imported for the wealthy, and so the richest wear silk and velvet. However, the people of Manden are very cosmopolitan, and foreign outfits will not have them staring very long. Indeed, the city-dwellers are often quite aware of foreign fashion and can even recognize if it's out of date. The primary language of Manden is Mande, and there are also the Awkari and Xweda languages, all belonging to the Mande branch of the Kwara language family. Dialect varies geographically, especially between urban and rural areas.

Understanding Manden society and religion means understanding nyama. The word refers to a life energy that is in absolutely everything. It can be good or bad, light or dark, active or passive. It is sometimes spoken of as a physical substance, but it is an abstraction. Any interaction can be spoken of in terms of nyama. The artisans interact with nyama by crafts, for example. Sorcerers are feared, however, for their power to interact with nyama directly and literally. Mandenka sorcerers typically hide their powers from all but their immediate family and others of their sorcerous society, as a result. The Mandenkaw also believe that each human has two souls - the ni and the dya. The ni is from Heaven, and on death it returns to the sky. The dya, which can leave your body and wander as you sleep, can remain near your place of death until someone goes out of their way to propitiate it with sacrifice. It then turns into an ancestral spirit.

Manden ideas have mixed with the al-Din religion of the Crescent (IE, Not Islam) and the Assanyi beliefs of Igodomigodo, and the ideas of ni and dya have taken on new significance. Typically, Mandenkaw who practice both al-Din and Assanyi say the ni comes from al-Musawwir and returns to the Creator on death, while the dya is made by the Ori, and represents the part of you claimed at birth by your three patron Ori. Most Mandenkaw will tell you they are Dinist, if asked, though Dinist practice is only really consistent in urban areas. Rural Dinists tend to have idiosyncratic ritual practice, drawn from fune tradition. However, some practices are widespread. Public drunkenness is essentially unknown, and there are regular prayers in the direction of the Second Prophet's place of death, and most do aspire to perform a pilgrimage to the Crescent. However, the typical Dinist disapproval of excessive magic is rare in Manden.

The native faith of the Manden Kurufaba is service to the Ori. The oldest Ifrian traditions hold that the world began at Ajaka-Katunga in Igodomigodo, where Aniyikaye descended on the gold chain to spread the surface of the land, and ruled over Ori and human alike. The Ori who came after dispersed to live in the sea, rivers and everywhere in the land, from inside the cola nut to inside diseases. When a human is born, three Ori claim their dya, committing to watch over and influence their life. If they don't show up in person, a diviner throws cola nuts to determine which they are. If they do, it is always three and in order. The Ori remain present in that person's life via festivals and possession. When propitiated regularly with sacrifices of food and drink, they and the ancestral spirits will appear at festivals in response to sacred music and dance, to give out wisdom and have fun. The Ori are often deeply interested in human lives, and some do more than just possess and talk to you. They may have children, too, leaving demigods spread through Manden - particularly in Igodomigodo. It's rare, but it does happen, often leaving the confused child to grow up full of divine ase. The royal families of Ajaka and Katunga claim direct descent from the Ori, each claiming to be the 401st of the 401 Ori. (The Igodomigodo Secession happened largely because of one very powerful royal asserting divine right not over only his own nation but the world as a whole.)

However, the state religion is al-Din, the faith of the Second Prophet as taught in the Crescent. Awkar was the first West Ifrian state to assume al-Din as a state religion, and at first it isolated the Awkari, but their privileged trading position and the fact that Dinist clergy didn't give a poo poo what else you did as long as you were a good Dinist on top of it convinced their neighbors to accept them. Manden and the Khemet once had important ties based on pilgrimage routes, as Mandenka pilgrimages must either sail northeast along the coast or travel overland through Maghreb and Khemet. The sea pilgrimage is more expensive and risks pirates, and right now pilgrimage ships are the ATC's favorite target. Thus, overland is the safe route. It's long, hot and not very fun, but worth it for the faithful. Mandenka pilgrimages tend to carry a lot of wealth, so they bolster the economies they pass through, and the Nomma often earn a good living helping to guide them.

Many Mandenkaw see the Crescent Empire as the pinnacle of culture and learning. It's honestly fairly unrealistic and unfair to their own local traditions - their governance, martial arts, music and art are all locally derived. However, anything Crescent is associated with wealth, education and status. Foreigners, especially Theans and Crescents, often find the parallel beliefs of Manden confusing, but for the average Mandenka, the Ori and al-Musawwir occupy different spiritual and lifestyle spaces. Al-Din is the faith of government, public ceremony and high education. The Ori are the gods of home, family, medicine and magic. They don't contradict each other because they address completely different parts of life. However, there is still some conflict, primarily over sorcery. A small but vocal group of Dinist elites have shifted to a new, hardline form of al-Din that treats any and all other religious practices as witchcraft. Many of these hardliners occupy high, influential positions in society or government, and some have the ear of the Mansa himself. They may insist they can overlook or cooperate with many practices, but that active support of sorcery encourages people to ignore Dinist beliefs about moderation. It doesn't help that witchcraft scares a lot of people, either.

Next time: The Mansa and the International Kurufaba

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Mansa, Mansa

The Manden Kurufaba requires a very elaborate bureaucracy to maintain its vast holdings, derived from Igodomigodo's original government. Critics say it is paternalistic and stifling, but it works. The highest authority is the Mansa, a hereditary office that dates back to Mari-Djata. The Mansa rules from the Federal Palace in Nianiba, supreme king by divine right, both as descendant of al-Musawwir's champion Mari-Djata and by intermarriage into the Alaafin of Igodomigodo, who descend from the Ori. Their throne is one of the sacred stools which the Jok gave to humanity. However, while the Mansa has absolute authority, they rely heavily on delegation to get anything done. The personal staff of the Mansa includes the Captain of the Alagbato Iya (the Royal Guard), the castellan of the Federal Palace (who keeps the place running and entertains dignitaries and the Mansa), the palace treasurer, the palace imam, the palace Assanyi diviner (babalawo if male or iyalawo if female), the Mansa's spouses and consorts (who, unlike all other Mandenkaw, may have only one spouse - the Mansa) and the palace griot.

The Mansa is also served by a cabinet of advisors. This consists of the Field Marshal, who commands the Kurufaba forces, the Commerce Minister, the Secretary of State, who is in charge of foreign affairs, the Secretary of Education, the Minister of Agriculture, who also serves as the voice of the horonw, the Minister of Artisans, who also serves as the voice of the nyamakalaw, and the Jonow Tribune. The Mansa rules the cabinet, but laws allow a cabinet minister to overrule the Mansa in their area of expertise. This veto can, of course, be very contentious. The four state rulers are considered of equal rank to the cabinet, but have different responsibilities. The Mansa typically appoints a baale (viceroy) to rule over the state of Manden, a custom adopted from the Igodomigodo rulers. The baale is technically appointed, but it is typically dominated by certain dynasties. The other three rulers are the Xweda Ahosu, the Igodomigodo Alaafin and the Awkar Sultan, each of whom manages their domain's government.

The Ahosu rules Xweda's relatively small population fairly directly, with little bureaucracy. All Xwedans are legally the direct vassals of the Ahosu. The Alaafin has a huge bureaucracy and delegation system that is basically the Kurufaba's in miniature, as it was the basis for the Kurufaba government. Before Sumanguru Kante conquered Awkar, the Sultan was technically a vassal of the Caliph of the Crescent Empire, though in practice they had very little if any contact with the Crescent government formally. Since then, the Sultanate has been relatively weak and heavily dependant on Manden to operate. The Sultan may be the most important cog in the Awkar machine, but is still merely a cog. The Mansa appoints a vizier to advise each ruler, keep an eye on things and report any trouble or pressure the rulers to make choices that benefit the federation as a whole or the Mansa specifically.

The Kurufaba holds a meeting of chieftains each year during the winter. Clan and tribe chieftains in every state, small or large, must either attend or send their griot on their behalf. The state rulers and caste elders are also represented at the meeting. This is, it should be noted, a very complex system. Mandenkaw love specializing, and the government reflects that tendency to divide tasks to teams of experts to ensure they are all done right. Efficiency isn't the issue - the government is probably actually the most efficient way to handle its sprawling and extremely ethnically diverse federation. The issue is that there's no real checks and balances. An incompetent governor's not a problem - there's enough above and below to advise and cover for them. But a corrupt or evil governor? That's a problem. Except where the law limits their power, which it often does not, a governor has absolute authority over all below them. It doesn't happen often, but a governor can even order summary execution by firing squad if you fail them or they can pin a crime on you.

By most current standards on Terra, the Manden Kurufaba is still a great place to live. It is extremely wealthy, so even the poorest slave won't starve. However, the conflicts in Mbey and Khemet have displaced thousands, who have flooded into Manden. These refugees are not well-liked by the Mandenkaw, and by default most end up in the Jonow caste. There is money and food, but they are third-class citizens. Even those with advanced training or education struggle for acceptance among the Nyamakalaw and Horonw, as despite what they may be do for a living, they are still considered Jonow. The Horonw food providers tend to see the refugees as freeloaders, extra mouths to feed for no benefit.

Mansa Kankan has started Manden's grand experiment, the International Kurufaba, situating it in the legendary origin of the world, Ajaka-Katunga. It is essentially a Not African UN, with the goal of uniting world governments to avoid future wars. It's a lofty goal, but Kankan is an idealist. The Kurufaba meets in a great compound on the Kongola River, a tributary of the Kwara, which divides Ajaka and Katunga. The walls actually form the adinkra symbol bi-nka-bi, which represents an end to infighting. All adinkra symbols represent abstract truths, and this symbol is also found on the Mandenka flag. The walls are heavily defended by guards and guns, but behind them are gardens and miniature villages and plazas to house delegates. The central meeting hall is an ampitheater large enough for all currently represented nations.

Mandenka custom allows a griot or similar champion to speak on behalf of a dignitary, and this custom is key to the International Kurufaba. It's how a personable hero could easily get into a dignitary's cloud of aides, sycophants and advisors. Charisma and competence? Those are valuable. Aksum is represented by Lord Isaiah Iskander, a member of the Skia secret police. He has exactly one job: ensure peace between Aksum and Manden by any means necessary. Isaiah is entirely loyal, and he maintains a spy network keeping tabs on the Manden military. If Manden plans to attack, this is crucial information. If not...well, it could well start the war he's trying to avoid. Aksum considers a permanent end to war to be their most important issue. While Mandenka invasion has always failed so far, the idea terrifies most of Aksum, and so they are champions of the Kurufaba's goal.

Maghreb is represented by Lady Lunja al-Barqahi. She is cousin to the Blue Queen of Maghreb, Tasa Noumidia. The Blue Queen has not yet decided if the International Kurufaba is an ineffectual mob of diplomatic figureheads or a trap, so she's set Lunja to be her olive branch...or possibly her figurehead. Lunja is barely 18, from a coastal cadet family, and she's very enthusiastic about this, her first job. (And also fancy parties.) Neither she nor the Blue Queen put much stock in the idea of nonviolence, but they'll happily listen as long as no one asks the Maghrebi to put down their swords. It doesn't help that Lunja idolizes the pirate captain Mar Veraci and has spent much of her youth reading tales of swashbuckling derring-do about the captain. Veraci has heard about this and begun correspondence in the hopes of manipulating the girl...not out of any ill feeling, but because, well, politics. Lunja is not a fool, however. She's heavily trained and educated, and she won't be easy for Governess Veraci to manipulate. Maghreb's key issue at the moment is getting Ifri to present a united front to Theah, in the hopes of avoiding another Mbey. They fear Montaigne and Vodacce will work together to divide them up and conquer them.

The Manden representative is Prince Adegoke, Kankan's adopted brother. Adegoke has professed allegiance to his brother's goals, but his real goal is to reestablish the empire of Igodomigodo using the Kurufaba's resources. The key to his plan, and thus what he pushes most for, is the formation of an international peacekeeping force under the control of the International Kurufaba. Adegoke's intentions may be bad, but he has good arguments - until such time as all nations lay down their arms, the Kurufaba must have a way to strike back at unrepentant evil. Manden, which'd end up supplying about half the troops at least, is the most vocal both in support and opposition of this idea.

Mbey is represented by Mandagan, a demon disguised in human form. She devoured the original delegate sent by Bour Ba Ighodalo and has taken her place via shapeshifting. Her powers have gotten her into every delegate's office, and she knows everyone's secrets, weaknesses and scandals. She has yet to use any of them, however - she's very old and hasn't had this much fun in centuries. It shouldn't end so soon. Mbey has not pushed hard on any issue whatsoever. Rather, Mandagan plays at being a power broker, currying favor to gain debts. It has yet to be seen if her hunger for human flesh and therefore constant need to replace workers will expose her true nature.

Next time: The Khemet, Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta, Jaragua, Montaigne & Crescent reps.

Mar 25, 2013

I'm kinda feeling others when while this is some cool background stuff it doesn't seem much for swashbuckling adventurers unless you were focusing on a campaign against the awful trading company or visiting the continent with a goal in mind.

Sep 27, 2012

That's right, kids, take lots of drugs, leave the universe behind, and pilot Enlightenment Voltron out into the cosmos to meet Alien Jesus.

ChaseSP posted:

I'm kinda feeling others when while this is some cool background stuff it doesn't seem much for swashbuckling adventurers unless you were focusing on a campaign against the awful trading company or visiting the continent with a goal in mind.

We're one nation in and we've already got scheming princes, intercontinental political intrigue, witch-cults, and at least two burgeoning wars. Seems like plenty of swashbuckling opportunity to me.

Mar 25, 2013

Okay maybe you're right. I'm kinda half-blind right now so having issues reading longer paragraphs.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The Swashbuckling UN

Khemet is represented by Mayaneta of the House of Talthos, a former priestess of the lion goddess Seknephet. She was third daughter of a noble family, but her charisma was such that they forced her to join the Eubayd, the priesthood, to avoid her being a political threat to her siblings. When her siblings to assassinated, though, they bribed her superiors to pull her out of the priesthood and have her made delegate, thus getting in good with the queen. She is at heart an artist, and her charm is legendary. She is excellent at her job; she also hates it. She knows all about Queen Twosret's forays into slaving and doesn't approve or trust her. Indeed, she spends much of her free time planning escape routes in case it all comes crashing down. Her primary issues are international food trade and humanitarian relief, counteracting the famines brought on by lack of sunlight in Khemet right now.

The Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta of Quanahlotye were brough into the Kurufaba by Mansa Kankan's extreme efforts. Quanahlotye is a land across the western sea, and the organization called Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta ('Great Peace') is several hundred years old and has a similar mission to the International Kurufaba. The delegate is an elderly veteran of their house of debate, Sagoyewatha. He's a ruthless negotiator with 50 years of experience in the most sophisticated, cutthroat forum in the world. He's moved to Manden and joined the International Kurufaba as a way to keep busy in retirement. (This says something about how intense his old job was.) The Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta have no major issues at present - they're content to get rich selling fur coats and hats to the Mandenka. Sagoyewatha serves as a mentor to the other delegates, and his teenage children bring his reports on their visits home, bringing them to the longhouse of the Sho'noh'kah'ta'neh'ta.

Jaragua is represented by Lieutenant Colonel Anaica Proulx. Many Jaraguan slaves come from Manden and Mbey, and they have come home to find the ATC watching for their ships. Proulx is a decorated Mawon veteran, but the Company has dogged her every step as she has hunted for a place to convince people that Jaragua was a true nation. She knows that danger could come from even her own retinue, and she suspects everyone. Her primary issue is simple: international recognition of Jaragua as a sovereign nation. The Company's propagandists have tried to hide all evidence Jaragua even exists on this side of the ocean, let alone revolted, and she needs a lot of help.

Montaigne's delegate is Lucien de Forbin, the fourth son of a noble, who works as a double agent for l'Empereur and the ATC, though the Company pays much better and so gets most of his loyalty. He started out running an Atabean prison colony, but his interest in occultism led him to promise a demon regular payment in souls in exchange for career advancement. He is a sociopath who until recently answered to Flemming Rudd and convinced Ifrian leaders to sell slaves. The Company has yet to discover that he skims on slaves to sacrifice them for his demon, but he's not especially worried that they'll be upset if they find out. They'll probably just want to be cut in, right? Montaigne has him talking a big game about trans-oceanic unity, but what they really want is unrestricted access to the Ifrian coast, and some suspect his rhetoric is an excuse to set up l'Empereur to colonize.

The Crescent Empire representative is Noa bat Elisheva M'Shevet Yedha, an elder businesswoman from the Yachidi homeland of Sarmion. (Yachidi are Not Jews.) She has succeeded in a number of industries, and she sees this as her chance to give back to the Crescent Empire, which has always treated her family well. She enjoys the prestige she has in Manden, and she's used to having her orders obeyed. The main Crescent priority is maintaining pilgrimage routes. One of the Dinist Five Sacred Duties is isra, the pilgrimage to visit far-off Dinists. Mandenkaw typically head for the Prophet Khalil's martyrdom site in the small state of Thaj, and these pilgrimages stimulate the economy of everyone nearby. However, the number of pilgrims has dropped off heavily thanks to the ATC, the recent war between Aksum and Manden and the Khemet crisis.

Very recently, the chief of the wealthy Fayomi Clan, Olu Fayomi, came to the Kurufaba to claim that Atabean slavers were operating in Manden with Mbeyan aid. Olu and his sister Lola were renowned warriors, and they claimed to be attacked while traveling to a wedding near the border. They slew their attackers, but some of their fellows, including Lola's husband, died in the fight. When accused of lying, Lola threw two sacks down - sacks full of the heads of their attackers, and a shard of black Bonsam stone. This has sent the Kurufaba into an uproar, but they have stood their ground. Now, the Kurufaba debates within itself, and may tear itself apart - or perhaps save itself.

The Manden Kurufaba is the richest nation in the world. They've exhausted the gold mines and salt fields, but centuries of good investment and careful trade keep the treasury growing even faster than inflation. This means no citizen ever has to go uneducated, without healthcare, hungry or unsheltered. They are also the world's largest market for luxury goods. Manden public education is excellent, but it's entirely voluntary, and outside Awkar, literacy is rare. Most villages just rely on the local griot, funew and families to teach important information. The family is responsible for taking the time to teach caste traditions of all kinds, as well as knowledge of how to make basic clothes. Until university level, math, religion and other things are taught entirely verbally and somatically, using song, dance and mnemonic techniques rather than books. Mandenka who go on to higher education generally do learn to read and write, attending Dinist universities. Manden written language is typically transcribed into Katabic script with Awkari adinkra glyphs interspersed.

the Manden currency is a square gold coin that represents the states bound together. One side bears the Boa Me Na Me Mmoa Wo adinkra, meaning cooperation and independence, and the other has the Mansa's head in profile. All casting, manufacture and regulation of the coin is centralized to the fortified river island Traore, 20 miles from the capital Nianiba. Its sole purpose is the minting of these coins, and its population is highly restricted and controlled. Other kingdoms in Ifri may reject bank notes or foreign coin, but Manden welcomes them. Villagers will take gold and silver coins for the value of the metal, while bank notes and paper currency can be cashed with nobles and wealthy merchants in large cities. Master craftspeople tend to appreciate this easily, as it makes export of their wares quite easy. Visitors expecting barter are quickly corrected and told that Manden didn't become the richest nation in the world on barter.

While professional standing troops are growing in popularity, traditionally every caste contributes to the Manden army. Before the Kurufaba, each region handled its own military, but now, engaging in regular training and supplying the nation with troops gets a caste tax breaks. Mounted officers are typically Horonw, musketeers and heavy infantry usually numuw, communications officers usually griot and noncombat support usually Jonow. Hunters form elite scout units with poisoned arrows and javelins, while the main mass of archer troops use simple, easily fixed bows. While the Mandenkaw have access to elite infantry and cavalry, their strategies rarely rely on them except for extremely specific tasks. Instead, they traditionally rely on superior logistics and force of numbers, given their vast wealth and population. Logistics have been made simple with centuries of practice. This makes the Manden army better at some things than others - they're extremely good at siege, for example.

The Xwedans and Igodomigodoese share both culture and grudges with each other and the Mbeyans, having raided each other since time immemorial over just about anything except religion. Xweda has proven the defensively strongest, thanks to its swamps, jungles and bad attitude, whole Igodomigodo has been most offensively successful due its extremely good cavalry and excellent administration. The ATC has changed this old conflict, however. Now, all border skirmishes are over slaves, and Manden is losing. For all the martial strength of Xwedan and Igodomigodoese tradition, the raiders are explicitly drawing the Manden army out to capture soldiers for slavery, which plays into the aggressive and proactive doctrine of Mandenka strategy. Many Manden soldiers have fallen into slaver holds.

Manden's military research division is attached to the Imperial University in Nianiba, using information gained by scouts and spies across the world. They have studied Avalon longbows and Anatol Ayh composite bows to improve their archers, Cathayan and Castillian siege designs, Nahuacan infantry tactics and Quanahlotye guerillas. Their most important frontier is sea power, however. Manden has immense land forces, but their merchant marine is limited, especially compared to northern Amazigh and other naval titans. Most Thean goods do not attain high prices in Manden save for curiosities like metal armor (which is considered interesting but not very useful in the Mandenka weather), but goods from Aztlan have stoked their curiosity about what lies across the sea. The Mansa has hired Odisean shipwrights to construct a treasure fleet of galleons, and also wants to buy large numbers of cheap (if outdated) galleys and galleasses. Unfortunately, new ships must still get through the Company blockades off the cost of Mbey. The Vendel League is fighting the ATC forces, but only as long as they consider it profitable to keep doing. Still, building their own fleet will take even longer, no matter how much they pay the workers, especially with the Company controlling the modern port facilities of Mbey.

Next time: Places in Manden.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Book City

Awkar is a landlocked region south of the Ubari Desert and west of Aksum. It is the gateway to the markets and ideas of northern and eastern Ifri and the Crescent Empire. It is local tradition that the Dinist missionary Zinat bint Ziya, companion to the Prophet Khalil, came from far Katab to found al-Ghaba, the first and greatest of Awkar's cities, also called the Citadel of Letters for its ancient university complex. The Awkwari Dominion were the first power to conquer the region, until the Ziyaid Dynasty squandered their resources and failed to protect against the Kel Tagelmust raiders of the north. It was then that sorcerer-king Sumanguru Kante, leader of one of their vassals' powerful blacksmith clans, rose up and took the capital city from the Ziyaids in a bloody coup that ruined many grand mosques and schools. The final battle of Mari-Djata's war on the sorcerer was the siege of al-Ghaba, ended when the Xwedan gbeto ('elephant hunters') infiltrated the city and assassinated Sumanguru's leadership.

In the aftermath, Mari-Djata reinvigorated Awkar's trade, rebuilding al-Ghaba and inviting the Kel Tagelmust leaders for a show of Manden force, then negotiating a deal with them that let them into the gold and salt trades as long as they protected the Manden caravans. Now, Awkar is a tributary rather than a capital, but it has far more influence than it ever had in its own empire. It is the gateway from Manden to the northeast, spreading Manden culture across the desert. Al-Ghaba and Nianiba are eternal rivals for which city is most cosmopolitan, and al-Ghaba has the advantage of many foreign visitors to balance out the massive wealth of Nianiba.

Of all Mandenkaw, the Awkari are easily the best educated, and their ancient temple-library complex is the oldest and largest on the planet. Al-Ghaba has a one hundred percent literacy rate, more books per capita than any other city, and free education for all through university level. The Awkari have a reputation in Manden as haughty and elitist, disdaining service to the Ori and belittling those who study under village griot rather than at Dinist schools. They also are known to seal deals with written contracts rather than verbal agreements in the presence of a griot, which makes other Mandenkaw distrust them and become confused.

The Mad Library of al-Ghaba rises from the city center, covered in minarets, domes and towers. However, grime clouds the windows. Its gardens are overgrown and full of wild animals. Adinkra glyphs glow on the walls to ward against the power within. The Mad Library is a testament to the power and danger of the written word and what happens if you let librarians experiment unchecked. About a century ago, one of their library science experiments went wrong. The head librarians attempted to transcribe a storybook about a mischevious spider spirit into adinkra glyphs, and they focused far too much power into one tome, which the spirit decided to mess with. The resulting explosion turned simple words into magical spells, magical information into energy, and written ideas into reality. Some of the librarians immediately ascended to the afterlife, leaving their dya to become bookwraiths. The books reshape the library around them into exaggerated crossover versions of their stories. All kinds of strange creatures from the books infest the religion and mythology wing, while the romance section is full of courtesans, succubae and sex. The philosophy section is home to extremely improbable debates between various historic figures...well, it's best to just obey the rules if you go visit.


1. Do not speak above a whisper. It is the quickest way to attract monsters, rogue books, bookwyrms or worst of all, librarians.
2. No running. See rule 1.
3. No food or drink near the books. Many sharp-jawed books have snapped shut on an arm after smelling food or, when fed, have revealed that they incubate dangerous spirits.
4. No open flames. The magical energy suffusing the Library transforms flames into jinn, tiny mischevious beings of smokeless fire.
5. No unattended children or pets, except in the designated Children's Area. A child who wanders into the Library's darkness becomes a protagonist in some story deadly to parents.
6. Return any book you take out before the due date. Removing a book creates a loophole in the Library's magical wards, allowing a bookwraith to escape and pursue you until you return the book and pay a late fee. This fee is a Story with a number of Steps based on how late your book is, usually hunting some enemy or donating a dangerously rare book. Destroy a Mad Library book, and a bookwyrm drags you back to the Library to become a bookwraith yourself.

The bookwraiths wear robes stitched from torn out pages. They are very strong, unstoppable and practically indestructible. When wounded, they knit themselves together from nearby books, then get mad at you for making them destroy books. Every bookwraith innately knows the location of every library book. Somewhere in the mezzanine, you can find a twisted tree that grows out of a rug up towards the ceiling. When starlight shines through, the clockwork sparrows and chameleons come to life, and the plush hares and wildcats in the pillows wake up and talk. The tree itself grows a face, and wind-up soldiers patrol the perimeter against dangerous adults. This is the Children's Corner, which calls out to poor and neglected children in the city. If a child makes it through the Library's dangers, which often they have a better chance of than adults, they will be safe and comfortable in the Corner, where a story of food nourishes them as well as a real meal. No child over 12 may remain - the toy soldiers escort them out. Last are the stacks, honeycombs of tesselated reading rooms lit by glowing fungi or air-swimming fish. Some of their books are comprehensible, while others appear to be random series of words or phrases, or evening letters and real or imagined symbols. Every combination of possible characters exists somewhere in the stacks, and they connect to a number of entirely different libraries throughout the world.

Xweda, meanwhile, is the smallest and least populated state. It covers much of the Kurufaba's coastline, and is full of salt marshes and crocodile-laden lagoons. Rivers head inland through sacred forests full of unique plants that can handle the flooding and draining of the wetlands. The rainforests are home to some of the fiercest beasts in Ifri, including the side-striped jackal, the warthoga, the leoparda, hippos, bush elephants and honey badgers. The Xwedans have little farmland, so they rely a lot on hunting and fishing. Mbeyan slavers and Igodomigodoese invadersh ave often attacked them, but the Xwedans are tough people, some of the best scouts and stealth infantry in the world and experts in using cover and amphibious assaults. They adopted the musket quickly, and take pride in needing only the minimum of shots to make a kill. The best of these are the gbeto. They were originally the personal guard and hunting entourage of the Xwedan king, and now the all-female corps of elephant hunters shows up whenever the Kurufaba most needs them, often unexpectedly.

The Xweden economy is rarely as good as the rest of Manden's. Their ports see a lot of business, but most of it is ATC business. The king tries to limit their influence, but President Rourke has been using secretly contracted, unmarked ships to avoid notice. Besides, what bounty does come to the coast rarely stays with the local hunters, fishers and farmers. Xweda relies a lot on imported food and economic aid, and the other provinces dislike having to send so much money to support such a poor people. Mansa Kankan has suggested, gently, that they clearcut some forests for farming and grazing land, but the Ahosu hates the idea - that's sacred forest, and besides, Kankan probably wants the wood for his treasure fleet. It remains to be seen if the Mansa's new shipyards will help the Xwedan economy or just make the rich richer elsewhere.

The Xwedan capital and largest port is Arrada, in the north. The mangroves climb from the salt marshes, with the wooden buildings built in and around their trunks. Ahosu Mazidath lives on an island in the city center. Her royal compound is heavily walled with acacia thorns, mounted guns and barracks, plus a reception hall for diplomats and her own home - an ancient but well maintained stone, mud and wood structure covered in bas-reliefs but far less modern and refined than its surroundings. For many centuries, the area was just a historical curiosity while the Ahosu lived and received people elsewhere, but Mazidath enjoys them and says the surroundings keep her humble and make people underestimate her. There is also a large Odisean factory closer to the sea, home to many Thean visitors. The Explorers and Vendel League each have properties within this fortified compound, which adjoins to a modern shipyard built on the Odisean model. Here, thousands work around the clock for excellent pay, working under the Thean shipwrights hired by Captain Kunto de Rosa.

Next time: Igodomigodo and Manden State

Nov 8, 2009


I'm a professional librarian, and am deeply torn between loving or hating the Mad Library. It fits with a certain outside view of what libraries and librarians do, but what I see as the amazing and magical thing about libraries is far more subtle and elusive than that nonsense.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

As a librarian by training myself, I like it just for the idea of mad library science, even if it's pretty goofy and surface-level.

Jan 20, 2004

Trout Clan Daimyo
Librarians. No sense of right and wrong.

Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
Not sure how to feel about the Mad Library, it has some cool parts, like Bookwraiths, rule #5, and I like the general concept. But at the same time the whole bit with "it connects to other libraries in the world" makes it strongly feel like they're just cribbing heavily from Terry Pratchett and the library at the Unseen University.

Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.
I think I'm going to hit the Empire book after I finish the Realms of Sorcery because I can't avoid it forever and the other Warhammer thread finally got me to do the part I was dreading most and tally up the population numbers, to point out why writing up all those population numbers was pointless and stupid.

The official population of the Empire is 480,617 according to their sourcebook, neatly explaining why they never put down solid population numbers in any future sourcebooks. Because that is like ludicrously tiny.

That's probably less than what I'd assume was the population of Altdorf.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Children of Gods

Igodomigodo could, had history gone just a little differently, been the rulers of Manden. They sit in the north-center, landlocked, between Xweda and Awkar. Before Mari-Djata came, they had good reason to believe their destiny was to rule all of Ifri. Their capital was built on the very spot, it is said, that the Ori first descended from the sky. The locals actually believe that conflict was their curse from day one, as the second Ori to come down fought over who would rule the world and who would make humans and so on. The other Ori were forced to begin choosing sides, but before the fight could start, one of the two first Ori left to found his own city somewhere else. That was the start of time. Ever since, the cities of Ajaka and Katunga have coexisted in tense equilibrium. Each has a line of Alaafin who claim divine mandate of al-Musawwir, and each has grown strong and wealthy. Each has controlled a large network of vassals and tribes using an elaborately detailed and defined bureaucracy...and, in many ways, each did it to spite the other. The royal governments are famous for the efficiency of the elaborate system of bureaucracy they use, which eventually became the basis for the current Kurufaba government.

At the first council of chiefs for Mari-Djata, the Katunga Alaafin swore service to Mari-Djata for all Igodomigodoese tribes. The Ajaka Alaafin, who also claimed that right, disputed the decision. While the throne traces their participation in Manden back to this point, for all practical purposes they've only been a full member of the Kurufaba for 130 years, after the end of the Igodomigodo Secession, in which a god-king seized control of both Ajaka and Katunga combined, making them into a single metropolis of Ajaka-Katunga. He then militarized the nation and attacked the surrounding parts of Manden and Mbey. The Kurufaba only regained control when internal strife ended his rule in a magical accident.

The Igodomigodoese have a reputation for being overbearing, overly aggressive political wonks. Even now, in times of peace, their smug and superior attitude as they pacify bandits for you or fight on the border doesn't often make friends. They are, howeve,r quite famous for their thousands-year-old tradition of sculpture. They make stylized sculptures of religious subjects out of wood and extremely realistic bronze sculptures of heroes and kings. The bronzes are made using lost-wax casting for precise detail.

The Manden State itself is arid and hard to farm. The river valleys are fertile, but they aren't the real source of Manden State's power. See, they have gold. The richest gold fields in the world, even centuries after their peak. Whether you mined the hills or panned the river, they had the most gold. They also have rich veins of diamonds, copper, bauxite, iron, limestone, silver and salt. This has made them spectactularly profitable. A single unbroken (if rather complex) dynasty has always ruled as the Mansas of Manden, the high monarchs that own all land and natural resources. The Mansa apportions out shares in the resources to chieftains of the horonw.

Mari-Djata's joining of the four states pushed the Kurufaba to the forefront of trade in West Ifri. Gold and salt went out on the trade routes, enriching all nearby. They implemented a gold and salt standard to try and standardize wealth, reorganizing themselves on the governmental model of Igodomigodo. Over time, however, the Kurufaba has grown less like a federation and more like an empire. Power has centralized around the Mansa, as seen in the city of Nianiba. It sits in the far south, amongst the gold fields. It is full of stone and gold statues, it's laid out in a perfectly square grid, building new concentric square walls as it grows and filling the new space with ever richer and more lavish monuments. The center square is home to the Mansa's palace, along with his personal guard: the Guardian Mothers. The Guardian Mothers are an elite section of Xweden gbeto who were redirected to Nianiba in the reign of a male Mansa who liked the idea of a personal guard of highly trained wives. He immediately found that he couldn't be quite so free with them as he wanted, as he was dealing with an entire troop of women trained to kill since the age of ten.

So, international relations! While the Mansa was on pilgrimage, his brother Prince Adegoke spent five years pointlessly attacking Aksum for the sake of glory. Mansa Kankan then returned from the Crescent, singing the praises of nonviolence and mercy. He immediately sued for peace, arranging a marriage between his son, Maghan Kon Fatta, and the Aksumite princess Le'elt Mehret. It seems peace has come, but some say that hte princess is less eager for the match than she appears, and war may come again. The Manden trade network relies heavily on Maghrebi participation, and the Mandenkaw love Maghreb goods - particularly their fashion and their swords. Many Mansas have wanted to absorb the Maghreb as a member state, but the Maghrebi have always refused, and conquest would hurt the economy, so it's out of the question. Kankan sees the International Kurufaba as a chance to revive that dream of unity. Khemet...well, modern Khemet is a quite literally dark and dangerous place, and many pilgrims do not return on their journeys through the Black Land. Many, particularly devcout Dinists, see Khemet as a threat someone will have to deal with, sooner or later.

For many Mandenkaw concerned with Mbeyan aggression, now is the worst possible time for a Mansa to declare war no longer a political tool in the toolbox. Mbeyan intrusion onto Manden lands means slave taking, which has been hiting the Xwedan and Igodomigodoese border regions hard. They'd normally take the fight into their own hands, but can no longer do so to the same extent without the Mansa's approval. The locals want war with Mbey, turning all of Manden's power to crushing the slavers. The Crescent has historically been a vital trade and pilgrimage partner for Manden, who sailed ships north around Mbey and Amazigh, past Khemet, to land on Crescent shores and head for pilgrimage sites, as well as treasure ships heading that way for trade, despite piracy. Over the past 20 years, however, the North Coast Route has grown more profitable and less dangerous.

On the ATC posted:

"The guy from Avalon? Yeah, he sent a lot of letters asking to meet and talk guinea fowl - didn't even send a griot, can you believe that? We told him, via griot like civilized human beings, that he'd have to get in line and there were a lot of people ahead of him, but maybe he didn't like that. Does he think we don't know he enslaves Ifrians? Mbey is right next to us. We're also pretty sure he pays pirates to attack our waters. This is not the foundation of a successful business relationship." - anonymous source within Mansa Kankan's household.

The Vendel are not strangers to far-off trade, and their first delegation arrived in Xweda 150 years ago. They bought a lot of fancy clothes and spent a lot of time touring Arrada before heading to meet the Mansa. Their skald's skill and versatility was considered especially impressive. The War of the Cross, however, set back trade quite a bit, as it threatened southbound vessels in the Widow's Sea. As soon as the war ended, trade resumed, but the ATC has kept it from reaching its prior levels. The Company and the Vendel have been in a trade war since 1648, and it's turned hot in West Ifrian waters, as the Vendel merchant navy and the Company's hired pirates clash repeatedly. Dozens of ships have sunk, dozens of crews have been enslave. Manden favors the Vendel but has no fleet to support them with.

People! Mansa Kankan is the current ruler, a devout Dinist, a devoted father and husband, an excellent businessman and the richest human on the planet. His recent pilgrimage to the site of Prophet Khalil's death sent economic shocks through every settlement he traveled through, as his charitable donations often exceeded the net worth of entire small countries. Kankan was also changed by it. As he traveled, and he and his Dinist teachers explored the ideas of love and nonviolence that are central to the al-Din faith. When Kankan returned, he made a shocking proclamation: offensive war was no longer a viable diplomatic tool or solution of the Manden Kurufaba. The army was now a purely defensive force. While Manden State and Awkar have enjoyed this change, the more martial Xweda and Igodomigodo are less confident. They see the face of Mbeyan aggression and lose people to Atabean slavery a lot. Both Ahosu Mazidath and the Regent Enitan have voiced their doubts, but Kankan is adamant. If Xweda and Igodomigodo want financial support, they must obey the mandate.

Youssou Sende is the most beloved and well-known griot in Manden, with the most beautiful voice. She is favored by Mansa Kankan and the Ori, and it is said the Ori gave her the power to remember anything and everything she hears perfectly, that she is so beloved that she has four Ori watching her, not three. As a griot, she can tell the history of her people in an unbroken chain through her grandmothers. She wanders the land, collecting stories and teaching younger griots. She learns the tales of individuals, turning them into legends that give hope to the nation. Like many Mandenkaw who live near Mbey, however, she knows loss. She was sent tos ing at the birth of the Aksumite princess Merhet, and the Ori bid her to wait one day before going home. She did...and returned to find her entire village captured or killed by Mbeyan slavers. She is alive, but she fears her family is not. She knows she is old, though, and so she hopes and prays all the time that her work will be repaid by the return of her daughter or the arrival of an apprentice to carry on her lineage.

Prince Adegoke is Kankan's younger brother, and technically a hostage, 'adopted' from a cadet branch of Ajaka-Katunga's royal family in the aftermath of the Igodomigodo Secession. Even now, he is dissatisfied. He knows he's always going to be, at best, second to Kankan - and at worst, a bargaining chip. He spent his childhood never trusting anyone but his best friend, Omobolanle. Omobolanle only appears to Adegoke, and has always been there. Adegoke knows he's not human - a wraith, perhaps, or maybe a jinn - but he's the only one sympathetic to Adegoke's plan to overthrow Kankan and usurp the Sika'Dwa stool for Igodomigodo. During Kankan's long pilgrimage, he attacked Aksum in hopes of gaining the military and public support needed to steal the throne. It was supposed to be quick and easy, but the Manden generals refused to send troops off the Mbey border, so Adegoke was forced to match wits with Aksum directly, using his brillian military skill. However, the mathemagicians of Aksum foretold all of his ambushes and traps, and with the Mandanka forces lacking their usual overwhelming numbers advantage, he struggled for five years to gain any ground. Despite all this, Mansa Kankan trusts Adegoke utterly, and trusts his military as well, unaware that the Alagbato Iya's leader has been sduced by Adegoke, who has been given the tongue of a serpent by Omobolanle. Adegoke is currently working to conver the rest of the Iya, so he can perform a palace coup or a takeover of the International Kurufaba - whichever proves easiest. Adegoke is Strength 3, Influence 9.

Kunto de Rosa is a Thean shipwright of Xwedan ancestry, hired by Mansa Kankan and Queen Mazideath to oversee the Xwedan shipyards. She is the daughter of an Odisean shipwright and Xweda sailor, and she's had decades of experience working for the Castillian royals. She was offered a large salary for exclusive work in Arrada, but the Kurufaba didn't know she was already on the Atabean Trading Company's payroll. Originally, the Company wanted a mole in the Castillian shipyards to update them on the status of Castille's rebuilding of the Armada. However, the Company offered to raise her salary if she'd serve as a double agent in Manden. She's a good shipwright, but far greedier than she is proud of her job. She originally started out doing her best to build quality craft for the Kurufaba, but now she has been given the order to sabotage them. The supervisors directly under her are also on Company payroll, and they build in tiny flaws in the ships that the Company can exploit. Someone, however, is working against her. The Jonow and Nyamakalaw working under her have started to catch and correct her 'mistakes,' and she suspects that she has a mole within her own moles. She is Strength 4, Influence 10.

Next time: Mbey

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer

MollyMetroid posted:

Librarians. No sense of right and wrong.


Edit: I love the rules for navigating the Library (rule 5 is so Bradbury), and adore the Children's Corner.

Bieeanshee fucked around with this message at 21:28 on Jul 6, 2018

U.T. Raptor
May 11, 2010

Are you a pack of imbeciles!?

I want to visit that rad magic library.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
The Mad Library:

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Where the Darkness Is

Mbey has, of all the five nations of Ifri, the best claim at being a true empire, for it controls not one land, but six. Mbey technically refers only to the empire's most central kingdom, full of thick rainforests in a shallow basin, where the Bour Ba rules and oversees the western vassals. The Bour Bas have always ruled Mbey, as one of the five kings blessed by the Jok with a Sika'Dwa stool. The kingdoms of Nder, Mboul, Diourbel, Gelwaar and Kahone saw the mandate in this and pledged themselves to Mbey, and the unity has never been broken. At its greatest height, the Mbey Empire cast a shadow over all of Ifri. None could match its wealth, glory or spirit. Each kingdom retained a fierce and independent identity - the cavalry of Diourbel, who raise horses unlike any others in Ifri, the Second People of Kahone, whose wrestler-warriors are known as simb, the false lions, the sailors of Mboul whose craft is unrivaled, the wise border people of Nder who use ancient magic and careful diplomacy to guard the land, and the Gelwaar who kept watch over the Fields of Bonsam, protecting the world from evil. All, however, were loyal to the Bour Ba. Mbey was the kingdom of kingdoms, bound together by common cause. It is because of the tolerant attitude of the Bour Ba and the way he was chosen that allowed for this.

In Mbey, the Bour Ba must always embody the empire's three great virtues of thiossane: gracious mien, generous spirit and steady temperament. Traditionally, the Bour Ba must be of Mbey birth, but the appointment was not hereditary - he is chosen by the kangam, the lead notables of the five kingdoms. It may, at its height, have been the truest meritocracy there has ever been. It was not perfect, but it was grand beyond anything before or since. The first Bour Ba did not even limit his vision to his own lands. In Khemet, he saw great buildings. In the Crescent Empire, he learned of science and medicine, and in both he saw the great ships of Theah. He seduced all with the tales of gold and wonders in Ifri, bringing them to his court and making Lougua a metropolis beyond its time. This progressiveness was seen as normal in Mbey, where the blending of cultures brought about philosophy and art unseen anywhere else.

Perhaps, then, there is no greater crime than the corruption of Mbey. If it had lasted, what wonders might have existed, what evil avoided. But the Bonsam Stones were disturbed, and blame must be laid at the feet of the Atabean Trading Company, the nation of Montaigne...and Bour Ba Ighodalo, the mad king, broken by his own shame. The ATC did in months what had been impossible for centuries - they fostered greed and animosity between the vassals of Mbey and their ruler. It was not easy, involving high duplicity, impersonation and careful sowing of suspicion. They first raided in the disguise of Mboulan pirates, whom they shared an interest with - boats - and had bought ships from. They raided the Mbey coast, and Nder was the first to ask the Bour Ba for aid. Diplomacy was tried, but the raids only increased as Mboul protested its innocence and the ambassadors sought truth. Diourbel's soldiers chose a more decisive path - they assassinated their brak, official governor for the Bour Ba, and sent their cavalry to Mboul, massacring innocent villages in retribution. The ATC had set the fire, and now only needed to stoke it.

Civil war erupted, with only Nder remaining neutral in the hostilities - and they were suddenly crushed between Maghreb raiders and southern battlefront, which often spilled over into their villages. They were dying, and fast. Mbey tore itself apart as the Company exploited the chaos. They profited from weapons deals, yes, but they saw more profit from an Mbey united under their control. A weak Mbey would just be a target for Maghreb and Manden, no good to the Company - especially if they wanted to get to the gold fields of Manden. An Mbey under their control, however, would be a staging ground and an army. Thus, they offered their mercenary army to the Bour Ba in exchange for his Sika'Dwa stool. The Bour Ba, of course, refused.

And so, the ATC laid siege to Lougua. Under normal circumstances, a small Thean army and their slaves would never have stood a chance in Mbey...but with the kingdom in chaos, no help could be expected. While Bour Ba Ighodalo remained resolute, the foreign merchants who were over half of Lougua's population were less so, and the Company knew it. After four weeks of siege, when hunger and disease began to set in, they offered free passage home to any man, woman or child who delivered to them the Sika'Dwa. At that time, Ighodalo saw that he no longer had control over his city. He had, like his predecessors, allowed foreigners free travel, and they had betrayed him. He saw that doing nothing would lose Mbey - and so, he gathered the Ninth Guard, his most loyal soldiers, and while it pained him greatly, he ordered them to murder every foreigner in their beds that night, save for the teachers at university and the children, both of whom he threw in the dungeons. It was the greatest violation of thiossane ever enacted by a sitting Bour Ba and the bloodiest night in Lougua's entire history.

When they learned of his atrocities, Ighodalo's twin sons were overcome with shame. He had violated ancient custom and murdered his welcomed guests, his friends. One son sought to punish his father for this crime, while the other, full of guilt, wanted only to spare him more humiliation. Together, they stole the Sika'Dwa stool from the square it sat in, presenting it to the Company commander, who thanked them politely and then took them prisoner. Before Ighodalo knew what happened, his sons were off to Bellete to be sold as slaves and shipped out of IFri. However, the Company did lift the siege and ended all hostilities. Even the civil war faded, as the provocateurs ended their work. However, to call Mbey unified now was correct only in a truly legalist sense. Thousands lay dead, and the Company had taken all of their pride. And yet, this was not the worst.

Without the Sika'Dwa, Bour Ba Ighodalo had no right to rule. His armies were depleted, so he could not expel the Company, nor ever recover what he'd lost. Mbey could never be whole, and without his sons, neither could he. The greatest empire in the world was broken under his watch. His doubt and shame were too much. It would be nice to say that Ighodalo did what he did next due to prophecy, and by his decree, his griot tells it so, though she knows it is a lie. Even madness would be better. But the truth is simply that he fell to temptation. It took three days of consideration, and on the fourth, he summoned the Ninth Guard and sent them into Gelwaar by night, attacking the guards on the Fields of Bonsam and, by sunrise, finding the first of the Stones of Bonsam. Most of the Guard were slain by the wardens, but the survivors did as they'd been ordered. They took the black monolith from the ground and returned it to Lougua, fighting the wardens and exorcists the whole way. They were nothing if not devoted. Only one survived - but he did so carrying the stone.

The next morning, Ighodalo summoned the five bours of the vassal kingdoms. When they arrived, they were greeted by a strange, fragile woman of indeterminate age and oily complexion unlike that of Ifrians. Her spindly limbs were like a spider's, her belly distended. She called herself Chitendu, a name with no meaning in any of their languages, and she told them they must pledge again to the Bour Ba - a precaution due to the siege, she said. What happened that day, only those five, Bour Ba Ighodalo and Chitendu can say, but in the days after, the Bour Ba took to wearing a long thong around his neck, from which hung five still-beating hearts.

After that, Mbey was united again, but its spirit was gone, replaced by sadness or cruelty. Gelwaar reluctantly gave the Fields of Bonsam to the Bour Ba, who began excavating them and moving the stones to Lougua. He began to enslave Maghreb and Manden citizens to do the labor, with the help of the Company. Even now, the excavation continues and new Stones of Bonsam are sent to his palace. Those who return from such deliveries, which is not all, speak of mad things - an ever-burning jungle, a throne of shattered Bonsam Stone, men and women in the market with dead eyes, and Chitendu, followed by flies at all times, watching. And, of course, the hearts. The beating hearts around Ighodalo's throat.

If there is any good to this, it is that Mbey's relationship with the ATC is now, subtly, in Ighodalo's favor. For a second, he was under their thumb, and now they can't really tell why he isn't. He trades with them enthusiastically, selling slaves for gold and guns. It's strange. He doesn't act like a man deprived of his sons or his sovereignty, but like a man possessed. His motives and ambitions are unclear, but the Company...well, they'll claim they're in the superior position, but they know it's a lie.

Mbey rules over 300 miles of land, 200 miles wie. It is half the size of its nearest rivals, yet has traditionally been stronger than both. Until now, it has always ruled supreme in the western coast, its enemies unable to pierce its border. Now...well, now the border is a battlefield for slavers. Nder is the northmost kingdom, nestled in the Mbey River Valley. It is the smallest yet most vital vassal. The river floods twice a year, irrigating its fields and feeding the entire nation of Mbey. Unfortunately, Nder appears to have almost vanished. The day the Bonsam Fields were excavated, a thick fog covered the entire area. You can go towards it, but you'll just end up where you started. Rumors abound, but some say that the recent resistance to the Bour Ba is from the invisible people of Nder, that vanishing was their last, desperate act, that they were tied to the land and that their magic made it leave. No matter how it was done, Nder's vanishing puts great pressure on the other kingdoms to provide.

Mboul is near Nder, or where it once was, the border lying where the savannah gave way to forest. The trees are the key to Mbey, and while Nder was the heart of commerce in the nation, Mboul was its richest kingdom due to the easy lumber that could be used for ships. For over a century, Mboul (and so Mbey) was the maritime power of Ifri, whose hsips connected the coast and made empire possible. Their presence was common even as far away as Khemet, and it was Mboul that first met the ATC. Heading further south you hit Gelwaar, the least hospitable kingdom. Only its shores, where the oncean rains hit, are green. Inland is just a sandy expanse, mostly notable for the Stones of Bonsam interspersed throughout. IT was here, in ages past, that the Jok defeated Bonsam and imprisoned them in the black obelisks, some clustered thick, others left alone.

Head east until you can no longer see the Stones, and you will reach Diourbel. It is like Gelwaar, but grassy, good for grazing its famous horses. These ae ulike any horses in Ifri, except perhaps the few that the northern kingdoms have gained from Crescent trade. Keep going and you reach Kahone, a land of rivers and lakes but similar climate. Both are full of dense rainforest, and the main difference, according to the locals, is that Kahone is home of the Second People. The two lands were once almost one, shared by the First and Second, but that was in times past, before the ATC came and founded their colony on the Kahone River's mouth. Before they began preying on the Second People as slaves and sent them as refugees, much as they once had been from Maghreb. Now, Kahone is increasingly abandoned by its people, barely a kingdom. At the heart of it all, though, is Mbey, shielded by the Mbey Mountains. Once, it was a land of fog and mist, but now, the jungle burns, forever on fire, and there is only steam and vents where mist once lay. Only beasts that can survive the flames live there now, and many strange and terrible monsters. The natives have fled to the capital, where the Bour Ba shields them from fiery death. Some say death would be preferable, but never loudly. Something might be listening.

Next time: Life in the land of devils.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Mbey Before Dark

The most fundamental social division in Mbey is between commoner and kangam. Most people are commoners, though obviously there are subtle distinctions between those who labor and those who craft. In principle, a kangam is the same - they do the same work and live in the same place as commoners. What distinguishes them is the respect given to them. 'Kangam' translates to 'most notable'. In theory they are the nobles of Mbey, though no Thean would recognize it that way. The kangam live among the commoners and do not necessarily have more wealth. Their status is not inherited and it is not elected. Rather, being kangam is about trust. When people turn to you for guidance and recognize your wisdom and skill, that is when you are kangam. It is an informal process, so much so that a kangam may not know they are one until thy are called on to perform a formal function of the job, such as selecting a new bour.

There is no reward for being kangam - just more responsibilitiy, driven by civic duty. That's not to say there is no reward - being kangam is about being respected, so people will care for you and treat you well, as they respect you. Above the kangam are the bour and the brak. In theory, a bour and brak are equal. In other lands, a bour might be called a king, but 'ambassador' is probably a better term. They are native to the land they rule, and each of the five vassal kingdoms has their own title. Bour was the Nder title, while in Diourbel it is Teny, in Mboul it is Damel, in Gelwaar it is Balam and in Kahone, Laman. They are semipermanent members of the Bour Ba's court, and spend as much time in Lougua as at home. The five brak are chosen by the Bour Ba from among the kangam, sent to live in the vassal kingdoms to represent his interests. Once, they were chosen from among their people, but today, all of the brak have been replaced by abonsam who wear their faces.

The bour advise the Bour Ba on the customs and needs of the people, while the brak assist the Bour Ba's holdings in matters of defense and state interest. Thus, each vassal kingdom is represented in the court of the Bour Ba, and the Bour Ba is represented in their far off lands, though obviously current events have shifted the balance quite a bit. There is one other class to note in Mbey: slave. Slavery, according to the griots, has existed in one form or other for as far back as any can remember. Captured enemies were pressed into service in labor or battle, and Mbey had many enemies. However, with the coming of the ATC, slavery is now a business. It's not just Mbey's enemies - the Second People of Mbey are often sold in the flesh markets, and even the First People can be found on the block as punishment for increasingly petty crimes.

Mbey ideas of gender and gender roles are distinct and important. Women are considered to be, by and large, dependant on men. Tradition prevents a woman from becoming a bour or the Bour Ba, but women are also seen as essential to the prosperity of a village, and are equally able to be kangam. Gender roles are usually less srict in villages that have more pressing day to day concerns, and especially among the Second People, who came from Maghreb and recognize a matrilineal queen as well as a patrilineal king. There is also a strong tradition inb Mbey of gender nonconformance. A man with no sons might designate one daughter as a 'male daughter' and raise her as a man, or might take on the role of a 'male wife' to another man. A woman could take wives of her own. These changes happen both because a person takes on a role they feel comfortable doing, and because of the social need for them to occupy a position that traditionally would belong to another gender. This is seen as necessary to make society function, and those who take on other gender roles often have a rise in status - a wife who takes other wives, for example, is seen as a wealthy provider and family head. However, the influence of Bonsam has meant these people are increasingly suffering from distrust and persecution, which isn't helping Mbeyan social stability.

There are two main ethnic groups in Mbey, the First People and the Second People. The First People descend from the original inhabitants of the land, often peacefully absorbing the other tribes that lived there and taking up their skills and even their magic in the case of the northern Nder. They saw themselves as one people, but adopted names to distinguish their regional differences: Nder, Gelwaar, Diourbel and Mboul. All are of the First People. In time, they found the great basin in the heart of the rainforests, shielded by the mountains. The local tribes called it Mbey, and they built the village of Lougua there. It was, at the time, a provincial village of minor importance. This changed when the Jok gifted Mbey the Sika'Dwa stool and Lougua became the seat of the Mbeyan empire.

The Second People came to Mbey as refugees driven from their ancestral homes in Maghreb. They tend to be shorter, with lighter skin, and they came with their own religion. The First People worshipped a thousand gods and spirit, but the Second People had only one, who had Prophets. (The Crescent culture and Dinist faith were quite prevalent in Maghreb at the time, and still are.) Their diapsora brought them to the south of Mbey, and they may have gone on to Manden had the Bour Ba's emissaries not offered them sanctuary. And so, they claimed the land of Kahone. For the entire history of Mbey, the Second People and First People have been equals - the names are just about who arrived when, with no implication of class.

This changed when the ATC came, and got worse with the breaking of the Bonsam Stones. Most know that Mbey's raids into Manden and Maghreb for slaves have tarnished relations, but little is said about Ighodalo's surrender of the Second People to the Company. It has turned them into true second-class citizens. They remember the persecutions of Maghreb, centuries ago, and so they took little time to flee again, heading south as easily as they did when they first arrived.

Most Mbeyans wear a boubou, a loose, wide-sleeved cotton tunic, which may be embroidered in any number of colors and patterns. Women usually wear a matching headscarf or turban, and shoes are primarily either open leather sandals or closed and pointed sandals, often decorated to display wealth. Clothing is generally quite colorful, even among the poor. There are no gender distinctions for color, and men and women both wear a wide range of colors.

The cultural identity of Mbey, historically, has been tied to thiossane, which is a word that means history, tradition and culture. It is the Bour Ba's breaking of thiossane that betrayed Mbey as much as the content of his actions, though the people still try to maintain the tradition. The first and biggest part of thiossane is the family. Among the First People, the nominal head of household is the father-husband, but he is both lord and servant. His word is law, but any wife may counsel him, and failure to heed their wise counsel often has dire social consequences. Among the Second People, the father-husband and mother-wife are equal in this role, with each having final authority over matters particular to their gender - daughters, household and fields for the women, sons, politics, hunting and trade for the men.

A large family is a sign of wealth, as only a rich person can provide for so many. However, this overlaps with the next element of thiossane: the village. Villages are an extension of family. A large community is prosperous only if its members are well-cared for. Thus, villages often share the duties of childcare, fieldwork and trade as part of thiossane. The leaders of the village are its kangams. Of course, when someone not kangam is wise enough and trusted by the people, they become kangam, so leadership is, in practice, done by those who lead. Most villages are strongly tied to nearby villages via intermarriage. Marriages are usually arranged, and while the bride and groom may express opinions, the final decision lies with their parents. The groom's family makes the proposal via an offer of food, usually kola nuts. Acceptance begins the period of courtship, which can last days or months, ending in a marriage ceremony slash moving day as the bride moves into her new husband's home. Goods are then transferred between families, completing the marriage trade.

A typical Mbeyan workday begins with the people of a village gathering to greet each other and pray thanks to the Ori, and to find anyone missing. Anyone who will need help is assigned it, and the villagers go about their duties. At midday, a meal is taken with the family, and any chores left are done in the afternoon. The evening meal is a social affair for the whole village, with any who wish to join taking part in song and dance before the large communal meal, then more song and dance and storytelling, and any conflict resolution that may be required. Ancestor spirits are invited in and given a bowl of water. The evening ends with a final prayer to the Ori, usually asking to be watched over in slumber. The primary language of Mbey is Njaay, with Nder and Gelwaar as secondary. They all belong to the Njaayan branch of the Kwara language family.

The Mbeyan diet is primarily fish and chicken, or goat and sheep in wealthier homes, paired with millet, fonio, rice, peanuts, kola nuts, bambara beans, cabbage, onions, peppers and carrots. Sauces are popular, particularly spicy ones and red tomato sauces. The baoba tree is also a staple food for most villages using its leaves, fruit and seeds in many foods, as is the wild dika, which produces a sweet fruit whose seeds can be eaten or turned to oil. Soprghum is common in the inland regions as a sweetener, cereal and livestock feed. Sorghum is the only real export the company will buy fairly except for slaves and gold. Mbey's extensive trade, however, means you can find Thean foods anywhere if you look, especially in larger towns or ports.

Stories, music and dance are the cornerstones of social life in Mbey. Every village has storytellers, usually elders whose bodies can no longer do menial labor. They spend their mornings teaching the children history and tradition, and in the evenings, they have a prominent social role in retelling legends and myths for amusement and giving historical advice to the kangam on matters of politics. They are at once teachers, entertainers and historians. Music and dance, however, belong to all. Every child learns the traditional village songs and dances, even before they can speak, and most learn to play instruments, too, especially the popular tam-tam drum. Every village has at least one tam-tam master and one apprentice. Traveling storytellers and musicians are probably the only travelers still given much trust these days, as they have the power to shame people into rejecting evil and to inspire them to greatness. Legend has it that the best storytellers can drive back the abonsam with their tales of hope and passion - and certainly, it is possible for a skilled musician or storyteller to convince an abonsam this is possible, which is just as good.

Next time: Religion

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!

MollyMetroid posted:

I mean the Atabean explicitly has a ton of giant sea monsters, ships crewed by the ghosts of the dead, and at least one god wandering around delivering's just that Ifri frontloads the legendry while the Pirate Nations book spreads it out more.

Plus you'll get a shitton more Thean magic weirdness in the Nations of Theah books, when Mors gets to those. Especially in Ussura compared to last time, but...yeah.

Yeah, it's interesting how Montagne is just France with Portals and on the whole Wester Europe seems only a wee bit magical. Get out of it a little, and it's Vaticcine missionaries who don't really have any powers spreading the good word to the people who occasionally go to drag their dead ancestors to chill in the land of the living or go into caves hunting for the cure-all scales of the world serpent.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

JcDent posted:

Yeah, it's interesting how Montagne is just France with Portals and on the whole Wester Europe seems only a wee bit magical. Get out of it a little, and it's Vaticcine missionaries who don't really have any powers spreading the good word to the people who occasionally go to drag their dead ancestors to chill in the land of the living or go into caves hunting for the cure-all scales of the world serpent.

Yeah no Western Theah is plenty magical, we just haven't read that book for the thread yet.


Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.
Did y'all miss the literal demons running around Fantasy Poland making deals at crossroads and the bit where Fantasy Germany is basically just the witcher with monsters everywhere and professional monster hunters making potions out of corpse parts?

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