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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Night10194 posted:

The seeming absence of any of those was really lowering my opinion of the line.

I'm glad to know they're actually in the books because in my experience, that kind of thing is way more helpful than you'd think, even for very experienced GMs.

They are all over - I just haven't been posting them because A. my writeups take up a lot of space already, and B. you should buy the books.

But yeah the book's happy to give you ideas on how to use what it throws at you, ranging from 'You are in Lougua and your heroes get a note asking them to kill Bour Ba Ighodalo, apparently written by the man himself' to ''an oasis between Khemet and Maghreb has been poisoned, and merchants from, both sides blame each other, figure out how to solve the dispute and find the poisoner'.

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Skellybones
May 31, 2011






Fun Shoe

Nessus posted:

John Wick don't like it.

Did one kill his dog or something?

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Mors Rattus posted:

The majority of Maghrebi people are Amazigh,

Any old Vendel sailor will tell you that the girls at Mahrebi ports are Amazigh :v:

DAD LOST MY IPOD
Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case




World building does get thick sometimes but there’s no part of 7th sea I look at and go “how the hell do you run a game there” which is a reaction I have a lot to some of the Palladium stuff. A game set in Montaigne is very different than a game set in Mbey but they both seem doable within the system

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


Mors Rattus posted:

B. you should buy the books.

Is that why we don't get any illustrations? Because maps would be useful!

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Waaaaait a second. An "Armless Lizard" is a snake with pretensions.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

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


wiegieman posted:

Waaaaait a second. An "Armless Lizard" is a snake with pretensions.

What if it has hind legs?

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




IIRC legless lizards are actually a thing separate from snakes, convergent evolution.

Prism
Dec 22, 2007

yospos


Ghost Leviathan posted:

IIRC legless lizards are actually a thing separate from snakes, convergent evolution.

Yeah. Some still have flaps where you'd expect hind legs, others don't even have that anymore and are completely limbless, but they're not snakes - they're more closely related to geckos.

Two of the ways to tell the difference is that legless lizards don't have forked tongues and can make squeaky noises (no snake can vocalize).

Prism fucked around with this message at 09:17 on Jul 9, 2018

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



JcDent posted:

Is that why we don't get any illustrations? Because maps would be useful!

That and a lot of my posts are from work, which blocks image hosting sites.

GimpInBlack
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.


Mors Rattus posted:

That and a lot of my posts are from work, which blocks image hosting sites.

Speaking of art, did they eventually stop drawing the Vesten as literal 10th century vikings? I haven't gotten to the Nations of Theah books yet, but the art in the core seems like the artist saw the description "they're vikings, if the vikings lasted into the 17th century and transitioned into a mercantile empire" but stopped reading after the first two words.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The First of Firsts

Aksum is believed to be where the first humans arose from, and the land is full of ancient Jok artifacts. Its emperor uses some to defend his land, but they are far from all that could be there. Aksum was the first land to have written language, the first trading empire of Ifri and the first to develop calculus and other advanced mathematics. It was the first kingdom to receive a Sika'Dwa stool, the first to mint its own coins, and developed many important innovations in agriculture, architecture and ceramics. It sits on a high plateau, which ranges from 4500 feet above sea level to two and a half miles, with its highest mountain getting nearly four miles above. It is temperate on the plateau, but warm in the south and cold in the highlands, generally sunny and with little rainfall.

In the beginning, it was a rival to the neighboring kingdom of Srek, fighting over land and food. Eventually, Aksum won, but rather than exterminate the Srek, the Aksumites adopted them into their culture, preserved their language and customs. This drew the attention of the Jok, who came down from Iu-Neserer to teach them advanced writing and math, which Aksum used to invent calendars, roads, literature and refined music. The best and brightest of their mathematicians were even able to predict the future with advanced mathematical analysis. This and the core belief in Aksum that unity is good has made them the greatest diplomats in Ifri, perhaps the world. Every court wants an Aksumite Monitor to negotiate deals via predictive analysis...though, as always happens with humans, their talents have also been turned towards war.

For 300 years after the stool was granted to them, Aksum grew rapidly in power, conquering and assimilating more land and tribes and customs. The tales of their wealth and their benevolence spread across the world, but they remained humble, and continued to offer mercy and friendship to the defeated. They never started wars, and lost only one of those they fought. They were a great naval power at that time, a rival to the Numanari First Empire. However, their fights with the Numanari and the Crescents overtaxed them, and they fell into decline, eventually losing at the end of a six century reign of greatness. As their bounty left them, the rulers of Aksum grew greedy. Negusa Nagast Wey and his three successors fell to immoral behavior in hopes of regaining lost wealth and power.

These rulers resurrected the worship of ancient, pelagic god-horrors that rested deep in the ocean and did not care for humanity at all. The Sika'Dwa's connection to the land eroded its bounty as the corruption of the Negusa Nagast spread. At last, with Aksum weakened, the Second Prophet and his family came to the once-great empire. Tafari, the Prophet's son, took control of Aksum as the first Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Emperor. It is said that the ancient oceanic faiths brought forth monsters to test the Prophet Khalil, but all fell before him. The cultists swore he must die by their hand, and even today, remnants of these ancient cults remain in the shadows. Their gods are immortal and they are patient - after all, the Prophet and his family were only mortal. Vengeance can take time.

Every emperor or empress since can trace a direct line to Tafari, who converted the kingdom to worship of Theus. Each generation has slightly altered the Imperial crest to reflect their faith and the aspects of the Prophet they most admire. The only part never to change is the lion. In the following centuries, most worship of other faiths has weakened. Now, nearly 70 percent of Aksum are practitioners of the Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church. Some in rural areas still worship the god Ajuk, however. In the past, these religions coexisted peacefully, and Tafari never outlawed the old faiths or persecute them. Now, however, things have changed. The Church sends envoys out to assert dogma and get people to reject the old ways. At the same time, the Vodacce traders have turned from ancient partners to bitter rivals, cutting into Aksumite trade, breaking treaties and always blaming other Vodacce Princes. Emperor Makonnen has taken to using trade ships full of soldiers to ambush Vodacce pirates and capture their ships, and has sent diplomats to Castille, Ussura and Vesten to get them to pressure the Vodacce.

Within the last decade, Aksum has been fighting Manden over trade exports. While Aksum lacks Manden's rich resources, it has pressured them by using predictive analysis on troop and fleet movements, minimizing Aksumite losses and maximizing Mandenka casualties. Weary of war, one year ago both kingdoms agreed to a political marriage to bring peace. Crops continue to fail, and rumors speak of darkness encroaching on Aksum. Relic hunters have spoken of unholy horrors in ancient ruins, and in the south, the crops are wilting into gelatinous messes.

The Nebiyi Monitors of Aksum have had many names over the centuries. Logopolians, Chroniclers, Mathemagicians. They practice the art of advanced analysis via elevated math, analysing the universe and making it sing. To do this, they must dedicate their lives to the numbers, studying and enhancing their memory, perception and analytical skills so they can recognize important conjunctions between people and events. This is more than just logic and calculation, and Monitors describe it as akin to navigating a complex river with many paths, finding the one that leads back to the main course. Monitors study math in conjunction with strict mental exercises, using both book learning and special mnemonics to reinforce computations into muscle memory and deductive patterns. While most rely on written computations to some extent, the greatest are said to do their work in empty rooms, unaided.

The near-instant process of analytical calculation appears magical to many, but is actually based on decades of mundane practice handed down through Aksumite history. Even Aksumite children learn the basics of math using rhyming songs and number games. Aksumite culture prizes logic and predictability, and thus with proper focus (and luck) a trained Monitor can predict nearly anything based on sufficiently detailed initial conditions. This is more than a science - it is a spiritual art, involving meditation, prayer and ritual chants to aid in the predictions. Most credit the Jok with intervening to reveal truths, as making simple longhand equations results only in meaningless numbers. It is only by combining spiritual numerology with advanced math that the Monitors are able to predict. No outsider has ever become a Monitor - apparently, only Aksumites have the gift for it, possibly as a result of how they are raised and surrounded by mathematical determinism at all times, or perhaps because the Jok do not grant the gift to other peoples.

Aksum divides its people into five distinct economic classes. All of them are literate and even the most humble farmer understands basic mathematics. Everyone is given a chance to learn, but political and economic power are not shared evenly, though all classes maintain some control of their own destinies. Because the classes interact freely and regularly, it is not hard for a foreigner to accidentally insult a powerful person and get challenged to a duel of words and debate. (These duels are much more common in Aksum than martial ones.)

The Zfaxi are the peasant class. Their life is generally pleasant, with elementary-level education even in rural areas, run by the local churches. Every major town has a clergy-physician and a practicing Melbur sorcerer, who serve the public not only with work but also teaching. A typical zfaxi day is full of work, prayer, family time and pursuit of hobbies. The zfaxi are not typically beholden to landowners via debt, though they do often have restricted movement. They farm, raise animals and perform day labor to feed their families, and may try to raise in station by selling crafts or pursuing additional education. This is a process requiring time, lots of effort and some luck. The Vwie are the middle class - wealthy merchants and traders, but without religious or royal power. They control the export and import of goods and most of the internal trade of cities. This class also covers civil servants. The vwie receive a university-level education, unlike zfaxi, and may move freely if they can afford it. This class covers most architects, military officers and merchants, and their work days tend to be shorter and easier than those of the zfaxi.

The clergy are a third, vital class in Aksum, as important here as the Vaticine priests are in Castille. All clergy are given deep respect regardless of their rank in the Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church, and they can move freely through the land. They are subject to Church discipline rather than most criminal law, and their actions are unlikely to be questioned or reprimanded by civil authority regardless of what they are - certainly nothing worse than a slap on the wrist from a provincial negus. Historically this privilege has rarely been misused, but as Aksum falters under difficult times, corruption grows more common among the priesthood, and the abuse of their privilege grows more likely.

Next time: Nobles and Imperials

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



GimpInBlack posted:

Speaking of art, did they eventually stop drawing the Vesten as literal 10th century vikings? I haven't gotten to the Nations of Theah books yet, but the art in the core seems like the artist saw the description "they're vikings, if the vikings lasted into the 17th century and transitioned into a mercantile empire" but stopped reading after the first two words.

I want to say yes but I haven't read that chapter in forever.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - These Guys Are Not Ethiopia BTW

There are two distinct subclasses of noble royalty in Aksum. The first class of royalty, which includes the negus, live in stone palaces and take an active role in commanding their domains. A negus or niste night command troops in their region and ensure their readiness, especially given the recently ended war with Manden. Beyond this, they live a life of luxury, with little responsibility. The second class are nobles that have, due to various circumstances, lost their land, wealth and influence. Most of these are little more than zfaxi with a title, but they will not give that up. A displaced noble will often assume their loss of status is transitory and that they will return to wealth and power. Many, however, are forced to sell their lands and make bad deals with criminals just to retain their high lifestyle.

The imperials are the highest class, made up of the family of Negusa Nagast Makonnen and his queen, Zufan. The Negusa Nagast's word is divine and his orders unquestionable. The imperials are the smallest and highest class, with immense wealth and privilege. They are considered to be living examples for the rest of Aksum, and the great deeds of past rulers are often cited in proverbs. The burden of being exemplars does wear, however. The imperial family are held up to extremely high standards of behavior, and any ruler that cannot live up to that are pressured to abdicate, which is considered one of the greatest deeds they can do. The fame from acknowledging one's limitations and abdicating is usually sufficient motive for a weak or incapable ruler to step aside for a cousin. The Emperor Girma Solace proved to have poor temperament for leading, and on advice of his royals, he abdicated and headed south to advise the local negus, dedicating himself to a life of simplicity and religious study. He became acclaimed for his willingness to step down, and after his death, he was sainted.

There are many titles in Aksum. The Negusa Nagast is the King of Kings; the female version is the Nigiste Nigist, the Queen of Queens. This the shortened imperial title - the full version adds 'Iziabeher, Elect of God, who presides over the Kingdom of Aksum from the city of Aksum.' Each rules from the capital city, Aksum, ever since Tafari moved the capital there from the port Addis Addus. Traditionally, the Negusa Nagast is advised by a high council of royals, who have much influence despite not being imperial. There have four times in the past been a dual monarchy, which by law required both sovereigns to agree on actions while they ruled. No one remembers why the law to allow this exists, and most don't even know about it except historians.

The Itergit, or consorts, are the blessed and crowned concubines of the emperor or empress. The title is both male and female. Every ruler is permitted one itergit in addition to their spouse, a tradition dating back to the earliest days of Aksum. The Le'ul (Prince) and Le'elt (Princess) are the children and grandchildren of the Negusa Nagast, and is a title that grants imperial status. If the current ruler dies or abdicates, the title is lost and given to the family of the new ruler. The Nurgust are the general imperial family, those who are no longer le'ul and le'elt. Nurgust traditionally remain in the Imperial palace and are given a stipend for expenses. This, depending on the ruler, may mean a life of comfort or careful surveillence. Nurgust still retain quite a lot of political influence, as they have free interaction with the other imperials, but do not have nearly as many expectations placed on them.

For non-imperial titles, there's the Negus and Niste Night - the king and queen. This refers to the ruler of a province, granted by the Negusa Nagast. It is inherited, and can only be stripped by order of the Negusa Nagast. The negus or niste night serves as the emperor's hand, carrying out the letter and spirit of the law, and those who hold this title are carefully watched by the emperor and high council. Under them are the Ras, roughly equivalent to a duke or duchess. They control a section of land and gain income from all businesses and labor there. Their estates are greater than a single town but smaller than a negus' provincial kingdom. This title is often given to heads of cabinet positions, who retain their land while serving, but if they are dismissed, their lands revert to the emperor. Thus, they have great incentive to be good ministers. Under the ras are the Bitwoven, but only two at any time - one for the Right Hand, the other for the Left Hand. Each oversees a department of spies, informants and translators, both to protect Aksum's secrets and to stop the spies of other nobles. The Left and Right often compete with each other viciously to bring in the best intelligence. In theory, this fosters better information gathering, but it also leads to issues when the agents meet in the field and get into problems without realizing or remembering they both work for Aksum.

Lij is the title given to the children and grandchildren of a negus, to signify their status. The Dscah Ru, or court mystic, is a counselor to the Negusa Nagast, a skilled practitioner of Melbur. They summon and control abonsams - dangerous, yes, but done on behalf of the kingdom. Currently, the position is vacant, as the previous dscah ru fell under Bonsam's influence and fled the nation. The Negusa Nagast has decreed the position will not be filled. Under all these other ranks are the Abeto Hoy, the general nobles. If they have wealth or property, you stress the first syllable. If not, you don't, as they must work for a living. Many of these leave home to seek their fortune abroad. However, even those nobles are entitled to a few days hospitality at the estate of other nobles - even enemies. This is an ancient tradition.

Besides the noble ranks, there are also imperial court offices. The Ederase, or regent, acts in the stead of the Negusa Nagast when the Negusa Nagast is too young or sick to rule, gaining the power to appoint nobles. In theory, they work in the trust of the emperor; in practice, they are sharply limited by their popularity. An unpopular ederase's orders are not obeyed, as the nobles declare they will wait for the emperor's ruling. Thus, they often gather favors or blackmail in case they must use it. The Tsefazi Taesas, or scribe by command, is the most potent position in the court, for they always walk two steps behind the Negusa Nagast, listening to and writing down all edicts. They are also given trust over the Great Seal, keeping record of all appointments and laws made. They sign all documentation, not the emperor.

The Agge Neguses, or mouths of the king, serve as heralds to the emperor. Historically, there are two at any time, in case the emperor must send multiple messages or one of them gets captured. The agge negus speaks with the emperor's voice, and has much prestige but not much influence. Currently, both agge neguses are abroad, and a temporary third has been appointed just in case. The Lique Mekwas are the emperor's doubles. There are generally three or four of them, who serve to impersonate the emperor and follow him into battle. This is the most trusted position in the kingdom, and since the assassination of the Second Prophet, it is always kept fully staffed.

The Aqabe Sea't, or Keeper of Time, is a priest of the Church, always. They keep the emperor's schedule and have authority over all other clergy in the Imperial Court. This leads to conflicts when they leave the palace, often. Last, the Blattageta, or Lord of Pages, is the palace administrator and commander of the blatta, or pages, who serve the imperial family's needs and enforce palace protocol. While a page is not a warrior, they do have authority to evict anyone who causes problems, behaves vulgarly, or violates protocol.

Foreigners are often surprised at how easy it is to meet local nobles. In Aksum, the nobility rarely maintain social isolation or unapproachability, even royals, though it can be hard to tell when you're dealing with a noble if you aren't sure what to look for as a result, as they have no special regalia or iconography. The imperial family are a different matter, and security dictates that no visitor may enter their presence without thorough vetting and several guards. However, it is still possible for a sufficiently charming foreigner to get an imperial audience in Aksum more easily than in Theah.

Women of northern and central Aksum wear clothing made of smehha, a cotton cloth woven in long strips, then sewn together. Peasant smehha is usually rougher and less flexible, but easy to clean and fast to make. Noble smehha is usually silky and adapts to movements, but takes quite a while to make - several months, generally, with weeks of soaking in a special mixture to soften the cloth. Merchants typically wear a colored stripe on the bottom of the dress, while nobles have many bright colors in ornate patterns. Men prefer knee-length shirts, pants and collars of different colors. In the colder months, they add a hem-ki jacket made of animal skin, with the type of animal indicating status along with the colors. Pastoral animals are for peasants, while rarer ones are for nobles, and some imperials wear jackets said to be made of monster hides. In ceremonies, both men and women wear delicate shawls made of Church=provided fabric. Each family maintains a distinct pattern and look to show their history and standing, and the shawls end in beads hung from strands every three inches. Social class determines how many beads you get - peasants get one per strand, imperials five. Foreign clothes usually draw curious attention and mild mockery, especially heavy clothing in summers.

Next time: Life in Aksum

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




Not-Ethiopia seem to have some Lovecraftian influence, at least from the sound of the eldritch sea gods. And a large class of petty nobility is always good adventurer material.

marshmallow creep
Dec 10, 2008

I've been sitting here for 5 mins trying to think of a joke to make but I just realised the animators of Mass Effect already did it for me



Is there a pronunciation guide in the book for some of these bolded words? I'm not sure how to pronounce some of these and google isn't particularly helpful for words like Dscah or Vwie.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Sadly, no.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Realms of Sorcery

The Marks of Magic

Arcane Marks are emphasized as a purely optional rule, but they're a really cool addition to the game. You might remember them from the Kislev book with the Witch Marks that Hags and Ice Witches got. The Marks in Realms of Sorcery are a cool idea (magic permanently shaping your character in odd ways, both positive and negative) but they're very uneven, mechanically. Some forms of magic have some pretty great positive marks, some have crippling negatives, and the marks aren't balanced with one another. Similarly, later Arcane/Divine Mark rules will have a much more even mixture of positive and negative marks.

Now, you could take this as Arcane Magic being more dangerous to the user, but I instead take this as this being one of the earlier books in the line. If you follow the chronology of Warhammer Fantasy 2e, the books start out more hostile to players and more likely to include lots of permanent drawbacks, emphasis on the insanity rules, save-or-dies (in the Chaos book, which came right after Realms of Sorcery) and other 'harsh' measures. Just look at the rules for creating Rituals and how they 'logically' include punishments for players who have adventures compared to characters who just spend months working on their spell and compare that to the mount-raising rules in Knights of the Grail where setbacks are adventures and the book emphasizes that you should be introducing them for fun rather than as punishments. The tone of the line softened over time and became more accepting of having adventures and more willing to empower player characters. I suspect the relatively negative balancing of the original Arcane Marks is a symptom of Realms of Sorcery being one of the first expansion books for the line, rather than an intentional reflection of the nature of Arcane Magic.

You have a 10% chance to get an Arcane Mark if you roll doubles on the effect roll for a miscast. So, say I roll 11 for the d100 miscast table, my character would have a 10% chance to risk a mark. You then check WP to see if you gain a mark or not. Because my players liked marks as a character thing, we threw this system out (since it's very unlikely to actually leave PCs marked) and instead linked it to gaining points of the Magic stat. But that's houseruling; by design you weren't meant to gain very many Arcane Marks. If you get a mark, you roll d100 (though you might as well just roll d10, since the chance of each of the 10 possible marks is exactly 10% each for each Wind) and gain a mark based on your Wind of Magic.

Amber Marks are:

Aloof: Amber misanthropy gets worse and you have a hard time dealing with people, taking -5 Fel.
Restless: You can't sit still and hate being in enclosed spaces. RP only.
Dirty: You can never truly clean yourself up and always seem wild and unkempt. RP only.
Hairy: Your hair grows quickly and resists attempts to shave or keep it cut short. RP only.
Feral: You grow sharp teeth and have the eyes of a wolf or cat. -5% to social tests with non-wizards.
Aura of Savagery: You remind animals of their wild nature. Any tests to handle animals within 12 yards of you take -10%. Which seems like it really sucks for the class that's supposed to be a beastmaster.
Musk: You always smell of the wilds. You take -10% to tests to interact with city folk like Priests and Nobles.
Brutish: You lose your civilized ways, taking -5% to Fel or Int, player's choice.
Small Friends: Like a Disney princess, you are constantly surrounded by squirrels, birds, and other adorable little animals. Unfortunately, they like to poo poo all over the place or steal someone's croissant at the worst moment, giving you -5% Fel.
And at 91-100, every single Wind has Mark of the Wind, where the symbol/rune of your Wind of Magic appears on your body as a tattoo and you gain +10% to Channeling with your Lore.

Note that every single one of the Amber Marks is either neutral or negative? That isn't the case for all of them. As if Amber didn't have enough problems.

Amethyst Marks are:

Pallor: You become pale and your eyes permanently appear jaundiced. RP Only.
Clammy Skin: Your body is always cold to the touch. You may be mistaken for a vampire and you seem dead when you sleep. RP Only.
Dead Eyes: While you can see fine, your eyes become clouded and look like the eyes of a dead man. RP Only.
Grave Stench: You constantly smell of fresh soil, formaldehyde, and grave rot. -5% to tests to deal with animals. Not sure why this doesn't affect people.
Aura of Death: Within 4 yards of you, plants start to wither and die. If you use wooden equipment, it counts as 1 step worse in craftsmanship as the wood warps in your presence.
Skull-Like Visage: Your skin draws tight and your face resembles a laughing skull. -5 Fellowship, obviously.
Skeletal Frame: Your flesh withers and you grow thin, taking -5% to Strength or Toughness, GM's choice.
Voice of the Dead: While you can still raise your voice just fine to be heard, you sound like you're whispering harshly to everyone who hears you, as if your voice was coming from far away. -5 to Fellowship, extra -5 to deal with animals.
Haunted: You see the dead everywhere you look, suffering -10% on Perception tests.
And then the Mark of Shyish for 10% Channeling.

Once again, almost all negative. To contrast, Priests of Morr get similar Marks when we get to Tome of Salvation, but they can also get things like the Fearless Talent because they have already accepted death. The original Marks seem to emphasize the negative elements of the Winds over the positive.

Bright Marks are:

Temper: Oh, come on, you probably already had this for signing up to the Bright Order. You tend to lose your cool when provoked. RP Only.
Hyperactive: You fidget constantly and can't sit still. RP Only.
Red Hair: Your hair turns a fiery red. RP Only.
Face Tattoos: Your face becomes covered in bright tattoos that glow and move as you cast spells, which looks cool as hell but gives -10% to Fel with non-mages.
Flaming Eyes: Your eyes smolder with power, with your pupils replaced by dancing flame. -5 to tests with animals for some reason.
Hot Skin: You always seem feverish and overheated and tend to be flushed and red-faced. RP Only.
Vulnerable to Cold: You hate the cold. In cold and wet weather, take -5% to WS and BS.
Aura of Brimstone: You always smell of fire and brimstone, taking -10% to tests to smell anything else and giving the same penalty to anyone close to you.
Raging Temper: You're considered a short-tempered rear end in a top hat by other Bright Wizards. Gain 1 Insanity Point and a permanent -5% to base Fellowship.
Mark of Aqshy for 10% to Channeling.

Again, almost all negative. Some of these will be positive later, I swear.

Celestial Marks are:

Zephyr: Little breezes follow you everywhere, sometimes making your hair or robes rustle dramatically, sometimes blowing your papers around and messing with your workplace. RP Only.
Feather Light: The 'shackles of gravity' are loosened by the magic of the heavens. You weigh 10% less than you should.
White Hair: Your hair turns white and dyes will not hold. RP Only.
Blue Eyes: Your entire eye turns solid blue, and your eyes glow in areas of low light. -5% to Fel with non-mages.
Disturbing Visions: You're constantly distracted by snippets of the future, taking -5% to Perception tests.
Scentless: You lose your scent, entirely. No smell holds. You always smell like fresh, clean air. This is unnatural and gives -5% to Fel with humans, -10% with animals, but gives anything trying to track you by scent -20%.
Alarming Visions: Whenever you suffer a miscast, you also need to make a WP-10 roll or be stunned for 1 round as you accidentally glimpse Chaotic visions of what it wants to do with the future, since you're sensitive to prophecy.
Aura of Tranquility: You emit an aura of calm and relaxation that causes anyone, friend or foe, withing 4 yards of you to suffer -5% on attack rolls.
Stargazer: Your connection to the sky is absolute, and you need to spend at least 30 minutes studying the stars every day or suffer a cumulative -10% to Academic Knowledge and WP tests for each day you've failed, until you study the sky again.
Mark of Azyr: +10% Channeling.

Some of these at least have little bonuses baked in; enemies getting -5% to melee you is helpful.

Jade Marks are:

Plant Growth: Some sort of plant is growing on your body. Fungus on the skin, ivy in the hair, etc. If removed, it grows back the next day, or a new plant takes its place. RP Only.
Barefoot: You can't abide wearing boots or shoes, and suffer -5% to agility if you do. No penalty or risk for going barefoot, though.
Rapid Hair and Nail Growth: What it says on the tin. You're too alive and need to shave, trim, and tend to these every day to keep them under control.
Green Skin: Your skin starts to take a greenish hue, making you look like a plant person. -5% to Fellowship and people might assume you're a Mutant.
Vulnerable to Fire: Fire attacks do +1 damage to you as you burn like fine timber.
Great Constitution: You gain the Resistance to Disease Talent. I think this is our first unalloyed positive! Hurray!
Metal Revulsion: You hate the touch of iron and steel. If you use a metal object, you must make a WP-10 test or suffer -1 to your Mag for 24 hours. This does not count being struck with a metal weapon by an enemy.
Aura of Growth: You cause plants to bloom and thrive withing 4 yards of you. This makes the space within 4 yards of you count as hampering terrain and cost twice as much to move through in natural environments, but you can move in it fine.
Bound to the Seasons: In spring, you gain +1 Max Wounds. In Summer, +2 Max Wounds, +1 Movement. In Fall, -1 Max Wounds. In Winter, -2 Max Wounds, -1 Movement.
Mark of Ghyran: You gain +10% to Channeling.

Look! Finally, some good things in with all the penalties.

Hierophant (Light Wizard) Marks are:

Choral Voice: Your voice becomes infused with the harmony of your Wind. When you sing, you can emulate an entire chorus. RP only.
Eureka!: You inspire flashes of insight and help people remember random things when they're in your presence. This has no mechanical effect, but tends to make people a little distractable.
Pale: You lose pigmentation in your skin and become closer to an albino. RP Only.
Eerie Eyes: Your eyes either become blank white or take on a golden glow, giving -5% to Fel with non-mages.
Arrogant: You believe you are the most enlightened of all, suffering a permanent -5% to base Fellowship.
Paranoid: You have learned so much about the Realm of Chaos that you see its workings everywhere, even where there's no Chaos happening. Your nervous nature gives you -5% on all Fear tests.
Vulnerable to Darkness: If in a dark area, you suffer -10% on Channeling.
Aura of Light: You make every light source around you glow brighter. A single candle has the brightness of a torch, etc. ANY character exposed to light sources within 4 yards of you suffers -20% to Concealment tests.
Luminescent: You actually glow, yourself, giving off light equal to a torch and giving yourself -20% Concealment.
Mark of Hysh: +10% Channeling.

Mostly harmless drawbacks, and the aura of light actually makes it really hard to sneak up on them.

Gold Marks are:

Quicksilver Tears: Your tears and sweat look and act like mercury, except they're non-toxic. RP Only.
Leaden Tongue: Your voice takes on a harsh, mechanical tone. If you try to sing, it sounds like a machine breaking down. RP Only.
Golden Skin: Your skin thickens and takes on a golden sheen. RP only.
Stiff Limbs: You have a hard time moving around and suffer arthritis, and let me tell you, this sucks to live with. -5% to Agility base stat.
Magic Conductor: You conduct magic like metal conducts electricity. Anyone within 4 yards of you takes -10% to resist spells (including you).
Aura of Magnetism: Metal is lightly attracted to you. Anyone attacking you with a metal weapon gets +5% to hit. Anyone trying to attack someone who ISN'T you but is within 4 yards of you gets -5%, as the sword tries to veer off and hit you.
Mechanical: Animals see you as a machine and no longer acknowledge you as alive. No animal (including monsters!) will attack you unless you attack first.
Greater Golden Skin: Your skin genuinely begins to turn to gold. You take a massive -20% to Agility and -1 to Movement (!!) but gain a useless token +1 to Armor that won't stack with other light armor, only medium and heavy. Ow. loving ow.
Slow: You can't move quickly and take a -2 to Movement (!). It is possible to be completely crippled by this and Greater Golden Skin.
Mark of Chamon: +10% Channeling.

I have no idea what they were thinking with those insane penalty marks. They hurt as bad as losing a leg.

Shadow Marks are:

Flicker: Candles and lights flicker in your presence, making the shadows dance. RP Only.
Trickster: You become something of a compulsive liar, to the point that people start to realize they shouldn't trust you. -5% to base Fellowship.
Mantle of Mists: You draw smoke and mist to yourself, giving you +5% to Intimidate when in misty areas.
Aspect of Ulgu: You grow lighter and thinner, and your hair turns grey.
Forgettable: Unless you remind them, people tend to let you slip their minds. People need an Intelligence test to remember you without prompting after meeting you.
Disturbing Eyes: Your eyes swirl with darkness and shadow. Somehow this gives +5% to Intimidate instead of a Fel penalty.
Insubstantial: You grow shadowy and less, taking -5% to Toughness permanently but gaining +10% to Concealment.
Unnatural Shadow: Your shadow likes to run off and play tricks, giving you -10% to Fel with non-mages and likely convincing more superstitious people you're host to a Demon.
Shrouded: You draw shadow to yourself, gaining a permanent +10% bonus to Concealment.
Mark of Ulgu: +10 to Channeling.

Not sure why, but Shadow has the most positive marks of any of the magic schools. Nothing crippling and many of the marks will help a Shadow Wizard do their job.

Marks are a cool idea that will be handled better when they're more willing to make them a mixed blessing in later books. Divine Marks can be extremely awesome, and the Witch Marks from Kislev were really neat. I just wish they'd been a little more player friendly in their first incarnation rather than being a massive bunch of minor penalties.

Next Time: Familiars!

marshmallow creep
Dec 10, 2008

I've been sitting here for 5 mins trying to think of a joke to make but I just realised the animators of Mass Effect already did it for me



How would you make this optional rule appealing to your players (at this point in the line)? "At random, your magic might cripple you, but you could also maybe 1 time out of 10 get a buff to your channeling?"

edit: Haven't had a chance to really play this system. How often do you need a channeling roll as opposed to just rolling your magic dice?

marshmallow creep fucked around with this message at 16:24 on Jul 9, 2018

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



The way my group ruled Marks to work was making them all strictly cosmetic, and letting the player pick one. We also had every wizard pick up a Mark by the time they finished their Apprentice track.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


marshmallow creep posted:

How would you make this optional rule appealing to your players (at this point in the line)? "At random, your magic might cripple you, but you could also maybe 1 time out of 10 get a buff to your channeling?"

edit: Haven't had a chance to really play this system. How often do you need a channeling roll as opposed to just rolling your magic dice?

Fairly often. Also note these don't happen often, and that later in the line they get a lot more mixed.

Some of the Divine Marks are straight up insanely good. Like Sigmarites getting one that gives them an automatic success on any WP test imposed by Chaos or Greenskins. It's intended to make them immune to fear against those enemies, but look at the wording; that means they auto-succeed any WP save against Chaos magic, too.

Once we get to Divine Marks in Tome of Salvation it actually follows a consistent pattern, too: 1-40% on the d100 are 'bad' marks, 41-50% is a mark that makes you look more like your God with a minor bonus, 51-81% tend to be positive, 81-90% is something really impressive and cool like the Sigmarite one or Manaanites being unable to die by drowning, and 91-100 is a mark of your God that gives +10% Channeling (Channeling is a half-action skill check to add your Mag stat as a flat bonus to your next casting check, you use it quite a bit with magic) and +10% Fel with the faithful.

Someday I'm going to go back and give Arcane the same treatment. When I was writing up my (extremely non-canon) Amazon stuff for my group I had that solid guideline for the Divine Marks to use for their magic.

E: Actually another thing I note when I go through these books: Older books tend to have less stringent guidelines and patterns like that, excepting the way almost every Basic Career is 1000 EXP to get through if you started out in it. I think Basic Careers are the most consistently designed element of the game. Later books tend to stick to firmer patterns and guidelines in their mechanics.

Night10194 fucked around with this message at 16:41 on Jul 9, 2018

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Many Crafts

Aksum has over 170 languages, about 70 of which are spoken locally. The official language is Ze'eg, and it is the only language used for official documents. It is entirely unrelated to most Thean languages, though it has borrowed some Numanari and Vodacce loanwords. Northern Aksumites are usually able to speak at least parts of Thean languages, however, especially in port towns. Now, food! Zfaxi eat what they can grow, fish or afford, mainly root vegetables, greens, sourdough flatbreads, eggs, eel, fish and milk. Typically, food is spiced with a local spice called woti, which adds a smoky heat and covers unpleasant tastes. Vwie and clergy also use woti, but have more varied diets, with more beef, chicken and lamb. Clergy receive a portion of all food grown in their territory as donations, and merchants can often afford wine. Nobles, of course, have the most and best food, importing various meats, cheeses, fruits and alcohol. This wealth is also shared by any military commander of more than 100 men.

Members of the Orthodox Church do not eat meat or dairy on Wednesday or Friday, except for during the 30 days before the first day of the Lingering of the Prophet. Aksumite spiritual doctrine holds that this fast represents humanity seeking forgiveness for the assassination of the Second Prophet, and so instead of meat and dairy, one performs rigorous prayer. The national drink is tej, a form of honey wine made with powdered leaves, gesho twigs, fermented berries and (naturally) honey. Vesten have compared it to mead with an earthy undertone, and the longer it ferments, the more potent it is. Its sweet flavor masks a very high alcohol content, and reputable tej houses will list fermentation times on the menu. Less reputable ones knock you out with it and take your stuff. A nonalcoholic variant, berz, has become quite popular recently, and now costs more than tej itself.

We get a sidebar on important nobles. Bitwoven Nebiat is head of the Skia, and while he appears to use his power for the good of the empire, his true motives are unclear. He feigns ignorance of anything unsavory, despite possessing vast amounts of secret information on many nobles. The emperor trusts him implicitly, but it is unsure whether he is loyal or instead has blackmail. Bitwoven Mazaa is a short, cheery woman who doesn't seem like a spy at all, though she is not nearly as naive as she appears. She is deeply loyal to the Negusa Nagast, and good friends with Princess Mehret. She does not trust Nebiat at all; he considers her unimportant. Habte, the current ederase, is older than the emperor and hasn't been able to find his own replacement yet. He spends much of his time napping in the garden, as he is not currently needed, though wilier nobles realize he knows the imperial family in great detail. One of the blatta, Atrua, has been possessed by a Jok spirit to monitor the imperials and judge if they are worthy to be given a new form of math. She is unlikely to be discovered unless a rogue abonsam gets involved, though that is possible at present, as there is no dscah ru. She could easily banish such a beast with her Jok powers, but would need to reveal herself to do it. Meanwhile, she just waits to find the right, worthy person to receive a new form of oracular math.

Aksumite music uses a modal system of sounds with long intervals between some notes, varying by region. They use the masenqo (a single-string bow lute), the krar (a six-string lyre) and the begena (a ten-string lyre). The highlands prefer the washiant (a bamboo flute), and in the south, they use the holdudaw (a hollow animal horn). Northern instruments are often metal where southern ones are bamboo. The Church uses the sistrum, a metal shaker that makes soft clanks, to keep rhythm in prayer. Dinists prefer the kebero, a large hand drum. Royal ceremonies require use of the nagarit, an eight-foot by fourteen-foot drum played with a large stick. The traditional dance Eskista is unique to Aksum and performed by both men and women. It is highly technical, and mastering it will draw praise even from the emperor. It focuses on unique bouncing and rolling of the shoulders and chest, and is performed to string music. Amrou is a similarly precise dance of the upper body, using neck movements rather than shoulder. It requires years to learn and a lifetime to master, incorporating moves in which the neck goes one way and the dancer steps another. Rural areas also perform the less-structured Gonbel dance, which involves spinning and moving the entire body with the music. It has no rigid choreography, instead being largely improvised, and is considered a dance of happiness and joy.

There are two distinct artistic categories in Aksum - pre-Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church and post-Church. Pre-Church, there were many subjects. Post-Church, pretty much all Aksumite art of any kind reflects the religion. Even after that, there's two types of art - iconic and representational. Iconic uses an ancient style, with almost cartoonish figures and almond-shaped eyes. Typically, this art displays religious symbols, churches, manuscripts and usually just one person in profile. These drawings can be found on many cliff faces and statues, and pre-Church, the style was used to show hunters and meteors striking the earth. Churches are often painted this way with scenes of the land. Representational art mainly gets used on parchment and other flat and regular surfaces. It tends to use bright colors, distinct figures, and either a single subject or multiple panels telling a story. This is less stylized art, using more modern techniques, but still tends to follow rigid rules of presentation to a degree that Theans tend to feel they all look similar. The idea is to present a distinct story creatively while following a specific set of rules.

Aksum had the first Ifrian metalworkers, and they created many wonderful tools, swords and pieces of art. (Guns, however, were new to them and created only after outsiders brought them in.) They typically work in copper or brass, and the most common metallic art is the metal Prophet's Cross, which has slowly replaced wooden crosses. Older metal crosses occasionally use gold or silver, but modern ones usually just use a foil or plating. In Aksum, these crosses often have a curved base, like an upside down bowl, mounted onto a sphere to allow for easy turning in any direction. Crowns are also often made for the royals and imperials. Weaving is a common hobby among all classes, and it is said that some weavers can weave a basket so tight it can carry water or catch spirits.

Aksumites are very serious about sports, ever since Nigiste Nigist Zaduxis started the Decimal Games. Each area embraces a different game. Highlanders prefer javelin tossing, as it trains hunting skills, while the capital and coastal cities prefer Kest, a strategic board game similar to Go. Southerners often practice A'Nazaha Wa-Tahtib (Tahtib for short), a form of stick-fighting martial art. The central cities are known for their long-distance running. Every three years, each region has its own contest that lasts four days, to prepare for the Decimal Games. Representing your city at the Games is a high honor and recognition of skill. While to date no one has ever disrupted the Games with murder or sabotage, they grow increasingly cutthroat and have become a matter of strong regional pride.

Next time: The Church

Mr.Misfit
Jan 10, 2013

The time for
SkellyBones
has come!


So wait, Aksumite Monitors are just straight-up Dune-esque Mentats?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - The Other Orthodox Church

The main religion of Aksum is the Aksum Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church, which means 'One Unified Nature' in Ze'eg. It was brought by the Second Prophet, Khalil. The locals, when not in earshot of a clergyman, tend to shorten it to the Hibiri Church. This is not technically disrespectful, but is seen as undignified. Several of its traditions date back to a small Khemeti sect codified during the Second Prophet's journey from the Crescent back to his homeland in Aksum. It is his return there that made the Church so potent in his homeland, and the old religions basically died out after Tafari's conversion. Some pockets remain in rural areas, but they grow smaller with each generation. The largest other religion, Ajuk, keeps a foothold only because Ajuk is the Sky God, prayed to for rain by farmers.

The core of the Hibiri Church is that the first two Prophets (and the eventually coming Third) are incarnations of the same soul with the same purpose. Each is a new aspect of the Prophet's awareness, and all are the same person. This unifier soul binds all Prophets, regardless of race, gender or origin, because this selfness is spiritual, not bodily. The Church maintains that only two Prophets have so far existed, and the Third is yet to come. They believe there will be a total of four incarnations of the Prophet, and that it is the Church's duty to pave the way for the Prophet's return. The holy book is the Aksum Orthodox Anidi Hibiri Tefet'iro Church Codex, also called the Yeberalachewini K'alati, and it is split into two sections. The first part is the teachings of the First Prophet, which is identical to the version taught by the Vaticine with only minor variation. The Hibiri Church claims their version is the oldest, of course. The latter (and much larger) portion is the teachings of the Second Prophet.

The Second Prophet apparently was even more prolific with his teachings during the Lingering, a seven day period in which he lay dying after being attacked by seven assassins. This period each year features a fast from dawn to sunset to show humility and forgiveness, and charity and acts of grace are common, in an attempt to counteract the evil of the killing. These teachings were collected into the Ameshashu Git'imochi, the Twilight Poems, which are a mix of teachings, prophecies and hidden messages ciphered to all but the most pious, with warnings meant for the Third Prophet. Many of these things appear as completely unintelligible mathematical formulas when decoded. Some have claimed to crack these formulas, but they've never been able to prove it.

The Hibiri Church is friendly with both the Vaticine and al-Din faiths, but believes in the doctrines of neither. They have their own saints and Hierophant, and many saints were lay folk that provided service to the people. Both the Hibiri and Vaticine have exchanged clergy to share information and rituals, and despite all differences, they are friendly. The Inquisition does not go to Aksum, and the Vaticine considers the Hibiri Church to be a necessary Ifrian adjunct. As for al-Din...well, they tell a very different story of the last days of the Second Prophet. They agree that Tafari was Khalil's son, that he was Emperor of Aksum, and that much of the Aksumite account is accurate and documented. However, Dinists hold that Khalil left Aksum before his death, and that the Tomb of the Betrayers holds cultists that Tafari found and held responsible for his father's death. This does not explain where the Twilight Poems came from at all. Hibiri priests believe the Dinist version is an attempt to reconcile the fact that the Dinists had no body to bury. It burning away was an easy explanation for them to say why none could locate his body. The two groups do not agree with each other, and historians studying the events have found evidence for both versions, which is very frustrating.

Ajuk, the Sky God, is the last indigenous god that remains in Aksum. He graces the fields with rain and brings growth. His worshippers claim that he remains while all other gods have faded because he is a very practical deity with a very useful job. This rather pragmatic approach to godhood works well in Aksum, and even some who belong to the Church have claimed that Ajuk may be one of Theus' riddles. Either way, he is not forgotten. They celebrate festivals in his honor, generally related to crops. His priests are called the Emuron, or diviners of the Sky God's will. Many say that the worship has worked - Aksum rarely gets floods, and rain seems more likely in areas with high concentrations of Ajuk worshippers.

Melbur is the sorcery of Aksum, and it's somewhat infamous. It is, after all, bargaining with demons, often compared to the Sarmatian Sanderis. Practitioners are called dasusuo, or wise ones (not to be confused with the Jok Wiseones). Most dasusuo are nobility, though rural legends often claim that hinterlands witches have similar powers. The most prominent dasusuo is traditionally the dscah ru, aide to the emperor, who risks bargaining with the abonsam so that the emperor remains pure. With the position currently vacant, Aksum has no one to defend the imperial family from abonsam or guide youth in the craft.

Affinity for Melbur begins as a child, with whispering voices making promises to the youth. Frequently, an abonsam will serve as the child's invisible friend, making petty deals like punishing bullies or stealing toys in exchange for torture of animals or brutalizing siblings. Because of the corrosive nature of this bargaining, it is vitally important that young sorcerers be identified and trained as soon as possible. Normally, the dscah ru oversees this and manages the lesser magicians that take in children as apprentices as well as running the programs for identifying these kids. Unfortunately, this means no one is doing that right now, which could lead to an entire generation of new villains if not taken care of soon.

The government of Aksum is essentially pyramidal, with the Negusa Nagast at the top representing divine right. The most prominent military and governmental posts go to the Imperial family, to ensure loyalty. It is generally assumed that, as the Imperial line are descended from the second Prophet, they will have natural insight and talent for leadership. Beneath these are the various neguses and niste nights, each essentially rulers of large fiefs that report to the emperor but have near total autonomy and authority in their domains. Traditionally, these are hereditary posts, though the emperor can depose them...though it might risk civil war if they're popular and powerful. There are ten total provinces, each with their own negus or niste night. Each of these is further subdivided into districts, called woreda, which generally consist of a town and all farms around it. Within these are the kebele, the smallest governmental unit, made of a ward or neighborhood.

Each negus has ten governors in service to them, though due to province sizes, some governors rule over more than one woreda. This means there's plenty of room for power brokerage, and with the recent losses, some governors have grown so weak that internal power struggles are practically guaranteed. Outsiders are often bewildered by the sheer bureaucracy and redundancy of the system. Councils make low-level decisions and push them up the ladder for approval, which then sends them to a larger council, then a mayor, then a council of governors, then a negus or niste night. Large problems therefore take quite a lot of time to be addressed, and even small issues can get very bogged down in petty political struggles of bureaucrats. The sheer oversight involved, however, does mean undermining the system via corruption is fairly easy to identify and stop.

Tafari instituted kingdom-funded education for all, and there is a broad and multicultural base of general knowledge and history, as it has always been held that preserving cultural elements and building on them is the prime duty of the state. This provides a higher quality of life and steady income for the Church. Education is free, but the zfaxi can rarely afford the time needed for more than basic education, as children are more valuable on the farm or at home crafting. Vwie and the other upper classes take full advantage of the public education system thoroughly and generally see it as a necessity. Universities and colleges are privately funded, and take a donation and letter of reference to get in. No law prohibits the zfaxi from attending, but it's generally impossible due to the requirements. To date, only four zfaxi have ever attended university, and only one, a woman named Adina, has graduated. While universities in Aksum are broadly comparable to those elsewhere, their focus is usually on math, literature and history. Graduate students may go on to study engineering, architecture, politics, administration, philosophy, culture or natural science.

Aksum began minting its own coins under Nigiste Nigist Zaduxas. It was not the first civilization to make metal coins - just the first in Ifri. In addition to trade, the coins served as Aksumite propaganda, showing the Nigiste Nigist's face, a stalk of grain, and the words 'May the Kingdom be powerful.' Eventually, a disc symbol was added to represent a crescent, later replaced by a cross when the Hibiri Church was embraced. Coins are now minted in gold, silver and bronze, with gold coins being the smallest and heaviest. The silver and bronze coins do not bear the grain stalk. Coin quality is tightly monitored by the government, with low-quality coins quickly removed from circulation. Gold coins are almost exclusively for external trade, to increase the reputation and perceived might of Aksum. Rural villages rarely use coins at all, favoring barter, with coinage being more common in large cities, particularly trade cities or ports.

Next time: The military and the Skia

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Mr.Misfit posted:

So wait, Aksumite Monitors are just straight-up Dune-esque Mentats?

Sort of a mix of them and psychohistorians. You can play one; they don't actually get any sorcery or mystical virtues. Instead, their gimmick is basically that until someone actually draws steel they can Pressure an entire group at once, and they're good at providing slower characters with versatility in how they can act.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Secret Police

The Negusa Nagast is commander in chief of the military. Frequently, they delegate most or all of their command to a close relative. Keeping direct control the army in the Imperial family strengthens it and provides security, so it's always family. The amount of the military personally managed by the Negusa Nagast depends on their personal views, with the current one being quite careful to keep a close eye on the army. However, each sarawit (regiment) answers to a negus and is known by its home district. Each sarawit breaks down into subunits by orders of ten, all the way down to ten-man units. Organizationally, this allows local governors to call on small amounts of the military if needed, though doing so against the wishes of the Negusa Nagast is suicidal. The army uses war elephant cavalry (horses being quite rare in the area) and infantry armed with spear and shotel. Before the invention of guns, their archers were renowned as the Alhidaf, of legendary accuracy. This is fading away - Alhidaf archers make up less than 5% of the current military. The nation lacks the wealth to fund a fully modernized army with guns, so the officers rely instead on intensive infantry training and a focus on tactical superiority via intelligence and speed. Meanwhile, the Aksum navy is largely undefeated in their own waters, largely due to the use of Jok artifacts in the shape of rocks scattered along the bottom of the ocean, which rip the nails out of invading vessels. Aksum's own ships use the ancient art of jegri, which binds their planks together via knotted cords instead.

The Skia are a secret society created by Asmach Gelila after the death of the Second Prophet. She believed Aksum needed protection from threats both internal and external, and that protection had to be free of oversight. She approached Emperor Tafari to approve the society and gain it ultimate authority. While the Skia individually have a lot of power, using it exposes them and ruins their ability to operate in secret. Thus, they instead prefer to use their influence, money and predictive knowledge to manipulate others, and rarely act directly. The original Skia had only eighteen members, based on the numerological power of 18 as a lucky number. Members have died or retired, but they are promptly and quietly replaced. Four of the current members died in battle at the Tomb of the Betrayers, facing Dscah Ru Rada before he fled Aksum. Now, they must refill their membership quickly, and their resources are stretched thin in fighting foes and finding new recruits. The current goal of the Skia is to end the war with Manden permanently. The Skia know there are supernatural problems in Khemet and Mbey, and beleive that a unified front will be required against Bonsam. To this end, they have been trying to arrange the marriage of PRincess Mehret and Prince Maghan Kon Fatta. As a contingency plan, they also want to marry Ras Mekonnen of Aksum to Lady Teru of Manden several weeks before the Imperial wedding. However, given their position and how stretched they are, they are deeply at risk of exposure. If an enemy does interfere with either wedding, they will need to act decisively, and risk tipping their hand, unless they can get some band of PCs to act on their behalf.

The Zuck' Shok, the Imperial Guard, are 20 soldiers chosen from a young age and across all of society, training as a unit to protect the Imperial family and the throne. They are broken down into specialist fighting styles, focusing on the spear, the sword and the gun, equally split between each. A member of the Zukic' Shok serves five years, and once that term is up, they may take any career they want as a reward. The short duration is designed to keep them fresh, inspiring soldiers to join and promoting propaganda through the Kingdom of the emperor's largesse. There are always at least two Zukic' Shok with the Negusa Nagast at all times - one a master of spear and sword, the other a crack shot armed with multiple pistols.

Aksum has a very varied geography, ranging from desert to mountain to tropical forest. The low-lying aird plains are divided into two sections, both abundant in resources. There are a number of rare and endangered animals in Aksum, and its mountains are some of the only places that have snow in Ifri. The Simmini range is home to beasts like the Abro wolf, whose fur is worth a small fortune for its color and warmth, or the Lagurme bird, whose imressive wingspan and golden color are awe-inspiring, and who are often trained as hunters. Aksum is also uniquely home to the Revi Zebra, largest of all zebras. Water is generally considered precious, due to the limited rainfall, and the northern farmers have recently developed a technique of terrace farming that involves stepped flat platforms to collect water, which is then transported to the crops. The five seasons are Metker (Summer), Teg (Fall), Gega (Winter, Uetl (Spring) and Helu (Winter/Spring), with the coldest day falling in the middle of Helu and the flood season occuring in Metker once each decade.

Aksum City is the capital, a five day trip from the port of Addis Addus on a six-lane, gold-painted road. AFter the Second Prophet's death, monks and artisans began work on a detailed mosaic along the road. It has been ongoing for centuries, its level of detail so great that multiple lifetimes have not seen it completed. No one can get the aritsts to say what will happen once the story is finished, which will likely not be for at least a century if not more. Aksum was built on a gentle slope, with three hills around it as a defensive shield. The city was always designed as a metropolis, with most of the buildings in the western half, futhest from the city entrance. The largest structure is the Imperial Palace, with noble homes around it and each social class spiraling outward, with the lowest layer serving asw a protective barrier against invasion. The reach the palace, you must go through the entire city, first through a guarded gate that is the only entrance, then through the market square in the east, then the peasant homes, the merchants, the church, the royals - and only then will you reach the palace. Aksum itself has few fortifications, as it is built in a natural remote fortress. The town is surrounded on all sides by cemeteries marked with grante stele of various size, and mass graves on the far outskirts for the zfaxi. In the east, there are three beautiful churches, and the south is the Imperial burial ground and principal necropolis. The mountain walls are lined with civic buildings, encircling the city. Steps are carved into the rock to lead to them, and the buildings are covered in religious paintings. Even in dead of night, the people work to sell goods or move wares. Statues of past emperors line the Palace steps, and the city is always patrolled by multiple army units to secure it. No matter where you are, the Imperial Palace and the Obelisk of Aksum are always visible.

The Obelisk of Aksum is a massive stele at the heart of the city, built by the Emperor Tafari during the Lingering of the Second Prophet. Tafari, a master of Melbur, focused his will through his father's ring and performed massive amounts of calculations while chanting to the abonsam. In response, 40 of the dark creatures emerged from the ether to obey him, working in perfect unison. No other had ever summoned so many, much less controlled them so easily, and certainly not while performing a church ritual. In under an area, the abonsam had built the Obelisk. It has three false doors at its base, with decorative windows and the words of the Prophet written on each side. At the top of the massive stele is a semicircular base with iron frames on each cardinal side. When asked why, Tafari t old the people it would becomne clear with time. In the 9th century, a pair of relic hunters named Esra and Gorfu presented Empress Ozoro with a five-foot metallic hexagon in exchange for her blessing of their marriage. Ozoro had studied ancient stele, and recognized the device from their symbols. The thing was put atop the stele, and once there, a massive rain began that lasted for three days, ending with lightning striking the Obelisk. In a 14th century invasion by the abonsam, the emperor's prayers caused a wave of energy to erupt from the Obelisk, eradicating one wave of the creatures and making the rest stop just long enough for the defenders to repel them. That night, the rains came again, lasting for three days and again ending in a lightning strike on the Obelisk. The granite stone is still worm to the touch, and the scent of ozone is noticeable.

The Tomb of the Betrayers is on a hill 2.5 miles out from Aksum City, surrounded by the Awowa mountains. It is the burial place of the seven assassins of Khalil. Foreigners often ask why it's so close to the city and so prominent, rather than having the assassins tossed into an unmarked grave. The Aksumites laugh and say that they do not endure such evil, and the tomb is a reminder of that, a monument to the Prophet. It has multiple doors on all sides with stone locks but no clear entrance - all these doors are false and cannot be opened in any way. The tombs irregular stones appear seamless and locked in place, with the precision of their joints unmatched in all of Aksum. The marble doesn't even seem to have aged. No one has seen its interior, but one of the original architects claimed it was one chamber with seven rooms, one for each assassin. The center chamber was marked by a six-foot cross with seven silver coins inside, and seven eternal torches lighting the interior. Rumor has it that the assassins still live within, cursed into half-life. The villagers swear that on holy days, they can hear faint screams of pain and agony. No one could possibly open the tomb, surely - no force can harm it and it does not burn.

De Gas Ruz was once the most defensible city in the region, with its metal-and-stone walls and hundreds of cannons. It is also one of the top trading ports of Ifri. It was a bastion of the Hibiri Church until about nine years ago, and still has over 30 churches and shrines. However, while the people continue to pay taxes and support the royal laws, the Bishop that ruled it was ousted by the merchants due to heavy taxes on trade and his questionable activities. It was a bloodless coup that happend so quickly that it took weeks for the cpital to even hear about it, when the man was brought to Aksum by the Auger's Guild to swear loyalty to the emperor. No one knows for sure what happened in that meeting. Some say that the war with Manden meant no resources could be spared to fight the city, or that the guild had damning evidence on the clergy, or if the emperor just liked the idea...but now, De Gas Ruz is the only city in Aksum not run by a noble or priest. Under the rule of the Auger's Guild, the town is focused on money - and only money. They don't care about shady deals, and it has become a hive for questionable merchants. You can get anything there, but you must be careful. It is, however, still the front line of any naval defense.

Domo De Melbur has changed much in its centuries of existence, starting as little more than a few huts for Melbur sorcerers. Now, they are a sprawling monastery with walls of ivory and stone, hide on a flat-topped highland mountain. It was purposefully chosen for its defensibility and isolation but ability to maintain its own crops. There was a fear that making deals with abonsam was ab ad idea, so the sorcery was permitted solely to improve trade, and a permanent squad was placed at the base of the mountain, with orders to allow only official passage and to slay any escaping abonsams. This would allow Aksumite traders to fly on the wings of demons, escaping sea dangers easily. As more and more went to the monastery to learn Melbur, the buildings were replaced to increase comfort, but not distraction. The building is as nice as any negus' castle, but the residents must meditate for 12 hours at a time in the cold rain, under the eyes of the High Monk. Typically, those who bear the touch of Melbur go there young, between the ages of 12 and 18, to learn their skills. They learn to resist corruption and to learn the Hibiri rites of exorcism. The worship of abonsam is banned, but Melbur is a sacred art, taught with extreme care. The monastery is always staffed by a High Monk (and master of Melbur) and 12 other monks in varying degrees of mastery, equally divided between men and women. The soldiers remain even now at the foot of the mountain. Aksum's emperors, it is believed, allow the practice to continue because they know they could never eradicate the old ways, and it is better to teach resistance or control than to allow the corruption to spread on its own.

Thousands of stelae can be found all over Aksum, well predating hte Hibiri Church. Tehy are ancient-style burial chambers, designed to honor the dead with carved stone, though the making of stelae has been lost in urban centers. Only the rural areas still have the knowledge. Every one of them, from the oldest to those made less than a week ago, must be ordained by the Imperial family for location, depictions and materual. They never deny anyone the right to build one, however, despite their piety, and actually seem to actively promote the building of stela. In 1356, they relocated an entire village until the building of a six-foot onyx stele was completed, carved with the symbols of old gods. The reason for this is known only to the Negusa Nagast, given by the Sika'Dwa stool. It binds the ruler to the Chamber of Wonders, which no ruler has ever spoken of to any other person. Inside the Chamber is a map of Aksum, marked with the location of every stele and sites for new ones. This map and the knowledge of it were given by the Jok, though none could say way. Each stele is a rechargeable beacon of telluric energies, allowing the emperor to control that energy, with each new stele enhancing the system. The symbols on the stelae represent their capacity, all of which can be controlled from the Chamber of Wonder using complex calculus to predict and control the telluric flows. (I believe this is meant to be how the Obelisk is powered and recharged.)

The hliest site in Aksum is the City of the Covenant, at the exact center of the nation. Only the most pious and devoted may enter, though many pilgrims come to pray outside it. Anyone within five miles of it feels a strong sense of awe. Only a handful actually live there, all members of the monastery that protects the city. They pray, train and meditate all day. At the center of the city is the Church of the Covenant, a domed stone with three buildings carved out of it. Inside lie the earthly remains of the Second Prophet, his writings and the last items he blessed before death. Each building is painted pure white, then given to a monk to use as a canvas for theological writings and art.

The Last Testament of the Prophet lies higher in the mountains, a great cliff face covered in a carved message dictated by the Prophet from his deathbed. It is painted in bright colors, gold leaf and silvered coins. Hundreds of the devout carved the words. They make no sense, are a poem without meaning, but countless have come to see it. It is a nonsense poem which is said to illuminate and enlighten those who can fully grasp and understand it. Or it might be meaningless. None can truly say.

The Lake of Remembrances is the largest in Aksum. It is 55 miles long, 40 wide, and 70 feet deep at its center, lying 600 feet above sea level. It is fed by seven rivers, with 20 more seasonal ones in the rainy season. It has dozens of tiny islands, whose numbers shift and change depending on how much water flows into the lake. Mapmakers say 25 exist, but only 15 are visible. Eight have communities or monasteries on them, slowly moving inland as the water rises. The most devout worshippers of Ajuk, the Emuron priests, are transported to the center island after death, buried under its monastery. Worshippers believe this brings rain and good fortune for the coming year. To date, only ten priests have been cosnidered holy enough to be buried there, however. Unlike the other island churches, the Ajuk monastery has never been damaged by rising waters and the islanders on that island never go hungry.

Next time: People.

Wrestlepig
Feb 25, 2011

my mum says im cool



Toilet Rascal



SORCERY


Shirts are restricted by caste

Sorcery isn't given as in-depth a treatment as the other systems of magic, mostly because the focus is on regions that don't really use it. The only starting avenues to it are through the cult of Lhankor Mhy and the Philosopher profession. It isn't difficult to pick up at a basic level, but the mechanics make it hard to pair with spirit magic, so characters will need to pick which avenue they'll take. In the fluff, Sorcery is the direct manipulation of Runes, without getting assistance from Gods or Spirits. It's most common among Westerners, who are monotheists worshipping the Invisible God, but it's found all over the place. Sorcery does have a couple of advantages over other forms of magic: you have access to widely different abilities compared to the narrow purview of Rune Magic, and it doesn't have anything to do with your own Rune Affinites, so you can mix and match domains easily. On the other hand, you'll have less spells known, and rely on an individual skill for each spell, so getting them to be reliable is difficult. You can bypass that with augments but that isn't quick enough to work in combat, so most sorcerers will have a couple combat spells rather than the broad spread your standard D&D wizard has.

Each sorcery spell can be broken down into a formula of Rune and Technique. Every rune is available, from the elemental runes to the more abstract Power and Form Runes. You only start with one Rune and Technique mastered, but that gives you access to related runes for an increased mana cost. If you've Mastered the Death Rune, you can do Fertility Magic at twice the price, which isn't a big deal for utility. Techniques are Sorcery exclusive, and determine how you can modify a rune to get an effect. There are 6 different Techniques, listed below.

  • Summon: Conjure up a specific manifestation of a Rune. Used for many attack spells, as well as summoning
  • Dispel: Dismiss a manifestation of a Rune. Most of the related spells are defensive or countermagic.
  • Combine: This lets you combine two different runes to modify one with the other. Useful for longer-lasting effects
  • Separate: The opposite of Combine. I don't think it has any examples given
  • Command: Order something around. Very powerful, but limited if it isn't around.
  • Tap: Convert a manifestation of a rune into raw magic, which you get as extra mana along with the effect. Tap spells are powerful and often have permanent effects, like Tapping the Man rune to reduce the target's Size and get mana. These tend to be forbidden among polite sorcerers, but some don't really care or allow it on specific runes.

Mastering a technique gives you more expensive access to the opposite, but Command and Tap are easily extrapolated from the other techniques, so you pretty much always have them at double price. This gives easy access to forbidden magic, which I always encourage.

Learning new magic is difficult, although manageable if your character is committed. To learn a new Rune or Technique, your character needs to roll under their INT+POW on a d100, although they can augment the roll with ritual practices. Learning Spells is easier, either paying 50 lunars for getting taught (more for big deal or cult-secret spells) or doing it yourself by succeeding on a Read/Write and INTx3 check. You can also create spells, which takes a while and requires an INT check of increasing difficulty based on how unusual the spell is. It's easier to learn a spell this way (it doesn't say whether you've memorised the spell if you create it but I'd assume so) but you need a mastery of the Runes and Techniques involved. When you've memorised a spell, you get it as a skill starting at 1d6+your Magic Skills category modifier, which is pretty low. At that point, it can be increased like any other skill. It's really too low for Sorcery to be reliable under pressure compared to other magic. The highest I could get a Sorcery at start was 75%, which involved stacking every single bonus, giving myself the maximum roll and only works for a single Truth/Command spell given by Lhankor Mhy. To compare, a standard Orlanthi can easily start at 80% in their Air rune and use it for everything. There are a few factors that increase the chance of succeeding at casting a spell, to help balance that out. Each day, week and season has a Runic affiliation that give a bonus or penalty to the check. I can't imagine paying attention to this most of the time, although it's neat for planning battles. Some locations are affiliated with a Rune and give a more reliable benefit, like Graveyards boosting death magic. The easiest is having an object affiliated with a rune, which is both easy to do and under the player's control. The Lunar Moon cycle only affects Cost, rather than chance to cast, so the bad guys don't get an easy out.

If you manage to cast a spell, you get to modify how powerful it is when it goes off. You can add extra mana to a spell up to your Free INT, which is your INT minus the amount of points of other spells you know. You add extra magic points to increase the spell's Damage, Duration and Range. You need to pump in a lot of points to have a very powerful effect, but you don't need much for basic attack spells or effects that don't need all the categories. It takes a big investment to get as much damage as most melee stuff, but it tends to get around a lot of defenses. They tend to be very slow to cast, coming in at the Dexterity-only Strike Rank plus twice as many magic points invested in the spell. Often this is going to wrap around into previous rounds if you're going for big effects

Sorcery is pretty cool overall, but it bumps up against the skill system and the low starting chances. It works very well as a utility system that gives a good breadth of abilities, but the low chances of success make it untenable for use in combat or situations where you can't augment it with other skills. It takes a lot to make the heavy investment in Sorcery compete with taking a bow and some basic spirit magic. That said, it's not really the focus of the base game, and I'd like to think later releases will give it some improvements.

Next Time: The Final sections: Money and Between Adventures

Wrestlepig fucked around with this message at 07:19 on Jul 10, 2018

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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#1 Builder
2014-2018



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold & Fire - Evil Wizards

Current Relations posted:

The Kingdom of Khemet: As always, Aksum's relationship with Khemet is a profitable pleasure. While the Kingdom has fallen on harder times than Aksum, the government works to keep them strong from past relations. Khemet is the major importer of firearms and a wall against the corruption that is Mbey. Negusa Nagast Makonnen sees the Kingdom not simply as a trading partner, but as a bulwark against other attackers and thus works to prop up the darkness-shrouded kingdom.
The Kingdom of Maghreb: There has been little contact between the two kingdoms, as the war has taken Aksum's attention. During the year's reprieve, a few envoys have been sent to re-establish a friendship of some kind.
The Kingdom of Mbey: Mbey is a cursed land. Aksum has sent spies into the kingdom to gather intelligence. The Skia has secretly been supplying Jaineba and other sources of resistance in Mbey through various proxies.
The Manden Empire: The attempt at marriage of the Aksum princess and Manden prince places the war between the two on pause. The rumors that Aksum's princess does not want the marriage have placed the truce between the two on shaky ground. Many fear rejection means that the peace between the two will evaporate, and all-out war will only end with one kingdom a smoking rubble or assimilated into the other.
The Nation Vodacce: The Vodacce people are conniving dogs. Plans are lining up to cut off their trade routes into Ifri and cripple their empire.

Negusa Nagast Makonnen has ruled Aksum for 40 years and is nearly 60. He is once a more passionate man, and is still more interested in stopping riots and calming people than in finding the actual cause of unrest. He's mellowed, however, and no longer lives in the shadow of his father, who was more general than king. Makonnen is a tall, thin man of great wisdom and confidence, though he speaks softly and rarely. He prefers to let others speak most of the time, so that when he does do it, his words carry a lot of weight. Even if he wasn't the divine king of Aksum, his natural charisma would make people listen to him. He has lost two sons and two daughters, with only his fifth child, Princess Mehret, surviving. He knows that he is growing older and that Aksum desperately requires a focused leader. His advisors tell him that Manden can't be trusted, and so he works to ensure that Mehret is prepared if she has to lead.

Princess Mehret is strong and confident. On the night of her birth, a Wiseone arrived bearing a gift of Orun Irin metal from the Jok, and told Makonnen and his wife that their child was "half the solution." When asked for more, he just nodded and left. Mehret grew up distant from her father, who was often busy, but on her fifteenth birthday he came to her and asked her what she wanted made from the sky metal they'd been given. She chose to have a spearhead and an amulet forged of it, and carries both always. She has never met Maghan Kon Fatta of Manden, but has been taught he is the other half of her solution, that their union is prophesied and will save her kingdom. Recently, however, she has begun to doubt this. The Wiseone never said what the other half was. She yearns to go among the people, and routinely scares her family by disappearing for a few nights to travel Aksum in disguise. She knows it's dangerous, but something about it has been convincing her that the Mandenka prince is not her solution.

Niyyat Senai, the Lady of Futures is brilliant. She is tall, elegant and possibly the best Nebiyi Monitor in a generation. She is the Lady of Futures because, so far, she's never been wrong. Her work has prevented floods, aided the military and, most recently, supported the claim that Princess Mehret's destiny is to marry the Mandenka prince. The problem is that Niyyat Senai has been locked in a single room for three years. A false Niyyat, an abonsam called Ataro, has eaten some of her hair and nails and taken her shape. She has been posing as the Monitor in an effort to start a war with Manden. Makonnen trusts her calculations implicitly and suspects nothing. Ataro is an agent of Chitendu in Mbey, hoping to force Manden to fight on two fronts. Currently, Ataro has not eaten Niyyat because she needs the calculations performed, and thus barely keeps her alive. Niyyat performs her work, and then Ataro gives it that abonsam twist. Niyyat has told Ataro that the marriage is destined...but that may have been a lie, designed to help her get free, or at least survive. Ataro wouldn't know. Her Strength is 6, her Influence 10.

Dark Wizard Rada used to be the dscah ru for Aksum, for a little over six years. He claimed to have been the illegitimate son of a negus slain in the war that had saved the queen's life. Makonnen thus appointed him assistant to the dscah ru in honor of this debt, and he served for four years before the dscah ru died in his sleep and Rada got the full job. He began to study the writings of the Second Prophet and the Lingering, learning all about the seven assassins. The abonsam whispered in his ears, and he decided that Aksum needed him to seize the throne and return prosperity. Mehret, meanwhile, discovered that Rada was, in fact, the grandson of a banished traitor, Ras Kidane, and while she didn't know of his plans, her questioning led him to flee the palace. He used his abonsam magic to make himself nearly invulnerable, but her sky metal spear left him a burning wound that forced him to flee, aided by a pack of kishi. He has since raided and committed acts of banditry throughout Aksum. His goal is simple: control Aksum as the emperor. He knows he can't do it alone...but if he could just break into the Tomb of the Betrayers and get the aid of the assassins, that'd change things. So far, his attempts have failed five times. He has Strength 5, Influence 8.

Next time: Khemet

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Well, that's a pretty succinct and clear-headed assessment of the Voddace.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk








Chapter 7: Places of Interest - Europe and the Near East






Europe and the Near East: Architects of the Modern World
come up with a more biased, Eurocentric sub-title, I fukkin dare you


The British Isles
The Hook(s):
1. Avebury in Wiltshire is another set of menhir (standing stones) like Stonehenge except less internationally famous. Avebury actually has TWO sets of stone rings and of course nobody alive knows exactly what they were used for but people speculate that they mark (or used to mark) the locations of Doorways that were open during prehistoric periods of high dark matter tides. There's a local superstition that the Doorways must be at least partially functional because multiple sheep from nearby flocks have wandered too close to the menhir and wound up disappeared/missing, but the book doesn't elaborate on this point further.


Look it's the architecture from the section subtitle!

2. Located near Edinburgh in Scotland, Rosslyn Chapel is an ancient gothic church built during the 15th century, with ownership separately claimed by the Knights Templar, the Free Masons and the Rosicrucians. It's rumored to contain some or all of the following artifacts:
- a hoard of gold, stolen from King Herod, which he had first stolen from the Temple of Solomon
- various sacred/apocryphal scrolls that were rejected for inclusion in the Christian Bible by the first Nicene Council
- a holy stone (?)
- an extraordinarily large piece of the True Cross
- the actual Holy Grail
- the severed and preserved head of Jesus of Nazareth (!)
So, you know, if any one of those things were actually contained within, you'd have a decent plot for an "Ocean's" style adventure.
3. The Shetland islands contains the burial plot of an infamous Norwegian sorcerer, Magnus Gromdahl. Nobody knows quite which island in the chain includes his grave, but all of the islands are consequently haunted, so of course this is another chance to play Ghost Busters!
My Take: There's not enough detail given about Avebury or the Shetland islands to make an adventure, but the list of artifacts purported to be held within Rosslyn Chapel is decent enough that even if none of them are actually located there, you've still got to wonder why somebody has been clamoring so fervently that they are.


Cyprus
The Hook(s):
1. The island has been the frequent recipient of lovely geological disasters ever since Atlantis blew up and the change in local sea levels buried the northern third of the island under the ocean. The Hidden Order of St. Gregory also has a major stronghold here (despite the fact that Cyprus was not listed as a stronghold in their entry in Chapter 6).
2. The Orthodox Church of Cyprus is the oldest autocephalous Christian church in the Eastern Orthodoxy. Nobody outside Cyprus really seems to care what they do with their independence, but there's rumors that they've been trying to incorporate Islam and Christianity into a single religious continuity since the mid-seventh century and that one of the Prophet Muhammad's cousins may be interred there. Her spirit may or may not also be possessing the head of the Church (switching every time a new head is elected) and be the mastermind behind the desire to blend both religious practices. No conclusion or end-state is provided for what would happen if she achieves her nebulous goal.
3. The Monastery at Kykkos exists! Nothing important is happening here.
4. The monks of the Monastery at Stavrovouni supposedly possess a piece of the True Cross. For some reason this means that women are barred from entering? Paul (the apostle) hated the idea of being married so obviously these monks have decided that was the singular most important lesson in the entire Bible.
My Take: At first I was feeling dismissive about the inclusion of all of these religious sites, but I can kind of see an emerging meta-plot in this chapter about how there's a war between Heaven and Hell (which, recall, literally exist as described in contemporary Christian theology in the Dark*Matter setting) brewing and the rising tides of dark matter are going to force a final confrontation to a head and the players will ultimately play an influential role for one side or the other. It's definitely not the kind of meta-plot I would expect to find behind the X-Files-lite RPG that I was sold, but at least it kind of explains why multiple locations of religious significance seem to be included without any significant plot hook.


Istanbul
The Hook(s):
1. The Grand Bazaar is likely the source of every "busy foreign street market" trope that you encounter in films or books. You can buy very nearly anything here, although players will most likely be interested in the Street of Exports. Essentially, it's the black market where illicit poo poo gets sold - it's entirely possible to purchase narcotics, chemical/biological/nuclear weapons, sex slaves, human organs, etc. The primary product sold that keeps the Street of Exports in business in heroin, and most organized crime in Turkey is involved in the heroin trade to some extent. More salient to the players, the Street of Exports is also a viable way to obtain exotic relics, religious icons, objects stolen from archaeological sites, and other forbidden things. At the very least, if they can't find what they want for sale, they should be able to find a solid lead on where it might be found (for a price, of course).
2. The Starry House of the Companions is the local stronghold for the Rosicrucians. They like to act as a neutral ground for negotiations between humans and Strangers (including rogue Greys). Supposedly the house also serves as a satellite training facility for Rosicrucian mind walkers, but the physical dimensions of the building are far too small to allow such a purpose; it's suggested that there may be hundreds of meters of underground tunnels beneath the compound that allow the house to function as an academy for psychics.
My Take: The "exotic foreign street market" is a familiar enough trope that it can allow for adventure ideas without having to provide a ton of detail about every single stall or proprietor. The secret compound of Rosicrucians is nice for at least fleshing out another location where they could be encountered, and the idea that the house includes a hidden facility for mind walkers is another decent hook. Not a ton of specific info with these hooks, but I feel like there's enough to germinate some ideas.


Jerusalem
The Hook: There's rumors abound that the Knights Templar have discovered hidden chambers beneath the historical location of the Temple of Solomon and that they've stumbled upon a treasure trove of important religious artifacts (most notably they're claiming to have uncovered the Ark of the Covenant). Even if it turns out that the relics are mundane they're still priceless artifacts of immense historical significance; however, they've hit a snag named Azmodeus. This demonic Stranger claims to have been the personal Ifrit of King Solomon, tasked with building the temple and standing eternal watch over the relics contained within. It's desperate to be freed from servitude, but some clause in its contract has kept it bound here despite the death of King Solomon millennia ago. While it's contractually obligated to continue to murder all interlopers, it's more than willing to discuss its situation with interested parties as long as they don't violate the boundaries of the temple. Ultimately Azmodeus has promised the untold riches of the temple to any party that manages to figure out how to undo its binding, but so far none of the Knights Templar's attempts have been successful.
My Take: This is the kind of hook that every single entry in this chapter should have been. There's a clear adventure seed and it's open ended enough that a party of investigators could approach and solve the problem in a variety of ways. A++ would use in a campaign if I were inclined to ever run Dark*Matter again.


Malta
The Hook(s):
1. The Knights of Malta have the main base of operations here. That's all the book has to say about that!
2. The Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was built in the 17th century and is still maintained and functional to this day. During WW2 the island of Malta was a crucial waypoint for the British Royal Air Force, as it was located between their airfields on Gibraltar and Egypt; consequently, it was also the target of multiple bombing raids by Axis powers. The hospital was struck during one of the air raids and suffered heavy casualties due to the number of patients that were caught in the building when the bombs fell. Ever since, the hospital has been haunted by the ghosts of those that died in the bombing, and all attempts to exorcise the ghosts have proven so far unsuccessful.
My Take: Another no effort location. It's starting to feel like any time they couldn't come up with a better hook for a place, they just threw in G-G-G-GHOSTS and called it good.


LOW/NO EFFORT HOOKS ABOUT G-G-G-GHOSTS: 8
LOOK-BUT-DON'T-TOUCH LOCATIONS: 15


NEXT TIME: More Europe!

Josef bugman
Nov 17, 2011

I'm a lovely person who deserves to be happy!


Night10194 posted:

Well, that's a pretty succinct and clear-headed assessment of the Voddace.

If anything it is slightly too generous

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold & Fire - The Black Land

Khemet is the land of two rivers, the land in forever night, at the edge of fire. It sits at the edge of the Ubari Desert, a shining jewel of obelisks, pyramids and waterways. It is a center of trade and culture, yet also a land divided. For the wealthy, it is a paradise of ancient treasures and opportunities. For the poor, it is forever shadowed, slowly being torn apart by corruption and greed. Khemet lays claim to a history that stretches back farther than any, predating even the Numanari. Visitors often note the sheer number of ancient structures - the pyramids, yes, but even the villages have buildings that have been around for thousands of years, pottery containing ancient scrolls, and more. To the natives, these are just reminders of the past. Of course they exist - the ruling dynasty has taken great pains to ensure the history is preserved. Finding old artifacts is just a thing that happens, like finding your grandpa's diary in the attic. A curiosity, little more. Thean treasure hunters sometimes come to look for valuables, but the Khemeti have no love of tomb robbers.

Long ago, Khemet was graced by the Jok. The earliest tales speak of a land trapped under a dark sky, which the sun could not touch, until the Jok banished the unnatural darkness. It had been brought by an ancient enemy seeking a home in which to build eternal night. The Jok used bright blue seeds and sky metal, working with the people to drive off the corrupted and set right the wrongs, granting a Sika'Dwa stool to a wise leader. They left behind nine of their own, nine gods who would live in Khemet and care for it. These were the Ennead, and their temples still stand, though they begin to crumble as the darkness returns.

The Ennead sought peace, but knew the corruption might return. To fight it, they worked to raise the obelisks. Legend says the Great Obelisk at the mouth of the Iteru towered over the people, covered in potent symbols, and that it was under its shadow that the Ennead gathered the leaders of Khemet to crown the first king, Ahtunonen, entering the Covenant of the Most High. They agreed to bless the land and its people, to teach their magic, so long as the rulers remained true to the people and the people true to the Jok. Ahtunonen swore, and the obelisk glowed blue as he did. Ahmun, greatest of the Ennead, sealed the pact and brought the sun back to the sky. Of course, much of the history during and after the First Sunrise is full of legend, rumor and even just blank spots. It is known that before the Numanari Empire rose, Khemet knew unprecedented peace and prosperity. The rivers watered the land, making it fertile, and great temples were built to the Ennead. The Ennead walked the land, helping to raise more obelisks, each glowing and guarding in the night. It is said that they trusted the Khemeti so much that they removed their own hearts, placing them inside nine pyramids.

With the aid of the Ennead, the city of Masr was built atop Mount Fahrad, to rule over the land. King Ahtunonen led the priests and the people with wisdom and compassion. No one is totally sure who the Jok Ennead truly were. Some say they were just legend. The Vaticine holds that they may have been potent spirits or magical entities, but not gods and not equal to Theus. Scholars debate if the many structures in Khemet prove the Ennead were real. The popular Montaigne view is that the greatest Khemeti works were in fact made by the Jok, who were some kind of nonhuman entity similar to the Sidhe, as the Khemeti could never have made such grand monuments. Avalonian and Sarmatian scholars tend to reject this as infantilizing the Khemeti and failing to give them proper credit, seeing the Ennead as either a mythical elevation of people with great talents or as supernatural entities that merely helped and worked alongside the Khemeti.

How long the period of peace lasted is up for some debate, but the departure of the Ennead is agreed to have signaled its end. No one knows what began this final conflict, but Ahmun left across the northern sea to seek counsel from lands beyond. When he returned, the Ennead had been drawn into a war against the very forces he'd meant to befriend. They left for the north at the head of an army, leaving the alchemist-king Idris Theyt to rule. His wife went north as general, but when she died in battle, the sorcerer-king Theyt went mad. He became obsessed with bringing her back, pouring great amounts of his own ka into giant emerald tablets to control the natural order. The darkness began to seep back in as he did, and demons stalked the land.

Seven of the Ennead returned from the war, heading back to Iu-Neserer. As they went, they pulled water with them, flooding Khemet and washing away many of the wonders they had helped to make. Only the highest points survived, along with some potent obelisks that shielded part of the population from harm. In the wake of the flood, the kingdom was decimated, and the obelisks began to dim. The survivors fought over the scraps just to survive, using the new magic discovered from Theyt's works: Heka, magic fueled by the power one's ka, one's own soul. Queen Nahashepsut, greatest of the surviving rulers, rode down from Masr to subdue rebellions and bring back hope. She reunited the kingdom, ending all dissent, and gathered up the district leaders, decreeing Khemet to once more be a kingdom, now and forever, and that her bloodline would hold back darkness. Her descendants have ruled ever since.

Knowing the people remained angry, Nahashepsut distracted them and united them by going to war against Aksum. Once, Khemet had been the greater land, but not now. Nahashepsut reached out to them for aid, then lied to her people, saying she had been denied. Khemet went to war, invading the Aksumite border towns. The war lasted a generation, until Nehemek, son of Nahashepsut, led Khemet to victory. Wealth flowed back to them as the Khemeti empire was rebuilt. They even sacked the greatest Aksumite treasure city, using it to rebuild Masr. Eventually, however, the people wanted peace, threatening to revolt. King Akheneset, grandsom of Nahashepsut, brought order, sending his son Ahmun-Hashet to Aksum to negotiate peace. During the trip, Ahmun-Hashet turned to the ways of the Second Prophet, and when he returned, he also got his father to convert, becoming one of the most devoted of the Prophet's followers. Soon, Dinism swept the kingdom, and Khemet began trading with the Crescent Empire, using them as a source of money, technology and training in new skills. With their alliance in Aksum and their Crescent friends, Khemet once more prospered.

Priests and scholars of the Vaticine Church also flourished in the area after the conversion. They had documents about ancient Khemet, but until then had been unable to visit. Now, exchange spread, as missionaries came to learn and teach, and Khemeti emissaries went abroad. Small Khemeti enclaves appeared in many Thean cities, bringing their food and culture with them. Throughout it all, the ruling family has descended purely from Nahashepsut - even going so far as to only marry their own family or close relatives in the ruling classes. They passed down the secrets of Jok magic, never sharing it outside the line. It is said that her jealousy over the Jok power led Queen Twosret to seek a lover outside of her cousin-husband, King Makaret. Twosret was the rightful ruler, but had largely been displaced by her popular cousin Makaret, a general, before their marriage. Even her father had favored Makaret, teaching him the Jok secrets instead of Twosret. It is said that the enraged queen took a handsome stranger as her lover for seven days and nights, and when she returned from the summer palace in Kyber, she reconciled with her husband. Nine months later, her son Siptah was born.

On the night of his birth, Twosret announced that Makaret was assassinated by enemies in the court. For the safety of her son, he would be raised in seclusion. There would be no birth celebration - only a time of mourning. Still, it was a time of plenty, and Twosret was praised enough that rumors of her paranoia were largely overlooked. Priests declared the crown prince a gift, and both the Jok priests and the Dinist clerics blessed him. This kept the rumors spreading that all who witnessed his birth, down to the least servant, died before he ate his first meal. However, as Khemet's fortune grew, so did the queen's paranoia. She doubled, then tripled the guard on her palace, increasingly growing unwilling to meet anyone new. Rumors began to spread that she had a hand in her husband's death, though they were severely punished. Only Siptah was spared her anger.

Things reached a head when some unknown party attempted to kidnap the ten-year-old Siptah. The queen had every conspirator executed, and ruthlessly beheaded all of Siptah's guards, moving him to the summer palace in Kyber and turning it into a (lush, gardened) prison. She ruled as regent while Siptah remained isolated. Twosret promised her nobles rewards if they would send their children to be his playmates...permanently. This only spread more rumors, that Siptah was strange and otherworldly, though those who spoke of it too much vanished. Khemet rapidly fell into decline, as famine spread and banditry became common. Within 5 years, the nation was known as a hive of corruption and crime. Pirates ruled the rivers, politicians took bribes to ignore criminal cartels, it was terrible. The Queen took an Aksumite consort, Amlak Bey, in the hopes of bringing some stability. It did little but make the acrimony between the Ennead worshippers and the Dinists worse. Since then, Twosret has survived six assassination attempts, some say by strange magic and guardians.

Worse, a strange omen has happened. The days have grown shorter - quite literally. Where once the sun was hot and strong, it is now weak, setting earlier - though if one crosses the border, the light returns. There is no scientific explanation - Khemet is cursed. By the time Siptah was 15, there were only eight hours of light per day. Plants have withered and beasts have come out of the mountains to hunt. The Khemeti adjust as best they can, but it is clear that the dark times are back. In the brief periods of light, business is done, but only the bravest or most foolish go out by night, when only the best warded cities are safe from bandits and animal attacks. Khemet is now called the Black Lands, due to the unnatural night and strange monsters that have come to it.

Next time: Prince Siptah - Threat Or Menace

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017





I really dig Khemet.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold & Fire - Yeah I Have No Idea What's Up With Siptah

Prince Siptah has had dozens of servants and teachers, has met with visiting rulers and dignitaries...but no one can remember what he actually looks like. He is described as a bright boy, caring and articulate, a strong prince who will rule well. The only physical description, however, is that his eyes are black as kohl. Some say the prince himself is the color of a shadow and radiates heat like a furnace, that he absorbs the light. These rumors, and those who tell them, do not last long, of course. Getting in to see Siptah is no easy task, though - the queen's paranoia means she doesn't trust people to come in...and those who do are not allowed to leave. Visiting Kyber would require quite a bit of cunning, especially as trespassers are killed on sight. The Prince himself has no desire to leave Kyber - all he wants is brought to him, after all. He tells visitors who ask that he's waiting, biding his time until he takes the throne and puts right all that is wrong in Khemet. He says he cares for his people but cannot yet move against his mother. He cannot be harmed by fire or light, both of which harmlessly absorb into his body. He has a strange beauty, but his appearance is removed from the mind of anyone that leaves his presence.

Anyway, the nobles of Khemet are called the Most High, and have been ennobled since the time of the Ennead and the Covenant. Initially, the Covenant said that those who fought and worked for Khemet would be its ruling nobles, serving the Ennead as emissaries and managers - intermediaries with the gods. This has long since passed. Today, they are a ruling class that is held separate from others. The rest of the population, called the enez by nobles, are seen as a breed apart, lesser, without the blessing of the Covenant. The Most High hold that they have been divinely blessed by the gods, and strict, sacred rules govern interactions between them and the enez. They may not marry the enez, on penalty of the enez spouse and any children being executed. There is no social climbing, with one exception: if an enez does something that the royal family favors, the royals may grant the status of Most High, symbolically transferring the Ennead's grace in a ceremony before the Great Obelisk. Essentially the easiest way to do this in current times to gain Queen Twosret's favor is to dedicate a child of the Most High to service to Prince Siptah in Kyber. Such children know that for as long as Siptah is secluded, they will never leave or see their family again. Many have sent favored children and tutors or warriors to serve, eager to curry favor with the future king.

The enez are...everyone else. They are divided up primarily by economic standing and loyalty. Because it is practically impossible for enez to become Most High, they have structured their own classes based on proximity to nobles. This structure controls all interactions in Khemet. The highest level of enez is the hurr, the free, whose success has placed them just below the Most High in status and wealth. They own land, businesses, slaves. They command other enez, and while it is taboo for them to associate with the Most High still, it is often broken for business reasons.

Below the hurr are the alhadirin, the attendants that serve the royals and Most High. They include all kinds of servant, from the manservant that clothes a royal to the rower pulling the barge. Rank among servants is practically as important as social class, and the alhadirin generally take great pride in their service and the trust extended to them. Under them are the skilled craftsmen, called alkhaliq. They rely on the support of wealthy patrons, and most noble and hurr families consider it fashionable to support as many alkhaliq as they can afford, as the craftsmen make goods not just for sale, but as tribute to their patrons. Below them are the eubayd, the priests of the Ennead, who serve as the voice of the gods. They dedicate their lives to maintaing the temples and performing funerary rites, attending to births and so on. They also educate children at large town gatherings each week or are hired by the wealthy as private tutors.

Under the eubayd are the maharib, the warriors. These are both the general army and those in private noble guards. If a child is found to have talent in battle, they are given to a special maharib training school called a farn ('furnace'), studying until the age of 14 (or three years, whichever is longer), then faces trials to become a full maharib. The prince is known to have a squad of elites at Kyber called the Falcons of the Wind who guard him personally. Under the warriors are the quawiun, the laborers, who are the largest group. They work in all kinds of positions, from fishing and farming to building. While they are low on the structure, everyone understand that without them, no one eats, so they are generally given respect. The lowest rank is the mafqud, the misplaced. They are those without a settled societal role, or whose jobs are not seen as respectable, such as waste workers, adventurers or treasure hunters. Unlike the Most High, one can move up and down the enez social ladder as you prove yourself. A mafqud with martial skill can enter a farn and become a maharib, or join the priesthood and become eubayd. The hardest thing to do is become hurr, as wealth is the prime requisite, but it isn't impossible.

Twosret's least popular decision of the past years has been the institution of slavery. The decline of Khemet has driven many to poverty, and many towns and districts have been unable to pay their tax. This has led to riots and assault of tax collectors, which has meant the military now accompanies the collectors and soldiers are sent out to towns where unrest is high. Instead of slaughtering these towns, however, Twosret has instituted a new policy. If you can't pay your taxes for three consecutive seasons, you must send one of your family members into service to the state. Of course, this doesn't meant their debts are forgiven - any cost of living is added to the debt. It's slavery, and everyone knows it. Thousands have been enslaved by the throne, and it's kept the economy going, but just barely. Twosret has been making bargains with slavers to get more workers as a result, even working with the ATC and coastal raiders.

The largest influx of slaves has been from a pirate armada of Crescents who captured a group of Yachidi (that'd be Not Jews, remember) from a trip they were making into Sarmatia and sold them to Twosret. She has presented these to Khemet as a shipwrecked people who lost all their possessions at sea, but few believe this. There is now a 200-man 'refugee' camp in a part of Masr known as Gommek. The Yachidi live as slaves there, and any children they have are born into slavery. Traditionalists in the court and most peasants are utterly horrified, but have found no way to free the Yachidi or the thousands of debt slaves. Outsiders have also sometimes been detained and fined for any number of offenses, and if they don't speak the language, they can't even defend themselves. The fees often escalate on any pretense, until slavery is assured.

Death, for the Khemeti, has always been seen as a transition. The dead are interred in family crypts outside towns and cities, generally under hills. Enez tombs are simple, usually, but these can be dazzling vaults for the Most High. Those of royal blood use the Valley of the Kings, just under Masr. Priests of Isira and Anuros prepare the dead after death, cleaning, embalming and wrapping them in white linens before entombing them. Wealth and possessions are put in the tombs to accompany the ka into the afterlife, and each body is given a funerary mask, with the simplest made of mud and plaster and the richest of silver and gold inlaid with gemstones. Relatives often visit these tombs to entreat the ancestral ka for intercession with the gods. Mummies and tomb treasures are considered to be strong in ka energies, which is also used in Heka magic. Evil Heka users often raid tombs to steal objects full of residual ka energy for their workings. Maharib are often hired to protect tombs, as are militany eubayd priests of Anuros, who wear jackal-headed helms.

Since the days of Nahashepsut, Khemet has been very openminded about gender and sexuality. 'Zer' is the third pronoun of khemet, referring to those who present in a fluid manner rather than as male or female. The traditional family is a couple (of any gender) who are dedicated to each other and can track their family legacy back for several generations on both sides. They become heads of the household along with all legitimate children. Couples often have multiple secondary partners, too, which may produce children. Many households have special quarters for these partners and children to grow up alongside the main family. The children of these pairings are called akhar, and in ancient times were forbidden to marry legitimate offspring. This is largely ignored now outside the Most High and royalty, who still have a prejudice against akhar. This all is meant to reflect the Ennead, whose gender presentation was highly variable, and who could change their forms. They also had generational lines, with some gods descending from others, and a greater community around them. Even in death, the family is celebrated in tombs and offerings, for who can argue with the gods?

The primary language of Khemet is Sahidic, which has many regional dialects that often vary by social class but tend not to differ too heavily. Food has shifted since the sun started going away. Once, Khemet produced wheat, barley and other grains, but they grow poorly these days, and Khemet relies much more heavily on fish, livestock and hunting. Salted and cured meats, once a delicacy, are now a major export, and preservation of fish and game is a huge industry, so salt is in lots of demand.

Since ancient times, the followers of Seknephet, goddess of creativity, have served as storytellers and performers. Music is heavily used in celebrations, focusing on tambourines, bells, lutes, drums, harps and flutes. Songs usually tell stories, and a skilled storyteller will know hundreds, which mix history and legend. Temples, palaces and homes often have stories carved into the stone as hieroglyphs, mosaics and frescoes, or woven into carpets and tapestries. Even jewelry often tells a story in its design, emulating gods or patterned after planets, animals or famous historic figures. Dance is also used to tell stories, with each district having its own version of a dance (and associated story). They are typically ceremonial, telling stories of the gods, and heavily rhythmic...and overwhelmingly loud.

Next time: Religion

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold & Fire - Religious Divides

Khemet is split between worship of the Ennead and Dinism. The Dinists have more temples these days, but the Ennead have been around longer. In prior generations they essentially got along, but tensions have been rising as the darkness descends. Twosret has officially declared both religions equa, but it really is just a matter of time before open conflict erupts. The Ennead-worshippers are an ancient faith, dating back to the rescue of Khemet from the forces of Bonsam and the raising of the Obelisks. The gods remain evident in Khemet, their names on the nine districts and their pyramids housing the remnants of those that died in the defense of the kingdom. The gods may have departed, but their worship continues in hopes that one day they will return. Each district has a patron deity, whose worship is principal in the region, but it isn't rare to worship others of the Ennead as well, depending on your needs. Every major city has temples to each god, and there are small shrines in just about every town and even at crossroads and oases. Priestly barges travel the rivers to help sailors pray, and many travelers carry tiny statues of the gods with them. The eubayd dedicate their lives to serving the gods. Eubayd may not marry or have children, instead adopting orphans and runaways as wards to raise in the temples. They oversee holy rites of birth and death, marriages, divorces and so on. They serve as mediators and teachers, too, a tradition dating back to the Ennead themselves.

Basat was the shapeshifting goddess of magic, cats, childbirth, healing and protection. Some say she is sister to Ahmun and Apostis, others that she was an unrelated Jok, and some even claim she came from east or across the sea. She was a seductive goddess, who lured Isira away from her brother-husband Seti and had with her a child, Horun. From her temple-palace in Basatan, she taught magic and appreciation of beauty, at least until the death of Isira by Apostis' hands and Horun at Seti's. After that, she was a mourning figure, a black panther stalking the shadows for revenge. She also shared the use of pictogram magic with the people, and her followers embrace the use of Heka. Her symbol is the cat.

Isira, goddess of the family, the underworld and the afterlife, is one of the most potent of the Ennead. Stories tell of her walking battlefields with her son, the death god Anuros, giving eternal life to worthy maharib, who fight demons for her in the underworld. She was lover to Basat, and fought her brother Seti after becoming pregnant with Horun, who was prophesied to lead the Ennead after Ahmun. Isira was betrayed by Apostis and murdered, her body scattered in the deep waters, and so Basat had the first pyramid built above the pool where her body lay, inscribing on it the message: "Seek Isira and discover everlasting life." Her symbol is the ankh.

Horun is the youngest of the Ennead, child of Basat and Isira. He was prophesized to become even mightier than Ahmun, and was raised as a god of war, the skies and birds. He could become a great falcon, and was the foremost fighter against the darkness, beloved by the people. Stories speak of his murder by Seti, who was jealous of him. He was laid to rest in the district that bears his name, beneath the great pyramid there, amongst the greatest treasure trove of the gods. His followers say he will one day rise again, aided by Isira when she too is reborn, and will fly over Khemet to lead the people to greatness. His symbol is the falcon.

Seknephet is the lioness goddess of creativity, bounty, fire, love and the harvest. She is wild, unable to be controlled by any, an force of unstoppable creation and great artistic passions, of love and of vengeance. Stories say that once, she was twin girls - Sekmet and Nephet - who loved each other so much that they became one person. This new goddess wandered the land, far from her temple and her home in Seknephtem, and her capricious nature is blamed or praised for every harvest. Her temples are often full of those praying for inspiration or crop growth, as well as help in love, but even her followers know she is whimsical and that while she can grant blessings, the fallout is unpredictable at best. Her symbol is a paw print with claws.

Apostis, god of snakes, chaos and darkness, was once the great brother of Ahmun, his mighty opposite. While darkness was his, he was believed to balance night and day, sharing Ahmun's power. However, he grew jealous of his brother and turned to demonic corruption in secret, even going so far as to consort with a demon to create Ammit-Set, a great beast with the head of a crocodile, the body of a leopard and the rear end of a hippo. Apostis pushed Seti's hatred for Isira and Horun, and after Seti slew Horun, Isira confronted Apostis, who had Ammit-Set fight her and used the battle to kill her. Ahmun captured Apostis, dragging him back to Iu-Neserer in chains, and Ammit-Set disappeared. Apostis has few worshippers, though they do exist, going to his temple in Apostisra by night to call on him for vengeance against foes. His symbol is the snake.

Ahmun was the sun god and leader of the Ennead, the general that led them to Khemet to fight Bonsam's darkness. It was his light that drove the evil back, and his worship is most widespread. He is patron of the capital district, and his temple in Masr is the largest of any temple in Khemet. He is lord of the sun, prophecy, strategy, rivers and the seasons, and he led the withdrawal of the Ennead after his daughter, Isira, was murdered. His followers believe he will be the first to return, to lead them out of darkness. His symbol is the sun over the half circle.

Anuros is the jackal-headed son of Isira and Seti, the lord of death and judgment. He used his power to see into the hearts of the dead. If they were worthy, they would enter the afterlife. If not, he would devour their soul. After Isira's death, he became the sole guardian of the afterlife's entrance, but could never again cross its boundaries. Stories say that gathering the dead after the flooding of Khemet drove him mad, and his followers know that he is as likely to lash out at prayers as to grant them. His symbol is the jackal.

Toroth, ruler of wisdom, knowledge and fair judgment, is neither male nor female, but a mix of both. Zer fostered centers of knowledge across the land, opening schools for all that wished to learn. Zer priests are some of the best educated and work to spread knowledge among the people. Judges and mediators pray to zer for the power to judge fairly, and during the war, zer maintained a meticulous record of all knowledge, in an effort to preserve it from the dark. Ancient stories say zer hall still exists, left behind before the flood. Zer symbol is the crane.

Seti is the god of storms, the desert and famine, son of Ahmun and brother-husband to Isira until she rejected him in favor of Basat. He went mad with jealousy and turned to Apostis for love. The two hatched a plan to ruin the gods' rule, and Seti slew Horun, Isira's son, convincing Anuros to keep him from returning from death. Ahmun drove off Seti, who fled ahead of the gods into exile, where he now repents his evil deeds. His followers in the district of Setim are relatively few, but he is often called on by travelers and sailors for protection from bad weather and desert hazards. His symbol is the scorpion.

As for the Dinists, their power grew after the conversion of Akheneset, spreading like wildfire. Their mosques were built to rival Ennead temples, gathering in ever greater flocks. Now, the Dinists are equal in number to the worshippers of the old gods, which tends to confuse the Ennead-worshippers. Yes, they say, acceptance, reason and learning are good, but don't the pyramids exist as proof of the gods? Isn't the magic of the gods greater than any Prophet? There is also fear that, as the schism between Dinists and the Vaticine happened, the Dinists will split Khemet. The Dinists don't care, focusing on spreading good works, acceptance and reason, and have brought a strong connection to the Crescent Empire, which has greatly aided Khemeti economy in times of need. However, many now wonder about the influence of sorcery on Khemeti society, claiming the shortening days are proof that dark magic is afoot, which must be understood and stopped. The Ennead sure haven't returned to fix it, after all. The Dinists increasingly call for action, seeing the old ways as having failed.

The Vaticine, meanwhile, has increasingly been turning its eyes towards Khemet. They see the works of the Ennead as strange and alien, remnants of a sorcerous age. Their prohibitions on sorcery are strong, and they see Heka and sacrifice to the Ennead as wrong, as well as use of their protective monuments. Church scholars claim that humanity must solve the riddles of Theus themselves, and that relying on the gifts of strange, prehistoric monsters hobble that. The Invisible College's scholars claim that even the works of the Ennead must follow natural law, and want to study them to understand their workings. Officially, the Vaticine considers the Khemeti in need of conversion, mired in the past, much like the Crescents, who reject the Third Prophet's truths. Unofficially, they mostly sponsor artifact hunters and scholars to visit Khemet and learn more about the Ennead and their ancient past, though such scavanging is not appreciated by the locals.

Next time: Heka

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
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2014-2018



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold & Fire - Magic Words

After the floods that followed the departure of the Ennead, the people needed magic. The king Theyt, who learned how to bend one's ka for magic, showed them how to imbue part of themselves into objects, written representations or even spoken phrases, using it to bend the world to one's will. The imbued thing draws magical power from the world, shaping it, and the stronger your ka, the stronger the working. To do it, you must understand the connection between an object and what it represents for other forces and materials in nature. By inscribing onto a sympathetic object, you can make amulets or spells that manipulate that nature, even transmuting the body or empowering weapons. There's just one catch: every working requires ka, and the bigger the work, the more ka it needs. This ka is the life essence of a person, and that needs time to recharge. Too much use and you will grow sick and die.

Of course, there's shortcuts. You can siphon ka from others, bleeding them for their life energy, or you can funnel ka from tomb treasures or mummies to fuel your magic. Illegal smuggling networks deal in stolen artifacts from tombs to power sorcery, often for sinister purpose. Still, most use of Heka is for the good of Khemet's people, so far. It is of course still sorcery and therefore evil to the Vaticine, however, regardless of its origins. (And, in fact, to many Dinists, if overused.)

The royal court of Khemet is now split between the supporters of Queen Twosret and those who would prefer Siptah take the throne immediately. The queen's paranoia and corruption have many believing she is the cause of the kingdom's darkness...which is not wholly wrong. Assassins who face her have found themselves not only facing the normal warrior-guardians of the Most High but also strangem, sorcerous creatures - possibly demons. One would-be assassin, shortly before dying, claimed that Amlak Bey was actually a demon, but the people like him and who's going to believe an assassin, anyway? Meanwhile, Twosret allows corrupt officials and criminals to prey on the poor as long as they support her, pulling her guards back to Masr and Kyber so that she is safe, even if the kingdom is not.

Those who support Siptah know they're taking a risk. They have no idea what kind of king he will be, and most have never met him or have any idea what he's like. They just argue that anything is better than Twosret. They range from well-meaning, heroic defenders of the people (like his fiance and cousin, Nunia) to foreign-backed criminals intent on using him as a puppet. However, Siptah may prove more difficult to control than those people think. While little has escaped Kyber about him, rumors say he is thoughtful and loves his country. Detractors use his isolation to ascribe many flaws to him, saying he is weak or sickly or stupid or crazy. And, of course, rumor has it that he is inhuman, possessed of unnatural powers. Which is true, of course.

The nine districts were established in ancient times, each ruled by one of the Ennead and protected by the obelisks. Those have gone cold now, and merely serve as the markers of where each district ends. The districts are Basatan, Isiran, Horun, Seknephtam, Apostisra, Ahmun, Anuros, Toroth and Setim. They once fought each other, after the gods left, but Nahashepsut united them again. Still, each does have its own agenda, even today. The Most High act as governors of these lands, vying for power against each other. Twosret encourages their rivalries to keep them all off balance, and each district works to enrich itself in trade at the expense of the others.

The districts have historically used wildly different currency - silver hoops, gold coins, barter. Twosret has minted the hedj, a standardized silver coin, but it's yet to catch on, and barter remains largely the tool of daily life. The hedj is mostly in the hands of merchants, priests and nobles. The economy's been crashing since the sun faded - with only eight hours of daylight, there's not a lot of time to do business in, and it's all very rushed. Most citizens at market are brutally honest to the point of rudeness about getting work done fast - no one wants to be caught out at night, and just about everything shuts down when the sun sets. Except crime, of course. Criminals rule the night, as even the law enforcers fear the darkness. Even they know that it is wise to be wary, however.

Locations! Masr is the capital, overlooking the Valley of the Kings. It is one of the oldest places in Khemet, having survived the flood. It is a mix of Numanari Empire and more modern designs, and its four gates are named for ancient rulers - Ahtunonen, Nahashepsut, Nehemek and Akheneset. A fifth gate leading to the Valley is being built and will be named for the late Makaret. The city is divided into four quarters, plus two structures at the center: the Royal Palace and the temple of Ahnum. Both are immense, visible for miles, and designed with extreme splendor in mind. Their walls are inlaid with gold and jewels, and the temple is inscribed in the hieroglyphic language of the Ennead, telling the story of their coming and departure, and the history of Khemet all the way to the present. The temple is staffed at all times by the most devoted eubayd, led by the fanatical Nephet Malin, who guards many ancient relics, including Ahnum's own scepter.

The noble quarter is in the east, home to the Most High. These are large, open structures with many tiered gardens and balconies to watch the sun rise, and walls covered in mosaics that tell ancient legends and family histories. The servants live in the edges of the villas, as do the maharib guards. The market of Masr is the largest in Khemet, home to goods from across Ifri and even beyond. You can get nearly anything there, including slaves or stolen relics. A tavern, the Ibis Rest, is just west, and is the chosen haunt of servants looking for work. A new winery, the Red Vine, recently opened, owned by a Castillian expat named Emilio Cortez and his husband, Hasan. They hold many wine tastings there, with wines from across the world, and it is very fashionable to go there, with foreigners often invited to add to the mystique.

The richer enez live close to the city center, while the poor live on the outskirts of the cliff in the west. There are many taverns and restaurants there as well as mosques. The north is the smallest district, home to foreigners, and also the neighborhood of Goshek, where the Yachidi slave community lives alongside a number of Dinists from the crescent. Foreigners from elsewhere in Ifri are often annoyed at having to live apart from the rest of the city. The mafqud live outside the walls, in shantytowns that have sprung up to house them and those waiting to enter. These are home to black markets and animal traders, and the only road clear of the shacks is the new one that leads down into the Valley, though even this is plagued by bandits at night.

The Valley of Sovereigns, aka the Valley of the Kings, is the resting place of the ruling dead, and also the tombs for a number of Most High families. It is a great honor to have a vault there, and nobles fight to secure space in their family crypts, so they can be called the greatest of the honored dead. The valley has a number of smaller hills in it, long since hollowed out for tombs. In the center are the royal vaults, with doorways built into the ground and stairs down to the actual crypts. The Valley is both sacred and terrifying for most people, and is known to house restless spirits and flesh-eating ghouls.

The Iteru River is the lifeblood of Khemet, making its way through the nation's heart to the ocean. It was made when the Ennead departed, leaving a flood and a great chasm behind them, which remained filled with water. It is both beloved and a source of problems - it floods its banks every rainy season, sending many families running inland, but it also prepares the land for planting. It also has many river pirates and raiders on its waters. The most dangerous area is the bay of Apis, on the Pechent Peninsula. This is full of crocodiles, and many wonder if Ammit-Set swims beneath the waters as well. However, it is often used as a meeting area for boats doing business or avoiding the floods. The river mouth also contains the Great Obelisk, made by Ahnum in times of legend. It is several miles high and made of purple crystal, carved with protective hieroglyphs. Recently, it has begun to glow green-blue, as have many other crystals in Khemet. Many wonder if this heralds a return of the gods.

The Great Pyramids are renowned across the continent. There are nine, one for each god, and they stand as monuments to the Ennead. They were built both as divine tombs and as storehouses for relics. Each is ten stories tall, capped with basalt inlaid with gold and topped by purple crystal capstones made from the same materials as the obelisks. At night, their glow illuminates the countryside. Each is protected by maharib, and violation of the pyramids is great sacrilege, though in recent years the guards have been stretched thin and less able to keep treasure seekers out. If you were to get past the traps and not get lost in the mazes, you would then find a great silver lake in a huge cavern under the surface. Each lake is identical, deep and reflective, and there is always a boat waiting for visitors. If you ride it, you will be forced to face the voices of your loved ones, your foes and your personal fears and demons, tempting you to jump into the waters. It is only after that that you can reach the tombs. Few have returned to tell of them, but they are said to be full of treasures, crystals and sky metal, and that they have magical mirrors that allow you to speak to the gods. Only the greatest explorer, Adom Abasi, who went into Isira's pyramid-tomb, returned with treasure - a scarab amulet said to hang around the neck of Isira's funerary statue. The queen tried to confiscate it, but Adom Abasi will not say where he hid the scarab, and it has inspired many others to try their luck as well, usually fatally.

Next time: People and places.

PurpleXVI
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?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


So does the book ever actually come out and say exactly what's up with Siptah or is it just a vague "ooooh he's probably pretty darn spooky and mysterious" without actually statting up what he can do or detailing what his plans are?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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2014-2018



7th Sea 2: Lands of Gold and Fire - Yes The Book Explains Siptah

The Citadel of Kyber is a wonder, made in ancient times as a summer palace and more recently renovated by Twosret as a home for Prince Siptah. It cannot be seen from the outside - the massive walls are so high they block view of even the highest parapet. There is only one entrance, a set of immense gates, hundreds of feet tall, made of steel and gold. They are guarded at all times by skilled maharib who confiscate all weapons from visitors. Inside, the palace complex is gorgeous and full of rare and exotic plants and animals. Fountains are everywhere, as are musicians, students and maharib in training. The south end houses a menagerie of imported animals, and there is also a giant library, a huge communal dining hall and several classrooms. The prince's rooms are above the apartments for his attendants and tutors, with a large receiving hall at the entrance. The prince himself spends most of his time in his apartments with his mother's advisor, Councilor Gannan, coming to oversee things. He studies, plays with his companions or visits his astronomy tower. Kyber is easily the most secure place in Khemet, but it has had multiple attempts by kidnappers to breach its walls. There are rumors of a secret passage through Mount Hararan, but they also speak of monsters in the tunnels, and many think they are lies. Still, attackers have somehow breached the walls multiple times, and no one is sure how.

Relations posted:

The Crescent Empire: The Crescent Empire remains the most necessary and worrisome ally to Khemet and the royal court. With the rise of the new empress in the empire, Khemet has renewed opportunities to secure an important trade and military partner. The religious connections alone between the two nations thanks to the spread of al-Din certainly make the two countries a likely pair of friends. But since the enslavement of the Yachidi in Khemet, the royals have been concerned about the empress' intercession on behalf of Khemet's new slaves. Cordial relations must continue at all costs.
The Kingdom of Aksum: The most powerful of Khemet's allies, Aksum has remained and will remain Khemet's priority in the region. Though allied publicly against Mbey, Khemet finds their healthy trade relationship a necessity in these quite literal dark times. Through Aksum's support, the royal court knows they will not fall, and Khemet continues to maintain its staunch support of the Aksum court. Whenever Aksum calls, Khemet will answer, if for enlightened self-interest above all else.
The Kingdom of Maghreb: Where once Maghreb might have been a worthy ally, the beautiful kingdom has fallen onto hard times and become a greedy old friend. Khemet's leaders see Maghreb as asking far too much of their once useful alliance without much in return and have decided to wait until the kingdom shows signs of usefulness once more before engaging in too much interconnection. Still, the populations of both countries remain closely related, often by blood, so it would be almost impossible to be rid of these neighbors completely without going to war.
The Kingdom of Mbey: Though many see Mbey as an evil, fallen place, the leaders of Khemet see an opportunity. A Khemeti may curse the ground the Mbeyan walks on when he passes, but with the Atabean Trading Company doing much work in the Mbey slave markets, the possibilities for trade between the two kingdoms grows more possible. Should a real alliance become a reality, all of Ifri could see darkness stretch further across the land.
The Manden Empire: Of all the kingdoms in Ifri, the royal court believes Manden to be the largest threat to Khemet's rise back to power. Their wealth in gold and their unity of their four states not only outstrips Khemet in economic power but has inspired many of the lower classes to look to Manden as an example of a kingdom dedicated to harmony with its people. The nobility and the royals disdain Manden's dedication to a plurality of voices, and have limited their connection to the empire outside of necessary relations. These relations lie primarily in maintaining overland caravans for pilgrimage and trade.
The Atabean Trading Company: The icy fingers of the ATC reaches out to Khemet's warm heart in negotiation, and many whisper it won't be long before Queen Twosret makes a deal with the company. Recently ambassadors from the ATC have come to court asking for trade and use of Khemet's rivers as easy transport paths in exchange for a steady stream of slave labor to build Khemet back its former glory...with Twosret gaining the credit. What an alliance with the ATC means for Khemet only time might tell, but surely the dark shadow over Ifri will spread like Khemet's eternal night.

We now get people writeups! Prince Siptah is exactly what Khemet needs. He is son of Twosret and her mysterious lover, born the night King Makaret was assassinated. He grew up in Kyber, surrounded by attendants, tutors and guards. He has proven to be brilliant, speaking all languages of Ifri and many Thean ones before turning 12, and he has been readied for when he turns 16, when he was supposed to leave Kyber and join his mother at the capital. There's just one problem - his birthday has come and gone, and Twosret still has not called for him to be co-ruler. Siptah suspects why he is being ignored - for the same reason that, while the rest of the land is dark, the sun is bright over Kyber even when it rains, and the nights are short there - and nowhere else. Siptah knows this is because his father was a god. He has kept the magic power within him a secret from his mother's royal spies, spending his time forcing it down. If he did not, he would glow like a small sun. He knows it's only a matter of time before his power becomes too much to contain, and he wants to seek his father for aid. He also wants to leave Kyber and become king. However, his love for his mother keeps him waiting, trusting in her judgment despite his advisors warning him that if he waits much longer, she may kill him. He is also deeply interested in the Vaticine faith, despite the fact that his dad is probably one of the Ennead.

Damora Kai is the leader of a caravan of Ba'hani, a tribe of desert people that never fully integrated into Khemeti society. She and her tribe travel the desert, establishing oases and aiding travelers. They survived the years of chaos in Khemet by being neutral in all things - including local politics. They follow an ancient pact made by their ancestors to Basat, to guide all those who need aid in the open, dangerous lands. The Ba'hani are matriarchal, and Domara is just their latest in a long line of Kais. She is a potent woman who is always guarded by a pair of jackals she has raised from birth. She is deeply frustrated with the current events in Khemet and the rampant exploitation of the poor. While her tribe is pledged to be neutral, she has bent the rules many times to aid those in need, which leads many of the Ba'hani to wonder how long they'll be able to stay out of Khemeti conflicts.

Queen Twosret is a direct descendant of Ahtunonen and a true inheritor of the throne, but she was engaged at a young age to her cousin, the general Makaret. She wasn't happy with this, and worked to be the best possible ruler in hopes of proving to her father she deserved to know the deep secrets of Heka. When the king chose to teach Makaret instead, she learned the great lesson - power is not earned. It is taken. She took a lover, who gave her the son she always wanted, but she never realized he was a god. When her son was born blessed, she knew he had a grand destiny...and therefore, he must not be allowed to take over her throne. Her paranoia over being set aside makes her listen to a dark voice at night, which offers her the power to control Khemet forever. She does not understand that the voice is a demon, and she has made a dark, vile pact. Even now, she barely resists its constant urging to murder Siptah, held back only because she loves him with overwhelming fervor. The people, she appears a concerned, caring queen. In private, she goes into a mad rage when quesitoned, demanding only the best from anyone around her. She knows people suspect her of killing her husband, but she has a duty and the power to maintain and grow Khemet. To do that, she must have the throne - and now her son is in her way. She is Strength 5, Influence 9.

Amlak Bey is the consort to the Queen, the Aksumite ambassador and one of the most powerful men in Khemet. He is distantly related to the Aksum imperial family, but he had to work his way up from the bottom. He hoped to use his father, dignitary Nasir Bey, to gain political power, but where Nasir was respected and careful, Amlak was deceptive and underhanded. When they were sent to the Crescent Empire as ambassadors, Amlak sought out sorcerers. He became obsessed with magic and the binding of demons. In his first attempt, his father interrupted him and the demon was loosed, killing Nasir Bey. Amlak blamed Mbeyan assassins and returned home a hero, the survivor that brokered peaceful exchange with the Crescents. He converted to al-Din in order to gain support from the rare Dinists of Aksum. (This may not have been his best idea.) Soon after, he went to negotiate peace with Khemet, where he met Twosret and fell madly in love. He quickly won her over and she saw his use, both as advisor and ambassador to Aksum and her own Dinist followers. He was moved into the royal apartments of Masr, where he summoned a potent demon to tempt Twosret. He knew she'd never accept if he offered her power - she had to make that decision herself. Now he sees she is ready to take the throne from her own sun. He plans to marry her and usurp her throne. He is Strength 4, Influence 5.

Next time: Ifrian PCs.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 11:08 on Jul 11, 2018

Deptfordx
Dec 23, 2013



I like all the world building and characters, but the whole 'slightly change the names' thing really starts to grate with me after a while. If you're going to stick that close to the real world, why not accept your just doing a fantasy take on our world and keep the actual names that you're far more likely to remember. I mean just from the lastest updates. The Khemet god Horun? Why bother, just call him Horus and admit you're playing in Egypt.

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PurpleXVI
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?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


I'm a bit disappointed that the Siptah situation is so straightforward.

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