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Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Goat drugs? Or :mason:

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gradenko_2000
Oct 5, 2010




Lipstick Apathy

Ultiville posted:

On-level monsters stay about as hard to hit, and assuming they get to full attack you, hit about as hard (difficulty of discovering what’s an appropriate monster in 3E aside).

Between saves and the more tightly bound armor classes, 2E isn’t like this. Your higher level character is going to hit more often and save more often than your lower level one, regardless of opponent.

I'd like to respond this, not really as a rebuttal, but as an assumption that I also held for a long time and didn't really unlearn until I really dug deep into the math.

In 3e, player characters, especially full BAB ones, would be able to hit on-level monsters oftener and oftener as time went on. This was deliberate, as you were supposed to be able to have "excess attack bonus" that you could trade-off for Power Attack's damage bonus.

As an excerpt, I'd like to present the Trailblazer supplement's analysis of this:



In contrast, it was actually saving throws that never got better:



Whether you level 1 or level 20, forcing a save against an on-level monster was going to result in a slightly-better than 50-50 chance of succeeding against a monster that was good at it, or a 60-70% chance of succeeding against a monster that was bad at it.

(of course, it's also true that most casters could simply just target whichever save was bad for a monster, that they knew of)

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Of course, one of the differences is a 2e Fighter has their full to-hit on all iterative attacks while a 3e Fighter does not.

Siivola
Dec 23, 2012




For Gold & Glory: Chapter 4: Alignment

Nice Paladin you've got there. Would be a shame if they... had to do something bad. :unsmigghh:

I'm just going to rush through this chapter because I don't think doing a close reading of elfgame morality is terribly productive when the game is about killing things and taking their stuff.

quote:

Law and chaos are always in respect to society, authority, or the majority. Following a rigid personal code doesn’t make a character lawful. Chaotic creatures can be honest and mindful of authority. A barbarian raider who refrains from harming women or children is likely chaotic. An assassin who follows the creed of his local guild is likely lawful.

quote:

Good and evil are defined by society. What one society deems to be good another may believe is evil. As a result, few mortal creatures are truly evil. Regardless, good is always constructive while evil is always destructive. Raiding villages for supplies and slaves might be a common practice in one civilization (albeit not a good one) but razing the village to the ground and massacring its residents for personal enjoyment is evil.
These two axes combine to form nine different alignments that have mechanical consequences. We've already seen how only specific alignments can pick certain classes, and the Paladin even has flass features that specifically target evil things. For example, a character aligned with chaos but uncommitted between good and evil would be everyone's favourite alignment:

quote:

Chaotic Neutral: The belief that there is no order in the universe and that dwelling on moral extremes, good or evil, inhibit personal freedom. Chaotic neutral characters do whatever they feel like with little thought towards the results but neither are they completely cruel or uncalculating. A chaotic neutral creature may simply be impulsive to a fault, make sudden decisions, or prefer to live their lives by the flip of a coin. Considered to be neutrally aligned.
It's not the worst version of Insufferable Neutral I've read, but the door to fishmalkitude is certainly ajar. :geno:

I don't think FG&G's takes on the trite nine are actually that bad, assuming you're interested in playing dashing adventures out to punch dastardly villains in the mouth. With a sword. I mean. Uh. It's okay not to dwell on the ethics of killing sentient things, I promise!

What I'm trying to say is, for once the book actually makes an understandable and even relatable distinction between law and chaos, which is where the two-axis alignment system so often stumbles. Good and evil are usually clear enough, although people do seem to love to set up hosed-up trolley problems for the Paladin. The book spells out that that mortal races are generally born true neutral and are products of their environment and upbringing, while planar creatures are made out of the raw energystuff of their home planes and thus start out aligned with it.

Curiously the author takes the time to clarify that yes, lawful neutral, true neutral and chaotic neutral alignments are each "considered to be neutral aligned", as if we couldn't tell by the name. The same thing happens all along the good-evil axis.

After the alignment descriptions there is a final paragraph on tracking and changing alignment. It doesn't beat around the bush:

quote:

After character creation, the player is no longer in charge of their alignment.
The GM is instructed to keep track of major decisions the character makes (petty evilry doesn't count, people are little shits all the time) and tell the player to reconsider their actions or suffer an alignment shift. This carries mechanical weight: When you change alignments, you need double the experience points to level up to the next level. If you change alignments multiple times during a single level, you lose all the XP gained since you last leveled up and have to start the level over, requiring twice the XP to level up. If the character's alignment changes involuntarily (through wearing a cursed belt, say), they stop gaining XP until they revert back. If they instead make the conscious decision to stay in their new alignment, they're treated just like any other alignment shift.

Reading the previous chapter I thought I understood how XP works, but now I'm not so sure. Guess I'll have to keep reading, no spoilers!

I know a lot of people find this kind of cartoon morality extremely dull, but there it is and I don't mind it. As long as you don't habitually interrogate your characters' beliefs in the most obnoxious Socratic manner, it's a neat enough bit of character. The XP penalty for character development is weirdly draconian. I feel like this and the multi-class stuff from the last update are both attempts to portray the character doing some (possibly very literal) soul-searching, but mechanized in a really hamfisted way.

Coming up: Chapter 5: Combat Skills!

Siivola fucked around with this message at 12:37 on Aug 5, 2018

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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7th Sea 2: The Crescent Empire - The Good Life

It is rather widespread knowledge that the Crescent Empire has some of the best educated citizens on the planet. Even their poor and peasants receive an education that a Thean peasant can only dream of. This is because of the Dinists. One of the teachings of the Second Prophet is that al-Musawwir is 'the Educator of all the Worlds,' and therefore it is the responsibility of all Dinists to ensure that any person born in their society is educated. Not that their education is limited to the Dinist faith, of course. Alwarithli consider a full education to cover all parts of life, including art, law, customs, literature, fighting, science and other useful skills. They have an approximate 99% literacy rate, and see the ability to read as a right granted by al-Musawwir. They hold a special respect and reverence for scholars.

Typically, a Crescent education begins at home, at the age of four. After that, a child is expected to attend school until they become of age, which is not exclusively based on chronological age, but also on ability to tell right from wrong. Most adults that can afford to do so attend university, and while many Theans see universities as a Castillian innovation, the Alwarithli have had them for centuries and often these universities have thousands of students. The university is in many ways a mirror of their views on the importance of education to the soul. The University of al-Qarawiyyin has plain and simple columns and arches, but intricate arabesque floors, which are lined with reed mats rather than rich carpets. These floors are designed as a place to sit, think and speak. They provide a sense of intimacy and home while studying, entirely by design.

The scientific method of experimentation, so revered in modern Theah, was pioneered by the philosopher al-Basri nearly 600 years ago in the Empire. Crescent intellectuals also developed the zero and the current numeric system, which has by now been widely adopted in Theah in place of the Old Empire of Numa's letter system. The most significant advance in Imperial science, however, is their develop of abstract math, known as al-jabr, or algebra in Theah. It is an essential (if highly abstract and theoretical) tool for any science, engineering, medicine or economic study, among other things. The Crescents also excel in their current studies of natural philosophy. They have recently developed a theory of 'struggle for existence' (read: evolution) which considers that animals must compete with each other and predicts that some must become extinct while others thrive. A recent offshoot of the theory even suggests that humans derive from advanced animals, or, as posited by the philosophy Al-Hadrami: "the animal kingdom was developed, its species multiplied, and in the gradual process of Creation, it ended in humans arising from the world of the monkeys."

Theans didn't acquire paper technology until some time after the Crescent Empire did. In a period when the largest Thean library contained only 36 volumes, comparably large libraries in the Empire of the same period had over 400,000 each. The transition from single-sheet rolls of papyrus to multi-page codices (that is, books) was pioneered in the Empire. Their greatest library, however, is the Royal Library of Iskandar, once a modest palace library that has now grown to such a size that the locals know it mostly as the Labyrinth. It was opened to public use in 1002, and it continues to grow at shocking speed, with more and more wings being built and some areas supposedly sealed off for centuries. The place is an impossible maze of stairs and passages full of books and knowledge.

The official imperial currency is the lyra, a golden coin accepted across the Empire, although the new ones bearing Empress Safiye's face may not be appreciated in areas where she is opposed. The Crescent Empire holds merchants and trade to be an extremely worthy endeavor and places no restrictions whatsoever on foreigners doing business in their lands. Tujar, or merchants, are considered a cornerstone of Crescent society, particularly in cities, and numerous lawmakers and lawyers have written extensively on how to appropriately and honorably do business. They boil down, largely, to a focus on both quality and quantity of goods, sold at a fair price. What a fair price is, however, is up for debate, hence the long Crescent tradition of haggling. Endless, loud debates over the worth or quality of goods can be heard anywhere you go in the Imperial lands, forming a sort of background noise to life in the Empire.

Aside from near-universal education, the Crescent peasantry also have one major quality of life improvement over most Theans: near-universal healthcare. All citizens of the Empire have free access to public hospitals, which work 24 hours a day and are staffed by government-certified doctors. These hospitals are typically run by three-person boards of administrators - one non-medical manager, one dean of medicine, and one chief pharmacist. There is never any charge. This is possible due to the waaf, a donations fund run by the government. While some donations to the fund are wholly voluntary, most of its wealth comes from fines levied as punishment for various crimes, the most common form of judicial punishment in the Empire. A portion is also drawn from the piracy tax, which all pirates must pay for the right to practice their trade in Crescent waters against non-Crescent ships. This makes many successful pirates popular folk heroes.

Sports and physical culture are widespread across the Empire, and sporting events are often so important that even wars will not prevent them from happening. The Anatoli word 'zurkhaneh' refers to a gym in which martial arts and dance are practiced and taught. These practices are often somewhat spiritual. Dinists, for example, practice dance and athletics as takrar, a form of religious repetition and meditation, while Yasnvans of the cult of Mica, Angel of Contracts, have founded many famous zurkhaneh. In these facilities, athletes train their muscles by use of enormous clubs, far too heavy and large to be used practically in combat...although legend has it that the great Persic hero Rostam was so big and so strong that he wielded one of these as his primary weapon.

The dances of the Empire share many characteristics with the northern nation of Agnivarsa, and many scholar speculate that the dances of Agnivarsa, such as kathak, spread south with Agnivarsan nomads. Kathak and similar dances are performative rather than social, meant to entertain watchers. Court dance, as it is known in the Empire, uses flowing garments, elegant figures and ritualized motions that mime everyday activity such as hunting or grooming, or mimic scenes from myth and story. Line and chain dances, such as the dabke and horah of Sarmion, are common at weddings at parties, often involving dancers joining hands and performing lots of rhythmic leaping and stomping. The limited mobility from holding hands with possibly poor dancers makes it an attractive challenge for many youths. Sometimes they will form rings, but if not, the best, most egotistical or most drunk dancers will take up the end points, waving a colorful handkerchief with the free hand and showboating. The most famous dancers of the Crescent, however, are the whirling dervishes, who spin while chanting or singing hymns accompanied by tambourine, flute and bells. Their spinning sends them into a state of heightened and ecstatic awareness of al-Musawwir.

Wrestling is easily the most popular sport in the Empire. Almost every region with its own name also has its own word for wrestling and its own rules, though some forms have gained international appel. Anatol Ayh's oil wrestling is especially popular. Two wrestlers compete while nearly naked and covered in vast quantities of olive oil, which they ritually apply to each other in a show of respect before the match. An annual oil wrestling championship happens every year in Iskandar, and has not been cancelled even once in centuries - including one year when an earthquake interrupted it. While Anatol Ayh normally wins, Numanari, Vesten, Ussuran and Persic wrestlers often make strong showings. Besides this, they also consider chess to be a form of martial art, imported originally from Cathay and now often played in zurkhaneh. The words 'chess' and 'check' are derived from the Persic 'shah', the word said in the Crescent when threatening the king piece. Visiting Theans are also often surprised to learn that the bishop is known in the Empire as an elephant, and the rook is a chariot. Serious athletes may have up to two chess games a day - one before exercise when the mind is fresh, and one as a cooldown to challenge the mind with critical thought while tired.

Any sport done from horseback can be found somewhere in the Empire. One of the most popular spectator sports of the region is chogan, a Persic sport that began as a form of cavalry training during the Haxamanisiya Empire's reign. Two teams of four riders use mallets to knock balls into goals at the enemy's endo f the field. Chogan is a sport requiring significant resources to learn and to play, so while it draws huge crowds when major teams play each other, it is rarely popular to actually play among common folk, except in areas with high Khazari populations, such as Gallenia in Ussura.

Next time: Art and poetry.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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7th Sea 2: The Crescent Empire - Hello Poetry

In the Empire, poetry is extremely important. Any written word you want someone to remember - a recipe, directions, a story of a hero - is made into a poem, which is viewed as the ultimate mnemonic device. There are several styles of popular Crescent poetry. The mathnawi is originally Persic, but is now common in Anatoli and greater Katabic works as well. A mathnawi is made of rhyming couplets in which each line is made of eleven syllables (or, much more rarely, ten). Traditionally, mathnawi are written on romance, heroism and religion. An epic mathnawi will often have a frame narrative that tells the main story, interspersed with parables or anecdotes of didactic relevance, which may be told inm character in the frame or may just be interspersed without context. We also get an example of it, which I will share to show you how, ah, workmanlike the poetry is in this book.

Last Gasp posted:

Give me one instant more, dear, before we part,
ten seconds with my hand pressed over your heart.
Let me forget the space between my palm and
your skin. Let me forget I once lacked your hand
in my hair, guiding my mouth to speak prayers
into your neck. Fingers spiraling your hair
between them, trading freedom for sensation,
sensation for holy annihilation,
light for darkness, darkness for life, sharing sighs,
gasps, glances crackling like lightning between eyes.
Bite down. Taste my blood and bone between your teeth.
Draw me in with your tongue, so you know beneath
my wayward shell, that every fragment craves you.
In you, I am the holocaust thrown into
the flame which must not know any drop of blood,
the tree which fell on the cobra's guarding hook,
the chant spoken and never repeated.
One more breath, dear - yes, this was all I needed.

A piyyut is a poem, typically in Dibre or Katabic, which expresses religious sentiments. Piyyutim are often set to music and are often acrostics, with the first letter of each line spelling out a religiously significant name or word, or in some cases just the author's name. There are many and complex meters and rhyme schemes which are permited, though certain patters are popular in Katabic verse, such as the ruba'i, or four-line poem.

The Rock Climbers posted:

You brave climbers, who fear no height,
Exalt Honeycomb, sun-bleached white.
Should God chance to gaze from high Heaven
Upon us, He'll see you first, right?

Qasida is the third of the three most popular poetic forms, originating from ancient Katab. The 8th Sea Tribes originated their qasa'id as panegyrics, odes in praise of various things or petitions to a patron for a boon. Since that time, they have become quite popular in several languages, and the most popular form of the qasida is the ghazal, a poem of romantic or divine love (or both) with a rhyme that precedes a repeated refrain.

Time Passed In Darkness posted:

The city is dark. All that I am you hold here in your hand.
Every lamp's and hearth's fire dies, and you feal my fear in your hand.
No camel's or horse's hooves fall, no ox pulls the laden cart,
no beast stirs save me, burdened with care, whom you steer with your hand.
In the distance, muskets crack, cannons pound castle walls, bombs burst.
When flame comes at last, I'll burn like sacrifice, searing your hand.
Will clamor or silence cloud my mind? What last illusion waits?
Or might I dream of you sheltering my heart, dear, in your hands?
You're so far away, but while I wait, right now, you're all I feel.
The city is dark. All that I am you hold here in your hand.

Painting is fairly underdeveloped in the Empire, especially compared to Theah. It is focused primarily on mosaics and painted ceilings, or on illuminated contracts, a form of ceremonial documentation decorated with miniatures and scrollwork on their borders. These are often wedding contracts, known as a kiab in most nations or a ketubah in Sarmion, and they are often centerpieces for new households. The Sarmions have a long history painting the interor of their religious buildings and palaces, depicting the skies and particularly heavenly scenes of stars and constellations. They also often paint poems, declarations or prayers on walls, as well as mystical words. Graffiti is also common for political statements, and intricate, politically motivated public vandalism is a growing form of artistic expression.

Pottery as an art is as much a necessity as a luxury. Potters make most of the common flatware of the Empire, along with drinking vessels and religious objects. Further, because food must often be sealed away from the sand, pottery must be sturdy as well as pretty. The Orthodox of Ashur refuse to produce artistic representations of religious figures, such as the Prophets, and Ashurite pottery focuses instead on natural scenes or abstract art. However, they often use these depictions to encode messages as a way to transmit information across long distances. This is a particularly popular practice among the Assassins of Ashur.

Weaving has a long, long history in the Empire, with many traditions of complex fabrics for clothes, tapestries and carpet. Form and fasion have long fought each other, given the need for comfort in often brutal temperature. Clothing often bears tribal and family affiliation in is intricate patterns, crests and designs, while tapestries displaying family lineage are a common art piece in Sarmion and Persic houses. Fabric and textiles of the Empire are highly fashionable in Theah and Ifri as well these days. Persis, of course, is known for its carpets - the finest in all the world. These carpets bear intricate geometric patterns and weaving techniques that make them both beautiful and functional. The most basic carpets use natural and geometric patterns, similar to Persic pottery, while more advanced ones show lavish patterns in lush colors. History says that in a time before the crackdown on sorcery, Persic carpets were able to fly, crossing vast deserts. This is no longer true, and the art of making a flying carpet is long since lost, and often considered to be mere legend in the first place.

The greatest architectural feats of the Empire are, as in Theah, found primarily in religious buildings. The most famous of these are the Dinist mosques, modeled after the home of the Second Prophet. These structures vary wildly, but often have domes, minarets and prayer halls. Al-Din is the largest of the faiths in the Empire, and mosques can be found in just about any urban area. They often function as community centers, information hubs, schools and courts as well as religious buildings. The domes and minarets of the mosques mark Crescent skylines, and rather than straight beams, Crescent architects have long favored pointed arches for mosques. This better supports the heavy minarets and domes, nad allows for taller buildings with more space. The practice of arch construction dates back to classical Katabic archteciture, which Crescent architects have long studied and used to produce wonders beyond what most Thean architecture has historically been capable of. The Yachidi also produce their own religious buildings, though less numerous. These are kehillah, a word taken from a Sarmion expression about community, and are also called synagogues. They are also highly variable in design, but typically have a large main sanctuary hall, plus areas devoted to study and other areas for social and community interaction.

Secular architecture is considerably less advanced, with only palaces and military constructions being of any real note. The palaces are large and often beautiful, but differ little in construction from the average building and rarely reach the magnificence of a mosque or synagogue. Rather, they use Numanari designs and techniques, and are typically without luxuries beyond baths, audience halls and various amenities. However, the palace structure is clearly organized for defense,w ith public areas, armories, stables, kitchens and so on being arranged around the outer edge, and the inner rooms being better guarded, for personal use, sleepng areas, observatories, menageries, libraries or treasuries. Military buildings tend to be built into Katab ruins, and so often feature a mix of ancient designs and brick walls, with isolated enclosures hiding secret passages.

Next time: Religion, Part One

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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7th Sea 2: The Crescent Empire - One Of The Best Takes On Fantasy Faux Islam Ever

It is impossible to speak about the Empire without talking about faith. The Empire is home to Dinists, Yachidi, Yasnavans and Orthodox, and many love to do little more than to learn about each other's faiths and views, especially if the person speaking to them can tell them in an intelligent way. The core belief that unites all of these faiths is the ideal of peace. While putting peace into practice is easier said than done, the concept unifies the Empire. While many with power have abused the idea of faith in order to gain more powerful, they have never gone unpunished. Faith in something greater is a force for equality in the Empire. It is also why most Crescents were and are entirely unable to accept the idea of the Third Prophet as a true prophet. His conquest of Vaticine lands and his rejection of the peaceful teachings of the Prophets before him show him, in their eyes, to be far from the Creator. This is a point on which all Alwarithli generally agree.

While most Alwarithli are religious in some sense, the Anatoli tend to be more secular than the others, focusing on a modernist view of al-Din which supports diversity and individual freedom. The 8th Sea tends to be quite devout, but in a way that is shaped by necessity and practicality about practice in a deadly desert. Persis and Sarmion are both highly religious, but neither can compare to Ashur, which many Crescents generally see as fanatically devoted. There are few Vaticines in the Empire, and while they are welcome to come, most Imperial citizens have a bias against them for their belief in the Third Prophet. This is especially true of the Inquisition. Inquisitors are as fanatical as an Ashurite, yet possess none of Ashur's egalitarian pacifism, and they are widely despised and hated within the Empire. While Inquisitors are not barred from travel, any that enters the borders of the Empire is likely to be monitored heavily, probably by a Janissary or two.

Al-Din, Katabic for "the faith", is built on the teachings of the First and Second Prophets. It is the must numerous and widespread religion on the planet, having adherents throughout Theah, Ifri, Cathay and, of course, the Empire of the Crescent Moon, where it is the official state religion, as decreed by the Caliph in Iskandar. Al-Din is primarily derived from the works and teachings of former Orthodox slave and mendicant Khalil ibn Mustafa al-Thaji. Better knwon as the Second Prophet, he rarely spoke explicitly about religion, but his followers documented his life and travels in meticulous detail, and his poems about nature and fables still survive. He referred to Theus as al-Musawwir, the Divine Artist. Creation is the blueprint for His masterpiece, and must be constantly improved through the acts of humans. At some sublime point, referred to as al-Badi`, which is misleadingly translated as Heaven or Judgment Day, al-Musawwir will finally perfect His creation and unite with it. Because art is, definitionally, imperfect, this apotheosis cannot ever actually happen.

Therefore, Dinists attempt to eliminate the metaphysical difference between self and other - that is, between you and the rest of Creation. This process is often seen, even by Dinists, as too paradoxical to be approached from an entirely serious and traditional view, and so influential scholars often view al-Din through the lens of play, treating it as a game that spans all lives, joyful and challenging in equal amounts, and always educational. The joy of play and freedom of ideas leads many Dinists to marry outside the faith. Because religion is of the world, all are free to research their own trails blazed in the pursuit of al-Badi`. The Dinsit community has over centuries built up several traditions that assist in breaching the boundary of selfness. These are referred to as the Three Duties, and are as close to strict commandments as a Dinist has.

The first of the Three Duties is Itef, Kindness. This is the most important of the Three Duties, and it states that all Dinists must help those in need. Improving the lives of others is the most direct approach to al-Badi`. Communities that lack formal schools or universities rely on Dinists practicing itef to teach children for primary or secondary education, and this is common as people like to follow the example of the followers of Khalil, whose adult followers shared the burden of teaching children. Second is Dikr, Remembrance. A dikr (plural: adkar) is a meditative chant composed by a Dinist for prayer, as a personal oath of faith. Adolescents typically choose a sentence from Dinist scripture, then modify and add to it over time. Most adkar are verbal, but some sung or danced forms are popular with some devotional orders. Last is Muthabera, Perseverance. The life of the Prophet Khalil was full of needless hardship. He was born a slave, spent most of his life on a pointless quest intended to kill him, was made homeless and was often endangered. Suffering and hardship inform every Dinist's personal journey. Thus, every year a Dinist usually chooses one month in which to take on a hardship they do not normally experience. Many communities engage in muthabera together, with fasting during daylight hours being a common form of communal muthabera, along with undertaking service to the community or engaging in public works projects, such as the building of hospitals or aqueducts. Many suyah, or Dinist teachers, absolve those who are physically or mentally disabled from needing to participate in muthabera.

Dinists are responsible for their own practice and have few if any laws set down in stone. However, al-Din does not absolve its followers of blame if they cause others to suffer. Some taboos exist among them, however, and while they are not immutable or universal, they are common to most Dinists. Revealing the head or sometimes even the face is considered to be gauche among Crescent Dinists. Wearing a head covering spritiually represents the insignifiance of selfness in general and one's physical features (like hair) in particular. Most Dinists wear hats or head coverings, though it is growing less popular these days. North Ifrian Amazigh and 8th Sea Tribes often also wear an additional veil or mask, a practice which has been taken up in some other places as well. This shows devotion to the divine, and is also a practical way to avoid getting sand in your mouth in high winds. Mind-altering substances, such as kaffee, wine or tea, feature prominently in some Dinist practice and especially in Dinist poetry, but al-Din frowns heavily on addiction, which is seen to lock the self in the body and prevent connection to al-Musawwir. Sorcery is not, technically, an affront to al-Musawwir, but al-Din treats it in a similar way to violence: it is something that should only be used in the service of the Creator or to help those in need. Many sorceries within the Empire or in nearby Sarmatia are granted by entities that al-Din considers demonic. Even the Yasnavan ahuras are seen as suspect, because many Alwarithli who aren't themselves Yasnavan consider them to be similar to jinn.

So, history! Khalil ibn Mustafa al-Thaji was a slave in service to Rauf, sorcerer-king of the state of Thaj, a small Katabic-speaking nation on the borders of Persis and Anatol Ayh. He cared fpr the menagerie of birds owned by Emir Rauf and his court, and he was renowned for his knowledge of and skill at caring for these animals, whom he seemed able to speak to. The emir's daughter, Shahnaz, resented her father's affection for Khalil, and one day, when the emir was away on business and she was left in charge, she summoned Khalil and his birds. She ordered him to capture a simurgh and bring it to the court, leaving his family behind as insurance in case of his failure. If he were to return without it, he would die. The simurgh, of course, was a legend - the ruler of all things that flew. A mortal would never find one if it even existed. And so, Khalil wandered aimlessly, the birds being his only companions at first. Eventually, however, he began to gather followers, primarily the poor, mendicant, gyrovagues and others with nothing to lose, who were inspired by his cheer in the face of a suicide mission. He practiced poetry, song, storytelling, dance and the teachings he learned from his Orthodox and Yachidi traveling companions to cope with the dangers of the journey.

Eventually, Khalil became famous. Princess Shahnaz was infuriated that banishing Khalil had not killed him, but made him powerful. Khalil decided, meanwhile, to search Theah. His companions warned him not to, for Theah was full of wicked sorcerers, but he went anyway. In Curonia, he met a diabolist that attempted to destroy him, but the flames that the sorcerer hurled were unable to touch Khalil, even though he wielded only his staff for protection. When the smpke cleared, she fell to her knees and begged mercy, and Khalil invited her to join his caravan. Years later, he returned to Thaj with a wife and children, and thousands of followers. He still had no simurgh, and he knew he would be executed. By then, he and his followers had made an expansive canon of artwork, stories and religious ideas, which became the foundation for al-Din after the Prophet's death. Khalil did not care that he would die, for he had learned that there was no difference between himself and the world, that he was nothing, and therefore everything. Shahnaz attacked him on sight, and he set down his staff and allowed her magic to destroy him. As his body burned, a great simurgh emerged from the fire and flew away.

Al-Din is sometimes called the world's most disorganized organized religion. It is auto-iconoclastic and self-contradictory - purposefully so - and draws on many different sources. It is not a map telling you where to end up and how to get there, but a compass. It tells you which way to go, but not what happens once you arrive - or where to arrive. The main 'priests' are the mudarris al-Din, or just mudarris (or suyah), translate as 'teachers of al-Din', those who lead others in practice. They are the only authority figure present in every kind of Dinist sect, and often the only ones present at all. A mudarris may operate a mosque, scheduling prayer and scripture study at certain times of day, which are called out from the minaret tower. The mudarris carries a decorated staff to signify their office, identify as priests and are often users of the Art of the Second Prophet. Dervishes are Dinist monks that take a vow of poverty, spending most of their time practicing takrar. While this originally meant just repetition of a dikr for meditation, it now covers any faith-focused devotional art performed in repetition, from dance and song to calligraphy to self-mortification to martial arts. Non-dervishes may practice takrar as well, of course. Most dervish orders focus on a specific craft or art for their takrar, both devotionally and to service the communities they pass through, whom they rely on for food and housing. Al-Din also adopted the Yachidist academic tradition, to the point that rebbeim and mudarris often found academic groups together. At first the stereotype was that Yachidi taught natural philosophy and math, while the Dinists handled history and humanities, and they both argued philosophy, but such divisions are ancient history these days. Dinists scholars, especially those that treat scholarship as takrar, sometimes treat the hierarchy of academia as a surrogate for a religious hierarchy. This is not the most controversial religious authority, however - that'd be the Caliph, currently Empress Safiye. The Caliphate originally formed after Khalil's death, to serve as spiritual leader in his place and protect his followers. The Caliph worries about administration, self-defense and so on as itef to the entire community of Dinists. Many Dinists from outside the Empire, however, have pointed out that Khalil's philosophy and most Dinist commentary imply that a Caliph or anything like it are anathema to the religion. Still, the Caliphate is as old as the faith itself, nearly, and many Dinists reason that if someone must rule them by fire and force, that ruler may as well be a Dinist.

The Anashid deserve special mention - they are a heretical sect of al-Din, unrecognized by most of the faith because of their belief in a Third Prophet, Irshad bint Jamila, whom they say was Khalil's daughter. Most Dinists reject this - firstly, because there is no proof whatsoever that she was, secondly because she supported violent measures to liberate Ashur from the Empire, and lastly because many of Irshad's laws are apparently known only to the Guardian of the First Garden, who seems to quote them whenever he needs to give justification for the actions of the Assassins to one of his followers. While in modern times, the Anashid are peaceful to the point of near pacifism, they are proud of their religious heritage. Besides this doctrinal difference (and those discussed in the Sarmatian Commonwealth stuff) there is relatively little difference in the practices and life of Anashid and mainstream Dinists.

Next time: Ahurayasna

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: The Crescent Empire - The Fire Within

Ahurayasna is the ancestral faith of Persis and the 8th Sea, dating back to the prehistory of the Crescent, haunted by jinn. It is inextricably tied to the Persic state, and yet despiet this, it is persecuted today within Persis. The faith says that all exists in a cosmic struggle between good and evil. In the conceptual space that exists beyond mortal time and space, Good and Evil are personified by Zenea (or God) and Namirha (or the Devil) respectively. Zenea and Namirha each gave birth to a host of creatures that mix conceptual and mortal, known as ahuras and daevas, or angels and devils, or even jinn - though Yasnavans, as the faithful are known, find 'jinn' an extremely disrespectful term if applied to an angel. The mortal world serves as the proxy battleground for Good and Evil, via the creatures living there. Good and Evil are each contained within every human, and each ultimately leans to one or the other. A good person, who is a follower of Right, love and civilization, is known as asavan. A bad person, who has been influenced by demons or their own worse nature, is known as dragvani - deceiver, literally, though it covers a multitude of sins. There is not considered to be any middle ground between absolute Good and absolute Evil. Besides Zenea, there are considered to be twelve primary ahura: Arsalan, Dawna, Farzaneh, Nazanin, Omideh, Parshand, Salar, Shamisa, Shayesta, Utabar, Vafa and Zharfa. Some speak of a 13th asura, Hediyeh, who was cast out by the others, but most dismiss her as pure rumor. These mightiest of angels sang to the Prophet Zohreh, giving a set of holy precepts that describe the proper behavior of an asavan.

Zenea's Law is this: Meditate on the Divine. Zenea is the Divine Parent, the Supreme Being, mother and father of all ahuras, personification of all consciousness. By purifying your consciousness of evil, you defend Zenea against Namirha. Some Yasnavans believe that al-Musawwir of al-Din and Zenea are the same being from different perspectives, but the conflict between al-Din and Ahurayasna in Persis means this view is rare there.

quote:

Imbue us, O Zenea, with Thine own nature, now as Thou didst when the first Sun rose over the young world.
As the herder guards the lfock, let us guard the sacred mind against Namirha's depredations, the serpents at our heels.

Shamisa's Law is this: Do Not Lie. Shamisa is the Angel of Light and Truth, personification of the sun, fire and understanding. The term Shamisa refers both to righteousness and to truth and to the principle of goodness. Shamisa is the one that taught humanity how to divide asavans from dragvants. Lying to other Yasnavans is considered entirely unacceptable, though it is permitted to decline to speak about something. Lying to non-Yasnavans is a matter under debate even now. Some say that non-Yasnavans exist outside the Yasnavan social contract and so do not require total honesty, while others say that picking and choosing those you must be honest with is hypocrisy. The prohibition against theft is part of this law as well, for theft is considered a form of lying about property.

quote:

O Shamisa, light the flame of honesty, on which we build the sacrament of civilization.
Let us speak plainly to one another, for lies are the purest of all evils.

Arsalan's Law is this: Respect All Living Creatures. Arsalan is the Angel of Animals and Judgment, ruler of all beasts. Animals are fundamentally good in their instincts, even if they lack human intellect. By lessons and parables of the animal world, Arsalan teaches the Yasnavans to make prudent, virtuous decisions. Early Yasnavan herders had to constantly guard against livestock theft, and they banded together against the daeva-worshippers, whose rituals deeply involved fire and sacrifice. Yasnavans even now reject all animal cruelty. They do not overhunt, and they are not permitted to eat cows, dogs or carrion birds. Most 8th Sea tribes add other animals to this list, based on their tutelary angels' favored species.

quote:

How shall the herd follow an unrighteous drover?
How shall the human survive without Nature's aid?
We reject the one who sacrifices your gifts in vain, disparaging you, Arsalan.

Vafa's Law is this: Take Refuge in Faith. Vafa, the Angel of the Earth and Piety, represents the ground and earth beneath us and the faith that should lie beneath all thoughts. Vafa shaped human views of self, architecture and creation, and defined the position of the magi as spiritual leaders as well as how to build the Temple of Hymn properly and the daxdana. More on those in a bit.

quote:

The arguments of the unjust and the deceivers melt away in the face of your reason, O Vafa.
Let the congregants surround the heart and the undertakers maintain the lime-pit.

Salar's Law is this: Obey Righteous Kings, Cast Down Tyrants. The divine right of kings and the rule of law flow from Salar, Angel of Metal and Rulership. He is thje master of all things metal, the bringer of the crown and the mace, and he taught humans to obey their rightful leaders. Shalar and Shamisa imbue the true kings and queens with farr, the luminescence that shines from the face of a worthy ruler. This is the law that keeps both the elders of the 8th Sea and the Persic shah in charge. Yasnavans have a religious duty to support and obey a rightful ruler...and to raise arms against an unjust one.

quote:

Grant us, Salar, the eye of judgment that sees the divine farr on the righteous monarch's face.
May the royal laws dleiver us from tyrants who serve unrighteous spirits, devils and foul Namirha.

It should be noted that Namirha is not the true name of Evil. The true name of this being is never written or spoken save in spells to repel or bind him. Namirha means 'Destructive Mind', as Namirha represents consciousness twisted towards evil. However, his deadliest scheme is also his undoing. He manifested in the mind of Azdaha, the Devil-King of Serpents, who established the Persic throne. However, the first Yasnavans, under the guidance of Ziba the Beloved, defeated Namirha and Azdaha, binding the serpent king beneath a mountain in a trap. Namirha now remains trapped in Azdaha's mind and lineage, though his curse on the throne has imbued every shah with a splinter of Namirha's nature.

Which brings us to the history of the religion. In ancient times, the Crescent was a dangerous place. Mighty rulers sought the advice of spirits, who primised them power and success if they were obeyed and worshipped. The forst of the Yasnavan prophets was Zohreh, a cowherd on the border of modern Persis and the 8th Sea. While she was lost in the wilds, she received a vision from holy beings that had the wings of vultures, who gave her the laws of civilization. Her hymns to and about these angels spread through Persis and the 8th Sea, until nearly every tribe worshipped them in addition to local spirits. After Zohreh, Siba and Azdaha, more on whom in the Persis chapter, the religion of Ahurayasna solidified into the 8th Sea traditionalist sect and the Persic clerical theocracy. Ziba taught her children and the magi to summon and bind demons, and the descendants of Ziba and Azdaha have fought ever since to control the throne.

Ideological tension between Ahurayasna and al-Din is central to the fights between the shahs of Persis and the Caliphs of Anatol Ayh. Yasnavans see al-Din as impractical, undisciplined, confusing and devoid of the absolute truth and straightforward laws that structure all good things. Dinists, on the other hand, consider Ahurayasna naive, unforgiving and overly simple, too quick to judge people with moral absolutes and offering most people no chance to improve themselves. Both religions believe in kindness to others, but Yasnavans believe it is expressed through the state and obedience, while Dinists distrust such hierarchy and focus more on educational relationships. It is often said that Ahurayasna is all ends, no means, and al-Din is all means, no ends. However, the two need not be entirely in conflict. Dinists who quest to end the division of self and other deeply respect Yasnavan funeral traditions, which literally return the body to nature. Yasnavans also believe that the Prophet Khalil's rapport with birds is inherently holy. There are many mixed Yasnavan/Dinist families, as neither religion discourages intermarriage with other monotheists (or at least borderline monotheists). Persic poetry has often cross-pollinated the two faiths' ideas, with poor dervishes punishing the haughty and rewarding the good, mighty Yasnavan sorcerer-kings and the simurgh appearing as stock figures in both religions' poetic literature.

Yasnavans do believe in the Divine Right of Kings; however, they also hold their monarchs to a much higher standard of good and evil than others, because their actions prove whether they rule by divine right or evil tyranny. In the 8th Sea, the eldest of each tribe claims this right, while in Persis, it is claimed by the shah, and symbolized in the shah's ox-headed mace, which is a holy weapon representing Zenea's blessings, as well as the herds and the people of Persis. It is said that a truly rtighteous ruler, strong and good, glows from within with farr, a sort of divine radiance that is visible in the beauty of their facial features. Shah Jalil is the first Persic ruler after Khata'i to reject the Yasnavan faith, despite paradoxically claiming he still has divine right. Second to the ruler is the archmaga, the highest religious authority. In the 8th Sea, an archmaga is an elder maga rather than any established authority, while in Persis, the shah appoints an archmaga. Below the archamaga are the magi, the priests that maintain the Temple of Hymn and the daxdanas, tend to the flocks and care for the animals that make up most of the religious treasury of the Magistry. The current Persic archmaga is Sivan, and he's basically had to do everything related to running Ahurayasna as a faith in light of Jalil's outright oppression of the Yasnavans. Sivan maintains the Palace of Hymn near Siphon, a huge structure with a towering daxdana on the roof and an eternal flame. Sivan is old and related to a number of Dinists, and is a master of cooperating with the Shah and the Dinist government. So much so, in fact, that no one suspects him of working with the rebel forces in secret, even though he's been doing so for years.

8th Sea Ahurayasna is closer to its origins than in Persis, focused on a tribal level and with different groups venerating different choirs of angels, who may not match up with the five ahuras that gave the law. These local groups generally add one to three tutelary spirits associated with a natural feature, like a species or river, and may grant some additional law or duty on top of the normal five, such as 'preserve trees in this valley' or 'do not harm the rock hyrax, which is sacred to me.' 8th Sea Yasnavans do not expect those of Persis or other tribes to obey their own laws unless they are guests in the tribe's territory, but they also refuse to recognize the authority of either the Persic archmaga or the shah.

The primary holy sites of the faith are the Temples of Hymn, Yasnavan places of worship foscued around the hearth, in which Shamisa's flame is tended by the magi and burns eternally. Yasnavans revere fire so deeply that they never allow it to touch the dead flesh of creature, even when cooking, and they consider cremation to be especially unholy. At dawn and dusk each day, magi lead the congregation in hymns, typically odes to angels, fables and new songs made by the magi or the locals. The faithful will often decorate the Temple walls with calligraphic poetry and illustrations of rulers, heroes and angels. Most major oases in the 8th Sea have a Temple of Hymn for use by any visitor. Because it's taboo to burn the dead, as was done by the evil sacrificial cults of the ancient past, Yasnavans use sky burial atop the daxdanas. These are circular towers, typically built on a hill or mountain near a river, to expose the dead to carrion birds. Daxdanas have a raised outer wall and a flat roof with concentric rings - the outer ring for adults, the inner for children. After the bodies are fully eaten, the skeletons rull into the central lime pit, disintegrate, and flow out with rainwater through coal and sand filters into the nearby river. Only specially trained pallbearer-magi, trained to manipulate the bones without compromising ritual purity, may enter daxdanas and do maintenance.

Next time: The Orthodox

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012





THE WEIRDNESS OF THE WORLD

quote:

Everyone is taught that the world operates on the laws of science, but it’s hard, sometimes, to feel that. When you read about how a ten-year-old girl named Laura Buxton released a balloon with her address on it and it was found by an entirely different girl named Laura Buxton who’s about the same age… well, it’s like logic blushes and shuffles its feet, isn’t it? When a mathematician avidly says that coincidences happen all the time and that what’s actually rare is for us to uncover them, that doesn’t really make the world seem more stable and rational. It makes it feel like there’s a deeper order of which we are ignorant, and it deforms the shapes of our lives in ways we cannot predict.

Occultism is all about trying to find that set of secret rules that govern the world. Magick is all about knowing those rules and believing you can beat the house odds.

In Unknown Armies, the unnatural, the hidden and the magickal exist. They’re waiting to be discovered, battled, exploited. They are the patterns we feel but can’t prove, the faith in a lucky shirt that never let us down, while the scientific method can’t explain why that goddamn dishwasher doesn’t work even though we followed the installation instructions exactly. They’re the “measurement anomalies” and “observer errors” and “one-time flukes” that become more reliable than any device we can fully understand. They’re out there, and they don’t need you to believe in them.

The question is, what are you going to do about them?

The world of Unknown Armies is just like ours. It’s 21st Century America, good ol’ US of A. Trumps in the white house, news media is in the toilet, and the oceans are a rising. Everything happened how it happened in the “real” world, just.. The reasons might be a bit different. Or they might not.

The Occult Underground is very very different from a lot of other urban fantasy type settings. In tabletop gaming of course the gold standard is the World of Darkness, but I also mean things like Dresden Files, Harry Potter, all those hundreds of supernatural romance YA stories which are too many to count. A lot of the overarching themes and elements of magick, the unnatural, and the weird, are sort of hidden. They aren’t openly noted, but instead trends one notices while reading through the setting and such. Trends and conceptual frameworks and such that make sense but don’t get explicitly stated. I’m going to outline these themes here, before I go into the specifics of the setting.

First off, there is no giant supernatural conspiracies that secretly control the world, ala Old World of Darkness, where drat near anything that happens has vampires, or werewolves, or Pentex, or the Technocracy, or the Real True Black Hand For Sure, or… you get the idea. Magick is powerful but it’s not ruling the world, in fact even the most powerful, clued in, top of the game organizations and people in Unknown Armies still don’t know jack poo poo about the whole story and are working with severely limited knowledge, scope, and understanding.

The Occult Underground isn’t isolated from the real world in any way. Magick and the unnatural are literally everywhere, affecting society at every level. It’s just that these forces are subtle, easily overlooked or misunderstood. Learning about magick is less being introduced to a secret parallel world, like Harry walking into Diagon Alley, and more like learning a new philosophy that changes how you perceive the world. Occult literally means “Hidden Knowledge”, and that’s what Unknown Armies is about. You see the patterns and influences that the rest of the world dismisses or ignores, the networks of cause and effect and meaning that everyone else holds as coincidence and statistical noise.

Magick is both very very old, and intensely new. Ancient artifacts and hoary conspiracies aren’t really a thing: While magick has been everywhere forever, as long as humans have existed, it is fueled and defined by the mass human unconscious. Old magick stuff just stops working, because people don’t think the same way they did back then. The oldest existing supernatural conspiracy dates back to… The 1950’s. Real ancient artifacts are rare and hard to find, most old-school grimoires are nonfunctional even if they worked back in the day, and wierd post-modernism is the theme of the occult. Magick changes and evolves and morphs over time, so no weird fetishization for ANCIENT SECRETS here.

https://youtu.be/W8tRDv9fZ_c
Yeah, this isn’t a world that takes pages from wikipedia and crams it into the game. Everything, every conspiracy theory, myth, fable, tall tale, urban legend, it’s all wrong. But they all have a tiny grain of truth, but generally messed up and warped by human perception and lumping. Werewolves for example, don’t actually exist, but they also sorta do. There’s like 6 different things that all kind of got lumped together and mixed up to become our modern conception of “Werewolf”, but they’re all way more hosed up and weird and just plain bizarre than what we think.

Ok, so I think that covers the basic, so let’s get into the specifics of Magick!

CREEPY WEIRDOS

quote:

There are cults out there that want to usher in a new dark age in which literacy becomes a hereditary privilege. There are scary racists running adept training camps. There are mystics so attuned to their cosmic patrons that they regard the laws of physics as a sometimes food and there are others who have no idea what they are but who have still amassed hundreds of followers willing to kill or die or vote as a bloc. There are grotty old magi who want to smack down any upstart who challenges their occult hegemony. There are magick conspiracies that fester in the government, or tamper with your food, or owe allegiance to nothing on Earth.

There are people who never die.

They know each other, and they’re going to know you, and if you’re lucky, tough, and demented enough, you’ll get to know them too.

In Unknown Armies you’re not the top dogs, you’re the new kids on the block, the ambitious underdogs wanting to carve out a slice of the paranormal pie from the big dogs and shitkickers who already own the bakery. There’s a hierarchy to the Occult Underground, not a very strict one but it’s enough that people can know the difference between a Who’s Who and a Who’s That?

Chargers are the people in charge, named after the currency of magick. A charger is a veteran big dog of the underground, someone who knows their poo poo and how to get things done on the spooky side of things. Chargers are the people you hear rumors about, the ones who head up conspiracies and organizations, or are just such badasses that they get a bit more than normal recognition.

Checkers are the general in-the-know population of the underground, aka who you play as. CHeckers know what’s going on, they have some inkling of how the world works and some decent juju in their gris-gris to throw their weight around. Some checkers are more powerful that chargers, but just don’t throw their weight around as much.

A pony is the main term of contempt in the occult world. You don’t call yourself a pony, but you sure as hell call other people. These are the stooges, patsies and mooks of the underground. The no-names or dupes who are messing with stuff they don’t understand. This can be people who just don’t know what they’re getting in, enthusiastic amateurs way over their heads, or professional henchmen who work in the underground but keep their heads carefully down and their eyes tightly shut.

quote:

Checkers try to figure out these mysteries. Chargers try to control them. Ponies die to show how the monster works.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017



I like that the UA slang evolves, even if I'm trying to mentally slot in what the equivalent of, say, a duke is now.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Dawgstar posted:

I like that the UA slang evolves, even if I'm trying to mentally slot in what the equivalent of, say, a duke is now.

A nice touch is that the book does say that people who use the "old slang" are generally marked as people who're out of touch with the current Underground and get treated accordingly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LV0wTtiJygY

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Or they're actually old-school shitkickers from back in the day you do not wanna gently caress with. The turn of the century basically gave the Underground a giant enema when poo poo went down so old-school remnants are either nobodies who didn't get with the times, or hardass fuckers who survived the magickal equivalent of WWII and you do not wanna gently caress with.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017



Wapole Languray posted:

Or they're actually old-school shitkickers from back in the day you do not wanna gently caress with. The turn of the century basically gave the Underground a giant enema when poo poo went down so old-school remnants are either nobodies who didn't get with the times, or hardass fuckers who survived the magickal equivalent of WWII and you do not wanna gently caress with.

Are they mentioned in this book at all or do we have to wait?

Siivola
Dec 23, 2012




For Gold & Glory: Chapter 5: Combat Skills

These used to be called "weapon proficiencies" but I'm glad for the change because I always had to look up how to spell "proficiency".

quote:

Combat skills determine which weaponry a character is able to wield, and in what specific way (if any) he can wield those weapons most effectively.
On first level, all characters get a number of points to spend on combat skills. Wizards only get 1, rogues and priests get 2, and warriors get a whopping 4. Characters also receive points once the play begins, with the rate again depending on their class. As an optional rule, the GM can allow characters with high Intelligence to get extra skill points at level 1, based on their extra languages known.

Combat skill points are used to purchase skills with specific weapons and fighting styles, and trying to use weapons you don't know carries a penalty to attack rolls. Warriors get away with a reasonable -2 penalty but wizards are slapped with a ridiculous -5. If you don't know a particular weapon but something like it (say, you're a pole axe specialist and need to figure out a hand axe) the penalty is mitigated. You can purchase weapon skills for either a specific weapon for 1 point each, a group of weapons (say, "axes") for 2 points, or just go ham and buy all melee and hurled weapons of a specific damage type for 3 points. Class restrictions on weapons still apply, mind. You don't get free proficiencies like in third edition.

The points can also be used to purchase "weaponry methods" for different ways of fighting. Fighters can learn any number of them, priests and rogues can learn only one and single-class wizards can only learn ranged or unarmed methods. There are four melee methods: Single-weapon, two-handed, weapon-shield and dual-weapon. Single-weapon method gives you an AC bonus when fighting with nothing in your off-hand. Two-handed method boosts the combat speed of the two-handed weapon. Weapon-shield (or, as SCA people call it, "sword and board") gives an AC bonus, but also allows the user to punch enemies with their shield. Lastly, someone skilled in dual-wielding can wield any combination of single-handed weapons and removes the THACO penalties for using two weapons at once. For one more point you can also buy Ambidexterity, which removes the remaining -2 penalty for wielding a weapon in your non-dominant hand. Ranged methods let you pick one weapon with which you can move while shooting, fight from horseback and, if you don't move while shooting, boost your called shots and give you an AC bonus.

The class chapter hyped the single-class fighter's ability to specialize in a weapon they're already skilled with, and it's not too shabby an ability. It costs one point to specialize in a melee weapon and two to specialize in a bow or crossbow. In return, the fighter gets extra attacks hell yeah! :black101: In addition, melee weapons get +1 to hit and +2 to damage wheras ranged weapons get +2 to hit at point-blank range (6–30 feet for bows, 6–60 for crossbows) and the ability to shoot from ambush before initiative is rolled.

Honestly, this all seems fine, if a bit boring compared to the Weeaboo Fightan' Magic of editions to come. With only a handful of methods, there aren't any obvious trap options, except maybe the the two-handed one since it only works when initiative rolls are tied. Sure, single-weapon method is strictly worse than weapon-shield, but not all classes get shields. And honestly, the fighter specialization looks pretty sweet. I'm sure this went on to spiral into untenable skill bloat, but without any additional supplements it seems like a nice bit of spice to combat.

Coming up: Chapter 6: Non-combat Skills!

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





Can I modify that gunmancy school from UA to create an adept type oriented around being the perfect image of the grizzled survivor who can handle all the hosed up poo poo that's hosed up and lovely (as long as nobody asks me at any point to be specific)

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Nessus posted:

Can I modify that gunmancy school from UA to create an adept type oriented around being the perfect image of the grizzled survivor who can handle all the hosed up poo poo that's hosed up and lovely (as long as nobody asks me at any point to be specific)

That sounds more like an Avatar than an Adept.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

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





The Lone Badger posted:

That sounds more like an Avatar than an Adept.
If I understand UA right, the Avatar would be the guy who actually did gently caress up the poo poo gently caress poo poo poo poo gently caress, while the related Adept would be the guy who constantly tells you about how he nursed his wife by feeding her raw aged meat and crouching in the backyard.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Dawgstar posted:

Are they mentioned in this book at all or do we have to wait?

It'll come up more when we get to factions and conspiracies in a while, but essentially around 2001 there was an event called the Whisper War where every big magickal organization and a lot of the big-name independents got their poo poo pushed in and collapsed hard. Nobody is 100% sure why the War happened or who was behind it but the end result is that a lot of the old-factions from UA 2e are gone or completely different and a bunch of new kids on the block are around and nobody has as much power and influence as they used to.

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised.


All the best RPG settings are the ones with big power vacuums.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


Ghost Leviathan posted:

All the best RPG settings are the ones with big power vacuums.

Big power vacuums, cracks in society, a focus on edge cases being playable and even encouraged, and times when things are changing or adapting to change.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Nessus posted:

Can I modify that gunmancy school from UA to create an adept type oriented around being the perfect image of the grizzled survivor who can handle all the hosed up poo poo that's hosed up and lovely (as long as nobody asks me at any point to be specific)

It sounds like it can be reskinned for a whole number of toxic masculinity icons: PUA (charges are built up talking about your game and having sex with :females:, but if you talk to a girl, let alone have sex with one, you lose your powers), Bullshido artists (talk up your martial arts and show off your katas, but don't throw a punch), gymrats (charges up via exercise, talking it up and preening, but loses it if he has to lift a couch or any practical application of strength).

Young Freud fucked around with this message at 13:15 on Aug 6, 2018

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Night10194 posted:

Big power vacuums, cracks in society, a focus on edge cases being playable and even encouraged, and times when things are changing or adapting to change.

It's gives players something to do and let's GMs plan stuff out. It's also mark of bad games to have things be in status quo (Hv Sc Dracones being one of them) .

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!


Young Freud posted:

It's gives players something to do and let's GMs plan stuff out. It's also mark of bad games to have things be in status quo (Hv Sc Dracones being one of them) .

More accurately, it's a bad thing to have the game be in a status quo that the players would have no interest in changing. :v: If it's a status quo of some hideous, oppressive fascist state or whatever, at least that's still an adventure seed of "change the status quo." If the status quo is both something you want to preserve and not endangered, you have no reason to do anything other than roleplaying your characters enjoying life and scoffing at adventure.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



PurpleXVI posted:

More accurately, it's a bad thing to have the game be in a status quo that the players would have no interest in changing. :v: If it's a status quo of some hideous, oppressive fascist state or whatever, at least that's still an adventure seed of "change the status quo." If the status quo is both something you want to preserve and not endangered, you have no reason to do anything other than roleplaying your characters enjoying life and scoffing at adventure.

It tends to be something that happens a lot in these dystopian cyberpunk games: the megacorps are superpowerful that you can't topple them, might as well as work for them or pick up the crumbs that trickle down. At least Shadowrun had major events shakeup the line like Dunklezahn's death and System Crash 2.0 that knocked out major players and created new ones. And even Cyberpunk 2020 set up the dynamic of guys like Arasaka vs. Militech and Petrochem vs. SovOil that would eventually boil over into a world-threatening conflict.

Young Freud fucked around with this message at 14:15 on Aug 6, 2018

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: The Crescent Empire - The Orthodoxy

The basic doctrine of the Orthodoxy states that Heaven is Elohah (another name for Theus), and Elohah is Heaven. Elohah-who-is-Heaven is best described as a city, a forest, a living land and also every person within that forest-city-land, in a collective of infinite complexity. And also a Cathedral to the human spirit. In the beginning of time, all of the world was Elohah (and thus Heaven), but then came the Sundering. Some say this was caused by a great evil, some that it came from Elohah contemplating the existence of worlds outside itself. Either way, part of Heaven broke away from the rest. Now, all shards of Heaven wish to rejoin the great body of Elohah, and this is a thing that is right and good. Every shard that manages it brings something strange and complex and beautiful back to Heaven, making Elohah ever greater. Members of the Church, known as Disciples, seek to rejoin Elohah. To do this, they must love and honor the world and all in it, much as they love and honor themselves. Every person is divine, glorious, broken, strange and unique. Perfection cannot be achieved, because perfection would be Elohah, and all people exist as shards destined, someday, to rejoin Elohah. The First Prophet, Yesu, compared people to gardens - infinitely complex, intricate and beautiful, yet also wild, scary, flawed and different. Every person, Yesu said, was made by and beloved of Elohah. No one, even the strangest, most incomprehensible or most frightening, deserved to be discarded.

Yesu taught that all evil was that which separated the self from Elohah. Evil was jealousy, the desire to deny joy to others or failing to recognize or care for their complexity. Evil was selfishness, both for material things and the selfishness of believing that one was more inherently worthy than another, more important or better. To Elohah, all humans are beautiful and intricate, infinite yet small, and to rejoin Elohah, they had to learn to understand that view and the terrifying vastness of the universe. For the world to once again become Heaven, Yesu taught, it must be a "Heaven here below" - a place in which nothing was culled, where all souls loved the world and everything in it as they loved themselves. When a Disciple speaks of the End of the World, they refer to the entire world rejoining Elohah-who-is-Heaven, which is considered a good thing and a goal to work towards. As to how this is achieved, well, that's a matter of debate and controversy among the Orthodox. In life, Yesu hated any attempt to create a hierarchy among his Disciples. Even after his death, his Disciples respected his wishes and attempted no hierarchy, instead remaining friends but parting ways, each determined to start their own Church and bring Yesu's message to a different part of the world. Thus, many Orthodox sects were created, all of which claim Yesu as teacher and preach his basic doctrine, but differ in most other respects.

Typically speaking, most Orthodox sects share a few similarities which, while doctrinally based, are not strictly part of Yesu's doctrine. Firstly, they tend to be committed to pacifism and some amount of anti-materialism. They often have a disdain for hierarchy and a push for collectivism, to varying degrees. They usually revere nature (as a whole) and trees (specifically). They tend to focus on the concept of universal love over romantic love or familial love. Perhaps their most controversial piece of doctrine, however, is the belief that Yesu was the incarnation of Elohah on Terra, rather than just a Prophet. This puts them at odds with the al-Din and Vaticine successor traditions, which revere Yesu but believe him to be only the first of the messengers of Elohah/Theus/al-Musawwir.

Yesu was born a bastard and had no father. His mother was a Yachidi slave from Sarmion, Maryam bat Yakob, who worked a Numanari orchard plantation. Depending on how one interprets the text of the Orthodox, Yesu was either intersex ('both male and female') or neuter ('neither male nor female'), but his mother had to register him as either male or female under Numanari law, so she assigned him male in order to prevent him from being forced to bear children by the slave owners. He never took issue with this and, as we see, is referred to with male pronouns. Yesu was a grave, serious child who tended the trees alongside his mother. Every Sabbath, a traveling rebbe would come to lead services for the slaves, and every time, after the service, Yesu would approach the rebbe and beg to learn more of Elohah. One day, she asked him why. Yesu's reply was blasphemy: "I think I am them." The rebbe was horrified at first, but rather than striking the young Yesu, she sat beneath the fig tree with him and they spoke for seven hours straight. None can say what was said that day, but when the sun set, she was his first Disciple.

Many stories exist of Yesu's life, of his recruiting of four fishers, a shepherd and a tax collector, how he endured bloody beatings before he converted the family that owned the plantation, how he did many miracles, how he refused to cut down any tree or even strike any other person, though he died by violence. He was peacemaker, blasphemer and troublemaker, and by the end of his life, those who did not forswear him had to escape into the mountains, carrying his ravaged body. They wandered there for five days, water dripping from the corpse's mouth, and they followed the sun until they found the green and fruitful land where they founded the city of Ashur. After the founding of Ashur, the Disciples split, each determined to bring Yesu's message to the world. The evangelicals among them made their own churches, and all of them wrote accounts of Yesu's life as they had known it. These were bound up to form the Book of Yesu, the holy text of the Orthodoxy. However, since the death of the Second Prophet, the Orthodoxy has been slowly losing adherents. In the modern Crescent, only Ashur remains majority Orthodox, a patchwork of various Cathedrals made into a country that remains independent primarily by the aid of the Anashid Dinists. In Theah, only Ussura remains majority Orthodox, though many Ashurites find the Ussuran Orthodox Church to be uncomfortably Vaticine.

Before the rise of the Vaticine and al-Din, the Orthodox Church was simply the Church of the Prophet. Currently, any who follow Yesu exclusively refer to themselves as members of the Orthodox Church of the Prophet, or Orthodox for short, but historically this remains a relatively new thing. The form title for a priest among the Orthodox is 'Reverend.' Elohim and Abnegant Orthodox use the term rarely, as most of their doctrinal decisions are made by a consensus of a Council. Enclavests have as many types of rules as there are Enclaves, and these govern themselves individually. After Yesu's death, nine of his Disciples founded their own Churches, each spreading their own interpretation of his teachings. Not all of these churches survived to the present, and none are unchanged by time. The sects we'll be discussing are what exist now, not what existed originally.

Elohim Orthodox belive that the ideal life of a Disciple is to be as strictly imitative of Yesu as possible. To this end, they live in tribes of, on average, 50 people (supposedly to mimic the 50 Disciples that founded Ashur), and practice a government of consensus within the tribe. They are pacifist, vegetarian, own no property and refuse to chop down trees or handle money. Abnegant Orthodox are an extreme form of the Elohim, believing that imitation of Yesu involves cherishing the world even as a slave. Thus, they declare themselves "slaves of the city," service workers who can be called on for labor by any resident of Ashur, for no price but food and a place to sleep. Enclavest Orthodox believe that creation of "Heaven Here Below" is required, a glorious place on Terra for the children of Elohah to thrive. They are, as the Elohim, suspicious of large-scale hierarchy of power, and believe that any attempt to institutionally impose a better world is clumsy at best and inhumane at worst. Instead, they concentrate on the creation of "Enclaves," small paradises for their own tribes. They believe that once each person has their own Enclave, Heaven and Terra will unite as one. Ussuran Orthodox are the largest of any individual Orthodox sect, and descend from the Disciple Arseniy. They take the opposite position to the Enclavests, believing that in pursuit of the perfect world, even permanent hierarchy or even aggressive violence can be justified. Of all Orthodox Churches, they remain the most controversial, and a document co-written by four of Yesu's other Disciples declared it 'barely Orthodoxy,' accusing Arseniy of designing the religion to benefit affluent Numanari. Whatever the case, however, the Ussuran Orthodoxy must be credited with spreading Yesu's faith across Theah.

The ritual life of the Orthodox is honestly quite similar to the Vaticine, and that is deliberate. The Third Prophet patterned the Vaticine sacraments on those of the early Orthodox churches. However, they differ in some specifics. Orthodox baptism does not require an examination, just a profession of faith. Orthodox ordainment does require an examination but has no three-year deferment on failure. Orthodox marriage oaths are simpler than Vaticine ones, and Orthodox funerals are generally far more elaborate. The last rites are themselves considered a sacrament by the Orthodox. Orthodox Mass, while sharing the same name as the Vaticine service, is very different. There are no sermons or homilies. Instead, calendrical liturgy determines the subject of the Mass. The Book of Yesu has 365 chapters, and each day Disciples read a different chapter, with different hymns and prayers. These services are predetermined and so do not need to be led by clergy. The Book of Yesu specifically encourages lay folk to alternate amongst themselves to lead services, so that all may learn the Gospel. In theory, an Orthodox community holds Mass every day, though in practice most merely gather on Sundays and abridge the liturgy of the preceding week.

Orthodoxy considers plants, land and growth to be sacred. Indeed, scholars have often noted that Ussura and Ashur both seem to have preternatural connections to the land, and believe this may be part of why Orthodoxy is so popular there. The Gospels state that Yesu converted his first Disciple under a fig tree and was crucified on a cherry tree, and so both of these plants are considered especially holy. The fig is associated with new life, rebirth and wisdom, and it features prominently in coming-of-age ceremonies. Disciples identify the cherry tree with blood, beauty and mourning, and the stylized outline of the cherry bough is the near-universal symbol of the Orthodoxy. Live or paper cherry boughs are traditionally given as funeral gifts.

Next time: Fantasy Jews

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!


Young Freud posted:

It tends to be something that happens a lot in these dystopian cyberpunk games: the megacorps are superpowerful that you can't topple them, might as well as work for them or pick up the crumbs that trickle down. At least Shadowrun had major events shakeup the line like Dunklezahn's death and System Crash 2.0 that knocked out major players and created new ones. And even Cyberpunk 2020 set up the dynamic of guys like Arasaka vs. Military and Petrochem vs. SovOil that would eventually boil over into a world-threatening conflict.

Well yeah, it's obviously better if there's an "in" that players can use to catalyze some actual change to the status quo without the GM needing to spin that part from whole cloth.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


Young Freud posted:

It tends to be something that happens a lot in these dystopian cyberpunk games: the megacorps are superpowerful that you can't topple them, might as well as work for them or pick up the crumbs that trickle down.
This narrative can sometimes be interesting to explore in its own right, but yeah probably not for a traditional long-running campaign.

ChaseSP
Mar 25, 2013



I think it works fine in Sadowrun due to the implicit part of your characters being you're all violent criminals very much just looking for the next payday that just happens to be striking against something much worse than you are. Not to say you can't be a "moral" runner but it sure as hell makes the job harder when Joe Guard is about to call for the Knights and your only option is capping them in the head.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




That's what gel rounds or stick n shock are for. Leaving bodies just gets a hit squad sent after you.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


ChaseSP posted:

I think it works fine in Sadowrun due to the implicit part of your characters being you're all violent criminals very much just looking for the next payday that just happens to be striking against something much worse than you are. Not to say you can't be a "moral" runner but it sure as hell makes the job harder when Joe Guard is about to call for the Knights and your only option is capping them in the head.
The problem with Shadowrun as an example for any kind of cyberpunk story is that the underlying assumptions about who 'runners are and just how pervasive megacorp control is has never been consistent, even within editions. You can play Shadowrun as described, but the text also supports the idealistic revolutionary striking a major blow against a corrupt and immoral system. At most each edition has a more dominant narrative, and even then it's never all one way or the other.

Sometimes this works to the game's benefit, appropriately complicating lazy reads of complex situations. Other times it reflects the laziness of the game itself, a shallow pop-culture read of politics and a meta-textual both sidesism as the least effort way to get through a tricky thematic element.

Most often it just makes the edition wars extra nasty as fans take sides as to which is the right way to play the game, especially since it seems less an intentional decision and more an artifact of the long history of dysfunction in the game's development.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

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


I always thought Shadowrun was more noir with a punk veneer, where you don't really intend to be the person bringing down all these sorts of insane power structures. You were just doing one more job, they came hard after you, and one thing leads to another and now a megacorp is on fire and there's a dead dragon the lawn.

ChaseSP
Mar 25, 2013



Eh rent a cops dying is just part of business and it's doubtful they'll really care. Now a hit squad of PMCs being wiped out is another thing that is a more serious concern.

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall.


Night10194 posted:

I always thought Shadowrun was more noir with a punk veneer, where you don't really intend to be the person bringing down all these sorts of insane power structures. You were just doing one more job, they came hard after you, and one thing leads to another and now a megacorp is on fire and there's a dead dragon the lawn.
I think that's also a fair way to approach it.

That's really the core issue with the game. It works with all of these interpretations, but it doesn't seem to be because the devs wanted it to, but because they didn't successfully execute whatever their vision actually was. Or, more likely, everyone involved had strong, non-compatible visions about what Shadowrun was supposed to be.

Ratoslov
Feb 15, 2012

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



Comrade Gorbash posted:

I think that's also a fair way to approach it.

That's really the core issue with the game. It works with all of these interpretations, but it doesn't seem to be because the devs wanted it to, but because they didn't successfully execute whatever their vision actually was. Or, more likely, everyone involved had strong, non-compatible visions about what Shadowrun was supposed to be.

That's a part of why it's lasted so long- by not being anything, it can be all things to all gamers. This is also why it's so miserable to play, since every other gamer at the table has a different idea of what Shadowrun is.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




A deliberate design element of what Shadowrun has evolved into is that a team can have a lot of differing reasons for why they run and what they get up to when they're not with the team, but when the chips are down they pull together and go blow up a few conspiracies.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



7th Sea 2: The Crescent Empire - I Love These Guys

The Yachidi have existed for so long that it is actually impossible to say when they first showed up. Their ancient texts claim to predate the Katab, when their tribes wandered the deserts of Sarmion and fought their neighbors in the name of ancient spirits. The originators of their faith, united in the blessing of Elohah, made their religion b'yachad - together. Yachidi beliefs are deeply rooted in tradition, as they are one of the single oldest religions on Terra. While some of their tenets may have shifted and modernized, some things have remained constant. Firstly, Adon Hu - 'Master is He.' This simple rule is a fundamental difference between the Yachidi and other faiths. All Yachidi believe Elohah is the one true Creator and master of the world, creating all other spirits and beings worshipped as gods elsewhere. Other nations may worship other beings, but for the Yachidi, it is assur, 'religiously forbidden,' to recognize any deity above Elohah. Second, Lishmor V'Lahegan - 'Preserve and Protect.' The first Yachidi heard the message of Elohah through Abram and his wife Saraya, but it was not until the Covenant of the Longest Night and their full rededication to Elohah that they got His full message, at the foot of Mount Moriah. They were told there that their true purpose was lishmor v'lehagen haolam b'yachad - Preserve and protect the world, together. This charges the Yachidi to be the caretakers of Terra forever, to seek peace and better the world on small and large scale. The term 'b'yachad' was chosen to represent the faith and its people as a result.

Thirdly: Koach B'Ruach V'Neshek - 'Strength of Spirit and Arms.' The Yachidi teachings say that Elohah called on the people to bring peace and protection to the world. Ideally, this would be via diplomacy, communication and kindness, but the Yachidi are not pacifists at all. They understand that life must often be protected by force of arms as well as the strength of the spirit. Yachidi rules of engagement say that one may act with violence only in defense of one's life or the lives of others. This is known as milchamat tzadik, 'righteous war,' and they do not call on violence lightly. However, once they begin to fight, the Yachidi are expected to be ferocious chayalim, or soldiers, for what is right. Fifth, Kol Haolam HaKodesh - 'The Whole World is Sacred.' Because Elohah made the world, the Yachidi believe that everything in it is sacred and interconnected. They believe that all people have two parts - the guph, or material body, and the nephesh, or spiritual being. This spiritual understanding allows people to see the unseen supernatural forces of the world, which to the Yachidi are just part of the spiritual world and therefore natural.

Sixth, Kesem, Lo Tishkach - "Do Not Forget Magic." This reminds the Yachidi that magic is natural and has a place in the world, and also reminds them that it is dangerous if misused. Because spiritual power is, to the Yachidi, just as sacred and natural as any other force, they view sorcery as entirely normal. They believe that fear and hatred of magic has done far more damage to the world than magic itself, seeking instead to fully understand sorcerous power. However, with that understanding comes the warning not to overuse magic or use it for selfish or evil reasons. The Yachidi are forbidden to create life with magic, or to animate the inanimate or the dead, as power over life and death is far too great a burden for any human and should be left to Elohah. (Despite this, their sorcery is capable of doing it - they just believe it is a very, very bad idea.) Seventh, Atta V'Ani, B'Yachad - "You and I, Together." The Yachidi believe that all religions and groups have a place in the grand design. Therefore, they believe it is their duty to respect all religious practices and faiths. It is absolutely assur to proselytize and attempt to convert people to Yachidism. Any who wish to convert must do so of their own will, by their own choice, and the religious teachers of the Yachidi must attempt to dissuade them three times, teaching them of the immense responsibility of service to the world that comes with the faith. Once a person does convert, however, the Yachidi embrace them as new family.

Finally, Tariyag - the Six Hundred and Thirteen. If a person does become Yachidi, by birth or by conversion, they learn the 613 laws that regulate everything about Yachidi life, from how they dress to what they eat to when they pray. These laws are designed to keep the Yachidi in a balance between spirit and flesh, in constant and joyous remembrance of Elohah's place in their lives. The laws considered assur are the most severe, codified by Moesh ben Amram after he led the Yachidi who had been enslaved by the Numanari during the First Invasion back to Sarmion. These are the Stone Commandments, written on heavy tablets, and are the most serious rules of the faith. They include things like recognizing only Elohah as God, worshipping no false gods, and keeping the last day of each week as a Sabbath to reconnect with the community and with Elohah. Those that breach the Tariyag must undergo ritual atonement, called teshuva. Once this period of atoning is done, they must seek not only to fix any damages they caused, but must also take pilgrimage to the High Temple in Salemoria, to offer up an animal sacrifice before the new year celebration. The animal's death symbolically atones for the sin, and the meat feeds the priests and the poor of Salemoria.

Yachidi history and Sarmion history are largely intertwined. Their religion is centuries older than the First Prophet, dating back a time of bloody religious conflict between warring tribes and the spirits they worshipped as gods. These battles might have depopulated Sarmion entirely, had not a pair of leaders appeared. Abram and his wife Saraya, a wealthy couple from the Tahor tribe, were worshippers of the goddess Naana-Astarte. They had seen decades of battle under her bloody reign and wanted peace deeply. So, when both began to dream of a voice calling them to the southern desert of Gilead, they left their tribe with their servants, spouses and children, seeking a new path. In the desert, Abram and Saraya are said to have heard the voice of Elohah, Creator of All. Elohah told them that if they and their descendants dedicated themselves to service to the world as protectors and guardians of peace, they would bring forth a nation that would impact the entire world. Abram and Saraya emerged from the desert, teaching this message to their household. Soon, others flocked to them to hear of the message, and a new religion was born.

The Covenant of the Longest Night was both a religious battle and a war to control Sarmion. The old gods of the land resented the new ideas of Elohah's people, and they drove their followers to attack the Yachidi en masse in the time when Abram was 120. His eldest son by Saraya, named Isaak, and his son by his second wife Hagar, called Ishamal, led their people to defeat the alliance of tribes against them, binding the spirit-gods until a covenant could be formed. Ishamal and Isaak parted in the dawn the next day, having established the Covenant of the Longest Night. No longer would they be enemies, but brothers, a bond that still ties the Yachidi to the worshippers of the old gods that live in their lands. The followers of the old gods took the name Ishamali, in reverence for the brother that had saved them and led them to a new life, continuing their ways in peace.

In the years that followed, the Yachidi followed Isaak and his prophetic visions, bringing their new faith and nation of Sarmion to prosperity. It was Isaak's son, Yakob, who led them to settle in the abandoned city Salemoria, on the summit of Mount Moriah. The Yachidi built not only a government for Sarmion, but also a codified set of practices that would eventually become the Tariyag. Yedhu was named King of Sarmion and served as a secular leader, while Levis, a pious daughter of Yakob who had inherited the gift of prophecy, became the first high priestess. Together, the siblings promised to build a High Temple in Salemoria, a spiritual center for the Yachidi to bring atonement sacrifices to, celebrate holy days and contemplate spiritual knowledge. However, the plans had to be paused when the Numanari first invaded and slew Yedhu. The more recent destruction of the High Temple in 1665 by the Numanari has caused some problems. The Sanhedrin, the high religious court, are forbidden by law to vote on any new religious laws until a High Temple can oversee their cases. When Numa burned the High Temple, it essentially froze the Yachidi religion entirely, with laws now unable to change at all. The Yachidi fear that their laws may now become static in the face of a changing world.

The Yachidi religious hierarchy has two main branches - the Priesthood of the Temple and the Teachers of the Land. A priest, called leviat, is born from the tribe of Levis and raised from an early age to serve the High Temple. They lead prayers there, light the holy menorah (an eight-branch candelabra that symbolizes the light of Elohah across the eight great seas of the world) and use their prophetic abilities and magic to help those who come seeking aid. Only members of the tribe of Levis can become leviats, and those that choose not to instead are the lay folk that care for the priests and temple. The High Temple is the spiritual center of Yachidi faith, and all Yachidi must make a pilgrimage there once a year on the new year, to make sacrifices of atonement and celebrate Elohah's blessings. However, with Yachidi spreading well beyond the borders of Sarmion, it become far too impractical to expect constant pilgrimage. Thus, the Yachidi established the rebbeim, the Teachers.

Rebbeim study the Yachidi laws and traditions, traveling the land and settling in Yachidi communities to offer counsel and guidance. Every rebbe follows the edicts set down by the leviats, but are encouraged to question and explore various ideas and ethical quandaries, with entire new schools of thought coming out of rebbeim who challenged old laws and considered new ways of serving Elohah. Any decision on religious law for the entire nation must go before the Sanhedrin, a body of the nation's greatest rebbeim. They are appointed for life, but must be at least 40 before they can be considered for the council. The Sanhedrin spend their time pondering deep religious questions, updating the law as new scientific discoveries or technologies become available, to keep the Yachidi practices as a living, evolving body of faith. Well, until the last Sanhedrin was slaughtered by the Numanari and the Temple burned; the group has yet to be reconvened.

The Chavra exist as both a militia and a religious order of defense, initially made by Princess Ruth and her general Barak M'Shevat Raam in their attempt to overthrow a Numanari invasion. Ruth's mother, Queen Elisheva, fought the Numanari from the fortress Haritza in Gilead, and Ruth was liberated from slavery during the fighting and smuggled back into Sarmion. She and Barak formed the militant arm of the Yachidi faith, a warrior force that would defend the Yachidi (and by extension Sarmion) from any threat. Ruth and Barak formed the template for the Chavra leadership, with Ruth serving as tactical mastermind and Barak as war leader. They brought in a third to help lead, the legal and religious scholar Dvora bat Hana M'Shevet Ben-Ephraya, to act as spiritual counsel. These three roles have been maintained ever since, with the Chavra always led by a triumvirate of tactician, warrior general and spiritual guide and arbiter. The three make all decisions for the Chavra and determine their missions. In the years since the First Invasion, the Chavra have grown from a small rebel force to the elite guardians of Sarmion. They are warriors, investigators and bodyguards, watching for danger to the Yachidi both in the Empire and beyond. They often travel in disguise as simple wanderers, hiding their skills until the time to act. They are thus excellent spies and detectives, though they often repent the need for lies and subterfuge. They do it to protect their people. Because of their fearsome reputation, the Chavra are often employed by the royal family of the Empire as bodyguards. The old emperor had an entire Chavra contingent of guards in his employ before his death, and Istani kept them as hostages in his court, depriving Sarmion of their power during the last Numanari invasion. The last of the Chavra, sent to aid Princess Batya by King Josiah, helped Empress Safiye retake her throne. However, their absence left Josiah and Sarmion unprotected against the Numanari, and his death remains a painful stain on their honor, which many Chavra feel must be atoned for.

The rest of Yachidi history is essentially the history of Sarmion and its constant cycle of destruction and rebuilding at the hands of its ancient foes, the Numanari. They have ravaged the land many times, occupying it and taking slaves. Every time, the Yachidi remain stalwart, embracing their duty to better the world. This leads many Yachidi to leave Sarmion and even the Empire, to explore new communities. They settle into the local population and eagerly work to learn and share ideas openly, though this often has mixed results, ranging from open appreciation to distrust or violence. The Yachidi acceptance of magic can put them at odds with the Vaticine or Dinists, especially those fanatical about the need to control or destroy sorcery, such as the Inquisition. Yachidi see any effort to destroy magic as an affront to Elohah, and many have become involved in rescuing persecuted sorcerers in places like Persis or Vodacce, helping to smuggle them to safety in Sarmion or other Yachidi communities throughout the world.

Next time: Imperial governance.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017



ChaseSP posted:

Eh rent a cops dying is just part of business and it's doubtful they'll really care. Now a hit squad of PMCs being wiped out is another thing that is a more serious concern.

The problem with that is you never know whose brother or sister you just offed and how mad they'll be.

ChaseSP
Mar 25, 2013



Sure but they're probably some poor slub. Of course nothing keeps the GM from having someone show up but some vigilante vs a bunch of cybered up criminals doesn't have much a chance. It's why the dangerous attention is all from the major corps/organizations.

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017



I know a couple of the megacorps will rotate their elite guys in with the grunts now and then, so the Aztechnology guy you decide to clip might have a lot of commando buddies who are now super ticked. Going super loud and leaving a body count always comes off as a minor mission fail state in my experience.

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fool of sound
Oct 10, 2012


Dawgstar posted:

I know a couple of the megacorps will rotate their elite guys in with the grunts now and then, so the Aztechnology guy you decide to clip might have a lot of commando buddies who are now super ticked. Going super loud and leaving a body count always comes off as a minor mission fail state in my experience.

Unless you're playing the A-team version of shadowrun, which the fluff also kinda supports. Shadowrun is trying to be like four genres and once and people tend to latch onto whichever is there personal favorite, and then get into giant fights with people who read it was a different genre. I eventually realized that I don't actually like Shadowrun much, and just like technoir.

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