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May 13, 2013

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

Nessus posted:

However, it would be an interesting twist if there was some kind of super-warrior parody group in one of these settings, where the twist was that the glaring deficiencies are compensated for by some kind of covert advantage.

That would be interesting, but I think that the creators hope that we'll think the Hellvetic way is cool instead of being stupid. Like, why have some crazy three-barreled assault rifle with hard to make ammo if you can probably just dust off some old SIG design.

E: I bet it's some post-hoc fluff justification of mechanics that don't give them enough/a lot of ammo. After all, Psychonauts wouldn't be that scary if you could just tag them from a 100 meters away.


Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:


One, two, three...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Violence and the Supernatural

... twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

The fictional World of Rifts® is violent, deadly and filled with supernatural monsters. Otherdimensional beings often referred to as "demons," torment, stalk and prey on humans. Other alien life forms, monsters, gods and demigods, as well as magic, insanity, and war are all elements in this book.

... forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Some parents may find the violence, magic and supernatural elements of the game inappropriate for young readers/players. We suggest parental discretion.

... ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one-hundred...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Please note that none of us at Palladium Books® condone or encourage the occult, the practice of magic, the use of drugs, or violence.

... one hundred and ninety-eight, one-hundred and ninety-nine, two hundred... Jesus...

Got me cursing like a Christian here. Well, you can see Palladium's usual warning above. But here's my warning: there are well over two hundred instances of the g-word in this book. Some readers may find these elements of the review inappropriate for anyone. We suggest reader discretion. As mentioned before in Warlords of Russia, I won't be using the term further, but it will come up in quotations and header text where I'm drawing from the book directly. Speaking of which...

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 1 - "Gypsy Magic is hated, feared and avoided."

So, Siembieda admits he didn't know much about Russian folklore before researching it, but now realizes that Russian people have a rich mythology that survived alongside Christianity!

Rifts World Book 18 posted:

The premise of Rifts® Mystic Russia is that the Russian people's steadfast beliefs in magic and the supernatural was well founded, and that their belief and ancient knowledge helped prepare them for the return of magic to Earth.

Rifts World Book 18 posted:

With a few exceptions, like the Aborigines of Australia, few people on Rifts Earth possessed as keen an understanding and innate acceptance of the supernatural as the Russian people.

Unless you also count the druids of Britain (Rifts World Book 3: England]), ethnic wanderers (Rifts World Book 5: Triax & the NGR), Voudo practitioners (Rifts World Book 6: South America), Japanese people in general (Rifts World Book Seven: Japan), the people of the Andes (Rifts World Book Nine: South America), and - let's not forget - Indigenous Americans in general (Rifts World Book Fifteen: Spirit West). Oh, and Wendigos. Remember them? The friendly bigfoot people that survived alongside humanity even during the unmagic times? Those too.

But other than that (oh, and the China books in the future), few people. Few people like the Russians indeed.

"The cover is by John Zeleznik, and depicts a Gypsy Sorcerer summoning spirits from a fire. Behind her is one of the few rebuilt cities of Western Russia — probably Kiev." - Siembieda

Rifts Russia & The Supernatural

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:


Mystic Russia is inspired by the ancient myths, legends, folk tales and superstitions of the ancient Russian people. The monsters, demons, magic, and Occupational Character Classes (O.C.C.s) that appear in this book are not real. They are fictional conglomerations inspired by myth, heavily changed and extrapolated upon, and spun into fictional magic and imaginary characters by the fertile imagination of the author. None of the magic or monsters are real.

Likewise, no real-life people, gypsies, cultures or religious faith have been portrayed. Although Christianity played a large role in Russian history, it is only occasionally and vaguely presented as a bit of color and background. This is a work of fiction about a future and alien Earth where magic and technology collide and ancient legends and mythical gods and monsters walk the planet.

You can do that? Like you can say, "Oh, I'm not talking about Russian culture, I'm just talking about my fantasy nationality that are called Russians, based on Russians, but take my word for it: they're not Russian."

Cue 1 micron squint. This book has just started. For the record, I'll be shuffling around the order a bit because the opening section has a lot of redundancy and a tendency to forget what was just written.

So, Russians continued to believe in the supernatural for... mysterious reasons... and the old folk tales now work in their favor. However, most of this is just practical knowledge, and actual use of magic is considered dangerous and fearsome. While they respect the expertise of sorcerers and the like, and try not to anger them, they think of such as something to mostly be avoided. Supernatural creatures are generally seen as the creators of all ills, and aren't likely to befriend the local human population. Similarly, ley lines are seen as accursed sites that spawn monsters. Wait, I thought the Russian people had been well-prepared by their traditional myths and stories? I mean, it seems to have given them some useful protips, but also turned them into anti-supernatural bigots. And it certainly hasn't kept them from being menaced by the supernatural, as we'll see.

Next, we get a breakdown of magic classes in Russia. Mystics are the most common, being seen as wisemen and women of sorts. There are also Ley Line Walkers, a new "Mystic Smith" class, and the new "Old Believer" class, the last of which is a very loose version of Slavic paganism. However, "Gypsy Magic", Necromancers, Shifters, and various types of demonic witches are anathematic, though.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Gypsy Magic is hated, feared and avoided. Generally speaking, Rifts Russians regard Gypsies, as a whole, as deceitful, self-serving thieves and cutthroats who will dare anything and associate with dangerous magic and demonic forces if they think they can profit from it. Note: See the section on Russian Gypsies elsewhere in this book for more information.

Oh, we'll be waiting, I'm sure.

There are also Mystic Knights (from World Book 16: Federation of Magic), but given that was a form of magic unique to America, I'm not sure how. Their presence will never be noted again or explained, in any case. They specifically don't have any Techno-Wizards, and apparently all Russians are superstitious folk that would bust up your cool techno-magic poo poo. We also have some flagrant errors already- we're told that there's going to be a Superhuman Hero class that's loved by the people (isn't on the class list, might have become the Slayer?), there's a class referred to called the Znakhari that's presumably supposed to be the new Born Mystic class, but that term is never used again. Lastly, Ley Line Walkers are referred to getting access to the new Living Fire magic spells, and they don't- they get access to other new magic while Living Fire gets its own new class.

I get the impression this book was a bit rushed.

"I understand you need a lot of demons for this book? Looking forward to some stats..."

The Demon Plague

We're told only China has a greater amount of supernatural beings (I guess Atlantis doesn't count?), and most people see this is as an everyday source of trouble. In addition, there are the fearsome threats of evil witches, necromancers, and... gypsies, again. In any case, even simple woodland spirits are seen as a menace.

Mind, it seems nearly every village is plagued by a supernatural threat, though it may be secret or subtle. Well, Geralt has to find regular work somehow, I suppose. We get a long laundry list of terrible acts demons and monsters might visit upon villagers, and the r-word is included amongst them. No, not R-ussia. After the last book, I feel just exhausted bringing it up, so I'll leave it at that. Apparently most local demons like tormenting and troubling humans rather than outright destruction. Also, they hate beauty and goodness! Mostly, though, like the majority of Siembiedan villains, they're just sadistic. More rarely, a powerful one will take over a whole community, and some rare ones just wander around bitin' off heads, but generally their behavior is more trollish and cruel than ambitious.

Peasants not included.

The Peasant Homestead

There are a fair number of :words: describing peasant homes, but we can skip most of them. Most are essentially medieval. In winter, there's a tradition of reluctant hospitality- they generally suspect visitors of being monsters or mages, but offer basic amenties to try and avoid inadvertently getting a curse or the like. Full hospitality isn't likely unless a local vouches for you, however.

"Blam! You're dead! No need to stat you up, now!"

Adventurers & Demons

Wandering adventurers are generally enlisted by communities to deal with their supernatural problems, though rarely this can be a ruse if they're in league with (or intimidated by) a local supernatural monster. Generally, it's considered best to outright kill demons and menaces so they don't visit their wrath upon the village. Faeries and woodland spirits are more easygoing, and can be made to back down or move. However, these creatures often conflict with each other, meaning they don't generally gather in force. All largely a framework to try and give Russia more of a folkloric feel, but painted with a ridiculously broad and generic brush. Eleven time zones and they all seem the same.

Next: They hate you because you're beautiful.

May 13, 2013

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

Every Russian village is just a fortified settlement firing AKs at every direction all the time, because fey, demons and EVEN GYYYPSIEEEES might be lurking about.

Also, why do they called them Russian <Romani>? Do other books have their own Nation <Romani>? Did Ireland book refer to nefarious Irish Travellers?

And were once again stumbling into Sambieda's surface level understanding of Orthodox Christianity as Old Believers are anything but pagan

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

JcDent posted:

Also, why do they called them Russian <Romani>? Do other books have their own Nation <Romani>? Did Ireland book refer to nefarious Irish Travellers?

To differentiate them (slightly) from those that already showed up in Rifts World Book 5: Triax & the NGR. They do have differences, but they're largely academic.

England didn't have such, no, so we haven't had that in Rifts. But there was a group in a Rifter article for Nightbane that were more-or-less Irish Travellers. I'd have to look them up again, I think they were just called "Travellers".

JcDent posted:

And were once again stumbling into Sambieda's surface level understanding of Orthodox Christianity as Old Believers are anything but pagan

Ha ha, thanks for pointing that out! I'll be sure to add that in later on when we get into them. But yeah, he doesn't mean the Orthodox movement when he says "Old Believers", he's referring to Slavic Native Faith instead.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Young Freud posted:

Isn't there also a spell that "enhanced reflexes" spell that you can put into a spell or weapon foci and have it run 24/7?
In 3e, a weapon focus adds its rating to your weapon skill, and it's astrally active. (it goes with you when you astral-project and can hurt spirits and such.) Anyone can use them but Adepts prize them. I don't think Adepts can make foci, though.

Other foci are brokenly good if you've got the cash. There are foci that boost your ability to resist drain from a category of spells, or all spells, and in 4e they introduced sustaining foci (that do what you said) and foci that effectively increase your Magic rating.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2e: The New World - Play Sports

Physical fitness and athletic achievement matter a lot to the Nahuacans, as a martial society that expects all to contribute. Athletic trials are part of any festival, and the best athletes of the schools and military meet in huge arenas to run races, obstacle courses and show off skill with bows or the atlatl. Before the Alliance formed, they also were known for bloody gladiatorial combat in which captured enemies wielded macuahuitls with feathers instead of blades against captured animals, monsters or armed soldiers. That's much, much less popular in the modern day. Instead, gladiatorial combat is fought with nonlethal clubs and protective armor, thoguh they remain brutal, and sometimes one or both fighters will be mortally wounded before disarming or defeating their foe. Wrestling has grown to eclipse even this in popularity. Every child learns to wrestle just as part of growing up, and while soldiers have the advantage in gladiatorial battle, any strong farmer might become a champion wrestler, which is a unique chance given the otherwise low chances of social mobility in adulthood.

Wrestling competitions begin with the ritual exchange of insults, often deeply personal and elaborate. Athletes are, after all, public figures whose lives and exploits show up often in works of art. In the ring, the Nahuacan wrestling style is quick, acrobatic and energetic, using even the arena as a weapon as they throw, jump and tumble around in pursuit of a pinfall. Victorious wrestlers have the right to wear elaborate capes and masks in a colorful exception to the normal sumptuary laws of Nahuaca, even if the wrestler is a priest or peasant. The current Alliance wrestling champion is Don Tumbaga, a former yam farmer turned priest turned wrestler. He is extremely popular among the peasantry. And yes, they are giving you implicit permission to be a luchador here.

Equally popular to wrestling is ollamaliztli, a brutal team sport using a large court and a heavy rubber ball. The teams compete to keep the ball in the air by hitting it with their padded hips and forearms, trying to volley it past the enemy goal line. The game is highly combative, with checking and tripping being frequent. Various forms have evolved independently throughout Nahuaca and Tzak K'an, and the sport is also growing in popularity in the Atabean, with several prominent teams working out of Fort Freedom. The best teams go on international tours sponsored by the mercantile guilds, testing themselves against rivals across the continent.

Nahuacan poetry is a rich, varied tradition, and impromptu sharing of short poems on religious, emotional, natural or romantic subjects is common after meals. Short and pithy verses in praise of gods or heroes are often painted on the sides of temples and government buildings, and many recipes or battle orders are prepared in poetic form to aid memory. The first such work to be translated into Castillian was Nezahuatzin's Odes, originally painted on the walls of the mayoral temple in Milllahco, where he ruled from. Art is also central to society - even moreso, for visual art. Sculpture, painting and reliefs are everywhere, and richly illustrated tomes known as codices are fundamental to the education system. The common use of pictures helps make up for the poor reading level of most peasants when used in government communication. Public works projects often see heavy competition between sculptors and painters to earn the lucrative decoration contracts, and beautiful artwork is a matter of national pride. Art in its various forms makes up a bulk of Nahuacan exports, including pottery, clothing and other worked goods sold to the Rahuri in exchange for animal parts, the Tzak K'ani for honey and dyes, and so on.

Nahuacan food is one of the few things that makes no class distinctions at all. Most foods are based on one of their garden crops - maize, beans, squash, chili pepper, amaranth and tomato. Visiting Theans at first assumed the tomato was a giant poison sac, much to the entertainment of the locals. These meals are augmented with fish and game meat, especially invertebrates such as scorpions, maguey worms, stinkbugs, fly eggs, fly larvae, beetles, grubs, dragonflies, ants and grasshoppers. Tradition says that fish and insect recipes date back to the first peoples of Aztlan. Fruit and honeydew ants are the main desserts. Cocoa beans are used both as food for the rich and a kind of currency. While the cocoa standard isn't as widespread in Aztlan as, say, the Guilder in Theah, merchants have been using it for some time to express the value of goods in terms of cocoa beans or, for arger denominations, in cotton cloaks. Cocoa is hard to grow in the north, so most of it comes from trade with Tzak K'an, and more hawkish priests often bring this up as a reason to conquer Tzak K'an - that way they can grow their own money.

The most common alcohol is iztac cocli, a thick white drink that tastes like sour yeast. The brewers' guild makes a lot of it, but only nobles, priests and officers can buy it, though nobles can then freely distribute it to their tenants and slaves in controlled amounts. Rumors of low-quality bootlegging for trade or black market sales are investigated closely, though arrests are quite rare, as the guilds are very good at coverups. Public drunkenness is considered extremely scandalous and also illegal. First offense is a hefty fine, second is a term as a slave, and the third is death.

Nahuacans tend to be deeply suspicious of sorcery, and its open practitioners typically live on the edges of society. Those who come to them do so furtively and full of guilt, concealing their actions from others. While sorcerers are not hunted by mobs, they tend not to have a lot of friends or make much headway in social interactions. There are three main forms of sorcery practiced in Nahuaca and none of them are, as a note, mechanically done in the same way as normal sorceries when we get to that. First, there is the divination taught by Itzzohualli. This is done by using a secret mix of plants to burn, then gazing through the smoke onto a reflective surface, traditionally a mirror. The visions are generally dreamlike and nonsensical, requiring cross-referencing with astrological charts to make sense of.

Feathercraft is the second and probably most accepted form of magic. Hunters go to great lengths to capture birds with brilliant plumage, and the feathers then go to the Featherworker's Guild to be used to adorn clothes, weapons and armor. Certain feather patterns are not merely beautiful, but also magical. These sacred patterns, when blessed by the master artisans via prayers to Tlehuitzin, may imbue a sword, shield or armor with supernatural durability and other powers.

The third currently practiced form of sorcery is nagualism, the method Apocoatl taught to express one's core in the form of an animal. The nagual is neither a spirit guide nor an animal transformation, however - it's a way to externalize your identity and focus on your personal strengths, associated with an animal. By meditating on these traits and studying the animal in the wild, the nagualist masters their weaknesses and enhances their strengths as expressed through their mind and body. Experts can also manifest their nagual as an external being, a companion animal that is both part of you and can act on its own and converse with similar animals. These externalists are the source of the common belief that a nagualist can turn into an animal or that the nagual is a spirit guide from nature.

Religion! The Nahuacan say that if you die in a way sacred to a god, you apotheosize and merge with them. Your mind flows into theirs and your body is transformed, either as a new manifestation of the godhead or merging with the god's form. In ancient times, this happened largely by chance and was rare, until humans determined what causes of death were holy and the priesthood began to form and seek out sacrificial victims. Some were willing, choosing to merge with the divine. Most were not. Most controversially, some priesthoods at one point captured and sacrificed a god to a god, and that always ended up being a huge deal. Some gods liked it; others were shocked and horrified enough to wipe out their own priests. After the Alliance formed, human sacrifice was outlawed. Priests still sometimes sacrifice animals or items to the gods, but this is largely ceremonial. None of the major gods today would accept a human sacrifice. Small cults to lesser gods may still practice it, however. When discovered, they are wiped out brutally, as human sacrifice is considered abhorrent to most modern Nahuacans.

While the Nahuacan acknowledge the existence of many gods, the main four of the nation are the ones they generally worship, though lesser gods are respected and often adopted into the pantheon after conquest of a vassal state that worships them. The gods of Nahuaca are primal, capricious beings, though they accept homage from all in exchange for their blessings. The gods may change forms, but often prefer a single recognizable body when meeting their people. (Not always, of course.) The gods have no leader, though if they did, Tlehuitzin, God of the South, would want the job. He is the god of the direction South, the city Nexhuatipec, the sun, fire and war. He is easily the loudest and most prideful of the four gods. He typically appears as an old man in a very old-style military uniform, with a feathered headdress and a fiery serpent he wears around his waist. This is also his weapon. Sometimes he appears as a ball player, and he enjoys playing sports with his worshippers. He is a blunt, brash deity who never uses metaphor or understatement - he says exactly what he means, although he has an annoying habit of answering different questions than he is actually asked, or not answering at all to instead complain about young people. He is the inventor of the Nahuacan and Tzak K'ani calendar, which he wears on his back. Copies of it are often used as his symbol, and it also represents the solar disc.

Nacatlicue, Goddess of the East, is patron of Oloxochicalco. She is not one of the two major war gods, but did invent war in order to protect her people's crops. She later retired from war as a purview to oversee agriculture instead. It is said that she peeled her skin from her body to water the ground with her own blood during a drought. She appears as a woman of unclear age, with the skin past her waist peeled down that she might wear it as a skirt. She also sometimes takes the shape of a warrior, especially when she acts to protect her people. She speaks in parables and platitudes, answering questions with short fables involving children and talking animals.

Next time: More gods

Oct 3, 2013

Blood and Souls and all that

Halloween Jack posted:

Other foci are brokenly good if you've got the cash. There are foci that boost your ability to resist drain from a category of spells, or all spells, and in 4e they introduced sustaining foci (that do what you said) and foci that effectively increase your Magic rating.

I remember having a game with a Mystic Adept, who basically only used the "Mystic" side to cast enhanced reflexes on a sustaining focus and free up adept points for other stuff. Worked amazingly well, although was not quite the strongest member of the party due to some other munchkin bullshit

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk

Kaza42 posted:

I remember having a game with a Mystic Adept, who basically only used the "Mystic" side to cast enhanced reflexes on a sustaining focus and free up adept points for other stuff. Worked amazingly well, although was not quite the strongest member of the party due to some other munchkin bullshit

the fun with shadowrun (any edition) is not if you can break the combat system, but decided in which specific way you will break the combat system this time. it's a time honored tradition that my childhood friends first noticed with light pistols being the undisputed king of guns in 1E and every subsequent edition has carried the torch forward.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2e: The New World - God Times

Itzzohualli, Goddess of the North, rules over darkness, obsidian, night, moon and death. She is a goddess of obscuring fog and strange riddle, of murder in the dark and careful lies. She answers questions with riddles and half-truth. No one knows her true form, as her approach calls fog from the ground, lengthens shadows and makes them merge until only glinting obsidian spark eyes can be seen. Sometimes she takes the form of a predatory beast or a woman with obsidian-black skin. Her priests say she is a creature built from black serpents, but many suspect even this is not her true form. She is the patron to the Ocelomeh, empowering them with nearly superhuman senses, light feet and deadly obsidian knives and spears. She claims the city of Milllahco, nestled in the slumbering northern volcanos.

Apocoatl, God of the West, rules over Tecuehtitlan, deep in the Nahuacan heartland, where the rivers and wetlands teem with life. He is the Storm Serpent, and he enjoys swimming in the rivers with great speed. He is a predator, but he takes no joy in it, seeing violence only as a means of survival rather than a thing to be proud of. He teaches the secrets of pure water and medicinal plants to his priests, who are doctors, herbalists and philosophers. His is the magic of the nagual, the secret of tapping into the totemic animal symbolism to gain its power or incarnate it as a companion. He appears as a great serpent covered in wet feathers, sometimes white and sometimes rainbow-colored. He has never taken a human form, and he is the most straightforward of the gods, though he tends to be terse and dislikes speaking, which seems to tire him.

Besides the four main gods, lesser gods that rule over specific plants, trades or other limited purviews are known through the Alliance. They have their own temples and small priesthoods, though the Nahuacan centralization means they tend to end up under the command of one of the four main priesthoods. Many small gods are patrons of a single town or, more commonly, a vassal state. They are generally friendly with the major gods, though their followers may not be. Separatist rebels often rally around a local god's priesthood and symbols, sometimes without checking if the god is down for it. On more than one occasion, the Nahuacan army has destroyed or re-consecrated a small god's only temple as part of their work in stomping out revolution. This typically ends with the god involved vanishing forever.

On the eastern coast, several towns have welcomed the Vaticine into their lives, intrigued by the messages of Castillian missionaries about peace and scientific inquiry. Many Nahuacans find the ideas, at least, intriguing. The missionaries have built Thean-style churches, mixing their alien practices with indigenous worship patterns. Nahuacan who attend these Vaticine services still hear local music and poetry and eat festival foods, but the messages of unknown Prophets are peppered throughout. Most Nahuacans have trouble grasping the concepts behind Thean religion. It seems to be based on the existence of a god no one speaks to directly, except for a few prophets who aren't around to answer questions. The absence of the god appears to be part of the point, as the religion preaches 'faith' in an entity that can't be perceived, as though people should be respected for a claim that they can't prove. It is hard for many Nahuacans to swallow.

In fact, it's so different from the native religion that some Nahuacans see no dissonance in practicing both simultaneously. This dual practice often makes no sense to Thean Vaticines who care about there being a single, specific truth, but most of the missionaries see it as a necessary evil and a first step on the path to enlightenment. For other Nahuacans, the existence of the Vaticine is an offense against Nahuacan culture, identity and power. They refuse to associate with any conversos and occasionally burn down churches or the homes of Vaticine believers as an act of patriotism.

Not everyone in Nahuaca accepted the ban on human sacrifice. Some fundamentalist sects of the four main gods have decided that sacrifice is holy and proper, even if their god disagrees. These sacrificial cults hide among the people, using coded language and secret meetings. They kidnap those who will not be missed, like the poor, slaves and criminals, then sacrifice them to the gods and hide the bodies. They typically believe that sufficient sacrifices will reawaken the gods to their pre-Alliance state, redeveloping their hunger for human life. The gods do not actually want anything to do with this, but they are rarely able to stop it unless they happen to be nearby when it happens. The cults often work with evil sorcerers and other outcasts. Recently, during a siege of a city in revolt, it was discovered that some cultists had been sacrificing people to Tlehuitzin to empower their weapons. While Tlehuitzin could sense the sacrifices, he couldn't tell where, and was too far away to stop them. The idea that a god's power can be tapped without their consent is terrifying to Nahuacan leadership. Besides the major gods, there are also some minor gods that enthusiastically accept blood sacrifice, claiming it will empower them to throw off the yoke of the Alliance from their conquered city-states. Their followers generally resent the Alliance and seek any way to hurt them, but the blessings of these gods are generally very small compared to those of the major gods.

Places! Oloxochicalco, in the east, is the richest of the four cities due to Nacatlicue's blessings of fertility. Their abundant food let them grow faster than the others, and they remain the largest of all Nahuacan cities. While most of the locals are farmers or doctors, their military is still significant, to defend the crops. The city has few floating gardens, instead growing fields of maize. The peasants greatly outnumber all other castes, even more than elswhere, and they are given respect for that, if nothing else. The city often trades with the Atabean, and it is known for its supply of exotic goods as a result. They are also now preparing for war, out of distrust of Theah and the knowledge that they produce most of the Alliance's food - without them, the Alliance might starve. The local combat engineers are heavily engaged in experiments as to the best use of crossbows and cannons as well as advanced military wall construction.

Nexhuatipec is famous for its massive pyramids and temples in the southern desert. Tlehuitzin chose the area to teach his people self-reliance, and he even abased himself before the lesser gods of weaponry to teach his people how to fight and hunt. Thus, they created atlatls and many antidotes to beast venoms. The city's people are renowned as tough even by Nahuacan standards, as well as being reliant on raiding if they can't get any food traded to them. The Eagle Templars are their great pride, as the order was born there. A plurality of Great Speakers have risen from Nexhuatipec, and it has more government buildings than most cities, including the headquarters of the army's Field Marshal. It also has a larger noble precinct than any other city. However, its economy remains at risk. It's too large to subsist on the local game and fruits, but its land is poor for crops and its nearby lake is not great for gardening. Most food is traded for, and in bad years, crime spikes. A standing police force, the City Watch, has been created under the control of a ranking noble and former war hero - unique in Nahuacan, where the law is usually enforced by militias and judges. The city is also known for its medical research using jungle herbs, which are used to treat all manner of ailments. The favorite cure is hot chocolate for stomach problems, and not just because it tastes and smells good.

Milllahco is surrounded by dormant volcanos, named for the many nearby obsidian deposits. The land is fertile, but hard to work due to the steep terrain, and the city is surrounded by terraced farms. The locals cannot claim to be the best mountain fighters, as the Kuraq Empire exists, but they are excellent skirmishers and the city is the homeland of the Jaguar Knights. Their headquarters, the Huey Tleteptl (or 'lava spire') towers over the city still, and is often used as a name to refer to all Nahuacan intelligence operations. The city has always prospered due to local mineral resources and the ability to trade with the Quanahlotye lands in the north, and many guilds make their homes there. Local guildhouses often double as museums, showing off the pieces that weren't really viable as government installations. Historically, the mines have been controlled by the nobles, but the merchants are better connected for trade, and better at profiting off what they get. The tension has led to a number of recent arguments in the markets and at least one fight.

The Huey Tletepetl is named such for its shape and material - a massive tower built out of lava stone, polished to a bright sheen. It can be seen from anywhere in the city, as it is built on a high ridge and is quite tall. The bottom floor serves as offices and meeting rooms for the Jaguar Knight leaders, while the upper floors are sleeping quarters for over a thousand Knights, with the lowest ranks living at the top. This gives them a great view, but means if the place is attacked, they have the worst access to any fighting. Just about any intelligence gathered by the Jaguar Knights ends up in the tower. Director Xochitl lives there, working out of a first floor office and living out of a suite on the second floor, right by the stairs. This means she can come and go freely with few noticing, and also means she's the first line of defense against any theoretical invasion.

Tecuehtitlan is a western city that, without Apocoatl's aid, would have been a charnel pit. He taught the settlers how to purify the marsh waters and build the floating gardens. They found plenty of food with his help, and the local herbalists learned to use plants that grew nowhere else. The city is built to a more haphazard plan than most, due to the terrain, and floating gardens actually exist throughout the city rather than just around it. Apocoatl's temple complex rises from the swamp at the base of a local mountain, and the priests use the god's power to purify the swamp waters, granting them healing properties. The locals, in the old days, developed many medicines and poisons to ensure their forces recovered faster and had an edge over the other cities. The place is still an intellectual and cultural hub, with renowned schools and seminaries as well as the Alliance's supreme court. It also hosts the Alliance sports championships due to the ease of reaching it by riverboat.

The Grand Ollamalitzli Court sits in the shadow of Apocoatl's temple, dominating the central plaza. The immense arena is painted with many scenes of gods and heroes, a symbol of physical skill in a city of scholarship. The city's people loving love the sport, and they're known to host some of the best teams in the nation. The games are often used as an excuse to practice backroom politics and dealmaking, with the nobles and priests taking part in plenty of ambitious powermongering and espionage during games. Gambling is a constant, so much so that it is not unknown for gamblers to sell themselves into slavery to pay off their debts. The court is designed to reflect Apocoatl's rituals and symbolism, with the court representing the universe and the ball representing the sun, to reflect an eternal struggle of light and dark. Even the gods have been known to show up and to use the games to settle arguments between themselves. Such games can often go on for days without a victor being chosen, as the gods themselves play, leading divinely chosen teams with skill unmatched by mortals. They often hire on mortal champions to serve on these teams, sometimes as proxies for the gods and sometimes as teammates. Those mortals rarely survive the games, but if they do, the gods reward them handsomely.

Next time: The Not Aztec leadership

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk

Adventure 1: Exit 23 - Background & Overview

Welcome to Exit 23, the introductory adventure in the Dark*Matter campaign guide! This adventure is intended to introduce new players to both the Alternity system and the Dark*Matter setting, and it's fairly straightforward in execution. The idea is that four complete strangers happen to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and they get pulled into the occult machinations of a dangerous cult. Players that survive the adventure will subsequently be groomed by the Hoffman Institute for further employment opportunities since they've now all survived a first-hand encounter with a Stranger. The second adventure in the book then assumes that these same heroes have received some formal training and serves as their first official investigation as HI agents.

Adventure Background: Several days ago (relative to whenever you want your campaign to take place) HI agents were investigating a rural Montana estate that was formerly owned by Michel Galvin. Galvin was a reputed cult leader and diabolist of no small means, but he disappeared under mysterious circumstances about a decade ago, and his next of kin finally managed to sell his farmhouse and the surrounding property so that they could wash their hands of the whole affair.

HI agent Jonas Riley was contacted by the purchasers and asked to visit the property and certify that there were no lurking threats or residual supernatural dangers. Jonas took a team of rookie HI agents out to the farmstead to examine the property, and they managed to uncover a secret laboratory hidden beneath the foundation via a series of narrow, hastily carved tunnels that terminated within a copse of trees about a quarter mile from the actual farmhouse. The lab was mostly empty, except for an obviously out of place holiday snow globe located within a hidden floor panel beneath a desk in the corner of the room. Not knowing the significance of the snow globe, Jonas instructed the rest of his team to return to their base to file their reports while he embarks on a trip to deliver the snow globe to an HI friendly in Portland, OR that specializes in identifying occult relics and artifacts.

Unknown to Jonas, a few members of Michel's cult Les Trieze Corbins (French - The 13 Crows) still live and have kept watch over the property, awaiting the day that their master returns to Earth. As it happens, their constant vigil managed to catch Jonas and his team exploring the property and their discovery of the snow globe. This was huge news for the cult, as the snow globe is a mystic focus that allows the bearer to wield control over a diabolic Stranger that has been bound to the object. When Jonas dispatched his team back to their HQ and left the property headed in the opposite direction, Les Trieze Corbins contacted one of their own whom works as a long-haul trucker (Jacob Dumont) to tail Jonas along the highway and ultimately retrieve the globe.

Dumont managed to intersect Jonas' intended path of travel from the cult compound in Montana near the rugged mountain country in the Idaho panhandle, although Jonas has a significant lead. Dumont reached out to the other cult members for assistance, and in desperation they decided to utilize the rituals they were taught by Galvin to summon a massive blizzard to shut down the highway around a lonely rest stop near Exit 23. The blizzard will awaken the demon that has been sealed within the snow globe, but Les Trieze Corbins are wagering that Jonas still doesn't understand the significance of the snow globe and that Dumont will be able to use the highway closure to catch up to Jonas, recover the snow globe from him, and then use it to control the demon and make his escape.

Overview: Where do the players come in? Their heroes are all caught in the blizzard at the rest stop along with Jonas and Dumont. Each hero has been traveling along the highway for their own reasons.

Jane was conducting a routine patrol for this stretch of highway when the blizzard hit. Knowing better than to continue her patrol and risk getting caught exposed, she's pulled her cruiser into the rest stop to complete some reports and maybe find a warm meal.

Nadine is on her way to Seattle to speak at a microbiology conference in her capacity as a consultant for the CDC. Although she is anxious about arriving late, she understands that being punctual isn't worth risking her life, and she's waiting out the storm at the first shelter she could find on the highway.

Donna was driving back to her home in Seattle after completing her most recent consulting job. She's in a hurry to get back because she uncovered some particularly valuable intel on a software start-up that's about to IPO and she wants to get in touch with her broker, but she knows better than to risk getting stuck in a blizzard.

Doug is on his way to Portland to meet with Dr. Phillip Akens whom has hired him on to chronicle a paranormal investigation that Dr. Akens is conduction. Doug isn't in any particular hurry to get to Portland as the job doesn't start for another week; he was actually hoping to be able to get in some hiking and skiing in the southern Cascades before officially starting his next job.

The book states that none of the heroes know each other at the outset, unless the players decide that they do beforehand. Likewise, none of the aforementioned background information should be made available to the players. Currently they're occupying the White River Station (the actual name of the rest stop) along with 8 other souls, 4 of which work at the White River Station and 4 which are additional refugees from the storm.

  • A balding business executive that looks to be about 50. He's wearing clothing appropriate for a lawyer or financial officer. (Jonas Riley)
  • A short and stocky , middle-aged lady wearing a flannel shirt and a sheepskin vest. She's a long haul trucker that got caught refilling at the White River Station when the storm broke. (Norma Thomson)
  • A tall and thin teenager with messy hair, John Lennon-style glasses and a surplus Army jacket. He looks like he could have stepped right out of a picture of Vietnam War protesters from several decades ago. (John Black)
  • A large, muscular truck driver wearing a cheap parka and a black Oakland Raiders hat. (Jacob Dumont)
  • A matronly waitress, well past retirement age, who runs the donut counter. (Mabel Adams)
  • Another teenage boy with long hair and a greasy apron that works as the cook at the McDonald's. (Danny Wood)
  • A teenage girl with freckles and prominent braces who works as a cashier for the gas station proper. She frequently makes eyes at Danny when she thinks he isn't looking. (Anne Banks)
  • A man with Indian ancestry that's the current manager on duty for the White River Station. He always displays a big smile whenever he feels anxious. (Ahmed Singh)

Included is a map of the White River Station that describes each of the locations listed. The adventure assumes each of the players have been trapped here for several hours before the action begins, so players can be assumed to know anything they need about the layout of the rest stop.

1. Vestibule and Phones - The main entrance. Neither of the pay phones here are working on account of the blizzard.
2. Lobby - A large, open space with an information counter that's flanked on one side by wall displays with flyers for local tourist attractions and on the other side by a huge wall map of Idaho.
3 & 4. Women's & Men's Room - Unremarkable truck stop bathrooms.
5. Arcade - Really just a small alcove near the bathrooms. It contains six coin-operated video games, all of which are more than 20 years old.
6. Convenience Store - Your typical truck stop convenience store filled with knickknacks and caffeine pills and junk food. The store is currently closed because Anne (the cashier) is hanging out with the other people in the Donut Shop, but she'll unlock the doors if any of the players ask her.
7. Storerooms - Unremarkable storage rooms that contain the stocks and supplies you'd need to operate a truck stop. All of them include a large loading door that opens to the outside for deliveries, but all of the loading doors are currently locked shut (Ahmed has the key).
8. The Donut Shop - A small restaurant with a hightop counter and some stools and a few booths. The shop servers light fare and has a small kitchen. Most of the people (including the players, unless they specify otherwise) are all gathered at this location.
9. Restaurant - Actually a McDonald's that's attached to the truck stop. Currently the security grate has been pulled down over the counter and kitchen area and locked shut (Danny has the key), but all of the tables and booths in the seating area are accessible.
10. Kitchen - McDonald's kitchen; it contains all of the stoves, fryers, refrigerators and supplies you'd need to operate the restaurant. Currently inaccessible behind the locked security grate.
11. Fuel Office - The outdoor cashier terminal for the gas station. Currently both doors are locked shut (Ahmed has the key).

With all of that expository information digested, the players are finally ready to begin the adventure proper.

NEXT TIME: A Grisly Discovery.

Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!

I remember quite liking Exit 23 as an introductory adventure. Simple but effective, and good at bringing together a diverse group of players. Variations of it work well for other horror or urban fantasy settings.

Sep 2, 2015

This section's teasing about magical "Gypsies" makes me excited to see what kind of culturally insensitive bullshit this book is going to include.

Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

I'm really enjoying the Deep Carbon Observatory writeup. It's been on my list for a while but I've never quite gotten around to it, so I'll be reading along avidly.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2e: The New World - God Bed

Altepetal Hill is around seven miles east of Nexhuatipec, covered in plants and animals from across the Alliance. It is fed by a freshwater aqueduct from Mt. Quetzloc ever since the tlatoani Acomiztli I remade it from the barren waste it had been, over two centuries ago. Pilgrims that visit are now greeted by the immense summer palace at the hill's base, full of poets and scholars. The water gardens provide an ideal venue for rendezvouses and contemplation. Marble stairs trace a steep path up the slope, past tier after tier of crops and flowers and waterfalls towards the summit shrine. The shrine is always attended by Apocoatl's priests, who chant endlessly here in a maze of reflecting pools that make up the most sacred of the Storm Serpent's shrines. Past the maze is Apocoatl's pool itself, a circular stone basin set into the hill's eastern face and flanked by jade frogs representing the Alliance's cities. When the Theans came, Apocoatl sensed the terrible threat of disease with them, and he used his magic to bind a part of his essence into his sacred basin. Now, the waters of the basin are so pure as to cure any disease. While the water is limited in supply, it was enough to preserve the Nahuacans from annihilation. In the years after, control of the Hill gave Nexhuatipec a monopoly on the healing waters, allowing them to pursue culture and art with less need for armed forces. However, Apocoatl's blessing has a price. Now, Apocoatl is so intimately tied to the pool that damage to it will physically harm him. At least one group of Theans has attempted to infiltrate the shrine, and other saboteurs will surely try eventually.

Pepechotlan lies at the center and is the capital of the Alliance. It is built on the edge of an immense lake, and it was originally just a small fishing village. When the first Great Speaker objected to human sacrifice, he felt he needed a neutral location where all gods would have equal footing, and so he asked each city to send riders, and where they all met he would build the new seat of power. The capital still maintains its neutrality, with each god having a temple and High Priest in residence and each city leader having a representative. and of course there's also the high judges. Their law shapes and informs decisions across the entire Alliance. The Elder Council also meets there to advise the Great Speaker. Many view it as the seat of power, but that's honestly not true - that remains in the military headquarters in each city. While the two elite forces have offices in the capital, they traditionally only go there when summoned by the Speaker. Both military leaders currently spend a lot of time in the city, however, which is considered a bad omen for the Speaker.

Nahuiachahuitin is an oasis, four springs in the harshest northern desert. The springs were found, or perhaps conjured, by the priest Mizzolotl, a man of plain bearing but strong words, who denounces the privelege of priesthood and nobility as harmful to the Alliance. Ever since he arrived, the disenfranchised of the Alliance, the poor and the slaves, have been flocking to the oasis village. It is a now a place of rogues and dissidents, and they have declared themselves independent of the Alliance and of all nations. Many of its adobe huts are still being built, and a small temple has begun construction. The villages plant farms on the pool banks for beans, maize, even cotton. The pools are wonderful, but they can't provide everything. Mizzolotl's followers often raid the northern hamlets and towns, or even head out to the Atabean Coast. They steal anything that might be useful, and often also bring new residents back with them - not always willingly. Mizzolotl does not like the raids, but he is often too busy with his own goals to enforce strict law. Small military detachments from Milllahco have been sent home battered or have vanished entirely. Nahuiachahuitin is a highly defensible position, surrounded on all sides by open desert with no cover to hide in and white sand that reflects light very easily. The air is dry, the sun hot, and there's no shade at all. The rebels can spot attackers long before they are themselves seen, thanks to tall dunes that hide the village on the only clear approach. They ambush attackers repeatedly until surrender or death. They are well-trained fighters with a solid grasp on tactics. Milllahco is now analyzing the threat they pose to the political stability of the Alliance. So far, the rebels have proven difficult to crack - but it's only a matter of time until the Jaguar Knights get called in.

Hueihuactzin Woods are also called the Haunted Forest. This is where the feathers of power come from, the mystic plumes that adorn the Eagle Templars. The birdcatchers risk death or worse to capture the imperial egrets that provide these feathers. The birds don't live well in captivity and can only be found in this single stretch of land north of Nexhuatipec. Legend has it that a hunter was in the woods when she accidentally strangled a hummingbird she'd caught in a net. The gods declared this murder, and a flock of deadly chaneque lead by the terrifying Hueihuactzin attacked the poacher to avenge the hummingbird, envoy of the gods. The bird spirits then stayed to guard the woods. Every so often now, a birdcather just...vanishes. No one can find the body, no priest can commune with the soul. The people of the village Tepeztocatl, on the edge of the woods, say these hunters broke rules. You don't hunt in the early morning. You don't hate in late afternoon. You must never be in the woods after dark. Always leave shiny offerings to appease the spirits before setting your traps. You may catch egrets or even other birds and pluck their feathers, but you must never, ever hurt them.

It is said that if you spill even a drop of blood from any bird in the wood, the chaneque will leap from the dirt in suits of armor made from twigs and earth and bones. They will hunt you down and devour you alive, bit by bit. They will drag your body and your soul into wooden cages in the trees, never to be seen again. This is spoken of only in whispers, for the chaneque are not bound to the woods, and their tempers run hot and fast. There are, of course, other stories - tales of dark, gruesome deals that sorcerers may make with Hueihuactzin and its terrible flock.

Recently, a Nahuacan trading expedition made a mistake in its directions and ended up at the gate of a ruined town on the Tzak K'ani border. It was a thirteen-level acropolis, connected by stairs of blue stone, its plazas and terraces half-buried and obliterated by overgrowth. The merchants dared not enter, but they made it back to Nexhuatipec with the news. Explorers and scholars are very excited. Based on descriptions and fragmented artifacts brought back, including a piece of a frieze showing a sleepy snake, they believe the ruins to be of neither Nahuacan nor Tzak K'ani origin, but rather to perhaps date back to the Aztlani Empire. Some priests even believe it is Cochicoapan, a city that Nahuacan legend states was the repository of the Aztlani Empire's knowledge and inventions, home to codices old even when the Empire was young, along with devices of great wonder. However, scribes warn that caution will be needed. Old lore mentions many times the safety measures the Empire left to protect its hoarded knowledge - most notably, one passage talks about an immense viper that lies under the city, bound to wake from its slumber as soon as an intruder does or says anything that is outside the unknown rules of the city.

Let's talk people. Xochitl, Director of the Ocelomeh, is a farmer's daughter from Milllahco who tested into the seminary and graduated top of her class. She snuck out of her dorms often, which prepared her well to become an ocelotl, where she rose steadily in the ranks until she was appointed to the Field Marshal's war council. Now, she is always surrounded by the powerful - merchants, spies, war heroes. She trusts none of them. She maintains secret files on all powerful figures she is aware of, containing personal information, secrets, scandals - anything she can find. If she need to, she could destroy nearly anyone in or around the Alliance leadership. Despite her absolute, unwavering patriotism and commitment to the ideals of the Alliance, few trust her. She is kept at arm's length, and rarely receives social calls. She desires tolerance and calm, steady thought in foreign affairs, but few trust her to be actually selfless or idealistic. Her greatest political foe is Grand Master Ome Tochtli of the Eagle Templars. While they were lovers in seminary, their relationship is now fraught. Xochitl is convinced that Ome Tochtli is hiding something, and she wants to know what. In the meantime, she wants to get the Great Speaker on her side - and if she can't, well, she might have to remove him to keep Ome Tochtli from controlling him.

Chicahua Tlatoa, the Great Speaker, never thought he'd become Great Speaker as early as he did. He dreamed of it, sure, but not so early. He is a noble from a long priestly line, but rather than following family expectations, he questioned everything - even the gods and their wisdom. After his time in seminary, he became a judge, spending a year traveling between his home in Nexhuatipec and the outlying towns and cities. In his travels he learned a lot about the Alliance and its vassals, and he felt that the gods' rule could do with some serious critiqueing. He wrote letters and essays on it, though he thought no one bothered to read them. When he was selected as Speaker, he was as surprised as anyone else. He is a very smart man, but often underestimated due to his youth. Many nobles and priests ignore him or forget his presence. Many think he's a joke and wait for someone real to replace him. However, he spent his entire life preparing for this job, and he thinks he's up to it. The military leaders disagree. Ome Tochtli is trying to undermine his position - he's certain of it. Chicahua has no evidence, but he's absolutely certain it's Ome. Xochitl seems to be backing him, but he knows she also wants to control him. As they try to pit him against each other, he knows he must be very careful. He can see clearly where the dangers to his life are coming from, but he can't easily do anything about it without destabilizing the entire Alliance.

Boran, aka Drake Storm, grow up in the palaces of Anatol Ayh in the Crescent Empire. He was content, for he believed his beloved sister, Safiye, would take the throne. When his brother Istani usurped it, he was shocked. Because Istani know Boran was beloved by the people, he secretly sold his brother to the ATC and told him that if he ever returned, his mother would die. To cover, Istani claimed that he had beaten Boran in a Kavita and exiled him. Boran spent months on the slave ship to the Atabean, suffering terribly with the other slaves. When they finally arrived in the Atabean Sea, he remembered who he was, however. He refused to fall to despair. He led a rebellion aboard the ship, taking the name Drake Storm - Drake for the nickname Safiye had given him, Storm as a translation of his Anatoli name. He joined the Brotherhood of the Coast, who sent him to the Alliance. There, he has had the honor of meeting the Great Speaker, who was given a vision of Drake's true name by the gods and learned his story. He has promised never to reveal the secret, but Chicahua has told Boran that their fates are intertwined, as are those of their nations. Drake now seeks a Syrne artifact that will allow long-distance communciation, to solidify an alliance between Nahuacan and the Crescent Empire. This would be fine if its last known location wasn't the lost city of Cochicoapan.

Ichtaca was just a porter who moved jade and quetzal feathers. However, she was a master of entering and leaving cities unseen, as well as fighting bandits and bargaining. She soon rose to become the principal merchant of a mission to the newly discovered city Achiutla, organized by a decadent noblewoman named Coaxah. It took weeks for Ichtaca to convince the Achiutlani to bargain - and so Coaxah used her influence to have the city declared enemies of the state, and Ichtaca watched in horror as the place was burned to the ground. She was demoted to market inspector, but she became determined to never allow what she'd seen to happen again. She began a crusade against crime, which allowed her to foil an assassination attempt on Chicahua Tlatoa during an investigation into an artifact that had shown up on the market mysteriously. As a reward, the Speaker restored her rank and made her his spy. She now conceals her wealth and status, moving throughout the Alliance and beyond, using undercover trade missions to gather contacts and enact Chicahua's plans.

Ome Tochtli, Cuauhmeh Grand Master, was a classic story of success. He was the son of a major noble, had an excellent military pedigree, graduated with highest honors from the seminary. He could have done anything he wanted, but he chose the Cuauhmeh, apprenticing under the grand master. When his mentor died fighting Fernando Medellin's retreating soldiers, Ome too up his banner and, while only a cadet, he led his section to victory and personally slew Medellin's bodyguard. He has seen the Alliance conquer many small states, but never truly grow closer to unifying the continent. His strategies have led to many victories over many foes, but he has always been kept from grand conquest by the Great Speakers and the gods. His ideal of a united Aztlan has become a dark obsession. He has joined a fundamentalist blood cult that believes the gods are weak due to lack of sacrifice, and is encouraging the young priestess Eztli to make human sacrifices for power. Eztli believes he will give her a place in the eventual empire; in truth he is merely using her and will drop her like a rock if she becomes inconvenient. Ome Tochtli now sees a chance to conquer the continent - as long as he can get the Speaker out of his way or influence and control the young man. He now turns his great power and influence towards reclaiming Aztlani glory under the Alliance, fueled by xenophobic militarism and human sacrifice. If he isn't stopped, it honestly has a good chance of working. Ome Tochtli is Strength 10, Influence 5.

Necahual, High Prestess of Itzzohualli, has always been fascinated by the cycle of creation and destruction that measures the Nahuacan calendar. She was a pious student, excellent at school and a master of lies and subterfuge - necessary to rise to the rank she now holds. This has gained her access to the most sacred of texts, and she has begun to notice a pattern in the codices. The gods help make the world with each cycle, but always end up abandoning humanity to destruction. With each page, she has been gaining doubts, confirmed by what she sees as the gods' lax attitude towards the Theans. If the prophecies she reads are correct, she believes their arrival heralds the death of the fifth age and the birth of the sixth - and with it, the abandoning of humanity by the gods. Necahual has never been one for despair, so now, she has a plan to save her people. She maintains the guise of devoted priestess, but by night, she works to destroy the gods entirely. Their mere death would not be enough - to break the cycle, she must seize their power for herself, destroy the Theans and lead Nahuaca to an age of eternal glory under her will. She uses ancient lore to hunt the weaknesses of the gods, sending explorers to the ages of the Alliance and beyond for the weapons she will need. So far, she's recovered one of the ancient jaguars that destroyed humanity in the first cycle, and has used ancient songs to bend it to her will. Now, it serves as her deadly assassin. She is Strength 4, Influence 8.

Atzopelic was a noble of the city-state Huitecocan, before its conquest. He was a scholar and devotee of the shy but bloodthirsty god of the Huitec people, and had little care for thoughts of war or battle except as poetry. Then the Alliance came and offered to protect the city. The Huitec ruler, Atzopelic's grand-uncle, declines politely. Therefore, the Alliance attacked two weeks later, razed the city, killed priests and nobles, destroyed the Huitec way of life and turned the city into their eastern military base. Atzopelic escaped, finding safe haven in the coastal town of Tetecuallan, working as a scribe and interpreter. He is a well-read man with a knack for languages and diplomacy, and his wisdom is appreciated by both the locals and the Theans that often show up in town. He is a cunning schemer, manipulating the people around him and gathering information to ensure that the unruly protectorates of the Alliance are kept off balance and the Theans stir up trouble for the Nahuacan. He is carefully preparing his trap, waiting for the right moment to strike. He hopes to create enough chaos and rebellion that the Nahuacans have no choice but to give up their claim on Huitecocan, no matter what he has to do to get there. He is Strength 6, Influence 4.

Azeneth Medellin is the daughter of Fernando Medellin. Her earliest memory is Apocoatl burning her father to death in front of her and her mother, the Tzak K'ani translator Ix Itzam. Azenath and Ix escaped, but vengeance never left them. Ix Itzam raised her daughter with a single goal: gain revenge on a god. They returned to Tzak K'an, living as merchants with Ix's family. She traveled to the Alliance many times on business, but on one fateful trip, a Jaguar Knight recognized her face and killed her on the spot for treason. Azeneth was spared because her mother lied about her identity, allowing her to escape into the jungles. Now, she has vowed revenge twice - once on Apocoatly for the murder of her father, once on the Jaguar Knight for the murder of her mother. She has learned everything she could about the Storm Serpent - including his resting place. She's tried to break into it several times, but has always been thwarted by various heroes and Eagle Templars. Therefore, she has changed her target. She will destroy the Alliance entirely. Kill the nation, kill the god. While Azeneth loves Aztlan as a whole, she is certain the Alliance can be wiped out with little loss of value.

Next time: Tzak K'an

Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me! :swoon:

MightyMatilda posted:

This section's teasing about magical "Gypsies" makes me excited to see what kind of culturally insensitive bullshit this book is going to include.

If their section in World Book 5 was anything to go off of, we're in for a wild ride.

Feb 15, 2012

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

Freaking Crumbum posted:

it's a time honored tradition that my childhood friends first noticed with light pistols being the undisputed king of guns in 1E and every subsequent edition has carried the torch forward.

That particular system quirk meant light pistols weren't useful for anything but a novelty doorstop until 4th edition. Not even worth giving to mooks.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007

Ratoslov posted:

That particular system quirk meant light pistols weren't useful for anything but a novelty doorstop until 4th edition. Not even worth giving to mooks.

Light pistols were super useful in 4E as long as you didn't use real bullets.

Apr 15, 2008

Yosuke will now die for you.

fool_of_sound posted:

Any of you OSR fanatics, what is the best game to pick up that is basically 'AD&D written clearly'?

Sorry for the delay, but I think the answer turns out to be, nothing, because the OSR doesn't actually like AD&D.

OSRIC is an AD&D clone, but it's one of the first OSR systems to come out and cannot, IMO, be described as 'written cleanly'. AD&D is also available from WOTC again though.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 2 - "When not actively engaged in hurting or molesting humans and D-Bees, demonkind can be found torturing animals, plucking the wings (and other body parts) off of Faeries, gorging themselves on food, drinking themselves into a stupor (many build stills and brew homemade alcohol of potent quality), swapping stories, searching for lost treasure, sleeping (most are lazy), and gambling."

Supernatural Horrors

So, most of this section will be turned over to "Russian Demons", who apparently aren't related to the demons from Hades (from Rifts Conversion Book). Instead, they're an older race of demons known as "Archaic Demons" from another dimension, and are considered to be backwater barbarians by the demons of Hades. Though Archaic Demons resent being treated as lessers, they generally "accept their place" as subservient when the two conflict. Apparently they created dimensional links to Russia 15,000 years ago, and fought the True Atlanteans at some point, but went away with the fading of magic. The're apparently not into culture or civilization, and see humanity as just either playthings or prey. As such, they tend not to organize beyond a dozen unless under the leadership of a more powerful supernatural being. Somtimes rivalries crop up, but for the most part they just disregard each other unless there's a clear reason to conflict. Weaker ones tend to respect more powerful demons for the clear practical reasons. They see gargoyles and brodkil demons as inferior "sub-demons", and the fact they've established "empires" in Europe is confusing and annoying.

There are common elements here, of course. Did we mention demons are sadistic? Don't worry, it'll come up again. Most are vulnerable to silver weapons, or wooden weapons made from a juniper, birch, or millennium tree (and sometimes ash, it's not consistent). Those that are vulnerable to daylight are also vulnerable to the globe of daylight spell, so be sure to pack that on your character sheet. Most are tougher at night. They're consistently described as hating good and beauty. I can understand hating good - that kind of stuff gets in the way of spoiling milk and eggs - but beauty? How does a thousand-year old demon that's never been to Earth know what standards of beauty they are? Well, maybe they interdimensionally subscribed to Cosmopolitan, that'd explain it. Also, they all have dimensional teleport at some low % roll, so they can peace out with a good enough roll. How often can they roll? Who knows?

Oh, and a lot of the demons' spells reference Rifts Conversion Book or Rifts World Book 16: Federation of Magic. Better hope you have a copy of each on hand, because they're used extensively here!

Lesser Demons

But can demons get cancer?

The Unclean are demons that fear light (aside from ley lines) and gain strength in the darkness (that is, Strength and M.D.C.). They usually travel in small groups or follow more powerful demons. Though they vary a lot, they're usually hooved, horned, and generally just ugly little 4'-5' satyrs. Have we mentioned they like causing trouble and generally being sadistic? In any case, they're physically adept but generally dim and relatively weak mega-damage creatures. Still, they get a smorgasbord of abilities, including dimensionally teleporting, flying on the winds of a storm, turning into a variety of spooky animals, and magic spells leaning towards illusion and darkness. They're your generic baseline Russian demon.

It's supposed to look like a giant hand? Kind of?

The Demon Claw is a crab-centaur thing with four legs and two oversized claw arms. They like dank bodies of water (swamps, deep lakes, etc.) and generally murder or bully whatever they encounter. Sometimes they're muscle for bigger demons, though, because we have to structure combat encounters somehow. They're strong, big, dumb, and modestly tough. They can walk on water or "ride the waves", which makes me think of one on a really unusual surfboard. They're weak against magic fire, but ironically get some fire spells. They're your generic thug Russian demon.

Hairless Horse Hellion.

The Hell Horse, aka "Chertu Baran", aka the Devil's Mount, was once said to be the souls of those who committed suicide, damned to be a demon's beast of burden for eternity. But it turns out they're just dumb demons who look like horses. So they mostly just give demons a ride towards a destination... of evil! They can disguise themselves as normal horses for shenanigans. They can also turn themselves and their rider into a lightning bolt at night to travel up to a hundred miles. They can also fly around at 80 MPH. They're bad horses.

A group of demons is a legion, of course.

Il'ya Demons are winged humanoids with animal heads that ride into our dimension on ley line storms, so they have a very loose storm theme... we're told Perun, the "God of War", rides after them sometimes during these storms to hunt them down. Yes, that's the sum total of explanation as to who Perun is within these pages, and that's under a later spell description, not here. In any case, they usually shapeshift into another form to hide from Perun and mortal heroes. They can take the form of whatever animal they have the head of, though those with a dog or wolf head can also take human form. Other than that, they have a number of curse and air-themed spells. They apparently like kidnapping people, attacking pets and livestock, and "frighten, bully and hurt children, the elderly and impaired." However, they can't enter a home unless invited, which is apparently why a lot of villagers are hesitant about allowing strangers in.

Garbage pail kid all growed up.

The Kaluga Hag gets back to the deepest, darkest fear of folklore and fantasy RPGs: warty old ladies. It is the "ugliest and most feared" of the demons as a "leprous old hag". She has long snake-like tongue action, and her tongue can poison any fluid or bare skin (1d4 x 10 damage direct to HP, which is often instant death for most skin that's not M.D.C.). In addition, she has "poison pimples" that spurt acid when she's touched or struck in melee. Though it doesn't do a lot of damage, it can't be healed normally outside of some really powerful healing magic or the hag's mercy. She's generically sadistic and likes to torment or dominate whole villages. As a modest mega-damage necromancer and spellcaster, she's tougher at night, and of course can turn into a beeeyoutiful lady so she can kill dudes by slipping them the tongue and teach us all valuable lessons about sexual promiscuity. Well, except for the dude who got the tongue. He's just dead.

(And this is Palladium in 1998, let's not pretend anything other than dudes is intended here.)

"What, you think I should use these clamps I use every day at every opportunity?"

The Kladovik Guardian are used as either shock troops or to guard over spooky places demons want to protect. They fight to the death, apparently delighted by any chance for fightin', even if they know it'll get them killed. They're sadistic and - in traditional Siembiedan fashion - love "cat and mouse games". They can change into a fist-sized spider at night and get a handful of spells, but otherwise are combat wombats with seven attacks and zero personality.

They're twistin', twistin' | They're twistin' the night | Let's twist a while

The Midnight Demon, aka the Polunochnitsa, is a demonic head and arms emerging from a black cloud that can only show up between midnight and 3am. They like to manipulate people so they do bad things! Also they kidnap children. They're sadis... they like... people... hurtin'. They take half damage from everyting but psionics, can turn into raven, kinda fly, and have magic loosely based around ESP and manipulation. However, if you encounter them outside of their chosen time, or hit them with lightning, they turn out to just be a 2' imp with a squeaky voice you can push around. What're you gonna do, Polunochnitsa? You gonna cry? You gonna cry, huh?

Not pictured: the 10+ so strikes it takes for this demon to chop off that arm.

The Nalet is a pretty generic demon - red guy with horns and wings - that likes diveboming people and also making false promises of aid, then abandoning people in their hour of need. Since they do this every time, you'd think people might generally wise up, but I suppose not. Also they're sadi- "bloodthirsty and cruel in the extreme". In any case, they can fly around and shrink, aren't too tough but take half damage from any man-made weapon, and get a variety of fire and light-based magic. Given the supposed attitude of most Russians, the idea of a red nudist demon coming up and being like "Hey, who's your buddy?!" seems like it should fall awful flat.

"Pet rock?! Why are you doing this? I loved you, man!"

The Stone Demon is like an evil elemental spirit that possesses a big rock. It likes to torment... and destroy things of beauty...


... huh, wha? What was I doing? Oh, right, I was reviewing this. Right. Um. Creative name, "stone demon". Well, it's terror-torial. It can make a body out of earth and rocks, and if you blow it up, it has a 2/3rds chance of just being forced into hibernation for 3d6 months, or a 1/3 chance of being knocked back to its home dimension for 2d6 x 10 years. The only proper way to get rid of them is to do an exorcism on the key locale they've possessed, but they'll fight you for it. Because it's made of rocks, it's one of the few not vulnerable to wooden weapons. It gets a bunch of earth warlock spells and some random stuff loosely based around illness. Makes at least for some creative fight potential, but it's characterization is, if anything, even duller than the rest.

"Wait, have we been drinking her all along?!"

The Water Demon, aka Bereginia, looks like a beautiful but spooky pale woman, and sometimes has the lower half of a serpent. Like the Stone Demon, it's also territorial. It likes troubling humans in a lazy way, but is vengeful and jealous and... you know, I don't know why I'm using the term 'it'. They're stereotypically feminine in their evil, in the "some woman looks prettier = murder" sense. They can get a bunch of water facts and water magic, as well as a bunch of rando spells. Kinetic attacks only do half damage, but they're vulnerable to fire and objects made of ice. Like the Stone Demon, No word on whether or not they're afraid of juniper sticks, but probably not. Like the Stone Demon, you have to exorcise their home pool or there's a chance they'll just go into remission.


The Wood Demon is... like the above two, but it's a tree. It's subtle and likes to bedevil those in natural areas. It knows nature facts, and has wood magic. Look. You get the picture by now. Evil tree. Evil scary tree. Worst of all, it has the carpentry and whittling skills. Those are its woody relatives! Monster!

Who's a bad boy? Who's a bad boy?

The Serpent Hound is demon business up front, serpent party in the back. It's a generic thug that likes working for greater evils because it has less than personality. It can turn into a big snake or an elkhound, breathe fire, and cast fire spells. It's the kind of thing you get when you want both a hellhound and a hellsnake and you just can't decide.

Whew! That sure is a lot of demons. Certainly all the demons you need, given they share maybe two personalities between them all. There's some stuff your you to go slaying or witching as you like.

Next: Greater Russian Demons.

oh, well

Alien Rope Burn fucked around with this message at 05:23 on Aug 23, 2018

May 13, 2013

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

Cults: Hellvetics, pt. 4

Degenesis Rebirth
Primal Punk
Chapter 2: Cultures


1. Soldier

Young soldiers are “are recruited from their own ranks” - whatever the gently caress that means – or from volunteers from the Territorial Regions. Here I thought that Hellvetics only recruit from among their own, but maybe the other Swiss count, too.

Anyway, they start training at 14. They get their Trailblazer after a year.

Soldiers get the grades of Private and Lancer Corporal for good behavior and “good fire quota,” so they're like gold stars, I guess. I doubt any player will ever give a gently caress about the grades, and they annoy me, so I won't be writing them out, unless something obviously stupid crops up (it will).

2. Corporal

Hey, look at this, it's both a grade and a Rank. This is certainly not confusing, in fact, it is very well thought out.

Anyways, this basically copy pastes the earlier text about autonomous duty, and reminds you that a “higher ranking noncom officer” must specialize.

3a. Sapper

So, you have now advanced high enough in the ranks – and earned enough experience in command training – to have the right to blow yourself up. Sappers are the dudes dealing with demolitions, whether they're needed to clear tunnels or enemy bunkers. They also get Tunnel Shields to hide behind, which reminds me of Breacher Marines.

On the other hand, the book says that they only use Trailblazers in emergencies, preferring to rely on machineguns and grenade launchers. So far, this feels like a very loving steep jump in power.

3b. Grenadier

Supposedly these specialized ranking noncom officers make up the largest part of the Hellvetic army. They have a modified Trailblazer, are perfect shots and have enough survival skills to mostly operate outside of the Fortress. Grenadiers are pointed out to be what a Swiss considers to be the soldier stereotype.

They don't have anything to do with grenades, so the Grenadier name is used solely in the Napoleonic/German terms of prestige.

4a. Special Detachment

Recruited from Grenadiers and Sappers, called “Specialists” by other Hellvetics, they answer directly to the Corps Commander, who sends them on politically important deployments... like guarding foreign emissaries in Hellvetic territory. They are also sent on foreign duty (which probably means “outside the territorial regions”).

Despite what the book says about a Trailblazer staying with the soldier for life, Specialists get a snub-nosed version of the rifle and generous ammo allowances when on a mission.

3c. Sentinels

Sentinels are a doozy. First, they're the expert border guards: they know every bunker overwatching the Alps and they decide who gets to pass. They man the cannons of the Alpine Fortress. They set charges in the snow to cause avalanches (since that “saves ammo”).

They also get to wear the heaviest Harnesses and act as field police.

All that in one tidy package!

3d. Radio Beam Unit

They're the nerds looking over Hellvetic network of “radio masts, cables and relay units.”

Radio Beam Unit posted:

Their understanding of communications electronics is at par with high-ranking Chroniclers’ – but Radio Beam Units can radio for help or artillery support.

3e. Spotters

They provide observation in the wild.

4b. Infiltrator

An Infiltrator is a Spotter who wears his light Harness under local garb and infiltrates the locals to weaken them. They're one of the HSLD Tier 1 Operator-types that Hellvetics employ.

5a. P-26 Squad

Named after the Swiss stay-behind forces (as if anyone was ever gonna invade Switzerland), with the numeral referring to the number of Cantons, they're the Infiltrators shaping the Swiss heartland. They go in, denounce or kill people opposed to Hellvetics and carry out other actions of significant symbolical value.

3f. Medic

Medics stand side-by-side with Grenadiers and do Medic stuff.

3g. Genie

Genies (old rear end French term for engineers) build and maintain bridges and roads, as well as doing vehicles maintenance (this is a lot easier when people keep losing access to vehicles because their score being too low). Their logistical skills are unparaleled.

At this point I realized that the first two Ranks of are just base camp for Hellvetics, and they go off to specialist training afterwards. However, the grade thing confused the gently caress out of me... well, that and the fact that Corporals go out to serve (and lead) before getting a whiff of specialist training. Milgoons, halp.

3h. Forager

They know how to access storage and section computers in the Alpine Fortress, and thus they organize food and other provisions. So despite the name, they do no foraging, being tech nerds instead.

4c. Subaltern

This Rank is accessible to any of the previous except for Spotters who are locked into the Infiltrator/P-26 track. Text copied from the Subaltern section, but it mentions that they have private quarters in the fortress, get a Grenadier bodyguard once they go outside the fortress and are used as ambassadors.

5b. Field Officer

This time, it's a rank, not a grade! Most of the text description copied from before. What's new is that they can place any civilian on the confederate ground (so, Swiss territory?) under martial law and judge them.

6. Corps Commander

You the man now, dog.


’Stereotypes’ posted:

Anabaptists: One of many clans, but one with a strong military branch. In the transfer tunnels between Borca and Purgare, they are our main source of income. They scratch their crosses everywhere.

Anubians: Rare guests in the passages. In the ranks, they are considered a mystic variety of army doctors. The Scourgers seem to need their hokum.

Apocalyptics: Almost all of them are smugglers. They ook for gaps in the defenses, blackmail and bribe. The Sentinels are constantly on their trail.

Chorniclers: Be very careful! They want our technology and obsess about it. The Sentinels already had to arrest Foragers who were found to have granted the Chroniclers access to the Fortress computers for pay.

Clanners: The vestiges of the people. While we have sworn to protect them with our lives, we expect cooperation. As they do not cooperate, they will have to earn our protection now.

Jehammedans: We have Trailblazers; they have swords and a goat god. We win.

Judges: Paramilitary army trying to unite Borca under the hammer. Their Codex raises them far above the Clans. With betterweapons, they could bring peace to Borca.

Neolybians: A trader tribe, not half as mad as the Anubians or Scourgers. According to our comrades from Territorial Region II they rob Borca blind. Well, as long as they pay their passage...

Palers: We seem to have a similar fate. At least, that’s what they say in the Cantons. But it’s not true. We have a doctrine, a code of honor. Palers are like animals: naked rats crawling through the underground, sniffling and grunting.

Scourgers: No chain of command, no ranks, no discipline. The strongest ones wear lion heads. Europe is being vanquished by them?

Scrappers: The African Scrappers show no respect and are loud. The European ones are grumpy and quiet. Both pay their passage. We like them.

Spitalians: We underestimated the Psychonauts. A mistake that comes to haunt us now. We have to let Spitalians into our fortress and assume obligations towards them that will, in the end, cost us our neutrality.

Paramilitary army just sounds… weird.

The last sentence about Scourgers was probably meant to sound incredulous, but it doesn’t work when you don’t put emphasis on “them.”

Three barrels, two magazines, one stupid design


Culture: Borca
Concept: The Abomination
Cult: Hellvetics (Corporal)

The command considers him human scum… so that why he has been sent out on mercenary duty often, particularly with Judges and Chroniclers.


Culture: Borca
Concept: The Visionary
Cult: Hellvetics (Forager)

She and her command were the Timmelsjoch pass in Teritorial Region III. Helena turned it from a shitfest to a success story and her troops adore her.


Culture: Balkhan
Concept: The Mediator
Cult: Hellvetics (Adjutant)

He is the guy helping Triglaw smuggle tech to Laibach. Also, adjutant isn’t among the ranks Hellvetics.

Only one of these guys is outwardly terrible. Maybe stereotypes aren’t meant to be enemies after all.

Debriefing: Hellvetics

The three Cults so far have been very much of the sleek, sci-fi looking type. Hellvetics are the most obviously ranged combat focused… and looking out of place in hosed Up Future Europe. Their write-up is all over the place, and neither their structure, nor organization, nor even the laws that govern them make any sense.

That, and they threw a shitfit and abandoned their people while operating like a country-sized checkpoint racket. Too bad!

Next time: I am THE LAW! *hammer whack*

May 13, 2013

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

Alien Rope Burn posted:

Hairless Horse Hellion.

The Hell Horse, aka "Chertu Baran", aka the Devil's Mount, was once said to be the souls of those who committed suicide, damned to be a demon's beast of burden for eternity. But it turns out they're just dumb demons who look like horses. So they mostly just give demons a ride towards a destination... of evil! They can disguise themselves as normal horses for shenanigans. They can also turn themselves and their rider into a lightning bolt at night to travel up to a hundred miles. They can also fly around at 80 MPH. They're bad horses.

Can they disguise themselves as megahorses? :colbert:

shades of eternity
Nov 9, 2013

Where kitties raise dragons in the world's largest mall.

k first some appropriate music

Because you aren't going to convince me that KS wasn't listening to this when he was rewriting it at 3:00 am one night when he revised it. :p

and a lovely old gal.

(because Ukranian babas are inherently awesome) :D

edit: cripse, now I got the term Mega-baba stuck in my head and now it's stuck in yours as well. :p

The monsters feel like they define the splitting nature of palladium books (splitting vs lumping).

They must have had a blast coming up with monsters, but most of them probably just needed a reskin.

the unclean are just evil satyrs.

the demon claw is a doodle brought to life. I have found nothing in myth so kinda hoping to be proven wrong.

"Chertu Baran" have an awesome pic, but it feels like this is there a version of the dnd nightmare.

Il'ya Demons are basically "Russian fey" but actually evil.

I'm agreeing with The Kaluga Hag being basically gross-out humor with mega damage.

The Kladovik Guardian I like in design. Give the poster 10 points for the term "combat wombat" :D

The Midnight Demon us essentially palladiums version of Feyrs.

The Nalet is essentially a generic devil. great pic though.

and then we get into the section where KS had an Evil Dead marathon. Evil rock, evil water lady, and an evil tree.

The Serpent hound would make a great pet, but you get the vibe you get a "noope!" if you asked your GM.

shades of eternity fucked around with this message at 10:51 on Aug 23, 2018

May 13, 2013

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

shades of eternity posted:

and then we get into the section where KS had an Evil Dead marathon. Evil rock, evil water lady, and an evil tree.

I like the Belegnia art, but

why is she being spotted by two fantasy goblins instead of something more sci-kitchen-sink appropriate?

Vulpes Vulpes
Apr 28, 2013

"...for you, it is all over...!"

JcDent posted:

Can they disguise themselves as megahorses? :colbert:

If only we knew what one looked like.

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised

Magic horses are always fun.

I still like the idea that kelpies are just merfolk horses that get excited and don't realise that the random stranger that took them for a joyride can't breathe underwater.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007

JcDent posted:

Also, adjutant isn’t among the ranks Hellvetics.

'Adjutant' is his first name actually.

Jul 15, 2017

I didn't think I'd read about classist warfare amongst demonkind, but KS doesn't care WHO he takes on, the wild man.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2e: The New World - Life of the Not Maya

The kingdoms of Tzak K'an lie deep in the jungles of Aztlan and are renowned for their scholarship of both the scientific and the arcane. They have lasted for thousands of years, and while even other Aztlani find them strange or alien, the Tzak K'ani don't care. For them, the mundane aspects of the world have never really mattered. Reality is deeper than that. The Tzak K'ani are highly individualistic, and care little for superficial political unity. Tzak K'an is a culture, not a government. While once they were a network of powerful city-state alliances, now they are thousands of individual pieces, held together by a loose web of treaty and culture. They are not ruled by mortals alone, either. All Tzak K'ani know the universe is governed by the Great Cycle of death and rebirth, and that the gods' pleasure is what makes existence possible. Priests and starwatchers rule alongside kings and queens, to understand and fulfill the will of the gods. In return, they are granted mystic knowledge unknown in other lands. This would be great, if the city-states were not on the brink of utter collapse thanks to a mix of political and environmental factors. Still, they have not yet fallen. Their future is uncertain, and change is coming, but Tzak K'an may still be saved.

Most Tzak K'ani do not view history as a linear thing, and find it difficult and silly to contemplate their origins too deeply. Some stories have been preserved, though. This world, they say, is but one of many. The universe is a collection of cyclical worlds, each imperfect, and Aztlan was always just one of them. The period of the Aztlani Empire was another world, like ours and better than ours in many ways, but stricken from reality by the gods for the transgressions of its people. The Empire represented the pinnacle of human knowledge and was always pleasant, and the three realms of overworld, mortal world and underworld were united as one. However, the people grew complacent. In their pride, they failed to worship the gods and did not keep the days or pay the debts. And so, the gods sent consequences - war with the land, marring of knowledge, the end of the prior world. This story of the cycle is told by all Tzak K'ani peoples, to remind them of the end that must come and the rebirth that msut follow.

The story always begins the same way: in the beginning was nothing, only murmurs in darkness of what could be. The gods, led by the Plumed Serpent, contemplated creation. They considered all things that might exist, and when they reached an accord, the making began. The realms were constructed and built by the Plumed Serpent and the first gods, as men and women build homes and cities. All was carefully measured from the center to the four corners, as the Tzak K'ani still do today as a sacred practice, symbolically constructing the universe in miniature. The mortal world was made different from the celestial world, and the watery underworld Xibalba was created, where all must go in death and where the Paddler Gods live. However, they were connected, and are always connected. The Ceiba tree has its roots in the underworld, its trunk in the mortal realm, its branches in the sky. It is the tree of life, the axis of the world. The gods filled the mortal realm with all kinds of plants, but they offered up no veneration and could not attend to obligations. The gods made animals, but they could not speak. The gods made mud-people, but those could not walk. The gods made wood-people, but those could not think. Each of these attempts at humanity was made and destroyed.

At last, the gods found a solution, and by their blood and wisdom, they made humanity. Humans could talk and make words, could serve as stewards and keep to orders and give praise. And so, the Aztlani Empire was born. Humans saw the world as it was, their minds grasped truth. The continent was unified. However, the gods saw that they had placed no limits on knowledge. The humans understood all, great and small, and thus forgot their duties and responsibilities to the gods. Therefore, the gods marred the cosmic vision of humanity, to remind them of the source of all wisdom. In their righteous wrath, the gods ended the rains and did not nourish the soil or control the elements. Thus, the first true humans of Aztlan lost their means to understand and prosper from the true earth. And while they failed, there was hope, for in the twilight of the world came the Hero Brothers, who would make the world that exists now.

The history of the present world and the importance of its cycles to the Tzak K'ani are captured in the legends of the Hero Brothers, whose stories are sacred and told in great texts, art and oral history. In that time, the earth was strange, like a waking dream. All kinds of things were alive, and 'logic' existed only in strange forms. The Sun and the Moon were clouded over. Thus, the arrogant Pet Mo' claimed to be the light of the world. He was an immense parrot, covered in glittering gems and stones, and he was as crafty as he was proud. He declared that his light was great and shining, that the blue of the sky was from his face, that his nose was the white of the moon, that he was the light. He was not. The light came from the Plumed Serpent and the gods, and it cannot be a false reflection. Despite this, Pet Mo' spread his lies.

The Hero Brothers saw the false lies for the evil they were, and knew that humans could not exist under a false god. They knew that Pet Mo' had to die, if humans were to prosper, along with his sons Tek' Winik and Lum Pak'. Theirs was a way of falsehood, blasphemous to the gods. And so they shot down Pet Mo' and stripped his face of metal and jewels. They buried Tek' Winik in the depths of the earth. They defeated Lum Pak' and bound him beneath the earth as well, vanquishing the false ones. But this was not all they did. One day, as they planted a garden, they trapped a rat that was ruining the plot. The rat told them that if they spared it, it would tell them of their family, for they knew not what had become of those great ballplayers. The Brothers agreed.

The rat told them - their father and uncle had also been Hero Brothers, the greatest ballplayers in the entire world. Because of this skill, the Gods of Death invited them to play a game in the Underworld, but they were tricked when they arrived. Their father's head was still there, trapped in a tree fork, and the rat knew where their gear was hidden, so that the Brothers could become great as well and avenge their family. Thus, the Brothers gathered the gear, practicing and practicing so that the Gods of Death would notice. When they, too, were invited to play, they went down as their family had, climbing a steep cliff to a watery place, where they crossed the river of spikes, the river of blood and the river of pus. There, they entered the throne room of the Gods of Death. They were forced to survive three terrible ordeals, passing through the Houses of Death - the Dark House, the Razor House and the Bat House. In the Bat House, one of the Brothers was defeated, his head severed as his father's had been.

At last the game began, and the Gods of Death, out of spite, made the brothers use the first brother's severed head as the ball. The brothers fought on anyway, and while they faced many tricks, they did win. However, they knew that to leave the Underworld, they would have to be killed. Rather than fall for Death God tricks, they hurled themselves into a fire, their bones were crushed and sprinkled in a river. That was when the miracle happened. The Brothers returned to life, for they had defeated the trials of death. They had completed the Great Cycle, and so they earned the power to live, to die, and to live again. Now, all of the universe follows this cycle as well.

This is where the legendary history of the universe ends and the history of Tzak K'an begins. These histories are much, much less consistent than the legends, as each polity maintains their own histories. One early history chronicles the time of a long-lost mother culture, known as Chok Ch'a, the Ones Before. These, it is said, were the creators of the first cities, mighty sorcerers and inventors of writing and divining. The most iconic Chok Ch'a artifacts are the immense stone heads that can still be found across the land. They were a grand empire, and some Tzak K'ani and Nahuacan explorers still seek out their ancient cities in the jungle, to gaze on their splendor. However, the cities are said to be cursed. The Tzak K'ani record that the Chok Ch'a had ten gods, one of which was the Plumed Serpent, but they named one god - the Jaguar God - as more potent and revered. The Jaguar God granted them superior knowledge and skill, making the Chok Ch'a the greatest of people. However, they fell as quickly as they rose, and the Tzak K'ani believe they must have angered the Plumed Serpent by venerating the Jaguar God over all others, leading to their demise.

Supposedly, there are small, secretive cults of the Chok Ch'ai Jaguar God within Tzak K'an. Many say this is mere hearsay, however. It is said that the cult consists of werejaguars, shapeshifters who can move between human and jaguar forms. The rumors of their existence have fueled the paranoia of the Plumed Serpent's priests for years, even leading to the murder of children who were suspected of being werejaguars. The few remaining werejaguars now live in hiding. Some meet in secret to maintain their traditions and search for other werejaguars, that they might reclaim the might of the Jaguar God. Others work with the lli shapeshifters of the north. Others do not even know they are werejaguars.

Despite the Chok Ch'a tales, other Tzak K'ani, more insular, claim to have existed since the beginning of time, as the progenitors of the founding Aztlani and the few survivors of the end of that world. While these Tzak K'ani do not claim to know their origins, their legacy is strong. They are devoted to the Plumed Serpent, military skill and construction of great pyramids. They name their ancestors the Ancient Ones, united by the Great Goddess. It is said that the Ancient Ones were deeply devoted to the Serpent as well, but in a dark way. Legend says that one thousand victims were sacrificed and interred under the Temple of the Great Plumed Serpent, their skulls towering on the racks. Other claims say it was ten or even a hundred thousand victims - always far, far too many. As the Chok Ch'a were doomed by devotion to the Jaguar God, so were the Ancient Ones doomed by the unjust bloodshed they committed.

Almost all Tzak K'ani claim their superior knowledge and written traditions are due to interaction with the Chok Ch'a, which taught them much. Even those who claim descent from the Ancient Ones agree that the Chok Ch'a and Aztlani Empire had great influence on them, unlike the 'barbarous' Nahuacan or 'blasphemous' Kuraq. They learned much of time, the stars and the stone from the Chok Ch'a. Many do wonder if, perhaps, remnants of the Chok Ch'a or Ancient Ones survived somewhere in Tzak K'ani territory, retaining the knowledge that they were unable to teach in ancient times.

Next time: The Great Cities of Tzak K'an

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

The coolest thing about the post-apocalyptic world is that all guns must weigh at least 20 pounds and your clothes at least twice that.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

JcDent posted:

Can they disguise themselves as megahorses? :colbert:

Sadly, they can only become a "normal looking black or dark colored horse", and mega-horses are oversized, marble-looking white horses, so not on their own.

JcDent posted:

I like the Belegnia art, but why is she being spotted by two fantasy goblins instead of something more sci-kitchen-sink appropriate?

You'd have to ask Michael Wilson! Granted, goblins are around in Rifts, but there's also been a tendency at times to use generic fantasy art instead of that originally drawn for Rifts. I don't think that's the case here, though.

Dawgstar posted:

I didn't think I'd read about classist warfare amongst demonkind, but KS doesn't care WHO he takes on, the wild man.

Sadly, when the big demon / deevil war comes, Russia isn't involved. You'd think it would be, but despite all the World Books, the Rifts metaplot remains largely focused on America and Canada.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2e: The New World - City Fathers

Even in the youngest days of Tzak K'an, the various factions drew on divine legitimization by the gods, and also argued, often violently. At that time, they were largely split between those that prioritized the traditions of the Chok Ch'a and those that prioritized those of Aztlan. Two great cities rose, one for each of these so-called First One factions: Ka'anlakmul and Sak Taj. Sok Taj is said to have been founded by the cultural inheritors of the Chok Ch'a, and certainly used Chok Cha'i calendars and art. They built a vast city of pyramids, altars and stelae, which told the story of their gods and rulers. They were watched over by Chak Tok Ich'aak, the Great Misty Claw. The city was changed, however, by the coming of Siyaj Ch'amak, Fire Born. He brought the ways of the Aztlani Empire with him - conquest. He slew Chak Tok Ich'aak and the entire lineage of Chok Ch'ai ancestors, ending their presence in Sok Taj. The monuments of the past were smashed and buried, the pyramids remade in the Aztlani style, and a new lineage was made leaders, descending from the Ancient Ones. Siyaj Ch'amak and his son K'inich Jol oversaw the institution of the Aztlani culture in Sak Taj and its neighbors.

To the north was K'anlakmul, the Kingdom of the Snake. The Snakes still represented and followed Chok Ch'ai practices, and their immense city was unmatched even today. They flourished and grew even as Sak Taj fell to the Aztlani ideas. Their king, Taj Yuknoom, began plotting the overthrow of Sak Taj. He watched as Fire Born's second son, Ch'ul Ajau K'u B'alam, claimed Sak Taj from his brother, and he saw his chance. Yuknoom the Great chose to align with Ch'ul, though it might mean fighting him in the future. Whispers of revolt spread in Sok Taj, but Siyaj Ch'amak and K'inich Jol ignored it, stockpiling weapons merely out of habit. That is when the Sky War began. The war shook the land itself, and thousands died in the battles. The land flowed with blood and obsidian. At the end, Taj Yuknoom won, cleansing the Tzak K'ani world of Aztlani ideas - for better or worse. It allowed to Tzak K'ani expansion, if often fractious and argumentative expansion. The culture was unified, but the people were not. Accounts of the Sky War and the days following it vary wildly, which should not be surprising.

Many cities were born in the time that followed, and great wealth and knowledge were earned. Both K'anlakmul and Sak Taj expanded, installing leaders in southern cities like Nohl T'zam and Olom Pa'. The city of Baak Ah'yiin was founded in the east. Smaller cities were either ruled by larger ones or ignored as too small to deal with. For a time, there was peace, as politics remained mostly internally focused. The rains were regular, the crops good. Infrastructure and trade expanded, and old knowledge was rediscovered. Tzak K'an reveled in knowledge and study, believing it would save them both now and in the future. They find the Nahuacan and Kuraq, even now, are distracted by petty, worldly things and do not remember that the end is coming. That is why the knowledge was prepared - to survive the end and rebuild after.

First contact with Theah was made on the eastern coast, near the city of Baak Ah'yiin ('Bone Crocodile'). Tales had spread from Nahuaca of the strange foreigners, and the rulers of the city were waiting for them. The acting king was Chiwoj Ajau, Lord Great Spider, who was more progressive than many Tzak K'ani rulers. The city had always been more open than others due to its coastal position, and generally not committed to trying to fight or conquer the other cities into one nation - indeed, Chiwoj said it would never happen. He was more worried about Ka'anlakmul and its allied Snake Kings in the west and Nohl T'zam in the south, both ambitious and powerful groups who wanted to unite Tzak K'an under their totalitarian rule. Those of Nohl T'zam even wanted to end most trade and growth, to better prepare for the end of days. None of this sounded good to Chiwoj Ajau, and the Castillians seemed far more normal by comparison.

He spoke to the Castillians through a merchant who had quickly picked up their language, and while initially underwhelmed, he offered Frederico Fernandez Lopez safe passage and protection, along with leave to buy and sell freely in the city. In return, he wanted future aid in conquering other city-states. The Castillians agreed, looking to get a strategic foothold for economic expansion. The alliance is maintained even now. Theans have prospered in peace along the coast and in the sister cities inland from Baak Ah'yiin, along with a few independent river settlements. The city's population has historically been open to adopting and including foreign elements in their culture, and the Theans are seen as no different. In return, many Theans enjoy the influence of Tzak K'ani culture and practice. The only real tension was when the Castillians began proselytizing, birthing a new Baak Ah'yiin expression: 'our gods would be happy to show you towards the sea.' However, the possibility of the war the alliance was built for 90 years ago now feels more and more likely. Thean military leaders are now being reminded by the locals of the promise to go to war together.

While the superstates like Ka'anlakmul and Sak Taj dominated the early landscape, the last 200 years have been full of balkanization and rivalries. The breakdown of the superpowers has caused military conflict between many smaller states. More than 20 kingdoms of varying size now exist, all vying for power under different ideals and beliefs. The cities are often quite distant from each other, and the wild lands are poorly controlled at best. Vassals often disagree with state priorities and underprivileged populations question their leaders' legitimacy. Priests disagree on issues, royal siblings fight each other. Tzak K'an was never unified, but it is worse now than ever before. Broadly, everyone feels the discontent and the coming cycle's end. Three broad positions have emerged.

First: "The Great Snake Will Eat Itself." The Tzak K'ani will destroy each other. Simple. Some rulers now consider that the alternative is to conquer the entire realm, long believed impossible. It goes against all of Tzak K'ani history and most of their ideals. An imperial model and its implementation seem like suicide. But would a compromised, broken Tzak K'an be worse than a dead one? Beyond the fact that a conquest is extremely improbable, many say that yes, it would be. Pride and individualism are strong in Tzak K'an, and they would rather see it destroy itself than be broken.

Second: "The Eagles, the Dead and the Ones from the East." These Tzak K'ani believe destruction will come from without. The Nahuacans and Kuraqi are both mounting threats, and the presence of the Theans increases pressure from all sides. While the Theans seem insignificant right now, kept at bay by the gods, who knows what the future will hold? Tzak K'an would have trouble with one front, let alone three. A unified coalition against the external threats seems impossible. Some coalitions exist between kingdoms, but getting sworn rivals to work together seems laughable. Many kingdoms would prefer to see their enemies die fighting the foreign powers. Even so, some are making desperate attempts at provisional alliance in case external conquest does become a threat.

Third: "The Will of the Gods." All Tzak K'ani know the world's cyclical history. The gods sometimes just stop supporting the mortal world. The last few decades seem to hint that now may be such a time. The rains come irregularly, the soil seems cursed, the earth does not tend to the people. Some kingdoms and priesthoods believe that mortal politics are petty besides the true threat - the end of the world. The reasons for the end and its growth are heavily debated. Many rulers now launch investigations and ritual changes to try and contact the gods that have not been seen in many lifetimes. Asking more active gods has earned only cryptic responses, and patron gods often contradict each other. Some gods seem to have their own agendas. While most rulers want to appease the gods and continue existence, some argue that embracing the end is what must be done.

Depending on your view, Tzak K'an's political systems are a disaster, a masterwork or both at once. Each city-state has slight variations in its priorities and positions, but some threads are common to all. The political arena is always tightly controlled and a place for both mortals and gods. The complexities of regional boundaries are vast and ever in flux, so almost every city maintains a scribal team whose sole job is tracking and maintaining the political relationship maps. These charts, resembling vast webs, show current and past alliances, locations of vassals and satellites, tributaries, diplomatic contacts and economic bonds, plus the locations of deployed state agents and family ties. This makes the idea of borders and boundaries very hard to determine. While a city's immediate land and area within two days march is generally considered to be under its control, political or economic control may sometimes go much farther, even into 'enemy' land.

Tzak K'ani cities organize along the cardinal directions, in accord with their views on the importance of cosmology. Each maintains sacred areas such as caves or cenotes that connect to supernatural realms, though opening the doorways to the sky or underworlds is growing ever harder and more dangerous. Each city-state is represented in writings and inscriptions with a symbol called an emblem glyph, which acts as a sort of logo. Some are direct representations, such as Baah Ah'yiin's skeletal crocodile, while others are more subtle, such as the lily and the word-symbol for fire, used by Nohl T'zam, based on a past event in which the city nearly burned down but survived and united the region.

Dynastic lines and divine sponsorship are vital to Tzak K'ani rulers. Rulership is either patriarchal or matriarchal depending on the city, with eldest children getting preference. Blood and kinship are valued, but sometimes an heir will be adopted. Siblings are often given roles as rulers of satellite or sister cities, and sibling rivalry is very common. Coronations are huge occasions in which the heir must demonstrate worth via rites of passage, usually some combination of political, militarist and religious. It's a symbolic thing, representing the ruler's ideals. Once a ruler takes the throne, great stelae are built with their image, displaying their power, personal history and ideals. They and their family control every aspect of their kingdom, with near-absolute power. They are seen as liaisons to the gods and are rightly feared. However, if the kingdom starts to show failures or shortcomings, the people may begin to question their divine right...and because there are ten thousand commoners to each noble, civil unrest is terrifying. (It's impossible to generalize the lives of commoners; it varies heavily by family. However, it is generally agreed on by the common folk that they are excluded from high society not due to resources, as they control the food and water, but lack of knowledge. The ruling classes are either of the supernatural or have access to its wisdom, unlike the lower classes.)

Next time: The Three Rites

May 13, 2013

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

What if HRE... but Aztec

Comrade Gorbash
Jul 12, 2011

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

Or the HRE is just Calakmul but German.

EDIT: Also in this case the group being described is not!Maya, mostly Post-Classical but with more surviving Classical elements.

Dec 22, 2003

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

Halloween Jack posted:

The coolest thing about the post-apocalyptic world is that all guns must weigh at least 20 pounds and your clothes at least twice that.
I believe there's a Heinlein line about how if you give a guy too many gears and equipments and crap to tote around, eventually some naked guy with a rock will sneak up behind him and bash his brains out while he's trying to read a vernier.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Comrade Gorbash posted:

Or the HRE is just Calakmul but German.

EDIT: Also in this case the group being described is not!Maya, mostly Post-Classical but with more surviving Classical elements.

The Chok Ch'ai are also basically the Olmecs - a people already essentially gone at this point in history, with no European involvement in their demise.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

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

Nessus posted:

I believe there's a Heinlein line about how if you give a guy too many gears and equipments and crap to tote around, eventually some naked guy with a rock will sneak up behind him and bash his brains out while he's trying to read a vernier.
A rock is too much work. I'll wait for him to die of heat exhaustion in his pleather bodysuit and armor made of car parts.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

7th Sea 2e: The New World - Rite and Rong

The Rite of the Holy is often done by those rulers who wish for a theocratic rule. To complete it, they must head into the celestial plane or the underworld and perform a series ot tasks from holy texts. While the rite takes time, the great knowledge of the supernatural that the Tzak K'ani possess usually gives some idea of what trials will occur. Those who successfully complete this rite are known as the Aj or Ix Haa Ch'ul at the start of their name - 'the Worthy Divine.' They are typically held in higher standing by gods and more often given divine aid when they need it.

The Rite of the Warlord is for those who would show off their might. The rite requires the capture of one or more influential rivals of the kingdom, and while it can be done quite quickly in theory, it is a risky ritual. Those that complete that rite earn the title Aj or Ix B'olon B'ak - 'He or She of Many Captives.' They are feared by those who would face them in battle, for they have proven their ability to enforce their will with strength of arms.

The Rite of the People is less common and generally less revered by other rulers, but represents those who rule by the will of the common folk. There is no preset path to completing this ritual, but usually involves deeds performed for the common good. The common people must collectively organize a show of support for the ruler to complete the rite, often by gathering en masse at the foot of the city's pyramid and chanting the ruler's name, prefaced by their new title - Aj or Ix Paj' Payal, 'The Chosen.' While this may seem less impressive, few leaders have actually managed to earn this mass support, and those who do rarely have to worry about rebellion, unlike their fellows. They have loyal eyes everywhere and full support.

Tzak K'ani politics and religion are inextricably linked. This is most clear in the importance of priests and holy leaders, who serve as right hand to the ruler and voice of the gods. Becoming a priest is not easy and is often decided by lineage. Priests and priestesses are often the children of priests or the secondborn children of rulers, and nearly every aspect of life has a dedicated priestly faction devoted to it. Priestly status is usually determined by specialty - political advisors hold much higher rank than agricultural ritualists. Like scribes, priests must attend a dedicated academy to learn the proper rites. However, while all scribes attend the unified school of Cahal It'zat, many priestly academies exist, which is probably part of why Tzak K'an has such a diversity of practices and beliefs. Priests undergo a two-year period of isolation in a vigil designed to rid them of mortal agendas, but they are not perfect or incorruptible, and an evil priest can ruin an entire kingdom.

At this point, shamans are mostly banished from the culture, though every so often a rogue shaman turns up in seclusion or hiding, and they are often equally powerful as priests, if not more. They are often poor and eccentric due to their status as societal pariahs, and are a sharp contrast with the wealthy priesthoods. The shamans have very little respect for priestly tradition, but have great power. They are born with the gift of divine visions, communicating to the gods naturally rather than learning the rituals to do so. They have direct access to the divine planes, which the priests both envy and fear.

Tzak K'ani courts are present in just about every major or satellite city, highly regulated and controlled. The court is held under an elevated bench or throne for the holy ruler of the court, the k'uhul ajau. They stand in for the royal dynasty and also represent the gods in the court. K'uhul ajau are appointed by the ruler, but they are often chosen for their lineage and are usually children of k'uhul ajau. They are typically accompanied by a sajal, or feared one, and an alk'uhuun, or knower of holy books, to advise them and handle court rules. There is then an open space, similar to a stage, in front of their seating. This is the area for the scribes, priests and other secondary members of the court. Most of their duties are performative and theatrical, involving deity masks, actors recreating the events being judged and even entertainers to keep up the spectacle of the court. Copal smoke and incense fill the air, altering the senses of those attending to add an otherworldly aspect to the proceedings. This is because, to pass judgment, the k'uhul ajau must send their spirit out of the world to receive divine guidance. This also involves a polished hematite mosaic mirror, which serves as a sacred portal for them to gaze into and contact the gods.

After a case is presented and everyone returns to normal reality, a decision is reached. The fact that court is a public spectacle usually means that sentences and findings are just, since so many eyes are on them, but also give a chance to showcase the absolute power of the ruler's proxy, the k'uhul ajau. They must act with care, of course. Ignoring the wishes of the people is a good way to cause a rebellion, and so most k'uhul ajau try to resolve cases to the satisfaction of both parties. (For civil cases, at least. I doubt they handle criminal cases the same way.)

Tzak K'ani military tends to be split, like most things in the nation, into elites and non-elites. The elite, especially of royal lines, are trained for tactics and leadership. Commoners are not required to serve in the military unless an active war requires conscription, but many join their city's army anyway. This is considered a form of familial tribute, and it greatly reduces or even eliminates a family's tax burden. One member's service can thus massively increase a family's profits for the duration of their tour, and in times like now, when crops aren't great, many farmers join up to offset their taxes. Unlike the Nahuacan, Tzak K'ani military roles are rarely standardized. There are common positions - warlords, officers, and the foot soldiers (known as holkanob, the brave ones) trained in spears and common ranged weapons, but there are other, more specialized positions that may not be found in all forces. Most armies have factions specializing in guerilla tactics, traps or even magic. As with many things in Tzak K'an, war is at least in part performative, and sieges often involve musicians playing music, priests with idols of their gods, sorcerers and even actors wearing masks. Taking captives is considered to be far more important than killing, and being taken captive is not fun. It may involve public humiliation, torture, enslavement or other terrible fates. The astronomers, skywatchers and daykeepers of a city keep very careful track of the times for war. As with most things for the Tzak K'ani, certain days and times are able to be divined and tracked to exploit supernatural advantages. War is generally associated with the planet known to the Aztlani as Chak Ek', the Great Star.

Most of Tzak K'an exists in the Aztlan lowlands, full of dense rainforest, except in the east, where it is slightly drier. The urbanized Tzak K'ani tend to see the rainforest more as an obstacle than anything else. Thousands of acres must be cleared for cities and fields, after all. They do like some plants, though. Planned orchards for fruit trees, for example, with guava, papaya or avocado. Parrots and toucans often live in these orchards. There are also urban gardens for spices, such as chile pepper, allspice, agave and so on. Some trees also hold symbolic significance, like the immense Ceiba, or are medicinal, like the chichem. The Tzak K'ani have developed many agricultural strategies over the centuries, from raised fields to terracing to slash and burn farming and multi-crop fields. They grow maize, cacao, squash, beans and cotton, and also harvest clay from the land. While animal domestication is growing, the Tzak K'ani have traditionally not had much of it, except for a few dogs, turkeys and deer. They will often hunt monkeys, pigs, tapirs or armadillos, plus any reptiles they happen to run into. Jaguars are considered dangerous yet sacred, and are highly valued for their pelts. Fishing is popular, and marine shells are often gathered for jewelry and rituals.

Most travel is by river due to the dense forests and uneven terrain. Foot traffic within a region will use raised limestone roads, called sacbeob. The Tzak K'ani have not been impressed by most Thean beasts of burden, and while some will be employed when using the sacbeob, the beasts don't seem to like canoes, and inland merchants rarely like to feed them. The hills, mountains and volcanos are considered sacred and are frequently quarried for stone, which is used for nearly all buildings in Tzak K'ani cities. The amount of limestone and plaster required for a city is staggering, and must be quarried constantly. Other minerals, like jade, chert and obsidian, are used to make tools and jewelry. Many Theans fail to grasp that wood is considered a high-class construction material, valuable and only for the elite. However, the forest edges are being slowly depleted, and the price of wood is always rising. Everyone needs fire.

Local food is mostly the meat and crops above, and the staples are the crops called the Three Sisters - maize, squash and beans. Maize is often processed into tortillas or a gruel known as atole, then mixed with meat and spices. Fermented maize beer is available, and for the very powerful, a sort of frothy cacao drink mixed with honey or chili. Cacao is so valuable that this drink is viewed as literally drinking your money. Not, mind you, that the economy is standardized. Most commoners just barter for goods, and most rural communities are basically self-sustaining. In cities, larger markets require a bit more work. Barter is still common, but cacao beans and salt have set values, and there is typically a sign up each day declaring the conversion rates. Items not available locally are brought by traveling merchants and typically more expensive the further they get from the source. Obsidian, for example, is cheap in the north but very expensive in the east. The elite families and civic constructions are funded by tax and tribute, which may be in the form of labor, military service or items such as crop yields, crafts or raw materials.

Due to the sheer distance and separation between city-states, Tzak K'an does not speak a unified language. There are many local languages and dialects throughout the culture, which often frustrates newly arrived Theans. While some words are common to all of them, odds are that two farmers from either side of the Tzak K'an expanse can't communicate outside of basic pleasantries and simple phrases like 'where is the bathroom?' Even that may require miming, in fact. They do, however, have a shared writing system, a very complex one that allows for a lot of freedom of expression and variability. Their hieroglyphic system includes logograms, phenoms, variants and even combinations of these things. One word can usually be written multiple ways, and scribes will often showcase their mastery by writing a single word many ways in one text. Thean scholars tend to find this unbelievably frustrating and complicated. The Tzak K'ani, for their part, tend to find Thean script boring and simple, and consider the frustrations of the Theans amusing. Numbers, which are very important to the Tzak K'ani, are written via combinations of bars, dots and a zero symbol, using location of each of these features to indicate what numerical placeholder is being used. Thus, even huge numbers can be represented with relatively few symbols. Learning to write is a lifelong endeavor, and scribes are typically chosen by lineage. Training typically starts as soon as the kid can hold a brush, and practiced during play by tracing letters in the dirt with a finger.

Next time: The Secret Home of the Scribes

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013

JcDent posted:

What if HRE... but Aztec
but enough about good eu4 mod ideas.

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia, Part 3 -: "Rule number two, NEVER think that one can outsmart, outmaneuver or deceive a Wolf-Serpent."

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:


Heroic tricksters are not in my database; I process RPG books about mythology; insert myth here to receive statblock; thank you and have a Megaversal Day!

beep boop whirrr click

Greater Russian Demons

"I think I've got something in my eye."

The Khitaka Abductor is a 9' tall mess of horns and claws. It likes to kidnap people and abduct them for blackmail and torment. This is also a thing Il'ya and Midnight Demons do, but this one is more powerful. Totally different! They also sometimes take over bandit gangs or towns. But they'll betray them because lulz. In any case, they can become invisible outside of daylight, glide on winds, take half damage from man-made weapons, and get a variety of useful spells. Feels like a boss version of "The Unclean".

Don't miss the tiny pincers down low.

The Nightfeeder is a devil-skull monster with crab-claws attached to its stomach. It mainly just likes to eat humans and "true" atlanteans (old foes, as previously mentioned). They like bossing around other demons and creatures to get a feeling of authority but rarely have any particular plans or direction, only seeking the ego boost. If they're not the local boss, they'll just obsess on becoming the boss. In any case, um... tough, can ride the wind, turn into an ugly old person at night, half damage from man-made weapons, gets a bunch of variety spells, and gets a bunch of attacks with its little nippy pincers. There is... seriously nothing all that unique about this one (again) other than tummy claws.

"I did play a githyanki in a TSR book once, it's true."

Koshchei the Deathless Ones are definitely in the vein of the Dungeons & Dragons medusa, taking a singularly evil deathless wizard from mythology and and instead making it into a bunch of deathless demon assassins. Sure, okay. I mean, I'm not really worried about being accurate to mythology, because myth-tellers rarely were, but why even use the name at this point? In any case, they're one of the few demons that dedicate themselves to organizing the others and thinking strategically. They can also craft magic weapons they dole out to the loyal. We're told they can take on 40 soldiers single-handedly in 15 minutes and wipe them all out, but given they don't have an automatic dodge, I'm not seeing it - they just don't have the attacks or damage to manage it mechanically. They'll soon be out of attacks to avoid catching rail gun rounds until dead. They have impressive spells, but each of those eats up even more of their attacks. Granted, they put their soul in a duck egg (like the myth they are very, very loosely based on) and if you can't find it and smash it, they return after three days of being dead. If you do, they die instantly. But they can't be more than 300 miles away from it! So if you triangulate their sightings, you can try and figure out where that duck egg is within a hundred miles or so. Easy-peasy!

"Well, I just have the one shoulder plate, it's a starter armor."

The Morozko Frost Demons are the supposed offspring of "Old Man Morozko", a demon lord who is-

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

... 12th level, 2000 M.D.C., anarchist, possesses all the magic known to the greater Frost Demons, plus all level 1-3, and 15th level wizard spells...

Sure, sure. (Wait, he's not technically evil?) But it turns out they may be liars and not actually related to him, but superfans of him instead. Even though they have the same powers! Sure, makes sense. And they're callous and... sadistic. Unlike other demons, they recognize the power of technology and might use guns or devices. They have a variety of snow powers, like skating across ice, and though that's useful, I can't help but think seeing a near-nude blue guy skating at you might inspire more laughter than fear. They have a frost breath, can become invisible only to machines and only while in blizzard or covered by snow, and glide around in snowstorms. Naturally, they suffer around heat and fire. They get a bunch of cold-themed magic, of course. Sure, makes sense.

I guess they're tormenting a dragon? Maybe?

The Whirlwind Air Demons are cherubic but with bird-like characteristics.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Many, especially the males, are gluttonous and obese.


Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

P.B. 1D6+7 (males), 1D6+14 (females)

Ah, no fat demon chicks. I get it. :ssh:

In any case, they're supposed to be erratic and unpredictable, and of course they "delight in tormenting" and are "abusive and cruel". They're arrogant and even think other demons are pretty poo poo. In any case, they like divebombing and wreaking havoc and whatever happened to demons being subtle, unseen tormentors? Well, it was nice while it lasted. They can turn into a whirlwind or an "attractive looking human", and get immunity to a lot of forms of harm while in whirlwind form, but we also get an extensive list of spells that might mess with them as such. They get air spells, of course.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

They are friendly rivals with Wolf-Serpents and like to think they can manipulate these craven and cunning demons, but 99 out of 100 times it is the Wolf-Serpent who manipulates the Whirlwind, often without the Air demon realizing it.

Oh, we can get started on them, then.

Seems trustworthy.

The Wolf-Serpent is a serpent with "the head of a man-wolf" which is supposed to be a corrupting, tricky figure that makes deals for information, but the information is always harmful.

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

For instance, a jealous man, suspicious that his wife is having an affair, may enlist the aid of the Wolf-Serpent. The next day the demon has information like, "Yesss, I followed your wife as you asked of me, and yesss, I sssaw her at your neighbor's home. He was most familiar with her and they laughed about you." In many cases, this is all the Wolf-Serpent may need to do, because the husband may now return home to beat his wife and/or kill her or her apparent lover. The monster just happens to leave out the reason she is seeing the man is because he is arranging the delivery of a special gift for the husband's birthday.

"You know, I love my wife, but you're a very convincing dog-headed snake. I feel like I can trust you. Trust you with abuse." uuugh And in case you're wondering, it doesn't any power of hypnosis or complusion, just a decently high Affinity. Of course, it also then requests payment of services or goods that might be damning.

Then, Siembieda bounces off the board and goes straight for the deep end of WTF:

Rifts World Book 18: Mystic Russia posted:

Some rules of thumb for dealing with Wolf-Serpents:

Rule number one, NEVER go to a Wolf-Serpent for help in the first place! It's not worth it! Don't do it! It will only lead to moral decay, tragedy, sorrow, and death or ruin. Player characters of good alignment may drop to selfish then evil alignment if they willingly or regularly turn to a Wolf-Serpent for aid and advice, especially if the demon and his advice leads them to inadvertently hurt innocent people and/or murder and other acts of treachery and evil. Even the most simple and innocent "favor" is usually much more than it seems and will result in the hurting of others.

Rule number two, NEVER think that one can outsmart, outmaneuver or deceive a Wolf-Serpent. NEVER! The damned creature will twist and warp whatever good one may think they will accomplish into something evil or hurtful. If not, it is because the Wolf-Serpent is setting that person up for future trouble or the deed is setting some other, yet unseen, set of events into motion.

Rule number three, those who cheat, trick or renege on a Wolf-Serpent will pay. And the price will be a horrible one.

Rule number four, the only way to escape the wrath of a Wolf-Serpent is to destroy it. Slaying a Wolf-Serpent will not be easy.

Rule number five, forget rules 2-4 and don't ever turn to a Wolf-Serpent to begin with. They are evil incarnate!

Like, are... are you trying to offer personal advice, Kevin? Have you had an encounter with a Wolf-Serpent? Are you speaking from experience? It's cool. You can tell me all about the bigbad Wolf-Serpent...


Anyway it gets rando spells turns into a wolf or snake has a poison bite has seduction at 75% wait what the gently caress seduction at 75% what the gently caress is it seducing it better not be people it's not like it shapeshifts to do anything but spy suddenly this went from weird to just super gross.


Next: Not demons! Moving on!

Maybe it's related to that beast that sunk the Titanic.


Apr 28, 2007

Veteran, Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force, 1993-1952

Nessus posted:

I believe there's a Heinlein line about how if you give a guy too many gears and equipments and crap to tote around, eventually some naked guy with a rock will sneak up behind him and bash his brains out while he's trying to read a vernier.

If you remembered "vernier", then I'm going to assume the rest of the quote is accurate,

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